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This is my end of semester research essay from my college freshman composition class. I wrote this in my junior year of high school (2013).
For many years there has been much debate and discussion over how to properly educate children. We have yet to come up with a perfect solution, and chances are we never will. There are constantly new approaches emerging claiming to be the answer to all of our questions and prayers, and while they might be for some schools, not every school is solely filled with lower-middle class, or academically challenged kids, and in the same way, schools aren’t filled with only wealthy, or high functioning students either. Public schools today have students from every conceivable background, and level of ability. With a nationwide student body that is so diverse, there is no way a “one size fits all” curriculum could ever work efficiently.
Growing dissatisfaction by many parents with the problems that school systems face and often the regulations imposed have caused many families to pull out of the system and educate their children at home. This has proven to be a more effective means of educating our children and today, out of 50.1 million American children, more than 2 million are homeschooled. While many still debate whether homeschooling is a good alternative, statistics are proving that homeschooled students are better prepared academically and even socially to go on to college and life after high school than children in public school. Because of this I believe that homeschooling is a more effective form of education than public school.
From its conception in 1850 compulsory public school has been ineffective in properly teaching children. Massachusetts was the first state to require public school. Before compulsory education the Massachusetts literacy rate was 98%, but afterward, the figure never reached above 91% where it stood in 1990 (Gatto 22). Though the concept of group education has existed since before the 1600’s, public school in America has only been compulsory for just over 150 years. Compulsory schools were originally created to teach children reading, writing, and math. Later, things like etiquette, history, and geography (as they became more important) were also taught. Things like sexual education, vocational skills, and personal values were all taught at home. Nowadays etiquette seemingly isn’t taught at all by anyone, but when it comes to things like personal health we’ve become embarrassed by it and we avoid talking about it with our children. Instead parents foist their responsibilities onto the school system.
Americans have become far too dependant on public schools. By making schools responsible for teaching things like personal health, sexual education, and basic life skills such as home economics, parents have negated their parental obligations. In doing so they’ve overloaded schools to the point that they’re no longer capable of effectively administering children with a proper education. Schools have focused so much on things that should be taught at home that the most important subjects (reading, writing, math, history, etc.) are being left by the wayside. Lately there have been strides to reinforce subjects like math and science with programs such as S.T.E.M (Science. Technology. Engineering. and Math), but other subjects such as English and history are still severely lacking.
Societal issues also intrude in the public school systems. Economic, cultural, and political issues often affect the resources available to schools. The “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001 enacted by President George. W. Bush is a perfect example. The act gave more funding to schools with higher test scores, and took funding from schools with lower scores. The act penalizes schools that need funding the most.
Neighborhoods with lower socio-economic inhabitants often have lower test scores. This kind of situation, combined with legislation that removes what little funding they have perpetuates the inability of schools to provide an effective education.
Entirely too much money is unnecessarily spent on public school students. According to www.npr.org, in the 2009-2010 school year, depending on location, $6,000-$19,000 was spent per student (Vo). According to the NationalCenter for Education Statistics (NCES), in the 2009-2010 school year the national average cost per student was $12,742. All that covers is administrative fees, teacher’s salaries, books, and meals. Additionally, parents of public school students are still required to pay out-of-pocket fees for uniforms and activities sponsored by the school. Homeschoolers, for a basic academic curriculum that covers the major required subjects (math, English, science, etc.), can spend, for new books, as little as $125 per student according to www.hslda.org (HSLDA). Most homeschoolers, however, can even get away with spending less than that by buying used text books online, and from home school book stores. Some families even get their books for free by trading with other home school families.
Even with the additional costs of extra curricular activities such as music lessons, clubs, and involvement in sports teams to name a few, the annual cost of homeschooling is still far less than that of public school students. For example, public school students, playing sports often pay (up to) thousands of dollars in “optional” fees. These fees may include: clothes, team photos, team outings, extra equipment, summer camps, etc. Homeschoolers wishing to play sports, depending on the state, are typically limited to community teams. I myself played softball on a local “Little League” team for 8 years. In that 8 years my parents spent around $1,500 which some public school students can spend in one year. Often times, homeschoolers barter with teachers for their various services, getting lessons for little to no cost. For example, I used to take horse back riding lessons for my gym credit. I couldn‘t afford the lessons by myself so I worked out a deal with the instructor that I would work in her barn in exchange for my lessons, which I did for 4 years.
