Homeschooling consists of a child being educated by parents and/or tutors within the home setting, as opposed to going to a public facility in order to receive a standardized education from teachers among other children. This sample education essay compares public schools and homeschooling.
Problems with contemporary public schooling
One of the key problems currently facing public schooling consists of a potential mismatch between the skills and knowledge students really need in the contemporary world on the one hand and the methods of instruction and evaluation that are generally being utilized by educators on the other. This is perhaps exemplified with the increasing prominence of standardized testing within public schools.
This trend has been wildly unpopular among not only parents but also teachers and administrators, with several principals of public schools taking efforts to enable students to opt out of the testing regimen. This has resulted in the Obama Administration itself proposing free community college, increased teacher salaries, more technology diverted to the classroom, and healthier lunches. As Mead has suggested, a new plan that has been unveiled by the Administration:
“is a mea culpa of sorts, an acknowledgment by the Administration that its own policies cultivated the ‘drill and kill’ test prep that has come to characterize many classrooms in the past several years” (paragraph 3).
In short, there have been systematic problems in public education recently with respect to children actually learning what they need to know in an effective way.
Discrimination within the classroom
Moreover, there is a reason to believe that the systematic prejudices of the broader society against certain populations of Americans finds its way into the public schooling system as well. Racism is one of the most important of these prejudices. In fact, this would seem to be a major factor driving the embrace of homeschooling by Black families. As Huseman has written:
“while white homeschooling families traditional cite religious or moral disagreements with public schools in their decision to pull them out of traditional classroom settings, studies indicate black families are more likely to cite the culture of low expectations for African American students or dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated in schools” (paragraph 3).
In short, the public school often has a tendency to discriminate by reproducing the social structures of society. This means that relatively subaltern populations may feel intrinsically antagonized by the public school setting.
Statistics regarding homeschooling
The relevant statistics would seem to indicate that homeschooling within the United States has been on the rise over the past several years. According to Ray:
“there are about 2.2 million home-educated students in the United States…It appears the homeschool population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past few years)” (paragraph 2).
Moreover, the same researcher has also indicated that 15 percent of American families engaged in homeschooling hail from a non-White racial/ethnic background. This is congruent with the problems facing public schooling that have been discussed above. From a broader perspective, though, it is worth being aware of the fact that quite a broad range of demographic groups are represented within the homeschool population.
This is because, in principle, there are any number of reasons emerging from any number of practical or political angles, to disagree with mainstream American society and its public schooling system. Some conservatives, for example, dislike what they perceive to be public schools’ hostility to their religion.
Relative advantages of homeschooling
One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling consists of the freedom it affords to children. As Fox, a parent who homeschools her children has written:
“School focuses on training children to obey like dogs…School teaches children to conform. At home, we have rules, too! Children need them. But when my kids have to go to the bathroom, they go! When they’re hungry, they eat; when they want to laugh or wiggle, they do” (2).
The idea here is that the structure of public schooling is geared not so much toward cultivating an ideal learning environment as it is about maintaining simultaneous control over a large number of children. In part, this may be dictated by the very nature of public schooling itself, which generally consists of a single educator attempting to work with dozens of children at once.
The upshot is that there is a much greater emphasis on a relatively arbitrary sense of discipline, which in turn tends to produce conformity among the minds and behaviors of students. According to Fox, homeschooling instead allows the child a maximum of freedom while still providing the necessary structure that any child needs in order to learn in an effective way.
Achieving individuality through homeschooling
As a result of this benefit, the child is also able to develop a maximum of individuality, free will, and moral responsibility. This is to an extent because the child is able to pursue his or her own interests in a relatively tailored way, as opposed to having to adhere to the standardized curriculum that public schooling imposes on all students. Moreover, though, it is worth considering the basic fact that the public school, aside from formally encouraging conformity by virtue of its very structures, is also a hotbed for the transmission of a generic and popular culture among children.
