“There Was No Accountability”

I was recently talking to a new friend of mine, a young woman named Sarah who grew up homeschooled in the same state I did. We were talking about things like co-ops and curriculum when she admitted something.

“You know, I never actually studied science.”

“But how?” I asked.

“There was no accountability,” she responded, shrugging.

I nodded. She was right—the state we grew up in has no subject requirements or assessments, and no registration requirement.

“We had the Apologia textbooks but we never did them,” she went on. “Mom would invoke unschooling, but she was just using that as an excuse. She meant well, it’s just that there was no accountability.”

One common response to the idea that there should be some oversight of homeschooling is that parents can be trusted to educate their own children and want the best for them. The problem with this is that accountability isn’t something only bad people need. It’s something good people often need too. Can you imagine going to work without having anything at all to ensure that you actually do what’s in the job description? Sure, in those circumstances there are some people who would still do everything they were supposed to, but there are lots of people who would slack off. Accountability isn’t a bad thing and it’s not something to be afraid of.

Another response is that oversight of homeschooling wouldn’t do anything because bad parents would just find ways around the law or ignore it entirely. This response assumes that the problem is limited to “bad parents.” I asked Sarah if she thought some requirements and assessments would have made a difference in her situation, and she responded in the affirmative. “My mom isn’t a bad person,” she assured me. “She’s just the kind of person who needs accountability. If there had been some sort of assessment, she would have made sure we actually made it through those textbooks and learned those things.”

I don’t understand why understanding these concepts is so hard, especially when the homeschoolers I grew up among were among the fastest to argue in favor of—and talk about the importance of—accountability.

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.

  • Machintelligence

    parents can be trusted to educate their own children and want the best for them

    Now if we could all agree on the meaning of “best” the problem would be well on the way to being solved. Far too many belief systems depend on the enforced ignorance of children.

  • KristinMuH

    You’d think more homeschooling parents would WANT some kind of external structure. Parenting is daunting enough without having to worry that you’ve accidentally forgotten to teach your kid an entire subject.

    • Renee

      Oh, they don’t forget- they just don’t bother, and don’t think it’s important. Some actively ignore subjects that don’t fir their beliefs systems.
      (I do agree that structure would help. I can’t imagine having to tackle it all alone either!)

    • Seeker

      Newly-retired homeschool mom (my child is off to college in the fall). There are some homeschool parents who want structure and accountability, but my experience has been that we’re few and far between. There are a number of secular homeschool curricula out there that offer structure and pedagogically-sound learning while still offering a choice for the student (for example, World Literature vs. Major British Authors vs. Creative Writing for an English credit and Geography vs. American Gov’t vs. World History for a Social Studies credit). These companies offer actual teachers to grade tests and essays and provide assistance if needed. Their programs are accredited, meaning their curricula is evaluated by a separate authority and a graduate of their program has a valid diploma accepted by any college, military, or public service (fire and police depts).

      It’s entirely possible to get a rigorous, valid education through homeschool. Many families don’t choose that path, but it’s entirely possible.

      • Anat

        You mean it is an acceptable choice to do World History but not Geography? Or Geography but not Government? That doesn’t come across as a sound curriculum to me. My daughter just did geography for 9th grade, will do world history for 10th, US history for 11th and civics for the first half of 12th. Of course much better than missing on the entire area of study.

      • Seeker

        No, I meant that the child has a choice of when to take a class. My college sophomore (we used community college to satisfy some high school requirements) had American Gov’t one year and Geography the next and World History the third. The order they were taken was up to the child, as long as the classes got taken.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    We basically skipped literature my entire childhood. I did science through 9th grade, then stopped because I wasn’t self-motivated in that area to teach it to myself, and my parents were either too busy, or in my mom’s case, we did not get along. yes, we need accountability too.

    • Alice

      I read some great literature for school growing up, but the point was almost always to learn about history or a particular culture. I wasn’t taught how to analyze literature. Also, I didn’t read hardly any of the books that most middle schoolers and high schoolers read, so I was behind other students in college.

      • Jayn

        Yeah, that hit me kind of hard in college too. We didn’t skip analysing the works, but we never really did it ourselves–most of the analysis I did in school was just regurgitating what the teacher told us. And then I went into a program where most of the first year was based on that skill. I picked up quickly enough, at least, but I had a “I am NOT prepared for this’ experience. (I think it helped that most of what we did was straight up philosophy–meaning wasn’t buried in allegory that much)

      • Alice

        Yes, I don’t think it would have been a big deal if I had stuck with my original major, because almost all majors at my university only had to take one lower-level literature course. But then I changed my major to English at a tough school so the lack of literary analysis and academic writing skills was suddenly a major obstacle. When I graduate in the fall, I am going to CELEBRATE!!

  • persephone

    The phrases “(s)he meant well” and (s)he isn’t a bad person” are triggering for me. These is so much baggage behind what seem to be innocuous comments.

    • Olive Markus

      I’m sorry you had to go through something like that :(.

      I was trained to use this exact phrasing as excuses for my abusive ex, as were others. I usually believed it, too, and was even expressing it for nearly a year after I left him. Maybe more. I even remember as I was in the process of getting a restraining order, that I told somebody he was “deep-down” a good guy. Yuck. That makes me sick to my stomach. Then I slowly started waking up.

      Interestingly, (and I apologize about being somewhat off-topic) Catholics use this exact line of thinking to excuse the church and priests for the abuse of children (and other atrocities). Replace “(s)he” with “The Church”, and there you have it. It seems to be a common trait abusers have that allows them to paint this picture of themselves (and that others develop of them) as “well-intentioned” and “the victim” and “the good guy.” It’s extraordinary.

      • Jayn

        Yeah, the phrase is pretty roll-eyes inducing around here too. It really comes back to the ‘intent isn’t magic’ principle for me, even in cases where there isn’t actual abuse going on (as is the case in a situation close to me). It doesn’t matter if a person means well when ze is consistently making the same bad moves and consistently hurting the people around hir. Even if I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt, I’m not going to ignore the actual pain that was caused by that person, intent be damned.

      • travelerks

        You are so right, Olive. My mom used to make those excuses when My dad abused us, and then years later I found myself making the same excuses for my abusive husband. Fortunately, I came to see the light eventually and got away and never gave someone the benefit of that doubt again!

      • The_L1985

        What’s even worse is the implication that just because someone was trying to do what was best for you, that their mistakes somehow couldn’t have been damaging. Considering how easy it is for well-meaning people to accidentally break dishes, I’m not sure how any sane person can go along with this line of “reasoning.” I have my grandmother’s china. It is beautiful. It is also fragile, and I don’t have to shoot paintballs at it to ruin it–I could just as easily serve a fancy dinner in those delicate flowered plates and trip on the way to the table.

      • persephone

        I didn’t have it as bad as most, and I moved out when I was 18. At 14 my dad whipped me for the last time with his belt. He broke the piece in me that said that what he did was okay because he was my dad. My mother was at fault too, perhaps more, because she was the one that pushed us into the JWs, and then pushed my dad to be the beater.

        I was married twice. My first husband died. My second husband’s problems didn’t become clear until he discovered meth. I’ve had so many people try to tell me it was the drugs, he wouldn’t have been that way if he were clean. And my response is that every day he made the choice to use. Every day he chose to put his addiction ahead of his family. Every day he could have made the right choice, but he didn’t.

    • The_L1985

      I told my mother once that a lot of the stuff Dad did to me and the way he made me feel like nothing seemed to qualify as emotional abuse.

      Her response was how dare I accuse my father of abusing me. He meant well and did his best, so clearly I couldn’t have really been abused.

      Which is all well and good for my parents, but it doesn’t undo the psychological damage of viewing your father as dangerous and unpredictable.

      • Aneres

        I had pretty much this same revelation/conversation, only the mom & dad roles reversed.

  • Maryjane

    What state did you grow up in? My younger daughter was homeschooled, but I most very def was held accountable to teach her all of the subjects required for each grade. Although we didn’t homeschool through any church, so is that the difference? I most certainly had to teach her required science, history, etc. and she was tested every year by the state of Calif. It boggles my mind how these religious parents get away with teaching their kids garbage. Although in some ways homeschool was more lenient of subject matter, there was still a required curriculum.

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

      That is rare. Many states have no accountability requirements at all. Some (many) don’t require you to even register the kid as homeschooled- you can tell the school that you’re homeschooling so there’s no truancy issues, but there’s no central list of homeschooled children so no one can check up on them because the state literally does not know who they are.

