Homeschooling, Socialization, and Me

When it comes to homeschooling, the two issues people seem to be most concerned about are academics and socialization. In yesterday’s post I talked about academics, and in today’s post I will address socialization.

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. For that entire period, the kids I interacted with regularly were almost universally the children of my parents’ friends. Because my parents’ friends were, like them, white, middle class, evangelical homeschool parents, my friends were all just like me. Similarly, the homeschool cooperatives I was involved in all required the signing of statements of evangelical Christian faith, meaning that they were limited in involvement to other like-minded homeschoolers. As a result, the entire time I was growing up I didn’t get to know or have regular interaction with anyone who believed or lived differently from me and my family.

But let me back up and start at the beginning. When my mother first started homeschooling, she quickly became involved with other local homeschoolers. During my elementary years, there were field trip groups and play dates at the park. There was a co-op where the mothers chose a topic each semester, divided the kids by age, and found integrative and engaging ways to teach us about American history, or chemistry, or outer space. There were monthly events at the local roller skating rink or put put venue. And we frequently had people over to our house or went over to someone else’s house.

We kids never felt like we lacked for friends. Sometimes the moms would decide they needed a break, and would do a swap—on one day, my mom would watch her kids and a friend’s kids, and the next day her friend would watch all of us. We loved this, as it meant two full days spent with our friends. Sometimes in the summer we kids would jump from one family to another, swapping off at a birthday party or church event. There were times when half of my siblings would be away at friends’ homes, and in there place would be a smattering of friends of various ages from other families. Because most of the homeschool families we knew had large numbers of children—somewhere around four on the lower end and nine on the higher end—my siblings and I could generally find someone our age to play with when getting together with another family. A simple gathering of two families could easily result in ten or fifteen children. And that’s also how we generally got together with people—by family rather than as individuals.

By the time I reached high school things became a bit more regimented. There were fewer park dates and I was expected to spend more time on our regular studies. At that age the various homeschool co-ops and clubs we were involved in became more important, at least in terms of my socialization. In addition to church there was Bible club, but it was really through our homeschool music co-op and our homeschool debate league that I interacted most with other kids my age. Each of these involved spending a large chunk of one a day each week with other homeschooled students and away from my family. Interestingly, both of these required participants to sign evangelical statements of faith, making the implicit explicit—it wasn’t simply an accident that the other young people I interacted with regularly all shared my parents religious (and political) beliefs.

When I left for college, I didn’t expect to have any socialization problems. After all, I’d grown up with lots of friends. I’d been involved in co-ops and debate club. I had no problem being in groups or interacting with other people individually. Why would college be any different? What I didn’t realize was that feeling comfortable around and being able to easily interact with other people just like me did not mean I would feel comfortable with or easily interact with people who were not just like me. While college was no problem at all when it came to academics, it was socially extremely difficult for me.

I’ll quote myself to explain. First there’s this:

I had no idea how to interact with people who were different from me. I had no idea how to take criticism. I had no idea how to interact with those around me. I had no idea how to handle myself around large groups of people, or how to act in the ordinary social situations that come up at a large school. I had no idea how to handle someone not liking me. I had no idea how to function in a diverse society. I was incredibly awkward and felt extremely lost, and I cried more than you want to know.

And then there’s also this:

The things the girls I met in college talked about, I didn’t understand. The things they were excited about, I was ignorant of. I experienced – and still experience – a huge cultural disconnection. I’m not saying I wanted to conform or just be a clone of the girls I met in college, but I would have at least liked to understand what made them tick and to have been able to communicate with them on this level. As it was, I couldn’t. I didn’t understand their culture, I had no common experiences with them, I had no basis for communication or identification. I was an outsider looking in.

As I explain in the post these quotes come from, socialization is not just about being able to carry on a conversation. It’s also about being able to interact with people who are different from you and may not necessarily like you, and about learning cultural norms and developing shared values and traditions. I was extremely well socialized for evangelical homeschool circles, but not well socialized beyond that. I had no problem feeling comfortable around and understanding other evangelical homeschoolers, but lots of problems feeling comfortable around and understanding those outside of that. Further, I was missing essentially all of the cultural knowledge and shared backround the other college students around me had. It has taken me years to adjust to mainstream society, and I think in some ways I will always feel a little bit like a foreigner.

I have come to realize that the majority of my socialization struggles stemmed not from being homeschooled but from the fact that my parents raised me in a conservative homeschool bubble. In fact, the bubble was such that we didn’t even associate with the non-homeschooled kids at the evangelical megachurch my family attended, to the extent that my similarly homeschooled friends and I found those teens foreign and even frightening. Now, there are plenty of homeschoolers who exist outside of that bubble, and avoid creating bubbles of their own. There are plenty homeschool parents who don’t use homeschooling as an excuse to exercise complete control over their children’s social lives, and there are plenty homeschooled children who grow up with public school friends, interacting with mainstream society rather than being withdrawn from it. I can’t say that these homeschoolers will never face any socialization issues whatsoever, but I can definitely say that they won’t face the same socialization struggles that I did. Those who grow up in the bubble but never actually leave may never face the same struggles I did either.

While being homeschooled does not automatically mean being raised in a bubble, it should be noted that it is the existence of homeschooling that enables the creation of the bubble. Without homeschooling, I would have been exposed to differing viewpoints and a greater diversity of individuals. Interestingly, it is for this reason that homeschooling is currently banned in Germany. This is from a European Court of Human Rights ruling on Germany’s effective ban on homeschooling:

In the present case, the Court notes that the German authorities and courts have carefully reasoned their decisions and mainly stressed the fact that not only the acquisition of knowledge but also integration into and first experiences of society are important goals in primary-school education. The German courts found that those objectives could not be met to the same extent by home education, even if it allowed children to acquire the same standard of knowledge as provided by primary-school education. The Court considers that this presumption is not erroneous and falls within the Contracting States’ margin of appreciation in setting up and interpreting rules for their education systems. The Federal Constitutional Court stressed the general interest of society in avoiding the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society.

But we do not live in Germany, and our culture is not the same as German culture. Our values are different and we place a greater emphasis on individualism. We have long been a country that is friendly and open to the development of parallel societies—in theory if not always in practice. This naturally becomes a sticking point when children are involved, as children to not choose to be born Amish, or FLDS, or what have you. But children grow up to be adults, and that is when they can make their own life choices and choose their own beliefs. So long as children’s ability to an “open future” is not impeded by the way they are raised, we recognize people’s right to be different that exceeds that recognized in many other countries and cultures.

What is the take away here? Simply that being homeschooled by parents who sought to shelter me from other influences and viewpoints by restricting my social environment to others who shared their same beliefs meant that I struggled with socialization problems when I went away to college and entered mainstream culture. I’m not suggesting that parents should be prevented from raising their children the way my parents raised me. One consequence of freedom is that sometimes people do things that we may not like. That’s just how things are. Instead, all I can do is share my story and encourage others who walk the same path and face the same struggles I have.

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.

  • TurelieTelcontar

    I’m reading for a while here now, and after you mentioned Germany, I just had to comment, because of the irony of my own situation: I am from Germany, went through thirteen years of public school here, and my ability for social interaction is miserable, partly based on that. It’s going so far that I think about moving countries to somewhere I could homeschool, if I ever have children who turn out to be similar to me, or who are not really gender-conforming. But then, that would grow the risk of them having the same troubles I have, with not understanding other people.

    Of course, just me being more aware of the faults of the system, and what could be wrong, and having the internet as a resource, might change a lot. And a big part of my problem is the fact that at the moment “integrating” seems to mean “assimilating”, and if you don’t do that, bad luck. So, ideally, I’d send my (as yet non-existent) children to a school where they could socialize with children who are different, and learn to deal with them.
    From my own childhood, and reports of how much has not changed, the reality of schools here is more: Chose whether to take either Lutheran or Catholic religious education. Or, in some special places, after much consideration, you might get Islamic religious education. Jews? There are Jewish children in Germany? (And I wish I was joking…) Sexual education is comprehensive – for those who fit the gender binary and are heterosexual. I learned about homosexuality and transsexuality and being transgender by reading fanfiction.
    Everything I learned about social justice, I learned through fanfiction and blogs. So basically, there is total erasure of people who are not of the dominant cultures as a current part of German education, besides Muslims, because they are too visible to ignore.

