Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Defending Homeschool

The "usual" criticism of homeschooling stacks up like this:

* Socialization
* Poor Curriculum
* Lack of Multiculturalism
* Lack of testing
* Homeschoolers have fewer resources
* Poor quality of teacher
* Homeschoolers are ideologically-driven
* Homeschooled children are ill-equipped to function in society
* and keeping funding from the public schools.

I am delighted to take each of these issues separately. I have researched and read thousands of pages of materials AS WELL AS being a parent who homeschools. Additionally, at my disposal, a huge group of families with whom I am familiar that homeschool.

Each and every child in the world is unique. Homeschool, public school, private school, other learning arrangement, no learning arrangement. Each child reacts to events in their own unique way. I mention this because, while writing this piece to "defend" or support homeschool as a choice, I feel compelled to say that there is no single perfect choice for bringing up one's children. Each choice, as is normal in life, requires making decisions in which one gains things and one loses things. So, I feel it is necessary to point out that any point I make either "for" or "against" homeschooling can also be made for public or other educational school or learning system. There is not a school in the world that does not have as a part of it's system the poorly-socialized, learning-disabled, or generally "outside-of-the-box" students and families. Some learning environments make these students feel comfortable, confident, and successful, however, while others make these students feel ostracized, hopeless, and left out.

I also feel no need to "defend" homeschooling. It needs no defense! My sincere effort is to be honest and supportive of families who seek to educate their children. I'm sure my enthusiastic tendencies supporting homeschooling will be obvious. I think that is goes without saying, too, that an issue of this kind can only be brushed with broad generalities by people who have not homeschooled.

I have always wondered about the agenda of those folks who get online or go public with these negative and blasting messages of anti-homeschool. Why are they so vociferously negative about a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to them? How can these folks judge an entire lifestyle choice through one or two struggling families or children? Homeschoolers are typically in the minority and there are few statistics on homeschoolers as a population. Honestly, for every negative story about homeschooling you can point at for me I can point out one hundred negative stories about the public schooling system, or any other educational system available to the public. Also, for each negative story of homeschooling you can point out, I can point to a hundred quietly successful homeschool families who are raising remarkable, caring, productive, and thinking children.

