With increasing frequency over the past 10 years or so, parents have asked me various questions about home schooling, all pretty much boiling down to “Should I home-school my child?”
First, I am a proponent of home schooling. (Full disclosure: I am on the board of parentalrights.org, which is an offshoot of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, and have spoken at numerous home-school conferences). I believe it is the right of parents to direct and control their children’s education.
Second, home schooling is not “one size fits all.” Some parents are more suited to home schooling than others. That same statement also applies to children. Home schooling is not likely to be successful unless both parent and child are well-suited to the process.
Third, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in home-school culture is the mistaken belief that successful home schooling requires lots of involvement on the part of the home-schooling parent. That is simply not true, and I gather it irritates some home-school moms when I say as much.
Home schooling is a two-way process. A parent does not have to be highly educated in order to home-school successfully, but regardless of academic credentials, the motivation to further one’s self-education needs to be there. A parent who wants to turn their home into the most effective educational environment possible should tune the television to learning channels only (e.g. Discovery, History), read a preponderance of nonfiction, and read a lot. The more one knows about a broad range of topics and issues, the more one will be able to transmit.
I do not generally recommend attempting home schooling if disobedience is a major discipline issue in the home. Behavioral issues of that sort are going to contaminate the process and need to be resolved before home schooling is undertaken. The same applies to a child who does not want to be home-schooled. If there’s question as to whether home schooling is going to work, begin in early to mid-July. If for whatever reason or reasons it obviously isn’t going to be productive, the child can start “regular school” on time with his or her peers.
High involvement on the part of a home schooling parent is likely to turn into micromanagement and create pushback from the child. First, there are home-school curricula that do not require a high level of parental involvement. Second, the best home-school structure involves the parent teaching for 10 to 15 minutes, giving a 30-minute class assignment which the child does independently, grading the paper (immediate feedback), then moving on to the next instructional module. Minimizing parent involvement maximizes student responsibility.
Maximum home-school success is generally obtained within the context of a home-school cooperative. A parent who wants to explore this education option should get in touch with their state home-school coordinator, find a home-school cooperative in his or her area, talk to other home-schooling parents, and attend a home-school conference.