Stop Saying Homeschoolers Are Brilliant!

Growing up, I read HSLDA’s Home School Court Report and various other homeschool newsletters. I attended homechool conferences and listened to my parents praise the virtues of homeschooling to people they met. I came away believing that homeschooling in and of itself causes kids to excel academically—and that studies had proven this. I heard over and over again that homechoolers scored in the 80th percentile, and listened raptly to stories of homeschoolers getting into Harvard or starting college at age 12. So I’m not surprised that as I’ve addressed homeschooling over the past few weeks commenters have been repeating all of this back to me once again. But when it comes down to it, all of this was wrong—propaganda.

Let me start by quoting from the International Center for Home Education Research (ICHER), a nonpartisan group of scholars who share a common interest in studying homeschooling.

How does U.S. homeschoolers’ academic performance compare with other students?

Evidence regarding this question has been fraught with controversy because most of the studies that have received widest attention have been interpreted to say something they do not and cannot. We simply can’t draw any conclusions about the academic performance of the “average homeschooler,” because none of the studies so often cited employ random samples representing the full range of homeschoolers.

For example, two large U.S. studies (Rudner, 1999; Ray, 2009) are frequently cited as definitive evidence that homeschoolers academically outperform public and private school students. But in both cases, the homeschool participants were volunteers responding to an invitation by the nation’s most prominent advocacy organization to contribute test scores (on tests usually administered by parents in the child’s own home). The demographics of these samples were far whiter, more religious, more married, better educated, and wealthier than national averages. And yet these test score results were compared to average public school scores that included children from all income levels and family backgrounds. Not surprisingly, wealthy homeschoolers from stable two-parent families who take tests administered by their parents in the comfort of their own homes outscore the average public school child by large margins.

The simple fact is that no studies of academic achievement exist that draw from a representative, nationwide sample of homeschoolers and control for background variables like socio-economic or marital status. It is thus impossible to say whether or not homeschooling as such has any impact on the sort of academic achievement measured by standardized tests.

Read these three paragraphs carefully and reread them if you need to. They’re very concise and to the point and also very important. And before anyone starts suggesting that ICHER is biased against homeschooling, allow me to point out that one of the ICHER’s two founders (Milton Gaither) is himself a homeschool father.

The basic gist of the above paragraphs is that studies of homeschoolers’ academic performance have two problems: First, they are voluntary (and usually recruited by HSLDA, explicitly touting them as opportunities to showcase homeschoolers’ academic success), meaning they do not employ random samples and therefore are not representative. Second, homeschool advocates compare the results of these studies to the public school average without correcting for things like race, income, and family background, which means that the statistics as reported and commonly touted don’t actually say anything other than that students from white, two-parent, middle class families do better academically than the average student, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Think about it like this. If an advocacy group devoted to supporting and promoting public schools conducted a study, drawing voluntary participants from their mailing list and promoting the study as a way to prove that public schools are the best academic option, would we assume that the results as representative of all public school students? No. Similarly, if a private school whose students are from families with higher incomes than average boasts about its high test scores, isn’t it worth pointing out that comparing its students’ scores with the public school average without correcting for their higher incomes is unfair, and that its students, being wealthier than average, would likely score above average in public school as well? To accurately examine what the that private school’s test scores show, you would need to compare its students with students who are demographically matched, not with the average public school student. These are the things I never thought about or asked myself when I was told that “studies show” that homeschoolers score in the 80th percentile—and these are the things HSLDA and other homeschool advocacy groups and leaders counted on me not understanding. (I also never thought about the fact that for every anecdote I heard of homechooling success, there might also be an anecdote of homechooling failure—I simply wasn’t hearing that one.)

ICHER co-founder, education scholar, and homeschool father Milton Gaither, who has written the seminal work on the history of the homeschool movement, did a two-part post on Brian Ray’s research organization, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). Both parts are well worth reading for anyone interested in this subject.

Brian D. Ray and NHERI, part 1

Brian D. Ray and NHERI, part 2

Let’s look briefly at the 1999 Rudner study. The study was commissioned by HSLDA but was conducted by a nonpartisan researcher and used scores from the Bob Jones testing service popular with homeschoolers (rather than simply recruiting volunteers from HSLDA’s membership and affiliated homeschool groups, as is typically done). Finally, while the study was volunteer-based, parents didn’t see their students’ scores before deciding whether to participate. The interesting thing is that while HSLDA and other homeschool groups have touted this study to high heaven as proof of homeschoolers’ superior academic achievement, in the actual study Rudner himself was very clear that this was not what the study showed:

This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools. It should not be cited as evidence that our public schools are failing. It does not indicate that children will perform better academically if they are home schooled.

Those sentences were in the actual study. Did anyone actually bother to read them? In the years since the study was conducted, Rudner himself has been appalled by homeschool advocacy groups’ misuse of his study’s results. “I made the case that if you took the same kids and the same parents and put them in public schools, these kids would probably do exceptionally well,” he explained. (For more on Rudner, see this academic paper and this newspaper article and this web post.)

Correcting for Variables

Let me say few more words on correcting for variables. Some years ago, I was holding up my own academic success to my husband once again as proof that homeschooling turns out kids who are higher quality academically than other academic options. He responded with a simple question:

With your parents and socio-economic status, don’t you think you would have done above average if you had gone to your local public schools too? How much of your academic success do you think is really due to being homeschooled?

I was taken aback. I had never thought to ask that. Like me, my husband grew up in a well-educated two-parent upper middle class white family. Like me, he excelled academically, went to college on scholarships, and was extremely successful there—but unlike me he attended public school from kindergarten through high school. I realized in that moment that my academic success needed to be compared to his academic success, not to the academic success of the averaged public school student.

When you compare homeschool test scores to public school test scores without controlling for background variables, you aren’t actually measuring the results of being homeschooled, you’re measuring the results of being in a demographic that is, to quote from the ICHER FAQ, “whiter, more religious, more married, better educated, and wealthier than national averages.”

Do we have any numbers that control for these factors? As it so happens, while we don’t have any statistics on homeschoolers’ academic success that aren’t drawn from volunteer or self-selected samples, we do have some that correct for background variables. (I am now drawing on information from Milton Gaither and Robert Kunzman’s recent survey of the literature and studies on homeschooling—you can read it in full here.)

In 2005, Belfield conducted a study of homeschoolers’ SAT scores, controlling for family background variables, and found that homeschoolers scored slightly better than predicted on the verbal section and slightly worse than predicted on the math section. A 2004 study of the ACT scores of 127 seniors at a diverse suburban public high school found that those who reported the highest level of parental involvement scored quite a bit above average and just as well as homeschoolers taking the ACT (before controlling for other background variables). A 2011 study (Martin-Chang, Gould, and Meuse) looked at 37 homeschoolers and 37 institutionally schooled children who were demographically paired. The study found that some of the homeschool students did better than their institutionally schooled peers while others did worse.

Volunteer-Based Studies

And now we need to switch back to the other key topic here: The fact that studies of homeschoolers are drawn from volunteers or self-selecting groups. The last study I mentioned above, which found that some of the homeschoolers in its sample did better than those who attended institutional schools while others did worse, was not based on a random sample. It was composed of volunteers drawn from homeschool groups and mailing lists. This means that it is not actually representative of all homeschoolers—after all, homeschool parents who are not putting in an effort to educate their children aren’t going to participate in a study like that—and homeschool parents not involved in homeschool groups and organizations would not even hear of it. To put it another way, using volunteers for a study like this almost certainly selects for dedicated and involved parents.

Even the SAT study where homeschoolers, when background factors were controlled for, did better on the verbal and worse on the math suffers from this problem: It naturally selects for college-bound homeschool students. What about those who are not college bound? It’s interesting to note that that very study found that while homeschoolers made up 1.5% of students, they only made up 0.5% of those taking the SAT. Where were the rest of the homeschoolers? It’s possible that some homeschoolers who use correspondence programs or umbrella schools put down that they were actually private school students, so the discrepancy alone is not proof that homeschoolers are less likely to take the SAT (and thus to be college bound) than are public or private school students, but it does point out just how much we don’t know about those homeschoolers who aren’t college bound. (It’s worth mentioning here that some organizations popular among many Christian homeschoolers, including No Greater Joy, Vision Forum, and Advanced Training Institute, explicitly advise parents against sending their children to college.)

Beside the basic information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (which does not touch on academic performance and can be found here and here), the only thing we have that uses a random sample is the Cardus Education Survey (for a good summary, see this article). The Cardus survey examines different methods of religious education, comparing young adults who grew up in religious homechool families (in this case, those who were homeschooled by mothers who attended church regularly) with young adults who attended Christian schools. The survey found that the homeschooled students did worse on their SATs and were considerably less ready for college than the Christian school students. The study also found that homeschoolers scored below average on a number of quality of life measures. Of course, this survey only looked at homeschoolers with religious mothers, not at all homeschoolers, and it looked at individuals who were adults in 2011, meaning that it isn’t necessarily predictive of how current homechoolers will turn out. Still, it’s enough to suggest that there may be more to the story than the rosy picture painted by HSLDA and other homeschool advocacy groups.

Conclusion

Outside of these studies, all we have are anecdotes. And I have news for you: For every brilliant and successful homeschool anecdote you have, I have a counter anecdote. More than that, when I look around at those in the homeschool community I grew up in, I am struck by their ordinariness. Some of us succeeded brilliantly, yes, but others definitely got a very short end of the stick and most were, well, pretty normal. Honestly, when I look around at the people I grew up with, HSLDA’s hype looks rather silly.

It’s not that homeschooling doesn’t or can’t work. The studies HSLDA and other groups tout do show that homeschoolers can succeed academically (though these studies never show that this success is because of homeschooling rather than because of background factors like race, class, and parental involvement). Being homeschooled does not automatically result in academic failure, and parents can successfully teach their children. But being homeschooled doesn’t automatically result in success either. Despite what I came away thinking after growing up reading homeschool literature growing up, homeschooling isn’t some sort of magic brilliant-making powder that turns everyone it touches into geniuses. In fact, after surveying the various academic studies of homeschooling, Kunzman and Gaither had this to say:

A second generalization that emerges from many studies on academic achievement is that homeschooling does not have much of an effect at all on student achievement once family background variables are controlled for.

Remember that this statement is based solely on those homeschoolers who have shown up in measures of academic success—those whose parents had them participate in studies on homeschooler’s academic achievement or those who took the SATs. What about the homeschoolers who don’t participate in such studies or tests? How does homeschooling affect them academically? We honestly don’t know. To answer that question we need studies of homeschoolers’ academic achievement that use random samples rather than volunteers, and at the moment we simply don’t have that.

So to everyone who keeps telling me that homeschooling shouldn’t be regulated because “studies show” that homeschoolers score well above average, please stop. It doesn’t make you look like you actually know what you’re talking about. It rather does the opposite. If you want to tell me that homeschooled kids can do well academically, or that homeschooling in and of itself doesn’t doom children to being ignorant or backward, or that homeschool parents who are dedicated and involved can turn out academically successful students, go ahead—I’ll agree with you 100%. I myself am a case in point! But for the love of all that is living, please, please stop acting like we actually know how homeschoolers score on average and please stop acting like homeschooling is some sort of magic pixie dust or like homeschooled children’s high scores in studies of academic achievement have everything to do with homeschooling and nothing at all to do with demographic factors or family background. It’s seriously getting old.  

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.

  • Stev84

    Right wingers selectively citing studies and comparing apples to oranges? Say it ain’t so! :o

    • scottiesr1

      Because Right wingers are so up on education! Gotcha!

  • Lisa

    I want to add that a major factor that you absolutely need to include, because I find it is crucial, is the attitude of the students. In a call for volunteer homeschoolers, who is most likely to “go for competition” with the public schools? The students who are highly competitive (hence probably also better than avergare anyway), highly motivated and highly confident. I personally would have NEVER volunteered to take part in something like this because I was not good at school and I knew it. I would have been so afraid of “failing” even when you can’t fail. I suppose those taking part in the study are the ones who genuinely have fun competing academically and their parents know that and support them.
    Either way. If you’re like me and you’re not supposed to excel academically in the first place, you will never show up on any of those fancy statistics.

    • luckyducky

      Creaming – the technical term for selecting subjects most likely to succeed.

  • Mel

    Entirely anecdotal, but as a public school teacher I’ve had students entering/ re-entering the system who were brilliant – a girl who passed the entire GED in two weeks – and terribly behind – 5 students who were reading below 4th grade level at high school. I don’t think my sample is representative in any way, but there are teens for whom home schooling fails.

    I figure home schooling has a lot in common with public education – some teachers are good; some teachers are poor. The issue in home schooling is that struggling home schooling teachers may not even know that their students are behind or if they do know do not have access to a support system to change/use new methods.

    • Rosa

      There is also the issue that, if we *do* get a study with a random sampling of current homeschool students, the kids whose parents have realized it’s not working and put them back in public school will show up as public-school stats, not homeschool ones.

      • Mel

        That’s true. What you could do is write the study to exclude students in the public school who have been home-schooled within 2 years and home-schooled students who have received instruction in core areas (math, science, English and social sciences) through public schools within 2 years.

        An additional problem is that so many students in non-regulated states are totally off the map. I don’t know how we’d start to find them let alone test them.

      • Conuly

        That also is the flaw when teachers (not Mel, who was careful to avoid this) say things like “homeschooling is awful for kids, I get former homeschoolers all the time and they suck academically”. Well, yeah, but these are the ones whose parents stopped educating them at home! We have no idea about the remainder, good, bad, or otherwise.

      • Mel

        I’ve seen that homeschooling works for some families. Several of my cousins have been home-schooled with great success. Education is one of those fields where there is a lot more grey than black-and-white.

