While the average kid—or parent—might have rejected the idea of homeschooling just a year ago, COVID-19 could change that sentiment. As face masks, social distancing, rotating schedules, and health risks dull the excitement of a new school year, home education is garnering increased attention and favor. While the switch may be daunting—and will present unique challenges—we address five myths about homeschooling that shouldn’t cause worry.
Stefanie Klaves, research associate at Commonwealth Foundation and a former homeschool student, shares her background and key facts about the homeschool experience.
I was homeschooled from 1st through 12th grade. My work was self-paced and often reflected my interests. Instead of memorization charts, standardized tests, and one-size-fits-all lessons, I learned through a combination of self-taught textbooks, homeschool co-ops, and online classes. Though I can’t speak for all homeschoolers, I am well acquainted with a vibrant community of students with stories similar to my own.
Myth: Homeschoolers aren’t prepared for college
Reality: I attend a private college on a full scholarship and maintain a 4.0 GPA. This isn’t an anomaly—my five closest homeschooled friends won full or nearly full scholarships. Beyond the finances, the self-discipline I developed through homeschooling helps me tackle challenging assignments and avoid procrastination. I love when professors teach new concepts in clear and insightful ways, but even when they don’t, I’m able to master the material using the self-learning skills I employed throughout homeschool.
Myth: Homeschoolers are sheltered from diversity
Reality: The flexibility that comes with homeschooling allows for a rich variety of experiences—in my case, a first-person understanding of an Asian worldview while volunteer teaching in Laos and Vietnam. One of my friends traveled to India with the U.S. State Department to study the Hindi language and culture, while another studied Arabic in Jordan. But even more important, homeschoolers don’t have to leave the country to appreciate diversity. In high school, I worked at an afterschool program that helped refugee children. If exposure to different people and viewpoints is the goal, then why do we expect students confined to a single school building according to their ZIP codes to have the most authentic experiences?
Myth: Homeschoolers live in isolation
Reality: The average homeschooler is involved in over five activities outside the home. In fact, the number of extracurriculars I was involved with meant I was rarely isolated at home. Instead, I was at debate competitions, bowling league, 4-H, music lessons for five instruments, an internship at a law office, volunteer tutoring, cross country and track, softball, or (of course) the homeschool co-op. I had access to different friends at each of the activities rather than sticking with one clique every day. Finding friends—and Instagram followers—was never a problem.
Myth: Homeschoolers don’t make good citizens
Reality: Homeschoolers tend to be more civically engaged and politically tolerant than their public-school peers. In her scathing critique that went viral for all the wrong reasons, Harvard professor Elizabeth Bartholet argued that homeschoolers are dangerous to democracy because they’re ignorant of views other than those of their parents. Unfortunately, Bartholet hasn’t met the hundreds of homeschoolers in my debate league. Yes, I have friends who go on door-to-door campaigns with Americans For Prosperity. But I also know of students on the other side of the spectrum who dream of litigating for the ACLU. The classical education model that is popular among homeschoolers teaches students not what to think but how to think, empowering students to critically analyze political arguments.
Myth: Parents aren’t qualified enough to homeschool
Reality: A teaching degree doesn’t necessarily make someone a good teacher. That’s true in our schools and at home. It takes commitment, curiosity, and a love of learning. My mom had no teaching experience whatsoever, and English isn’t even her first language, but I thrived because she was dedicated to teaching and learning with me.
The truth is, homeschool parents don’t need to be the expert on everything. There’s a wealth of resources, including online classes and interactive textbooks, that can help students through complex math problems and science labs, or co-ops that allow parents to teach the subjects in which they hold expertise.
More importantly, homeschooling trains students to be independent learners. Teachers aren’t going to be there for a graduate’s first day at a new job. Homeschoolers are a step ahead precisely because they don’t always have the answer on the chalkboard.
As school districts unveil what the “new normal” will look like in K–12 classrooms, more parents are looking to homeschool as a hopeful alternative. The homeschool model will help ensure that children’s education does not fall behind, regardless of what the rest of 2020 brings. If you think that your child would thrive in a self-driven environment, don’t be afraid to give homeschooling a try!
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