Q&A- Public Education, Private Schools, or Home Schooling?

Q&A- Public Education, Private Schools, or Home Schooling?

Question: At what point do you advocate taking your children out of the public school because indoctrination has become so bad? Do the social benefits of private schooling outweigh the money savings of home-schooling?

Answer: My husband, Chris, wants to limit his remarks to a quotation–the first line of Paul Simon’s song, Kodachrome: “When I think back to all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” Thanks, Chris :).

That said, I’m afraid I don’t have any great formula for determining the point at which children would be better off withdrawing from public schools. If/when the schools refuse to allow parents to determine their children’s participation in questionable or harmful studies, programs, or policies, that would probably be one decider for me.

Second, there are a lot of variables to consider when deciding between public schools, private schools, and home-schooling, including: values being promoted, quality of education, school safety, availability of programs such as athletic teams and music programs, the social environment, special needs of the child, and school policies (e.g. our daughter in California is fairly confrontive with elementary teachers about how much homework her children will do; if they did all that was sent home, they wouldn’t have play time or time for family chores and activities, so she wonders about home schooling sometimes).

Let’s consider a few pros and cons (not a comprehensive list).

Private School Pros: Still provides social interaction. The quality of education is usually quite good.

Private School Cons: Expense. Sometimes surrounds your child with a kind of “elite” class that may create a sense of superiority or entitlement. If the school is affiliated with another religion, you’ll want to carefully and consistently explain how you would like your child to process any mandatory religious training.

Home School Pros: Should provide loving, nurturing, supportive environment. Much less wasted time than is typical in school settings. Parents control quality and content (hopefully, that’s a pro). Increasing availability of support materials for home schooling.

Home School Cons: Enormous investment and responsibility for (usually) the mother. Loss of regular social interaction—this can be fairly significant, may be mitigated somewhat by participating in an extended home school group. Loss of school athletic and music program options, although some districts are allowing home school students to participate. May be some danger of over-sheltering children, limiting experiences that develop skills to deal with challenging situations, differences between people, learning to stand up for what they believe without being aggressive or adversarial. May inadvertently foster a kind of paranoia or “Us vs. Them” attitude.

An option that works well for some families is being a very involved parent who supplements educationally and detoxes and corrects, as needed. Getting to know teachers and administrators, volunteering and visiting often, and talking a lot with children about what was happening at school and what they are learning can make public education a safe and successful experience. Helping them select good books to read, helping with homework, and guiding them when they were supposed to choose their own subjects to study (because kids often don’t know enough to select worthwhile and rewarding topics), are all ways to enhance what they’re learning. Talking about teachers, friends, school policies, school holidays and events can keep parents apprised of challenges. If we develop and nurture and strong, positive relationship with our children, we can guide and influence them when problems develop. Discussing the challenges our children face in a public school setting is such a great teaching opportunity that the benefits of public education may outweigh deficits for some time to come.

If you are considering home schooling, you may be interested in the following information (shamelessly gleaned from Wikipedia):

  • In 2005-6, 1.9-2.4 million students were home schooled, approximately 2.2% of the student population.
  • 91% of home school families describe themselves as Christian.
  • HS parents have higher income than average and are more likely to have advanced education.
  • Annual cost estimates vary widely from $400 to $2500 per child.
  • Numerous studies report that HS kids outperform their peers on standardized tests, perhaps by as much as 30-37 percentile points across all subjects and get higher scores on ACT and SAT exams.
  • In the 70s, federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies resulted in a book Better Late Than Early, 1975, followed by School Can Wait. The analysis concluded, “where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten.”
  • Raymond and Dorothy Moore, who conducted the above analysis, referenced a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating the following requirements: 1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.[1]
  • The Moores, who are home school advocates and facilitators, concluded that children need: “more of home and less of formal school” “more free exploration with… parents, and fewer limits of classroom and books,” and “more old fashioned chores – children working with parents – and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.”

Except for one of our sons who was home schooled during his 6th grade year mostly for health reasons, our children all went through the public education system and we felt it was mostly successful and rewarding for them.  But I definitely tried to be a parent who was very involved in school and who supplemented and detoxed regularly. Things are changing rapidly, though. My California daughter who is expecting her sixth child tells me that she thinks that for her family, it may be more a question of when, rather than if, to home school.