  • Let's start, ta dah!, with Socialization and socializing opportunities. Nearly every single article or argument of this sort begins with "socialization" or socializing opportunities. Those on the "con" to homeschooling side say the homeschoolers have few opportunities to hang out with other kids, peers, and people in general. They say the students benefit from the amount of peer interaction available at most schooling options that meet in a building together. I would say that there is quantity and there is quality.
  • I don't deny that my children don't see and interact with other children their own age each day. No. They interact with people of all ages each day. They are actually in the real world! In fact, many homeschooling parents report that "socialization" is the PERFECT reason to homeschool.  But, don't misunderstand.   They do interact with friends as often as all parties can swing it.
  • As for curriculum, there are so many different lines of curriculum for homeschoolers out there that I can see no criticism on this point. I am in the unique position to have seen MANY fantastic sets of materials.  My homeschool supply store carries some; some, I do not carry at this point. (Usually for financial reasons and not because of the merit of materials!)  It is my own personal bias that Christian-based materials tend to be too focused on indoctrination and religious issues rather than on academics.  I am also put off by the focus of these materials being to make evolution and other scientific topic looks disreputable. 
  • Suggesting that homeschool children are not living their lives in a multicultural environment is, again, the claim of a person who does not homeschool. Without pointing out the homogeneous nature of most school districts, it nearly goes without saying that the world contains all ethnic groups...and that is the school that homeschoolers attend. The school of the world.  Our homeschool group has Indian families, Southeast Asian families, Eastern European families, Greek families, African families, ...
  • In fact, it is on this point that I can promise, a homeschooler has wonderful and enriching opportunities to learn more about various cultures and lifestyles. Even without including families associated with homeschool groups, the world in which we life is vastly diverse and colorful. If you do not currently have people of other races and creeds as a part of your "friend list", please work harder!
  • Homeschool styles vary from family to family. I wouldn't even try to assure a reader that all homeschoolers are tested regularly. In fact, many homeschoolers are pleased to report that passing a test is the least and worst reason for learning. As my young son of nine years said to me just the other day, "Learning is it's own reward".
  • Also, many institutions and groups offer a variety of testing opportunities. If a family is interested in having their children's levels tested, those options are available to them with very little research or cost. In our home, achievement test results are not the main goal why we homeschool. It is simply one of the many tools we use to guide us in educating our children. Some states require testing for their homeschooling families and some do not. If a family seeks to test their children, public and private resources abound.
  • For the critic who suggests that homeschoolers have fewer resources available to them, I, again, would insist that we have more! Homeschoolers are not limited by the number of books in the school library, we have the huge city library system as our resource! Homeschoolers are not limited by the faculty on staff at the local school. Every adult and child we come in contact with is a potential instructor. Homeschoolers are not limited by the school's lab, sports, theater, extra curricular opportunities available through a school. All of these options in our community-at-large are available to us!
  • Further, these community and other resources are not available to our children for fifty minute blocks, for as long as the lab is open! The resources available to any individual homeschool family is limited only by their ingenuity and resourcefulness. Resources aren't doled out to children in lines waiting to use them and they aren't available only for the duration of a "unit". Children who homeschool have the wonderful opportunity to stay with learning units until they are ready to move on!
  • Through our local homeschool group, our family has had at our disposal university lab facilities, university library and theater facilities, community theater and sports, ranches, gardens, telescopes, ponds, small businesses, quarries, cave systems, airports and other public transportation... The list is endless. In the end, our children are given one-on-one learning opportunities as well as individualized strategies. I fear the children in the school system are truly suffering from fewer resources than homeschooled children.
  • The claim that our children have a poor quality of teacher is rude as well as inaccurate. It may be true, I couldn't say, but it's hard to prove one way or the other. There is no need to point out that every school on the planet has wonderful, innovative teachers as well as teachers that are ineffective or unmotivated. So, without putting our various school systems on trial, it is not going too far to say that the vast majority of homeschooling parents that I have ever met are highly-educated, strongly-motivated, and generally effective. I have read that homeschooling parents trend to be higher socioeconomic families, though I have known incredible homeschooling parents who operate on a shoestring. It is just not possible to suggest that the quality of the parents teaching and the children teaching themselves is "poor" in any way as a general rule.
  • In every group that has ever existed, there have always been the slackers and the poorly-motivated. I'm certain that this exists within the ranks of homeschooling parents as well. But for the most part, the parents that I have known have taken the time to teach themselves the psychology of learning, learning styles, schools of learning, special needs education, and other issues related to being effective teachers for their children. We, as parents, are always learning and improving our approaches. Why would anyone assume that parents don't research and learn as much as possible about what works when teaching children? Aren't these the children that mean the most to us?
  • It is true that many homeschoolers are ideologically driven.  I, personally, am driven by the ideology that emphasizes the belief that human beings are fundamentally good and that they try their best at any given moment. Even the critics.
  • It is also true that some families have chosen to homeschool for ideological reasons. And why not?  Don't most schools operate under certain ideologies as well?  Human beings all operate with their own sets of ideological frameworks. The wonderful bonus of homeschooling is that it allows us to operate under ideologies that our children seek for themselves as well. Add to this, the ideology of being "outside of the box" as most homeschoolers are, is not well-supported in the school systems. Come to think of it, the schooling systems in the world are far too ideologically-driven for my comfort.
  • Homeschool and public or private school systems have extremists as part of the population. This doesn't allow us to single out any group as being more troubled by these radical ideologies.
  • Lastly, is it true that homeschool families are keeping funding from the public schools? Well, I am certainly paying my taxes! And how absurd to suggest that my child is a mere means to an end for the school system! I do pay my taxes AND we don't use the resources that they purchase. If the schools are struggling with resources, it isn't because I haven't done my civic duty.

Our country celebrates it's liberty and choice. I celebrate liberty too whenever we homeschool. Besides, I dislike putting the public and private schools on the defensive. Not everyone can or should homeschool!


  1. Funny, lack of test is what I would call a POSITIVE part of homeschooling, not a negative. Tests really don't show much. That's pretty much a fact. I called my college teacher on it one day. I was taking an advanced philosophy class. And I asked her, "would I learn more from studying for the test, or would I learn more by reading everything this philosopher wrote?"

    The purpose of test is to access the class, and I think essay tests help a student learn to think and write quickly, but 12 years of testing? puck me. 4 years in college almost gave me a nervous breakdown, and I'm an outstanding test taker. I feel sorry for those who are not.

    I should blog about this sometime.

    1. I absolutely AGREE your point about testing. However, there are those who criticize this.

      Yes, DO blog about it!


Leave a comment!