Home Schooling Pros and Cons


Homeschooling, the practice of educating children at home rather than sending them to a traditional public or private school, has grown significantly in popularity in recent decades. In the United States, the number of homeschooled students has increased from around 15,000 in the 1970s to over 2 million today. While still a minority, homeschooling families now represent a sizable and growing segment of the K-12 student population.

This rise in homeschooling has sparked debate about its merits compared to conventional schooling. Proponents argue that homeschooling allows for a more customized, effective, and values-driven education. Critics contend that homeschooling can deprive children of important social development and may not provide a well-rounded, quality education. This essay will examine the major pros and cons of homeschooling, drawing upon scholarly research to assess the strengths and limitations of home-based education.

Pros of Homeschooling

Customized Learning

One of the most frequently cited benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor the educational experience to each individual child. Homeschooling allows parents to adapt the curriculum, pacing, teaching style, and learning environment to suit their child’s unique needs, abilities, and interests.

For advanced learners, homeschooling provides the opportunity to accelerate their studies and dive deeper into subjects that fascinate them. For students who struggle in certain areas, homeschooling enables parents to provide extra support and go at a slower pace until the child masters the material. Homeschooling can be especially advantageous for students with learning disabilities, health issues, or special talents that may not be well accommodated by a conventional classroom.

This flexibility and personalization contrasts with the standardized, one-size-fits-all approach common in public schools, where teachers must target the average student and adhere to a fixed curriculum and schedule. Homeschooling gives students more voice and choice in their education, increasing engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

Academic Achievement

Multiple studies have found that homeschooled students, on average, outperform their traditionally schooled peers academically.

Homeschoolers typically score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized achievement tests. On the SAT college entrance exam, homeschoolers score above average compared to other students.While these positive academic outcomes could partly reflect the demographics of homeschooling families, who tend to have higher income and parental education levels than average, research controlling for background factors still shows an advantage for homeschoolers. 

For example, Martin-Chang et al. (2011) found that homeschooled students scored higher than public school students on standardized tests even after accounting for maternal education and family income.However, it’s important to note the limitations of the research on homeschool academic performance. Many studies rely on volunteer samples of homeschoolers and lack full random sampling. Additionally, it’s difficult to determine whether homeschooling itself causes better outcomes or whether homeschooling families just have more academically motivated and capable students to begin with. More research with robust controls is needed to establish the academic impacts of homeschooling with greater certainty.

Values and Character Development

For many families, a key reason for choosing to homeschool is the desire to instill their own values, beliefs, and worldview in their children’s education. In contrast to public schools, which must maintain religious neutrality, homeschooling allows parents to freely incorporate their faith and moral principles into the curriculum and learning environment.Homeschooling can foster strong character development and work ethic, as students learn to be self-directed and take ownership of their education. The tutorial-style instruction enables parents to provide immediate feedback and guidance to shape positive behaviors and habits. Daily interaction with parents and siblings also strengthens family bonds.Some evidence suggests that homeschoolers develop into well-adjusted, responsible adults. Research has found that homeschool graduates tend to be more politically tolerant, have positive college experiences, and are more likely to be self-employed compared to their conventionally schooled peers. However, more longitudinal research tracking homeschoolers’ long-term outcomes is still needed.

Safer Learning Environment

Concern about negative school environments is another motivation for some parents to homeschool. Issues like bullying, peer pressure, violence, drugs, and improper sexuality are common in schools and can hinder learning and emotional development.Homeschooling offers a safer, more nurturing atmosphere for children. With a low student-to-teacher ratio and instruction by caring parents, homeschooled children can learn in a place of encouragement and support, free from many of the social pressures and dangers present in schools. This protected environment may especially benefit children who are shy, sensitive, or have experienced bullying or trauma in a conventional school setting.However, critics argue that insulating children from difficult social dynamics does not necessarily prepare them to handle such challenges in the real world. Homeschooling, if not balanced with adequate social opportunities, risks overprotecting kids and hindering the development of their social skills and resiliency.

Cons of Homeschooling

Socialization Concerns

The impact of homeschooling on children’s social development is probably the most common and long-standing concern about the practice. Many educators and members of the public worry that homeschooled children will lack sufficient interaction with peers and not acquire the social skills needed to function in society.Diane Kunzman, a professor of education at Indiana University, writes that a “common concern is that children schooled at home will not develop the social skills that come from day-to-day interaction with peers” and will have “difficulty getting along with others” as adults. Similarly, Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford professor who has studied homeschooling, notes that homeschoolers may be “cut off from mainstream society” and unprepared for “the real world of negotiating with other people”.However, research has not substantiated these fears. Multiple studies have found that homeschoolers score as well as or better than conventionally schooled students on measures of social and emotional development. Homeschool children tend to participate in many activities outside the home, such as field trips, scouting, church groups, sports teams, and community service, providing ample opportunities for social interaction.Some argue that homeschooling actually provides superior socialization by fostering interaction with a wider variety of people, not just same-age peers as in a typical school. Homeschoolers “tend to be more socially engaged, active in their communities, and less peer-dependent” than other students, according to Brian Ray, a homeschooling researcher.At the same time, the degree and quality of socialization in homeschooling can vary considerably depending on the individual family. Homeschoolers are not a monolithic group, and some may indeed be very isolated and shelter their children from social interaction. The research on homeschool socialization outcomes, while generally positive, has limitations, and more studies with representative samples and statistical controls are needed.

