Reader Request Week 2008 #1: Homeschooling

For this year’s Reader Request Week, I’m going to try to do something a little different. Over the last five years I answered one (or occasionally two) of the questions a day, and then posted a follow-up entry with shorter answers to left-over questions. This year, I think I’ll try answering more questions, but writing shorter individual posts (mostly; there may be a couple I just blather on about). It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work!

So let’s get to the first question, from Shiloh, about homeschooling:

A California appellate court has just ruled that homeschooling parents must have teaching credentials in order to homeschool their children, which is somewhat controversial; there are a lot of homeschooling parents in California, and many don’t have the necessary certification. I’m curious what you think, and if you have any opinions on homeschool in general, as an alternative form of education.

I don’t have any animus against homeschooling as a concept, although I probably wouldn’t do it myself, for several reasons, most notably that I don’t have the time (I have to work during the day) and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience. Also, you know. I pay taxes for my local public school — some of the highest in the state, in fact. I’m going to get my money’s worth out of that local school of mine. But if parents choose to teach their kids at home and can back up that choice by giving their kids a good, balanced education, more power to them.

As a practical matter I tend to be suspicious of the motivations of people who homeschool. While there are a number of parents who simply and strongly believe they can give their kids a better education and more attention than they can get in their local schools, I don’t think it’s any secret that a significant chunk of homeschooling parents do so because of religious convictions, i.e., they don’t want their spawn learning anything that contradicts the Bible, etc. This is easy to make fun of, but it does mean that some unsmall portion of homeschooled children are being kept actively ignorant (or alternately are coached to go through the motions of knowing science while having the idea reinforced in their heads that it’s just a pack of evil secular lies), and that’s just no good. Nor is it just an idle concern, since the homeschooling statutes here in Ohio, on the topics of subjects required, read:

5) Assurance that home education will include the following, except that home education shall not be required to include any concept, topic, or practice that is in conflict with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the parent: (a) Language, reading, spelling, and writing: (b) Geography, history of the United States and Ohio; and national, state, and local government; (c) Mathematics; (d) Science; (e) Health; (f) Physical education; (g) Fine arts, including music; and (h) First aid, safety, and fire prevention. (emphasis mine)

Which is just a nice legal way of saying parents can toss out evolution (or anything else) if they can make a case that it makes the Baby Jesus cry for their kids to learn it. Now, I recognize it’s unfair to lump all homeschoolers in with religious folks who are allergic to science; nevertheless it’s my default assumption unless noted otherwise.

Anecdotally, I have one other concern about homeschooling, which is I do wonder about the socialization of homeschooled kids — i.e., if they’re spending enough time with peers learning how to be, you know, regular humans. Part of this concern comes from watching those homeschooled spelling bee champions quiver and twitch and generally act like poorly socialized howler monkeys while they try to spell “chthonic” or whatever. Again, this is unfair (spelling bees are manifestly not the domain of the brilliantly socialized), but this is where one sees public displays of the homeschooled, and it’s something I worry about. I’d hate for these kids to go off to college and fall apart in the first semester because there’s never been a time where they haven’t spent most of their day with mom and/or dad.

As for the ruling in California, I’m of a split mind about it. I don’t think a teaching certification means that one is a competent teacher; I’ve suffered through enough piss-poor accredited teachers to know that’s the case. On the other hand, here in Ohio, all you need to homeschool your kid is a GED, and that seems a little shaky to me. And per my concern about parents homeschooling to make sure their kids don’t learn something, I think it’s in the interest of the state to be able to set some standards that every homeschooling parent must hit before they teach their own kids, which to my mind should include at least some training. As much training as California wants to require? I don’t think so. But more than a GED would be nice. Pedagogy is more than just plopping your kids down in front of a bunch of workbooks and hoping it works out for the best.

Now, left begging in all this is the question of whether education in a school setting is really a substantially better way for a kid to learn than at home, with the help of an engaged and motivated parent. But it’s another post, I suppose.

(there’s still time to ask questions for Reader Request Week 2008: Post your question here.)

194 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2008 #1: Homeschooling

  1. There was a discussion the other day on DailyKos about Florida going down the road that got Dover in legal hot water, and the point was raised that with all the standards testing there really isn’t much leeway in what can be taught. Homeschooled children must still learn the topics covered by those tests, whether they are also taught to dismiss them or not. (And just because a child is taught in a public school doesn’t mean they aren’t also told to ignore certain subjects — after all, I’m sure many of the IDiots of today got public school educations.)

    One can only hope that at least some of these kids, once exposed to science, will reject the anti-science message they’re being fed.

  2. “act like poorly socialized howler monkeys while they try to spell “cthonic” or whatever.”

    *Chthonic*. For the record. (See, now, I *was* in a spelling bee…)

    I agree with the general point here. I recall watching Jesus Camp, and how the homeschooling mom and son had the following conversation: (paraphrasing from memory) “How would you like it if you had to go to a school where they told you that creationism is stupid, and you were stupid for believing it?”
    “I’d be angry.”
    “And what if you went to a school where they said evolution was stupid, and people who believed in it were stupid?”
    “I’d be okay with that.”
    “Of course you would be. Because it’s true.”

    On the other hand, having grown up in a small town, I know people who had to put up with insane amounts of verbal abuse every day at school and could not take it anymore.

    Also, people who are in families which move often might actually be better off with homeschooling, simply to keep their studies reasonably on track, rather than the sporadic curricular jumps they would be doing if they had to change schools twice a year.

  3. In terms of socialization, I think you are likely seeing the extremes with Spelling Bee champions. Most homeschoolers participate in all sorts of activities outside the home and behave in perfectly normal ways. When I used to take American Sign Language with my family, there were several homeschooled children in that class. This is not at all uncommon.

    I also look at the other side. Socialization to what? To be honest, if my own children had to attend my middle school in Fresno, I would homeschool them. I love working with these students, but, as it happens, the school has a high gang population and the resultant problems associated with poverty. Socializing to that is not necessarily a good choice.

  4. Full disclosure: we homeschool. (For a variety of reasons, of which desires to shelter them from reality aren’t on the list.) We don’t live in California, but did before the oldest (about a month older than Athena) reached school age, so my wife looked into the rules there.

    An interesting point can be made on California’s requirements: teachers at private schools are not required to have credentials. They must be, in the words of the statute, “capable of teaching”. This is not defined in the statute.

    Other comments: the push in school districts is always “We need to teach these kids more! More content, more skills, more data! Don’t waste time on silly things like recess!” And then you mention homeschooling, and suddenly it’s all “Socialization! Homeschooled kids don’t get to spend recess on the playground with their peers!”

  5. My ex-boyfriend, who was homeschooled for a number of years, once told me a story of how his mother was speaking with a local school administration official about the whole homeschooling thing.

    Said administrator said, “Oh yes! And you’ll be able to teach them social skills! I wish we could do that ….”

    I, uh. Went through the public school system. Which leaves me sort of bitter about the whole ‘wish we could do that’ thing. Speaking of poorly socialised howler monkeys and all. About the only thing I can say for the socialisation of junior high school kids vs. monkeys is there is marginally less poo-flinging from the junior high school kids.

  6. I don’t think it’s any secret that a significant chunk of homeschooling parents do so because of religious convictions,

    Well, no. There was a survey release last year that demonstrated that while, yes, religious reasons were ‘a’ reason they were not a motivating factor for a majority of the parents surveyed.

    I’ll dig up the link to that, if anyone is interested.

    Anecdotally, I have one other concern about homeschooling, which is I do wonder about the socialization of homeschooled kids — i.e., if they’re spending enough time with peers learning how to be, you know, regular humans.

