COMMENTARY: At the coffee shop someone asked an interesting question: Do homeschoolers take summer vacations like students in public schools? My reaction was that homeschooled children do not take three months off from learning and camp out on the couch with their smart phones.
Over several days I thought about the question. I know several homeschooler parents. All indicated there was no summer vacation for their kids, but some learning tasks are focused on summer opportunities.
Obviously, going to Yellowstone National Park is a learning activity. And Yellowstone is closed during the winter so you must go in the summer. Importantly, none of the homeschooler parents said that when summer comes they just turn the kids loose to vegetate.
Home schooling is one of the most contentious issues in our country. The public receives conflicting messages. On the one hand, they hear that parents are the most influential force in children learning.
But, on the other hand, many education leaders say that learning at home is different and inferior to “real” education — especially that education done by professional educators who have teaching degrees from college.
Also, education is different in a school setting. That I agree with, but I do not agree that public school education in and of itself is superior.
Homeschool parents forego the benefits of a tax-supported education for diverse reasons including religious, social and achievement concerns. Additionally, there are people in rural areas where the trip to the nearest school is too far a journey for young children.
For most people, outside of those with strictly religious concerns, the primary reason to homeschool is a concern about the culture of public education. Currently it is almost entirely focused on taking tests to check on teachers. What a waste for students.
Others say the pace of instruction in schools is focused on the entire class rather than on any one individual. Homeschool parents pace their instruction specifically to their children.
One objection to home schooling is that parents are usually not professional educators.
How then do we ensure that their children are learning? What should be done if a homeschooled child reaches majority without sufficient academic skills? Discipline the parents? Is it the parent’s right not to educate their children?
Sticky questions. We already face the same questions with public school graduates. Shall we dock the teacher’s pension if the students do not learn?
Some parents are not suited for teaching just as some students are not good candidates for home learning. Sometimes, the combination of parents not willing to work hard at teaching and students not driven to learn can lead to bad situations. Overall, this is not the case.
Homeschoolers do not turn off their minds when they leave school. Learning occurs at all hours of the day and night. I like homeschooling when it is done correctly. Public schools can learn more from the methods used by homeschoolers than homeschoolers can learn from public schools.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers. Swickard’s new novel, Hideaway Hills, is now available at Amazon.com. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? We welcome your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.