    Sorry for the long rant, and as my first comment here, too. But this article just tripped my trigger about my problems with the current school system. Because basically, I learned “Conform, or you will get problems”. Of course, part of the problem is that my parents were in some cases not very helpful, because they didn’t know how to help me deal. But school didn’ help me with that problem – it worsened it by expecting correct behaviour, punishing misbehaviour, with no explanation or help given.

    • OurSally

      My children went through German school and we have none of these problems. They could and did choose ethics instead of religion. They learned about contraception and about the effects of drug abuse. They learned that homosexuality is not a sin. I know that children from non-Christian families get special treatment. They got a good all-round education and are decent people. My kids have turned out alright, I am proud of them.

      So maybe things have changed since your day?

      • TurelieTelcontar

        So maybe things have changed since your day?

        Maybe. But it might also be state – I live in Baden-Württemberg. Or the fact that I grew up in a small village, so primary school was a school with one class each for the first four years.
        Ethics was only possible for years 11 to thirteen, if I remember correctly. So while you could legally have kept the children out of religious education lessons, the school was not really able to provide oversight during these periods.
        Oh, we did learn about contraception. We just didn’t learn about anything but straight sex. The only time homosexuality was mentioned was when we watched this film about drug abuse and prostitution: “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”. It wasn’t that it was taught as a sin or demonized – it just wasn’t a topic. Not in biology, not in history, not in politics.
        It’s also not so much that people were meaning to discriminate – but in primary school at least there simply was the expectation that children would attend the religious education classes, or they would be without supervision for that time. And perhaps my perception about religious treatment in secondary school is from the fact that I attended a Catholic secondary school. But as far as I can tell, they kept to the normal curriculum.

        Basically, it was a good education in general – it’s just that I have an above average IQ (top 2%), but no one ever noticed. So, I learned the stuff that interested me, and never learned how to deal with having to learn stuff that wan’t as interesting, or actually memorize stuff. I didn’t need to. There was so much repetition going on, that I got all the necessary memorizations just by attending classes. And when I did mention that I read too much – because I rarely did my homework because other books were much more fascinating – I just got told that “there is no such thing as too much reading”.

        Of course, the other children did notice, and bullied me – verbally only, but to me, being verbally hurt is much more damaging than broken bones. It sounds melodramatic – but the fact is that strong rejection by a childhood friend takes/took about twenty years to go away. But I didn’t get any tools about how to deal with other people. And that was what I meant to say – the education was about the dominant culture, and there was nothing that tried to understand different world views. Perhaps I got a bit off-topic, I’m just frustrated because something definitely did go wrong, and the first quote in Libby Anne’s post – I could write exactly the same. In fact, my experience in school and the diverse clubs I tried are probably the direct cause of my utter inability to trust other people with my emotional wellbeing.

      • OurSally

        Tulie I am trying to answer you but there’s no button!
        We also live in a small village in B-W. In our village there are black kids, Muslim kids and some Thais, who I rather think are Buddhists. They all do everything together, sport, music, fire cadets. Also we have some homosexual pairs, and these days no-one remarks on it. (10 years ago they would have, though!)
        The real weirdos are the Waldorf families. Their children are in a parallel society, poor lambs.

        That business with being picked on for being cleverer: I suffered greatly from this in England. My kids did not seem to have the problem. “They’re gifted, you know, need a bit more attention.” In year 12 the maths group went off to Uni Ulm every week for special classes. They are both at Uni now, one Maths and one Physics student. Both atheists, by the way! Na, Gott sei Dank!

      • TurelieTelcontar

        Our Sally,
        I am trying to answer you but there’s no button!
        Yes, the threading is only for three levels, then it’s all on one level.

        Well, it seems that we have very different villages. ;-) Where I live, there is one black family (I think they still live there, not sure), but the kids weren’t in my age group or similar in age, so I don’t know them persoally. The parents are also first generation immigrants – so they didn’t help much shake my childhood idea that POC in Germany were a very recent development. There is no visible racial minority otherwise. I can’t really talk about religious minorities, though. None that are easily recognizable. :-) Well, there’s probably quite a few atheists, but I’m under the impression that Germans are seeing atheists different to Americans. I know no studies, so it’s just a personal opinion, but while there are a lot of “official” Christians, I’d say there are more who go to church once a year, for Christmas, then there are regular (weekly) going people. Christening the children is just something that is done, and first communion/confirmation, too. It’s more that certain Christian beliefs unconsciously influenced the whole culture, that certain ideas have influence through that, then any overt religious convictions.
        The being picked on was mostly because not one of the adults/teachers realized it and did anything. I took a test when I was about 25. Then, so much made sense: My brain was working faster and different. My whole childhood, I must have come off as incredibly arrogant, since I thought I was average, and so the other children were either very lazy, or stupid. Because if I understood something, then anyone else had to just pay attention to get it too, right? And that also lead to me never learning self-discipline, actually working to understand/learn, and developing no way to memorize anything, not to mention no real understanding of my peers. Clearly, if a child reads or daydreams through 90% of the lesson yet still has good marks that’s no reason to talk to the parents that it might be gifted and needs any kind of attention for that.
        Also, not a week ago, I learned that most people don’t actually recognize when they get so angry their “fight or flight-response” kicks in, and their brain works at diminished capacity. Which explains why people don’t disengage from arguments once they realize that they are not really in a state of mind to argue effectively.

        Well, I guess I’ll just have to pay careful attention to what they learn, and just be glad that by now you are not forced to send the children to the school according to your district – no matter if they are bullied or blackmailed, or if half the lessons are canceled. (Yes, this all happened to my brother.)

        I’m not saying public school has to be bad, mine was good in many ways. And yet: 88-94% of teachers and social workers believe that children cannot out themselves without problems, even from teachers. I’d just like to have the option to not send a kid to school if they are extremely unhappy there.
        My history lead me to cancel both my it-studies and my chemistry studies, because I was not prepared for actually having to work at learning.

  • Marian

    “This naturally becomes a sticking point when children are involved, as children to not choose to be born Amish, or FLDS, or what have you. But children grow up to be adults, and that is when they can make their own life choices and choose their own beliefs. So long as children’s ability to an “open future” is not impeded by the way they are raised”

    This is such a huge thing to me, because I feel like a lot of the sects you mention really do impede their children’s ability to have an “open future” through things like shunning, indoctrination, and the denial of a decent education that could lead one to be able to escape. Obviously, people do leave these sects but it takes so much effort that I can’t help but feel that for every person that leaves, there have to be at least a couple more that want to leave but feel the obstacles to leaving are too insurmountable, end up staying, and convince themselves that this is what they really wanted all along. Then they end up like Debi Pearl, writing books trying to convince others to be as miserable as them. And yes, I’d lump the very extreme isolationist homeschoolers in with the FLDS and the Amish. At least the Amish have Rumspringa.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I wish there was some sort of network out there to help provide financial support, housing, emotional support, education, and whatever else is needed to people looking to leave very fundamentalist upbringings. Kind of like domestic violence shelters. But I don’t know how practical that is.

    • AztecQueen2000

      And it’s not just in little isolationist pockets in rural America. Come to some of the Hasidic enclaves in Brooklyn–the fourth-largest city in America and one of the most diverse. Many Hasidic children can barely speak or read English, cannot relate to the opposite sex, and think that media exposure is evil. However, there is an organization that helps get them out. It’s called Footsteps.

    • Rebecca

      Yes! Brainwashing can have such devastating long-term results – the girls I grew up with who didn’t have the luxury of having their sociopath stepfathers shattering life as they knew and forcing them to re-examine everything they had been taught are still living at home even in their 30′s, not holding jobs outside their homes and still waiting for God (their parents) to find them suitable husbands. Or they’re married and already with multiple children in their mid 20s with Created to be His Helpmeet on their bookshelves. This isn’t what these girls want, they have no idea who they truly are, but they are so clueless. Brainwashing children like this is so cruel! But what to do? It’s such a helpless feeling.

