home(school) is anywhere you hang your head

here comes ms. misery.

i promised a rant on homeschooling, and i must make good on that promise, though i’ll try my best to be calm. i expect a giant learning experience of children, organized by their ardent moms, at my door, screaming that homeschooling is the best thing since sliced bread. (just let me know in advance so that i bake enough brownies for the kids.)

on the one side, i must show my admiration for those parents who want to take on the monumental task of educating their children to the current state and local education standards. i don’t believe for a second i could undertake such a mission. i don’t believe i possess the patience. i don’t believe i possess the pedagogical skills. and while i am one smart chick with the IQ test scores to prove it, i don’t believe i will be doing my kids a favor when they need to learn higher order math skills (READ: anything beyond algebra) or other topics where i am currently not up to snuff. and no one, and i mean NO ONE, will be dissecting any animals in my kitchen. (that one’s for YOU, hellboy, who’d probably voluntarily do that deed right now at age 4.)

parents who want to homeschool their children apparently have these reasons for homeschooling, according to the national home education research institute:

· teach a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview,
· accomplish more academically than in schools,
· customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
· use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
· enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
· provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults, and
· provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality.

i suppose i could understand wanting to pull my kids from the public schools if i lived in a terrible place with terrible schools. i would certainly pull my kids if i thought they were going to get killed during the school day. (of course, then i’d get the hell out of the area, if it took the last cent i had.) but sometimes, when i am at local playgrounds with jools on his home day, i marvel at the women and their tribes of homeschooled children playing at the playground. our school district is one of the finest in the nation, and yet these people, who CHOOSE to live here, pull their kids out of the public school. it’s mystifying.

there’s something very isolationist and elitist about homeschooling, as if parents fear the very tainting of their children through their interaction with other children, the media, or, most horrifyingly, with alternative ideas. it’s as if homeschooling parents are building a giant bubble for their children, and only they know everything in the world that’s best for their kids. parents should make decisions for their children when they’re young, but as they get older, one of the most important skills i think kids need to learn is how to make decisions — smart ones — on their own. i wonder how willing homeschooling parents are to give up control.

and homeschooling is all about control. control of ideas and who delivers them. control over who gets to interact with the children. control of the environment. in short, i think some of these people had some toilet training issues in their past and they are taking them out on their kids.

why would anyone want to be with anyone 24/7? if your mom (or dad!) is your teacher, you, the kid, have no escape. from school. from pressure. from HER. i get to be the bad cop enough when it comes to discipline. i don’t want my kids to see me and think, oh G-d, i didn’t do my homework/my project/my whatever. i’m so busted. kids need a break from school. parents need a break from kids. when home is school and school is home, there is no division.

do the parents make conscious and deliberate attempts to ensure their kids meet other kids from different racial, religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds? (i can see it now: let’s meet the JEWISH kids today on our field trip, children! and next week, we go visit the GHETTO!) i suspect not. probably only other kids from their church, kids who share their values and world views, need apply. (oh, except for those days when they do some church-sponsored community project. oh, how weird if your only interaction with other ethnicities is through some service project. then you get to assume that “all of them” are like that. so wrong, so dead wrong.)

what i want to know is what happens when these kids go to college and subsequently enter the real world. i am not impressed by the dearth of research on this topic (and i am a little suspect of the national home education research group, anyway). do the kids have to stay on the narrow, little path their moms and dads have made for them in order to lead a decent life? what happens when they don’t understand any of the cultural references of their peers? are they ostracized? how do they tolerate lines of inquiry that don’t have a ready answer? (do they build an answer with G-d in it instead?) do they expect the world to be a neat and tidy place, just like their home school, with all of the answers provided?

i am the child of a teacher, a niece 0f a teacher, a relative and friend of teachers galore. i’ve been a student of education policy. my bias is obvious here. i believe firmly that there is a certain level of pedagogical training, a certain level of knowledge necessary, to truly lift all boats for all children. i’m not naive enough to think that our public schools are churning out 100% success stories, 100% of the time. please.

but i like to think that my kids are getting taught by people who usually have their best interests at heart. (obviously, not always or else we would have avoided last year’s trauma.) and i intervene when things go seriously awry. that’s my job as a parent — i am my child’s advocate.

and i like to think that what they learn by going to public school — with children who may not be just like them, who may eat different foods and celebrate different days and who may have more money or less money than we have — is how to live in a starter microcosm of our big and diverse world. one lesson at a time. i can’t give them that if i keep them in my cozy, sheltered home. and i need them to learn how to cope with situations, how to become increasingly responsible for their own learning and lives, and to discover that sometimes, life is incredibly ambiguous.

and that’s ok.

i don’t want my children to be dependent on me for decisions and answers. i don’t want them to necessarily be dependent on assuming that G-d has all the answers or even IS the answer. i probably will never be able to teach them much beyond how to treat people and how to bake a mean brownie.

but i damn well know how to guide them to the places and the experiences which will help them grow. and guide them i will. toward being independent, forthright, unsheltered and open-minded citizens of the world.

