There are as many reasons for homeschooling as there are families who make this choice. Homeschooling offers freedom along with responsibility -- freedom to make our own decisions regarding how we wish our children to live and learn. Whatever initially leads parents to make this choice, homeschooling nearly always evolves into something far more than an alternative educational choice -- it becomes a lifestyle choice of personal responsibility and freedom and incredible joy.
Like so many others, we homeschool because we caught a vision of what learning and living without schooling could be like, decided to take the risk, and found out for ourselves that we loved it. The benefits are apparent to us as we look upon our children, and we experience great joy seeing the love of learning and life so vibrant and alive in them. Browse the tabs below to explore some of the many reasons families choose home education.
Families are seeing the problems associated with a lack of connection. There are so few hours after school, before homework, dinner, and bedtime. This rushed lifestyle makes it very difficult for families to develop closer family ties. Some families choose to homeschool because it fits better with their particular circumstances. For example, their work might involve constant travel or frequent moves. Others have children involved in the entertainment industry or other activities that interfere with standard school schedules.
Most homeschoolers probably begin homeschooling because of the educational benefits that they anticipate. There are many, but the most important is that each child's education can be tailored to fit that particular child. No one-size-fits-all curriculum or methods need be used. Children with varying learning abilities can move at a pace appropriate to their developmental levels and interests. In the classroom, it is especially difficult to accommodate children who are learning more slowly or more quickly than average, and all children are slower and/or quicker than average in different subjects.
There are children who learn more quickly than their classes can allow; at home, they can move through material at their own fast pace, allowing time for learning material not offered at school, or time for more in-depth study of subjects of interest. If a child needs more time to fully comprehend something, they can take it. They won't be pushed on, ready or not, to keep up with the class; they can even drop a subject and come back to it when they are ready.
Learning at appropriate levels can be more satisfying and challenging to the specific child, less like busywork. And, learning can be more efficient because the children use methods most suitable for their own learning styles.
One of our primary reasons for homeschooling was to give our children the gift of long, uninterrupted blocks of time to write, read, think or work on a activity. Creativity and serious in-depth study are discouraged in a classroom where there is a lot of noise, a schedule designed for keeping every child busy, and continuous distractions and interruptions. We also wanted our children to have more time for pursuing special interests, such as art and music.
A major goal of many homeschoolers is that their children feel more responsible for their own education. Rather than being passive recipients of subject matter selected by their teachers (actually administrators or government committees), we wanted them to have input into designing their own education and eventually take over full responsibility.
We also wanted our children to realize that learning can take place in a large variety of ways and that they can seek out assistance when needed from many alternative sources, not just rely on a classroom teacher to provide all the methods, materials, and answers. We hoped that our children would not be as tempted to take the easy way out by doing just enough to satisfy their teacher, that they would be the judge of the quality of their own work and would work and learn for internal self-satisfaction, more than for external reward. We felt that the heavy reliance on reward and punishment systems by schools would undermine this goal. And we hoped that our children would be more willing to take risks and be creative, since they do not have to worry about being embarrassed in front of peers or being criticized by their teacher.
Most important, we wanted our children's love of learning to be supported, and their enthusiasm and excitement about education to be maintained. We felt these goals would be undermined in conventional school.
The question most often asked of homeschoolers is, "But what about socialization?" The resounding response from homeschoolers is that our children are not isolated, but are busy, active participants in community life. They participate in scouts and sports, theater and music, and they have many friends with whom to maintain very active social lives. They have more time and more flexible schedules than children in school. My own children, for example, are members of a Shakespeare theater company, which often involves late-night rehearsals which would be impossible for them to attend if they had to get up in the morning for school.
In school, children associate almost entirely with other children who are nearly the same age. They have few adults with whom to interact, and those interactions are limited, since there are many other children who must also be accommodated. Socialization at school often consists of large numbers of children with very little supervision, much less adult help in learning how to get along with other people. At lunch and recess, for example, playgrounds often have hundreds of children being supervised by one or two playground aides.