Homeschooling allows parents to more effectively accommodate learning disabilities and learning styles than public schools. Homeschool parents can tailor their curriculum to fit their child’s needs and abilities. In many public school settings children who are not able to participate on the same level as their peers are often pigeonholed. Some schools try to accommodate these students and succeed, but unfortunately, many fall short. Students with special needs and/or learning disabilities are often separated into “Special Education” classes where they aren‘t provided with adequate encouragement to succeed. This often leaves students feeling socially isolated, and in some cases convinces children that they are dumb. Children with special needs, in many cases, have a voracious passion for learning but more times than not public schools are stretched so thin with able bodied students, disabled students are nearly forgotten.
Statistics show that homeschooling is more effective when it comes to educating our children. Recent statistics show that on average homeschooled students do better on SATs and ACTs, and are more attractive to colleges than public school students. According to an article written by Tim Willingham found on www.dailyinfographic.com, in 2009 homeschoolers outperformed public school students on the SAT’s. He compiled statistics from 4 different sources which include the National Home school Education Research Institute (www.nheri.org), the NationalCenter for Education Statistics (www.nces.ed.gov), the College Board (www.professionals.collegeboard.org) and The Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org). In 2009 the national public school SAT scores ranked in the 50th percentile in reading, language, math, science, and social studies while in the same year home schoolers ranked in the 89th, 84th, 84th, 86th, and 84th respectively (Willingham).
Public schools are becoming less capable of preparing students for college. According to a report by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services titled “The Status of College Readiness in Maryland”, 79.8% of public high school graduates had to enroll in remedial college courses in 2007, prior to participating in college level courses (Baker, et al). The report also states that in Maryland community colleges, 58% of students needed remediation in at least one subject (Baker, Et al). If over half of these so called “graduates” have to take courses to catch up to where they should be, and re-learn things they were supposed to learn in high school, are we truly able to call them graduates, let alone college students? A graduate by definition is “One who has received a degree, or diploma from a school or college, attesting to the fact that he has completed a course of study. (“Graduate”)” If such a high number of students are in need of remedial education, their course of study must not have been as complete as it should have been.
These kinds of results contradict claims that homeschooling parents are generally unqualified to teach their children. Claims are often made that because many parents have not been formally taught to instruct that they are not able to properly educate their children. In fact, approximately 75% of homeschooling parents have at least an associate’s degree (Willingham). The SAT statistics show that homeschooling parents, who in some cases have not, themselves, graduated high school, have done a better job educating their children than public school teachers with master’s degrees. Many of the curriculums offered to homeschooling families are well organized and provide the parent with exceptional instruction to guide them through the process. This makes the need for a degree virtually unnecessary.
Another popular misconception about homeschoolers is that they are unsocialized. Many people claim that homeschooled children are deprived of opportunities to experience life outside the home. A 1997 study conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray showed that on average, homeschooled children participate in 5.2 activities per student, which includes: Scouting, 4-H, church activities, volunteer work, sports, dance and music, and outside classes. They are often involved in co-operative programs with other homeschoolers, which meet, typically, on a weekly basis and frequently take part in field trips. These co-operatives, in addition to providing supplemental educational classes, also are designed for social opportunities. An advantage to these programs is that students are encouraged to work with and mentor children from other age groups, which provides an inter-generational openness which public school students are deprived of by being segregated by their age.
Even when faced with undeniable proof, many are still convinced that publicly schooled children are better prepared for the social aspects of every day life. Unfortunately, many of the people who make these claims turn their backs on the problems that arise in public school settings, including bullying. I will not belittle the importance of a well-socialized individual, but what cost should be paid for that socialization? In the last year an estimated 4,400 children ages 12-18 committed suicide because they were bullied at school, and online. According to the American Justice Department, via www.bullyingstatistics.org, for every suicide there are ten attempts, and one out of every 4 students 1 will be bullied at some point during their adolescence.
We have seen the effects of bullying among children. Often these kids have lower self-confidence, and self-esteem leading to poor grades and less interest in school. This leaves children more open to being targets. In an article by Karl M. Bunday, he quotes studies that show the levels of self-esteem among publicly educated and homeschooled children. The results of the studies show no significant difference between the two groups. I will not deny that bullying can arise among homeschoolers, but typically, it does not, and when it does, in my experience the children are more likely to speak to an adult, and talk out the issue with the bully. The nature of homeschooling automatically has the parent more involved with their child and able to recognize that there is a problem.
