Film Review: The Home School Awakening
I suppose it depends largely on who you ask.
I have seen an average 5 star rating and 2.5 star ratings for The Home School Awakening documentary film in the last several days since it emerged in theaters on July 13-14, 2022.
However, this review is from my perspective as a 22-year veteran educator in public, private, international, collegiate, post graduate, and –most recently– remote educational settings.
If I could give this project 6 out of 5 stars, I would!
Let me tell you why the film and the concept of home school and the film are worth celebrating…and worth your time. You’ll at least be more educated by then end of the post.
For those who are doubtful about home schooling, let’s start with some of the most common objections to the idea which are addressed head on in Cameron’s work.
Objection 1: 'I don’t have enough money to home school.'
The film advises, “If you have a math textbook, a library card, and internet access, you can successfully teach your own children.” It doesn’t have to be expensive. I agree that we way underutilize resources third world countries only dream of having. When was the last time your child saw the inside of a library outside of school? That is free.
Objection 2: ‘I am too busy to home school, (especially as a single parent) and do not have the support system to do that.'
Finances on a single income can be a challenge, especially if school is more seen as a daycare than a place of learning. Even if your child temporarily needs to remain in some form of childcare, it does not mean that homeschooling isn’t worth the effort in small, manageable doses.
As a parent, you are the gatekeeper of what your child is absorbing, single or not. Being out of touch with what they are learning because you have so much on your shoulders does not negate that role. In fact, keeping education closer to home can help the single parent better monitor the real situation in which your kids are exposed.
Even if you start small: weekends, one day a week, evenings, or joining a cooperative community to trade services, taking an active role in what your child learns is an important way to nurture them.
Home school is approachable in some form for even lone parents and, in fact, may provide better support to the family than the regular school system can. Over time, it can be a great compliment to some public school programs and make up for what it lacks. If there is any aspect of your child’s experience with which you are dissatisfied (and even if there are none), consider your options honestly.
Objection 3: ‘I worry if my child doesn’t go to a regular school setting they won’t be properly socialized. They won’t be prepared to take direction from adults outside the family.'
The film pointed out something I had never considered: regulated school structures are the only time in a child’s life where they are cloistered with their exact same aged (and ability-banded) peers. Before and after K-12 schooling, they are mixed in with other ages and walks of life in the “real world.”
As a school teacher, I was not able to come up with any other scenarios outside of the school ages where groups of people are so homogeneously organized. In that vein, it could be argued that the regular school setting is actually a detriment to socializing a child for long-term aspirations..
Children learn intergenerational social skills in an experiential, organic, unregulated way.
Before the formation of the public school system, children learned at home all the time, often with stair-step siblings in the family business or trade. Older children and teenagers are mature enough to do the on the job learning through volunteerism, paid and unpaid internships, hobby clubs and sports, and even becoming a small scale entrepreneur.
These types of well-rounded experiences with people teach young people many social skills that cannot be replicated in schools due to the ratio of children and adults. Even in my best years, so much of the classroom teaching felt like herding cattle for about half of my work day. What exactly does a child learn socially sitting for several hours with the same classmates?
Also, is socialization the main purpose of them being there? It can definitely be an added bonus. However, I know many people with a fun, congenial personality that also had few marketable skills at the end of their 13-year tour of the system. Perhaps that is because the system is focused as much on taking tests as it is on long-term retention of skills.
With intentionality, many home schoolers end up having better social and emotional intelligence skills than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. One college recruiter featured in the film stated many institutions of higher learning prefer home schooled students due to their proactive study and learning habits.
Sounds good to me!
Having had over 5,000 students myself–at a wide variety of ages, I am sure my colleagues would agree: social skills begin at home long before a little one goes to pre-school and kindergarten. It starts with family meal conversations, chores, petting the dog and cat gently, sharing with other children in the home or community. Some educators believe that they can predict which students are going to achieve or exceed grade level expectations - and those who likely will not – as early as kindergarten.
