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Debate: Home Schooling

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===Should parents be allowed to educate their children at home?=== ===Should parents be allowed to educate their children at home?===
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Should parents be allowed to educate their children at home?

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  • The pro/con resources section needs development and arguments and quotations need to be drawn from these resources.


Background and Context of Debate:

Home schooling is legal in most countries but the extent to which it is practised and varies. Within Europe, in the Netherlands parents have a duty to send their children to a school, and Germany also forbade home schooling until recent decisions ruled this contrary to human rights legislation. Elsewhere in the EU home schooling is allowed but parents may have to justify their choice (Greece and Italy), register with a local school (Norway and Portugal) or put their child forward for national tests annually (Austria). The extent of regulation varies considerably; Austria has its testing regime and Swedish home-educators can expect two or three inspection visits per year, but elsewhere monitoring may be left to regional authorities with varying results or may not exist at all. There is not much data about the number of home-educated children in western Europe, except for Britain where there are three to four thousand children educated at home, and Germany where there are only 200 or so following the recent change in the law.However, as a political issue home schooling looms largest in the USA, where it is comparatively popular. Home schooling is legal in every state, though the level of difficulty encountered by parents wishing to teach and parents removing their children from the state system varies between states. In Idaho there are no specific teacher requirements, and no testing requirements - ‘no registration, certification, notification, qualification, or testing requirements’, as the state’s Home School Association says. In California, home schooling is often challenged by politicians, and people such as former Superintendent of Public Schools Delaine Eastin even suggest it is illegal; they claim it is not protected by existing private schooling legislation, as its supporters believe.For the purposes of this piece, it seems sensible to adopt a middle ground of home schooling - that it would be regulated under the proposition’s plan, and the opposition do

Rights: Do parents have the right to home school their children?


  • Parents are responsible for carrying out their children’s education. There is no logic that necessarily requires them to surrender that responsibility to the state. If they feel that the child would be best educated at home, by them or by another, that is their right. It is of course a crucial check within such a system that those teaching are vetted by the state to some extent to ensure their suitability. Such a system has worked for some of our most able achievers and will continue to do so. Some exceptions might slip through such a system, but that doesn’t mean the system is wrong - and it’s hardly as if state education has never failed. Moreover, this is a debate about whose claim to the right to guide a child is greater, the state’s or parents’. We stand firmly on behalf of the parents. Freedom of choice should exist in this arena, given all the responsibilities a parent assumes in bringing up a child: refusing parents the right to educate their children at home is an affront to a family’s liberty.


  • Homeschooling jeopardizes a child's right to a good education. The most important thing in this debate is ensuring children receive the decent education which they have a right to - something that, with its resources, experience and expertise, the state is best placed to do. High minded arguments about ‘parental rights’ are all well and good, but if things go wrong, it’s impossible to make up for lost time and bad practice in a child’s education. What if a parent is deficient in providing the educational process, but the state fail to spot it? What if they are satisfactory upon inspection, and then take the year off with the child to watch sports? What if the child does school work the day the state comes knocking, and house chores the rest of the year? A system can try to cater for these problems but it will frequently fail, not least because those it tries to monitor will often wilfully mislead it. This is therefore not about a right, and not about a choice - there is no right to choose to fail your child’s education. This is true not just as a precautionary principle, but as a practical problem the proposition simply can’t answer - there is no feasible mechanism which can ensure that the standards held to be appropriate are carried out in practice.

Quality: Do parents provide an enhanced quality of education?


  • We should trust parents to know what is best for their children. - parents care more, because it’s their child. To them the child is an individual - to the state, merely one of the many thousands moving through the system. Changes in the curriculum, experiments in teaching practice, can take years to iron out - fine for the system, disastrous for the individual caught up in it at the time.What is the difference in principle between home schooling and private schooling? Both involve taking one’s child out of the state’s prescribed school structure and instead educating them in a private environment that’s been vetted by the state. Given state regulation is present, isn’t this just private schooling on a micro level?


  • State-provided education is far less likely to make mistakes than parents. Furthermore, the opportunity to keep children at home will be seized upon in large numbers by parents who resent the costs of schooling (e.g. uniform, trips, and transport) who simply can’t be bothered with the hassle of ensuring their child receives schooling. That attitude obviously points to the standard of teaching they would provide in the home.Given that it is the state’s duty in liberal democracies to ensure children receive a decent education, the state is entitled to take positive steps to reach that end - much safer to have children educated by the state or established, tested bodies (such as private schools) large enough to bear corporate responsibility where observation and review can frequently occur, than in the home where review is necessarily infrequent and unrepresentative. Teachers in both state and private schools are within an environment we can subject to quality control, and are employed to do their jobs and therefore have a driving interest in ensuring it’s done properly. No doubt some parents who want to educate at home have good intentions but others do not, and we don’t have the same kind of immediate control over them.

Bad schools: Do parents have a right to withdraw children from bad schools?


