Why do parents choose to home educate their children?
Choosing to home school is a major undertaking. Parents do not change schools lightly nor do they make the decision to home educate without considering the impact that it will have on their family, practically and financially.
Home education requires time, sacrifice and courage in the face of both internal and external pressures to the family unit.
The following is a summary of reasons parents give for starting their home school journey:
Bullying is now the most common reason given to start education at home.
A typical phone call that I hear almost every day, is when a mother calls and says, “I have a daughter in Year 9 and I just can’t get her to go to school. She says to me, ‘Mum, they are horrible, I just can’t go back.’”
Other parents say, “It breaks my heart that my 10 year old cries all the way to school each day.”
Interestingly, 75% of students that are bullied are female.
Parents say, “I am up at the school every week and each time I am told, “We are dealing with it, but the bullying just goes on and on. I am over it.”
“It is not something that we ever really thought about, but right now home school is the only option for us. We are just so glad that we can get started with support from Accelerate, because otherwise we would not know where to begin.”
Children with Special Needs.
School doesn’t work very well for 25% of students, many of whom have a learning difficulty.
Children who are on the autistic spectrum, children with dyslexia, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, or with other conditions find the school environment stressful.
Not only do the noise and the distractions of the classroom create a huge issue for these students, but also they do not get enough individual attention from their teacher.
I am a Maths teacher and I calculated that a child only gets three minutes a day of one-to-one interaction with a teacher, which for many children is not enough. . If a child is shy and does not misbehave, they may only average one minute per day. For a child that is a poor reader or has trouble assimilating verbal information, they are soon left behind.
Many parents are pulling their children out of school because the system doesn’t work for their child.
When a child goes to school, they are put into a class where everyone is the same age. Why? It doesn’t happen anywhere outside of schools. When students go to university, they may be studying with mature age students who are twice their age. Not so at school. There is a huge range in ability within a classroom which means that many children fall through the cracks.
Some parents indicate that their children are well above the average academically and are frustrated and bored in the classroom. When home educated these students are allowed to advance faster than their peers.
It is against government policy for a teacher in a public school to present a clear Christian worldview, or a clear gospel message that teaches Jesus is the only way to God.
Parents often do not know the worldview of their child’s teacher. Increasingly in our society Christians are portrayed as being intolerant. This view is gradually coming into vogue in the classroom.
Your child’s teacher at school may present opinions that are contrary to yours. A child may spend more time with those who do not follow Christ than they do with you.
For these reasons, some parents choose to home educate their children and present a Christian worldview. Parents also believe that Sunday School and a short family devotion at tea time when the children are already tired is not enough. Home schooling provides a way of training up a child in the way he or she should go.
Not happy with culture of local schools
Many parents have told me about noisy disruptive classrooms where the teacher may spend as much time on behaviour management as they do teaching.
They are concerned when their five year old comes home saying swear words that they have never heard at home.
Can’t afford a private education but lack confidence with local public school standards
Unfortunately there are schools where the culture of the playground is not academic; where excellence is not the goal, but rather quite the opposite. The most popular students may display coarse rudeness and disrespect staff. Some children say that it is hard to find other students who try to follow all the teacher’s instructions and complete homework correctly without cheating.
School Waiting List
Some parents desire to place a child in a particular school but are on a waiting list. Rather than swap schools halfway through a year, some parents choose to home educate for 6 to 12 months.
Parents are concerned that their child is underperforming in school
In school, students know they must stay at the school until 3 pm no matter what, so they go slow and bring up red herrings in the classroom to avoid doing work.
Many parents realise their children have a lazy streak and are concerned that their child is just drifting through school and underperforming.
At school students can often get away at working at only 50% of their capacity. Many students are not performing anywhere near their best. Their motivation is low and the attitude of their “friends” does not help.
At home a parent can see exactly what a child has done each day and whether he is slacking. There is no hiding at home. Parents can sit with a child and encourage him. When we were home schooling, we said to our children, “When you finish your work you are done for the day,” so there was an incentive to work efficiently and diligently.
Parents believe the ultra small class sizes at home can make a huge difference to their child’s academic performance.
Students are Immature
Some students will ask to be home schooled because they find that their peers are immature. Female students have said their classmates just want to talk about fashion and boys.
Male students will say that their peers are engrossed in a kind of toilet humour mentality, where everything is related to bodily functions and where girls are not given preference and respect.
