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The various opportunities for public education has made recent education system very interesting. Today's children can even learn at home with a system called homeschooling. In the past decades, homeschooling has becoming the most preferred education style of parents and children in the United States of America. The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics reports approximately 1.1 million children (2.2 percent of school-age children) were being educated at home as of 2003. Nevertheless, the argument whether homeschooling is relevant keep continues regardless to its successes and rapid growth over the past 15 years. Researchers Clery, Luke and Lyman, two children, and America's National Education Association (NEA) have their own say regarding this matter. Hence, in this essay, I will describe and discuss their views and later make my own stance about homeschooling.
Patricia Lines (1991, cited in Luke 2003) defined homeschooling as "instructions and learning at least some of which through planned activity, taking place primarily at home in a family setting with a parent acting as teacher or supervisor, and with one or more pupils who are members of the same family and who are doing K-12 work." Popularity of homeschooling rocketed when thirteen-year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York became the first homeschooled child to win the National Spelling Bee (Makinen, 1997, cited in Lyman, 1998). Also, when the number of homeschooled students winning admission to selective colleges boomed, effectiveness of homeschooling is proven. Despite all these victories, still, NEA thinks homeschooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience (Foster,2000).
Researchers see many reasons why people are switching to homeschooling. Lyman (1998) stated an analysis of 300 newspaper and magazine articles about homeschoolers revealed that there are four main reasons to homeschool. These are the dissatisfaction with public schools, desire to freely impart religious values, academic excellence, and to build a stronger family bonds. These reasons clearly explained that homeschooling is a better option for people. Knowles (1987, cited in Clery 1998), found out that homeschooling motives were congruent with parents' dissatisfaction with their own experiences in school in the past. These reasons are mainly connected to parents' own desire that wish their children will not encounter the experience they have had before. These parents later decided to educate their children themselves. Concerning this matter, Holt (1967, cited in Clery 1998), suggested "the advantage of being schooled at home lay in the provision of an environment conducive to the child's natural way of learning." That is to say that parents better understand the ways, conditions, and spirit in which their children learn and are therefore in a better position to encourage them to use and improve the style of thinking and learning natural to them (Holt 1967, cited in Clery 1998).
Children seemed to have the same opinion with these researchers. This was proven when a research was conducted on two home-schooled children. Participant A had been home-schooled for approximately eighteen months. While Participant B, although returning on two occasions for short periods of time to a mainstream school, had been home-schooled for four and a half years. According to Clery (1998), when interviewed, both participants contributed significantly to the decision to be homeschooled. They each had known someone else who was being homeschooled and had thought they would like to try it themselves. In choosing to leave mainstream schooling Participant A had made a considered decision in respect to what type of schooling was most likely to meet her needs. Participant B have had the opportunity to re-assess her decision on the two occasions when she re-entered mainstream schooling, and had returned each time to homeschooling as the preferred option (Clery,1998). Through the research, both participants said they have freedom to plan their day's work themselves. Participant A stated her parents put some input into deciding what work she had to cover but only to the degree, for example, that she must do mathematics each day. While Participant B stated she uses pace-books to give her a guide as to how much work she should do, and while she generally covers the same number of work pages each day, she has the flexibility to vary it if she wishes. Both participants indicated they like the way homeschooling allows them to have control over what work they do and also the way they do that work (Clery,1998).
While both researchers and children support homeschooling, the National Education Association, one of the largest and most powerful unions in the United states (NEA) opposed this system. The association argued homeschooling programs cannot provide students with a comprehensive education experience. When interviewed by WorldNetDaily, NEA's spokesperson, Kathleen Lyons, although after admitting that the organisation does not have a homeschool expert and the issue is not something they track, nevertheless said the statement has been the long-standing position of the organisation. She added that public schools have a wider variety and higher quality of courses for students to take such as advanced placement science courses. She commented that it is undeniable that public schools have better course offerings. While as for home schools, she continued, no one parent can provide the high quality of education available at public schools. She said, public schools teach things beyond curriculum such as values, how to get along with others, diversity, team work and cooperative learning. Last but not least, Lyons said that NEA believes public schools are superior, not only for their academic opportunities, but also because of the socialization they offer children.
All these assertions were rebut by a long-time family-rights activist Phyllis Schlafly. She said home-schooled children do not remain in the home all day, but the educational environment that parents exposed to children are varied. Parents do take their children to the museums, library and science fairs. So during those activities, home-schooled children socialise with other people they meet. Luke (2003) stated improved socialization is in fact one of the reasons parents give for home schooling and many parents and children see the social aspect of public schools in a distinctly negative light. While Holt (1981, cited in Luke) said "according to many of the descriptions which appear in personal testimonials about home schooling, home schooled children enjoy diverse social interactions with other home schooled children, other parents involved in home schooling, and informal mentors and teachers of different ages". Home schooled children also tend to be involved in extra-curricular activities, sports and such, which involve contact with other children on a regular basis. (Holt,1981).
NEA's argument that homeschooling cannot provide students with a comprehensive education experience seems to be inadequate. This is because no matter how flaws homeschooling is to NEA, the number of home-schooled students is growing rapidly. It is also proven that home-schooled are happy learning at home, as they are able to learn at their own pace with material and resources which best suit their learning needs and styles as being the main advantage (Clery,1998). Academic performance and curricular activities are at the best state as well. Home-schooled children socialise with people around them and actually are better behaved as they are not involved with social problems at schools. Bonds between parents and children strengthened. Most importantly, it is fact that a home-schooled student has won the National Spelling Bee. Besides, there are more and more home-schooled students are enrolling into colleges.
Both researchers' and children's stance that homeschooling is a better option to schooling seems justified. As many as 2 million students are being educated at home in America (Lips and Feinberg 2008). This shows that more parents are opting to this system as they believe the system is a better alternative for their children. Concern about the environment at other schools, dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools, and a preference for providing religious and moral instruction are common reasons cited by parents for homeschooling. Although research about the effectiveness of homeschooling is limited, but the evidence suggests that many homeschooled students succeed in that learning environment and do well later in life. Hence, federal and state policymakers should protect families' right to homeschool their children and should reform education and tax policies to give families greater ability to direct their children's education (Lips and Feinberg,2008).
In conclusion, there are a lot of other organisations and/or people who are against homeschooling. Nonetheless, it is believed homeschooling is clearly a wise option to get education. There are many advantages that can be embraced from this system especially by both parents and children. Those advantages were proved by statistics, studies and reports provided by a number of researchers. NEA failed to supply people with more solid assertions that homeschooling is not a better option if compared to public schools. On the contrary, success stories about homeschooling is increasing day by day. In short, homeschooling is here to stay and is giving new meaning to the old maxim "there's no place like home" (Lyman,1998).