Homeschooling is not always the best option for students or the parents that hope to teach them, but the claim that homeschooling is generally inferior at preparing students academically and socially does not reflect our own experience or that of many University of Dallas students.
In her article, “In Defense of the Classroom,” published in The University News on April 9, Kate Frediani asserted that lack of socialization, ignorance of the world and academic unpreparedness are possible “drawbacks” of a homeschool education. Homeschooling can be done poorly, and we’ve all seen this happen, but we also know it can be done very well. Though Frediani raises legitimate concerns, what she identifies are not the “drawbacks,” but rather the challenges of a homeschool education.
Firstly, homeschooling by no means “necessitate[s] that we isolate ourselves from our society.” The most relevant question in addressing Frediani’s article is assessing whether homeschooling is equally capable of preparing students academically and socially. If it is, parents who feel called to homeschool their children should do so — without the fear that they will inevitably handicap their children in the process.
As Frediani suggests, learning to choose good friends and avoid bad influences is an important skill. However, it is not a skill that homeschooling necessarily fails to develop. Because homeschoolers are removed from school settings and do not see their non-homeschooled friends on a regular basis, they must intentionally pursue friendships that they view as worthwhile.
Furthermore, while homeschooled students may not spend as many hours surrounded by their peers, socialization and “real world” exposure do not only happen in a classroom setting. Academic and social life may be separate for most homeschoolers, but this does not exclude the possibility of them having a rich social life. Finding these opportunities through sports, drama and other extracurricular activities requires effort, but it is not impossible.
As for Frediani’s specific academic concerns, if homeschooling teaches a student how to think and how to study, they will be prepared to face the challenges of high school and college.
Many homeschooling students do experience fewer—if any—regular assessments than students in a traditional school setting. However, these assessments are secondary to a well-formed mind. More often than not, these types of assignments do not teach one how to think, but rather demonstrate the ways in which that skill has already been developed. A student who is homeschooled well can adapt to in-class essays, tests and similar assessments with practice, even if their first exposure to these tasks is intimidating.
If homeschooling is capable of surmounting such social and academic challenges, the next important consideration is one’s motivation for homeschooling. The reasons for homeschooling are vast and varying, and one must keep in mind they are not always religiously spurred and are hardly unidimensional.
The decision to homeschool is ultimately up to a family’s careful judgment given their particular circumstances, but in every case, parents who successfully homeschool will have the right reasons for doing so.
However, we think most people would agree that homeschooling can be done for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong way, and have social and academic consequences — regardless of how admirable their motivations may be.
Schooling should form students into intelligent, independent and well-rounded persons who are grounded in genuine love for learning and are prepared to pursue goodness, truth and beauty in the complicated world in which we live. This goal for education should not change whether one chooses homeschooling or traditional schooling.
With this in mind, homeschooling parents will need to devote time, patience and resources to achieve an excellent education. In our situation, this required that our parents dual-enroll us in science classes and labs with proper equipment, hire a math tutor when our lessons exceeded their teaching capabilities and encourage our participation in worthwhile extracurriculars.
Homeschooling well is a daunting task that can’t always be done perfectly, but when parents prudently and honestly evaluate their goals and abilities, it is often a highly successful one. If this option is truly the best for one’s child, education at home becomes a worthy and fruitful pursuit.
Overall, UD students have received excellent educations in a variety of ways, whether these be public, private or charter schools. Those options were limited in our community, so my parents chose homeschooling in order to achieve that same quality of education. Though we as siblings differ on whether or not we plan to homeschool our own children in the future, we are immensely grateful and fortunate for our opportunity to study at home.
We know many others, especially here at UD, who say the same.