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28 Responses to “home(school) is anywhere you hang your head”

  1. Feeling in a dark mood, are we? You’ve chosen a very black theme here. Hmmm.

    I agree with your opinions on homeschooling: kids need to learn how to interact socially with a diverse group of children; they need to learn to listen to and take direction from someone else; they need to be exposed to differing and opposing POVs and learn to cope with them. Homeschooling, IMHO, fosters a child’s mistaken notion that the whole world revolves around her.

  2. yeah, i’m always full of sunshine at the start of each new year 😉

    i only wish i could have said what you said the way you said it. i’m far too verbose!

  3. It seems like you’re using “homeschoolers” as shorthand for “people who take their kids out of school because they don’t want them exposed to anything that might challenge their theology.” That aptly describes a lot of people who teach their kids at home, but not all of them.

    I read baggageandbug.com and http://www.thiswomanswork.com, and they’re both homeschooling — one has a daughter with some emotional/behavioral problems that rule out public school (at least for now); the other adheres to “unschooling” as an educational philosophy). I don’t really see either of them in what you’ve described here.

  4. Alto2 is very good about wrapping things up concisely. One of the many reasons we love her 🙂

    I agree with a lot of what you said, BUT, as molly w pointed out, there are multiple reasons for home/un schooling and the reasons behind the decision are important to consider. However, those examples tend to be a small portion and for those who pull their kids simply to be sheltering them from other viewpoints, IMHO your points are 100% valid.

  5. your points are well taken, molly and tp. i did kind of broadbrush things. that being said, i don’t really grasp the whole unschooling movement. don’t get me wrong — i am all about experiential learning and making a lot of learning fun. but the bottom line for me — there are important building blocks that people need to learn in order to function in society. some of these things aren’t fun, but they sure are necessary. and a child who is accustomed to everything being fun will have a great letdown later in life when she finds out that every day is not necessarily a scintillating day of discovery. i don’t quite see how kids will necessarily get those “un-fun” things from unschooling. maybe i need to read more about it.

    and as far as kids with special needs — i understand how a parent would want to take matters into her own hands there. but i also wonder why a parent wouldn’t want their child to be a part of the greater world of kids, with people who are trained to help learning disabled/ perceptually impaired/emotionally disturbed etc. children. i think i would want a non related partner in the development of my special needs child. but that’s me. i can see on a case by case basis how homeschooling might help, in the short-term.

    the lesson i took away from the 1960s — it’s great to brainstorm about a perfect world, a perfect system. but rather than run away and try to create your own utopia, it’s more useful, albeit a greater challenge, to change the current system and improve it. hence i don’t really understand when people run away from the public school system (as i perceive it) rather than trying to improve it. the public school system has been the great enabler in american society. it isn’t perfect, but it is the opportunity, however fault-ridden, to help people rise.

  6. Sue in Denver Says:

    For someone who wants her children to appreciate and accept different points of view, you seem a little intolerant. As a parent who has made decisions that she thinks are in the best interest of her children, how is it you have such a hard time accepting that homeschooling parents are acting on this same notion?

    Just a thought…interesting post.

  7. thanks very much for posting a comment 🙂 while i guess we won’t agree on the topic, i really appreciate different viewpoints. i’m clearly not the paragon of tolerance — no one is, and i’m usually a fairly inarticulate intolerant chick. we all have our opinions, and i certainly try to at least listen and learn before i jump. but jump i do at times.