      • Maryjane

        Really? I didn’t know this. I had to register each new school year just like I was sending my daughter to regular school. We also were assigned a teacher to help tutor my daughter if needed and also to collect her work each month. So, really she was accountable for my daughter’s schooling too. From seventh grade on my daughter was homeschooled via the internet so there was no slacking because the teacher assigned to us made it plain that all work must be completed or she would have had to go to regular school. The school would send a truency letter to social services also if the work was sub-par. But like I said we didn’t school her through church or anything. So what do these parents do? I mean how does the state not intervene? How can the state NOT know that these kids are in homeschool? And aren’t there any safety nets for those kids who are floundering? Is it because the kids are going to a christian homeschool? Do brick and mortar christian schools have a state sanctioned curriculum, or can they teach whatever they want? I am only familiar with catholic school where religion is taught in addition to regular subjects not instead of.

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

        So what do these parents do? I mean how does the state not intervene? How can the state NOT know that these kids are in homeschool? And aren’t there any safety nets for those kids who are floundering?

        The parents do whatever they want. The state doesn’t intervene at all unless CPS gets called, which requires pretty severe abuse. The state just … doesn’t know. There aren’t any safety nets for those kids who are floundering, because no one official knows that they are in trouble.

        The style of homeschooling you did sounds like the ideal of what I think homeschooling ought to be. You had some freedom and flexibility in what you taught and when, but you also had standards you had to meet. The problem comes when parents can literally do anything they like (or nothing at all) to educate their children, and that is an unfortunate reality in most of the US. Brick and mortar Christian schools don’t have to meet any state curriculum either.

      • Maryjane

        O.K. so, if one goes to homeschool and then onto a private christian college a person can actually get a degree without studying math, science, history etc? Where? Which states allow this? I ask because I know the christian college here makes you take state required classes in order to graduate. Oh, maybe that’s because the college here is accredited. So I never realized that all these people with so called “degrees” from these christian colleges have never taken real science or history. Oh, now things became much clearer. Many questions have been answered. Thank You Feminerd. Or am I wrong? Please correct me if I am.

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

        Nope, you’re right. I don’t know all the states, but in Texas the situation I described is how it is. Some people go from homeschool to unaccredited Christian colleges (the accredited Christian colleges do have to pass the accreditation process and thus have a higher quality of education), so they never get any real science or history classes at all.

        EDIT: Mindblowing, isn’t it?

      • Maryjane

        Yeah! Way mindblowing! And then one can say, “I know what I’m talking about, I have a master’s degree”.

        OMG! OMG! OMG! If you here knocking, that’s me pounding my head against the wall.

      • The_L1985

        I was told that the reason my old school lost accreditation (several years after I stopped going) was low enrollment. I personally think it was an increase in the use of ACE in the older grades.

      • Alice

        Yeah, the Christian college I graduated from is accredited and consistently ranked highly by national publications. My parents were quite horrified that the vast majority of the professors were not fundies, but I was happy once I got over the unexpected culture shock.

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

        Nodnod. Christian colleges definitely aren’t always awful by any means- Baylor University is a solid school (Baptist), for example. But the unaccredited ones are almost always awful.

      • Alice

        “The unaccredited ones are almost always awful.” Absolutely, and also many of them are run like a toddler daycare with a looooong list of insane rules for people who are 18-21. So the students put up with all that crap for four years, don’t even get a real degree, and pay a fortune for the “privilege.”

        Supposedly they know what they’re getting into, but the majority have little choice because their parents won’t pay for anything else. And many have lived in the fundie bubble for so long that they’re terrified of the outside world and brainwashed.

      • Rosa

        There are a number of colleges that let you major in Bible or Ministry with no math or science, but I don’t know if any of them are accredited.

      • Bree

        It sounds like you used a charter school. This was in California, right? There are several ways to legally home-school in Cali, charter schools being one of them. One other option is to register as a private school: you file a form yearly and are supposed to teach certain subjects and keep certain records, but no one checks up on you unless there is a court order to do so. Also in California, brick and mortar private schools don’t have to follow state standards or have certified teachers. I plan on home-schooling via the private school option in Cali, and I wish there was more accountability here because I know I can be a bit scatter-brained and I might do something like forget to teach long division or proper sentence structure or something like that. I think annual portfolio reviews, up to 2 random/unscheduled in-home visits from either CPS or a local school district official, and required submission of all records that private schools are supposed to keep would be a good compromise between the lax regulations that Cali has now and the rigid regulations of states that require curriculum approval and mental health evaluations for home-schools. As long as I’m not being told that I can only use this or that curriculum or that my kid has to learn Latin in first grade or that my preschooler has to master phonics before his 5th birthday, I’m okay with regulation because I want to be held accountable due to my lack of confidence in myself really being to do it all by myself.

      • Maryjane

        I only know how we did it, and yes it was charter school. I was told the only options were charter school or I could teach my kid if I had a teacher’s degree, which I do not. We liked our charter school. I was not told when or how to teach my daughter certain subjects and I chose the materials so I had a good deal of leeway. The school paid for it, so I chose whatever I wanted. But we did have to show work from subjects required for each grade. And there were tests. But it worked for us. My daughter actually skipped the eighth grade altogether.

  • antimule

    >>>I don’t understand why understanding these concepts is so hard, especially when the homeschoolers I grew up among were among the fastest to argue in favor of—and talk about the importance of—accountability.<<<

    Because this is not about accountability, schooling, children or even God. The religious right is angry because the wider society just doesn't take them seriously or cares about anything they say or do. They want to rule over something, anything but they are being ignored or laughed at instead. So they are grasping for every scrap of lordship they might get. Therefore they want absolute control over kids since that's the only thing they can have control over.

    • Hilary

      Interesting. And fits in with the line of thought that fundamentalism is a reaction to modernism, a way of fighting back against a world changing too fast and too far, and in ways that change the balance of power between those in control and those that were controlled. (Ex: religious fundamentalist backlash against racial integration and feminism.)

  • smrnda

    Another problem is that home-schooled kids may not realize they are behind or missing anything, leaving them under-educated at 18, which is a little late to try and fix things.

    I also get annoyed by home-schooling proponents who argue that cases like this are rare and shouldn’t be driving home-school policy. Policies should be designed with worst-case scenarios in mind.

    I’m also not sold that parents automatically want what is best for their kids. Lots of parents are, for all intents and purposes, members of cults, and they place loyalty to the cult ahead of the interests of their children. Kids are also a lot of work, and many parents just get lazy, or their child-rearing capabilities are hindered by their own emotional and psychological issues.

    • The_L1985

      Even when parents aren’t lazy and do want what’s best for their kids, it’s still possible to be mistaken about what’s actually best! My father thought that sheltering me was good for me. Instead, it just resulted in culture shock.

      For example, it took me a year to realize that a very butch girl in my class, who showed zero interest in boys, was actually a lesbian (even though she made no secret of it and the whole school knew)–because I’d lived in a bubble-world where Those People didn’t exist.

    • Hilary

      Good point. And even when parents do want what is best for their children, wanting what is best for them =/= knowing how to give them what they need, or get your own needs met so you can parent from a place of (relative) emotional stability instead of internal chaos.

    • Alice

      Yes, and sometimes the parents don’t realize the child is behind too, although they are more likely to know than the child.

      In my case, and I’ve heard several other home-schoolers say this, is that I never knew how I was doing compared to other kids. There were many times I worried I was far behind and other times when I wondered if I was a genius because family members had said so.

      I did take a standardized test every year, but I don’t think they are a good measuring stick even though they’re better than nothing. For one thing they’re multiple choice. My math education was /horrible/, but I always managed to get an average score on the test by process-of-elimination. If I had had to “show my work” I would have failed spectacularly.

      Another reason is that the tests typically only cover math and language skills. My science education was probably even worse than my math. When I took Western Civ in college, it was almost all new information, and there were a few things ACE had taught incorrectly. And I never wrote a real paper in my homeschooling years, just informal “essays” that weren’t organized.

  • Daven

    Accountability = the state making sure you teach evolution and sex ed and whatever the Common Core Standards say all kids have to learn, and when. Homeschoolers want that? Really?

    • Renee

      The KIDS do, the parents do not.

    • Saraquill

      What is so bad about knowing about evolution and how safe responsible sex is done?

      • The_L1985

        Didn’t you hear? If Genesis isn’t a history book, then Jesus could not possibly have existed. If humans are primates, we are somehow lesser beings. (I still don’t get this argument. Why would I be ashamed of being a member of kingdom Animalia? Animals are AWESOME, and each species is so wonderfully…well, special.)

        And if kids never hear about what sex is, they’ll never have any curiosity about the subject or ever want to have any until their wedding night, when each of them will suddenly and spontaneously become experts at the art of coitus.

