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What is homeschooling?
The easiest way to define homeschooling is, schooling or learning that occurs at home. However, the concept of homeschooling encompasses so much more than what is said in this simple explanation. Homeschooling does not have to take place solely in the home, and it almost never looks like “school” in the traditional sense. A more comprehensive, yet simple, definition is that homeschooling is the learning process that occurs primarily in, but is not limited to, the home.
Homeschooling can take place in many different locations. While it is usually at the student’s home, it is not limited to their home. It can be at a friend’s home, a neighbor’s home, a family member’s home, or the home of another student. It doesn’t have to be in a home at all; it can be at a library, a museum, a planetarium, a zoo, an aquarium, a science/discovery center, or a national park. It can be in a car, a minivan, a recreational vehicle (RV)…these are just a few physical locations where homeschooling can occur.
Homeschooling as a learning process does not have to look like school at all. Learning can take place at the grocery store; a student’s learning can be reinforced in a number of ways through the use of a simple grocery shopping trip. Before leaving home, the student can create the meal plan for the next week, make note of the items needed for the meals, check the kitchen, pantry, etc. for these items, and write a grocery shopping list for the items needed. Once at the store, the student can shop for the items on the list, compare prices and sizes of the chosen products, check for any possible savings, and check out at the register. This one outing alone has taught and reinforced skills such as mathematics, home organization, budgeting, planning, decision making, just to name a few. And in no way does this exercise resemble the traditional in-school learning process.
While most homeschooled students are taught by their parents, this is also not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes, one or even both parents are not able to teach the student, and the reasons vary widely. Perhaps the parent’s or parents’ work schedule does not allow them to teach their student. Maybe it’s a single parent household. The parent might be ill or disabled. It could even just be a case of the parent not possessing the necessary skills or knowledge to teach some or all of the lessons (i.e., calculus). Yet the student can still have a holistic, age- and grade-appropriate learning experience.
Why do families decide to homeschool? The reasons for homeschooling are as numerous and as varied as the families who take this path. Sometimes the parent(s) will choose to homeschool for financial, or academic, or religious, or safety reasons. Sometimes the student will ask the parent if they can be homeschooled. The recent COVID-19 pandemic and the homebound learning that occurred as a result of it, meant that homeschooling, very loosely interpreted, became a requirement for everyone—even those that did not choose this method of learning. Here’s a closer look at some of the reasons for homeschooling.
One reason a parent may choose to homeschool is because they cannot afford to give their student the quality education they desire to give them. The family may live in an area with a substandard school district, if they are even considering public schooling at all; or they want the type of education for their student that is only offered at private schools that far exceeds their budget. Homeschooling can offer a parent the opportunity to create a rich learning environment for their student, regardless of their financial situation. Great learning does not require unlimited or vast resources; with enough creativity and research, the student’s home learning experience can be just as good as the best private schools in the country.
Another reason a parent may choose to homeschool is for academic reasons. Similar to the discussion of financial reasons for homeschooling, a parent may not have access to quality schools in their area, whether public or private. A parent may even be able to afford to pay the tuition at an expensive private school, but may not have such an option in their local area, and they are not willing to send their student to a boarding school.
A parent may also choose to homeschool for religious reasons. Regardless of the cost, quality or availability of the schools in their area, a parent may desire to educate their student at home to provide the student with a foundation in their faith. All schools, even secular (nonsectarian) schools, frame their curriculum with a particular worldview and agenda, and some parents would prefer their student not learn within the framework of their local schools’ worldview. Parents who homeschool for this reason do not face the challenge that those parents face whose students attend traditional schools—namely, that they disagree with the worldview and agenda of the school that their student attends.
Parents sometimes choose to homeschool for safety reasons. Chances are, a school does not exist anywhere where there is not some degree of bullying that is occurring. Most every student will experience some form of bullying during their traditional school experience, and some bullying will be extreme and can have lifelong aftereffects. Also, by all indications, there is an increase in incidences of drugs, weapons, etc. being brought to school by other students. In extreme cases, mass shooting events have occurred. No parent wants to subject their student to dangerous conditions such as these, just to go to school to get an education. Some parents will teach their student at home, for the sake of providing a safe learning environment for them.