Does Home Schooling Make the Grade?

So I’ve always wanted to ask what you guys think of homeschooling.

First of all, should that be one word? I see it’s commonly used that way. But it looks weird, right?

I think there’s a lady right in my neighborhood who homeschools / home-schools / home schools her kids. She should know. It’s her job to know. I’ll ask her.

Now “school” looks weird to me. It looks Yiddish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Of course there’s not.

Anyway, culture-wise, homeschooling seems to be the butt of a lot of jokes and General Disparagement (as I knew it would increasingly become when, very early on in her show [and perhaps still; I don't watch TV (which I know sounds pretentious; all I really mean that's how much I loathe television commercials)], the great Ellen DeGeneres started pretty regularly making homeschooling the butt of some of her jokes.)])]).

Man, I hope you homeschool teachers out there are the teaching proper use of nesting parentheticals. Because I happen to know that can get pretty darn confusing.

Anyway, the adults I’ve known who as children were homeschooled did perfectly well once they transitioned to public high school or college. They don’t seem uneducated or poorly socialized at all.

On the other hand, I have no idea how many poorly educated social maladjusteders (um … perhaps this is a good time to disclose that I went to public schools) I might have known who were homeschooled. “So, did you attend school in your garage?” doesn’t seem like a very socially adept thing to ask, so I don’t. Oh, sure, I sometimes think it; but I hold my tongue. Why? Because early on in life, via the public schoolyard playground, I learned that inquiries of that nature can soon enough leave you hanging upside down on the monkey bars with your shirt tied in a knot over your head.

Which brings us to an important consideration. Namely, do homeschooled kids eat paste like regular school kids do? Probably not. They probably eat real food—which is, like, right there in their kitchen. Lucky dogs.

Speaking of real food at school, when I was a kid our school had this program, where, if you brought in money on Monday, then on Friday you got a McDonald’s hamburger delivered right there to your classroom.

One Friday our teacher assigned me the job of going to the principal’s office to pick up our class’s box o’ burgers.

En route back to my classroom with the burger booty, I had the greatest idea in the history of not wanting to return to class. So I ducked into this empty little room off the principal’s office, quickly unwrapped one of the burgers, took a perfect, half-moon bite out of it, and then re-wrapped it and snuggled it back in with all the other warm, normal, non-prechomped burgers.

I just couldn’t believe how funny I thought it would be to have all the kids in my classroom hurriedly unwrapping their burgers–and then hear this one, lone, “Hey! Somebody bit my burger!”

Thinking about it right now is cracking me up.

And that’s exactly what happened, too! We were all happily unwrapping our wonderful McDonald’s deliciousness, when one among us (seated, as it happened, all the way across the room from me) suddenly exclaimed, “Hey! What’s this?!”

I tried so hard not to laugh I practically exploded an organ.

Pffft. Teachers. Do they ever think anything is funny?

So then I was back at the principal’s office—where I spent so much time that the office secretary, Bunny, used to have me help her do her filing. I’m totally not kidding. I actually learned an official office filing system just from being such a dependably delinquent kid. I still use that system, too.

So how to use a color-coded filing system is one great thing that I definitely learned at a public school.

I guess when you’re homeschooled there is no principal’s office. Or maybe there is—and if you’re the teacher/parent, you have to go “All right, Billy. I saw you spit that wad at your sister Julie with that straw from last night’s dinner. Go to the principal’s office right now, young man! But wait in the kitchen till I get there. Julie, I’ll be right back.”

Then you have to run around to the front of your house, shoot through your front door, and dash into your faux-principal’s office.

Then you throw on a pair of thick glasses you keep in there, or maybe jam a wig on your head, or clip on a bow-tie.

“Oh, Billy,” you shake your head as your kid finally trudges in from the kitchen. “What have you done this time? What are we going to do with you, Billy? Well, you know the routine. Grab that stack of folders.”

I always figured homeschooling was really bad for kids, because public schools are all about learning to socialize. It seems to me that’s the true value of going to school with tons of other kids you don’t know: you learn all that social stuff that’s so vital to the quality of the rest of your life. Bullies, school yard crushes, roving packs of kids from classes above and below yours, freaks who somehow think it’s hilarious to take a bite out of your hamburger.

It seems to me that you can learn what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue while sitting at a kitchen table or at a classroom desk. But how does a homeschooled kid learn all the vital socializing lessons that come with being tossed into a school teeming with other kids and teachers you’ve never met? How well you socialize is so huge in life; it pretty much defines the quality of your personal and certainly professional life. If as a kid you don’t learn how to socially … be, then doesn’t that kind of pretty thoroughly doink you for the whole rest of your life?

Except I guess it doesn’t. Because, as I say, I know people who were homeschooled, and they came out just fine. If anything, they seem better socially adjusted: calmer, more confident. Maybe it’s good not to ever be bullied, or picked on by a psychotic teacher, or forced into child labor doing menial office chores in the principal’s office while the principal’s secretary eats her tuna sandwich and totally doesn’t offer you any.

I don’t know. The main thing I left elementary school absolutely dead positive of is that, no matter what anyone says, it is funny to leave a mysterious bite taken out of a random unwrapped McDonald’s hamburger.

But what do you guys think? Any of you home schooled, or know any homeschoolers?

Vote now!

[polldaddy poll=4809037]

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://whythulc.wordpress.com Deanna

    Very interesting post. I happen to have a couple soapboxes on this topic because I was homeschooled from 4th-12th. For me it was really great because I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like being babysat. Give me my work, tell me when I need it done by, then leave me alone. On the other hand, it did not work very well for my sister. She and I are opposites. She likes the regular routine, loves structure, and that kind of thing. So public school worked marvelously for her.

    I also have a unique experience because I went through public, private, and homeschooling, along with taking classes for homeschoolers once a week taught by people who loved their field of work. So I got to interact with the kids I knew from church and other homeschool groups and also learn to love the academics that the expert teachers knew so well. I was well-versed socially and education method-wise. Some kids don’t have that. A couple of my good friends were homeschooled and if anything it was detrimental to them because they were forced to stay at home, hated it, and didn’t learn much at all and just squeaked by graduating.

    Also, I have a feeling that some of the issues with my parents letting go of me as an adult was affected by homeschooling. For years they saw me almost all day, every day of the week to not seeing me at all because I was living on my own. Would that have been such a difficult transition if I had gone to public school? Who knows.

    Will I homeschool my kids? Probably not. I liked my education but unless I pop out a kid just like me, it probably won’t be good for them. Also my husband isn’t a huge fan, so we’ll see. I really just think the “goodness” or “badness” of homeschool depends on so much. It depends on the personality of the child, the teaching skills of the parent (my mom had a masters in teaching, so she had an advantage), the opportunities that the parents give the child (play groups, co-ops, homeschool classes, field trips to museums, etc.).

    I voted Good because it worked well for me in my case (and I’m very well adjusted socially!) but ideally I would have voted “it depends”, because it very much does when it comes down to it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Wow. What a great answer, Deanna. (And you’ll see I DID go add another choice to the poll.)

      • http://whythulc.wordpress.com Deanna

        I will agree with a lot of people here that sometimes homeschooling is out of a motive of trying to shelter their kids from the Big Bad World, which I think is completely absurd because then they come out as little chicklets that are so narrow-minded that they can barely cope in normal environments that aren’t sanitized, in a way.

        The other thing is that I, like another poster, did not sit down from 9-3 with our cute little workbooks and work on a time table. I’m just not that kind of girl. We would try that for a week and get burnt out quickly, so then we would rent a bunch of books and movies about the branch of science we were studying (thank the Lord for libraries!) and that’s how we would absorb the information. The other upside is that I was able to learn at my own pace. I didn’t like History and math so much so I did them at a normal year-by-year pace, but other subjects like biology I had finished by the middle of my sophomore year because my brain thought it was total magic.

        One other point about socializing… One reason why I and a couple of my friends ended up being better off with social manners is because we were exposed to so many adults. My mom’s friends, my friend’s parents, the whole group of teachers, the chaperones, etc. Kids in public school have adults but unless you’re really good friends with someone or are in band or something you don’t get to meet the other adults around. I, at a young age, HAD to learn to be polite, communicate on an intelligent level well beyond my years, and how to behave in a normal social situation. So in some ways I accidentally advanced my manners, which did me a ton of good because if I can show adults from highschool going forward that I know how to communicate clearly, that I have a good head on my shoulders, and that I can add to the conversation, you earn so much respect before most other kids. It was very interesting because I never would have guessed that effect would be there… But that’s how that cookie crumbled, as it were.

        Education is such a living animal. It can’t be contained in one box, taught by one method, communicated correctly by one single curriculum. Everyone has their own experiences and I’m thankful that my mother gave me the experience that I had because it has been more than useful. That’s one thing I’ve learned.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Outstanding comment, Deanna. Really rich.

  • Marcelo

    I’ve never been homeschooled (oh, look, I’m in the same lane as John!). I am a product of public, parochial, and private schools (we moved around a lot).

    The sharp downside of homeschooling always seemed to me to be not only that the kids (schoolees?) are not exposed to enough socializing, but especially in relation to public schools, aren’t exposed to enough diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and viewpoints.

    I always wonder if the homeschooling parents are just a wee bit too scared of the outside world (and mostly the diverging ideas found there) and try to protect their children from it. Which is not good. Even if it is a wee bit dangerous.

    • Mindy

      No, Marcelo – not all homeschooling parents are scared – a wee bit or otherwise – of the outside world. Painting with that broad brush serves no purpose. Some probably are, yes. Some are religious zealots who want to protect their children from the big scary world and all those – eek! – IDEAS out there, yes. Some have children with learning disabilities whose needs aren’t met in school. Some love teaching. Some love flexible schedules. Some live in areas with poor schools and few options. Some really like spending time with their kids. Some do it for traveling and to give their kids more life experiences. And so on.

      I homeschooled from the time my daughters were 4 and 7 til they were 8 and 11. Four wonderful years during which we traveled to China five times to volunteer, visited several states, etc. My girls did structured reading and math every day; otherwise, they learned by living. Cooking, crafting, playing, reading, time in the library, soccer, piano, classes in all kinds of things from acting and singing to trapeze – and many classes through our local homeschool learning co-op. My 4th grader got to visit a med school and hold a human heart in her hands. We spent lots of time playing. We spent time at the Botanical Garden, the Zoo, the Science Center and the Art Museum. They did activities with kids of many ages as well as adults.

