Homeschooling has been growing at an exceptional rate since the early 1990’s when it became legal in all 50 US states. While it has been difficult to track the number of families turning to homeschool due to a lack of standardized reporting requirements from state to state, statistics compiled by groups such as NHRI (National Homeschool Research Institute) and some federally funded education centers show that by 2015 it was estimated nearly 2 million kids of all ages were homeschooling; up nearly 62% in just 10 years.
While elementary homeschool education has grown and become more mainstream, there has been less growth within middle school and high school levels. Myths surrounding homeschooling are slowly being dispelled- but primarily at the elementary level only. Interestingly, many of these myths still persist at the middle and high school level homeschooling and often increase in the depth of intensity. Misunderstandings surrounding homeschooling at middle and high school grades can create a daunting mind frame for families who are considering making the transition from public to homeschool or even cause a homeschooling family to question whether to continue from elementary education into high school.
Some of the most common and enduring myths are:
- Parents aren’t qualified to teach at a high school level.
- Without a diploma from a “real” school, your student won’t be able to go to college or get a good job.
- Kids miss out on “milestones” activities, such as prom, graduation, and sports.
- Students don’t get social skills associated with older kids- such as dating and “real world” skills.
- Most homeschoolers end up going to public high school.
Today, nothing could be further from the truth! These myths are all the result of misunderstood early homeschooling models and homeschool educational methods. Homeschooling models and methods have changed significantly since the early years of home education.
- Parents and caregivers are qualified to teach their own children- even at a high school level. Many parents don’t believe they are capable of teaching their students higher education subjects because of their own struggles and perceived “failures” experienced in middle and high school. Homeschooled students today have an infinite amount of resources available. Colleges, online courses, homeschool cooperatives, groups, and clubs offer homeschool students and parents more ability to learn at the pace of the students’ needs. On another note, many parents could benefit from some personal “deschooling” as well; there’s no better way to teach your students about self-motivated learning than learning a new subject with them!
- Homeschool students have more opportunities than ever to attend colleges, universities and trade schools. In fact, most colleges and universities have adjusted well to the growing homeschool population and recognized that homeschoolers usually have a unique, individualized educational background and often have better skill sets than publicly educated students. Homeschoolers are more likely to see projects thoroughly, are socially well adjusted not only with their peers but with adults and can interact with instructors, counselors, and advisors more easily. Homeschoolers also tend to bring more innovative thinking into classrooms, labs, and lectures and are more motivated to be successful.
- While it’s a popular argument against homeschooling through the middle and high school years, students who don’t participate in “milestone” activities such as prom, graduation or sports activities. While many homeschool groups now offer “homeschool prom” and “homeschool graduation” events, it is really a question that families need to review on an independent basis. Is it really worth the trade of four years of public education for one or two nights of “milestone” ceremonies for unlimited opportunities, less social stress and the many other reasons families consider when choosing to homeschool? Many times, these events are not really worth the benefits of educating your own students. Homeschool students have many opportunities to participate in sports through local and city leagues, places such as YMCA, gymnastics and dance centers; many public schools are opening up their extracurricular activities to include homeschool students.
- One of the most prevalent myths related to homeschooling, whether at the elementary level or higher, is that homeschool students lack opportunities for social growth and development. This myth is especially cited at the middle to high school level; many people believing that students won’t have the opportunity to learn how to build long-term relationships- whether through friendships or dating. From pre-K kids meeting up at the local library for storytime or Lego Club and playgroups (in which they also develop basic social skills such as sharing, working in groups, manners and communication skills), to older students who join book clubs, creative writing groups, chess clubs, Scouts, church youth organizations, sports leagues or participate in volunteer activities; homeschool students have as much opportunity as any students to meet peers and learn social skills. Dating is no exception. Students interact with kids from their own peer groups and form deeper, more meaningful relationships just like other kids their age. Homeschoolers easily develop “real-world skills” by the very nature of their education.
- In reality, many homeschoolers do attend public school; but often because families are unsure of how to proceed with furthering their student’s education and are fearful they will not be able to provide enough education. Statistically, however, most students that start as homeschoolers “graduate” as homeschoolers! Often by the time, a student reaches high school, and sometimes even in middle school, students have achieved high school credits that are not transferable to public high schools. Homeschool students, often by early high school levels, opt to take dual enrollment classes for both high school and college credits through online (or local) colleges and universities. These credits are also not transferable to public schools; leaving students to do repetitive workloads.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to homeschool your middle to high school students is entirely a family-based decision. Parents and students should openly discuss their thoughts, feelings, and concerns and not let popular fears guide their decision. They should weigh the options and look to the future of how these choices could work with their family beliefs and ideals and let personal values be the guide.