It does not matter whether you send your kids to school, or whether you home school, you are, ultimately, responsible for your children's education. You are the one who needs to insure that your children are being correctly taught in the schools, or for providing appropriate education at home.
It seems to get harder as they get older. Learning to read is so easy in comparison to choosing a course beyond high school. Our goals for our children as they matured have been a bit different than many parents.
Any more, there is so much emphasis placed on getting a college education, and it is often overlooked that you CAN life a good life without one. There is also a lot of misunderstanding about what, exactly, a college education gets you. Understand, I am not for, or against, college, I just feel that parents ought to allow their children the full range of choices, and many paths to get there.
Some children do better if they work a job or two for a while before they go to college. It helps them to learn their strengths and weaknesses, and to have a better idea of what they can succeed at long term. Some children will do better with military training, tech schools, apprentice situations, or other types of training. It is good when they can choose something that they can grow in long term, but if your child is one that graduates high school without a clue, then working fast food for a few years may just give them the understanding of themselves, and the final motivation to commit to something more stable long term. The point is, whether or not they are learning, and working toward positioning themselves for growth through their life.
Some people feel that a college education is their ticket to stable employment. The economy has changed in the last few years, and many people with college degrees are finding it difficult to find employment after graduation, and many jobs which now require a degree are still starting with barely more than minimum wage. If you doubt my assessment (and many people will read this and think I am exaggerating), just look at the job listings on your state Job Services web site. $7 or $8 an hour for no experience, with a college degree, is common.
Further, the economy has changed in other ways as well. People typically have to go back to college for additional education now within the course of their life, sometimes more than once. If you do obtain a degree, frequent additional credits may be required in many fields.
Our goal with our kids was not to put them on track for college. If they felt that was what they needed, then that is what we prepared them for. But our main educational goal was to prepare them to be successful contributing members of society. We focused on work skills, life skills, and learning how to LEARN. We may not have taught them everything they needed to know, but we taught them that they were capable of learning whatever they needed to. They gained work experience in their later teen years which helped them to be self-sufficient when they moved out.
As each child is different, and each family is different, there is no single solution that is right for everyone. There are some guidelines though:
1. Make sure your child is actually learning in school. Our daughter got good grades, but was not functionally literate at the age of 9, because the school taught her phonics, and assumed she could read, but she did not ever connect phonics and reading. So listen to your children read, give them challenges from life to apply math skills, help them see science around them, and know for yourself whether they are actually learning.
2. Pay attention to the individual needs and strengths of your children. Each will be different. Let them become who they have the potential to be, even if it is different than what you want.
3. Be willing to consider all the options, not just one, for continuing education. And if you cannot afford to provide them with a paid college education, don't worry. There are many ways that they can seek that and obtain it if they are determined, and it may be to their benefit to do so anyway.
4. Never send a child to college when they don't know what they want to do. They are not likely to put in the necessary effort to do well, and they may end up getting a degree in something they are utterly unsuited to actually do. Such a child is better off working for a time, until they truly know themselves well enough to know what they are highly motivated to do, and what the gifts are that they can use to better the world. When they know that, they will know what they want to study, and who they want to become, and they will be well motivated to succeed.
Learning occurs in many ways, and as long as progress is occurring, and a child is growing toward the goal of independence and positive contribution to the world, their early education is on track. Later, as long as they are productive and responsible, they are worthy of praise.