The World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, Part 3

I’ve been reading a book called Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling (Beacon Press, August, 2009) by Robert Kunzman. The book is a look at six Christian families and how they homeschool their children. Not every family fits the stereotype I know I have in my mind. Some are impressive; others leave much to be desired.

The following passage highlights a family that is about as Christian and conservative as you can get. It’s not necessarily typical of homeschooling. It’s just one glimpse of one family’s mentality about the public schools.

[Father Gary:] “I’m not a wise man in the world’s things. I’m not even academically able to teach a lot of subjects and neither is my wife. We resolved in ourselves years and years ago that if we were able to teach our children character, teach them how to read so that they could read the Bible, we would have done all that is necessary for them to survive this world. And we’re not going to put ourselves up under other people’s ideas of what an educated person is. So we’ve taught each one of them that we would be just as proud to see them hanging off a garbage truck, knowing that they don’t lie, steal, cheat, and despise God.” (p. 72)

Gary has returned to the kitchen by this point and has been listening to his daughter describe their schoolwork. “We started homeschooling back before it became popular,” he recounts. “Our eldest daughters are twenty-five years old now and they never went to a public school for a day.” He pulls out a chair from the kitchen table and settles himself in it. “The public schools are being assaulted by Satan,” he continues. “In the public schools, we’d be worried about our daughters being raped, assaulted, learning Satan worship, fighting, all the guns, the deaths in the schools, knifings. Teachers molesting children. Homosexuals, you know, demanding their wickedness be crammed into the classroom.”

[Daughter] Sharon shakes her head in disapproval. “The only reason that I would want to go to the public school,” she says, “would be for the socialization. That’s the only reason.”

“But you have that at church,” Gary points out.

Sharon agrees. “We have that anywhere else.”

“And you have that going to Wal-Mart,” Gary adds. (p. 75)


  • gwen

    No wonder we have all of the idiots having the ‘teabag’ party and 2M4Ms not knowledgeable to know these have other meanings readily apparent to anyone who is even moderately literate and has a even a modicum of knowledge about the world!

  • anonymous

    I am curious as to how one learns to worship Satan?
    Nor do I recall guns, sex or even homosexuality in our classes (sadly. I think it was mentioned once? So many of us were misinformed).
    I certainly was not molested, assaulted or raped.

    They can be proud of their children being attached to garbage trucks all they want, since they’re obviously so proud of being stupid and ignorant – it won’t help their children do their taxes properly or associate with anyone who graduated.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    That must be a scary place to be, living your life under the illusion that Satan is everywhere out to get you. They clearly hardly have a clue what the real world out there looks like, as they’ve been trying real hard to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. And now they’re isolating their children as well, making sure their children don’t know either. It doesn’t really matter if you’re using homeschooling or private, religious schools to do it, isolating your child like that is simply evil.

  • Someone

    This kind of isolationism IS sick, but what I find interesting is the concern for the dignity of girls in this passage. Religion is the WRONG way to support women, but current society doesn’t offer anything positive in that direction.

    Much talk about the freedom of women is actually a two-faced lie that promotes our exploitation. Whether you are a stupidstitious believer or not, the fact is that half the world’s population is seen as a consumer product, freely abusable by anyone who sees fit to do so.

    I think it would be pretty awesome to link the causes of secularism with encouraging women to think way outside the boxes others insist on putting us in. There would be a place for women’s minds and energy to go besides to the false shelter of religion. We are so shortchanged in this world still – there is no place that is a true exception to the rule – and there was that recent study that found self-declared atheists were overwhelmingly male (maybe that was a US-only study, but still, that is unbalanced).

    Anyone else feel that there’s something sad and wrong about that? We are leaving people behind somehow…

  • ChameleonDave

    I’m going to try to be generous.

    It is indeed better to work as a manual labourer (‘hanging off a garbage truck’) and be a moral person, than to be rich and immoral.

    Pretty much all the things they are worried about in state schooling are real things that happen. They will indeed shelter their daughters from a lot of that. Even the Satanism stuff isn’t entirely a figment of their imagination (a lot of goth types dabble in Wicca and witchcraft, and use Satanic imagery).