    FWIW, i probably will never grasp why parents would want to move their kids out of the mainstream “for their own good.” if the mainstream is unacceptable, then work to change it; don’t abandon it. i get so tired of hearing people bitch and moan about the public schools and not doing anything to make them better. instead, its better to just pull up stakes and start mom’s little red brick kitchen college instead.

    public schools are the great equalizer, using the term v e r y loosely, in our society. yes, certain schools are better funded, certain schools are probably better schools. it’s a wildly imperfect system. but in theory, this is an idea that i appreciate indelibly. it is what helped my ancestors, poor immigrants, and so many others learn how to be “american” and work their way to a better life. rejecting public schools, to me, smacks of elitism.

    see, i just don’t see how creating your own little family education silo benefits the community at large. and i certainly, in the long run, don’t see how it will benefit the child, who will one day grow up and, G-d willing, move out of the mothership. i don’t see how you need to start your own school in order to impart values and ideas to your children. that’s simply something you do every day — by word and by deed.

    ask the people who rejected society in the 1960s and created and lived on communes whether that experience made the world a better place. (and i would note for the record — i am a waaaay left of center liberal.)

  8. As a homeschooling family I resent the intolerance you have shown for homeschoolers. My response was way to long for a comment so I posted about it here http://alasandra2003.blogspot.com/2008/01/truth-about-homeschoolers.html

    The bottom line is parents are responsible for doing what is in the best interest of THEIR CHILDREN.

  9. The only people who still think homeschooled students are isolated social retards are the isolated social retards who don’t know anything about homeschooling. Join the 21st century – our kids are already there.

  10. Now most of the public schools that I am familiar with service an defined area. I know some larger cities support magnet schools that take kids from all over the city, but as a rule I think I’m generally correct.

    Now it gets better as you move into secondary schools, but most elementary schools are meant to be local to the families that go to them. Local means the surrounding neighborhood. Surrounding neighborhood means common social-economic areas because people like to live near people that are like them.

    And this exposes kids to people that are different than them?

    My homeschool group has member families ranging from organic farmers to highly educated professionals. My kids deal with other kids that have families without much in the way of resources to those that do. And they are friends. They have learned to see the value that different people bring.

    Homeschooling is not limiting ourselves to our neighbors.

  11. well, FWIW, i appreciate your interesting reply 🙂 it is true, there are plenty of schools where the population is somewhat homogeneous. my DD, though, for example, did attend a magnet school. 50% of the kids there are eligible for free or reduced lunch and come from families where english is the second language (and that’s stretching it in plenty of cases), and the other 50% are either well-to-do to middle class. but i know that’s somewhat anomalic.

    that being said, i don’t see how organic farmers are not necessarily highly educated professionals. there are plenty of VERY smart farmers out there, especially the ones who care a great deal for the land, the earth, the food supply, and, if none of the above, for the business opportunity that organic farming might provide. further — and i am not being cheeky here — isn’t there some self-selection happening in homeschooling groups? for example, very earthy-crunchy lefty homeschoolers (groups which are prevalent around here) are probably not likely to hang with the bible-thumping homeschooling crowd. i suspect that your values mirror the values of a lot of the people with whom you are engaged.

    and a question: if homeschoolers are rejecting schools as education institutions, why then would they want their kids to go on to college? wouldn’t they experience more of the same? you didn’t state this in particular, meg, so believe me when i say this is not directed at you per se; but those same kids who allegedly would have held children back in public school (which, btw, is factually incorrect, as children are often taught based on their abilities, gifted on down) are back with your kids in college. (and the idea that those other kids in public school would even hold your brilliant child back because they’re slower? that doesn’t smack of elitism?)

    just wondering.

  12. First off, I used the organic farmers as an example because I was looking for something quick and different than a highly educated/paid professional. Yes, being a farmer in today’s world takes a lot of knowledge and sense, but I was going for something quick to make a point.

    Second off, my family has been a part of an active inclusive group for nearly a decade. Because of time/space constraints, I didn’t try to explain the fact that I’m often the extreme liberal end of any discussion we moms have about political/social issues. When I started I wasn’t, right now I have company, some years I may be the only vocal liberal in the group. Do they make me feel welcome/a part of things – YES. Does the group include conservative fundamentalists – YES

    And we have extreme crunchy members – vegetarians, nothing cooked, homesteaders, those trying to reduce utility bills to 90% of the national average….and we have those that are main stream.

    Our area is mid-western small town bland, so locally we don’t match your ethnic mix, but we spent a year in Albuquerque and there half the group had one parent with a green card.