        I also think that saying that ‘all’ families should home-school as is trotted out by some very conservative Christians is a recipe for disaster. I love my mom; she’s a great mom. She hates teaching. Mom struggled with depression during much of my childhood. As an adult, I can’t imagine the level of hell it would have been for my mom if she had been trapped at home with the 3 of us all day trying to do a job she hated while depressed. I honestly believe that if my mom had been guilt-tripped into home-schooling us our family would have become seriously dysfunctional and possibly abusive. School for us kids and a job for Mom gave all of us some time apart which paradoxically helped improve our time together.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I think this would have been true in my family, too, even though my mom actually loves teaching (but her teaching career was mostly with adults). It was certainly a hideous disaster when she tried to teach me piano, although not as much of a hideous disaster as when my dad tried to teach me violin, in that I did eventually, with other teachers, learn to play the piano, but developed a psychological allergy to the violin. My mom is also a great mom, and she has taught me a lot of things, but part of the secret of academic success for me was my mom’s policy of staying out of my formal education as much as possible.

        For one thing, but she’s a HUGE extrovert, and staying at home all the time makes her unhappy (whereas I am much more introverted — not all the way at the other end of the scale, but definitely on the I side of centre). She’s also very good at math, which I … am not, and I remember her being hugely frustrated with my inability to get (and, let’s be honest, lack of interest in getting) better at math — even though she *wasn’t* the one responsible for teaching me; I can’t imagine it would have been better if she *had* been.

      • Rosa

        I very rarely see people saying “homeschooling is awful” – most are saying “homeschooling CAN BE awful” or “I see a lot of homeschool kids struggling.” to counter the “Homeschooling is 100% wonderful, all homeschooled kids outperform other kids, all homeschool parents are committed and involved and know what’s best for their kids!”

        Which homeschool defenders then respond to as if what was said was “All homeschooling is terrible!”

      • Conuly

        I actually *do* see people saying that, sometimes quite apropos of nothing. All we *really* know about it is that anecdotal evidence isn’t really evidence.

    • KarenJo12

      Equally anecdotal: my younger son was in Cub Scouts with a kid whose mother decided to homeschool him in the 2nd grade. He returned to school in the 4th grade, but was so far behind the other kids academically that he had to be dropped back to the 2nd grade, and, consequently, quit Scouts. He will now be counted as a public school failure eve though the reason he is behind is bad homeschooling.

      I note that his parents are upper middle class and married.

    • ReactIRC

      Some kids are good while others are poor. Some kids are biologically incapable of understanding abstract thought.

  • http://expreacherskid.wordpress.com/ Nathan

    Since I’m drawn to Conservapedia as a moth to the flame, here’s homeschool assertion that’s completely nonsensical, from the Best of the Public section:

    “Homeschooled students tended to dominate the annual Math Counts competition to such an extent that the competition changed the rules to ban teams of homeschoolers from participating.”

    And then they cite this article: http://theaquilareport.com/homeschoolers-count-national-math-competition-bans-homeschoolers/

    Suffice to say the article doesn’t come close to matching their assertion. Homeschool teams were banned in 2010 because students from various public schools or tutoring centers would form ‘super teams’ and identify as homeschoolers.

    I agree that it’s a little weird to just ban homeschool teams wholesale, but they were allowed back in the competition in 2011 and 2012.

  • FBG

    I also think some of the brilliant parent/child homeschooling teams are genetically predisposed to work because the parent and child have the same learning styles and, often, many of the same interests. I’ve known some great homeschooling families, though – when I was working as a public librarian, the homeschooling kids were pretty much the only ones who would pick up a nonfiction book that wasn’t for a report.

    I wish I’d been homeschooled. I went to a reasonably well off suburban public school, and I did not have a great experience and was often bored with the repetitive material/tediously drawn out distribution.

    • tsara

      “”I also think some of the brilliant parent/child homeschooling teams are genetically predisposed to work because the parent and child have the same learning styles and, often, many of the same interests.””

      This can also backfire pretty spectacularly, though. My dad and I have completely different learning styles, but I’d rather be homeschooled by him than by my mom — my mom and I both have ADD/ADHD, but I’m considerably worse than my mom. We really don’t work well on projects together, because not only do we have a lot of the same problems, but my issues tend to interfere with and trigger her issues and she can end up taking her insecurities out on me. Additionally, because my ADD is so much worse than hers, she tends to get frustrated with me when I have difficulty doing things (especially when those difficulties seem to be ADD-related); after all, she could do that with no problems, so I must just be being stubborn or giving her attitude.

      My dad, on the other hand, is very organized, focused, and good at getting things done — and all of those things are skills I do not have, and really, really need to learn.

      EDIT: my dad’s also a lot more patient than my mom.

      • Alice

        Yeah, my dad had to teach me math because my mom didn’t know pre-algebra. He got frustrated with me a lot, and sometimes wasn’t good at explaining the concepts in a way that I could understand. I HATED him being frustrated at me all the time.

        In college, I would freak out about letting my professors down and making them angry. I finally realized that they had a ton of students, and they saw students turning in poor work all the time, so they were hardly going to get upset at me.

        I think it’s good for the roles of parent and teacher to be separate. Sometimes my parents were too easy on me, for instance I could get out of doing a textbook or assignment if I cried about it. That doesn’t fly in college or the real world. There is also a lot of pressure to always please your parents because they are your parents and your teachers, and if you are really isolated like I was, they’re your entire world. There’s no one else to go to when things are tense.

      • Mel

        I think you are both on to something. As a teacher, I can tell you the first few years are really frustrating because you are learning how to explain ideas in a way that others understand. It gets better because you get practice in explaining the same concepts over and over and over. One of my biggest concerns about homeschooling my own children is that I would be so frustrated while trying to learn how to explain each concept from pre-K – 12.

      • smrnda

        I understand why parents think its great to have such an intense, personal interest in their kids, but if there is anything I learned from public school, it is that sometimes, it’s a relief just to be a number. Sometimes being just one person in a class of 30, or 300, can be a relief.

      • Alice

        Definitely, and too much helicopter parenting stunts children’s ability to be independent and do things on their own, especially as they grow into teenagers and adults.

      • ako

        My mom spent a lot of time trying to help me learn math, and her approach did not work for me. She was doing her best, and it apparently worked like a charm for my older brother, but she could not figure out where I was getting stuck and confused, or how to break things down so I’d understand it. Combining that with me being an emotional adolescent with a tendency to stress out about math, and it didn’t got at all well. She’s offer what, to her, seemed like a perfectly reasonable explanation, and to me it’d feel like “I can’t believe you don’t know something this simple! All you do is take the x, add the y, carry the z, n, balance, carry, x squared over yz, blah, blah, blah, so it comes out to three times four. Can you figure out three times four, or do you even need help with that?” (She’d phrase things more kindly, but between her audible frustration and my distressed tendency to take things the worst way, it got ugly.)

        I’m really, really, really glad she wasn’t primarily responsible for teaching me math.

      • sylvia_rachel

        When I was going down in flames in math class, my mom got a friend to tutor me. A friend who, for a living, taught math & stats to university undergraduates and MA and PhD students. He’s a sweet, patient, lovely guy, but OMG what a hideous disaster! The same exact thing happened when he tried to help his own daughter with math … and meanwhile her 4-years-younger brother would wander by and go, “Oh, that’s easy, the answer’s [whatever]!” which of course pretty much just made her head explode. (Little brother now has advanced degree in math. Older sister is very successful in a career which does not require advanced math.)

        Moral of the story (IMO): He who is great at teaching advanced math to math people is not necessarily any good at teaching less advanced math to non-math people. :P

  • Composer 99

    Basically, the data so far show that children with affluent parents who are enthusiastically involved in their education will, on average, out-perform children who do without, whether they attend public schools, private schools, or are homeschooled.

    I’m sure I can be forgiven for failing to find this surprising or remarkable.

    • David S.

      I think it should be remarkable. On one hand you have trained professionals, at the higher-levels subject-specific going against untrained parents. On the other hand, you have someone trying to teach 30 children in one class and 150 children a day versus someone tailoring teaching plans to one or a handful of children. That both of those effects either cancel out or are irrelevant is remarkable.

      • staceywm

        I think that shows that you really do need to be a trained professional to teach 30 kids at a time, and 100+ a day, but if you only have to teach ONE student you know well, or even a few kids in similar circumstances, less training won’t make a huge difference. This makes perfect sense to me.

    • ScottiesRock

      Home schooling may be OK for average kids but in order for kids to excel, they need knowledgeable teachers. I am trying to figure out how mom or dad can teach their kid calculus or physics? Even if mom or dad took the classes, there is no way they remember them enough to teach. Home schooling may get a child through elementary school but it will not prepare a child for a real college!

      • Conuly

        This is an argument I just don’t get. Like, all around don’t get.

        If the assumption is that kids are just going to forget what they learn in school and never need it, why are we teaching them physics and calculus in the first place? And if we do think it is important, why are we accepting of the idea that nobody is ever going to retain that information? The argument “you have to send your kids to high school because there is no way you could remember what you learned in high school” doesn’t remotely seem compelling to me. “The schools failed you, so you have to let them fail your kids!”

        Of course, that presupposes that the schools did fail you and you don’t retain anything you learned there, something you asserted but made no effort to prove.

        At any rate, I know many students that age, homeschooled or not, who take courses in college with dual enrollment. It seems to me that if you are homeschooling through high school and live anywhere near a college or university that this should be an option. That, or you hire a private tutor for subjects you yourself aren’t good at. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me, but maybe somebody who is currently homeschooling a high school aged student (not homeschooling, kids aren’t that old yet) can weigh in and explain.

      • Anat

        I would have no problem teaching calculus and trigonometry or most of physics with nothing more than a quick self-administered refresher. I may not remember all the formulas of the top of my head by I know what they mean and can develop most of them from first principles. The humanities on the other hand are a whole other business. So I understand the difference between getting a topic enough to survive and getting it well enough to be able to teach it.

      • sylvia_rachel

        To take the opposite example from Anat’s, I think there’s a big difference between the general scientific literacy that we want kids to take away from high school and the specialized (science and pedagogy) knowledge that’s required to teach that general grounding effectively. I remember a lot of stuff from my high school chemistry and biology classes — enough to have a reasonable chance of sifting actual science from pseudo-science in news stories, for example, which is a really important life skill that I am grateful to have — but I certainly don’t feel qualified to teach either of those subjects on the basis of what I remember. I would do better at biology than at chemistry, but having not formally studied either one for 20 years, I think I’d need a lot more than a quick refresher to teach them competently (if I were good at teaching, which I’m not). Also, science has moved on a lot since then, and will continue to do so.

        My point isn’t that parents can’t be perfectly OK teachers but that once you get to the high school level, and likely even before then, you *need* that outside help from a dual-enrolment program, an online learning program, private tutors, or whatever, and it’s the affluent and well-educated parents who are the most likely to be able to (a) find and (b) afford those outside supports and resources (which, unlike public school, are unlikely to be free).

        I disagree with ScottiesRock that homeschooling is ipso facto incapable of preparing a student for university or college. Obviously, it can and does do exactly that for many kids! But I agree with her/him that very few parents are likely to be able to teach their kids effectively through the high school level alone, without substantial outside help in those areas where they have less expertise.* When parents are cognizant of their specific limitations and strengths, and able and willing to get their kids the outside resources they need, that’s a successful homeschool situation. When parents are less cognizant, or when the whole point of homeschooling for them is to ensure their kids are never exposed to outside influences, that’s … not so successful.

        I don’t think I’m disagreeing with your point, just turning it around and examining it from different angles.

        *No high school teacher does this, after all: they specialize. In some jurisdictions, teachers even at the junior high / middle school level are specialists. My elementary school, in fact, had specialist science,
        music, art, drama, PE, math, and computer teachers, although many of them also had more generalist classroom responsibilities, and that was a Very Good Thing … a thing I wish our current local school board could afford. :P

      • Conuly

        Ugh, can’t paste into text box for some reason. Anyway, third paragraph from the bottom, we are on the same wavelength there. If you’re going to educate your kid at home, it seems it is your responsibility to know the things you cant teach well and get help for them.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Exactly!

      • Northstar

        You’ve nailed, it, Conuly. Since by law my dd could not take a core course like math at the local hs as an elective, we ended up sending her to community college for math, chem and lab bio. Not the ideal solution because it’s faster paced, but she’s a good student and did well. Or, as I noted above before seeing your post, many people use video lessons plus bookwork for advanced courses.

      • Mary C

        Conuly, subjects like physics and calculus aren’t taught because we think everyone will use those specific subjects in their careers, but because learning those subjects teaches a person how to think mathematically and scientifically. It trains the brain, if you will. And that transfers to everything a person does, no matter what their career. In today’s technologically advanced world, that is an advantage that cannot be overstated.

        Aside from that, learning the concepts of calculus and physics gives a wonderful perspective of the world that enables greater understanding of science and higher levels of critical thinking – even if the nitty-gritty details aren’t retained.

        And the “well they can take it as dual enrollment at college while they are still in high school” argument… Frankly, this is not a solution for every student. For some students, without a high school physics background, college level physics would be extremely challenging to pass. I took both high school science classes and college science classes through dual enrollment while a senior in HS, and got good grades. But college level calculus, had I not taken it in HS first, would have eaten me alive. And my best friend, who already had two years of HS biology, cried at least once a week over our college biology class (taken through dual enrollment).

      • Composer 99

        ScottiesRock:
        Since such data as we currently possess do show that children who we can predict will succeed academically based on their demographics do succeed on average, even when homeschooled, I do not believe it supports your claim that homeschooling will not prepare a child for a real college.

