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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 12-May-16 14:48:23

Why home schooling is better than school

Would you be happy to see your grandchildren home schooled? Author Vanessa Ronan was home schooled by her parents and maintains that it was the best, and most empowering, decision they could have taken.

Vanessa Ronan

Why home schooling is better than school

Posted on: Thu 12-May-16 14:48:23

(77 comments )

Lead photo

Is homeschooling better than normal school?

When I was little and other kids found out I was home schooled, the first thing they'd always ask was "Do you get to sleep in as late as you want?" Usually followed by the next question: "Can you go to school in your pyjamas?" Most of them were jealous I got to stay home all day. What they didn't seem to realise was, even though I was home, I was still working hard too!

My parents started home schooling my brother and me intending it only for a couple of years till we moved "someplace better". It didn't take long for us to move; in fact, we moved many times as I grew up, but we ended up home schooling all the way until college. My parents were both literature professors, so there was definitely a strong emphasis placed on our writing from a very young age. That being said though, my brother and I naturally gravitated more towards that side of our studies. Writing stories and poems was almost like a game for us, and we’d read and edit each other's work from a very young age. We lived in Patzcuaro, a colonial village in the mountains of central Mexico for two and a half years. I was nearly eight when we came back to Texas, but I remember clearly how my parents sat my brother and me down and asked us if we wanted to go to 'normal school'.

If one particular subject matter fascinated, we were allowed and encouraged to study it to the fullest of our capabilities. It is only as an adult that I have realised what a truly remarkable gift that was.


In many ways, home schooling kept learning fun. When we were little, we were given breaks throughout the day to play for 15 minutes while my mother prepared our next lesson. Or else, we would be rewarded with getting to read a storybook just for fun! We then would come back to our studies twice as attentive, excess energies exhausted, minds ready to absorb again.

Home schooling let me learn at my own pace. I started at four, completed third grade in three months, graduated high school when I had just turned sixteen. I think I would have gotten bored quite easily had I been forced to adhere to the pace and rules of a classroom at too young an age. Bullying was never really an issue for us, but, through sports and activities, we still had friends.

Of course (especially closer to college), there were government requirements of certain things we were expected to learn, certain tests we had to take, but, as we grew, by and large my parents empowered us to study what truly interested us. If one particular subject matter fascinated, we were allowed and encouraged to study it to the fullest of our capabilities. It is only as an adult that I have realised what a truly remarkable gift that was.

Our creativity was nurtured and empowered though home schooling. We were encouraged to be ourselves. We were taught to think for ourselves. And yes, sometimes we even got to go to school in our pyjamas.

Vanessa's book The Last Days of Summer is published by Penguin Ireland and is available now on Amazon.

By Vanessa Ronan

Twitter: @VRonan

Luckygirl Thu 12-May-16 15:11:56

I am a great supporter of home education. For some children it is perfect.

Some thrive in a school environment, but others do not and there is no reason why we should assume that "one size fits all."

It is not an easy option, but here in the UK there are lots of supportive organisations like "Education Otherwise" and most home-schooling parents get together with other like-minded parents and share skills. There are online modules to help with subjects in which parents feel they lack expertise.

hildajenniJ Thu 12-May-16 16:32:23

My DD home schools her children due to the fact that the boys are on the high end of the autistic spectrum and were being left behind in primary school. When they moved into the city my DD asked them if they would like to go back to school and there was a resounding chorus of NO! My DGD who is 9 went so far as to say that she was learning far more at home than she ever did at school, doing it in her own time and studying subjects that interested her in much more depth than school could ever do. My DD has an Anthropology degree which she has never used, so just recently they have been studying Henges which has enthralled the children. Yesterday, as part of the lesson, they made a Stonehenge cake for tea. This also taught them weights and measures and timing.

