Why Is Calling for Homeschooling Reform Taboo?

When individuals who attended public school talk about the negative experiences they had, point out that many public schools are failing or that certain practices in public schools leave much to be desired, and call for improving the schools and reforming public education, they don’t face accusations of being anti-public school, of just being bitter, of being angry at their parents, or of over-generalizing and calling all public schools universally bad. No one tries to silence them for “giving public schooling a bad reputation,” accuses them of trying to ruin things for everyone else, or says that the problem was just their shitty family situation.

So why is it that when individuals who were homeschooled talk about their own negative experiences, point out that many homeschools are failing and that certain homeschool practices leave much to be desired, and call for improving homeschooling through implementing reforms, people accuse them of being anti-homeschool, of just being bitter, of being angry at their parents, and of over-generalizing and calling all of homeschooling universally bad? Why is it that people try to silence them for giving homeschooling a bad reputation, accuse them of trying to ruin things for everyone else, and say that the problem was just their shitty family situation?

Why is it that it’s just fine to call for reform of the public schools, hip even, but it’s taboo to call for reform of homeschooling? Why is criticism of public schools widespread and expected, but criticism of homeschooling by those who were homeschooled themselves causes everyone to lose their heads?

How is “people have shitty experiences in public schools too” a sensible answer to calls for reforming homeschooling? Do we shrug and say “people have shitty homeschool experiences too” when people call for reforming and improving public schools?

Why do people respond to calls for homeschooling reform by stating that there’s nothing that can be done to curb abuse, when no one would even think of responding to calls for public school reform in that way?

Why is it that criticism of homeschooling by those who were homeschooled is panned off as some form of adolescent rebellion while criticism of public schools is practically trendy?

Why is calling for reforming homeschooling portrayed as trying to “ruin things for everyone else” while reforming public schools is seen as an effort to make things better for everyone’s children?

Why is voicing criticism of homeschooling or talking about negative homeschool experiences portrayed as being anti-homeschool while criticizing public schools or talking about negative experiences in public schools isn’t similarly portrayed as being “anti-public school”?

Why do people shrug and say that bad homeschooling is just a result of shitty parents and there’s nothing to be done while at the same time arguing that we need school reform to improve shitty schools and implementing programs to help public school kids with shitty family backgrounds?

Why is criticizing public schools and calling for public school reform seen as healthy and good while criticizing homeschooling and calling for homeschool reform is taboo? Shouldn’t we want to improve and reform both, cut down on abuse and neglect in both, and ultimately work toward the best interests of children in whatever educational methods their parents have chosen for them?

Something is very broken about how we discuss this issue.

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.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com L

    I suppose it’s because homeschooling feels much more personal. And perhaps because the main ‘defenders’ of homeschooling have a religious persecution complex, that doesn’t exist in public schools right now. To many people I know, suggesting there be laws regulating homeschooling is the same as infringing on religious freedom and parental rights, and they would like for the bad experiences to be freakish anomalies (or deny their existence at all by calling people ‘bitter’ who claim to have had a bad homeschooling experience), perhaps to reassure themselves that their way is the godliest, and so that they won’t have to deal with more restrictions. Restrictions being the governments way of outlawing Christianity, and you know how the ultra conservative honeschoolers really love to talk about how persecuted they are.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    Because in the mainstream, parents who choose to send their kids to public school are seen as normal while parents who homeschool are seen as weird and possibly suspect. Because homeschooling is actually banned in several places, so there’s a fear that “reform” is code for “get rid of.” And because one awkward homeschooled kid is seen as representative of all homeschooled kids while one awkward public school kid is seen as just an awkward kid.

    But also, I disagree somewhat with your premise. When I talk about my public school experience, I get a whole lot of comments to the effect of “well that was just your school” and “so you’re anti public school?” in fact, often the only people who aren’t making those sorts of comments are people who had negative experiences themselves.

    • Rod

      As well, Mypopular, there is a good chance that a bad experience in public school will change as the student advances, as he/she experiences new and different teachers, as new elements are introduced to the schools.
      If Mum is not a good and imaginative teacher, the child may be stuck with 12 yrs of…. well, bad teaching.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Because homeschooling is actually banned in several places, so there’s a fear that “reform” is code for “get rid of.”

      Homeschooling is not banned anywhere in the United States, and I’m obviously writing this from a United States perspective. Every state allows homeschooling, and even the strictest regulations are not actually very invasive or restrictive at all. Nowhere requires anything like a teacher certification, for example (and I don’t think any should). What I see in the U.S. is absolutely no threat to the legality of homeschooling, but HSLDA scare mongering people into being convinced it’s about to be banned when the idea that that is the case is absolutely ludicrous.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        I do, but that’s me. I absolutely think if you plan to teach children you need to be certified to do so. We don’t let parents be “home-doctors”, we don’t let people be “home-lawyers”, so why do we let people be “home-teachers”? Teaching is a profession that needs to be treated like any other high-skill, high-education profession.

      • Conuly

        M, probably because much of what teacher education is geared towards is teaching groups of kids. It’s a skill, and a valuable one, and not one that’s necessarily easy to learn… but I’m not convinced its totally necessary for teaching one or two kids, either as homeschooling or as tutoring.

        For that matter, there is some significant debate as to whether or not much of teacher education is necessary for actual teachers, or if maybe some other things should be taught. Most of those debaters have a serious ax to grind, but not all of them.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        M – To qualify as a teacher in Ontario, you need to have certified “teachables” (1 for middle school, 2 for high school). What this means is that you are qualified to teach science, for example. Your first teachable essentially requires a BA in that subject, while your second only needs a minor.

        That’s what you need to get into a B.Ed. program. Once you’re in, you’re taught some essentials for how to teach your subject(s), yes, but as Canuly points out, you’re mostly being taught how to handle large groups of kids. Starting from Kindergarten here, a teacher is usually going to be looking after at least 10 kids (classroom sizes are 20-30, but they usually have assistants to keep the ratio at about 1::10, which increases as the kids age up with high school teachers generally having all 30 kids to themselves). Having to manage that many children is a whole different set of skills than simply teaching the material.

        But here’s the thing – maybe you get a job in one of your teachable areas, but maybe not. There’s all sorts of rules about how many hours teachers have to work, so if you are only qualified to teach English lit. and the school only needs you for 2 English lit. classes but you HAVE to be teaching 5 classes every week, you could end up teaching science, or math, or history. You never know.

        When I went to a seminar for people thinking of applying for the B.Ed. program at one of my local universities, someone asked how teachers could possibly be expected to teach a subject they might not have had any formal education in since high school, and the answer was “you’re older and you have the teacher’s textbook. You’ll figure it out before the kids do.” So the assumption that even the teachers – who have their B.Ed. – know anything more than you do about the subject they are teaching is not necessarily valid – at least not in Ontario, which is the only place I speak to.

        And keep in mind the resources at the disposal of parents these days. You can buy textbooks that have the workbooks for the kids, plus all sorts of extra explanations and instructions to help parents teach the material.

        So yeah, I can see where a parent may have a real weakness and may want to enlist outside help, but I don’t think that teaching a handful of kids that the adult is used to parenting anyway requires the same rigorous training standards as, say, practising medicine or law. Maybe at the higher levels when kids are really getting into the nitty-gritty details, but at the grade school level?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Sure, a lot of it is dealing with how to teach large groups of kids. A lot of it is also how to teach, or pedagogical methods. Those carry over whether you’re tutoring one child or teaching a large group of them. A fair bit is also child psychology; probably pretty useful for parents overall.

        The grade school level is absolutely critical to know what you’re talking about, just as much as at higher levels. Sure, a lot of things need to be simplified or glossed over at younger ages, but you can’t even do that if you don’t know it. And you absolutely need to understand math in order to teach it- what are numbers, what is a number line, what does addition or multiplication mean instead of just rote memorization of multiplication tables, what is a variable. Granted, an awful lot of primary school teachers are really bad at this too, but I think knowing your subject is as important for teaching little kids as it is teaching older ones. How can you give a proper impression of a subject, even simplified, if you don’t know it?

        And Quiverfull parents trying to teach 10-12 kids of different ages and learning levels could definitely use some help in how to teach large groups of children of disparate abilities!

        I agree that teachers shouldn’t teach outside their “teachables” the majority of the time. However, you can at least be sure the person teaching your child knows how to teach and has a college degree. That’s certainly not everything, but it’s not nothing either. We don’t stop illiterate parents from “homeschooling” their children. We do force them to take sick children to doctors and don’t let them represent anyone but themselves in court, and that only with major warnings that it’s not a good idea. Doctor, lawyer, teacher: those used to be the white-collar, high-status, high-paid, specialized professions. Why did teacher fall off that list?