    As for rejecting schools. I don’t. I reject the social pressure cooker as a requirement for growing up. It’s there for anyone who wants it, but life is not one sizes fits all. By college, the social pressure cooker doesn’t go away, but it does ease off some (and I speak for experience. I was a university brat who married an university professor) and for the record – many homeschoolers do skip college to go do something else.

    And if you believe that NCLB hasn’t killed G&T programs, then go read some academic journals and listen to the discussion. Education Week would be a good one to start with. If it’s not on the test, most places don’t have the cash to teach it.

    Furthermore, if you went and read my blog, you’ll see that while my ds is graduating this year, our dd is considering trying a brick and mortar public school for high school. It’s her choice, just like it was his.

  13. None of the reasons listed are the reasons I chose to homeschool my kids. When my kids wanted to go back to school, they went back. No academic issues (except my son doesn’t want to do his homework, which seems to be a problem among all kids, not just those who were homeschooled). No social issues – quite the opposite, actually. My main issue with public education wasn’t actually the education, it was the fact that if my son brought a teddy bear to give to unfortunate kids in the hospital, and his class brought the most teddy bears, his class would get a pizza party! Raise the most funds for the school and do you know what your kids get to do? They get to stand in a box that’s blowing around money and get to grab as much as they can. (OK – it wasn’t quite that bad – but I got extremely annoyed with the rampant and out of control materialism.)

    Not all of us want to conform to what is considered to be the “finest and the best” because it almost always entails a huge amount of conformity and compliance which is absolutely worthwhile if you are passionate about “the finest and best”. But some of us have an affinity for the unique and creative and we are thankful we aren’t required by law to bow down to the “finest and best” just because others have such a strong passion for it.

    We live in an affluent area with excellent schools. One of the biggest complaints about homeschooling is that it is the committed parents that end up pulling their children out of school so the schools aren’t just losing the kids, they are losing all of that parental help, too.

    Also, my kids were around far more diversity when they were homeschooled than now that they are back in school. Unless parents have pulled their kids from school to confine their experience (for religious reasons, etc.), I think that’s generally true.

  14. Perhaps we homeschool in order to teach our children how to write using proper capitalization and punctuation, something it appears your government-run school failed to teach you…

  15. Many of the kids in public schools do not want to be there. Hence they cause trouble and prevent learning. A teacher who has to spend the majority of her time disciplining students has very little time to teach. Also public schools are wedded to the idea that students who are a certain age should be in a certain grade, even if they are capable of doing the work of a higher grade level.

    Kids who choose to go to college want to get an education thus you have few if any discipline issues. And colleges allow students of any age who are capable of doing the work to do it. My son started college at 16.

  16. to arulba’s point: exactly. it’s called creaming. and my viewpoint is that i believe in the public schools and find creaming to be an abandonment of the rest of the education community. i believe in the government, too, even though i think the current president is an idiot and his administration has done more damage to the nation than any other administration prior. that being said, i don’t abandon the idea that government can make a difference; and if i have an issue with the government, then it is my responsibility as a citizen to take action to make things better.

    i suspect there aren’t a lot of single-parent families who earn minimum wage in the inner city taking up homeschooling. see. you have a choice. they don’t. is that fair? of course not. abandoning a school instead of using your time and considerable talents to make it better helps your individual child, but does it help society?

    i view myself as part of a greater community. it sure is a lot easier to be a liberal when you do it in isolation. (there’s a term for that in political science parlance– a limousine liberal.) i see plenty of people who love people and justice — as a theory. but then they pull themselves into a cocoon so that they don’t actually have to interact with such folks who would need their help or who might sully their lives. i’ve been there, and i suspect i’ll be there again — i’m no saint, not even close. but every day, i try to show my kids through word and deed. and through our life together. which sometimes means we deal with those people.

    when parents take children out of the schools, no message is being sent that something’s wrong. in fact, no one consciously misses them. the tree falls in the forest, but no one hears a damn thing. my point is that if something is not right, so incredibly wrong that you want to pull your child out, my opinion is that you ought to do something about it. otherwise, it’s a selfish act.

    to alasandra’s point: many of the kids in public school don’t want to be there? that’s a pretty gross generalization. i don’t see that here in my school. anecdotal? sure, i suspect if i were a kid and the choice was either doing something of my choosing or sitting in a classroom, i wouldn’t want to be there, either. i bet the homeschooled kids would rather be outside playing, too. education is not a choice when you’re a kid. but you need it to be a productive member of society when you grow up.