Leticia Thu 12-May-16 17:35:10

I don't think it is 'better' than school. It is just a different way to be educated and is better for some and worse for others. It depends on the personalities and circumstances of those involved.
It was obviously best for Vanessa Ronan, but it doesn't follow that it is best for everyone. I would have hated what she describes.
She was also lucky that she and her brother gravitated to the subjects that parents were qualified in. I couldn't have managed my son up to university physics when I dropped it before 0'level and had no interest. I am also useless at art and so would have been no help to my artistic son.
I can see a lot to be said in keeping them home to educate in the very early years, when many now start aged 4yrs.

hildajenniJ Thu 12-May-16 20:25:39

My DGD who is being home schooled was enrolled in an art class on Saturday mornings. She loves it, and they are holding an exhibition of their work in June. I have been invited to attend and am looking forward to it. My DD wouldn't know how to teach art either Leticia.

Louizalass Thu 12-May-16 21:16:25

My daughter home schools our granddaughter (now 7) and will also home school our grandson(2) . It's working very well (though obviously hard work for my daughter!)

Granddaughter also attends ballet and so gets to meet other children her age. She's a bright, sociable child and has never known bullying (something which most of us go through at school and which can affect your self-esteem for the rest of your life) and she can enjoy the things she's interested in without her peers telling her she's a dork (or whatever cruel jibe used to belittle a classmate because they dare to be different).

Her home school curriculum is varied and interesting. She can read well, has neat cursive handwriting and can do simple sums. She's learning a little Latin (because she wanted to) and can read music. She loves crafts and is developing a real creative streak.

Of course, children in school can also get the chance to do all those things but it's highly dependent upon many factors and not all children get the same chances. My daughter decided to make sure her children will get a really good grounding and develop self-esteem. As they get older, if they want to pursue subjects in which she has little knowledge then they would have the opportunity to go to school if they wanted.

Lots of home schooled children attend public school later on. If that throws up any problems they'll cross that bridge when they come to it!

SewAddict Thu 12-May-16 21:29:46

Although I am a teacher I absolutely believe home schooling is right for some children. My youngest grandson may end up being home schooled, as although he is not due to start reception until September he is probably year 2 level now. But he has other issues and we are not sure he will cope at school. My daughter is prepared to home school if need be, although she would like school to work for him. You can flexi school with support of your local school, which could be the best of both worlds. I am very opposed to the way our education system is going with constant inappropriate testing and narrowing of the curriculum so home schooling is a way round it.

wondergran Thu 12-May-16 22:23:22

In many ways I would love to home school my grandson, however, I know I am no where near academic enough to take him beyond primary school level. It must be quite a battle to get some children to engage with their lessons when they are home schooled. I would like to see smaller schools, smaller class sizes and a more rich and varied curriculum (one that is not assessment obsessed). It's a great pity that so much fun and enjoyment is being missed out on by continuously judging children's learning.

Leticia Thu 12-May-16 22:40:54

Fine when they are young hildajenniJ but I was talking about my son who uses art in his career and took it to A'level and needed specialist teachers.

Leticia Thu 12-May-16 22:43:06

He did life drawing classes in addition to his school lessons, arranged in the evenings for the area's A'level students.

Leticia Thu 12-May-16 22:53:48

I can't see any problem with primary age, I'm sure most people could tackle most subjects. It isn't so easy at secondary unless they happen to slot into the expertise of the parent as in the case of Vanessa.

Leticia Thu 12-May-16 23:00:23

I think flexi school gives the worst of both worlds unless they are a very outgoing, popular child. It is difficult to make proper friendships if you are missing for a lot of the time. The breaks and lunchtime are very important for forging friendships.
It could work well if a lot of the children do flexi - there seems to be a lovely little school in the Peak District that does that- but not if they are the only one because they will miss out on many of the things that bond a class.
Better to find, and foster, home school groups.

durhamjen Thu 12-May-16 23:05:56

Doesn't have to be just one person.
I teach my fourteen year old grandson for three days, his mother teaches him other days, and his father teaches him, too.
You use your resources. We all have degrees, and different areas of expertise and interests. His timetable is much more varied than that of some of his friends.
For physical education, he goes running with either or both of his parents, and plays football and swims.