    Anecdotally, don’t worry about it.

    Okay, yes, worry if you want to but .. my kids do spend a lot of time with their peers; at church, running around the neighborhood with their friends, etc.

    You know, learning how to be humans.

    I will readily agree that there are some kids like you describe; but I have not met any of them.

    Bias warning; we have home schooled, but my two youngest are currently enrolled in a virtual charter school; public education conducted out of the home. You might think this is home schooling but the ‘real’ home school parents tell me that this is not so.

    Whatever.

  7. “I don’t think it’s any secret that a significant chunk of homeschooling parents do so because of religious convictions”

    A bigger chunk of them are completely insane twenty- and thirtysomethings who post to LiveJournal in all the “crunchy” parenting communities, are still breastfeeding their five year olds, and are actually “unschooling” their children. Don’t believe me? All you have to do is go look…it’s these people, moreso than the religious crazies, who scare me.

    All joking aside, though, the worst socialized people I’ve ever met have been the product of homeschooling. My charter high school took in a fair number of them since it’s an arty, alternative institution, and boy. I was an accepting teenager and a popular kid at my school because I was so accepting, but interacting with those kids just made me angry and upset…they didn’t know how. They were 14-18 years old and no one had ever taught them how to talk to people their age. Or how to hang out. Or how to introduce themselves in a way that wasn’t directly asskissing adults in a smarmy second-grade type of way that’s only cute when…you’re in second grade. I mean, seriously, it was SAD. I tried to do my best by the ones that seemed interested in actually behaving like socialized humans, but there’s no way you can adequately teach teenagers the skills they should have learned some ten to twelve years prior. Your brain, worldview, and intelligence are different at that point.

    I’m completely against homeschooling young children. Put the child in public school. After two or three years, if the child is really failing or is subject to insane amounts of peer pressure/torture, then sure, homeschool away. But the child NEEDS kindergarten, and I would argue for up til at least the third grade, so they know Mommy and Daddy aren’t the King And Queen Of All Cosmos and they know, for real, what it’s like to share, and play with others, and introduce yourself, and get along with other kids. THAT is what the overeager homeschool advocates miss.

    I mean, look at the religious whackjobs. Do their kids know how to socialize? Not when Jesus isn’t breathing down their neck. That’s because…yeah. I won’t repeat myself…that gets boring. But I think my point is made.

  8. My problem with the California ruling was a quote from a judge involved which, paraphrased, went something like “You don’t have a constitutional right to homeschool your children.”

    My reaction tended toward “And where’s your constitutional justification for denying people that right?” Do we only have the rights specifically reserved to us in the first 9 amendments? (I say 9 because apparently this judge has ruled that when it comes to the 10th, the state gets to claim all the juicy bits of it before the people get their chance)

  9. “I’d hate for these kids to go off to college and fall apart in the first semester…”

    This is not a particularly good understanding of the matter. Not nearly rich enough in the typical spectrum of possibilities. In my experience, what usually happens to kids homeschooled for religious reasons is one of 3 things:
    1) They stay cloistered off in Christian colleges or such, become missionaries, ministers, life endeavors that provide an environment that significantly reduces the challenge to the view of the world they were raised to hold.

    2) They survive and adjust to not-relatives reasonably well. There’s likely to always be some distance since there’s a core of shared identity and experience they missed out on (such as not getting the parody of the Oregon Trail video game used by my team on campus a couple of weeks ago…), but life goes on. These people generally integrate into society ok.

    3) They go apeshit, typically well before hitting college. This is perhaps best illustrated by an anecdote. A couple of years ago my mother basically asked me “Why aren’t [her sons] all f’ed up like a couple of dozen other kids we knew?” The answer was partly personality and partly that we were being groomed to use college as a ladder up out of the lower class — we were just told that we damn well better go to college and needed to do well so that we could get scholarships to pay for it. Even for kids raised in the most supportive environment, indoctrination about the power and desirability of a good education doesn’t always take, especially if you get sidetracked when learning to deal with life outside the family bubble. With us it did, but with many of our peers it didn’t, at least not at first.

  10. So I suppose since I’m the one who requested this topic, I might as well stick in my opinion… (incidentally, John, thanks for actually writing about it.)

    First of all, I was homeschooled for everything but 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade. I’m currently a junior at Boston University, on a full ride academic scholarship, so in regards to quality of education, homeschooling certainly did that much for me. However, I don’t necessarily think homeschooling is right for everyone. I and one of my brothers homeschooled, but my youngest brother is currently in middleschool. This is almost entirely for social reasons.

    When my first brother and I homeschooled, we both had very close friends who homeschooled, and a homeschool group that had regular events we attended. The problem is that there aren’t really kids anywhere near Sky’s age in the homeschool group, so going to group events wasn’t doing much for him. He also has more of an outgoing personality that my other brother and I, and wasn’t doing well being kept at home all day. So I certainly concede that in some cases, homeschooling is the wrong way to go. I just think that you have to make the decision for each child individually, based on their personality and other relevant factors.

    Also, I grew up in Alaska, and homeschooling is incredibly common there. The main reason for this is that so many of the towns are small and isolated, and the local schools don’t offer a lot of opportunities, either academic and social. I homeschooled through a program that provided my family with an allotment to spend on educational materials, and also offered many activities for those of us in the program. During highschool I participated in several national academic competitions, went on a kayaking trip around the Baha peninsula with a group of other homeschoolers to study the ecology/biology of the area, served on a committee that planned events for the homeschooling teens in my area, and participated in many other social and academic activities that I would not have been able to do if I had gone to a local school. I also took correspondence college courses during my last two years of highschool, and graduated with more than 30 college credits. Now that I’m going to school on the East coast, I’ve seen how much rarer it is to find homeschoolers here, and I think a large part of that is that there are so many excellent schools in this area. (though I still think that there can be huge benefits to homeschooling, the quality of local schools not withstanding)

    This post is definitely long enough, I think I’ll stop now, even though there’s so much more I could go on about.. I guess what I’d hope for you to take away is that homeschooling can be very good, and can also be… not so good. It all depends on each family’s individual circumstances, and on each child’s individual needs.

  11. I teach a Sunday School class of about 30 7th grade boys in my church. About half go to our Christian school and the rest are split between public school and home school students. From each of the groups there is one that is a little backwards socially. Remember, these are 7th grade boys.

    Growing up in churches with a good portion of the congregation homeschooling, I can say from my experience that, yes, there are some downright weird kids that homeschool. I do not think most of those kids would be any different if they went to public school–They were just weird.

  12. It is my understanding that the California Court decision was vacated:

    http://www.pacificjustice.org/resources/news/focusdetails.cfm?ID=PR080326a

    The issue, as I understand it, was that a particular family was suspected of child abuse. They homeschooled, and as such, homeschooling in and of itself was blamed as a culprit for the abuse, as in a way to hide it. This is possible, I suppose, which is why I don’t mind some regulation of homeschooling. For example, quarterly/semesterly portfolio meetings with ESDs. The problem with the ruling was, that public schools aren’t the greatest places to weed out child abusers either. Plenty of kids in public schools face abuse, even in light of teachers being mandatory reporters. And, of course, homeschooling is not directly correlated in any way to cause abuse and increase its frequency or duration (as in not getting detected.) The judge simply overstepped his bounds.