    i still contend it’s about control. you want control of your child’s environment. and apparently, it must not be sullied by other children, who apparently are not as smart as your child. perhaps public schools are taking other issues into consideration besides intellect — like social development — when they try to keep kids of a certain age together in a grade, enriching the classroom with special work for those who are ahead or behind. that’s certainly what they do around here. know why? because, as my mother will point out to anyone in earshot, it sucks to be a high school senior at age 15 when the other kids are 17 and 18 and socially in a very, very different place than where you are. (yes, my mom started college at 16, too. and it sucked more when the college freshmen were two years older than she was and in a completely different social realm.)

    i like anecdotes as much as the next person, so here’s a fun one: i started college with a cohort of kids — 16-17 year olds — many of whom were Westinghouse Scholars as well as recipients of other highly prestigious scientific awards and scholarships. brilliant kids who tested well and who were intellectually just amazing people. these people were admitted into a 6-year college/medical school plan. they were all so very smart. and socially? let’s just say many had the social grace of a fart. i wonder if any of them ever got laid before they were 25. in short, i think there should be a happy balance between expanding a child’s intellect and developing social skills.

    few discipline problems at college? you’re kidding me, right? maybe in the classroom, but afterwards, with drugs, alcohol, and other temptations once the kid is sprung into freedom, believe me, there are issues. date rape. overdoses. peer pressure. i could continue.

    oh, and crimson — believe me. i know proper punctuation and grammar, hee hee 🙂 one of my degrees is in english. if i wanted to be exceptionally snarky, i would have corrected the grammar on some of these comments (“As a homeschooling family I” for example.) but i’d rather be less small minded and look more toward ideas.

    isolated social retard that i am 😉

  17. Well I suppose my eldest son is lucky even though he started college at 16 he had no problems socially, and is enjoying the whole college experience. BTW he is paying for his college experience out of his own pocket, from money he saved up working at a local fast food joint. And since I know my son is capable of making the right choices I don’t worry about peer pressure.

    As a parent it is my responsibility to do what is BEST FOR MY CHILD, it is not my responsibility to do what is best for your child/anyone else’s child at my child’s expense.

    BTW I taught in the public schools and saw first hand the kids that didn’t want to be there and who did everything in their power to get expelled so they could stay home and eat junk food and play video games while their parents were at work. I also know first hand that it is impossible for a parent to change the public school system as they have no incentive to work with parents.

    You said
    i could understand wanting to pull my kids from the public schools if i lived in a terrible place with terrible schools. i would certainly pull my kids if i thought they were going to get killed during the school day. (of course, then i’d get the hell out of the area, if it took the last cent i had.)

    I happen to like where I live. I love my community, I love my house and I love living in a rural area. I do not like the public schools in my school district? Why should I have to MOVE to an area I don’t like in order for my kids to go to a decent public school? What is the difference between a parent moving to a ‘elite public school district’ that single mom’s and others less fortunate can’t afford and a parent choosing to remain in the community and home they love and sending their child to a private school or homeschooling?

    BTW while single Mom’s are not the norm in my homeschool group there are a few.

  18. My dear woman, you are mistaken and are both prejudiced and ill-informed on this matter.

    We who have chosen to remove our children from public education are offering society an experiment. and you should be thankful we are willing to provide it for society. The sucess of homeschoolers is making educators rethink education which is necessary, and it has created other education options that would not have been available without the proven success of homeschooling. Joint programs between homeschoolers and public education are popping up all over the place. (Proof that homeschoolers are willing to work with the government.)

    You are correct, there aren’t a lot of single parent families who homeschool. But it is prejudiced to assume parents pull their children out of school and don’t care for the rest of society. There are many charter schools being created in the less affluent areas thanks in large part to homeschooling efforts. (Cooperatives are big in the homeschooling community and proof that people can make a huge difference without aid from the government.) Instead of keeping at risk kids locked away in school for 8 hours a day, the students are able to provide much needed community service as part of the curriculum. This helps to keep them off the streets and to make them proud of their communities. Many of these charter schools and cooperatives have been initiated by homeschooling parents.

    I have been on all sides of it. I taught public high school English to freshman, juniors, and seniors. I’ve been on the board of my local PTA, and I’ve been an parent in the schools (and am now), I’ve also homeschooled my children and I’m glad I was able to do so for a number of reasons.