      • Anat

        I don’t think the problem is remembering. The problem is having enough enthusiasm for all subjects and really understanding the fundamentals.

      • Jayn

        Agreed. And even if you understand the subject well, that doesn’t mean you can teach it to others. (Sometimes, that can actually be a barrier. One reason I sucked at giving homework help in high school was because I couldn’t understand how someone could fail to understand the subject matter) Even in the subjects I understood well, I don’t think I could give a good education to my children. Teaching is more than just knowing, it’s also about communicating that knowledge.

      • Sally

        When your kid gets to this level, you farm out to other resources: community college, private tutor, co-op, online, or software.

      • Northstar

        ScottiesRock, we use video instruction along with a text and a teacher’s edition, often with software or online sites for testing and quizzes. A parent doesn’t have to know everything about every subject, just where resources can be found. My dd, now 17, has been doing very well at college, evidenced by her 4-point, for the last 3 years, prepared in this manner.

      • blackacidlizzard

        they need good teachers? Don’t look to the public schools for that, a great many teaching math in twelfth grade can’t pass an eighth grade math test. And looking to my own time in public school, I learned very little (i literally learned nothing about math in school before seventh grade, and nothing more than better math technique (shortcuts, proper terminology) before ninth.

        A supreme court justice has admitted the point of public schooling, and any honest leftist (a rare breed, admittedly) will understand that ‘socialization’ and ‘civic consensus’ is inherently anti-intellectual, even if the social consensus the children are being indoctrinated with is the evils of the White race, the need to give non-heterosexuals special leeway, and how the good is the bad (see: eugenics)

      • Anat

        Huh? Quote requested for your claim about math teachers. Also, I’d like to know where you think any of ‘the evils of the White race, the need to give non-heterosexuals special leeway, and how the good is the bad (see: eugenics)’ are being taught as normative.

      • nor

        Ever heard of the invention called “the computer?” All the AP classes are now online. My kid actually took college locally for high school, including organic chemistry. He also taught math for extra money at the local college to people who needed assistance. Not a problem. Of course, we parents barter for tutoring. I am a doctor, and I barter chemistry tutoring for Mandarin Chinese tutoring. Works for me. BTW, now kid number one is actually getting paid to attend college, the free ride was not enough money for him.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    Another point: my husband and I got excellent scores on the act, psat, and sat. We got prestigious scholarships. This got paraded around the homeschool group as a success story, but it is likely we’d have scored as well being public schooled, and also when a kid gets a low score, no one parades it around as an example of what homeschooling does. Homeschoolers pick the best and brightest and use them as examples of how great homeschooling is. It’s a success/survivorship bias.

  • thatotherjean

    I wonder–is it possible to compare the SAT/ACT scores of students in self-identified Christian colleges such as Pensacola Christian College, Wheaton College, Crown College and Bob Jones University (many of whom were home-schooled) and the scores of students from state and private colleges and universities? Even if it is possible to select for home-schooled Christian college students and publicly-educated students in other types of schools, that still leaves the results biased in favor of those going on to higher education; but it’s better than comparing volunteer home-schoolers with average public school students. If there is such a study, I’d love to see the results.

  • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

    Notice also the difference between children being tested in private by their parents vs. having tests proctored by a party who can be trusted to prevent cheating. I once helped my ex-husband cheat on an online test with the rationalization that I needed him to pass so he could get a job and help get us out of a massive debt spiral. There’s nothing here to prevent parents from actively cheating, or from simply not knowing that their children may be cheating.

    • Saraquill

      I was once finishing a test at home, and my mom got mad at me for refusing to cheat.

    • staceywm

      Parents can also help the testing along by giving the kids materials and doing other things testing in a proctored environment does not allow. This can mean calculators and PCs where it wouldn’t otherwise be allowed, or even letting the kid look up answers or take time to relearn before finishing. Besides, they are in the comfort of home and a familiar environment, and they can spend all the time in the world, and take breaks, without anyone knowing better. I am sure this happens quite a bit.

  • smrnda

    I studied cognitive psychology, so the idea that you can compare the performance of kids taking a test *at home* to kids taking a test at school (and quite often, you take the SAT or ACT at a school other than the one you attend) is definitely not a valid comparison as location has an effect on performance.

    • tsara

      In which direction, though? Assuming no cheating (which is a bit of an unrealistic assumption, I know), would the proportion of students who do better at home not be balanced out by the proportion of students who do better in more formal situations?
      (I ask because I have a terrible time with getting things — including tests and even simple homework assignments — finished in a reasonable amount of time if I’m not in a very formalized test-taking (the end is the end is the end, here is a giant clock, and people who don’t know you are watching you) situation. I can spend hours on a single multiple choice question if I have time to think and to second-guess myself, but I do very, very well on standardized tests, especially when the invigilators are scary.)

      • smrnda

        I’d have to drag out some books for studies, but even something as simple as taking a test in the same place that you were taught the material can have a positive effect on performance. I’m not sure how robust that is, and I’m sure there are people like yourself who would be exceptions, but it seems to be placing home-schooled students at an advantage.

      • tsara

        Hrm, yeah, I hadn’t thought of location as recall-aid; I was just thinking about different types of stress reactions.
        I know I’m an outlier in terms of the magnitude of the performance difference I show in favour of formal rather than informal settings for test-taking, but I’d forgotten that for most people test-taking is difficult because of the material on the test and not just the test itself and getting the answers on the paper/computer… and that seems like it would be a pretty large factor in success.

        EDIT: my brain is pretty strange.

      • Alice

        Yeah, the parents might not enforce the time limits. When I was home-schooled, I took the standardized test every year and my parents only enforced the time limits two or three times that I remember. Which was cheating, but at the time we didn’t think of it as cheating since they weren’t helping me with the answers.

        Generally I do better if I don’t have time to second-guess myself, but there have also been plenty of times when I changed answers and they ended up being right. With tests like the ACT, I ran out of time on most of the sections, so I just randomly filled in bubbles on the rest of the questions. How much time it takes to answer questions indicates how well people know the material.

      • Conuly

        If it makes you feel better, there is little evidence that not having a time limit helps anybody other than those with certain specific learning disabilities.

      • Alice

        Also, one time Libby Anne wrote a post about how much anxiety she felt when she had to take a standardized test in a public school. Not because of the test, but because she had always been told public schools were evil, scary places of doom. I’ve been inside a public school building a handful of times (mostly running errands with relatives), and I remember feeling nervous each time, even though it wasn’t anywhere close to a panic attack.

    • KarenJo12

      My kids are in public school in Texas and make slightly — very slightly — above average grades. They are both quite bright but supremely forgetful. Their grades suffer because they often forget homework or leave things at home. This isn’t even possible for homeschool kids, since the classroom is in another room in the same house. Is a parent going to give her child a zero for leaving the book report in the bedroom? Add to this the issues related to test-taking, and the fact that a homeschooled kid has as much time as it takes to master an idea while a public school kid only has the number of days allowed for the unit by the school. My kids will be competing for placement in college against kids who have never had to remember to put their homework in a backpack. This is terribly unfair.

      • smrnda

        You make a great point, plus, teachers can kind of start to dislike certain kids and can play favorites with whose excuses count. First kid says “oops, I forgot my paper” and the teacher says okay, second kid says “I forgot my homework” and gets an F. The teacher is not personally invested in all kids getting an A+, whereas parents probably are.

        And though I know that it can benefit kids to get loving, nurturing instruction from parents who love them, what happens when they leave home and go to college or work? Teachers and employers shouldn’t be too mean and nasty, but how does a young adult who has always been taught by Mom and Dad adjust to dealing with people who don’t automatically love them?

      • Rosa

        And most adults – including employers – value things like “remembering what you needed for today” quite a lot.

  • Gillianren

    Hey, I knew a public school kid who skipped a bunch of grades and started at Cal State LA when he was twelve. And, yes, he was also badly socialized, so he fits a couple of different homeschool stereotypes despite having been to public school. It happens, and that’s why, as my scientist friends all phrase it, “the plural of anecdote is not data.”

    One of my old college friends is a public school teacher, and one of his Facebook friends is apparently some homeschooling advocate or something in Florida. He said his experiences with homeschooling trump the dozen or so people I know personally who were homeschooled (and mostly failed by it in one way or another), because he knows hundreds of homeschooled kids. On the other hand, he also trotted out these same studies to prove his point, so there’s what he knows, I guess.

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

    Props for a great post! I am pretty sure I would have excelled either way considering how little education I really had. What educated me: even my parents were curious learners (they slacked at making me study, but made up for it in the fact that we were always discussing things together), I was a curious learning, and I just love to study more than anything else. All of those things would have remained true in public school or private school. This does not mean I discredit homeschooling as being my means of learning, but it doesn’t testify everything either.

  • Lorelei

    *Academically*, I did very well homeschooling. I was one of those annoying little success stories who completed 2 grades per year (and still had most of the day free to do housework, clean the stable & carriages, and groom & talk to the horses, who were basically my only friends), while I was out of brick & mortar schools. I ALSO did very well in those brick & mortar schools, graduating HS with a 3.7 GPA. /shrug

    My brother, my Irish twin, struggled with homeschooling. We both worked into the summer, but for different reasons–he needed to finish. I needed to keep him company (otherwise it wasn’t fair to the superior, if younger, male). I know there was a lot of yelling about him failing classes in our HS. And his teachers would ask me to try to talk with him, not knowing that was the worst. possible. thing. to motivate him, ever, heh.

    It’s not homeschooling, it’s the person.

    Edited to add: We would have both done horribly, if we hadn’t had a set curriculum with send-away tests and such. My mother couldn’t teach, she didn’t have a GED. So thank goodness our state required that. And thank goodness they didn’t find ACE before CLASS. It could have been SO MUCH WORSE. (I watch too much MLP.)

    • Monimonika

      MLP… My Little Pony? (Seriously, I’m not sure what the acronym stands for.)

      • Lorelei

        Yes, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. In this particular post I was channeling Rarity, although I identify with Twilight far more. (But fainting couch drama is so much fun in comments!)

      • Monimonika

        Ha! I guessed right. :-D

        *hoof*

        The reason for the confusion was because Rarity actually says, “Of all the worst things that can happen, this is THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. THING.”

        The wording was kinda there, but not quite, in your comment so I had to ask. Also, you had some other acronyms nearby.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Rarity is best Pony.

      • Lorelei

        All hail the Lunar Republic!

        (Luna is SO Best Pony.)

  • J-Rex

    My family homeschooled, but it was too much for my mom to handle so we were put into public school when I was in 3rd grade. I’m pretty intelligent and had always been taught that homeschooled kids turned out smarter, so I assumed that was the case with me.
    But then there was my sister who had to be held back a year because my mom never had time for their lessons. And some siblings were very smart but didn’t always get the best grades. I realized it was pretty silly for me to assume that the homeschooling made any difference when it had failed my sister and when there were plenty of people who had done better than me who were in public school all their lives.

    I think with the right parents, homeschooling probably has more potential just because it’s easier for kids to work ahead and get one-on-one attention, but even then, they’re probably missing out on a lot of social skills.

  • josh

    This reminds me of a former colleague who mentioned that he homeschooled his kids. According to him they were very bright and doing well, and public schooling hadn’t been a good fit for them. I got the sense there may have been bullying issues and he felt like the public school hadn’t done everything it could for his gifted child.

    My thought was ‘Yes, but you’re a freaking physics professor and your wife is probably highly educated and successful as well! That’s great for your kids if you’ve got the time and motivation, but most parents aren’t well qualified to teach trig and algebra, much less calculus the way you are, and many have both spouses working full time jobs where you can support a family with one.’ I’m sure homeschooling works out great for some kids, it may even be the best option for some, but as a general program it seems ludicrous. The public system is there to try and ensure every kid a decent education and I’m really leery about the attitude that people should just opt out if they can get a better deal for their spawn (or think they can).

    • Christine

      I would also point out that above-average kids will (academically) benefit from homeschooling a lot more than average or below-average ones. In a classroom setting they wouldn’t be challenged as much, because the curriculum is designed for the average kid. They’d probably still do well in public school, but trying to claim that homeschooling is why the kids are brilliant is complete BS.

      • Conuly

        A lot of kids who are bright or gifted do badly in school, actually, simply because boredom is demotivating.

      • Christine

        I was under the impression that was at least half of the reason for gifted programmes in school. (Granted, a lot of special ed teachers unfortunately seem to think otherwise, which really undermines them.)

      • Conuly

        If you can get one, which (even when they’re available isn’t guaranteed).

        Of course, they’re still no panacea.

    • smrnda

      This totally applies to me, as my parents were college professors in STEM fields. I wish people would think of questions like ‘how is home-schooling going to benefit the single mom who works at wal-mart?’

      • sylvia_rachel

        THIS THIS THIS.

      • staceywm

        You silly. Those people don’t count! They don’t need to do well, they are the serfs of the future, there to serve the awesome xtian HSers…. /snark

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      This seems a little mean-spirited to me. What exactly is wrong with parents whose child is suffering or not having their needs met in public school trying homeschooling as a solution if they have the resources and education to be able to do it well? Isn’t “trying to get a better deal for your spawn” kind of a natural thing for parents to want for their children? I completely agree with you that it should not be promoted as a “general program,” because I believe in the principle of public education and because quality homeschooling is simply not an option for too many families. But it doesn’t sound like your colleague was saying that homeschooling is the solution or that every family should do it. He was saying that it was the best choice for them as a family.

