Friday, 2 November 2007

Home Education vs Public Schooling

Education is one of the most important priorities today, so much so that most countries have their own institutions and ministries whose sole purpose is to develop better education systems to further their citizens’ education—yet among all the ambitious school mongering going on around in the world, who will go to what school and which school is the better one to attend, there are families who have chosen to not let their children go to school at all.

These families keep their kids at home to study.

Home schooling goes way back in time, up to the time when humans first existed—in fact, if you think about it, “school” as we know it is very much a modern concept.

In those days, parents home-schooled because it was the norm of educating a child—teach them to speak, read, write at home, and later apprentice them to a trade.

However, parents today each have their individual reasons for choosing the narrow path of educating their child at home.

Mr Bruce Coombe shares his reason for home educating his four kids in Victoria.

“During our first child's first year at school we became increasingly concerned about how he was being negatively influenced by his peers. We found it very difficult to counteract that influence, no matter how hard we tried. We watched his character deteriorate from a responsible caring little boy to an irresponsible, angry, hurt, brat, despite that fact that he was attending a Christian school and had a wonderful prep teacher whom we loved. We realized that the influence of thirty 'stupid/silly' six year olds, for six hours a day five days a week was only going to be destructive to our child's character,” said Mr Coombe.

Do you remember those days when you were ignored because you were not “cool” enough for your “friends”, and the only way to earn “redemption” was for you to fit in with the rest—but you have a niggling doubt in the pit of your stomach that fitting in with the rest would mean doing something you would be later ashamed of?

That is precisely what these parents are trying to defend their children from.

Ms Kathryn Harrison, a home schooled student realized this when she said, “Home schooling is a great way to teach young people to not be peer dependant, and therefore abstaining from destructive activities and applying your mind to the betterment of the world instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing and keeping up.”

However, the desire to protect their young charges from destructive influences in school is not the only reason these parents home educate—what most of the home schooling parents gave as their first reason for home educating their children was their belief that God specifically gave them the responsibility of teaching their children from the Bible.

Mr Yong Huat Lo and Mrs Clare Lo of Telok Blangah in Singapore chose to home educate their five children because “…God has specific instruction that the responsibility in educating our children lies in the hands of the parents. Education of our children is not the state's responsibility.”

Mr Bruce Coombe said, “Our highest motivation for deciding to home school our children was to disciple them in our Christian faith… We had no doubt that they would do well academically… this wasn't a high priority for us.”

For those cheering on the implementation of the outcome-based education in Australia, let me tell you that home schooling is entirely an outcome-based education, and if the government can see the merits of having an outcome-based education implemented in schools, you will be able to realize just how powerful a teaching lifestyle it is.

With 25 or more students in a class, it is quite impossible to let each student in school study at their own pace, but this is where home-educated students have the better of their peers.

Home-schooled students study at their own pace—they are not forced to study faster or slower, according to the speed of 20 other students in class.

They can also study topics that actually interest them without going into those that do not, thus saving them a lot of time otherwise wasted on plodding through material that they probably will not use again.

20-year-old Charmagne Smith from Palmerston, New Zealand said, “I enjoyed having my studies made to fit me, to reflect the most important things in my life, and the things I needed to learn most.”

“My favourite part of home-schooling is probably the flexibility available with study hours. This flexibility allows me to work as long as I need to on one subject or project. Home also provides an ideal study environment, helping me to develop the self-discipline that is needed not only in tertiary education, but also in life,” said 16-year-old Amelia Boissevain from Melbourne.

Statistically, home-education has its merits.

Dr Brian Ray, an internationally known researcher, educator, speaker, expert witness and president of the National Home Education Research Institute, wrote, “The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.”
“The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.”

Dr Ray also went on to say that research showed home-educated adults to be more active participants of local communities and public meetings than the general populous and that they are also equally if not more successful at college than the general population.

Perhaps the two drawbacks of home-education was the lack of accreditation and the lack of social mingling—and I say was because it is not so much the case anymore.

Certain home-education institutions are authorized to give accreditation to home-schooled students, and if they need a college degree in the career they wish to pursue, they can prepare and sit such tertiary entrance exams as the internationally recognized Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

Also, many home-education institutions have been created to support the home schooling community, particularly in organizing social activities where the students may come together to learn and participate in team building activities.

“I think that the benefits of home-schooling greatly outweigh the drawbacks,” said Ms Grace Wong, a home-schooled student in Cootamundra, NSW.

Have I said enough to set you pining for me to reveal the magical ingredient of home schooling so that you can churn out great geniuses of your own?

Well, if it is a magic ingredient you are after, I am sorry to disappoint you for there is no such ingredient—rather, successful students are the result of the patience, diligence, perseverance, and commitment of both parents and children in developing character.

I have it on good authority—because I studied using this curriculum for six years—that the biblically based Advanced Training Institute curriculum covers no less than Greek, English, History, Math, Science, Law and Medicine!

But one can have all knowledge and yet be a spoiled, undisciplined—how did Mr Coombe put it—brat whom no one wants to be associated with, much less work with!

It is not enough to the home-educating parents that their children grow up learning to withstand peer pressure and be academically learned—they want their children to have character qualities that will set them apart from others, and stand them in good stead through life.

Parents drive at developing character qualities such as one would not find in school—mind you, not necessarily because the teachers are poor role models, or the curriculum bad, but because of the incessant bombarding of conflicting influences.

It is like bending a piece of paper one way, bending it the other way, and then bending it back in the opposite direction 20 times—once you are done, the paper is not going to be able to remain straight, but rather be blown about by every wind of manipulation that comes around.

Mr Craig Smith, the founder and editor of the Home Education Foundation in New Zealand said, “If one has sterling character qualities, including a great work ethic, the kind a parent can easily train into a child, but which are impossible to develop in a school setting, the child will never lack a job and will be sought after at all times.”

The Jews have a history of home educating their children until they reach an appropriate age to be apprenticed to a trade of their choosing, and one cannot say that they have not done well for themselves—why look at the Jews, reputed to be richer than Queen Elizabeth herself!

That and the fact that most home-schoolers want to home-school their own children because of the advantages they themselves received from being home-schooled speak volumes on the effectiveness of home education.

Perhaps there is something to home education after all.

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