    On your other issues, I am a homeschooler (and a certified teacher), and I admit that some homeschooling families make me cringe. Especially those likes of which were portrayed in the documentary “Jesus Camp.” I physically shuddered at the whole scene where they showed a mother teaching her son about creation. And their are hippy parents who home or unschool (which by unschooling that does not imply that one never cracks a book or curriculum, but I’m sure there are extremes.) Homeschooling may have more than its share of fringe groups, but nothing is to say that these kids would not be just as ‘fringe’ in public school. As are some kids, whose socialization often involves massive amounts of bullying. I don’t know that school can be the most effective anecdote for fringe beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes I think the contradiction makes things worse as far as child development goes. I figure that those kids are either going to grow up as our next generation of creationists (which they probably would have anyway in public school) or, as many over sheltered kids do, they are going to rebel, rebel, rebel. They all have to grow up sometime and make their own decisions.

    I never understood the socialization component. My homeschooling community has kids who largely have a more active social life than most public school kids. You can get the studying done in half the time and then have the whole afternoon for social activities, sports, the arts, and other hobbies. We work within a coop structure. There is an actual school building, but classes are run more like college. Students take which classes they want, study other things at home, and also participate in social activities and clubs through the coop. The coop is largely secular, and even has many families where both parents work. People who are all a skitter about homeschooling usually have a lot of misconceptions about it.

    Here is why I decided to homeschool:
    1. Homeschooled kids on average have above average test scores and are averaging about 4 grade levels above their public school counterparts.
    2. The socialization opportunities are more authentic, plentiful, and stable than public schools. (As a teacher in PS, mostly it was my job to extinguish socialization, not encourage it.)
    3. Big name colleges are actively recruiting homeschoolers because of their reputation for success in college as self motivated and independent thinkers.
    4. More opportunities for my kids to do “authentic” learning experiences such as internships, real world studies, and apprenticeships instead of wasting away in a high school classroom.
    5. More opportunities for my kids to reach their own potential by working at their own pace instead of the pace set by the assembly line of public school.

    I am not a public school hater, I support my public schools and think they do an adequate job in most cases. It is certainly a personal decision to homeschool and not for everyone. But I just wish people who were so against it actually did some research and knew what they were talking about.

  13. um, yeah, that should be “there” and “antidote” and yes, I AM a certified teacher who teachers grammar and spelling, thankyouverymuch.

  14. Lisa is correct – the parents in the California case weren’t otherwise upstanding parents who just happened to homeschool.

    John, I’m guessing that it varies by what region you’re in; I do know of families who homeschool precisely because they live in Fundamentalist Wackaloon Land and they don’t want their kids’ science teacher explaining that evolutionary theory makes baby Jesus cry.

    Julia – if you want to force your young children to put up with incompetent school administrators and bullying to make a point about forcing three-year-olds to be independent, you are more than free to do so. If you’re actually a parent, you probably have learned by now that “what works for my kids works for everyone’s” is one of those dumbass bits of parenting advice you find hilarious about five minutes after you have your own kids.

  15. You’ve hit a nerve here, because I was home schooled for a year, to get me out of an absolutely torturous middle school, and I think you’ve made some fallacious assumptions.

    Let’s break down the socialization argument for non-home-schooling into two things: making/keeping friends, and dealing with people who are not friends. For me, and I suspect many people on the far end of the bell curve, homeschooling was the best environment for making friends I would have until college.

    Homeschooling is very bad at teaching you how to get along with people you don’t like, because it’s very easy to stop seeing them. On the other hand, homeschooling is awesome for dealing with people you don’t like, because it’s very easy to stop seeing them. I think pre-college schools teach all sorts of terribly destructive patterns. Where else would a person who had not committed a crime be legally compelled to go to a building where they were assaulted every day? Where else could you get away with physically assaulting someone with no consequences? The less abusive high school dynamics still teach terrible patterns that are counter-productive in the real world. Even by college, the idea of cruel popular kids doesn’t make a lot of sense, because everyone has segregated by interested, and you’ll never get the whole campus behind you teasing an unpopular person.

    Whether the parents are capable of teaching is an important question, but again, you have to compare against the next best option, not the ideal. I was already beyond my mom in math and science (she was also busy with my brother, who needed a lot more time), so I taught myself, and it was still a vast improvement over my middle school, because even the teachers who knew the material didn’t have time to teach it. You do reach a point where it’s impossible to self teach, and that’s why a lot of homeschoolers take college classes in high school (and in the case of a friend of mine, use that associates to transfer and graduate with an ivy league degree at 18).

    That said, homeschooling does have its issues. The extreme Christians ones are scary. It takes a special parent to homeschool a child for years and still produce a healthy respect for deadlines. And you do have to put thought into socializing your kid, rather than just letting it happen. But for many people, it is the current best option.

  16. Also!

    (I’ll promise to take myself and my typos to bed and shut up after this.)

    I knew that I read a bunch of studies in the past that stated that parent education did not have a big impact on homeschool student’s success. Basically, homeschoolers of parents who only have a GED STILL did better than average PS students. It is about the individualization, I would guess.

    Anyway, can’t remember where I read it, but a quick google search led me here:

    http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/comp2001/homeschoolachievement.pdf

    Scroll down a page and it charts parent education levels and student test scores. The source, Home School Legal Defense Association, is a bit too Christian-y for me–however, I know I’ve seen these studies replicated elsewhere so I feel comfortable with this link as my 2:00am quick google job.

    I’ll shut up now.

  17. I’m sorry but whenever I hear ‘socialization’ brought up as a reason not to home school I have to laugh. Not only has virtually every study that’s been done comparing the social skills of home schooled versus public schooled kids shown the home schooled kids social skills to be superior (I’m too lazy at the moment to hunt up a link, but don’t take my word for it, look it up yourself), I just use some good sense and personal experience.

    I went to public school. I remember being looked at like I’d lost my damn mind because I liked reading, thought science was school and knew history that wasn’t taught in class. I was always big for my age and a good fighter, but I was still picked on for always having a book handy. After a while I learned the best way to get through the day was not interact at all. This lead to me doing poorly in classes not because I didn’t know the materiel, but just because it was less of a hassle not to get involved.

    Compare that to at home where no matter what I did one punishment that was never used was taking my books. My family (high school dropouts all except for my Grandmother, she stopped after junior high), who wouldn’t pick up a book for anything (with the exception of Grandma again) were so proud that I chose to read on my own they wouldn’t dream of interfering with it.

    Seriously, which enviroment do you think would’ve been better for me to learn in? Unfortunately my parents didn’t know any better so they sent me to school.

    Please save me from school ‘socialization’.

  18. Rigel @17

    The socialization lesson isn’t “Wow, people are dandy, if everybody went to public JHSs there’d be no more war, because we learn to get along.”

    The socialization lesson is a huge variety of things, including, “Some people won’t like you, no matter who you are,” and “Some people don’t know things you do,” and “Some people your age know things you don’t,” ad infinitum.

    That said, a lot of people are bringing up the fact that home-schooled people are spending a lot of time with their peers, which I’d dare say is good.

    THAT said, I live in Japan now, and the last 7 months have had me in 2 different Japanese public (city run) junior high schools, and the thing about public junior high school is… most of Japan does it. And the private junior high school’s aren’t all that different. This is a cultural touchstone. There’s a few reasons why so many Japanese comic-books are about JHS. (the biggest is actually that JHS students are the target audience, but soon after that it’s because everybody can relate to it).
    Does America need that kind of thing? No, really… seriously… no. America is partially about not having cultural touchstones.

  19. Brian @#7: Well, no. There was a survey release last year that demonstrated that while, yes, religious reasons were ‘a’ reason they were not a motivating factor for a majority of the parents surveyed.

    Yeah, because we all know that people NEVER lies on surveys…

  20. In my part of northern Europe homeschooling is just pretty much unheard of. In the rare cases that it does happen (never heard of a single case in any friend’s friend’s grandmother’s cousin’s brother’s family etc), the school officials still meet with the child regularly and test how much the child has learned, in all the required subjects (which would include biology – evolution).