      • Conuly

        M, I don’t know why you think teaching was ever a highly paid position.

        As far as lawyers go, it used to be the case that you could become a lawyer not through law school but through apprenticeship. It still is the case in one or two states, though its no longer very common. Your country lawyer might not have been very well educated either.

        At any rate, however you choose to have your child formally educated, the fact is that they will learn a lot from you and from other people who are not certified teachers. I am perfectly capable of teaching the nieces geography with a map, which is good, because the schools won’t teach it. There are other things that I’ve had to teach them because they weren’t being taught in school. I’m not seeing what I need to learn to be able to teach the times tables that I don’t already know.

        Mind, they’re still in elementary school. In high school, if they fall behind, they’ll probably be signed up for peer tutoring – and it should go without saying that their peers aren’t teachers either. If this is allowed by the schools, what’s the issue elsewhere?

      • Christine

        I would argue that it’s not whether or not the teacher is outside their teachable. Remember, this happens the majority of the time in elementary school (and yes, we all have stories of the teacher who insisted that some incorrect fact was indeed right). It’s the pedagogical skill. I had one teacher who for three different subjects was incompetent. These were all in his department, so at least one of them should have been his teachable. But it doesn’t matter how much he knows on a given subject – he called me up to talk to him privately once. Apparently correcting him in front of the class was undermining his authority. (He didn’t know the story of Hanukkah, and while I’m aware that the average person cannot be expected to know as much as my Christian background would give, this was a world religion course.)

        But the thing about public school is that you get other teachers too. The majority of your English, Math, Arts and Science classes will be taught by people who not only have education in the area, but who are passionate about the subject and know how to teach. (It’s a given that the majority of students can do better academically at home for primary, if the parents actually teach them, but that’s not particularly controversial either). Yes, you can get a teacher who thinks that knowledge flows only one way, but that’s for one semester.

      • Anat

        No, it’s not a given that being taught at home would have been better for me or my classmates. My teacher for grades 5-6 enhanced my vocabulary in ways my parents couldn’t have (and neither could have the parents of most of my classmates). And how many parents can teach research skills that I started learning in 3rd grade? If my parents had taught me, I might have been ahead in math and physical sciences and way behind in anything else. Even at the elementary level.

      • Christine

        Fair enough. I was basing on the not much of anything I learned at the primary level. I didn’t get research skills until grade 5, and I honestly don’t remember learning anything much in English. It was all just “here are words, spell and use them” and “read this”. Questions were all at a basic comprehension level. My French might have suffered, but I doubt that, as I only got 20 minutes a day, and like everything else it was at the level of the slowest kid in the class. Basically anything that involved working alone was stuff I could end up far ahead of the class if I wasn’t caught and told to slow down.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        The parent who is teaching 10+ kids all of different ages is already doing that as a parent. They are used to being able to manage discipline and teaching non-academics for all those kids 24/7. Combine this with the resources they have available to help them teach (workbooks/textbooks so that each child can have some self-study time and some one-on-one time), it seems totally doable just with the skills they’ve gained parenting those kids. And if they haven’t gained those skills, they probably aren’t parenting the kids either, and that becomes a more general neglect situation.

        I do agree with Libby Anne that it makes sense for parents to plan their curricula ahead of time and to follow up with an assessment of how well each student succeeded in achieving the goals. If that’s happening reasonably well, why assume that “lay persons” can’t possibly teach children and require certifications?

        But, most especially, why require a degree of proficiency from homeschooling parents that is not, in many districts, required of professional teachers (assuming that the “crowd control” aspects of teaching can be learned either through school or through parenting, what remains is proficiency in the subject).

        By all means, ensure that the parent IS successfully educating their children. But if that’s happening, I don’t see the need to pile on additional requirements and restrictions.

        I also think that it’s worth noting that the idea that children should be taught as a class with other children in their age group is a rather new invention. Through most of history, children would be grouped together with any other child within the close geographical area or who could afford the teacher’s fees. You might argue that they didn’t have as much material to cover or that academic standards weren’t as high, but that is definitely up for debate.

        Anyways, with regards to the “at least there’s multiple teachers so if they get one that sucks at least it’s only for a semester” argument, I’m really on the fence. Yes, statistically that’s true. Generally, though, that’ll only pan out in reasonably good/affluent schools. I went to one school when I was in England that was in a very poor neighbourhood and all the teachers there were people who couldn’t get jobs elsewhere. I was there two years and never, in that entire time, had a teacher who knew more than I did about their subject, had any joy for their subject, or any talent in teaching their subject. In the more affluent schools I intended, I did get more of a mixed-bag in teacher quality – some were absolutely awful, some were okay, one or two were actually pretty good. But, ironically, the best school I ever attended teacher-wise was a little village school where the teachers did not have advanced degrees. They were women from the village who’d taken a certification course and were only teaching until they could find husbands (I ended up having a switch mid-year because my teacher met hers and left to start her family). These women were teaching for a finite time, so they weren’t burned out. And because we were in the country, or maybe because they didn’t know the material that well themselves, we ended up spending a large amount of our time on field trips or doing hands-on activities outdoors. We learned about insects by visiting the local apiary, for example. We learned a lot about chemistry and biology by going to see the wine makers at work. Because the village was so small, our classroom size was only about 10 kids, and we were given a lot of time for independent study. I’m not necessarily saying that this is the best model, but it was definitely much better for someone like me than anything that would be available in the public school system where I live now.

        The only thing better was the private school where I did my last year and a half of high school where classroom sizes for most subjects were 1::1. As a private school, they didn’t have the same requirements for teachers that the public schools have, so the principal had chosen to hire people who had worked in an industry that used the subject they were teaching, rather than people who had just learned about it academically. As a result, most of our teachers were retirees and only worked part time. Her theory was that the teachers would be able to focus mostly on the practical applications and on being able to contextualize the material better for students, which was exactly what ended up happening.

        So yeah, I guess my point (which I swear is somewhere in this rambly wall of text) is that merely requiring certification is not necessarily an appropriate response – in the same way that requiring that homeschoolers do more standardized tests is not an appropriate response. There are several different educational philosophies and many of them have validity, at least when applied to different types of students. Most public schools in a given geographical area subscribe to one philosophy which, either out of idealism or financial expediency, usually involves a high classroom time to outdoor time ratio, a high instruction to hands-on activity ratio, a high teacher to student ratio, and a strong use of testing and grading. All of these have very valid complaints made against them.

        So if we want to have better standards for alternatives such as homeschools or private schools, that’s fine! But saying that this must take the form of making them more like public schools defeats the whole purpose of having alternatives, imo.

      • swimr1

        “The parent who is teaching 10+ kids all of different ages is already doing that as a parent. They are used to being able to manage discipline and teaching non-academics for all those kids 24/7. Combine this with the resources they have available to help them teach (workbooks/textbooks so that each child can have some self-study time and some one-on-one time), it seems totally doable just with the skills they’ve gained parenting those kids. ”

        Willing to bet a lot of money you haven’t ever been the stay at home parent of multiple aged children.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

        @Conuly- because it was. Granted, this was before it became a female-dominated profession. But in the mid-to-late 1800s, doctor, teacher, lawyer, and clerk were all well-paid, highly respected professions. As clerk and teacher became female dominated, they became less well-paid and less respected. That doesn’t mean the requirements for doing it well went down, either; it just means that “women’s work” doesn’t get respect in the US. We see it in the medical profession now, too: nursing was super respectable until it was female dominated, then it was denigrated, and now that men are going back into it (because it does pay quite well, especially with higher nursing degrees) there’s a concerted effort being made to show respect to nurses. Pediatricians and GPs and OB-GYNs, who are primarily female or deal with women? Much less respected than neurosurgeons, who are primarily male.

        So my point was that teaching is a highly-specialized profession. It should be both treated and compensated like one. The reason it isn’t is complicated and historical, but that doesn’t alter what needs to change. Saying “oh any adult can do it” is both true and patently false. Yes, just about any competent adult could be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher with proper training, but we certainly don’t just let people do doctoring and lawyering without that training!

      • Conuly

        M, every year I get a form from the school asking if I want to sign up to help teach reading and math. It is similar to the form I see at the library for the same thing, except the library wants me to teach adults. Last year, in order to handle a teacher/child conflict at the end of the year, the school had the older niece helping the kindergarteners learn to read. She was 8 at the time, but it was a little individual peer tutoring program, same as they have in every high school and college. And let’s not discuss teach for America, which certainly does not require a major in education! Every homework assignment sent home requires some amount of teaching because there is no promise the subject was covered adequately in class. Some of them specifically ask us to do the teaching part! (I would that I were making that up.)