      They are now 13 and 16, both straight A students in school. They are socially adept, empathetic, kind and compassionate people, of whom I could not be more proud. I wouldn’t trade that extra time I got to spend with them for the world, and neither would they. They transitioned seamlessly into school when it became necessary for me to work, and while I’d never had any intention of homeschooling them past elementary school, anyway, I’m glad we did it when we did.

      Now, all that being said, I do sometimes worry that some states don’t provide enough oversight. The variation in laws from state to state do make me wonder. I knew that *I* was actually educating my daughters, but no one else really did. If I was the kind of parent who just wasn’t paying attention, there was no structure in place to make sure my kids got the education they need to succeed in life.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Your girls are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lucky to have you, Mindy.

      • Marcelo

        Didn’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, but…we go with what our experience is. The few (maybe two) families I knew who homeschooled were religious zealots and were afraid of their children being taught evolution and being exposed to godlessness. Obviously, one end of the spectrum.

        Mindy, you are a homeschool parent par excellence, and to echo what John said, your kids are lucky to have you. But I could tell that from all your other posts, too. :-)

  • A’isha

    Hilarious post, John. You ask a good question though, one that I can’t answer with merely good or bad. In my area there are lots of homeschooled kids. (See, homeschooled brings out the red squiggles, so it must be wrong, right?) I’ve interacted with these kids a lot because I think they all pass through one of my art classes at least once.

    The homeschooling (uh-oh, no squiggly line for that! Now I’m more confused) around here seems to be a result of either the fundamentalists who believe the public schools are trying to make kids gay and have abortions (I wonder, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that gays are less likely to have an abortion? You know, because of no penis-vagina contact? Just saying.) or the more hippie-like population who want their kids to have a more, um, rounded education than the public schools can provide. Either that or they can help with the pot crops. Not really sure. :)

    Actually I have friends that homeschool (Damn squiggly line!) their kids and they seem pretty well adjusted which made me think I should throw in another group that homeschools. That would be the ones who have kids with difficulties that the parents think could be better dealt with at home. One friend has a son with learning difficulties that was falling through the cracks at school. They’re homeschooling him, but his sisters go to regular school.

    Personally there’s no way I’d homeschool my kids! None! For one thing, I have to work and it’s much easier to work when they’re not here. Secondly, I value my sanity. Seriously, I’d go crazy if my kids were home all the time. Sure, I love them more than life itself, but it doesn’t mean I want them by me all the time with their songs of farts and discussions of whether naruto or dragon ball z is better.

    So there you have it. In a nutshell, homeschooling is good for some, bad for some, and downright stupid for others. :)

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    I had a completely miserable time at prep school, but if I hadn’t been through that, I might never have learned how to make friends. Of course, I had ~SOCIAL PROBLEMS~ (to this day, I quite often have to consciously remind myself of my hard-earned tips for social interaction: ask about the other person! Do not brag! This is one of those times when lying is okay!, and I still get it wrong sometimes), so maybe it’s different for kids who are already socially well-adjusted.

    But I think school is an extremely valuable predecessor for working life. The vast majority of us are going to have to interact daily with people we don’t like; we’re going to have to work on projects that seem like a total waste of time; we’re going to get frustrated with an inefficient system that doesn’t listen to us and enforces arbitrary rules. Learning to put up with that kind of crap is one of the major reasons for going to school.

    Different strokes, though. Having siblings can turn you into a relational, socialized human being just as well as attending school can.

    • jonni

      Putting up with with crap is a positive lesson?

      More people in the world need to learn to NOT put up with crap!

      Accepting that one is powerless and it’s best not to rock the boat is the curriculum I object to the most.

  • mm

    I think the issue comes down to agenda. Why are you choosing to home school your children? Is it because you feel it provides them a superior education or for some other reason?

    There’s an important societal indoctrination that comes from public school, that you can’t replicate in any other way. Ultimately, public school can provide a normalization process for anyone from any type of background with any type of belief. It forces you to accept, or at least learn to live with, people different from your family, or what you know. You learn that you can make the world bend to your will(which up until the age of 5 or 6, you really don’t know that you can’t. Most crying kids get what they cry for).

    If your motives for homeschooling are because there’s issues with society you want to hide your children from, then I sort of have a problem with that. It’s unrealistic, disingenuous, and dangerous.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a right to home school. Ultimately, the price of freedom is not always agreeing with everyone Else’s ideas or way of doing things. But the developing human mind is a mold able thing. What is put into it, will greatly affect the outcome of that person as an adult. It’s easy to raise a bigot, or a zealot, if the person putting ideas into a child’s mind is one. Then again, that’ can happen anywhere, even in a public school.

    So, who knows.

    Oh and for what it’s worth, Mozilla’s spell correct recognizes home school and home-school but not homeschool.

  • http://motheringbythesea.blogspot.com Hazel

    Hello John

    My kids are Home Schooled. Except that here in the UK we tend to say ‘Home Educated’ as some people don’t like schools at all which is why they don’t use them! I’m going to use a mix of terms below because I haven’t settled on one.

    For us, it’s very, very good, so that’s what I voted. I’d hesitate to say it’s *always* very good though. It’s so individual, maybe more so here as we have a lot less policing than you guys do over the pond. So it’s going to be different for my kids compared to other kids, some will have better and some worse experiences. The Americans tell me that in different states there are different laws but most will have some sort of legislation, a test every year for example. Here all we currently have to do is the rather woolly ‘Prove an education appopriate to the child’s needs is taking place.’

    In terms of socialisation, we mix a lot, therefore the other familes we see also mix a lot! We have networks and stuff going on, made easier by the internet. There may be families out there who keep their child isolated but we don’t see them, we’re never going to know until such child becomes an adult and decides to complain. Maybe in a lot of cases they’d decide it was fine though and not complain, so we’d never ever know! Is it always essential to mix with people, to fit in? Is it ok to be a hermit? I don’t know the answer to these questions. For some people, maybe it is.

    We don’t ‘School at home’, we don’t have a timetable and we don’t sit down at the table to work every time, I don’t brandish a stick and insist my kids line up, or put their hands up if they need the loo. I do know families who do those things though (except the stick thank goodness!). They’d be ‘School at home’ people. I do have courses though, and I sit with my kids and make sure they get through stuff, and are getting their needs met. I know other families who are more ‘autonomous’. They have a philosophy that children learn best when left alone, but with access to resources. The idea terrifies me, but it seems to work for them. Maybe you can’t do that so much in your country with your tighter regulations. They’d be the opposite extreme from the ‘School at home’ brigade, we’re somewhere in the middle and mix with both ends of the scale. I do insist of good behaviour from my kids, I intervene if they hit another child or whatever, and with my eldest being 12 now I can see it’s working so far, they’re fairly decent kids. Some of the autonomous people extend the theory to include not intervening in behaviour, and I have to say that I’m not so keen on that approach. It may work in the long run, I don’t know, but at home education meet ups my kids have been walloped while parents look on and do nothing, which doesn’t exactly please any of us. I’ve also had a home educated child look on sadly while I put my kids to bed at a camp saying ‘I wish I had a bedtime!’ I think if I go back to my faith and take a Biblical perspective, children do need discipling. But as ever I’d defend someone else’s right to be autonomous, even if I don’t agree with them.

    My children mix at Home Ed meet ups, but also with friends who go to school. This is the case for all the other families I know. I’ve never known a completely isolated home ed child, but then by definition I wouldn’t, would I?! I can vouch for most of us being fairly civilised, relatively normal folk though.

    To sum up, we’re all so different you can’t put home schoolers in a box or category. In lots of cases we home school because we want to be free to be different from other people! Final word in our favour though ;-) My friend came with her two boys this weekend. They go to school. They used the word ‘Gay’ as a swear word – because they’ve heard it in the playground. My kids don’t use that word, and if they did I’d probably hear about it fairly quickly, so I’d be able to nip it in the bud. In fact, the word ‘Sod’ in an American textbook here had that effect, it’s a swear word here sot hey thought it was hilarious and went round saying it. Then one looked up the real meaning and a discussion followed and some myth busting about Sodom and Gomorrah, then about what God really thinks about Gay people. They’d picked up the idea it wasn’t ok with God and I was able to talk about it rationally with them and tell them that I thought it was! I hope most of all that they’ll grow up with minds of their own, challenging things they hear and working out what they believe.

    Right, scrolling up to check my grammar in case people are checking it ;-)

  • http://motheringbythesea.blogspot.com Hazel

    Oh wow loads more comments while I was writing mine.

    Just wanted to reiterate very strongly, since most of you seem to say that the down side is that home schooled kids will end up unsocialised … *My kids mix with lots of other people*!!!! As do a lot of their home schooled peers.

    They don’t mix with 30 or so people their own age all day, but that’s not real life. And they’re not indoctrinated with the socialisation imposed by state (public) schools, but I think it’s a good thing that the governement isn’t teaching them exactly what they should think. Here in the UK we have a very tight National Curriculum, imho highly politically charged, and I don’t want it, thank you. I prefer for them to question and make their own minds up.

    My children are not being raised to believe that they can get their own way in everything, so they don’t need school to knock that corner off. They certainly don’t get ‘Everything they cry for.’

    They can talk to adults, and they can talk to other children older and younger than them. They don’t stick to people born their own age as their schooled peers tend to. They are turning into reasonable human beings. They are certainly not eccentric hermits sitting at the kitchen table all day getting a warped view of life and seeing nobody but Mum.

    Right, I’ve said my piece! Can I say it again?? MY KIDS ARE HOME SCHOOLED AND THEY SOCIALISE!!!! Thankyou! *Bows*. Anyone else think that home schooled kids don’t mix and aren’t socialised? Come over here and meet us…or do the next best and only possible thing, and look at my blog and the others on the Hom Ed ring linked from it.

    • http://motheringbythesea.blogspot.com Hazel

      Lots of typos and it won’t let me edit! I was in a bit of a hurry. Don’t worry, my kids wouldn’t get away with it ;-)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Love it.

    • DR

      They don’t mix with 30 or so people their own age all day, but that’s not real life.>>>

      Apologies for being a contrarian, but how is this not real life? As an adult, I mix with way more than 30 people my own age everyday. I am a huge fan of homeschooling, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think created experiences for kids to be socialized maps exactly to just living school together with people we don’t choose to be around.

