Formal settings employ, by law, extensive testing of the child's abilities to determine preparedness for entering school, and in advancing the child through the levels of education (Craighead and Nemeroff (Eds.) 1455). Craighead and Nemeroff explain:
"School readiness is determined by assessing the developmental level of children in such areas as listening comprehension, visual perceptual and fine motor skills, expressive and receptive vocabulary, and experiential knowledge. Readiness in these varied areas is generally considered to be the necessary foundation upon which to base more diverse and complex learning skills . . . Those children who are relatively lacking in one or more of these areas are considered less ready and at risk unless some type of educational or family intervention is provided. Controlling for other factors, the chronologically older children from a higher socioeconomic background will typically achieve more during the initial school years. Depending on the ability and the resourcefulness of schools to acknowledge and adapt to the individual special needs of their students, the influence of these age and socioeconomic status differences in school readiness can be minimized (1455)."
This raises the question of by whom and how home schooled children are assessed in their readiness for beginning their education, and for progressing through the levels of educational training. Whether or not the parent has the ability to apply sound and technical judgment of their child's preparedness should be a major concern to educational authorities and to society at large. How is it possible to remove the parent factor, the emotional and psychological relationship between the parent as the homeschooler source of instruction and the child to adequately make the necessary assessments of the child's progress and preparedness for progress? The answer is that it would be virtually impossible to do that. As we look around us, we see examples in our everyday lives of the inability of parents to assess their child's emotional and mental well being, and, if they can do that, have the ability and resources to address the problems in ways that the child will benefit from. There is something to be said for the benefit of the independent assessor in assessing the child's skills, abilities, and progress.
Why Parents Choose Homeschooling
Far too often parents make the decision to homeschool their children for the wrong reasons. Their decision is oftentimes one arising out of emotional conflict: the child is not doing well in school, and rather than accept the professional assessment of the child's skills and abilities, parents react emotionally and opt to homeschool the child. They then remove the child from the formal setting, isolating the problem in the more intimate setting of the home where the child fails to thrive socially, academically, and emotionally. Ray E. Ballman, in his book supporting homeschooling, The How and Why of Home Schooling, says that the most common reason that Christian parents decide to homeschool their children is because the parents believe that it is God's will (183).
"They feel it is a return to a Biblical model of education. Secondly, parents are concerned about their child's spiritual, moral, social, and academic well being, and are cognizant of the public school tract record in this area (183)."
Ballman does not address the "why" of parents choosing homeschooling any further than that, which alarmingly frightening. It is recognizing the desire to isolate the child based on the most emotional factors of human experience: religious ideology. This is increasingly alarming given that the world is in a time and place when it is more important than ever to be understanding of the religious ideologies on a greater scale than oneself, and when those ideologies held in a compartmentalized fashion that does not allow for the tolerance or acceptance, nor express the confidence in ideology, as to allow other ideas and experiences to help form one's social development have indeed led us to tragedies like the events of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing eight years of war. To elect to homeschool based on religious affiliation or ideology, is rejection of the social reality in its worst manifestation. It also gives rise to concerns as to whether or not the home is psychologically stimulating enough to provide a full and diverse education when the child's education is being guided by strictly religious ideology.
Still other parents might not be emotionally or mentally prepared to deal with a child who has special needs, and cannot assimilate to the social setting of the school. Perhaps the child is a behavioral problem, combative, or not cooperative, or disruptive in the classroom setting. We have all heard these kinds of stories about how even though the teachers believed Albert Einstein to be learning disabled, he became one of the most well-known geniuses in the world. Unfortunately, not all children are geniuses on the level of Einstein, and these kinds of behaviors are often indicative of other underlying problems. Here, again, parents would be making emotional decisions to homeschool, as opposed to addressing the underlying issues that are at the root of the child's behavior or problems. They are reluctant to confront what might be their own problems that might be manifesting through the child's behavior in school.
Choices to homeschool a child based on denial of greater problems, parental problems, economic problems, drug and alcohol related problems are damaging to the child's overall well being. They are indications, too, that the child's homeschooling will be inadequate, and will not prepare the child for the role that each of us must take in society: working, abiding by society's laws, and developing social relationships free of bias and racism. In extreme instances, decisions to homeschool arising out of fanatical religious ideologies or extreme social alienation can be construed as child abuse, because it is preventing the child from the nurturing development to which each child is entitled by birth and by law.
It is important to acknowledge that not all endeavors at homeschooling are failures; they are merely the exceptions, and they are accomplished by exceptional parents. These would be instances where parents make the decision to homeschool their children based on academic goals for their children. In these instances, the parent must first make an assessment of their own abilities: do they possess the education and training that would allow them to provide a diverse course of instruction to the child; are they structured and organized in their own lives as parents, members of their communities, employees in their work, or business owners, or financially secure enough to take on the responsibilities of time and resources to devote to providing their child's education themselves? If, as many decide, they are, then it requires a self-discipline, patience, and an ability to draw the line between being a parent and being an educator to their child. These are perhaps the personal assessment a parent must make when deciding to become the homeschool teacher to their children.
On the academic level, they must be prepared to go through a daily process of organizing a curriculum for the child's education, and implementing the curriculum in accordance with their state's standards for education. They must be prepared for to deal with their child's progress, or lack thereof, in a professional and constructive way of identifying the problems in the child's learning process, and working through the problems to the child's success in overcoming those learning problems. It means keeping abreast of what is new in educational materials, the use of those materials, and it is a constant process of self-learning and education in order to be able to impart that knowledge to their child. It is a sacrifice of personal time, social engagements, and other life interests in order to pursue that which benefits the most important person in their life: their child. It is a balance that few parents are equipped or socially or economically prepared to achieve; but it can be done.
The parent who is committed to providing a more intimate and a more focused academic experience to their child might find that the best way to achieve that is to bring in a tutor or home teacher professional. This gives the parent the opportunity to examine the educator's credentials from a personal interview and a review of the educator's resume to determine of the person is the right fit for their child and the goals they have for their child academically. There is, of course, a cost associated with hiring a home teacher, because they make their living this way and it would be reasonable to believe that the home teacher would be seeking a financial arrangement that would be equal to or even greater than that which they would receive in the institutional setting. The benefits, however, would be numerous: the teacher is a professional and is prepared to work with the child in a way reflective of the state's teaching standards on a one-on-one basis with the child. They are…