    Is there any sort of tests like these in USA to make sure the parents really are teaching the child something or just being lazy? Where do they then draw the line in what the child should have learned by age X and what not? As in like if the child is not taught any mathematics at all and the parents claim religious reasons, would that be alright?

  21. Gianluca @20.

    Yeah, because we all know that people NEVER lies on surveys…

    If it was something like an Associated Press poll, I would not have bothered.

    The data comes from a government (Department of Education) report called National Household Education Surveys program – it looks like they’re trying really hard to conduct a good survey and not a ‘man in the street’ poll that we’re used to seeing on the news.

    At any rate, for every anecdote about weird kids in high school Julia knows, or non-weird kids in middle school that I know … doesn’t it make sense to at least _look_ at actual data before dismissing it?

    Bias and prejudice are fun, lord knows, but cold hard facts are what adults are supposed to make their decisions on.

    NHES here – http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/
    Homeschooling in the United States 2003 here – http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/homeschool/

  22. We too homeschool, though this is our first year of it really, with #1 child in first grade. We had a variety of reasons. My wife grew up in a small town with what she considered to be – generously – a substandard public school. We now live in a town with a good school system but also a large and vibrant homeschooling community. This is the biggest point for us, because there are many people to provide support and advice as we create and move through our curriculum. There’s even a co-op of homeschooling parents who essentially run organized activities and subject matter classes that the parents teach. This turns out to be very useful, and does allow the child to get direct instruction in areas each parent might be weaker – music, for example – but still allows both individual and group instruction. A history class follows a popular early learning text for homeschoolers, and the kids cover material at home then discuss and do an activity related to that point in history in the group session each week. The activities are generally fun and messy, and the kids wind up outside the meeting place on the playground at the end of most class days. And these are a varied mixture of mostly crunchy types, so they are quite accepting of anyone.

    Will we homeschool all the way? Somehow I doubt it. But I think we have a few good years of it in us. When our son wishes to go to public school, and somehow I think he’ll ask at some point, we’ll enroll him. For now, I’m finding it somewhat rewarding for us to teach my son.

  23. I was homeschooled for the middle five years of my primary education (the first three were at a private school, the last three were at a public high school), by a certified teacher, using correspondence courses first from the Calvert school in Baltimore and later by the University of Nebraska (i.e., not for religious reasons).

    I learned a fair amount, but my procrastinating skills turned out to be excellent.

    On the socialization front, the gap between where I was when I entered public high school and when I graduated was extremely high.

    I wouldn’t recommend it, not being a fan of the socialization impacts from the inside, but it doesn’t seem to have done too much damage to anyone in my immediate family (3 brothers) or my cousins (4 homeschooled siblings, homeschooled for religious reasons).

  24. We pulled my daughter (who is gifted) out of public school after 4th grade and began to homeschool her.

    In one meeting with the Superintendent of schools, we mentioned homeschooling and he said to us “Off the record, that’s a really good choice. I have to be honest, as bright as your daughter is, she’s going to rot in the public school systems until she reaches High School.”

    He was referring to the school system’s lack of formal programs to provide gifted kids with extra help until the High School grades, where they have pull-out programs.

    We had all the same fears and preconceived notions about homeschooling that you outline in your post and are shared in some of the comments here.

    That was 4 years ago, and since then we’ve met all types of homeschooling families – from the earthy-crunchy-anti-establishment types to the fire-in-the-eyes-Jesus-Freaks. Those two stereotypes are by far the minority at least in the MA/RI area where we are active with local homeschooling groups.

    The bulk of the people we meet are normal, well adjusted parents who simply think they can do a better job educating their kids than the public school systems and are willing to put the time and effort into doing it.

    Socialization is the biggest myth I’ve found debunked since starting to homeschool. We are fortunate to live in a region where there are a TON of local homeschooling groups. These groups have a broad membership of families from all backgrounds. Volunteers organize all kinds of social activities from sports, to dances for the teens, to movie nights, game nights, etc etc etc. Frankly, there’s simply too much available – we can’t possibly do everything that comes across the wire.

    Our daughter has formed lots of strong friendships and has thrived in this environment. One thing I can say about homeschooled kids: they are confident, outspoken yet polite and open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly, they have a strong sense of individualism. They know who they are and aren’t simply the carbon copy clones of one another that I see in the public school kids today (and remember from when I was a kid back when Dinosaurs ruled the earth).

  25. Of course, if you grow up in a situation where both your parents work (as teacher and college prof, incidentally), homeschooling isn’t an option. Both my parents earned decent wages so I suppose one could have stayed home, but it would have severely depleted our family’s income… and I’m sure a lot of two-working-parent families actively need two incomes to get by. Home schooling is an indulgence that a lot of parents couldn’t indulge in even if they want to.

    I’ll echo what a couple of people said above, too. The importance of school socialisation isn’t that everyone’s nice, it’s the very fact that there are a lot of assholes out there that’s valuable. I was terribly nerdy through primary school and had no idea how to deal with teasing… I don’t think I would have learned if I hadn’t spent 12 years in school. And learning that people as assholes is a terribly valuable thing when it comes time to step out into the real world.

  26. Essi, part of the issue here is that schooling is mostly local rather than federal based, and private (non-government-operated) schools have different rules than public schools, so there’s no one answer about testing.

  27. //And learning that people as assholes is a terribly valuable thing when it comes time to step out into the real world.//

    It’s funny how the criticism of HS’ing has gone from not learning to make friends to not learning to deal with assholes. Assholes are plentiful in the world. In any sufficiently large group, you’ll have at least one. That group can be a little league team, a homeschool group, a church group, or the neighborhood kids from your block. No HS’er is hurting for opportunities to deal with assholes.

    Regardless of what I may think of fundie HS’ers who teach their children that the earth is 6000 years old, I support their right to do so free from overbearing government intrusion.

  28. I find the wibbles about “socialisation” very odd – largely because as a school-educated child my “socialisation” was pretty much limited to “go and sit in a room with 30 other people who hate you for 6 hours a day”… whereas all the homeschooled people I’ve known were encouraged to take up social activities that they actively enjoyed – and there are plenty of opportunities both in meat-space and on-line to interact with people outside of school.

    What I have difficulty with is the idea that even the most intelligent, best educated, parents would be capable of providing a secondary school level of education. My degree is in physics, I could probably teach physics and maths to an A level (exams taken at 18 by people wanting to go to university) standard, but I couldn’t manage any other subject – and in many subjects I don’t even have the most basic grasp of the material (I speak no other languages for instance) and would basically be leaving my child (should I have a child) to study them entirely alone (or I guess, giving up on ‘home’ schooling and enrolling them in classes somewhere). In my opinion a properly rounded education requires tuition from people well versed in many subjects – and I think that the number of people who can individually (or as a couple) cover all relevant subjects is very small.

    Of course it might be that a college educated parent has a better grounding in the majority of subjects that the average high school teacher in your area – in which case I would be very very worried about the state of the public school system.

    At a primary (grade) school level I reckon most parents with a decent grasp of their native language and basic maths ought to be able to provide a solid grounding for their child (likely better than at school, since they can give individual attention). Whether the majority of homeschooling parents are actually bothering to do so or not I have no idea.

