WHY DO PEOPLE HOMESCHOOL?!


In theory I respect the right for individual families to make educational choices for their children. I have both friends and family members that have chosen to home-school at one point or another, or have been home-schooled, and with the variety have had varying levels of success.

In practicality, though, my educator brain doesn’t really like the idea or the overall practice of homeschooling…especially past elementary school. Perhaps I only focus on the negatives, but from my experience, many of the parents I have seen, sacrifice things that public/private education could have offered in an attempt to gain something (not sure what, exactly, but I am sure they have a reason in their mind), that doesn’t actually seem to work. An example, is my aunt pulling her daughters out to home-school, after her youngest was being forced to complete assignments and stay in from recess to do so. My aunt felt the teacher wasn’t being fair (which could be legit) and that my cousin was being teased (also a legit reason to look at the education). But instead of sending her to a different school or get her evaluated for an IEP (needed for both mental and physical reasons), she chooses to home-school her. What began as a legit reason to re-evaluate, has turned into 4 years of home-schooling by a depressed divorcee mom with only a high school education. My cousin is behind in grade level (assessed by my mom who is a reading specialist), and has social skills of a 4 year old (at 12). When we have family functions even the little kids tease her because she is so…weird…which simply perpetuates a pattern of teasing/low-self-esteem that as a mental health professional, I am concerned about in the future. In contrast, though, is my dad’s cousin, who raised 6 kids on a farm, is a college educated elementary teacher who home-schooled her kids through middle school and then sent them to public high school. While socially awkward in ways, the kids have gone to college and found boyfriends and gotten jobs. All things I am concerned about for my other cousin.
What brings this subject up in my mind, is the frustrating day I had on Thursday with my predominately home-schooled morning class. Many of the students are willing to learn and do the work that I require of them (which isn’t much, as far as college goes), and reasonably beginning to make friends and think critically…there are a handful of students who both are socially awkward with their peers AND with me, which can be worked through, but their intellectually arrogant attitude isn’t based in actual performance and I can’t help to think has been instilled in them by equally arrogant parents who thought that they were so smart that they could teach their children everything, including all the high school subjects. Nobody I know is THAT smart, which is why high school has different subject teachers. I am just baffled that one person could think they could substitute for a hundred professional people with experience and education in the teaching field.

I would feel less upset by this if it didn’t set the students up for such failure in life and higher education. This one student, who rolls his eyes and grumbles with every assignment is probably smart, but when he writes, he writes at about a 4th grade level. His friend was helping him formulate his paper into a paragraph! I could understand if this kid was so brilliant that he was oodles and oodles ahead of his classmates, and therefore was lacking in social skills, but he seems to have a deficit in BOTH social skills AND reading/writing comprehension. I think his bad attitude masks the fact that he really just doesn’t know what he’s doing…which I could see how he might have slid through in a public school, seen as defiant, but he was being home-schooled! His parents should have realized that he cannot perform at grade level! Right?! And the defiant attitude toward me, as a professional educator, just doesn’t seem to jibe with the whole ‘respect’ because they are Christian, thing, ya know?

And then I begin to question these parents’ motivations. I know they are conservative Christians, but did the sacrifice of having him not be around “worldly” things really help him get the best start in life? I am very biased about this, having grown up very conservatively, without being allowed to watch tv/movies, and wear those long dresses, and go to church every week, but my parents always valued public education. And Boof and I have talked about the state of the education system, and how it doesn’t always meet a child’s needs, but I think home-schooling as their whole education is just the wrong way to go about it.

So, what are your thoughts on education…public/private/home-school? Is there a place for home-schooling?  A time where home-schooling is actually selfish? Thoughts on how I can reach these students who are failing?

