Despite its exponential growth over the past decade, homeschooling is still a leap of faith for many. Anecdotal evidence of its benefits abound, but there is a dearth of large-scale research to support the value of a homeschooling education.
For longtime homeschooling parents like myself who've experienced the myriad benefits of homeschooling, there is little doubt about its worth. That doesn't change the fact that over the span of our children's lives, we're all susceptible to uncertainty.
When you get seized by one of those "Am I doing the right thing?" moments, consider this. While it's not all specific to homeschooling, a slew of recent research supports many of the practices homeschoolers regularly embrace.
Sleep The joke that pajamas are the school uniform for homeschoolers is an old one. We can tell it proudly now that we know how important sleep is for adolescents. Education Week even reported on a study finding that homeschoolers have healthier sleeping habits than their peers that attend school.
Play There is nothing more important to a child's learning than play, and homeschoolers have the time and space to take full advantage of that. Research showing the value of play abounds, but if you're looking for a comprehensive source, check out Peter Gray's books. His most recent is "Free to Learn." Or read this interview with him.
Exercise Playground Day is a staple activity for most homeschooling support groups. At the one we go to, kids can be seen climbing on play structures, engaging in a game of Capture the Flag, or running hard to score points in Ultimate Frisbee. During the winter, we gather at the gym for indoor activity. In late spring and early fall, we hit historic Walden Pond for swimming and hiking. My teens also get plenty of exercise walking and biking to classes, jobs, and social activities. We've always known that exercise and fresh air are good for the physical health of children, but studies are also showing that physical activity improves academic performance. Think about that next time you ditch the schoolwork to spend all day at the park.
Homework Research is mixed, but there's enough calling the value of homework into question that some schools have started to cut back on it. In England, some are even eliminating it so as not to interfere with their students' family time. Articles such as this one in mainstream magazines are exposing homework as time consuming and irrelevant. What might homeschoolers take away from all this? Don't worry, be happy, and continue to relax and enjoy.
Reading One of the mainstays of our homeschooling lives has been reading literature. We started reading the classics as a family when our kids were young, and continued even after they were able to read on their own. Now research shows that reading literature enhances social skills.