        The schools don’t think you need to have specifically studied teaching for years to be able to teach, so why are you so hung up on it?

        For that matter, academics are not the only thing one teaches, but nobody says that a little league coach who never got a masters in education is unqualified and unable to teach kids to play baseball. The nieces’ swim teachers probably did take some course on teaching swimming, but it was certainly not as involved as what school teachers learn, does that mean the nieces aren’t actually learning to swim, despite what it looks like? Driving, there is something that can kill people if it isn’t taught properly, but thousands of people learn from their parents all the time, and no harm done.

        You can talk about “home doctoring”, but you’ve failed to show that the two things really are the same. Teaching is a hard job. I know it. I know it, because after the girls get home I still have to do it! I have a lot of respect for teachers regardless, but I’m not going to pretend that I really think that they are much more capable of human interaction than I am, or anybody else. And that IS what it boils down to. You are claiming that teaching is in and of itself a skill that you have to learn at school, and I don’t think that is at all true. You will not be able to convince me with rhetoric about respecting teachers, because I *do* respect teachers – I just happen to entirely disagree with your premise.

  • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Also, the way the message is presented makes a huge difference. If you are just saying “here are the issues, we need reform,” it’s very easy – especially given the current political/social context – to read that as “it’s bad, we need to ban it.”

    When you explain exactly what you mean by “reform” (for example, you laid it out for me in the comments of one of your previous posts as, if I remember correctly, requiring that parents submit their curricula at the start of the year to show that they are actually intending to teach something), then it becomes a discussion ABOUT reform, rather than about the antagonism between pro-homeschool and anti-homeschool, and it’s much easier for everyone to get on board.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      When you explain exactly what you mean by “reform” (for example, you laid it out for me in the comments of one of your previous posts as, if I remember correctly, requiring that parents submit their curricula at the start of the year to show that they are actually intending to teach something), then it becomes a discussion ABOUT reform, rather than about the antagonism between pro-homeschool and anti-homeschool, and it’s much easier for everyone to get on board.

      One would hope this would be the case, but unfortunately, it’s not. HSLDA does not believe there should be any regulations whatsoever on homeschooling, and secular unschooling homeschoolers are in full agreement. I can count the number of currently homeschooling parents I’ve come across that are okay with having homeschooling regulated on one hand.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        I’m curious to know how many secular homeschoolers you know. I’ve been hanging around a few atheist homeschooling groups on facebook for a while and have a few friends who do it (including some unschoolers), and when I brought up what you mentioned about at least providing something like a checklist of what the “big ideas” that you want to cover over the upcoming year and then following that up with an assessment of what was covered and the child’s grasp of the material, the reception was largely favourable. Unschoolers were definitely more iffy about the pre- part, but were fine with the idea of a post- assessment part.

        I’m by no means an expert (obviously), and maybe atheist homeschoolers are a bit of a different crowd? I have no idea. So I’m curious as to what your connection is to homeschoolers today?

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        When I went away to college, I offered classes to local homeschooled students on a number of subjects. They were a mix of Christian homeschoolers and secular homeschoolers and secular unschoolers, some atheist. At one point I actually became a bit integrated into their community, attending an unschooling co-op briefly. I also follow a good number of secular unschooling blogs and websites, and have read widely in the literature about the homeschool movement, especially work that is ethnographic, sociological, or historical. I’m glad to know you found a favorable reception among the homeschool parents you hang out with, and I’d like to think that that’s common, but it hasn’t been my own personal experience. In fact, going by the blogs and websites, the secular types can be just as extremely anti-regulation as the religious types, and perhaps more so.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        Thank you for your answer! I fully admit that I’m fairly privileged in that I seem to have very good luck in the types of people I surround myself with. I do have to keep reminding myself that reasonableness isn’t necessarily a universal trait.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        You’re welcome! And again, I’d like to think that there’s some critical mass of homeschoolers out there that’s okay with regulations and understands the needs for them and won’t devolve into fear mongering and shouting about parental rights (as though children don’t have rights too!), I just have yet to see them. Perhaps as homeschooling becomes more diverse, as is the trend, this will change. I suppose time will tell.

        Also, I think that if homeschoolers stopped freaking out at the very mention of regulations and instead said “okay, but you need to be careful about XYZ because ABC regulation would cause 123 problem” then things would actually work out better for them in the long run. In other words, if they could come to the table rather than simply trying to turn the table into kindling. Because at some point something has to give, and I’d like to think that they’d rather be in on forming and designing the regulations than outside of the whole thing finding themselves with regulations that don’t take into concern how homeschooling actually works.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        Oh I definitely agree. It’s in everyone’s best interests for homeschoolers not only to sit at the table but to MAKE the table for these discussions. As someone else said, pushing for regulation from the inside is what would have the best outcomes for parents and students alike.

        But it is a very emotional topic and, as you’ve said before, homeschooling for far too many people is about a cause rather than simply the option that works best for the particular child at the particular time.

        But also, as I mentioned above, there is still a lot of poo-pooing of homeschooling in the mainstream that can make it hard for families who are homeschooling to have that more balanced approach. That has changed a lot in recent years, but the cultural memory is still there (and, of course, preserved by those who make money from it like the HSLDA). As a result, I think that even parents who are just doing it because it’s working for a particular child at a particular time can be driven into that reactionary mindset. And that’s why I think it is really important to be specific about reforms that you’d like to see – the people who have taken a deep drink of the KoolAid are lost causes, but the people who are just being reactionary because they are so used to having their choices disparaged are much more likely to listen if they know that they aren’t about to get burned.

      • http://LyricalPolyphony.blogspot.com mary

        Homeschool mom in favor of regulations over here! :) I agree that we’re in the minority, which is sad to me. I’m politically very libertarian, but I find that ethos very consistent with protecting the innocent, which our children are. We owe it to our kids to do everything we can to prevent abuse and neglect, and neglecting to provide a basic education falls under that. North Dakota, a state we previously lived in, allows homeschooling but only if you 1. Are a certified teacher, or 2. Have the oversight of a monitor that comes in occasionally to make sure the kids are actually learning something. I like this idea, though I’d support testing in lieu of monitoring as well.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Thanks, Mary! That warms my heart. :)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Also, why can’t homeschoolers respond to “homeschooling needs to be regulated to ensure that homeschooled children are actually educated” with “okay, let’s talk about how we can structure those regulations in a reasonable and fair manner” or “what sort of regulations are you talking about?” instead of responding with “no no no no absolutely not how can you say such a thing?!?” Why should the person saying there need to be regulations have to get specific for homeschoolers to be able to listen?

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        It’s the nature of discourse. The person bringing up the topic either sets up the parameters of that topic, or they open up the possibility that their audience’s minds will do so based on a) the last conversation they had with someone else on the topic, b) the stuff about the topic they’ve been thinking about recently, or c) the stuff they’ve heard about the topic recently which, as you’ve pointed out, may well be HSLDA scare-mongering.

        This is the case no matter what subject you try to talk about – but especially if it’s something that is controversial or emotional for people.

    • Alice

      I agree that being specific is a lot better than being vague, but I don’t know how much it would reassure people. I imagine many would respond with “Everyone knows that monitoring and regulating something is the first step to outlawing it. The government is sneaky that way so people won’t protest until it is too late. Besides, it’s so easy for people to fly under the radar, and the government never enforces regulations anyway, so why bother?”
      This is exactly what I have heard my conservative home-schooling parents say about a certain other thing they are strongly against the government regulating more.

  • Alice

    I completely agree. But I know growing up I got very angry when anyone questioned home-schooling. I did not hear other home-schoolers criticize it, but that would have made me even angrier, I would have seen them as traitors who were giving our “persecutors” more ammunition. I felt a lot of pressure as a child to be a good witness for home-schooling (which was very intertwined with Christian religion), to demonstrate to the world that home-schoolers were better educated and had more social skills than public-schoolers. I felt stressed about this because I knew I was behind my peers in many subjects and I was incredibly socially awkward. I felt like I was betraying the home-school movement by having those problems and therefore, not being a good witness. A lot of times, I got angry at people who questioned home-schooling because their questions hit too close to my secret fears.

