Is Homeschool Better Than Public School?

Amanda asked:

Do you think homeschooling a five-year-old is a better decision than public school?

Joy's answer:

You know, this is a harder question to answer than you might expect that it would be for a company making a living selling home education materials. The short answer is yes, but I’d like to give you more than a quick answer.

Both of my parents come from families who valued education, and I have many teachers in the family. One of my grandfathers was a long-time teacher, coach, principal… and since he lived next door while I was growing up, I have often had the privilege of hearing how he (and Grandma’s – she was a huge part of his work) had a positive impact on so many people in our community.

I, along with much of my family, spent several years volunteering at the local public school to help beginning readers. Many of our friends make different educational choices than we do, and many are teachers themselves. We also have little ones through foster care, and for them, public education is mandated once they reach school age. I know of families whose children need the extra services given free through their school district, such as speech therapy.

So all that to say that I know public schools change the lives of many students, and ought to be regarded with hope and much investment.

But given the opportunity, I’d wholeheartedly prefer homeschooling!

Here are just a few reasons:

A classroom teacher is under obligation to provide the best possible education to every child in her classroom. Even a great teacher will have to spend time reteaching things your child knows to other students who don’t get it yet, and will inevitably move past topics your child needs more time on in order to continue with the other students. This is not a failure on the teacher’s part – but how can one person efficiently instruct a couple dozen unique students at once?

In a classroom setting, much time needs to be spent on getting everyone on the same schedule every day. One child may do best with a rhythm of hard page, easy page, activity, hard page… while another thrives on doing math precisely an hour after breakfast, but the teacher doesn’t have the ability to accommodate both needs.

Classroom logistics are just hard. For instance, standing in line is a valuable skill, but not one I feel every child needs to practice for so long each day!

I also see so much meanness in the classroom environment that just breaks my heart. From bullying to thoughtless kids to teachers who control rowdy classrooms by yelling… the imperfections of our own homes seem so much easier to bear than that constant weight.

Of course, I also love efficiency. So it is much more appealing to me to give a child her list of things to accomplish for the week, coach her where needed, and then be done, rather than wait on all her classmates to finish each page/portion at a different pace. How much better if she can invest her extra time in active play, “just for fun” reading, creating, serving family or others, or learning more about whatever caught her eye this week instead of sitting and waiting.

And let’s not forget the ease of tailoring the curriculum at home to fit your specific child. Let’s say the kindergarten child needs to practice drawing circles – it’s so much more fun for your truck-lover if he’s drawing tires and for your florist to draw beautiful flowers. Or if your older student needs reading practice, not only is that not embarrassing to him, you can also choose the practice that most appeals to him, even if that’s Calvin and Hobbes!

Importantly, studies are showing that students who homeschool consistently out-perform their peers in many areas, including test results.

These are just a few of the things that jump out to me this morning, but I’ve saved the best one for last.

Even as academically critical as all of those things are, it is even more essential to me that children are taught to know and love Jesus and His word in every part of their lives, including academics. It is not artificial or trite to pause as we’re studying insects and reflect on their amazing design. And it thrills my soul when the preschooler halts all conversation on things that are strong to announce that it is “Not as strong as God!” Reading may take a long time to master, and history facts may come and go from their memory, but if they know and love Jesus, their education has been a giant success.