The pros and cons of homeschooling

We are not happy to have our photo associated with this somewhat negative article. The Canvas Magazine, the weekend magazine of the NZHerald, took this photo about 18 months ago and didn’t use it then.

We would like to see some positive comments about Home Education on this NZHerald blog.

Original article at:

I have to say that the day my fairly conservative husband came home and wondered out loud if homeschooling was a good idea made me stop dead in my tracks.

It’s one of those options that I have always thought of as extreme. An extreme lifestyle choice, and a total career 180 degree turn for a woman in her most competitive years.

Heck, putting your foot on the pedal for 3-5 years while the kids are little is hard enough. But devoting potentially 12 years to their education at home, having them underfoot 24-7? I couldn’t imagine it for my own part – and I swiftly told my dearly beloved this – and wondered aloud back to him if it was in some way detrimental to have the kids cooped up with me for longer than strictly necessary.

Ali had cottoned onto the benefits of homeschooling when he’d done this story about a group of local home-schooled kids who had made an award winning robot and were about to go to America to compete in an extremely prestigious robotics competition.

These guys’ families were part of a well established, tight-knit group of home schoolers currently operating outside the New Zealand school system. Then I came across this article from written recently by a husband whose unconventional-sounding wife has made the decision to homeschool the couple’s twins because they felt it unnecessary for the children to come into line with the regular school day (week and year) at their relatively tender age of 5.

The family in this article are teaching two of some 1.5 million US home-schooled kids, and interestingly, statistics on the matter – such as they are – suggest only a third embark on homeschooling for religious grounds (there are some religious groups that consider state schooling morally bankrupt).

The rest just do it because they think it’s better. This is the reason given in the Salon case:

“We’re not ready to surrender our kids, and ourselves, to a 10-month-a-year, all-day institution whose primary goal, at least at this age, seems to be teaching kids how to function within a 10-month-a-year, all-day institution. Our kids are learning plenty – not exactly the same things other kindergarteners learn, I suppose, but plenty. They’re making friends and having fun. They can go to the beach on gorgeous fall afternoons, or hit zoos and museums on crisp winter mornings, when other kids are sitting at desks doing worksheets about the letter B.”

“Hell , I wish I could do it”,” writes the father.

The subject always attracts lots of debate where ever it pops up. Hell, this article in Salon got a whopping 538 letters in response. And you can certainly point to many successes of the home schooled, in various competitions that see them pitted against conventionally-schooled pupils (see not just Ali’s piece but also this admittedly older piece, also from Salon)

I still can’t see myself doing it, although like most people I think the benefits of good home schooling are pretty convincing.

For one, I am not a teacher, certainly not one with much patience. I am the daughter of a teacher who spent many years honing her craft and I find it difficult to see how this skill might simply be aped by the untrained (an ex-teacher would be a different story, of course).

And then there is the issue of socialisation… My children don’t have cousins nearby, and are unlikely to be part of a huge family. Already their options for playdates during the day are ever-decreasing as more and more children get sent off to daycare and kindy. I would worry that they would become insular, and not come into contact with the various types of people they need to – I believe – to develop empathy and understanding.

If you could somehow fill your children’s minds with wonder, teach them everything they need to know to both pass exams and live informed lives, arrange for them to have lots of stimulation from both friends and other “teachers”, then I can see home schooling might work.

But boy it seems like a lot of work – and work that not many of us would really be that well cut out for.

Pictured above: To home school, or not to home school? Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dita De Boni

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8 thoughts on “The pros and cons of homeschooling

  1. I am surprised by the title of the article: “The pros and cons of homeschooling” because, quite frankly, there are no disadvantages to educating your children at home. Parents have the God-given responsibility to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: imparting wisdom, or the right understanding of reality, to their sons and daughters. Historically, homeschooling has always been the norm, parents devoted their time and energy to teach their children both theoretical and practical knowledge, while also developing skills and discipline in their children. Such children have well developed character, enabling them to teach themselves new skills and concepts, and be ready as mature and responsible adults to serve God and minister to the needs of other people. “Socialization,” has never been a problem for such children, for they experience the real world every day: a diverse mix of ages, genders, nationalities, tastes and knowledge. The world is their classroom. Historically, when parents could not teach directly (for lack of knowledge in a certain area, or because they lacked time, skilled tutors were selected.) Compulsory government schooling is only a relatively recent historical phenomenon, resulting in immature adults who cannot relate to anyone out of their own age/economic group, who have little knowledge of history, little desire to learn and little desire to succeed. Bravo to the Smith family, and every other homeschooling family in NZ. Their hard work and sacrifice on behalf of their children’s futures is well worth it, and will be well rewarded. Homeschooling is worth any sacrifice; this I know from years of experience, both as a homeschooler, and as a student who spent more than 8 years in the government school program. I will teach my own children at home, in the future, because I want the best for them.