    I think the home-school culture, and especially fundamentalist culture in general, often trains its followers to have a war-like mindset, to believe that the government, the public school system, and secular people in general are all out to get us. Not saying these cultures always promote this message, but it is common. When you are in the trenches, it is hard to have a dialogue with the other side, because everything they say sounds like a threat or a trap to you. There is no room to consider what the other side is saying, because that would be letting your guard down. Now that home-schooling isn’t one of the core elements of my identity, it’s been easier to think objectively.

    • “Rebecca”

      I remember that pressure to come off as a good representative of homeschooling. In retrospect, I don’t think I did a very good job of that. I was closed-minded, a parrot of Christian fundamentalist crap, ignorant of pop culture and slang that my peers knew, and asocial if not downright anti-social sometimes. But at the time I felt quite self-righteous.

  • “Rebecca”

    There’s definitely a lot of personal defensiveness: Parents are likely to have to defend their homeschool decision to a lot of critics, like extended family, random strangers, and possibly even hostile public school representatives. So it’s probably way too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you must defend homeschooling, all homeschooling, no matter what. Not to mention the large contingency of homeschoolers whose homeschooling is part of a literal us vs. them culture war, who couldn’t care less about how shitty the homeschooling is as long as the kids aren’t in public school.

    It will be a happy day when the larger homeschooling movement realizes they need to start self-policing and keeping an eye out for negligent/abusive situations, or else they have no right to complain when the government steps in and starts beefing up regulations.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      It will be a happy day when the larger homeschooling movement realizes they need to start self-policing and keeping an eye out for negligent/abusive situations, or else they have no right to complain when the government steps in and starts beefing up regulations.

      I really don’t see that happening. Someone else needs to step in, they’re simply not going to do it themselves.

  • Sunny Day

    Maybe being taught how to take criticisms isn’t a skill being taught in the homeschool.

  • Christine

    I’m curious as to where the attitude of “regulating leads to banning” comes from. I can think of more things that went from unregulated to banned than regulated to banned.

    • machintelligence

      It is just the slippery slope fallacy. You hear it from the gun nuts all of the time. Registration leads to confiscation

      • Alice

        Yes, that was the first thing I thought of. Then the totally off the wall: “Oh noes!!! The sky is falling! If gay marriage is legalized then polygamists will want to get married, and then pet-owners will marry their dogs, and then pedophiles will marry children!”

        It’s a good question, I never thought about where the attitude comes from.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    I think the problem is also that over-regulation can lead to capricious or incompetent enforcement. Here in New York, for example, homeschooling is very tightly regulated. However, outside of the city where we have a central homeschool office (yes, there are that many of us), homeschool laws are often interpreted by local superintendents, who can be hostile to homeschoolers and interpret the laws to deliberately give homeschoolers a hard time.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Interestingly, there is some research to suggest that there is actually more trust between homeschool parents and local superintendents in states that have stricter regulations than in those without. The suggestion is that this is because when there is regular interaction between the two neither side views the other as the invisible nebulous “other.”

      • Conuly

        I would suggest that when there are strict and firm rules, everybody at least is aware of what the rules *are*, and if it is hard for you you at least know it isn’t the local authorities with a grudge against you.

  • machintelligence

    The answer to all of your “why” questions is that homeschooling may be thought of as a moral decision, and it isn’t right to criticize someone’s morals. This is the same pass that religion and “culture” claim. It is high time that we stopped treating topics like these as immune to criticism. As Steve Pinker put it: “The problem is too many morals, not too few.”

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      People who want to regulate homeschooling are also acting on their morals. Wanting to protect children and ensure that they have access to good education is a matter of morality. Saying that the problem is “too many morals” only plays into the idea that social conservatives are the ones with morals and the people challenging them are just amoral, anything-goes types. “Too many morals, not too few” is a very shallow understanding, which is about what I’d expect from Steven Pinker.

  • http://yeswesam.wordpress.com Sam

    My thoughts, based on the reactions I received from posting the Homeschoolers Anonymous article on my Facebook page are as follows: Why is it that talking about abuse is considered “attacking” the movement? And why are so many people’s first reactions to defend the movement, even to the point of denying or downplaying the abuse? It’s similar to those whose first reaction after a shooting is “Oh no, they’re going to take my guns away”. Saying “My experience wasn’t bad” is one thing… personally, mine was much better than some others I knew of as a child. But denying the existence of an underlying problem, and choosing to defend the image of the movement from the victims, rather than talking about how to improve the movement, is part of the problem.

    • David S.

      Talking about abuse is always hard. I can talk about the problems atheist groups have, like sexism and pseudo-skepticism, but I’d only bring it up on the Friendly Atheist if I were willing to take the guff. In mixed forums, it would depend on the level of ire, if I felt I could mention it comfortably mention it given the current discussing people. In openly religious forums, or in the eyes of the mass media, I’d probably try and minimize as much as I could and stay honest, and I suspect if I didn’t have the time or were too emotionally worked up to take the time I would not error on the side of honesty.

      Any self-identified group that doesn’t feel completely secure in society is going react defensively to such information. Homeschoolers have a particular problem since any solution is going to have to be imposed from above; there’s no way they can respond with in.

      • http://yeswesam.wordpress.com Sam

        That’s a good point, and as a former homeschooler, I remember being defensive. And, quite honestly, I understand a lot of the defensiveness. We grew up as “novelties” to the people we met. I was only 9 years old the first time a woman in the church nursery berated me for my mother’s decision to homeschool me, something over which I had no control. But being rationally defensive is one thing… taking the approach of assuming evil forces are at work is another thing entirely.

  • UrsulaL

    I suspect part of the problem is homeschooling parents fearing failure, and the consequences of failure.

    If there is any regulation, and the parents can’t get the kids to meet the established goals, then what happens?

    If parents aren’t managing to successfully homeschool, then at some point, someone needs to step in and offer help, and if the help doesn’t help, or if the parents don’t like the help, or won’t cooperate, what then? At some point, any practical regulation of homeschooling will have a point where someone has to have the power to tell parents “no, you are not successfully homeschooling, and you’ve had a chance to fix it and haven’t, and for the sake of your kids education, you can’t do it any more.”

    And being held, all by yourself, to a standard that a whole team of professionally trained teachers often can’t meet, is pretty intimidating.

  • http://bethclarkson.com Beth

    they don’t face accusations of being anti-public school, of just being bitter, of being angry at their parents, or of over-generalizing and calling all public schools universally bad. No one tries to silence them for “giving public schooling a bad reputation,”

    This isn’t true. I can vouch that discussions of bad experiences in public schools are typically met with such reactions (replace being angry at parents with being angry at a teacher) and if your link is an example of ‘silencing’, that happens too. I think it is a very human response to criticism no matter what group you identify with.

    • Conuly

      When I tell people about things I went through in school, they’re usually too polite to say to my face that they don’t believe me, however, many of them will pull out lines like “well, that doesn’t mean everybody’s experience was the same”. Six different schools between age 4 and age 19, but they’re willing to dismiss serious concerns about schools in my area because it didn’t personally happen to them. (And its worth noting that at every single school, the party line was “you’re not here to socialize, you’re here to learn” – and they meant it!)

      Some of the awful parts of my education are theoretically popular worries now – bullying, stultifying boredom, repetition (my middle school made us take first year Spanish three years in a row), excessive testing, lack of recess – but unless the person I’m speaking with went through it themselves, they insist I’m the exception.

      It isn’t true that you can complain about schools and be taken seriously. Not all the time.

      With that said, I actually looked up my state’s homeschooling regulations a while back as a favor for somebody. Despite the fact that people often seem to say we have strict regulations here, I found them quite reasonable – teach the same subjects kids learn in school, have the kid evaluated yearly (after fourth grade, at least once every two years has to be done by standardized test), make sure your kid is either on grade level or doing a years worth of work every year. It looks like it might be a bit of a nuisance with the paperwork, but it hardly seems as arduous as all that. They even give you a free bus pass if you ask! I don’t know why I’ve seen people complaining about it, and I do lurk sometimes on homeschool boards to find out the best options for tutoring the nieces after school.

      • Anat

        And its worth noting that at every single school, the party line was “you’re not here to socialize, you’re here to learn” – and they meant it!

        You are indeed not in school to socialize, you are there to be socialized, which is something completely different. You are there to learn both academics and acceptable social behaviors – behaviors that will carry on (with some modification) to the workplace.

      • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

        Yes, my favourite is “well that was just your school.” When I explain that I went to 7 schools in 3 different countries and all of them had the same weaknesses, it becomes “well you just had really bad luck.”

