Homeschool vs public school pros and cons have divided the nation, locally and nationally, for generations. Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Homeschool vs Public School: A Brief History
Homeschool vs public school pros and cons are a deeply diving subject locally and nationally. Before comparing their advantages and disadvantages, let’s review the history of education in America.
In colonial America, schooling was typically informal, often centered on studying the Bible and Puritan morals at home. As the population grew, states handled education in varied ways, Encyclopedia Britannica notes. Some offered publicly funded primary school, while others took no responsibility for education. By the mid-19th century, the “common school” concept — spearheaded by Horace Mann and Massachusetts reformers — spread nationwide. The movement asserted that America needed schools to instill “nonsectarian Christian moral values” and educate all citizens to participate in democracy.
Massachusetts passed the first compulsory education law in 1852. By 1918, every state had a similar mandate on the books, Boston Magazine notes.
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, these laws effectively outlawed homeschooling. However, a modern homeschool movement sprouted in the 1970s — fueled by both counter-culture liberals and conservative Christians.
Still, just 3.3 percent of American school-age children were homeschooled in 2016 — up from 1.7 percent in 1999. However, current homeschooling interest is surging as families contend with the coronavirus pandemic.
Homeschool Pros and Cons
Now, let’s examine homeschool vs public school pros and cons, starting with homeschooling.
The most popular benefit of homeschooling over public schooling is that parents maintain greater control over the learning environment. According to recent data from the US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “Concern about the environment of other schools, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure” is parents’ top reason for homeschooling.
Homeschool parents also wield greater control over the curriculum. While most states mandate minimum requirements, homeschooling parents and tutors can provide individualized lessons designed around their children’s current interests and learning styles. Unlike public schools, they’re free to advocate religious teachings through lessons.
Similarly, homeschool parents can design a learning schedule that fits their families’ unique lifestyles, rather than adhere to strict public school calendars.
However, isolation is a common concern for homeschooling families. While many communities offer social programs for homeschool students, they can still feel disconnected from the majority of children attending local public schools.
While homeschooling can help build stronger familial bonds, extended family time can also overwhelm parents and children.
Public School Pros and Cons
First, public school helps families forge stronger connections within local communities. Students enjoy increased social interaction in the classroom, and public schools typically host community-wide social activities each year.
Similarly, public school gives parents and guardians affordable childcare support. Working and stay-at-home parents benefit from hours of daily child-free time.
Additionally, public school is cheaper than homeschooling. There are no tuition fees for attendance, and materials are supplied through tax dollars. While homeowners must pay school taxes and many institutions encourage participation in fundraisers, public school still saves families money.
Compared to homeschool, public school has disadvantages as well. The top concern: public school safety. According to recent national data, multiple-victim youth homicides in schools have increased since 2009. Additionally, 80 percent of public schools reported incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes during the 2017-18 school year.
Budget restraints can also lead to large class sizes, poor facilities, and frustrated teachers, which negatively impact the educational environment.
Lastly, public school parents enjoy far less control over the curriculum and academic schedule. Public schools follow strict academic calendars and teaching requirements. At times, communities do accept input from parents, but community processes can be divisive and challenging to navigate.
Homeschool vs Public School Pros and Cons: What Both Sides Say
With homeschool vs public school pros and cons now established, let’s explore reigning perspectives across the political spectrum.
Traditionally, homeschool is more popular among conservative Christians. “[Seventy] percent of homeschool families identified as conservative in 2016,” reports professor and author Heath Brown, PhD. The NHERI notes that Dr. Raymond Moore shepherded millions of “disaffected evangelical Christians” toward the homeschool movement in the 1970s. However, “the father of the modern homeschool movement” was John Holt, a left-leaning advocate of greater individual autonomy in children’s education.
Today, Republican states tend to mandate fewer homeschool requirements than Democratic states. However, a concern for child-led learning persists among left-leaning parents. Liberal news outlets like Quartz warn that American schooling was originally designed to create “docile, agreeable” factory workers. While national data indicates that the majority of homeschool families are white and Hispanic living in suburbs, towns, and rural areas, some urban black parents report homeschooling given concerns about systematic racism in classrooms.
Additionally, recent interest in homeschooling surged across the political spectrum as parents grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. An influx of parents reported a commitment to homeschooling in 2021 after months of supporting online distance learning from home.