Urban Homeschooling – Not Just Small Town Anymore

Homeschooling has morphed from an unusual phenomenon to an accepted educational alternative.

Christian Homeschooling A Part of the Mix

In the United States, it is no longer solely the province of Christian families who disapprove of a liberal curriculum. Homeschoolers can be found throughout the country, with large concentrations in metropolitan areas. In fact, the percentage of urban children who are homeschooled is almost as large as that of their suburban and rural counterparts. The students, too, are as diverse as the urban populations themselves.

In Canada, homeschooling officially celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015, and here, too, it has grown in popularity. As of 2012, more than 21, 600 Canadian students were registered as homeschoolers, an increase of 29 per cent since 2007.

A 2015 report by the Fraser Institute indicates that Canadians today, like their neighbours o the south, also have other reasons for choosing this option. The family might travel extensively, live in a remote location, have a child with special needs or one who needs enrichment.

In other words, homeschooling has become more of a mainstream option.

Reasons to Homeschool

“More urban parents are turning their backs on the compulsory-education model and embracing the interactive, online educational future that policy entrepreneurs have predicted for years would revolutionize pedagogy and transform brick-and-mortar schooling,” wrote Matthew Hennessey for townhall.com.

Often, urban parents who turn to homeschooling have concerns with the quality of the education their children receive at public schools, but they can’t afford to send their youngsters to pricey private schools. Especially in the United States, city schools are suffering from violence, overcrowding, decaying infrastructure and poor academic outcomes.

Homeschool Curriculum Customization

Urban Homeschooling
In addition, homeschooling allows for an option the school system does not: customization. If you design your own curriculum, it doesn’t have to be one size fits all. Is your child musically inclined or passionate about superheroes? You can adapt you’re the examples in various lessons accordingly.

Families in urban centres who choose this option have advantages that their rural counterparts can’t claim. For one, there is the proximity to other homeschooling families.

“In a city like this, you can find your tribe,” Angela Wade, a homeschooling mother in New York City, told townhall’s Hennessey. “You can find your homeschoolers. And there are a lot of us.”

Homeschool Share

Even though many portions of a homeschool curriculum are tailored specifically to individual children, there are activities that can be done as a group, and when students live near each other, it’s easy to make that happen. Bringing a group of homeschoolers together for a daily physical education class such as gymnastics, for example, isn’t difficult to accomplish.

In addition, the scheduling flexibility allowed by homeschooling means that these children can take advantage of such resources outside hours of peak demand.

Cities also provide rich resources around which to build a more experiential curriculum. Museums, parks, historical buildings and cultural institutions all offer opportunities for hands-on learning. In New York City, the homeschool population has grown so large that a number of institutions offer classes geared to them.

The New York Historical Society, for example, offers a program that teaches students American history through a combination of Broadway musicals and historical artifacts. (Of course, there is a cost to these offerings.) Parents can also take advantage of the city’s abundant resources individually.

Homeschool High School

Homeschool High School
As homeschoolers grow older, they will likely need specialized instruction in subjects that their parents aren’t qualified or comfortable teaching. In urban areas, given the proximity of other homeschoolers, it’s possible for parents to jointly hire tutors in individual subjects, such as a foreign language or advanced science or math.

Sometimes parents with special expertise will teach a small group of students that includes their own offspring. An engineer might offer physics instruction, for example, or an actor might teach drama.

Problems with Homeschooling

Despite the opportunities that homeschooling provides, it isn’t all sweetness and light. Critics say that one thing lacking is socialization skills. Schools offer students lessons other than those found in the curriculum, including co-operation and competition.

“I always struggled socially,” Danielle Everett, a Queens native, told New York Magazine. “I didn’t have close friends until I was 15. I don’t think I have ever met a homeschooler who doesn’t have social awkwardness.”

Others say that children who are homeschooled develop a sense of entitlement that may not serve them well as adults. There is adversity they’ll face in the workplace, where not everything is tailored to the needs of the individual, and they may not be prepared to cope.

There’s also the question of diversity. Much of the homeschooling population doesn’t reflect the variety seen in the population at large, and children are poorer for the absence of exposure to many cultures.

On balance, however, parents are pleased with their choice.

“Children are naturally curious, but in school all they’re taught is to get the right answer, which is stifling,” Rina Crane, a homeschool mother/teacher, told New York Magazine.