Homeschoolers, the Social Contract, and Identity

It started with a blog post last September provocatively called Death to Homeschooling. Patheos Christian blogger Tony Jones of Theoblogy argued against homeschooling as follows:

Like many people who have their first child approaching kindergarten age, I have been thinking about all of our options for next year: neighborhood public school, public French immersion, charter school, private school, homeschool.

But it seems to me that if I am truly committed to living a missional life, then I must enroll my kids in the public school. That is, I am committed to living a life fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that I live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society.

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect them from polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

And one more thing. Dewey argues strongly that it is in the social environment that a child learns to learn. Here are the brilliant words of one of Dewey’s successors, George Albert Coe,

What education does is, in a word, to bring the child and society together. It increases one’s participation in the common life. It puts the child into possession of the tools of social intercourse, such as language and numbers; opens his eyes to treasures of literature, art, and science that society has gradually accumulated through generations; causes him to appreciate such social organizations as the state, and develops habits appropriate thereto; prepares him to be a producer in some socially valuable field of labor, and evokes an inner control whereby he may judge and guide himself in the interest of social well being.”

I am not a Christian, but, ironically perhaps, my reasons for preferring public school are very similar to those laid out here. While I have known many people who were failed by homeschooling academically, being homeschooled form K through 12 actually did give me a pretty good education. Yes, there were some holes, but I got into college with scholarships, and once there I excelled. What I missed out on, though, was the social contract aspect that both Jones and Coe describe here (for more of my thoughts on socialization, see this post). And that, quite simply, is the number one reason I plan to put Sally and Bobby in public school.

As you might imagine, not everyone was happy about Jones’ post. So he wrote a followup post called “Why Homeschoolers Don’t Understand Missional.”

As expected, homeschool advocates have turned out in force to defend and justify their decision to homeschool in response to my (provocatively titled) post, “Death to Homeschooling!

What Wendy and other commenters don’t seem to understand is that, when I use the term “missional,” I don’t mean “sharing Jesus.” At least, I don’t mean it like she means it. I’m not talking about evangelism.

Missional does not mean evangelism. Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation.

Missional means being the salt seasoning in the world, and you cannot be that seasoning (no matter your age) if you withdraw from society.

P.S., read this comment from a Christian college prof if you want some more evidence that homeschooling doesn’t do what its advocates say it’s doing.

One thing that has struck me as I’ve thought about my experiences being homeschooled is just how much homeschooling isolated us from anything bigger than our family, church, and circle of like-minded friends. I didn’t know anyone who was different from me, whether in religion, class, or ethnic or racial background. I wasn’t involved in a greater civic process beyond the independent campaigning we did for conservative candidates. Homeschooling is sort of like seceding from the educational system, and I have definitely noticed a very “I’ve got mine, screw the rest of you” sort of mentality among some homeschoolers.

I also think one thing Jones is hitting up against is the tension within modern evangelicalism between being in the world but not of the world. In other words, evangelicals have a history of trying to change the world through involvement in it, but they also have a twin history of trying to preserve doctrinal and moral purity by withdrawing from the world. Today’s evangelicals have to balance the two. Jones definitely wants to lean more toward being in the world in an effort to change it – being the “salt” and the “light” – while other evangelicals, terrified that their children will reject the faith or pick up bad morals from their “worldly” peers, lean toward withdrawing from the world. In my experience, many homeschoolers try to balance the two by arguing that they are sheltering their children and keeping them separate from the world now in order that they will grow up to be more effective in interacting with and influencing the world. But as more and more people are pointing out, it doesn’t exactly work like that.

Anyway, encountering still more push back, Jones finished with “One More Post about Homeschooling“:

It’s no surprise to me that I stroked the cat’s fur the wrong way with my two posts about homeschooling over the last couple weeks. It’s not popular to decry a trend that is burgeoning among both right-wing and left-wing Christians. But I, dear reader, stand here in the center and attempt to humbly guard our space. :-)

But seriously, I know that my posts were provocative. But they weren’t personal. The fact that so many people took them personally makes me think that homeschooling has, for some, become a little too important. That being said, I have listened carefully to the arguments against my posts, and I am aware that my argument has some weak spots. I am also aware that my children have the good fortune of being in a very good school system.

Lots of vitriol has come my way in the comment sections of those posts, as well as on Twitter (Facebook, on the other hand has been relatively silent). There have also been some smart blog responses….

Please, allow me to respond:

No, I don’t think you should raise your kids among drug addicts because you might help the drug addicts. We have not decided as a society to publicly fund the healing and reparation of all drug addicts. We have, however, decided to publicly and collectively educate our children. When Christians opt out of this collective societal agreement, society is hobbled.

There are many families at my worshipping community who opt out of the system of immunizations that our society requires. They are making a serious misjudgment that weakens our society and is, if I may be so bold, self-centered. I realize that many of you will argue that your first commitment is to your own children, not to society. Fair enough, but that’s not how I make my determinations — and I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive. If you repeatedly make decisions that put your family ahead of the other families that surround you, well, I just don’t see how that is following Christ’s example.

Secondly, no, your own personal experience with homeschooling, no matter how positive that may be, does not negate my argument. I realize that many people have many different experiences with homeschooling, but this isn’t about your personal experience.

Think of it this way: tonight on the news, you might see someone interviewed, man-on-the-street style. He’ll say, “Yeah, the economy sucks, because I lost my job last year and haven’t been able to find a new one. Vote Romney!” But you and I both know that one person’s opinion is not a gauge of the health of our society. The economy is judged by meta-trends, not by micro-anecdotes. The same goes for public education.

I’m looking ahead, and I think there will be a huge price to pay if my fellow Christians continue to withdraw their children from public schools. If we abandon that public institution, the toll will be this: in two or three decades, our culture will be less educated and less civil. I can’t imagine any Christian wanting this.

Finally, to Joy’s criticism, let me say this: my children are not my proxies. Their education in public school has necessitated my own involvement in that institution — on the PTA, as a volunteer, and as a generally engaged parent. Sometimes I wonder if homeschooling is a choice that parents make to allow their own adult avoidance of rolling up their sleeves and making public schools better.

After reading all three of Tony Jones’ posts, I have to say, I rather like the guy. And more than that, I think the two of us are in almost perfect agreement on the subject of homeschooling, with the exception that he approaches the issue as a Christian while I approach it as a Humanist.

