Homeschooling as a “Choice” v. Homeschooling as a “Cause”

A comment on this last weekend’s Homeschool Reflections installment, left by a reader named Gary, perfectly echoed something I’ve said before.

Emily, you present a happy and well-thought-out home-schooling experience. I’m very grateful to Libby for giving you this forum for posting. You exemplify something I have said for a long time: there’s a difference when homeschooling is a CHOICE and when it’s a CAUSE.

We home schooled our eldest daughter for two years, and found the results similarly satisfying. My then wife used the freedom of homeschooling to take my daughter to Art museum and the zoo, which is again, similar to your experience. During that period, my daughter got to socialize with other home school kids, and there was a LOT of play dates set up, as well as group “field trips,” organized by the mothers. I didn’t participate in that aspect so much, but I did keep monitoring my child’s progress, and she was doing very well. She has excelled academically her entire life.

Then came the day when we re-evaluated what our family needs were, and decided it would be be best to enroll her and her younger brother in the public school near us. While that decision worked out great for our kids (no difficult transition at all), you’d have thought we’d declared allegiance with Satan. The other families with which we’d grown friendly through the home school cooperative group now saw us as betrayers to the “cause.” How could we put our precious children in public school? Didn’t we realize the irreparable harm which might come to their faith by letting professional educators guide their educational development? Couldn’t we see the danger in having our children mix with children with non-Christian upbringings? Needless to say, those loyal home school parents soon wanted little to do with us.

Which brings me back to my point, which is one I think your family’s experience validates: for some families home schooling is a CHOICE, and for others it’s a CAUSE. In our family it was always a choice, and while the choice was working for us, we were glad to go that route.

Gary talks of homeschooling as a “choice” as compared to homeschooling as a “cause.” I made this same distinction in a post last year, speaking of homeschooling as “an educational option” as compared to homeschooling as “an identity.”

Because I see drawbacks to homeschooling and intend to send my children to public school, I am often painted as “anti-homeschooling.” But I don’t really see myself like that. In fact, I have never ruled out the possibility of homeschooling at some point in the future. After all, if public schooling somehow goes horrifically wrong for my young daughter, I will look at what other educational options were available – private school, charter school, homeschool.

I think this is where I differ from so many of the ardent homeschool advocates I come in contact with: I see homeschooling as an educational option, but they often seem to see homeschooling as the only option or, indeed, as a mandate rather than an option. Whether they decry the heinous evils of public schools or speak of homeschooling freeing a child from academic oppression, “homeschooling” as an idea seems to become more important than the academic or social well-being of individual children, children who are, after all, very much individuals.

In that post I quoted from a blog post on the same topic by blogger Latebloomer, who was also homeschooled.

It seems like homeschooling went fairly well for my family throughout elementary school. We were part of a homeschool group that had weekly park days and occasional field trips to factories, restaurants, and government offices. My younger brother and I were very independent in our learning, with high reading comprehension, so we could complete our assignments each day with very little input from my mom. Although there was almost no regulation of homeschooling in CA at the time, my mom still made sure that we covered the same general topics as our public school counterparts in each grade, except of course that our education was exclusively from a Christian perspective.

Years of countering criticism of homeschooling, years of being surrounded by other like-minded Christian homeschoolers . . . the effects on my family were detrimental. We lost the ability to objectively evaluate whether homeschooling was still working for our family. Things were obviously falling apart as my brother and I reached our teen years and as my younger sister reached school age, but no one could acknowledge it. By then, our identity as homeschoolers was inseparable from our spiritual, political, and family identity. Failure was not an option.

There are people who homeschool because their child was bullied, or because of disability wasn’t being handled well by the school district, or because the local school’s academics were far below average. And then there are people who homeschool because they believe the public schools are brainwashing children into secular humanism and that the Bible commands parents to personally educate their own children. There are homeschool parents who reevaluate their children’s needs every year, and see returning them to public school as a valid option. And then there are homeschool parents who lose the ability to see anything beyond homeschooling, and continue to homeschool regardless of whether their children are doing well or failing. For some, homeschooling is a choice. For others, it is a cause.

This distinction made by Latebloomer, Gary, myself, and others—a distinction we have ourselves lived and experienced—is, I think, important to bear in mind if one wants to understand homeschoolers and the homeschool phenomenon.

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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.

  • Marta L.