  29. Also, the CA ruling has been completely warped by the media. HS’ins has always been illegal in CA. It’s not even addressed in the law. The way to HS legally in CA is to register as a private school, then your private school with an enrollment of 1 or 2 or 6 is subject to the same oversight as any other private school, which is very little. Private school teachers do not require state certification. The family in question in CA was enrolled in a virtual Christian school that did not require actual attendance. It’s a long standing practice in CA that is technically illegal, although it is rarely enforced. In was enforced here, as other readers have indicated, probably due to the families history of run ins with child services.

  30. We’re planning to homeschool. The reason actually *is* partly religious – the fundamental principle of our religion is to respect the worth and dignity of all people, and I think that public schools do a lousy job of that.

    But mostly we’re homeschooling because I want my kids to be able to learn things that interest them at a pace that suits their abilities. I think public schools, by their nature, do a lot to kill off kids’ natural intellectual curiosity.

    Not worried about socialization, for the same reasons the other homeschooling parents give, above. Between neighborhood kids, Scouting, Sunday School, athletic teams, the local swimming pool, the playground, our friends’ kids, homeschool co-ops and park days, and dance or music classes, it seems like the only homeschooling families whose kids wind up socially isolated are the ones who do it on purpose.

    As far as credentialling, there’s actual research to bring to bear on this. Washington State has one set of homeschooling rules for parents who are credentialed teachers and another for parents who aren’t. Both groups have to take standardized tests. They’ve found no difference in test scores between the two groups – a teaching credential doesn’t make any difference to the academic achievement of homeschooled kids. When you consider that most education coursework focuses on things like classroom management and working with large groups, that’s not surprising.

    Essi, some U.S. states require homeschooled kids to take the same standardized tests as schooled kids, and some don’t. My state requires parents to keep a portfolio of children’s work in eight mandated course areas, to be reviewed twice a year.

    The problem with requiring homeschoolers to keep to the public school curriculum is that it implies that there is only one “correct” set of things that children should know, and only one correct order in which to teach them. There’s no evidence that that’s true.

    For example, many parents disapprove of the current U.S. strategy to push intensive reading lessons on five and six-year-olds; they’ve found that their kids learn to read quickly and easily if they wait until age eight. Others like to follow a “classical” education path, introducing Latin and world history early on. Some like to introduce a lot of conceptual math early, and don’t put much emphasis on memorizing math facts; others teach the times tables very early by rote. Some hate the “whole language” approach used in schools, and want their kids to learn to read using phonics alone. Since we don’t know which educational strategies are *actually* best for every kid, it doesn’t make sense to require that every kid learn the same material at the same age.

  31. Natasha @ 30
    What I have difficulty with is the idea that even the most intelligent, best educated, parents would be capable of providing a secondary school level of education.

    i recall a teacher I had in high school who was one lesson ahead of us, the entire semester. Of course this was programming, which was – in 1983 – a brand new deal for a semi-rural high school, so that might be expected.

    But it’s not an unheard of approach, either; Pick up the lesson book and plow through, one step ahead of the kid.

    Rivka @ 32

    Since we don’t know which educational strategies are *actually* best for every kid, it doesn’t make sense to require that every kid learn the same material at the same age.

    No kidding – my oldest boy taught himself to read when he was four. His younger brother had to be dragged to the literacy table, kicking and screaming.

  32. I homeschooled my children from the 70’s through the 90’s (the oldest is a Ph.D. geophysicist, the youngest is serving in Iraq after getting his BS in mechanical engineering), and I did so because the schools weren’t able to keep up with my children. They were constantly bored, and needed to learn more and faster and the schools were just holding them back and making them rude and stupid.

    Socialization was never a problem. That’s what Camp Fire, Scouts, public parks, classes at places like hands-on science museums, little league sports, roller rinks, gyms like the “Y”, martial arts classes, dance classes, Civil Air Patrol, volunteering at the public library and other places, and so on are for. All my children were “nerdy” little geeks but that didn’t keep them from meeting all kinds of people and learning how to interact with them. They learned how to deal with bullies as well as suck-ups and have formed some lasting friendships. Socialization is the least worry about homeschooling.

    Getting access to quality lab facilities, that was hard. If the objection was that homeschooled students would reduced access to labs, that would be a valid objection. I never could afford the supercollider my youngest wanted…

  33. “have”: If the objection was that homeschooled students would HAVE reduced access to labs, that would be a valid objection. – mea culpa!

  34. I would like to speak to a comment Lisa made a while back-

    “4. More opportunities for my kids to do “authentic” learning experiences such as internships, real world studies, and apprenticeships instead of wasting away in a high school classroom.”

    I have been a education volunteer at the Cincy Zoo since I was a teen in the early 70’s and I have work with teen volunteers there every summer for over 20 years as part of the animal contact program in the children’s zoo. I’m also a volunteer with several natural science hobby groups and I have interacted with home schooled teens who come to their education programs. I am one of the adults working with home schooled kids getting “authentic” learning experiences Lisa was talking about.

    I like teens.

    Part of the reason I like teen is that they are still in the process of becoming, and that’s exciting to be around. The kids I work with at the zoo have gone through a screening process, and some classroom time, to get into the teen volunteer program so they aren’t just any old kid off the street. Since the groups I work with are mostly natural science oriented and don’t’ put up with ID, and the like, I don’t interact with many kids home schooled for religious reasons. I have worked with horrible and wonderful teens from both regular and home school backgrounds.

    All that being said, I do not look forward to working with home schooled kids. I have to spend time helping them with basic things like, following rules they didn’t developed, time management, and the dynamics of working in a group not centered around them, than I do with kids who have gone to public, private or parochial schools. Although I have noticed that some kids from “alternative” schools have the same sort of problems. Both “alternative” school and home school kids are more likely to have helicopter parents who think their child is the special exception to work rules, schedules, or whatever, than kids at regular schools. Home schooled kids are often more self motivated than kids who aren’t, but they also seem to have problems with following someone else’s schedule or agenda. I have also found home schooled kids are less likely to automatically acknowledge the authority of adults involved in the programs.

    I know this makes me sound like some sort of rule and authority Nazi, but I’m not. I don’t want to crush kid’s sprit, or work with kids who are automatons, but humans are hierarchical. In almost any situation in life someone is going to be in charge. Most of life in the real world isn’t a participatory democracy with everything open to group discussion. I don’t think these kids are learning how to read the vibes needed to negotiate most human activity. I worry about how these kids are going to do when they find themselves in work for a living situations.

  35. Such a requirement smells of the teacher’s union or the CA government wanting to cut into the home schooling “market”. I just pulled my ADHD child out of public school because they were not capable of teaching him, yet wanting to keep him in school just to collect the special ed money. We’re homeschooling him and he is doing much better. In Texas a homeschooled child must pass the standardized tests, and that’s the end of the state’s concern. The big problem is that school’s have become so PC with ALL their programs and teaching techniques, that the children learn very little. We’re considering homeschooling our other two children as well.

  36. COD @ 31:

    “Regardless of what I may think of fundie HS’ers who teach their children that the earth is 6000 years old, I support their right to do so free from overbearing government intrusion.”

    I suspect (with no expectation that I’m actually right :) ) that this explains the prevalence of home schooling in the US as compared to other countries – an innate distrust of government interference that simply isn’t present in most other places. I don’t think of a compulsory curriculum and compulsory attendance of a school that follows said curriculum (including the option of doing it at home via correspondence with a registered teacher) is unreasonable government interference.

  37. //I have also found home schooled kids are less likely to automatically acknowledge the authority of adults involved in the programs.//

    I would consider that a feature of homeschooling, not a bug.

  38. “I would consider that a feature of homeschooling, not a bug.”

    …a feature that isn’t very useful when you actually have to leave the home and get a job in a workplace with a hierarchy of authority. Or to put it differently, pretty much any job.

