I attended public schools through 5th grade, at which point my parents (and I) decided to put me in a private school (more of a homeschool co-op, really) that met at our church. The curriculum was far more challenging, and I was able to do the school work at my own pace.
My 9th grade year, I began doing my school work full-time from home. I doubled-down on the amount of work I did and ended up graduating in 2 years instead of 4. At 16, I enrolled in courses at my local state university, and I received my bachelor's degree at 20 years old.
I give this background to demonstrate that I have experience in several different educational environments, and I personally thought that both the private school and the homeschooling provided the best environment for me (personally) to learn in. The state university was a mixed bag; the learning styles were good, but a lot of the problems in the public school system were also present there.
What are your thoughts in this arena? Given the resources (time, money, experience, etc), would you rather enroll your child in the public school system or one of the alternatives?
@Ray: "Maybe I'll change my tune when he's due to go out into the world on his own, but I don't think so."
If your son is going to be attending a college, that'll be a great "re-integration" into society; it was for me. It gave me the opportunity to build up my lecture endurance (still not very good in that department, I'm ashamed to say) and ability to work in teams with other students.
My brother was homeschooled (in the private school, at home for a couple of years, then back at the school) from Day One, and he received his Master's Degree a year and half ago at 20 years old. He's currently over in Japan teaching English to elementary age Japanese kids. He's a brilliant linguist, but the 6 years he spent in the state university system at such an impressionable age (14-20) did a number on his worldview; he's been indoctrinated, as they say.
I was homeschooled all my life. Not once have I set foot in an organized school system of any kind, even when given the choice. It was the best decision I have ever made. The closest thing I ever came to school was a homeschooling co-op. Where a bunch of homeschoolers would get together and learn together. For the so called "life experience" you supposedly get from school, we got involved in our community.
Sure I didn't learn everything at the same pace, when I was 11 I scored post high school in science. I graduated when I was 16. I didn't enter college right away because I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I spent time exploring my interests. Now I am working on the prerequisite courses for a chiropractic college.
I do hope that my kids will be homeschooled. Because I learned something that no public schooler (probably not a word, but works for my purposes) I know learned. I learned how to love to learn, I have a thirst for knowledge. And that's something I want my kids to have.
You've caught the heart of the matter, with your "love to learn" comment. A poor teacher, regardless of the location, can destroy the love of learning. Equally so, a good teacher, can continue, or even create that love of learning, regardless of location. Adding the reasoning of the Teachers Unions and Colleges that not everyone learns the same way (true), and good teaching is even more important. The problem is that *most* Public Schools lack good teachers, and even competent teachers must contend with regulations that are risk averse. Being a good, or even competent, teacher means controlling the classroom, and making the material interesting to all types.
Controlling the classroom requires support from the Parent/Guardian, and the administration of the school. A child not wanting to learn has two problems. 1) Lack of discipline, and 2) lack of interest in learning. Both are usually due to not seeing any relevance to their life.
I won't argue with your public school experience, because it obviously worked for you. Congrats on the early graduation!
However, I would take issue with your assumption that connections and relationships "can't be replicated in the home environment." True, you won't get a lot of interaction with others when you're at home, but both Jason and I participated in homeschool co-ops, where we interacted with other kids just like in any other school. Then there's extra-curricular activities like Scouting, sports, church youth groups, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to get that social connection with other kids without getting the public school education.
So far we only have one child and he's two, so there's time to consider the options. Here's a summary of my thoughts so far.
The pros first. I like the idea of homeschooling because:
1. It'd mean I get to spend way more time with my kids, which I like.
2. The much lower teacher:student ratio (depending on how many kids I have - sure as heck won't be 15 or 20) means I could provide much more personalised help with their studies.
3. I would be able to provide a more complete education on some of the things that I feel are under-emphasized in state curricula. This was discussed at length in the thread "What we should be teaching in schools", and I agree with a fair bit of what was said there.
4. There would be minimal issues regarding conflicts between my personal convictions and what my kids are taught.
5. My kids would probably be able to finish their schooling quicker. I did the ACE curriculum for three and a half years in middle school and managed to fit nearly six years' worth of English and History study in. No reason why my kids couldn't do likewise.
Now the cons. I dislike the idea of homeschooling because:
1. It may be illegal in QLD by the time my kids get too far into their schooling. It's not right now, but each parent needs to be registered as an educator and needs to have their curriculum registered with the relevant state board. There is a trend here towards cracking down on what are seen as 'extreme' or unbalanced views that can be introduced in homeschooling. This in turn gives me more motivation to homeschool. It's hard not to talk that way without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, though.
2. Time. I'm all but convinced that I don't/won't have the time that I'd want to put into my kids' education with homeschooling. If time is money, then by choosing to educate my kids myself, I'm choosing a threadbare existence for our family, unless...
3. Social capital. Some of the people I got to know in school are still close friends. Most of us from the graduating class of 2000 still keep in touch, even though we're scattered all over Australia and Europe. My kids wouldn't have those special relationships on that level if they are schooled at home.