    This reminded me of my mum’s background in homeschooling. She was a Roman Catholic growing up in South Carolina, in an area where most everyone was a Protestant. I think some of her older siblings had picked up some anti-Catholic attitudes in the school and they’d really struggled with their identity – it’s hard to be comfortable with yourself when a lot of the way your school is set up reinforces the idea that you’re different from your classmates, and not in a good way.

    As it happened the local parish scraped together a K-6 school just before my mum was due to start first grade and my mum went to that instead, but she was very nearly homeschooled instead. For my grandmum, homeschooling was very much a choice rather than a cause, but in a weird way it was because of ideology. It wasn’t that she was afraid the public schools would turn her daughter into a Baptist; but she saw the way the schools made it hard for her older children to thrive as Catholics, and that made her think it wasn’t a good fit for her family’s circumstances.

    All of which makes me think people homeschool for even more reasons than this post lets on. The important question I think is the one your choice/cause distinction hints at: are we using homeschooling to support our children, or our children to support homeschooling?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “Are we using homeschooling to support our children, or our children to support homeschooling?”

      Wow, well-put!

  • Allison

    I try to help out a family who is homeschooling their 14 year old son under a Christian homeschooling program. It is failing him in so many ways. The program’s emphasis on religion is at the expense of an actual education. This child at 14 cannot do multiplication or even triple digit addition. He even asked me who Hitler was! He has obvious learning disabilities that local schools could adequately address but I cannot. The mother does not want to use public school even though she has a daughter who has successfully completed high school and college. I have tried to state that I feel inadequate and that this is over my head but she does not seem to grasp it. Homeschooling is for some people and isn’t for others and my experience of trying to help is that it simply does not work if the program tries to heavy handedly drive religion down someone’s throught without actually educating them. I know this post seems like a rambling and at times unrelated thread but it is something I needed to get off my chest. Thanks

    • tesyaa

      This is extremely common in the Orthodox Jewish community. Homeschooling is rare, but in situations where a child cannot be appropriately served in a Jewish school, or when parents truly can’t afford a private Jewish school even with financial aid, one of the first suggestions is homeschooling. The whole goal in such cases is to keep the child out of public school. It’s unbearably painful to watch a child who needs special education or intervention that can easily be provided by a public school relegated to homeschooling.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    It seems the elephant in the room is that religiosity can be disastrous when mixed with homeschooling (or regular schooling, for that matter) but what is to be done? In America, everyone is free to believe whatever damnfool thing they please, and bring up their children in that tradition. Both the folks at Westboro Church and Madalyn Murry O’hair were free to bring up their children according to their beliefs. (And note that the ideologies didn’t necessarily stick on either side.) So the question is, to me, not how can you stop people from homeschooling while believing dumb stuff, but how can you stop them from believing dumb stuff in the first place? And who decides?

    • Christine

      Rather than stopping people from believing dumb stuff, which as you are well aware is a logical and ethical impossibility, why not aim to minimize the harm which can be done by people homeschooling while believing dumb stuff?

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        If the same can be done to people who send their kids to private or public school and believe in dumb stuff. What are the stats now, 46% of people (most of them presumably publicly schooled) don’t believe in evolution? Evidently this exposure in school isn’t doing much good.
        And once again, who gets to decide what is the dumb stuff? Once the government decides what is and is not permissible to teach, and what is in violation, there is no guarantee it’s going to be what you, personally, agree with.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        And I disagree that it is a “logical and ethical impossibility” to stop people from believing in dumb stuff. The tides of changing public attitudes about a variety of controversial topics shows that clearly. Because _most_ of the negative stories I see associated with homeschooling seem to arise when people’s religiosity creates an oppressive homeschooling environment in _some_ homes (Not all! Some religious homeschoolers are outstanding!) changing hearts and minds may well be more productive than back door methods of ultimately pointless layers homeschooling bureaucracy trying to achieve the same end. I think that is exactly what Libby Anne is trying to do: point out to some parents that their homeschooling methodology, informed by their overweening religion, is harming their children.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Ghaa! Really?

        Not everyone thrives in a public school environment. I have several friends and acquaintances who decided to homeschool for various reasons – mostly involving public schools not suitably meeting their children’s needs. But we should throw those kids under the bus because some people are going to abuse the system??

  • kisarita

    the problem with homeschooling is not the teaching of religion. As you said every parent has a right to educate the kid according to their beliefs. No one is trying to stop them.
    What they do need to do however, is give the educational tools the kid needs to survive in the world. Apparently in some states there is no oversight on this.
    What is also needed, is some kind of oversight to prevent kids from being completely isolated from the rest of society, which creates fertile ground for abuse.

    • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

      Ok, sorry for the really long URL, but have a look:

      This is the searchable database on test scores where I’m getting my information about my supposedly “good” school system. Hopefully there is something like it for your state. You will notice in the 8th grade where my second daughter would be, only about 10% meet the standarts in science. That’s right, about 90% are not meeting standards. Now why, tell me, if the public school is failing so dramatically at providing the “tool they need to survive in this world” with all the oversight the state can provide, why is it that a handful of homeschoolers is the problem? In sheer proportions we are hardly a blip on the radar! Yet all of the focus, all of the burden of proof is placed on us?

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        And to continue my rant, as my computer crapped out on me: “What is also needed, is some kind of oversight to prevent kids from being completely isolated from the rest of society, which creates fertile ground for abuse.” I’d say, “citation needed” but yeah, that IS abuse and probably actionable. But what is the proof homeschoolers are more prone to this than anyone else? Maybe they don’t want their kids hanging around non-churchy kids who are not good enough for them. That’s their prerogative, insulting as it might be.
        And are publicly schooled kids sometimes abused? You know they are; schooling is no guarantee they are not. So far as being emotionally isolated, I think we could also see many hands raised here as to school being the most emotionally isolating experience of their lives…

      • Christine

        Actually, I live in Ontario. If you’re looking for evidence that schools can work here you go:

        That percentage is the students who are performing at a “level 3″, which is enough to get into most mid-tier university programmes. At that level of academic performance you wouldn’t be able to get into a top school for a highly competitive programme with marks alone – you’d need a strong CV in general. So maybe all the common cries you hear for fixing the school systems are worth it.

        I just don’t see why we can only focus on one problem at a time. The fact that your children are better off being homeschooled is clear. No one here is saying you shouldn’t be able to homeschool (I’m actually really disgusted with the special ed programme at your daughter’s school. Her diagnosis should have given her access to some of the extra time for tests that they like to hand out like candy.) But just because you’re good at this doesn’t make a good argument for giving other parents a chance to screw their kids’ lives up. You talk about “parents’ rights”. If these exist, there is no way in which they can trump the children’s rights.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        Christine @11: I do not recall saying that schools cannot produce high achievers. Where did you get that idea from? Because I sure didn’t come up with it.
        Ok, if there are no “parent’s rights” who is then “in loco parentis” ? Because someone has to be. And that someone has to be the state. Are you really saying that the government has more authority over one’s child than the parent does? Assuming there is nothing criminal going on. Sure, it’s lovely to say “Children have rights!” I think so, too. But who gets to choose how those rights are enacted? Somebody has to.

      • Jayn

        “You know they are; schooling is no guarantee they are not.”

        But attending public school means they’re interacting with adults outside their family unit, adults who may notice something is wrong and be able to step in. Still no guarantee, but a better chance than being wholly isolated from anyone outside their family. Same thing with educational outcomes–sure public schools can suck, but the nature of them means that it isn’t as hidden when they do, and anything undertaken to improve those outcomes will affect ALL children attending them. (I get that some people homeschool for exactly this reason, and while it can work on an individual level it does absolutely nothing to address the systemic issues affecting those left in the public system) Homeschooling without regulation means that it is more difficult for someone to step in when things are going wrong, mainly because there no way of knowing when things are going wrong.

      • Christine

        Northstar, I didn’t say that you had implied that, nor was that at all my point. I was clarifying the statistics, and explaining what it meant that a student was at the provincial level. I apologise for not being able to address your other arguments, but I cannot follow your logic. I am hearing an implication that either parents have a right to do whatever they want, or the state gets to dictate everything. I apologise for not being able to understand what you are actually saying.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        Christine@14: Re: “children’s rights” set up as being vs “parent’s rights”
        Ok, take the situation of two similar grade school children: one homeschooled, one public schooled. Each, through no fault of their own, struggles with their studies, works hard for everything they get but is still a C or D student. Now, at what point do you say the child’s right to an excellent education supersedes the parent’s right to homeschool? At what level of deficiency does the state compel the parents to send the child to public school, and in what manner is this compulsion applied? Is there an amount of trauma involved in this compulsion that is also violating the child’s right to a peaceful, secure family life? Because this is what it would come to.
        And is this remedy also applied to the publicly schooled student? Are the parents brought before some administrative board, where they display the portfolio of the student’s homework assignments they’ve helped with? What happens to the previously homeschooled student if their achievement level remains low? Is it now considered satisfactory because now they are observed against against possible abuse or emotional isolation? What if they want to return to homeschool? What are their rights, then?

