Homeschooling: Curriculums, Benefits, and Problems
Published on: December 09, 2014
Homeschooling can be a controversial topic and is not for everyone. Two Bangkok moms provide us with an insight into what homeschooling is and the benefits of engaging in such a method of education.
By Dina Kassymbekova
As an alternative to sending children to school, some parents choose homeschooling — educating their kids at home. The term homeschooling is used to describe many different ways of educating children outside of a formal learning environment. Some parents act as teachers themselves, others hire tutors. Learning might be based on a particular curriculum or on a mixture of curriculums and approaches.
So why do families choose to homeschool their children, especially in a place like Bangkok, where a variety of international schools are available? Which resources do they use for teaching their children and is it easy to homeschool in Bangkok?
Learning happens all the time, not only inside the school building.
Jessica Johnsson, mother of 3 sons, and Kate Besleme, mother of 2 daughters and a baby son, live in Bangkok and educate their kids at home. They answer these questions and share their homeschooling experiences.
The most common reasons for homeschooling are the financial benefits of educating children at home and also the lack of suitable educational institutions. In Bangkok, some families decide to homeschool in order to avoid long traveling times to and from school. There are however other, less typical motives for homeschooling.
“We wanted our kids to realize that learning happens all the time, not only inside the school building,” says Jessica Johnsson. She adds that she and her husband also wanted their kids to take responsibility for their own learning.
Kate Besleme’s homeschooling journey started when she accepted her older daughter’s wish to stay home and learn with mom instead of going to school. Kate too was glad about the opportunity to keep and develop her strong relationship with her daughter.
One of the advantages that many homeschooling parents emphasize is a family’s flexibility in terms of choice of teaching materials and methods.
Some families, especially the ones with younger children draw their inspiration from the Waldorf and Montessori approaches. Others follow traditional curriculums. The Charlotte Mason approach is also popular amongst homeschooling families. Many parents combine different elements creating unique curriculums that suit their family’s values and needs.
Kate has been following different methods for educating her daughters. As a foundation, she has been using the Oak Meadow curriculum. Kate’s older daughter, Rita, 7 years old, follows the grade 2 curriculum and Alexa, her 4-year-old daughter, follows the kindergarten curriculum which is inspired by Waldorf and based on storytelling, observing nature, as well as on arts and crafts activities.
For teaching math, Kate relies on Montessori methods. Science, her daughters learn mainly through games and experiments. Another resource that the family uses regularly is US History Abroad — an online curriculum for third culture kids.
Jessica’s sons, 12, 10 and 9 years old, follow the online American curriculum Time4Learning. In this curriculum, the focus is on English, math, social studies, and science.
Both families expand the curriculums they are using by adding projects inspired by the children’s individual interests, taking various classes, and going on trips. Jessica’s sons swim and play football regularly. Kate’s daughters take ice-skating and piano lessons, as well as art classes. Kate’s family often goes to Suan Rot Fai Park for bike riding. A recent activity was a workshop in the Museum of Floral Culture. One of the family’s favorite trip destinations is Pun Pun organic farm in the North of Chiang Mai. Jessica’s family went on a food tour and a Bangkok Temples Tour.
Parent as a teacher: Does it work?
“Yes,” answers Kate. She thinks that she faces the same challenges as every parent helping children do their homework. Her kids’ interests guide the learning.
Kate plans the lessons and activities weekly, drawing inspiration from online sources and other homeschooling families. Her husband helps with ideas and is involved in homeschooling as much as his busy schedule allows.
Jessica describes her role as one of a coach. As an experienced adult, she guides and gives advice on her children’s learning. She also checks what amount of learning was done.
Benefits of homeschooling
Jessica sees a big plus in the fact that her kids take responsibility for their own learning. The boys know, for example, that by staying focused and working more efficiently, they win time that they can spend playing football.
She also finds it important that parents are directly involved in their child’s learning and so have the opportunity to discuss the facts and concepts that are taught by the curriculum, sharing their personal opinions, showing agreement and disagreement.
Jessica also believes that another advantage is the time flexibility that the family has as its schedule does not depend on a school.
Kate also appreciates the flexible lifestyle her family has because of homeschooling. Parents and children spend a lot of time together. When their little brother was born, Rita and Alexa had the opportunity to be involved in the event to an extent that would not be possible if they went to school.
In terms of learning, Kate sees a great advantage in the opportunity to tailor the curriculum they follow to the kids’ individual interests. Rita learned sign language just because it interested her. She likes knitting and crocheting and homeschooling allows her to spend a lot of time doing these activities.
Problems and concerns
Homeschooling parents take all the responsibility for their kids’ learning, so it is understandable that they have to deal with doubts and concerns probably more than parents, who send their children to school.
Jessica’s main concerns are that her boys might have insufficient social interaction and that the quality of home education might be questioned by institutions her sons might want to join later (schools, universities).
Kate points out that homeschooling is time- and energy-consuming for parents. Having a supportive network is certainly helpful. In Bangkok, homeschooling families are connected, but there is no link between schools and the homeschooling community. In some countries, schools allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities, use school facilities, etc. Bangkok lacks such a connection.
Homeschooling is a controversial topic. Most homeschooling parents are passionate advocates of this way of education. However, many parents and educators oppose the idea.
One of the main arguments against homeschooling is the lack of socialization with peers, especially from different cultural and social backgrounds. Critics also warn that parents and tutors might (even unwillingly) provide children with a one-sided view of the world.
Photo courtesy of IowaPolitics.com via Flickr
About the Author
Dina comes from Almaty, Kazakhstan. After graduating with a degree in philosophy, she moved to Germany to get her master’s degree in public relations from Freie Universitaet Berlin and worked as a freelance PR-consultant and a children’s book editor.
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