        Because, for a lot of people, school was really fun! They had friends, they had teachers they liked, they have positive memories. They may have some negative memories, but those are few. So they have an emotional attachment to that experience, all bound up with nostalgia, and I guess it feels like I’m attacking that. Thing is, there were plenty of kids who had really good times at my schools too, they just lived in different social strata. I’m sure that many of them have absolutely no idea what I and some others were going through, and remember their schools quite fondly.

        But yes, you are absolutely correct. I know that Libby Anne is reacting against the negativity she is receiving when talking about homeschools and I’m sure that it can seem, with all the press recently about school reform, that people talking about public schools don’t get the same thing. But we do. We definitely do.

      • Rae

        And although those are “strict” as far as regulations on homeschooling go, if the standardized test is take-home (as it was in the supposedly “strict” state where I was homeschooled) then there’s still absolutely *nothing* to prevent the parent from taking the test for the child and then just flat-out making everything else up. So while it’s regulated, it’s still not actually doing anything to ensure that the child is educated.

      • Conuly

        Maybe, anat, but neither I nor the children who bullied me were learning “appropriate social behavior”.

        Rae, I don’t know how the test is administered. If its not proctored then yes, obvious flaws are obvious :)

      • Rae

        Conuly: Yes, exactly. The tests didn’t have to be proctored. I heard most of the homeschoolers my parents knew, and large organizations like the HSLDA or maybe even Focus on the Family (or FRC?), strongly opposed any regulations that would require homeschooled students take standardized tests in a public school. They ranged from acting like their children would be stabbed or catch an STI simply from entering a public school building, to complaining about “government intrusion”, to acting like this was another plot by liberals to give child protective agencies opportunities to find excuses to remove children from Christian homes.

  • Rilian

    Reforming a school means reforming what they actually do in the schools. Reforming homeschooling sounds like it could mean going into people’s homes and micro managing what they do, as it would be with schools. But one reason for homeschooling is to avoid the micro managing because you believe it is harmful to your children.

  • Rilian

    Calling for restrictions on homeschooling is, it seems to me, not taboo, but actually mainstream. Most people seem to think that homeschooling is generally a bad idea and that the kids should have to pass standardized tests and their parents should have to be certified teachers. But that totally misses the point of homeschooling. The point is that people should not be standardized. And if you call for reform of schools to make them less evil, that is rather taboo. Most people want their kids beaten and miserable.

    • Nathaniel

      “Most people want their kids beaten and miserable.”

      If that’s really been you’re experience, I truly pity you.

    • Nathaniel

      “Most people want their kids beaten and miserable.”

      If that’s really been your experience, I truly pity you.

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      Yes, I’ve definitely found that to be true. There’s a lot of angry resistance from homeschoolers, but the mainstream has been very much anti-homeschool for about as long as I can remember. Remember, homeschooled kids are “weird.”

      • AnonaMiss

        Homeschool kids are “weird” because they’re unusual, which is undeniable. Not all – and in fact I suspect only a few – people who think homeschool kids are weird, are against homeschooling.

        As a person who has been weird all my life (though without homeschooling), I understand that being called weird can feel like an attack, but someone thinking you’re weird doesn’t mean they’re against what makes you weird.

        Trust me, if the majority of the country were against homeschooling, it would be illegal already.

    • Alice

      “The point is that people should not be standardized.”

      I can empathize with a parent’s desire to create a curriculum that fits the needs and interests of their children. Public-schools can be too cookie-cutter sometimes, and home-schooling does allow for flexibility, customization, and freedom. However, there are still some basic educational standards that all children will have to be able to meet when they grow up or it will be nearly impossible for them to function in society (make a living, go to college, handle everyday tasks). Reading, writing, and arithmetic for starters. There are accounts of home-schoolers whose parents never taught them how to read. Parents could very well decide their daughter is going to be a housewife and mother, and doesn’t need to learn much of anything besides how to do household chores. Never mind what the child needs or wants. These are extreme cases, but they do happen. There needs to be a basic level of standards. Home-school families can fulfill basic state standards and still have the freedom to customize a curriculum for their children and be flexible.

  • http://Love,Joy,Feminism Northstar

    Ok, against my better judgment I’ll weigh in. Perhaps I’m not the best spokesperson for the subject; it IS an emotional one for me, nor am I immune to the hurt of being ripped on, even by strangers, who don’t know me or my life, and don’t know my kids. But I can, at least shed light on why I feel the way I do; at least until or unless the responses devolve into insult and lurid insinuation. Then I’ll have to back out; it upsets me too much and I have better things to do this week, like building a geodesic dome out of newspaper with my 9 year old or volunteering at the library — the usual “nightmare scenarios” of homeschooling life.

    I think Libby Anne is right; I know about 200 secular homeschooling families and enjoy online secular homeschooling associations that I don’t meet with IRL, and I’d say I could count the number of them who are fine with more regulation on one hand. This is not to say we don’t see there can be problems with homeschooling, but a lot of those problems do seem to be associated with the excessive religiosity of some homeschoolers more than the educational method itself. We do see the bad experiences of these young people as perfectly valid to express — and they have our sympathy.

    I hope it’s possible to see that there could be more of a motivation for not wanting more regulation than pure selfishness; we on the other side of the divide really might have a point that you’re not picking up on. And it’s this, simply this: we don’t think more regulation will solve the problems that exist, and that the regulations often proposed will impede our ability to be good homeschoolers.

    Look at your own family, Libby Anne: would any regulation that your parents came under convinced them that they should teach you about evolution? That patriarchy is an idea destructive on so many levels? Or that purity culture is stupid and backwards? Would it have made any difference at all?

    Would someone “checking in” occasionally really stop abusers? Does it stop abuse in, say, foster care systems now? Or would it just make life harder for homeschoolers? I’m not a libertarian, but I take my civil liberties very seriously. I don’t like the idea of being monitored like a parolee. I don’t like the idea of someone coming into my house to pass judgment on what I do — especially someone from a school system that sees me as competition.

    And then I look at how more regulation would effect my family. I have one daughter, who somehow nailed her SATs to the point that 3 Ivys so far have been in personal contact. Blew away her first 3 SAT II’s, including an 800 (perfect score ) in Biology. So, am I a good teacher/parent? I have another daughter, different abilities, different mind set, and severe dyslexia. Two years behind in science; 8th grade but spells like a third grader. So am I a bad teacher/parent? What would their tests say? Do they give an accurate picture?Yet regulations about failing these tests are ones that could literally separate my kids from their family. Can you imagine the amount of stress that would put on us? On my daughter… to be “good enough?” (And accommodations are not the issue; I am conversant with disability law. It’s the testing itself that’s the problem.)

    And above it all, I don’t want testing to define how and what I do. Nor do I use a curriculum, or a plan for the year, month or week. Oh, I could make up something to hand in, I’m sure, but if I could so easily thwart their efforts, what difference would it make?

    So there you have it. I hope it makes sense even if you don’t agree.

    • Lizzy

      So as a homeschool parent, what do you suggest be done to address abuses committed by other homeschool parents and to insure that all children receive a baseline education?

    • ako

      This is very informative. Among other things, I see where areas of disagreement are. (I used to work with abused children, and in many of the abuse cases two things were true; there were a number of smaller warning signs of a potential problem which were visible to any outside adults taking an interest in the family, and the abusers did an imperfect job of covering up their abuse, so having someone else around taking even a basic professional interest in the kid greatly increased the chances that someone would discover the abuse and intervene to stop it. For that reason, I’m inclined to believe that while effective regulation of homeschooling won’t eliminate child abuse, it will reduce it. Many abusers are not master criminals, and without the opportunity to isolate their child, they do slip up.)

    • http://www.carpescriptura.com/ MrPopularSentiment

      I agree completely with you as far as testing goes. I think that the most important thing to look at as far as academics goes is ‘What happens in the case of failure?’ If you homeschool, I assume that would mean that the child would be sent to public school, correct? So what happens in cases where the public schools are failing kids academically? Do they get sent to homeschool?

      Someone mentioned homeschooled kids who are not being taught to read. One of the major scandals in the North American public education system at the moment is the number of kids who are making it to the high school level, and some even graduating out, without having learned literacy. And don’t get me started on “controversial topics” like evolution or basic sexual health.

      And not all of it has to do with children who have disabilities that the schools are failing to accommodate, either. We had a profile on executive level professionals in my city who struggled with reading as children and, instead of being brought up to speed by teachers, were just dragged along by the current of the curriculum and never caught up. These are smart people who learned how to cover up their illiteracy and are doing very well at their jobs by most standards, yet were never taught that basic skill.