      Our long-term goal should be to improve public school systems so that they actually fulfill their purpose of ensuring every kid a safe space where they can get a (more than) decent education. But we’re definitely not there yet and, meanwhile, parents need to look out for the needs of their children that need to be educated right now. If homeschooling provides a better way for those needs to be met than the school system does, and it’s something that they can do, than what is wrong with that? It’s not a perfect solution–I think that, even the best homeschooling situation is missing some important and valuable things, like the opportunity to learn among kids that come from different backgrounds and points-of-view. But, for some families, it might be the best option available, at least for a little while. (I also think there’s a huge difference between homeschooling K-12 and homeschooling for a few years.) Why shouldn’t they take it if they can and it will help their kid?

      • Jon Thompson

        Public schools are cesspools. We should eliminate them and provide proper schooling for those who want it. Let’s stop using guns as as solution to all social problems. The schools will never get better because they are based on coercion.

      • staceywm

        Cesspools? ALL public schools? Come on.

        The ones here are very nice, as were the ones I attended. Maybe if we properly funded all schools, we would have better schools in low SES areas.

        I don’t like the coercion either, and we could work towards more of a democratic model, but cesspools?

      • Jon Thompson

        A few are fine in a purely academic sense, but even those are mired in propagandizing the kids. Properly funded? Come on, you cannot be serious. They are endless money pits. At what point is enough enough? If the model isn’t working, let’s change it.

      • Conuly

        Rilian? Is that you in there?

      • Sally

        I thought the same thing.

      • Nancy Shrew

        Not enough comparisons to slavery.

  • Christine

    Libby, I’m wondering about your choice of words here – your title implies that people claim homeschooling makes kids smarter. Is this something that gets said?

    Frankly, once someone demonstrates that they don’t understand the difference between intelligence and academic ability, they’ve made a fairly strong argument against whatever educational theories they’re spouting (to me). I know that parents can do things that will affect how smart a child is, and educational methods can help with that, but how you score on the tests isn’t really a measure of intelligence.

    • Saraquill

      There’s at least one person who frequently comments who enjoys saying that homeschoolers (particularly unschoolers) learn more, get better grades and are superior academically.

      • Christine

        A claim like that is quite plausible to me. IF done properly*, unschooling is a great method for knowledge comprehension and retention. Claiming that students learn more, score better on tests and are superior academically, while debatable, is more believable than saying that the children are actually smarter.

        *that is a huge if – there are reasons beyond inertia that we don’t do unschooling in most public schools, at least not to a great extent. And it’s a method that requires a lot more from the instructor than traditional schooling, making the pool of parents who can do it successfully much smaller.

      • BrandonUB

        That seems like it’s a claim that’s actually true, it’s just that it’s not true for the reasons that individual would like it to be.

    • MyOwnPerson

      I hear homeschool achievement given as the canned answer for why homeschooling shouldn’t be regulated.

  • Jenesis

    Part of me is morbidly curious as to what would happen if we took all the kids held up as examples of “failing public schools” — stereotypically poor, nonwhite, with parents uninterested in their children’s lives, who may or may not be dealing with substance abuse/domestic abuse/undiagnosed mental issues/separated parents/who are unemployed/and barely graduated high school themselves — and give all their families Christian Homeschooling manuals in lieu of a public school education.

    I expect the results would be disastrous.

    • Lorelei

      /waves!

      Hi! Again, it *depends*. My parents were convicted drug dealers. My mother didn’t get her GED until my senior year (and she had to take algebra several times). We were never actually taught, just handed the curriculum (and were pulled out of school because of threats to call CPS because of signs of abuse). My parents were horribly abusive, and my grandmother thinks I should give my mother a pass because ‘she was never quite right’. We were also desperately poor. Those horses & carriages mentioned above? Those weren’t a hobby of mine, they were my father’s business. I didn’t get to go to college, despite aptitude & desire, because they hadn’t filed taxes in YEARS, and refused to sign any paperwork.

      But we were white.

    • staceywm

      I am pretty tired of the idea that non whites care less about their kids education. I realize you (Jenesis) didn’t mean it that way, and that you were just repeating the old trope as an example, but I had to mention it. The matter of privilege always effects the outcomes in education. It is a slap in the face for all the hard working non whites, who face obstacles that most whites just do not face, even the poor ones.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Thank you! Just because people are not able to be as involved in their children’s education, or intercede on their their children’s behalf in the school system as much as other people in better circumstances does not mean they don’t care. Poor and/or uneducated parents=/=deadbeat parents.

  • Andrew Leaming

    I think one of the things that makes this issue more complicated is that there is quite a variety of different homeschooling styles, but they are all typically lumped together. There’s unschooling, which has got to be the dumbest thing ever and is terrible (it’s also really what Libby Anne complains about most). There’s co-oping, where homeschool kids get together to do work often with one of the parents who has experience in a subject teaching it for all of them. There’s what amounts to private home tutoring, my dad was a retired college professor and he and my mom did my schooling together. There’s distance learning programs where the books are sent to the students and then they send the tests and such into the company to be graded. There are lots of assistance things like how Saxon Math will provide videos to go along with the text books so the lessons are taught by qualified teachers. Some homeschoolers I know had to be taught everything by their parent, others were so independently motivated that they taught themselves the material only relying on the text books (which worked very well for them).

    It just bugs me when all these things get lumped together, whether it be to praise them all or condemn them all under the heading of “homeschooling” when some of them are as different from each other as they are from public schooling.

    • Rosa

      When we’re talking about legislation, which we have been quite a bit, it’s all one thing, though- the same set of rules is for all homeschoolers, just like there’s one set of laws for all public schools and one for all private schools. Various exemptions and allowance for individual situations (like my son’s public school got a pass on math score for several years because the Montessori curriculum it uses teaches math differently than standard public schools) but if that kind of flexibility is written into the law, the law will still apply to any situation that fits the wording, not just the situation it was intended for.

      • Andrew Leaming

        And I think that’s a problem. All types of homeschooling are not at all equal or even similar. I think it’s absurd to have the same laws govern them all as if there was no difference. Unschooling is even more different from co-oping than public schooling is to private schooling (to give one example).

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

        Which is why we don’t have the same laws to govern all. In Iowa, which I think pretty much had the model laws, there were actually four separate options, each with different rules: Homeschool under a supervising teacher, or through a correspondence program, or have your children take a standardized test each year, or have your children put together a portfolio each year, for review by a teacher.

        Also, I find your distinctions a bit rigid. All of the unschoolers I’ve known have also participated in co-ops and taken classes. They’ve simply followed their children’s interests in these areas rather than dictating what their kids have to take. Also, My parents taught me one on one for some subjects, had me use textbooks on my own, had me in co-ops, and employed some methods of unschooling. In fact, everyone I knew had some combination of this.

      • Andrew Leaming

        Really? That’s interesting (and good). The states I’m familiar with (GA, AL, and VA) aren’t (/weren’t it’s been a couple years since I finished so I’m not positive the laws are still the same) like that.

        I didn’t mean to imply that they are rigid, but that they can be. I too know some people that did a mix (a couple years I did a mix, but typically didn’t), and others that didn’t mix at all.

      • Rosa

        I didn’t say there was no difference – I actually gave a concrete example where an allowance for difference was made within the regulations for public schools. I said the homeschooling laws apply to everyone who claims to be homeschooling.

        Flexibility can be written in, but the laws have to be applied as written, not as intended. We can’t write the law as if all homeschooling parents are one thing (“all using purchased curricula” or “all well-meaning and committed” or “all homeschooling to deal with special needs”) and then say “well we didn’t mean them to apply to religious/unschooling/abusive parents”. That’s an argument that keeps popping up here “Homeschooling parents are X! Except abusers and neglectful people, I didn’t mean them.” It’s one body of law (or one lack of laws.)

    • sylvia_rachel

      Quick definitional thing: Unschooling (e.g., see here) is not the same thing as educational neglect.

      Which I don’t imagine would stop an educationally neglectful homeschooling parent from claiming to be unschooling … but they really are not the same thing.

      (I have no horse in this race — my kid goes to public school. I just like to have the terms of debate defined accurately.)

      • Conuly

        Ditto on no horse in this race, and I concur that unschooling, done sanely, seems to work well for some students (though I note that the few people I know who do that insist their kids still do SOME math and reading daily. They, like, mostly unschool), it seems like one method of education that is easy to flub.

      • sylvia_rachel

        it seems like one method of education that is easy to flub

        Yes, I expect it would be…

    • staceywm

      If you have never seen unschooling in real life, you might think it is insane. There is an entire school here that is basically US, but not at home. I use to think it was a crazy way to learn, but found a huge group of US families, and was super impressed by their kids. Ancedotes only, but proof that it is not “the dumbest thing ever”, as it does work for some.

      I can’t see this working well for every family, but for a select few, it can be amazing. It is also a LOT of work. I do think US has less in common with HS than HS does with private/public, so grouping them together isn’t helpful, but there aren’t too many USers. I think there are more USers in US style schools (Sudbury) than there are out, so I bet more get grouped in with “schooled” kids than with HSers.

      Just a thought.

      • Sally

        My former hsing group was mostly relaxed hsers and unschoolers. They thumbed their noses at the Sudbury school that opened in our area. It’s been struggling along but is not a huge success, and we’re in a major metro area. I think one reason it may not be that successful is that there hasn’t been as much pursuing of education by the students themselves as one might hope. The unschoolers in our group didn’t like the idea of paying for their kids to go there and wait to see if/when they’d take up something educational. I think in the case of this school, that was a legitimate concern.

        It would be really neat to see a Sudbury school that had a strong culture of educational pursuit among the students.

  • ako

    This is very true. I think my public school experince is a good example of how some kids can do well in some public schools, and have great learning opportunities above and beyond what they recieve at home, but there are other factors (for instance, high reading skills run in the family, and my mom was very devoted to teaching her kids from an early age, so I started preschool already able to read), and if I tried to pass my public school experience, or a survey of other well-off white kids from two-parent households at schools with strong enrichment programs, as what public school is like for everyone, that would be dishonest.

    Similarly, I believe that there are people who have great homeschooling experiences, and obviously some homeschoolers are thriving academically. But there is not enough information to say how much of that is due to homeschooling, if homeschoolers in general do better, what types of homeschooling work best, etc., and there won’t be unless there’s a way to study a truly random selection of homeschoolers (and not just ‘true’ homeschoolers – public schools don’t get to say “Kids with uninvolved and negligent parents don’t count!”, so neither should homeschoolers).

  • Beth

    You have an excellent way of making important points. I often wondered about those homeschooling stats. They must come from the same place that the “99% of couples who use NFP don’t divorce” stats come from.

  • LizBert

    As an adult I find the idea of homeschooling through high school mind-boggling. I almost have an advanced degree in a science, read often, and write reasonably well, but I can’t imagine having to teach all of the things that I learned in school. I have taken calculus classes but I don’t know if I could teach it. I love literature but I don’t know if I could teach that either. Obviously homeschooling works for plenty of people, but I think it sounds like an awful amount of responsibility and work for the parents.

    • BrandonUB

      At the high school level, it’s more of a responsibility for the student than the parents. Homeschooling simply can’t succeed without a student that’s deeply interested in learning the material at a level that most parents simply aren’t equipped to teach.

      • LizBert

        I’ll agree with you up to a point, but there are some things that are very difficult to teach yourself without a good teacher. Calculus and physics come to mind as subjects that even as a science student in college I struggled with. There’s a reason that most college students wake up every morning and go to class instead of just teaching themselves out of a textbook.

  • Northstar

    As a homeschooling parent, I’m sure some of the defensiveness you see is due to what seems to be an ongoing portrait of homeschoolers as ignorant, weird, hyper-religious, deficient, and the linking of homeschooling to abuse and abusing as if these are the norms. That’s why I find these discussions so triggering that for the most part, I have to stay away and can’t contribute, much as I’d like to. These are the stereotypes and prejudices my kids are up against; my eldest, as she applies to colleges and faces administrators and admissions counselors who will make certain assumptions about her; and my middle daughter, who struggles with a learning disability that has her behind her peers in a number of subjects. Because research on homeschoolers is so hard to do, all we can do is point to what studies exist, however flawed they are, and say, “See? It CAN work!” I know you’ve said so yourself, but I see many, many people who don’t think we should be able to home school at all, or that it inevitably leads to damaged people.

    Despite all that I see that is accurate in your blog, I think there is something really important missing: homeschooling is not just the same as institutional schooling. It has something to offer that is unique and beneficial to _some_ students — particularly those not in the norm — that traditional schools can not supply. No, I’m not saying everyone should do it, or that homeschooling is magic academic pixie dust; I’m not. I’ve seen it myself, when my evangelical sister started homeschooling because of the example of my bright, articulate kids; she expected the same results even though she wouldn’t teach them the science that would conflict with her religion. Although her kids don’t seem to be appreciably _dumber_ than other teenagers I see, (I can hardly get through a few pages of Failbook without yet another teen wondering if the sun goes around the Earth) they certainly aren’t much smarter. They do seem to be having a good time, riding and training horses, etc. though. Looks like a pretty good childhood to me, even without evolution. Or geology. (shrug)

    But so far as my kids go, homeschooling has offered my kids something really important: completely individualized instruction. I hear a lot of buzzwords surrounding education today, a lot of new and important innovations: mastery-based learning. The “upside down” classroom, with video learning and individualized attention during exercises. The tutorial approach. The teacher not as the “sage on the stage” but the “guide on the side.” The concept of eustress and using gaming in learning. (Check out the app “Dragonbox” for a perfect example. ) I have to think a lot of these approaches originated in homeschooling circles because some of the techniques I’ve been using for a decade, I see spreading into the mainstream. So now they’re ok? I had to laugh as “Tim and Moby” were mentioned in a recent Time magazine article on innovative educational trends — we’ve been using BrainPop almost since its inception. I think some of these innovations are wonderful, and I’m glad to see schools starting to use them. I’m even more glad I’ve had the chance to seek out these techniques, try them, and see how they work for my kids, all along.