      • brbr2424

        I didn’t fully understand how it was possible to keep kids in the dark about sex until I started reading these blogs.Homeschooling has allowed parents to successful control every living breathing moment of their child’s life and have them married off without dating.

        I’m curious how this replicate to the second generation. Don’t the kids then have to get a crash course in what they have been sheltered from in order to shelter their kids from all those things.

      • Alice

        Yeah, I knew nothing about sex until age 16. It was so embarrassing and annoying to feel like the only one. I had heard the word used for years, but all I knew was that it was some mysterious thing a couple did because it was pleasurable and made babies. I didn’t have any friends, and most media wasn’t allowed.

        The only thing that wasn’t locked down was the internet, so I almost died of excitement when I realized I could google any question, listen to any music I wanted, and watch any TV shows I wanted. Getting caught up on pop culture helped me feel less like an foreigner when I went to college.

      • The_L1985

        No. Things you don’t know about become scary. You become afraid to let your children see or experience anything outside the bubble, because YOU have never been outside the bubble, and thus the fear and repression become self-perpetuating.

        The only thing that can break the cycle is for a child raised in the bubble to grow up and experience facts that are directly contrary to what is taught in the bubble.

      • Conuly

        Well, somehow it’s much better to be a horrible sinner who is literally made from dirt than to be any form of animal.

      • The_L1985

        The idea that humans were uniquely ensouled never made any sense to me. I once played at baptizing my stuffed dogs, when mom explained to me that “animals don’t have souls.” I couldn’t reconcile a loving God with one who would give humanity a soul but not man’s best friend. It seemed really mean to deny dogs souls.

    • The_L1985

      I wasn’t homeschooled (I went to a private Christian school for most of my education–it was run out of the local Church of God) BUT…

      I honestly do wish that I’d had it explained to me just what the failure rates of birth control were, and what those figures mean. I honestly do wish that my school had acknowledged the fact that, as a female, I was not broken or abnormal for simply…HAVING a sex drive. I honestly do wish that I’d heard, BEFORE my junior year when I finally went to public school, what an STD is and how they are transmitted (sticking Tab A into Slot B isn’t the only risk factor). I honestly do wish that EVERYONE in my class had learned about their own reproductive anatomy (let alone that of the opposite sex!) so that I wasn’t the only one in my middle school who knew why and how she was getting her monthly period (if not when it would all start).

      I honestly do wish that my middle school had taught modern, six-kingdom taxonomy and explained what Darwin’s theory actually SAYS instead of the trite, “Evolution is a lie” with no explanation given as to WTF “evolution” was even supposed to mean. I honestly do wish that I hadn’t had to sit there in my freshman year of (private, conservative, Baptist) college and admit that I knew nothing about evolution other than “Evolution is a lie”–which made me a total laughingstock because even in a private, conservative, Baptist college, nobody is stupid enough to pretend that species do not undergo genetic drift over time.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Doesn’t surprise me. People resent being completely uneducated because their parents bought into religion.

      And kids not getting sex ed because their parents think that leaving them uneducated means they won’t Fuck is one of the main reasons the teen pregnancy rate is so high. It’s also a huge factor in STDs and abortions.

      What a parent believes about religion should have nothing at all to do with whether or not their child receives a proper education, with actual facts. I don’t care how pissy said parent gets about their supposed “rights” and “freedoms.” Children are not property; they’re people.

      • The_L1985

        My parents did not bother to teach me about sex and birth control, because they believed (mistakenly, as it turns out) that I was learning about it in school.

      • AnyBeth

        This for me, too. Sometime in my mid-20s, Mom and I talked about sex ed. She was shocked to hear how much little I was taught because she’d learned so much more.
        Me, I learned everything but the most basic of mechanics off Wikipedia (and the sources) when I was in college.

    • Seeker

      Why are you so afraid of reality? Evolution is the best explanation of what happened, and sex ed is vital knowledge of the body and how to keep it safe. Why does it terrify you to have a population with a basic knowledge of English, math, and science?

      • Jayn

        I didn’t read Daven’s comment as being that ze thinks that those are bad, but questioning the assertion that homeschoolers think it’s good. To which the answer would be, ‘it depends on the homeschooler.’ Some families certainly do pull their kids out of public school at least partly to shield their children from these ideas. But others do so for other reasons, and still want their children to learn what other children are being taught, just not in the school setting. And for those, having a common standard doesn’t just help the face of homeschooling, but can give guidance to those families who are genuinely trying to school their children to the same, if not higher, standard as public schools.

  • Andi Brunson-Williams

    Be accountable to what standard? Some people homeschool because they debunk the idea of all children needing to learn specific subjects at particular times in their lives. What subjects are relevant for the job field, or adulthood of our children? I would struggle to have someone define for me what my children ‘should’ have for a future that is yet unknown. I prefer to set my own goals and accountability. I would be interested to hear your friend’s mother’s account of homeschooling. If your friend did not find science in her growing up, perhaps she found other topics of interest. Maybe she found success in the joy of learning and as an adult can understand where to find resources to learn the things that she feels she missed growing up. Nothing can be perfect. Our public schools miss huge opportunities for learning and skip what I would consider vital subjects at particularly necessary developmental stages. I do not believe that the subjects deemed ‘necessary’ are always necessary for achieving my homeschooling goals. I view my children’s leaning as life long. I only have them at home for a short amount of time, I do not expect them to brush over every topic/subject/testing matter but I do desire for them to develop all aspects of themselves and discover educational paths that fit with their learning style and my teaching goals. Accountability is relative.

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

      There are some subjects everyone in the country needs to have a basic understanding of in order to be a functional, informed citizen. The lifeblood of democracy is informed citizens. A basic knowledge of science, history, politics/political science, and economics is absolutely vital to citizens who will be voting for politicians to implement policies in their name. Literature and philosophy help with internal, ethical development; what values and virtues ought to be upheld, what vices tolerated, and what vices banned? Why are some actions virtues and others vices? We make laws based on these decisions, and those laws impact other people, so every person in the US should at least have the basic knowledge with which to tackle these issues.

      We have broad, shallow education in the US for a reason. Public school is the minimum- people can and have always gone beyond it when they were interested in a subject. But to skip a subject entirely because it’s not interesting, or you don’t care for it, is the antithesis of education.

      • Renee

        “But to skip a subject entirely because it’s not interesting, or you don’t care for it, is the antithesis of education.”

        This is what turned me off of unschooling. If I have to wait for my kid to want to learn everything they need, I think I will be waiting a long time, or it would never happen. There are just too many things that are necessary to know. Sure, you can function in the world with out taking science, or math past the basics, our even being illiterate, but that is not the standard I am going for. You just miss so much, but you don’t realize it.

        I use to think it wasn’t so, that you could skip things, but since I met my DH I realized what poor education looks like. He is from a small TX town, and has such limited knowledge about the most basic things. It really hinders him. He is always amazed at all the stuff I know, which is truly just basic stuff. I went to a good school, in a state with good education. TX is 48th in the nation- and it shows!

        I wouldn’t wish his poor education on anyone. He does know a lot about things he is interested in, but is just missing so much other stuff that he would need so much remedial work just to go forward.

    • smrnda

      The problem with this approach is that there is a place called ‘the real world’ and there is such a thing called paying bills, which requires that you end up needing money, which kind of implies this thing called a job. Though nobody has perfect predictive powers as to what skills are necessary, there are a few things that tend to help – you do need to know maths, some science, and you should be able to read and write clearly enough. The future isn’t so unclear that we can consider an adult who doesn’t know any math beyond arithmetic qualified for life.

      Nice of you to be so eager to hear The Mother’s account of homeschooling, which turned out to be deficient by the standards of her own child, which pretty much makes it a failure. I’m sure that she felt she was doing a great job, but this is the problem with home-schooling – it can turn into an ego-based project for the parent, where choosing not to teach important subjects is celebrating ‘choice’ or just a ‘different approach.’ If my parents had neglected my education, I would probably hate them, with good reason, because they would have screwed up my life. I wouldn’t be thinking ‘gee, great, now I can enjoy learning as an adult things all the public school kids learned nearly a decade ago.’ I’d be looking at, likely, permanently reduced expectations for what my life would be like.

    • travelerks

      We have educational standards for a reason. Regardless of what we would like to believe, our children are not “ours” to teach only what we think they should know and bend toward our ways of seeing the world. Of course all parents do that to an extent, but we are doing our children a horrible disservice if we don’t let them learn at least the basic things they need to survive in today’s world. After all, they will be here long after we are gone, and we owe them the ability to navigate their own way in the world, no matter how they may choose to do it.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Your kids are not your property. No matter what “rights” and “freedoms” you think you have, your kids are PEOPLE, and they have the right to a full education.

