In 1996, the state of Maine undertook one of the most ambitious educational reform programs in the country. Called the Maine Learning Results Program, the reform called for higher standards in eight subjects and required 220 school districts to create their own individual programs for improvement. Massachusetts, on the other hand, chose to lower its requirements for students. Which state was more successful in its educational reforms? In a few short years, Massachusetts students outperformed students in Maine. What are the reasons for these surprising results and what are the implications for homeschooling?
Maine attempted to improve its educational system, but it only increased bureaucracy and red tape. Massachusetts, on the other hand, decided to be less ambitious and to require remedial tutoring for all students who fail. Many homeschooling parents feel vindicated by these findings; it shows that blanket reforms don't cover everyone, and kids are not necessarily better off in the traditional school system than in a homeschooling setting.
Money was not a factor, either. Maine spends $1,000 more on each student than Massachusetts, in spite of the Bay State's mandatory tutoring program. Personal attention provided to homeschoolers like that matters more than money in creating optimal educational results. Homeschoolers need not worry that a lack of funds will mean mediocre performance. This study shows that pushing kids through an overburdened system is not better than homeschooling. It also shows that giving kids one-on-one attention can only be provided in a homeschool environment.
Are you better off homeschooling your child than sending him or her to public school? The choice is up to the individual. The study does not prove that homeschooling is the right choice for every single student. What it does demonstrate is that more is not necessarily better. It is not the case, as opponents of homeschooling often argue, that the public school system can provide a student with a better education than homeschooling simply because the public school system has more money and resources. Homeschooling does not require fancy reforms or elaborate programs. Meeting the needs of each individual student is the advantage of homeschooling over traditional education. No amount of money or panel of experts can replace the personal care and attention provided by homeschooling.
Massachusetts' educational program was successful because it provided tutoring for students who failed courses. Homeschooling, on the other hand, provides constant "tutoring" even for students who succeed and this enables them to consolidate their success. With homeschooling, your child can enjoy a personalized educational experience.
Homeschooling & Online Education
Online education is changing the way children around the country learn, including homeschool students. Years ago, textbooks and workbooks were the primary educational resources. That's all changed, as great numbers of homeschool parents and students choose to use the Internet as the ultimate learning tool.
In the past, only a select few students had the opportunity to learn online. In fact, in the early years of the Internet, very few students had access to the Internet at all. Some homeschool students were able to use computers to play games and take advantage of educational software, but most were unable to reap the benefits of the information superhighway. That's all in the past as today's homeschool students are likely to be extremely tech-savvy and often they are more computer proficient than their parents.
According to research studies, over 90 percent of children over the age of 12, who use the Internet, do so for education-related activities or research. A significant number of children in sixth grade and above have their own e-mail addresses and over 70 percent have one or more instant message (IM) screen names. Many of these Internet-accomplished children are homeschool students, using the Web for everything from studying and research to keeping in touch with friends and playing games.
Homeschool students use the Internet with ever-increasing levels of sophistication. Often, the level of sophistication at which most homeschool children use computers and online education far outpaces that of their parents. Simply put, the younger generations seem to absorb more information faster when it comes to computers and online educational tools. Furthermore, they seem to feel greater overall comfort with using the Internet as an educational tool.
Homeschool students use the Internet as an online educational tool in various ways. For starters, homeschool students use the Net for research and studying a full range of topics. They use it to gain help with difficult subjects and develop greater levels of understanding in others. Some homeschool students use the Internet in lieu of textbooks to learn an amazing variety of subjects. Many actually take online classes offered by public or private educational institutions. Additionally, homeschool students use the Internet for guidance and advice. Of course, entertainment is also a very popular reason for using the Internet.
Studies show that students, including those who homeschool, view online education not as a fun distraction or educational side dish, but as an educational necessity. Many would like to see the Internet become even more integrated into their homeschool environments. Homeschool students want to be able to use the Internet more to gain access to real, up-to-date information, instead of having to rely on textbooks (sometimes outdated) for information.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mimi Rothschild is a homeschooling parent, author, children's rights advocate, and Founder and C.E.O. of Learning by Grace, Inc. She and her husband of almost 3 decades reside with their 8 children in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rothschild co-founded Learning By Grace, Inc. because "our current system of education has broken its promise..." Learning By Grace, Inc. delivers Internet-based multimedia education to PreK-12 children in the United States and throughout the world.
Rothschild has authored a number of books about education published by McGraw Hill and others. Her Daily Education News Blog contains feature stories on alternatives in education.