What are your feelings about home school, private schools, and public education?


[1] Raymond S. Moore, Dorothy Moore. When Education Becomes Abuse: A Different Look at the Mental Health of Children

  1. Betty says:

    This is a very interesting article. The question you ask is, where do our kids get the best education? There are allot of variable that effect this answer. I’ve been reading a book called “Lives of Passion, School of Hope” by author Rick Posner. The book tells how a progressive public school in Colorado has transformed the lives of its students. It is about what happens to children and adults when they are encouraged to follow their bliss. Personal empowerment and the development of confidence, curiosity, and compassion can be accomplished in our public schools. It’s an amazing story.

  2. Henry Cate says:

    My wife and I have been homeschooling for eight or nine years now. I’ve lost track.

    I will address two of your cons about homeschooling:

    “Enormous investment and responsibility for (usually) the mother.”

    True, there is an increased responsibility. But there really isn’t a big difference in the amount of time a mother needs to spend. When we compare the amount of time we spending with our friends with children in public schools, my wife and I don’t see a dramatic difference. Because it is so normal, many people forget about the carpooling, the helping with the homework, the Parent Teacher meetings, helping children sell candy to raise funds for the school and other things.

    “Loss of regular social interaction—this can be fairly significant, may be mitigated somewhat by participating in an extended home school group.”

    When homeschooling first started becoming popular back in the 70s and 80s the big concern was would the children learn anything, for clearly mere parents were not able to teach like the professionals. Now thirty years later few even mention this because homeschooled children, as a group, do much better academically at college.

    The big boogieman now is “socialization.” But what does this really mean? Whenever there are two or more people, there is a social situation. The important thing is: “Are our children learning appropriate ways to act in social situations?” I believe that schools do a poor job of teaching good social responses. Most of the time children are subjected to a low grade Lord of the Flies situation, where they learn how to deal with peer pressure and bullies.

    My wife and I are the primary teachers to our children of correct social responses. As a result my daughters have very little need to follow the crowd.

    Susannah Sheffer, wrote “A Sense of Self” which talked about how most girls in public schools have struggles with their self esteem, but in interviewing 55 homeschooled girls she found these girls didn’t have the same problems.

    Many homeschoolers decide to homeschool precisely for the reason that they want good “socialization” for their children.

  3. Lili says:

    Thanks, Betty, for the information about the Colorado school. It’s always great to hear about those kinds of successes.

    And thanks, Henry, for sharing a bit of your experience as a home school parent. I appreciate your comments about the social dimension. I must agree that there are some significant opportunities for a home school setting to work to the advantage of a child’s sense of self. I would still say there are–as in so many situations–trade-offs, but I have been impressed with what is happening in many home school families.

  4. Nicole says:

    Thank you for the blog and interesting points. I am a mother of 3, the oldest recently turning 5, making her eligible for kindergarten this year. The dilemma has been significant of where to send her but it actually started two years ago when all of our friends were putting their 3 year olds in what is now termed Pre K 3. Then they progress to Pre K 4. I am amazed at how early some parents are willing to put their kids in a full day, 5 day a week program. Coming from a “western public school” background where mothers cared for and taught their kids at home until half day kindergarten eased them into first grade, it has been quite a shock to be out “east” where the pressure to put your kids in expensive private schools is great, even going into more debt than I ever did to pay for college tuition, so that your child is started in the proper school.I was fairly neutral when it comes to public education vs private or homeschooling but after this plethora of options was presented I realized that we all have to make the best decision for our family and the individual child. I personally want to keep my children close for as long as possible during the first 5 formative years and am more comfortable with the way I was raised in part time kindergarten public school method. It seems though like public schools, at least out east/south, are being affected by those withdrawing for private schools, leaving the rest who may not want to be there to have constant discipline instead of learning. This seems to force a parent to strongly consider the other options, especially if going into debt for preschool is the mainstream. I opted to “homeschool” preschool for our kids and am now determining if I can give them the right amount of attention if they are all at home and home schooled. If you think about it, who knows your children and how they learn better than a parent, and one on three is much more time than one on thirty like a school room setting. It is a tough decision and I appreciate everyone’s insights and encouragement to do what is best for the family, regardless of the stigmas associated with either option.

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