Homeschooling as an alternative to public school

Homeschooling as an alternative to public school

In this particular historical period, more and more families choose to educate their children at home, but what is it? What are the pros and cons of this type of education?

Home schooling, in Italian parental education, is an educational alternative to the common attendance of public school classrooms: parents who choose this alternative therefore decide to provide for the education of children directly.

The reasons why a parent chooses homeschooling are many, and vary from case to case:

  • Cultural: families with at least one foreign parent can choose to train their children at home following the education system and school programs of their country of origin.
  • Qualitative: many families place little trust in educational institutions, they do not consider them capable of providing a preparation that responds to the needs and educational ideals of parents.
  • Healthcare: usually due to health problems of the child, or, as is happening in this period, for contexts of uncertainty about public health due to Covid-19 or of one of the cohabiting family members.
  • Although in Italy the families pursuing this choice are not as numerous as in other states, such as in the United Kingdom, in this very particular period in which we are forced to live with COVID-19, the numbers have also increased in our country.

    Homeschooling and the Italian school system

    Homeschooling in Italy is legal, as enshrined in Article 34 of the Constitution, which makes education compulsory and free for at least 8 years (6-14 years, then extended to 16 years), and not school attendance. However, the parent has the right to be able to choose the education that they deem most suitable for their child.

    What does this translate into?

    In the fact that parents must be aware of the skills that the child must reach in the various stages of development envisaged by the Italian school system and organize themselves in such a way as to achieve them.

    On the other hand, the method to be adopted to pursue these skills is at the complete discretion of the parent and depends on the educational style that best suits their needs:

    • some decide to stick to ministerial programs, using school texts and studying at a certain time slot;
    • others deal with one subject at a time, passing to the next only when the previous one has been assimilated;
    • still others decide to follow the inclinations of their child, practicing the so-called unschooling: the family chooses how and what to learn, according to the wishes and attitudes of the child.

    However, it is true that every year children will have to take an exam to demonstrate that they have acquired the required skills, in order to pass to the next class. In this way, the public school system supervises that the actual right of the child to education is complied with and carried out adequately.

    On a formal level, therefore, parents who intend to undertake this path must:

    • submit a statement to the head teacher of the nearest school,
    • claim to have the economic and technical skills to educate their children
    • have the end-of-year exam taken, which certifies the acquisition of skills.

    Homeschooling: pros and cons

    According to the proponents of homeschooling, what makes a parent a good teacher is not so much his culture, but his attitude towards the education of their children and their growth as a whole.

    The training offer linked to the parental education system therefore takes on some very distinctive specifications:

    • it is more flexible than the programs to which teachers must adhere,
    • in particular the learning path can be tailored to the child, respecting his learning times,
    • the teaching methods are more varied: children can learn, as well as "traditionally" from books, even outdoors, with conversation, play, discussion with people of all ages and housework. They are immersed in society, through educational visits to museums, volunteering, art, music, dance lessons …

    On the other hand, with homeschooling the child could be penalized in the field of socialization, the relationship with other figures in a position of authority outside the parents and find it difficult to detach from the family. In addition, some detractors of homeschooling consider it undemocratic, compared to traditional education, because it tends to be adopted by families with more economic and cultural possibilities.

    From parental education to parental school

    However, parental education should not be confused by another alternative in the educational offer available to us: the parental school.

    This type of school was born from the need for a group of parents who share a set of very strong values, to the point of founding a school with its own educational project in line with the group's values ​​and ideals. Families therefore subscribe to the shared educational project and choose the educators who most embody this vision. In this case, educators can be external professionals, but also parents, who, however, must demonstrate that they have adequate technical and educational skills in order to teach.

    Parental school can be considered halfway between the classic path of public education and homeschooling: in fact, parents have constant control over the program and the progress of their children, through a highly personalized training offer, but the component of sociality which, on the other hand, can be penalized in homeschooling.

    In Italy, there is still no well-defined legislation governing parental schools, being a young and little known reality.

    Depending on the number of families involved in the training project, the parental school can be established with different legal forms:

    • the informal group, when there are few families: once the training proposal has been shared, it is necessary to select a location and then register with the revenue agency as an informal group. It is by far the simplest form of aggregation.
    • The non-profit association is recommended for a larger number of families, when the need arises for a more structured organization with its own statute and well-defined roles among the members.
    • The non-profit cooperative, for larger groups, where it is more important to have a hierarchical organization that manages families and coordinates the entire project.

    At the regulatory level, there are no precise constraints that oblige the informal group to become an association or cooperative: this becomes a need of the group's founders to make management at an organizational and bureaucratic level more fluid, creating a management and a clear statute, in order not to risk that newcomers can subvert what has been created until then.

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