  • Parents are entitled to withdraw children from bad state schools. If that quality is sufficiently low in their eyes, why shouldn’t they be allowed to make the considerable sacrifice that becoming a ‘home teacher’ constitutes? A generation was failed by the British state educational system after the 1970’s philosophy of ‘children learning at their own pace’ permeated the teaching profession: it’s thoroughly reasonable for a parent to reject such methods; if sufficiently able to pass tests the state wishes to impose regarding their capacity to fulfil the teaching role themselves, why should they be denied that chance?


  • Hundreds of researchers and experts ensure the quality of public schools. How presumptuous to think one might know better than that accumulated wisdom how to teach a child - as if that child being the product of an individual suddenly enhanced that individual’s knowledge of their educational needs beyond that of those that have given their lives to building an understanding of these complex matters, and are qualified through years of training to carry out the tasks we set them. State schools may not be perfect - but they will only get worse as those who can afford to opt out in order to educate at home.

Argument #4


It’s ridiculous to say that home schooling necessarily will be of poor quality. Many parents will be fantastic teachers. Furthermore, it’s not as if the process occurs in a vacuum simply because education occurs in the home. In the USA, the nation that home-schools the largest proportion of its population; a network of home-school support groups and businesses provides expertise on given subjects and teaching methods. The internet makes all this viable in a way it was not before and allows every home to have better research facilities than any school library had ten years ago.


  • Parents are less likely to be good teachers as professionals. The same applies to private tutors. Furthermore, even if a parent or tutor excels in one area, will they cover all the things a school does? The point of the curriculum is that these are things we have decided as a society that children need to learn. Even if strong in one or two fields, it seems tremendously unlikely that home schooling can cover all the required ground.These support groups can’t make a parent into a teacher, any more than a book on engineering makes one an engineer - the vocation of teaching is a much more challenging one than the proposition suggests.

Argument #5


  • Home schools facilitate the right atmosphere for learning. Homes beat schools on two significant fronts - facilities and an atmosphere that encourages learning. The needs of one or a very small number of students are the focus of the entire educative process. Parents willing to invest in their children properly often find the local and woefully ill-equipped state school is unable to match the targeted provision they are able to make.The home also lacks the many distractions of schools - peer pressure, social stigma attached to achievement, bullying, show-offs, general rowdiness.


Schools beat homes on two significant fronts – facilities and an atmosphere that encourages learning. Homes are very unlikely to have extensive science laboratories, sports facilities. By pooling the resources of all to provide common facilities, the state is able to cater for everyone’s needs without needless duplication. In the unlikely circumstance that an extremely wealthy parent were able to provide the plethora of things required for a rounded education, it would be a massively selfish thing to do, and remarkably pointless: why not send their child to a private school, where at least the power of review exists, and the pooling of facilities occurs?It must be terribly confusing for a young child to be asked to ‘switch’ to ‘learning mode’ and then back to ‘play mode’ in the same environment by the same people. For the older child, it represents ample opportunities for abuse - for pushing activities the parent enjoys instead of a lesson, or manipulating the parent into slacking off ‘just this once’. Schools are for learning - that’s their essence, their function. The home is an altogether more complex environment, ill-suited to the purpose of instruction.

Argument #6


Home schooling doesn’t just offer a better education. Family bonding is a massively important element of a child’s development, one that’s constantly undermined in modern society. Positive parental role models are found less and less frequently. If a parent is judged by a state vetting process to be good enough, isn’t it enormously positive to approve of an environment that cements both a positive role model and family bonding? It is absurd to suggest that children only interact with others at school. The concern regarding ‘getting to know other children’ has been solved in the USA, the nation that home-schools the largest proportion of its population; a network of home-schoolers exist to provide companionship, promoting sports events and social functions through the internet and other methods - it fulfils the role admirably (recent steps include the creation of a home-school honour society). Furthermore, the standard social provisions for children in civil society - scout movements, sports clubs - are open to home schoolers like everyone else. Seen in this light, home schooling is not a removal of a child from society - just from the state’s schools. But such interaction happens outside the classroom, where it belongs, instead of acting as distractions to learning. Within this point, some parents have legitimate concerns about the moral tutelage their children receive in state schools - about the kind of moral message some teachers choose to impart, and the kind of classmates they find themselves alongside. Parents are entitled to judge schools on a moral level, and find them lacking. In so many school districts, the only way to avoid drugs in school is not to go.


