Homeschooling: The New Education Reform?

Homeschooled children cheering at a rally for Santorum.

Super Tuesday has brought Rick Santorum to the forefront of American media. In recent weeks, media scrutiny has brought many of Rick Santorum’s viewpoints on social issues into the spotlight, including his views on education in America.

Throughout his campaign, Santorum has flashed his homeschooling credentials as proof of his conservative education views. Although he voted in favor of No Child Left Behind – one of the most intrusive federal education laws in history – Santorum has repeatedly called for limiting government role in education:

Yes, the government can help, but the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms – where they did homeschool or have the little neighborhood school – and into these big factories called public schools.

The times that Santorum long for included an awful lot of societal ills: High illiteracy rates, low educational attainment, and poor quality of education, just to name a few. (This alternate historical reality is in addition to the fact that Santorum’s record simply doesn’t match his rhetoric; Santorum calling for a limited federal role in education after voting for NCLB would be akin to C2 Education calling for the end of tutoring while advertising “Come to C2!”.)

To be fair, Santorum does not advocate a return to the days of the one-room schoolhouse. Instead, Santorum argues in favor of “the importance of parental control of education.” Santorum, whose children have been homeschooled (at least some of the time), is a big proponent of homeschooling. In fact, the Santorum family is a fairly good representation of the homeschooling cliché – conservative, insular, distrusting of public education, and strongly religious. Many people would be surprised to learn that there is an equally liberal faction of the homeschooling community, but this faction is not represented by Santorum and his ilk.

Regardless of a family’s motives for homeschooling, it is important that we recognize that homeschooling is not valid as a widespread education reform. While homeschooling is certainly a valid choice for some individuals, it does not operate in the best interests of society when applied on a broader scale:

  • Common Standards: Laws and regulations regarding homeschooling differ vastly from state to state. There are few common standards for homeschooled children. While this may not pose problems at the moment, just imagine what would happen if we applied such a patchwork system on a broad scale. How could colleges make admissions decisions if children were all educated in entirely different ways? How could we measure whether or not our children were being well educated without some sort of broad standard?
  • Inequity: Homeschooling is all well and good for the Santorums of the world – that family pulled in an annual income of more than $900,000 over the past three years. The Santorums can afford to have one parent at home overseeing the children’s education – the rest of us are not always so lucky. In fact, census data tells us that for 58% of married couples with children, both parents work. Moreover, recent data demonstrates that more than half of babies born to women under 30 occur outside of marriage, increasing the number of children raised in single-parent households. For these families, homeschooling simply isn’t a viable option.
  • Education Credentials: Particularly amidst the debates about teacher quality, one must recognize that a homeschooled education can only be as good as the person teaching it. In other words, homeschooling on a mass scale can only be viable if parents are well educated. But census data shows that only 30% of adults over the age of 25 hold a college degree. And while having a college degree isn’t necessarily the best definition of “well educated”, just imagine your reaction if you learned that your child’s school teacher had never finished college.

To be sure, Rick Santorum and his ilk likely do not intend for homeschooling to become the new norm. Instead, Santorum and his fellow candidates call for education to be controlled by local entities rather than by the federal government – another issue entirely. But when Santorum speaks of education reform and extols the virtues of homeschooling in the same breath, one has to wonder whether he’s really thought things through.

This is not to say that we are opposed to homeschooling. On the contrary, when failing public schools and rising private school tuition costs leave families struggling to provide a quality education for their children, homeschooling may well be the best option. For families with the resources and desire to educate their children at home, homeschooling can provide many benefits. Students who are homeschooled are able to learn at their own pace, study subject areas which are not typically offered in schools, and work from a better integrated and more holistic curriculum.

But homeschooling is not without its challenges. Aside from the time, money, energy, and dedication necessary for such a task, homeschooled students face unique obstacles:

  • Socialization. This is a primary concern for any homeschooling parent. One way to ensure that a homeschooled student receives ample social interaction is to look into enrolling in athletics or other activities – this is how Tim Tebow got his start in football. Another way is to join a homeschool support group made up of other homeschooled students and their parents.
  • STEM Learning. Science, math, and technology classes are growing increasingly important, but many parents are not well equipped to teach these subject areas. At C2, we see a growing demand for math and science subject tutoring from the homeschooling community; in such cases, the students have often surpassed their parents’ expertise in a certain subject area. In fact, demand has grown so great that we are looking into partnerships with local school districts so that we might offer credit courses in math and science. Parents who would like to homeschool their children through middle and high school should be prepared to seek outside help in come subject areas – no one can do it all!
  • Testing. In many states, homeschooled students are still required to pass standardized state exams. We’ve seen rising demand for proctors for these tests, so much so that C2 centers have become registered as official proctors in some states. This is another concern for homeschooling parents which other parents generally do not have to worry about.
  • College Admissions. While homeschoolers are not necessarily at a disadvantage in the college admissions process, there are steps which homeschoolers must take in order to address their different education format. College admissions can be tricky even for public school students who have the support of experienced teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors – homeschooled students must attempt to navigate these waters without the framework of a public school. It is strongly recommended that homeschooled students seek out a college admissions counselor such as those at C2 Education; a college admissions counselor can help guide homeschooled students through each step of the process. Check back soon for our upcoming article about college admissions for homeschooled students!

C2 Education is fully equipped to help all students – including homeschooled students – achieve their college dreams. Don’t navigate the process alone when help is always available here.

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