Join Us

Does homeschooling teach what schools do not?

Justyna Pawlak

Statistics indicate a growing interest in homeschooling among many members of the public. In Italy, over the past two years, the number of homeschoolers has tripled. In Poland, official data indicate over 25% increase compared to 2019. In the UK it is about 20%. Whereas in the US, in the 2020-2021 school year, there were more than 3.7 million homeschooled students.

In 2018, Harari titled one chapter of his book, dedicated to education, Change is the only constant.  This change came much sooner than expected. Already in early 2020, the worldwide spread of COVID-19 has increased interest in homeschooling among many members of the public. Many parents who had not considered this educational choice in the past have appreciated the pedagogical process, suggesting that interest in homeschooling will increase in the immediate future in comparison to the pre-COVID-19 past (Duvall, 2021). Homeschooling is also a challenge for the status quo, in which, faced with a pandemic, the world’s educational system has found itself with regard to the global and extremely dynamic changes that have already taken place, also in the area of education, we can assume that in the future homeschooling will become an integral part of our everyday life. As reported by Kunzman and Gaither (2020) (…) homeschooling will remain fertile ground for research – not only as a fascinating educational phenomenon in and of itself but also for what pushes us to consider the purposes of education more broadly.

The meaning of homeschooling generally seems understandable, but very often, especially in the global pandemic situation, it can be confused with distance learning or individual tutoring. For many parents practicing homeschooling, it is synonymous with freedom. Freedom in both: the content being taught and the method used for learning. According to many educational experts, schools should switch to the four K learning models: critical thinking, communication, cooperation, and creativity – in order to account in the process of education for universal life skills. Learning new things, the ability to cope with change, and keeping the mental balance in unknown situations is argued to be one of the most important skills that humans can master (Harari, 2018).

The most representative and accurate explanation of the term homeschooling is home-based education, used by R. Meighan (1992), which indicates the foundation of the teaching process, not limiting itself to the location of classes, emphasizing the overall changes in the way of thinking about the educational process. Following this model, it is the parent of a homeschooled child who becomes responsible for his/her child’s educational process. The children educated in this way are not obliged to attend school, and they fulfill their legal obligation to learn at home. Homeschooling is generally based on the conviction that it is the child’s parents who know better than educational institutions what is truly beneficial for the child’s development, both in terms of intellectual and cultural competence and morality (Budajczak, 2020).    

In the U.S., homeschooling as a phenomenon emerged in the 60s and 70s of the last century. In 2018 it was estimated that about 0.4% of the world’s schoolchildren population is homeschooled, and it is constantly growing  (Ray, NHERI, 2018; Duvall, 2021). In Australia, the number of registered home educated students had a 65% increase in New South Wales between 2014 and 2018, and a 43% increase in Western Australia over the same period (Jackson, 2019). In Poland, the data from the Ministry of National Education, indicate that in March 2021 there were almost 20000 homeschooled students in Poland (dane.gov.pl), which is more than 30% increase compared to 2019. In Italy, this number has tripled over the past two years (Chinazzi, 2021) and in the UK there is about 20% increase (Long & Danechi, 2021).

We live at a time of unprecedented global changes. Children starting school this year will retire around 2080. No one has any idea what the world will look like then. One of the main drivers of change is digital technology, which directly impacts changes in education (Robinson, 2014). As stated in the report of the World Economic Forum in January 2020, personal and self-paced learning is one of eight critical characteristics of learning content identified as high-quality learning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Education 4.0. Learning should be based on diverse individual needs of each learner, where everyone acquires new skills at their own pace.

Is that what parents who choose to homeschool their children expect? The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) conducted in 2019 research on the reasons for moving to homeschooling. The top three represent concern about the environment of other schools (80%), desire to provide moral instruction (67%), and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at schools (61%) (Ray, 2021). In 2020 Kunzman & Gaither published an article that was a comprehensive summary of more than 2000 English-language academic texts on homeschooling. Searching for parental motivation emerged that many parents turn to home education because they are unhappy with some aspects of formal schooling.

It is worth emphasizing that homeschooling is not a new phenomenon. The world knows some figures of famous people who did not attend school, such as Margaret Mead, who was taught by her grandmother, or Theodore Roosevelt, who was homeschooled due to his asthma (Dwyer, 2019). However, nowadays, homeschooling has become a social phenomenon and an essential educational movement, dynamically increasing in popularity around the world. Both enthusiastic opinions and a wave of criticism emerge from the public discourse from different backgrounds. From my perspective, homeschooling is a legitimate educational option that, requires empirical studies to review better and understand the social and political debate. This article will not answer the subversive question posed in the title. Still, when confronted with the research results on what schools ought to teach, it opens a space for further exploration of homeschooling as an alternative to the traditional education system.

References:

Budajczak M. (2020): Edukacja domowa… po latach, Wydawnictwo Iosephicum, Ćwiklice.

Chinazzi A. (2021): Home Education: Reshaping Teachers and Parents’ Responsibilities in the Era of Intensive Parenting, The European Conference on Education 2021, Official Conference Proceedings, DOI: 10.22492/issn.2188-1162.2021.14

Duvall S. (2021): A Research Note: Number of Adults Who Homeschool Children Growing Rapidly, Journal of School Choice.

Dwyer J.G., Shawn F. (2019): Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice.

Harari Y. N. (2018): 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Random House.

Jackson, G. (2019): Registered home educated student numbers in Australia. Retrieved from https://home-ed.vic.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Home-Educated-Student-Numbers-in-Australia.pdf

Kunzman R., Gaither M. (2020): Homeschooling: An Updated Comprehensive Survey of the Research, Other Education, The Journal of Educational Alternatives, Vol 9.

Long R., Danechi S. (2021): Home Education in England, House of Commons Library.

Meighan R (1992): Learning from Home-based Education: An Education Now Special Report, Education Now Books.

Ray B. (2021): Should educators promote homeschooling? Worldwide growth and learner outcomes, Journal of Pedagogy, 1/2021, DOI 10.2478/jped-2021-0003

Robinson K. (2014): Finding Your Element, Penguin Books Ltd.

Web resources:

https://www.nheri.org/how-many-homeschool-students-are-there-in-the-united-states-pre-covid-19-and-post-covid-19/ (access on May 31, 2022).

https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN05108/SN05108.pdf (access on May 31, 2022).

https://www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk/blog/the-growth-of-home-schooling-in-the-uk/ (access on May 31, 2022).

https://dane.gov.pl/pl/dataset/1963/resource/31162/table?page=1&per_page=20&q=&sort= (access on May 31, 2022).

About the author
Justyna Pawlak
Ph.D. candidate in Education. Her research interests include homeschooling and alternative education. Her current qualitative research is focused on homeschooled adolescents. She likes people, likes to talk to them, can listen and hear as well. In 2022 received a grant from the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange for exchange with the University of Milan-Bicocca.
see other articles by the author
Share the Article

Similar Article