  39. //Of course, if you grow up in a situation where both your parents work (as teacher and college prof, incidentally), homeschooling isn’t an option. //

    Not true. I’ve known parents who’ve managed it. Some have found that without the extra hassles of a school schedule they can manage shifts and/or job requirements better. I find people often ome up with situations where they imagine homeschooling isn’t possible (single mothers, working parents, the poor) and yet I personally know families who’ve choosen homeschooling in part because they’re in those exact situations and found homeschooling was a better fit then public school.

    The problem is that when most people think about homeschooling it’s a a thought experiment with little or no experience to inform it.

  40. As I recall, public schools get state and federal monies based on the number of students enrolled at the school and in the classes. The cynic in me says this California ruling is simply an attempt to force more kids back into the classroom so the schools can collect more dollars.

  41. //“I would consider that a feature of homeschooling, not a bug.”

    …a feature that isn’t very useful when you actually have to leave the home and get a job in a workplace with a hierarchy of authority. Or to put it differently, pretty much any job.//

    So is your argument that a generation raised to blindly follow its leaders is a good thing? I sure as hell wish a few more people in the US Govt had questioned the leadership when we were debating the invasion of Iraq.

  42. Mfitz @ 36:

    I see the potential danger in what you’re referring to in homeschooling. I get that at home. Our biggest struggle has been to maintain the discipline to do our school time each morning. My son is not yet seven, so he’d like to play first thing in the morning or find a TV and watch it. Pulling him away to sit in the kitchen with math lessons or, God help us, spelling, is the biggest challenge we have and so far the only blight I can see in our home curriculum.

    I hope that we can correct that, because teaching a degree of personal discipline at home is probably the most important lesson a homeschooling parent can impart on their child. Among other things, teaching them to consider learning the lesson to be the goal, rather than filling in the blanks correctly. If we get that, I believe he’ll succeed in any school program he’s in – public, private or other.

    By way of disclosure, I fear that I often do as much harm as good by pushing too hard. I too have some learning to do yet. Homeschooling is a curiously two-way street.

  43. COD – You wouldn’t if you had a job that required getting a group of teens working in the same direction. It’s worse than herding cats at the best of times.

    Rivka “But mostly we’re home schooling because I want my kids to be able to learn things that interest them at a pace that suits their abilities.”

    I think you should seriously reconsider this a an education goal for your child. I when to a private progressive catholic school that had that exact statement as part of it’s mission goal. It went bankrupt when I was in 5th grade. I was doing high school level biology, I knew about Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and the importance of recycling, (This was in the late 60′ early 70’s) I was in fairly fluent in spoken French, and knew about binalry code, but I could not do simple addition in my head, couldn’t multiply or divide, didn’t know what a part of speech was, couldn’t spell in English or in French, and my handwriting was illegible. By fifth grade I was reading on a college level, but I didn’t learn to read until 2nd grade, and I learned because my mom work with me for hours at night, and I was ashamed my younger sister was put in the reading unit ahead of me in not because of the school. I had a learning disability that was not diagnosed for years after I was in a regular school because my grounding in the basics was so poor. I was smart enough I got by with very little effort on most areas and because I worked “at my own level” I never learned how to learn things that do not come easily to me. I’m almost 50 now and in some ways I am still suffering from that uneven educational start.

  44. I have mixed feelings writing a comment. This is one of the subjects I feel most strongly about, and I have a hard time remaining even remotely objective. I’ll try to keep it to a few brief thoughts.

    First, my bias: I was homeschooled. We homeschool our children. I am, as you might imagine, a believer in homeschooling.

    The socialization issue is the biggest red herring in homeschooling debates. I was the poster child for the “undesocialization” meme – I was raised an only child, homeschooled from day 1, way back in the woods. Was I undersocialized? Yes. Was it a problem in my teens? Yes, to some degree. Is it a problem now? No. I have a healthy ecosystem of real-life friends, online acquaintances, and professional connections. Was I a typical case? Emphatically not.

    Most of the homeschooled kids I knew were, in my opinion, better socialized than their public-school peers. I say “better”, because rather than having the vast majority of their social experience occur in the context of an artificially age-segregated group of immediate peers, they were more evenly exposed to a wide array of age groups and backgrounds, from younger children to senior adults. HS gatherings tended not to have the same age/grade-stratification I see in public-schooled children. Nor the same us-vs-them dynamic between children and adults. It was a very dynamic, organic web of interactions.

    See also: http://school.familyeducation.com/home-schooling/human-relations/56224.html

    Personally I feel that the issue of parents teaching their children the “wrong” information is blown out of proportion as well. I was raised and schooled by fundamentalists in, as I have described, an isolated environment. I’m hardly a fundamentalist now. And not because I “rebelled” against my upbringing, either. As a matter of fact, if anything the way my parents raised probably helped me to change my beliefs.

    A common thread in almost all home schools is the prominence of self-directed learning. It is common, especially as home-schooled children hit the age where they are reading fluently, for education to become more and more self-directed and self-driven, with the parents acting as facilitators. I and the home-schoolers I knew grew up knowing that a) learning was a rush; and b) we had all the tools we needed to learn anything we set our minds to. That attitude of independent, self-directed inquisitiveness has stuck with me throughout my life; and among many other things it has lead me to learn much which cast my former fundamentalist beliefs in doubt.

    I’m not the only homeschooler to come to a similar realization. Conversely, I’ve seen plenty of public-schooled kids from fundamentalist families grow up to be fundamentalists themselves, despite exposure to evolutionary biology and condoms and all the other devilry that goes on at a public school. I saw someone write the other day that his girlfriend was raised southern baptist, and she never would have “escaped” their ideology had she not been exposed to other ideas in school. I couldn’t help but wonder if he realized what he was saying about his girlfriend’s innate intelligence and will.

    Bottom line, I believe most *everyone* questions the assumptions they have been raised with long about the time they go to college, which is right about the time that they are exposed to a wide array of influences whether their parents (or middle school teachers) like it or not. At that point in life I think the most important thing is not the specific facts they were brought up believing, but whether or not they feel confident in their own ability to get to the bottom of things.

    In conclusion, here’s a link to a great rant written from a secular homeschooler’s point of view, addressing some of the more common assumptions about homeschooling: http://www.secular-homeschooling.com/001/bitter_homeschooler.html

  45. Little disclaimer*I am a youth pastor’s wife/homeschooling mom*
    I really get tired of people thinking that all homeschooling familes are anti-science lunatic hermits. I am a Christian. My oldest son wants to be a scientist. We are doing everything possible to see that happen. Which, by the way, includes pulling him out of a sub-par school system. We also would like to see our children grow up with some decent social skills. That means we do not sit at home all day long every day. Nor do we want them stuck in a class room eight hours a day with girls who look like prostitutes and boys who look like a bunch of thugs. At public school they were getting made fun of for actually having a brain and using it. When my younger son was in first grade he started baby talking. He also went from reading fluently to reading slowly in a monotone robot-type of voice.
    So yes, we teach the Bible. But guess what? We teach all the other subjects that the schools are teaching, too. And we manage to do it without a farting contest.

  46. Mfitz: “I had a learning disability that was not diagnosed for years after I was in a regular school because my grounding in the basics was so poor.”

    I insisted my children learn the basics first – reading, handwriting, basic math (which included algebra, geometry, calculus, and trig), history, basic science and lab skills, reading musical notation, logic, and grammar skills. Once they were grounded, that’s when they were allowed to pursue their own interests. This is a flaw in the unschooling movement and a pitfall that catches a lot of homeschoolers unaware. Whether your state requires standardized testing or not, having a homeschooled child take these tests helps you discover where their weaknesses are so they can be addressed. I found it eased testing anxiety to tell my children tests were indicators of what they’d learned, not judgments of their worth.

