Dissatisfied with your local public schools? When parents are faced with under-performing public schools in their area, what alternatives do they have? In most cases just three options are available: they can keep their children at home and homeschool them. They can also consider sending their children to private school. Or they could relocate to an area with good schools. Let's leave out the last option which is a real stretch for most families. Selling a home and finding a new one is not a project for the faint-hearted.
Fact: Approximately 2 million children were homeschooled in the United States in academic year 2011-2012. Source: Parent and Family Involvement in Education, From the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012.
Fact: Approximately 4.5 million students attend private school. Source: Private School Universe Survey.
The mothers in this video explain why they are thinking about homeschooling their children.
The other underlying condition which we have to appreciate is that we are talking about average middle class families. Typically these hard-working folks bring in less than $100,000 a year. In many cases much less than that. I feel that this is a very important factor to deal with up front. Why? Because in most cases parents in this income bracket simply feel that they cannot afford private school. So they don't even bother exploring private school options. They are convinced that private schools are for rich kids. In their minds a private school education for their children is an unaffordable option. End of argument.
That line of thinking then leaves these parents with homeschooling as their sole option when they are confronted with under-performing local schools. By the way I am using the adjective 'under-performing' advisedly as it describes everything from over-crowded schools and class rooms to incompetent teachers and administrators. Safety often is another issue parents are concerned about. The NCES report referenced above lists the main reasons why parents decide to homeschool their children.
Issue: Against the backdrop outlined above, most parents are going to head straight for the homeschooling option. Why? Because it appears to be the least complicated and least expensive option available. Let's see if that is indeed true. Let's compare each schooling option, apples to apples.
Advantages of Homeschooling
Control is the major advantage to homeschooling. Parents can determine what is taught and how it is taught subject always, of course, to the rules and regulations of the state within which they live. I will use North Carolina in my examples as that is the state where I live. You will find similar rules and regulations in the other states. Search Google with "home school in north carolina requirements" substituting your state for "north carolina" The results should include your state's department which handles homeschooling. That is usually a subset of the state education department. The State of North Carolina has a Division of Non-Public Education. Its web site appears to be very informative.
This video outlines the advantages of homeschooling.
Parents who homeschool do so for other reasons besides control. In many cases religious education is an important reason for homeschooling. Our public schools may not teach or advocate religious beliefs.
In some cases children with special needs are not being serviced properly by the local school district.
Finally some parents want their children to learn with a specific point of view which is not taught in the local public schools.
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
The main disadvantage which I can see is that you have to be a very skilled teacher/record-keeper/activities manager. Any one of these three jobs is a handful all by itself. But the homeschooling parent will have to do all three jobs and do them really well. No days off or slacking off allowed.
Implicit in these three jobs is the fact that you need to know a wide range of subjects as well as how to teach them effectively. In most cases a bachelor's degree will be an asset for you. You will know how to assess your child's work. Where things get tricky is when your child reaches his teens. The math and science components alone can be difficult to teach. Fortunately you will have many online resources as well as packaged curricula to get you through those challenging years.
The record-keeping is very important. Reports of the local and state authorities must be prepared and submitted on time.
The socializing aspect of your child's education requires planning and organization. Socializing with other children his own age is important for his balanced maturation.
Advantages of Private School
The prime advantage of sending your child to private school is that everything is provided for you. The teaching, the physical education and the extracurricular activities are all components of a private school education. Skilled professionals and paraprofessionals handle every aspect of your child's education. From A to Z. This video explains some of the advantages of sending your child to privateschool.
Years of experience and expertise back your child's education at a private school. Experienced specialists teach subjects such as reading, music and foreign languages in the elementary grades. These foundational years are very important in your child's development.
Disadvantages of Private School
The cost of a private school education can be a major disadvantage for many families. That is, until you explore your financial aid options. Most private schools are very proactive when it comes to financial aid. Why not find out whether you are eligible for financial aid before you set aside the idea of sending your child to private school? You might just find yourself reconsidering the idea of homeschooling and thinking seriously about sending your child to private school.
More options to consider
What if there are no private schools within a reasonable driving distance of where you live? In that case you should consider homeschooling through eighth grade then send your child off to boarding school. Yes, boarding school is expensive but once again generous financial aid is available. Indeed in many boarding schools if your family income is below a certain threshold - typically $75,000 - they will not charge you anything.
Don't forget to explore the handful of free private schools. There are several boarding schools and a couple of day schools. One of them might make sense for your situation and requirements.
If you live in a major metropolitan area another option to consider is homeschooling through the end of eighth grade then enrolling your child in a high school with a work study program like the Cristo Rey schools have.
Obviously I am a staunch believer in the private school option. That's because I have seen the issue from both perspectives. I taught in and ran private schools. I also home-schooled my two sons for their high school years. Now, I considered myself an education professional, right? I am never been more stretched than when I had to manage my sons' education. Arranging tutors for the STEM subjects and supervising their studies felt like a full-time job. Indeed it was.
Think carefully about homeschooling versus sending your child to private school. Think the project through in detail. Ask a lot of questions. Be honest with yourself. Lots of luck!