In the UK, it has been usual to enrol a child in a school at age four or five. Other options would have been considered out of the ordinary. Nowadays, however, more and more parents are choosing other methods.
One of those methods is home-schooling or ‘unschooling’. There are differences in opinion as to whether these are the same thing, but some say that “…unschooling is homeschooling without using a pre-packaged curriculum. Others will say it’s simply the degree of freedom that the parents allow the child in his learning. Still others will say that unschooling defies definition because each child is unique and will go at learning in his own way, in his own time.”(source: http://www.mhea.com/features/unschool.htm ). Herein, ‘homeschooling’ will be used to refer to either.
There are advantages and disadvantages, of course, of homeschooling and of traditional schooling.
It could be argued that children who go to school have the opportunity to interact with others, and learn social skills. However, homeschooling does not have to mean that this is not possible. It simply means that the learn social skills in a different way or a different setting.
Of course, some might say that it is not the best idea to throw together a group of thirty or more people just because they happen to be the same age. Having the opportunity to interact with people of all ages, with similar interests, and in different environments can seem far more a positive way of life than sitting in the same place for six hours with a large group of people with nothing in common but the year they were born.
Following a set curriculum, leading to achievement of academic qualifications, is important in a world where having qualifications is becoming more important in gaining employment. So, a traditional school with a recognised, taught curriculum, along with the structure that comes with the school environment, offers the opportunity to learn important skills. Again, this does not mean that these skills can not be taught through homeschooling. Some homeschoolers do, indeed, follow a set curriculum, while others offer more freedom.
For parents, a practical advantage of school-based learning is that it can be less restrictive in terms of work and, perhaps, finances. Homeschooled children, especially those younger or less capable of self-care, will require supervision. This, of course, is taken care of in a traditional school. A parent knows what time the school begins and ends, and can choose to work during those hours. This may not be possible, or could be costly in childcare or tutor fees, if the child is homeschooled.
Homeschooling is advantageous for a number of reasons, not least because it is much easier to tailor to the individual. Schools often have auxiliary staff to support children with difficulties, but this is not guaranteed, and certainly not always on a one-to-one basis. Of course, because everyone is different, there are as many ways of learning as there are people in the world. So a classroom environment is not always conducive to learning.
As homeschooling plans can be tailored, they are more flexible than the rigid world of traditional schools. Resources and information on the National Curriculum are also widely available.
All in all, there are advantages and disadvantages to both traditional and homeschooling. There are common misconceptions, such as the assumption that homeschoolers lack opportunity for social interaction or that traditional schooling is always boring and rigid. In truth, it is essential to weigh up the benefits and downfalls of each and decide which approach is best for an individual child and family.
*Note: The images are my own. The people in the images are my own children. They were not homeschooled, although they have had a lot of extra-curricular learning experiences.