    Because I’m certain there would have been plenty of people along the way — and plenty of people who still do — say that I’m doing it wrong. I don’t do grades. (What, I’m supposed to send a report card to myself?) I don’t assign homework. I collaborate on assignments. (Write a novel for “English?”(Or even excerpts? Or screen plays? ) Sure, knock yourself out. Watch BrainPop for social studies today? Yeah, that’ll do.) I don’t follow a curriculum. I don’t write lesson plans. I emphasize mastery instead of covering a given amount in a given time, be that two years ahead of schedule or two years behind. And while that may have a lot of people gnashing their teeth and ready to condemn out of hand, yeah, my eldest is one of “those” homeschoolers with knock-it-out-of-the park scores, college at 14, and now starting to get personalized contacts from the Ivies. And believe me, we are not of the economic level to be anywhere near Ivy-feeder status.

    I honestly don’t think she would have been able to write her novel, develop her graphic art skills and explore her pre-med interests and internships if she had been yoked to a traditional school. How can you casually pick up and read the HHMI bulletin to scope out the latest research when you are scheduled from dawn to dusk with subjects that may or may not be of value to you? Who would you rather do surgery on your brain — my daughter, perhaps in 20 years, who has been doing virtual surgeries since she was an early teen, motivated enough to observe veterinary surgeries on her own time, or someone who didn’t pick up a scalpel until they were in their mid-20’s?

    And of course, on the other end of the spectrum is my middle daughter, another one of “those” homeschoolers, behind in several subjects and I’m sure, never to catch up in others, keeping me humble. This is where mastery learning is so important. She may be 3 years behind in science, but she knows it at an “A” mastery level. No wondering if the sun goes around the Earth or how the tides work for her. I’ll settle for the “B” mastery level in the year-behind math. And she gets to write a novel, start a jewelry business, do her art, pleasure read and etc., too. She would not standardized-test well at all, but nobody who meets her and talks with her thinks she is stupid. I am really, really glad she doesn’t have to have test results rubbed in her face.

    I guess my greater point is that the atheist community here seems very ready to judge and condemn homeschoolers more because they are seen and portrayed as religious zealots and/or abusers, without understanding homeschoolers are here in the secular community, too, and that it can be a valid and exciting method of education. (Runs about 50/50 secular/religious here in my area where there’s a secular option available.) The prejudice I’ve seen directed against homeschooling was very eye-opening for me. I just hope my examples and experiences can help counterbalance the negative perceptions about homeschooling. I’d love to see more seculars involved in it because it can be a tremendously positive experience for kids who might be exactly the nerdy, brainy freethinking type who don’t “blend” well in a traditional schooling environment.

    • Jon Thompson

      Agreed. I also can’t stand the stereotype nonsense. My daughter tested into the top 2% in the nation and she’s an atheist. Individualizing her schooling without putting her into the mental meat grinder of the school system has reaped great benefits. Aside from core curriculum she also studies philosophy, economics, and architecture… because she wants to and has the time.

      • Rosa

        So if you had to document her progress in some way, or have her take standardized tests, or submit proof she’d seen a doctor annually, would that have changed your homeschooling?

    • tsara

      I can’t speak for everyone, but my primary concerns with homeschooling are

      1) lack of means of gathering whole-population statistics so that we can do proper system comparisons (which would likely benefit all of the systems), plus
      2) lack of mechanisms for preventing and catching abuse and neglect on top of
      3) a system/thingy that puts all of the power in the hands of one or two individuals and facilitates the isolation of children.

      This isn’t a criticism of the people who homeschool, it’s a recognition of the realities of the institution of homeschooling (poor choice of words with ‘institution’, but brain doesn’t want to find a better one).

      We know it can work. But when it is unregulated, we can’t trust it to work.

      • Northstar

        I can’t speak to the first issue, other than how important an issue is it? So far as points 2 and 3, these issues aren’t, strictly speaking, educational issues. Abuse and neglect are criminal issues, and I’ve never seen any evidence or study that homeschoolers are any more likely to abuse than anyone else. I also don’t think it’s ever been put forth that “monitoring parents” is an objective of the educational system, but that seems to be a popular conception of it.

        Tsara: “We know it can work. But when it is unregulated, we can’t trust it to work.”

        The same can be said about parenting in general. Yet we are set free to do it anyway.

        “All of the power in the hands of one or two individuals” — I presume you mean the parents? The ones that are assumed to have the child’s best interests at heart? Well, (barring criminal acts) who else would you have make the decisions for that child? If you say “the government” or “the community” or “society” this also means “the majority.” Now if the majority believes you are neglecting your child by not introducing them to their savior Jesus (and I heard almost this exact quote from someone teaching a special religion class in public school in Ontario) does their having a legal right to have input in the upbringing of your child still sound like a good idea? If I lived in the Bible Belt, it would definitely give me the heebie jeebies.

      • tsara

        “”I’ve never seen any evidence or study that homeschoolers are any more likely to abuse than anyone else.””

        I don’t know whether they are or aren’t, but many cases of abuse and neglect are caught by mandatory reporters, and the isolation that (unregulated) homeschooling allows makes it less likely that abusive homeschooling parents will be caught. I just want analogous mechanisms in place to do that.

        “”The same can be said about parenting in general. Yet we are set free to do it anyway.””

        Except that public schools (and I’m assuming most private schools; mine did, at least) do impose some limits on parents. (Also, my ideal world would have parenting licenses. I’m aware that this could go badly in the real world, but I do not trust parents in general to have the best interests of their children in mind.)

        “”Well, (barring criminal acts) who else would you have make the decisions for that child? If you say “the government” or “the community” or “society” this also means “the majority.”””
        And this is why #1 is important: we need more information so that we can make informed, evidence-based decisions and so we can learn which protections are necessary and which are excessive, and advance as a society.
        (If I can better support [with evidence!] the hypothesis that teaching children about Hell as an actual place of punishment is child abuse than the presumed-Catholic up there can support hir hypothesis about Jeebus, then my hypothesis gets more weight in policy.)

    • Lorelei

      well, for some of us, it’s pure experience. Homeschooling *did* let my parents abuse me and let them use me as a slave (and they weren’t shy of using that word–for several years I wasn’t called by name in the house). I also did well academically, but frankly that’s because books were my escape. I literally disassociated into my schoolwork (I had PTSD from early childhood).

      And yes, I’m an atheist. But as long as you’re not using home school the way my parents were, hey, more power to you! But as a gentle question, how are you using the word trigger? When I’m triggered, it’s because a situation reminds me so vividly of the abuse that I endured that my body and brain go into that mode. Sometimes I even get overlaying memories (where I see what happened before AND what’s happening now). I’m very sorry if you’ve been attacked about homeschooling so much that you have PTSD symptoms!

      • Northstar

        Thanks for asking. No, I’m triggered in that I share a background with you of child abuse, and of sexual assault. Also diagnosed PTSD so I totally get it, what you’re saying. So when I get jumped on about homeschooling and particularly the linking with abuse (not in this thread, but in earlier posts) my heart starts pounding, I shake, I get really anxious and upset… far more than just discussing educational methods should cause. So I have to stay away from the discussions even though I think I have an important perspective to contribute. It’s just not good for me.

        Sorry, too, for your experiences. That does sound like a nightmare.

      • tsara

        Shit, sorry, I missed the word ‘triggered’. I was just arguing/explaining (I come here mostly to practice getting complicated concepts in words; I care about the issues, but my instinct is generally to say nothing).
        I sincerely apologize if anything I said triggered you or made you feel badly about yourself.
        Don’t feel obligated to read my slightly earlier response to you if you don’t want to, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

      • Northstar

        Wow, thank you, that was really nice to say. I appreciate it!

      • Lorelei

        That makes perfect sense, I’m so sorry. I’ve just seen several people who were confused about the meaning of the word, and thought it meant ‘my feelings got hurt’.

        I’ll try to remember your nym, in case of incidents. /hugs

    • NeaDods

      “homeschooling is not just the same as institutional schooling. It has
      something to offer that is unique and beneficial to _some_ students —
      particularly those not in the norm — that traditional schools can not
      supply.”

      For what it is worth – I agree with this. Like Libby Anne, I don’t think that homeschooling per se is wrong — an impression it would be very easy to get considering how I’m amusing myself upthread. My concerns, like Libby Anne’s, are for the children who are not actually being schooled, or who need help for bad situations – something which is partially curable by regulation, not banning homeschooling.

      I’ve been privately schooled and publicly schooled. There are distinct differences just between them, and each has its strengths and weaknesses for individuals. It only makes sense that actual schooling at home would equally have strengths and weaknesses for individual students.

      • Northstar

        NeaDods:”My concerns, like Libby Anne’s, are for the children who are not
        actually being schooled, or who need help for bad situations – something
        which is partially curable by regulation, not banning homeschooling.”

        Well, if this assertion is true, it should be pretty easy to prove. Since states have such a variety of regulations, I would think there would be some statistics starting to come available that would show in the highly regulated states, more homeschool child abuse cases being detected and intervened in (criminal cases would have public record, correct?) and higher academic achievements for homeschoolers. Or _something_ like that. I’ve really tried to find the information myself, and come up nada.

        I’m not being flip, being an abuse survivor (now that I’ve outed myself) but I would also ask a cost-benefit analysis for any regulations that are enacted. How many millions do these regulations cost? What size bureaucracy put in place to administer it? To what benefit, exactly? My state, MI, is staggering financially. Can it afford to take this on? It’s a real question.

      • NeaDods

        It is a real question. And I have no answers because I have no hard data – too much about homeschooling is self-reporting, which means no objective data anywhere, much less comparable across states.

        My position mostly comes from the cases that Libby Anne has reported where coming into contact with mandatory reporters, or being tracked down as a truant have helped individuals. The plural of anecdote is not data, but those stories show that some kids are helped by being checked on, whereas so many other stories seem to trigger an official response only when the child has died.

      • Northstar

        If I thought homeschooling regulation would fix this I would be all for it, really I would. I just don’t see it as being true. Crazy is hard to fix with rules and reporting. It sounds good; it’s certainly well-intentioned, but I just see it as dragging a lot of innocent people into scrutiny where it is undeserved — kind of like profiling. The majority may wonder why Arabic-looking people can’t put up with a little extra questioning or pat-downs in airports so everyone can feel safer, but an Arabic-looking person may have a different opinion about the necessity of it.

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

        I don’t think comparing this to racial profiling makes any sense. When I go to the bank, they ask to see my ID. Am I being profiled? Are they treating me as guilty until proven innocent?

        As for what you say about not thinking regulations will fix anything, this puzzles me. I grew up in a state with no regulations, and we knew a family where the mom did nothing to teach the kids (and they weren’t unschoolers, either). The mom wasn’t a bad person, she was just so caught up in caring for the one child with disabilities that she let her other eight children fall through the cracks. If she’d been told that there would be assessments and she had to actually educate the kids or else send them to public school, she would have stepped it up, and those kids would have at least gotten something.

        Similarly, I know a girl whose parents stopped educating her before she was ten and have since been having her work doing things like house cleaning and pet sitting and other such to make money for the family to live on. The dad is lazy and refuses to get a job and instead lives off of the money his teenage kids make—and none of them are being taught. She cried on my shoulder telling me she wanted to go to college, but wasn’t even given time to study on her own and besides, her parents said they weren’t going to give her a diploma because girls shouldn’t go to college. If her parents had been required to either educate her or send her to school, things would have been better for her. Not perfect, no, but better. So when you say you don’t think regulations would help anything, this just makes no sense to me. My experience says otherwise.

