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Learn from Homeschooling to Improve Public Education

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Learn from Homeschooling to Improve Public Education

By Linda Dobson


In a perfect world, every child would be homeschooled and receive the same individualized attention.

As Parent at the Helm grows, so, too, does the number of e-mails received from parents reaching out for information about how to begin homeschooling their children. Judging by both numbers and stories shared by the now want-to-be-homeschooling-parents, they were originally hopeful their children would attend a wonderful school with wonderful teachers who welcomed wonderful parents to volunteer with wonderful projects and activities leading to wonderful grades and wonderful test scores and a wonderful experience. Then reality sets in, and there’s so little wonderful they turn to homeschooling.

There’s no question the number of homeschooling families continues to grow, and I’m glad these families realize homeschooling is an option available to them. What’s disappointing about the situation is that as more families turn to homeschooling, the powers-that-be in public education don’t say, “Hmm, maybe these folks are on to something. We should find out in case we learn something that allows us to improve education at public schools.” (I did make two attempts to by-pass this problem and speak directly to parents in books, both of which were spectacular sales failures.)

I, therefore, was thrilled to see an editorial from The Daily Iowan with the same title of this post! Maybe, just maybe, I wrote those books too early and we’ve going to see more encouragement like this? Hey, a girl can dream, right?

What Public Education Can Learn from Homeschooling

The editorial board that wrote this piece didn’t waste time getting to the heart of the matter.

An increase in the popularity of homeschooling in America demonstrates a severe lack of confidence in the public-education system. Americans should be able to trust in their government’s ability to provide an adequate education for the next generation, and if they can’t, we should re-evaluate and refine our approach to schooling. One method is to determine the reasoning behind homeschooling’s success and attempt to implement those principles in public classrooms.

So far, so good.

The reason homeschooling works is largely because of its individualized approach. This, of course, runs upstream from the consequences of No Child Left Behind, which, in effect, requires teachers to instruct homogeneously. By applying an individualized approach to teaching, interest and innovation would propel our schools to higher achievement and attract more would-be homeschoolers, freeing up parents to contribute to the workforce.

Okay, can you guess where the editorial board lost me? Right. Do you think they really believe that if schools suddenly applied an individualized approach to teaching, all homeschoolers would drop their kids off in the morning and happily skip off “to contribute to the workforce?” Apparently, the thought that some parents want to enjoy raising their children hasn’t occurred to them.

The results — without accounting for control factors — indicate that homeschooling produces better students. While the percentile rank for public schools is, by definition, 50 percent, homeschooled children rank between the 65th and 80th percentiles, according the National Home Education Research Institution.

This gap in achievement should act as inspiration for school reform. But of course, evidence parallel to public classrooms should be evaluated before taking any bold action.

One 2012 study, called “Assessing Performance: The Impact of Organizational Climates and Politics on Public Schools’ Performance,” found that four “climates” were positively correlated to public-school performance: participative, innovative, leadership, and service — two of which are integrated in the foundation of homeschooling. In a perfect world, every child would be homeschooled and receive the same individualized attention.

I haven’t a clue as to which (only) two “climates” the editorial board believes are foundational to homeschooling. From what I’ve seen and experienced, it could be any or all of these. On the other hand, I do love the last sentence in the quote above – that’s sure my idea of a perfect world.

Editorial Board Explains Why Everyone Isn’t Homeschooling

The editorial board then explains why we don’t have that perfect world. Not everyone has the time, finances, or qualifications “to educate their children in a fashion that prepares them for college and the professional world. The majority of families in America depend on the public-school system to educate their children.” Way to perpetuate those old homeschooling myths, editorial board.

See also You Can Help Your Child Learn: The Learning Coach Approach

Now we’re heading into the wind up.

The goal should be to eradicate circumstantially prompted homeschooling by tailoring educational policy based on what does and what does not improve overall student performance.

When it comes to curricula, schools should focus on individual tutoring, increased instructional time, and cooperative learning. Initiatives such as Edutopia offer some insight into potential methods of bettering public-school performance.

Homeschooling essentially revolves around parental involvement. In the same light, one might also consider the agency of parents in the sphere of public education and the positive effects of being involved in their child’s K-12 schooling. Parents getting involved in local educational reform and vocalizing concerns can have an obvious, tangible effect. Programs such as Project Appleseed call on parents to “pledge” to improve public-school systems by being involved.

Sigh. I guess they don’t see that homeschooling essentially revolves around the student, around trust and respect for the student, around inspiring learning by honoring the child’s interests. Darn. How can such learned people take this wonderful opportunity to spread the news – and blow it, big time?

And thus, we’re at the grand finale.

Every child should have access to an adequate education. Policy should not aim to eliminate homeschooling — it should aim to learn from it.

I’d say there’s still a lot of learning about homeschooling to be had…a big ol’ whole lot.

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6 Responses to “Learn from Homeschooling to Improve Public Education”

  1. Cristina says:

    I don’t know if they can entice homeschoolers into the public school system with the promise of an “adequate” education. :o)

    One of the greatest benefits I found from homeschooling was being able to round out my own education and fill in gaps from my public education. It healed the educational wounds inflicted by classes where dates were more important than the cause and effect of events, where repetition of facts was more important than understanding why, and where staying on topic was more important than following rabbit trails of curiosity and discovery. Had I not homeschooled my children, I may have believed that it was “too late” to learn certain things or try something new. Home education does not simply light a fire for the child. It sets the whole family ablaze with possibilities.

    • yes, Yes, YES! Homeschooling changes EVERYONE involved! In fact, due to my circumstance in life, I know many “veteran, retired, homeschooling moms.” Empty nest? Yeah, our children forever hold the key to our hearts, but they are transformed people doing remarkable things in “the afterlife.” Do you mind if, when I can, I turn your last sentence into a FB photo? It’s brilliant in its simplicity. And oh, so very true.

  2. Cristina says:

    Please disregard the weird placement of the smiley face. My cat walked on my keyboard. 🙂

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