Homeschooling has been gaining mainstream traction. When the modern homeschool movement first surged in the 1980s and 90s, the main appeal was for parents to incorporate religion into their children’s daily education. Today, homeschooling is making a comeback, and the reasons for going that route are as diverse as the families who choose it.
According to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, at least 5 million American parents have decided to educate their children entirely at home. That’s up from about 3.2 million homeschooling parents in 2020. And religion is not the number one reason for that decision.
Most parents already know about the benefits of smaller class sizes. It’s easier for each student to get noticed and get one-on-one attention. It gives students more opportunity to participate and allows teachers to spend more time teaching and less time regaining the attention of distracted students. According to the National Council of Teachers of English, “smaller classes perform better in all subjects and on all assessments when compared to their peers in larger classes.”
Homeschooling enables kids to utilize the learning approach most appropriate for them. More importantly, research conducted by the Educational Elements organization shows personalized learning boosts scores in reading and math. Homeschooled kids also do better on standardized tests and graduate from college at a higher rate.
Social skill development
One of the most common arguments against homeschooling is that by not attending private or public school with other kids, children fail to develop critical social skills. Today’s homeschoolers do not have extra difficulty building healthy friendships. A study published in the Peabody Journal of Education suggests compared to kids in traditional schools, homeschooled kids form stronger friendships with other kids as well as with their parents and adults in general. They also grow up with greater empathy and, as teens, a greater sense of social responsibility.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center found 55 percent of teens socialized online and 45 percent socialized via sports or other extracurricular activities. In the modern world, the classroom is just one of many things that can bring students together.
Security of environment
One of the greatest downsides of traditional school is the potential for bullying. The National Center for Educational Statistics found one out of every five students reports being bullied at school, which the Center for Disease Control says is associated with lower grades, higher anxiety and depression, sleep difficulties, and dropping out of school. While not every student is bullied, the risk is high and the result can be very emotionally damaging. Other studies have shown the self-esteem of girls tends to plunge at adolescence, but remains higher if they are homeschooled. Ultimately, homeschooling can provide a safer and more harmonious environment for kids. It can also provide peace of mind for parents who are understandably concerned about the large number of school shootings in the United States.
According to Stanford University, sleep deprivation among teens is “an epidemic” with a myriad of negative consequences. In teens, sleep deprivation is associated with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, poor grades, an inability to concentrate, driving accidents, and even obesity. The vast majority of U.S. high school students are not getting sufficient sleep and the amount of time they sleep is going down, in part because school starts so early. “It’s a huge problem,” says William Dement, Ph.D., founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic. “What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could.” With homeschooling, parents can ensure their children get the rest they need.
Challenges of homeschooling
Though homeschooling comes with many advantages for kids, it’s by no means easy for the parents who must take the time to prepare lessons, teach their children, and deal with many of the same issues that teachers do. They must also come up with hands-on learning experiences and extra-curricular activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents have educated their child at home, and a survey by the University of Michigan found, “half of parents felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities” and a quarter, “felt they did not have the resources they needed for at-home education.” For parents, homeschooling can be very draining emotionally and physically — as well as financially. Because of the time required to properly homeschool a child, some homeschooling homes are one-income families. But not all. Families who want to homeschool get creative in finding ways to make it work while both parents remain employed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Homeschooling can set a child on the path to success in life. Parents should consider whether they can provide their child with a good education, a safe and healthy environment, and the tools to develop a normal social life.