    If, via the church, they have an extensive network of friends with homeschooled children, then it’s not impossible that the children will be able to develop ordinary social ties like other children.

    OK, that’s enough devil’s advocate.

    These people are completely fecking insane. The children will grow up not as moral people, but as bigots. The parents exhibit paranoia when they give their list of extremely unlikely hazards at school. The kids will be socially crippled, and have a twisted view of normality. They will be virtually unemployable, with no formal education, understanding of the real world, or practical skills.

  • Todd

    I am curious as to how one learns to worship Satan?

    Heavy metal, of course. \m/

  • Someone

    @ChameleonDave…you ought not to repeat the stereotype about goths and Wicca/witchcraft. It is NOT Satanism. Most goths are actually rather nice people, and Wicca is about a feeling of spiritual connection to the earth and its natural cycles. So-called Satanists are a small minority of delusionists and most goths aren’t quite that silly. Well, at least not classically. Teenagers will pick up on the dumbest parts of the culture and others can’t see the difference from the outside. Just sayin’.

  • http://www.anthonyrmiller.com/blog Tony Miller

    Thank goodness they have Wal-Mart to learn social skills. Can you imagine the secluded life those poor girls would live without the blessing of Wal-Mart. /end sarcasm

    Homeschooling is a mistake. How often do you find qualified educators teaching in a homeschool program? The children are being deceived.

    Clarification: Qualified educator is one that meets state requirements to teach a class in the public school system.

  • Emily

    As most people who have been through graduate school will tell you, education is largely about learning HOW to think, not WHAT to think. What concerns me about this sort of argument for restricting access to education is that the children are never taught how to critically analyze anything that they are “taught” or told. Quite the contrary, they are taught “This is what is right. If you disagree, you are a Satan worshiper or God despiser or homosexual or what have you.” Oh, yes. I see these children feeling very free to exercise their neurons and come to divergent conclusions. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?)

    These young women are of voting age. I’m sure they have siblings who either do or will join their family in selecting local, state, and national leaders. How can they possibly think through the complex issues that we as a global community face and make reasonable choices when all they have been taught is how to read and quote the Bible?

    There’s so much more wrong with this, from a responsible community member POV, a feminist POV, a responsible parent POV, but I’ll stop here.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I am curious as to how one learns to worship Satan?

    Dungeons and Dragons. That’s how I learnt.

  • muggle

    Not even heavy metal. My mother use to pamphlet me in church about the evils of all rock and roll and she called Simon and Garfunkel heathen. Oh, the evil. Of course, he did write “Sounds of Silence”.

    Of course, if Satanism was taught in their public schools, they could actually fight that as it’d be a church-state violation. Of course, what they meant by Satanism, however, was evolution.

  • llewelly

    … learning Satan worship …

    I had that class right after lunch. Worst time of day for any class. I could not stay awake to save my life.

  • http://themousesnest.blogspot.com Mouse

    Homeschooling is a mistake. How often do you find qualified educators teaching in a homeschool program? The children are being deceived.

    Clarification: Qualified educator is one that meets state requirements to teach a class in the public school system.

    I don’t have a problem with homeschooling, per se. There are some children for whom it is the right choice. Our preference is that our son, who has borderline Asperger’s, attend public school, but we also know that there’s the chance we’ll decide to homeschool him at some point if he can’t get the supports he needs there.

    Now I do happen to be a former private-school teacher and am currently working on my public-school credentials, but I still think that most of the state requirements ultimately do little to make one adult a better teacher than one who has not taken the specified classes.

    On the other hand, I do agree with those states which have a series of requirements for homeschooling: certain levels of education, portfolios to be submitted regularly, certain curricular requirements, standardized tests (within reason).

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Heavy metal, of course. \m/

    Heavy metal isn’t Satanic – it’s polytheistic.

  • Andrew Morgan

    Dungeons and Dragons. That’s how I learnt.

    I’ll second that. Those days were great.