There is concern by some parents that their child is naïve and would be easily led down the wrong path by peer pressure. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” 1 Cor 15:33
Sometimes a parent will remove a child from school to remove the temptation to continue a relationship with another student that has become intimate or destructive.
Some children just don’t like school
Some children just don’t like the school environment. When asked why, they often can’t verbalise what is the problem. They have not been bullied, yet they will get stomach cramps in the morning and complain about not feeling well. When a parent notices a child is missing school one or two days a week, parents start to consider home education seriously.
These reluctant students often (but not always) make a complete transformation when they commence home education, and become enthusiastic about their learning again.
Not happy with teaching standards
Most of us will recall that we had some great teachers some average ones, and often one or two who should never have been a teacher.
In doing home school you have a teacher who is consistent, who is highly motivated, who has a vested interest in going the extra mile and who loves the child sacrificially. That teacher is you!
We have had many a parent contact us to say that previously, they had been very happy with the school until ‘this year’ when their child has a teacher, in whom they have little confidence. Whether it be a first year graduate who is still learning the ropes, or an older cynical teacher who has lost their passion, one year of a struggling or jaded teacher is just not acceptable. Home education becomes a viable alternative in these situations.
Failure to teach Phonics.
A number of parents are very dissatisfied when their Year 3 or 4 child is still not reading after five years of formal education.
There has been, a failure of education faculties and departments to embrace the teaching of phonics as the most effective method of learning to read. The research is clear in that the effective teaching of phonics will result in a rapid growth in reading ability.
It is common for a child’s reading level to jump 2-3 years in a semester when a good phonics program is used.
We have many enrolments of students whose literacy is 3-5 years below the average simply because they were not taught how to read using phonics.
The one-to-one interaction time with parents that is possible with home education will also greatly assist a child to improve in reading ability.
Some parents are concerned that their child will be forcibly vaccinated without their permission if left in the school system.
We have a number of families who are travelling around Australia by car or caravan; one family even sailed around Australia in a catamaran.
We have had a number of students who were training at an elite level including golfers, surfers, and swimmers. We had one student who homeschooled while performing in Moscow with the Russian Ballet Company.
Parents on Student Visas
We have a number of parents who are on student visas and who would have to pay $14,000 a year to send their children to their local school, and therefore find home schooling a very attractive option financially.
We have children who suffer from depression, chronic fatigue, a suppressed immune system, and children with cancer. We have had teenagers who are pregnant or have a baby.
We have parents who have a terminal illness and want to spend as much time as possible with their children.
We have a number of children who are extremely anxious and have panic attacks and become physically ill if you force them to go to school. There are children who are self harming and who have attempted suicide.
There are also children who have been abused and have Post Traumatic Syndrome.
For all these children, homeschooling provides a safe environment where they can gain confidence and still get a great education.
Parents who want to be more involved
There are parents who have no problems with their local school but just want to be more involved in their children’s education, and not outsource it to strangers. They see the benefits of home schooling and do it for family bonding and overall flexibility.
Now that the compulsory age of schooling has been lowered, some parents are concerned that their child is simply not ready for school. Some children are not totally out of nappies. Some still require their midday sleep.
In schools, teachers are encouraged not to touch a child or let them sit in their lap, so 4 and 5 year olds are now starved of physical contact for six hours a day.
Parents have three great advantages over a school:
· A parent can provide a child a quiet, calm environment
· A parent can give their child many hours of individual attention
· A child will automatically trust a parent whose love is unconditional and unwavering, compared to a paid employee whom the child does not know.
We do diagnostic testing so that each child will start our program at the correct level rather than at a level decided by bureaucrats who do not know your child.
All our students are assigned an Individualised Education Program (IEP) which means a child will start at the level which is just right for them and achieve immediate success. This is best educational practice yet most schools fail to implement this policy with more than a handful of students.
Not for everyone
Having said all this, we also recognise that home schooling is not for everyone. When it is clear that it is not working, we will suggest families try something else, a different curriculum or learning methodology, or perhaps a CARE school if a child is showing disrespect to a parent.
There are a multitude of reasons why parents are now choosing home education as an alternative to traditional schooling.
Our world is changing rapidly, and the old models of bricks and mortar are being challenged.
I believe that in 10-20 years, home education will no longer be seen as unusual, but as a mainstream option to traditional schooling.