      Your entire post is about you: You think this, you want this, you view this, ETC. Your kids’ education is not about YOU. It’s about THEM, and what they need to be fully functional adults.

      You might think your opinions are awesome, but have you studied all the various things that are needed to actually decide a curriculum? Do you know everything relevant to the act of deciding what constitutes a general education? I seriously doubt it.

      Stop thinking about yourself and what you want. It isn’t about you.

  • Lv2Learn

    We are home educators, and we want NO oversight. We are completely capable of determining what we need to do to facilitate the education of the children in our lives. We are not a cult, we are not part of some religious movement, we are a family of intelligent, educated, love of learning people. A gov’t oversight program will only infringe on our ability to continue to do the exceptional job we already do. And structure makes for “in the box thinkers”, and punishes anyone that does not fit into the ‘standard” learning methods. One education style does not fit all people. Though, that is what the public school education provides for. ~ Also ~There’s no reason an adult, such as this young woman, cannot self educate herself in science or any other subject, that she feels she is laking. She needs to recognize that “parent blaming” will not allow her to grow as a person. Does she even use science in the world she finds herself in? What about the accountability of herself to do something about what she feels she missed out on? Some of the readers of this article likely have not had basic or advanced science, math, literature & language instruction. Likely if they have advanced instruction, they did not have all of these, or did not excel at all of them, if they did, then they are the exception. Let me guess, all of the head shakers use in their daily life…calculus, quote Homer in conversation, understand physics, can name the countries in the world, and their statesmen and stateswomen, have a complete grasp of religion, and can speak several languages. And all of these subjects must be used in their jobs as well. Though they are in mine, as a home educating parent, I might not be exceptional in all of them, but I can find people I find to be capable and exceptional to provide for what we cannot. But we decide what we need and want, and who we choose to provide this additional instruction, we do not need someone else dictating to us. We do not need an agency of accountability to put us in that box.

    • travelerks

      But you must at least touch on all these subjects in your child’s education, so that they will know they exist. It is a disservice to a child to not even give her the basics of the standard educational topics. Without this, how will she know what interests her? If she never studied math beyond simple equations, how would she know that she might want to become a statistician, or a physicist, or a rocket scientist some day? If she doesn’t know about great literature, what will inspire her to read it when she does have to? What will inspire her to become a writer of great literature herself? More basically, when she reads or hears certain references in the popular press, how will she know what they mean? (“the phrase “catch-22″ comes to immediate mind, but there are countless others). I contend that children need to be exposed to all of these opportunities, and if government accountability is the only way to make sure that happens, then so be it.

      • Lv2Learn

        Except gov’t accountability could also make sure that if she was, for example, an unconventional learner, that she would grow up to feel like a failure when she could not conquer the standardize tests that they insist that we would take. Like so many children in the public school environment do. If she was gifted, she would have to wait until she was 18 to attend college, and pursue her passion. In this day and age, if one has access to a computer, there is no one that has an excuse to not have the ability to “touch on” every subject known to man kind. This woman has had an experience that is soo unfamiliar, I’ve never met a home educating family that did not give every opportunity to their children. So judging home education based on this one persons experience is like thinking that every teacher in the country is going to physically harm their students. It happens, but so rarely that it is shocking when it happens. If she had a passion for science, she would know it. When our kids are passionate about things, they ask a million questions, they research, they experiment, they explore. A person chooses how involved they want to be in their own educational awareness, and of their lives. She seems to be looking for someone to blame. Did she ask her mother to do some science, did she pursue the subject at the library, did she ask a million questions? Or any? It does not take a govt agency to tell people to engage in life, its up to each person. It’s a matter of perspective, and something that as a society as a whole we need to change. People need to be more engage in life, its not a television show, it’s an immersion.

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

        *Raises hand* I’m ‘gifted’. I was offered the option to go to college at 16, but I refused because I didn’t want to go yet. A few of my classmates did take the offer, though.

        You have heard the phrase, “the plural of anecdote is not data”, I presume? The fact that homeschooling appears to be working for you does not mean it works for everyone, nor does it mean that everyone shouldn’t have to prove that it’s working. What if you’re wrong? What if you think it’s working, but a portfolio shows that your kids are actually behind? Would you rather not know?

      • The_L1985

        Um, I went to school, and it certainly didn’t stop me from “engaging in life.” Cruel children stopped me from developing social skills until I was an adult, but I learned ballet steps and how to play the piano. I climbed trees, dug in the dirt, and made up silly songs. I volunteered at hospitals, went to the movies, and wrote bad poems for teenage crushes. I wanted to do everything–design video games, act in movies, solve world hunger, discover a cure for cancer, be the first woman on Mars, swim with mermaids (at 6, you don’t necessarily realize yet that this isn’t something you can actually do). School helped me understand what kind of work goes into each of these tasks, so that I could pick the one to which my talents and interests were best suited.

        “If she had a passion for science, she would know it.”

        How the FUCK can you know you have a passion for a field of knowledge you don’t even know exists?! Until I went to school, I never knew there was such a thing as “science,” much less that it has such wonderfully varied fields as astronomy, biology, chemistry, medicine, and physics. Until I went to school, the only kind of “engineer” I’d ever heard of was the fellow who sits in a locomotive and blows the horn now and then–not the people who design buildings, bridges, artificial limbs, computer systems, and traffic-light timers.

        For all its faults, schools still do a damn good job of letting kids know that there are all these wonderful fields of knowledge out there. It may not do a great job of making students passionate about all of these subjects, but as you yourself are already aware, you can’t make a person become passionate about anything.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        How the FUCK can you know you have a passion for a field of knowledge
        you don’t even know exists?! Until I went to school, I never knew there
        was such a thing as “science,” much less that it has such wonderfully
        varied fields

        See, I think Luv2learn has not realised that there are people out there who dont have access to computers because their religion doesn’t allow it, or because they cant afford it, and yet they can still homeschool.
        Therefore, it is entirely possible for your example to be still true of children today. Especially those in religious homes, where the mother doesnt WANT her child to learn science, or math. Because, really, what man wants a wife who is smart, shouldnt she just be in the kitchen anyway?

      • Jayn

        Not to mention that some people are naturally more searching than others. I’m a person who tends to follow authority, rather than someone who is naturally rebellious. I did a certain amount of research into my personal interests as a teen (I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy fan, and this translated into the types of real-world stuff I would look into–fortunately my parents didn’t limit me at all) but for the most part I was one to take what I was told and live with that, even in areas where I didn’t feel like I knew enough–my world history is still pretty pathetic, and even my Canadian history is weak. This was kind of compounded by my options in high school being rather limited from attending a small school.

      • victoria

        I went to public schools most of the way through (from third grade on — at first to escape bullying in the parochial school I started at, then because we moved somewhere with exemplary public schools). I started college as a junior at 16.

        I have no problem with homeschooling (though I am in favor of some oversight, and I’m speaking as someone who might well be homeschooling if my child’s school situation weren’t a great fit). Heck, looking back I think that would’ve been the optimal situation for me during late elementary and middle school. But public schools aren’t de facto evil either. A disproportionate number of my high school classmates have ended up in creative careers and/or gotten Ph.D.s.

      • smrnda

        What you wrote is false. I attended public schools and I graduated at 13 and attended a public research university by 15, finished at 17, and I got my first PhD by the age of 21. Public schools all the way.

        If parents want to take control of their child’s education, then they deserve 100% of the blame for when they didn’t do a good job. You seem to be grasping at straws (saying she didn’t specifically *ask* to be taught science) to blame the kid rather than the mother.

        We actually *do* use worst case scenarios about what might happen in public schools to decide what policies should be in place, which is why there are checks and balances and accountability – last I checked parents could run for the school board, so there’s an avenue for parental involvement as well. The idea that a handful of home-schooled kids with unqualified parents should just get thrown under the bus strikes me as an appalling notion.

      • brbr2424

        Your perception of public schools is a little off. As others have said, kids can jump ahead and finish early. That usually isn’t necessary, because the schools address the needs of the truly brilliant. Taking a load of AP classes in high school is usually enough to challenge most ambitious students..Starting at age 16, and possibly before, students have the option of taking community college courses.

        When your kids go to public school you have the time and energy to supplement their learning outside of the classroom by showing them the world.

      • Renee

        “This woman has had an experience that is soo unfamiliar, I’ve never met a home educating family that did not give every opportunity to their children.”

