Homeschool Vs. Public School (An Honest, Real Life Comparison)

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There are all sorts of arguments for and against homeschooling and public schooling, but these are my family’s real life experiences with both and how we compare the two side by side. A little background about my family first: Both my husband and I grew up in the public education system so that was all we knew when we started raising our children. We also move around because of my husband’s job, and so my children experienced multiple schools in multiple states, as well as in two countries outside of the U.S. (Canada and Peru). You can read our story about how we became a homeschooling family, here.

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Mornings and sick days

Public school mornings-

  1. Wake up at a specific time, whether or not child had enough sleep.
  2. Get dressed and eat a quick breakfast. Often times, my child wasn’t hungry yet so I’d send them with a granola bar and apple and hoped they could sneak it in.
  3. During winter or on chilly days, bundle up with outside clothing such as jackets/coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots, etc.
  4. Head out the door with backpacks, lunches, homework, text books, parent-signed papers, etc.
  5. Walk or mom drives or catch bus to school (depending on where we lived and the weather).
  6. Depending on the school, go straight inside and to locker or classroom OR wait in the school yard (regardless of weather) for the bell to ring, before lining up, and filing into the building one class at a time. Parents are permitted inside (it is a public building), but I always felt unwelcome by the staff unless I was there to parent-volunteer. Once I accompanied my 6-year old son into his school to help him remove his bulky snow suit. A teacher saw me and questioned why I was there before informing me that my son was old enough to take care of himself. (This made me realize how many times teachers and staff talked down to me, the parent.)

If a child wakes up not feeling well:

  1. Evaluate child. If it’s just a cold or allergies or a slight tummy ache or headache, tough luck! Send the child to school with the assurance that they can always call home if it worsens (and the teacher/staff allow it). If the symptoms are a fever or throwing up, the child must stay home, but an immediate call to the school is warranted or else I was sure to hear from the school later, chastising me for not informing them right away.
  2. Call the school and excuse the child’s absence. (As an introvert, this was always a stress-inducing phone call!)
  3. Get missed school work from teacher(s) so your child can stay caught up.

Homeschooling mornings-

  1. Wake up naturally, when child has enough sleep.
  2. Get dressed if going somewhere (or just because it’s daytime) OR stay in pajamas a while longer because pajamas are comfy!
  3. Eat a leisurely breakfast when child is actually hungry and enjoy it together.
  4. Um… the choices here are limitless. Go outside and play or for a walk/bike ride together. Or snuggle up and read a fun story together. Or go to a co-op class that is only twice a week. Or make a craft. Or help Mom with some housework. Or start right into lessons. OR…

If a child is sick:

  • There is no one to call (unless it’s a doctor). No absence(s) to excuse. No missed schoolwork to stress over. Snuggle up to your child and relax!

My family’s conclusion- While we found ways to simplify the morning routine when my kids were in public school (laying out clothes and making lunches the night before, for example), nothing beats the easy-going, natural mornings we spend together at home. And when my child is sick, there is no added stress or anxiety. 🙂

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Following a school calendar and rules

Public school- 

  • School days and hours are set in stone.
  • School policy and rules are set in stone.
  • Family vacations require notifying school in advance, often require every teacher’s permission, and are limited to a set amount of days per school year. They also require catch up/make up work when child returns home (or taking school work with them to stay caught up).
  • All absences must be excused by the parent within a certain time frame, with a valid excuse (which is up to the school to decide whether or not to accept). There is a set amount of allowed absences per school year. Unexcused absences may mean a penalty such as a parent fine or even a parent spending time in jail!
  • The school has the right to discipline your child for any reason.
  • During school hours, the school has more rights to your child than you, the parent.

Homeschooling-

  • In the states in which we’ve homeschooled, we have been able to set our own school days and hours.
  • No absences to excuse or make up.
  • Family vacations may be anytime and for any length without anyone’s permission.
  • Your child is yours.

