By Shehnaz Toorawa
As the new school year begins, more than 80,000 children in Canada will not enter a school building3. What motivates these parents who remove their children from the long-standing, and sometimes free, school system and educate their children themselves? Consider the ten reasons that follow.
Many families choose to homeschool their children because they want to:
1) Instil a desire to learn
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
W. B. Yeats
Schools often squish the motivation, desire and love for learning. God created every child with different talents, abilities and learning styles. Rather than modify curriculum to suit a child, a classroom environment forces every child to squeeze into one curriculum. What happens if your child lands in a classroom where the work is too easy or difficult, the teaching style differs from his learning style, the rules ignore his needs, the teacher dislikes him or the content is irrelevant to his life? The child behaves poorly, gets low grades and worse, loses the desire to learn.
Homeschoolers consider their children’s individual interests and abilities to plan a curriculum that challenges and motivates their children. A child who hates science but loves airplanes can get excited about science if it helps him design the fastest airplane. Outside a fixed classroom environment, children love to learn if it helps them answer their questions about the world in a meaningful and pleasant way.
2) Choose worthwhile content
Who decides what your kids learn at school? Who creates the curriculum? Why do they want your kids to learn this content? What is their philosophy of education?
Most of us can’t answer these questions. Yet we drop our kids into the school system with full trust that someone made the right decision about what they should learn. Are our kids learning what we consider worth learning?
Homeschoolers choose what to prioritize and focus on in their children’s education. What languages are a priority? What chapters of World History are important? What social issues should our kids care about? What skills are useful in our environment? How many hours should they spend on religious education? When you homeschool, you decide.
3) Focus on key skills and foundations
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”
Ask yourself how many equations or formulas you remember from your Grade 12 Math textbook. It may be five or two or none. Most of us retained little of what we learned.
Children will not retain everything in a textbook….and they won’t need to! In school children spend countless hours learning information they never use and soon forget.
At home, parents can focus on the big ideas, basic principles and key skills their kids need to retain. Once kids learn ‘how to learn’, they can acquire the specifics on their own, when they need them.
4) Provide a ‘real’ education
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
If the goal of schooling is to educate and prepare children for life, they need to participate in real life. A classroom where kids sit at a table with 25 other kids of exactly the same age for a set number of hours each day, does not represent real life. Rather, it removes children from the real world.
Homeschooling allows children more time to learn from real life experiences. Studies show that children learn by ‘doing’ or participating. On average, students retain 75% of a lesson when they learn through hands-on activities compared to 5% through a lecture or 10% through reading.2
When an activity involves children’s hearts, minds and bodies, they remember the experience and the lessons it contains. A child who learns about capacity and measurement while she bakes or about percentage and money while she shops will remember and use those concepts in real life.
5) Challenge kids at their level
In a typical school classroom each child, although the same age, brings a different level of knowledge, understanding and background experience. One teacher cannot teach to the level of each student or be certain that each student grasps each concept. Students who sail through the content get bored while those who struggle with it, give up. Either way, students lose interest and waste time and skills in the classroom. Each child also has unique learning styles and strengths, which are often ignored in a large classroom.
Homeschoolers determine exactly what their children understand, where they need improvement and when to move to the next concept. Parents teach to their children’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests and learning styles.
6) Improve academic performance
Study after study all over the world shows that homeschooling improves academic performance regardless of geographic location, family income or parental education.3 In Canada, for example, the average home-educated student in Grades 1 to 8 ranks in the 81st percentile in reading while the average school-going student ranks at the 50th percentile’3. In the U.S, homeschooled students in Grades 1 to 4 perform one grade level higher than their public and private school peers. By grade 8, the average homeschooled student performs four grade levels above the national average!1
7) Develop ‘real’ social skills
The social skills required to succeed in school are not the social skills required to succeed in life. In a classroom, students socialize with 25 kids of the same age who compete for grades, popularity, appearance and attention. This leads to numerous social and mental problems such as peer pressure, bullying, cliques, gangs, aggression, depression, low self-esteem, consumerism and so on.
In a homeschool environment, children socialize with kids and adults of all ages in a variety of non-threatening settings. Most homeschoolers attend playgroups, programs and classes with a mix of children and adults from different age groups and backgrounds. Children accommodate and help younger siblings and observe older students. Children discuss more than the typical classroom gossip because they do not interact with the same kids in the same context each day. Parents observe and guide their children’s social interactions.
8) Strengthen bonds with family and positive role models
Parents have little control over the people, whether teachers or peers, their children interact with, build relationships with, and look up to at school.
For homeschooled children, parents are the primary role models and family is the priority. Homeschooled children have time to help with household chores, teach younger siblings and build a strong relationship with parents. There are ample opportunities for discussions on academic, religious, moral and social topics. Parents choose the families they interact with to provide positive role models for their children.
9) Build confidence and self-esteem
The constant competition for grades, popularity and the newest gadget erodes children’s self-esteem if they can’t keep up. A classroom with a lack of accepting friends, an unfriendly teacher or a rigid teaching style, diminishes confidence and distracts a child from learning.
When children learn in a secure environment, such as the home, without the pressures and distractions of a classroom, they focus, absorb and enjoy what they learn and develop confidence in their academic and social abilities.
10) Incorporate morals, values and beliefs
Curriculums in public and private schools remove morals, values and beliefs from education. Science, for example, becomes meaningless without the knowledge that God created such complexity in the world to point to His existence. Without the religious component, learning loses its purpose. Learning that integrates the morals, values and beliefs into the math, science, history and geography provides a truly meaningful picture of the world. Even private religious schools often fail to integrate religion into the curriculum—it is separated and taught as an extra subject, irrelevant to academics.
Parents who homeschool can incorporate morals, values and beliefs into their children’s daily learning. Parents, rather than teachers, become the moral reference for children.
1 Basham, P., Hepburn, C., Merrifield, J. (2007, Oct 4). Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream (2nd Ed.). Fraser Institute. Retrieved from http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=13089
2 Brunmer, Jerome. (1977). The Process of Education. Harvard University Press.