How Homeschooling Impacts A Child’s Mental And Physical Health
By Guest Author, Jennifer Landis
Parents choose to homeschool their children for a myriad of reasons. Some want more control over their child’s curriculum, lifestyle or learning environment. Some children are homeschooled in the short term due to chronic health conditions or special needs. Some children are homeschooled for moral or religious reasons.
The choice to homeschool is a contentious topic. There are varying opinions on the benefits of homeschooling, and concerns over a lack of social activity and limited interaction with peers.
As of 2017, 3.5 million children are homeschooled.
When measuring the health benefits of homeschooling, it is important to consider the motivations for homeschooling. Children with special needs or learning disabilities may thrive in a homeschooling environment, as well as individuals with mental disorders such as anxiety.
Children may also be homeschooled due to parental concern over traditional curriculum, or a desire to have control of a child’s environment outside of the classroom. Whatever the incentive, there can be many benefits to homeschooling. But does homeschooling keep your child healthier? Let’s examine how homeschool impacts an individual’s mental and physical health.
Homeschooling can be beneficial to children for children who struggle with mental, behavioural or learning disabilities. Being in a less hectic environment can increase productivity and focus, while a flexible schedule can help with performance anxiety.
These benefits can also be extended to healthy individuals with no signs of mental disorders. Traditional school environments can be stressful, with the added challenges of peer pressure and bullying. Homeschooling removes these obstacles from the learning environment, creating a space that is solely for education.
However, there are concerns about how homeschooling impacts socialization and the ability of children to deal with real-life situations, such as working with a team or dealing with a difficult social situation.
Despite the many stereotypes, many homeschooled children receive plenty of socialization, from local homeschool events to organized extracurriculars and sports. The benefit of homeschooling is that individuals can be better prepared for these social situations since they have space and time to build confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Traditional schooling environments can be extremely competitive. While some students respond well to a health challenge, others can feel paralyzed by the need to execute well and on time.
Homeschooling may present an opportunity for students to concentrate on their studies, increase their own self-confidence, and reduce performance anxiety.
Current CDC statistics report that 20.6% of children between the ages of twelve and nineteen years old are obese.
Physical education courses are required in public schools, and most private institutions follow similar schedules. School districts are required to include at least 150 minutes of physical activity, which can include physical education classes or extracurriculars.
Homeschool education requirements can vary by state. Most states require consistent recordkeeping and testing to rate and review whether students are meeting certain education goals every year. Physical education is often a standard curriculum requirement, with expectations that are similar to those of a public school setting.
However, according to a report published by Health Promotion International, there is no direct correlation between homeschooling and increased health benefits.
Some studies even demonstrate that public school students perform better in certain tests of physical performance, specifically in measurements of abdominal strength and endurance.
When it comes to homeschooling and physical health, family lifestyle plays the most significant role in how much activity takes place on a daily basis.
For example, some people choose to homeschool their children because they work outside or travel often. A child growing up on an organic farm will most likely live a more healthy lifestyle than someone who is enrolled in an online program that requires a more sedentary learning environment.
Illness and Immunity
Classrooms are infamous for spreading germs. However, regular contact with large groups is a regular part of life for most people. But illnesses like the common cold and the flu easily spread in these environments, and close contact can increase the risk of being infected.
Depending on the situation, homeschoolers may be able to avoid large outbreaks of illness more than regular students. Even if homeschoolers are engaged in daily social events, such as a homeschool cooperative, they most likely have more flexibility in staying home or participating in classwork independent from a group.
While there is not much data to prove that homeschoolers are better protected from infectious diseases, it is worth noting that children with chronic diseases or weak immune systems will benefit from a more isolated environment.
Homeschooling and Health
Homeschooling environments can vary greatly, making it difficult to compare independent education to a traditional school setting. While there are certain benefits that may be tied to homeschooling, the extent of these benefits depends on the situation.
For example, students with compromised immune systems may be healthier if they are removed from the classroom. Similarly, students with anxiety disorders or special needs may benefit from the flexibility that homeschooling can allow.
While it is unclear whether homeschooling can keep your child healthier, there is evidence to support that the homeschooling lifestyle can make children happier. Since health and happiness often go hand in hand, one can assume that homeschooling does play a role in your child’s health.