  • luckyducky

    I find it hard to imagine someone homeschooling and being successful at avoiding a bubble. I value diversity. We intentionally live in a racially and SES mixed neighborhood, my kids go to school in a disproportionately minority public schools district (albeit a magnet school that skews white) and before that, went to a charter school that reflected the city’s racial mix almost to the percent. We used to live behind an imam and I have Hindu and Muslim friends, primarily immigrants, from my professional life (yeah, I realize this sounds like “some of my best friends are black”).

    However, my closest friends are white, middle class, and either liberal Christian or atheist/not affiliated. My children’s friends are mostly white and middle class and definitely the ones that come for playdates, etc. Not that I would have any problem with having a child of color or someone from a lower SES or another religion over for a playdate… there are just social barriers — we don’t have the same cues about what is safe, acceptable, etc. — and, logistically, it can often more difficult to coordinate with someone who works an low-wage, hourly job. All possible to overcome but you need contact, time, and the desire to do so.

    So, I am very glad that my kids spend the day in the classroom with a reasonable mix of students. The one hour/wk at the Y in swimming lessons where he/she is the only white child or the passing contact at the public library with the kid from a low-income family just does not compare with 8hrs/day, 5days/wk or having to work together.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      On bubbles, I went to primary school in Switzerland. Every single one of my classmates/playmates from birth to about age 12 were white, middle class, and Catholic.

      Bubbles happen. Public schools aren’t necessarily a cure.

      Since homeschooling is a possibility for us once my son is old enough, I’ve given this some thought, though. My city has some great after school programs that are open to anyone, including clubs and sports. There’s no reason why we couldn’t do our academic stuff at home and then do our social/fun stuff in the public arena. Besides which, my city has an incredible amount of diversity. It’s very hard to go out for a walk without seeing headscarves, yamulkas, crucifixes, and just about every other form of cultural dress imaginable.

      So I think that these problems have a lot more to do with where you live than how you do your academics.

      • luckyducky

        I think you missed my point. I was saying that despite deliberately structuring our lives to avoid bubbles, we still fall into ours.

        Yes, public schools, particularly primary schools (often draw from smaller geographical areas) can suffer from the same bubble problems… they can at best only reflect the community in which they are situated. However, based on my experience, I find it very hard to believe that someone is going to do drastically better than an average public school. It isn’t just about *seeing* people wearing yarmulkes, the hijab, etc., it is about getting to know them, working on projects together, having to interact on more than a superficial level. You rarely get close with people who are different from you without some sort common experience to bring you in close contact.

  • Beth

    There is this assumption that the socialization received in school is a ‘good thing’. Socialization is NOT the purpose of schools and there is no guarantee it will be good for the child. My own experiences regarding socialization in school were awful. Similar to what MrPopularSentiment describes in the comments of your previous post.

    John Holt, founder of the unschooling movement, put it this way (I’m paraphrasing): If there were no other reason to take kids out of school and homeschool them, the socialization they receive would be reason enough. One of the main reasons we decided to homeschool, in addition to the better education we felt we could provide, was to avoid what passed for ‘socialization’ when we were in school.

    • Libby Anne

      I know, I have read John Holt. I’ve actually also had a good bit of exposure to unschooling—not growing up, of course, but rather because I tutored homeschool students while I was an undergrad, and got to know some unschooling families quite well. I found their ideas fascinating, but in the end, I simply concluded that I strongly disagree with Holt on this point.

      • Beth

        Certainly a fair point to disagree with him on, but as it matched my own experiences and those of my husband, we found him spot-on with that particular critique. I do think that luckyducky has a valid point, but since I grew up in a very homogeneous small town (no minority population or even much difference in SES), going to public school did not help learn those skills. I picked them up as an adult, much as you did. I don’t see that lack as being a big problem, certainly nowhere near as big as the problems that I developed from being bullied in public school.

        What knowledge are you basing your disagreement on with regards to socialization? What socialization skills do you expect your daughter to learn as a result of sending her to school? Do you have any concerns about the socialization that she might receive in school?

      • Libby Anne

        Basically, I found Holt very convincing when I was questioning my parents’ beliefs and authoritarianism but still planning to homeschool. Then I put my daughter in daycare and then preschool, seeing it as a necessary evil, just until I finished my graduate degree and then I would stay home with her. Instead, she absolutely thrived. Her interaction with other kids her age, and time spent with other authority figures, has done her nothing but good. She’s confident and independent (meaning, she’s not, like the son of a friend who is a stay at home mom, so tied to me that she can’t function apart from me), sure of herself in interacting with others, and understands that the world does not revolve around her and that there are others who have needs too. As far as concerns go, if and when I worry about the effects of peer pressure or bullying, I’ll work through those things with her. The way I figure it, it’s better for her to learn how to handle those things now while she’s young than being blindsided by them as an adult (as I was). Anyway, based on this and the realization that my experiences with the people I know and have known don’t seem to bear out Holt’s arguments, I have concluded that I think he’s wrong on this point.

      • Beth

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions. Certainly, if your little girl is learning and thriving, then her school is good choice for your family.

      • luckyducky

        Beth – I also grew up in a small rural town in a racially homogeneous region. However, the median income in the county is well below the national average and, being firmly middle class, I was at least exposed to SES diversity via public schools. I very much value that now that I live where I do and regret not being exposed to more.

        Now I live in a very racially segregated region. Textbook case of red lining and white flight where the central city is disproportionately minority (African American) and poor and the suburbs are disproportionately white and wealthy — and get more so the further out you go. There is a loooong history of racial tension that still very much colors what goes on in the community — we just had our city elections and race, as always, was THE issue.

        I was totally unprepared for it even though I had a decent textbook education about the issues. For a long time, I felt very self conscious about it, and my job involved going into African American churches, homeless shelters, and former inmate reintegration programming. I was regularly confronted with it as I was often the only white person in the room. I loved it when my ultra fair, blond-haired, green-eyed son would run into daycare and wrap his arms around a very dark skinned African American boy and that boy would call my son “my brother.” It was like a United Colors of Benetton ad with worn linoleum and a ratty dinosaur t-shirt. I envy that they got to learn to be comfortable with those cultural difference as they learned to talk instead of as an adult.

        I’ve taught at a university in the city and dealt with the rich white kids from the ‘burbs and they are so utterly sheltered from people who are different from them that they are ill at ease with issues of race and being challenged about SES privilege. Of course, when you are 18, never actually had a job, drive a Lexus and pay the full $26K tuition, you’ve worked hard and “earned it.” Or at least your parents, who grew up in white middle class suburban families with full union benefits, did. And those poor people are obviously lazy or make bad choices… it shocked me the first time I encountered it en masse in the classroom. They managed to live in a bubble despite living in the same metro area that I do — they live in 99.5% white neighborhoods (remainder are Asian immigrants) and go to 80+% white schools and rarely went into the “very dangerous” city before coming to the university and that was only to go to professional sports games.

      • Jayn

        “I do think that luckyducky has a valid point, but since I grew up in a very homogeneous small town (no minority population or even much difference in SES), going to public school did not help learn those skills. ”

        This comment, along with a few others, makes me wonder how much of the argument on both sides is coming from the relatively privileged position of living in an urban area. I also grew up in a very homogenous area (‘town’ is rather an overstatement) so whether or not I went to public school my social circle was going to involve a very narrow slice of humanity.

        On the other hand, being such a rural area my options both in education and socialisation were very limited (I actually considered changing schools, but concluded that for academics I was best where I was). I’ve noticed that several people’s stories involve things like going to museums and the like, saying they were able to do that because they homeschooled. For me, not going to school would not have made that any easier to do–maybe harder–because I lived in a rural area. There were a number of museums for local history*, but anything beyond that was non-existent within a 2 hours drive. Likewise for social activities–not a lot, especially that wasn’t sports-related (worse, some of the ones that did exist were church-related. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if any of them had been attached to the one I attended). Most of the activities I did participate in, even the summer camp I attended for 7 years, I would not have been able to do had I not attended public school, either because they were school functions or because that’s how I learned about them. As much as school sucked, without it I don’t know that I would have spent much time with people my own age past the age of 8.