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10 Comments

  1. hmmm, a controversial subject, to say the least. i suppose there are negatives and positives to both home schooling and private/public schooling. this is my opinion: kids socialize at school. i’m sure a lot of people would say school is for learning and not socializing, but that’s just not true. learning to function in society with other people is pretty effing important. many home schoolers do not have the education to be schooling anyone, let alone their own children. everyone know that kids behave differently with adults who are not their parents than they do with their parents, and usually it’s better with those who are not their parents, so, not only do many home schoolers lack the education to be schooling their children, they very well may be doing their kids a disservice as far as what they actually absorb, after all, all parents are stupid to their children, and if their children think they’re stupid, how could they possibly respect them enough to actually learn everything they need to be learning? a lot of people home school due to religious beliefs, they are afraid their children will be corrupted by other children who are not like them as well as the outside world, but actually, they’re just setting them up to be naive adults, what’s going on in the world is important, relevant, and, well, it’s REALITY. why in the world would you deprive your children of reality, it’s preposterous.

    this is not to say that private/public schools are perfect, far from it, but i think that is largely due to the lack of funding by our government, they’d rather invest in wars than the children who hold the future of this country in their hands. of course, there are teachers who just don’t care, which is a shame, it gives the teachers who actually care, the majority of them, a bad name. they sure as hell aren’t doing it for the money after all, if that were the case, there wouldn’t be any teachers in this country.

    i think there’s a time and a place for home schooling, and for me, that time would be if my child was being bullied at school and the school has not stepped in to put an end to it. i refuse to put my child through torture like that. we are all aware of the tragic results constant bullying can lead to. i would be scared shitless to take on the responsibility of schooling my child, i didn’t go to school to be a teacher, i didn’t even finish college for god’s sake, and looking at my fifteen year old’s homework ties my brain in knots. if it came down to it and my child’s self-esteem, self-respect and happiness was on the line, i would do it without a second thought.

    • I definitely agree on many of your points! I certainly don’t think public school (or private, for that matter) has it figured out, but I do think that they prepare kids for a more realistic encounter with the ‘real’ world. I’m fine with former teachers teaching their kids at an elementary level (while the kids don’t think they’re stupid) if the kid is socialized in other ways…but I do think that once they get to high school…that teaching is best left up to those who are more experts in the subject AND lets students have developmentally appropriate ways of learning about peer relationships.

  2. Very interesting blog post. I appreciate being able to hear your perspective. I’m going to think about what you’ve written and try to come back later and share some more thoughts, but we homeschool our children (we have four children ages 8-16). We are mostly unschoolers, but we also go to a homeschool co-op, where we meet 3 times a month, and my children are able to take classes like art, writing, photography, interpersonal communication, ballet, and marine biology.

  3. I’m back! lol 🙂 I’ve been thinking about what to write, and I’ve found that if I were to write everything down I’d probably end up with a book. 😉 But here are a few thoughts.

    We really enjoy homeschooling. My children love to read and enjoy researching topics and learning about new things. I believe that homeschooling has nurtured uniqueness and independent thought and creativity in my children, and a love of learning. We follow more of a child-directed philosophy of learning, and we try to encourage our children especially to learn and study and explore things they are interested in. There are also core values that we share with our children and give them a lot of exposure to such as love of God, care for others, love of nature, animals, plants, etc. We believe that children learn a whole lot through things they do day to day, normal, everyday activities, often a lot more than they learn sitting in a classroom. We’ve found that going out and doing things in the real world is a great way to help prepare them for real life. Well, that’s a little about us!

    I wanted to comment a little about the situation with your cousin. You sound like you care a lot for for her, and I realize you are expressing frustration because you care for her. I don’t know what you mean when you say she has the social skills of a 4 year old and is weird. I may be misunderstanding, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being “weird,” if by weird you mean being unique and acting differently from others. I don’t feel that people should have to act typical in order to avoid being bullied. The person who is different is not in the wrong. I feel that the people who are bullying should learn to accept people as they are and be accepting of differences. I hope your cousin can learn to be proud of being herself and learn to set and enforce healthy boundaries.