      Right now, it seems that the strategy in the US for handling schools that are doing poor jobs of educating children is to cut their funding, which makes total sense *eye roll* In my experience, where I have had gaps in my education or where I’ve struggled to learn something, the solution was just to threaten to hold me back a year if I didn’t get the material, and to shuffle me on to the next level if I managed to get enough of the material to pass the year as a whole even if I have gaps (and a pass is only 50-60% depending on the school district). As a result of moving around and having bad teachers, I have several gaps in my education that were never filled – some of them pretty basic. For example, I was never formally taught how to do long division.

      So yeah, talk of regulation is all fine, but the idea that it should be done through testing seems to fall short in two ways: a) Standardized testing is what has so broken schools recently, this would require that parents ‘teach the test’ at the expense of actually teaching information, something that many parents these days have chosen homeschool specifically to get away from. And b) It does nothing to ensure that a child will actually get a better education. If the parents chose to homeschool because they live in a really bad school district and they fail their first test because they are still playing catch up, they end up right back in the school system that failed them in the first place and have no way out. That hardly seems fair.

      As for “site visits” for homeschoolers, I guess it makes sense in principle, but it seems to be treating all homeschooled families as abuse situations waiting to happen. Home visits is not something that is required of all parents, and even though I know the reasoning behind making a special case for homeschoolers who may not have much access to adults outside of their immediate family, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of treating any citizen/resident as a “criminal in waiting” until there’s some good evidence that something is actually happening.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        As for “site visits” for homeschoolers, I guess it makes sense in principle, but it seems to be treating all homeschooled families as abuse situations waiting to happen. Home visits is not something that is required of all parents, and even though I know the reasoning behind making a special case for homeschoolers who may not have much access to adults outside of their immediate family, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of treating any citizen/resident as a “criminal in waiting” until there’s some good evidence that something is actually happening.

        We require people to pass home visits before letting them adopt, don’t we? How would having home visits for those who want to school their children at home be all that different? Or is requiring home visits for prospective adoptive parents treating them as “criminals in waiting”?

  • butterfly5906

    Not relevant to this post, but I read an article about evangelicals adopting international children you might be interested in reading or responding to:

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/christian-evangelical-adoption-liberia?page=1

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Thanks! I came upon this earlier today and plan to write a post about it, but I’ve been super busy!

  • Rilian

    People always bring up teaching to read. No one taught me how to read. I figured it out on my own. So did my brother. So did my friend Katy. I don’t believe that you can teach someone to read. It’s as futile as teaching someone to speak or walk. You can give help, but reading is a skill that, if it is to be attained at all, must be attained by the individual. I wonder if you can really teach anyone anything. But you can help. Homeschooling, to me, is about freedom for the child, not for the parent.

    • Anat

      You mean you opened a book and out of the blue you knew what the words meant? Or did someone ever read to you, point out words?

      I think you are using a very narrow or distorted meaning of ‘teach’. Showing someone how to do something may count as teaching them a skill. Sometimes giving them a set of instructions to follow may count as teaching them a skill (if the instructions are detailed enough for the initial ability of the learner). With a less experienced learner and a more complex skill teaching may involve breaking a skill down to parts that can be learned separately before combining to the complex skill – whether it’s learning individual elements of a gymnastics routine or learning to sound out letters.

    • UrsulaL

      Some people do figure out some of the skills of reading on their own. Particularly if they are often read to in a way that involves sitting next to the adult reading, as the adult points to the words in the text as they are read.

      But not everyone figures out reading in that way. My father, who is very intelligent, and has a PhD in chemistry, had a difficult time picking up the basic reading skills, and remembers fondly a boy in his class who sat down with him and explicitly explained which sounds went with which letters, so that he could sound out words.

      Just because some people can figure out a skill with minimal instruction is no reason to avoid instruction for everyone, and hope that everyone will figure things out on their own. Learning from experience sounds good in theory, but a word to the wise is often sufficient. And more efficient than expecting everyone to re-invent the wheel on their own.

    • Alice

      I agree. If a child was growing up alone on a desert island with books, they could not figure it out if they had never been read to before.
      My parents put an enormous amount of time and effort into teaching me how to read, even though we had good curriculum. I’ve read many stories about unschoolers teaching themselves to read, and in many cases they learned years later than their peers, which was not a problem for them, but it would not have worked for my family. My mother was very busy, so I needed to be able to read schoolbooks and do most of the work on my own from a young age. But they were very patient with me, and I didn’t feel pressured. However, there were several other home-schoolers in our church, and two of them could barely read until they were in middle school. I don’t think they were unschooled, but I’m not sure.

      On the last point: Right or wrong, practically speaking, home-schooling is all about the parents’ freedom because children only get as much freedom as their parents will allow them to have, and a substantial number of home-schooling parents (certainly not all of them) believe that children should have no say at all. Libby Anne and one of her guest contributors wrote posts about this a while back:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/04/homeschooling-a-force-for-liberation-or-a-force-for-oppression.html
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/02/homeschool-regulations-and-childrens-rights.html

      When the issue of laws and rights is discussed, I have often heard “A parent’s right/freedom to educate as they choose” and cannot remember hearing something like “A child’s right/freedom to have the option of being home-schooled instead of being forced to go to a terrible public or private school.” That may just be my experience.

      I certainly don’t believe that children or the government should have the absolute power instead of the home-schooling parents, but there needs to be some kind of checks and balances to help protect children from the minority of home-school parents that would abuse and neglect them (including educational neglect).

  • David S.

    That people should not be standardized is not the “point” of homeschooling. People homeschool for many reasons, and it’s pretty clear that many of them would be happy if everyone was a patriarchal Christian or otherwise follow their beliefs.

    Standardization is also a complex thing. It’s so limiting for anything, but every one hates when their things don’t work together. We as a society don’t want people who can’t read instructions, who can’t do math. We don’t want people electing our politicians who don’t know how our political system works, who don’t know the history of how it got that way.

    If homeschoolers were willing to put up bonds for the money it would take to support their children if they can’t handle the outside world, there would still be moral questions about bringing up children unprepared to live in the world they will have to live in.

    It’s less then convincing when you tell us all about how your world should not be standardized, and yet want to talk about reform (standardization) of the schools. If “most people want their kids beaten and miserable”, and said people who homeschool can’t be interfered with, why should we interfere with those who public school?

    Arguments from freedom have that double-edged sword. Those rights you would give yourself, you may not take from others.

    • Rilian

      Giving people more freedom and not hitting them is not standardization.

      • David S.

        Note that #53 was meant as a response to #42.
        If by “people” and “them” you mean students, then yes, giving them more freedom and not hitting them is a significant limitation on the styles of teaching and punishment you can use. The “not hitting them” part is a serious objection of many homeschoolers, who wildly object to the state telling them they can’t hit their children.

  • saramaimon

    libby anne, it really depends on who you are talking to. i really thonk the diehard homeschool fanaticcs are a fringe, just a very vocal one. i agree with sentiment that homeschooling is viewed suspiciously by the mainstream- although not enough for people to really give a damn because,they don’t view it as something that affects them. perhaps that is why there is no strong countervoice to the fanatics.

  • Christine

    I think this comment thread is actually a really good illustration of the phenomenon. Libby says “regulation”. Rilian hears “the government gets to dictate teaching style, curriculum, standards, etc. Northstar hears “if your children do not pass these tests then they will be forced to go to public school.” This really makes me question how much is HSLDA and their ilk – if I can define “regulation” as meaning “homeschool is exactly like public school”, then you can’t say “regulation” and get a discussion. If no one ever discusses, then everyone will be terrified of regulation. If everyone’s terrified of regulation, then of course they will support you in your “protect poor homeschoolers from evil regulations” business.

    One of the linked blogs in the OP had some very interesting allegations against the HSLDA – basically that they have had a hand in creating some of the worst homeschooling regulations, which would make sense given the need for them to create a need for their continued existence. It would also support my above theory.