My family’s conclusion- We love the flexibility and freedom that homeschooling gives us. We are on our own time schedule and calendar which is really nice. We can vacation anytime of the year without guilt or worry. 🙂

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Socialization skills and peer interaction

Public school-

  • Each of my kids made some good friends at school. Contact with these friends was limited to between classes, recess (for elementary years) and lunch (if they shared the same lunch period). True friendships were nurtured outside of school hours.
  • My daughter’s middle school class were her only peers the entire year due to the class moving as one unit from teacher to teacher, as well as having lunch together, instead of each student having a separate schedule. This was what led us to pull her out of middle school. My daughter wasn’t accepted into any of the social circles no matter how hard she tried to fit in.
  • Each of my kids were bullied multiple times. Once, when my daughter’s situation became bad enough that it went to the vice principal, she (the victim) was required to apologize to her bully and that was that!
  • My kids always heard profanity in the hallways.
  • My kids often saw inappropriate, even disturbing behavior by other kids. Once, my daughter and her friends were exposed to full frontal nudity by a teenage boy who was mad at his girlfriend. (He was never disciplined.)
  • My daughter was exposed to drug fumes in her high school locker room during a lock down, and drug invitations were issued frequently on the bus.
  •  There was a designated smoking area for students in the front of the high school.
  • My kids learned how to stand in line and wait their turn. They also learned how to take instruction from different teachers. They were given responsibilities and given rules to follow.

Homeschooling-

  • Each of my kids have made good friends at church, in the neighborhood, at cub/boy scouts, in co-op classes, playing team sports, taking dance lessons, etc. These activities give more time for peer interaction since they take place outside of school hours.
  • At home there is no profanity, no drugs/alcohol, no immoral behavior, no immodesty, and no bullying. Of course, there is typical family behavior, such as occasional sibling rivalry and squabbling!
  • In real world settings, such as the grocery store, library, and playing with neighbor kids, my kids learned how to stand in lines, share and wait their turn. At home they are taught and practice good manners, how to be a true friend, as well as how to take care of their belongings and help care for our home.
  • At home my kids are free to be their authentic selves.

My family’s conclusion- We found that most friendships develop outside of school hours when there is actually TIME for children to freely interact and socialize. We found that all positive social skills are first learned and practiced at home. 🙂 We found the public school environment to be worldly, often lacking the moral standards and values we embrace at home.

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Quality of education

Public schooling-

  • Only secular knowledge is taught and God is not allowed.
  • Children are grouped by age and ability. Class sizes are large and teaching is aimed at the average student. My son who read at a college level in elementary was often bored and unchallenged. My daughter who caught onto concepts slowly, often struggled to stay caught up.
  • The curriculum and teaching methods are one-size-fits-all. Parents have little to no say in what is taught. Sometimes a parent may opt their child out of questionable subject matter (such as sex ed which is only taught from a worldly point of view), but sometimes they aren’t even made aware as was our case with my daughter who learned everything in sex ed EXCEPT abstinence.
  • Individual abilities and skills are usually not taken into account. My friend recently shared a true experience where her son in elementary school was not allowed to present his report memorized (as he had prepared) in order to keep all students “equal”.
  • Teaching mostly takes place in an uninspiring classroom setting in the form of lectures. Children must get their teacher’s permission to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Field trips are few and limited.
  • No child enjoys standardized testing. Most homework is unnecessary and only cuts into precious family time after an already long 6-8 hour school day.
  • My kids had some wonderful teachers, many average teachers and some bad teachers.

Homeschooling-

  • Both secular and spiritual knowledge is taught in our home because we believe that both make up a whole education. God is welcome. Prayers are said. Scriptures read.
  • Children learn together regardless of ages and abilities. Children can learn at their own pace and really nail a subject (such as a math concept) before moving on.
  • Children get one-on-one attention and learn in a variety of ways, including their preferred learning style. Parents can tailor the learning to their child’s individual needs.
  • Parents have full say in the curriculum and subjects taught (what and when). Subjects, such as sex ed can be taught with our family values in mind.
  • Children may choose which subjects to research. When they are personally interested in the subjects, they retain more of what they study. Children also have more freedom with the books they read.
  • The home and outside world make up the learning environment, making for more hands-on, creative learning. Fidgety children can stand and move around as they wish. They may use the bathroom and get drinks and snacks freely. Lots of field trips can take place.
  • The parent is always aware of how their child is doing, so testing is only done periodically and only on the actual subjects taught/learned. In the states we’ve homeschooled, my children were not required to waste their time taking the standardized testing. There is no homework and daily subjects are covered in two to three hours instead of six to eight.
  • The teacher (mom and/or dad) is fully invested in the child’s education and no teacher will love their student more. At church and in co-op classes, plus outside lessons (piano, dance, soccer, etc.) children are exposed to other teachers.

