There are countries around the world where people are allowed to choose an alternative to the traditional educational system for their children. This includes the concept of homeschooling. The country perhaps best known for this is the USA. And here, it seems that colleges are quite eager to accept homeschoolers. In fact, some of the best schools in the US are very much seeking students of such educational backgrounds.
Europe has a few nations which allow homeschooling, although the rules surrounding it can be quite strict. Moreover, in some places in Europe, such as Germany, homeschooling is illegal. Apparently, “it isn't just discouraged, it is punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment” and children can be taken away from their parents because of it.
It is, of course, important to properly educate children in order to ensure that they will be able to become not only productive members of society but also make a secure financial future for themselves. And it is understandable that some concerns would be raised by the idea of providing education by means of untrained, perhaps uncertified tutors and with no supervision from an accredited educational institution. However, as long as the child is required to take and pass state exams, one can be assured that the quality of education children across the country receive is uniform.
In the US children can homeschool until high school after which they apply to college. According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), “homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.” Also, they are “increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.”
Still, one might wonder about socialization issues and how the children might cope in future work environments. However, homeschooling does not mean the complete isolation of a child, it simply means a non-traditional educational environment. That is, parents and tutors can get together with many other homeschooling families and recreate the atmosphere of a classroom, only one tailored to their specific needs. Children spend time with friends, colleagues, play sports, engage in different types of research and group activities. They are far from isolated. Also, as NHERI has found “the home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.” Moreover, “homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.”
Some might ask why it would be necessary for this choice to exist in the first place. Is not the school system meant for all and constantly working to improve itself? Indeed, there are strides being made for improvement. Unfortunately, one cannot say that the school system is meant for all. That is, one cannot claim that all those who go to a school outside the home will come out of the experience all the better for it. Complications arise when children have certain needs with which schools are not equipped to deal. Some pupils might have a different style of learning than that which the school teaches and have a hard time grasping concepts as they are inflexibly explained. Others might have abilities which go far beyond what the system might be able to cater for and as such, they might be slowed down by under stimulation and misunderstandings or be sent to an alternative system which would overwork them in order to get the most out of their abilities. It can be hard to find a balance.
And what about those children who need an environment for learning which is hard to come by in nowadays schools, such as children with dyslexia? This is a name for a broad spectrum of characteristics which set children and the traditional school system at odds with one another. That is, it is a different wiring of the brain which can cause problems with reading, memory, coordination, math, phonetics, grammar, spelling and so on. It can encompass all of the above issues, a few of them or more than the ones presented. Among the children of the world who had dyslexia and had a hard time in school because of it, a few might be known to the reader: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, Winston Churchill, Hans Christian Anderson, Tom Cruise, Salma Hayek, Anthony Hopkins, Thalia Mottola, and the list goes on.
Now, one might argue that since there are so many famous characters who have made it through and managed to live up to their potential, there is no need for special attention to be given them by an alternative school choice. Levinson Center for Learning Disabilities puts things into perspective, however: “Many with dyslexia and related learning and attention disorders realize quite early that they are not like their peers. Their learning and coordination, or klutzy difficulties, often lead to impaired self-esteem, ridicule, being bullied and even bullying. They often feel dumb, depressed, and isolated. As a result, one can sadly wonder just how many gifted and creative dyslexics have been blocked from fulfilling their genetic destinies and potential. All too often, learning-disabled children grow up to be underemployed adults, shunted into routine, dead-end occupations for life. Some have difficulties maintaining families and raising children properly. Many drift into drugs and alcohol […] even crime. Their loss and cost to society [are] incalculable. And tragically, this staggering loss was, and is, preventable!”. And this is not the problem of a few special cases. Dyslexia International’s report states “Dyslexia occurs in at least one in 10 people, putting more than 700 million children and adults worldwide at risk of life-long illiteracy and social exclusion.” How many Einsteins and Faradays might have fallen through the cracks of traditional education?
This is just one example of the pressing need for Europe and the rest of the world to recognize that in order to actively pursue societal progress by raising balanced and productive individuals, it needs to provide choices for families to raise their children properly and un-traumatically. It is understandable that the state should want to have an educated populace, and so it can and should ask for a certain level of education to be obligatory. However, when it comes to the path taken to reach that particular level of education, the prevailing description of it should be “freedom to choose”.
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