I’m rather ambivalent towards homeschooling. On the one hand, so much of the movement as it exists today is dominated by people whose political views I strongly disagree with. On the other, my experience was, on the whole, quite positive, and I think there are enough problems with the American public school system to make homeschooling quite an appealing option for people in this country.
Part of the reason homeschooling went rather well for me, I think, is that I was pulled out of school for non-religious reasons. I was having some pretty severe emotional difficulties at the elementary school I was attending, so my mother pulled me out mid-year and taught me at home for the rest of grade school.
Academically, my experience was good. I’ve always been something of a quirky learner, and the personalized nature of homeschooling allowed me to act on that, approaching assignments from different angles and avoiding the cookie-cutter curricula that my previous school had used. I’m not saying that it was the best, most rigorous education I could possibly have had, but I feel pretty safe in saying that it was good, and much better my old school.
I’m not sure how well I can speak on the social side of things, since I’ve always had socialization difficulties. I still met plenty of other kids through clubs and groups. If anything, not having the social aspect as a part of school made it much easier; when I went back to “regular school”, I was picked on and became quite withdrawn and emotionally detached, something I’m still working through.
The biggest negative I’ve found with homeschooling is that it can be quite isolating, whether or not that is the intent. In my case, although religion and politics had nothing whatsoever to do with my parents’ decision to educate me at home, I was, naturally, less exposed to alternate belief systems. My parents’ ideas were the only ones that I was really exposed to.
That being said, in my case, it didn’t do any long-term damage. I started at a public charter school in junior high and have been attending it ever since. Very few of my classmates believe anything remotely similar to my family, and I was forced to question what I’d been thought. Even if I had gone to public school all my life, I doubt that I would have started questioning much sooner than I did. In the end, I’ve kept some of my parents’ beliefs and changed my mind about others, and they’re perfectly okay with that. However, had I been homeschooled through high school, I might never have gotten around to questioning.
I’m still in high school, so kids, if I ever have them, are quite a long way off. Where I’m at right now, I wouldn’t want to homeschool them, mostly because I assume my spouse and I would both have careers, which would make homeschooling very difficult. Also, I’m not sure I’d be a strict enough parent to provide them with the comprehensive, rigorous education I’d want them to have. And, as I mentioned before, I’d want them to be exposed to ideologies other than my own.
However, if I don’t live in an area with a really good public school (or an affordable private one), I would seriously consider the option. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a completely free school with a phenomenal program, but if it hadn’t been for that, I’d be in my town’s public school, which wouldn’t provide me with nearly as many opportunities.
In short, there are certainly problems with homeschooling, but there are huge positives as well. The time I spent being taught at home was, on the whole, beneficial, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it now. In the end, it really depends on the people. Some parents will exacerbate the problems involved with homeschooling and keep their children in ignorance. Some public schools don’t know how to teach kids. And some children just aren’t cut out for one or the other. There is no universal right or wrong in this situation, just individual people with individual needs.
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.