I, a homeschooler of over 17 years, am here to say that there are some benefits to public school. Well, there are! Not enough to make me want to end our homeschooling, but there is no sense in denying that some do exist. So when I got a letter from a mom who was trying to decide if she should pull her ADHD son out of public school and take on the responsibility of educating him at home, I decided to create a list of pros and cons of both possibilities.
Public School Benefits
This option puts some of the burden on someone else. Not all of it, to be sure. We’re still the parents and we’re highly invested in our kids. But for several hours a day, someone else is responsible for seeing that he learns. This is a bigger deal than you might expect. When they come home from school, we get to simply be mom, comforter, problem solver, tension reliever, provider of milk and cookies. We’re not the ones pushing them to accomplish all day. Let’s admit it; it’s a nicer role in some ways. And it takes off (or at least shares) some of the responsibility.
There are specialists on staff for bona fide learning disabilities that we may not have information about. It’s hard to know about everything. And there are many conditions that look like something else, because they share symptoms. So it may be useful to have another eye looking over the issues our child faces.
Some peer pressure is good. That may sound odd, because let’s face it, most of the peer pressure in public schools we could easily do without. But there’s a good side to it too. When I was a kid, sharing a report in front of my peers always made me work harder, if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassment. When my kids read their report to me, there’s little embarrassment if they don’t give it their best.
You’ve already paid for it. You need to spend no additional dollars to access the public school option. The funds have already been handily retrieved from your pocketbook via taxes by the IRS. Homeschooling has no such tax-supported pre-pay plan.
Now let’s talk about the homeschooling benefits.
Home School Benefits
Things don’t slip through the cracks. . .at least for not as long. You are right there. You see if he doesn’t get fractions the moment he doesn’t get them. And you can put in the extra time, or find the different approach that allows him to get it. There’s none of this let’s-just-move-forward stuff simply because the rest of the class is ready. If he needs more time on it now, he gets it now.
He won’t hear his name called out in correction 10 times more often than the other students. Most ADHD kids will give the teachers more behaviors that need correction. And most ADHD kids will soon realize that their name is heard far more frequently than their classmates. It doesn’t take long for them to begin thinking they are somehow flawed.
They are no longer the smallest in their class. (This was an issue for my son too.) Okay, they might be the smallest one in your class, but siblings don’t count in this dynamic. It simply becomes a non-issue.
You can pick out your curriculum subject-by-subject. In other words, you don’t have to choose a curriculum that encompasses all subjects for one grade. If your child is stronger in math and science, you can pick out a really cool, more advanced curriculum for those subjects. But if he is weaker in writing and language skills, you can select a curriculum that is more basic and hits fundamentals more soundly. This is exactly what we did with my son. And while it created a bit more work for me to research the various options, the payoff was that my son learned he was actually really good in a couple of subjects. He’d had so many struggles in school that he really needed to know he was good at something. . .several somethings as it turned out.
You can adjust lessons that rely too much on writing. Many public school programs (and frankly, many homeschool programs) incorporate much writing into their lessons. Some children may be perfectly comfortable with writing, but many ADHD kids struggle with this skill. With these kids, non-writing methods should be used as often as possible. If writing is their weakest skill, and if you attempt to teach every subject by using writing, you will be forcing this child to proceed in every subject at the speed of his weakest skill. So while we do indeed teach writing in our own school, that’s about the only time I require writing. Otherwise, other options (oral responses, games, presentations, etc.,) are used instead.
Homeschooling kids consistently outperform, on average, their public school counterparts. There’s just no denying it anymore. On average, homeschooled kids have been achieving higher results on standardized tests year after year. In a July 2012 report from a US News & World Report the writer states that homeschoolers will also go on to outperform their peers at college too. Even better, the education of the mother is practically irrelevant, as opposed to public schools where there is a correlation between the performance of the student and the mother’s education.
You can insert physical activity into several points in the day. Our ADHD kids need to move. Let me say that a different way. Movement isn’t just something they want to do; it’s something they need to do. It’s how they process information. So if we ask them to sit perfectly still, they can’t process. We must accept that they need to move. Then, experience has taught me that we should provide the movement choice, so that we can make it something that works with the lesson, instead of distracting from it. We can do things at home that would be impossible in a traditional classroom with 20 other children. For what it’s worth, my first book, How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning, is full of ways to do this very thing: put motion into learning.
They’ll never get bullied on the school bus. I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor on public school bullying. They shared a number that blew me away. How many kids in this country purposely miss the school bus each day to avoid bullying? Are you ready? 160,000 a day! I can’t even wrap my head around that. And that number only includes those kids who worked up enough courage to stay off the bus. How many more just went ahead, got on, and endured another round of spirit-crushing abuse? As a result, many public schooling families have to figure out how they’re going to respond to the bullying of their child. But just like the above issue of being the shortest in class, for homeschooling families, this too becomes a non-issue.
You can share your world view of the things your child is learning. As a mom of two children who are now over 18 (and one still 12) I know that in the end, I don’t have control over their life decisions; I only have influence. But I have discovered that my influence is greater when I simply get to spend more time with them. The quality of quantity time is a powerful thing. And homeschooling definitely provides that—loads and loads of quantity time. I made sure that my kids were aware of other world views. I always wanted them to be able to interact with others and defend their own views. But I’m convinced that my influence has a greater chance of success (chance. . .not guarantee), particularly on issues of faith, so much so that I’m grateful that this perk came automatically with homeschooling long before I knew its worth.
You save loads of money during back-to-school shopping days. I’m amazed at how much money is spent on clothing and stuff to do the simple act of returning to school. You get to totally skip this.
I have such a close relationship with my kids, and I realized some time ago that if I had sent them off to public school, I would not now have the relationship that I do, and I wouldn’t even have known I was giving it up. I know that this doesn’t reflect everyone’s experience who homeschools. But I’m certain it wouldn’t have even been possible for me if my kids had been gone from me all day. I almost feel that I dodged a bullet in this one. My relationship with my kids is so precious to me, that I wince when I think it could have been otherwise.
Question: What about you? Can you add some benefits I’ve missed to either list?
Carol Barnier is a fresh, fun and popular conference speaker unlike any you’ve heard before. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. She is a frequent guest commentator on Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine broadcast, has been a guest on many radio programs and is a speaker to conferences nationwide. She’s the author of three books about dealing with (or possessing) a non-linear mind in a linear world: How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning, If I’m Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where’d I Leave the Baby?, and The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles. Her main websites are CarolBarnier.com and SizzleBop.com. You can also find Carol at her blog for moms with distractible kids at SizzleBop. And for fun, see her church humor blog at CarolBarnier.