Learn From Homeschooling to Improve Public Education
Source: The Daily Iowan
March 9, 2012
Since 1999, the number of U.S. students homeschooling has nearly doubled. It continues to be a viable alternative to public or private education, and as trust in the public-school system dwindles, more and more parents are turning to educating their kids themselves.
An increase in the popularity of homeschooling in America demonstrates a severe lack of confidence in the public-education system. Americans should be able to trust in their government's ability to provide an adequate education for the next generation, and if they can't, we should re-evaluate and refine our approach to schooling. One method is to determine the reasoning behind homeschooling's success and attempt to implement those principles in public classrooms.
The reason homeschooling works is largely because of its individualized approach. This, of course, runs upstream from the consequences of No Child Left Behind, which, in effect, requires teachers to instruct homogeneously. By applying an individualized approach to teaching, interest and innovation would propel our schools to higher achievement and attract more would-be homeschoolers, freeing up parents to contribute to the workforce.
Homeschooling has steadily evolved into more than just a self-righteous alternative for Bible Belt parents who cower at the thought of evolution being taught in biology classes as something more than a hypothesis. Today, the attraction of homeschooling transcends political lines of division.
"Homeschoolers of all stripes believe that they alone should decide how their children are educated, and they unite in order to press for the absence of regulations or the most permissive regulation possible,"writes Robert Reich in a 2005 Stanford University research paper, "Why Homeschooling Should Be Regulated."
The results — without accounting for control factors — indicate that homeschooling produces better students. While the percentile rank for public schools is, by definition, 50 percent, homeschooled children rank between the 65th and 80th percentiles, according the National Home Education Research Institution.
This gap in achievement should act as inspiration for school reform. But of course, evidence parallel to public classrooms should be evaluated before taking any bold action.
One 2012 study, called "Assessing Performance: The Impact of Organizational Climates and Politics on Public Schools' Performance," found that four "climates" were positively correlated to public-school performance: participative, innovative, leadership, and service — two of which are integrated in the foundation of homeschooling. In a perfect world, every child would be homeschooled and receive the same individualized attention.
Yet, not all families have the time or the financial flexibility to homeschool, not to mention the vast majority of parents are most likely not qualified to educate their children in a fashion that prepares them for college and the professional world. The majority of families in America depend on the public-school system to educate their children.
Instead of bashing the government for its methodologies and flawed system of funding, we should address the issue that while some parents might choose to educate their children for personal reasons, others do it out of a fear of sending their kids through flawed or failing systems. Fear of an inadequate education should not be a weighty factor in any family's decision to homeschool.
The goal should be to eradicate circumstantially prompted homeschooling by tailoring educational policy based on what does and what does not improve overall student performance.
When it comes to curricula, schools should focus on individual tutoring, increased instructional time, and cooperative learning. Initiatives such as Edutopia offer some insight into potential methods of bettering public-school performance.
Homeschooling essentially revolves around parental involvement. In the same light, one might also consider the agency of parents in the sphere of public education and the positive effects of being involved in their child's K-12 schooling. Parents getting involved in local educational reform and vocalizing concerns can have an obvious, tangible effect. Programs such as Project Appleseed call on parents to "pledge" to improve public-school systems by being involved.
Every child should have access to an adequate education. Policy should not aim to eliminate homeschooling — it should aim to learn from it.