According to just about every article I see on homeschooling, the practice is definitely on the rise.  That concerns me, because I often wonder what percentage of homeschooled kids are educated as well as they would be in a good public or private school.  But I have no way of finding an answer, since in Michigan, at least, there is no required evaluation of what those children learn.  If parents don’t want to send their kids to school, for whatever reason, all they have to do in Michigan is say they’re homeschooling them.  Nobody checks to see if the kids are being educated at all, much less at proper grade level.

Of course, if I lived in a city with poor schools, I’d pull my child out of public school, too.  If I could afford it, my first choice would be a good private school.  But if I couldn’t afford it, I’d probably find a homeschooling organization that includes qualified teachers, who use the same text books as the public school system.  I wouldn’t assume the task of teaching my child, because I’m not a teacher.  Sure, I could teach elementary school kids almost any subject.  But I’d want someone who’s passionate about teaching and who’s been educated in the best teaching techniques, so he or she could help my child develop a love of learning.

When I was in elementary school, I had mostly good teachers.  It was the same in middle school.  But when I got to high school and the work wasn’t always intuitive, it became very clear that the teacher often meant the difference between success and failure.  For example, I had an excellent teacher for 9th grade algebra, and I got an A.  But when I took 11th grade algebra, I, along with several other students, did poorly.  The teacher was boring and couldn’t explain problems in terms that we could easily grasp.

In the 10th grade, I had an English teacher who got the whole class enthused about vocabulary.  He introduced words (like “obsequious”) that I’d never seen before, and I still think of him whenever I use one of those words.  And I had another English teacher who got me excited about literature and poetry, as nobody before her had done.  If I were homeschooling, I could probably do an adequate job teaching grammar and vocabulary.  But I wouldn’t do as well with subjects like history or advanced math.  I’d rather have my child benefit from a teacher’s excitement about a subject, because that experience could change the course of his or her future.

In addition to missing out on the best teachers, most homeschooled kids lose out when it comes to classes like music, languages and art.  According to Wikipedia in “Homeschooling in the United States,” even though those classes are available to homeschooled kids, only “about one out of five homeschoolers was also enrolled in public or private school for 25 hours or less per week.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevharb/3094580037/

Photo by: Kevin H. ©

And perhaps the biggest deficit in a homeschooled child’s life is social development.  If parents want those children to be well-socialized, they have to provide opportunities for them to make friends and participate in social events.  Otherwise, how do their children, especially those who take no additional classes at public or private schools, become socialized?  How do they learn to distinguish between someone they can trust and someone who’s likely to betray that trust?  How do they learn to get along and interact appropriately with other kids?

The vast majority of American children successfully attend public or private schools.  In my opinion, homeschooled kids miss out on the rich experience of learning and bonding with their peers.  And that, combined with parents who aren’t fully qualified to teach, is a big disadvantage of homeschooling.