Thursday, January 20, 2011

Now let us look into the pros and cons of homeschooling.
The Advantages of Homeschooling are:
1. Safety: As the children don’t have to travel to school, the stress involved early morning in getting them up, rushing them off to school and ensuring that they return home safely is eliminated.
2. Cost of schooling: As there are no uniforms or other accessories to be purchased, the budget for homeschooling can be kept quite low. However, cost is always determined by how much a family is willing to spend on education. Reference books, not available in the library, could be costly. Special needs students also need learning equipment which can be costly.
3. Health: Since the children are at home, the midday meal can be served piping hot at ‘recess time’. When they are ill, a temporary holiday can be declared and there is absolutely no stress on the parent to get them well soon or to complete unfinished work, as we see happen so often in the formal school setup.
4. Flexibility: The academic year can be planned as per the family schedule and revised from time to time as the need arises. Also one can decide on how many days in a week one wants to do homeschool. As it is a year-long and a lifelong process, there are no prolonged holidays for children to waste their time, getting bored and worrying their parents.
5. Undivided attention: No formal school can give undivided attention to each student in the way a homeschool can. Here the student-teacher ratio is 1:1. The parent can teach at the level of the child, allowing him to learn at his own pace, take time to comprehend the matter in-depth, and use methods suited to the child’s learning style. The curriculum can also be tailored to suit the child’s abilities and hence stress on the child is zero.
6. Exploration: In homeschool, children are encouraged to ask questions and seek answers by doing reference work so they can figure out things by themselves. They find great pleasure in learning new things and eventually become self-learners.
7. Moral Character: Parents are the best teachers of moral values and religious faith. They can keep a close watch and correct wrong behaviour effectively when they are constantly with the children. Children look up to their parents instead of their peers and imitate them, so parents themselves must have strong moral character.
8. Benefits for Parents: Bonding between parents and children is strong; therefore children are not easily led astray by peers. Spousal relationships strengthen as the husband and wife plan and execute homeschool work together as a team. Their personal flaws surface which can be adequately corrected thus making parents more mature. Sacrifice of one’s time, money and effort to the homeschool cause helps the parent to look beyond himself or herself.
These are some of the advantages. Now let’s take a look into the disadvantages.
1. Lack of Socialization: Homeschooling children miss out on school events like competitions, picnics, class tours, field trips, etc. Children become dependent on their parents more and this could hamper smooth transition into the world as they get older. They do not learn to tackle problems and to get along with peers. Homeschool is not recommended for a child who does not have any interaction with his neighbours or people around him, as he needs outside contact for his growth and personality development
2. Lack of Order & Discipline: In homeschooling, due to flexibility, there is no order and initially, this can confuse the child. They may take their own time getting ready, causing discipline problems for the parents who will not be readily accepted in the role of the teacher. They may also get bored being with the parents the whole day.
3. Lack of Counselling: Many schools have a counselor whom the children can go to for help. This facility is lacking in the homeschool.
4. Parental Inefficiency: The parent teaching the child needs to be proficient in the curriculum to be taught. She/he needs to be trained in teaching methods, and how to create an environment conducive for learning at home, how to instill discipline, how to be effective in home management, etc.
Although the disadvantages may give cold feet to a parent eager to homeschool, let me reassure you that these can be resolved effectively with the help of a good support group. Support groups, i.e. a group of homeschooling families in your area, can organize social events as well as provide training for parents and counseling for students. In a support group, children meet peers as well as people of all ages so they learn to socialize with all age groups. Home management and discipline problems can be addressed at group meetings so that proper guidance is offered by those who are more experienced. If it is not possible for a parent to teach a particular subject, say Hindi or Mathematics for example, a tutor can be arranged for within the group or at an individual level.
In India, homeschooling is slowly coming into its own. People discontented with the way schools are being run are seeking alternatives and one of them is homeschooling. Recently, The Times published an article on a homeschooler Master Sahal Kaushik who stood 33rd in the country in the IIT-JEE exams. His father had this to say “"I have always been a firm believer in the doctrine that anything can be learnt at any time. All you need is the right environment and an interest in the subject." And his mother added, “"It's a lot of hard work, but very rewarding too. We feel that this is an appropriate way for a child to learn, without having to face pressure of any kind.”
In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). They found that:
• Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities.
• Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers.
• 58.9% report that they are "very happy" with life, compared with 27.6% for the general population. 73.2% find life "exciting", compared with 47.3% of the general population.
In conclusion, I would like to say that home-schooling is a tremendous challenge for parents as one has to swim against the tide. Society questions such changes and tends to discourage those who want to make a difference. But if any educational policy is child-centred, it can never go wrong. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, American talk-show hostess, “Making a different choice gives you the opportunity to live a different life.”

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