Posted by: fatherof11 | June 25, 2008

Homeschooling vs. Schooling at Home

Before I discuss why I think homeschooling is an excellent choice for newly adopted foreign children, I want to make a distinction between homeschooling and doing school at home. As homeschooling has become more popular, many people have started homeschooling without having thought much about it. To them, homeschooling simply means doing school at home.

The problem is that the standard classroom was designed for efficient education of large numbers of students. Because of this, the approach to teaching has been tailored to insure that most students get an adequate education. Unfortunately, that often means that only a few students get the best education for themselves. Students at either end of the spectrum often end up losing out. The students at the higher end are hindered by the pace required to allow the majority to keep up, while the students at the lower end are left behind because they are not capable of keeping up with the same pace.

Also, different students have different ideal learning styles. The traditional classroom favors some while impeding others because they do not fit the preferred mode of education. In the end, each child has an ideal way in which they can learn. A mass production methodology cannot service all these children well.

The problem then with “schooling at home” is that it often does not fit the needs of the child. It also can be very difficult for the parent/teacher as the kids are typically spread out over a much wider academic range than the traditional classroom. With more than one or two kids, the traditional school method can be almost impossible to copy because the teacher has so many different subjects to teach to many students.

Thus true homeschooling needs to be different that just doing traditional school at home. The curriculum and methodologies need to be tailored to the individual child. The child needs to be given the tools to learn and then trained to self direct his learning. This requires more work initially, but often shows long term benefits by providing a superior education, often with less work on the part of teacher.

A significant issue that most older adopted children have is their prior educational back ground. It is very typical that children living in orphanages will not have had an ideal educational experience up to the point they are adopted. In their home country they were typically in the public schools, if they were in school at all.  These schools are often inadequate because of the economic conditions in the country, or the fact that orphans usually do not have access to the better schools. Likewise, orphans are pretty much on their own when it comes to navigating the educational process. Without parents to guide them, tutor them, and otherwise fill in the blanks in the system, they have little hope for academic success.

In those less common cases where these children do thrive in schools, their education does not always agree with what they would have learned in our schools. For instance, the subject of history is very much tied to the local culture. For instance, our daughter who comes from China knows quite a bit about Chairman Mao, but very little about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. She also was taught that the U.S. was NOT in World War II. Clearly, she would (and did, before we adopted her) have problems in an eight grade American History class, even though she was at the top of her large class in China. Things that her peers were assumed to know, she did not. Likewise, facts that she considered true were considered false by her new public school teachers when she first began schooling in the US.

The solution to these problems are not easy, particular when combined with the language difficulty and cultural challenges mentioned in prior posts.  Such a child needs an individualized curriculum and time spent with a teacher who will help them identify and fill in the blanks while correcting the “wrong” teachings from their prior environment.

Obviously, a classroom with twenty other kids is not the ideal situation for such a child. Teachers simply do not have the time to spend so much effort on an individual child. Also, most teachers in traditional schools do not have much experience with children coming from such a background.

Clearly, the better solution is one where the teacher knows a great deal about the child’s background, strengths and limitations. A solution where the curriculum can be changed to meet the needs of the child, where learning can occur at a pace the child can handle and it can be adapted to all the other issues these children are dealing with in their early stages of adjusting to a new culture.

In most situations, these needs would be met by homeschooling an older adopted child.  However, there are excellent private schools available which could also meet these needs and, it is possible (but not as likely) that a public school here or there might be able to do so. 

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