        *Though to be honest my world history still wound up being very sparse. But my point is that such ‘enriching activities’ aren’t always readily available. I’m not sure I would have had them without school trips.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        The issue with socialization is that I *didn’t* learn to deal with bullying and negative interactions, despite being crammed in with a bunch of kids for 18 years. Exposure is only one piece of the puzzle, instruction is another. I was never taught how to deal with these problems.

        Part of the issue was that I was so surrounded by bullying every single day that I felt overwhelmed. I think that my experience would have been much improved if I had been taken out of public school for at least a year and given some specific/explicit social skills training.

        And that’s kind of what happened. When I graduated from high school, I had some time away from school where I was able to think things over, find role models, and reflect on what had been going on. When I returned as a university student, I was much better prepared to deal with things.

        That being said, bullying is abuse. That anyone could say that public school is good because it gives kids an opportunity to learn how to “handle” bullying really concerns me. We would never say that women should be abused so that they can learn to “handle” abuse, or people should be mugged so that they can learn to “handle” muggings. Bullying is abuse, plain and simple, and absolutely no one should be exposed to it or be responsible for handling it. I’d say it would be much better to deal with it in the same way that we deal with domestic abuse – by teaching our kids to recognize the warning signs and to get out as quickly and as safely as possible.

        M – What you are referring to is called acculturation, not socialization (acculturation is the process of culturally assimilating a group of people, whereas socialization is the process by which individuals are taught to function within society), and I have some pretty serious reservations about it being a good thing. I live in Canada now and the culture here is still reeling from the various strategies used to acculturate aboriginals.

      • Libby Anne

        That being said, bullying is abuse. That anyone could say that public school is good because it gives kids an opportunity to learn how to “handle” bullying really concerns me. We would never say that women should be abused so that they can learn to “handle” abuse, or people should be mugged so that they can learn to “handle” muggings. Bullying is abuse, plain and simple, and absolutely no one should be exposed to it or be responsible for handling it. I’d say it would be much better to deal with it in the same way that we deal with domestic abuse – by teaching our kids to recognize the warning signs and to get out as quickly and as safely as possible.

        Well yes, yes exactly. When I mentioned learning how to deal with bullying, I was absolutely not meaning that you should have to just put up with being bullied 24/7. In fact, you might be interested to know that at least in the U.S. schools have in the last decade drastically changed how they deal with bullying. It’s not tolerated today the way it was in the past, and there is a lot more awareness. Things are perfect, but they’re moving in a good direction. I don’t think that everyone who was bullied in school as a child should assume that their children would find the same atmosphere should they attend school today.

      • Christine

        @Jayn, I find it interesting that you’re describing living in urban centres as a possible reason people would see going to public school as a way to have more diverse friends. I was reading this thread and wondering if the reason that I didn’t have a very diverse school was that I lived in a big city, so the different SES, ethnic groups, etc would self-segregate. My elementary school was probably more than 70% white this was the publically-funded Catholic board, so obviously not WASPS, but the equivalent, although we did have a number of white immigrants too. More relevantly there wasn’t a heck of a lot of economic variation in the students that we could notice.

        My public high school was a departure from this – it was referred to as the most multicultural school in the city, and if that’s true (and it wasn’t just code for “the most non-white”) then there simply wasn’t a lot of diversity in any of the schools. Most of the non-Asian students were coming in from out of district (like I was) for the enriched programme. I saw (posted in the staff room) a printout of the demographic breakdown once. About 25% of the students were born in Canada (although I know a bunch of those had immigrant parents), slightly fewer in Pakistan, and the rest from a mix. Only Asian countries were listed by name, everywhere else was “other”. Now, I’ll agree that “South Asian” isn’t a homogeneous ethnic group, but my point still stands. Being in a city doesn’t result in a heck of a lot more diversity than in a small town, and probably less, because most schools are drawing from within just a few neighbourhoods, and most people are going to have similar amounts of money.

      • luckyducky

        Jayn – the “privilege” of living of an urban area is not exactly rare — 80% of the US population lives in a Census Bureau defined “metropolitian area.” I grew up in a genuinely rural area far from any urban area, so I get where you are coming from. It just isn’t “typical” anymore.

        I second Libby Anne’s assessment about the bullying in schools. It is taken very seriously. They start in p-K with the anti-bullying message (Being a Bucket Filler not a Bucket Dipper — there’s a book). There are anti-bullying poster contests, essays, art projects, and worksheets. It is a topic of conversation at our dinner table about as frequently as “Don’t Litter” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Yeah, it sounds corny but when you start that young, they aren’t jaded and it sticks. And I can tell you that if you bring the b-word up with administration, they respond.

        But I don’t fully agree that kids shouldn’t learn to deal with it for a couple of reasons. First, there is targeted, prolonged bullying that no one should be subjected to. And then there is the periodic, opportunistic picking on and kids being thoughtlessly mean. Some of that is bullying, but IF kids are supported, they CAN learn how to deal with it in a healthy and productive way (i.e., get it to stop). This isn’t throw them to the wolves — it is empower them to deal with it and intervene directly as necessary. Then they have a skill they can use the rest of their lives.

        I was subjected to some pretty awful stuff in 6th grade and my parents, teachers, and the parents of the bullies were all involved it getting it to stop. Would I rather have not gone through that, of course. But I appreciate what I did get out it and it did help me later in life.

    • M

      Actually, socialization in schools is one of the main points of public school. We’ve always used our public school system to assimilate immigrants, to teach their children English and ‘American values’ such as pluralism and nationalism. It’s not always worked, granted, and bullying by teachers and students wasn’t uncommon, but the rapid assimilation of Eastern European immigrants around the turn of the century is directly traceable to their participation in public schools. This was back when everyone was required to go to school, before the Supreme Court upheld homeschooling as a right under the religious clauses of the First Amendment.

      The lack of a common understanding of what “American” means is one of the things dividing the country right now. Homeschooling is not helping. Most homeschoolers teach different history, much of it factually inaccurate and pretty much all of it horribly lacking sufficient context, and that alters what lessons people draw from it. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it … well guess what, that’s a common theme among homeschool students. That’s not the homeschooling movement’s fault because there’s not enough homeschoolers out there right now, but homeschooling is also not a step in the right direction either.

  • The Other Weirdo

    There is something that I don’t understand about this post. At one point, in a quote, you say this:

    …I had no idea how to take criticism. …

    But above, you also say,

    … I’d been involved in co-ops and debate club. …

    Debates are, by their nature, criticism in conversational form. How can you take part in debate clubs but not know how to take criticism?

    • Libby Anne

      Criticism of arguments you make in a debate round =/= criticism of you as a person or even criticism of your academic performance. Losing a debate round is not the same thing as getting less than positive feedback on a paper or having someone snub you for no reason you can fathom. And I think it should be remembered that it was a Christian homeschool debate league, and one associated with HSLDA—the sources we saw as most authoritative were the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and we were swathed in dress codes up the wazoo. Those things were extremely closely monitored and the parents watched us like hawks.

  • Beth

    It’s true that assimilation – which is not the same as socialization – was a purpose of public schooling. I’ve also heard that a major thrust of that particular effort was aimed at catholic immigrants in an attempt to convert their children to protestants, not just to assimilate them into America.

    However, socialization is NOT a purpose of our public schools today. I think that is an accurate statement because our schools have no standards, no curriculum, and no evaluation of how well they socialize children. If we want it to be a goal of schooling, then we need to figure out what standards to use, develop curriculum and ways to evaluate how well we are doing with that effort. I do get the impression that many schools are moving in that direction. But for now, the socialization schools provide is better considered a side-effect that some people may want for their kids and others prefer to avoid.

    • Keljopy

      This isn’t true. Socialization IS a purpose of our public schools today. There may not be a national curriculum or standards/evaluation, but the school my mom used to teach at puts very strong emphasis, especially at the elementary level, on developing “character traits”, which is definitely a part of socialization. Just a simple google search tells me many, many other schools have similar curricula. Preparing students to survive in the real world and in jobs is a purpose of our public schools, but there are no national standards for these. Even in core subjects, national standards are a pretty recent development. Yes we should have standards and curriculum and evaluation if we want this purpose to be fulfilled, but the fact that we don’t yet have these nationwide doesn’t mean it’s not a purpose of schools.