4. Special opportunities. A few of the privately run schools in our area have outstanding music programs, and this may play a big part in where our kids go. Also, other things like public speaking, drama, debating, team sports, manual arts etc are avenues of exploration that we couldn't realistically provide on any great scale at home.
It really depends where you live. In our community the public schools have always been awful, and there have always been strong private schools, both secular and parochial. The bottom line is that many families, whether wealthy or not so wealthy, make the financial sacrifice to send their kids to private schools. It is no mark of confidence that the largest group of private school students here are those whose parents are public school teachers. If even the public school teachers won't sent their own kids to public schools, that says something. Of course, this is a self-reinforcing system, because the more kids opt out, the worse the public schools get. Public school gets relegated to relatively recent immigrant families, those who are so poor they don't have any other option, or those parents who don't care about their kids. But unfortunately, that's the way it is.
I understand in other parts of the country, the public schools are fine and there isn't the same need for private schools. But I have never lived in such an area.
Who's this "common man" of whom you speak? Most homeschoolers I've known don't come from wealthy families. As Beresford pointed out, even many families who send their kids to private schools aren't rolling in the dough. We're all pretty "common" folks.
The whole time I was homeschooled (also on the awesome ACE curriculum, by the way, David), both of my parents were working full-time jobs to support the family. I was at home with my younger brother, and our curriculum was self-taught. At the end of the day (after our parents got home), they would administer ready-made tests to guarantee that we had, indeed, learned what we were supposed to have learned from the day's studies; if not, we'd redo that portion of our school work until we had it down. Parents aren't required to be good teachers for the curriculum to work, although it helps if they have a rough understanding of what the kids are learning.
Doing some rough calculations, I would estimate that my parents' costs to homeschool us were roughly $150-$200 per grade, per kid; we found a way to minimize that by me typing up my results on a computer rather than writing in the actual books, thereby enabling us to reuse my materials for my brother's use. It's a sizable sacrifice, but not much more than some parents pay for regular extra-curricular activities (instrument rentals, uniforms, etc) throughout the year for their children in public schools.
@Allan-Michael: "...when we had statewide tests in which the home schooled kids would have to come in and take it with us, nobody ever knew any of them."
All that demonstrates is that the homeschooled kids had a different circle of friends. I didn't know anyone in the room when I took my SATs, but I still had plenty of friends. They were just at church and in my Boy Scout troop. If I had wanted to play soccer, baseball, or football, I'd have known a lot of kids there. Personally, I'm something of an introvert, so I was happy to keep a fairly small circle of friends.
"To me, that makes me not sure that everyone is home schooled for the right reasons."
To be sure, not everyone is homeschooled for the right reasons. Some parents homeschool because they're crazy and they want to brainwash their kids. Some don't want their kids "oppressed by the man" and want to allow them to bloom into whatever creature they just naturally become. Some kids are homeschooled simply because they've been expelled from every public school around.
I knew one family where the kids had been homeschooled from Day One, but their mom kept switching up the curriculum, sometimes twice a year. Those kids were so messed up (socially and knowledge-wise), and it bothered me to know that that's the type of situation that has become the stereotype of homeschoolers everywhere. It's just not true.
Growing up, I had a fair taste of both. I went to a public school from first through third grade, and again from ninth until I graduated high school. From fourth through eighth, I was at a Christian private school.
It's funny for me to see how my views of my private school experience have changed over the years. While I was there, I absolutely hated it. The school was all the way across town, so my school friends and home friends were entirely different. My home and church friends would all make fun of me because we had to wear uniforms to school. I even had scout leaders who took out some of their economic frustration by making fun of me and my parents for being "private school snobs." When I got to high school, I didn't feel like I had really progressed that much further than my friends who were in public school all along. Sure I was in AP and honors classes, but most of my classmates were lifetime public schoolers. It wasn't until recently that I really started to appreciate what I learned in private school.
My school had a very heavy focus on the US Constitution and the importance of self sufficiency and self respect. It was a school where we memorized poetry, learned French and Latin, read great books and had discussions about them. We'd say the pledge of allegiance every morning and do yearly plays of Shakespeare's works. We were taught that, "courtesy is not optional" but that we were supposed to stand up for what we believed in. We learned about individual rights and how a free society only functions properly when it's a moral society. We were taught what integrity is, and how to develop and maintain it. The eighth grade class (graduating class) gets to go on a ten-day tour of major historical sites in US history. We were taught how to behave in public and in private. We were taught to critically think and analyze. We were taught how science and religion work together instead of against each other.
I hope that I will be able to afford to send my kids to the same school I attended. I appreciated the chance to go to a "normal" public school, and learn how to defend my "unique" ideas against a world of indoctrination. That's something that will be more and more important for my kids to learn as they get older.
My opinion, do both if you can. That way, your children learn how to love learning, and how to live with people who don't.
"Walt, I'll be straight with you (heh) ... I'm self-aware enough to know when I'm being an asshole, and its rarely, if ever, unintentional. I tend to come back at obnoxious people exactly as they come across to me. It…"