Because parents who own the responsibility to teach their children manners, communication, empathy, and friendship started doing so the day they were born. They did not wait for nor expect the school system to do it for them. it is the home environment before coming to school that largely influences this preparedness.
To give those who have not seen The Home School Awakening a quick overview, the 1 hour and 40 minute presentation moved quickly in and out of scenes with over a dozen families in every stage of the home learning process. They came from different locations, backgrounds, and socio-economic levels, from what I could infer.
The interviews included parents, teachers, curriculum specialists, college enrollment counselors, school psychologists, and the home school children themselves. Segments featured how each family came to the decision to try a new path, and also vignettes of the students’ learning in action. The learning took place in many locations: homes, the woods, conventions, on the road, in business establishments, gyms, and even a small airstrip. It appeared anything but boring and humdrum.
Below are my three key takeaways that advantage home schooling based on the movie, especially in the year 2022.
A common misconception of learning at home is that it must mirror a traditional setting - with 6-7 hour days of direct instruction from one adult. In fact, the efficiency of a smaller learning group allows for the same amount and deeper learning. It can be on a schedule of any number of days and far fewer hours. The family can operate as a learning team where interdependence drives daily routines. More or less schooling can be done in different seasons of the year, month, week, or day. In short, parents can make it work for their family schedule and situation. Here is another article that echoes these same sentiments.
Continuing on the theme of personalization, the beauty of this method is that it can be fit to the needs, interests and style of the student – in a way that regular school settings cannot accommodate. Besides core subjects of reading, writing, and math – other subjects usually taught in school can be emphasized and integrated at a pace and depth that fits the goals of the pupil.
Many programs which often fall by the wayside in a public setting: music, art, home economics, wood and metal shop, and other extracurriculars can be given a place of prominence if desired. To that I add, the moral and spiritual values which each parent cherishes can also be taught in a way that will never be paralleled by any other role model.
Also, for students with special needs, accommodations and modifications can be made with a just right fit. As one parent in the film said, “I realized I didn’t have to be a special education teacher. I just had to teach my daughter.”
From where I sit, the biggest advantage and energizing challenge for a potential home school family is being purposeful and thoughtful about how you design your path. The world is quite literally your oyster in that you can name your schedule, materials, focus, methods, priorities, and adjustments to be made along the way. That is so much room for creativity!
The very freedom home schooled students have is a double-edged sword for parents. The good news is that you can do nearly anything you want to make the process work for you. The bad news? Exactly the same freedom.
For some, the freedom inherent in home schooling is intimidating, because then we bear the full weight of the consequences of those choices. However, choosing not to participate in our child's education that holds consequences --and I would argue --more troubling results.
There is no third party to blame if things go badly. If a person lacks confidence in themselves and their ability to make wise decisions, it may seem easier to relegade themselves and submit those decisions to people assumed to know more and better. In some cases and areas, this may indeed be true. We certainly cannot know all things our child needs to learn. However, knowledge and resources can always be obtained along the way. As I was told as a new-to-the-profession teacher college graduate, you merely have to stay one step ahead of your learners.
Who loves a child more than the average parent? Who has their best interests in mind more than Mom and Dad? In most cases, no one will make more sincere efforts or be more committed to a good outcome than the child’s family.
My own father, a school psychologist and drop out interventionist once told me, “There is nothing special about special education more than the lower student-to-teacher ratio.” While some specialists might disagree, the reality remains that headcount is a strong predictor of academic success. Less students being taught automatically provides more attention per individual. Time on task, with appropriate breaks is a well founded predictor of learning gains. So on the points of class size and malleable scheduling alone, homeschool seems to be self-recommending.
I encourage you to review The Home School Awakening yourself and make your own critique. I think your mind will open up to a brave new world of opportunity.
Reflecting on the purpose of education, where do you want your children to be 10 or 20 years from now? Is the circumstance they find themselves in educationally going to promote that vision? If not, home schooling may be your best bet.
If you are considering even a trial run of home schooling and want further support, book a free 30-minute phone call here to discuss your particular situation. I can provide you with my professional input and other resources that can help you make home schooling bravery a reality.