  • Shannon

    I’ve never met an actual self-proclaimed Satanist. I don’t doubt there are some out there but I’ve never met one.

    I do know a Wiccan homeschooler though ;-) Most of the homeschoolers we hang with are not religious. I just found out two more of them are atheists also – the subject just never came up in all the years we’ve been friends (I wonder how many more are atheists and I just don’t know?). I do have one Born Again Christian creationist homeschool friend (she’s not a very “good” born again though since she’s got an amusing potty mouth and they read Harry Potter and she’s friends with me and has never tried to convert us). Most of the religious homeschoolers we know are Muslim.

    You know, I have to just accept that most atheists think homeschoolers are whack jobs. It bugs me but you know, I don’t enjoy banging my head against walls so I’ll try and stop. I’ll just leave with this – homeschooling can be fucking awesome. But, like anything else involving kids, bad parenting and religious fundamentalism can screw it up. It’s really sad (and frankly, pisses me off) that homeschooling gets lumped in with religious fundamentalism this way. From the point of view of this intelligent, atheist, science loving mom who is lucky enough to *not* live in a Bible state, I find that homeschooling is turning out kids who are *more* able to think for themselves, not less. The way we homeschool my kids learn for the love of learning and it’s a joy to watch. No fighting over homework or pretending to be too sick to go to school in this house. But no one here will believe that (or even read this) so oh well.

    (heh. As I typed this, my seven year old, who is into cephalopods, just showed me a drawing he did of a squid that I incorrectly identified as an octopus. He then proceeded to lecture me on the difference between the two. Guess I should put a stop to all that since we homeschoolers don’t believe in educating our kids ;-)

  • Anna

    Those people are frightening. My parents had us home schooled, and they are Christian, but they taught us everything. As my father told me, “You cannot fight what you do not know.”

    Perhaps someone should have told the parents that.

    For me, learning about everything sort of backfired from what my parents wanted. It taught me that everyone is normal, unless of course said someone is actually hurting someone (including themselves)

  • Claudia

    Shannon, homeschooling is associated with fundamentalism because one of the tell-tale signs of true far-out fundies is that they think school is “satanic” and homeschool (or tragically don’t) their kids. This unfairly leads folks to assume that homeschooling has an inherent flaw.

    Where I grew up I knew some kids who homeschooled because they were specially gifted and the schools had a policy of not letting them skip grades or follow special curricula. This was a very very liberal school district and fundamentalism there took the form of “every child is special and equal!” so therefore smart kids were held back.

    Homeschooling is just another form of schooling. Homeschooled kids need to pass regular standardized tests and maybe get occasional visits from teachers/social workers (to prevent the possibility of abuse being hidden in the home). If a parent can show that their child is achieving academically as well as the standard for public schools in their area, no one should make an issue of it.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    He won’t even be proud of his kids hanging off the back of a garbage truck. Since most refuse collection is a city/government service, civil service tests are required to be hired for those positions…along with an accredited high school diploma or GED.

    With an education consisting of being ‘good’ people and able to read the bible, I doubt they could even get jobs raking the garbage at the landfill.

  • littlejohn

    Hey, I *majored* in satanic worship.

  • http://thenaturalbuddhist.blogspot.com JohnFrost

    Hey Shannon, don’t take it too hard. I’ve actually be surprised to find out how many atheists support homeschooling; it’s just that articles like these tend to bring out the reactionary in a lot of people.

    As a parent myself, I’m very interested in the possibility of secular homeschooling, but when I’ve tried to search for resources on the web, the only thing I seem to find is religious homeschooling resources with the numbers filed off. Where do you get homeschool resources that are non-religious?

  • Valdyr

    The problem with homeschooling isn’t that it’s homeschooling, but that it is, as others have said, usually overwhelmingly religious. Often this can happen whether the parents want it or not. I was homeschooled from the 8th grade on, and while we were forced to turn in work for evaluations by the school district, the district didn’t actually provide us with any tutoring or curricula or help in any way. The only resource we had available was a Christian bookstore which was the only place that sold (very expensive) homeschooling materials where we lived. And to top it all off I had to still go through the whole GED acquisition process–the school district evaluated all my work and declared it equivalent to state educational standards but didn’t issue me a high school diploma.