    Personally, I think there is something grossly wrong with public education. I think the entire system needs to be over-hauled. But as long as people have a blind faith in it, decent education for all is an impossibility. U.S. ranking is horrible and it is my personal belief that the homeschooling movement is providing more impetus for change than any other educational experiment in recent years.

    it’s your right to disagree. Thankfully, it’s a free country and we have laws in place that make it possible for those who want to go outside of the system to transcend the gross prejudices of those who want to go down with the ship.

  19. Failed to mention – kids who feel proud of their communities tend to take a more active interest in their education and are much less likely to drop out of school. Kids who are stuck in school all day often don’t know that they can make a difference.

    You say homeschooling is all about control, but do you not realize how hyper-controlling our attitude toward public education is?

  20. Oops – I meant your attitude (not “our”). My son was trying to talk to me just as I was finishing the comment. Sorry about that. 🙂

  21. It’s fine to have an opinion, but where do you GET things like, “state standards” when you’re talking about how I must educate my children? You sound like a reasonable person in some respects, but do you trust the state? I don’t. You do know where they get these “standards” from, don’t you? It’s political… I don’t think either of us imagines that the Lord Almighty flew in with a couple angels and a stone tablet declaring that children should know a noun from a verb by the middle of second grade. I mean, I teach my kids creation science, but nothing quite that fanciful.

    It’s also fine to have the opinion that multi-culturalism is some sort of great thing to have growing up, but not everyone shares your opinion. You don’t have to be a beer-bellied racist slob to think it’s just fine to live in your own little neighbourhood and interact (mostly) with people very much like yourself. In fact, if you go into any major city you’d find little pockets like this… the Chinese here, the Italians here, etc. Would you want to FORCE parents to have their children to interact with people different from themselves? I guarantee you that that would not foster the kind of tolerance and understanding of other cultures you’d be looking for.

    I also see you yourself would move out of any area that has violence or other problems in school you find unacceptable… hey, who are you to judge that culture? Maybe you should keep your children in it and let them learn knife-fighting or some other useful skill that would be applicable in the “real world.” (No, I was just kidding, but hopefully I’ve made my point. Your argument of “elitists” leaving the district because they can… well… YOU would be an elitist… in that neighbourhood, anyway. You would get out because you could and let everyone else fend for themselves. Why wouldn’t you stay and effect change on the inside? Well, maybe because you don’t want your kids very poorly educated or even DEAD…)

    I guess I’m wondering what your grand “solution” would be to the problems you’ve set forth. Require public school attendance in compliance with some ever-changing “state standard?” Obligate all parents to send their children to schools that teach things contrary to their convictions? What are you proposing? Or do homeschoolers just annoy you because they’re mostly conservative and religious, and you’re blowing off some steam?

    BTW, for what it is worth, I have children in the public school as well as in our homeschool. Public school, so long as I am forced to support it with my tax dollars, will probably remain the option we choose for our older autistic son. However, I am distrustful of the public school system in general. There are some wonderful and committed teachers and staff, but I can’t say that I trust anyone else to know what’s best for my child in any given circumstance. They are there to “pack ’em deep and teach ’em cheap,” and I can’t imagine you *really* think otherwise in your heart of hearts, in terms of the big or district-wide picture.

    I’m not going to judge you for the choices you make in educating your children. I can’t say that I never thought some of the same sorts of things you did several years ago. Might I recommend being a bit more distrustful of public school theology? I’m seeing only a glimmer of cynicism, but maybe sometime you’ll come around to seeing that it ought to come down to the parents and their own decisions, even when they’re not what you’d decide.

  22. First, I respect your way of disagreeing. There has been so much name-calling on both sides of the fence, it’s a joy to read an honest plea for understanding. From your post, I get a very good sense of your objections to homeschooling, and can sympathize with your concerns. I see that really what we all want is for our own and everybody else’s children to become competent, educated, responsible members of our society. It seems that you do not understand how anyone could believe homeschooling could produce such a thing, am I right? I would like to explain to you, using many of your own words, so you can see both why and where we disagree. I hope you and your readers will recognize your own words and thoughts, as well as where I have edited to make my own position clear.