durhamjen Thu 12-May-16 23:09:59

Leticia, if your child has ASD, the worst time is the breaks and lunchtime, when they are often very much on their own.
We always used to say that we could teach our children ourselves, but they went to school for the social side of learning. However, forcing a child with ASD to join in playground breaks when noise is so awful for him just seems wrong to me.

grannyactivist Thu 12-May-16 23:24:12

My youngest son was flexi-schooled, although we didn't call it that. It worked extremely well for him and his given him an extremely balanced education with solid grounding in academic subjects (he's studying engineering at university) and opportunities to develop artistically and in other ways too. smile

rubylady Fri 13-May-16 02:33:20

Of course home schooling is better - you can stay in your pj's and watch Jeremy Kyle without having to go outdoors! grin

thatbags Fri 13-May-16 06:41:09

Provocative title. One size never fits all.

Leticia Fri 13-May-16 06:48:36

As I said, everyone is different, durhamjen and you can't possibly have one system that suits all.
I know someone who did flexi schooling and it worked well educationally but it was very difficult at break time because those they met in a lesson went off with friends they didn't know at break. They didn't have a good time socially until they went full time in the 6th form and were an equal part of the school.
While I agree that it doesn't have to be one person doing the educating I don't have anyone who could have coped with GCSE and A'level sciences and art.
We would have been fine with English, History and Geography but that is not what mine wanted.
I am not attacking home education, merely disagreeing with Vanessa in that it is not better. It is better for some children and school is better for some children.
Home education is just another method and how people do it, and how children experience it, falls into the good, the bad and the indifferent in the same way that schools are good,bad and indifferent.
Vanessa was very lucky that she got the education that she wanted, it suited her and she recommends it. She may be right for many people but equally she is wrong for others.
One size never suits all. Something that is perfect for one person is always a nightmare for someone else, in all things. e.g a week's skiing, out in the snow hurtling down slopes from lifts open to lifts close is perfect for me but I know lots of people who would be totally miserable if they had to do that.
I think everything needs to be qualified and it ought to read:
Why home schooling is better than school for some children . (or even Why home schooling is better than school *for many children*)
I can't agree with the sentence as it stands. My mother was home schooled for a while, it didn't suit her, and very few people know about it- she doesn't talk about it, even though there was nothing wrong with the standard of the education she received.

Leticia Fri 13-May-16 06:49:43

Cross posted thatbags - you put it in a nutshell!

joannapiano Fri 13-May-16 10:06:55

As a retired Early Years teacher, I believe that one of the main aims of a school, is for the child to learn how to get along in society. I would be the first to admit, though, that school life is difficult for some children to adjust to.
Home Schooling is not better, just a gentler, more sheltered approach to education.

NotSpaghetti Fri 13-May-16 10:46:23

Like other choices, Home Education is controversial. There are always implied criticisms whatever people say on the subject. Like home birth, for some home education is natural. For others it's an anathema.

We fell into it as we had a move back from the USA with a rising 5 year old and a new baby. We didn't want to send her off just as everyone was cooing about the baby (which obviously no one had seen) and intended it to be for 6 months or so.

As a family we then went on to home educate our 5 children - and we now have home-educated grandchildren. I found the idea that my daughter would chose the same path really scary as I know what needs to be sacrificed to do it well.

We only ever had one income (or 2 halves), and so although we have had loads of fun, we only once managed a holiday that most of our friends would have considered "normal". We have bought a house now, couldn't do it till the children were older, so still have a chunky mortgage. We pushed ourselves to provide everything we possibly could that might stretch our children - going to electronics shows for one and harp lessons with another. We bought a computer relatively early (1980) as we didn't want them to miss out on that. Consequently we had to be really creative with the cooking, shopping in general, and never had new furniture other than mattresses.

I'm not complaining. Just telling it how it was. And I know many people live like this all the time.