      • Northstar

        When you go to the bank, all people are asked for ID. It is quick, non-intrusive and non-judgmental. You are not required to live your life any differently. You aren’t asked to explain your parenting decisions because of it. Nor are your children examined for abuse. Bruises from falling off a bike? Maybe, maybe not. The Authorities will decide. Kid a little slow? Maybe you should quit teaching de Maussupant and have her fill out more workbooks. Real professionals know, after all, that’s the solution.
        Can you imagine if this was your usual banking scenario? This may sound absurd but with homeschooling reviews, portfolios, curriculum requirements, interviews, etc. it starts sounding pretty real. As with the person who is being racially profiled, it’s my ox being gored so it feels pretty invasive to me despite the perceived benefits to the wider society.
        And as with a “stop and frisk” program MAYBE it catches a bad person – or a poor homeschooler. Is that worth the violation of personal privacy? It may rankle, but we as a society have decided these programs are too intrusive, too prone to mistakes, misjudgments and personal prejudices. I’ve interacted with the local school district due to my daughter’s disability. I have not been impressed. Knowing what I know, I do NOT want their opinions to have legal weight on what and how and when I teach.
        I’m sure you and I both know we could go back and forth with anecdotes all day. I know an unschooling parent – a single mother, a college science professor — who is raising what seems to be extraordinarily gifted daughter. Although I’m not a big fan of unschooling in general (although intrigued by the ideas and experiences explored in the fascinating TED talks of Sugata Mitra) it seems to be working exceptionally well in this child’s case. I’m sure the mom’s head would explode if she were told she had to submit curriculum and lesson plans or have someone else judge the quality of her child’s schooling who doesn’t “get” what it is she is doing. If only we could point to this parent or that parent and say, “Now that’s a shitty homeschooler! The rest may be ok, but be sure to test _them_!”
        The problem lies in that, to some people, _I_ am that shitty homeschooler. When boasting of dd#1’s recent high test scores, the reaction of one auntie was to exclaim with genuine anguish: “Imagine how far she could have gone if you just had her in school!” Can’t win for losing. She’s getting letters from freakin’ Harvard. What’s farther than that, that people are expecting? Star Fleet Academy? And my middle daughter — well, I’ve covered that ground. I’m resigned that her issues will be laid to the fault of homeschooling, and it rankles, but, it’s ok — I know and am secure that she’s gotten a damn good education tailored to her abilities and issues. We’re considering high school not because she’ll get a better education there, but because it will lay the groundwork for disability accommodation that will follow her into college.
        So who decides who is and is not the good homeschooler? Whose personal circumstances are worthwhile? Now, another reason I homeschool is that I’m a cancer survivor. I don’t know if I’ve discussed that before; I’m rather private about it. I knew, when my kids were little, if my cancer reoccurred, my chances of survival were in the single digits. So I wanted them to have me as long as possible, as much as possible. Luckily, the cancer has not reoccurred and it looks like I’ll see at least the eldest two to adulthood. Now, is that in itself a “good enough” reason to homeschool? What if I was low economic status, and kind of dumb and scattered, and a really pretty bad homeschooler because of it? Would the memories my kids had of a mom who loved them and was with them before she died (even if she did a lousy job at educating) be worth more – or less – than the quality of their education? Who gets to judge?
        And while you say the mom with the disabled child taught them nothing, and that they would be taught something if regulations required it, I don’t think that you can speak to each of these things for sure. It sounds pretty absolute to me. Taught nothing — and then the problem is fixed with regulation? I wish it were that easy. I don’t think it is. Also, there are a tremendous number of intangibles that aren’t always evident outside the family. Do the kids get something from seeing a parent devoted to a disabled child? Is it worth more or less than a good education? I don’t know. I wouldn’t presume to decide. I know what it’s like to be judged.
        And I also know that in a diverse and pluralistic society, people will be diverse and pluralistic in ways in which I completely disapprove. Fred Phelps raises his children. Didn’t turn out exactly the way he expected. Same with Madelyn Murray O’Hair. The Amish pull their kids from school in the 8th grade. The college professor I know never formally schools her kid at all. Each could be criticized by the majority for their decisions. Despite this, courts have ruled in the favor of allowing parents the freedom to educate as they see fit — even when it’s not how most people would see fit.
        And I’m sure the girl you mention with the lazy parents has to be somewhere in your past, because yes, that’s educational neglect and yes, it is criminal. I’d call CPS myself in that circumstance, and I’m sure you would, too.
        But all this falls more in the purview of your homeschool regulations post – something I wanted to stay away from. I can’t solve all of homeschooling’s problems, in the same way I can’t solve all of the public schools’ problems. Frankly, I don’t even want to try — right now I’ve got other priorities. I think we are just going to be on different ends of the spectrum wrt to personal freedom and civil liberties and the responsibility for the government to intervene for the welfare of children. Yes, protect children. But yes, protect civil liberties as well. I am trying to listen – respectfully – to your views, and think you have unique insight from being homeschooled yourself. I do think the religious and cultural dogma surrounding your upbringing colors your perspective profoundly, though, and with legitimate anger; however, your experience is not the one I know, and it doesn’t reflect the experiences of the secular homeschoolers that I know. It’s pretty alien.

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

        Actually, banks don’t ask *everyone* for their IDs. They only ask for the IDs of people who have money there.

        And I’m sure the girl you mention with the lazy parents has to be somewhere in your past, because yes, that’s educational neglect and yes, it is criminal. I’d call CPS myself in that circumstance, and I’m sure you would, too.

        Actually, I did call. It was a friend of one of my younger siblings, and several years ago, I called. And believe it or not, it’s not actually criminal in my state. Because of our nonexistent homeschool regulations, there was nothing at all that could be done for that girl.

      • Northstar

        I’m glad you called. It has to be more than frustrating. But did CPS tell you they couldn’t do anything? Did the girl? Did CPS investigate and decide nothing to the level of criminal was happening? If you know; and if you feel you can tell — I’m just interested. I don’t know much about their procedures.

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

        When I said educational neglect, they listened. As soon as I said homeschooling, they stopped. They said they don’t deal with that. I called the state department of education, they said they don’t deal with that either. That’s really all I know directly from anyone.

        I did some poking around, and apparently a couple years back a homeschool in my state family *was* taken to court for educational neglect, and that was such an odd thing it made the news and completely freaked homeschoolers out—it’s apparently extremely unusual for them to actually try that sort of thing (and in the case where it did happen, it may have had to do with local officials, I don’t know). One thing that was discussed in the wake of that trial is that my state’s law is “vague.” It literally doesn’t lay out *at all* what the educational requirements for homechoolers are. It doesn’t even require “adequate progress” or anything like that. This makes bringing a case extremely difficult, which is probably why they don’t generally do that.

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

        This is an excellent question! First, we don’t actually have data on homechoolers’ academic performance (i.e. data that isn’t voluntary), I don’t think there’s any way to answer the education side of the question with hard data at this point. As for the child abuse side, I wish we had those statistics, but we don’t. In theory, there should be a way to find that, perhaps getting data directly from child protective services in each state. But as it is, we don’t actually have the numbers. In general, HSLDA has been against collecting data like this and against collecting data on homechoolers’ academic performance through anything other than voluntary studies. This makes having hard data difficult.

  • Jon Thompson

    I love homeschooling! More time with kids is a good thing.

    • MyOwnPerson

      Meh. I was homeschooled and it was a great treat to be away from my family once in a while. I didn’t get nearly enough time away from my family.

      • Jon Thompson

        How terrible you didn’t want to be with your family! I’m so sorry about your parents!

      • MyOwnPerson

        I didn’t say I never wanted to be with my family, I just didn’t want to be with them 24/7/365.

      • Jon Thompson

        Then, I don’t see how your comment means anything in the context of this discussion. If you wanted to be around them, they were there for you. If they were cool, you could leave at any time for some alone time or time with friends. It doesn’t have anything to do with homeschooling.

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

        You’re wrong. Public school means you’re assured a break from your parents, and a regular on too. Homeschooling means you’re not. If your parents give you enough time with friends or alone, that helps greatly, but not all homeschool parents allow that. In fact, I grew up in homeschooling circles where not wanting to be with your parents 24/7 was seen as rebellion. Have you ever heard of tomato staking? http://www.raisinggodlytomatoes.com/ch07.php

      • Jon Thompson

        Public schooling means you MUST be away from your parents during certain times. Let’s not mince words. That is a horrible scenario – a child isn’t allowed to have a say in how and when they learn and when they can be with their parents. A home schooling scenario is always better; schedules are flexible. Summary of my point: there are some bad homeschooling parents, but ALL mandatory schooling/scheduling is not a preferable situation.

      • tsara

        Public schooling doesn’t mean you MUST be away from your parents during certain times. It does mean that you are EXPECTED to be away from your parents at certain times — there’s a difference. With the latter, if there is a reason for not being there at a certain time, a kid and their parents can just let them know.
        A home schooling scenario is not always better. Absolute blanket statement is way too absolute and blanket-y.

      • Jon Thompson

        Your last sentence is a contradiction but I assume you know that.

        If your child wants to start school at 10 AM but your class starts at 8:15, that’s a problem. That’s my point. They MUST start at 8:15. I’m not talking about a few excused absences.

        Blanket statement: homeschooling is always better. I’m sticking by it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        She was playing off a popular internet trope in her last sentence.

        And, um, if you have a job, you need to be there at a certain time too. I have loads of complaints about the way public education is set up, which is why I want to change it, not trash it. But that is not one of them. Showing up to stuff is part of life and it’s really not a tragedy.

      • Jon Thompson

        Telling kids when and where they will learn what subjects should not be part of life. Frankly, it’s rather coercive, especially at a young age. It sucks the joy out of learning. Why fix something like public schools that will never be fixed? It’s inherently flawed. There’s another blanket statement for you. It will never be fixed, because of the amount of coercion involved. Forcing people to pay for kids who don’t want to learn at times/days and subjects they don’t want to study… such a mess.

      • Anat

        Because we live in a specialized society, and education is a specialty. Education is a necessity in our society, and the majority of parents want their children to be taught by specialists rather than by themselves (while at the same time working at their own specialty). If you do away with public schools you will increase the gap between those who can afford private schools and the rest of us.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Because education is a public concern. Because an educated populace is necessary for a functionating, democratic society. Because every child has the right to a good education and we have a responsibility to do more to guarantee that right than shrug and hope they have parents who have the resources and ability to educate their children at home. (And btw, not all children have homes. Or parents.)

        I agree that public schooling is often overly structured and rote and that this can be harmful, especially to younger children. I think we should be thinking about how we can change that. There are a lot of alternative educational approaches that focus on less structured, more child-led learning that I find very promising–I admire a lot of things about the Montessori method, especially for young children. (And there are public Montessori schools in many cities, including mine.) We most certainly need to get creative when it comes to solving the myriad problems with public schools but we can do it if we care. And, if we’re serious about making sure that every child has access to good education, we have no other choice. Universal homeschooling is simply not possible and I don’t even think it’s desirable. Like I said elsewhere, I think there is a lot of value to children learning with other children who are not their siblings or in their family’s social milieu, although small class sizes with plenty of individualized attention is ideal.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Thank you for pointing out that “public school” is an incredibly varied category — especially if one takes off the “America is the centre of the world and everywhere else is just like here” goggles and looks around the world a bit.

        I live in Canada. ome of the stuff I’ve read about public schools in some parts of the US (no more recess! 2 hours of homework every night for 6-year-olds! kids do nothing but worksheets all day! standardized high-stakes testing is constant! school starts at 7 in the morning! kids are not permitted to walk or bike to school! security is tighter than Dulles International Airport! parents must undergo a police background check just to go on a field trip with their kid’s class!) is wholly bizarre to me, and I went to public schools for 13 years (17, if you count my BA at a Canadian university) and have had a child in public school for 6 years, and almost everyone I know IRL attended public schools and sends their kids to public schools.

        I suspect much of this stuff must seem equally bizarre to other non-US public-school students, graduates, and parents. Public schools are as diverse as any other kind of institution created by humans, both within a country and between countries. They are not all Camazotz* Elementary.

        I’m perfectly willing to concede that there are and will always be kids for whom the available form of public school doesn’t work, but honestly I think it’s absurd to argue that it is by definition just like prison.

        *I refer, of course, to the dark planet in A Wrinkle in Time where children are required to bounce their rubber balls in perfect unison, not to the Maya bat god.

      • Rosa

        One thing that keeps coming up is schools = government and homeschool = parents. But many things about American public schools are actually the parents – there are state and federal regulations, but almost every town has an elected school board and then within each school district individual schools are affected greatly by parent involvement.

        We have a charter school and school-choice movement that is as old as the homeschooling movement and arguably (since we can’t count homeschoolers reliably) affects a lot more kids.

        But, the list of things you gave – all of those are things that at some point parents have asked for and gotten through elections or direct school involvement. We have high-stakes testing because we voted for it at the national level. Many high schools lose their human sexuality curricula under parent political campaigns – the high school I went to nearly did. Later a parent of a middle schooler ran for school board on a “ban tween magazines from school libraries” platform (she lost. Most parents want their children to have access to age-appropriate information, even about sex). Schools that have extreme requirements, like 2 hours of homework each night or every family volunteering X hours per week are usually charter schools chosen by those parents. If there’s no recess, or fewer days/week because of budget problems, it’s because local people voted against school levies. This is a democracy. We are the government.

        *the outrage over background checks surprises me. I’ve had my background check to volunteer – at the public school, and for the public library. I’d have had one for my other volunteer gig except I only work with over-18s. Nobody with a history of abusing kids should be working with kids, “innocuous” volunteerism can be a form of grooming. Mainline churches and kids sports organizations do background checks as well.

      • NeaDods

        The Yeats kids probably disagree.

        Blanket statement: Blanket statements can inevitably be cut off at the knees with a single fact.

      • Jon Thompson

        Blanket statement: 1+1 = 2

        The (insert abused kids names here) kids may have had the wrong parents for teachers, but the theory and application of homeschooling beats the theory and application of public-schooling, almost all of whom are intellectually abused.

      • NeaDods

        No points for cleverness; math and rhetoric are separate concepts. Although if you’d like to play with facts, please cite your source for your two assertions:
        1) Murdered children only “may” have had the wrong parents

        2) “almost all” of public school children are intellectually abused.

        Please cite percentage for “almost all” (80? 90? 97.62?), definition of intellectual abuse, and explain how so many of them in so many countries worldwide survive this stateist abuse and yet go on to not only be productive adults, but also to keep the STEM sciences and arts moving forward.

        The more blanket statements you make, the more foolish they can be made to sound. You’re not winning hearts, minds, or the argument.

      • Jon Thompson

        1+1 = 2 is a representation of reality. It is a blanket statement and it’s true. I’m sensing some irritability about certainty. Certainty is okay. Cancer is bad. Murder is wrong. Be certain. I don’t care you the truth sounds. Heck, it usually upsets people because it destroys illusions.

        1. Not sure what you are getting at here. Murdered children (by their own parents presumably) had the wrong parents, to be sure.

        2. Correction: ALL of them are abused. Look, just take the pledge of allegiance. Urging kids to swear fealty to a criminal organization is just as abusive as sending them to church to swear fealty to a sky ghost. And it’s done “under god”, mind you. No real discussion on how to think for themselves. They are learning to shut up and be obedient. To lock kids up (that is not an exaggeration) and tell them what to study, when to study, who to sit with, what they can have on their desks, etc. is not good. It is bad. It is negligent and abusive. I don’t get how you don’t get that.