    I don’t think that going to public or private school helps children become more healthy socially than homeschooling does. For one thing, I’m not sure how you would define socially awkward, but as an introvert I have a very difficult time in groups of people. I’m far better talking one on one. I think since our society is so strongly biased in favor of extroverts that sometime kids that are introverts get labeled unfairly as socially awkward. I attended private school (conservative Christian/GARB), but I don’t think that is the reason I have a hard time in groups.

    I keep wondering, though — what do you mean by socially awkward? Would you be willing to share how you define that?

    I’m sorry those children in your class are struggling, that things have been frustrating for you in that class, and that you don’t feel respected by all of your students. That would be discouraging. I wonder if it’s possible that one student you mentioned could have a learning disability. My son with disgraphia (and aspergers) struggles with writing things out, but he’s a really smart kid, so that’s why I wondered about the student you mentioned. Hopefully you’ll find some way to reach and help that student move along the road to closer meeting his potential.

    I would write more, but this is getting too long. Those are just some thoughts for whatever they are worth. I’m looking forward to your article about homeschooling and public schooling prep for jobs. 🙂

    • My cousin is a sad case because she seems to have the potential to relate to other children, but doesn’t actually get the chance to, and her mother doesn’t teach her how. So, in situations where she is around other children her age she does things like growling at them, rather than talking, hitting, chasing, or she will walk up to people and get within a few inches and just stare at them. These are skills that can be taught, but aren’t being taught, and the only social contact she has is her mother. When I have observed her with other children, who are much younger, they even seem to find her behavior odd and come and complain about how she is acting (and these are 5 year olds).
      She wasn’t always like this, though, and it seems like a product of being homeschooled and isolated, rather than an inborn learning disability or coginitive issue…more like something that would happen with children who are locked in a closet or some other worse neglect, kwim?

      As far as the socially awkward bit, with my students there seems to be a group of them who, like my cousin, have not interacted with people beyond their own family or a very few close family friends. The young man I mentioned IS an introvert, so I can expect that he might appear quieter in class discussions, but the others scored as extroverts when we did a few exercises (MBTI) in class. What I notice is an inability for them to relate to someone who isn’t like them (homeschooled, conservative, Christian). They have shouted in class (yelling things like “THAT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG!” when we are discussing a current event, which goes against our class policy of respectful and non-attacking language…that there’s a way to communicate differing opinions without shouting). In conversation with peers( and with me) they use language that clearly shows they are intellectual, but is not relatable to the other students. Even when I have attempted to provide activities for mingling and learning about each other in the context of the curriculum, they have seemed hostile and judgemental of the other students. While I don’t know if this is just an inborn trait, what it seems on the surface is that they haven’t had to encounter anybody that is different or learn to relate to students of color, or who are gay, or who are not Christian, in any way.

      Also, with the student who self-professes “sucks at writing,” could very well have something like disgraphia. Unfortunately, since he didn’t go to a public school, he does not have an IEP and so he would have to be tested and get all of the documentation to qualify for our Disability Resource Center. I have encouraged him to utilize that service, along with our writing center, but he hasn’t yet done so. I have offered to help with his papers, but he refuses. What makes me sad, is if it was/is a disability, that if he had attended public school, he could have been taught tools to work with it so that he could be successful. I think it does him a disservice if his parents simply ignored his writing skills hoping that it would just ‘get better’. At the beginning of the quarter we ask all our students about past disabilities so we can help accomodate them, but he did not list any.

      • Also, I am not really a proponent of conformity, as I was a unique kid, too. But I do think that there are some lines and social norms that do need to be, at least, taught to students. I never tried to ‘fit in’ in school, wasn’t popular, and did my own thing, but my parents also taught me how to relate to others, make friends, solve conflicts, etc.