        I do wonder how much truth there is in what other people say, or show others, about their HS lives. I know from experience that if you don’t live with a family, you have no idea whats really going on. Perception VS Reality.

        Here is why I wonder….

        I know a particular HS family very well. The kids barely learn, and what they do learn is from workbooks, or online. Lots of stuff is glossed over, and if the kid cannot do something, mom says “figure it out!”. They do not. Instead, they take quizzes at the end of the sections over and over, until they manage to guess enough right answers, or Mom feels they learned, or gets sick of fighting. Ask them about it 5 minutes later and get a blank stare. These are smart kids too!

        Their “activities” are few and far between. They leave the house twice a week if they are lucky, to go grocery shopping with the family, and to church. They have every advantage (high SES, educated, dedicated, parents), but it doesn’t matter. The kids beg to go to school all the time, and lament about having no friends.

        But ask the mom about how HS is going and the picture is VERY different.

        If she doesn’t know you, you are a casual friend, or a fellow HSer in a group, she will tell you all about the amazing things they do! How wonderful and full her kids lives are, and how much they learn, and how much better HS is than school, for everyone. She makes it sound like everyday is this amazing web of education and experience, and of course, closeness and love.

        For example: She can take an hour of kids doodling and make it sound as if they studied the Great Masters and did wonderful masterpieces themselves. She can turn the kids adding up a few items, and counting out money at the grocery store (ONE time, every few weeks), and make it sound like an advanced, real world, math and economics lesson. Cleaning up chicken coops, planting a tomato plant bought from the store, and other (drudge) farm chores are of course real world knowledge about biology, and horticulture, that cannot be found at any school. (* see below).

        Her HS (to others) is wonderful, flexible, and so superior!

        To close friends she may say that it can be a challenge, or that the kids sometimes resist, or that certain subjects are miserable. But still, she will spin it into a pretty picture overall, one that everyone believes is true. They are seen as this awesome, close, hard working, dedicated, HS family. Friends are always impressed, and ask “how do you do it?”(HS, big family, farm), and the true (sad) answer is “not very well.” (DH says that her kids are being trained to be successful- on a farm in 1850.)

        Outsiders see only a small part of the picture, and a distorted one at that. Even outsiders that know them well, and see them often, believe they are doing so well!

        Which of course, makes me wonder- how many others are like this? Taking things that all kids with decent, non-absent parents do, and adding verbage until it sounds exceptional?

        When I hear people come in and dispute what the ACTUAL HS KIDS are saying, this is all I can think of. I DO hope it is an anomaly, but I doubt it.

        *I am not saying these things are not wonderful learning experiences, but come on, they are the bare minimum of life experiences. This is stuff all kids that have decent, non-absent parents, do. I mean, how many kids have never bought something and counted the change out?

      • Sally

        I think you’re hitting on something here. The culture is to paint it as if it’s all going well. And you tell yourself the things that aren’t going well are just anomalies in your own family that you wouldn’t dare admit to others irl. I do see all these struggles discussed anonymously on the hsing forum I frequent (and thank goodness for the frank conversations they have there), but admit it to people you know irl? Maybe one close friend – but not as a community – and certainly not outside the hsing community! There is tremendous unspoken pressure to represent hsing in the best light possible to the public.
        One of the many struggles we had was the issue of motivation (I hsed for 8 years and then put all my kids in school). Some subjects were easy to learn at home (and fun!). But too much of it was like pulling teeth. Now, I know someone could come on here and say if I’d unschooled my kids, there would have been no teeth-pulling. But I offered that option to my kids; they absolutely didn’t want to unschool. They were surrounded by unschoolers and were not impressed.
        So if I focused on how well we were doing in the subjects that were going well, it was easy to say our hsing experience was great. But if I was honest with myself (and eventually I was), way too much of it was way too negative. And I’d say negative primarily on the kids’ part (in other words, I could blame them if I wanted to … if they just had a better attitude and all that). But I finally realized that their bad attitudes said something about how hsing wasn’t working for us in a key way. The kids did not learn best (overall) at home. They did learn the material (very well), but at what cost? I decided “best” wasn’t just learning the material; it was also the whole experience including their motivation.
        What a difference now that they’re in school. One of the myths we were told is that you’ll spend as much time helping them with their homework as you do hsing them- except it will be in the evening when you’re tired. It is true that too much homework is assigned in many cases, but it just hasn’t been a problem for us.
        I tell this (and mention it in other comments here and there) because I think not only do kids who were homeschooled need to speak out, but we parents who are or have hsed need to speak up outside our own close friends about the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it’s just plain dishonest to put spin on what hsing is really like in our families. For those for whom it really is going very well (from the kids’ perspective too), great. But how can we problem-solve for the rest of us if we can’t be honest?

      • The_L1985

        I think the problem with standardized tests not reflecting students’ abilities is more a factor of adults over-emphasizing the importance of the tests, rather than the tests themselves. Anxiety can really hurt your ability to think clearly.

    • Saraquill

      Not everyone can self tutor. Some people learn easier if there is a trained person guiding them. Similarly, being a parent does not automatically mean one has the ability to teach K-12 in all subjects. Having someone with a degree in education to help will in the blanks is a huge help.

    • smrnda

      If your parents refuse to teach you a subject that is important, you are fully entitled to criticize your parents for doing a bad job. I’d assume you’d be for blaming public schools that don’t teach kids? If you are behind at 18, you have a lot of catching up to do, and when you’re already behind, this is going to hurt your educational and employment opportunities for your whole life. This young woman has to ‘self educate’ while she’s already an adult who needs to do things like earn a living.

      I’m sure that you are perfect, wise and all knowing, as you said in your post, but not everybody who wants to homeschool their kids is as awesome as you. Accountability exists since we can’t just take people at their word that they know what they are doing. I can’t just declare myself able to drive a car, I have to pass a test.

      And please, you can quite with the nonsense that all formal schooling is creating cogs for a machine. I have attended schools my entire life, and yes, they are full of people who actually love learning, who use a variety of teaching styles, and encourage independent thinking and creative problem solving.

      I was educated in schools, and I am doing well in life because I got a good education there. If I hadn’t had that opportunity, I’d probably be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. People are fully entitled to criticize their parents for failing to prepare them for life.

    • The_L1985

      I have severe ADHD, and have my entire life. I can pretty much guarantee you that if adults had not forced me to learn, I would have completely ignored subjects like math and history that I later came to love. I would have spent the whole damn day watching cartoons, building Lego towers, and eating Little Debbie cakes–NONE of which would actually have prepared me for adult life in the slightest. I might even have built a blanket fort or two, if my dad hadn’t banned blanket forts as just another way of “making a mess.”

      • Ruthie Lewis

        So true! I always scored off the charts in standardized tests and my parents were told by my teachers I was very bright, but I had no interest in anything other than reading and art. I would never have taken an interest in science or social studies/history had I not been forced to do it in school. Not that I don’t believe it, but I have a hard time understanding that all kids will show a keen interest in something so much that they’ll take it and run with it.

        The other argument I have such a problem with is the “when are you going to use it in real life?” one. No, I don’t use physics or French in my life at all, but learning them in school teaches you to use your brain in a very unique way, and helps give you skills for problem solving that do apply in real life.

      • The_L1985

        As a math teacher, I am always annoyed by the whole “when are we going to solve for X in real life?” question. It teaches you logic. Algebra helps you to identify what kind of problem you have, so that you can then decide how to solve it. It strengthens your ability to think logically. Why would you want to admit that you don’t want to think logically?

      • Sally

        I agree. I don’t think people realize math is brain training. They think that if they’ve never sat down and done an algebra problem on a piece of paper as an adult, they didn’t benefit from algebra class. They don’t realize how that algebra class helped them make pathways in their brain which help them think systematically (i.e. logically).

        -Same with foreign language. If you’ve studied foreign language but don’t actually speak it fluently, you may not realize how the *study* itself enlightened you. But when you try to help someone who doesn’t understand how languages work understand why you can’t just translate something word for word and expect it to make sense in the language, or why idioms are a problem for foreigners, but that person has never studied a foreign language, they don’t really get it. This lack of understanding is demonstrated in people who think the KJV of the Bible is more accurate *because* it was an earlier translation (one of the first, albeit not the first).

        Can you live without algebra and studying a foreign language? Of course. But are we talking minimal education or are we talking world class education?

      • Jayn

        This lack of understanding is demonstrated in people who think the KJV
        of the Bible is more accurate *because* it was an earlier translation

        Or who think that you can learn everything there is to the Bible through ANY translation. This. Drives. Me. Nuts. Between differing grammar, words that exist in one language but not another, and the different connotations of even words that have direct translations, you’re going to wind up with imperfect translations. That’s simply the nature of the process.

