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It’s that time of year again – parents from every walk of life are starting to think about the homeschooling vs public school decision. For some parents, it might be the first time they’ve considered homeschooling for their child. For others, it might have been a rough last year of homeschooling and they’re rethinking their plans for the upcoming year.
I’m here to help. I feel like I have one foot in each world and good sense of the benefits and drawbacks of each. I was a public school teacher for seven years, so I know the ins and outs of a brick and mortar classroom. But I also grew up with homeschooling all around me and continue to stay very involved in the community (like by doing portfolio reviews and preschool homeschooling).
What you won’t see on this list
There are a lot of public school amenities and activities that people assume only benefit children who attend the school. This often leads people to dismiss the idea of homeschooling because they think without putting their child in school, they’ll miss out. But that’s not true!
Many homeschooled children play on sports teams, participate in extracurricular activities, and even attend specific classes provided by the school district. STEM subjects, technical courses (carpentry, plumbing, etc), and arts classes are commonly chosen classes for this, especially for older students. Plus, depending on your school district, you also might be able to access specialists for a child with a disability, like an occupational or speech therapist.
I’m also not going to opine on common homeschooling myths like “homeschooled children are antisocial weirdos!” because it’s simply not true. Opportunities abound for children learning at home to interact, play, and learn with other kids. Sometimes they even socialize more appropriately and maturely than children from traditional institutions.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the differences, shall we?
Homeschooling vs Public School: The Pros of Public
Let’s be objective here, shall we? There are many good things about public school, and it’s a perfect fit for many families. Here are some of the reasons why parents choose public school for their kiddos.
I’ve covered the topic of special education through homeschooling extensively, and I think many parents can successfully homeschool a child with special needs. However, there are some children who just need more than their parents can give. I think of a mom friend I have who homeschooled six children before having her seventh with Down’s Syndrome. She tried homeschooling him for a few months before realizing she didn’t have the skills or education to do right by her son. He’s now a THRIVING middle schooler in the public school and she couldn’t be happier.
Many children thrive on competition. (I know I did!) Having a large group of children around can push some competitive kids to learn more and better than they would alone. While you can create or attend a co-op, virtual class, or offer other opportunities to not learn alone, many see the increased chances for competition to be a real public school asset.
There’s no question that public school is affordable. It legally needs to be free, no strings attached. While there are the seasonal fundraisers like popcorn sales or magazine subscription drives, you can send a child to a public school for zero dollars.
Related reading: Free Homeschool Resources for Every Age And Every Subject
If you as a parent don’t feel like you have the time to choose every aspect of your child’s curriculum, or if you’re not interested in making all those decisions, a public school provides one. They use state and federal guidelines to choose units, subjects, and topics that children should know before graduating high school. Most schools use evidence-based approaches to education so your child is reaching their full potential.
This is one frequent rationale in countries like Germany with limited to no homeschooling. The idea is to give all children the same education and upbringing so fringe or splinter groups don’t form.
In America, many people choose public school for their children because it exposes them to a wide variety of ideas, people, and subjects. If you value the exposure your child gets to thoughts and ideas that they don’t hold (and the great conflict resolution skills that can form from such encounters), public school might be a great option for you.
Homeschooling vs Public School: The Pros of Home
Of course, since this is a homeschooling website, you know I have a few things to say about the benefits of homeschooling. Let’s look at those.
Studies show that children being homeschooled score 15-30 percentile points higher on standardized tests (black homeschooled students score on average 42 percentage points higher). They also graduate college at a 10% higher rate and do better on the SATs.
Some parents disagree with the philosophy of education used to guide public schools. They might believe more nature, creativity, movement, one-one-one attention, or a thousand other different things are better for their child. Or they want less standardized testing, less desk time, or less focus on certain subjects/topics/teaching styles. If you have serious opinions about how your child should be taught, you’re likely better off homeschooling than emailing your child’s teacher and trying to micromanage from home.
When you homeschool, you’re in charge. You can create your own schedule, design your own curriculum, explore topics not usually covered in public school, and more. You can do school on the road, through games, or completely online. (I feel like a Dr. Seuss book. “You can homeschool in a box, you can homeschool with a fox!”) Seriously though, you won’t get any more perfectly tailored educational experience for your child than the one you create yourself through homeschooling.
Homeschooling vs Public Schooling Special needs considerations
Didn’t I just say special education was a pro of public schooling? Yes I did, because it is. But for many children, their special needs make homeschooling the huge pro.
In public school, children with, say, ADHD will have an IEP with accommodations to help them learn in an environment that isn’t designed with them in mind. However, if you homeschool that same child, you can customize the environment (and the curriculum, and the subjects, and the expectations, etc) to the child.
This is also great for children with learning disabilities or gifted children, because you can crank up the pace or take things slow, whichever way your child needs them.
Close family relationships
Some parents are concerned with developing a strong family culture, and the impact having children away for 40 hours a week has on that culture. Homeschooling can be a great option for these families to spend plenty of time learning and playing together.
When thinking about homeschooling vs public school, you have to include this stat. 80% of parents in 2016 expressed concerns about public school safety according to a government survey. You can’t protect your child from everything, but there are some things you can shield them from. It’s legally required for public schools to offer a free and appropriate education to every child in the district. This means bullying, peer pressure, sexual and physical harassment or assault, racism, drugs/alcohol/tobacco, violence, and more are often found in public schools. This sometimes comes from teachers and staff, too, not just students. Homeschooling greatly reduces the risks of your child experiencing these events.
Homeschooling vs Public School: Final thoughts
If you’re confident that homeschooling is what will be best for you, but you aren’t sure where to find curriculum, take a look at our comprehensive Secular Homeschool Curriculum Guide. We’ve vetted the best of the market to bring you detailed description for…
- online courses
- virtual schools
- Material for grades pre-k through high school
- curriculum for every type of learner (including exceptional kids)
- options for every budget.
For more reading on homeschooling vs public school:
- What is Alternative Education? 4 Options for Your Child
- How to Make Homeschool Fun: 50+ Ideas for Every Age!
- Learn from Apps- The Best of EdTech
- Your Guide to Homeschooling a Special Needs Child
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.