Opinions of Home Learning: UK V US

Opinions of Home Learning: UK V US

Article by Sarah Maple

Today, the phrase ‘Home Learning’ refers to receiving one’s education at home, either at lower, junior, or secondary level; but also encompassing extra-curricular learning and further education such as undergraduate and master’s degrees. The reason for this broad meaning now can be seen to have arisen, not only because of the increased accessibility of home learning via online courses and e-Learning, but also due to the growing acceptance of a home education being as legitimate as a traditional school-based one. However, between the UK and the US, opinions of home learning can still be seen to vary.

The last major national reflection of home schooling came just over a year ago when the BBC reported of a “sharp increase” between 2005 and 2006. In an article still available at bbc.co.uk it is stated, that in that one year alone, there was a 39 per cent increase of children being withdrawn from school and being taught at home instead. What is interesting about the report is that rather than view this as a positive thing at all, this increase seems to be considered as much a negative by-product of what is wrong with the school-system as opposed to an improving national standard of home-schooling.

Interestingly, in the US, opinions tend to differ from state to state. In an article earlier this month at onenewsnow.com, Pete Chagnon and Jody Brown report a new bill in the state of Idaho which will ensure that parents who choose to educate their children at home ‘are in compliance with the state’s compulsory attendance law’. Up until this point Idaho law has considered home-schooling as “comparable instruction”, but after the method of teaching was outlawed completely in 2008 (for a brief time, at least) in California, they decided that the matter needed re-clarification.

That’s not to say that the UK hasn’t had similar efforts made to help prospective home-schooling parents to withdraw their kids from schools. In 2002 statutory guidance was introduced to help them do just that. However recently, another article concerning home teaching has appeared. Children and Young People Now reports of a Lancashire investigation into a sudden rise of children being taught at home. The number has doubled to over 450 in eight years, but this is a cause for concern for some because there is no law ensuring that teachers can observe whether home education matches that of traditional schools.

Aside from the numbers themselves (there are nearly 2 million home taught children in the US), it is when one notes the religious and moral connection with home-schooling that the major differences between the US and UK opinions are most prevalent. In the UK press, one rarely hears of the reason for home-teaching being a moral or religious one, in fact it is usually considered a very liberal alternative. Yet stateside by 2007, religion was the primary reason for children being withdrawn from school in 83 percent of home taught families. Yet, what perhaps is most important (aside from the discussion of whether the child should choose) is the academic quality of a home education. In a report by the US National Centre for education Statistics home taught children “typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests”. Therefore, it is seemingly hard to argue with the worth of a US home education, but in the UK we remain unaware of its comparative academic worth.

About the Author

Sarah Maple writes about adult education and online education

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