  2. RE: the pros and cons of homeschooling. I am also the daughter of a ‘trained’ teacher. My father ended up leaving the public school system in favour of tutoring, even though being a teacher had been his life-long ambition, finally fulfilled in his 40s. I also am not a patient person. Neither of these things could ever stop me home schooling my children. For we believe it is the only way to bring up our children. Not because we think we can do better than anyone else: because it is our duty, our responsibility to ensure our children grow into mature, sensible, useful adults well able to do whatever they are called to do in society. Before anyone thinks this is because I had a bad experience in school: I did fairly well, my husband did okay. Home schooling is better for our children, being together is better than the self-serving way our society is today. I could say more but I want to get back to my family! Enough said!

  3. Education is not merely the acquiring of certain knowledge, but rather a lifelong pursuit of wisdom and information. Who better than parents to instill in their children this attitude, and assist and guide them on their way?

    Homeschooling (or home education, more correctly) is a wonderfully rich way for children to learn and grow in a nurturing environment. The pace of learning is tailored to suit each individual child, and personal attention and tutoring is the norm, not the exception.

    Opportunities for socialization and interaction with all ages come very naturally, and provide a far more balanced social life, than age segregated classrooms. There is no adjustment period for homeschoolers as they move into “real life”, for they have been experiencing real life all along.

    As a “graduate” of home education, I have never – for a single moment – regretted my parents decision to teach me at home. I am very thankful that they considered the work worthwhile, and valued their children enough to invest in them. I hope that in time, I may be able to offer my own children that same advantage.

  4. My husband and I have 2 daughters aged 15 and 13, 2 sons aged 11 and 6. When we made the decision to home educate 4 years ago, we not only know that our youngest child will benefit the most from this decision, but our 2 older children – seeing how well their brothers developed and how holistic their education was – asked to be home educated too!
    Yes-it is a serious decision to make. For us, as parents, the present well being of our children, and their ability to maximize future options as well-rounded, well-educated, and responsible citizens are paramount considerations.
    Yes-like any parenting decision that puts children/family first, it IS a selfless decision to make. When my children were younger, I almost completed a law degree and was on track to refashion my public relations career and practice law.
    No-I am not a ‘teacher’ and we do not do ‘school’ as viewed in NZ today. We use various, excellent curricula available to homeschoolers, devised by educationalists who are excellent in their respective fields, and who focus on processes of math or English, rather than rote learning superficiality. We socialise holistically and healthily-all ages, many sectors.
    I say-find out more.

  5. Good grief! The author actually commends home education several times. And when she comes to criticising the idea, she actually shoots herself in the foot each time she tries.

    She wants to compete (for what? against whom?) instead of raising up children. So who is going to raise up her children? She apparently is not terribly concerned…as long as it isn’t her. Somebody with a teaching credential will do, I guess. Talk about faith, Trev!

    She says schools are caricatured as morally bankrupt. That’s because they are. I’ve got the documentation on that…it really is beyond debate, discussion or contention.

    She is not a credentialed teacher so can’t teach. In a classroom maybe, but that is not home education. As mum, she is perfectly, eminently suitable as teacher, or rather, mentor/tutor of her own children. Socialisation. She is under the false notion that 6 year olds need lots of time with other 6 year olds to develop empathy & understanding. Think about it a moment: what exactly do 6 years olds actually teach one another? Yes, attitudes, finger signs, cuss words, dirty jokes, 4-letter vocabularies, deceptions, how to get away with stuff. Parents can and do and should both role model and teach empathy and understanding. And this lady thinks it is going to happen by chance or that it always does happen by purely putting a bunch of 6 years olds together, whatever the mix happens to be, whatever the agenda of the teacher and the school happen to be. This is irrational.

    She is also labouring under the false impression that the average school teacher and school experience and the socialisation of other 6 year olds somehow fills children’s minds with wonder…we know what these institutions fill children’s minds with: state ideology, and subversive propaganda from many special interest groups such as Family Planning and Rainbow Youth. She thinks it is important to be able to pass exams. She is to be pitied. She hopes her child will be well informed. She is a journalist…can she of all people be unable to help her children to be informed?

    It sounds like she has never sat down and talked to any home educator. How sad.


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