      • Kara

        I think there’s a difference between what typically happens in real life and mixing with 30 people of exactly and almost exclusively your own age. JMO. I may see people my own age, but I also regularly deal with people much older and younger than myself. I think learning early to deal with a variety of people is a good thing.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      My impression in general is that the way children end up being taught to think is in emulation of the thinking of their teachers, not so much their political administration (whether pupils accommodate to this teaching or rebel against it is another matter however). Perhaps the variety of teachers that one is exposed to in the course of education is a bit of an advantage to out-of-home education, as this helps to build more multi-faceted perspectives, indeed challenging children “to question and make their own minds up,” even regarding such things as we might in general never think about (for example, deep connections regarding various manners in which various people may transcribe handwritten capital letters “Q”). (However, there are also disadvantages in the student’s lacking a strong personal relationship with the teacher.)

      The curriculum is of course still quite important, but in homeschooling of children, one might find a great deal of quite unbalanced curricula. When determined by public consensus, the course of study has at least to strike a balance among the more extreme imbalances. (This is the same reason that democracy, though not without its flaws, shows itself to be the most successful form of political administration in an age when information flows freely enough to enable any who care to make an informed decision to do so in most cases.)

      I’m not saying that homeschooling is bad in general. Indeed, I must admit I envy them, in particular, their freakish abilities to spell and to play musical instruments. And as Holly pointed out above, we could just as rightly ask, “Does public schooling make the grade?”

      In many communities, the answer might sadly be “no”. But this is generally a problem of values among the families that make up the given community. Withdrawing families the do rightly value education from the mix only makes the society’s problem worse, to the detriment of all, regardless of where they’re educated. Yet as DR points out on the next page of comments, just having the opportunity to be exposed to better alternatives to one’s own background can make all the difference in the world.

  • http://mymenandme.wordpress.com Janelle

    Well, its actually home educated, for those who care!

    We are a homeschooling family. Always have been. For us its about life education, not institutional education. We are able to do so many things as a family that we couldn’t do it the kids were in traditional school. Like sleep in in the morning.

    I think kids learn their social skills at home. The challenge for homeschooling families is finding good opportunities for the kids to practice those social skills with others, outside the family. I just don’t happen to think traditional school is the best place for this.

  • Chris

    We home-schooled #3 daughter for junior high school. We were at that time living aboard our yacht sailing on the US pacific coast from Canada to San Diego. I was working full-time from on board as a telecommuter.

    Our daughter ended up far better socialized than would have been the case had she attended a land-based school, because she spent those three years in the company or (more or less) stable 40 year olds rather than in the company of teenagers. She also learned some fantastic life lessons by basically living in Dad’s office, and listening to my daily interactions with bosses, coworkers, and clients. (She was the only 13 year old of my acquaintance who’s cell-phone voice mail greeting was structured: “Hi, This is Heather. I’m not available right now but if you’ll leave a message I will return your call as soon as I can.”)

    So home schooling, does it work? Well as an alternative to Junior High I opine that it CAN work great. Of course, your mileage may vary.

    Chris

  • Meloney

    I homeschool my three children and have since the oldest (now a freshman) was in kindergarten. We chose to homeschool for a variety of reason and kept at it because it’s best for our kids and our family. Here is a confession for you; I am so tired of the “socialization” question. I get asked that question in one form or another 9 out of 10 times someone finds out I homeschool. I know, I know it’s my job as a happy homeschooler to share with others the joys and successes of how I choose to educate my children. But I live in a thriving town in central Texas; we are by all conventional standards the suburbanites that I railed against as a teen. My kids do not exist on an isolated farm stead, or travel only from their rooms to the kitchen and back. They go to Scouts, Church, ride their bikes, join roving gangs of neighborhood kids of all ages to complain about us and sneak junk food. I heard someone ask once in response to the socialization issue, in reality how many of us grew up and went to work with a group of people all the same age as us all doing the same thing and requiring that we all have the same interests. It doesn’t address all the issues but brings up a good point our children whether they are homeschooled or in public or private school do not do their only socializing there.Maybe not even their best as you pointed out. They socialize with their neighbors, their family, people out in public at stores and banks, as well as the infinite outside activities that children engage in. I enjoyed the post John; anything that can make laugh out loud about my chosen profession on a rainy Tuesday morning is great. My kids are surprisingly average. They have eaten glue (no paste), complained about getting up, and in general railed against their lot in life, “I don’t want to do school I want to play XBOX”. I just thought I would take a minute and share my feelings on the dreaded socialization issue.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I find lack of stability to be the most perturbing thing to development. We cannot learn from patterns unless our exposure is sufficiently persistent and consistent, and we have no motivation to learn how to improve things if things will be changing soon enough, for better or for worse, regardless of our own efforts. So as for educational environment, I believe it would depend on whether a child’s home-life or other schooling options might provide a more stable, nurturing situation in a given case.

    As for socialization, it seems to me that most parents of homeschooled children generally try to ensure that they do get sufficient opportunity for peer interaction—there are all sorts of ways they do this, from co-ops to boy scouts, Christian camps to Little League, etc.

    Then there’s the personal dimension both of the child and of his/her educators. I myself, for example, could perhaps have learned more if I had been homeschooled, since I absorbed information somewhat more quickly and somewhat differently than many of my peers; or perhaps not, since none of my primary care givers have much knowledge of, for example, Calculus or Spanish—not to mention that the art of effective education is itself a certain special skill. But I am very glad I had the opportunity for more diversity of interactions than I myself likely would have had had I been homeschooled (in high school, in particular). Knowledge in the intellect, after all, is not all that there is to the gaining of wisdom.

  • Kara

    To preface my comment, I was home schooled for my entire pre-college education. I have no experience with public or private schools, and therefore make no personal claims about them.

    Home schooling, like any other kind of education, is complicated. Like other kinds of education, It can produce wonderful results or extremely poor ones. Home schooling work extremely well for me and my family, but it’s certainly not right for everyone.

    There are a number of variables that play into the effectiveness of home schooling, and a number of different important outcomes that should be examined. It’s overly simplistic to look only at academic issues while ignoring socialization, and it’s equally simplistic to do the opposite.

    Objectively speaking, home schooled children tend to do well above average on all indicators of academic performance. This isn’t a slam on other forms of education; if they could give children the student-teacher ratio and level of individual help that home schooling allows, I assume they would do as well or better. But home schoolers are not generally suffering academically. Can some children slip through the cracks? Of course. But so do students in public and private schools.

    Socialization is the most commonly raised concern about home schooling, but studies tend to show no differences between traditionally schooled and home schooled children. Some have even indicated that home schooled children are less susceptible to peer pressure. While home schooling does not inherently have a socialization element built into it in the manner that public and private schools do, the vast majority of home schooling parents make sure that their children spend time with other children, whether through home school groups, religious organizations, sporting activities, or a number of other ways. Again, will some children end up awkwardly socialized? Certainly. But, and I mean not offense… How many weird kids are there in every school? A number of factors, not just home schooling, play into socialization.

    The biggest downside to home schooling, in my experience, is that many (not all) home schooling parents do raise their children to become Christian fundamentalists. But the majority of kids in the church I grew up in were public schoolers, and they were as religiously intolerant and uneducated as the home schoolers. Again, it isn’t the educational method, it’s the parents.

    Some kids need structure in school. Others do best when self-directed and at their own pace. (That was me.) Home schooling provides flexibility. It’s not for everyone. But it does work exceptionally well for some people.

  • Violet

    I know not everyone is able to or desires to homeschool, but my husband and I have found that it works perfectly for our family. Just as in public school, there are some good and some bad teachers. I went to public and private schools, so I have had both. However, most of the homeschool families I know take education very seriously. Just wanted to share a couple random thoughts for those who don’t know anyone who homeschools.

    Everyone is always so concerned about the socialization issue, but most of the homeschooled children I know are able to communicate and socialize with all ages groups, especially adults, whereas a lot of public schooled children only socialize with kids their own ages. I get so tired of people saying to me “Oh, but what about socialization?” It’s as if everyone thinks we seal our kids up in the house 24/7. My kids are active in 4-H, as well as Boy and Girl Scouts. We also attend a weekly co-operative learning group and go on monthly field trips. Many of the homeschooling famlies in our area also attend church, play baseball, take music lessons, perform in community theater, etc..

    The homeschooling spectrum covers a whole slew of ideologies- from highly structured families who spend most of the day at the table with workbooks to families who choose to do unit studies covering all the aspects of, say, Colonial America, including: history of the Colonies, geography, Native American culture, practicing math by measuring distances on a map, learning how to read a map, navigating with the stars, medicine, hygiene, and health during the Colonial times, clothing, reading novels based during this time period, watching documentaries, taking field trips to Independence Hall, studying the Libery Bell and why it cracked, to unschoolers who don’t believe in tests but use everyday to pracitice and learn skills such as adding or multiplying fractions while baking or learning about soil pH while planting a garden. We are eclectic, which means we are a little bit of all of it. Also, not every family homeschools for religious reasons. I know pagans and secular humanists as well as strict evangelicals who homeschool.

    Each state has different laws about homeschooling and some are more strict than others. In my state, we may either choose to submit standardized testing results to our local school board or have an approved educator review a portfolio of our child’s cumulative work to see if they made signifigant progress for the year. I submit portfolios for my children but once they are in seventh grade, they will take standardized tests every other year to prepare for the ACT.

    I have several teachers in my family and have an education background as well. Having spent time in the public schools here, I knew how overcrowded they were. This was just one of the reasons we choose to homeschool. Also, my daughter was a slow reader. She didn’t have any learning disabilities, just a little difficulty focusing. If she had been in public school, she would have been placed in a Learning Disabled class, and that would have labeled her for life. Now she is in the fourth grade and is reading on an eighth grade level. I can understand how difficult a time teachers in public school have in trying to manage all those kids- many times over twenty five kids in a class- who are all on different learning levels and have different learning styles. This is one of the most important reasons we decided to homeschool.

    As I said before, homeschooling is not for everyone. I don’t look down on anyone who sends their kids to public school. I graduated from one and think I got a pretty good education. I was fortunate to have a couple really good teachers. Two of them really encouraged me in my talents and I will never forget them. I’ve had people tell me I’m wasting my life, ruining my children, missing out on a second income, and pompous for thinking I can teach my children better than a “real” teacher. But it has been priceless to be there with my own children the first time they read their first chapter book, saw a real painting by Monet.

    I would never be vain enough to think homeschooling is perfect. The biggest problem I have seen with it is that a lot of famlies aren’t great about keeping deadlines. I think you just really have to identify what your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher/parents are, and be mindful of that.