      • Anat

        The real question is ‘what kind of understanding will you have, not knowing this?’. Mathematical understanding influences thinking in many subtle ways. Understanding the difference between absolute number and rate/proportion. The difference between linear and exponential growth. Understanding trends. etc etc. Even if you never have to do a single derivative after finishing school, knowing what derivatives are, how they work and what they represent means you understand current events better. (I recommend books by John Allen Paulos, such as Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.)

      • NeaDods

        When I was a kid, I didn’t understand why I’d ever need math as an adult.

        Then I grew up and didn’t just need a budget, but cook (fractions/multiplication), knit (algebra) and quilt (geometry).

    • Mogg

      I have a degree in biophysics, a vocabulary in the top percentile of my country’s population, tutored other students in biology in high school, read so much that my high school ran out of awards to give me in the reading encouragement program half way through my first year, have enough German, Latin and French to recognise the roots of derivative words in my everyday English language use and thereby gain nuances in meaning as well as make jokes about my employer’s Latin motto, have a better grasp of Christianity and its history than most Christians and a passing familiarity with Islam, have been able to name and place the countries of the world plus several fantasy worlds since primary school, have a better understanding of both my own country’s political history and local and world current affairs than most of my compatriots (not that that’s saying much, as a nation we’re notoriously bad at that) and work daily with people of non-English-speaking, non-Christian backgrounds in a highly technical job. I also have a certain amount of talent in music and art, although I decided to pursue science when it came to my final years of schooling. Much of this came from my public schooling, which I rate as good but not great, and I am by no means the smartest or most successful public schooled person I know.

      I also am very introverted and needed as much help as I could get with socialisation outside of my own family, have major depression, moderate anxiety, and traits consistent with mild ADHD and mild Aspberger’s, none of which my parents recognised despite the fact that my father exhibits similar traits. My father is a trained teacher who doesn’t believe in ADHD, despite having two children with it. I have enormous difficulty with self-motivation and direction, which I was only able to start addressing in my thirties due to the stigma attached to mental illness, medical and psychological treatment I faced from my religious upbringing. Both of my parents were/are depressed and spent at least some of my childhood at different times withdrawn to at least some degree from their responsibilities as parents. In addition, my mother is not well educated herself and is suspicious of anyone with higher learning than her own, particularly in the science/maths/technical areas where she is herself most uncomfortable, and she is certainly not encouraging of it. I recently discovered that she tried to convince each of my siblings, as well as myself, to drop out of education at one point or another. Don’t get me wrong: she was very well meaning, as was my father, but between their personal problems and biases they could easily have become overwhelmed and/or made some terrible decisions for their own children’s education if it had been entirely up to them. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunites, both intellectual and social, provided me by public education which I almost certainly never would have found if my parents had homeschooled me.

      For those kids without perfect families and abilities, please, reconsider your stance on oversight of homeschoolers and public education. It’s not all about you.

    • Baby_Raptor

      No. No, you’re not. You have no idea what it takes to build a well-rounded education. You just know that you think certain things are best, and that’s what you want.

      The problem is, the situation isn’t about you. It’s about your children, and their rights.

      And quit your victim blaming. It’s just pathetic.

    • Andi Brunson-Williams

      I very much agree.

    • Sally

      “She needs to recognize that ‘parent blaming’ will not allow her to grow as a person. Does she even use science in the world she finds herself in?”

      As a former hsing parent, these two sentences really bother me.

      “Parent blaming”? I don’t think I or any other hsing parents deserve any special position not to be blamed for our choices for our children. With rights comes responsibility. We take the credit when it goes well; we need to take the blame when it doesn’t. If we make “parent blaming” a bad thing, then we can’t really problem-solve. Who has the power to solve the issues in the parent-child homeschooling model?

      The science question – that just scares me. Who doesn’t use science in the world in which we find ourselves? Can we (small groups of individuals) live without any understanding of science? Of course. But is the only person who deserves to understand science someone who is going into that field? I use science all the time – not as a scientist – but as a modern person experiencing the world myself and with my kids. (And others have pointed out the irony of expecting only those going into science to need to study it, because how would someone know they wanted to go into science unless they were exposed to it?)
      If you want to argue for the good of hsing, please don’t try to do so by telling people who are skeptical that the parents in charge are not to blame when things go wrong, and don’t argue against studying things like science and higher level math. These arguments just reinforce the skepticism.

      • The_L1985

        Anyone who says we don’t use science deserves to be laughed at right in zir face. Any time you decide not to buy a certain brand of cosmetic because you broke out the last time you tried it, you are using science. Any time you say that “it’s autumn, so the days are getting shorter,” based on the fact that this is how things have happened during every autumn that you or anybody else can remember, you are drawing conclusions based on available data.

        Any time you say, “I wonder what will happen if I do this,” and do that thing, you are doing science. Science doesn’t require lab coats, test tubes, or expensive equipment. Science is not some esoteric thing confined to a lab; it is, quite simply, the process of testing ideas and deciding what will happen based on your tests and on other data you can find.

      • Sally

        OK, but that makes it sound like you can just learn science by living. What I’m saying is there is content and process that is worth studying formally. I love the content, but the process (actual systematic scientific process) helps us interpret our modern world. People who don’t understand science can be easily duped in everything from magic pills, to joining cults based on ridiculous claims, to ignoring real science that could save their or their child’s life in favor of something that has, for example, only anecdotal evidence. Something I use regularly in my life is how to recognize that a study is valid.

        There are people who don’t understand the difference between science and pseudo-science. There are people who think science is a matter of faith because you choose to believe the scientists.

    • Katherine Hompes

      I wouldn’t trust you to educate anyone – you clearly have very little understanding of science yourself.

  • trinity91

    I think the problem Libby is who exactly are they to be accountable too? Is it the state, which doesn’t have a very good track record of actually doing things that is beneficial to students*? Is it the department of education who can’t even effectively manage the schools (which lets be honest are much easier to actually monitor than homeschoolers) that they are tasked with operating? Is it the local district who has a conflict of interest given that they stand to lose money if those students aren’t attending their schools?

    I don’t think homeschool parents as a whole** are against accountability, if that accountability is actually to an organization which has the students best interest in mind. I think that a private organization, something like local private schools, would be the best people to hold homeschooling parents accountable. It means that there is no political interest involved in those decisions. It also means that resources to hold public schools accountable (which I think is incredibly lacking in this entire country) are not being diverted elsewhere.

    *I think no child left behind, something which had bipartisan support is a great example of what I’m talking about.

    **I’m not saying some aren’t. There are terrible parents out there, but I think the vast majority of homeschool parents are doing their best to give their children a superior education.

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

      The problem is the vast majority of homeschool parents simply aren’t qualified to give their children a superior education. I don’t know any one person I’d trust to teach math (through calculus I), literature, philosophy, economics, biology, chemistry, physics, political science, and history to anyone. It’s just too much. I’m one of the most broadly educated, generally well-read people I’ve ever met, and I wouldn’t trust myself to do it. There’s no way I’d trust people I know have less education and less-well-rounded educations to do it.

      • trinity91

        neither are a lot of teachers in the public schools. Having a degree in math does not make you qualified to teach it, no matter how much the United States government and the department of education try saying that it does.

      • The_L1985

        No, but having a degree in math isn’t enough to earn you a teaching certificate ANYWHERE in the US, either. You have to have an education degree, which requires you to learn a lot about how people actually learn, what kinds of tests and other assessments provide meaningful measures of how much learning has been done, and how to engage as many students as possible in actively learning.

      • trinity91

        it is in Indiana. It is in Georgia. One of my best friends just graduated with a minor in education and is going to be teaching high school math. She had exactly 4 weeks of classroom time and took a grand total of 6 education classes. Most programs beyond elementary school require very little actual instruction so long as they can pass a teacher’s exam.

      • David S.

        If she had to take 18 hours of education classes, that’s more then a single semester of a subject. You can discuss whether that’s enough, but that’s not nothing; and is certainly way more then any homeschooler will have.

      • Monala

        After the elementary school level, teachers are specialists. They don’t have to know every subject at a higher level – just the ones they teach.

      • trinity91

        you clearly misunderstood what I was talking about. I am fully aware of what it takes to be an elementary teacher. I was referring to middle and high school where the teachers don’t actually have very much teacher training if any at all.

      • persephone

        But most teachers are only teaching one subject for one or two grades. They do not teach math and science and literature, and they do not claim to be able to do so.

