The answers to the question posed by the title are as diverse as those who choose to homeschool. Parents opt for homeschooling for reasons ranging from a desire to instill certain values to the wish to remove students from an unsafe public school environment to the desire to provide a superior education. But the most basic, general reason for most is the well-founded belief that homeschooling is ultimately better for their child.
‘Better’ can mean a variety of things, but it incorporates as many absences as it does positives. The absence of peer pressure or bullying are two prominent features of public school that many homeschooling parents want to remove from their child’s life. But the positive aspect is equally important. The view that a better education can be gained by homeschooling over public or even standard private schools has been well studied.
And the studies largely agree: homeschooling is educationally superior in the overwhelming majority of cases.
There are many individual success stories. The winner of the 1997 National Spelling Bee was homeschooled. Four sisters, all homeschooled, went on to achieve Master’s degrees from an Ivy League university. One young woman was homeschooled and entered college, getting her Master’s degree by age 16. She later taught at a Texas community college by the age of 18.
But these could be dismissed with a wave of the hand, claiming these students, and/or their parents, were unusual. But the number of geniuses in the world is not so high as to account for all the numbers. And the numbers say that the average homeschooled child is in the 60th-70th percentile by age 12. That means they are, on average, a grade ahead of their public school peers.
The numbers for older children are even more impressive. By the time the average homeschooled child reaches the equivalent of 8th grade, he or she is four grades ahead of his or her peers. That’s as much due to the bad results of public schools as it is the good results of homeschooling. The numbers are based on studies reported not merely by homeschool advocates, but by the U.S. Dept of Education itself.
Of course, as most homeschooling parents know, nothing good comes easy. Parents often experience burnout, especially a few months after first beginning to homeschool. As with any new task, it takes time to acquire the knowledge needed to teach a young person all they need to know to develop properly. Poor performance is the default in life and to rise above that takes effort, on the part of both student and parent. But, first and foremost, the onus is on the parent.
Children, according to a well-established homeschool philosophy, are natural sponges for knowledge. But most homeschooling parents feel the need to research curriculum options, define goals, guide children and a host of other tasks. If the parent has not been homeschooled or well-educated they may have some catching up of their own to do.
But are the results worth the effort? If the outcome desired is a well-adjusted, keen-minded offspring ready for life’s challenges, for most parents, that’s an easy question to answer.