Homeschooling: The Road to Disaster Essay Sample
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Homeschooling: The Road to Disaster Essay Sample
Over one million children are homeschooled throughout the world today. That figure constitutes 1 percent of school-aged children worldwide (Lyman “Answers”). Children are no longer required to sit in boring classrooms day after day and learn from textbooks; however, along with those classrooms comes the socialization that most young children need in their lives. Janet Mau, a teacher at a public high school, has family members who homeschool their children. She said, “I think the children get enough education, but they don’t get adequate social stimulation.
The children end up lacking the important social skills that they will need for the rest of their lives” (Mau). Most homeschooled children receive more individual attention during the school day, but many more advantages exist for children attending a public school. A homeschooled child is not exposed to the diversity of beliefs, backgrounds, and ethnicities that a child would come across in many public schools and the world beyond school (Gibbs). Unless the regulations tighten on Homeschooling, the number of children who are socially deprived and become substandard citizens might increase dramatically.
Homeschooling has been around for hundreds of years. Several of the most influential people in United States history, such as Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were homeschooled. George Washington acquired most of his schooling in the fields of his father’s farm (Kantrowitz). Back then, however, the choices for education were limited to one-room schoolhouses and very few secondary schools. Today an array of choices for education exists. These choices include public schools, private schools, and homeschools. Until the 1980s, the main reason for parents to homeschool was to strictly instill their religious beliefs in their children through their education. Until that time, most homeschooling parents were considered “Bible-thumping Christians” educating their children at “apron-string length to protect them from sex, drugs, and Darwin” (Russo).
Religion is still one motivation for parents to homeschool today, but it is no longer the leading purpose. Since the 1980s, the leading cause for homeschooling has been dissatisfaction with public schools. Modern-day homeschooling was born in 1969 when Raymond Moore, a former United States Department of Education employee, constructed a platform that would legitimize homeschooling as one of the “great populist educational movements of the 20th century” (Lyman “What’s”). Finally, in 1993–after years of court battles–homeschooling became legal in all 50 states (Kantrowitz). Although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, its regulation varies greatly. Idaho, for example, does not even ask parents who wish to homeschool to inform any state or local officials of their intentions. Oregon, meanwhile, mandates that homeschooling families periodically have a “qualified neutral person” test their children (Archer).
To begin, homeschooling does offer some advantages. Today, the most popular reason for homeschooling is that parents are unhappy with public schools. In 1996, the Florida Department of Education surveyed homeschoolers in Florida and found that 42 percent cited dissatisfaction with the public school as their reason for starting a home education program (Lyman “Answers”). Kathy Bradford, mother of four in Hockessin, Delaware, was concerned about the quality of education her eldest son would receive in a public school. She went to the local school district for a list of objectives for children in kindergarten through sixth grade and was shocked by how little was expected of the students. Kathy believed that this standard was too low for her children and chose to begin homeschooling (Davis). Because of these low standards, high schools across America are producing illiterate and unprepared graduates. American 13-year-olds have been documented as having math skills worse than their counterparts in 14 other developed countries (Lyman).
A recent survey of high school students showed that only one-third of high school juniors could place the Civil War in the correct half-century (Lyman “What’s”). Raymond Moore examined hundreds of studies on homeschooling. He concluded from one such study that “development problems–such as hyperactivity, nearsightedness, and dyslexia–often were the result of prematurely taxing a child’s nervous system and mind with continuous academic tasks, like reading and writing…and children should be distanced from daily contact with institutionalized settings until the age of 10” (Lyman “What’s”). Many homeschooling parents are displeased with the environment at a public school. Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute found that public schools subject children to numerous harmful things such as physical violence, drug and alcohol use, psychological abuse by schools, and peer pressure to engage in premarital sexual behaviors (Lyman “Answers”).