Homeschooling offers children many advantages that they would not have in public school. Through homeschooling, children are provided with a personalized curriculum and are given the ability to strengthen weak areas, and explore areas of interest more thoroughly. Public school students face the limitations of a less flexible curriculum as dictated by the school board, and the ability of the teacher to administer equally to 25 students at once. This deprives some students of the chance to fully understand the lessons being taught. Homeschoolers have their parent’s full attention and the ability to shape their curriculum to their needs and abilities.
Alternative education styles should be more accessible to families. Every child is unique and learns differently. As I stated before, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are measures that can be taken as steps toward bridging the gaps between the adversities that children face. While homeschooling is one of the best alternative options, its availability varies from place to place. For example in Oklahoma homeschooling is un-restricted and un-monitored, while in places like Pennsylvania homeschooling is available, but the restrictions make it very difficult. Maryland, however, provides a happy medium. Students are monitored by the state, or through a third party sanctioned by the state. Regular reviews of student progress are required, however testing is optional. Although testing is not mandatory, it has its place.
Without oversight, such as in Oklahoma, problems can arise. Due to the lack of supervision, students may not be taught the basic skills etc. that are necessary for life as an adult. Alternatively, Pennsylvania’s unnecessarily restrictive policies interfere with parent’s rights to educate their children as they see fit, and create pointless hardships. A possible solution to this issue would be mandatory annual testing to show that a student is progressing appropriately. Students found to be working below their grade level in certain subjects would be placed on a “3 strike” program. Issues such as learning disabilities, and familial turbulence would be taken into consideration, and the child would be given a set period of time to bring their grade up. After the allotted time had passed they would be re-tested. Should the child show no improvement the program would repeat. Should the child fall short a third time, the parent’s ability to teach the child would be brought into question.
Education is a necessity but there is no need in today’s world for a compulsory form of education. Our current form of public school has always been disputed. In the 1880’s, in Barnstable, Massachusetts, one of the last outposts of families opposed to compulsory public school was seized by militia and forced to surrender their children to public schools (Gatto 22). In the 1880’s a large population of the country didn’t know basic math, and/or couldn’t read or write; many couldn’t even write their own names. Today, there are countless resources and opportunities for learning, making compulsory public schools unnecessary.
Educational methods and learning abilities are as diverse as we are. There is no one perfect form of education that flawlessly tailors to everyone‘s needs, and as I‘ve stated, there probably never will be. However, of the options we’re given today, homeschooling is the best that I see. Public schools have always been disputed and debated, and, as I’ve stated, for good reason. Statistics have repeatedly proven the efficacy of homeschooling. Homeschoolers are scoring, on average 15%-30% higher than public school students on SAT’s, and are less likely to require remedial education when they reach college. Homeschooling produces a higher percentage of well-rounded, intelligent young adults than seem to be found in public schools. Colleges are acknowledging the success of homeschoolers by their acceptance and in some cases even, preference for home school students. The negative press regarding homeschooling has been refuted by statistics that I’ve found. With this kind of evidence as proof, I believe that it is obvious that homeschooling is a more effective form education than public schooling.
Baker, et al. Maryland Dept. of Legislative Services Office of Policy Analysis, Annapolis, MD, “The Status of College Readiness in Maryland” 11 Feb. 2013 Web. www.mgaleg.maryland.gov 5 December, 2013
Bunday, Karl M. PhD. “Socialization: A Great Reason Not To Go To School” 2013
www.learninfreedom.org Web. 5 December 2013
Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing Us Down, ch.2 “The Psychopathic School” pg.22 1991 Print.
“Graduate.” Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language. 2nd edition. 1964. Print.
HomeSchool Legal Defense Association. “Homeschooling Through the Early Years”, n.d. www.hslda.org Web. 4 December, 2013
Ray, Dr. Brian D. “Home Schooling Achievement” 1997 www.hslda.org Web. 2 December 2013
Vo, Lam Thuy. “How Much Does The Government Spend to Send A Kid To School?” www.npr.org 21 June, 2012 Web. 4 December, 2013
Willingham, Tim. “Homeschooling By The Numbers” www.dailyinfographic.com 21 December 2010 Web. 2 December 2013
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