Note that Jones is discussing and referring to what I generally call “the Christian homeschool movement.” There are families who pull a child out, generally for a few years at most, because she’s being bullied, or because he’s having behavioral issues, or because they’re bright and are being held back educationally, but these are not the homeschoolers Jones is talking about, and they’re not the ones I am generally talking about when I talk about homeschooling either. Jones is talking about the Christians, generally evangelicals, fundamentalists, or conservative Catholics, who pull their children out in an effort to teach them “God’s truth” away from “the influences of the world.” Jones argues that homeschooling is a bad long-term strategy for these Christians, and I tend to agree.

I knew one family that stopped homeschooling somewhere along the line, the parents stating that they would rather their children encounter the world while still under the family’s roof. My parents and other Christian homeschoolers scoffed, arguing that children needed to be nurtured and raised away from the dangers of the world. Looking back, I actually think that other family had the right idea. The world is out there, and like it or not, the children of Christian parents will eventually encounter it. Is sheltering them from outside influences, individuals, and ideas until they are grown really the best strategy? Like Jones, I think not.

I’m really glad Jones wrote this series of posts. In many Christian circles, homeschooling has become such a part of both identity and religious beliefs that Christians have become unable to step back and critically examine it. For some Christians, the necessity of homeschooling has become as ingrained as things like young earth creationism or the inerrancy of the Bible. And I think that’s a very serious problem.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Evenstar120

    Sorry, I’m nit-picking a little here. You write “Yes, there were some wholes, but I got into college with scholarships, and once there I excelled.” Do you mean “holes”, that you missed “whole” things, or are you making a subtle joke about the quality of much of Christian homeschooling education?

  • Karen

    I don’t recall the choice of school being at all fraught when I was growing up. Everyone went to the local public school unless they had enough money to go to boarding school. (That was all of two kids in my home town.) Now, it’s a huge issue. My son is a completely mediocre student in high school, which, since I was a National Merit Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa in college, is extremely painful to me. Had my own parents faced this issue, all the other parents would have sympathized with them and blamed me for being lazy. Now, when I talk to other parents, I get scolded for having him in public school, or for failing to have a rigid scheduled or not getting tutors. The fact that getting a decent job requires a college degree and that getting into any college is soooo competitive doesn’t help. I sometimes wish I could homeschool and just make up Andy’s grades. (I know homeschoolers don’t really do that, but I’m feeling really depressed about my son at the moment.)

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      Take heart: our older son — bright enough but with a mild learning disability and just generally uninterested in school — struggled along until Grade 10, at which point we gave up on the system and pulled him out. He did a few correspondence courses, and though he never got his high school diploma he was accepted into an electronics program at community college, from which he graduated with high marks and now has a good job.

    • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

      Not all kids are cut out for college and not all good jobs require a college education. This is where people really have been let down and miseducated to think that the choice is either college or a poor job. Many very good jobs do not require a 4 year degree but instead require specialized technical training, jobs such as an electrician, welder, nurse (depending on the level of nursing), dental hygienist, auto mechanic, or working on any other type of engine (my brother is going to start training for working on wind generators in January) , etc.

      • Kodie

        Additionally, there’s the notion that going to college means you’re smart or makes you smart, and that good technical jobs requiring a certain level of specialized skill may be well-paying, but those people aren’t “as smart”. I know when I had to go to school, I was “very smart,” like, smart enough to be a teacher or something, but not tracked for something mathematical, as a subject I was really smart at. I’m not saying being a teacher is aiming low, because I’m probably going to end up recycling that idea 20 years out of college, but that my parents and I were really unimaginative at what else I could be and I ended up dropping the major and ended up being mostly an admin since graduation. According to craigslist, executive assistants make a boatload, or at least what I would consider plenty more than enough. There are certain things you can’t do without college, and being someone’s secretary seems to be one of them, in my experience.

        I think parents are sold on the same agenda, and may feel disappointed that their child is not “smart” enough for college. That is not the case. That is actually a load of bullcrap honestly. It’s just a different kind of training. I did get sold a load of the same bullcrap, and even when I was receiving a message from society that teachers “can’t do” – I think in response, as opposed to what? Push brooms, run a cash register, answer phones? You gotta do what you gotta do, on the other hand. I’m sort of in this basket where I’m aiming too high but nothing I do is considered good enough. If I had it all to do again, I would just do the half-day tech training they offer at the end of high school and become a hairstylist. Not that I love hair, but it ain’t too shabby. Maybe an auto mechanic, but I don’t think I realized or was helped to realize that was ok for a girl to do – makes me really sad.

        College is a waste of money without a job at the end unless your child has already determined that they will need college to do something they really want to do. For that, they need exposure to the kinds of careers they could pursue, which I also did not have, and encouragement and support in the subjects they will need to master in order to get in and succeed on their own there. For that, college may be a productive and necessary venture.

        Also want to make sure you avoid the scams of the private tech schools they advertise on tv.
        http://www.cracked.com/article_18660_why-you-should-beware-schools-from-late-night-tv-ads.html If your child is directed toward a technical career, do the research first.

      • Christine

        I had lots of classmates in engineering who should have been technicians or technologists (community college level engineering) or even tradespeople instead. I have a lot of respect for my husband’s cousin who realised that the university programmes he got accepted to weren’t what he wanted to do, and went to community college instead of wasting money on a degree.

    • Ray

      Hey Karen, I just wanted to let you know that there has been culture of achievement in the US since the late 90s I believe. So while I understand your frustrations, I want to say that the nature of being a student has changed. So don’t think you failed in parenting him for being “mediocre” and in my observations attending and teaching college. It is the mediocre high school students that get their degrees and do better. A lot of the honors and achieves get burn out and drop out.

      Also community colleges are usually partnered with a big name school and have fast track transfer programs. A lot of my teachers for my major also teach at the 4 year with the same content. It is just cheaper at the community college level.

      • Karen

        Thanks Ray, your comment helped a great deal. It’s nice to hear that my son hasn’t completely ruined his life by making a B average.

        I realized as I read the other responses that I now understand homeschooling parents much more than I thought I would. I do regulatory compliance law for the construction industry, so I work every day with electricians, plumbers, and air conditioning contractors. I used to work for the agency that regulates car dealers. All of these fields require intelligence and, especially the car dealers, can make boatloads of money, but I would be very unhappy if Andy chose any of them for his profession, because the culture in those fields is not congenial to people with my tastes and values. Andy and I share a love of reading and classical music. In the building trades, a guy who likes classical music is going to be called a faggot and shunned by his coworkers. There’s no good reason for this, but blue-collar culture frowns on high culture, especially here in the South. If Andy went into any of those fields, pretty soon he would either give up the tastes we share or never be accepted at his workplace. Guess which one would win.