Aside from the violent physical assaults that occur with regularity at government schools, there are also emotional assaults due to the cruelty of children toward each other. Children often mercilessly taunt other children because they ware glasses, have a different color of hair, or come from a poor family. Christina Aguilera, a pop music entertainer, was homeschooled after being tormented by her peers at the public school she attended. Countless parents who educate their children at home believe that by teaching their children at home they can shelter their children from such activities until they become adults and can make wise decisions about such subjects. Samuel Blumenfeld, commenting on problems in public schools, said:
If you want your child to get involved with drugs, send him to a public school, the principle market place for drugs in America. If you want your child to become sexually active, just give him or her explicit sex education beginning in kindergarten with instructions on how to use a condom. If you want your child to lose his religious faith, just subject him to endless lessons about evolution and critical thinking. If you want your child to start putting rings through his nose, and safety pins in his eyebrows or navel, send him to a public school where his peers will persuade him of the beauties of self-mutilation. (Blumenfeld)
The second most popular reason for homeschooling is religion. Federal law prohibits teaching religion in a public school. Religion is a very important part to many families across the United States, and some choose to infuse the teaching of their religion with the rest of their child’s education. Religious families can also choose to send their children to private Catholic, Christian, or other spiritual schools; however, the prices for these schools can be enormous. The average cost a year for homeschooling is about $400 per child (Kenyon). This figure is much smaller than the thousands spent per public or private school student in most states. Another advantage that homeschooling has over public schooling is the involvement of family. Rachael Friese, a high school student who was homeschooled through eighth grade, said her relationship with her family is extremely strong because of her homeschooling experience and the amount of time spent with her family (Friese). Parents also have access to how-to books, dozens of newsletters, and magazines which contain numerous ads for homeschooling textbooks, videos, software, and seminars (Kantrowitz).
Additionally, a parent usually knows what is best for his/her child and can adapt to that child’s needs better than a school teacher with thirty-five children in a class. Parents are able to tell whether their child is having trouble learning or is simply not trying. Some students cannot sit still for very long, while others can sit and work for hours. In a public school all students are required to do basically the same things; therefore, either some students have their work interrupted in order to meet the needs of the child who cannot sit still, or that child becomes a “behavior problem” that holds back the more “studious” child (Worth). Public school classrooms are structured under the idea that all students should learn the same things at the same rate in the same way at the same age; however, all children learn at different paces. Class time may be wasted in a public school because one student does not understand a certain subject, and the teacher will have to teach that section over again when other children are ready to move on.
On the other hand, when a teacher moves on to another subject when a child does not fully understand, it will be hard for that child to catch up with his/her schoolmates. The teacher must teach at a level that the “average” student can handle, leaving behind the slow and boring the bright. Parents, however, can set their own pace for learning that will best fit their children’s needs. Homeschooling provides a family with freedom–the freedom to choose with whom the children will learn, what the children will learn, where the children will learn, and when the children will learn (Dobson 236).
On the other hand, public schooling has numerous advantages over homeschooling. Public schools are argued to have the most important role in the cultivation of new citizens. Experts believe that homeschooled children do not get enough social stimulation in order for them to become good citizens. This needed social stimulation can best be found in public schools. Many educators say it is the government’s responsibility to make sure children get what they need to become productive citizens. Besides, “if homeschooling fails,” says Ronald Areglado of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, “we pay the price when a person ends up on public assistance or in jail.” Areglado was a principal at a public school and saw a homeschooled child who got no instruction at all from his parents (Kantrowitz). Homeschooling has attained critics across the country who believe that educating children at home produces millions of youngsters who grow up without adequate academic or social skills.
Children need to flourish in “three overlapping spheres–at home, at school, and with peers” says Phoenix pediatrician Daniel Kessler. Homeschooling “compresses all that into a single setting that can be very difficult for children” (Kantrowitz). A homeschooled child will not likely attain the ability to cope with the “harsh realities of life” beyond their family home (Arai). In school, children learn valuable skills such as the ability to work well with others, to handle interpersonal conflicts, work in groups or teams, and to make personal sacrifices for the betterment of the group. Homeschooled children, who will not necessarily acquire these skills because of the “protective cocoon of the home,” will then be at a disadvantage when they become adults (Arai). When the children taught at home grow up they will be unprepared for the unsympathetic and competitive nature of the labor market. With out the important job skills that public schools teach, homeschooled children will not be able to compete with others who were publicly schooled. They will turn to government assistance or their parents in an attempt to reproduce the perfect bubble in which they were raised.