My family’s conclusion- We appreciate having the full say in what and how our children learn. We love learning in a spiritually safe environment. We love spending our days together. Childhood is fleeting and I only get eighteen short years, if I’m lucky, with each child before they are grown up and leave home. 🙂 Sending them to public school feels as if I’m throwing them to the lions while missing out on too much of their childhood.

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End conclusion- These experiences came from ten different public schools within three different states, plus Canada, and from seven+ years of homeschooling. While there are pros and cons to both public education and homeschooling, for my family we can honestly say that homeschooling has more benefits and serves our family better than the public school system. For us, it is a superior choice for educating our children. Also, my daughter, who was homeschooled in her high school years is doing extremely well at her university. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Homeschool Vs. Public School (An Honest, Real Life Comparison)

  1. I completely agree with you! it’s so nice for kids to get to experience freedom 🙂 it’s sad because i have met a lot of parents who said they couldn’t do it because they feel they are not “clever enough to teach their kids”. THat’s so sad because I don’t believe school teachers know everything they teach… they research their subjects before presenting them. I feel there is nothing wrong in saying to my kid:”I don’t know, let’s look into it!” and then I get to learn something too! 🙂 some people imagine that we have to replace school and be a teacher all day long… they don’t realise how simple, natural, and laid back it can be… homeschooling is only stressful is we make it stressful, but it can also be such a fun ride! 🙂 personally I feel so blessed to be able to homeschool my son and watch him grow as we spend all our days together 🙂 I wouldn’t change that for anything! like you said, i I was to send him to school I would feel like I’m throwing him to the lions indeed! he is so innocent compared to the school kids of his age…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for your insightful comment, Noemie. I’m glad there are other parents out there who think of homeschooling as a blessing. Parents are their child’s first teachers, after all. And learning really is a natural process. I love learning all over again alongside my kids.

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  3. Great article! My oldest daughter only went to Kindergarten in Public school but by Christmas of that year, I was already looking into homeschooling due to the many reasons you listed above. We have gone through ups and downs of having us all in one space all day, with frequent sibling arguments, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hideaway Farm

    Great article! We are not religious, but all the other stuff applies to our family, too. You especially nailed it on the socialization issue, which homeschoolers often get called out for. In reality, the social environment in school is really abnormal, with its peer segregation and really low adult:child ratios (which I think is responsible for bullying behaviours). With so many children these days suffering from stress and anxiety, homeschooling allows for tons of the unstructured free time that kids need as well as removing SO much stress from their lives.

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  5. Amy

    Whilst you are clearly entitled to your opinion, I feel that you have been unable to fairly judge the state schools having been to so many – I realise there were unavoidable reasons for this but it doesn’t make for a fair assessment. One of my major concerns with your article is that you suggest a lack of formal structure is beneficial and, indeed, a better way to educate. However, what happens in (dare I say this) the real world? The workplace will require times, structure and you can’t just have a lazy pj day just because you didn’t sleep well /don’t feel well.
    I’m truly sorry that you have personally had bad experience with state education; however, I feel that your article, whilst suggesting it is unbiased, is anything but unbiased.

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  6. Amy, thank you for your comment. I liken our moving around to how studies are conducted. In studies, more than one sampling or person is observed and comparisons made. Our moving around showed us first hand that the majority of government schools function the same, with the same results. I did say these were “our family’s conclusions” and that “for us” homeschooling is more beneficial and desired, based on years of our actual experiences with both public and home education. As for your concern about structure, homeschool children often participate in team sports, co-op classes, church meetings, youth activities, scouts, online classes, etc. and these are all things with set times and days and expectations. If you could meet my two homeschool graduates, you would see they are living successful, independent college lives and holding part time jobs. They believe they adjusted easier to college because of the flexibility and self-regulation which their homeschool years gave them. To quote a friend, “school is a replication of the real world while homeschooling happens in the real world.” I think of my husband’s job. He does not have to raise his hand to use the bathroom, even in a meeting. He does not stand in line at work. He does not work with solely men and women within a year of his age who all live within the same neighborhood. Although he does need his boss’ approval at times, most of the time he “runs with” whatever task he is given and it is the outcome that matters, rather than how he got there. 🙂

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