  • Miko

    Clarification: Qualified educator is one that meets state requirements to teach a class in the public school system.

    State requirements are arbitrary and worthless, as they typically focus entirely on certification in pedagogical issues of no importance to a homeschooler (like how to manage a class of 35-40 students) instead of anything to do with the actual material that’s being taught. The fact is, while there are horrible homeschool parents like some of the ones in this series, homeschooled children on average perform better academically than public school children. Attempts to make homeschool parents meet the same “qualifications” as public school teachers or use the same textbooks as public schools are usually just a cynical attempt by public-school ideologues to lower homeschool performance so that they (the public-school ideologues) don’t look so bad by comparison.

    Sure, public schools are (almost) as good as private schools if you happen to live in an affluent district. Otherwise, they’re miserable places on the same level of prisons, except that you could theoretically get an education from the prison library. Parents who care enough about their children to find this out would naturally be inclined to try a private school, but alas, being forced to pay for the much more expensive public schools through their taxes often makes the private schools unaffordable. Homeschooling is often the last resort of the desperate.

    Sometimes it doesn’t work out, as with conservative Christian homeschooling. But there are three words in that clause, and jumping to the conclusion that problem is the “homeschooling” part is irrational. What have we seen so far? Parents can’t help kids with homework, wax on about it being “God’s plan,” and have illiberal values. Guess what? A book on the world of conservative Christian publicschooling would highlight essentially the same problems.

  • Miko

    Where do you get homeschool resources that are non-religious?

    It’s somewhat difficult, since it’s a smaller segment of the market. Grouping together with other parents is often a good idea, as it’s a way of sharing both ideas and costs. Plus, it’s good to have support when the state tries to force you back into the public school system. Googling “{your city, your state} secular homeschool” or some variant thereof might turn up results (depending on the size of your location); if not, try posting on the bulletin board at your local library.

    Overall, try to be creative and make your own resources. If you’re interested in secular homeschooling, chances are you’re trying to provide your children a better result than the public schools would, so don’t be tied to their ways of doing things. Remember that most things in public schools are designed with ease of grading as a primary concern, which shouldn’t be an issue for you. Take the school’s sterile “circle the noun and underline the verb” assignment and integrate it into reading literature, say. Integrate textbook readings with a trip to a museum, say; keep an eye on the events section of the local newspaper. Also, public schools tend to emphasize facts (“the chief export of Ontario is…”) as opposed to methods of thinking. Since children typically forget these facts after being tested, this is a waste of time, so don’t bother trying to make your children memorize reference books. The time could be much better spent (for the right age groups) on critical thinking tasks: grab two opposing editorials and really analyze their arguments, compare Zinn’s People’s History to a statist’s version of U.S. history, etc.

    And, especially at higher grades and in subjects you’re less familiar with, consider getting help from experts in the area. If you live near a decent university, there are near limitless opportunities available. If not, there are pretty good internet forums on most every academic subject you could imagine.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    @ChameleonDave…you ought not to repeat the stereotype about goths and Wicca/witchcraft. It is NOT Satanism. Most goths are actually rather nice people, and Wicca is about a feeling of spiritual connection to the earth and its natural cycles. So-called Satanists are a small minority of delusionists and most goths aren’t quite that silly.

    Speaking of stereotypes, Satanists are delusionists? Satanists don’t even believe in the supernatural. They are probably nice people. Eh, just google it.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    johnfrost…check with mcuhouse@rallstech.com

    They homeschooled their kids (secularly) and have a lot of resources that they’re more than willing to share. I’ll let them know you might be contacting them.

  • laterose

    JohnFrost,

    I’m not a homeschooling parent, but I was homeschooled in high school. Check out the Teenage Liberation Handbook. It’s written for kids who want to homeschool, but it’s from a secular perspective, and the back has a list of resources.