    Hope that gives someone some insight into what homeschooling is like for us.

    P.S. I think “homeschooling” is the spelling for those who do it, while the rest of the world spells home schooling.

    • DR

      Hi Amy,

      I’m a fan of both homschooling as well as public school, I think it’s pretty cool that parents get to choose.

      It’s my understanding that most homeschooling parents do an amazing job at ensuring their children are socialized, or at least make every attempt possible to do so. The analogy I’m familiar with is likening that socialization process to “Let’s go on a play date/museum/scouts meeting/soccer practice” vs. “Let’s just be *with* one another as we endure the boredom, the challenge and the thrills that come with living life together in the same space everyday”. That some data is emerging that suggest despite parents’ best intentions, the former doesn’t necessarily equip kids as thoroughly as the latter when it comes to dealing with others. May or may not be a huge deal but wanted to ask if you’d heard that or if that’s a valid perspective.

  • JulieD

    Mine are both in college now, and I’m quite happy to be on the other side of the homeschooling tunnel. Would I do it again? Child #1 really needed the academic support in his early schooling years, so yes, for him, I would. Child #2 didn’t — but it’s difficult to send one off to school while you’re learning fractions by baking cookies in your jammies with the other. Mine started taking community college classes as soon as they hit high school, which was wonderful for all of us. I voted for option #3 in the poll. It’s certainly not for everyone.

  • Alaska Chris

    So there are many homeschooling families in Alaska. Especially that educational beacon Wasilla. So there are some pretty sad results. But one ray of light, many of the homeschooling families are creating, for lack of a better term, unions that come together for socialization. They even demand (and are successful) at leveraging access to school facilities for their families. The phenomenon resulted in the creation of a charter school that allowed homeschool families the opportunity to achieve socialization without the heavy handed bureaucracy of the school system.

    They have also received funding from the State for PE activities, although gym memberships were banned because some unethical lots used the funding to pay for family memberships, taking away from the children in general.

    The problem I have seen arise is when the parent/teacher doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to teach because their own education, even if they received a high school diploma, isn’t above a middle school level.

  • Amy

    It depends, in my opinion. I was not home educated (that’s what the movement here in the UK prefers) but I would be open to it for my children.

    My son has Asperger’s Syndrome. We are moving back to the US this summer, though at age 11 my son has lived here since he was 4 months old. He will start middle school in September and I have no idea how he’ll cope. Here, in primary school it was determined he needed his own classroom assistant. he will not get that at the school he’ll be attending.

    With his personality, he would probably do well being home educated in the ‘child led’ way. Give him his stuff to do and let him do it.

    My daughter, however, loves being around people and loves being in school. She would also never get anything done because without a school building she would spend all her time drawing and watching Peep in the Big Wide World on the computer. If you haven’t had the experience of Peep you MUST check it out. But, I digress.

    When we originally considered home education it had nothing to do with being Xians. It was more to do with being anarchists. In the end we choose a state school because, living in Northern Ireland we felt it was important to support the integrated education system. Integrated here means Catholics and Protestants being educated together. Only 5% of kids here are in an integrated school.

    But, all that said we’re still open to it. I don’t personally buy the myth that the best place to ‘socalise’ children is at school. I could go on and on regarding that topic, but I won’t.

  • Jonathan

    i wuz homskoolled…

    Haha! That was a joke.

    Seriously, though, I never even sat at one of those half-desk school chairs until my first day of college. Straight-through, K-12 homeschooled. Concerning the big “S,” I really wish the socialization argument could be taken off the table. You’d think there were no shy, anti-social kids in public school (there were, right? I wasn’t there). And is school really the only place to interact with people? I had friends in my neighborhood, at church, on sports teams, etc. And while I’ll admit I had more friends in college than I did in high school, that only shows that, given the opportunity, I was not hampered in my ability to make friends.

    On to the good stuff, I think there are huge advantages to homeschooling that rarely get discussed:

    Teaching can be paced according to the students’ ability – I was very good at math. Lesson completed in 20 minutes? Fine. Done. Move on. Especially since Language Arts was about to kick my butt.

    Teaching can be tailored to the students’ interests – Does your child love cars, planes, WWII history, puppies, whatever? You can cover History, English, Reading, Writing, Home Ec, field trips and most other school subjects without ever leaving the student’s comfort zone. They might actually think learning is fun.

    Homeschooling supports the family schedule, instead of the family catering to the school schedule – The family can do… whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. Dad has a suprise day off? School’s out! Spring fever? Take a half day and go outside. Don’t go to the beach on spring break; beat the crowds and go the week before or after. (Unintended consequence – we usually did school on Labor Day, Columbus Day, President’s Day, teacher work days, and other days when our friends were out of school. Second unintended consequence – we were usually out for the summer a week or two before the rest of our friends)

    Anyway, people sometimes ask me if I wish (or wished) I had gone to public school, and I really can’t answer empirically, as I never knew what I was missing. I can answer that I feel that whatever I might have lacked in positive development was countered by positive circumstances like the ones I described above. Whatever negatives might be argued, I would submit that neither was I exposed to drugs or the various types of negative peer pressure that might occur on a school campus. Except bullying; my older brother pounded on me a few times.

    My two cents.

    • Diana A.

      “You’d think there were no shy, anti-social kids in public school (there were, right?….)” Yes, there were. I was one.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    These comments have been so enlightening. Really great stuff. SO MANY GREAT POINTS!!

  • Christie

    I haven’t even finished reading, but had to comment:

    You make lovely use of parentheses and brackets. :)

    • Christie

      Oops! I meant “nesting parentheticals.”

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com KenLeonard

    I haven’t read the comments, yet, so I apologize if I’m retreading.

    My involvement with homeschooling is: I have a nephew who was homeschooled for a couple of years. Most of my friends homeschool their kids. My wife teaches math to one of our friends’ sons. Both of my parents are school teachers. So is my wife. My ex-wife tried to pull our son out of third grade to homeschool him, but I refused to allow it. Oh, and my sister-in-law was homeschooled for a year. At least one of my ex-wife’s cousins was homeschooled for a few years.

    I guess, technically, that means: none. Huh … I saw that going differently in my mind.

    Oh, well …

    I have nothing in particular against homeschooling, I suppose, except for the basic complaints that anyone will have — concern that kids won’t have enough social interaction, be exposed to other ideas, things like that. A lot of that is covered by my friends by involvement in a homeschooling co-op (which ceases to be “home” schooling, I think), youth groups, and sports teams. Schools in this area allow participation by homeschooled kids who live in the districts, so I know kids who don’t go to schools but are on track teams at schools. So, there’s that.

    My concerns come down to certain realities: Not every parent can really teach every subject. I did well in high school and college science, but I think that I’d like my kids to learn science from someone who knows more than I do, for example. I’m convinced that I could handle grammar and literature, and probably most of the social studies; my wife could certainly teach math (being a math teacher and all).

    I do know some people, though, who view such things as listening to Rush Limbaugh and teaching opinions as vital parts of homeschooling. With that, I have a problem. Some of my friends homeschool to squash academic curiosity, which is a very-wrong use of the practice. If, on the other hand, it’s used to open up wider avenues of exploration and learning, it could be a wonderful thing.

    My parents, though, have a very-negative view of it. Nearly every formerly-homeschooled kid that they have seen has been WAY behind where they should have been. At least, that’s what they tell me. My mother teaches third grade and has had several formerly-homeschooled kids who were behind in handwriting or math, and my father (who teaches 8th grade history) has had some real horror stories about kids who were years behind in math or the like.

    • http://whythulc.wordpress.com Deanna

      The way my mother handled the “not every parent can teach every subject” thing was she started a series of homeschool classes. Once a week, there were 1-2 hour classes that ran for various ages that taught the academics the parents couldn’t. The reason it started was because my mom couldn’t teach me chemistry or biology. So what did she do? We knew a microbiologist at church, and so he would come and teach me and about 10 other kids on his lunch break. The result was I learned biology from a guy who did it for a living and loved his field. So, we got extra socializing, education from someone who was passion about the subject, and an automatic adjustment to the college style routine because it was once a week.

      • http://kenreads.wordpress.com KenLeonard

        Very much like the co-op.

        That’s a fine idea, and if it works, it works. I’m not really sure that I see, if I’m not doing it myself, why NOT to send a student to school, but … as I said, I don’t really have anything against it unless it’s done for indoctrination.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Exactly.

        • wanderer

          Hi. :)

          Sorry to weigh in on this comment without doing my own comment first. I hope I haven’t broken a rule….

          I wanted to respond to these statements:

          // A lot of that is covered by my friends by involvement in a homeschooling co-op (which ceases to be “home” schooling, I think)//

          // if I’m not doing it myself, why NOT to send a student to school//

          The difference is that the co-op fills the bits that are required and leaves the child to get on with their lives the rest of the time.

          It’s seeing a ‘Box C’ (and D, E, F etc as required and available) instead of only two choices ‘A: teach them everything at all times’ and ‘B: send them to school for the majority of their day to learn mostly everything’.

          I see my job as a learning facilitator more than a Teacher, per se. We are lucky enough to live in a community which has so many resources and opportunities. It’s wonderful to have the time to access as many of them as we require and can afford.

          For the record, I have been a music teacher in public and private schools for over 20 years and my husband is a secondary teacher in a private school. He considers the education that his children are receiving at ‘home’ (via home, the community and the internet etc) using an interest led approach to be at least as effective as the one the students do at the school.

          • wanderer

            (Oh dear! I posted ‘submit’ before I was ready.)

            My husband finds the education that his children are receiving at ‘home’ to be *at the very least* as effective as the one the students do at the school. In some areas it far surpasses what is possible within the structure of classroom management, timetabling and the to and fro of school life.

            I won’t comment more on The Socialisation Issue because I see that many others have done so already, very well indeed! (If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me…. ;) *sigh* )

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Excellent, Deanna! Wow.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa. Rich insights/experience, Ken–generationally, even. Fascinating. Thank you.

  • Misty Irons

    It’s funny because I started out homeschooling our kids for academic reasons, but then ended up sticking with it because I saw how it would actually help them to become more fully socialized, at least through the elementary school years. We put them in public school when they reach middle school so that they can take what they learned socially at home and put it into practice.

