Homeschooling has the potential to be the best form of education – both for the individual student and for society.
Let’s first consider this from society’s point of view.
What kind of citizens will thrive in our world a generation from now?
With the rapidly evolving technological advances, the job scene is continually changing. We don’t know what careers will be lucrative or in high demand 20 years from now, since the technology for many future jobs has not yet even been invented – or imagined.
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But we can imagine what skills will be useful. Students who can learn the following skills and abilities during their formative years will have a strong advantage in the yet-undefined world of tomorrow:
- Think creatively to find solutions to problems that don’t have a ready-made answer manual.
- Develop solid research skills and learn to love the learning process.
- Work collaboratively in a team, drawing on the unique strengths of others to create well-rounded, reasonable, helpful new products and systems.
- Develop empathy for people across the spectrum of human differences.
- Approach tasks with a positive attitude of perseverance.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses and find a way to invest yourself in projects in which you are intrinsically motivated to succeed.
In an ideal world, schools would be able provide students with these skills. Unfortunately, a system that is built around an outdated curriculum, based on large-group settings often riddled with more discipline than academics, and tied relentlessly to mass, high-stakes, one-dimensional, schedule-dictating testing, can not possibly provide the freedom and flexibility to teach students the unique skillsets that will help them succeed in an innovative, creative, technology-based future.
Can homeschooling solve the problem?
Not always. But, when done with love and a bit of vision, it definitely provides the best potential environment for:
- nurturing creativity, perseverance, and social awareness (not the tunnel-vision outlook on life that comes from growing up in small cliques – or being bullied by them);
- training students in up-to-date, relevant skills (such as coding, online marketing, understanding subjects in a very natural cross-curricular manner through frequent unit studies and constant immersion in the real world); and
- drawing out the best in each unique individual, regardless of any learning disabilities, within a community of people who are caring, compassionate, and invested in each individual’s success. No teacher, no matter how highly trained, can care for a classroom of 30 students as much as a loving parent of 2 or 4 or (any number less than 30) can, or can know how to adapt every single lesson and activity to best meet the needs of a student like an invested, aware, caring parent can. The opportunities to differentiate the curriculum to meet the diverse needs of learners is fundamentally limited in a large classroom setting, but basically limitless in a home environment.
What will they learn?
Before entering the rabbit-hole of curriculum comparisons, I would back up a step and ask – what is a curriculum?
Any curriculum is built around a set of standards deemed worth knowing and worth mastering by certain specific dates on the generic timeline of human development. I have 2 questions about this.
- Who decides what is worth knowing?
- If it’s anybody besides the person learning the material, than it might possibly be completely irrelevant and hopelessly boring to said Learner.
- In this information age, when most any factual knowledge can be picked up online, the assimilation of a large database of names, dates, tables, and algorithms can be arguably considered as non-imperative. (Stick with me here …)
- Why should anybody decide WHEN someone needs to know any skill or fact?
- If students are given the freedom to learn things they care about, and trained to develop the skills needed to thoroughly research, analyze, and defend a topic, why should it matter what year of their life they learn about Egyptian pyramids, the life-cycle of frogs, the definition of parasite, or the American method of long-division? Facts learned in context and with intrinsic motivation are retained better than anything learned in a moment of cramming for a test.
- Even if skills like reading or writing aren’t learned until later in one’s academic life, it may not do the damage that fear-mongers may lead us to believe. If children are raised in a learning-rich environment, surrounded by text and immersed in a rich oral culture of thoughtful conversations and books read aloud to them, they will pick up a much broader and richer knowledge base than they would anyway from following a regimented set of grade-dictated textbooks and worksheets. Also, in such an environment, they will inevitably (I believe) learn to read on their own time, love reading when they’re ready for it, and more than make up for any presumed lack of progress.
I believe that all these points that address the ways in which homeschooling can provide the best environment to create well-rounded, prepared, global-minded citizens are simultaneously points in favor of the individual students.
Homeschooling can provide the best education for each individual student for the same reasons that it produces the best next generation for society as a whole. It is by no means a quick fix to any problem and it requires a huge investment of time, energy, strength, and patience, but I believe it is well worth any sacrifice.
Sandra, formerly a high-school math teacher (M.A.), homeschools her 2 boys and shares her interactive, authentic learning activities, homeschooling stories, and passion for learning and teaching at https://realworldlearners.com. You can view her products (including several freebies) at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Sandra-Balisky.