Libby Anne, I’ve been following your comments on homeschooling with avid interest. As a homeschooling parent, I was most interested — and terrified — by the anger I saw from young adults who had been homeschooled. I followed a few links to read their stories because I truly, truly wanted to know if my kids were going to end up hating me for homeschooling them.
To my relief, I quickly saw a pattern emerging. The young adults who were angry were almost invariably so because they had been cheated academically, taught with an intent to deprive them of information that might cause them to question the validity of their parents’ religious views. In our case, we were reluctant homeschoolers, pushed into it because public school didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience caused by my girls’ potentially lethal peanut allergy. After a terrifying ambulance run out of Kindergarten class, we felt we had no choice but to homeschool, if our children were going to survive.
And survive — and thrive — they have. The eldest has been able to zoom through academics, and started at community college at 14, earning solid A’s in tough courses like the chemistries and bio sciences. She wants to be a doctor, and I’m sure she’s got the self-directed drive to do it. Instead of a high school degree, she’ll have her first college degree at 18 and the ability to transfer to a 4-year college as a junior. Talk about saving tens of thousands in potential college debt! She’s also a talented fantasy artist, and writer, and has been able to pursue these interests in a way I’m sure she wouldn’t have had time to, had she been a traditional student. She’s always been able to integrate into classes, theater groups, writer’s groups, volunteering, and so on without trouble.
My second daughter has entirely different circumstances, but I’m equally grateful to be homeschooling her as well. Bright but extremely shy, it soon emerged that she has severe dyslexia. Putting a kid like that in school would have been extremely cruel; I saw how kids like her were tracked when volunteering at my daughter’s kindergarten. She would have been Special Ed all the way, instead of reading Shakespeare with us around the kitchen table. I’m sure she would have been the butt of teasing for her “stupidity.” With a wealth of audio and visual teaching materials, she’s a mature, well-spoken 13 year old who can converse about science, art, literature, history, politics and so on better than most adults. People are always astonished to find out she’s dyslexic: “Obviously,” they say, “she’s very intelligent!” And that’s what I want: a chance for her to be appreciated as she really is. But what about the shyness? Wouldn’t she have been better off with more “socialization?”
To that, I can only give a resounding “NO!” because I’ve been there. I am a shy person, always have been, even with the benefit of 12 years public school “socialization,” plus college. I remember my mother dragging me by the arm to meet a future teacher at a high school open house — in utter panic I pulled away and fled down the hall like a scared cat! “Socialization” as it exists in school only made it worse for a shy, smart, sensitive kid such as myself. School was very sad and lonely. Sometimes social phobia is just the way one _is_ rather than a result of one’s socialization.
In contrast, my very shy second daughter has blossomed into a soft-spoken yet assured young adult. She is fearless about stating her opinions, and standing up for herself — and others. Too shy to act in our community theater group, she quickly became a backstage manager with her confident assertions to adults about what prop should go where for efficient staging, adults who took her ideas seriously and appreciated her talents. Next year she plans to go to a local arts magnet high school; I think it’s a great idea and that she’ll do fine.
But is it all sunshine and roses with regard to socialization? No. I have a third daughter, elementary age. She’s bright, dyslexic, NOT shy. She craves the company of other children, and I just can’t give it to her. I’m not good at striking up friendships with other parents so she could play with their kids. (She also has potentially lethal food allergies giving another layer of anxiety to social mixing, naturally. Nothing like the potential of having your kid come home dead from a birthday party to put one on edge.) I’m trying to bridge the gaps but there just isn’t the day to day social interaction with which she would really thrive. But such is the nature of life, and homeschooling — if you choose one path, you cannot choose the other. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages and you have to weigh the balance and see if the choices work out better, overall.
I read your blog, Libby Anne, in part because I have a sibling who also homeschools — an evangelical, who is homeschooling to limit her daughter’s exposure to non-Christians, and the science that conflicts with the young-earth creationism she and her husband believe in. When in school, my niece was considered academically gifted; now, I watch her dreams of being a veterinarian drift further and further out of reach as she is prevented from learning about biology and evolution( of course!) Her parents are tracking her into cake decorating as a profession, preferring evidently, a lifetime of her squirting “Happy Birthday” on sheet cakes in the back room of a grocery store to learning the science that would allow her to pursue her dreams. I find it heartbreaking. I can only hope she becomes one of the “angry ones” who finds her own path separate from her parents’ and fulfills her own dreams.
And a commentator had a question as well — what about the homeschool parent? Good question! Since we were pushed into homeschooling, it wasn’t our chosen path, just one we had to take. Oddly, I’ve never really thought about what was in it for me, before! An artist by nature, I was in advertising by profession, a high pressure, demanding career. I loved earning money and using my talents, but hated the constant anxiety the pressure caused. Homeschooling has allowed me to follow the scholarly bent to my nature, learning along side my kids. And as they’ve gotten older, they’ve encouraged and supported me in pursuing my artistic side again; for the first time since college I have my own framed artwork on the walls. It had been lost to me, all that time. So homeschooling has allowed me, as well as my kids something really important — the time and chance to find and be who we really are.
Homeschooling has become a very polarized subject. It is my hope that the Homeschool Reflections series, made up of stories of actual homeschool experiences, both positive and some negative, may cut through some of the hyperbole. I have asked the respondents in this series to be analytical and to discuss both the pros and cons of their experiences, but I have not censored what they have written. My posting these stories should not be construed as endorsement the opinions expressed therein. What you read in this series will vary, but it is my hope that each installment will be thought provoking and have something positive to offer to the discussion.