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Homeschooling vs School: The Differences in What Students Learn

At Home, Parents Can Tailor the Curriculum to Each Child

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Homeschooling doesn't just take place in a different location. It allows parents to try different methods of teaching. And it lets allows parents -- and children -- to choose what to cover.

Unlike a classroom teacher who must present the same curriculum to 30 randomly-assembled students at a time, homeschoolers have the flexibility to decide on their own topics. As states start to sign on to the Common Core State Standards, public school teachers will have less and less say in what they teach. The range of topics they will be able to cover may narrow.

By contrast, here are a few of the ways homeschooling gives families flexibility in what kids learn, based on their own needs and interests:

1. Families can seek out the best resources.

library crafts
Image: Kathy Ceceri
At a time of tight school budgets, updating old textbooks or keeping up with the latest consumer technology can be impossible. Homeschoolers are free to use other kinds of learning tools. And they can can take advantage of the newest information and equipment at home, in museums and libraries, and in enrichment classes and at local colleges.

2. Testing is not the final goal.

"Accountability" has long been a buzzword in education circles. That often means schools have to focus on homework and test scores. But there's a lot more to learning than regurgitating testable facts. Homeschoolers are free to explore and to demonstrate their mastery in multiple ways. This encourages them to become more nimble and creative thinkers.

3. Parents can set standards for each child.

Schools must serve the whole population. As a result, teachers often aim at achievers in the middle. Homeschooling lets you take each individual child's ability into account, and set goals accordingly. Bright kids are challenged, and slower kids are not left behind.

4. Learning can incorporate the arts and sciences.

In public schools today reading and math are crowding out all the other kinds of learning. Things like making art or doing and hands-on science experiments are included as an afterthought, if at all. Homeschoolers can spend more time on art, science and any other subject they feel is important to them and to their children,

5. Lessons can go off-course.

When schools have a curriculum to follow -- and especially when high-stakes tests are involved -- deviating from the lesson even a little can be difficult. That means classroom teachers may not have the time to cover other important issues that come up in discussion. Homeschooling lets you decide what to cover and when, and change it when it makes sense.

6. Writing becomes personal.

School kids learn to master the perfect Five Paragraph Essay. Homeschoolers can go beyond that narrow format and help their kids learn to write more meaningful essays. When students practice writing for communication, entertainment, and personal expression, they build a useful skill they can use throughout their lives.
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