It’s a question which most parents find themselves asking: which is better for my child: home schooling or regular schooling? And generally the same criteria applies: will I have the capability to provide a well-rounded education which is comparable to the experience and curriculum of regular schooling, as well as a healthy social experience? If I send my child to school, will the teachers be able to meet their individual needs, especially in light of increasing classroom sizes and decreasing budget cuts? And inevitably, parents are also asking about the most important aspect of all, particularly in light of school violence. Will my child be safe?[i] Or should I keep them at home?
Prevalent Safety Issues
Safety is something that should never have to be considered where children and schools are concerned. These are peaceful places of learning, where healthy competition and the inspiration to discover is nurtured in the most important developmental years of an individual’s life. But sadly, this is not always the case. Parents have several aspects to consider which related directly to the safety and wellbeing of their child, such as:
- Violence: bullying, gang violence, discrimination, and random attacks
- Abuse: substance-related, physical, emotional, and sexual
- Pressure: academic expectations, peer compliance to fit in
- Health: lack of physical education, unhealthy food options
These all play widely into the spectrum, and when parents choose a particular school to send their children to, all of these factors are taken into account and are often intertwined with one another.
While the UK does not face the same risk as the US which has had to implement a lock-down procedure for schools nationwide, it still remains at threat for violence like knife crime.[ii] Understandably, the key to reducing this problem is through preventative measures, which is where another safety consideration – peer pressure – comes into play. It is up to both schools and parents – as well as the widespread community – to practice a no tolerance policy against violence, as well as bullying which takes many forms. Likewise, discrimination is another serious issue. Dependent on race, religion, class, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, and even gender, the way in which schools continue to face these problems is extremely troubling. The fear of radicalisation, xenophobia, objectification of women, and homophobia are just a few of the challenges which divide communities, and schools are no exception.[iii]
Parents also worry about the amount of academic pressure children face in an education system which forces students to make career and life choices before they have even left school, and the impact of social peer pressure which can lead individuals astray. Combine that with the worry that kids are not getting enough healthy food options or time outside to refresh the mind and body, and the argument for home schooling is more than compelling. But is it always the best option?
On the Home Front
Parents are concerned about home schooling for a few reasons like the ability to provide a full education and social exposure, as well as financial pressure. Home educators will not have access to government funds to provide them with resources which schools can offer such as extensive libraries and databases, gym equipment, arts supplies, musical instruments, or scientific tools. Nor do they provide for home tutors. Parents who wish to stay at home will lose the advantage of having a second income. But there are solutions which make home schooling economically viable, making it an appealing alternative.[iv] Parents will save money by not spending thousands in tuition on private schools which they believe may be more fitting,[v] as well as uniforms, bus fees, and trips. Additionally, the internet is now teeming with more information than ever before – including lectures from leading academic institutions[vi] – which makes it an ideal reference provided the use of its resources are explored with discretion.
Parents can bring the social aspect in easily. By addressing an individual’s needs exclusively, a considerable amount of pace can be covered, leaving time to invest in arts programs, clubs, sports teams, and other activities where children and adolescents can mingle and interact for that essential experience, as well as cultivate open-mindedness and acceptance. But is this really that much safer than a school environment, where these activities are usually a part of the program, even if extra-curricular? Does it always guarantee freedom from prejudice or even abuse, which occurs right in our very homes as well?[vii]
Owning It to Our Children
Undoubtedly, the pros of home schooling – and the fact that many of its cons can be countered make it even more appealing. Many parents will find home schooling the best choice for their child. But if this is debate is based on safety, and rightfully so, then surely as a society we should make every place safe for children. This may seem idealistic, but there is no other choice. At some point or other, children will leave home and experience the world. Perhaps their time in mainstream school – even if this is divided with home schooling – will give them the street smarts they need, and the capability to properly collaborate and share ideas, and even experience a greater open-mindedness. We cannot shelter our children entirely, as much as we wish to protect them – but what we can do is work towards making our world safer. Even as home schoolers, we should fight to keep the public education system in check, to ensure that the classroom is safe, and that people can embrace and accept their differences. We must push for education which teaches the how and the why, not just the what. And we must make sure that schools are provided with the resources required to give everyone a fair and just education, which gives them equal opportunities for success in life.[viii]
Whatever choice we make, we need to invest in a system which gives parents the right resources as well as guarantees a child’s safety, therefore, whichever choice is freely made, is accepted and embraced. We owe it to our future.
this has been written by freelance journalist Helen Dale
[i] ChildAlert.co.uk. “Parenting News”. Accessed 9December, 2014.
[ii] Gov.Uk. “Reducing knife, gun and gang crime”. Accessed 9 December, 2014.
[iii] BBC.co.uk. “Challenging stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination”. Accessed December 9, 2014.
[iv] Money. “Home Schooling: Good for Your Child & Your Finances?” Accessed 9 December, 2014.
[v] Schoolfeesadvice.org. “Private School Fees”. Accessed 9 December, 2014.
[vi] Online-educa.com. “The Rise of the MOOC: The Future of Higher Education?” Accessed 9 December, 2014.
[vii] NSPCC.org.uk. “Sexual abuse Facts and statistics”. Accessed 9 December, 2014.
[viii] Cambridgeassessment.org.uk. “Education systems urged to restructure: Why? What questions are really asked?” Accessed December 9, 2014.