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Why does homeschooling work? Specifically, what could traditional schools — public and private — learn from homeschoolers?
This is a neglected debate. Many traditional educators, of course, feel threatened by homeschooling or reject my premise that it works; certainly they aren’t looking to learn from uncredentialed parents. And once homeschoolers find what works for them, they tend not to look back in the opposite direction.
Even education reformers favorable to homeschooling — who should be interested in this topic — never seem to ask this question (if they have, they’ve sure been quiet about it). They would probably give you some broad answers why homeschooling works: homeschooling parents tend to be well-educated, stable, and involved; they can give plenty of one-on-one attention; they’ve freedom to customize freely, without having to overcome bureaucratic inertia; they aren’t as subject to behavioral distractions; etc.
This is all true, and I wouldn’t suggest we can simply import a few things and replicate homeschooling’s success in traditional school systems. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing for traditional schools to learn, and I believe we could find some unexpected things that could apply to public debates about how to teach children, including some that could shake common assumptions.
In education, as in any other field, there’s a need to innovate and experiment, a need to challenge assumptions and try out what works. Public schools are bound by bureaucracy and politics, and private schools often have to contend with tradition and cultural assumptions. Homeschoolers have — and use — a unique flexibility: it’s the one segment of education where innovation and experimentation flourish. People who want to make a difference in schooling should research how homeschoolers use it. In searching out things that work for themselves, it’s likely that many homeschoolers simply find things that work, full stop.
Some of these ideas might be broadly applicable, but there are probably more that would benefit only certain populations or be practical only in some situations. There are old things the public schools have forgotten or rejected, and new, 21st century things that they’ve lacked the flexibility or imagination to put to innovative use. There’s undoubtedly some low-hanging fruit, but also, perhaps, some things outside the box that are less obvious.
We have some homeschool parents here, and some teachers, and some people who are simply informed and smart. What are some things you’ve seen in homeschooling, big or small, that might also work in traditional education?