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Pro vs. con

by The Concordian October 4, 2011
Homeschooling has always been a controversial approach to educating children, and a recent study conducted by Concordia and Mount Allison University suggests that if done properly, it can actually be more beneficial than public education. Read on to hear from two students, one with first-hand knowledge of the issue, discuss the validity of this study.

Joseph E. Leger

Homeschooled children “achieved higher standardized scores compared with children attending public school,” according to data published in the report in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science.
Having been homeschooled myself until the age of 12, I found these results to be unsurprising. Parents teaching their children at home have a distinct advantage over teachers in a classroom. At home, parents are able to personalize the curriculum to their children’s needs and can offer more one-on-one training than a teacher with a classroom of 30 to 40 children ever can.
But teaching children in a safe, comfortable environment isn’t enough. According to the report, the key factor for parents is having a structured and organized lesson plan. Parents have to be actively involved in the teaching process and must provide their children with an organized learning experience to be successful.
I grew up on the outskirts of Henryville, a small rural village in southern Quebec. My parents, being Baptists, were very religious and wanted to raise their children in a controlled environment. My mother did all the teaching using a mixture of textbooks, as well as her own material. My siblings and I grew up without realizing how different our education was from most children. Our entertainment consisted mainly of playing outside or reading. Interaction with other children our age was limited.
I never realized until later what a huge impact this could have on a young child. Interacting with other children on a regular basis is essential for raising a socially, well-adjusted child. How we learn to interact as children determines our ability to interact as adults. I didn’t realize I was missing a vital aspect of my education until my parents sent me to public high school when I was 12 years old.
By the time I graduated, I was still slightly socially awkward but I was accepted and liked by most of my peers.
Education has a variety of forms and neglecting one can have severe consequences; a balance between traditional educational needs of children and their social needs is required. When deciding how to educate your children, it’s important to understand the impact that decision could have.
“Further inquiry is required if parents are to make informed decisions regarding the education of their children,” according to the above mentioned report. “Identifying the best practices associated with different types of education may facilitate teaching in both traditional and homeschool settings.”
Though these findings are not conclusive, they do raise important questions regarding the effectiveness of our public schools.

Shereen Ahmed Rafea

The homeschooling approach to education has been around for decades, and is quickly gaining popularity in both Canada and the United States.
The Concordia and Mount Allison study, while informative, cannot be used as a general statistic. It examined 74 students from ages five to 10. According to lead researcher and Concordia education professor Sandra Martin-Chang, the process itself was self-selective, which is why most of the homeschooled students in the study had high academic performance rates, superior to those in public school. Students who were not performing so highly may have been overlooked, she said.
A small group of students in the study, who were unschooled (a philosophical approach that involves using practical experiences in life rather than a curriculum), were actually behind academically.
While the study indicated that this high academic performance is achieved by following a structured curriculum, that is not necessarily the case for all students. If it is not done carefully, homeschooling can actually hold the child back academically and set them behind their peers.
Parents who choose to homeschool in Canada follow provincial laws, and often those provinces do not require the students to be registered. With different laws and regulations, it is difficult to accurately examine the effects of homeschooling in every household.
With unschooling and all sorts of new methods that can arise, the fundamentals of education are being broken. Sure, playing and social interactions are life methods. However, without proper curriculum and teaching, we may be damaging our children’s futures instead of helping them, and creating gaps in their knowledge.
Although academic performance is fundamental, education is also not just about grades and test scores. Being in a classroom with other kids and socializing with classmates from different backgrounds is beneficial to students.
When someone is homeschooled, they are exposed to one form of thinking, either their parents’ or their tutors’. At school, they have multiple teachers with diverse opinions and diverse approaches to the syllabus.
According to Brian D. Ray, an educator, researcher and president of the National Home Education Research Institute, one of the reasons parents choose homeschooling was “to enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings.”
Why does one have to homeschool to have a strong relationship with their children, or to have a bigger role in their education? Parents who monitor their child’s progress and get involved by attending PTA meetings contribute just as much to their success.
If done properly, homeschooling may be beneficial; however, without unified laws, qualified teachers, and structure, how can the true effect of homeschooling on a national scale be determined?
In the end, education is too important to experiment with.

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