Dissatisfied with your local public schools? When parents are faced with underperforming 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 schools. 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: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that during the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 3.3% of school-aged children were homeschooled, which amounted to around 1.7 million students.
Fact: According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during the 2017-2018 academic year, around 5.8 million students (about 10% of all elementary and secondary students) attended private schools.
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 upfront. Why? Because, in most cases, parents in this income bracket 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, private 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 underperforming local schools. By the way, I am using the adjective 'under-performing' advisedly as it describes everything from overcrowded schools and classrooms 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 always determine what is taught and how it is taught subject 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 other states. Search Google with the search string "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 website 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.
Children with special needs are sometimes not being serviced properly by the local school district.
Finally, some parents want their children to learn from a specific point of view which is not taught in the local public schools.
"Parents who choose homeschooling for their children often cite several advantages, including the ability to customize and personalize their child's education, fostering a close parent-child bond, and providing a flexible learning environment. Homeschooling allows families to tailor the curriculum to their child's unique learning style and pace, ensuring a more individualized and comprehensive educational experience." - National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI)
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
The main disadvantage I can see is that you must 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 that you need to know a wide range of subjects and how to teach them effectively. A bachelor's degree will be an asset for you in most cases. 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 a private school is that everything is provided for you. Teaching, physical education, and 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 private school.
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 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 a private school? You might find yourself reconsidering the idea of homeschooling and thinking seriously about sending your child to a private school.
"Despite its advantages, homeschooling may present some challenges. Critics argue that homeschooling can limit socialization opportunities for children, as they may have fewer interactions with peers compared to traditional school settings. Additionally, homeschooling requires significant time and commitment from parents, who may need to juggle multiple responsibilities while ensuring a well-rounded education for their children." - Education Corner
More options to consider
What if no private schools are within a reasonable driving distance of your home? In that case, you should consider homeschooling through eighth grade and 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 $100,000 - 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 and 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 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.
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