Should You Home-School Your Child?

An internal debate.

Posted Jun 09, 2016

Iowapolitics.com, CC 2.0
Source: Iowapolitics.com, CC 2.0

A Google search today on the term, "closing the achievement gap" yielded 363,000 results. Indeed, many public schools now focus on low achievers.

That's one reason that many parents of average and above-average-achieving children home-school them. That can be especially enticing because private school tuition can, in high-cost areas, reach $35,000 a year, per child.

So it's not surprising that the number of home-schooled U.S. kids has almost  doubled from 850,000 in 1999 to more than 1.5 million in 2015.

But what about your child or children? Should you consider home-schooling them? Perhaps this internal debate will help clarify.

PERSON: I feel guilty about professing to be a liberal and then pulling my child from public school, who is a good role-model for low-achieving kids.

ALTER-EGO: Do you really want to risk sacrificing your child for dubious likely impact? After all, since 1963, the taxpayer has spent  more than $22 trillion on society's have-nots, from Head Start to job retraining, and yet the achievement gap is as wide as ever. Johnny is always complaining about being bored because the class lessons are  too easy. And he's starting to get affected by the peer culture: excess materialism, drugs, and Johnny, who is a sweet kid, has already got beaten up badly twice by bullies.

PERSON: I am worried about all that but I'm also worried I wouldn't be a good-enough home-schooling teacher.

ALTER EGO: You don't need to do it by yourself. There are so many resources, like thousands of lesson plans for home-schooling parents. And there are home-schooling co-ops where parents share the work and Johnny gets to be in classes of just a few good kids taught by a parent with special skill and interest in what s/he's teaching. Plus, there are individual parents you could share some of the work with.

PERSON: To be honest, there's also the time commitment. No matter how much I  offload to other parents, I'd have to spend a lot of time every day teaching my kid. I'm not sure I'm ready to make that commitment.

ALTER EGO: You told your husband you wanted to stay home to take of Johnny. You can give up some of your discretionary activities: Exercise class, yoga, guitar lessons, and/or going out with friends. Come on!

PERSON: Then there's the issue of parenting burnout. I get frustrated sometimes with Johnny just during after-school hours. If I have to, full-time, be responsible for getting him to pay attention to my lessons and to doing his schoolwork, it could be difficult on both of us.

ALTER EGO: You could probably get hubby to help out.

PERSON: And what about Johnny's social life? A big part of going to school is developing friendships.

ALTER EGO:  You easily could facilitate Johnny having a better group of friends than the pool of kids at school: Not just the other home-schooled kids who, as a group are pretty darn good because their parents care enough to make the effort to home-school them but because you can encourage good kids who attend school from the neighborhood as well as Johnny's current friends.

PERSON: You're making it sound easier than it would be. And even harder would be teaching him when he gets to the higher grades, not just academically but extracurricularly. High schools do plays, have sports teams, and so on.

ALTER EGO: You can cross that bridge when you get to it. If you don't like any of the public high schools, you could spring for private school because it's only for a few years. If you're doing well financially, you'll be able to afford the sticker price. If not, you'd get enough financial aid to make it at least marginally affordable. And if you decide to keep home-schooling him through high school, you'd supplement, for example, with the many online courses that are available. And by the time he's in high school, those courses will be better—online education is still in its infancy.

PERSON: But how will colleges feel about a kid who was home-schooled?

ALTER EGO: I just read an article, 15 Key Facts About Home-Schooled Kids in College. Those facts include, for example, that home-schooled kids may have a higher college admission rate and definitely do better on the SAT and ACT, have higher GPAs in college, and are more likely to graduate college.

PERSON: Those are correlational studies That doesn't assign causation. It could well be that the pool of home-schooled kids are brighter, with better parents.

ALTER EGO: That's true but there's a lot of that correlational evidence. The Home School Research Institute did a review of the literature.

PERSON: They're biased.

ALTER EGO: Okay, U.S. News, which does the college ranking, did a review of the literature titled, Home-Schooled Teens Ripe for College: Myths about unsocialized home-schoolers are false, and most are well prepped for college, experts say..

PERSON: Okay, Johnny may do better if home-schooled but he'll also do okay in the public schools—especially if I choose the schools carefully and then try to get him into good teachers' classes or at least avoid the worst ones. It's just too much of a commitment for me to home-school him.

ALTER EGO: Even from a selfish perspective, are you sure your life won't be, net better, if you home-school him? You'll learn a lot and have a rewarding experience in parenting him. You know that you're kind of getting sick of exercise class and learning the guitar anyway. Remember also that, at any point, you can change your mind and send Johnny back to school.

PERSON: I'll think about it.

The Takeaway

Of course every situation is different: the child, the public and private school options, and your ability and motivation to home-school.. Nevertheless, have you gained any clarity on whether you'd like to home-school one or more of your children?

His new book, his 8th, is The Best of Marty Nemko.