  4. I agree with Flowermama. I have six, 6-17, that have never been to school.
    I think that what is considered a ‘norm’ like not shouting out in class needs to be re thought . Why can’t a feeling be expressed? In some parliaments this act is not looked down on but looked for as a reaction ‘for their constituents’. I understand ‘social norms” but we have encouraged our children to be themselves. Weird here is not in another city, state, country,culture. I did have one or two bark at a neighbor but they NEVER bit anyone!
    To top it off , we are Muslim so we are considered weird regardless of ‘norms’.(where we live) I sometimes feel that “norms” are there to keep the masses in check. That isn’t ALWAYS a good thing. The founding fathers crossed those lines many times.

    We, as parents, can teach so much, then in the upper levels the kids are basically self teaching with back up from Mom and Dad, (uncles,aunt,internet). My oldest knows more than I could ever “teach” him. But we share knowledge and search for knowledge. I think The biggest thing is that we have taught them that they can learn on their own. Knowledge is NOT reliant on someone else imparting knowledge to you. The ancients, Greeks, Moors etc. did not get all knowledge from being taught but through observation,trial,error and on.

    I Hear through their PS friends about the classes in high school. It seems to me they are trying to produce workers not thinking,critical,artistic hopeful humans. They only have 4 blocks for the day and if you get the assignment done you go to the gym for the remaining time.English is only taught half the year and summer is filled with mandatory assignments. No thanks!

    I appreciate your feelings. You care for your students. But you have to understand that you do not know every family situation and something as simple as testing can put a home school family on a spiral of state agency agony. Maybe you could suggest to the family a self test or private source for help.

    • Hi Six! Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you’ll check out my latest blog on home school, because I definitely think it addresses a few of your thoughts!!

      In no way am I one who encourages mass conformity, but you must admit, there are norms that people abide by that help them be successful in life. When you stray too far beyond that wide range of norms you are putting yourself at risk. For example…the guy who shouts things on the bus, people who habitually don’t shower, someone wandering naked through the streets of the city…all of that falls outside of a norm that we feel comfortable with. Should we just let behavior be, or should we, as educators or parents, help students see that there are appropriate ways of behaving in different settings and, while yes they do fall into a ‘norm,’ they aren’t infringing or taking away from that person’s individuality.

      A personal example…I went a year barefoot in college. This falls outside of cultural ‘norms’ and even some laws. For the most part I was mildy eyed as being a weirdo, and accepted. BUT, there were instances where I still knew that wearing shoes would be a cultural norm in which I would abide (restuarants who had signs, etc). I was myself and choosing to go against something that I wanted to do (express myself through being barefoot), and went with the norm.

      As far as ‘talking out in class,’ apparently I gave a wrong impression…my class is full of students who blurt things out in class discussion. I actually welcome it, since it’s a college class and I feel like knowing ourselves and being able to express our beliefs IS important. I also don’t mind passionate speech, but we do have a class rule about respect, and while I admire their belief, they will have to learn how to share it in a way that is appropriate. I don’t buy that everyone just gets to do what they want and it is accepted. If my boss pisses me off I can’t call him the n-word or shout about him being stupid or lazy, even if I feel he’s being lazy that day, ya know? So, for my student to learn how to express their feeling in a positive and constructive way, will only benefit them.

      • Yes, some norms are for the benefit of the many.
        I teach respect for those that deserve it, everyone does until such a time that it is shown to be ill deserved. If a boss can tell you to not be lazy why are you not afforded the same ? Respect must be mutual.
        I try not to teach cowering for a job.
        Time frame and deadlines are different for unschoolers, yes. I have them submit to the county fair. This is a deadline and a quality control ( not all is accepted)and they are judged by ‘outsiders”.
        I have a different view of life and of education. I am college educated and now feel that it is not always (or even mostly) a path for a student. Perhaps for those with a specific need, some sciences,etc..
        I find it encouraging that you have a thoughtful approach to this and you have a unique perspective. Home school or unschool is a way of life more than just send the kids out. It requires a whole family approach. There is a family bond with this that is not the same in the PS families.
        I will be reading your other article!

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