When considering the options for educating their children, parents have few choices. They can opt to send their child to public schools, which are operated with federal and state money and thus teach federal and state-approved curricula; private schools, which are privately owned and have varying standards for teachers, curricula, etc.; or they can choose to homeschool, the practice of which is governed by different laws depending on where they live. While the educational standards are fairly consistent with public and private schools, homeschooling can be done in any number of ways, ranging from traditional curricula to unlearning, and everything in-between.
Much like the ongoing debate regarding government-run healthcare versus private insurance, there are benefits to each of these educational choices. Detractors of government-run insurance accuseprogramsof offering one-size-fits-all coverage with participants often having to wait for important procedures and more impersonal relationship with doctors, whereas private health insurance allows the insured to choose their doctors and tailor their healthcare to their personal needs. Similarly, opponents of public education fear that their child will be shuffled into a classroom and given a “cookie cutter” education that does not take into account the child’s unique learning styles and individual needs.
On the flip side of this coin, however, is what some perceive to be a lack of oversight and consistency. Detractors of homeschooling worry that the laws governing parents are too lax, and that there is no guarantee that children will receive a quality education. Requirements for homeschoolers vary by state: some states insist on annual testing to ensure that homeschooled children are keeping up with their counterparts; other states only require that these students be tested if and when they decide to enter the public school system. There is no set curriculum for homeschooling parents and students. Homeschooling parents argue that, since their primary concern is that their child’s education surpasses what they would have otherwise received, such worries are unnecessary, but this does little to assuage the worries of well-meaning educators and citizens.
Another concern for homeschooled children is that they are not being taught necessary socialization skills. Those who present this argument worry that, by being taught in their home, these students are ill-equipped to integrate themselves into society upon graduation, and are not as prepared as their contemporaries for college or the workplace. However, homeschooling has gained in popularity over the years and there are many opportunities available to parents and students, including homeschooling co-ops, opportunities for physical education “classes” at participating gyms, and various extracurricular activities, not to mention sports leagues and play groups that cater to all children, regardless of where they receive their education.
Conversely, homeschoolers argue that public school offers too much socialization, and not enough focus on what is important, namely receiving a quality education. These parents argue that a typical classroom setting is not conducive to learning, as it provides too many distractions, and that socialization is not, and should never be a reason for sending your child to a public school.
Finally, one must examine the long-term effects of each educational method. Do homeschooled children do better in college? Are publicly-educated children better at interacting with professors and/or employers? The answers to questions such as these are subjective, but it is this author’s experience that there are few noticeable differences between these children once they have graduated high school and moved into adulthood. Those who paid attention to their lessons and learned proper time-management and socialization skills succeed in college and in the workplace, while those who were not taught these skills do not do as well. Intelligence is not predicted by one’s learning surroundings, but by the quality of their learning experience, be it in a classroom or a family room. Parental involvement plays a large role, but it is possible for parents of traditionally-educated students to be deeply involved in their child’s education, just as it is possible for a homeschooling parent to neglect aspects of their child’s education.
Education is arguably one of the most important legacies that we can pass onto the next generation. A quality education can make the difference between continuing a familial cycle of poverty and having opportunities that could lead to a better and happier life. In Development as Freedom, AmartyaSen, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, quoted studies that show that countries in which women are educated tend to have lower mortality rates, smaller family sizes, and greater recognition of women as equals in terms of property ownership and overall treatment. With this in mind, perhaps the quality and availability of education is more important than where that education takes place.