Why do families homeschool?

For those whose children are attending a regular school institution and do not personally know any homeschoolers, this can be a strange, incomprehensible world. Why would parents choose to do themselves, what others are paid to do? Why would students prefer to stay at home with mom or dad and siblings, rather than be at school with their peers?

There are so many diverse reasons, that it would be impossible to list them all! For most homeschoolers, it also is a combination of factors, rather than one single reason that caused them to decide on homeschooling. The following list contains a sample of the higher frequency factors.

  • Medical reasons
    This could be a short term reason for homeschooling, for example, when the student has to receive specialized treatment, causing him/her to miss some schooldays and feel unwell when attending school, so that he/she need to “catch up” afterwards. This would be easier to cope with at home, with the flexibility of studying when the student is able to.
    It could also be a long term reason for homeschooling, for example with chronic illness, where the student would otherwise miss many days of school.
  • Religious reasons
    There are various situations where a family could decide to homeschool for religious reasons. For example, if a family prefers religious instruction to be an integral part of schooling, and there is no satisfactory mainstream school institution available, homeschooling is a good solution. Another example is in countries where formal instruction in all main religions is compulsory in school from a young age, and to many families this is not acceptable, causing them to turn to homeschooling.
  • Safety reasons
    With many countries experiencing an increase in violence at schools, some parents prefer to homeschool their children for the sake of their safety. In other countries plagued by war, civil unrests and volatile politics, homeschooling also offers a safer alternative.
    In some instances bullying is a big reason, with 50% of children claiming to have been bullied in some countries; in many others to a lesser extent. Homeschooling would both safeguard the children from the bullying and contribute to avoid negative socialisation.
  • Academic reasons
    The prevailing academic standard in the locally available mainstream school institutions may not always be up to parents’ (or students’) expectations. This could be due to various reasons, which are not relevant to the current topic and both statistics and debate regarding this can be found elsewhere on the web and in related literature. For the purposes of this writing, it suffices that this very often is a most compelling reason for families to take education into their own hands.
    Another academic reason for homeschooling is giftedness. A child who is not being stimulated enough in school is also a bored child who is not living up to their potential.
  • Financial reasons
    Although finance is sometimes a compelling reason on its own, this often goes hand-in-hand with other factors, such as academic standards. For example, take the family which deems the academic standard in the public school to be unsatisfactory, but does not avail of the financial means to send their children to a private school. In such a case homeschooling offers a very attractive alternative, as a higher standard does not necessarily imply a higher financial cost.
  • Cultural reasons
    A variety of reasons has been grouped together as cultural. A few examples will be given, but these are by far not exhaustive. For example, a family may be temporarily living out of their home country, but still wish their children to be formally educated according to their own culture and language, and not that of their host country, therefore deciding to homeschool according to the curriculum of their country of origin.
    Another example is a mixed culture family wanting their children to be fluent in both parents’ languages, and knowledgeable in both cultures. Homeschooling children for the primary years (with equal emphasis in both languages) would give both languages a solid foundation.
  • Differences in educational approaches
    In education literature there often is debate about specific issues, such as at which age children should start reading, some approaches advising a younger age, others much later. Another oft debated issue is subject division (teaching history, biology, language, geography, science, arts, etc. individually) versus the holistic approach (teaching all subjects relating to each topic at a time). Yet another source of dissent is diversification (introductory learning about a wide spectrum of areas) versus specialisation (choosing an area of expertise very early and focusing on that exclusively). These are only three examples from many, but such issues could contribute to the decision to homeschool.
  • Family values
    At present in many countries family members rarely see each other, both parents may be working long hours, the children spend all time at school in different classes, and different after school activities often means most of the weekend is spent apart. To those for whom this is a concern, homeschooling is a way to establish family harmony again. This may require some small sacrifice initially and life-styles may have to adjust, but the value of family togetherness cannot be overstated.
    Another example is a family that chooses to avoid the negative aspects of peer pressure during teenage years, when susceptibility to gangs, drugs, etc. is statistically much higher than during the rest of their child’s life. They may then choose to homeschool during this time.
  • Enjoyment
    Another reason is in order to grow the desire to learn, for very few children attending regular school institutions could be said to enjoy their education. Another is when one or both of the parents have been homeschooled themselves, and want to extend this positive experience to the next generation. Even more families start to homeschool for another reason, but when that reason is no longer valid they simply continue homeschooling, because of the overall advantages, and enjoyment.
    Another example is school aversion or school refusal, when a child refuses to go to school or is clearly unhappy about going to school. This could lead to an aversion to all forms of learning; homeschooling provides an environment where the child feels safe and secure and the love of learning can be fostered.
  • Social reasons
    In contrast to the so called vertical socialisation, where a child learns to deal with a lot of people from the same age and similar demographic attributes, homeschooling develops horizontal socialisation, i.e. the necessary social skills to deal with a wide range of people in day-to-day living.
  • Flexibility
    Sometimes families require more flexibility and the mainstream school institutions cannot fulfil their needs. For example, where children are talented at some area such as sports, chess, music, etc. and need to spend many hours each day in training. (As the famous homeschoolers Serena and Venus Williams did). They then fit their curriculum around these needs.
    Some other families simply like the added benefit of flexibility, not as main reason, but nevertheless enjoying the flexibility of choices such as when the family can take holidays, travel opportunities, following interests, and generally taking advantage of ‘learning moments’ as and when these arise.
  • Disabilities
    Both physical and learning disabilities can be a factor in deciding to homeschool. For example, a mother who is a qualified remedial teacher may prefer to homeschool her child with learning disabilities, where individual attention is possible throughout the learning process. The child is spared any rude or insensitive remarks and unnecessary teasing by peers, until such time that the child no longer needs remedial therapy.
  • Practical reasons
    There are a great number of practical reasons why a specific family might decide to homeschool, either permanently or for a limited time. For example, if a family will be living abroad, perhaps changing country a few times, homeschooling will provide continuity. Another example is a family that lives in an area of very low population with no school within easy reach; the choice would be either homeschooling or boarding school.
    Not being able to get into the school of choice is another very practical reason to homeschool. Parents are sometimes set on a particular school and when it doesn’t pan out (perhaps because of long waiting lists) resort to homeschooling, for either short or long term.

There are definitely more reasons than these. Without a doubt, most homeschooling families have a combination of reasons rather than one single pressing need.

Ultimately we make certain choices when one option is preferable to the alternative; to many families, homeschooling is simply preferable to the alternative!