Interaction with other pupils is a crucial element of a child’s development, and mere social interaction isn’t good enough - team building, working towards goals, being forced to confront problems with and live alongside individuals one might not like, or come from different backgrounds, is clearly done best in a school environment. Being able to integrate depends on exposure to other people - obviously there’s more diversity in a class than in the home! The proposition is right to identify wider needs: education is about more than just academic tutoring - it’s about educating the whole person, and that is best achieved by educating them within a school with their peers, in a microcosm of the society they will soon enter.Indeed, parents and children spending day after day at home are sometimes subject to a phenomenon sociologists call the ‘hothouse’ relationship - the closeness between them becomes exclusive, with reaction to outsiders almost aggressive by instinct. Such a relationship makes it even more difficult for the child to adapt to life in the wider community.Those that seek to cocoon their offspring from the outside world merely delay the time when their children have to deal with it - and strengthen the impact of the shock that will be received upon seeing the element of society they find so unpleasant. Furthermore, what is the guarantee that the moral structure parents might be instilling in their children, year after year, away from any kind of effective monitoring, is beneficial?

Argument #7


Classroom education often fails the bright and the slow, by going too slowly for the former and too fast for the latter. Necessarily, a teacher of many has the interests of the group as a whole in mind in pitching a lesson at a particular level. This leaves some unchallenged and others humiliated. Home education avoids the pitfalls of both. This point is especially true with regard to students with special needs; the state either fails to identify such needs and lets the student lose years of education instead spent unproductively, or drops then into the vastly underfunded and stigmatised bins we call ‘special schools.’There is yet another group that is failed - individuals with identifiable problems that damage their capacity to learn in a normal school environment, but are not severe enough to merit a place at a special school - those with mild to medium severity dyslexia and attention-deficiency suffers fall into this category with many others. Home schooling can help such students, often with the help of tutors specially trained for such needs (and sometimes the state helps parents with funding for these tutors, so the burden does not fall solely onto them). Indeed, parents willing to take on the enormous task of educating their child at home, or paying for them to be educated at home, are relieving the state of the burden of doing so in the state system - but continue to pay their taxes to benefit others.


The benefits of education in a wider context more than counterbalance to this objection. Of course, the state doesn’t just leave high achievers and strugglers to rot! Whilst admittedly, attention for individuals in either group isn’t one on one, it’s not awful - and the experience of growing up alongside less and more able students produces individuals with greater understanding of their society. Furthermore, students with special needs are those that most need the state’s enormous resources to focus on their requirements. Once a student has needs of such a magnitude that demands it, they are educated in special schools specifically intended to help them.

Argument #8


Try as it might, the state constantly fails those with greatest faith needs in its schools. Numerous examples can be found of the state failing to provide for students of ‘minority’ faiths - of ignorant failure to provide for prayer time, the banning or denigrating of religious dress, of unwitting subjection of students to religious festivals that are manifestly unsuitable.The popular home schooling movement in America sprang out of two real and legitimate concerns parents of Christian students had: that their religion was being denigrated in the state curriculum, and the ritual humiliations they were subjected to for their faith. Of course, schools should reform to ensure such behaviour is minimised - but if parents want to avoid such perils altogether, and teach their child within an environment that caters for their religious needs, that is and should be their right.Nowhere is this more true than in discussing the appropriate place of dogma in schools. Many deeply held beliefs - such as creationism - are undermined, directly and indirectly, by state sector educators. The refusal of many schools to alter text books to highlight the fact that evolution is a theory and not proven truth, and the refusal to teach creationism as a possibility alongside it, serves to prove this point.


Those that wish their children to be educated in a religious environment have the chance to send them to a religious school, the quality of which can be monitored by the state. However, that ‘exclusivity’ of belief is remarkably unhealthy - we believe that the adherents of all religions shouldn’t shut themselves away, but rather engage in society as a whole, and understand other people’s beliefs and points of view. Meanwhile, it is the duty of the state to teach the thinking of all religions, and the dispassionate conclusions of science. It should indeed be pointed out when theories are theories - but that should never stop schools teaching our best understanding of how we came to be, and how we developed. If that jars with theology, that’s a pity - but it shouldn’t stop teachers teaching.

Argument #9


The liberal establishment has education in its grasp in most of the Western nations. In the USA, many who fought against Communism in Vietnam see their beliefs undermined in their children’s classrooms, with Communism held up as a perfect ideal (meanwhile, Stalin’s heinous acts go unmentioned). Many who worked hard all their lives to provide money for their families see capitalism ridiculed at the blackboard. In the UK, a proud history of achievement and creation goes untaught whilst the sins of colonialism and the faults of class structure are drummed into pupils year after year. Sadly, if you want your children to understand the history of their nation, you can’t send them to their nation’s schools anymore.


The argument presented by the proposition is a charter for every extremist and oddball to haul their child out of the state structure and give them years of indoctrination in their own beliefs. State schools teach history and social interaction within a framework agreed upon by a wide variety of bodies within the social spectrum. If a parent’s world view is so far detached from that perspective that he wishes to remove his child from school, it’s a fair bet that the opinions he wants to substitute in place of it are questionable at best.

Pro/con resources



This pro/con resources section needs expansion. See how in the Getting started tutorial.


This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Alex Deane. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.


  • This House supports home schooling
  • This House believes that the state does not know best
  • This House would allow parents to educate their children at home

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