Homeschooling vs. Public School . . . Success Or Failure?

As a librarian for the past 33 years, I have had the opportunity to help families who made the decision to homeschool their children. The kids and their parents often come to the library to seek out information on various subjects and check out books. Today however, with information readily available via Internet, they mostly show up to check out books to read for entertainment. I have seen the results of homeschooling . . . some good and some not so good.

At one time, public school attendance was mandatory; however over time homeschooling became an alternative to traditional education. Millions of children are homeschooled today. Parents cite a variety of reasons. Some just do not like changes that have been made in public education, including wokeness and indoctrination of beliefs. They believe their children can attain higher academic achievement levels at home, and they can also include religious teachings. Many dislike the negative social influence of certain peer groups in public schools and are also concerned about safety issues, especially in those schools in larger cities. Many also believe their children should proceed at their own pace and have a flexible schedule, while also forming a strong family bond. Of course, the COVID pandemic became a factor, with some families still worried about health concerns. Even though the parent (usually the mother) loses her free time . . . or has to give up a job she enjoys, with the family still paying taxes for local schools without receiving any benefits for their money, most think it’s worth it.

I have observed varying results. The first time I was involved with a homeschooling family was in the early 1990s. The mother, who was very religious, brought her two kids to the library each month to check out books, and they used our encyclopedias to write reports. The children were quiet and polite, but as they grew older, I sensed that they did not seem happy. By the time they were teenagers, both had changed drastically . . . seeking out the “wild life” . . . hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and using drugs. As adults, both ended up in jail . . . the girl several times.

In one family the homeschooled girls were never allowed to date, and after graduating, instead of attending college as their controlling mother had planned, fell in “love” with the first boys they met, were married and had kids. I believe they were anxious to leave home any way they could. Several years ago, another mother homeschooled her son. He was very well-mannered, polite, and intelligent. However, he had no social skills. When the boy turned 18, he just had no clue about real life or how to converse with others his age. His mother had “protected” him all those years. I seriously doubt that he even knew “the facts of life.”

However, another family in town also homeschools their kids today, and they visit our library quite often. The mother does a great job, and she and her husband often take the kids on educational trips and to events in which the kids can be in clubs and sports and socialize with others. The children seem to be happy and well adjusted. Another mother with children of about the same age brings her two kids to the library each week. The kids are well mannered and love to read. They are also involved in several church activities. But in another homeschooling family, I often see two of the children walking around town or riding their bikes at all hours of the day. I am almost certain they are well below what they should be for their grade level. There is no accountability. The end result of homeschooling is often unpredictable. The children may be just as intelligent as public school students . . . or perhaps not. Some adjust to “real life” after leaving home . . . and some are lost.

I attended a public school the entire 12 years. I received an excellent education. I loved going to school, and I admired and respected my teachers. There was only one teacher who just was not very good. But I made it through that year. I stuck with it and did my best, which taught me a valuable lesson for later in life. I was in several activities and clubs, and I participated in all of the sports that were offered. I interacted with all type of personalities . . . from my classmates, friends, and teammates . . . to a couple of older downright bullies. And I learned many things that were not taught in the classroom. Just like real life. If my parents had homeschooled me, I likely would have been resentful and rebelled as a teenager.

But the 1950s and early 1960s were a different time. There was no homeschooling. There were also no drugs, no computers, no Internet, no social media, no woke teachers, no crazy psycho mental cases . . . and 90 percent of my generation attended church or Sunday school. I believe we have excellent schools here in Montgomery County, and the vast majority of teachers are caring and compassionate. But I realize homeschooling is still an option for some of you. The success of homeschooling, in my opinion, depends on the attitude, education, and abilities of the parent doing the teaching . . . and the personality of the child. But keep in mind that even in the best situation, homeschooling may not turn out the way you anticipated. Homeschooling . . . I have seen success. I have seen failure . . . the same with public school. But you are the parents. You must decide. You love your kids. You want them to be educated and socially well adjusted, and live a happy, successful life. Whether you choose public schools or homeschooling, cross your fingers and pray for the best.

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.