    Here’s how I look at it. Some of my worst phobias and fears and social prejudices formed when I was a grade school kid, when I was too scared and vulnerable and insecure to know how to react except by some primal instinct. I saw a couple of Chinese kids getting bullied and harassed, which told me I sure wasn’t going to be hanging around any of them. I remember the lone black kid in fifth grade, sullen, defiant, and generally a troublemaker to all the teachers. We were afraid of him, but we laughed heartily when one teacher made a derisive comment about his name (“Dana? That’s a girl’s name!”). At that age all of us were just trying to survive by jeering at the marginalized kids and avoiding the friendless ones. There was no adult to turn to for help, no one on the scene to help guide us through what was taking place on the playground.

    Homeschooling my kids gives them a chance to grow up a little before throwing them out there with their peers. In addition to giving them tremendous academic benefits (which some of the previous commenters have already discussed), I spend the elementary school years talking to my kids about who they are–their talents, their temperament, their strengths, their weaknesses–and give them the general feeling that it’s okay to be themselves. Because with self-knowledge comes a sense of personal security, and with that personal security they are better equipped to understand other people. Other kids should not be treated as pieces on a giant game board to be maneuvered around for their own survival, but in elementary school this is the first kind of socialization that would get ingrained into them, and it’s unhealthy. But if you hold a kid back for a few years so that she gets her bearings first, so that she knows who she is and gets comfortable in her own skin, it is much easier for her to learn healthy patterns of socialization. She can see more clearly that other people are just like her.

    My oldest daughter is now an eighth grader in a public middle school and I’m proud of the way she has navigated the social waters these last three years. She keeps me in the loop about what goes on at school. It’s never, “How was school?” “Fine.” End of conversation. She had to deal with a bully in the sixth grade, her first year in a public school, but she communicated the situation to us right away. We took about a month discussing it as a family, thinking through a strategy for dealing with the situation without intervening in a way that would embarrass her in front of her peers. In the seventh grade she was hanging out with a group of girls that wasn’t the right fit for her. There was some mild harassment going on there too, but she found a nicer group of kids and had the guts to make the switch mid-year, while still keeping her friendship with a girl in the old crowd that she liked. I’ve seen her self-confidence grow through these challenges, while still remaining her usual compassionate, generous self. This coming year our second daughter will be transitioning from homeschooling to public middle school. I’ll be keeping an eye on her, but I’m also optimistic that she too can take on the challenge.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      This is just riveting, Misty. What a great … package this is to communicate to us. It’s just so encouraging, that there are such good parents out there—and such good parent-children communications. It sounds like you and your kids have done/are doing a fantastic job. Very encouraging all the way around. Love it.

  • http://mlight.typepad.com/moomin_light/ M Light

    My younger son (12 yo) asked me today why we homeschool. I replied that we (dh and I) decided to homeschool because we love learning and wanted to share that with our kids.

    I always thought that the normal schedule of raising kids was rather strange. When they’re little, you potty train them, teach them manners, etc. Then, when they get to be a lot easier to have around, you send them to school to have someone else teach them the really fun stuff like literature, science, and history.

    Beyond the basics, it’s really been easy for us to find what they need. More socialization? There are all sorts of groups – homeschooling, community oriented, etc. – to take advantage of. When they need something beyond what we can teach them, there are so many wonderful people in our community to get involved with. The older two took biology classes from a woman who was finishing up her PhD in Biology at Duke. My daughter’s theater dance teacher for 4 years had been in “Cats” on Broadway. Different ideas? We all love finding out the different ways people think.

    Our older two kids are in college now. They’re both at the colleges they wanted, getting good grades, and having a wonderful time. My older son is majoring in Graphic Design and loves being around artists all day. My daughter is majoring in Biology and minoring in Dance, and is also busy starting a Dance Club during her freshman year.

    Socialization has actually been the biggest surprise. I went to public school all the way through, and was extremely shy by the time I reached college. I had to consciously work hard at overcoming that. Older son and daughter have ended up being the sort of people that other people seem to like. Daughter has remarked that, although there’s all sorts of drama among the people in the groups she hangs out with at college, everyone seems to like her. Even my younger son, who is deep in the rough and tumble world of 9 to 12 yo boys, gets along with all the other kids and seems to be able to get people to play together that don’t normally get along.

    I’ve actually found your blog to be quite useful as to one aspect of socialization – going back to “finding out different ideas,” which I mentioned above. We have numerous relatives and friends, both Christian and non-Christian, who are gay and lesbian. We live in what is probably the most liberal county in our state so my kids haven’t encountered that many people who are (at least overtly) prejudiced against lesbian and gay people – not even in college. I’ve told them various anti-gay/lesbian stories from your blog so that they can know what sorts of negative attitudes are out there.

    I don’t think homeschooling is for everyone, but we’ve enjoyed it. It’s so natural to me now that this is the first “Why homeschool?” discussion that I’ve gotten into, online, in years.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Wow. Well, I’m really glad you did participate in this discussion. What a lot you’ve brought to it. Thank you.

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    Every homeschooler I know has their kids involved in plenty of outside activities like scouts, sports, church, etc. They get plenty of socialization.

    • DR

      While anecdotal, the data actually doesn’t support this terribly well. Homeschooled children sometimes play on sports teams but the data overwhelmingly supports the concern around them being isolated from the norms of diversity they’ll be dealing with in the “real world” that are concerning.

      I’m actually a fan of home schooling when done well, but did want to point out that lack of thorough socialization is a concern that a number homeschooling parents (who are willing to be objective) have offered up themselves as a growing problem.

      • Mindy

        All I can say, DR, is that was not our experience. Others’ mileage may, of course, vary.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          The discrepancy between data and anecdotal evidence here could be easily explained noting that we least have any experience socializing with those who have the least experience socializing.

  • Holly

    Does public school? Yikes…

  • http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/ Marie

    I voted “it depends.” I too take issue with people who homeschool because they are trying to shield their children from the outside world (many Christian fundamentalists). But I also know many parents who have kids with special needs…who have not been adequately supported in the public schools, either for educational or social reasons.

    As the parent of three boys aged 4 to 14, I have always found value in my children having more teachers than just me and my husband. I believe that kids benefit from learning from a wide variety of teaching styles and methods. Professional teachers also tend to be more patient (most of them, anyway) than parents. With that said, I have also found a number of dud teachers out there–especially at the middle school level.

    We know a VERY Catholic family who homeschools all their children, most of whom are ADHD. I’m not sure whether it’s the Catholic or ADHD part that prompted them to homeschool, but it might be a combination. The kids seem to do fine academically, but socially I think they are a bit behind. As someone noted, homeschooling often engenders homogeneity and inhibits kids from mixing with people from different races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

    So I think there is value for some families, but personally, I would never do it unless I had to. Overall, my kids have had positive school experiences…and it can be highly valuable for parents to get objective feedback on how their kids are doing academically or socially. Parents are often way too close to the situation to be able to provide an objective assessment of their children.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Yeah, great ending observation there, Marie.

  • Ruthie

    Hey there,

    I started reading the comments and it got too long. But I felt I should tell you of my experience because I have a little bit of everything.

    I was sent to a private Christian school affiliated with our church from preschool through part of sixth grade. Every year until my sixth grade year, I had wonderful teachers and I learned a LOT. I’m one of those nerdy students who loves to learn, so most of my teachers capitalized on that to keep my attention by giving me extra work, or having me do things faster or more efficiently or whatever. It was a small school; I was with the same 20ish kids all 8 years, my mom knew the principal personally, that kind of thing. Every teacher I’d ever had loved me, even if they were occasionally frustrated by me. (With the benefit of hindsight and new personal experience as a tutor and teacher, I can see how annoying the overachieving students who grasp the concept very quickly and begin asking persistent questions are, particularly when you’re trying to teach a group of students with a mix of skill and ability levels.)

    In sixth grade, the school hired a new teacher (most of the teachers had been there for years — decades — and stayed for years after). She hated me…we later learned she had a bad experience with a distant relative so we think that’s where it came from. This teacher literally deliberately sabotaged me. I found homework I had turned in crumpled up in the trash, and she told my parents I wasn’t completing assignments but couldn’t produce a grade book for any member of the class to show my grades over the course of the year, she just gave me Cs. She literally manufactured incidents that hadn’t happened and created punishments for no reason, incidents for which the only other “witnesses” to back me up were other 11 year olds that she claimed were all lying. On reflection, it was probably good that it happened to me and not any of the other students because my history of academic excellence and my relationships with past teachers and the principal meant that the adults believed me instead of assuming I was making things up. Most of the other students wouldn’t have been given that much trust that they were telling the truth. After some initial skepticism, I was believed. But for whatever reason, the school could not get rid of her that year (even though the principal wanted to) and could not force her to change her attitude and treatment of me, so before Christmas my mother took me out of school and homeschooled me for the rest of the year.

    For me, this was almost torture. My mother was not qualified to teach me at that point (I didn’t realize it until later, but my curriculum was a bit ahead of public school’s at the same age), and it was painfully obvious to me, at 11, that she was making it up as she went. She frequently would remove math problems from the assignment I normally would have done because she didn’t want to grade them. My “history” lesson was reading a textbook (boring!). So was science. She made up essays for me on the spot; most of them were book reports, nothing more. I did them, but I didn’t sense any overall purpose and I spent most of my time buried in fiction books from the library, which isn’t bad by any means, but neither is it particularly educational, especially considering what I should have been learning. My schoolwork was done, by and large, by lunchtime and we hardly worked on Fridays at all. She was trying her best and it was definitely better than being sabotaged and feeling like I was always under attack, but homeschooling was not a good experience for me, learning-wise. I craved knowledge and I didn’t feel like I was getting it. I needed to see other kids. I needed to feel like the person I was learning from was someone I could turn to if I had questions, who I could trust would be a good guide through -whatever-, who I knew had more knowledge than me. It was only 7 months or so but I was -so- over it by the time May came around (we had covered all the material she intended me to by April…my school didn’t normally end until late June).

    Of course, many of these experiences are particular to my situation.

    After that, my parents could not afford to send me to private school any longer, and because of the recent experience they felt it was a good time to transition to public school. I attended a local public junior high and high school. I was in the Gifted and Talented Program and Honors/AP track in high school. I was much more challenged then, with other nerdy learners like me. After some initial fear that I would be shanked (my private school gave me and the other students a pervasive sense that public school students were all sex-crazed atheist bullies and drug addicts who would stab or shoot you at any moment…other private Christian school kids have confirmed the same sentiment), and worries on the part of my teachers (from what my mom says) that I wouldn’t adapt well, I fit right in. I started dropping f-bombs, emotional jiu-jitsuing, and lying about needing to go to the bathroom so I could meet friends from other classes with the best of them. Even though I had poor experiences, I would characterize my public school education as a good one.

