School Choice Week: Why Homeschool Is the Best School

National School Choice Week 2013, which runs from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, shines a spotlight on the need for education opportunities for all. In only its third year, this bipartisan, grassroots effort features more than 3,500 events spanning all 50 states.

This is a guest post from Steven Horwich, teacher, writer, director, and founder of Connect the Thoughts, providing resources and training for homeschooling. You can follow him on Twitter @Homeschoolcurr and Facebook.

There is a great deal of discussion today about school choice.  I would like to suggest to you that schooling is not much of a choice at all.  There is a better educational option you can take for your family, for your children.

That would be homeschooling.

 

I offer this to you as a teacher with 40 years experience who has worked in public schools (1 year – all I could stand), colleges (2 years), private schools (over 10 years), private workshops, and finally homeschooling (the last 10 years plus).

The High Cost of Schools

The woes of public schooling are well-documented, but please apply most of what you are about to read to private schools as well.  Most private schools use the same methods, and often the same books, as public schools. Their results are similar.  And private schooling is very expensive.

The drop-out rate for public schools is astronomical – over 50% in many large cities.  The low level of education provided in schools is legendary now.  Functional literacy in the U.S. has been in dramatic decline for decades.  Test scores continue to decline year after year – even using the tests designed by and for public schools, and built around their own curriculum!

The cost of public schooling to the nation is crippling.  The average student costs taxpayers between $12,500 – $27,000, depending on the school district.  And those allegedly underpaid teachers make, on average, between 2-3 times what the average working Joe makes — for 9 months of work a year.

Beyond the Obvious Concerns

But there are many problems that are not often discussed.  Per a Department of Education’s 2004 report, between 6-10% of all students will be sexually abused (physically or verbally) by teachers or staff during the student’s time in public school.  That’s millions of students.  Most such abuses never get reported.  After all, who will believe a child over a teacher?

Abusers count on this silence, as well as the fact that teacher unions spend upward of $500,000 a piece to protect abusers who are brought to court.   Most school districts will quietly move the abusing teacher to another campus to avoid incurring the cost of prosecution. And the tidal wave of bullying and other forms of abuse experienced by children in schools is monstrous.

A parent’s first job is to keep their children safe.  Everything else follows safety, of necessity.  A child learns nothing from an environment of threat, except fear.

Faulty Methods

Often the methodology of schooling is subtly destructive to families and students.

  • Sticking a child in a room with 10-40 other children, regardless of whether they have anything at all in common outside of age.
  • Forcing a student to study subjects for over a decade that they very well may have no aptitude or use for.
  • Failing to even discuss issues of importance, such as religion.

Then there’s the fact that schools fail so miserably that teachers can’t even get through the dumbed-down materials they are provided – and so we have homework. Hours of daily homework, and a shuffling of responsibility to educate the child from the school to you, mom and dad.  Do I need to tell you how destructive this is of family?  [Bill: See my post Why Schools Should Get Rid of Almost All Homework.]

Homework creates another evil effect.  It robs the student of discretionary time.  That’s time the student would have used to play (these are children we’re talking about) and to discover the world.  The time is stolen where the child would have experimented with his own ideas, interests and skills, and perhaps discovered a calling, something wonderful they could do.  But schools say “No!”  Schools say “You will study the approved studies only, and we’ll enforce our will with grades and report cards, homework, and, if necessary, labeling the child and drugging him.  If we, the school, feel like you (mom and dad) are not supporting our plan for your child, well –we’ll call in child services.”

Why Homeschool?

Here are a few quick reasons to homeschool:

  1. Safety. Homeschooling is FAR safer than schooling.  As to the foolish argument that kids who homeschool won’t learn to work well with others, exactly the opposite is true.  Feeling safe does wonders for a person’s self-image and for their relationships.  I’ve worked with thousands of students.  Homeschoolers as a group are simply better socially adjusted, it isn’t even close.
  2. Family control. The family controls what is studied. Sure, you should make sure all the essentials go in.  But you can also organize studies around the student’s actual interests and skills.  You are NOT obligated to educate according to government guidelines.
  3. College acceptance. Most colleges and universities want homeschoolers now.  Why?  Because they score higher on tests, as a group, than do those who go to schools, particularly public schools.
  4. The price. The cost of homeschooling is almost nothing.  And folks, it IS legal to homeschool pretty much everywhere.

