Public Education, Private Schools, or Home Schooling?

QUESTION

At what point do you advocate taking your children out of the public school because indoctrination has become so bad? Do the social benefits of private schooling outweigh the money savings of home-schooling?

ANSWER

My husband, Chris, wants to limit his remarks to a quotation–the first line of Paul Simon’s song, Kodachrome: “When I think back to all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” Thanks, Chris :).

That said, I’m afraid I don’t have any great formula for determining the point at which children would be better off withdrawing from public schools. If/when the schools refuse to allow parents to determine their children’s participation in questionable or harmful studies, programs, or policies, that would probably be one decider for me.

Second, there are a lot of variables to consider when deciding between public schools, private schools, and home-schooling, including: values being promoted, quality of education, school safety, availability of programs such as athletic teams and music programs, the social environment, special needs of the child, and school policies (e.g. our daughter in California is fairly confrontive with elementary teachers about how much homework her children will do; if they did all that was sent home, they wouldn’t have play time or time for family chores and activities, so she wonders about home schooling sometimes).

Let’s consider a few pros and cons (not a comprehensive list).

Private School Pros: Still provides social interaction. The quality of education is usually quite good.

Private School Cons: Expense. Sometimes surrounds your child with a kind of “elite” class that may create a sense of superiority or entitlement. If the school is affiliated with another religion, you’ll want to carefully and consistently explain how you would like your child to process any mandatory religious training.

Home School Pros: Should provide loving, nurturing, supportive environment. Much less wasted time than is typical in school settings. Parents control quality and content (hopefully, that’s a pro). Increasing availability of support materials for home schooling.

Home School Cons: Enormous investment and responsibility for (usually) the mother. Loss of regular social interaction—this can be fairly significant, may be mitigated somewhat by participating in an extended home school group. Loss of school athletic and music program options, although some districts are allowing home school students to participate. May be some danger of over-sheltering children, limiting experiences that develop skills to deal with challenging situations, differences between people, learning to stand up for what they believe without being aggressive or adversarial. May inadvertently foster a kind of paranoia or “Us vs. Them” attitude.

An option that works well for some families is being a very involved parent who supplements educationally and detoxes and corrects, as needed. Getting to know teachers and administrators, volunteering and visiting often, and talking a lot with children about what was happening at school and what they are learning can make public education a safe and successful experience. Helping them select good books to read, helping with homework, and guiding them when they were supposed to choose their own subjects to study (because kids often don’t know enough to select worthwhile and rewarding topics), are all ways to enhance what they’re learning. Talking about teachers, friends, school policies, school holidays and events can keep parents apprised of challenges. If we develop and nurture and strong, positive relationship with our children, we can guide and influence them when problems develop. Discussing the challenges our children face in a public school setting is such a great teaching opportunity that the benefits of public education may outweigh deficits for some time to come.

If you are considering home schooling, you may be interested in the following information (shamelessly gleaned from Wikipedia):

  • In 2005-6, 1.9-2.4 million students were home schooled, approximately 2.2% of the student population.
  • 91% of home school families describe themselves as Christian.
  • HS parents have higher income than average and are more likely to have advanced education.
  • Annual cost estimates vary widely from $400 to $2500 per child.
  • Numerous studies report that HS kids outperform their peers on standardized tests, perhaps by as much as 30-37 percentile points across all subjects and get higher scores on ACT and SAT exams.
  • In the 70s, federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies resulted in a book Better Late Than Early, 1975, followed by School Can Wait. The analysis concluded, “where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten.”
  • Raymond and Dorothy Moore, who conducted the above analysis, referenced a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating the following requirements: 1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.[1]
  • The Moores, who are home school advocates and facilitators, concluded that children need: “more of home and less of formal school” “more free exploration with… parents, and fewer limits of classroom and books,” and “more old fashioned chores – children working with parents – and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.”

Except for one of our sons who was home schooled during his 6th grade year mostly for health reasons, our children all went through the public education system and we felt it was mostly successful and rewarding for them.  But I definitely tried to be a parent who was very involved in school and who supplemented and detoxed regularly. Things are changing rapidly, though. My California daughter who is expecting her sixth child tells me that she thinks that for her family, it may be more a question of when, rather than if, to home school.

What are your feelings about home school, private schools, and public education?