        These are real questions, because cases have been decided from conflicts where the parents have refused to comply with compulsion by the state.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        Jayne @ #13 : I have two problems with this. One is that there is the presumption of wrongdoing from the get-go, that homeschoolers are more prone to abusing/isolating than anyone else, and have the burden of proving they don’t. True, I do see religiously-motivated homeschoolers trying to keep their children from others who do not live up to their standards. But even these people have their children observed by doctors, dentists, shopkeepers, librarians, family members, community members and so on, many of whom are pleased to have a sharp and hairy eye on the homeschoolers. I don’t blame them for running with their own kind. The stereotype of the “isolated homeschooler” is just that… a stereotype.

      • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

        Christine at #12: “The fact that your children are better off being homeschooled is clear. No one here is saying you shouldn’t be able to homeschool… But just because you’re good at this doesn’t make a good argument for giving other parents a chance to screw their kids’ lives up.”

        You do realize you are contradicting yourself here, I hope… in one breath, my children are better off homeschooled, but in the next, parents should not be given the chance to screw their kids’ lives up homeschooling. (Rubbing my eyeballs, taking a deep breath, vagus nerve come to my aid, you’re being twanged hard now, I know…) Ok, who gets to decide whether it is a good idea or not for me — or anyone — to homeschool the kids, or if it’s just screwing them up? The parents, who presumably have the best interest of their children at heart? You? The state? What method is used to determine this? Is it based on ideology?

        Yeah, you kind of _are_ saying people shouldn’t be able to homeschool. Except maybe me. And a few others you approve of, perhaps. I’m extremely glad how I conduct my family life does not depend on your approval. I’d like to keep it that way.

      • Jayn

        “The parents, who presumably have the best interest of their children at heart?”

        Here’s a problem–what constitutes the “best interest of the child?” I’m not going to question whether or not homeschooling parents are trying to do the best they can by their child right now, but wanting to do the best you can isn’t enough. Some parents hold to parenting ideologies that are demonstrably harmful for their children. That they’re doing what they think is best doesn’t change the fact that what they’re doing is hurting their children, not helping. And some of these parents know that what they’re doing is considered ‘bad’, and will prevent their children from having any more interaction with outsiders* than is necessary to hide their actions.

        I’m also not going to question whether or not you’re doing as great a job as you make yourself sound like you are, but I will point out that all I have to go on is your word. I’m trusting that you’ve thought about this and concluded that this is the best for your children, are are both willing and able to give her a good education. Without oversight, that’s about all that can be done–trust that you’re doing a good job. It’s not about assuming parents are doing it badly, but about having a way of knowing that they are doing it well and being able to do something about those who aren’t. IMHO, this is too important to simply trust that parents are doing their best.

        *Depending on the community, having family and community members seeing the children on a regular basis won’t help because they agree with the parents’ ideology.

        I’ll admit to the idea of parents having their children’s interests at heart being a bit of a button for me because of stories I’ve heard in the autism community. Some of the things parents will do to ‘help’ their child are downright horrifying. So I’d rather not simply trust parents to do what they think is best.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Northstar, nobody is saying that “a handful of homeschoolers” are THE problem, they are just the problem that is currently being discussed. Do you think that nobody here is interested in fixing the many problems with public schools? I have spent much of my working life working at small non-profit youth programs in under-served urban areas and many are the times I have wanted to just scream at the ways so many of the kids I have known are being failed by their public schools. Believe me, I have a LOT to say about those issues and how they could possibly be addressed and I bet others here do too. But that’s just not what we’re talking about right now. And “Your point is invalid because it is not this other point” is a very silly and unproductive way to debate.

      • Christine

        Northstar, as to the question you asked, at what point the parents should be forced to send a child to public school, I’m going to assume that you were asking “at what point is a student considered to be a truant”. The point at which they should send is the point at which the parents are not making a bona fide effort to actually teach anything. When a child in school is unable to meet the grade expectations the child is assessed for specific learning disabilities, offered extra helpthe parents are called in for yearly IEP reviews (which I believe they are allowed to choose to not attend – I know my parents never went to mine, but mine was more of a formality). If a homeschooled child is completely unable to read by grade 5 or 6 and the parents can’t show any sort of evidence of caring about this then I would make the argument that that child isn’t actually being schooled at all.