None of our children went to school but all of them opted to go to college rather than sit GCSEs and A levels at home. We do know families that have done these exams from home but once the oldest one went off to college at 14 the others decided it was a good idea. She chose it because her primary interest was Drama and that has to be done in a group. Our nearest home-ed drama group was miles away so this was her only option. Unlike me, who pretty quickly lost contact with all my school/university friends, she is still in touch with both ex home schoolers and some of her very first college friends.

Unlike Vanessa I never "taught" in the formal way her mother seems to have done. My husband and I (and friends, family and other home-schoolers ) were facilitators. and with the exception of English and Maths, anything was possible. We made contact with people with specific skills for specific children. One did some mig welding (!) two photography (including turning one room into a darkroom for weeks on end) and we had rockets, programmable computers, musical instruments, art stuff and general junk always about. We exchanged skills with other home schoolers (there is a big network) and met up with other families on a roughly twice a week basis. Sometimes we had children to stay over for arty stuff (my area), sometimes they went off to a friends house (to say, an engineering family), and three times a year we all went to home-ed "camps" of up to about 140 people where we did big group things, ltried new skills, and made new friends.

I do feel very privileged to have had all this amazing time with my family. I loved visiting museums and art galleries when they were quiet and the staff had time to give to my children on a 1to1 basis according to their interests. The energy involved was huge though. The scheduling, planning and organising. These are some of the things I learned. Also, that everything is possible. If you have a dream you can pursue it. SOMEONE out there will help you if you can just find the right person.

My children are all adults now. They are (mercifully) ordinary people. Their schooling is hardly ever talked about. And they are as different from each other as they could be.

Would I recommend it to everyone? No. There would be many less benefits to doing it then! grin

Pamish Fri 13-May-16 12:36:04

OK as long as there is monitoring. It seems children can disappear off any registers so the possibility for all kinds of abuse is high. Overworked local authorities are not going to chase up children who don't apply for school places, and they apparently have no responsibility for home-schooled children. There needs to be some kind of check that children are getting a proper planned curriculum.

Sometimes people want to keep their children home because they have what we could call minority religious beliefs; what chance would those children have to understand the rest of the society they are shut off from? Extreme examples in the US are there as a warning.

As long as they are out of the home some of the time in groups of other children, preferably random ones not hand-picked, fine. Otherwise it's just not fair to the children.

durhamjen Fri 13-May-16 12:37:26

That's another good thing, NotSpaghetti, I agree, being able to go to museums in the quiet times. The staff who work there are always knowledgeable and want to spread their knowledge.
As far as cooking, shopping etc., that is part of the schooling. My grandson makes bread, cakes, etc.
We make bread using different flours and test it on the family to see which tastes best, which is easiest to knead, would it be better if proved for longer, etc.
It's all learning.
Many kids these days never touch real money, just play money. Shopping includes all the things that will come in useful for when/if he lives on his own. Working out which food is best value for money, etc., working out change. In the village we live in everyone gives him time to work it out.

Linsco56 Fri 13-May-16 18:57:38

I agree with other posters, one size does not fit all. I can understand the benefits of home schooling but I know for a fact that it would not have suited my daughter who thrived in the school environment and loved interacting and socialising with her classmates. She was, and still is a gregarious girl and loved going to school.

hildajenniJ Fri 13-May-16 20:42:02

DD took her children swimming this morning. There were only three families there. The facilities were fabulous, and the children had a wonderful time. One of the lifeguards approached my DD and asked her why the children weren't in school. "Oh, we home school" she said, then he asked it that was legal and she assured him that it was. He went away, and came back a short while later saying that he hadn't heard of home schooling before and did many people do it. He was astounded to learn that there are about 150 children in the home school group that they attend.
When they were finished in the pool, DGS1 said "I'm not as tired as I usually am when we've been swimming". DD asked him why that was, he said," it was much quieter and I didn't have to fight against the noise". This spoke volumes to her as DGS 1 has Asperger's syndrome.