    I’m almost done with my bachelor’s degree now, and I tutor incoming college freshmen and remedial juniors and seniors in writing, and I help teach high schoolers how to take the SAT. I see many students who were failed by the public school system…men and women who can legally drink but can’t write a grammatically correct sentence in English, even a simple one, without an extraordinary amount of effort… high schoolers who don’t know their multiplication tables and reach for their calculators for everything, even 4 x 5, the works. I had a student who was valedictorian of his high school who wrote sentences like “I am priviledge being college student because my neighborhood no one is college student.” (Think about it….that means everyone else at his high school was WORSE.) He literally had to fall through dozens of “cracks” in the system to get to college writing sentences like that — and he DID get in, too — but there he is. I’ve also taught SAT students who ask, in all seriousness, if they will be allowed to bring in Lord of the Flies to the test so they can put in page numbers for their quotes in the essay section. (For the record: this is WAY over the top.) I have students in AP classes whose teachers assign them one 5-page essay and three 30-page chapters of reading every week, who are terrified because they think if this is high school, how hard is college going to be??? (When I tell them they are doing a year’s worth of work to get out of one semester of college classes and that professors who assign three 5-page papers all SEMESTER are considered tough at my state college, that ONE chapter of reading per week is considered excessive, their mouths drop open.) Both types are the product of public schools.

    You really can’t generalize because when you do, you fail either the overachieving students who need and deserve to be challenged, which is the kind of student I was, or you fail the struggling students who need and deserve to have the opportunity to learn in the way they can and at the pace they need. Or you fail both. I can see how homeschooling can be a great alternative to the mass-produced, one-size-fits-all, luck-of-the-draw-hope-you-get-a-decent-teacher system that is our public schools without having to pay thousands of dollars for private school. I have considered homeschooling my own kids, when I have them, even though my personal experience was less than ideal. I can also see how homeschooling could be just another way to fail students, either by not giving the overachievers the challenge they need or making the experience too easy for the students who are already behind.

    In my experience, a private school-like environment is best: small classrooms, highly qualified teachers who can customize the curriculum, to some extent, for the individual students, while still getting the friendship, common experiences and mischief that only a group of children going through the same thing with you can provide. Homeschooling can be that. Homeschooling can also be a horrible system that doesn’t teach students anything, and there’s little oversight. We have to hope that the parents are doing the best thing for the kids and take care of the mess that results if they didn’t.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa! This is just so freaking interesting. Thanks for sharing this very comprehensive look at your personal experience. It’s just … fascinating. (I, too, had a teacher in elementary school that just went berserk about me personally. Just insane. Turned out I looked just like a son of hers who’d been recently deceased. Awful.) Anyway, thanks for sharing all this, Ruthie. Stay in touch with us.

  • http://farfromthisshore.wordpress.com Don Whitt

    It seems like the most important aspects of this are “why home school?”, “Is it right for my child?” and “am I qualified to teach?”. The reasons and resources and fit.

    My son has really blossomed as we’ve moved him from a small private school to a large public (there are almost 300 8th graders at his middle school). He would have wasted away in a home school setting – he needed the diversity and stimulation of lots of different kids around – he’s naturally shy and quiet and the experience has helped him gain a lot of self-confidence and better social skills. I am a trained teacher (though no longer teaching) and have taught almost every level and subject, but still would rather my son experience a greater diversity of mentors, kids and contexts that the public schools offer.

    I’ve discussed this with quite a few parents I know who DO home school. Their zeal with respect to home-schooling is amazing: It’s a significant decision to make and I understand the importance of that decision and the conversations about this topic can get a bit like religious discussions because of that zeal.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Yes, Don. Excellent observation. Fascinating about your son.

      • http://farfromthisshore.wordpress.com Don Whitt

        He’s just like his pop – not that into the institution of school, but very much into the melting pot and chaos of being around other kids and ideas. For better or worse, that’s where he is.

  • Suz

    It depends mostly on the parents, and a little on the children’s personalities. I see several homeshcoolers every week on the bookmobile. Some of them are far ahead of their public school peers, some are years behind. The best I’ve encountered overall, attend a 1/2 day “Alpha/Omega” program at a local church. The program socializes them and ensures that they meet or exceed state academic standards.

    Two types of home school parents REALLY tick me off. First, the “non-worldly” Christians, who think that Bible study is more important than academics. These are also the parents who tend to teach their little saints that they are somewhat superior, and that the rules of the rest of the world do not apply.

    The other type doesn’t care much about academics OR religion. I know of at least one family whose (marginally literate) teenaged sons paint houses with their illiterate dad. I guess they call that “vocational education.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa. Not good.

  • jonni

    For us, the decision to homeschool (or in our case, unschool, life learning, natural learning, whatever you want to call it) was made together as a family after about 2 years of research. My eldest 2 had really been pushing for it – they went to a very academic private school but still felt bored and under-stimulated by school life.

    Sometimes I think we forget that kids WANT to learn! They love it and it happens naturally from day 1. It is only when we start forcing them to learn in unnatural ways and separate from the real world (this can happen at school OR at home) that we are met with either resistance, or with students who become competent not in learning, but in telling us what we want to hear.

    Many of you are familiar with what happens within the walls of Institutional religion when we are all intimidated into sameness, all believing without question, scared to question authority etc. Why is it any better when public schools treat children with the same disrespect? Free thinking isn’t exactly encouraged when crowd control is the priority.

    I feel that one of the best gifts I can give my kids is to learn the difference between respect and passive obedience.

    • Mindy

      Yes, Jonni – exactly. Passive obedience, while it would be nice to experience on the parent end now and again, is NOT a value I want my daughters to possess. Respect, yes. Including enough self-respect to never be passively obedient! Cooperative, respectful, willing to compromise, sure. And they own those, and make me proud.

    • Diana A.

      This is pretty much how I feel–though I was not homeschooled, nor do I have kids. But if I did have kids, I would likely homeschool them for these reasons. Plus the zero-tolerance rules have become completely ridiculous and I wouldn’t want my children to get expelled for bringing a butter knife to school by mistake.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Wonderfully said.

  • Ellen Wrona

    My observation (and I am sure that it is way off base because I’ve never actually asked): If you want to talk to parents/kids who are participating in home schooling, just go to any Target Store around 10 in the morning. They are all shopping there. Perhaps they are learning economics?

    But seriously, many of my daughter’s friends were home schooled during middle school (grades 6-8) because the middle school around here is in a town that is known for gangs and drugs. I did not have the $$ to either stay home or send my kid to a private school so, as a “terrible” mother, I made my child attend a school where, as a white, english-speaking kid, she was a minority. While I was not exactly thrilled with her academic challenges there, she made a lot of good friends, did not join a gang or become a drug-addict, and, most of all, became a well rounded, tolerant person who leaned to appreciate and understand other cultures. When she met back up with her friends in high school, they were all pretty much at the same academic level – her home schooled friends hadn’t progressed any more than she had. (Religion was not an issue in these cases – the parents just didn’t think that the school was safe)

    And, yes, I remember Hamburger Fridays! Luckily all of my burgers were whole! I also remember Bunny Bison, the school secretary. I have her autograph somewhere in my Charlie Brown autograph book!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Ellen! You remember Bunny! Dang. That’s a long time ago. I have no idea why here name has stuck with me all these years. Oh, right. Duh. Bunny. Great comment, EW.

  • Carol Leeann

    My significant other was homeschooled, supposedly for religious/sheltering reasons…his education was completely tailored to him working in the family businesses (construction/alfalfa farming). At the age of 46 he has very few social/cultural references to work with, and he and his siblings have some stomach curdling stories of what “discipline” was used in his household. His family lived in an intentionally isolated area & when he left home he got caught up with some lowest common denominator people. He is very strong in math, was able to pass the GED on his first try as an adult, but has to ask me questions about some really basic stuff all the time. On the other hand, I have acquaintances that were homeschooled that are happy, well adjusted people that enjoy to continue to learn for the love of learning. The quality of homeschooling does seem to be very dependant on the parent’s reasons for deciding to do so.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa. Fascinating. Scary-ish.

  • http://sus4th.wordpress.com Paul Ardoin

    I just can’t believe that any parent has the tolerance to homeschool their kids. When my kids are off school for a week, they’re constantly bitching at each other. I know that I personally should not be a homeschooling parent because there would be days where “teaching” would become “screaming” and “learning” would become “playing Club Penguin while Daddy glues the plates back together.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Har!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson

      I’m with Paul. I have my suspicions about home-schooling, including the usual ones about socialization (though I suppose there’s no “right” answer to those). Also, most of the people that I know who talk highly of it, or do it, do so out of arrogance or for reasons that I don’t find valid (“I want to keep them away from ‘bad influences’”, “There’s no prayer in school”, etc.). But the fact is, my son learned better from his worst teacher (so far) than he has from me on my occasional attempts to teach him. It’s my own sheer incompetence that prevents me from even thinking about trying to do it myself!

  • Carol

    I’m an elementary school teacher with more than 25 years experience. I teach in a top-notch school district–the same one that John and I both attended in the 1960′s & 1970′s. A LOT has changed in those schools since then! But that’s another topic…

    From time to time, we have kids who have been home schooled for a number of years and then are enrolled in public school. Interestingly (and logically, I offer), some have lots of issues adjusting socially and academically, and some do pretty well. It all depends on a number of factors.

    What research shows is that the greatest indicators of school success are 1) a family that values & supports learning and academic excellence, and 2) high quality teaching that the student experiences. A student that is blessed with both of these will, most likely, end up well educated. If a student has wonderful parents who are intelligent, well-rounded, value curiosity/ learning, and provide a rich learning environment AND they have home schooling parents who are conscientious and capable of teaching a rich curriculum of lessons, then the average student will excel. They can learn at their own pace, pursue more in-depth study of topics that are of particular interest to them, and avoid a lot of wasted time that is, unfortunately, often part of the group learning experience. They get a lot of personal attention and support. Those conscientious home schoolers are also likely to provide their kids with opportunities to collaborate and play cooperatively with other kids outside of the family (clubs, sports, etc.) So, great, right?