    There’s something very communist about government schools, as if government fears the very tainting of children through unlimited interaction with their parents, other children, the outside world, or, most horrifyingly, with alternative ideas. It’s as if the government is building a giant bubble for all children, and only they know everything in the world that’s best for everyone’s kids. Parents should make decisions for their children when they’re young, but we are defining ‘young’ as younger all the time, and as they get older, one of the most important skills kids need to learn is how to obey authority — governmental authority — or at least how to look like you are.
    and government schools are all about control. Control of ideas and who delivers them. Control over who gets to interact with the children. Control of the environment. In short, I think some of these people had some toilet training issues in their past and they are taking them out on their kids. (Fact: my local middle school requires my daughter and her classmates to keep weekly bathroom logs. Every time they need to use the facilities, the teacher sees every time they’ve used the bathroom that week and is required to refuse more than 2 trips per day.)
    My public schooled children have no escape from school, from pressure, from THEM. I have to be the bad cop when it comes to homework. I don’t want my kids to come home and think, oh G-d, I’ve been at school for 6 ½ hours already & still need to do my homework/my project/my whatever. I’m so busted. Kids need a break from school. When parents are the teachers, they can decree a reasonable end to the school day and give the kids a rest when it’s right and necessary. Schooling doesn’t need to take so much TIME. When school is done for the day, it’s done, and kids get space to read, think, do, follow their passions, be ALONE.
    I like to think that what they learn by homeschooling — supervised, but out in the big world with children who may not be just like them, who may eat different foods and celebrate different days and who may have more money or less money than we have — is how to live in a starter microcosm of our big and diverse world. One lesson at a time. I can’t give them that if I keep them in a cozy, sheltered school building. I need them to learn how to cope with situations, how to become increasingly responsible for their own learning and lives, and to discover that they can teach themselves, meet people, find jobs, create their own schedules, get themselves up in the morning, and be contributing members of society without relying on the government to force them into it.
    I don’t want my children to be dependent on authorities for decisions and answers. I don’t want them to necessarily be dependent on assuming that the government has all the answers or even IS the answer. The school probably will never be able to teach them much beyond how to game the system.
    But I well know how to guide them to the places and the experiences which will help them grow. And guide them I will toward being independent, forthright, unsheltered and open-minded citizens of the world.

    Now to quote you directly:
    FWIW, i probably will never grasp why parents would want to move their kids out of the mainstream “for their own good.” i certainly…don’t see how it will benefit the child, who will one day grow up and, G-d willing, move out of the mothership.

    You answered yourself when you mentioned taking your child out of an unsafe school. By all means, work to change unacceptable situations, but for every parent there is a tipping point, at which potential harm to your child outweighs the benefit you are able to confer on other children by remaining part of a change-resistant system. This point just falls in a different place for each family. You draw the line at risk of physical harm, others may draw it when they see their child being intellectually or morally stunted. Consider, is it so wrong to rush the child in your own arms out of the burning building before going back to fight the fire, or fight a different one?

    ‘Creating our own little family education silo benefits the community at large’ when it:
    · creates better educated, more informed citizens than the public school does
    · puts numerical and financial pressure on the public schools to change or die
    · reminds the country that neither we nor our children belong to the state
    These are vital public services that I provide. And besides, it will benefit the child, who will one day grow up and, G-d willing, run her own life, not ask the government to run it for her.

    and a question: if homeschoolers are rejecting schools as education institutions, why then would they want their kids to go on to college? wouldn’t they experience more of the same?

    Some homeschooled kids decide not to go to college for that reason. Others choose to because:
    · One’s choice of college is much wider than that of grammar/high school. Market forces make colleges much more responsive to the will of the people than your local public school is required to be.
    · Homeschooling allows a child to learn responsibility for herself and her learning until by college age she is prepared for this independence; rather than being dumped from the womb of a regimented, predetermined schedule into the deep water of adulthood.
    · A college age child is, or should be, an adult. She is able to think critically about the material presented and come to her own conclusions. She has more strength and freedom to protect herself from physical or sexual attack by peers or teachers. She has power and knowledge that a child does not.

    apparently, (your child’s environment)must not be sullied by other children, who apparently are not as smart as your child.

    Now here, sorry, you’re just ‘mind reading’. Plenty of kids are homeschooled because they’re behind and not getting the help they need. Honestly, except for the safety issue raised above, it’s more often the adults in the school we don’t want our kids exposed to.

    perhaps public schools are taking other issues into consideration besides intellect — like social development — when they try to keep kids of a certain age together in a grade, enriching the classroom with special work for those who are ahead or behind.