        3. Productive adults… is a red herring. I can be soulless and ignorant and suffer from severe psychopathy and still be productive. Science and art? Are you suggesting public school is responsible for it? I’m sure you are not, so I don’t follow you. However, what is the state of the world since schooling became compulsory? We’ve had perpetual war from damned good soldiers who know how to be obedient! A quarter of billion people murdered in democide in 20th century (not including wars) by people who said their pledges and were blindly obedient.

      • NeaDods

        “I don’t care you the truth sounds”

        My predictive text has done some strange things to me, but I do not have a clue what you were trying with that one.

        “Correction: ALL of them are abused.”

        Riiiiiiight. I asked for statistics. You’re giving me assertions. I hope that you aren’t homeschooling your daughter in English or rhetoric, or she’s going to be slammed in a debate with anyone else. Also: blanket statement is once more risible rather than persuasive.

        Your grasp of public school is also amusing. So many words against the pledge of allegiance! So little knowledge that it is not mandatory, as any publicly schooled Jehovah’s Witness could tell you! Being “forced” to say the pledge is a battle fought and lost by the enforcers years ago.

        “tell them what to study, when to study, who to sit with, what they can have on their desks, etc. is not good. It is bad. It is negligent and abusive.”

        What’s making me laugh so hard is that the more you decry the negligence and horrors of public school, the more you’re making it clear that you’re completely unfit for any office or lab job ever. You know – that place where they tell you when to show up, where to sit, what to do, what not to do…

        Seriously, I do hope that you’re not homeschooling your kid in history, if you think that “perpetual war” is a new thing. Google “100 Years War” sometime.

        “Science and art? Are you suggesting public school is responsible for it?”

        I’m certainly saying that I would stay far away from any hospital staffed by doctors with homeschool medical degrees. Also that my favorite living authors, the guy who invented my phone, and the people who established both DARPAnet and the http protocols that became The World Wide Web weren’t homeschooled either.

        I know you’re ignoring my challenges, but here’s one more: Name one major, society-changing invention created by a homeschooled scientist in the last 100 years. Anything – new medical procedure, widely adopted technology like the computer or cell phone, new engineering principles. Every time people go on about the superiority of the homeschooled (and when Michael Pearl goes on about their moral as well as intellectual superiority) I wonder – surely by now there would be some homeschooled equivalent of Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs, Buckminster Fuller, Dr. John Gibbon, Dr. Jonas Salk, Paul Winchell, Dr. Heimlich…

      • Northstar

        Just a cursory search turned up:

        Ansel Adams, Photographer
        and Conservationist. He was home educated after age 12 because he
        couldn’t sit still in school and got in trouble there.

        Susan B. Anthony, Women’s Rights Activist. She was taught by her father until she was sent away to school at age 16.

        Clara Barton, Founder of Red Cross. She was educated at home until age 15.

        Alexander Graham Bell, Inventor of Telephone. He was taught at home until he was 10.

        Pearl Buck, Author,
        Awarded Nobel Prize in 1938 (Literature). The child of missionaries in
        China, she was primarily taught at home by her mother and a Chinese
        tutor.

        Agatha Christie, Author. She was educated at home. “I
        . . .had a very happy childhood with practically no lessons and lots of
        time to roam about the garden and imagine things. It was my mother who
        told me to write. She was a woman of great charm and great character,
        and was always convinced that her children could do anything!”

        Winston Churchill. British
        Leader, Awarded Nobel Prize in 1953 (Literature). He began school at
        12, did poorly, and continued learning after he left school.

        Pierre Curie. Physicist, Awarded Nobel Prize in 1903 (Physics). He was educated at home until he attended the Faculty of Sciences.

        Thomas Edison. Inventor
        of Light Bulb. He began school at 7, but his teacher thought he was
        dull and couldn’t learn, and complained that he asked too many
        questions. He also didn’t like math. His mother brought him home to
        learn.

        Benjamin Franklin. Inventor
        and Statesman. His formal education ended early. He was primarily
        self-educated, and never stopped learning. He taught himself advanced
        math, navigation, history, science, grammar, and five other languages,
        along with reading everything he could. “The doors to wisdom are never shut.”

        George Gershwin. Composer.
        He didn’t like school and was a discipline problem. At age 15, he
        dropped out of high school to begin working as a pianist.

        William Henry Harrison. 9th President. His early education was at home. He attended college, but didn’t graduate.

        Patrick Henry. Lawyer, Patriot, and Orator. He was educated at home by his father, and self-taught in law.

        Florence Nightingale. Nursing Pioneer. She received a classical education from her father.

        James Joule. Physicist. He was educated by his parents until they sent him to Cambridge at age 16.

        C.S. Lewis. Author. He was educated by his mother until she died, when he was 10.

        Abraham Lincoln. 16th President. Although Lincoln occasionally attended school, it totaled less than a year, and he was primarily self-taught.

        James Madison. 4th
        President. His fundamental instruction was at home, followed by prep
        school, then college, where he received a classical education.

        Margaret Mead. Anthropologist.
        Although she did attend some schools, her family traveled so often that
        she was sometimes homeschooled by her grandmother. “My grandmother wanted me to have an education so she kept me out of school.”

        Felix Mendelssohn. Composer and Musician. His education was supervised by his parents, with private teachers employed for science and arts.

        Wolfgang Mozart. Composer and Musician. He was taught at home by his father, and also performed and traveled, starting at a young age.

        John Muir. Naturalist. He left school at age 11 to help his family, and continued learning by reading.

        Albert Jay Nock. Philosopher.
        He was primarily self-educated, with instruction in Latin and Greek
        from his father, then attended a prep school before college.

        Blaise Pascal. Mathematician. He showed exceptional ability as a child, and his father directed his home education.

        George S. Patton, Jr. WWI
        General. Patton was a late reader. He was home educated, with his
        father reading to him extensively, until he learned to read on his own
        at age 12.

        Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President. He was educated at home until he left for a private school to prepare him for public service.

        Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President, Awarded Nobel Prize in 1906 (Peace). He was a sick child, and was tutored until college.

        Erwin Schrödinger, Physicist, Awarded Nobel Prize in 1933 (Physics). He was taught at home by his parents and tutors until he was 11.

        Herbert Spencer, Philosopher. He was taught informally by his father, a teacher.

        Fred Terman, President
        of Stanford, Engineer, Chemist, “Father of Silicon Valley”. His father
        taught him through grade school, where he learned at an accelerated
        pace.

        Phyllis Wheatley, Poet.
        Kidnapped in Africa and sold into slavery at age 7, she was a quick
        learner, and the family that bought her educated her with their children
        at home.

        Woodrow Wilson, 28th
        President, Awarded Nobel Prize in 1919 (Peace). He was dyslexic, and
        did not learn to read until he was 10. His father taught him at home
        until he was 13.

        Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect. His academic instruction came from his aunts and his mother at home.

        Orville and Wilbur Wright, Inventors
        of the First Successful Airplane. While both brothers attended schools,
        formal schooling was sometimes interrupted by their other interests.
        Orville spent what would have been his last year of high school studying
        special subjects. “We were lucky enough to grow up in an
        environment where there was always much encouragement to children to
        pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused
        curiosity.” — Orville Wright

        Andrew Wyeth, Artist. He was home educated after 3rd grade. “I cherished the time alone because it made me utilize every moment.”

      • Northstar

        Aaaaand:

        Benjamin Banneker
        first African-American scientist

        Reid Barton
        mathematician and programmer; first student to win four gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad

        Wilson A. Bentley
        “The Snowflake Man”

        George Washington Carver
        agricultural researcher

        Augustin-Louis Cauchy
        French mathematician

        Pafnuty Chebyshev
        Russian mathematician

        Pierre Curie
        discovered radium

        Albert Einstein
        theoretical physicist

        Paul Erdos
        Hungarian mathematician

        Michael Faraday
        electrochemist

        Pierre de Fermat
        greatest amateur mathematician in history

        Evariste Galois
        French mathematical prodigy

        Sophie Germain
        French mathematician

        Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
        Nobel Prize winner in physics

        William Hamilton
        Irish mathematician

        Oliver Heaviside
        electromagnetism researcher

        Fred Hoyle
        British physicist

        T.H. Huxley
        biologist, zoologist, Darwinist

        Carl Jacobi
        German mathematician

        Ruth Lawrence
        mathematician

        Gilbert Newton Lewis
        physical chemist

        John D. Linsley
        astrophysicist

        Ada Lovelace
        founder of scientific computing

        Benoit Mandelbrot
        pioneer in fractal geometry

        Isaac Newton
        English physicist, astronomer, mathematician

        Blaise Pascal
        French mathematician and philosopher

        Charles Sanders Peirce
        American logician, mathematician, philosopher

        Henri Poincaré
        French mathematician and man of letters

        Joseph Priestley
        father of modern chemistry

        Bernhard Riemann
        German mathematician

        Erwin Schrodinger
        Austrian physicist

        Samuel C. C. Ting
        Chinese American physicist
        Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
        Russian rocket scientist

        There’s lots more; I know some go back more than 100 years but ain’t nobody got the time to weed the list. I also know there are current scientific innovators that, in reading about their contributions, I’ve discovered that they were homeschooled. Doesn’t surprise me at all.

      • NeaDods

        I’m impressed. No sarcasm, I seriously am; it’s the first time anyone has answered the question!

        I am going to nitpick that several of those names are more than 100 years old (Franklin, Mozart) – I had that cutoff because public schooling was a much different thing at the time. But I bow to your Google-fu, because those are some impressive people.

      • Northstar

        {sweeping bow} At your service. :-) And you’ll even see at the end of my second batch I did note that a number were over 100 years ago, but ain’t nobody got time for weeding the list! But I had to lol at your comment: “I’m certainly saying that I would stay far away from any hospital staffed by doctors with homeschool medical degrees.” I hope that’s not what you think I was saying about my daughter! No, she intends to go to medical school like any other kid on that track. It’s just that she’s always known she wanted to be a doctor, so we’ve been able to focus on the math and the specific sciences that would get here there, and make her as knowledgeable as possible in her chosen field.

      • NeaDods

        “I hope that’s not what you think I was saying about my daughter!”

        Good golly no! I’ve just been amusing myself by poking at someone else’s poor arguments. When homeschooling is held up as superior to public schooling, I usually start referring to the (hopefully mythical) homeschool surgery degree because the idea of the poorly trained surgeon gives such a visceral response and is so hard to defend.

        Learning what it takes to get the grounding to earn the degree you want, and how it is learned – that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

      • Jon Thompson

        Statistics? I gave them to you: 100%. I really don’t understand what you are looking for. You want me to cite someone else before you accept the validity of the assertion? If you want me to cite someone else who says public school is abusive I can do that. Let me know. Alternatively, you can argue the truth or falseness of the assertion with me rather than with another source.

        “Your grasp of public school is also amusing. So many words against the pledge of allegiance! So little knowledge that it is not mandatory, as any publicly schooled Jehovah’s Witness could tell you! Being “forced” to say the pledge is a battle fought and lost by the enforcers years ago.”

        The key word I see here is “amusing”. It’s a rhetorical way to belittle someone passive aggressively and undermine their arguments. There’s lots more in the rest of your post. I’m not sure why you are doing that. I’ll move on. I don’t understand the rest of this paragraph.

        “What’s making me laugh so hard is that the more you decry the negligence and horrors of public school, the more you’re making it clear that you’re completely unfit for any office or lab job ever. You know – that place where they tell you when to show up, where to sit, what to do, what not to do…”

        I don’t think you understand my point. Teaching kids to conform at a young age is not a good thing. You skipped a few items like what to study, when to study, where to sit, that I think are important topics and relevant to my point. I can teach a kid the importance of showing up on time without having a policy that says they all must be in the same room, studying the same thing, etc.. I suspect we are not in sync here. These policies sounds as if they are imposed by someone trying to bore and not teach kids rather than the other way around.

        “Seriously, I do hope that you’re not homeschooling your kid in history, if you think that “perpetual war” is a new thing. Google “100 Years War” sometime.”

        Sure, but you have to admit the 20th century was pretty special as wars go.

        “I’m certainly saying that I would stay far away from any hospital staffed by doctors with homeschool medical degrees. Also that my favorite living authors, the guy who invented my phone, and the people who established both DARPAnet and the http protocols that became The World Wide Web weren’t homeschooled either.”

        Strawman here. Yes, most people are public schooled and are productive in their respective fields. How does that relate to my point?

        “I know you’re ignoring my challenges, but here’s one more: Name one major, society-changing invention created by a homeschooled scientist in the last 100 years. Anything – new medical procedure, widely adopted technology like the computer or cell phone, new engineering principles. Every time people go on about the superiority of the homeschooled (and when Michael Pearl goes on about their moral as well as intellectual superiority) I wonder – surely by now there would be some homeschooled equivalent of Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs, Buckminster Fuller, Dr. John Gibbon, Dr. Jonas Salk, Paul Winchell, Dr. Heimlich…””

        You are running out of straw. I’m not ignoring anything… why would say that? They made accomplishments, so that’s good enough? Case closed? I’m trying not to get sidetracked here, but science and art were flourishing before 1900.

        I guess I’ll humor you and post back, but you aren’t understanding my point. We should want better for our kids than condemning them to boredom and brainwashing.

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

        “Your grasp of public school is also amusing. So many words against the pledge of allegiance! So little knowledge that it is not mandatory, as any publicly schooled Jehovah’s Witness could tell you! Being “forced” to say the pledge is a battle fought and lost by the enforcers years ago.”

        The key word I see here is “amusing”. It’s a rhetorical way to belittle someone passive aggressively and undermine their arguments. There’s lots more in the rest of your post. I’m not sure why you are doing that. I’ll move on. I don’t understand the rest of this paragraph.

