Can homeschooling work for your
- twice-exceptional child?
Is homeschooling best for
- high school students?
Families choose homeschooling for different reasons, but I think some have gotten the idea they need a specific or compelling reason to homeschool.
They think it is just for gifted kids who want to go to college at 12, or for special needs children who aren't being served at school.
And it's always someone else's kid who might benefit from homeschooling, so parents feel they don't need to consider it for their own child.
It's time to say that families should stop accepting public education as a default, and always consider every educational option before making a decision. Decision making is all about gathering information and considering the options. This means that YOU should think about homeschooling for your family. Homeschooling offers substantial advantages for every child at every stage of development.
Just because something is a common practice doesn't make it good for everyone, or even good by itself. Public education automatically gets a pass because "everybody does it". It is touted as a social good, an American institution. Although providing every citizen with the opportunity for acquiring an education is admirable, the history of compulsory education is littered with faulty pedagogy and attempts at social engineering, so the methods employed are often not effective at teaching or inspiring kids to learn.
For example, one of the reasons all families should consider homeschooling is the manner in which children are segregated and labeled in schools. Organizing children chronologically might sound sensible to keep things organized for huge government programs like public education, but if education is about nurturing children and preparing them for a productive future, then other more effective ways of teaching should be considered and implemented. Like, now.
Furthermore, dividing children into categories like below average, average, above average, and gifted communicates harmful ideas about self worth and limitations to children and their parents. Children are only limited by the lack of opportunity to mature and flourish.
Every person who has children of their own or works with children knows that not every 6 year old is like every other 6 year old. A little girl with a birthday on October 1st could be reading proficiently, while a boy who turned 6 in May is sounding out Green Eggs and Ham – and that's only if you can get him to sit still for five minutes. Yet we put them in a class together and expect them to learn the same things at the same time at the same rate of progress.
To put a fine point on it – it's stupid. It certainly doesn't help fulfill our desire to educate our children. It serves to put numbers on charts about statistics and demographics and it keeps textbook publishers in business.
But I'm not interested at the moment in discussing public education reform – I think that ship may have sailed, been torpedoed by Common Core Standards and the National Education Association, and it's probably lying on the bottom of the ocean being encrusted by coral.
I want to talk about why homeschooling can benefit every child, no matter their age or ability. So to frame this discussion in familiar (if inaccurate) terms, I'll use the labels that schools employ as a point of reference.
The traditional classroom tends to aim instruction at the lower middle end of proficiency. Gifted and ambitious students find this mind-numbingly easy, and it begins to build a false sense of their abilities because they are seldom challenged. Gifted kids are rewarded for their academic excellence, and this becomes part of their sense of self-worth. If this continues through high school, I can almost guarantee college will knock them down several pegs. They will likely struggle with time management, study skills, and the totally new experience of meeting demands beyond their abilities and experience. They are no longer the big fish in the little pond.
In a homeschool, a gifted child can progress at their own pace, and be constantly and consistently challenged in academics and other areas as well, such as organizing and prioritizing. They can learn about what they can give to their community instead of competing with other honor students for awards and recognition.
Average students are generally ignored; they don't excel at anything in particular, they aren't struggling to a significant degree, so they don't garner any attention. Classrooms are where squeaky wheels get most, if not all the grease. There's only so much a teacher can do in a limited amount of time with 20-30 students, in addition to the demands of meeting national standards and planning for testing. Average students are considered successful enough, and it's unlikely that they will be challenged or allowed to explore their interests and talents to expose their hidden potential.
Homeschooling allows an average student to break away from demeaning labels like 'average', and concentrate on an area of interest to them, or discover a latent talent. Homeschooling gives children the gift of time- time to develop emotionally, physically, and intellectually at a pace suited to them.
Children who struggle with academics, behavior issues, or health problems in our society are labeled at a young age, and this label often follows them for years. The age-segregated classroom model and traditional teaching methods are the worst possible environment for many of these kids.
- They may need a distraction-free environment in order to focus.
- Vision and hearing problems sometimes go undiagnosed because they don't want to be singled out or made to feel defective.
- Their physical need to move and expend excess energy is met with reprimands and detention.
- They are pushed to make progress because they are the ones bringing down a school's report card.
- The extra attention they receive is not usually positive reinforcement, and may even be humiliating.
Homeschooling gives parents and students the space, time, and liberty to tailor the child's education to their physical, mental, and emotional needs.
The twice-exceptional student excels in one area but struggles significantly in another. A public school student's education is generally judged by their GPA, but if a student is exceptional at math while having difficulty with reading, their talent may be overlooked. Instead of gaining confidence by progressing in math at their own accelerated pace, they are stressed and embarrassed by their lack of improvement in other areas. An 'average' GPA is the penalty for not progressing in every subject at the same pace.
Because they are not being compared to their peers and pressured to perform at the same pace in every subject area, the twice-exceptional student is free to move forward in areas where they excel, and get help for their areas of weakness without any stigma attached.
Preschool and elementary age children reap numerous blessings from homeschooling. Although common sense has already informed us of the need for creative play, there are numerous studies revealing the health benefits and cognitive advantages gained when children are given freedom to play, explore, and discover the world around them. Research even suggests that
make-believe games are forerunners of the important capacity for forms of self-regulation including reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy. The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development, Psychology Today
Young children need consistent and adequate sleep, exercise, hydration, and nutrition to grow and mature to reach their potential in every area of development, and homeschooling provides the opportunity for those needs to be met every single day. When not corralled and homogenized in a classroom, they can pursue their interests without the interference of enforced national standards or peer pressure. They can engage in creative play and build a strong foundation for future learning.
Middle schoolers also benefit from the healthy lifestyle homeschooling offers as their minds and bodies develop at what seems an astronomical rate. They can continue to make progress academically according to their abilities. Without the labels that can cause children stress and embarrassment during their formative years, parents can attend to their child's academic weakness while building confidence in their child's areas of strength.
High school homeschoolers often brag about getting to sleep in, but this is not always laziness. Teens experiencing the stress and strain of puberty need to be able to get proper rest and nutrition as much as younger kids do. Because homeschooling allows kids to progress at their own pace and explore the subjects and activities they love, teens are often very grateful for the opportunity to be valued as unique individuals without fear of peer pressure and labeling that can hold a student back in brick-and-mortar schools.
There's new research that shows that students desperately want to fit in with their peers. And if their peers are not motivated, this can affect the academic choices that students make. Students' Work Ethic Affected By Peer Groups, Desire To Be Popular NPR
Teens can specialize in a particular area of study, become entrepreneurs, create and invent, and apprentice to learn trade and business skills. They can interact with adults as well as their peers with the adversarial dynamic that often develops between teachers and school administrators, and students.
So before you automatically pack up your kids to put them on a bus next week, think about homeschooling, and how it could benefit your child.