        I think that people who homeschool their children for religious purposes fear losing their kids as much as I do. They know that if their kids go to public school, the kids will have to adopt customs that the parents dislike, and to maintain their connection to their children then the parents have to give up something important. Tastes in books or movies may not seem particularly important, but they are most of what people discuss with each other.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Okay, so he probably won’t get into a highly competitive college. Honestly? Big deal. I am so tired of witnessing the misery of teenagers and parents alike when it comes to the college rat race. Some kids are just late bloomers. If your son’s mediocre transcript only gets him into a mediocre school, it is completely possible to get a good education at a mediocre school. Obviously, the learning atmosphere of a very selective school is nice for kids who are extremely academically driven but, outside of the individual benefit to the student, the prestige of the school for undergrad really only matters if you are concerned about status (if you are, please stop, and save yourself some grief) or if you’re looking into going into certain very elite careers–if your son is interested in being a Wall Street big shot right out of college like some kids are, well, that’s probably out, since it’s the blue-chip schools that get scouted for those people. Something tells me you can live with that.

      You get a good education from a mediocre school by being motivated to get one and your son may well get to a place where he is motivated to get one. My cousin was a mediocre student in high school and was accepted to a mediocre college. She didn’t get bitten by the motivation bug immediately–in fact she dropped out for a while because she was doing so poorly and worked a low-paying job while living at home. Then, when she was ready, she went back with a new outlook and a new ability to be inspired by education. And her school was ready for her. It may not have been a big name school but academia today is so competitive that there are wonderful professors teaching everywhere and my cousin found them because she wanted to. She became a straight-A student and discovered a passion for law. She’s now in her second year of a good law school and thriving. She was a late bloomer. That fact has precisely no effect on her life today.

      Not everybody needs to be an academic superstar when they are a kid. Not everybody needs to be one ever. High school is not this tiny little window that, if you don’t do everything right within it, is going to close on you and ruin the rest of your life. There is time to grow after graduation. Families seriously need to stop making themselves miserable over this crap.

      • Karen

        “High school is not this tiny little window that, if you don’t do everything right within it, is going to close on you and ruin the rest of your life.” I am seriously considering getting this tattooed on me somewhere, and I have very strong objections to any tattoos. Thank you for reminding me of something so important.

        As for Wall Street: Andy and I have a running joke list of things that will get him disinherited, and “becoming a Wall Street banker” is high on that list. In fact, it may be the only serious one, other than “join Aryan Nations.”

      • PetraLorre

        The amazing thing about college, and lots of professions, is that there are side doors. Sure, it’s often the case that you have to make excellent grades in HS to walk through the front door of a prestigious college as freshman and traditional student, but there are side doors. One friend of mine went to Harvard on a probationary basis after having taken a few courses not-for-credit. Another went to medical school after working as an EMT for a few years. Neither had outstanding grades and walking through the front door, as it were, was never an option. When Andy finds something he especially wants to pursue, there will be a way, it just may not be the usual way and it may take some time and creativity to find an open door.

    • Another Karen

      In California, we have two state school systems. The top tier schools are the University of California; the schools for everyone else are the California State Universities. I did my Bachelor’s degree at a UC school, back when an ordinary kid with good grades could get into them. Much later, I got my Master’s Degree at a CSU school, where I had to take lots of undergrad classes to catch up (different field). I’m convinced the CSU school is both a better deal for undergrads, and the smaller class sizes mean more individualized attention, at least at the upper-division level. Kids are even better off doing their first two years at community colleges, as long as those aren’t too oversubscribed.

      College does not make you smart. If you’re lucky, and have chosen a field that matches your personality (which I didn’t do the first time around) college teaches what you need to know to become a functioning member of your field. Nothing more.

    • SueDibs

      Please believe he will bloom on his own schedule. My brother (now 54) and my son (27) both had lackluster high school grades and experiences. My brother matured “late” and did not excel in college or graduate school until he was in his 30′s. My parents forced him to try college 3 different times and each was a disaster.

      Of course it was heart wrenching for me to watch my son struggle with the academics when we knew he was smart and able. He told us “Please don’t send me to college right away because I fear I will waste the time and money. Let me do something with my hands first and get some life experience and perspective.” We trusted his judgement and he became an Army Infantry soldier for 5.5 years with 30 months in the heat of the war zone(***my heart race skyrockets just typing that sentence***). He came back mature and confident. He enrolled in community college and aced his courses and was accepted at George Washington University Elliott School of Foreign Affairs. That kiddo is now learning Arabic and Farsi and security policy and HE. IS. THRIVING!!! Sure he is older than most of the students (and even some of the professors!) but his life wisdom shines brightly and he just was on a different schedule than most. Peace to you and your guy.

      • Karen

        Thanks. Stories like yours give me so much encouragement.

  • Christine

    Ignore, for now, the fact that I already have issues with a lot of the ideas that “sheltering” the children lets you teach them. If the only way you can teach your children to share your values is to not let them know that other options exist, there is something really wrong. Now, if I see that you’ve chosen to keep your children home, because letting them see that other value systems exist might “corrupt” them, what does that say about what you believe? Have you given me a positive message?

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      Yes: isolationist Christians seem oblivious to the fact that they are implicitly admitting that their alleged solid Rock of Eternal Truth is in fact a delicate hothouse flower that must be sheltered from the cruel frosts of social and intellectual challenge.

      • Kodie

        They haven’t fortified their children by the age of 5 to ward off the devil all by themselves.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      They always likened it to a greenhouse. Children aren’t ready at tender ages to face the world, and need to be kept in a protective greenhouse until they are strong enough. It makes a good soundbite, but in practice it doesn’t seem to work out like that.

      • Christine

        Heck, even if it actually worked that way it has issues. If only children who are kept in a protective greenhouse until they’re “strong enough” can make good Christians, then there wouldn’t be a lot of point in trying to convert the rest of us. Therefore, we can just ignore them.

      • Rosie

        They don’t know much about greenhouses, then. I worked in one for several years. Plants are grown there out-of-season, and in climates where they’d struggle to survive outdoors. You CAN take them out and plant them in the “real” world, but they’re a whole lot more tender and weak than a seedling started outdoors, and often take much more care, especially in the transition period. Given the choice, I’d take an outdoor seedling over a hot-house one any day.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

        Apparently they’ve never heard of the concept of taking a seedling and hardening it off before planting. This is where you protect the seedling from the harshest weather and wind over a period of time before planting it in the ground. What they seem to be proposing is to take a young plant and plant it unprepared into the ground (which is bad news for the plant). That is what school is like, that hardening off process, a controlled and still very sheltered way to introduce a child to the wider world they will have to navigate as adults.