For example, if a child is immersed in a group of twenty other children who all watch the same television show or listen to the same music, then that child will be rather likely to begin doing the same thing (Fox 3; Sizer). In contrast, homeschooling perhaps enables the child to maintain greater autonomy in his interests, until the point when he will be able to stand by his interests on his own. It is worth pointing out that Fox’s observations would seem to have a solid grounding in rigorous pedagogical theory.
In particular, the work of Dewey and his tradition of constructivism strongly affirms that the ideal learning environment for the child will be one in which the child is able to engage with his environment according to his own genuine interests, and in which the curriculum is shaped by a dialectical relationship with the child himself (as opposed to merely being imposed on the child in a one-size-fits-all fashion). Within the context of contemporary American society, homeschooling would seem to be much more capable of meeting this ideal than would public schooling.
Relative drawbacks of homeschooling
The single most important drawback of homeschooling is the fact that it will almost certainly impede the child’s socialization process. In broad terms, socialization refers to the process through which a child learns the standards and norms of his culture, understands his role in society and social groups relative to his peers, and generally becomes a social creature among other social creatures.
As Foley’s ethnographic work has indicated beyond a shadow of a doubt, the fundamental purpose of public schooling is in fact to convey this socialization process to a new generation—to the point that the transmission of actual educational material could almost be understood as a secondary objective (even as it is explicitly identified as the primary objective).
Ironically, the same advantages that enable the homeschooled child exceptional levels of freedom and individuality may also render that childless grounded within his concrete social world and thus less adept when it comes to actually living a mature life within the context of his society. In other words, the child will be likely to miss out on at least certain aspects of the socialization process, insofar as the public school arena is the place where the vast majority of children learn how to grow into their social selves among their peers.
Homeschooling’s lack of liberal values
Moreover, the interesting argument has also sometimes been made that homeschooling is essentially contrary to liberal values. Goldstein, for example, has suggested that the practice of homeschooling, and its corollary:
“hostility” to public schools, “is rooted in distrust of the public sphere, in class privilege, and in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large” (paragraph 6).
One implication here is that the homeschool population is relatively self-selecting in the elitist sense, insofar as it is to a large extent premised on a family having access to a certain level of wealth. Moreover, Goldstein’s statement means that homeschooling can essentially be read as a disinvestment on the part of individual families from the broader community. This could potentially breed a kind of isolationist ethos within society, where people from different backgrounds are not compelled to really encounter each other and coexist in the same space. This would be contrary to basic liberal values.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a comparative analysis of homeschooling and public schooling. The essay has discussed the problems of contemporary public schooling, statistics regarding homeschooling, and the advantages and drawbacks of homeschooling relative to public schooling. The key conclusion that has emerged here centers on the basic moral conflict that exists between the value of individuality on the one hand and the value of socialization on the other. The risk of homeschooling is that the child will receive too little socialization; the risk of public schooling is that the child will develop too little individuality. Whichever option is chosen, then, the real objective would be to try and work toward the middle way.
Dewey, John. The Child and the Curriculum. Project Gutenberg, 1902. Web. 18 Oct. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29259.
Foley, Douglas E. Learning Capitalist Culture Deep in the Heart of Tejas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Print.
Fox, Megan. “8 Reasons Homeschooling Is Superior to Public Education.” PJ Media. 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/10/24/8-reasons- homeschooling-is-superior-to-public-education/3/.
Goldstein, Dana. “Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids.” Slate. 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/homeschooling_and_unschooling_among_liberals_and_progressives_.html.
Huseman, Jessica. “The Rise of Homeschooling among Black Families.” Atlantic. 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/the-rise-of- homeschooling-among-black-families/385543/.
Mead, Rebecca. “Obama’s Change of Heart on Testing.” New Yorker. 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/obamas-change-of-heart-on- testing.
Ray, D. Brian. “Research Facts on Homeschooling.” National Home Education Research Institute, 6 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts- on-homeschooling.html.
Sizer, Bridget Bentz. “Socialization: Tackling Homeschooling’s ‘S’ Word.” PBS. n.d.. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/homeschooling/socialization- tackling-homeschoolings-s-word/.