My homeschool experience is all at one remove. Several friends were homeschooled, as were some of the girls I worked with in Girl Guides. I have nothing against the idea in general, especially not for the younger grades. I know a lot of people who thrived academically through being homeschooled. I have two worries in general: academically I’m not sure that it’s good for special cases, and the socialization aspect will often be an issue.
I had a couple of girls in my Guide company who were homeschooled. They could barely read and write, in the 5th and 6th grade. I believe that their mother was a qualified teacher, and I think she pulled them from the school system when they were struggling, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they were better off. There’s a reason that special education classes are taught by specially trained teachers, and when a 12-year-old can barely read it doesn’t instill confidence in me in homeschooling, even if there are extenuating circumstances. (For comparison: my husband has a severe learning disability, by the time he started undergrad he was at about a grade 4 writing level, and he was more literate than these girls at their age).
Even something as simple as a child having a different way of understanding can cause problems. A friend who’s several years younger than I am was struggling with her high school math. When I sat down with her and gave her some counters to demonstrate the problem she picked it up immediately. My friend’s sister had learned the concept from their mother, but while the mother understood the concept, her lack of pedagogical training (and of higher math education) put her at a disadvantage when my friend was struggling at all.
This friend who was homeschooled through highschool went to college. She’s doing ok, and there are definitely reasons beyond being homeschooled for her problems, but she honestly doesn’t know what the real world is like. She’s used to everyone having a similar background to her. She has had the classic “wait, you mean there are people who don’t realize that evolution has been disproved?” shock. She, as an adult, was dismayed at discovering how annoying group projects can be (the one person who doesn’t get it/doesn’t do their share of the work/tries to take over/etc).
An even worse case: my husband was on the committee in charge of Sunday School at his church. One family had been homeschooling their children, and wanted to volunteer, which is great, but their reason for doing so: this way, if the church rearranged the age groups, the kids wouldn’t have to spend time apart from each other/apart from their parents, because they had never done so. Again, not something that’s entirely caused by homeschooling, but homeschooling really doesn’t help.
Even friends who are well-adjusted have said that it was a big shock for them – and this friend had parents who were obviously trying to minimize it, as half the reason they sent him to public school for high school was to socialize with his peers.
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.