      • Beth

        I have to disagree. The fact that we don’t have such standards, curriculum and evaluation does mean, IMO, that this is not a purpose of schools. I think it’s a good thing that some schools include teaching things that might be considered socialization skills (I’d consider anti-bullying curriculum to fall in that category as well). I just don’t agree that because some schools now do this it means that it a general purpose of schools.

        Preparing students to survive in the real world and in jobs is a purpose of our public schools, but there are no national standards for these.

        Is it? Is this what our schools are attempting to do? My answer to both those questions would be no. If that were the purpose of our schools, we would be making efforts to see how well they were accomplishing that purpose. But we don’t. In fact, many students drop out of school specifically because it isn’t helpful in preparing them for the ‘real world’ as they perceive it.

    • Anat

      Beth, about a half of the elementary school report card is about scoring children for their behavior, completely independent of academics. I’d say at least elementary schools see socialization as a major goal.

      • Beth

        Hmmmm. That could be true depending on what behaviors they are scoring. Could you tell me?

        When I was in school, the behaviors that were evaluated were things like being quiet and staying in my seat. While these are difficult skills for many 6 yo’s and crucial for teachers to maintain control of their classroom, I don’t think that is the type of ‘socialization skills’ that people are concerned about when they talk about homeschooling and the lack of socialization they receive. Would homeschooling parents be unable to teach their children the good behaviors that primary schoolchildren get evaluated on?

        It does bring up an interesting point though. What socialization skills are people talking about that they think homeschooled children will lack?

        From the OP, it would seem to be mainly about being comfortable interacting with many diverse kinds of people. That is also what I think lucky ducky was talking about. Based on what’s been posted here, that particular type of socialization seems far more dependent on where you live than whether or not you homeschool. Attending school is clearly no guarantee of exposure to diversity, and exposure alone is no guarantee that your child will learn how to interact well with people from diverse backgrounds. I don’t think that is what schools are teaching when they score kids on their behavior, but I’m out-of-date on what behaviors they might be scored on.

      • Christine

        I don’t have any of my report cards here, but I remember that one thing we got scored on was whether or not we could work well in groups, and this in particular is one area I’ve noticed my homeschooled friends have had problems (I do too, but using the social skills of someone with fairly noticeable Asperger’s as a benchmark is a bad idea). It’s not that they aren’t willing to compromise, or to listen to other people, they just don’t have the same skills for it. It’s also a skill which has very direct employment value. My one friend (mentioned in my guest post here) will not do something unless you take the time to convince her that yes, it is indeed better than the way she wants to do it.

        Now, I agree that this sounds like it’s not a huge problem (and potentially an asset), but if you’re in a large corporation sometimes you need things done a certain way just for the sake of consistency (this also applies to regulated professions where the regulatory body might have similiar requirements, if you object to having to work for corporations). Alternatively, if you have years of experience you don’t want to have to argue with your new assistant every time that they assume their opinions are just as useful as yours. Note that I agree with anti-authoritarian teaching and childrearing, but at some point you have to go “well, you say it’s easier that way, so I’ll trust your experience and at least give it a try”.

        I think that, to a certain extent, this problem is minimized just by knowing it exists – public schooling isn’t entirely necessary. My friend who I have abused as an example in this comment doesn’t realise that other people are coming from different backgrounds, she just thinks they’re stupid/lazy/etc because they can’t see what’s so obvious to her. I don’t get the impression that Libby’s parents focused on teaching their children to value diversity, so this would be an area that was neglected (I could be wrong, but given their reaction to people having a different interpretation of what it means to be Christian, the impression follows strongly.)

        As a historical note – socialization in schools is the reason that (one branch) of my husband’s people came to Canada in the first place. The Kleine Gemeinde came when Russia started requiring that students be sent to the state schools to become good Russian citizens. A generation later, when Canada instituted the same requirement, the most conservative ones left for Mexico while the rest said “eh, it’s not as bad here, we’ll stay.”

        And for anyone who knows the educational problems of the Mexican Mennonites, I assure you I am not trying to imply that homeschooling is that level of educational neglect. Although homeschooling as a method of sheltering, and discouraging post-secondary education, is a really good path to that sort of problem, if continued for too many generations.

  • Matt Foley

    Nice Post… but your comment about why you put your daughter in daycare really hit home for me:

    “The way I figure it, it’s better for her to learn how to handle those things now while she’s young than being blindsided by them as an adult (as I was).”

    I’ll tell you what, I was an oldest kid with three younger sisters. Our parents sent us to public school in the 9th grade. If you don’t know how to handle conflict and rejection by that point in your life (I didn’t), it makes for some really tough encounters when you’re surrounded by other 14 and 15 year olds. I faired pretty well overall since I had some friends from sports, but my oldest sister was not so lucky.

    She ended up getting a little ahead during her homeschooling years… started high school at 12. Really intelligent, but no social skills. She started chain smoking and doing drugs while she was still homeschooled, but at high school it really escalated.

    Imagine being a homeschooling parent and having your 12 year old sneaking out of the house to get high! It was crazy. I am somewhat grateful to her though, since I got to fly under the radar. I was the “good” son… didn’t start drinking or smoking pot until I was 15 :)

    Of course, the leaders at our Reformed, Reconstructionist church were quick to point out that public school was the source of the problem, but my sister started having issues before she set foot in a school. At 10, she told me she had given up on Christianity because she knew she could NEVER live up to the standards my parents were imposing on us.

    Fundy homeschooling parents have this nasty habit of sheltering their kids from real-world problems and conflicts when the stakes are still relatively low. But kids grow up, and if they don’t know how to interact with peers and handle rejection, it makes them really susceptible to substance abuse as a coping mechanism down the road.

    Of course, my control-freak mom (who has never made a wrong decision in her life) would probably swear to her death bed that the issue wasn’t homeschooling, but our secular culture and rock music that caused the problems for her kids.

    Geez, I could go on, but I won’t.

  • Matt Foley

    [Quote]That anyone could say that public school is good because it gives kids an opportunity to learn how to “handle” bullying really concerns me.[/quote]

    It isn’t a bad skill to have. There will be bullies at every stage of life… at college, in the workplace, and even at home sometimes. If you learn strategies for dealing with them early on, it can actually make life easier down the road.

    No one thinks that constant, unending bullying is good. But a lot of home schooled kids never learn to stick up for themselves, since they never have to.

    Or, they wind up arrogant to the point of being delusional. They’ve never had to compete with their peers, so they have no clue what they’re actually good at. Sometimes getting knocked off your high horse as a kid isn’t such a bad thing either.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      Learning to deal with tough situations is one thing. Learning to deal with bullying is something else entirely. Bullying is abuse – women are not encouraged to be exposed to abusive relationships in order to learn how to deal with them, so why are we saying that it’s a good thing when it comes to bullying?

      But I guess my point in all of this is that I’m uncomfortable with the demonization of homeschooling. Can it be isolating? Sure. But there is absolutely nothing that anyone has said in any of the recent posts that couldn’t be found in a public school environment as well. And while homeschoolers may be particularly vulnerable in some areas, public schoolers are particularly vulnerable in others.

      This whole discussion just keeps making me think of the “Mommy Wars” where mothers argue and call each other names based on whether they baby-wear or not, breastfeed or use formula, use cloth diapers or disposable… and I just don’t get why we feel the need to attack each other or feel so strongly about our choices.

      Each individual kid is going to have different needs, and the same goes for families. What’s important is that the kids are thriving – no matter what their academic environment.

      • Christine

        “But there is absolutely nothing that anyone has said in any of the recent posts that couldn’t be found in a public school environment as well.”

        I’m not sure how, in a public school environment, you can end up never spending time with people outside your family/time away from your family. Nor do I see how you can avoid being exposed to people who don’t have the exact same beliefs as you.

