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Lingvistov Discussion Club: Should you homeschool your child?

Should you homeschool your child?
Educator Paul D. Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, raises concerns about the merits of homeschooling children. Houston argues that the social interaction students encounter at school is important not only to their personal development but also to the development of democratic values in society at large. Learning to interact with people from diverse backgrounds can be just as important as receiving good education, Houston maintains and he urges parents who decide in favor of homeschooling to seek out ways in which their children can interact with their peers.
homeBy Paul D. Houston
In our complex and often unpredictable world, homeschooling allows parents to control the social and academic development of their children. But is homeschooling right for your family? Will homeschooling allow your child to develop the academic and social skills necessary for success and happiness in life?
For homeschooling to succeed, you must make extraordinary efforts to assure that the complex needs of your child are met. Even if parents meet the academic needs of the child, they may not be able to provide the crucial social interaction that formal schools provide. Before deciding to homeschool, you need to consider both its risks and potential benefits.

Risks to social development
Although one-on-one instruction from a loved one can greatly benefit a student, potential problems exist. Many parents choose to homeschool out of concern for what their children might be taught or exposed to in a formal school setting. Many parents want to ensure that their children learn values that agree with their own and that their children will not be tainted by other views. Some educators regard this type of protection as unrealistic and potentially harmful to the child.
Children grow up to live in the real world – a world made up of many different views espoused by many different people. Interaction with peers from diverse backgrounds prepares children to confront these differences with understanding and strength. Formal schools allow young people to learn to navigate the sometimes-troubled waters that social diversity creates. Many educators also believe that the ability to interact with people outside the family is necessary for success and happiness in life. Students naturally gain skills of interaction in the classroom, playgrounds, and cafeterias of formal schools. Unless parents who homeschool make significant efforts to create social situations for interaction with children outside the family, parents run the risk of stunting their children’s development of the social skills necessary in our increasingly complex society.

Risks to academic preparation
Homeschooling often produces impressive results in academic performance. The benefits arise from the one-on-one attention it provides the student and from the fact that many parents who presently homeschool have teaching preparation or experience.
Problems may potentially arise when parents are unprepared or unable to devote the time, effort, or skills necessary to carry out the teacher’s role. Laws concerning homeschooling vary widely from state to state. Some states require regular testing to assure that homeschooled children are progressing academically or even require that homeschooled children follow the state curriculum. But in other states no requirements such as these exist. While some students progress, others may not, without anyone noticing the difference. Although children who go to formal schools may be tested excessively, testing does provide an efficient and unbiased measure of academic progress.
Students may face difficulties in future educational endeavors if the homeschooling curriculum is not aligned with formal school curriculum. Homeschooled students sometimes return to a formal school setting, and many of these students plan to attend college. Preparation for college admission is a significant chore that you should take into account when you consider homeschooling.

Social concerns
In a broad sense, homeschooling may present a danger to the development of democratic values. Contrary to popular belief, schools in America were not established to teach reading, writing and arithmetic. They were invented to teach civic virtues. American democracy requires harmony within a diverse society. In essence people have to know how to deal with others who might be different from them. When learning takes place in isolation, young people do not get this crucial experience. Democracy only works if people are able to make it work through cooperation and acceptance of differences. Civic engagement allows democracy to flourish.
Contemporary society does not offer many avenues for civic engagement. With the advent of new technology it has become easier for people to withdraw into their own worlds and their own interests. Some people have become almost tribalistic in their views. Young people who only associate with those who are like them in background and views might never learn how to disagree respectfully and search for common ground. Separation may be good in the short run for the individual student who is not forced to face the dangers and disagreements of a wider world, but it is not good for that wider world. Parents can make efforts to teach skills of dialog and disagreement, but these skills develop naturally in a formal school setting.