    Of course they are. And so are we. Except the schools believe social development is enhanced by age division and we believe it is hindered. I have seen my kids in G&T programs that consist of 2 hours of fun and games, with the rest of the week unchanged. I have also seen my kids fail to learn over and over while the class continues on schedule. Do we have to sacrifice learning just to keep everybody of the same age in the same social group? Perhaps if we considered that kids might do better in a diverse group, it wouldn’t be such a sign of ‘weirdness’ to be ahead or behind your age mates.

    it sucks to be a high school senior at age 15 when the other kids are 17 and 18 and socially in a very, very different place than where you are.

    It also sucks to be a high school sophomore at age 15 when the other kids are 15 and socially in a very, very different place than where you are. If it’s important to you that high school should not suck because other kids are socially in a very, very different place than where you are, then don’t pen them in with other kids who are not necessarily socially in the very, very same place that they are, regardless of age. (The commentary, it writes itself!)

    See, we all agree that kids should grow to stand on their own two feet. You just fear control by the parents, while homeschoolers fear control by everybody else. You don’t trust individual parents to know what is best for their own children, I don’t trust the bureaucracy to know what’s best for anyone’s children. Who is to choose between us? Who is the ultimate authority? When is choice abuse, and when is it care? Are parents the natural caretakers, innocent until proven guilty, or do we assume everyone is suspect and insist the village raise the child? Is the majority always right?

    In closing, I apologize for length, and let me say that none of this is meant in insulting or sarcastic way, and if I have failed to express myself politely, please point it out so I may clarify and/or apologize.

  23. hmm. wordpress did not retain my markups. apologies for any confusion caused by absence of italic/bold.

  24. no worries on the italic/bold front. while we may continue disagree on some points, i genuinely appreciate your very thoughtful post 🙂 thank you very much for actually discussing the issue rather than jumping down a wildly defensive foxhole, which most have done. (i don’t mind when people disagree with me; i do mind when they start personal attacks, especially when they don’t actually know me. that sort of blather is boring and non-productive.)

    thanks again very much!

  25. Hey! Did it ever occur to anyone to mention that homeschooling is just plain FUN? I love my kids! They are a blast! I am honored to be with them and yay! We have fun! This fighting business is all so silly. Let people hike their own hike and enjoy their own journey. Why waste your breaths ranting?

  26. I was once of a like mind with you so I know where you are coming from. But all I have to say is that you get a different viewpoint once you have actually tried homeschooling. (most people who critique it have never tried it, so they lose some credibility with me). The first thing that hit me, was that it is SO incredibly efficient you wonder why you waited so long. Your child can finish in a few hours what it takes a classroom of 25-30 six or seven hours to do. You have the rest of the afternoon for creative pursuits, extra curricular classes, free reading time, field trips, music lessons, etc. You are immediately aware of what your child needs help on and can address it right then, instead of waiting for the annual parent teacher conference. You can see your child relax and actually show an interest in learning again. And as far as social experiences go, homeschooling ain’t what it used to be 25 yrs ago!! There are way too many classes, groups, activities, clubs etc available for homeschoolers than we can possibly participate in.
    Most of the homeschoolers in our group came to it reluctantly as a last resort. Most of their kids were struggling in school either socially or academically and after repeated battles with homework and tearful, miserable days and nights, they took a different path. Ironically, most of them would never go back, the results were so dramatic. When it works, it works beautifully. That is not to say it is for every kid or every parent. Obviously, you are happy with your local school which is great. But we all have kids with different abilities, need and quirks. But the wonderful thing about our country is that we can choose what is best! So don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!!————

  27. sunniemom Says:

    Home education might be perceived as being ‘about control’, but it is actually about freedom- freedom to tailor a child’s education to their interests and abilities, to acknowledge their strengths and pinpoint their weaknesses, and to allow them to become the person they want to be without the constrictions of peer dependency and pressure to conform to the lowest common denominator.

    I don’t mind so much that folks don’t understand the different aspects of home education (which is funny considering public education is the new kid on the block, being as its only about 120 yrs old) but I do mind when someone makes pronoucements based on faulty assumptions.

    BTW, many home educators are very active in their communities to improve education for others, and not just their own children. Studies have shown that homeschooling families are much more politically active than parents with kids in public schools. I could not being to theorize as to why that is, but this is another area in which inaccurate assumptions are made- home educators have NOT abandoned their communities or the children in them.

  28. […] children immunizations. i find this repugnant. while i have learned a lot about homeschooling since shooting my mouth off awhile back; and while i have a new respect for some who have chosen that path; this, to me, this […]

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