Of coure, I know there are other concerns.  Can mom and dad teach Jr.?  Where will the time come from?   And many more.

I invite you to read many free articles at www.homeschoolundersiege.com and at www.connectthethoughts.net/blog/.  You’ll find such concerns addressed and solutions recommended.

As to what and how to teach, I’ve spent 10 years developing a homeschool curriculum for ages five-High School, called Connect The Thoughts.  You can find hours of videos, articles, and many free samples at www.connectthethoughts.com.

I believe in homeschooling.  I believe that any and every family can homeschool, though it’s most easily and successfully done by small groups of families working together.  I’ve seen the results of homeschooling in my own children, and in hundreds of others.  Homeschooling is simply the best educational option today.

[Bill: In addition to Steven's resources, for those looking for a blend of traditional schooling and homeschooling, I strongly recommend checking out the Veritas Classical Schools movement. If you can't find a location near you, maybe you should get something started by contacting my friend Dave Kinsey at vcs@veritasschools.com. Tell him I sent you and he'll be really nice to you. Well, actually, he'll be really nice either way, but I'll feel better.]

And here’s a helpful video from homeschooling mom, author, speaker, and writer extraordinaire Tricia Goyer:

School Choice Week next post: See Why Parents Choose School Choice in Ohio

 

About Bill Blankschaen

Bill Blankschaen is a writer, author, and communicator who empowers people to live a story worth telling. As the founder of FaithWalkers, he equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

His next book entitled Live a Story Worth Telling: A FaithWalker's Guide is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Abingdon Press. His writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, Skip Prichard, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Catalyst Leaders, Faith Village, and many others who shall remain nameless.

Bill is a blessed husband and the father of six children with an extensive background in education and organizational leadership. He serves as VP of Content & Operations for Polymath Innovations in partnership with Patheos Labs. He is the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for the Center for Cultural Leadership. He works with a variety of ministries including Equip Leadership (founded by John C. Maxwell) when he's not visiting his second home -- Walt Disney World.

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  • Ebeneezer Schopenhauer

    Thank you for this concise article. There is one thing I feel inclined to point out though, you said:

    “and, if necessary, labeling the child and drugging him.”

    I don’t disagree that many children labelled adhd would flourish in a home schooling environment without drugs, but I think this cynical approach to adhd which is commonly seen in critics of public education likely blocks potential dialogue between the critics and people who need home school more than anyone.

    For example, the sentence of yours I quoted is quite polite, and since it is an article about home-schooling it doesn’t suffer from the common problem of attacking adhd diagnosis without mentioning that School may be the problem. But when I read that sentence I was reminded of Peter Breggin. When I read his “Talking Back to Ritalin” it was like fighting a Rabid Wolverine. It gave me the impression that he was more interested in revenge against big pharma than helping kids. It was also ludicrously one-sided, and it likely has potential use in Philosophy classes as a great way to learn about logical fallacies, esp. appeal to emotion.

    After reading the book I was sure he had written “Drugging Children” at least once per page on average, but it only turned out to be about 70 times in 300ish? pages. Still quite a bit :) Breggin is also very critical of the label “ADHD”, but many people who went through school without diagnosis or (for many) even suspicion of adhd, labeling can indeed happen. Personally, school books and myself had a relationship exactly like repelling magnets, and no amount of groundings or moral judgement [from both home and school] could get me to concentrate on schoolwork. Did that stop the groundings and moral judgements? Basically it was like having my round head shoved at a too-small square hole for over a decade. It sort of fit in the early years, but as my head grew it didn’t fit at all. They didn’t see it would not fit, and started ramming harder and yelling “you are lazy!, you don’t care!, no more skiing!”. It was kind of confusing, sometimes I believed them, sometimes I thought they were incompetent and mean. The wost moment was being accused of coming the 10th grade English “stoned out of my mind every day”, when I had never come to that class stoned once. (There is more to ADHD than hyperactive little boys, I was bored into a stupor)

    I am in no way arguing the mass drugging of Children is a good thing, but am arguing that the cynical view (which is often more strident than what you wrote) is a barrier to communication, particularly between home-school advocates and adults who may have been diagnosed ADHD as adults, which is quite common. Many of these adults were diagnosed after their children were diagnosed, they saw themselves in much of the behaviour of their ADHD labeled children. So not only are these people relatively common, they are ideal candidates for home schooling.