Homeschooled children interact with other people of all ages, younger and older. They learn to get along with diverse people, to solve conflicts, to work and cooperate by being out in the community in "real life." They do this with the nurturing guidance and support of their parents and other adults.
Many homeschoolers belong to homeschooling support groups. These are as varied as homeschoolers themselves, but they all offer opportunities for children to work, learn, and play together. Anyone dropping in on a homeschooling group day at the park, for example, would find children of all ages interacting, maybe playing a game of soccer, building a model, practicing a play or song, drawing pictures, playing musical instruments, writing poems, listening to a story, planning a trip, or just climbing a tree. Bigger kids would be helping littler kids. Adults would be conversing with children.
Homeschoolers have many responses to the question of socialization and we recognize it is of primary concern to others. Ironically, one of the reasons many of us have chosen to educate our own is precisely this very issue of socialization! Children spending time with individuals of all ages more closely resembles real life than does a same-age school setting.
Homeschooling allows children to be consistently guided in a family's values. Religious and family special days can be planned and celebrated together, and our children learn from seeing and participating in their parents' daily lives. For some families, religion is a critical reason to choose homeschooling, and many use a specifically religious curriculum. This was not our family's primary reason, but the chance to discuss values in the context of what the children are learning is a wonderful bonus. Volunteer service activities can easily be incorporated into a homeschooling family's regular schedule; community service of all kinds is of tremendous importance in a child's overall development, as well as being a significant learning experience.
Many people first become interested in homeschooling because they are concerned for their children's physical safety at school. Sometimes this is a because of fear generated by events such as school shootings, and sometimes because their own child is being bullied or mistreated and the parents are unsatisfied with official school responses.
Some children begin homeschooling because health problems force them to miss school for an extended period of time. School districts usually provide home-study teachers, who spend a few hours a week helping the child "keep up." These arrangements are not what most of us mean by homeschooling, where the parent takes primary responsibility for the child's education. But they do sometimes lead to permanent homeschooling, as a parent realizes its benefits.
Other health issues may be important to homeschooling parents. For example, our children spend a lot more time outdoors (even reading, writing, or studying) which is more healthy physically and mentally than spending most of their weekdays indoors in a crowded and often overheated classroom. These days, many children come to school sick, and illnesses passed from child to child in the classroom are very common, as are head lice. We certainly can't avoid all illnesses by homeschooling, but many parents who have taken their children out of school say that the frequency of things like colds and ear infections decreases tremendously. Most homeschooling families are able to enjoy less hectic, more relaxed, lifestyles -- often because they stop trying to supplement school during after-school and weekend hours, and because there is no time-consuming homework. Reducing the stress level of family members may also contribute to better overall health.
The following are the results of a survey by the National Home Education Network.
Spend more time together as a family.
Spend more time with children when they are rested and fresh rather than tired and cranky from school.
Avoid having to struggle to get children to do the tedious busywork that is so often sent home as homework.
Allow children time to learn subjects not usually taught in their school.
Allow children to have time for more in-depth study than what is allowed in school.
Allow children to learn at their own pace, not too slow or too fast.
Allow children to work at a level that is appropriate to their own developmental stage. Skills and concepts can be introduced at the right time for that child.
Provide long, uninterrupted blocks of time for writing, reading, playing, thinking, or working so that the child is able to engage in sophisticated, complex activities and thought processes.
Encourage concentration and focus - which are discouraged in crowded classrooms with too many distractions.
Encourage the child to develop the ability to pace her/himself - this is prevented in a classroom where the schedule is designed to keep every child busy all the time.
Spend a lot of time out-of-doors. This is more healthy than spending most weekdays indoors in a crowded, and often overheated, classroom.
Spending more time out-of-doors results in feeling more in touch with the changing of the seasons and with the small and often overlooked miracles of nature.
Children learn to help more with household chores, developing a sense of personal responsibility.
