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Homeschooling Selects Specialization Over Well-roundedness

Homeschooling Selects Specialization Over Well-roundedness

By Heather Sanders

Regardless of the fact that studies suggest homeschool students who go on to college will outperform their peers and that homeschooling has gained enough mainstream attention that some colleges actively recruit homeschool students, those of us who homeschool still receive criticisms that we are somehow limiting our kids’ opportunities.

In the past, those opposed to homeschooling spouted that homeschoolers lacked socialization, but research reveals the opposite–that they are significantly more likely to participate in community service initiatives, join civic, religious or business organizations and be politically involved.

Now, the naysayers’ most frequent misconception is that homeschooling parents cannot possibly know every area of study enough to offer a stellar, well-rounded education for their children.

They are 100% right.

Fortunately, many homeschooling families are not as concerned with offering their children a well-rounded education as they are with walking alongside them as they find their place in the world–and by that, I mean helping them recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and honing that knowledge into a future career path.

Isn’t that why we educate our children?

Be honest–it isn’t purely for the love of knowledge, right? I imagine if we are all brutally honest we will admit that we want the best education for our children so they will eventually leave our home, engaged in a stimulating career that both challenges them and pays their bills.

If that is the case, and eventually we want our kids to make enough money to support themselves, then “specializing” is more important than well-roundedness.

Think about it. Why is there such a heavy push for well-roundedness in the early education through high school years when the first thing high school graduates must do (before even applying for college) is choose a major (area of specialty)?

It hardly makes sense to force students into cookie cutter paths for 12 years, and then when they graduate, tell them to stop thinking like everyone else; now they must define what they want from their lives/careers.

As a homeschooling parent, my own lack of well-roundedness will not negatively affect my kids’ futures. How can it when I have the freedom to fine-tune their education for their individual needs, strengths, and areas of interests?

Also, if they need to develop a skill-set their father and I do not have, there are a number of resources available. They can find and work with mentors, which could be family, friends, or even someone they do not yet know, but can approach because of that person’s knowledge and experience in their field of interest. There are also more straightforward options available, like dual-credit courses at the local college and university.

A parent’s lack of educational omniscience will, in reality, never get in the way of their children’s future; only a lack of motivation can do that. For this reason, the argument regarding well-roundedness is hardly an argument at all, and why I feel strongly that most parents or guardians can successfully homeschool.

Well-roundedness is unfounded because the logical result is a person who knows a little bit of everything, which means they don’t know a lot about anything. Personally, I do not want a well-rounded brain surgeon, and I could care less if my mechanic knows the major themes of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. And what do you bet, if asked, the parents of brain surgeons and mechanics saw the early interest or propensity that lead up to their child’s current career? Both are valid careers, but neither require a well-rounded education; what they require is focus, commitment, and dedication to their specialty.

For those who feel that homeschooling compromises a child’s opportunities, think again. Parents and guardians are in a prime position for leading their students towards a profitable career because they KNOW the children in their care the best, have their best interest at heart, and this is true whether they are doctors and lawyers or truck-drivers.

Photo Source: ZANYBAH

Published December 3, 2013. Last updated December 3, 2013.
About the Author

Heather Sanders

About the Author: Heather Sanders is a freelance writer living in Huntsville, a smallish town on the...

About the Author: Heather Sanders is a freelance writer living in Huntsville, a smallish town on the tail-end of the East Texas Pineywoods. She and her husband Jeff have three kids: Emelie, Meredith, and Kenny.

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  • Cait

    December 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I have to say that as a teacher I disagree, exposure to many different career paths and potential areas of study is absolutely necessary for children. Yes they can (and should!) find their own paths, and no schools one size fits all method is not perfect BUT without exposure to different curriculum and different methods of thinking, I think they are less likely to reach their potential.

    For example, take my godmother. She is a nephrologist, an award winning one that actually helped to invent the procedure that allows diabetics to undergo kidney transplants safely (though I understand NONE of the science) but when I ask her what contributed more to her education then anything else, she talks about being a biology major at a small liberal arts college that allowed her to think about her own dreams in different ways. She credits being forced to take classes in MANY fields for her ability to think of medical problems in medical terms, but instead is able to use ALL of her education to think about problems from multiple different perspectives.

    Now that probably sounds weird, after all what do Shakespeare and Hitler have to do with kidneys? But what people miss, what even students and teachers miss, is that we are not teaching Shakespeare, we are teaching how to think like a an author, think like a historian, think like a biologist and so on and so forth. Those professions require different dissection of terms, of reading, of raw materials in order to be successful and THAT should be the goal of any education, home school or not.

    • Holly

      December 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Yes! Exactly, Cait.

      Even when selecting a “major”, you still have general education courses you must complete for your BA or BS. Science majors still need to know how to write and communicate effectively – for grant funding, publications, etc. Not to mention, everyone needs to be aware of our shared history in this world.

    • Heather Sanders

      December 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Cait and Holly, thank you so much for your thoughts and feedback!

      Cait, your godmother sounds like an amazing woman, thank you for sharing about her; I appreciate hearing her viewpoint.

      I want to clarify that we do cover the basics with our children, and we are building a transcript for them so as not to close any doors should they want to attend college. What I wrote is that many homeschooling families are not as concerned with well-roundedness as they are with helping their students recognize their strengths and weaknesses, which ultimately help them find their potential or path towards a future career.

      It isn’t really all or nothing, just that I believe “specializing” is more beneficial to them in the long run than a heightened focus on well-roundedness. Also, to debunk the belief that a parent’s lack of ability to know everything about every subject will not hinder their homeschooled children.

      • Cait

        December 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

        GREAT! I am glad that you seem to “get it” I must have read to much into what you were saying in your article. If I can go by what I read you sound like a pretty great teacher for your kids, don’t stop pushing them!

        And thanks! I am lucky enough to know many smart people and get to pick their brains on a regular basis, my godmother definitely being one of them (though honestly it wasn’t til I started college searches that she gave me any opinion on education)

        Continued luck with your kids and their studies!

  • Kate

    December 3, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    As someone who works with college freshmen, both those who come from traditional K-12 systems and those from homeschooling backgrounds, I’d say that both groups have gaps in their knowledge and interests. Just because a “well-rounded” curriculum is offered, doesn’t mean the student is actually learning any of it.

    And while I hesitate to make any generalizations, because I can always think of individuals who are exceptions, two of the bigger differences I see in the two student populations are curiosity and problem solving. Homeschoolers seem to be better at coming up with questions and then working with instructors and support networks to find answers to those questions. Students from the public schools tend to have to be reminded how to be curious… from what I can tell, it’s not something that’s rewarded in many schools.

    So really?  I don’t care how the student got to college or what their level of preparation might be. If the student is curious and willing to work, they will be successful, not only in the rather unique environment of an educational institution, but later in life as well. As parents, we can encourage that no matter what format of K-12 education we choose.

    • Heather Sanders

      December 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      Kate, I love this from what you said: “I don’t care how the student got to college or what their level of preparation might be. If the student is curious and willing to work, they will be successful, not only in the rather unique environment of an educational institution, but later in life as well.”

      The students who come into contact with you are truly blessed. Thank you for your insight!

    • IrishMum

      December 5, 2013 at 2:01 am

      Love this Kate!

      And Heather, great photo!

  • Debbie

    December 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    This is, by far, one of the most sensible articles ever written about homeschooling! I’ve never understood the whole “well-rounded” thing!

  • Tianna

    February 26, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Excellent article!