Several arguments exist on the effectiveness of homeschooling versus the conventional means of educating children. The debate has gone on for a long time, and there are many still, who refute the credibility of children who were educated at home. However, upon my own personal research, I have come across some articles both on child development and homeschooling itself that have convinced me to take the side of those who wish to educate their children either by themselves or by employing private tutors or teachers.
It is understood that all decisions and actions parents must make and take should be for the welfare and betterment of their children. It is and should be the core objective of every parent to provide for the basic needs of the child; to protect the child from harmful influence; and, to educate the child on the ways of the world and prepare him/her for the trials that await him/her in the future. Needless to say, it is the parental guidance that is most necessary in the growth and development of a child. Psychological studies through the years have also revealed the important role of so many other factors in child development.
Several theories of ‘nurture’ versus ‘nature’ have sprouted and whichever one is more accurate—although it is also accepted that both are supplement each other—are still under debate. As taken from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2007): The interactive influences of genes and experience literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and the active ingredient is the serve and return nature of children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community (p. 1 and 6).
In this paper, however, we do not encroach on the subject of ‘nature’ being an active determinant of child development, but merely focus on the multi-faceted aspect of ‘nurture’. One psychoanalyst by the name of Erik Erikson proposed that child development occurred in what he called the eight psychosocial stages, which was anchored on the role of social influences within the family (Thompson, 2007). He stipulated that from infancy, certain aspects of the child’s immediate environment and his/her experiences within it must satisfy specific needs or psycho-emotive issues for the child to grow fulfilled.
The stages are named according to those issues: 1. ) trust vs. mistrust; 2. ) autonomy vs. doubt; 3. ) initiative vs. guilt; 4. ) industry vs. inferiority; 5. ) identity vs. role confusion; 6. ) intimacy vs. isolation; 7. ) generativity vs. self-absorption; and, 8. ) integrity vs. despair. For the purpose of our discussion we shall limit ourselves to the first five stages, which encompass infancy, childhood, and adolescence, the so-called formative years as they determine the kind of person the child ultimately becomes.
Throughout these years, parental control and guidance are the most crucial factors to the child’s development. For the first stage (0-1 years old), where the issues of trust and mistrust must be resolved, interaction of the infant with the parents is highly important—adequate demonstration of love, care and affection is necessary for the child to develop a sense of trust. Without these, the child may become suspicious and unable to trust anyone.
As for the second stage—from 1-3 years of age, the child must be given the chance to experience independence and exploration of the world on his/her own must be encouraged in order for the child to develop a certain amount of parental autonomy, otherwise the child could grow up feeling inadequate or doubtful about his/her own self in the context of doing something alone. At 3-5 years, reinforcement from the parents is necessary in promoting purpose- and goal-directiveness of the child.
Following this, at ages 6-11 years, the child must then be given a chance to manipulate things and learn how they function, for him/her to grasp a sense of organization and a systematized understanding of the environment, and develop industriousness. Parents and immediate adults must be supportive of the child, and not see this heightened curiosity of the environment as a silly or mischievous behavior because this could result to the development of a sense of inferiority.
Lastly, during the period of adolescence, the parents and closely related adults must be able to assist the child in constructing a personal identity, a so-called ‘place in the world’ or sense of belongingness, for him/her not to harbor feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and become fickle-minded. These propositions by Erikson obviously suggest that it is in the early years of the child that he/she is very impressionable, which in turn suggests the fragility of his/her psychological faculties.
It is then important for the child to be under close monitoring and supervision by the parents, given that the parents are willing, and fit for the role. Homeschooling as opposed to other means of educating children then has the advantage in this context because not only will the parent be able to guide the child step by step, he/she will be able to filter the sort of materials that the child has access to.
One study was done by the American Psychological Association (2007) with the objective of determining whether school-entry skills (meaning skills developed by the children during preschool) were related to later achievement in school, which reinforces Erikson’s concept of the importance on giving focus to the child’s early development. The results were that early skills indeed predicted later achievement, meaning that if a child effectively learned necessary skills at an early age, it could be predicted that he/she would perform well later on.
