Home schooling vs regular schooling: Which is better?

Home schooling has long been an option for parents to provide for their children.

While some have always taken this option and educated their kids at home, the pandemic saw a large increase in home school rates across New Zealand and the world. In late 2021, there were 8,552 pupils at home, up from 6,573 across the country in 2019.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering our Kiwi Education Report showed that half of all parents said that COVID-19 impacted their decisions around school choice.

Not all parents made the switch due to the disruptions of the pandemic, but for some, it’s put the question on the table: homeschooling, or regular schooling?

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each teaching method, and how you can switch to home schooling your children if you feel it’s best for your family.

Pros of traditional (public) schooling

There are several key benefits of public schooling.

One of the more obvious perks of a child being in a school is that they can develop their social skills and social life alongside their education. They’ll learn about human behaviours in a way they couldn’t in a book, such as how to work well as a group and how to listen to others even when they disagree.

Diversity is especially common in co-ed schools, where children will meet people from different cultures and learn about how to get along with others of their own and the opposite gender.

Another key benefit is that of professional instruction. Even if you’re pretty savvy in all things maths, science, English, history, and economics, being able to teach these subjects can be a whole different ball game. Teachers in schools have received training on how to pass on these skills and knowledge, and know how to help when kids struggle with certain topics.

Professional instruction is important, as our Kiwi Education Report shows that the academic reputation/NCEA results is the number one factor when deciding on which school to attend.

Finally, schools offer easy access to a huge variety of extracurriculars. Kids can sign up for a wide range of activities on top of their formal education, from drama and choir to debating, gymnastics, computer clubs, and more. This gives them an outlet for any further interests they have at the same easy, trusted location.

Cons of traditional (public) schooling

The benefits of traditional schooling can make for a convincing argument, but parents should always be aware of the less attractive side of the coin.

The first is the traditional curriculum. How many schools teach kids how to grow their own vegetables, file their taxes, or organise a home data plan? How many kids finish school knowing what KiwiSaver is or why it’s important? When you opt for a homeschool education, you can adjust the curriculum to ensure your kids are learning some of the important things they’ll need to know to become functional adults, even if that’s not something they would typically learn in school.

Sadly, teachers being overwhelmed is also a con of public schooling. In a survey of primary school teachers, almost half worked more than 50 hours per week, and amongst primary school leaders, 20% worked more than 60 hours per week.

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford said “When teachers and principals are overworked this ultimately impacts on tamariki and their learning environment.”

Finally, the reality is that with groups there can also come social struggles. From the challenges of fitting in to peer pressure and bullying, some children may experience difficulties within these settings.

Our Kiwi Education Report found that a third of parents think that bullying is extremely common in schools today, with a further 56% saying they think it’s reasonably prevalent. Almost half of all parents’ said bullying was a top three concern for their children.

Pros of home schooling

Home schooling has become more popular over the past couple of years, but not just because of traditional schooling being so disrupted due to the pandemic. There are a host of benefits to teaching your little ones at home.

A key benefit is the ability to tailor the curriculum. The Ministry of Education states that you must teach a child “at least as regularly and as well as” a teacher in a registered school would. However, you can tailor your curriculum, covering a more diverse range of topics than you might find in a public school.

In our Kiwi Education Report, we found that only a third of parents thought that the current traditional school curriculum is equipping children with the skills they need to thrive in professional working environments. By choosing your own curriculum, you may be able to better meet those needs.

Additionally, home schooling allows you to choose your own schedule. You could split the school day into two if you preferred, take holidays at different times of year than traditional schools, or enjoy a sleep in and start later than public schools do.

Finally, home schooling can be a good option for those who would otherwise have a long, difficult, or expensive commute. Especially with petrol prices being what they are these days.

Cons of home schooling

On the flipside, there are several downsides to home schooling.

Naturally, the need for a parent to give up significant portions of their time for education is a big ask. It’s not just the lessons themselves, but lesson planning, researching topics to make sure you’re refreshed and ready to teach them, and marking work.

There’s also the cost. Many home school parents purchase a pre-set curriculum that greatly reduces the amount of research and planning that goes into their teaching program. Pre-made subjects can cost $60-$80 each per year, and you may also need to purchase learning supplies such as a laptop or tablet, books, sports equipment, crafts, and more.

Finally, there are social life restrictions to home schooling. Kids can miss out on learning the social cues and norms they would from being around their peers, but they can also miss out on making close friendships if they don’t have other ways to meet kids their age.

What is required for home schooling

So, what does it take to educate at home? According to the Ministry of Health, any parent or legal guardian of a child aged five to 16 can apply. To be approved, your application must convince the Ministry that the child will be taught “at least as regularly and as well as they would be in a registered school.”

You’ll need to send in the application form, and you can explore the application guide to help you navigate the process as well.

The government also provides a supervision allowance, which is paid in instalments twice per year. Currently, the annual total payments are:

  • first child $743.00
  • second child $632.00
  • third child $521.00
  • subsequent children $372.00

There are also numerous support programmes and resources available for parents educating their children at home, including:

You can find a full list of support services and resources on the Ministry of Education.

It’s a big decision, but one only you can make for the best outcomes for your child. Much like taking a moment to organise Life Insurance for yourself, all any parent wants is the best for their kids in the future.

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