School also teaches children about what is expected of citizens socially. They learn the proper way a good citizen is to behave and dress, along with etiquette and morality. Homeschooled students are more likely to pick up their parents “idiosyncratic understandings of the world” (Arai). These children will be at a disadvantage because they will not realize what represents conforming and unconforming behavior once they leave their family and enter into society. Also, children encounter many different types of people, along with their distinctive ways of life, in public schools. Almost all public schools teach students from extremely diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. All students benefit from this diversity because they learn about other ways of life, and the values of tolerance, difference, and originality. Because of a lack of exposure, homeschooling students have a tendency to have a higher level of prejudice than those attending a public school. One author wrote:
The sense of citizenship is built around the virtues of a critical tolerance of diversity, the power of rational thought and argument, and commitment to a defensible moral code. Citizens who develop these graces will have an understanding of the world which will give them the freedom to choose how they live their life, which is the ultimate aim of the liberal democratic state. (Callan 133)
Homeschooled children are usually independent and self-motivated, but group activities can be tough for them. Jon Williams, and eighteen-year-old from Missoula, Montana, is outgoing and confident. He is a Republican candidate for his state’s legislature. Jon, who has been homeschooled since ninth grade, credits the eight years he spent in a government school with helping him gain his basic social skills (Kantrowitz). Another argument against homeschooling is that not many regulations mandating who can teach and who cannot exist. Many people believe that homeschooling is an erroneous notion that anyone can teach. Only ten states require parents to have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma to be able to teach (Gibbs). While many parents are qualified to teach very young children, their competence will decline in more advanced grades as the content and complexity increases.
Some parents decied homeschooling is too tough and quit after one or two years. “I’ve seen it tear families apart,” says William Coleman, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina (Kantrowitz). The curriculum used in homeschools is entirely up to the parents. These parents can choose to buy pre-packaged curriculum, or they can make it up as they go. There are currently no regulations on what parents must or must not teach. Some homeschooling parents are relying on the internet to teach their children. These students receive even less socialization than those mainly instructed by a parent. Adults who choose to homeschool their children believe that by enrolling their children in sports and extra curricular activities they are making up for the lost socialization. All across America, a growing number of homeschoolers want to participate in at least some activities at traditional schools. Some want scholastic benefits; others want extracurricular benefits for social reasons and to put on their record for college applications.
In response to these parents, Nadine Parson, a mother of a publicly schooled child, said, “It’s not fair for them to want the best of what the public school has to offer without paying the dues” (Hawkins). The biggest argument against homeschooled children being able to participate in public school activities is that students follow strict requirement like good attendance and decent grades in order to be eligible for athletics. Schools have no way of knowing whether a parent will lie in order to make their homeschoolers eligible. A student who is in trouble academically could simply file an affidavit for homeschooling to be eligible to play on a team. Administrators fear that homeschoolers could undermine a sense of community. They argue that a full-time “social investment in a school” is what entitles children to play sports (“Outside”).
Parents of public school students feel that homeschoolers may remove their children from their teams. Without these activities, homeschoolers will not have the credentials to apply for a college, tradeschool, or university. Most post-secondary institutions have little or no experience or interest in evaluating the qualifications of homeschooled applicants (Arai). In one recent survey of admissions officers, only 20 percent thought that parents were better able to motivate their children than teachers (Kantrowitz). Also, homeschooling can become detrimental to public school’s economy. School districts that get state and local dollars per child are beginning to suffer. In Maricopa County, Arizona, the number of homeschooled children has more that doubled from 1994 to the year 2000. At about $4,500 per child, that is nearly $34 million a year in lost revenue (McRoberts).
If homeschooling is allowed to continue with minimal regulations and requirements, unskilled and untrained parents will carry on teaching inadequately and producing second-rate citizens who are unprepared for the world outside the home. Because homeschooled children are only subjected to their parents’ very limited view of the world, they will become unsocial adults, unable to manage jobs or typical relationships with their peers. This will lead to more and more citizens depending on governmental funding in order for them to survive. In order to solve this problem, tougher regulations on homeschooling need to be implemented. Certain requirements must be met before parents can decide to homeschool their children. One cannot keep their child out of school simply because they think it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
Homeschooling should only be possible under extreme circumstances when parents would be at risk of losing their relationship with their children, or if they happened to “belong to a community in which homeschooling was the chosen method of preserving a distinctive way of life” (Arai). Also, regulations regarding educational requirements of the parents need to be tougher. If a parent decides to homeschool his/her child, then that parent needs to have some form of a college degree or teaching experience. In addition to these requirements, regulations need to be implemented on what children are being taught. This solution will assure that all students will have the same educational and social opportunities. Every child will have a chance at becoming a great citizen, creating a better future for them and the world around them.
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