  • Rilian

    School is such a crazy idea. It eats up at least 13 years of your life. I want not to have done it. And I see other people are miserable and destroyed by it. It should not exist. It’s not that people shouldn’t take lessons here and there, it’s not that some people couldn’t love doing that. It’s the whole standardized system that shouldn’t exist.
    I am not only speaking about it from a parent’s perspective. I don’t have a kid yet. I’m talking about it from the child’s perspective. How can someone else know what I “need” to know? It’s my life. It’s up to me if I need to know anything about chemistry, if I need to know how to write down even 1+1=2, if I need to know how to read at all. It’s up to me if I need to speak, if I need to walk. Whatever I choose to pursue, it’s for my own reasons and my own satisfaction.
    But our parents put us in this factory, that tries to make us like robots. They give us gold stars and A’s and F’s and we come to believe that what they want is what is to be wanted, and we crave their approval and fear their disapproval. I cried the first time I got an F on a report card. It was when I was 15. But why should I cry? Why should I care? It was a subject I didn’t care about. I got that F because I didn’t care about the subject and didn’t do very much on the assignments. I didn’t care that I didn’t know the subject, but I’d been trained to react negatively to F’s. I even came to hate reading by the time I was 16 because of all the reading I was “required” to do, even though I had loved reading all kinds of books before that. Sit here, look at this. Don’t move. No, you can’t eat, you can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t have a drink of water. Watch this, no matter how boring you find it. This misery, and destruction of learning, is what I want to avoid for the kids I plan on having.
    The way some people do homeschooling, it’s just as bad. Or worse. I didn’t see it, though. I was in a homeschooling organization, and most people in it were not homeschooling for religious reasons, and the kids chose their own books to study from. Telling the kid they *have* to use books like that is not good, but I would allow them. I use books like Teach Yourself Romanian and stuff, but that might be because I’m still sick and broken from all those years on the assembly line.
    Freedom, that’s the point. Freedom for the child, not for the parent. Other people may do homeschooling for different reasons, but freedom for the child is my point, no matter how you achieve it.
    Also this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUoYAj7Nosg or search “scary school nightmare” on youtube.

    • Nea

      It’s my life. It’s up to me if I need to know anything about chemistry, if I need to know how to write down even 1+1=2, if I need to know how to read at all. It’s up to me if I need to speak, if I need to walk. Whatever I choose to pursue, it’s for my own reasons and my own satisfaction.

      The ultimate libertarianism! It doesn’t matter that you can be cheated, manipulated, and abused by anyone who chooses to take advantage of your illiteracy and innumeracy, as long as you, personally, are satisfied.

      • Christine

        And if you are in poverty or abused because you never had basic life skills, it’s clearly your own fault for, as a child, choosing to not learn them.

      • Rilian

        If you choose to have a child, you are accepting the responsibility to care for them until they are able to care for themselves, regardless of how or when they come to that. You can and should help them towards self-sufficiency. Everyone wants to be self-sufficient.

      • Rilian

        Do you know everything? If there’s anything you don’t know that ever comes up in your life, someone could take advantage of you. Eliminating the monster of school is part of working towards a peaceful society where people don’t do shit like that to each other.

      • Nea

        Rilian,

        Schooling is how people give their children the education they need to become self-sufficient. You have yet to present any facts otherwise, although I do note the goalposts shifting madly the moment the obvious problem with your original “for my own reasons, for my satisfaction only” attitude was pointed out.

        As for your attempt to flip my argument back on me – nice try, but no cigar. Nobody knows *everything* of course. But if you’re living life at all, it’s not a question of whether new concepts will “ever” come into it, it’s all about how you’ll handle things when new topics *inevitably* come into it. Because I neither consider schooling monsterous nor insist that everything I must do comes with a 100% satisfaction-in-learning guarantee, I am calmly confident that I will, as always, be able to learn what I need to know in order to understand these new concepts and prevent people from taking advantage of me. After all, weighing logical, moral, and ethical arguments for and against a topic is an extremely basic life lesson.

        Mind you, it requires a person to acknowledge that other people have reasons and find satisfaction outside of their own.

        As for eliminating schooling to bring a peaceful society… cite your sources. Especially considering that you are trying to hold/derail this conversation on a post that discusses the problems surrounding a group that HAS eliminated schooling, and yet is nowhere near creating “a peaceful society where people don’t do shit like that to each other.”

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      F’s are bad not because we’ve invested so much meaning in them, but because they mean you’ve failed to demonstrate proficiency at something. You don’t get to decide what you need to learn in order to be a contributing member of society- you’d pick wrong. Every single person in this country, in order to contribute fully, needs to know how to read and write. They need to know basic arithmetic. They should understand how our government works and what their civic responsibilities are. They should have a basic understanding of human sexuality and reproduction. They should have a basic understanding of economics. They need to know what science is and isn’t, and the basics of how our planet works. They need to know some history. A bit of philosophy, political theory, and sociology is good too. Why do people need to know this all this in order to be full contributing members of society? They vote. We vote. We pick our leaders based on their policy positions, and we can’t evaluate those policy positions unless we have a basic grasp on the world around us.

      The subject you didn’t care enough about to do the work on it and pass? That was probably something you needed to know. I didn’t particularly care for high school biology, but I did the work and learned it anyway, because all knowledge is worth having. Freedom does not mean the freedom to fuck other people over with your ignorance. When you live in a society, you have obligations to that society, and one of those is ensure everyone has access to education. Not propaganda, not indoctrination, but education. The denigration of a well-rounded education in the US continues to astound and sadden me.

      • Rilian

        https://www.facebook.com/notes/chelsea-marie-saunders/response-to-a-comment-from-lovejoyfeminism/10151309396335927
        I think you can see this item since I made it public.

        –F’s are bad not because we’ve invested so much meaning in them, but because they mean you’ve failed to demonstrate proficiency at something. –

        They do mean that you’ve failed to demonstrate proficiency at something. But it wasn’t the lack of proficiency that I was upset by, it was the F itself. The fact that someone gave me an F doesn’t mean anything important. I could come up to you and demand that you jump rope and if you don’t I could give you an F, but you probably wouldn’t care.

        –You don’t get to decide what you need to learn in order to be a contributing member of society- you’d pick wrong.–

        I’d guess wrong at what other people want me to do? Perhaps. But that’s irrelevant. Other people do not own me. I own myself. A person’s value is not in their contribution to others. A person is their own end. What I do with my life is my choice. I am not obligated to contribute to society.

        I *do* need, actually need, to find some way to support myself, so that I don’t starve to death or anything. How I do that is my choice and is for my own benefit or for whatever benefits *I* choose. It’s none of your business and none of society’s business. (Unless I’m infringing on someone else’s rights, duh.)

        – Every single person in this country, in order to contribute fully, needs to know how to read and write. –

        You don’t know. I’d agree that most people would stand to gain something from knowing how to read and write. Most people would also stand to gain something from being fluent in multiple languages. But obtaining such skills requires effort, and whether it’s worth the effort is subjective and is up to the individual. There could be a person to whom it’s not worth it. They’d probably have a very different life from the kind you have. But you can’t assume from that that their life is worse.

        –They need to know basic arithmetic. –

        People *do* know arithmetic. What they might not know is how to write it down in the standardized way. That way of writing things is not math itself, as this writing is not the sounds of english themselves, and as the sounds we used to communicate are not the thoughts themselves.

        –They should understand how our government works and what their civic responsibilities are. They should have a basic understanding of human sexuality and reproduction. They should have a basic understanding of economics. They need to know what science is and isn’t, and the basics of how our planet works. They need to know some history. A bit of philosophy, political theory, and sociology is good too. –

        Jesus, those are a lot of requirements. Was there philosophy, political theory and sociology in your high school?

        –Why do people need to know this all this in order to be full contributing members of society? They vote. We vote. We pick our leaders based on their policy positions, and we can’t evaluate those policy positions unless we have a basic grasp on the world around us.–

        Oh. Well. I understand then why you’d be worried about it. But voting is tyranny. The majority could vote that everyone has to eat hamburgers or that one individual should be killed.
        Anyway, my personal experience indicates that freedom leads to better education, to a more knowledgeable person. If standardization is so great, then why are all those people who can’t read graduating from high school?

        –The subject you didn’t care enough about to do the work on it and pass? That was probably something you needed to know. –

        No, it wasn’t. Anyway, I did pass the class. I failed one six-weeks. I think I got a C or a B in the class over-all. The only class I ever failed in K-12 school was technical theatre arts, and that one I was trying really hard and getting lots of help from the teacher and from my mom and the teacher gave me a passing grade that I did not earn. And I haven’t needed anything that I was required to study in high school. Nothing. The class where I failed one six-weeks was US history/literature. It has never been relevant to my life. However, I like learning languages, so that’s relevant to my life, because I like it and I like to make use of it.

        –I didn’t particularly care for high school biology, but I did the work and learned it anyway, because all knowledge is worth having. –

        1) So you (seek to) know everything? There’s not a single topic or bit of information you don’t find worth your time to investigate?
        2) How has that information been relevant to your life? Did you become a biologist or something?

        –Freedom does not mean the freedom to fuck other people over with your ignorance. –

        I am not an EMT. Perhaps one day someone will be injured in front of me and I won’t be able to help them and the EMT’s won’t get their in time. So then it’s my fault that person dies?

