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Home School or Public School for My Allergic Child?

Please note: The number of points and the length for each schooling option is not meant to bias parents for one over the other. The article is meant to present a non-biased view on schooling options for parents of food allergic children. Participants are listed on the bottom of the article so as not to reveal who provided which points. (The first-person stories are my own (Melissa: publically schooled, privately schooled, home-tutored and home-schooled) unless otherwise marked.)

HOME-SCHOOLING POSITIVES

(NOTE: There are many versions of "home-schooling," including independent study, teaching by parents, and home-tutoring. For ease of understanding in this article, all versions of home-schooling have been lumped together.)

Home schooling families are able to take vacations in the "off-season," which can equal lower fares, more availability, etc.

Family relationships can be closer due to the intense involvement required by being together for a great deal of time. My husband works a rotating schedule. My oldest two were public schooled and would sometimes go seven days in a row and never see their father. This is too long for children to not have time with a parent. He also has weekdays off and works some weekends, this made it difficult for the children. I noticed a definite difference in their moods and attitudes when they missed their father. (DS)

Peer-pressure issues: Students can dress the way they really want to, and not feel any pressure to conform. No one is there to make fun of a student's clothing because their parents can't/won't purchase name-brand items. The student can excel in their courses without peer disapproval, or ask a "dumb" question without fear of being ridiculed. At lunch time, your child's allergies do not create a spectacle, and other students are not there to make rude comments about your child's foods.

Some public school teachers do not understand health problems and will not comply with a child's special needs. Some teachers dislike organizing makeup assignments and tests, as it is extra work for them. Students who have to take makeup tests in public school need to do them during lunch hour or after school. Because other students skip classess and then try to make up, teachers are naturally skeptical of all students who miss a lot of work. I had teachers who got upset over how often I inconvenienced them.

Long term friendships among homeschooled students are not disrupted by the constant changing of classroom schedules every year. Children are not segregated into the dreaded 'cliques' of public school and learn to mix with and value all people.

Home-schoolers can go at their own pace, so they are not left to go at the rate a public-school teacher would give them. Some students can work ahead of their peers' grade level. Additionally, parents can stop and work on something until it is well understood before moving on (for example, some subjects such as math build upon themselves and must be understood).

Religious reasons: Christian, Jewish, etc. families can take off important holidays that aren't on the civic calendar. Especially in a curriculum taught by the parent, topics such as evolution vs. creation and sex ed. can be modeled after a family's religious beliefs. Parents can keep a close watch on disagreements among peers and teach tolerance without disregarding personal values.

If the family continually moves, home-schooling can be continued from grade-to-grade. For example, when we moved to where we live now, all the students in the grade had learned cursive, whereas in my old school we were not up to that point. I ended up having to teach myself, even though I attended public school!

The home-school environment is quieter with less disruptions. Public school children can be very disruptive if they do not respect their teachers. Even in college, I have had many students in classes who talk throughout the entire lecture, in a normal voice.

Home-schoolers get one-on-one attention, whereas those who are schooled in public school generally have about 25-30 students per teacher during classtime.

The house-hold environment is controlled and food allergens can be eliminated. In the case of life-threatening food allergies, this can be a real factor in opting for home-schooling. Students who have asthma and allergies often miss many days of public school, and their grades may suffer. Sick students can be more comfortable studying at home when sick than at school. I was home-tutored and then home-schooled for two of my high school years. I felt up to studying, but not up to getting ready to go to school, walking the halls, etc. due to my very poor health. At home, I was still able to study when not feeling well. Children who have diseases and health problems will not be singled out, and parents can offer any medical care they need that school staff might not be qualified to offer.

SCHOOL POSITIVES

(NOTE: There are many versions of out-of-the-house schooling, including daycare, private school, and public school. For ease of understanding in this article, all versions of out-of-the-house schooling have been lumped together.)

Some parents are not dedicated enough to home-school, do not know enough themselves to do it (public/private school teachers graduated college and perhaps graduate-school in the applicable field), or their children do not respect their authority enough to make the undertaking worthwhile. In short, a child's personality and dedication, and a parent's educational background should be considered.

College issues: Getting into a competitive private college might require some extra work for the home-schooled. You can contact area colleges to find out their admissions policies before making your decision about home-schooling if college is a concern. Even though this sounds early ("my child is years from college!") it's not silly to plan ahead and check just for an overall idea of what goes on when it's time for college. Home-schooled students may also have to get a GED or high-school-equivelent diploma if they plan on going to college. Again, it doesn't hurt to check with area colleges. If college-bound, your child will still need to take the ACT or SAT, which is generally something a public high school helps students plan for. Public/private schools also offer college days and other events that your child may miss out on if you home-school and don't keep intune to what is taking place.

Interaction with other students and people of a similar age five days a week (six days a week if the child goes to church) is easiest achieved through public and private schooling.

Parents must make a tremendous sacrifice of time, money, and "self" to home-school. Much time is spent teaching or arranging educational options and studying, attending meetings, conferences, to prepare for educating the child(ren). Even if mom is the only teacher, Dad must provide support and give up her time for his children. Parents realize much earlier the heaviness of the responsibility of educating their children. With my older children, it wasn't until college that I realized a great part of whether or not they succeeded in their education was ultimately my responsibility. When you home educate that realization comes at age five or younger. (DS)

Public and private school teachers offer children a world-view. Teachers may be conservative, liberal, white, or black. Children will be exposed to conflicts and conflict resolution, as well as other opinions than their parents'. Many people look at this as a negative...I took it as a positive, then, and now (in college). Learning about other people's opinions has only strengthened my own beliefs.

Even though parents consider the fact that students can go at their own pace a good support for home-schooling, public schools also separate students by intelligence and offer accelerated courses for the academically gifted. They will also advance students to higher grades if necessary.


The following people offered various input and advice for this article:
Diane Corso, Linda Hamilton, Tabitha Hooker, Donna Stone, Melissa Taylor
This website is for personal support information only. Nothing should be construed as medical advice.