With increasing frequency over the past ten years or so, parents have asked me various questions about homeschooling, all of which pretty much boil down to, “Should I homeschool my child?”
I’ll begin by stating that I am a proponent of homeschooling. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I am on the board of parentalrights-.org, which is an offshoot of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, and I have spoken at numerous homeschool conferences). I believe it is the right of parents to direct and control their children’s education.
Second, homeschooling is not “one size fits all.” Some parents are more suited to homeschooling their children than others. That same statement also applies to children. Thus, homeschooling is not likely to be successful unless both the parent and the child (or children) are well suited to the process.
Third, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the homeschool culture is the mistaken belief that successful homeschooling requires lots of involvement on the part of the homeschooling parent. That simply is not true, and I gather that this irritates some homeschool moms when I say it.
Homeschooling is a two-way process. A parent does not have to be highly educated in order to homeschool successfully, but regardless of academic credentials, the motivation to further one’s self-education needs to be there. Parents who want to turn their home into the most effective educational environment possible should tune the television to learning channels only (e.g. Discovery, History), read a preponderance of nonfiction, and read a lot of it. The more one knows about a broad range of topics and issues, the more effectively one will be able to transmit them to his or her offspring.
I do not generally recommend that parents attempt homeschooling if disobedience is a major discipline issue in the home. Behavioral issues of that sort are going to contaminate the process and need to be resolved before homeschooling is undertaken. The same principle applies to a child who does not want to be homeschooled. If there is question as to whether homeschooling is going to work, I recommend starting it in early-to-mid July. If for whatever reason or reasons homeschooling obviously isn’t going to be productive, the child can start “regular school” on time with his or her peers.
A great deal of high involvement on the part of a homeschooling parent is likely to turn into micromanagement, and that in turn may very well create pushback from the child. If you’re concerned that you don’t know how to avoid your involvement with your child, I will point out that there are homeschool curricula that do not require a high level of parental involvement. The best homeschool structure involves the parent teaching for 10 to 15 minutes and then giving a 30-minute class assignment that the child does independently. The parent then grades the paper and gives immediate feedback, and then moves on to the next instructional module. Minimizing parental involvement maximizes student responsibility.
Maximum homeschool success is generally obtained within the context of a homeschool cooperative. A parent who wants to explore this educational option should get in touch with his or her state homeschool coordinator, find a homeschool cooperative in his or her area, talk to other homeschooling parents, and attend a homeschool conference.
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 295-1751.