According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the number one reason that American parents chose to homeschool their children was “a concern about environment of other schools.” This top reason was closely followed by number two: "Other reasons (including family time, finances, travel, and distance);" and number three: "A dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools." As conventional schooling becomes increasingly standardized, test-driven, and overly restrictive, more parents are choosing to opt-out of schooling and instead embrace learning for their children. In fact, according to the DOE report, the total number of U.S. homeschoolers jumped 17% between 2007 and 2011!
There are many reasons to consider the homeschooling option for your family, but here is my Top 10 list:
1. Customize learning - One of the great advantages of homeschooling is the ability to recognize a child's distinct learning styles and needs and tailor a family's learning approach accordingly. The increasing popularity of homeschooling has led to learning resources for every type of learner, from a wide variety of packaged curriculum options, to countless free online learning sites, to community programming specifically targeting homeschoolers. For "eclectic" homeschoolers and unschoolers who choose a more unstructured approach to homeschooling, there are museums, libraries, academic and cultural events, classes, lessons, self-directed learning centers, and a host of other resources to facilitate child-led learning. Homeschooling allows the flexibility to adapt to a child's specific learning needs and use the full resources of the community and its people to facilitate learning.
2. Gain time - Homeschooling provides families with the gift of time. Time to learn together. Time for children to uncover and pursue their own talents. Time to explore nature and the world around us. Time to read. Time to play. Time to dream.
3. Cultivate curiosity - With the freedom to learn and explore, a child's natural curiosity flourishes, guiding him to discover, create, imagine, and synthesize. As a society, we are moving away from the Industrial Age to the Imagination Age, where creativity is more essential than conformity and imagination trumps standardization.
4. Reclaim childhood - Childhood today runs at a dizzying pace, with pressures to grow-up faster and better than ever before. Homeschooling helps to reclaim and retain the spirit of childhood for a wee bit longer.
5. Focus on family - Homeschooling positions family at the center of a child's life, fostering family togetherness and whole family learning, and creating a nurturing, nourishing environment in which to learn and grow. As facilitators, we parents provide an enriching learning environment for our children and identify resources that may help to spark and encourage their innate curiosity.
6. Strengthen sibling bonds - Homeschooling brothers and sisters build strong sibling bonds, learning from and with each other, collaborating and trouble-shooting, and creating together each day.
7. Encourage positive social behaviors - Homeschooling allows children to see daily examples of positive social behaviors through close interactions with grown-ups and peers. When conflict arises, adults are able to model effective resolution techniques that help children to develop important interpersonal skills, while also enabling older children the freedom to resolve conflict independently and constructively. Malevolent institutional behaviors, like bullying, rarely occur in homeschooling. As Boston College psychology professor, and unschooling advocate, Dr. Peter Gray, writes: "Bullying occurs regularly when people who have no political power and are ruled in top-down fashion by others are required by law or economic necessity to remain in that setting. It occurs regularly, for example, in prisons...There is only one way to get rid of the bullying and the general sense of unfairness that pervades our schools, and that is to restructure radically the way the schools are governed." When children are able to learn in freedom, without coercion and with the ability to easily opt-out of activities and interactions that cause them discomfort, bullying and other negative social behaviors cannot occur.
8. Learn from the community - Homeschoolers are uniquely positioned to use their community as their classroom, taking full advantage of the varied and abundant offerings of the community, and the many interesting places and knowledgeable people who become their daily "teachers." Homeschooling also allows children to interact and learn from a diverse population of fellow homeschoolers through active and accessible local homeschooling networks.
9. Simplify schedules - Homeschooling helps families to prioritize how a child's time is spent each week to maximize self-directed learning, and minimize stressors and waste. Homeschooling helps families to slow down, simplify, and focus on creating more peaceful, unhurried family rhythms.
10. Enjoy outdoor learning - Homeschooling creates many opportunities for unenclosed, free play and exploration throughout one's community and through meaningful interactions with the natural world. Nature is an extraordinary teacher.
What are your thoughts on this list? How does it compare with your own top reasons to homeschool your kids?