Despite Homeschooling’s Growing Popularity and Strong Academic Outcomes, Author Not Sold on It

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Do your homework. When are you planning to do your homework? Have you done your homework? All of it? These questions, as annoying to me as they are to my kids, flow regularly from my mouth like an involuntary tic.

When I actually get pulled into the homework, things can really deteriorate. I know where the commas belong, but I can’t remember to save my life the fancy names of the phrases that go between these punctuation marks. And now that my kids have moved on from the math basics of dividing and multiplying, I’m of zero help in that department. As for history, I never could keep straight all those different dates, events, and key players.

Even if I did know every academic subject inside and out, I don’t think I’d want to spend hours each day being the sole person responsible for imparting this knowledge to my children. I think I’d go batty in the process. Plus, I believe that being exposed to multiple teachers and classmates gives my kids a far richer educational experience than I ever could. But an increasing number of parents think otherwise.

Since 1999, the number of children nationwide being homeschooled has jumped a whopping 75 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Now, about 2.9 percent of all school-aged children in the U.S. are homeschooled. Here’s the breakdown explaining why parents choose to home school, compiled from the U.S. Department of Education:
• 36 percent cite a desire to provide religious or moral instruction
• 21 percent cite concern about the school environment
• 17 percent cite dissatisfaction with academic instruction
• 14 percent cite other reasons (family time, finances, travel)
• 7 percent cite desire for nontraditional approach to education
• 6 percent cite children’s health problems or special needs

If you measure strictly quantitative outcomes, homeschooling looks like an appealing option. Recent studies note that homeschoolers taught in a structured home school setting achieve higher grades on standardized test scores than traditionally-schooled kids. And some top-flight colleges, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth, have begun actively recruiting home schooled children. “The applications [from homeschoolers] I’ve come across are outstanding. Homeschoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received,” noted a Dartmouth College admissions officer on the website Innovative Educator.

Not even the promise of a closer look from an Ivy League school would change my mind about homeschooling my children.

When I think back to all the teachers I had—some off-beat, one or two completely motivating, others tough as nails—I realize how much I learned from each of them beyond academics. The same goes for my class mates, some with whom I bonded, others with whom I fought, still others whom I attempted to dismiss but who stuck in my head nonetheless. Each of them taught me how to be in the wider world beyond the confines of my family and its ideals. Although my mom and dad were great parents, I don’t think either one of them, single-handedly, could have shown me the way. Nor do I think I could do it for my kids.

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  1. I think most home schooled kids do it for a short time. And I think it’s sad that most parents I’ve talked to about why they home school do it because they just feel that the school options have failed their children.

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