Children learn life skills, such as cooking, in a natural way, by spending time with adults who are engaged in those activities.
More time spent on household responsibilities strengthens family bonds because people become more committed to things they have invested in (in this case, by working for the family).
Time is available for more nonacademic pursuits such as art or music. This leads to a richer, happier life.
Children will not feel like passive recipients of subject matter selected by their teachers. They will learn to design their own education and take responsibility for it.
Children will realize that learning can take place in a large variety of ways.
Children will learn to seek out assistance from many alternative sources, rather than relying on a classroom teacher to provide all the answers.
A more relaxed, less hectic lifestyle is possible when families do not feel the necessity to supplement school during after-school and week-end hours.
Busywork can be avoided.
Learning can be more efficient since methods can be used that suit a child's particular learning style.
Children will avoid being forced to work in "cooperative learning groups" which include children who have very uncooperative attitudes.
Children can learn to work for internal satisfaction rather than for external rewards.
Children will not be motivated to "take the easy way out" by doing just enough work to satisfy their teacher. They will learn to be their own judge of the quality of their own work.
Children will be more willing to take risks and be creative since they do not have to worry about being embarrassed in front of peers.
Children will be more confident since they are not subject to constant fear of criticism from teachers.
Peer pressure will be reduced. There will be less pressure to grow up as quickly in terms of clothing styles, music, language, interest in the opposite sex.
Social interactions will be by choice and based on common interests.
Friends can be more varied, not just with the child's chronological age peer group who happen to go to the same school.
Field trips can be taken on a much more frequent basis.
Field trips can be much more enjoyable and more productive when not done with a large school group which usually involves moving too quickly and dealing with too many distractions.
Field trips can be directly tied into the child's own curriculum.
Volunteer service activities can be included in the family's regular schedule. Community service can be of tremendous importance in a child's development and can be a great learning experience.
Scheduling can be flexible, allowing travel during less expensive and less crowded off-peak times. This can allow for more travel than otherwise, which is a wonderful learning experience.
Children will be less likely to compare their own knowledge or intelligence with other children and will be less likely to become either conceited or feel inferior.
Religious and special family days can be planned and celebrated.
More time will be spent with people (friends and family) who really love and care about the children. Children will bond more with siblings and parents since they will spend more time together playing, working, and helping each other.
Feedback on children's work will be immediate and appropriate. They won't have to wait for a teacher to grade and return their work later to find out if they understood it.
Feedback can be much more useful than just marking answers incorrect or giving grades.
Testing is optional. Time doesn't have to be spent on testing or preparing for testing unless the parent and/or child desires it.
Observation and discussion are ongoing at home and additional assessment methods are often redundant. Testing, if used, is best used to indicate areas for further work.
Grading is usually unnecessary and learning is seen as motivating in and of itself. Understanding and knowledge are the rewards for studying, rather than grades (or stickers, or teacher's approval, etc.).
Children can be consistently guided in a family's values and can learn them by seeing and participating in parents' daily lives.
Children will learn to devote their energy and time to activities that THEY think are worthwhile.
Children will be able to learn about their ethnicities in a manner that will not demean. Children will be able to understand multiculturalism in its true sense and not from the pseudo-multicultural materials presented in schools which tend to depict others from a dominant culture perspective.
Children will not learn to "fit into society," but will, instead, value morality and love more than status and money.
Children do not have to wait until they are grown to begin to seriously explore their passions; they can start living now.
Children's education can be more complete than what schools offer.
Children who are "different" in any way can avoid being subjected to the constant and merciless teasing, taunting, and bullying which so often occurs in school.
Children with special needs will be encouraged to reach their full potential and not be limited by the use of "cookie cutter" educational methods used in schools.
Low standards or expectations of school personnel will not influence or limit children's ability to learn and excel.
Children will be safer from gangs, drugs, and guns.
Parents will decide what is important for the children to learn, rather than a government bureaucracy.
Family will not be forced to work within school's traditional hours if it does not fit well with their job schedules and sleep needs.