[Talk]: Homeschooling III

1. Teachers unions. Don’t forget teachers unions. Just look at the current mess that is California – won’t be too long until that’s sorted out, I guess – but it’s still largely due to teachers unions.

Now, as to why private schools might be better than homeschooling – let me indulge you with my not-so-limited-anymore BBA knowledge. From the top of my head, I can come up with the following reasons why private schools could be better:

  • Economies of Scale: Bigger is cheaper. You only need one building instead of one home for every child, you only need one maths teacher. I’m not quite sure how well this works – it’s mostly about saving money and reducing costs but specialization still applies. I’m not entirely buying that one either, though. From my own experience, I can say that it shouldn’t be too hard to get your kids up to their high school degree – anything afterwards, that’s probably impossible. High School should be doable though.
  • Economies of Scope: Use your skills from one area in another area. Not sure whether that applies here. That’s probably an argument that’s more supportive of homeschooling than of private schools – use what you taught your kid in Philosophy to illustrate something you’re currently teaching him in Biology. A specialized teacher can’t really do that.
  • Learning effects: The more often you do it, the better you get at it. This one would tend to lend support to private schools but then again you would also lose some of that energy you have when you’re doing it for the first time. Probably fairly doable to pass on these skills through books helping parents homeschool.
  • Experience curve: More often means decreasing costs. Similar to above.

I see quite a few problems with private schools that still remain.

  • The gains aren’t anywhere near as big as they are with university. Few (if any) people want to teach their children at university level – you simply don’t know enough to effectively teach your children. High school level – not that hard. We both got through grammar school which is – no offense – probably a bit harder than your average American high school. I’m absolutely certain I could teach my kid everything we learned there – and it would take me no more than 9 (instead of 12) years. And he’d have a much better experience, travelling the world and the like.
  • Teachers’ salaries are shit. You attract the wrong kind of teachers – and this especially applies to private schools without the luxuries that state funding brings. If you start paying decent salaries, your cost savings start vanishing pretty quickly.
  • Reducing costs doesn’t equal improving quality. You just can’t give a teacher more than, say, 4 students – after that, quality starts dropping real fast.

So yeah, in conclusion – specialisation effects aren’t that big and reducing costs doesn’t hold up that well to scrutiny.

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