    I hope this does not strike you as overly-confrontational, I really do like your article. If you have doubts or criticism about anything I have said please let me know.

    cheers

    • http://BillintheBlank.com Bill Blankschaen

      Politely put. Having worled with countless alleged cases of ADHD over the years, I find the diagnosis to be highly inflated, but you are correct about the value of the right tone in the conversation.

  • Steve Ruble

    “And those allegedly underpaid teachers make, on average, between 2-3 times what the average working Joe makes — for 9 months of work a year.”

    Where did you get this statistic? I just did some quick searching and found that the per capita personal income in the US is around $40,000, while the average teacher’s salary is around $50,000 (that data is from the Census Bureau). If you take only those income-earners who have a bachelor’s degree or above (which is the group teachers should be compared to if you’re trying to be fair) then the median annual income was $56,000 in 2005 (again according to the Census Bureau). So it looks like the average teacher makes just slightly less than the average person with the same level of education. (And it should be noted that many teachers have more than bachelor’s degree.)

    The numbers I just cited would need to be shown to be quite incorrect before your claim could be plausible. Where did you get your numbers?

  • Steve Ruble

    Do you feel good about the comparisons you draw between homeschooling outcomes and public schooling outcomes? Do you think that you are being an honest contributor to the public discourse? I ask because to me it seems obvious that homeschoolers would have better outcomes than children in general because homeschooled kids are – almost by definition – kids who have engaged, intelligent parents who take a strong interest in their kids’ education and who have the time and monetary resources to spend on their children’s education. Of course if you compare these kids to all kids they will appear to be better off. But are there any statistics comparing homeschooling outcomes to the outcomes of children whose parents are competent and able to homeschool but who choose not to? That’s the comparison which would /really/ show whether or not homeschooling /itself/ is a better option that public schooling, as opposed to being a selection process which picks out children who would have done just as well in public school. Can you point me in the direction of any such statistics?

    (The reason I question your honesty is that you didn’t acknowledge this selection bias yourself.)

    • Jennifer

      Hi Steve,
      I don’t know whether there are studies comparing the outcomes of homeschooled vs. public schooled children with the same family backgrounds. There are, however, studies that compare homeschooled children whose parents are wealthy/poor, educated/not so educated, spend a lot on education/spend very little on education. These factors seem to have little bearing on the outcome – which is usually substantially better than a public school outcome.
      I’ll suggest to you that it is the engaged child, rather than the engaged parent, who is the main factor in the education outcome. If so, the question becomes, “How best do we engage our children?”

  • Andrew K.

    This is all real special. However, labeling in our case is just the truth. My son has autism. I need the help of professional educators who can help me reach his full potential and overcome the obstacles his autism puts in his way.

    I am happy so many people think of homeschooling as “the best school,” but in all candor, I freely admit that I am not an educator. I need the help of other people with greater education and experience than what I have.

    When I find people asking about “the Evangelical bubble,” I may have to direct them to this post.

    • http://BillintheBlank.com Bill Blankschaen

      Andrew, It’s curious that you concluded this post to be part of an evangelical bubble when I did not see any mention of anything uniquely evangelical in it. In fact, Steven Horwich’s efforts — if you would check them out — are explicitly secular in their approach.

      I don’t think he was arguing that professional help is not needed at times, especially in your situation. However, I humbly suggest that each of us is far more capable of teaching our children than we think. We subscribe too easily to the industrial model of specialization, I think, in this area.

  • MJBubba

    You can learn as much as you want to learn. That is the message for the kids. Kids who want to learn will learn lots more than the minimum the curriculum in school requires. It is easier to learn more if you are homeschooled. The message to the parents is to encourage learning and try to make learning fun. Sometimes this works fine in school, and sometimes not so fine. If you are thinking about homeschooling your kids, then I encourage you to do it if you can make the family finances work. It was a lot of hard work and also a lot of fun, and now that both sons are in college we are happy we did it.

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  • Nathaniel

    You make many claims. Curiously enough, there don’t seem to be any citations for them.


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