|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
When you learn reading, math, and other stuff taught in school from your parents or tutors who come to your house, it's called homeschooling. A kid may be the only one, or he or she may be taught with brothers, sisters, or kids from the neighborhood.
Parents choose to homeschool their children for many different reasons. Sometimes a kid is sick and can't go to regular school. But more often, kids are homeschooled because their parents feel they can give their child a better education than the local school can. Parents also might choose homeschooling because they want their child's education to include religious instruction (learning about God), which isn't offered at public schools.
If you don't like school, homeschooling might seem like the perfect solution. But it's better for everyone if homeschooling isn't chosen just as an escape from school or problems there, such as bullying. Finding solutions to the problem should be the first step. Your school counselor and other school officials, such as the principal, often can help.
Don't Kids Have to Go to School?
You might wonder if kids have to go to school. It's true that kids must be educated, but it's legal to be schooled at home. In fact, more than 1 million students do it. These kids can learn just as they do in regular school, but their parents are in charge of their education.
Homeschool parents must make sure that their kids get the instruction and the experiences they need. The parents also may have to file paperwork with the state to explain who's teaching the kid and which subjects are being covered.
What Are Some Advantages?
Kids who are homeschooled may benefit from the one-on-one attention. For instance, if you don't understand something in math, the whole class won't be moving on without you. You might be the whole class! It's also possible that you might learn more than you would in a regular classroom, because if you really excel at something, you can keep learning more at your own pace.
Kids who are homeschooled also may get out in their communities more than other kids. They might get to experience hands-on education at museums, libraries, businesses, marinas, and other community resources. They also might volunteer or participate in "service learning" where they take on local projects.
What Are the Disadvantages?
People disagree about how much formal education a person needs to be a good teacher. Not all parents and homeschool tutors have gone to school to learn to teach or to learn the subject they are teaching. If a parent is well educated, he or she may understand some subjects really well but others not as well. For instance, a kid's mom may be great at chemistry but not as good at English.
To be fair, not all schoolteachers are experts in their fields either. And tutors may be used for subjects the parent isn't skilled in. If a homeschool parent or tutor doesn't know something or can't fully explain it, the instructor and student can always research the issue together. A local library, university, community college, or the Internet may have the answers.
A kid who's homeschooled doesn't have the convenience of school facilities, such as a gymnasium, science lab, or art studio. The child may be taught at the kitchen table or at a "school" area in the home. He or she might do science experiments in the kitchen or go outside to work on an art project. Some parents who homeschool their kids form groups so their kids can go together to take art classes and take part in other group learning activities, like field trips.
Effects on social life can be another possible disadvantage for homeschooled kids. All kids need to have friends and be around other children. Some homeschoolers may feel cut off from kids their age or feel like they spend too much time with their families.
Parents who homeschool their kids often make efforts to ensure their son or daughter has a social life. For instance, groups of homeschooled children may get together regularly to learn together or just socialize. And like any child, they may be on sports teams, in dance classes, or take part in other activities outside of school.
Can Homeschoolers Get a Good Education?
No matter where a child goes to school, the key to learning is listening to the teacher and asking for help when you need it. A homeschooled child might feel more comfortable with his or her teacher (a parent), but the child still needs to pay attention and cooperate. Just like in a traditional school, teachers (parents) and students need to work together to achieve goals in the classroom.
Homeschooled kids can take advantage of the control they have over their education. If something really interests them, they can ask to pursue it further — maybe by going on a field trip or talking to experts. This can be done in traditional school, too, but field trips are often scheduled well in advance and such personal attention isn't always possible.
You may have heard about kids who were homeschooled and then went on to attend a top college. It does happen, but just like with regular school, this kind of achievement takes a lot of planning and hard work.
Colleges do recognize homeschooling as a legitimate education. But it's important to remember that colleges often require certain subjects, and sometimes tests like the SATs. Kids and parents need to plan to be sure that the homeschooling experience is preparing the child to attend college or pursue the career he or she has in mind.
Are Homeschooled Kids Different?
If you're a homeschooled kid, you know you aren't any different from boys or girls who go to a traditional school. Kids who learn at home can grow up to go to college and follow their dreams, just like kids who graduate from a regular high school.
But homeschooled kids may have special concerns. For instance, you may be worried about transitions you will need to make if you plan to go to a traditional high school or if you see college in your future. Talk with your parents about these concerns, if you have them.
Also talk with your parents if you'd like more chances to mix with other kids. Maybe you can join a sports team or youth group, or take part in group activities for homeschooled kids in your area.
And when you can't see your friends in person, keep in touch through IM, email, and phone calls. You might not go to a traditional school every day, but you still need to check in with your friends about all that important kid stuff!