If parents are competent at educating their child and dedicated in so doing, then it may be guaranteed that the child will become academically successful. The authors also stipulated that if factors which interfere with attention skills and socioemotional behavior are inefficiently regulated by the teachers, lower achievement may result (APA, 2007, p. 1443).
Hence, it is likely for a child to achieve less than he/she could at optimal conditions in situations such as the public school where one classroom possibly containing at most thirty students of varying behaviors are supposedly regulated by one teacher; rearing and regulating the behaviors of one child is a challenge, all the more for a bunch or so. Also, they may not be able to give adequate attention to the performance of each student, nor provide necessary tools for conducive learning because these are simply not at their immediate disposal, and necessitate approval from the higher officials of the school.
On the other hand, because homeschooling is done within the confines of the home and under close supervision of the parent/s, those factors are not a problem to be considered. The child is able to focus more effectively, and possibly be given a conducive learning environment because the parents have the necessary materials and funds at the ready because it is their natural moral obligation to do secure them. In addition, the parents are also at a liberty to either be exclusive about teaching their children, teach them from a particular perspective (i. e. religious), or to seek the advice of members of the educational system, and/or choose their own curriculum: public schools have been giving at least minimum support for homeschoolers either by allowing them to attend selected classes, directing the ‘class schedule’ (when the child is to take a test, and what sort of tests) and/or lending parents materials for teaching (Lines, P. , 2000, p. 160). As for adolescents, a study by Rose, et al (2007) on co-rumination or excessive discussion of problems with peers had trade-offs, in spite ensuring quality friendships.
For both boys and girls, co-rumination was found to result to positively increase friendship; however, in girls, the development of this strong friendship led them to manifest increased depression and anxiety, which implies that girls are in danger of developing problems with internalizing, dependent as they are on their supportive friendships (p. 1029). This suggests that friendships do have their disadvantages, such as making the child revert back to a dependent stage that by this time should have been surpassed, recalling that independence must be ingrained at 1-3 years of age.
Although it may seem natural for an adolescent to be incompletely independent of his/her parents and peers, the point is that friendships do not necessarily lead to positive attitudes and outlooks towards life; it is possible that the children are strongly bound only by a common negative influence on their lives such as drugs, etc… An article by the Federal Debt Relief System (2007) aggressively advocates homeschooling over other schools, public schools most notably, as these have been purported— and proven several times, to be the haven for drug-dealing, and general violence.
Peer pressure is the major factor behind drug use and later on abuse; and because there are children that attend to public schools belong to problematic families, these children bring their anger and bitterness to school, causing strife. Indeed forming outside friendships are important; a child cannot be delimited to having relationships only with parents, close relatives and the adults at home—that much is unhealthy, and to an extent, socially impairing.
The child is at risk of becoming too attached and dependent, and unable to ultimately leave the comforts of home. However in recognizing this and giving the child the opportunity to socialize beyond homeschooling hours, or in other words allowing him/her an amount of social autonomy, those worries are immediately eliminated. A homeschooled child, “cooped up” at home, is not at risk for the inability to socialize given that parents are not overly restrictive.
One study by Koehler et al () reports that homeschooled children demonstrate above average social skills. Another study by Smedley (1992) also found similar results, saying that “home educated children are more mature and socialized than those sent to school” (cited in Koehler et al,). Lastly, results of homeschooling in the academic context—in other words, the success rate of homeschooling in terms of exams such as the SATs are more successful than those of public schools, and are at par with those of private schools (Basham, et al, 2007, p. 13).
These researches strongly suggest that in considering the salient facets of the ‘nurture’ aspect of child development—parental guidance and control, social exposure or peer influence—homeschooling has a clear advantage over other forms of education.
Basham, P. , Merrifield, J. , Hepburn, C. (2007, October). Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream. 2nd ed. Studies in Education Policy. The Fraser Institute. pp. 1-24. Federal Debt Relief System (2007). Our Take on Home Schooling vs Public Schools. Retrieved August 10, 2008 from http://www. fdrs. org/home_schooling_vs_public_schools. html