Homeschool vs Public School: Similarities & Differences


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The next school year is right around the corner, and you may be trying to decide between homeschooling or sending your kids to public school. It is an important decision, and both can benefit children in different ways.

What are the similarities and differences between homeschool vs public school?

Both homeschools and public schools utilize curriculum and online resources to teach skills, and students in either environment can be required to participate in standardized testing. However, homeschools and public schools differ in:  

  • Cost
  • Parental Control and Workload
  • Class Sizes
  • Students’ Academic Readiness

Understanding how homeschooling and public schooling are alike and how they differ is crucial to making a sound decision on what best fits your family. Below are key similarities and differences of homeschool versus public school as you explore both options.

How Are Homeschool and Public School Similar?

Standardized Testing May Be Required 

Public schools are known for requiring state-mandated standardized testing, but homeschooling may not exempt your child from the same criteria. As of today, 24 states require some form of nationally standardized achievement testing to be performed annually. The tests are designed to: 

  • Test the students in the categories of mathematics and English Language Arts
  • Measure academic achievement every year
  • Determine the national percentile rank for individual students

Homeschooling parents who live in one of the 24 testing states must keep a record or portfolio of their child’s test scores and have it ready to present to the state if requested. Public schools take care of these records for the parent. 

Teachers and Homeschooling Parents Use Online Resources

Whether at home or in a traditional public school, the digital age is in full swing. No matter the age, efficiency level, or subject matter, there is an online program that can support the teacher and help the student learn more effectively. 

Federal and state governments provide funding for resources in public schools but homeschool parents do not receive funding with the exception of a few states that offer a tax break.

As a result, homeschool parents are conscientious about finding affordable resources and using free online tools, such as setting up a Google Classroom and curating online resources.

How Are Public Schools and Homeschool Different?

Everyone knows that homeschool and public schools are different, but to what extent? Is there that much of a divide between the two experiences? Breaking it down to a few critical factors may give you the answer. 

HomeschoolPublic School
CostFamily-funded (exception of three states listed below for tax incentives)Taxpayer-funded
Parental ControlParent controls curriculumLocal Education Agency controls curriculum
Parental WorkloadParents must teach, keep good records, and plan extracurricular activities. Parents are not responsible for teaching, record keeping or planning activities.
Academic ReadinessStudents generally score the same or better on standardized achievement testingStudents generally score lower on standardized achievement testing 
Class SizeOne-to-one or small group attentionClassroom of 25 to 30 students

The Cost of Homeschooling is Paid Out-of-Pocket 

Public school is free for the student in terms of out-of-pocket expenses, but that is not to say there is no cost. Taxpayers pay an average of $10,615 per student each year.  These numbers can range from as low as $6,000 in states like Utah and as high as $18,000 in more expensive states like New York. 

Homeschooling is funded by the student’s family and can range anywhere from $250 to $1,800 per student every year. Families who homeschool three or more children can foot a bill of more than $10,000 a year for the following: 

  • Materials 
  • Curriculum
  • Meals and snacks
  • Extracurricular sports teams or activities
  • Gas for planned and unplanned field trips

Additionally, in most states, families cannot claim compensation for homeschooling on their taxes. The only exceptions are Illinois, Minnesota, and Louisiana. In these states, homeschooling families can claim a tax credit.

Parental Involvement is Not Required with Public Schools

Parents of public school children are strongly encouraged but not required to be a part of their children’s educational experience. This allows both parents of the household to work outside of the home to provide more income. 

Homeschooling a child can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day. Parents are expected to do the following:

  • Teach all subjects that as required by their state.  
  • Plan every lesson according to the needs of the child. 
  • Find, plan, and attend all extracurricular activities. 
  • Keep detailed records of test scores and portfolios of student work samples according to the state guidelines. 

It is possible to work full time and homeschool. This type of homeschooling requires creative scheduling and a strong family support system.

Homeschooling Parents Control the Curriculum 

Homeschooling parents have more educational freedom to teach children with the curriculum that suits them. Every child has a different way of learning, so choosing the curriculum that connects with your child can be challenging.  

Luckily, there are online communities, blogs, and forums that can help you choose not only the right program for your child but one that will be a good fit for you as well. 

On the other hand, parents who send their kids to public school have little to no control over what their children learn in school or how they are taught. The test-based curriculum of public school moves quickly, and some children are taught at a faster rate than they can retain. For these struggling students, the pace can create gaps in learning. Alternatively, some students need acceleration that may not be possible with the constraints of a typical classroom.

Homeschooled Students Show Higher Academic Test Scores 

Academic achievement tests scores of homeschooled students tend to be equal to or higher than public school students. Parents without a teaching certificate can successfully homeschool their children without a degree in education. Each state varies with homeschooling laws and requirements for parents to provide a non-traditional education.

Class Sizes Can Affect Academic Achievement 

Studies show a correlation between higher academic achievement scores and smaller class sizes. Public school students learn in a class size of 25 to 30 students to one teacher, while homeschool students more readily get one-on-one attention. 

While teachers at public schools can struggle to give each child the attention they need to succeed, homeschooling parents can take extra time to work through the problems and subjects that are more difficult for the student. Pacing is set by the child’s rate of learning.

In Conclusion

While homeschooling may not have financial benefits, there are other aspects to consider that may make it a good option for some families. There are similarities between homeschool and public school, but the differences between the two are considerable, and families may want to think carefully before deciding one way or the other. 

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