Parental Time and Energy

Homeschooling requires an enormous investment of time and energy from parents, which can be stressful and burdensome. One parent, usually the mother, often foregoes paid employment to homeschool, which strains the family budget. Parents must plan the curriculum, teach lessons, track student progress, and maintain records, in addition to normal household responsibilities. This workload can be overwhelming, especially for parents who are not well-organized or lack confidence in their teaching abilities.Homeschooling is typically most demanding during the elementary years and becomes more manageable as children grow older and can do more independent work. However, even homeschooling teenagers is still a significant responsibility. Parents need to be fully committed to making homeschooling a priority and creating a daily structure for it. Homeschooling is not just an educational choice but a lifestyle that requires sacrifices in time, finances, and personal pursuits.

Lack of Structure and Accountability

Another potential downside of homeschooling is the lack of the clear structure and accountability found in a conventional school. In a public or private school, there are set schedules, attendance requirements, regular assignments and assessments, and oversight by teachers and administrators to ensure that educational standards are met. This imposed structure is helpful for many children to stay on track and make steady academic progress.In homeschooling, the level of structure depends on what the parent puts in place. Some homeschools are very organized and rigorous, while others are more relaxed and open-ended. There is a risk that without the external accountability of a school, homeschooled children could have gaps in their learning or fall behind academically. Some homeschool parents may not have the knowledge and skills to teach more advanced subjects at the high school level.However, it’s important not to overgeneralize this concern to all homeschoolers. Research shows that homeschoolers have similar or better academic achievement compared to other students, suggesting that most homeschool parents do provide sufficient structure and content in their children’s education. Furthermore, many homeschoolers use structured curriculum, online courses, tutors, and homeschool co-ops to provide accountability and expert instruction in challenging subjects.

Limited Resources and Facilities

Homeschools typically cannot match the resources and facilities of a well-funded public or private school, which could limit educational opportunities in some areas. Homeschoolers may not have access to expensive equipment for science labs, computer and technology classes, art and music studios, and sports facilities. Most homeschool families cannot afford to hire specialized teachers for advanced topics or elective subjects. Homeschoolers are often not eligible to participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams, theater productions, and clubs sponsored by the local public schools.However, many homeschoolers take advantage of community resources, like libraries, museums, colleges, parks, and community centers to enhance their children’s education. Some homeschool groups pool resources to offer enrichment classes, field trips, and social activities. And in the internet age, there is a wealth of educational content – courses, textbooks, videos, games, and more – available online, much of it free or low-cost. While homeschools may lack some of the amenities of conventional schools, motivated parents can still provide a rich learning experience with the resources at their disposal.

Fewer Peer Relationships

Even if homeschoolers participate in many outside activities and have regular social interaction, they may still have fewer close peer relationships compared to children who spend 6+ hours a day together in a school classroom. Homeschoolers have to be more proactive to seek out friends and may have less consistent peer contact. For very shy or socially awkward children, homeschooling could enable them to avoid social interactions and not develop their relational skills.However, many homeschoolers form close friendships through homeschool co-ops, church, sports, and other activities. Spending more time with family and adults, rather than peers, is not necessarily detrimental, and research suggests positive overall social development for homeschoolers. But homeschool parents should be intentional to incorporate regular opportunities for their children to interact and build relationships with same-age peers.

Ideological Concerns

Some critics object to homeschooling not because of its educational or developmental impacts but because of ideological concerns. These critics fear that conservative Christian homeschoolers want to withdraw from mainstream society and indoctrinate their children with narrow religious views.For example, Stanford professor Rob Reich has argued that homeschooling can work against the goals of a democratic society by enabling parents to teach “idiosyncratic, illiberal, or anti-democratic” beliefs to their children. Law professors Martha Fineman and George Shepherd contend that homeschooling can infringe on children’s rights and subordinate their interests to the wishes of parents.In an extreme case, Harvard professor Elizabeth Bartholet has even argued for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling, claiming that it violates children’s right to a “meaningful education” and enables child abuse. However, Bartholet provides little empirical evidence that homeschooling is harmful to children overall. Abuse and neglect occur in all educational settings, and there’s no data showing higher rates among homeschoolers.While the motivations and ideologies of homeschoolers are certainly worthy of discussion and study, critics should be cautious about making sweeping judgments. Researcher Milton Gaither notes that there is “a diversity of philosophies and approaches” among homeschoolers and that most are “not driven by a desire to separate from the broader culture,” but simply want to do what’s best for their individual child.


In summary, homeschooling has significant potential advantages, such as customized instruction, strong academic achievement, character development, and a safe learning environment. But homeschooling also has potential drawbacks, like reduced structure and accountability, fewer social opportunities, and high demands on parents. The research to date suggests generally positive outcomes for homeschoolers, but the evidence base has limitations.Homeschooling is not the right fit for every family, but it can work very well for many children with committed parents. As with any educational choice, homeschooling requires thoughtful consideration of each child’s and family’s unique needs and circumstances. The diversity of homeschoolers defies simplistic stereotypes, and the homeschooling movement is likely to continue evolving.Policymakers and educators should avoid a reflexively critical or suspicious view of homeschooling while still providing reasonable oversight and seeking to understand this growing practice. More high-quality, unbiased research on the impacts and processes of homeschooling would benefit parents, students, and society. Overall, homeschooling has proven itself to be a viable and enriching educational option that can help many children thrive.