        I’m also not sure why you say that regulation of homeschooling = no homeschooling. You are implying that “we need standards for X” is the same as “X should not be allowed”. I say that we need to ensure that homeschooling doesn’t just mean “my kids aren’t in public school”, but that “my kids do academics at home/other source”. How does this mean “no one should homeschool”? That would be like saying that, since we have building code, and you need to get an engineer come by and inspect a building that we aren’t allowing construction. Or that parents aren’t allowed to let their kids take risks, because ER visits are checked up on. Parents should not be allowed to screw up their children’s lives by pretending to “homeschool” in a way which involves no actual education happening. That is completely different from saying that homeschooling screws up kids’ lives and therefore is bad.

        The discussions that are upsetting you so much on this site are not saying “homeschooling is bad because children aren’t educated, therefore we need to ban it.” The recurring theme is rather “unregulated homeschooling is problematic because some parents abuse this and it results in educational neglect, so we need to make sure that parents are actually teaching if they claim to be homeschooling.”

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Regarding children’s rights: In principle, sure, I agree. It’d be awesome if all children had the opportunity to learn and had access to intellectually-stimulating ideas. But there are some very serious practical considerations. For example, who gets to make the checklist that determines what is essential for kids? There are many people out there who would say that not teaching your child about Jesus is the worst form of abuse because the consequences are eternal – if they get enough votes, do they get to trump my rights as a non-Christian parent to raise my child in the belief system (or lack thereof) that I see fit?

        So while I may agree in principle, I only agree insofar as the criteria we’re using is in line with MY values. And if that’s the case, I feel very uncomfortable using my values to trump another’s, given how easily it could be turned back on me.

        You also have to properly differentiate between children who are learning at a different pace, children who have a learning disability, and children whose parents really are withholding information. And, frankly, I honestly doubt that the government has the resources to properly make those distinctions.

        If there is real, clear abuse going on, if a child is being neglected or physically beaten, let’s get involved. But if I choose not to teach my kid about Jesus, or if some other parent chooses not to teach their kid Calculus, or another parent chooses to teach their kid that the Civil War was really the War of Northern Aggression, or some other parent chooses to focus on teaching their kids skills in their projected career rather than more “abstract” academics, maybe we need to mind our own business. Being a parent is hard enough without other parents with different ideals and values shoving themselves into your family.

        Regarding spotting abuse: I was bullied. I was bullied really badly. I had bruises on my body through most of my childhood. Several times, I was whipped in the face with stinging nettles until my eyes swelled shut. I was once kicked in the stomach so hard that I had blood in my pee for the rest of the day. And that’s just the physical bullying. Emotionally, I was/am a wreck. It’s taken me years to learn to take a compliment without assuming that it was sarcastic or that there was a “but” coming. It’s taken me years to honestly believe that a friend who invites me out somewhere actually wants me there and isn’t just planning to watch me show up so they can laugh about how I thought anyone liked me. It’s taken me years to be able to meet new people without crippling anxiety. It’s taken me years to learn that I don’t have to be afraid of people all the time. And I’m one of the lucky people who actually made it to adulthood without committing suicide.

        So we want to talk about abuse? Okay, let’s talk about abuse. Let’s talk about why I was in a “traditional” classroom my entire childhood, seeing a parade of adults who were not related to me, and no one did anything to help. Let’s talk about why, when I’d approach teachers and beg them to protect me, they’d ask me what I did to make the bullies so angry in the first place, or tell me not to be a tattle-tale.

        You’re talking about abuse as though it were something that happens in the home, something that going to public school can be an escape from. You’re conveniently ignoring how much abuse happens in public schools.

        Forcing parents to put their children in school is not a way to stop abuse. Look for a different answer.

  • topher

    I have to say that the only issue I have with homeschooling is the lack of oversight in so many places. I have a friend, her mom and stepdad joined a polygamist cult in southern Utah. They pulled her out of school in order to ‘homeschool’ her. They didn’t teach her anything. It was only because her biological father used a private investigator to find her and he managed to persuade the state to grant him custody that she was able to go to school at all. She did not learn how to read until she was 12, after she was pulled out of that situation. She told me she has siblings who can’t read because they never went to school and were never taught. This is why I am weary of homeschooling. without some kind of oversight from a 3rd party it can lead to some really bad situations.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      There is a distressingly large number of kids who attend public schools and reach the age of 12 (or even adulthood) without knowing how to read or write.

