Some parents do this for religious or political reasons. Others wanted to curate their children’s education. And more than a few were disappointed to see how challenging school was — or wasn’t — for their kids when everything zoomed into 2020.
Whatever the reason, in 2020–2021, approximately 3.7 million students, or about 7% of all school-age children in grades K-12 in the United States, were homeschooled. This number has increased dramatically since 2019, when about 4% of children in the US were homeschooled.
Although the number of homeschooled children continues to grow, the jury is out on whether homeschooling is better than traditional public or private schooling.
On one side of the argument are those who believe that homeschooled children receive a higher education, leading to advantages in college admissions and scholarships. On the other hand are those who argue that homeschooling can lead to social isolation and lack of exposure to different cultures. Let’s take a comprehensive look at both sides of the argument so you can decide for yourself.
Advantages of homeschooling:
There are several reasons why homeschooling is considered more flexible than traditional schooling. Sick days and holidays should not cause children to fall behind in school. Parents can adjust lessons around illness, travel plans, and work commitments without sticking to a rigid curriculum or schedule.
Homeschooling is especially important due to the growing popularity of remote and flexible working. Parents who work remotely to maintain flexibility may find that homeschooling fits their family’s lifestyle better.
Individualized Education / Effective Learning
Every child is different, with unique interests and learning methods. What appears to be an engaging teaching method for one student may be tedious, ineffective and monotonous for another. 78% of peer-reviewed studies show that homeschooled students perform significantly better academically than conventional school students, further strengthening the argument that individualized education is more effective.
However, this is not practical for public and private schools as they cater for many children in each class. With limited resources, customizing teaching methods based on each student’s preferences and strengths is unattainable.
In addition to academics, homeschooling appears to positively impact career achievement and the likelihood of success as an adult. For example, 69% of peer-reviewed studies find that homeschooled individuals perform better in many aspects of adulthood compared to their counterparts from conventional schooling backgrounds.
The findings are not surprising as parents are more attentive to their children’s learning needs and develop tailored tactics to better address these needs. Thus, compared to conventional schools, home education results in more effective learning.
Avoid school safety issues
By keeping children at home, parents can ensure that their child gets the education they need without worrying about them being bullied or forming destructive friendships.
Homeschooling also ensures that the increasing violent incidents in schools across the United States do not affect children. According to the National Center for Education Research, in the 2020-2021 school year there were 93 school shootings in public and private schools. Unfortunately, 43 of these incidents resulted in death.
Help children build self-reliance and maturity
Homeschooling can help children become independent and self-reliant. Learning at their own pace while being self-motivated to be accountable for their own progress can instill confidence and a sense of responsibility. Homeschooling also allows children to explore their interests more deeply, leading to greater independence and self-direction.
In addition, children can develop time management and organizational skills by managing their schedules around studies and extracurricular activities.
87% of peer-reviewed studies echo these benefits of homeschooling, confirming that homeschooled students perform statistically significantly better on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development than those in mainstream schools .
Save the taxpayer money
Homeschooling saves taxpayers a significant amount of money in the United States by reducing the amount spent on public education.
According to the National Education Association, taxpayers spend about $15,240 per student per year. In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 3.7 million home-schooled students saved the U.S. government more than $56 billion. Imagine the potential for future savings if the number of homeschooled students continues to grow.
In addition to saving money on education, homeschooling families also save taxpayer money by not using public services like transportation and lunch programs.
Disadvantages of homeschooling:
While homeschooling has several advantages, weighing the benefits against the potential disadvantages is critical before deciding whether to homeschool.
Time and Financial Investments by Parents
The biggest downside to homeschooling is the extra time and financial investment required from parents. According to Time4Learning, homeschooling a child costs parents between $700 and $1,800 per year. At the same time, devoting time to homeschooling can mean fewer work hours or a loss of income for one parent.
As a result, it may become necessary to redo retirement plans, rebalance investments and find alternative sources of income. All these changes can become stressful if not planned in advance.
Additionally, each state has its own regulations when it comes to homeschooling. Parents must adhere to state-level homeschool requirements if they live in one of the 23 states. For example, Indiana parents must provide guidance for at least 180 days per year.
In some states, there is no need to inform anyone if parents intend to homeschool. In other states, multiple documents are required, including the submission of standardized test scores and a letter of intent.
The confusing regulations, extra time commitment, and financial expense can put many parents off considering homeschooling.
Adjustment period for parents and children
Teachers and staff are trained to create the right ecosystem for learning in a typical school. Exceptional support is required to enable the right mental and physical conditions for early education.
For parents, simulating the same environment at home can be a challenging learning curve. In addition, homeschooling requires parents to teach a wide range of subjects, which can mean additional time commitments outside of work and classes.
Families must make many adjustments to make homeschooling work, from developing a workable schedule to finding the right teaching style. Finding the perfect balance for everyone to foster a healthy learning environment takes time, patience, and conscious effort.
Parents may find that balancing work and home schooling commitments can take a toll on their relationship. Couples may not be able to recharge or spend time together. According to BMC Public Health research, homeschooling parents experienced significantly higher levels of psychological distress than those who did not. In the long term, parental stress can affect children’s emotional well-being.
Parents need to take time to reconnect and engage in activities outside of the daily grind.
Homeschooling is gaining popularity, with more parents choosing to educate their children at home. There are many benefits as well as downsides to homeschooling. Before making a decision, it is wise to discuss all the pros and cons as a family. Both parents and children need to be connected and committed before deciding whether homeschooling is the right choice for your family.