Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Now that I think about it, the study mentioned in the previous post is likely misguided when it says, "policy makers might do well to study the home-education model and explore ways in which the benefits could be adapted into mainstream education."

To the extent that this means that educators who are fans of obviously inferior methods (such as whole language) would do well to learn from homeschoolers' use of obviously superior methods (such as phonics), it is on the mark. But outside of methods, there really isn't much that public schools can do to emulate the virtues of homeschooling.

Think about it. Why would homeschooling be beneficial, even (or especially) for people in lower socioeconomic classes? Several reasons come to mind:

1. Intense involvement by parents in the education of their children. By definition, no outside school can match this factor.

2. Extremely low pupil-to-teacher ratios. The typical public school teacher has 20-30 kids. The typical homeschooler might have 3-5 -- maybe up to 10 or so in very rare cases. Thus, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is typically 7 to 10 times better for homeschoolers. There's no way for public schools to match this without hiring 7 to 10 times more teachers. I have my doubts as to whether this is a realistic possibility.

3. The teacher can select and adjust all of the curricula to an individual student's needs, abilities, and interests. Again, I don't think this is realistically possible for the average public school kid.

4. Avoiding destructive and distracting socialization. This may seem counterintuitive -- particularly to those whose first instinct is to question homeschooling for a supposed lack of "socialization" -- but I think it is very likely true. Students are overwhelmingly better able to concentrate and learn when they are not in the company of 20 other kids their own age, who are a constant source of distraction and misinformation (at best), or active enmity or bullying (at worst). As I could speak from personal experience, when you put a child around several other children, the amount of noise/inanity/silliness/pestering goes up exponentially. The result is that learning is accomplished only in the sliver of time that is left over after the harried teacher gets a child to pay attention.

All of the above factors are to the advantage of homeschooling, in ways that public schools can't feasibly match.

Stuart Buck



Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the typical home schooler can't devote full time to schooling the children. A full time teacher *ought* to be able to handle somewhat more students, with the same individual attention.

Another significant difference between homeschooling and traditional schooling, is that in homeschooling, the same teacher follows the same group of students, all the way through the entire "K-12" education process, rather than being confronted with a fresh batch of students each year. This is something it would be *possible* for regular schools to emulate, though it would be a shocking change to the teachers, to be assigned a couple dozen kindergarden students, and expected to teach them all their subjects through graduation, and then start fresh with a new batch of five year olds.

6:38 AM  

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