  • Steve

    So he wants his kids to preach their sick belief to other kids? I’d prefer if he’d homeschool them

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I think you missed this part:

      Missional does not mean evangelism. Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation.

      Tony blogs in the progressive Christian portal, not the evangelical portal. He’s Christian, yes, but he’s not a fundamentalist and he’s not talking about his kids proselytizing.

      Finally, do you realize what you are advocating for the children in question when you say you think someone whose kids would proselytize their classmates should homeschool? You are saying that because their parents are fundamentalist, or evangelical, or whatever, those children should be deprived of an open and comprehensive education and an exposure to to beliefs and people who are different from them. After growing up as one of those kids, I have to say, hearing that from you really seriously hurts. Have a care, would you?

    • Christine

      It goes both ways. If your kids can’t handle hearing something outrageous and go “gee, that’s stupid”, then maybe you need to be teaching them what you believe a little more proactively. Trying to shelter kids in the public school system isn’t really any different than trying to shelter them out of the public school system.

      • Anonymouse

        There’s a difference between sheltering them and letting them get harassed by religious bullies. My kindergartener came home from his first day of public school asking, “Mommy, what’s hell and why am I going there?” After questioning him, I learned that a charming little thug in his class was telling all the other kids they were going to hell because they didn’t belong to the “right” church (that is, the one the thug went to). Every day for a couple of weeks it was the same thing–constant bullying–”You can’t play with this toy because you’re not a Christian”, “You can’t sit here because you’re not a Christian”, “I don’t have to share with you because you’re going to hell”. No child should be subjected to constant bullying like that. The teacher–who went to the same church–was not willing to do anything, and neither was the principal, so I had to escalate it to the school board.

      • Christine

        Sorry, I read Steve’s comment literally, as in “their kids will preach at the other kids”.

  • Kodie

    I think you’re both right, and I think a lot of the responses are because parents don’t like to be criticized for the choices they make for the very good reasons they make them, ever. People take their parenting very personally, and I don’t know if that’s new since I grew up (before the internet) or not, and I’m not a parent, so I’m never allowed to say anything. I wasn’t brought up Christian, I’ve never been a Christian, and I have a lot of criticisms based on my own public school experience of public schools. I think my school system is considered a very good school system too, rank-wise.

    If I were a parent, my idea has always been similar. Kids need to be immersed in the world as it is, but not in a world more dangerous than it should be, or where they’re treated condescendingly because they’re only children who need to be obedient. Public school it is. But I would not, in theory, allow the entirety of my child’s education to be dependent on whatever they teach at school. It’s shallow and repetitive and can be unengaging, so theoretically, I was going to partially home-school also but not home-school as in isolate; home-school to assure they were learning things they’d need to know and why it was important and how they were actually going to use what they’d learned. That does seem like a lot of extra work. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to manage that in reality or fail to live up to my own ideals.

  • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

    This is an interesting discussion. I was homeschooled, and like most homeschoolers, my parents started out for a good reason, and got sucked into it for religious reasons later. The result was being unbelievably sheltered for nearly 12 years, and coming out of that bubble, and realizing the world was not as I imagined, was very painful. I am still getting rid of the evangelical indoctrination. So I’m not really supportive of this kind of sheltering.

    That said, school is not really for me. The box is too narrow. So I’d much prefer to not be tied down to school with my kids, to do a lot of traveling, public schools in other countries, etc.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

      I’m currently vaguely researching requirements for home-schooling here, so that when our little one is old enough to travel, we can look at taking them out of school for a while and doing that with them, while still working on a “local” education. (For some reason, schools dont like you taking the kids out for anything more than a couple of days unless its for a funeral)
      Then again, we are also planning (once they are close to teenaged years) to move half way across the world to advance my husbands career and give us all a chance to really immerse ourselves in another country.

      • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

        Checked out your blog. cool. Well that’s what I’ve been doing by living oversees. True about public school requirement, but you can take your kids out of school for one year just to travel, no problems.

  • Karen

    This is off-this-topic, but I found this post from a Catholic portal blogger very interesting, and relevant to Libby Anne’s other discussions related to family life, particularly her abortion and birth control posts. Calah Alexander is clearly experiencing something like postpartum depression, but I doubt she’ll get much useful support from her town or church. (She lives in Ave Maria FL, a town specifically created to follow strict Catholic doctrines for family life.)

    • Pteryxx

      The link doesn’t work; is it one of the posts here?

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barefootandpregnant/author/calahalexander

      • Karen

        Yes, “fear and prayer”

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I think it’s this one.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

        I cant get a link click to appear on that one either Libby-Anne.

        But have just started reading her article, and I want to slap the B*tch who said this to her: ““You won’t be nearly that happy when that kid is on the outside, I promise.” Ouch.

  • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

    I was one of those Christians who thought that I must home school my children to protect them from the world. Well, this year, all of my school aged children are in school. 3 of them in public school and 2 of them in a Christian private school. Next year all of them will be in public school. The two in private school asked to be put in public school next year because they wanted out of the craziness LOL One of them will be a senior next year and still wanted to switch. I will readily admit that home schooling was not the best thing for my children. I changed my mind because my children asked me to. They wanted to go to school and never wish to be back home schooling. This is one of my biggest parenting regrets. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I wasn’t. This, of course, is just my personal experience, but I have several friends who have come to the same conclusion. I agree with the blogger, being a part of society is very important. Hiding away in our own little bubble is not the way to make the world a better place. I am an atheist now, but would feel the same way if I were still a Christian. I actually made the decision before I deconverted.

    • Rosa

      fwiw, being willing to change things based on what the kids are saying and how your beliefs are affecting them says to the kids that you do value them individually, and are trying to do the best for them.

      We all make mistakes. To me, the difference between blind ideologues and caring parents is that when reality intrudes, the good parents are willing to re-evaluate what they’re doing and make changes.

      • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

        Thank you for this, Rosa. This is what my kids have told me. They know I was just doing what I thought was best for them at the time. I really think it is important for parents to admit when they are wrong to their children, we all make mistakes, pretending we don’t isn’t realistic.

    • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

      I have known some kids to be begged to be homeschooled too because of their bad experiences.

  • MM

    Wow, Tony makes excellent points. Although my wife and I are DINKs, I find myself somewhat in the middle of this debate due to having 5 nieces and nephews…particularly since my mom is a teacher (in a private Christian school) and my sister plans to homeschool her two kids. My mom stays mostly quiet, but it’s clear that she doesn’t care much for homeschooling. Of course, she thinks public schools are evil, but Christian schools are the answer. Her disdain for homeschooling is primarily academic. While there are parents who are very diligent about maintaining a routine with their homeschool kids, my mom believes (and I agree) that most parents simply do not have the academic breadth to give their kids a proper K-12 education at home. Sure, there are homeschool co-ops that try to mitigate this, but even then I think most parents are unable to answer in-depth questions on a lot of academic subjects.

