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Can Homeschooling Survive 21st Century Education Trends?

Homeschooling may look great by the performance numbers – but does it align well with 21st Century classroom education trends?

There’s a flood of support for homeschooling across the United States and Canada. It saves tax payer dollars (kind of), kids are less distracted and able to concentrate more on learning and therefore perform better, learning needs can be easily assessed and lesson planning adjusted accordingly – these are just some of the supposed benefits of a system that, at it’s core, is tailored to an individual learning process, not a social learning process.

But how does an individual learning process through a strategy like homeschooling stack up to 21st Century classroom learning? Is the technologically-enabled classroom (or school, for that matter) of the future finally able to offer students a proper, cost-effective education that increases performance and manages distractions all while maintaining the vibrant, social environment that is the quintessential dynamic of schools?

Doubtlessly, the argument boils down to two core ideas that shape a parent’s perspectives on learning. The first: that what their child needs to learn can only (we use that word loosely) be acquired from on high; by a trained educator who can look at their child and know how engage and educate them in a way that maximizes their potential. The second: that learning in a school environment of any size will ‘teach’ their child something essential – something that isn’t a part of a curriculum or school activity.

However we define that essential experience of the school learning environment, one thing is certain: modern learning technology – particularly technology that places schools online – is affecting that environment substantially. And it hasn’t even been around for that long.

We here at SharpSchool have two key questions to consider for anyone who is invested in either classroom or homeschooling techniques in the 21st Century. Since our experience lies with the classroom environment, our questions naturally stem from this perspective.

1. How does the home school teacher-student dynamic get applied in an online space? How does that affect student learning?

Schools that recognize the value of the Internet as a learning tool but also recognize its threats are already finding ways to bring the K-12 classroom learning experience in to a web space. So, if schools are learning how to do that, does the homeschooling world have a competitive equivalent?

2. If schools and classrooms can create their own communities on social media platforms, how can a home school student do the same? Is there even any point?

Using social media as anything more than a pointless web distraction for looking at cat pictures is a relatively new thought paradigm. In other words, people are starting to come around and recognize social media a valuable tool in many areas, including education. At the most rudimentary levels, school districts, schools and classrooms can create their own communities for sharing relevant content between community members. However, these spaces can evolve to become more complex due to the increasing number of apps that are being designed to work in massive social media platforms like Facebook. Fashioning a learning environment out of social media is a new challenge – and opportunity – for the classroom educational dynamic to pursue, potentially offering students in that environment a fantastic new way to learn and engage with each other. But, how relevant is this new phenomenon to home schooled students? Are they missing an opportunity here?

On the flip side of the issue, ongoing studies of homeschooling performance based on rudimentary evaluatives tied to standard curricula still show a generally higher level of ‘intelligence’ in home schooled kids. Take the infographic below as an example of this case. But we wonder how that kind of data may change as technological literacy becomes more and more important at the K-12 education level. One┬áthing is┬ácertain: the debate between homeschooling versus classroom education has entered a new era, and the priorities for each side’s benefits and drawbacks are sure to change.

2008-2009 Homeschooling Infographic (courtesy of The EdTech Times):

3 Comments

  1. pierce

    Your info graphic is very interesting and would suggest that homeschoolers have an unfair advantage in academic achievements. However, I wonder how it would look if you could overlay how those same high achievers continued to perform once they were in College. Does the absence of peer group interactions have an impact of their ability to cope later. Are there ‘soft skills’ being learnt in public and private schools that homeschoolers miss out on?

    • alex.m

      Thanks for your input, Pierce! Your questions more or less reflect ours, but from a post K-12 experience perspective. Since we’re highly invested in the K-12 sector (the comparable age to most homeschooling ‘institutions’), we’re curious about how those ‘soft skills,’ as you put it, are being shaped during that time. But, there’s no doubt that how those home schooled kids evolve after those years in college (and even professional) environments is a topic worth exploring in its own right – with it’s own infographic!

      On the subject of the infographic, I wanted to apologize for giving the impression that SharpSchool compiled that data and designed the graphic itself. We sourced this infographic from The EdTech Times and have added a credit to this post to reflect that.

      Thanks again for your input!

  2. Linda Merker

    Homeschooled kids are not living in a vacuum. They interact with people of all age groups, not only their age peers. There is a high value placed on kindness, diligence, and other character qualities that translate well into the working environment. The kind of artificial social environment created by schools is exactly what homeschooling parents are trying to avoid. Homeschoolers avoid bullying and negative peer pressure and thrive and learn in the company of a loving family. All six of my homeschool students have transitioned into adulthood and have jobs, spouses, and families of their own. The same is true for the students of our homeschooling friends as well.

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