  47. Mfitz,

    Were you a victim of “New Math” too?

    I think there must be a huge number of people around our age with the same math problems – we didn’t get the grounding we needed. I still struggle with math. Once my kids are past 5th grade, they’re past me.

  48. Homeschooling sucks! Children have to learn to socialize, and they have to do it in a public school! Where else will children learn to lie, steal, cheat, master groupthink, indulge in unprotected sex, torment those weaker than themselves, and grovel to their social superiors – all skills vital in modern society, and skills the schools excel at teaching. No Child Left Behind, I say!

    I mean, we owe our public schools a debt of gratitude. It takes years of hard work to transform a child into a mindless, cruel, profligate, debt-enslaved consumer, and the parents and the marketers can’t be expected to carry the load all by themselves. I mean, if not for the ceaseless labor of millions of dedicated professionals, we would have a public capable of reading, doing math, and occasional abstract thought, and the economy would simply collapse.

    Frankly, homeschoolers are a threat to the economy and to national security. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if most homeschoolers took money from al-Qaeda. This pestilence has to be stamped out.

  49. Mfitz- I teach a Sunday School of teen agers. I would rather have my class question me than to just blindly believe anything I say. Yes, there are times where I feel like I am herding cats. The moments where they are talking about what they figured out when they took the time to look something up on their own makes it worth it, though.

  50. @ 35 Mfitz

    I worry about how these kids are going to do when they find themselves in work for a living situations.

    It’s a valid worry but … Home schooling has a long history behind it in this country. This isn’t a new thing under the sun, by any means.

  51. David Friedman (college prof and son of Milton) had an interesting blog post about his educational philosophy in which he stated there are only 3 things that everybody needs to know, how to read, write and some level of math, although where that level is is debatable. (I’d put it at Algebra I / Geometry.) If you have those basics down, you can teach yourself or find help for anything else you might want to learn. Mfitz had only one out of three – so I’d say the school failed you in that regard. However, depending on whose numbers who believe, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of high school graduates from the public school system also fail to reach those levels, so that is not necessarily the answer for all kids either.

    There are a lot of ways to learn. It might be book learning at home, it might be taking Calculus and Chem Lab at the local community college, it might be volunteering at a musuem or zoo, it might be working a part time a job. It might be online. It might be on a mission for your church. We are in the 21st century, it’s time to move beyond the 1920 factory model of education. We can do better. We have to do better.

  52. Mfitz: I understand your concern about children missing out in important subjects because of a program based on their interests, but I think it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure this isn’t a problem.

    When I homeschooled, my mother forced me to take the basics: biology, chemistry, trig, calc, US history world history, English, languages, etc, but since I was at home, I could work through these courses much(!) faster than I could have at school, where I would have been forced to go at the pace of the class. This left me time for the special things I wanted to study. I always loved history, so my mom and I put together courses in Canadian, Chinese, and classical history. I loved crafts, so I did also home economics, art, and graphic design.

    By the time I was a junior in highschool, I was taking college courses, which I was allowed to pick according to both my interests and to what general education requirements I could get out of the way before going to real college. So I did marine bio, economics, more history, calculus, anthropology, academic writing, oral communications, ceramics, fiction writing, etc. My mother made sure that I was able to take “fun” courses, but also that I took courses that would be helpful to me later on in university.

    So I agree that you have a point, and in some cases homeschoolers can receive an unbalanced education, but in general I don’t think that tailoring the education to the student necessitates leaving out the basics.

  53. The news coverage on this ruling is all based on a LA Times story, which was basically complete bullshit. If you dig out the actual ruling, you’ll find that the issue wasn’t homeschooling – which does *not* require the parents have teaching credentials, in fact, the only real requirement be that they not be stupid.

    The issue in this particular case was that the parents claimed the kids were enrolled in a charter school, but the school records showed the kids never showed up.

    If they want to home school, California allows that. The requirements be that the parents be able to teach the material, and that they submit attendance and lesson plan records to the local school once a year. That’s pretty much it.

    The short story is, the LA Times made up a more interesting story than they had, and all the other newsies swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

  54. Recently I read a blog post about disability policy or some such, and as a total aside, they mentioned something about a quadriplegic driving himself somewhere.

    Rather than discuss the issue, the entire comments surrounded the driving mention, which wasn’t even the issue at hand. It was filled with comments that were totally uninformed. How can they get licensed? I don’t care how many fancy gadgets that are out there! Quadriplegics have no business being on the road! Don’t tell me they are blowing into a tube down the highway! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever HEARD! etc. This amused me because my partner is quadriplegic and has been safely driving for 16 years.

    My point being, it always seems like homeschooling discussions go like this. Every one comments on stereotypes with no basis in fact. And then when facts are given, they are denied by anecdotal extreme examples.

    There are legitimate things to discuss in regards to homeschooling. What standards should be met? How much regulation should be permitted when private schools essentially can teach creation with uncertified teachers who don’t test. Is the ‘zeitgeist’ (for lack of a better word) of public school really necessary to survive? Or can their be alternative school experiences that are just as legitimate (which one might argue, some private schools like the Webb School might also be included). Why are homeschooled kids outscoring public school kids and what does that mean for public schools? Can they learn something from each other? etc.

    But no, it is always, Crazy Fundamentalists! Socialization! Kids need to be bullied and learn how to deal with assholes! Kids need to learn how to line up and succumb to authority! Homeschool kids are weird! Different! We can’t have kids being different now, can we? Parent’s can’t teach high school physics (or find someone who can).

    You can’t have a decent discussion/debate about something when many times, people seem to refuse to look beyond their misconceptions even when evidence is building right in front of them.

  55. “the only real requirement be that they not be stupid.”

    Too bad that can’t be the number one basic requirment to become a parent in the first place.

  56. As a university professor, I have found that home-schooled students tend either to be at the top of the class or the bottom, with far more of the latter than the former, in my experience. For every home-schooled kid who has a sound foundation of learning, who interacts well with their peers and who can function in a structured university environment, there are several more who are appallingly ignorant of basic information (far more than public or private-schooled kids – especially in American history, my field, since the best-selling homeschool history textbook last time I checked is not worth using as kindling), afloat in a sea of people who do not share their opinions, and utterly bewildered by the idea of not being looked after 24/7 by Mom and Dad. Perhaps all the folks who are defending homeschooling here are in the top-of-the-class group, but from my experience I can say that they are in the minority.

    Homeschooling can be done right (and public/private schooling can certainly be done wrong), but it takes more effort than the people I’ve dealt with seem willing to give. I would love to be proven wrong – please, homeschool parents, send me your prepared, open-minded and eager children, and make me eat my words. I’m wrong about many things, and one more won’t hurt me. But until I see a general improvement in my classrooms, I will hold to my current opinions.

    For the record, my children attend and will continue to attend public school. Most of the homeschoolers in my area are of the fundamentalist variety, which not only skews their notions of biology, but also of history as well. Homeschool organizations are therefore out, for me. As a parent, though, I regard it as my obligation to reinforce and extend the education my children receive – they are both officially “gifted” kids, and need to be challenged.

  57. Kelli, I know what you mean. Seeing that light go on behind the eyes when they put things together is one of the joys of working with kids. But at the same time there are some situation where kids need to understand that rules the didn’t make have to be followed. At the zoo, for example, we have strict rules for handling our program animals. Everyone who works with them follows the same steps, uses the same container for transport, holds the animal the same way. There may be dozens of other ways to do these things that would work just as well, but we only use one. This is to make thinks less stressful for the animals since they know what to expect at any given part of the process.

