“Shall the parent or the State be the overseer of the child?” (Rothbard, 2006)
Homeschooling (or home education) refers to educating children in their own homes as opposed to a formal educational environment. Most often this education is led by the children’s parents. Homeschooling can be related to e-learning, M-Learning, distance education, or unschooling, and but is generally defined as education in the home environment rather than by specific qualities of the curriculum.
According to Statistics Canada, in 1979 only 2,000 children in Canada were being homeschooled for various reasons but by 1996 this number had risen to 17,523 students. In the United States similar trends were noted with numbers jumping from 50,000 homeschooled students in 1985 to an estimated 850,000 in 1999, according to the US Department of Education. (Emms, 2008)
Reasons for homeschooling
There are a variety of reasons why a student would be educated in his/her home for a period of time as short as one day, or perhaps for many years.
Short term homeschooling (days or weeks) may result from suspensions, expulsions, illness, temporary disability, in-climate weather, extended family vacations, or anxiety related issues.
Long term homeschooling (months or years) may be chosen as an alternative to public or private schools due to religious, physical, psychological, cultural, social, economic or political reasons. Very often long term homeschooling is a result of parenting style choices and the desire to imbue children with the values of their parents or a related cultural/religious group. Parents may also choose long term homeschooling as a result of a child’s exceptionalities, either physical, mental, or psychological.
In 2004, the Fraser Institute reports safety issues are at the top of parents concerns. According to the report by Basham, Hepburn, & Merrifield, (2007), 1 in 4 American public school students were the victims of a violent act in the vicinity of their school. This was backed up by numerous school shootings in both the United States and Canada.
According to the report, the main reason parents are opting to homeschool their children is dissatisfaction with the public school system. Other parental objections to public education listed in the report are: 33 percent object to the unavailability of religious instruction 30 percent felt their public school had poor learning environments 14 percent objected to what the schools taught 11 percent felt their children were not challenged at school 9 percent had morality issues
Laws and Customs
Each country has its own laws and customs surrounding homeschooling. For example, in the United States and Canada homeschooling for primary age children is allowed by law and accepted by society, whereas in Germany, Brazil, China, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey it is illegal. Sweden has recently tabled laws which may make homeschooling illegal as well. (HSLDA, 2011)
Benefits and Drawbacks of Homeschooling
- Individual Attention: Unlike in a large classroom setting, home-schooled children receive the full attention of their parental teacher.
- Greater flexibility: With limited students, a parent can design a curriculum that addresses the specific talents and needs of each child.
- Reduced Peer Pressure: Public education often encourages unhealthy forms of competition among students. Home-schooling allows students to focus on learning.
- Promotes Family: Many people believe parents have the right to promote core beliefs and values in their children. Home-schooling enables this process. (NCSPE, 2011)
- Greater Costs: Home-schooling usually requires the family to absorb the total cost of their child’s education, including classroom materials and technology unless provided through charter school provision.
- Poor Civic Participation: Learning in a group promotes social learning and values of citizenship. An isolated home-schooled child does not encounter the diverse perspectives needed to develop shared values.
- Lost Social Services: Public schools not only educate, but also provide many social services through trained workers. Home-school families lack such expertise and resources.
- Lack of Quality Control: If education is privatized through the family, it becomes difficult to ensure that competent instruction is provided or that a student is engaged in learning. Only a few states require home-school students to be tested. (NCSPE, 2011)
Technology and Homeschooling
Homeschool Technology Use
The chart on the left shows the percentage of homeschooled students, ages 5 through 17 with a grade equivalent of K-12, who engaged in distance learning using media (IES, 2003) As is evidenced by the chart, as of 2003 approximately 20% of homeschool students used some form of distance media based learning.
With home and internet networking technology becoming increasingly robust and inexpensive, opportunities for the homeschooling market abound. Whether a student is sick for a week and wants to keep in touch with his class, or has been suspended or expelled from school and needs to be homeschooled by the school board, technology now enables these students to have the education they are entitled to. The Toronto District School Board, as do many boards in Canada and the United States, provides homeschooling services by sending a teacher to the home of the student. School boards in the United States in particular are beginning to offer internet homschooling in such situations.
Internet homeschool providers are proliferating, particularly with the outsourcing of homeschooling by public school boards to companies such as k12 who offer online public schools, private schools, sell courses individually, and offer language courses as well. The public school service offered by k12 is an alternative to going to a brick and mortar school in the United States, and is fully funded by the public school system.
Historically video conferencing with two way audio has been an expensive proposition with significant capital expenditures running into the thousands of dollars required to buy the equipment necessary. As of 2011, IP cameras such as the one displayed on the right sell for C$85, and offer two way audio with a classroom teacher. No computer is required for the student, although one would be beneficial if he/she wishes to see the classroom. A computer would be required on the teacher's end in order to see the student. This camera, along with a $20 router and an internet connection, would provides cost effective interactive video conferencing. An alternative to IP cameras are webcams which are less expensive, but require a computer and associated software to run.
Basham, P., Hepburn, C., & Merrifield, J. (2007). Home schooling: From the extreme to the mainstram 2nd Edition. Retrieved from the Frasier Institute website: http://www.fraserinstitute.org/publicationdisplay.aspx?id=13089&terms=homeschooling
Buchanan, J. (1984). Home instruction: A growing alternative to public schools. Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies
Emms, K. (2008). Trends and growth in homeschooling. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/trends-and-growth-in-homeschooling-a48813#ixzz1FCKChvRS
Griffith, M. (1997). The homeschooling handbook: From preschool to high school: a parent's guide. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub.
Guterson, D. (1992). Family matters: Why homeschooling makes sense. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Co.
HSLDA: Home School Legal Defense Association. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.hslda.org/hs/
IES: National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Retrieved from:
NCSPE: National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_What_home_schools/
Pride, M. (1990). The big book of home learning. Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books
Princiotta, D., & Bielick, S. (2006). Homeschooling in the United States: 2003. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences website: http://nces.ed.gov/Pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006042
Rothbard, M. (2006). Education: Free and compulsary. Retrieved from the Ludwig von Mises Institute website from: http://mises.org/daily/2226
Thomas, A. (1998). Educating children at home. London, UK: Cassell