    On the other hand, if the parents are NOT excellent teachers, then the student suffers. Even if they are well-intentioned & wonderful at teaching social skills, their children will miss out on the expertise of truly fine teaching that comes with experience. Every teacher knows that the first time she teaches a particular grade level, she is a relative newbie. After a couple of years at one grade level, she will refine her lessons, and her program will get so much better. Would you want your child to have a teacher who is teaching a new grade level EVERY year? Probably not. And, yet, that is the situation with most home schoolers: every year they are teaching new curricula in all subjects.

    Granted, not every teacher in a traditional school is equally gifted at teaching. However, in a good school district, over the course of 13 years, a child is likely to benefit from many great teachers, and to be exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles. Just the novelty of working with so many different teachers can make learning more fun and exciting for the student. In addition, they will benefit from exposure to a more diverse world view. From time to time, even learning from (and with) people with whom we are not necessarily compatible offers us valuable lessons in compromise, patience, and the necessity of considering other viewpoints, all in an effort to get the assignments done.

    Man. I could write a book on this topic. But I’m sure I’ve bored you all enough.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa. No, Carol, that wasn’t boring at ALL. It’s especially valuable to hear from teachers with your depth of experience. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • DR

    My concern with homeschooling is rarely the parents or the experience the parents create. I think parents who homeschool sign on for a really enormous task and it’s incredible they do it, it demonstrates a love and commitment to their kids that is admirable.

    Are you ready for the “but”? I know. It’s DR we’re talking about there (as I refer to myself in the third person which is a lil creepy). I kind of can’t believe I”m saying this given how much I rant about Evangelicals, etc. but for me the terribly sad thing is that most of the really stable parents now choose to homeschool. And who could blame you? It’s tough out there in a lot of areas. But for me I guess, I wonder about all those kids who would be fast friends with your kids who could benefit from just being around your family. I was a really good kid that came from parents who did the best they could (I went to a private school). But it was really tough at home. But I had my friend Mindy’s family, they were Christian and so loving with one another. I will never forget Mindy’s dad sitting down with us, holding her hand and asking her “How is your relationship with Jesus, honey?” I was just blown away by that, that a dad would ask her that.

    I know that may feel like I’m asking you to sacrifice your kids’ education to make sure they can be a witness to other kids who might need you. But part of me wants to challenge the way that Christians actually parent their kids with others in mind. It’s your job to make sure that your child has the very, very best. And those of you who are religious are undoubtedly doing an amazing job. But it also makes it nearly impossible for your little ones to befriend other kids who may be really rough around the edges and need some kind of example – even if it’s a dinner at your house – as hope how things could be different for them. Our lives are not to be our own. How that applies to our children, I’ve no idea I’m not a parent so I can’t speak to it (it’s probably offensive that I try). But as one who worked with kids in the system for years, healthy families are the greatest gift we can give to kids who are coming from families that are struggling.

    • melissa

      Yep, so true. I was fortunate enough to have such a family in my life. 30 years later, every single member of that family is still in my life. They have changed me in so many ways and I am positive I would have ended up in some pretty dire straits had they not socialized me at their dinner table, on a very regular basis.

      • DR

        Me too, Melissa. And now we have families (Christian and not) that are loving and stable isolating themselves in order to stay loving and stable. I certainly understand why, but for those kids like you and me, what happens to them now? It makes me terribly sad that we’re pulling that out of our public schools.

  • DR

    This thread has so many incredible comments, I’ve learned a lot from these different perspectives. You really do have some of the smartest, most sensitive people who comment here it’s impressive.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I really do. And that’s never been on better display than here. I really think this group is sort of the zenith in that regard. I mean, this has just been such great reading. (And thanks, as always, for your great contributions to the dialogue, DR.)

  • denver

    I agree that it depends on the parents and why they are homeschooling. I have a friend that homeschools her kids because apparently the schools in her neighborhood suck, and the kids get plenty of socializing with other kids because they have a herd of cousins right next door to play with. However then you have those kids that have been on the news singing neo-nazi songs at rallies because their parents keep them home to indoctrinate them. Scary!

    On a side note, I was one of those kids that needed to see that there were actual parents that gave two sh*ts about their kids by witnessing friends’ families. I was super outgoing as a child despite my home life, but as an adult I’m a social anxiety mess… so we’re not always socialized well even if we went to public school, is what I’m saying. :)

  • vj

    My experience home schooling my 4 kids for their first few years of schooling was positive in ways that have to far not been mentioned here: my eldest turned 6 a couple of months after my youngest (4th!) was born. Had I sent the eldest to school from 1st Grade, there would have been a lot of unnecessary stress added to our lives (waking up early, packing a lunch, driving him to school because that was our only option – all things that would have been complicated by the needs of a pretty demanding baby…

    Instead of all that organizational stuff, I could focus on helping my kids to develop affection for one another (#1 and #4 are still able to enjoy each others’ company, even at ages 14 and 8), and we had the freedom to ‘school’ at our own pace. My kids weren’t saddled with arbitrary ‘make work’ to fill a school day, but could get through the essentials of Math and Language Arts relatively quickly, and then read lovely books together. It was such a privilege teaching the older 2 to read (even though it took a while, both are now avid, fluent readers), and the younger 2 almost learned to read via osmosis (#3 threw a fit when he was 5, and demanded to be taught to read, which he accomplished within weeks; #4 almost literally would not read to me at all until he could read almost perfectly, also around age 5).

    As a mother who is not particularly fond of children in general (even when I was a child…), I also found that home schooling gave me a structured way of interacting with my own kids, which was a great blessing to all of us. Part of me would love to continue home-schooling, but I’m also really grateful to have my kids enrolled in a small private school which shares the Christian ethos and educational philosophy we were following at home, but also exposes them to kids from diverse socio-economic backgrounds; they are thriving, and as an added bonus I have time to myself to read John’s blog every day ;-)

  • Elizabeth Niederer

    I’m not a parent, but am acquainted with a number of home schooling families. My next door neighbors are home schooling their youngsters and doing a fantastic job thus far. The oldest child has a command of language, math and basic knowledge that far exceeds his grade level. He’s a responsible young fellow, sociable with adults and peers alike, and appears to be very well adjusted. His younger sister already knows how to read and to speak in complete paragraphs :-). The youngest is too young for formal schooling, but I’m confident she will do well.

    This family participates in several groups and clubs so that the kids have lots of time to interact with other kids. It’s a pleasure to see the youngsters growing up.

    I’ve seen several other families doing equally well. Of course, I’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum.

  • Kate

    My brother and I were homeschooled when we entered high school and moved from the midwest to the east coast. I had a terrible experience moving to another state in middle school and acclimating to a whole new life and friends. My parents gave me a choice of attending local prep school or homeschooling and because I struggled with my grades and self-esteem, I jumped at the chance of being homeschooled. I always thought I was a social person, but in hidesight I have to say that while I feel like I thrived with personal attention in my studies, I sheltered myself from social situations on purpose. I had the option of still participating in local school sports, but chose not to. I also chose not to be involved with other local homeschool groups of kids my age. I spent plenty of time with friends I made through a local church, so it wasn’t like I avoided all social contact. I kind of jumped right into adulthood and got a fulltime job while I did my studies at night through video correspondence. Looking back now, I wish I would have allowed myself more time to be a kid..

    The resources that are available now for homeschooling are remarkable. I wish they were around 20 years ago.. I think it made a huge difference that I wasn’t homeschooled through all of my childhood.. and if I had to do it all over again, I would still choose to be homeschooled (and of course, far more diligent in my studies than I actually was). I’ve met several other people over the years who have also been homeschooled and it’s like you share a secret bond. There are plenty of times people give you “the look” when they discover you were homeschooled, like you had the black plague or something.. (No, I’m not Amish!) I feel like I’m perfect normal adult, with a perfectly normal job.. But I know what “the look” means.. I’ve met them and felt a little shutter down my spine too. However, there are plenty of kids in public schools who are social inept as adults too.. so I think it’s unfair to think that you’re “sheltered” just because you were homeschooled.

  • Alan

    I’ve had a couple surgeries, but I wouldn’t trust myself to actually do surgery. I can drive a car, but I couldn’t build one. And just because people have been to school doesn’t make them expert teachers. There’s actually more to teaching, if you’re trying to do it right, than just attempting to transmit knowledge from your mouth to the kid’s ear.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that, once they get past looking at polywogs in the back pond, most parents have the expertise required to explain, say for example, electronegativity and how it impacts the structure and reactivity of a molecule. Maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt it, given that ~100% of the people I talk to react with horror when I tell them I’m a chemist, going on to tell me how much they hated chemistry and almost failed it. So unless there’s some mystery stealth stockpile of parents, of which I am unaware, who happen to be experts in chemistry or physics, I’m guessing that kids are going to suffer in at least those areas. And how about the Advanced Placement Calc BC exam? Lots of parents actually qualified to prepare their kids for that exam, are there? I sure wouldn’t be, and I’ve had way more calc than I care to remember.

    And, at some point, (I know this is heresy to even suggest) kids really do have to get out into the real world and experience something other than the warm, happy, fuzzy, pink cotton-candy cocoon of home. I think homeschooling is just another example of over-protective parenting and the product is a kid who can’t compete and can’t handle stress, in my experience.

    The other products are helicopter parents who phone and email their kids college professors to complain about grades, phone calls which I field every semester. Seriously. What 18-year old needs their parents to whine to their college instructors for them? An fragile 18 year-old who is going to spend their lives getting run over by people who learned how to do their own problem solving, that’s who.

    There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and there are probably a few reasons to homeschool kids. But they’re exceptions because they’re rare.

    • vj

      I think you are being unnecessarily snarky about parents not being ‘qualified’ to teach specialized subject matter. There are plenty of resources available for home schooled students, from the local professionals/advanced students mentioned by other posters, to appropriate books/websites/DVDs/exam prep courses etc. Obviously an experienced teacher can be a great asset, but that’s not the only option, and at the end of it all it’s actually the STUDENT who takes the exam – it’s the STUDENT who has to do the work of acquiring/understanding/assimilating knowledge and reproducing/applying it under test conditions…

      • Alan

        Snarky, perhaps. But that doesn’t change the truth of it. I would disagree that “qualified” is some subjective term that deserves the quotes you give it, or perhaps the quotes are designed to minimize the importance of qualifications. Either way, I disagree. After all, one of the problems that people complain about with public schools is unqualified teachers.

        I don’t think it is snarky to point out that it seems to me to be a contradiction to complain about unqualified public school teachers as being one reason to homeschool children, when most parents are not qualified to teach several subjects either.