    What’s interesting is that my sister recognizes that she isn’t equipped to provide her kids with a well-rounded education, but she is more concerned that her son *might* be bullied or become friends with bad kids if he goes to a regular school, that this completely outweighs her concerns that won’t be able to give her son a good homeschool education. It really drives me crazy.

  • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

    Wow, what an interesting and insightful post! My mother always desperately wanted to homeschool us but they could not afford to live in our somewhat affluent neighborhood on only one salary, so we were sent to public school. My parents let us know on a regular basis how much they hated it though, and always let us know that homeschooling was better. I am forever and immensely grateful we were never homeschooled. I so appreciate my public education and experience.

    The reasons my parents cited for wanting to homeschool us actually had nothing to do with academics. I went to a very good school district and my parents were fine with the academic aspect. they were just terrified of “wordly” influences and us learning “other” points of views. Which, as others have said and I totally agree, just shows how weak their position really is.

    But what’s really funny, hilarious actually, to me is this: I grew up in the Bible belt and my neighborhood was very Christian. Not fundamentalist, but very Christian. Almost everyone went to church. Yet my parents, who were definitely fundamentalist, kept decrying the “wordly” influences of the Christian friends we had, and talked about how their parents weren’t strict enough with them, those kids were going to grow up to become a pregnant teenager strung out on crystal meth because they were allowed to watch PG rated movies, and how they were going to lose their faith in college, and on and on. You know, the typical doomsday fear-mongering that exists in those circles. Well, what’s so funny is that thanks to social media, I’m still in touch with all those “wordly” kids who are now adults. Let’s see: no teenage pregnancies, no drug addictions, no college dropouts. They are all productive, law-abiding citizens who are … wait for it … conservative Christians!!! They are against gay marriage, they vote Republican, they take their kids to church every week, they praise God on FB for the blessings in their lives, and they join all those pro-life FB groups. But I am a pro-choicer who votes Democrat, lives in NYC, is an atheist and doesn’t have any kids. And I was sheltered with uber-strict parents who supposedly did everything right. Do the math on that one, Mom and Dad.

    • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

      agree with you. Just as many homeschoolers grow up to be atheists or leave the religious right because we are tired of it. I still believe God exists, but some days I just barely hang in there.

      Your parents would probably argue that if they’d homeschooled you, you’d still be a theists and vote Republican. LOL.

  • Kodie

    I had another thought, it might be peculiar to me. I did go to public school but also felt sheltered. I don’t know if I did it to myself (social anxiety coping) or had my priorities made for me, but I was to concentrate on schoolwork and nothing else. I somehow through it all remain pretty strong against peer pressure and I know what I value is what I value even if most people do something else. At least from a religious position, I guess that’s a good thing? Even though grades were important, somehow I slacked in uninteresting or unengaging areas and was not really noticed for my strong subjects at all. I might have done better with more attention from my mom, but not been at least as educated as I am now. I even managed to barely make it out of college with low grades and few friends or socializing experiences.

    Now looking back, the most important thing about school is socializing and learning to socialize. I mean that is most vital to a person whether they learn or point to a career in something; everyone needs it. But I’m not sure it’s ideal. Kids the same age who don’t know anything being mostly left to themselves to sort themselves into cliques and torment the weak ones, and get better at it every year. No real mentoring in that department. There are teachers who teach, but do not use or abuse the opportunity to socialize (it’s unseemly), and so there is always this barrier between children who don’t know, teaching themselves, and adults who are their superiors and just make and enforce rules (in its ideal form). I may have found this confounding – I still have a hard time crossing that barrier and addressing anyone who may be my superior or an authority, rapping like 2 people do, without feeling like a filthy urchin, and that was modeled at home. My non-religious home.

    I still have so many mixed feelings about public school, but I still think it’s the better idea over isolating them. I also have mixed feelings about letting kids be. In some ways, that’s a very good thing, they are away from home for 6 hours a day with all the freedom to figure out who they are and learn to be independent. I don’t want to suggest every child is a problem child, but some things you just don’t grow out of. There’s an assumption that a certain kind of chaos is within normal limits and believe everyone is normal unless conspicuously not normal. Whatever that means. I don’t mean the weird kid is sick either. But in a world where your problems are just brushed away with “just be yourself,” and “you’re just going through a stage,” I would not say public school… I would not “set it and forget it”, which I think many parents rely on public school education to do more than it does, or the idea that “education is a good thing”, “Stay In School”, etc., everything is copacetic, my child is a genius, my precious snowflake is incapable of wrong-doing. I’m conflicted by helicopter parenting also.

    I like the positive parenting you talk about Libby Anne, because I think you’re very in touch with guiding but not steering, learning cues, being present and knowing your child has her own inner world, and a child doesn’t become a person, they are a person. But they don’t become a reasonably well-adjusted adult by planting them in school (like my experience) and just come out the other side all taught and stuff. I’m not saying that that is what you’re saying or doing, or what Tony is saying or doing. But in the talk about school, it just always seemed like the worst execution of the best idea anyone could think of at the time, and as a society values its education and its educators, it’s really hard to criticize. Is it really the best for all children, or just better than another way? Am I the only one with a problem here, and would anyone have listened to me when I was 9 or 10 or 12 or 15 when I said I hate it here?

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

    An inscription on the side of the Boston Public Library reads: “The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty.” We need public education to function as a society. I understand that people have specific reasons for homeschooling or private school, other than “sheltering” their children, but public education is a system we need to invest in, as a society, not abscond from. I want to live in a country where everyone receives the benefit of a good education. Without it, our experiment in constitutional republicanism will fail. Dire, but true.

    • Beth

      I, too, want to line in a country where everyone receives the benefit of a good education. But I don’t see our current public school system managing to provide that to everyone. Homeschooling is, for some people, the best option.

