What biggest thing does homeschooling offer that traditional schooling does not? Time. Plain and simple, it offers us the time we need to pursue whatever the kids want. There is no hour wasted on the school bus or in the lunch line. No time spent sitting in a classroom twiddling thumbs or getting into mischief as a math lesson is taught five different ways to ensure the lowest common denominator stands a chance of passing a state-mandated test at the end of the year. No time wasted on politics, on procedure, on disruptions.
There is no substitute for one-on-one teaching. Knowledge is transferred directly from teacher to student with no interference, in whatever means best suits that student. A homeschool parent quickly figures out what style of learner they have on their hands and can make a lesson meaningful and impressionable the first time around. This means the core curriculum of math, reading, science, and social studies can quickly be pursued and conquered, leaving time for art, music, a foreign language, or diving in depth into anything the child desires.
A traditionally schooled student spends at least eight hours a day at school or on the way to and from it, and then has an hour or more of homework every night. Suddenly it's dinnertime, and bath time, and the half hour of reading hasn't been completed and bedtime is swiftly approaching. Yes, there is time for the basic math-reading-science-social-studies education, but there's not time for anything else. No time for playing with friends, no time for trips to the park. No time for the exploratory pursuits essential for a child's development.
Another thing homeschooling offers is opportunity. I'd like you to meet my oldest son, Alexei. He's ten years old and in the fifth grade, and since preschool he's been lucky enough to be schooled at home. That's right, I said lucky. During a typical school week, Alexei is a self-starting learner and completes his four main school subjects. Then he attends two homeschool PE classes a week with twenty to twenty-five other students in or near his age range. After PE he gets to play with his friends and torture his sisters at the park. On Wednesdays he attends a co-op class with a dozen other kids, learning about science (a six-week study of the classes of mammals), art (learning pointillism, cubism, and more), and culture (an upcoming class).
Since he is afforded time, Alexei can fully involve himself in the 4-H program. He is the elected chairman of his club's historian committee and is responsible for photographing and documenting club events. He raises and shows rabbits, has qualified for the 4-H state team in rifle marksmanship, and loves honing his photography skills. The three project record books that go along with his 4-H interests keep him educated and financially sound with regards to his activities. This year he also attends the 4-H county council meetings and hopes to one day be a county officer. A valuable education in leadership, citizenship, and perseverance is his for the taking.
This past February Alexei earned nine blue ribbons and four red ribbons at the county fair for his whopping thirteen entries, along with $90 in premiums, two medallions, a Best in Show trophy, and the advancement of his photography entry to the state competition. He chose to take on all of his own projects and put effort into many different areas. Next year he already has big plans to increase the project load and earn all blues. Since he is homeschooled, he is able to complete his schoolwork and still have the time and, perhaps even more importantly, the unbridled enthusiasm to undertake so much extra work. He doesn't compete in 4-H out of any obligation; he does it because he loves learning and working hard towards his goals and eventual successes.
Recently we've signed the paperwork to lease a horse from a lovely woman who wants to enrich the lives of a 4-H family. Alexei has ridden and shown a little bit in the past and would like to ride well enough to one day show in 4-H. Like the rest of the family he understands the responsibility that comes along with such a huge animal, and that the hard work of cleaning a stable always comes before riding. Since he is homeschooled, he has time to learn not only the finer points of riding but also what it means to have patience, and humility, and the benefits of hard work.
Like all typical fifth grade students, Alexei can read, write, solve math problems, and regurgitate facts from his textbooks. He has a good, solid foundation laid down by a teacher who knows his learning style best, and then he has the time and innocence available to want to keep learning about the things in the real world that interest him. He can take the lead and determine his interests, and run with them while we encourage from the background. He will continue to be a success in school and in life because he has the time and the opportunity to explore, and that's something homeschooling is in a unique position to afford.