        And if those parents are qualified to be excellent teachers then I would hope they’d do everyone a favor and go teach in their local school district. After all, I’m sure we can all agree that we need more qualified and dedicated teachers in the public schools!

        • NS

          I taught at a public school once. Let me tell ya…those experts are not all that qualified. Most of them are very very good at making your kid stand in a straight line using punitive measures. Personally, I don’t think standing in line perfectly is a skill worth teaching. Nor raising a hand to go to the bathroom, nor waiting quietly while your time is wasted by yet another disturbance.

          Insert a disclaimer about shades of grey and all that here. Many parents should not be homeschooling their children. Usually that’s because they lack the time and energy, are abusive, or are going to resent it. And not all schools are terrible. But so many are.

          At the end of the day, many kids grow up in many circumstances to be many different adults. And generally speaking its ben my experience that the kids who are shown consistent love, positive attention, and support from the adults around them grow into the well adjusted types that I tend to like. The question on the table for each family is how best to ensure that their kids get those needs met.

    • Kara

      But I doubt it, given that ~100% of the people I talk to react with horror when I tell them I’m a chemist, going on to tell me how much they hated chemistry and almost failed it.

      And who taught them? I intend no disrespect to chemistry teachers; my mother was one before she decided to home school me and my brother. What I am saying is that a “qualified” teacher is no guarantee that a student will understand the material presented. A one-on-one teacher/student ratio and unlimited time can help, even if the person teaching doesn’t have a formal certificate in the subject.

      The skills needed to manage a classroom and deal with children of all backgrounds are different than the skills a parent needs to teach their own children one-on-one. You claim that home schooled children won’t be competitive, but there’s simply no evidence of that. The research that has been done on home schooled children indicates that on average, they score at or above the 80th percentile in all subjects. Home schoolers also out-perform public schooled students on the ACT composite score… and its science subtest.

      Whether it makes sense to you or not, home schoolers are excelling. Research indicates that there is no statistically significant difference in academic success whether a child is home schooled by a parent who is certified teacher or a parent who is not. (And those parents who are certified to teach have no obligation to take a job at a public school. If they want to teach their children, that’s their business and their right.)

      You say successful home schooled students are exceptions because they’re rare. But there is absolutely no evidence or research to support that view. Opposition to home schooling is almost always on theoretical grounds, not empirical ones.

      • Alan

        “And who taught them?”

        Not me. :) Probably the gym teacher. Which, I reckon, makes my point about qualifications. :)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Um. Yeah, so you, Kara, are about as strong an argument in support of home schooling as there can be.

        • Kara

          Thanks, John. Like I said in my first comment, it works well for some families and not for others. It was a wonderful experience for me and mine.

    • DR

      I’m a fan of public schools and believe well-trained teachers are the best people to be teaching children. That being said, you’re being overly-simplistic here as well as condescending. This is certainly not as clean cut as you’re making it and the data simply doesn’t support the conclusions you’re drawing regarding kids who are homeschooled, it’s all over the map. You’ve clearly got a bias you’re working within which is fine, who cares, but the research coming in overwhelmingly suggests that homeschooled kids do quite well in society, the suggestion that they are “fragile” is just inaccurate They excel in a lot of different areas, socially, interpersonally as well as academically.

      • Alan

        “I’m a fan of public schools and believe well-trained teachers are the best people to be teaching children.”

        Indeed. Er…. But speaking of condescending…. ;)

        Anyway, doesn’t really matter and really isn’t worth disagreeing about. Take care!

  • Jessica Edwards

    I am currently homeschooling my children, who are kindergarten and first grade aged respectively. There is some debate as to whether it is “home school” or “homeschool.” Currently, there does not seem to be a consensus on the matter, but I think the going vote is for “homeschool.”

    There are lots of great homeschoolers out there. There are lots of horrible homeschoolers. There are great public schools; there are terrible public schools. There are advantages and disadvantages to all forms of schooling. Right now, for our family, homeschooling seems to be the best option, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have disadvantages.

    On the plus side, my night-owl kids don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus at 6:40 am. These are kids who complain about getting up on Christmas morning. At 10 am. Because they think it’s too early. Granted, at some point in life they’re going to have to learn the sad fact that most people do have to get up at specific times. But, it doesn’t have to be when they are this young. Other advantages include greater flexibility and the ability to tailor education to each child’s interests and abilities. My seven year old is awesome at reading and math. Her writing skills are lagging a bit behind. Since we are at home, I am able to give her high quality literature to read and provide her with an advanced math curriculum, while working with her on handwriting, spelling, grammar, and composition in a systematic, slow and steady way. We’re also able to go into more depth on subjects that they find interesting. You can do some unique things that are hard to replicate in a classroom.

    Academically, I think homeschooling can be superior, but of course it isn’t always.

    However, your points about socialization are valid. Social skills are vitally important. However, how much instruction in social skills is given in a classroom or on a playground? Generally, it’s more of a “throw them to the wolves” approach. I’m not sure a class of 25 five year olds is the best group to teach social skills. A classroom of people exactly your age is also a pretty artificial construct. At 34 years old, I spend my time with people of many different ages.

    Right now, I am finding it helpful for my kids to have frequent interaction with chidren their own age, as well as kids (and adults) who are both older and younger. They participate in many different activities at church, along with ballet (my seven year old), gymnastics (my five year old), swim lessons (both), music classes (both), a homeschool co-op and various team sports. In addition, we go to park days and have play dates, and they play with other kids in the neighborhood. I think it is possible that my kids have more time to PLAY with other kids than they would in a classroom, with 15 minutes of recess and 20 minutes of lunch in a school day. However, the advantage is that I, or another adult, is almost always nearby. We’re not helicopter parents; my kids have a lot more freedom than many, and I believe in allowing them to take reasonable risks. But we’re available to help coach them through social situations, when needed, or to allow them to work things out and then later discuss the situation and role play various solutions.

    I do think that there are serious problems with homeschooling because you want to protect your kids from all harmful influences, or strictly for religious reasons. That can be a situation that is very limiting. I think it is important for kids to be given more and more freedom and responsibility as they grow older, and while homeschooling through high school can certainly be done, it becomes more difficult. Part of those difficulties are in resources like lab sciences, but possibly the more serious difficulty is in offering a sufficiently stimulating social life. It can be done, and for some kids more easily than others. It has to always be a balancing act, weighing positive and negatives year by year.

    There ARE real drawbacks to not having that group of people you’re stuck with for a year, as you would in a classroom. Some of those things I can replicate, but some I cannot. Every year it’s a balancing act to decide what is the best solution. We’re all doing the best we can. I think right now I am able to offer my kids a better education, both academically and socially, than the local public school can. We’ll see what happens when they get older. But, right now I have to go teach math.

  • NS

    one more note– socializing: The term doesn’t necessarily mean a positive thing. It simply means to become adapted to a particular social environment. There are some social environments that you might not want your kid to think of as acceptable.

    It’s worth thinking about what you do want your child to imbibe in the way of social habits. Do you want them to agree that it is a good idea to…

    -bully

    -sit in one place with many others without addressing them

    -take orders unquestioningly

    -work together (in many schools, doing so is called “cheating.”)

    -move from task to task frequently

    -think of younger children as inferior

    It’s all about what type of social structure your school or homeschool supports and creates. Try being intentional about how your children are socialized, rather than assuming that it’s a good thing.

  • Lore

    I think it’s a valid education method, but it takes talent and hard work to do well, and not every parent has the former or wants to do the latter.

    The biggest problems I’ve seen in homeschooling come when the parents’ main purpose is to shelter their children from The World (TM) and essentially bring them up in an alternate universe. That alternate universe tends to be very conservative, fundamentalist, and patriarchal.

    Full disclosure: I was homeschooled.

  • Michelle

    Home schooling has been a cultural ‘happening’ now for at least 25 years and hopefully there are some good (non-biased from either direction, good control group comparison) studies on the outcomes. My own guess would be that it depends on the quality of the ‘school’ and that there are good schools, ok schools, and bad schools just as there are good, ok, and bad public (and private) schools.

    I first read about homeschooling when my now 30 year-old son was approaching kindergarten age. At that time I made the choice to keep my children (all 4 of them) home for their kindergarten year (in my state children are not required to start school until age 7). My primary educational goal for that year was to teach my children to read. In that first year I proved to myself that while I could teach reading (and all my children are good readers), I did not have the discipline/skills/inclination to be my children’s teacher for much beyond kindergarten. Luckily, we lived in an area with decent public schools and I did not need to agonize over sending my children there.

  • WTH_Christian

    I have a few questions on this topic – ones that I haven’t seen an answer to (anywhere, not just here).

    1.) What happens if you are a single parent, or live in an area where you need two incomes to raise a family? (e.g., NYC, Washington DC, most of California)? Who does the teaching?

    2.) How do teach said kids to deal with circumstances that aren’t under the “parent’s” control? More specifically, how are they going to deal with situations where they haven’t been “taught” directly how to deal with a certain situation? Bullying is definitely an extreme example, but one that exists.

    Anyone that has read Velvet Elvis regarding the section about kids who “grew up Christian” but fell away in college knows what I’m talking about.

    3.) At what point do you teach your kids how to befriend non-christians? You can say kids in your neighborhood. but as we all know the idea of kids playing with other kids on a neighborhood street isn’t nearly as common as it was a generation ago (witness the rise of the “playdates”).

    4.) This is an honest question – how many parents who homeschool have non-christian “friends” that they hang out with on a regular basis (even invite them to their homes regularly). Based on my experience, that answer is 0. Does anyone here have a different experience?

  • Jeannie

    I agree that the quality of the homeschool experience seems to depend entirely on who did the schooling. I have seriously considered it. I am home and live off of SSDI so I could do it. Also, it is possible to get textbooks free of charge now for the homeschool option.

    One of my kiddos has a diagnosis that makes socialization very difficult for her. Socialization may be important, but the lion’s share of what my girl has gotten out of her school experience from her peers is bullying, teasing and being ignored. Because of this, of course, I have thought about home schooling her. But that same diagnosis that makes her socialization a challenge also gives her some big learning differences. She struggles in some areas, but is as far as two grade levels ahead in others. I don’t feel up to the task. I simply have nothing in my background that makes me feel comfortable with teaching my child how to do things when she learns so differently from the average kid that her textbooks will be aimed at.

    If I could find a cooperative with experienced teachers and others to help me work through these differences I would homeschool at least my one child in a heartbeat.


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