As homeschooling has grown in popularity over the last 40 years, so have stories of its successes. And so, the question could be asked – how much of its success is due to where the education takes place? Is there truly no place like home when it comes to learning? Our current experiment in distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic should help answer this question.
Though the hard data is still being collected, we are hearing many parents and teachers voice concerns about a steep learning slide due to the school closures. Anecdotally, it does not appear that the mere act of moving education from school building to home has positively impacted learning outcomes.
So if homeschooling seems to be successful and distance learning less so, we should investigate the factors that could contribute to this discrepancy:
- In homeschooling, parents select the teaching materials. It is no longer a one-size-fits-all curriculum, but parents can consider resources based on teaching methodology, quantity and type of review problems, color photos/illustrations vs. black-and-white layout, suggested supplemental activities, amount of writing required, and development of critical thinking skills.
- In homeschooling, parents set the pace and schedule. If your child is a night-owl, he can do most of his schoolwork in the afternoon or evening. If a particular lesson or concept is difficult, it can be redone, reviewed, or supplemented until it is mastered. If a lesson is easy, then the student can do every other problem or every other page, instead of tediously completing the same number of problems as a fellow student who is struggling with the concept. Additionally lessons can be taught on weekends or traditional school vacation days – the school calendar can be adapted as needed to better fit the family’s schedule.
- In homeschooling, parents can teach to the interests and passions of their student. Curiosity can be encouraged, and rabbit trails can be explored. Students can use photography, video, poster board display, skit, song or other creative activities, in addition to the more traditional methods like tests and essays, to demonstrate their knowledge.
- In homeschooling, parents can incorporate key family values – religious faith, racial reconciliation, environmental awareness, kindness, or (insert value of your choice) – into their school activities and projects. Your children can see firsthand how these values fit into everyday life.
In short, homeschooling encourages you to see your child as a unique individual and to consider his or her strengths, weaknesses, giftings, and innate developmental timetable when devising a plan for learning. In contrast, public school assumes that all children born within the same chronological age span are ready to learn the same skills on the same day while being taught in the exact same way. And now we see this same assumption in application, whether the instruction is happening in a classroom or at home through distance learning.
I truly believe that it is not the place of instruction that matters most. Instead it is the ability to teach one-of-a-kind instead of one-size-fits-all that makes homeschooling so different from distance learning.
I run Tools for the Home Educator in Torrance. Please let me know if I can help you transition your children from learning in a crowd to a customized, personalized education.