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        You’re right, our public school system is floundering in many areas, and I understand that some parents just don’t see their local schools as feasible options. That’s what I mean by investment, though–we need to make them better. Part of the problem is that huge disparities exist from district to district and state to state. I grew up in Massachusetts, which is widely considered to have the best schools in the country (by some metrics it ties with Maryland). US students rank 32nd in the world in math proficiency, and 31st in reading. Taken as its own entity, Massachusetts ranks 9th in math and 5th in reading. In the world. That’s a huge disparity, and the percentage of proficient students in Massachusetts is still shockingly low–51% in math, and 43% in reading. Obviously the picture is a bit more complicated than that, and much of that disparity has to do with poverty. But what happens to kids stuck in low-performing schools, because their parents don’t have the option to do homeschooling or private school? We need to do better. Public education should be the standard, not the lesser option.
        Report on US education: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG11-03_GloballyChallenged.pdf

      • Anat

        The problem is poverty. Public schools serving non-poor students are doing a decent job and better. (And I am guessing a big part of the problem is local funding of public schools.) The more people pull their kids out of the system the less likely is the resolution, but since the kids need schools now and funding changes can only be at some distance in the future parents who care not just about their own kids are left with a dilemma.

      • Anat
  • Beth

    As a non-religious homeschooling family, I think you are too focused on how your family approached and do not understand the many benefits that homeschooling can provide for both the children and the parents. While I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone, it’s definitely worked out well for us.

    Socialization is actually more of an issue with schooled children. If you think about it, socialization is not a goal of public schools and may not be what you, as a parent, desire for your children (ex: bullying). John Holt, founder of the unschooling movement put it this way: If there were no other reason to take your kids out of school, the socialization they recieve there would be reason enough. The data that’s available indicated that homeschooled children are, on average, better socialized than traditionally schooled children. At any rate, the reason we choose to homeschool was because our own experiences wrt “socialization” in public schools were so horrible, we had no desire to inflict such trauma on our children.

    In addition to the benefits of a better education and socialization, the main reasons we chose to homeschool, we also experienced the following benefits:
    1. Because we chose to homeschool, we were far more involved in our children’s education that we would have been had we sent them school, whether public or private.
    2. Because we chose to homeschool, we become far closer to our children and they to each other than either I or my husband experienced growing up.

    • Carys Birch

      “The data that’s available indicated that homeschooled children are, on average, better socialized than traditionally schooled children.” Do you have a link to this data? I’m not trying to contradict you, because I don’t know what the data is, but that’s contrary to my experience. Of course different things may hold true for different groups of homeschoolers and I know anecdotal data is pretty unconvincing, but the homeschooled kids I knew (in Fundamentalist circles) were only well socialized amongst their Fundamentalist homeschooled peers.

      • Beth

        The original research I was thinking of was a blinded study with evaluators watching children interact with each other and with adults. The observers then rated the childrens social skills. It is no longer available on the web (or at least I can’t find it – it was done back in the 90′s and my google-fu is weak). I did find this “Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization” Peabody Journal of Education Volume 75, Issue 1-2, 2000 which provides an overview of the research done in the 90′s, but it’s behind a paywall, so I don’t know if you’ll have access to it.
        http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0161956X.2000.9681937

        This article references more recent research, but it’s not a peer-reviewed publication.
        http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/13/home-schooling-socialization-not-problem/

      • Carys Birch

        Thanks, I will see what I can view in your links. Probably not the paywall one, but I’ll look at the overview at least.

    • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

      religious, non-religious, you name it. all homeschoolers I know (I was homeschooled and a member of the homeschool alumni, still go to homeschool conferences, and involved in a homeschool group over in Asia) grow up to not get inside American jokes, not get American culture, etc. Its the result of not engaging in the real world. Of course, its worse for some families, of course, of course, but its still the result of spending most of your time at home. My parents let me play with all the neighbors, we went to all the church activities, my mom had people at our house almost 24/7. I was not isolated. But yet when I grew up, I had not a clue what was going on. It was shocking and painful.

      I am not saying not to homeschool. I have been homeschooling some kids in Asia for various reasons. But Libby’s point is still valid for not just herself but almost all the homeschool graduates I know.

      In fact, I’d venture to say that most of the homeschoolers that were homeschooledd K-12 and never felt this way are probably stay at home daughters who did college online. Most of them, anyway.

  • Rilian

    “Homeschooling is sort of like seceding from the educational system, and I have definitely noticed a very “I’ve got mine, screw the rest of you” sort of mentality among some homeschoolers.”
    Except that I believe that every person can and should homeschool or unschool. And if someone else is being damaged by the gubment indoctrination day-camps, that doesn’t mean I should sacrifice myself too.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “Except that I believe that every person can and should homeschool or unschool.”

      And if they can’t or shouldn’t? I figured out at 14 that I’m temperamentally unsuited to teaching, I don’t have remotely enough patience. Other people may need to work–either for financial or mental health reasons–or simply not have the background to give a good learning foundation to their kids. For example, my mother was a high school drop-out, and by the time she got her GED I was able to figure out her homework on my own–how well would she have been able to direct my education? (And shit, I have enough trouble with socialisation having gone to public school, I can’t imagine how bad I’d be if I hadn’t had at least that.) There is nothing that ‘every person’ can do. That’s why we have a society, so that we can rely on other people to do what we’re bad at while we do what we’re good at, and everyone benefits as a result.

    • Anat

      Except that I believe that every person can and should homeschool or unschool.

      Support requested. My personal experience is that I can teach my daughter some math and science on occasion, briefly. If I try more, or try a topic she is not receptive to or if I don’t catch her in the right mood or whatever it doesn’t work. She performs better and more consistently for professional teachers. Nor do I feel confident teaching subjects too far from my areas of expertise. (Following a curriculum doesn’t cut it, IMO. One needs both breadth and depth beyond what one is trying to teach to do a good job of it.)

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      Some people are great cooks, and others are better off sticking with Stouffers’. Some people are great plumbers, electricians, and mechanics, and others are better off calling a plumber, electrician, or mechanic when needed. Likewise, some people are great at teaching children all day, and others would do well to outsource that job for the sake of their own and their children’s mental health.

      • Anat

        and others would do well to outsource that job for the sake of their own and their children’s mental health.

        Oh Yes!!!! Our family does fine with my husband and myself supplementing our daughter’s learning, but if I had to do it full time, I’d be stressed out that I’m doing it wrong or we aren’t keeping up in a particular area, and she’d resist me and it would have all become a power struggle, and we’d drive one another insane.

    • Noelle

      Yeah, I’m not a teacher. How many kiddos you got there Ril? You have one with autism? You trained as a ST, OT, special ed, and AI? Or you gonna let people with the proper training help your kid learn? Now the kid who could barely speak at age 3 is on-par academically with his same-age peers. we never could have helped him get there alone. Even my younger one without the autism, I couldn’t do with her what her teachers have. She’s got a head for numbers and is picking up reading real nice. Now the husband and I work with them to reinforce those concepts, but neither of us have the training or natural instincts to teach. What I’m doing right now as a career is the result of many well-trained teachers. My parents never could’ve taught me calculus, chemistry, physics, German, English, history, and all those other things. They also couldn’t have given me the challenge and fun of interacting with my brilliant classmates throughout the years.