      • Libby Anne

        But I guess my point in all of this is that I’m uncomfortable with the demonization of homeschooling.

        Does discussing one’s experiences and offering mild criticism automatically constitute “demonizing”? You have spent the majority of your comments on these posts discussing the negative aspects of your experiences with public schools, and offering broad criticism. Does this constitute “demonizing”? Or is only criticism of public schools allowed while homeschooling is immune from criticism?

      • Shayna

        Bullying is abuse – women are not encouraged to be exposed to abusive relationships in order to learn how to deal with them, so why are we saying that it’s a good thing when it comes to bullying?

        On the contrary, I think they should be…though not in the way I think you are describing. It seems like your point (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that women shouldn’t be put inan abusive relationship to learn how to deal with abuse (same goes for kids/bullying), and I would say that’s absolutely right. However, I think a certain amount of exposure is necessary to recognize, avoid, and possibly combat such situations.

        Ex: This is what it looks like, it is not OK. This is what it sounds like, feels like, etc. If you see or are involved in anything like this, stop it if you can and get yourself out of there.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        @Christine – You absolutely can avoid interacting with people who don’t share your values and beliefs. It all depends on the demographic distribution of your school district. That being said, you are right about family members, but then we’re talking about an extremely restrictive lifestyle. A family that’s so far gone that they won’t even let their kids go to the park, participate in sports, volunteer, or do any other activity that would enable them to meet someone who isn’t a blood relation is probably not going to be convinced by laws forcing kids into public schools. As I mentioned in another comment, there are groups that function entirely “off the grid.” They give birth at home and they don’t register their children’s births, largely out of a belief that Big Bully Government is evil and yadda yadda. Start coming into those homes and telling them that they have to do stuff, and you’ll probably push them further underground – making it that much harder for the kids to re-enter society if they’re able to escape (and, as I mentioned, Angie Jackson has written about her experiences of trying to “get legal” by proving to the government that she really was born in the US despite her birth having never been registered).

        @Libby Anne: You’re right, but the tone of many of the comments have put me on the defensive. Several have come very close to saying that homeschooling should be banned, and many more have called for unspecified “oversight” that, if executed, would essentially eliminate the option of an alternative education system for children who are not thriving in the “teach the test” public school environment. This is what comes across, to me, as demonizing.

        That being said, I have in several posts said that I am NOT anti-public school. At all. I know many people who have thrived in that environment. I didn’t. Some of that was because of systemic issues with the public school system, and some of that was because of conflicts between the public school model and my individual needs (such as large classroom sizes – locking an introvert in a room with 20-30 noisy children for 8 hours a day is pretty much a terrible idea). Right now, my son looks to be a whole lot more like me than like his social butterfly dad, and it may be that what would be best for him is to stay home while he and I work together to train him to deal with social situations that he may find overwhelming. If he’s still as introverted when he’s 4-5 as he is now, I think that keeping him home and working on skills training through explicit instruction and short/controlled exposure to large groups would be a better idea than just tossing him into a classroom and telling him to just “stop being so shy” as my parents did with me.

        When I read so many attacks on homeschooling and homeschoolers, and so much praise for the public school system that totally failed me, it’s very difficult for me not to take it personally. Especially when much of the criticism is about how homeschooling leaves kids socially stunted – given that I find homeschooling appealing because it would allow me to do exactly the opposite for my son.

        I think that the problem is that it’s such an emotional subject. We all have histories that, positive of negative, are so much a part of who we are that we feel personally attacked when someone comments on them in a way that doesn’t reflect our experiences. And, on the other side, those of us who are parents care very deeply about our children and we want what’s best for them and, I think, we’re all secretly at least a little afraid that the choices we’ve made are going to “break” them.

        @Shayna – There’s a difference between direct, personal experience, and taught experience. For example, a homeschooling parent can use role-play, stories, and discussion to teach their children to recognize and deal with bullying. The kids don’t need to be bullied or to witness bullying.

      • Libby Anne

        Several have come very close to saying that homeschooling should be banned, and many more have called for unspecified “oversight” that, if executed, would essentially eliminate the option of an alternative education system for children who are not thriving in the “teach the test” public school environment.

        I don’t understand why you think that oversight would force homeschoolers to teach to the test—especially when you yourself admit that no one has specified what oversight. I am firmly convinced that it should be completely possible to enact some measure of oversight—something I strongly support—while also recognizing that one of the beauties of homeschooling is not having to teach to the test.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        @Libby Anne – So far, the only thing I’ve seen proposed is a standardized test. This is the same solution that was proposed to help make sure that all public schools were up to snuff and it’s an idea that’s had disastrous consequences. If homeschooled kids are forced to take the same taste, I can’t see how that would not lead to the same conclusion.

        If you (and anyone else) has something different in mind, I’d really like to hear what it is.

      • Libby Anne

        @MrPopularSentiment — Oh goodness no! I actually don’t know anyone calling for oversight on homeschooling who simply wants to standardize test kids every year and send the ones who score below average to public school! Dear me, absolutely not. Besides, everyone I hear talking about the need for homeschool oversight also thinks No Child Left Behind’s standardized testing policies are crap, and that that focus needs to change. I know I do!

        There are lots of other ways to do oversight of homeschooling. One, for example, is having parents submit their curriculum plans each year, detailing what each child will be studying. I’ve also heard of having parents’ submit portfolios of a sampling of each child’s work at the end of the year. There are also some states that require parents to submit progress reports, explaining what students have done and detailing plans for the future, and semi-annual visits with an official just to check in on things.

        The only way I’d be in favor of standardized testing would be to require something like the Iowa Test every third year or so both to help parents have an idea of their children’s strength’s and weaknesses and to check for gross educational neglect. In this case, if a child is way behind in every area that might warrant some intervention, but even then I’m in favor of mitigation rather than simply an automatic return to public schools.

        In other words, let’s say that Benny is in 6th grade and takes the Iowa Test and scores below 2nd grade on every subject, there’s clearly a problem. Someone from the local school could work with Benny’s mom to help her come up with a plan for improvement, and then Benny could be tested the next year for improvement. At that point if there is still no improvement, a process for integrating Benny into the public schools could begin—though not a direct move, as Benny would be way behind. In other words, give the parents all the tools and incentive they need to succeed, and only require the kids to go to public school in actual cases of educational neglect.

        And going back to the example above, if Benny is in 6th grade and scores at 2nd grade for spelling but at 10th grade for reading and 6th grade for math and 4th grade for science, well, clearly education is taking place. Benny’s mom might be encouraged to beef up his exposure to spelling and science, but it’s not a case of educational neglect. Education is happening.

        As I see it, oversight isn’t so much about forcing kids who aren’t doing well at home back to public school as it is about ensuring that those who homeschool do actually educate their kids. I knew families growing up who did a very bad job of actually educating their kids–i.e., they basically didn’t educate them at all, whether formal schooling or enriched unschooling—but who, if there was actual oversight, would almost certainly have pulled things together and actually educated. It’s not about being oppositional, it’s about saying, “if you’re going to take your kid out of public school and homeschool them, you need to be actually educating them.” And that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

      • MrPopularSentiment

        Thank you, Libby Anne! That answers my question perfectly!

        I do have some concerns about resources and who would be reviewing the curricula/portfolios, what standards they’d have, and what the consequences would be for failure to meet the standards, but that would actually seem like a decent compromise (if the standards were loose enough that families would have some leeway for their educational philosophies).

      • Christine

        The super-sheltered kids I was thinking of probably wouldn’t be helped by regulation, I agree, but they would be much less isolated at school. The scary thing is that they do go out and get involved. It’s just that they’re constantly with their parents. These parents volunteered to teach Sunday School, but required that the ages be shifted around so that their kids could be together (and when you’re short on teachers what do you do?)

        I actually am in favour of an even less testing-based regulatory system than Libby. I would tend to support an annual interview with an education professional or a psychologist. The government would obviously have to cover this in addition to the per-enrolled-student allowance that boards get (i.e. x per enrolled student, y per homeschooled student). Boards could share the professional. This would have several advantages – cognitive development could be assessed, which is pretty much learning philosophy independent, parents who are interested would have a resource for spotting potential LDs, ADHD, autism, etc. It would still be possible to address specific areas for improvement like Libby was suggesting. It would also ensure that the children were seen by a trained mandatory reporter at least once a year. Of course that would only catch the worst cases (like the parents who tattoo their children with swastikas on their faces), but that’s the price for living in a free society. And any case which would get caught is one which really needs to get caught.