    Also when I was homeschooled we actually enrolled in Clonara school (google it) which from what I can tell is a secular school. They gave us a lot of help with the curricula and gave us a teacher we could contact about any issues we ran into, plus that teacher checked my progress to make sure I was on track. The best part was at the end of it all I got a regular high school diploma from them just like if I’d gone to a regular high school. So I didn’t have to deal with the GED and I didn’t have any problems getting into college.

  • Carlie

    Johnfrost – try looking for “unschooling” as well. That’s a term that a lot of secular homeschool parents are using to distinguish themselves from the stigma (and society) around the religious homeschool movement.

  • Shannon

    I’m an unschooler (which some people think is abuse also – sigh). I have noticed that most unschoolers are not religious but the really nice Born Again Christian creationist mom I know is also an unschooler so it’s not always the case. Unschooling just means we don’t force our kids to learn something and prefer to go with their interests and keep the joy in learning. Some people claim that unschooling only works for gifted kids but it seems a really weird coincidence that all the unschooled kids I know are gifted, lol!

    Plus – nodding to everything Miko said.

    (and wondering why my last post didn’t go through? I hope I’m not blocked or something!).

  • Takma’rierah

    Indeed, one of my friends growing up was an “unschooler” and in fact would mostly teach herself, to the point where she’d voluntarily decide to keep studying math over the summer because she didn’t feel she’d quite spent enough time on it in comparison to her other subjects. She did have a problem with loneliness, however.

    Also, I have a Satanist friend–I don’t recall what branch it was that she said since really, it’s all the same to me–but despite looking really imposing with all of her black clothing and corsets and whatnot and her height, she really was an absolute dear.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Someone mentioned something earlier about private schools rating higher than public schools. I’d like to point out that the vast majority of the difference is due to the fact that private schools can kick students out if they’re not doing well. Public schools can’t – they just have to fail the kids. It’s an almost entirely artificially inflated average.

  • http://terrierchica.blogspot.com erica

    So I was homeschooled for a number of years in my crazy conservative christian household.

    It was NOTHING like that crap this family is “teaching.”

    My schooling when like this: started out at Catholic school (my family is not catholic, however) for elementary school, a charter school for middle school, homeschooled in high school.

    Now at first I was mad I was homeschooled because I’d gotten into prep schools and wanted to go. My family didn’t have the money for it. But my mom was a retired teacher, she taught high school and at junior college, and since the public high where we lived was a terrible school she decided that homeschool would be the best option.

    It was great because I’d already skipped a grade, I abhored summer vacation from school, and I wanted less classwork on Fridays because I was travelling around the east coast to play ice hockey. I ended up finishing high school at 15, tested pretty highly everywhere. The ONLY real downside is my parents’ wouldn’t let me go to college at 15, or 16, unless I went to a christian college. I refused, waited it out, and now I’m an Ivy leaguer.

    I hear people talk about the terrible things that happened to them in high school and stories swapped about bad classes and teachers. I smugly and dramatically sigh and say, “Good thing I never went to high school.”

    So yeah, I recognize there’s a lot of crazy people homeschooling out there and I do think that they need to be checked. In the state I was homeschooled, we were required to take a standardized test each year to prove we were learning at least as well as we would be in public school. My brother and I always scored just fine so the state pretty much ignored us the rest of the year. I think that’s fair.

  • Todd
    Heavy metal, of course. \m/

    Heavy metal isn’t Satanic – it’s polytheistic.

    Sheesh. You had to go straight to triple dog dare, didn’t you? I can’t win now. I can only hope to reach a stalemate.

  • Richard Wade

    Ignorance isn’t just the absence of knowledge. It could almost be seen as a living thing. It is self-perpetuating, it protects itself from assault by knowledge, and it breeds more of itself. We will never get rid of this kind of active, willful ignorance by passively hoping it will go away.

    This family is insular, paranoid, xenophobic and superstitious. If, as he claimed, all that mattered to Gary was that he taught his kids morals, ethics and good character, he could have done that without also cheating them out of a chance to compete in a world that will need well-educated sharp thinkers.

