The greatest tragedy of the home education movement is the number of families who set out to teach their children at home but don’t complete the task. In spite of the rapid growth of home education and the corresponding increase of curricular tools, self-help books, research and expertise, many parents lose hope and direction when it comes to the secondary (high school) years.
Somehow, after having proven to themselves and their detractors that they could successfully educate their children to be independent thinking, self-motivated, well-socialized students with a moral framework and a solid work ethic, they balk at the next step. As they approach the secondary years they start believing that special training and programming leading to credits and a diploma is required to be successful in life. Faced with the possibility of jeopardizing their children’s post-secondary options, they often choose to send the children to school or bring the school home. The problem, however, is not one that suddenly manifests itself at grade nine, but is actually one that takes root early in their decision to keep their children home.
Home-based education is usually begun with some uncertainty, but as parents become more familiar with the processes, they begin to establish the patterns that categorize them either as home educating or home schooling. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably to describe all manner of home-based learning, there are some distinctions between the two in both pedagogy and outcomes. The following discussion distinguishes between “home schooling” and “home educating” and helps to clarify the differences between them.
Home schooling is best described as generally following the government-mandated processes and procedures leading to established expectations and outcomes. This is the educational status quo followed by all publicly-funded schools and the one defended by the “education industry” as the best (and only) way of educating children.
The philosophy that drives this industry was built on the premise that the state and its professionals have far greater vision and expertise at raising and educating children than parents do. Its one-size-fits-all approach assumes all children have roughly the same capacities for learning the same things at the same time, usually viewing those who do not conform to this pre-determined “standard of normality” as in need of remediation. Students are categorized by grade, although a child does not have to master the learning objectives of one grade to be advanced to the other.
Some effort is made to meet the needs of every individual child, but this form of education is designed for the school, which by its nature has many students in a classroom at the same time with only one teacher. That teacher, as resourceful and as sincere as he or she may be, can only do one thing at a time. Meeting individual needs using a structured classroom approach is best accomplished if the program is being delivered at home, hence the term “home school.”
School is usually all that parents know about education since most people have been educated in this way. Therefore, they willingly choose to educate their children in like manner. Some choose this method because of familiarity; others due to a lack of self-confidence. They can also be lured into home schooling with various incentives intended to entice their participation or simply by having a facilitator who is only familiar with this approach to education.
Bringing the School Home
Bringing the school home does indeed require some expertise since few people are actually aware of what is to be taught or when and how these educational objectives are to be met, so they let the school direct them. Those who follow this approach are very prone to wanting to meet the chronological standards of achievement and are often comparing their children with others, assuming something to be wrong with the child or the parent, rather than with the program, when things don’t go well.
This approach to education differs from the school primarily by the fact that it takes place at home, even if some allowances are made to meet the individual student’s needs and interests. This course of action usually leads to a secondary (high school) education that puts all learning decisions in the hands of the educational establishment, resulting in the same programming, credits and diploma as everybody else.
An advantage to home schooling could be that since the home schooled student has been educated using the same educational pathway as most other students, it may be easier to blend in with all the other students of the province when applying for post-secondary training or work. The primary disadvantage is that home schooling can be very frustrating, especially in the secondary years, as it is difficult to follow a program designed by the school system for the school system while not in an actual school. For this reason, a lot of home schooled students return to school for the high school years or they stay at home and enter an online public school program.
Home education is best described as an educational program designed by a parent and offered to a student outside the structured learning environment of school. Sometimes the best way to describe this method is to simply state that it is not school. It does not reinvent or mimic school in a different location, nor is it a brand or blend of school at home.
Home educating parents usually have a worldview that considers each child to be uniquely created with a purpose and a place. They see their role not as creators trying to make something of their child but as nurturers, guides, and examples, that work with the child towards his or her greater purpose, whatever that may be.
Home educating parents believe that they are best qualified to develop an educational program for their children and take the full responsibility for both its delivery and outcomes. They are aware of each child’s unique attributes and this intimate knowledge allows parents to determine the best approach, curriculum, timing and expectations to meet their children’s educational needs. They are also aware that meeting standards set by distant third parties, although perhaps important as guidelines, should not be the goal of education. Rather, they see the educational goal as directing a child to reach his or her full innate potential at the appropriate time and that this can only be achieved within a program that is uniquely tailored for the individual child. This pattern of education, when properly done, provides an excellent foundation for independent life-long learning.
Although there are a lot of variations on the theme of home schooling vs. home educating, there is a way to measure the degree to which parents are employing one method or the other. Generally speaking, the more control somebody other than the parents have in the education of a child, the more likely it is that the method is home schooling. Conversely, the more control parents exercise in their children’s education, the more likely they are educating their children at home outside of the structured programs and processes offered at school.