        Homeschoolers seem to have a fallacious belief in their infallibility to properly instruct their children in all curricula for K-12 simply because they did what every mammal does, which is birth an infant. There is no built-in manual for parenthood, and there is certainly no one person who is capable of doing what they claim regarding instructing their children.

      • Seeker

        Wow, you are very heavily indoctrinated into the religious mindset. In your mind, a mother who was never exposed to math because hey, she’s just a girl and her church said she’s worth nothing, is a far better teacher than someone who studied math throughout elementary, middle, and high school, then went to college to learn how to teach (and also took more math classes in college).

      • trinity91

        I’m an atheist. Not all homeschooling parents do so for religious reasons. In fact only 36% of parents give religious reasons for wanting to homeschool when asked by the department of education. The vast majority of homeschoolers do so because for various reasons the local public schools don’t work for their family.
        I do advocate for accountability. I don’t think that religious parents should be able to get away with not educating their children because it is against their religion. I just want them to be accountable to someone who actually has the resources to monitor these types of things, and the state governments just don’t. Lots of accredited charter schools, private schools, and independent tutoring agencies could easily provide these kinds of services. They could go over a sample curriculum with the parent(s), discuss what needs improvement, have a conversation with the child, and have monthly meetings to look at progress. My problem begins and ends with trying to task overworked public employees with monitoring 1.6 million people and making sure that they are covering the education needs of all of them.

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

        Who pays for the private monitoring? The parents, who now have a considerable additional expense? The school district or state, taking even more money away from the public schools (since schools receive money based on enrollment)? Why not take all that money and pour it into fixing the public school system and social safety nets instead?

      • trinity91

        I think the parents should be responsible for paying for it, however I know that in California where parents already work with charter school teachers to develop a curriculum that it is covered by the charter school itself.
        Furthermore, dumping more money into public schools isn’t going to fix the problems. The problem is not that there isn’t enough money, it’s that the money never makes it to the classroom. Teacher’s are highly underpaid and classrooms are overly crowded because of salaries for superintendents that are way too high. Also, a lot of money that is supposed to be going toward public universities to do research and teach is instead being funneled into sports coach salaries. In the state of New Mexico where I grew up 60% of the state budget goes toward education.
        I’ll also tell you a little bit about my education experience. I went to public school from k-5. My mom decided to take me out of school and homeschool me at that point because I was being severely bullied and the local middle school that I was just about to be going to had a student bring a gun to school. The only other middle school in the district consistently failed yearly progress tests before NCLB was put into practice and the first years AYP report had just come out. Only 2% of students managed to be proficient according to those tests. We were in a largely white community, although very very poor. I was homeschooled through middle school using mostly secular materials. For classes that my mom felt unable to teach for whatever reason, she sought out additional resources. My science classes as an example, were taught by an environemental engineering grad student who needed teaching credits to finish his degree. We are still in contact and he became a great support system for me when I later went to college myself. For high school my mom sent me to a charter school because the local public schools still were not performing well. (The local high school as an example only had a 42% graduation rate). I had a wonderful experience there and I’m still in contact with several of my teachers.
        I know that public schools aren’t always awful, but when they are I think parents should look for outside resources to make sure their children are being educated. For some families this is going to be homeschooling, for some it’s going to be sending them to non traditional public schools, and others will make the decision that they can afford to send their children to private schools.

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

        1) Charter schools are publicly funded, so if it’s a charter covering it, it’s still publicly funded just one step removed.

        2) Oh yeah, there’s lots of problems with a lot of public school systems. It sucks that you were bullied and that the district you were in wasn’t able to adequately serve what sounds like a generally challenging population (poverty makes everything hard). I agree with you about a good number of the problems- teachers are underpaid, high level administrators are overpaid and there are too many of them, universities spend way too much on sports. To that I’d add a ridiculous method of school financing: property taxes mean that rich districts will always have more money than poor ones. I’m also glad your homeschooling worked out so well.

        Restructuring public education in the US (and it has to be a national effort, I’m pretty sure) won’t be easy. It’ll take time, money, a societal shift in how we view education, and there will be a lot of mistakes on the way. We can’t just write it off as “too hard” or “too expensive”, though, because that’s our future and we need to fight for it.

      • trinity91

        I agree 100%. I think that school choice is always going to be an important thing to fight for, simply because even with the best schools some people aren’t going to learn well inside of them and those children still deserve a quality education. That doesn’t mean that I don’t support public schools becoming great educational institutions. In college I interned as a representative assistant for one of my former teachers turned state representative. He’s currently fighting for better education in the state of NM and does what he can. Trying to develop a strong educational system for our kids is hard work, but valuable work. I’ve helped fight that fight and I can honestly say that it is tiring thankless work. Most parents don’t really know where to start with helping teachers who have been fighting for better education. We need parents to step up and make their voices heard if we want anything to change.

      • The_L1985

        Have you ever set foot in a public school in your entire life? I agree that there are bad teachers everywhere, but your comment indicates a disturbing lack of knowledge about what kind of person a teacher actually is, and about how teachers are educated and certified. None of this knowledge is in any way classified, nor is anyone actively discouraged by our governments or DoE’s from seeking it out.

        Indeed, the only people I’ve ever encountered who didn’t want us to know what things were like in public schools were employed by church-run, private Christian schools.

      • brbr2424

        The people with advanced math degrees who are great mathematicians, but poor teachers, are teaching at the university level. The math teachers in K-12 school are primarily motivated to be teachers. One doesn’t last long in a career that one is not good at. Constant negative feedback from parents and administrators is usually enough to encourage someone to choose a slightly different career path.

        In addition to a college educations, teachers take hours and hours of training and attend seminars to improve in their career.

      • Gillianren

        But when it’s legal for a parent to teach their kids with no assistance and the parent doesn’t even have a high school diploma, that’s somehow better than a teaching certificate? I do not get this line of thinking.

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

        So you’d rather a totally unqualified parent teach it instead, one who has neither the math skills nor the pedagogical skills? That … doesn’t seem like the right answer.

      • CarynL

        I don’t know of any one person I would trust to teach all those subjects, but I would trust myself to teach the humanities and my husband to teach math and science. For what it’s worth, my high school (that I graduated from only 7 years ago) did not offer philosophy, economics, physics, political science after the 9th grade civics class, or any option for history/government/geography or any science to high school seniors. Our science teachers throughout junior high and high school were unqualified coaches given the jobs to fill up their non-coaching hours. In my AP senior English class, we read The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Depending on local education options and level of parental education, sometimes homeschooling is the best option.

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

        That’s sad, that the advanced classes, well, weren’t so advanced. I know homeschooling can work, but I still think that in general (there will always, always be corner cases) it will work less well than public schooling. I also think that working + homeschooling (I’m assuming at least one of you or your husband works) is a whole lot of time one parent is putting in.

        Not to mention that I don’t think it’s really possible to do high school science at home. You just don’t have access to the lab equipment or chemicals you really need. There’s only so much you can (safely) do with kitchen chemicals, and even then you’ll miss some really cool experiments that teach a lot. How can a child decide if ze likes circuits or chemistry or dissections if ze never gets to do anything like them? I’m deliberately sticking to the things I did in pre-AP (freshman and sophomore) science labs.

      • Christine

        Let’s not lump circuits and dissections in with things that you can’t do at home. All of my high school circuits (especially the science class ones) could be done with a breadboard & basic robotics kit. The only things I couldn’t do that way were when they made us learn soldering, and that was pretty simple. (I never even did a surface mount resistor until university). I intend to have my daughter be doing much more advanced circuits before she takes them at all.

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

        Ok, most homes don’t have the stuff for circuits :). And I don’t think most people can get preserved corpses for dissections very easily- you could do it on a frog that you had freshly killed, but the blood would get in the way of seeing things clearly. I don’t know how you’d get a fetal pig, though …

      • Christine

        I was under the impression that there weren’t controls on ordering those things. But I guess you’d need better ventilation than most houses have if you wanted to do dissections at home. (I remember how the hallway always smelled when the grade 12s were doing the cats).

        And I’m fairly sure most homes have the basics for circuits. Electrical tape, a bit of wire, a battery a motor & a LED will do most of what you get to do in science class. A $20 soldering iron, a handful of resistors, a potentiometer and some relays will let you do a significant portion of high school tech classes too. I’m sure that there are lots of people who don’t have those on hand (I’m not sure I even have a motor, let alone anything more complex), but they’re really easy to find, and are the sort of things you can use for applications other than just school classes. (Have a relative who gave your kid an electronic toy? You can fix that volume with a soldering iron & resistors: http://openhalfwaythrough.com/archive/quieter/_)

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

        For sure. You’d probably want a few capacitors too, but simple circuits are surprisingly, well, simple. It’s more that a lot of people won’t have those things and won’t think to get them- you would, obviously, but it’s not a ‘thing’ for most people.

