A Public School Teacher Tells All
I am a public school teacher. While I think that the public school system is necessary, and serves most students adequately, there are several reasons you should seriously consider educating your children in your own home if you have the means to do so. I have come up with ten that I think most effectively support my opinion.
Reason to Homeschool # 10 – Class size of 1
If you ask just about any teacher what the most important factor is in education they will say class size. What is the ideal class size? One. One teacher teaching one student. Unfortunately for schools, such a scenario is impossible. So the typical ratio for an average class is 25-30 students to one teacher and possibly an assistant which is far from ideal. In an elementary class that may be manageable because typically the teacher has those 30 students for the whole year and gets to know them rather well. High school is different however as students change classes throughout the day. So at most high schools teachers have to keep track of 150 students or more (30 students x 5 classes/day). At ratios of 30 up to 200 to 1 in public schools it’s easy to see the advantage to homeschooling.
Reason to Homeschool # 9 – Arcane Traditions
Do you know why students have the summer off? It is so they can work the fields of their family’s farm because 90% of people live in farming communities. Wait… that statistic is from 1920. These days less than 5% of people live and work on a family farm. So why do we still take 3 months in summer off? Remember I am a teacher, I LOVE having the summer off, but is that really what is best for the students? Of course not. Most classes require weeks of review so students can relearn everything they forgot over the summer. While there are many more, this is just the most glaring example of how most schools are stuck in the past. Homeschoolers are not chained to a calendar so no need to forget everything learned over summer and waste the first quarter of the year with review.
Reason to Homeschool # 8. Delayed Maturity
By grouping students into similar age groups it slows the maturity of the group as a whole. I have met many homeschooled children and were always amazed at their level of maturity compared with their public school educated peers. One criticism of homeschooling I often hear is that kids will not be socialized. Well trust me, I see everyday how kids are socialized in public school. Bullying, drugs and alcohol, sexual pressure and the celebration of ignorance (think Jersey Shore) are inescapable and I do not think homeschooled children are missing anything.
Reason to Homeschool # 7. Priorities
As I mentioned I am a public school teacher and I am also a coach for various sports. While I love sports and coaching and I think participating in athletics is great for kids, I am very bothered by the glorification of athletics in our schools (and for that matter our society). We have sports rallies that take time out of the academics day just so we can cheer for our athletes. There is no such school wide rally for honor roll students, debate, music, art, theatre, Science Olympiad or any other non-athletic extracurricular activity. Our job is to educate students, but often times academics is not made a priority.
Reason to Homeschool # 6. Schools are Authoritarian
I have a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak in me so this one may be more of a personal peeve, but I think schools are too authoritarian. This topic also ties into the “arcane traditions” and “class size” issues already discussed. Anytime you have a one size fits all approach to anything there will be people that are dissatisfied. In the case of a classroom dissatisfaction often leads to discipline problems. I am not a fan of training kids to be unquestioning obedient automatons that sit quietly assimilating and regurgitating whatever they are told to believe, yet to many that would be the perfect class. In the school wide picture our administrators spend most of their time dealing with things like kids being late to or skipping class, chewing gum (yes it is prohibited in my school), and dress code violations.
Reason to Homeschool # 5. Standardized Testing
Standardized testing is the bane of the teaching profession. I could probably dedicate several blogs to this topic alone but the basic problem is that they are a poor indicator of learning and are usually misused. Standardized tests should be a tool, a diagnostic to help locate potential areas of improvement. They should be a two way street with teachers giving input and receiving feedback to help shape instructional practices. However, the standardized test is being used as the sole measuring stick by which students, teachers and schools are said to be “effective”. So rather than learning to apply concepts to the real world where answers are not concrete or selected from a list of alternatives, we instead teach test taking skills and tricks to perform better on “the test”.
Reason to Homeschool # 4. Inconsistency
Like most things in this world teachers fall along a relatively normal distribution or “bell curve”. Most teachers are average, myself included. I have seen excellent teachers and I am not yet one of them. Truly excellent teachers are hard to come by and you are lucky if you (or your kids) have one in your educational career. Conversely, there are some very bad teachers. You are about as likely to have a terrible teacher as you are to have an excellent one but unfortunately just as having an excellent teacher can be life altering, so can having to endure a horrible teacher. So really the question is do you want your children’s future to be determined by the luck of the draw?
Reason to Homeschool # 3. Social Promotion
Kids get put in grades by age and the pressure to keep them with the same group is tremendous. Teachers and administrators are reluctant to suggest that students be “held back”, and for good reason. Typically, the suggestion that a child is not ready to advance to the next grade is met with denial and often hostility from parents. The result is that students get farther and farther behind as they move up in grade not having mastered material from the grade before. Many students may struggle only in one area such as math or reading and get promoted with hope that they will “catch-up”. However, with the class size problem most teachers are forced to “teach to the middle”, not challenging advanced students and continuing to leave struggling students farther and farther behind.
Reason to Homeschool # 2. Dumbing it Down
Graduation requirements are becoming more and more difficult. In my state students require 4 years of math including Algebra II and 3 years of science including chemistry or physics. At first glance this may seem like a good idea, we want our students to be globally competitive right? As far as I’m concerned we might as well make dunking a basketball a graduation requirement. What do you think would happen if we did? Gold star if you answered “lower the rim”. That is exactly what is happening in our science and math classes. In past years more academic college bound students would take advanced math and science classes and students that were not so inclined would learn a trade, start an apprenticeship, or get a diploma with minimal credits leave school and join the workforce or the military. There is an overwhelming attitude that every student should be prepared for college, but in trying to accomplish that noble goal, very few if any of our students are actually prepared for anything.
Reason to Homeschool # 1. Political Agendas
Education has become a political football lately as funding battles and union busting has become a priority over actual student learning. Largely this is due to school systems becoming controlled more and more by state and federal decree rather than by local school boards and individual teachers. The fact is, I would be a much better teacher if I were not constrained by state and federal bureaucrats most of whom have not been in a classroom since graduation. Additionally, as power over curriculum is concentrated at the top, there is a concerted effort to push various agendas within the public school system that most people would be shocked by. Bottom line is, you as a homeschooler (depending on your state) will be free of government influence in your classroom.
What I have compiled is surely not an exhaustive list, but I think gives one sufficient motivation to at least consider home schooling. Additionally, I could write an entire book (and I just may) on the topics covered here, but for the sake of brevity condensed them. Please feel free to expand on or add to any of these topics in the comments section.