Dynamics promoting and hindering development through home schooling

For their best possible development, children need an environment that is conducive to their developmental needs. Individual public or private learning support can stabilize mentally and physically severely impaired or sick children and children with emotional needs. In contrast, educational opportunities where parents teach their children at home are, from a developmental psychological point of view, a learning environment that inhibits development.

If parents make use of the right to home schooling in order to create holistic (social, emotional, cognitive) educational opportunities that take into account both the emotional and cognitive developmental needs of a child, they apply this parental right in the best interests of the child and in accordance with children’s rights. An example of a learning setting for children that promotes development is school classes, as they provide the framework and opportunities for social and cognitive learning.

Some children suffer massively from emotional distress, are seriously ill or so severely impaired that they need individual public or private learning support in order to stabilize their mental and health situation. From a developmental psychological perspective, individual learning support requires holistic support concepts that take into account options for returning to a normal class community and integrative support in everyday class life so that those children who are better off can be reintegrated into school life.

Homeschooling also has its advantages in reducing emotional and bridging the gap towards development. For instance, buying time to get a better school and sparing the stress of searching and missing classes in the process of changing schools.

Young people who have gone to public schools during their compulsory education and who decide on their own initiative to catch up on or complete their secondary school leaving certificate in co-operation with their regular school by means of private lessons have found a way to further their education by independently acquiring educational content – provided that they are well networked privately with young people of their own age and can organize their social contacts well independently.

In contrast, from a developmental psychological point of view, educational opportunities where parents teach their children at home represent a learning environment that inhibits development, and a thorough examination of the parents‘ motives in terms of the child’s well-being is required in order to authorize parents to carry out such home schooling. The children who are taught privately by their parents lack the social relationship space with other children that enables social learning outside the family framework. Children need extra-familial relationship spaces to an ever-increasing extent as they grow older, in order to gradually free themselves from their dependence on their parents. It is a mistake to assume that when a child reaches the age of 18, he or she can detach himself or herself almost automatically from his or her parents in order to lead an independent life in the future.

For a successful separation process, children need:

  1. their entire childhood and
  2. sufficiently positive relationship experiences outside the parental sphere of influence with children of their age and similar interests.

However, if children grow up in a mother-and-child family, for example, and are also taught by their mother, then such children grow up in an interdependent system that does not allow for autonomous development.

In a habitat that is predominantly concentrated on the close family nucleus, only a few social behaviors can therefore be tested. Communities (kindergarten, schools, scouts, sports, music and other clubs etc.) differ from family life in their social interaction. This social coexistence is regulated by their own cultural values and norms. Through such extra-familial care systems, children learn about and benefit from different ways of organizing social interaction in a community and thus different cultures. Children, who know almost exclusively family rules, sooner or later experience diverse social norms and values of living together as a culture shock.

In order to prepare a child for life to be a democratic citizen, it is important to create child-friendly social conditions where democratic values are lived. The school has the state’s educational task of providing a social framework in which democratic and social norms and values are also lived. According to current laws, there are no plans to incorporate the public educational mandate into home education. Children who are privately taught in the living room are thus denied essential social experiences, which they will need later in life to be able to participate as active citizens in a democratic society. People who have been able to acquire fewer social skills through home schooling, through this narrower social space, have correspondingly more difficulties in the world professional, when starting a family, etc., and are thus socially handicapped.

Parents as private teachers of their children have in addition to the task of educating their children the task of bringing them up. Both tasks require partly opposing interventions and thus often lead to role diffusion and ambivalence. Educating means above all providing and caring, i.e. To keep in the childlike regression, whereas teaching encourages the child to learn new things and thus to be lifted into progression.

Additionally, the annual examination of the children creates a pressure on the parents to meet the requirement to provide their children with the annual academic contents before the annual examination date. The legal requirements for home schooling actually create a „we have to“ scenario, since parents are also assessed by their children’s examination results. This legal framework makes parents dependent on their children and vice versa, making children responsible for their parents in home schooling. This role reversal overburdens children in their childhood and is therefore not suitable for children.  

There are also parents who refuse to let their children show up for the annual examination by the school.

Other parents in return pass this pressure on to their children by using psychological and/or physical violence.

For fear of further violence, most children „function“ by doing what is required of them. In domestic education, physical and psychological violence often goes undetected for years.