Data on homeschooling
The potential benefits and risks of homeschooling are presently difficult to measure due to the lack of comprehensive studies and research data. Much of what is known seems quite positive for homeschoolers at first glance, but careful consideration of the facts tends to weaken the findings. A recent study by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Virginia, showed that homeschooled children tend to achieve higher scores on standardized tests than students in formal schools. Homeschoolers tend to fall in the 70th and 80th percentile, well above the performance in both public and private schools. However, because the organization that conducted the test favors homeschooling, interest in the outcome could potentially skew findings. Evidence from neutral sources remains limited.
The same study showed that parents who homeschool tend to have above-average education and income levels, indicating that these students might have been high achievers in any setting. Parents who homeschool have more formal education than do parents in the general population – 88 percent of these parents continued their education beyond high school compared with 50 percent of the nation as a whole. The median annual income for parents who homeschool is $ 52,000, an amount that far exceeds the United States median for all families, $36,000. In addition, almost all (98 percent) of homeschoolers live in homes where both parents are present and where three-quarters of the mothers are not in the work force. Because students from wealthier, more educated, and intact households tent to perform at a high level in any educational setting, it seems unlikely that homeschooling makes a significant difference in these students’ performance. An intact family with high income and advanced education is the exception in today’s environment.
Potential benefits
Several valid arguments support homeschooling under ideal circumstances. Learning at home allows one-on-one instruction that is not possible in formal schools. Although professional educators devote their careers to students, they cannot equal the kind of unconditional commitment to the long-term development of a child provided by most parents. Parents who are willing to invest great personal effort in their children’s education can be quite effective in homeschooling their children.
Many parents who presently homeschool have sufficient time and training to benefit their children. Their children might benefit academically. Currently, some 20 percent of the homeschooling parents are trained teachers and this, too, seems to offer advantages. It is also quite possible that flexible approaches to learning, which are a part of homeschooling, might hold some lessons for formal schools in how to make learning more meaningful to children. But these benefits also reveal limitations. Most parents do not fit the profile of today’s typical homeschoolers.

The decision to homeschool
Some educators in formal schools worry that the rising popularity if homeschooling poses the danger that many students will be pulled out of formal schools, but this seems unlikely. Most parents do not possess the necessary time, skills, and resources to meet the complex developmental needs of children on their own. If you consider homeschooling, you should make an honest assessment of the necessary sacrifices. Even if you do possess the resources, consider whether you could provide adequate opportunity for social interaction outside the family.
While the debate over homeschooling remains clouded, one thing is very clear – homeschooling is not for everyone. It is a personal choice that must be backed by deep personal commitment on the part of parents and children. And when that commitment is made, the rest of society must hope that it includes a commitment to teaching children to live in the bigger world.
I. Read the text and choose the definition that best explains the meaning of the words and expressions.
“a formal school setting”
  1. the environment that includes the things, people and events that happen surrounding someone in a school
  2. the situation when you need to be polite with people you don’t know well
  3. an official or important social occasion at school

“a world made up of many different views espoused by many different people”
  1. preached
  2. run
  3. supported

unbiased measure of academic progress”
  1. fair
  2. not too strict
  3. standardized

  1. connected with politeness
  2. connected with people who live in a town or city
  3. connected with being well-organized and developed

“Contemporary society doesn’t offer many avenues for…”
  1. autonomy
  2. positive ways of achieving something
  3. freedom

“with the advent of…”
  1. advantage
  2. the time when something first begins to be widely used
  3. help and success

  1. loyal to your views or group
  2. serious
  3. proud

  1. possible to understand
  2. convincing
  3. the necessary thorough facts, details of something
II. Study the text and  answer the questions that follow 

  1. Why is social interaction important to the personal development of a child?
  2. Why do some parents choose to homeschool their children?
  3. Why do some educators regard “homeschool protection” as unrealistic and potentially harmful to children?
  4. Why must the homeschooling curriculum be aligned with the formal school curriculum?
  5. What does civic engagement consist in and why is it crucial to children’s development?
  6. What lessons can formal schools learn from homeschooling?
  7. Why is homeschooling not for everyone?
  8. What’s the communicative aim of the text?