Home Schooling

Cero grew up on a 900-acre farm in West Virginia in a community with about 15 other kids. Instead of going to a regular school, they were home schooled together in groups split by age. Some of their teachers were officially trained. Others were parents. Some classes were traditional, but not all were: Science classes were sometimes held at the local fish farm. A biology class might be a nature walk. English class might mean seeing a local play or visiting the library.

The kids had a lot of input into their own schooling — which meant their teachers were flexible. Discussions would go on as long as the kids were learning. And although there was a rough schedule, if a lesson was leading somewhere, the teacher wouldn't suddenly stop at a set time to teach another subject.

Cero and his classmates didn't always know what to expect. And sometimes they had to do extra work themselves to fill in the gaps. But it paid off: Cero went on to college at the University of Wisconsin.

Why Do Parents Home School Their Kids?

School phobia

Believe it or not, attending school is not a legal requirement in the United States. It is a legal requirement that all kids be educated, though. When parents believe they can give their children a better education — or have other reasons for not wanting to send their kids to a local school (such as wanting to provide them with religious instruction) — they may choose home schooling.

Home-schooled students can learn just as much as they would in regular schooling, provided they and their instructors (usually parents) work hard to cover all the subjects and experiences necessary. Overall, parents who home school tend to have higher levels of education than parents who do not. They already have a grasp of numerous subjects and the skills to educate themselves about teaching their kids.

It's been a while since most parents sat in an algebra class or a bio lab. So they have to know how to find the information necessary to teach their kids. Public schools or school districts often provide home-schooling parents with a curriculum, books and materials, and places to meet. Some public schools will point parents to tutors and other resources for brushing up on forgotten subjects. Or parents may enroll in continuing education courses at local colleges or universities.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Schooling

The more than 1 million kids who are educated at home know that it has a lot going for it. Students who are home schooled may benefit from the one-on-one attention. For instance, if you don't understand something in math, the whole class won't be moving on without you — you might be the whole class! And if you really excel at something, you can keep learning more at your own pace.

Students who are home schooled also may get out in their communities more than other kids their age. They may get to experience hands-on education at museums, libraries, businesses, marinas, and other community resources. They also might volunteer or participate in "service learning" where they take on local projects.

But home schooling isn't as simple as sitting down with mom or dad and opening whichever book you feel like. Laws and requirements vary across the United States, and it's up to home schoolers to comply with local regulations. So home schooling can be a lot of work for parents: They need to know what the law requires them to teach, research resources on those subject (and learn more about the subjects if there are gaps in their knowledge), and then do the actual teaching.

It's not just parents who need to do more work when it comes to home schooling: Often the students do too. As home-schooled kids become teens and old enough to guide their learning, they may be left more on their own to find resources and do their own research. (It may be challenging at the time, but working independently like this can put home-schooled kids ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for college life!)

Taking Tests

A kid who's home schooled may not have the convenience of some school facilities, such as a gymnasium, science lab, or art studio. These may be less important for little kids, who can do their science projects in the kitchen or have art class outdoors. But when it comes to teaching teens, home-schooling parents may need to find a way around such limitations.

Some parents who home school their kids form groups so their students can join together for art classes or group learning activities, like field trips. And some public schools let home-schooled kids participate in certain classes or extracurricular activities. Sharing lesson time can be good for home-schooled students for another reason: It provides social interaction that they might not have if they're not part of a class.

Finding Social Outlets

Home-schooled kids might feel cut off from other students their age — especially during the teen years when friendships are so important. The good news is that, with home schooling a growing trend, there are plenty of other home-schooled kids out there to connect with either in person or virtually. Local libraries sometimes have information for home-schooled students and can put them in touch with one another.

Libraries and local public schools also may offer extracurricular activities, groups, or clubs for teens that are open to all. Local rec centers or teen centers are another good resource for meeting people your own age if you are home schooled. Check with local colleges, too, to see if any of their activities or programs are suitable.

There's a myth that home-schooled kids are somehow "weird." Of course, that's not true: Colleges and universities recognize home schooling as a legitimate education. In fact, some have special application and enrollment avenues for students who are home schooled. (Home-schooled students still have to take college entry tests like SATs.)

Home schooling gives students lots of advantages — such as more flexibility than local schools to focus on specific subjects needed for a future career. So if you attend a local school and know or have a chance to meet a home-schooled student, you guys could learn a lot from each other!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2012
Originally reviewed by: Chris Cortellessa, M.Ed, NCC

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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