        I think preserved corpses are controlled. Formaldehyde is still used and that’s a pretty toxic chemical if you’re not careful, plus dead tissue handling … I don’t know if a homeschooling family can get preserved animals for dissection, and if so how easy it would be. I have no idea. But there is some sort of controls on them, I know that.

      • Jayn

        Even if there’s no controls, there would still be the barriers of knowing where to get the items and cost. I’d worry about safety too, especially for doing chemical reactions.

      • Anat

        Have dissected freshly killed rodents. You don’t get much blood if you follow directions properly, and if you do you wash it away with buffered saline (just plain saline should work too, I think).

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

        Fair enough. It’s probably pretty obvious I’ve never hunted or done anything with freshly killed animals :/.

      • Anat

        My brother did a lot of soldering at home. It isn’t that hard to buy the equipment if one is interested. Just make sure to have a well-ventilated space to work in to minimize lead exposure.

        But there are plenty of kits that teach about how electric circuits and their components work.

        And because electronics is a hobby with broader appeal it is relatively easy to get tools and measuring devices (multimeter, scope) to do proper experiments. But for the mechanical aspect of physics – how easy is it to get equipment to set up accurate quantitative experiments?

      • Christine

        I suspect that you did better mechanics than I did. We did tickertape (a little device with a post that hits a carbon paper disk against a long piece of paper approximately 60 times a second, attach one end of the paper to the car & see how fast it goes down the table at different angles) and pendulums, and that’s most of it for mechanics. There are better ways to measure the speed of objects – my husband actually had to invent his own experiment (which he did at home) for a project fairly early on (probably high school already though).

        I’m more worried about optics. And most of chemistry and lots of biology.

    • smrnda

      Plenty of public schools in the US are just fine. We just have a classist education system that sets up poor and minority kids to fail.

      • trinity91

        which is in my opinion a feature rather than a bug of the system. It’s set up to fail those who need the education system the most, because the people who need that system the most don’t have the politically bargaining power to make sure that the local public education is working right. I’m not anti public school, but I do think when the public schools do fail, and many of them do, parents have a responsibility to their children to provide them with something better.

      • The_L1985

        But the schools with the biggest problem are in poor areas. So you’re burdening those parents who already have the hardest time making ends meet with the added burden of somehow also educating their children, themselves. That just isn’t possible.

      • smrnda

        I’m from Chicago, so I saw ‘charter schools’ and ‘school choice’ fail in that city – it was just opening up the ‘education’ of poor minority kids to profiteering, where schools taught to the test, and when they realized they couldn’t meet expectations, like good capitalists the charter school folks abandoned the market.

        I think it’s a bit much to expect the parents to handle educating their own kids. Poor parents typically aren’t that educated, and they usually have to work, so leaving education up to the parents is going to lead to the exact same unequal outcomes we see with unequal access to public education.

        What needs to be done is that resources need to be *forcibly taken away* from the affluent and given to the less affluent. Schools need to be forcibly desegregated, both by race and by class. That would probably get results, but all the privileged people would whine.

      • Seeker

        It’s a feature of the Rethuglican scum to destroy public schools, but before they got a chokehold on America, there was far more equality in school experiences for all children, because the schools were adequately funded.

      • The_L1985

        Not to mention the state universities. Cutting educational funding also cuts state funding to universities, which results in rapid tuition increases–making it harder for people to afford a college education.

        There is just no good outcome from cutting educational funding: K-12 schools suffer, state universities suffer, and more importantly, the children in poor, working-class, and middle-class families suffer.

      • sylvia_rachel

        And the economy suffers, and the country’s international reputation suffers…

    • brbr2424

      I’m a financial professional with a Masters degree. I would not trust myself to give my children a quality education with no gaps. Being an actively involved parent in the classroom and school is a far better use of my time.

  • travelerks

    I fear to think how many home schooled (really unschooled) kids there are out there whose parents are not accountable. Especially for girls. When it briefly crossed my mine to look into homeschooling my daughter 30+ years ago, my current state, Virginia, had very strict requirements. The mother (or other homeschool teacher) had to have a 4-year college degree. Now I understand higher education isn’t even required anymore. I love reading what you write about your experiences because I was raised in an evangelical church (Southern Baptist) so much of what you say resonates with me. Ours was never as strict as you experienced, but I am very familiar with the dogma. When I turned 18 I ran from it, and by age 25, a mother, and in college, I came to the understanding that there is no supreme being outside of ourselves. (Maybe that’s why college can be bad for good Christian girls?)

  • TLC

    The great irony of this is that evangelicals are always preaching about accountability partners, being held accountable, etc. They wont let their kids date or go out alone. You have to have an accountability partner for your marriage, your kids, your Bible study, your diet. Why, then, are these people so afraid of being held accountable themselves for their children’s education?

    Just another example of the hypocrisy I found in these churches.

    • Sally

      Maybe this would be a good way for people to start the dialog within the homeschooling community (the accountability by choice angle).

    • AnotherOne

      I never thought about that, but it’s so true. There’s an accountability partner for everything in conservative evangelicalism, except when it comes to parenting your kids.

  • Sophie

    I’ve got to say I’m getting so sick of homeschooling devotees swooping in here and blaming everything but homeschooling for the problems that you bring up. I don’t understand why they have to insist that everything about HS is perfect and wonderful, it’s like if they admit that sometimes HS doesn’t work out it will bring the end of the world! Even the most passionate public schooling advocates can admit that the system is flawed, why is it that the majority of homeschooling parents can’t do that?

    What’s more irritating is usually their defence is that they were the most wonderful HS parent and their children are the most intelligent well educated children to ever exist, so obviously every HS experience must be like that. Blaming Sarah for her lack of Science education, what the hell? How could she know to learn about a subject that she never had one lesson of? She might have been the next great scientific mind, but that opportunity was taken from her by her mother. Nothing about her situation is even remotely her fault, her mother failed to teach her one of the three core subjects of the curriculum. And these people think there should be no regulation of homeschooling. I feel like I’m banging my head on a wall.

  • Alice

    It would be great if more home-schooling parents would voluntarily seek out friendly accountability even when it isn’t required and can’t be enforced. For instance, having coffee with a public-school teacher once in a while who goes to the same church. But I know it’s not easy for people to be vulnerable when they feel like they are being persecuted and like the reputation of all home-schoolers rests on their shoulders.

    • smrnda

      Agreed. It seems like a problem with homeschooling is how much ego is invested in it.

  • brbr2424

    I considered homeschooling briefly when my 7th grader was having social and academic issues at her school. She didn’t want to go to school in the morning. I spent a few weeks exploring and considering everything and found moved her to another school where she thrived. I’ve noticed a couple of comments from homeschooling moms. Some have the best interests of their children at heart and are open to putting their kids in public school if that works. Others invest so much energy being defensive that they can’t ponder that there could be anything wrong with the homeschooling mode.

    Public school, like technology, has progressed since the moms were in school in the 1980′s. Teacher training has progressed. Most public schools make the kids feel that everyone belongs. Special ed kids are in mainstream classes as much as possible. I’m amazed at how accepted the gay kids are in high school. Some of the gay kids who are funny and theatrical are very popular. In my daughter’s high school, there is such diversity that everyone finds a group they are comfortable with.

  • Composer 99

    It occurs to me that there are two good examples where even highly-trained professionals are held to a very exacting standard of accountability. (People who are in these fields please correct me where I am mistaken.)

    As far as I am aware, a flight crew preparing to take off in any commercial airliner in North America is obliged to run through a pre-flight checklist which ensures their plane is safe and ready to fly. I may be mistaken, but it is my understanding that the plane doesn’t take off until the checklist is all done. These are highly-trained professionals, with thousands of hours of flight training and experience. They still have to fill out the checklist. Not because they’re unreliable; but because they’re only human.

    As another example, consider a surgical team. It is my understanding that it is very common, if not yet universal, for them to have a set of checklists to go through, before and after (and during?) surgery, and everything must be done properly at every step. From reading medical blogs like Science-Based Medicine I have heard of surgeons resisting the notion of checklists, but it is also my understanding that they have greatly reduced the incidence of surgical accidents and errors. Because even the best surgical team is made up of – surprise! – human beings.

    So, when we expect even highly trained professionals to be held accountable to such things as checklists, is it really too much to ask that people taking up the mantle of being educators be held accountable to even quite minimal standards?

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