One of the most important features of contemporary society in every country is ensuring proper level of education by every child and member of the society. There are no doubts that better educated people have considerably more potential to become successful and productive citizens in future. Therefore, state establishes various means of obtaining education by every child and obliges them to be engaged at least in some type of the formal education available in the country.
Over the last few decades more and more families in the United States have decided to engage their children in homeschooling. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, almost 1.1 million of children were homeschooled in 2003. This number constituted almost 2.2 % of school age children. In 1998 the number of homeschooled children was reported to be 850,000 children. Hence, within five years the number of homeschooled children increased by 250,000 children or 29% (NCES a 1). According to other estimates, almost 2 million of children were homeschooled in 2003 in the United States (Ray 1).
Performance of the education system in the United States is largely affected by the increasing number of homeschooled children. In particular, annually homeschooling brings savings around $9.9 billion of the instructional costs.
It is clear that the share of homeschooled children will most likely preserve the tendency to grow. Facing constant technological changes in the social patterns, homeschooling is becoming a practical option for the increasing number of families in the United States. Therefore, policymakers at both state and federal levels establish educational framework in order to give all children an opportunity to receive the best quality of education at home.
Family members name numerous reasons why homeschooling is preferred to traditional education. In particular, among the major reasons are parents’ concern about the safety of schools’ environment, lack of satisfaction with the level of instruction at traditional schools, and also a lot of parents want their children to receive knowledge in moral or religious subjects that are not studied in the majority of traditional schools (NCES b 2).
In the system of formal education in the United States, homeschooling is a formal type of education according to which children receive their education at home and not in the conventional private or public school. Usually, children that receive education through homeschooling are instructed by tutors, guardians, or parents.
Considering homeschooling in the time perspective, it should be noted that this method of instruction has been historically established and used throughout centuries (Bauman 2). A lot of politicians in the United States, e.g. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, were tutored at home. However, over time, a big number of laws was adopted in the U.S. establishing compulsory education in the formal schools. Nonetheless, starting from 1970s homeschooling has steadily become one of the viable methods of instruction.
Advantages of Homeschooling
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Due to the fact that homeschooling popularity in the country has rather a decentralized nature, it is relatively complicated to evaluate formal outcomes of homeschooling education performace as well as draw benefits of homeschooling compared to conventional private and public schools. Although the controlled experiments have not been conducted in order to compare advantages and disadvantages of traditional instruction methods and homeschooling. There is a big number of studies that provide the extensive evidences of homeschooling benefits compared to traditional schooling.
A lot of parents give preference to instruct their children at home. The most common argument in favor of homeschooling includes better academic performance of children who are instructed at home. As a result, homeschooled children are better prepared for college. At the same time, the evidence in the literature suggests that homeschooled children experience more positive life outcomes.
There is rather limited evidence in the literature about academic performance of homeschooled children and its rational comparison with learning outcomes of children in traditional schools. However, even in the limited number of studies, there is consistency in their findings that most homeschooled children perform well. For example, in 1998 Rudner, Professor from the University of Maryland conducted the comparative study of homeschooling and traditional schooling. After carrying out the test of academic achievement of 20,760 homeschooled children he compared their results to the same age peers from traditional schools. Rudner found that median test results of homeschooled children were mostly in the range of 70-80th percentile. However, at the same time he points out that his findings of higher learning outcomes of homeschooling do not indicate homeschooling superiority compared to the traditional schooling (Lips, and Feinberg 4).
Along with better performance during schooling, those children that have received their education at home also perform equally well at college. For example, in 2004 a study of academic performance of students (both high school graduates and those who have received their education at home) during the first year of studies was published in the Journal of College Admissions (Lips, and Feinberg 4). Authors have provided summary of their findings that homeschooled children perform equally well on the college preparatory exams along with the graduates of public and private high schools. Moreover, they also found that first year grade point average of the two groups of students did not differ considerably. At the same time, they found no statistical difference between the college preparedness of the homeschooled children and high school graduates (Lips, and Feinberg 4).
Another advantage of homeschooling compared to traditional schooling is presence of better life outcomes. Results of studies show that people who were homeschooled are happier and more successful than those who studied in private or public schools. For example, the survey was conducted in 2003 by Ray from the National Home Education Research Institute. Around 7,300 homeschooled adults aged 18-24 years participated in the study. It was found that almost 74% of homeschooled students took courses in the college compared to 46% of the high school graduates. At the same time, those people with homeschool education were more engaged into social and civil affaires of their communities compared to the rest of the population (Lips, and Feinberg 4). Finally, homeschooled adults are more often reported to be happy.
A lot of parents in the families that give preference to homeschooliing emphasize that its major advantage compared to traditional schooling methods is flexibility of timing. This encompasses flexibility in terms of capacity for parents and children to be flexible when deciding the time for instruction as well as flexibility in a sense of lack of time constraints. It can be argued that in the homeschooling of children the traditional constraints of time are eliminated. Typically, instruction is not roughly defined against the clock. This means that children are not obliged to stop working on their project or learning a subject as soon as the time of the lessons ends. Flexibility of homeschooling does not force children to readjust to learning another class quickly as in the traditional school. This allows instructors to focus on the interests of a child and develop unique program that would allow a child to learn material in the most efficient manner.
Flexibility is a significant feature of homeschooling and one of its major benefits. In the framework of traditional schooling children are forced to adjust to the tight schedule and intensive programs that may be either too fast or too slow for them. At the same time, as it was mentioned above, obliging students to switch quickly from one subject or project to another is largely ineffective and may result in poor remembering of subjects, not completion of assignments or larger scope of work for the child. Therefore, on the contrary to traditional schooling, educating children at home allows to overcome these limitations (Lips, and Feinberg 5).
Finally, among the benefits of homeschooling compared to conventional private and public schooling are greater parental attention, possibility of developing more fun learning process, less frustration among both children and instructors, and shifting of the purpose of education from grades to knowledge.
Over the past few decades families in the United States have started to return to the historically established education at home. Recently, a growing number of homeschooling cases has been reported all over the country. Federal and state authorities are establishing necessary and sufficient conditions for people to be involved into any preferable type of formal education. In 2003 the number of homeschooled children reached 1.1 – 2.0 million according to different estimates. Despite data limitations, there is a consistent evidence in the literature of numerous advantages of homeschooling compared to education in the private and public high schools.
In particular, academic performance among the homeschooling students is higher compared to the same age group peers from traditional schools. As a result those children perform better or equally well at the preparatory and college entrance exams as well as on the first year at college. Moreover, adults that have received homeschool education are more successful in life and more actively participate in the civil and social affairs of their communities. Besides, the learning process of homeschooling is more flexible that enables instructors to develop individual approaches to children and assure better quality of knowledge that they receive. Children also receive more attention from their parents and spend their studies in safer and secured environment. Therefore, it is clear that even it is not possible to conclude from the limited evidence in the literature that homeschooling can be superior to traditional schooling system, yet its performance is equally good.