Regular readers know I am sometimes very critical of our traditional structures of education. I hope this never comes across as being critical of the great teachers and administrators who work in traditional schools, many of whom are doing outstanding work given the limitations they face.
But I am critical of educators who seem to think that the traditional model of educating children is the only or best way, and who use their considerable political clout as a profession to oppose meaningful changes in how we "do" school. One of the biases I frequently encounter among fellow educators is the notion that homeschooling families are hurting their kids by denying them the benefits of a traditional education. This infographic makes it abundantly clear that, on average, homeschooled children turn out to be quite successful, academically and in life.
Note how even families with low incomes or lower levels of parent education get good results from homeschooling (click here for link):
Among the lessons I think we should draw from these data is that homeschooling can be a successful experience for many families. Obviously it isn't a choice that all families could utilize, and perhaps there will always be a need for institutional schools. But we should recognize that there is nothing inherently superior in the traditional model of schooling. By "traditional model" I mean both the policy of assigning children to attend a government-run school based on the location of their home, and the typical pedagogical practices found in most schools (including many non-government schools) where children are grouped by grade levels, taught and assessed (graded) in a very teacher-driven method with a curriculum and school day fragmented by subject area, often with little attention to the humanities, art, music, etc.
This traditional structure inevitably tends toward a "one size fits all" approach that does not differentiate for individual student needs very effectively.
A host of reforms in pedagogical practice is now pushing against this traditional structure, including personalized learning, competency-based instruction, and even more sweeping changes like utilizing Montessori and other radically student-centered methods, even in government schools. These kinds of changes are extremely difficult to implement in traditional school structures, especially when the educational establishment tends to resist the kinds of policy changes that would really allow for meaningful reforms of teaching practice. That's why an increasing number of Americans favor school choice to drastically expand the number of educational options available to families and give educators, including those working in government schools, a chance to engage in real innovation.
One of these options is homeschooling, and educators should recognize the practice as valid and viable for many families. Doing so would counter the implicit bias of many educators that, because we are the "professionals," we know what is better for kids' education than their parents do (see Educational Paternalism: What Do Super-sized Softdrinks Have to do with School Choice?).
Watch for my review of Josephy Murphy's new book, Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement, in coming weeks.