      • Rosa

        One asset public schools have that homeschoolers have less of, is a quite wide and deep field of criticism and public investment -not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of a vast number of people with experience and a vested interest in the school system.

        Both bullying and lack of resources for kids on the spectrum are problems, and they’re problems that school districts have put a lot of effort into fixing. The antibullying efforts in our local school system are amazing, truthfully, and the resources for kids with social difficulties – on the spectrum or not – are getting better all the time. My son gets 3 hours a week of social skills help, partly one on one with a special ed teacher and partly in a social support group with a specialist and other kids.

  • BethC

    @ Christine: Thanks. Back when I was in primary school, working in groups was not only not scored, but not allowed. It was considered cheating. Around Jr. High or H.S., we were occasionally allowed to work on group projects, but it wasn’t done much at all. Less than once a year in my recollection. I do think this particular skill/experience is something that homeschoolers can provide for their children. Libby didn’t mention it as a lack in her education.

    Libby, was that something you had difficulty with?

    @MrPopularSentiment: I quite agree with your last post. Pretty much all of them on homeschooling actually. You write well.

    • Anat

      The inter-personal skills on my daughter’s elementary school report card are

      Collaboration skills:
      - Participates actively and appropriately, works with others to achieve a shared goal, interacts positively and respectfully

      Communication skills:
      - Speaks effectively in front of a group, asks necessary and relevant questions
      - Listens attentively to gain understanding

      Then there are skills that are relevant to work ethics and being a successful worker:

      Problem solving skills:
      -Identifies problems and plans what to do, uses different strategies, solves problems effectively, evaluates progress and results

      Self management skills:
      Prepares materials, ready to learn, organizes workplace, works independently, uses time productively

      Technology and information skills:
      - Understands and applies technology skills, gathers/uses a variety of information sources

      Responsible worker:
      - Follows directions
      - Completes classroom work on time
      - Follows school and room rules
      - Respects property of school and others
      - Returns assigned homework on time

      Quality worker:
      - Shows persistence
      - Improves work to create a quality product.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        + 1 I still have my school mark reports from grade 1 to grade 6 and it’s mostly like this.

    • Libby Anne

      Yes, I had problems with group projects, but I’m not sure whether that was because I was homeschooled or because I was a perfectionist and therefore just wanted to do the whole thing myself so as not to risk it being sub par and getting a bad grade.

  • Carys Birch

    I was in public school from Kindergarten through 8th grade, then I went to a small, barely recognizeable Christian school (operated out of a church basement, less than 20 students) for the first three years of high school, then returned to public school for my senior year and graduated.

    I’d like to second what other people have said about it being entirely possible to stay inside your bubble even when attending public school. I grew up in an extremely rural area, my family was middle class, but the area is quite low income generally. I think in a more stable economy, my family would be considered lower-middle-class. Here we are quite affluent. The demographics are heavily white (I was old enough that I remember the first time I saw a black person, although we do have many Native Americans in this area.) Most families have been here for generations – including mine – and generational poverty is something that’s widespread. Religiously, my peer group was about half evangelical. The other half was mainline protestant (what I called at the time “nominally Christian”). I didn’t even know any Catholics to speak of! I was so well indoctrinated and so sheltered that I didn’t understand most of the cultural references my less sheltered peers made. I managed to go to school from the age of 5 to the age of 14 without picking up hardly any pop culture at all. I was well brainwashed enough that I simply ignored it and refused to absorb. I also limited my social interactions as much as I could to the other evangelical kids. Going to the Christian school exacerbated this effect strongly. It wasn’t until I returned to public school at age 17 that I started being routinely exposed to anyone much different than myself, and by then it was really too late.

    I have found that this, half inadvertent, bubble left me really poorly prepared to live outside the insular community I grew up in. I had huge difficulties with how to relate to people of other races (I still do, but I find that my self-education helps). I have still such a low comprehension of pop culture that discussions about movies/music/and even the news tend to go right over my head. My friends have learned not to ask the question “Have you seen [movie]? ” – they just know I haven’t. I have trouble picking up on sarcasm sometimes, if someone tells me something with a straight face, I’m inclined to just smile and nod and hope they’re not trying to make me look like an idiot. I also seem somewhere along the line to have missed out on how to do common personal grooming activities like “how to pluck ones’ eyebrows without ripping the whole thing off”. My friends refer to me as “a recovering Puritan” regularly, because even at my current age, I can’t hide where I came from if I wanted to.

    In short, I don’t think I experienced the SAME degree of social issues that you did, Libby Anne, but they’re definitely the same flavor, and all acquired during various types of out-of-the-house education. Not trying to prove or disprove your points, merely observing. :)

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  • Beth

    @anat – Thanks. That’s very different from when I was in school. It seems I was wrong. Today’s elementary schools do have standards and evaluation for socialization skills.


    I don’t understand why you think that oversight would force homeschoolers to teach to the test—especially when you yourself admit that no one has specified what oversight. I am firmly convinced that it should be completely possible to enact some measure of oversight—something I strongly support—while also recognizing that one of the beauties of homeschooling is not having to teach to the test.

    While I understand that you don’t agree with the idea of standardized tests, I don’t think they can be avoided in any kind of evaluation of teaching effectiveness for large numbers of children. Even if that isn’t what you have in mind, my assessment is that when homeschoolers are regulated, standardized tests are frequently used for that purpose.

    On the other hand, the type of individual evaluations you are talking about in #39 aren’t a bad idea, but do they really need to be mandatory? Would those parents you talked about take advantage of such resources if they were offered on a voluntary basis? The school district I live in now offers something like that to parents who want to homeschool, but it isn’t required so unschoolers can continue to do as they think best without interference.

    On a different tack, often the objection to oversight by homeschoolers has to do with whether or not our government has the right to do so. I’m sure you are familiar with that argument and I gather you would disagree. Is that correct?

    If that is correct, can you explain whether you would support governmental oversight of the health of all children. Using your example of 6th grader Benny, if he isn’t growing as he should be, someone from the health department could work with Benny’s mom to help her come up with a plan for improvement, and then Benny could be tested the next year for improvement?

    If you don’t also support this sort of governmental oversight, what is the crucial difference between society’s interest in the health versus society’s interest in the education of future citizens.

    If you do support this sort of government oversight, have you given any thought to the problem of false positives in this sort of situation? When the base rate of the population is very low and testing is imperfect (as it always is) and universal, you can expect more false positive than true positives – i.e. forced interventions end up primarily applied to situations where the problem doesn’t actually exist. This can easily end up causing far more harm than good. This is a major concern for me with regard to calls for imposing governmental oversight on an entire population, whether for health or education. It should not be done without a realistic assessment of the potential for harm as well as the expense of doing so and the expected benefits.

    OTOH, I would support making resources available for both diagnostic and corrective purposes freely available to those parents who want them without mandating unwanted solutions and oversight.

    • Rosa

      one of the benefits of a mandate, is that a subset of the failing homeschooling parents – the subset I’m most familiar with, having tutored several children who were going back to public school after failed homeschooling – would quit homeschooling sooner if it were harder.

      For instance: a relative started homeschooling because the effort of getting her child to school from an isolated rural home was too much for her. After another baby, she stopped homeschooling at all. It still took more than another year for the child’s noncustodial parent and grandparents to convince the mother to give the child another try at public school. I am 100% convinced that if there had been any barriers to homeschooling – such as having to make a one-on-one interview time with the child, or submit a yearly statement of purpose – would have eliminated that extra year gap.

      • Beth

        I agree, that would be a benefit. I’m not convinced the benefit is going to outweigh the costs. M makes a good point in that regard.

    • Christine

      Given that children who are, for example, extremely underweight do tend to get flagged for a follow-up from a public health nurse (if not family services), I find your analogy of Benny to be a good argument in favour of some sort of regulation for homeschooling.

