Why You Should Consider Homeschooling

Dr. Jay L. Wile

When I started my position on the chemistry and physics faculty at Ball State University, I knew nothing about homeschooling. One day, a student came into my office and placed the tome that we used in freshman chemistry (Ebbing, third edition) on my desk. He pointed to an equation that involved the Gibbs Free Energy, and I was certain that he was going to ask me how to use that difficult equation in the homework. Instead, he said that he understood how to use the equation, but he wanted to learn more about what the equation actually meant. What followed was the kind of discussion professors dream of. For nearly an hour, my student and I discussed the deep, physical consequences of an important equation in chemistry.

At the end of our wonderful discussion, I told this student that he understood chemistry much better than most of his peers. I then asked him where he went to school, because he had obviously been prepared very well for his university-level studies in chemistry. After a brief, uncomfortable pause, he told me that he went to school at home. I thought that meant he was too sick to go to school, so I asked him if a tutor visited him regularly so he could keep up with his school’s assignments. He said that there was no school. His mother taught him at home from kindergarten through high school. I actually asked, "So was she a nuclear physicist?" He said no; she had never gone to college.

That was my first introduction to homeschooling. One of my finest chemistry students at Ball State University had been taught by his mother better than most of his peers, some of whom went to expensive, private schools. As a professor, I should have immediately started researching homeschooling when I learned this. However, I just put it on my mental "pile" of things I wanted to investigate at some point in the future.

As my time at Ball State University continued, I met other students who were academically head-and-shoulders above their peers, and they also told me they had been homeschooled. As a result, I eventually did some research on homeschooling, wondering whether these students were representative of this model of education or just anomalies. Even in the early 1990s, the academic research was clear: homeschooled students are, on average, significantly better prepared for university-level studies than their publicly- and privately –schooled peers. Of course, today, the research is even more convincing.

As a result of personally seeing the products of homeschooling as well as seeing the academic research related to it, I started working with homeschooling parents. At first, I was simply helping them understand how to make their children more attractive to a university, what high school courses a student needs to prepare him or her for university, and what my experiences (as well as the academic literature) said about the success of homeschooling. Eventually, I began writing science curriculum for homeschoolers.

At this point in my life, my wife and I were "double income no kids" people. We were both committed to our church, our careers, and our community. We had no desire to have children of our own. All of that changed, however, when a teen in our church was left with no one to care for her. We started out as her guardians and had no right to change how she was educated, so I took her to high school every day. After a few months, we adopted her, and we immediately began homeschooling her.

When we started homeschooling her, the reason was obvious. She was really behind academically. She had taken the PSAT (a practice test for the SAT) and had not done well enough to get into any serious university. She also had large, gaping "holes" in her education. As a result, I called most of her homeschooling experience "educational triage." We spent time finding her educational weakness and fixing them. By the time she graduated high school, she had improved her test scores enough and had a good enough educational foundation to be accepted by and eventually graduate from Butler University, an academically-rigorous university in Indianapolis, Indiana.

So, you should consider homeschooling because it will make your child a better student, right? That’s the reason we started homeschooling our daughter, and homeschooling clearly did that for her. As I said previously, the academic research also supports the fact that homeschooling produces better students. However, that’s not the real reason you should consider homeschooling. It’s a nice benefit of homeschooling, but after homeschooling my own daughter, I realize it’s not the primary one.

Here’s the real reason you should homeschool: It gives you the opportunity to have a deep, lasting relationship with your children. The time that you spend with your children in homeschooling and the things you learn about them because of homeschooling forges a bond that can be truly amazing. My little girl is now 38. Along with her husband, she runs a very demanding business that occupies most of her time. Nevertheless, when she is free, one of the things she wants to do is spend time with us. Not only does she love us because we are her parents, she genuinely wants to continue to cultivate her relationship with us.

Now please understand that while we were homeschooling, there weren’t many "precious moments." She never really wanted to be homeschooled, and she has a strong personality, as do I. Because of this, we had many fights that can only be described as "epic." There were times I wanted to just quit and send her back to school, but in the end, we made it through. Nowadays, I am so happy that we did. Our family is really close, and most of that is because of homeschooling.

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Homeschooled students eat better than their peers, they sleep better than their peers, they are well socialized), and they are better students than their peers.

The primary benefit of homeschooling, however, is the potential it has for producing a strong, life-long bond between you and your children. That’s the main reason you should consider homeschooling.