It seems to me that more and more people are opting to homeschool their children these days. And I’ll admit it: I used to think homeschooling was kind of weird. For a long time, the idea of a parent—in other words, a non-trained educator—taking on the role of teacher seemed off to me, and the notion of denying a child the social experience of attending school was, in my mind, just plain wrong.
But the more I started learning about homeschooling and talking to people who actually do it, the more my attitude changed. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Homeschooled kids can get a great education. Just because a parent isn’t a certified teacher doesn’t mean he or she can’t provide a wonderful educational experience. In fact, some children do better in an at-home environment, where they can benefit from the individual attention a traditional classroom teacher just can’t give them.
2. Parents who homeschool don’t just teach whatever they want. Those who homeschool are still required to follow state laws with regard to curriculum and other such requirements. And they’re definitely not allowed to just wing it. A friend of mine who lives in New York State tells me that homeschooling parents have to prepare home instruction plans and submit quarterly reports to the District Superintendent, summarizing things like hours of instruction provided and materials covered. In fact, she spends hours each month developing lesson plans on top of the time she puts in teaching her children.
3. Homeschooled kids aren’t isolated. It’s true that homeschooled children don’t get the same experience as those who attend traditional schools, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get to socialize and interact with similarly aged kids. There are plenty of group activities and meetups available to those who homeschool. A friend of mine, for example, takes her child on regular field trips with other homeschooled kids. They like to visit child-friendly museums and zoos, and they often get group discounts as an added bonus. They also have weekly park dates with other homeschooled children in the neighborhood. And in the winter, when it’s too cold to spend time outdoors, she and her fellow homeschooling moms take turns hosting after-school playdates at their houses.
4. Homeschooling often allows children to explore their specific interests more so than traditional school environments. If a child is fascinated by a particular subject matter, he or she may get more of an opportunity to explore it in a homeschooled environment. Classroom teachers obviously can’t cater their curriculum to each individual student, whereas parents who homeschool have a lot more flexibility. One friend who started homeschooling in time for kindergarten was able to indulge her son’s love of science. Interactive, hands-on experiments were a regular part of their curriculum last year—something her local public school wouldn’t offer a child of that age.
5. Homeschooling can be a great way to support Hebrew language immersion (or immersion in whatever language a parent wants). I recently met an Israeli mom who homeschools her son and teaches subjects like math and science in Hebrew. Since her husband doesn’t speak Hebrew, and they therefore don’t use the language at home, she figures this is the best way to build her son’s Hebrew language skills in the absence of being able to afford Jewish day school.
While I don’t plan to homeschool my own children (more so than anything, I don’t think I have the patience for it), I can see why homeschooling is an appealing option for so many parents, and I’m glad I took some time to learn about it. Not only that, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who take it upon themselves to homeschool their kids. After all, it’s a huge commitment–on top of the already overwhelming responsibility that is being a parent.