Parents who homeschool weigh-in on the subject

It started a couple of generations ago in the USA. A fringe movement in the 1970s where a small population of parents decided to homeschool their children despite laws prohibiting home education. These parents from different walks of life shared one common goal – to embrace the unconventional and defeat the cookie-cutter traditional system of education. The concept gained momentum over the years and in recent times, homeschooling has become a recognized, legalized and certified option for educating young minds.

Today, over 2.5 million children are homeschooled in the USA, only preceded by India with 2.7 million children. However, only around 100,000 children are homeschooled in the United Kingdom and an even lower 60,000 in Canada. In Europe, the numbers are negligible, especially considering homeschooling is still illegal in some parts. So, it’s no wonder that a modern parent finds it difficult to make a decision on whether homeschooling is right for their young ones.

Continental turned to a few parents who have opted to homeschool their children and roped in Rickson D’Souza, in-house financial expert and father of two, to provide perspective on the subject. According to them, homeschooling has 5 main aspects that will help any parent determine if they are ready for homeschooling.

 The Curriculum Hunt

This is one of the most important aspects of education for a child. Cristina David, mother of children aged 8 and 9 says, “For 3 years, my husband and I followed the Calvert US curriculum but earlier this year, we switched to the Wolsey Hall Oxford UK Curriculum”. But not all parents follow strict online curriculums. For example, Shaema Imam says she uses an ‘eclectic homeschooling approach’ for her children aged 13, 10 and 8, “I follow a curriculum of my own making, led by the interests and learning styles of my children and guided by resources from British, Pakistani, Arab, as well as North American sources”. Ideally, the best way to choose a curriculum is to first understand your child’s learning style; as well as your own teaching style.

Homeschooling offers a flexibility that allows parents to design not just the curriculum but also the schedule of training around the strengths of the child and the lifestyle of the family. This works very well for parents that want to relocate every few years, or have an unconventional plan for their child. For example, there may be parents who have designed a curriculum with a strong focus on their child’s gymnastics career. Another parent may want to create a balance between academic learning and life skills; to encourage their child to gain real-world experience. And fortunately, there is a curriculum out there for just about every learning style.

Additionally, families that homeschool more than one child often combine certain subjects that are not necessarily grade or age-specific, like history, literature and the arts. Children of various ages might study the same historical time period together and then be given assignments that reflect specific age and ability. However, subjects like mathematics may still require one-on-one attention.

The Social Dilemma

Many scholars view peer interaction as a critical component of a child’s education. But many advocates of the homeschooling system argue that the socialization that a child receives in school is unnatural, and is better achieved through life experiences that center around the family and other like-minded groups that they attend.

Angela Bradford from USA confirms, “We’ve been homeschooling our 13-year old son and 8-year old daughter for 2 years. In the beginning, my children missed their friends from school, but they have made many others since then”.

Many homeschooled children have far more dynamic social networks and active social calendars with field trips, play dates, ballet or gymnastics classes, group sports, music lessons and even homeschool co-ops. Therefore, the idea that homeschooling turns kids into social hermits is not necessarily true.

The University Question 

While only a few parts of the world require standardized testing, it is recommended that parents conduct regular tests and record results throughout their child’s educational journey. This will particularly be helpful when it comes to their high school and university education.

Most colleges are beginning to take note of the popularity of homeschooling. In an article published in the Harvard Crimson, Dean of Freshmen, Thomas A. Dingman said, “We’ve had lots of success with students who identify as homeschooled”. Even an Ivy League Institution like Harvard does not evaluate homeschooled applicants differently than others in the admissions process as long as all relevant reports on the progress of the child is presented.

The Financial Angle

One of the major reasons that parents opt for homeschooling is because of the rising costs of traditional education. And even though invariably one parent stays home to homeschool their child, it is still the cheaper option.

Jackson Lao from the Philippines says, “We have been able to save the costs of our kids’ education without compromising the quality of learning. Homeschooling currently costs $4,000 for both of our kids, compared to $16,500 we paid for traditional schooling! This means that we have more money to set aside for their university”.

Rickson D’Souza, in-house consultant at Continental Insurance says, “Homeschooling costs can be as low or as high as you want it to be – you have complete control. Some parents go with low-cost options owing to the financial capacity of the family. But there are parents who spend twice the amount of traditional school fees on homeschooling because they believe that will ensure academic excellence for their children.”

But compared to traditional schooling, homeschooling is still a better financial option, because you can decide where the money is utilized. Rickson explains, “When you just consider the amount of money that goes into peripherals like transportation, clothes, school supplies and school fundraisers and events, homeschooling is already a better option”.

He adds, “But paying a lower amount for homeschooling does not necessarily mean that a financial plan of action is not needed. For example, there may be added costs for extra-curricular activities or for special tutoring on subjects that a parent is not well-versed with. The best way to approach homeschooling is to first set a budget and then work-in all the details. Over and above all this, there is still the question of the higher education of your child. It is highly advised to have an education savings plan in place to prepare for the cost of university in the future”.

The Parent Commitment

Parents deciding to homeschool their children are making a significant commitment. They should expect to spend as much time teaching their children as they would working full-time. Willingness, effort, discipline, time, flexibility and patience all play a pivotal part in becoming a parent-teacher. And moments of self-doubt are not uncommon for a homeschooling parent. However, in such times, the flexibility homeschooling offers comes to the rescue. Jill Konyar, mother of 12-year old Aiden says, “Some days I am tired and I don’t follow through as efficiently. But on those days, I make sure he reads more or does an art project or even builds with Lego”.

Moreover, with homeschooling co-ops and online support groups, parents can rest assured that they are not alone in their effort. Jill adds, “I partner my homeschooling efforts with other parents. Each of us takes responsibility for different subjects, which I was thrilled and relieved about. All of the moms I know set a really high bar for educating our little ones. I am incredibly grateful for their warmth and guidance”.

In the end, it seems that homeschooling can be a very good option. Parents that take the onus of training their children full-time, experience the benefit of their choice when they save significantly on costs and find themselves able to focus on what truly matters for their child’s development. But the greatest benefit is to see children demonstrate the new skills and knowledge they have mastered through homeschooling.

Cristina David says, “My kids focus on what they really like to study, we have more quality family time, and they socialize with like-minded kids, forming true friendships”. Shaema adds, “The greatest joy of homeschooling is watching my children learn new things and come up with their own ideas, projects, and presentations”.

Jackson Lao further confirms, “When you see them building their own character and having confidence in what they do, it’s really worth the sacrifice. Living and learning with our kids as a family is one of the best choices we ever made”.

Ultimately, it is true that education is not just about studies and books. It is also about developing wholesome human beings. In this context, homeschooling can be the right answer for many parents and their children.

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