        Nice tone policing as a way of avoiding responding to her point there.

      • Jon Thompson

        Libby… I plainly stated I didn’t understand it. I am waiting for the clarification. If the tone gets out of hand I won’t want to contribute, so I think it’s important to keep it under control.

      • Jon Thompson

        Obviously, I didn’t research this myself, but for what it’s worth… and this is besides my point entirely. I also don’t see why past 100 years means anything. Science existed before our current system and will continue after it dies. Does it only count if they have an invention or discovery? What does it mean to you if they haven’t?

        Benjamin Banneker
        scientist

        Reid Barton
        mathematician and programmer; first student to win four gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad

        Wilson A. Bentley
        “The Snowflake Man”

        George Washington Carver
        agricultural researcher

        Augustin-Louis Cauchy
        French mathematician

        Pafnuty Chebyshev
        Russian mathematician

        Pierre Curie
        discovered radium

        Albert Einstein
        theoretical physicist

        Paul Erdos
        Hungarian mathematician

        Michael Faraday
        electrochemist

        Pierre de Fermat
        greatest amateur mathematician in history

        Evariste Galois
        French mathematical prodigy

        Sophie Germain
        French mathematician

        Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
        Nobel Prize winner in physics

        William Hamilton
        Irish mathematician

        Oliver Heaviside
        electromagnetism researcher

        Fred Hoyle
        British physicist

        T.H. Huxley
        biologist, zoologist, Darwinist

        Carl Jacobi
        German mathematician

        Ruth Lawrence
        mathematician

        Gilbert Newton Lewis
        physical chemist

        John D. Linsley
        astrophysicist

        Ada Lovelace
        founder of scientific computing

        Benoit Mandelbrot
        pioneer in fractal geometry

        Isaac Newton
        English physicist, astronomer, mathematician

        Blaise Pascal
        French mathematician and philosopher

        Charles Sanders Peirce
        American logician, mathematician, philosopher

        Henri Poincaré
        French mathematician and man of letters

        Joseph Priestley
        father of modern chemistry

        Bernhard Riemann
        German mathematician

        Erwin Schrodinger
        Austrian physicist

        Samuel C. C. Ting
        Chinese American physicist

        Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
        Russian rocket scientist

      • tsara

        1+1=2 is a logical proposition that is true independently of reality because we’ve designed the symbols to work out in such a way that that is true. Extending that,

        Cancer is bad because ‘cancer’ is what we call not-benign proliferative genetic mutations; included in the definition is ‘not benign’.

        Murder is wrong because it is the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought; the lack of mitigating circumstances is included in the definition.

        Cheezus.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        You seriously think “1+1=2″ is a “blanket statement” comparable to “homeschooling is always better?” If you seriously don’t see why that’s ridiculous, you couldn’t pass a logic class. See Tsara’s post below…

        And you seriously think that the wars and genocides of the past 100 years are attributable to…public schools? I don’t even know where to begin with that one. Maybe with “But how about the fact that many of the most horrific examples of these things have happened/are happening in regions where there are barely even functioning states, let alone public school systems.” Though I could go on. For a while.

        And the pledge of allegiance thing is a fucked up American culture thing, not a public school thing particularly. Americans are obsessed with saying the pledge or singing the national anthem any time more than 10 of us get together in one place for anything. For the record, I started refusing to say the pledge with my class when I was fairly young. Some teachers respected my choice. Others did not, or they insisted that I “at least stand with my class out of respect for other people.” I think this was wrong of them but abusive? Come on. I had some really terrible thing happen to me while in public school, and witnessed even worse things happen to others, some of which were abusive. (And we absolutely need to do something about this.) But the pledge to the flag is not an example.

        And have you really never heard of a child being inspired and encourage by a teacher to get into and excel in a field in science or art? You really don’t have a clue. As bad as public school often was for me, I also had some wonderful teachers who are some of the people I admire most to this day. I work with kids now and was largely inspired by them to make this my goal in life because when I thought about who I wanted to be, I thought of them. When I think of how to improve the school experience for kids now, I think of how they did things in their own classrooms. Don’t underestimate the positive impact that public school teachers can have. Wouldn’t it be nice if such teachers were more common? They won’t ever be if people who care simply give up on improving schools.

      • Jon Thompson

        “You seriously think “1+1=2″ is a “blanket statement” comparable to “homeschooling is always better?” If you seriously don’t see why that’s ridiculous, you couldn’t pass a logic class. ”

        I have one apple and add another one. I now have two apples. Whenever anyone follows this process, they will have two apples. Tell me why this isn’t a blanket statement.

        “And you seriously think that the wars and genocides of the past 100 years are attributable to…public schools? I don’t even know where to begin with that one. Maybe with “But how about the fact that many of the most horrific examples of these things have happened/are happening in regions where there are barely even functioning states, let alone public school systems.” Though I could go on. For a while.”

        I think there is a connection, starting primarily with child abuse and exacerbated by the creation and popularity of public schooling in the nation-state. It is a theory and I could be wrong. With respect to regions with no functioning states, the worst atrocities are attributed to areas with nation-states.The various democides and wars compare to nothing else in human history. A fascinating and important topic (the most important?), but off topic.

        “And the pledge of allegiance thing is a fucked up American culture thing, not a public school thing particularly. Americans are obsessed with saying the pledge or singing the national anthem any time more than 10 of us get together in one place for anything. For the record, I started refusing to say the pledge with my class when I was fairly young. Some teachers respected my choice. Others did not, or they insisted that I “at least stand with my class out of respect for other people.” I think this was wrong of them but abusive? Come on. I had some really terrible thing happen to me while in public school, and witnessed even worse things happen to others, some of which were abusive. (And we absolutely need to do something about this.) But the pledge to the flag is not an example.”

        I agree with this being a fucked up American thing. Good for you on standing your ground on not saying the pledge! That’s very hard to do. Other kids may not be as strong as you and this kind of thing seeps into your mind the same way a Coke commercial does. I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it is a kind of brainwashing. Not the end of the world, but not a good thing. I equate it to “asking” kids to say the Lord’s Prayer. It’s all kinds of crazy from a philosophical perspective. It creates sympathies where none should exist. The pledge/prayer is symbolic of the environment the kids are in and i think it’s important that we take a stand on “asking” kids to recite it. If you don’t think it’s abusive to do this to a kid, then let’s move on. There are worse evils in the world.

        “And have you really never heard of a child being inspired and encourage by a teacher to get into and excel in a field in science or art? You really don’t have a clue. As bad as public school often was for me, I also had some wonderful teachers who are some of the people I admire most to this day. I work with kids now and was largely inspired by them to make this my goal in life because when I thought about who I wanted to be, I thought of them. When I think of how to improve the school experience for kids now, I think of how they did things in their own classrooms. Don’t underestimate the positive impact that public school teachers can have. Wouldn’t it be nice if such teachers were more common? They won’t ever be if people who care simply give up on improving schools.”

        I have heard of this, stories abound. Why is the same levels of inspiration not achievable by home school teachers? I also have had some wonderful teachers in public school but I’ve also had the worst. My private school teachers were more “average” with some exceptions. I want to be clear that I have nothing against good teachers. I just think… I know… the system is fucked. That’s all for me tonight, i’ll check email in the morning.

      • Anat

        Actually I don’t see how the evidence from warfare means anything. People were cruel to each other in warfare before the existence of widespread schooling, they merely lacked the technological means to carry out some of the modern forms of cruelty. Also, our awareness of cruel events is heightened due to mass communication. And the idea that prisoners and people of the defeated side have the right to be treated with dignity is a completely new one. (And let’s not forget that relative to population size the proportion of people dying violently has been declining.)

        So let’s just stop this derail.

        Do you claim that 100% of students would do better homeschooled rather than educated in public school? Because I can think of plenty of situations where this is not true. Starting with all the kids who are abused by their homeschooling parents. Yeah, they should have chosen better parents to be born to (or to be adopted by, as the case may be).

        But there are other reasons. My mother taught me to read at home because our family was living abroad for a while (I attended 3 different schools in my kindergarten year, and spent some time at home between schools), but she couldn’t have taught me for long because she was an immigrant and had only started learning my native language not long before I was born. It is a strange experience, to be read to by a person who does not understand some of the vocabulary in the story. So in a public-school-less world my parents would have had to hire tutors for me soon enough.

        Then there are cases where there is a mismatch between the parent and the child’s personalities, or their communication styles. For instance if one is a visual thinker while the other a more verbal thinker. A professional teacher is trained to use more than one approach.

        My daughter had some difficulties adjusting to school. The thought that I might have to homeschool her was something I feared greatly. Because she had a strong will and many things were already becoming power struggles. Having her spend time with people who were less intensely emotionally involved was good for all of us.

      • Christine

        Dude, aside from the fact that you don’t understand the difference between a mathematical expression and a statement, your math isn’t even right. If you’re responsible for your children’s math education, you have just made a very good argument for school being better for them, at least academically.

      • Jon Thompson

        My math isn’t right? They changed 1+1 = 2 and didn’t tell me. Check your math. Math is derived from experiential reality, although there are arguments for it being a priori with which I do not agree. To put it another way the expression 1+2 = 3 is an “expression” of one apple plus two apples equals three apples. Both are absolutist “blanket” statements, which is where the goals posts were when we started. I hope that clarifies my point.

      • Christine

        If you do not understand the difference between 1.0 and 1, then you do not have a very good understanding of math.

        And no, 1+1 = 2 is not a “statement”. You are welcome to twist words around, and claim that your definition is what everyone else is actually using, but it’s not going to win you any arguments.

      • NeaDods

        I was *thisclose* to betting you that he’d say exactly what he said.

      • Christine

        Eh, it was a toss-up between that, and getting upset because I used an elementary-school level joke/trick.

      • Jon Thompson

        1 + 1 = 2 is a mathematical expression, no doubt. However, do you agree that the statement and the expression are linked in some way? Do you agree that the statement is absolute?

      • tsara

        1 + 1 = 10 if we’re working in binary.

      • Christine

        What statement are we talking about? I can’t agree or disagree that the statement and the expression are linked unless I know what “the statement” is.

      • NeaDods

        I read that link and now I’m sick. Not letting your children out of sight? Keeping them *within three feet of you*? How much do you have to fear the world and your own children to essentially treat them as kidnap victims all their lives? My CATS have more freedom!

      • sylvia_rachel

        OMG, that horrible site is still up :(

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

        I can only hope you don’t realize how offensive this comment is. It also doesn’t say much for your reading comprehension. MyOwnPerson said she didn’t get enough time away from her family as a homeschooled kid, and your response was not to say “that’s too bad, I wish things had been better for you” but rather to feel sorry for her parents? I can only hope that you’re not smothering your own kids with too much together time, because it seems that if they asked for more time on their own your response would be to call them terrible people.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Wow. Classy.

      • Jon Thompson

        I’m being genuinely empathetic. Are you mistaking it for something else? When I read this it still sounds so sad to me.

      • NeaDods

        No, you’re not being “genuinely empathetic.” When MyOwnPerson told you their story, you instantly said that their feelings were “terrible.” Empathy doesn’t mean telling people that their feelings are wrong.

      • Jon Thompson

        No, not that their feelings are wrong… that is never true. Our feelings are our feelings. Considering being away from one’s family as a “treat” makes me sad. Are my feelings wrong?

      • NeaDods

        Saying “that makes me sad” is fine. Saying that it’s terrible that MyOwnPerson didn’t feel what you wanted them to feel and expressing empathy for their parents not them – well, don’t be surprised when other people feel offended on MyOwnPerson’s behalf.

      • Jon Thompson

        You misunderstood me. It’s terrible in the sense that breaking one’s leg is terrible. I’m not accusing anyone of being terrible. Rather, the state of affairs that led to those feelings is terrible, awful, etc. “It’s terrible that Joe had an accident”

      • tsara

        MyOwnPerson doesn’t seem to consider hir feelings or the state of affairs that led to those feelings “terrible.”
        I think it’s perfectly normal to want more time away from your family. Doesn’t being around the same people all day, every day start to annoy you, even if you generally (and genuinely) like those people?

      • NeaDods

        Cabin fever is presumably rebellion.

      • Jon Thompson

        She has a right to her feelings! So do I. All i have to go on is a “meh” response to her home schooling experience and it wasn’t a positive one for her. That sucks because it should have been. I am genuinely sad she had that experience.

        Out of context, yes it’s refreshing to be around different people once in a while. In fact, it’s probably necessary for good mental health.

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

        I think what you’re missing is that your words thus far have appeared to indicate that you think she should have wanted to be around her parents all the time. I get that that may not be what you’re saying, but it’s how you’re coming across. And the way you phrased your initial point—that you’re sorry for her parents rather than for her—combined with your argument that homeschooling should have been a positive experience for her makes it sound like victim blaming.

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

        Slightly off topic, but what are your thoughts on this testimonial by a homeschooled kid?
        http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/i-cant-tell-my-story-without-a-trigger-warning-elizabeths-story/

      • Jon Thompson

        It’s horrible. Well, what are your thoughts about kids spanked by teachers? How about kids raping other kids in school? I think it’s besides the point.

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

        Besides the point? Care to elaborate? Your discussion of spanking and rape in public schools is what’s beside the point, we’re not talking about public schools we’re talking about homeschooling.

  • norelief

    Well, here is the thing. Kids to the right and left of the bell curve do FAR better at home. Average kids probably do about the same either way. So there is a large subset of kids who actually ARE doing well because of hs’ing. My kid was one. Extreme hi IQ 165, and doing horribly in school. Took him out, and suddenly he was truly amazing. Even his old teachers took me aside and said they noticed a big change.

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