      • Rilian

        My brother has autism and that’s why he homeschooled.

        K, general response: I sort of mis-spoke. I think that every person (i.e., the child themself) should decide what kind of exploring/learning/education they want to do. I believe that every person is capable of learning (except those babies who are born without most of their brain?) and that each individual is the best person to decide what they are interested in and therefore what they should explore/learn. That’s what unschooling is. But you can unschool and still attend a kind of “school”, it just depends on how the school itself is run. The kind of school I went to for 11 years (a typical kind of government school) is not good for anyone.

      • Anat

        To Rilian:
        and that each individual is the best person to decide what they are interested in and therefore what they should explore/learn.

        There are some things people should learn even if they are not interested in them. Selective ignorance of basics in any major area is bad for individuals and society.

        The kind of school I went to for 11 years (a typical kind of government school) is not good for anyone.

        Look, I understand your school was not suitable for you. But if it really was not good for *anyone* then it was not ‘a typical kind of government school’. The majority of public schools are doing a decent job or better, and many many students are benefiting from them.

      • abra1

        Huh, I thought my rural, resource starved, public school was pretty darn good. It was a good balance between having to do things that I didn’t like (ugh, typing…) because you have to do that sometimes and things that I wanted to do. I played 3 different instruments in marching & concert band, which is pretty hard to manage in home school environment — I was allowed to be pretty terrible in all 3 like you can only do at a small school where there are enough people and instruments to play (and enter competitions and play for half-times) but not enough low brass or odd woodwind players that there is a reason to cut people.

        The best part, I had a host of adults who I knew, trusted, and who I knew cared for me. I still keep in touch with one teacher in particular, over a decade since graduation even though I’ve long since moved as have my parents.

        Was every teacher brilliant and transformative? No, of course not. I am pretty sure my class ran a math teacher out of teaching altogether and I had little confidence in my A&P and econ teachers’ expertise in those particular subjects (small school — not their primary subject). Was every class worthwhile, no. But on balance, it was a pretty good education and even more so a good environment to grow up in.

  • http://thewordsonwhat.wordpress.com/ Rob F

    Regarding sheltering, this post by Lana is really really good.

  • smrnda

    I think I got a better education by being sent to public school. First, I was exposed to a variety of perspectives, far more than I would have gotten if my parents had chosen to home-school me. I also got to interact with a far more diverse group of people than I would have if I’d been home-schooled. Going to a public school was a way that I could make my own friends, rather than having my parents choose them for me. Being around kids from different social and economic backgrounds helped me realize the ways that I was privileged so to this day I’m unable to buy into nonsense that people succeed simply because of drive or a work ethic; privilege plays a huge role.

    Are school agents of indoctrination? I’d say that the family has a larger chance of being this just since the family is able to exert far tighter control over kids than a school can. If anything, school can be a chance to get viewpoints your family might want to keep from you. Since the family can and does indoctrinate, the best antidote for brainwashing is to get a diversity of viewpoints so you can at least realize that not all people think the same, and you can hear arguments for all points of view.

    In general, I find some proponents of homeschooling have a case – their children have needs that aren’t being accommodated well, there’s bullying going on, and I support these people. But if it’s indoctrination, once you accuse schools of being agents of indoctrination the burden of proof is on you to prove you aren’t just doing the same thing.

    I will admit that a lot of teachers tried to force their viewpoints on me – mostly Christians and fans of government non-intervention in the economy, or that we should all just ‘be Americans’ and that Black history month was divisive. (One of my teachers wouldn’t let his class attend the Black history month assembly for this reason, which caused a lot of complaints.) Some of this was clearly unprofessional, but it at least enabled me to encounter these viewpoints coming from a person rather than a book, which is a much different point of view; it also taught me to do research so that I could back up my own points of view or point out the flaws in an argument. If I’d been permitted to just hang around a library, I might have done better in some ways, but worse in others.

  • Jessica

    Very interesting and, I think, largely fair criticisms. I was homescheduled for a couple of years in middle school and went back to public school for high school. My younger sister did likewise. My mother pulled us out because she didn’t like the environment at our local middle schools, the public ones or the private Christian one she had tried for a year (let’s just say hard-core evangelical Calvinism did not go over well). Homeschooling got us involved in the local Christian homeschool community who were largely sweet, wonderful people. But the worldview was necessarily limited. No one believed in evolution. Everyone believed in courtship rather than dating. I got in trouble with the group several times, once for saying “shut up” (a vulgarity, though I was severely provoked), and once for suggesting that it would not be a sin for teenage boys and girls to spend time together in a group unchaperoned by adults.

    The most astonishing thing, perhaps, was the reaction when my mother sent us back to public school. The other parents told her that she was sending us into Satan’s den, that we would lose our way and our faith and all our values. My mother (fortunately) trusted her instincts and let us go back. Both my sister and I excelled in public high school, winning scholarships to college, where we likewise excelled. My high school and college years, more importantly, exposed me to new ideas, thoughts, insights, and religions other than those I was raised with. And yes, my ideas changed. But I hardly lost all my values, certainly not the ones that, in my view, mattered most. This idea that children must be kept, against all possibilities, from contrary ideas is exceedingly dangerous. It’s a bad idea for the Taliban, and it’s a bad idea for evangelical Christians.

    • machintelligence

      @ Jessica

      But the worldview was necessarily limited. No one believed in evolution.

      While in college my daughter encountered students like this who wanted to major in Biology. How could they possibly succeed? That is like saying I want to major in Physics, but I don’t believe in subatomic particles.

  • Holly

    You know, sheltering your kids from bullies or other negative influences is not always a good thing. My son was tested into a gifted program in high school. At the parent/teacher conference we were told that it was a possiblity to get him to a private school. His father and I both did not want that, even though just a day before a student was taken out of school in handcuffs for drug possession. We .both. thought that seeing that, was a lesson for our son, and that it told a short story about actions and consequences, in real life time. It was an opportunity to discuss decisions and consequences. We were not willing to sever the friendships he had made through school or the opportunity to talk frankly to him about the things he saw and heard from both students and teachers. Unless your children will not go out in the world and get jobs, they will eventually encounter bullies, bad bosses, difficult co-workers, unfair working conditions and the like. The time to talk about those things, to discuss how to handle them, to show your kids how others (parents) step up to the plate to stand by others is during the time they still live under your roof.