    He lives in constant fear of the world and he has taught his kids to do the same. Regardless of how well or poorly they may someday compensate for whatever holes they have in their basic education, they will most likely follow his core lesson their whole lives: Be afraid of anything different, and respond by hiding from it. In turn, they will teach their children the same thing.

  • http://lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com/ Lyvvie

    Had to laugh at the last line about socializing at WalMart, especially since I found the website http://peopleofwalmart.com/ which really explains an awful lot. *giggle*

  • Shannon

    (this isn’t going through and I’m wondering if maybe it’s too long? So I’m trying in two parts)

    johnfrost – “Where do you get homeschool resources that are non-religious?”

    It depends on what you want. I don’t do full out boxed curricula. Finding *that* without religion is very hard to find as far as I’m told. It’s there if you hunt, but we don’t do our homeschooling that way so I haven’t looked into it.

    For me, it’s very easy to find what we need. First of all, I live in a well populated area so we have a great library. My daughter is like me and loves to read. A LOT. My son isn’t reading on his own yet, but he loves to be read to. I can’t adequately state how important a good library is and am sometimes amazed at how people take them for granted.

    Whatever my library doesn’t have, they’ll inter-library loan for me. Pretty much any book or video I want, they can get. In all the years I’ve been living here, there’s only been a handful of items (ok, I think 3) they couldn’t find for me for some reason. I’m currently waiting on a NOVA video (Cuttlefish – Kings of Camouflage) and a book (Octopuses, Squids and Cuttlefish by Trudi Trueit) for my younger.

    Then, again because we live in a well populated area, there are tons of great educational places to go, like the local science museum, living history museums, aquariums, etc. Even a day at the beach can be educational. The other week, after a storm, we kept finding dead fish. Some we knew, but we had to go home and look online to figure out the very creepy looking and dangerous Stargazer we found.

    (cont.)

  • Shannon

    (sigh. Is it because I put links in? I’ll take them out.)

    Then there’s family. Three of my kid’s grandparents are avid birders. Next weekend my 10 year old is going to a one hour lecture on bird watching with them, followed by a boat tour of a swamp area to find more birds. One of her grandmothers was a naturalist (before she quit to work in law) so my daughter can also identify quite a few edible wildflowers that live in this area. Sure, my daughter also reads about these things but actually going out and doing it is so much better for her.

    The internet is great too. Because my son likes cephalopods, I show him PZ Meyer’s site whenever he has a cool picture up. We’ve also found more than a few very interesting videos on youtube on lots of things like octopuses, beluga whales giving birth, cicadas, etc. And don’t forget educational sites. Not just ones aimed at kids like Planet Science or BrainPop but also things like the Astronomy Picture of the Day or this great interactive bird identifier we used to identify who was sleeping in one of our flower pots.

    We’ve also taken part in The Great Backyard Bird Count, gone to 4-H fairs, flown with the Young Eagles and do Roots & Shoots. I could go on but I think you get the point.

    There really are so many learning opportunities in the world. When people get stuck in the school box of thinking that learning only happens when a person stands at a blackboard and lectures, I really feel that they are cutting themselves off from so much that is out there. That way of instruction works for some people and some subjects but it certainly isn’t all there is. And, in my opinion, it really isn’t the best choice for most kids in the younger grades anyway.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    I am curious as to how one learns to worship Satan?

    By going to the movie theatre and wearing shorts! How else are you going to learn?

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Shannon, sounds like your kids are getting a pretty good deal. Certainly sounds more fun and interesting than high school classes.
    How do you handle subjects like maths?

    And for all the homeschoolers, do you find yourself hampered by lack of equipment and facilities? When i was in secondary school (uk equivalent of high school, but only goes to age 16) our science labs had bunsen burners, chemicals, radioactive stuff, gieger counters, beakers, all kinds of electrical stuff, etc. Our workshops had all kinds of metal and woodworking tools and materials.