      • Beth

        I’m not sure I’m following you, because currently children are not required to be evaluated by health professionals. When evaluated, I know that health professionals are mandated to reports suspected abuse. I think that is what you mean, but that that isn’t what I was talking about.

        My analogy would be if we required all children be evaluated by health professionals on a regular basis and required parents to make changes to improve their child’s health when problems are identified. Such an approach would certainly uncover a lot of abuse and neglect, as well as helping families with unhealthy lifestyles to improve. It would also be a significant expense as well as an intrusion into people’s homelife and lifestyle choices. Would you be supportive of that sort of oversight with respect to children’s health? That is, do you think the benefits from implementing such a system of regulation and oversight in terms of improving the health of the population be sufficient to justify the costs of such a program?

      • Christine

        I was talking more about the fact that if it’s an extreme physical problem (the equivalent of educational neglect), it would be flagged by the school, even if the child wasn’t even seeing a health professional.

        The problem with the analogies we’re all trying to use here is that the legal structure we have assumes that children are going to be going to school. So saying “they wouldn’t force you to take your child to go see someone for X problem, why should they do it for education” doesn’t quite work. Of course they aren’t forcing you to take your child somewhere. The law was assuming that the child was going to go to school, and they would catch stuff like failure to thrive (or whatever it’s called in older kids), severe social anxiety, learning disabilities, obvious blatent abuse, anti-social tendencies, etc, as well as illiteracy, innumeracy and general ignorance.

      • Beth

        @Christine – I don’t think this is true. Many health problems – particularly health problems that are a result of poor lifestyle choices, are non-obvious until they are severe. Children under 5 are not seen in school. So if you support the oversight and regulation of the education homeschoolers provide, would you also support the regulation and oversight of the health of children? We could limit it to children who aren’t in school if you like to make the analogy fit better.

        The question is essentially about whether you feel society has the right to intrude on parents in that manner. Regulation and oversight means requiring people to prove they are parenting adequately well without any suspicions that they are not. Mandated reporting means that suspicion of wrongdoing is required before society intrudes. I consider this a very significant difference.

      • Christine

        Well obviously YMMV, but I do know of parents who had to explain to children’s aid that yes, they offered food to their son, he just chose not to eat. I’m aware that there are other loopholes, but I don’t feel that’s a good reason to try and close some of them. We’re not suggesting the educational equivalent of doing the NDDS on homeschooled kids, just a check that there is some actual homeschooling happening – it will only catch the severe problems (the equivalent of the severely malnourished kids). I’m not in favour of standardized testing for homeschooled kids, or otherwise forcing a curriculum, although I am aware that this leaves a lot of space for educational neglect. I just worry about a system that allows parents to put their kids in a situation where there are no checks and balances.

        Bear in mind that I’m from a country that basis its constitution on Peace, Order and Good Government. This may have some bearing on the fact that I don’t really buy into the idea of parental rights.

      • Anat

        Beth, elementary school students in my district are seen by the school nurse routinely. They get measured, weighed, tested for vision and if I remember correctly hearing. Fifth graders are screened for scoliosis. All these are opportunities for a healthcare professional to notice if anything is seriously wrong. Parents can opt out, though. Also, there is a program to identify children who are likely to have learning disabilities or otherwise not fit in at school in preschool years, though participation is entirely voluntary (opt-in). The vaccination requirement also means students are highly likely to be seen by a pediatrician before enrolling in kindergarten.

  • M

    These personal assessments sound really good. They’d get the job done without interfering too much with parents. There’s just one teeny tiny problem.

    They’re really expensive. At a time when public schools are strapped for cash to just hire enough teachers, at a time when art, music, physical education, and libraries are being cut, you want to add this sort of financial burden for the benefit of a very few kids? And why wouldn’t this sort of personalized evaluation be available to public school kids? A personal evaluation of one’s work, with personalized help offered in subjects that the child is behind in … that’s a dream in any public school setting.

    It is utterly ridiculous to do more for and spend more money on homeschooled children than on public school children. Yes, homeschooled children need to be evaluated and shouldn’t ever lose out on an adequate/good education. But given the socio-economic status of most homeschooling families, it’s also especially not fair to spend more on them than anyone else. Fix the public school system instead (yes, that’s hard, expensive, and probably won’t show results for a good 10-20 years) and require everyone to buy in. Don’t let people ignore their duties and obligations as part of a society to make sure its institutions work. Any expenditure of tax money has trade-offs and opportunity costs: bleeding the public school system for the benefit of homeschooling families is not worth it. Find another way.

    • Christine

      Homeschooled students aren’t having public money spent on their education. Given that each one would require approx. 1/30 teachers hired, money spent on supplies, etc in addition to potential busing costs, one professional to do interviews can be afforded. This is why I was saying that funding should be changed from X per enrolled student to X per enrolled student plus Y per local homeschooled student. Unlike some of the funding changes that haven’t happened (I’m looking at you, full day kindergarten), this would be due to extra students being present, so it would be more likely to actually happen.

      If the board is small then make this a part-time position. Or, if the board is that small, share with other local boards. Heck, I’m sure that whoever is currently doing student evaluations probably isn’t working a full time load if the board is that small. Why should students miss out on having an evaluation like this just because they’re homeschooled? This is the sort of observation that public school students get based on the teachers watching them, and from their standardized tests.

      • M

        In elementary it’s ~1 teacher per 22-30 students. In middle and high schools, each teacher teaches hundreds of students (a history teacher might teach 3 periods of 25-32 students each day in two pods (A day and B day) for a total of 150-192 students per teacher). Of course each teacher doesn’t have 150+ students all day or at one time, but that’s how many students’ educations they are responsible for. An individual, 20 minute interview with each student to determine how much they’re learning, how far behind they might be, and a personalized tutoring plan is a LOT of time that simply doesn’t exist for your average public school teacher. Why should everyone pay for better evaluations for those who’ve opted out?

      • Christine

        I see your point about middle school and high school, but in elementary school my teachers were always aware of individual strengths and weaknesses of each student. Most of my high school teachers were too. I’m not saying that each student needs to get the same treatment. I’m saying that a 20 minute interview is a different way of achieving a similar end to 600+ hours of classroom time (with a bunch of other kids there). And remember – kids who are suffering get that 20 minute interview and then some.

        When I was in school we used to get quarterly report cards. I could have continued to have an IEP through high school, had I made different educational choices (like staying in the same school board). I guess I’ve been assuming that similar levels of education are available everywhere, and I really should know better.

  • AnotherOne

    I’m currently experiencing a side effect of homeschooling “socialization” that I haven’t really seen discussed here, probably because as a person in the latter half of my thirties, I’m definitely on the older end of people who were homeschooled. That side effect is that I have a hard time relating to my children’s experiences. They have so far navigated their mediocre public schools with great aplomb. They love school and are getting a much better education, both socially and academically, than I got as a homeschooled child. But yes, public school can be a challenging social environment, and it’s one that is so foreign to me that I have difficulty knowing what kind of advice and guidance to offer my kids. My ideas for navigating tough social circumstances usually fall flat, which is kind of sad because my kids are pretty free about coming to me with their questions or problems. I love my kids and am very close to them, but their life experiences are so radically different from my own that there’s a real disconnect. I can’t entirely blame homeschooling–there’s a pretty big socioeconomic gap between my raising and my kids, and my kids have a much more stable financial and emotional environment than I ever did. But one of the biggest differences between my childhood and my children’s experiences is that I had few friends as a kid, and what friendships I had were heavily supervised and preselected by my parents’ intense control of my environment. My kids, on the other hand, have a wide variety of friendships over which I have little control. I have little desire to control their friendships, and overall those relationships really seem to enrich their lives. But it’s a weird feeling, as a parent, to be able to relate so little to my kids’ lives. I know I’m not alone in this–I’m sure immigrant parents feel this much more strongly, and that people who jump socioeconomic classes or marry across race or religion or any number of other factors feel it too. But there is a little pang when my elementary schoolchild comes home from school bubbling over with info about a life that is so far from my own experience.

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