        –When you live in a society, you have obligations to that society, and one of those is ensure everyone has access to education. –

        I disagree. You don’t have obligations to other people. Other people don’t own you. All you have to do is respect their rights over their own bodies. When you live in a society, you have to deal with the fact that other people are there. You can’t expect to be able to walk unimpeded wherever you go, because other people exist. But to say that you have to not attack other people is rather different from saying you have to give them things.

        Everyone having access to education is a noble thing to pursue. If you want to do that out of the goodness of your heart, great! I’ll help if I can. But the standardization and the government schools are not doing that. They’re not providing education, they’re *requiring indoctrination*.

        –Not propaganda, not indoctrination, but education. The denigration of a well-rounded education in the US continues to astound and sadden me.–

        Education is a nice goal. But if you force it on people, you’re infringing on their rights and also it will probably cease to be education. People cannot be forced to learn.

        Who are you to decide what is “well-rounded”? (I bet there are things you don’t know that other people consider very important.) (Who are you to decided exactly what and how much of each subject a person should know?) Who are you to decide what other people be “required” to know or to study? If a person wants to study only one subject a lot, that’s their business. If they can get satisfaction (including not starving, etc) out of life that way, good for them. You are free to not interact with them, if it bothers you so much.

        The well-rounded thing, I feel like I have more to say on this, but I can’t find the right words. Every person has their own idea about what “everyone” should know. There are too many subjects and too much in each subject to get 7000000000 people to agree on this.

        (Also, speaking of well-rounded, why is it that university “core requirements” are all full of humanities shit? How is that well-rounded? Who are these people who choose the core and how do they pick it?)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        It’s late and I’ll do a long reply later. For now, I’ll respond to a few things.

        1) Yes I want to know everything. Obviously that’s not possible, but I’ve looked into how solar panels work and how cars work and what the Higgs boson is and the merits of deontological deconstruction of texts and the organic basis of many mental illnesses and voting systems and sociology and a great many other random subjects. I’m no expert in any of them, but I try to know something about them all. Knowing a little bit about a lot of things means I can draw connections between many disparate subjects and understand the world around me just a little better.
        2) Yes, basic biology has been important to my life. I couldn’t understand any of the scientific papers/abstracts I read without the little bit of biology and little bit more chemistry I have from high school. I wouldn’t understand evolution even to the limited extent I do without high school biology, which means my understanding of the world would be much more limited and thus my ability to reject religion in favor of reality would be lessened.

        As for cores- they have both humanities and sciences. My core requirement in school was 9 hours of science (including 4 hours of lab), 6 hours history, 6 hours math, 3 hours literature, and 3 hours foreign language. Maybe another 3-6 hours in there somewhere. It’s skewed somewhat towards the humanities, but that’s a fairly hefty math and science requirement as well.

      • Nea

        I agree wholeheartedly with your whole comment, but the devil in me is making me add this:

        The subject you didn’t care enough about to do the work on it and pass? That was probably something you needed to know

        To be honest, the only F I ever got was because I couldn’t get a punch card program to work in math, and I’ve never seen another punch card since.

        Back to the serious side, I didn’t think I needed geometry or algebra, and then I started quilting and knitting… (I hear that some schools actually use those crafts to give the math a real-world tie.)

      • David S.

        Ah, a libertarian. Screw society, you’re not responsible to them at all, I guess. If there just weren’t so many libertarians on welfare and social security.

        I can’t imagine a job where you don’t need to read and write. Even if you can find one, I don’t know how you can set up your 401K, figure out your taxes, and do all the other stuff modern life needs without reading and writing.

        Your assumption that people know arithmetic is silly; many people have a hard time calculating 20% tip on 154.83 and splitting it 12 ways. That’s a real life use of the skill. And the system may not be math, but it is essential to doing math. Multiplication and division are nigh impossible using Roman numerals. The right tools are invaluable.

        And the people we’re talking about are children. If you could somehow sell your knowledge of something, literally removing it from mind, that would be your choice. But you’re saying that we should be okay with children not learning anything, which is what completely unregulated homeschooling means for some children. Not of their own choice, but because their parents are too lazy to teach them, or don’t think they need to know the subject for the life their parents are trying to force them into.

        Note that we aren’t talking about the rights of the child; homeschoolers were behind the thrust to reject the UN Treaty on Child Rights. We’re talking about the rights of the parents to dictate what the child will learn.

      • Anat

        Also to Rilian:

        If you really believe you have no obligations to other people, just pack up and go live on a desert island. As long as you are living within a civilized society you damn well owe members of society plenty.

  • Rilian

    It’s not goal post shifting, it’s me trying to express myself in imperfect language.

  • swimr1

    “I’d guess wrong at what other people want me to do? Perhaps. But that’s irrelevant. Other people do not own me. I own myself. A person’s value is not in their contribution to others. A person is their own end. What I do with my life is my choice. I am not obligated to contribute to society.”

    Wow. So glad the people in Boston who went running to the aid of the bombing victims didn’t think this way. Glad many of them had the tenacity and mental toughness to sit through years and years of classes they often may not have liked in order to obtain medical training so they could save lives.

    • Nea

      THIS! And not just the medics, either. I found out yesterday about the “Tough Ruck” – the subsection of the Boston Marathon consisting of veterans quick-marching in full gear, including stocked rucksacks. It meant that when things started blowing up, there were fully trained and equipped people able to mobilize in an instant to clear debris, retrieve the injured, and make the area safe for the medical staff.

      I can guarantee that none of them found boot camp 100% personally satisfying – that’s hardly the point of boot camp! But the standardized training they’d been forced through was exactly what was needed at the time.

  • Camilla

    I think of homeschooling (for my family) as a last resort. It’s something I would willingly do if something went wrong at school that we couldn’t fix or tolerate, but not otherwise. With that context for it, I find the idea of regulating it more upsetting – because I’m imagining that if I were homeschooling, I’d be coming at it from the position of having just lost some battle to protect my child, and the regulatory requirements would feel like insult to injury.
    That’s a self-centered viewpoint, but I think it’s natural to ask, “how would this affect me?” and the answer is that I wouldn’t be the super-organized home-schooler… I’d be the home-schooler trying to patch together a year or a term in safety while we looked for a better option.

    • Things1to3

      We went through this situation two years ago. My son was at the public school and I’d done everything I could to volunteer, offer to help the teacher, explore transfers, but nothing worked and he was falling further and further behind as I tried one thing after another with the schools. I decided to homeschool, like you said, patching together a year looking for a better option. I was amazed and appalled at how easy it was to register. I registered online, and that was it. Nothing more. How hard would it have been to lie on that webpage? No one verified anything. I have to submit more information to get a loan, or a bank account, or to vote than I had to registering my kid to homeschool. For the rest of the year I kept thinking, who is keeping me accountable? Does anyone care that my kid just fell off the map? If I screw this up, how will I even know?

  • Anat

    To Rilian:
    Schooling is not just about learning work-place-relevant skills. It is also about how to become an informed citizen. It is society’s business that you become one, even if you don’t care. Due to the history of racism there is no chance that registering to vote would be dependent on passing a test. And informed citizenship is important in more places than the voting station.

    As for arithmetic – no, most people do not know it without actually learning. Many people don’t realize addition and multiplication are commutative and associative unless it is pointed out to them and shown in examples and models. Without being taught most people don’t know how to multiply two sums of two quantities without missing bits (and this applies to multiplying two-digit numbers or mixed numbers or algebraic binomials – it’s all done the same way).

    The basics of political science get taught in history and civics. Basics of economy and sociology get taught in geography and history. In my daughter’s school these topics get expanded on in elective social science classes.

    Your claim that voting is tyranny (of the majority, presumably) shows a failure of understanding the basics of democracy. In a democracy there are limits to the power of the majority. In the US version of democracy these limits are set by the constitution and by the courts as they interpret the constitution.

    In my state people who can’t read are prevented from graduating from high school. And soon people who can’t do 10th grade math won’t be able to graduate either.

    You show extreme lack of self-awareness in your claims about the uselessness of what you learned. If you still live in the US then knowing its history should inform the way you handle matters of social impact, including homeschooling. Knowing the literature and history of the country you live in is important to form a common culture and a common basis for discourse among the citizens.

    I’m not M, but I’d say that making choices about one’s lifestyle and making choices that impact the environment should be informed by knowledge of biology. And we all do these things (though not all of us are aware that they do).

    You complain a lot about ‘standardization’, but the standards are just the basics. In a half-decent school there are plenty of options to expand beyond the standards.


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