      Yes, there are children who slip through the cracks, but we need to understand that this is a risk in all environments. What you’re talking about is a tiny fraction of homeschool situations – yet many commenters here seem willing to do very real harm to children and their families (whether that’s by forcing kids into an ill-fitting public school, or forcing parents to “teach the test” instead of focusing on actual learning) in an effort to get at a minority.

      It reminds me of the abortion debate where someone will invariably bring up that one drug addict they know who’s had ten abortions as the reason why there needs to be “oversight” on who gets to abort.

      And then, we have to talk about whether increased “oversight” would even solve the problems we’re talking about. There are many cults out there who give birth at home and then never register their children anywhere, so the government doesn’t even know that they exist. Angie Jackson (a fabulous blogger) grew up in a situation like that. The people who are so fringe that they don’t even teach their children basic skills are more likely to go that route than to submit to “oversight,” so you’re just making it harder for the kids to get away from the cult as adults. Angie has talked about her difficulties in “getting legal” after she left her abusive environment – having to prove that she really was born in the US and all that.

      So okay, if we really want to talk about the problem of unregulated homeschools, let’s do that. Let’s talk about what that would actually look like:
      -How is oversight conducted? Keep in mind that similar policies that have been applied to public schools – such as the increase in standardized testing – have had disastrous results. So while we think about how oversight might work, keep that in mind. Also, keep resources in mind – education is already disgustingly underfunded, so consider the value in shuffling even more of those resources away from the majority of kids in order to catch a very small minority.
      -If a kid is deemed lacking, what is to be done? If intervention happens at the family level, where do the resources to do this come from? If the solution is to consider the child “truant,” how do we mitigate the possible fallout within the family?
      -Who gets to set the standards? Should children be following the same curricula as is taught in public schools? If not, who determines the revised standards?

      IMO, until these questions can be answered, it’s a waste of time to just sit around talking about how “there needs to be some oversight.”

  • Karleanne

    Well said, both you and those you quoted from the comments section. I was homeschooled with very positive results, and the way I always talk about the same divide you’re covering is distinguishing between those who homeschool to provide more opportunities to their children (challenging academics, more field trips, one-on-one time, etc.), and those who homeschool to limit the opportunities their children have (generally anything that challenges Christianity.

  • Molly

    This is a really important distinction. I was homeschooled until college and now my own kids are homeschooled and, I honestly DON’T feel like I have a choice in the matter. It does feel like there is no other viable option. And, sometimes I wonder about this…hello! Am I just following a conceived-before-my-actual-children idea of what our family *should* be like?!

    A difference is that I was not and do not homeschool for religious reasons. I primarily homeschool because I see public school as a flawed system that doesn’t meet my particular children’s needs. And, I’m a big proponent of a “home based life” (for all family members. I think the 40+ hour work week is a flawed system too!) I would never, ever suggest homeschooling was the right choice for everyone though.

    Thanks for this post. I always enjoy your homeschooling posts, even though my own experience with being homeschooled as a child/teenager was pretty much nothing like your experience, much of which I think was more deeply affected by fundamentalism than anything else. I knew lots of fundamentalist homeschooling families and we were the “bad” non-religious family.

  • Sarah F.

    Halfway through fifth grade, my mother took my sister and me out of public school to homeschool us. As my mother could not be anymore of a “left-wing feminist,” it was not for religious reasons! I was then homeschooled until my junior year when I went to a Christian school. My mother tells me that she had a real shock when she pulled us out of public school, because the only support she had outside of family were very, very conservative homeschoolers, who obviously were nothing like her. I have always been so grateful that she pulled us out. I had personal issues at that time along with the overcrowding and under par education that our school system offered that made homeschooling a dream. My mother never picked curriculum for its religious superiority, but for academic superiority. Despite being a regular church-going family, my curriculum never had much religion (as evidenced by the fact that I was taught evolution along with creationism). I went on to get a full-ride from a great university, and my sister also received several scholarships to a prestigious university. I know now that our particular school system could not have supported my needs or the needs of my sister to allow for that to happen.

    My mother chose homeschooling and at no time did the homeschooling become a cause. She worked really hard to make sure that we had the best education possible, whether she taught it, or whether we had to go to outside sources.

  • Maria

    I feel this sentiment can be felt in other pockets of homeschooling, beyond merely religious homeschoolers. I often feel this same sort of pretentious attitude about homeschooling from the liberal, unschooling crowd as well. If for some reason something changes, and schooling fits our needs better, that means I’m somehow abandoning my convictions about the way children learn. The irony of this position isn’t lost on me.