    Beth how old are your children? Because the adult children of homeschoolers have mixed feelings about their homeschooling experience. So to say it’s worked well for you, might or might not be how they feel. As for better socialized…..compared to what?

    • Christine

      My mom says that if homeschooling was more common when I was in elementary school that she would have done so with me, to get me away from the bullying. (I have Asperger’s, so I had a very hard time of it). Looking back, I am very glad that she didn’t. Yes, it was far from fun, but it was good for me, and I’d have had a harder time in high school (she only has two degrees, she’s not qualified to home school past junior grades) and definitely in university. I’d rather deal with the hard stuff early on.

    • Beth

      My daughter is 25, graduate from college and is now a married mother herself planning to homeschool her daughter. My son is 13. So it’s harder to say with him, but so far we’re happy with how homeschooling is working.

  • http://belljaimie@ymail.com Jaimie

    I don’t know. People have different reasons for homeschooling, their children have different needs, people live in areas, or even school districts that are sub-par in their schooling. Yes, the right wing has taken over the face of homeschooling and gave it a pretty sinister look. Everyone knows that. But to then say it’s bad for all, no one should do it.
    Well, I hate to break it to people, but it’s not a bad way to get educated. Public school is not a bad way to get educated. Private school is not a bad way to get educated. Except it is, when you get horrible stories about one or the other. See where I’m going? There is good and bad in all forms. And the horrible truth is when we choose one way, we automatically reject others, meaning all the good things that come from it. That is life. Making the best decisions based on your knowledge and experience.

  • Sam

    On an unrelated note, I commend you for using the phrase “children of Christian parents” as opposed to “Christian children.” Children should be allowed to make their own decisions about religions and not be pressured into that of their parents before they are old enough to critically examine its beliefs.

  • smrnda

    I have to say, my experiences with socialization in school were wonderful. I come from pretty shy, insular family where my grandparents had few friends and pretty much just kept to themselves, and my father and mother were very much the same way; they never really formed bonds with anybody outside of their immediate families and clearly didn’t enjoy being around other people.

    School was an amazing chance for me to build an active social life, and I credit it with why I’m so happy today. I learned how to make friends and I learned to be independent from an early age, especially since coming from a family where people didn’t usually have friends, I had to learn to be really persuasive and assertive with my parents in defense of my desire to have a social life. I pretty much won that discussion, and then I was pretty much left alone and it led to be being permitted to make choices for myself rather than my parents doing it for me. I helped pave the way for my younger brother to do the same. In a generation my family went from a bunch of home-bodies who, even given the time they spent together were never very close (for lack of anything to talk about) to people with friends all over the nation and even world.

    I’d probably be someone sitting around by myself if I’d had only my family, so I’m really happy I was in a public school when I was young. My biggest complaint was that my Mom delayed my beginning school She’d taught me at home and I was even ahead academically, but I had some speech impediments that were horribly embarrassing (the type of thing that, perhaps, parents don’t think their kids have but an objective outside would notice) and that my eyesight was horrible (since I got an eye exam in school.) So, I hit a public school and fix how I talked in a few weeks, and eventually my parents got it explained to them that their daughter needed glasses since I’d be reading with a book about 3 inches from my face. I might have been stuttering with a lisp at the age of 18 if it weren’t for public schools.

  • http://omorka.blogspot.com/ Omorka

    My primary issue with homeschooling is: I’m a certified secondary teacher in two subject areas (English/Language Arts and Mathematics), and I don’t think I could effectively teach a full six-subject 7-12 curriculum. (I’d be particularly shaky in Arts, especially if the kid/s decided to do visual arts or dance, and Foreign Language, as I took a couple of years each of Latin and Greek for mine and can’t imagine most kids would be into that.) I am baffled by how many parents who have *no* pedagogical training think they can do it.

  • Another Karen

    I did 11 years (did 3rd and 4th grade in one year) of Catholic school. And though that was back in the ’60s and ’70s, I still financially support my Catholic high school, though I’ve long since come out as a humanist. The reason: those nuns taught/teach reading, writing, and Social Justice. I came away well-equiped for college… but also for a compassionate adult life.

  • Rilian

    Homeschooling doesn’t mean (or have to mean) the parents actually teaching the kids. You don’t have to be a teacher for your kids to homeschool.

    • Christine

      Can you explain what you’re covering under the definition of “homeschool” then? Because that’s what the rest of us assume when we hear the phrase.

      • Beth

        It means the parents are directing and managing the education of their children. They decide on the content, goals, scheduling, pacing, etc. It does not require that the parents teach all subjects themselves, they may opt instead to arrange for appropriate instructors to cover whatever areas they want covered but do not want to handle themselves.

      • Rilian

        For my brother, it meant that he chose what subjects he wanted to study and then my mom bought him books from mardel, and he just did it all by himself, except he occasionally asked me for help with math.
        When I homeschooled, it didn’t cost anything. I just used library books.

    • Noelle

      If homeschooling works for a family and they teach to at least the same standard that other kids are expected to learn, I don’t see anything wrong with a family going that route.

      But it’s not for everybody. We moved often when I was a kid. I attended 9 different schools in my K-12 career. Some were sub-par, some average, and some excellent. Whether the school was public or private, small town, medium city, or big city didn’t matter as much as the teacher. A good teacher is a good thing. An excellent teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. My parents never could’ve afforded to hire these people to come to our home. And really, with the exception of a 7-9th grade glitch (but that was due to family life and not school) I enjoyed going to school. I’m fairly introverted too. If I was supposed to get some government indoctrination with that, maybe I missed it. There were all those moves, and I am a huge daydreamer. I probably missed that day either in body or in spirit. I tune out if I’m bored. Is indoctrination boring? Because if so, that might be how I missed it.

      I love public libraries. Every time I’ve moved as a kid, and now as an adult, finding the closest library and getting a card with a pile of books was always first on my list. Spending time in a school building didn’t stifle my drive to know more. If anything, it kindled it. School introduced me to worlds and people and ideas my parents never dreamed of. And there was no Internet, so looking stuff up in books was the only way to know more.

      I do get that some schools are just plain awful, and stuck in their own broken system. I do understand that some people do better one on one at home, but that’s not for me or my kids. There’s more available at public schools these days for ASD kids than there was in the past. My younger brother went to many specialists as a kid in the 80s and no one could decide on a diagnosis for him. These days, most specialists would put him on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. He was too smart for the special ed classes, but with his speech, motor delays, and social skills difficulties, he had a hard time with school and no one really knew how to help. My son has a much different experience. Our small town school bends over backwards to help him. My daughter thinks her 1st grade teacher is the most wonderful person in the world. It’s not a particularly wealthy town, but they have something that works.


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