As the summer winds down and the school year picks back up for many of us, more parents will be preparing to home school their children. About 1.8 million children in America are home-schooled, and that number is growing, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Why are more parents choosing to home school?
A Department of Education survey found that most parents do it out of a concern about the environment of other schools. Moral and religious instruction were the next most common reasons, along with a dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.
No matter the reason, home schooling is becoming more mainstream. Still, for many parents, home-schooling seems ... out there, but it's not. With that in mind, here are three common misconceptions about home school, explained.
1. Home-schooled kids miss out on social opportunities
This is probably the number one misconception about home school. Many parents don't take the home-schooling leap because they feel the socialization their kids are getting in school is necessary for their development.
But home-schooled kids do just fine socially, research shows. Rivkah Estrin, a mother of five children in Florida whose oldest is in middle school, is a veteran homeschooler who also has put her kids in traditional school periodically. She's been homeschooling for seven years and offers this insight: "The truth is that real-life socialization is about interacting with people of different ages, backgrounds, interests," she explains. "Home schooling offers the opportunity to have more real-life interaction than the school setting."
As John Holt, a world-renowned teacher, school reformer and home schooling advocate, wrote in his book "Teach Your Own": "No one has to do anything in order to 'socialize' the children, or make them take part in the life of the group. They are born social; it is their nature."
Continues Estrin, "When you are home schooling, it's just natural to meet up at a park or join in group activities. There is so much going on that socializing with other kids is a huge aspect, whereas in school, kids are limited to 15 minutes of socialization at recess. Fifteen minutes of play versus hours of play — you do the math."
2. You have to be a teacher to home school
Some home school parents are teachers by trade who have left public or private school systems. But most are not — and that's just fine. Nowadays, you can outsource subjects that are truly impossible for you to teach, like calculus.
"The state-mandated criteria for grade level is not the end-all of a child's education. There is a lot of learning that takes place outside the confines of the mandated curriculum," says Estrin, who adds that her kids have learned a lot through real-life activities, like baking and grocery shopping.
"There are tons of online resources and teachers that are available to the home school community to be a resource to parents," continues Estrin. "You can hire a tutor, look into programs like IMACS or Khan Academy or even purchase a ready-made curriculum."
Indeed, the resources on Facebook alone for home-schoolers are abundant. Estrin suggests that you use those resources to create a tailor-made curriculum for your child, which is much easier than asking an already tapped-out teacher to cater to your specific child as part of a class of 20 kids.
As John Gatto, a public school educator turned home school advocate and author of "Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling," once said: "Teaching is a function, not a profession. Anything with something to offer can teach."
3. Home-schooled kids don't do as well academically
Home-schooled kids may learn different subjects at different speeds and therefore may not be up to a particular grade level skill that other kids their age are about to do. That's because parents have the freedom to, for example, let a 6-year-old wait until he's 8 to learn to read or do three-digit subtraction.
You have the luxury of waiting until they're more developmentally ready to do something. This doesn't seem to affect their future achievement at all. In fact, home-schooled kids generally score 15 to 30 percentile points above their public school counterparts on standardized academic achievement tests. In addition, it may give those kids a leg-up when it comes to getting into college, as colleges see these kids as more self-directed learners and innovative thinkers.
In his book, Gatto argues that going to school produces the opposite of innovative thinking, "The lesson of report cards, grades and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth."