Why Do Families Choose to Homeschool?
It’s been said that there are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. With the number of homeschoolers in the United States estimated at 1.7 million, that’s probably overstating the number of reasons a bit. 😉 Then again, if you answer the question “Why do you homeschool?” by stating the names of your children, each child IS a reason.
A family may choose homeschooling for several reasons, not just one. Those reasons may be different for different children and may change over time.
In compiling a list of some of the many reasons families homeschool, I found that they can be grouped into four broad categories:
- Family Logistics
- A family has a business that requires that one or both parents travel.
- The family has taken an extended period of time off to travel in an RV.
- The family lives in a rural area far from schools.
- The family is serving in the missionary field with no access to schools.
Homeschoolers in the first group have a lifestyle that requires an alternative to a brick-and-mortar school. Perhaps the family business requires travel, and Mom and Dad would like to be able to bring the children along (an education in itself). Perhaps the family business IS travel — some families travel the country in an RV and educate their children on the road. The Burritt family of Traverse City, Michigan was one such family; their daughter Amy’s book My American Adventure was based on her family’s tour around the U.S. Perhaps the family lives in a remote location, many miles from the nearest school, and they believe that the hours spent on a school bus each day could be better spent learning at home. Missionaries who are serving in other countries may not have access to a brick-and-mortar school for their children; at least one homeschool curriculum has been developed to serve such a need.
- Child Needs
- A child has special physical or emotional needs.
- A child is gifted.
- A child is an actor or an athlete in training.
- A child is participating in an apprenticeship training program.
- A child wants to finish high school early.
Homeschoolers in the second group have children with various special needs. These children might have a developmental disability, such as Down Syndrome or autism; they might have a medical condition that requires daily treatment or equipment; they might have a serious allergy that makes attendance at a school potentially life-threatening. For some children, school can create emotional trauma, and they need a different environment in which to learn. Giftedness is another special need. Many parents of gifted children choose to homeschool them because they find that schools cannot offer their children enough challenge; their kids may be bored or held back intellectually. Children who are professional actors (such as Frankie Muniz of the TV show “Malcolm in the Middle”) or athletes in training (for example, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan) are often homeschooled so that they can combine their education with the pursuit of their career goals. For young people in their teens who are in apprenticeship programs, homeschooling allows the flexibility both to continue their education and to work. Homeschooling also provides the opportunity for a student to finish his formal schooling early if he chooses.
- School Environment
- There are concerns about the quality of education offered by the school.
- There are concerns about school practices that can have a negative impact on children: competing educational initiatives, standardized testing, long school days, excessive homework, formal academics introduced earlier than is developmentally appropriate.
- There are concerns about peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, sex, bullying, and violence.
- There are concerns about the school promoting cultural messages that actively work against a family’s set of values.
The third category includes reasons related to the academic and/or cultural environment of school. School budgets in many districts have soared with no discernible positive effect on the quality of education. Parents are right to be concerned about the constant chain of educational initiatives for which their children are guinea pigs; the amount of time spent preparing for standardized testing; long school days followed by hours of homework; and formal academics imposed on children at younger and younger ages, often at the expense of playtime. And the news headlines provide evidence that school can do great harm to the children it is supposed to serve. So-called “socialization” is often a hidden curriculum that promotes peer pressure, alcohol and drug use, sex, bullying, and violence. Parents are understandably concerned not only about sending their children to schools where metal detectors and police officers are necessary, but they may also feel that the school is actively working to undermine the traditional values they want to instill in their children.
- Family Life
- Many families want to spend more time together than school allows.
- Many families are religious and want to be able to incorporate their spiritual beliefs into their children’s education and daily lives.
- Many parents enjoy teaching their children.
Homeschoolers in the fourth group are keenly aware of the encroachments of school upon family life. Not only does school separate parents and children for the lion’s share of the day, but homework takes up time when a child is supposedly “home.” The school schedule, every day and throughout the year, dictates to the family what its own schedule must look like. For families who believe that the family, not the school, is the central unit of society, this is a compelling reason to homeschool. For many families, the reinforcement of their spiritual values is best accomplished in a consistent environment free from negative influences that would contradict the family’s beliefs. And some parents have so enjoyed the early years of teaching their children and watching them grow that they don’t want to stop!
As you can see, people choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons, reflecting a diversity of needs, concerns, and goals. If you’re not yet a homeschooler, why are you considering it? If you’re already a homeschooler, why did you choose it? The answer will guide you as you and your children live and learn together.