    I can quite easily see how i could teach my (hypothetical) children geography, history, english, literature, drama, etc, even maths. But i’m not sure how i’d duplicate the full rounded education i received without the kind of facilities a school can provide.

    I’m honestly not sure how common home schooling over here in the UK is, but having worked in a rather awful school myself, i think that any kid who has parents who care about his education is going to do well regardless of whether they are homeschooled or not. The biggest problem I saw was apathetic kids with apathetic parents.

    And while i agree that teacher qualifications may well be largely about how to work with kids and hence not useful as homeschoolers, a teacher at least has a good grounding in his subject.
    A parent might not know enough to teach a subject and might not know that they don’t know enough. Especially if that parent comes with preconceived notions of how th world works.

    example. A bible believing right winger creationist. How can this person teach science to their child when they do not udnerstand how it works, or understand even the major theories. How can they teach history when to them it all started only 6000 years ago. How can they teach politics and civic duty when they believe that the founders were all devout christians forming “Gods nation”. How can they teach comparative religion when they regard the others as vile satanic tricks.

    Without some way to regulate what kids are getting taught, all you are doing is letting crackpots and misguided people mess up the next generation with no counter acting force. At least in school kids will get exposed to all kinds of ideas.

    Maybe most homeschoolers are great, i suspect that the majority turn out fairly well educated kids. But the minority of true fruitcakes concerns me.

  • JJR

    One interesting suggestion regarding Home schooling was made by Peter Sacks in his book STANDARDIZED MINDS, which is a critique of high stakes standardized testing so prominent in public schools today….he suggests parents declare the intention to homeschool, then enroll their child in public school anyway; such students will be exempted from high stakes testing, etc, and if enough parents did this it might free teachers from such an impetus to “teach to the test” and just, y’know, teach…

    Also recently finished Neil Postman’s 1970s classic TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY. His critique of the school system then still applies to today. Would be homeschoolers should read this book, as should current teachers…Postman argues that the main point of education should be the development of critical thinking, or as he puts it, getting students to develop their own internal “crap detector”.

    I know there are plenty of sincere parents who successfully homeschool their kids; the film JESUS CAMP, however, asserts that 75% of all homeschooled children are Evangelical Christians. Does anyone know where they got that statistic? Honestly, the home schooling scenes of that movie were the most difficult to watch.

  • cypressgreen

    I, too, will be proud of my son if he grows up to not lie, cheat or steal but also picks up garbage or digs ditches. But you better believe he’ll be a garbage man AFTER he gets his college diploma.

    As to Wal-Mart…all that Wal-Mart socialization will come in handy for that child’s future job as a Wal-Mart greeter.

  • http://www.wheatdogg.com wheatdogg

    Clarification: Qualified educator is one that meets state requirements to teach a class in the public school system.

    Well, that certainly leaves out all of us private-school teachers who do not need certification to teach. And I did it for 23 years. harumph.

    Please don’t make generalizations like that one. In some states, the requirements to be certified are pretty low, and having that certification does not automatically make one “qualified” to teach in the sense that one is a good teacher.

    In the private-school world, poor teachers wash out pretty quickly. If they are crappy teachers (some are), the kids complain to the parents, who pay the bills. Then the parents complain to the administration.

  • stogoe

    Someone mentioned something earlier about private schools rating higher than public schools. I’d like to point out that the vast majority of the difference is due to the fact that private schools can kick students out if they’re not doing well. Public schools can’t – they just have to fail the kids. It’s an almost entirely artificially inflated average.

    Oh, this absolutely. Another thing to consider is the level of available parental involvement in the socioeconomic levels that send their kids to private schools. When you factor in socioeconomic status in those studies that show private schools are ‘better’, the advantage of having parents rich enough to care or at least hire tutors is weeded out and you get real results – private schools do worse than public schools.

  • Shannon

    gribblethemunchkin “Certainly sounds more fun and interesting than high school classes. . . How do you handle subjects like maths?”

