Exploring the Pros and Cons
BY HAILEY HUDSON JANUARY 2019
When Warner Robins mom Emily Fowler put her two oldest kids in public school last year, it quickly became apparent that things weren’t working. “My oldest had some health issues that led to permanent hearing loss in one ear, and as such, she did not progress in reading and phonics adequately,” Fowler explained. “She was one out of a class of 24. There is no way her teacher could spend the extra time with her on concepts she needed help with.” And Fowler’s son wasn’t faring much better: “His behavior was out of control.” He needed a little extra love “to understand he does not need to act out to be accepted.” So Fowler pulled her children out and began homeschooling. And she’s not alone.
Although obtaining accurate statistics on homeschooling can be difficult, about 2.3 million children are homeschooled nationwide (National Home Education Research Institute, 2016). And in Georgia alone, thousands of children are homeschooled. Why do so many people homeschool? There are a variety of reasons why homeschooling is a good option, and many statistics back up the legitimacy of this education option: Homeschool students usually score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests (NHERI, 2018) and graduate college with a higher GPA than their peers (US News). If you’re trying to decide whether homeschooling would work for your family, read on for all of the pros and cons.
Control what your children learn. Many families choose to homeschool because of religious or moral reasons. Quite a few homeschool families are Christians, and they use Bible-based curriculum to teach their kids in a way that aligns with their worldview. Public school teachers are very tightly controlled as far as what they can and can’t teach, so homeschool families appreciate the freedom to teach their kids their way.
Learning is individualized. With homeschooling, you’re able to go at your child’s pace and accommodate their learning style in a way that public schools just can’t. “I can tailor my kids’ lessons to meet their learning needs rather then forcing them to move forward before they have mastered a concept,” said Fowler. If a child in public school doesn’t quite grasp a math concept, that’s too bad; they have to keep moving on to keep up with the rest of the class. But if a homeschooled child is having trouble, they can take their time and focus on the issue until it’s resolved.
Enjoy flexibility for fun and field trips. “I like the freedom that [homeschooling] gives my family. We are not bound by a schedule… we can take our learning with us wherever we go for the day,” Fowler said. Homeschooling gives kids more time to be kids! I was homeschooled for twelve years, and until I began taking dual enrollment classes with a local college in high school, I was done with my school by noon almost every day. I can remember waiting around for hours for my neighborhood friends to come home and get off the bus so we could play. As I got older, I spent my free time practicing difficult classical music on the piano, training for my travel softball team, and working as a nanny. And the belief that homeschoolers never get out of the house is a myth: If anything, homeschoolers go on more field trips than public school kids, because their schedules are more flexible. My family was always packing a picnic lunch and heading out to meet our friends at a dairy farm, a museum, or the park. By the time I was in middle school, I was also regularly making weeklong visits to South America during the school year.
Opportunities for homeschool families in middle Georgia are numerous. “I just recently joined a co-op at Green Acres Baptist Church that I am really excited about!” said Fowler. Macon’s First Presbyterian Day School is starting a new program for homeschool students. “Homeschool Connections classes include options for hands-on experiments in FPD’s elementary science lab, nature exploration, robot coding, keyboarding, group guitar, tennis, and cross country,” said Beth Burnsed, Director of Communications. (For more information, see www.fpdmacon.org/homeschool).Central Georgia Arts and Athletics provides “competitive arts and athletic programs for students in Central Georgia who are currently being educated by non-traditional means.” Searching out opportunities for homeschooled middle and high school students can be time-consuming, so CGA does it for you. Learn more at www.centralgeorgiaaa.org.
Family members will form a close bond. “I like that homeschooling allows my family to spend more time together,” Fowler said. Most families are constantly running from place to place—they pack the kids off to school, go to work, pick the kids up from school, and shuttle them around from activity to activity. Homeschooled families are just as busy, but instead of leaving the house for school every day, they study together. This allows strong relationships to form between parents, children, and siblings.
It takes sacrifice. The large majority of the perceived cons of homeschooling are myths that can be easily refuted. Socialization is not a problem, for instance, and homeschoolers can play club and rec sports even if they can’t participate in school sports. However, the biggest drawback of homeschooling is the sacrifices it requires from parents. If you’re planning to homeschool your children, either you or your spouse must be at a stay-at-home parent, and you won’t have much time for anything else—homeschooling is a full-time job, except you don’t get paid. The loss of income might be a blow if both you and your spouse were previously working.
Homeschool parents need a diverse skillset: They have to choose curriculum, teach their kids a variety of school subjects, keep the kids on task, and more, all while also fulfilling the “normal” duties of a stay-at-home parent. “I didn’t expect it would be such a challenge to keep my kids on task and motivated to learn,” Fowler said. “They enjoyed the first couple of days of homeschooling since it was all new and exciting, but once our routine set in, they were shocked to find out that we actually had to do work every day and that homeschool did not mean we just get to do nothing but sit around and play all day and watch movies.”
Homeschooling is hard work, but it’s also flexible work. Tanner Shultz and Keith Braswell, board presidents at Central Georgia Arts and Athletics, said that homeschooling might not be right for you if “you would be wracked by guilt because you’re not on a tight schedule everyday.” It’s hard for homeschool parents to understand they don’t have to make their kids sit at a desk from nine to three. “We need to get the work done; however, if you consider the productive time in any school, it’s really about four to five hours maximum,” Shultz and Braswell explained.
The bottom line is that switching to homeschooling requires a big lifestyle change. Homeschooling has many benefits, but if you’re going to take the plunge, it will require your full commitment.