The equating of positive grades and quality of home schooling by parents is not permissible from a child rights perspective and is also irresponsible. From a developmental psychological point of view, no direct connection can be made between positive grades and best possible development. Children can write positive marks under the most adverse living and learning conditions (fear of punishment etc.).

Another reason why positive marks in this externalist examination are no proof of equivalent teaching compared to school is that in times of the internet, e-learning programs can be used, provided they have access to the internet, children can prepare for the annual exams of the respective school level largely independently with their help. From a developmental perspective, teaching reduced to a computer program lacks the learning exchange with the environment – but this learning exchange is necessary and important for children to develop self-confidence, self-esteem and self-esteem.

Positive marks mean that the child has passed the minimum requirements according to the curriculum, but have little meaning as to whether a child has received the best possible support in order to develop in the best possible way. Even children with learning disabilities can get positive grades over the years. There are parents who are very worried about their children with learning difficulties, and who therefore give them particularly intensive private support. However, they are not obliged to support their children with learning difficulties if the grade is positive, because they have passed with good grades anyway. Learning disabilities can become entrenched in the school years into a lack of skills and ultimately lead to serious educational gaps. For such children who are not supported, home schooling is a disadvantage compared to school children who are given the opportunity to fill their educational gaps by means of support classes.

An annual assessment examination also has an education-selective function: unsuitable examination methods and examination settings of the school authorities that are not suitable for children have an educationally impeding effect due to possible incorrect assessments of actual learning performance to the extent that they can block educational pathways due to a poor final certificate.

It is common legal practice that children who have been ordered by a court to continue their home schooling during the school year may be immediately deregistered from normal schooling in order to be taught in the living room of their mother or father. From the children’s point of view, this legally correct action means tearing out of the social association of a class. Although there is a basic right of the child in Austria to adequate participation and consideration of his or her opinion in all matters concerning the child, this basic right is ignored in connection with the choice of instruction at home or at school, leaving school for home, etc., and can have traumatizing consequences for the child.

Dismissal from school because of problems that have arisen in and/or through school, such as bullying, immaturity of a child of school age or heavy fines due to chronic truancy of a school child, etc. Represents an attempt to solve the respective problem on the child instead of in the school system. Although school conditions that are developmentally precarious or developmentally problematic can be relieved in the short term by signing out of home schooling, locating problems on the child as a long-term, permanent solution is highly problematic because problems are attached to the child and the child is now so problematic – i.e. Has a deficiency – that it can no longer go to school. Permanent exclusion from the school association prevents the participation of children, leads to exclusion and thus to social disability.

The right to home schooling promotes the formation of socially closed systems in which children have to grow up in conditions that are damaging to their development.

Extreme or radicalized social groups or parents do not agree with, among other things, school educational content according to scientific findings, such as sexual education in biology, and use home schooling to keep such educational content away from the child or to replace it with their subjective, spiritual or ideological worldview theories. Radical theories taught to children promote education on extremism and radicalism. A lack of sexual education leads to frightening identity crises, especially among young people, which remain largely unrecognized as development risks. Particularly at risk are female adolescents, who are given a suppressed image of the role of women to which these maturing girls have to submit.

Children growing up under such conditions have considerable health risks such as: psychological or psychosomatic, but also other diseases of these children due to living conditions that are hostile to development or conditions in coercive contexts often remain untreated or insufficiently treated.

In the contexts of home schooling, there are also children who have to act as caregivers. The high stress factors to which these children and adolescents are exposed as caring relatives (young carers) strain their powers in an unhealthy way. The negative effects are mainly psychosocial and psychological (see „epycy“ – young carers – children and adolescents as caring relatives“ at www.roteskreuz.at, as of 12.1.2020). There is no way out of this spiral of stress for caring children or adolescents in home schooling.

If parents suffer from an underlying mental illness, this often means that the children grow up in a sick world. It becomes problematic when such parents sign their children off for home schooling, as a result of which these children can hardly have any other corrective relationship experiences outside their parents; these children are very much at risk of becoming mentally ill themselves in adulthood.

Environmental factors in home schooling that are not appropriate for children, are harmful to health, endanger children’s well-being, inhibit development and/or hinder education are contrary to the well-being of the child and the children’s rights anchored in the Austrian constitution since 2011 and should therefore not be approved by the authorities.