    My kids are still young (7 and 10). Math at that age just happens naturally. It’s part of life (and some fun math books too). I think that more advanced mathematics will need to be taught in a more traditional way, but we’re not there yet. I do know one thing though. I went to a public school in a well off town (70′s/80′s) and turned out your stereotypical American girl who felt that math was “hard” and I’m “dumb at math”. As far as I can tell, my 10 year old is about as proficient at math as I was at that age (meaning it isn’t her strong suit). The difference? She tells me math is fun! So we’re already ahead of the game as far as I’m concerned.

    For older grades in general – some things you can buy for home if you want to go to the expense. And some expensive items homeschoolers sell used to each other. Some homeschool the younger years and then send the kids to high school. For those who want to continue homeschooling but don’t want to buy a full lab set up, you can take classes at the local community college or seek out something just for homeschoolers. Our local science museum for example has classes for older kids. My friend’s teens took a class in forensics there.

    Again, keep in mind I live in a well populated area, just outside a major city. I have a lot more resources than someone living in Boondock, Nowhere. (though to be honest, a public school in Boondock, Nowhere probably doesn’t have a really nice lab either).

    As an aside, I have a friend who homeschools in Ireland. It’s called home education over there and I think the term is much better (because my kids are being educated, but for the most part we don’t “do school”).

    And you know, there is plenty that I know I don’t know enough about and I really don’t think that means I can’t homeschool. First of all, do consider that I went to public school and on to college and have a BA, so can I blame the schools for not educating me? LOL! No. People tend to retain the information they need and/or are interested in. So yes, some things my kids are into I find myself relearning or learning for the first time (because school certainly doesn’t cover everything in the world!). Like your stereotype of the young child into dinosaurs knowing more than the parent. I currently have a very inquisitive 7 year old so every single day I find myself saying “I don’t know, let’s look that up”.

    An example – my daughter wanted pet rats. I didn’t know much about pet rats and said no. She took out and read every book the library had on pet rats, found a bunch of websites on rats, showed me a bunch of videos on youtube with cute rats doing various things and eventually, she took all the information and wrote and illustrated a cute little book on the care and keeping of rats. She can also tell you their scientific name, how they differ from other rat species and give you a bit of the history of them as pets. Yeah, we now have rats ;-) Way more motivating than a teacher randomly picking a subject to study.

    You know, I actually know teachers who homeschool their kids *because* they were/are teachers and decided there must be a better way. My father was a high school US history teacher and is very supportive of his grandkids being homeschooled (he’s got a ton of very amusing – sometimes scary- stories about his years as a teacher). His girlfriend was a biology teacher (not sure what grade level but I think younger) and she was a bit nervous about the idea of homeschooling at first but a few years ago she said that you only have to talk to my daughter to realize it’s obviously working out well.

    JJR – I think they pulled that statistic out of the air. Homeschoolers are very under-studied. I doubt anyone really has figures like that. As I said in another post, even the stats for how many homeschoolers there are in the US is an estimate. I live in a state with no government oversight of homeschoolers so my two kids aren’t registered anywhere.

    I agree that it’s troubling to think of the way some kids are raised but you know, it’s not exactly a homeschooling issue. There are plenty of crazy parents who abuse their kids, lie to their kids, brainwash their kids, and manage to do it while sending them to school. I don’t know what we should do about it. I do *not* think the answer is to give up rights.

    Some parents kill their children. I think we can all agree that’s a tragedy. Does that mean I’d be for a program where social workers regularly have surprise visits to every house with a child to see if the kids are being abused? Hell no. And I feel the same way about my rights to homeschool my kids the way I see fit.

  • textjunkie

    Is the Calvert School religious in its curriculum for home schooling? I didn’t think it was, but I haven’t looked at its materials in 20 years or more now, and it’s changed a lot to keep up with the times. But it used to be pretty good.

  • diablito

    Excellent series of posts, people. Just to add one more voice: my wife and I are nonreligious and we homeschool. The eight families in our field trip group for homeschoolers aren’t religious either. “Homeschooling” isn’t necessarily code for “fundamentalist Christian” any more. It does help to explain to people that we’re not religious when we tell them that we homeschool.


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