Making the Case for Both: Homeschool vs. Public Education

Discussing the benefits of Individualized Homeschool Education and Public Education from a Certified Teacher’s perspective

Introduction

After making the shift from Public School Educator to Private Homeschool Teacher, I have noticed the impact that each type of education can have on student learning. I remember the awe that overcame me as I looked at my homeschool student, and realized that with this time, attention, and personalized feedback, we were going to create an extremely strong foundation for life-long learning. I had similar revelations in the school district while I watched students work together in ways that made me believe that even if I was no longer their teacher, they would have the skills to collaborate with others to seek the knowledge they need; they could also be life-long learners.

Parents are looking into homeschool education now more than ever. Some sources claim that the number of families choosing homeschool for their students has increased by 75% since 1999. When parents go to research information on homeschool versus public education they are inundated with articles and opinions validating superiority of one type of education. If families are given an opportunity to discover the benefits of both, they can make educated decisions on what’s best for their child. Parents can use this understanding to cultivate life-long learners.

The Benefits of Public Education

#1 Peer Collaboration

Connecting with and learning from other students is one of the highlights of public education. The number of students in a classroom makes it possible for teachers to create opportunities for students to work together and deepen their learning. When students are participating alongside each other, there is a interweaving of ideas, thoughts, and challenges that transpires. I remember the learning that could occur when my students would discuss their justifications, help each other, or participate in activities together. While some homeschooling programs include online platforms or other forms of socialization with peers, it is quite different than the collaboration that happens in a public classroom. Classroom students have daily chances to practice connecting with others, trying on different roles of leadership, and exploring problems with a broader perspective. Public education allows students to build cooperative learning skills for their future. They see their peers as a source to learn from and learn to process peer feedback. Students build confidence in knowing how interact, question, play, and learn with their peers. Learning to do this with peers is an adopted skill that transcends the classroom.

#2 Resources

Schools have several resources to for students to become successful learners. Teachers often have curriculum books, specialized classroom materials, and support staff. Oftentimes, these resources are paid for by the school district. The time it takes to gather resources and determine if those resources are quality ways to teach concepts can be daunting; especially if a parent or tutor is taking on several subjects each day in homeschool. Luckily, most of the curriculum that has been implemented in a public education system has been evaluated, reviewed, and justified with the students and grade level in mind. Students are more likely to be learning in ways that are supported by educational research. Specialized support is also available to students from the district. At times, students would leave my classroom so that they could receive special services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and assistance with English Language acquisition. I saw students receiving aide in areas that they would not be able to afford if it was needed privately. Schools can provide a public platform for assisting a student with special learning needs regardless of economic background.

# 3 Diverse Populations

Public schools are filled with all types of students. I have had students who are hyper, sweet, gifted, funny, foreign, and mute. The list goes on. Classrooms are a place where students must often shift their view of the world to include and respect other’s existence and thinking. Students get opportunities in a classroom to learn tolerance of others’ ideas- creating a foundation for compassion with others. If I were teaching any subject, I had students of varying levels, learning disabilities, cultures, and backgrounds. Students would add to the discussion and their diverse set of skills or perspectives would lead to a more intricate learning experience. In homeschool, I see times when my student has limited perspective without opportunities to hear others’ ideas or approaches to probles. Students in public education are exposed to varying strengths, weaknesses, personal interests, and backgrounds and their education is expanded with broader perspectives because of it.

The Benefits of Homeschool Education

#1 Individualized Education

The most exciting part of homeschooling for me has been the ability to work one-on-one with my student. In public education, I would worry over how I was going to address every student’s needs. I would question whether or not they understood the content during the time I had scheduled for the lesson. I would sometimes feel discouraged that I couldn’t venture into their curiosities because I was limited by state standards. Now, each thing that I do with my student is completely tailored to her learning needs. This is a benefit of homeschool- the individual child is the center of the classroom. Parents and tutors can address specific needs, explore topics of interest, and explore facets of learning that are not available for every student in a public education setting.

#2 Personalized feedback

I have noticed that an individualized education increases motivation and allows my student to understand information in less time. Although each student learns at their own pace, it is certain that students can progress through learning at a more rapid pace with a one-to-one ratio than if they were in a regular classroom. Teachers understand that when they can give meaningful feedback, that their students can make adjustments to their learning, resulting in progress. The personalized feedback and the focused attention given in a homeschool setting is a benefit that cannot be matched in a regular classroom. I am able to give my student, who normally shied away from participation in a classroom for fear of being wrong, the individual support to persevere through her learning. Struggles are no longer barriers she takes on silently but instead, become talking points for feedback and growth.   

#3 Modeling Life-Long Learning

Homeschooling creates opportunities to model what life-long learning is to a child. When I dive deeper into my student’s interests, I often learn with her and she clearly sees me learning alongside her. Educators hope to ignite a love of learning within students. A lifelong learner has an ability to take on the world and its ever-changing demands. In a public classroom, teachers have requirements by law to adhere to standards. These standards have been dissected and have curriculums to address them; I had scripts, practice problems, and reading programs. This didn’t take much learning on my part once I’d spent a year in one grade. My students never had the opportunity to see me struggle through learning new information. When I began homeschooling, my student’s interests and skills guided my teaching. Some of the interests that she wanted to explore, I did not have a background in; I had to learn the information alongside her. Homeschooling allows a shift from the teacher being omniscient, to the teacher exemplifying what she teaches: that if you want to understand something, you follow your curiosity, skills and connections until you acquire the knowledge you seek. 

Final Remarks

As a teacher who has the opportunity to experience both public and homeschool education, I can whole-heartedly say that the discussion should not forcibly be for one or the other. There are distinct educational gains for students within each approach. Respecting the benefit of both types of education could lead to parents making the most of public education and homeschooling. Parents who choose homeschooling can make efforts to create opportunities for peer collaboration. Parents who choose public education can find methods for educating their students in an individualized manner. This can be through exploring a students’ topic of interest, learning alongside the student, or employing tutors to address their individual needs. Essentially, if parents take the time to educate their students in the topics that interest and find ways for students to excel in areas- even if parents lack the knowledge- they can find a way to get the best of both worlds.

Have you or your kids struggled with this? If so, we'd love to hear about it and strategies you took to overcome it in the comments below!

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