    Those are the sort of rules I’m talking about when I say kids need to learn to follow existing rules rather than expect to make up rules for themselves. I don’t want them goose stepping down main street, but I worry these kids grow up not having to deal with someone else’s rules so they don’t know how to tell the difference between rules that it’s Ok to ignor or challange, as part of civil society, and rules that should be followed because they exist for a reason.

  58. Mfitz,

    I was educated in PS, and my reading is excellent, but my math skills are horrendous. I grew up visually impaired in PS, and I could never, ever see the board. And no one cared. So in college, the week before I was supposed to teach fourth graders long division in a student teaching practicum, I had to learn for the very first time how to do long division. As a teacher, I found these gaps as well with PS students.

    I’ve come to realize a few things about PS as both a student and teacher. First, many times those who excel in public school are actually being “homeschooled” at home by their parents who either formally or informally supplement what is going on in PS. I would guess the lovely daughter of our host, Ms. Athena, gets her fair share of “homeschooling.” Kids whose parents– for whatever reason–can’t or won’t supplement education at home tend to really struggle when relying only on PS.

    (The flip side to this is that homeschoolers who literally sit at home all day from K to 12 with one parent teaching them also tend to struggle. Homeschoolers need outside supplementation as well. Most public school kids are also homeschooled, and most homeschooled kids also use elements common in public schools, such as classes and curriculum and the like. This is why so many high school kids come to college with 30 credits or so under their belt. They often supplement highschool homeschooling with community college classes.)

    The other thing, is that schools use a norm referenced form of assessment. Kids are either informally assessed “on the curve” or formally assessed with norm-referenced, standardized tests. Which by definition, mean that 50% of all students will be below average. (And that is why NCLB makes absolutely no sense.) This causes students to be passed along without a real command of the material.

    Homeschoolers tend to be assessed in criterion referenced ways. i.e. They don’t go on till they know the material. And they are constantly assessed (and instruction modified) until they know it. And when they know it, they move on. More than anything else, parent education, curriculum, instructional method, etc. this criterion referenced assessment is what I theorize to be the key of homeschooling success. There is no reason (besides some major restructuring) why we couldn’t implement more of this in public schools.

  59. Lisa, the interesting thing is that in countries other than the US, home schooling pretty much is the domain of loonies of the fundamentalist and/or hippy variety. And this is the context I grew up in – i.e. not the US. I’ve found it really interesting to read the reasons various people have given for home schooling in this thread, the most common being that public schools suck. But isn’t that an argument for better public schools in the US, rather than home schooling? Public schools don’t necessarily have to suck, just like healthcare doesn’t as a matter of course have to be private. It’s like… rather than try to fix the system, I’ll pull out of it and let it burn.

    Nothing is going to work for everyone, and I know there are some kids home schooling works really well for. I just don’t think its a long-term, generally applicable solution for a decaying public education system.

  60. Just as I was about to write a quick note about the responsibility of the parent to ensure that their child is learning, Lisa covered it.

    The First Question is: Why not both public and learning at home?

    The majority of the strong responses are from Home School parents/children — this is expected as they feel a need to support their decisions. It is admirable that they believe that they either know better or can do better than the public schools.

    My second question is: What if they are wrong — who suffers?

  61. The problem I have with public schools is that the factory methos of teaching large number of same aged children at the same time is a modern practice. Even my father (dual master’s degrees, Mech Eng and MBA) went to essentially a one room school in Colorado – graduating class: 12).

    The socialization aspect is, I think a better reason to keep children out of public schools. Otherwise you get an echo chamber of 35+ 12 year olds who don’t learn how to deal with people not there own exact age. And in places were 50% of the employees of a school district are not teachers, I don’t see how making classes smaller is really going to feasible given the costs.

  62. @ David 59.

    How do you know when an student you are teaching is home schooled? Self-selection? Transcript? Do you keep records or is this subjective anecdote?

    I ask not to be confrontational but because bias is a weird thing – if you’re looking for problems you might see them and not see the non-weird non-bottom feeder students who have been home schooled.

  63. Boy, lots of non-homeschooling adults sure do know a lot about homeschooling, don’t they? /snark

    The point is, homeschooling looks different in each and every family. That’s the point, and therefore the reason homeschoolers should not have to follow the same curriculum as the local public schools. Public schools have curricula because they’re educating large numbers of children. They have testing because public money is being spent on them — the public has a right to know what’s being taught and how well the schools are doing.

    Homeschoolers and private schoolers opt out of that system. There’s no reason they should have to follow its structure and sequence and no reason they should have to test.

    Does everyone really believe it’s important for all children to learn the same things at the same age? Will American civilization — fabulous as it is — come to an end if kids learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it and pursue their interests with freedom and passion?

    Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

  64. “Does everyone really believe it’s important for all children to learn the same things at the same age?”

    No. But college professors, and employers, will expect a certain minimum level of knowledge in certain areas from people who have completed high school. A basic curriculum provides this sort of assurance, and allows all students to be taught from at least a known common denominator. As David (college prof) points out, this baseline can’t be taken for granted with home schooled kids.

    “No reason they should have to test.”

    You’re joking, right? Welcome to college failure. Like it or not, exams, essays, and tests are part of post-secondary education, and it really is a massive disadvantage not to have experience with that.

    Lisa (and a couple of others) have made some good arguments as to why home schooling can work for some kids, but you cannot be serious that home schooling shouldn’t follow a curriculum and/or involve testing.

  65. Looks like I hit a nerve with Mythago, since the ever-cliche “if YOU had kids then YOU would know” has been pulled out…frankly, I don’t have them and don’t want them. I don’t want the responsibility of potentially messing up a small person due to my own mistakes and failures. Mythago, my worldview and opinions are different from yours. I don’t see why you need to bash me or malign me as a possible parent to make your opinion that much more “right”. My opinion on homeschooling, if you’re really a secure parent who makes the correct choices for your children, should not matter a whit to you, now should it?

  66. Lisa–you say that only extreme examples are given, yet you go on to state that only bullying and “succumbing to authority” are the only things that public school gives to children.

    Okay. :) LOL!

  67. I am totally against home schooling, but not for any of the reasons cited above. I don’t think that parents can be objective enough to teach their own children. What do I base this on? I went to a small public school(~120 kids in my class). There were 6 or 7 of us that had teachers as parents. No one of these parents(all certified teachers) taught their own children the same as the other kids in the class. They were either too easy on them – the Spanish teacher who let his bilingual sons take Spanish and mock the other kids in his class, Or too hard– the history teacher who expected his average intelligence son to be the best in the class. If you live in an isolated area like the bush in Alaska or the Austrailian outback, that’s one thing; but if you live in an area where there are schools send your kids to them. If the public schools aren’t good enough work to make them better or find an appropriate public school.

  68. Eddie Clark @63

    I don’t see why homeschooling and supporting public school reform have to be mutually exclusive. I support (and act politically) public schools and reform.

    I can not be gay and support gay marriage. I can not have committed a felony and be incarcerated to support prison reform. I don’t need to put MY kid in PS to support a better public school system. I understand that I am lucky to be able to homeschool (and, FYI, I am a single mom with 2 part-time jobs, which are luckily very flexible. But I don’t make a lot of money and I don’t fit that privileged housewife stereotype). It is important to me that PS is available for others who can’t homeschool or don’t want to, and also for me and my children, should our circumstances change.

    That said, my kids would only be in PS for 13 years. Not enough time for the sweeping changes that I’d like to see be implemented. Why should MY kids have to sacrifice their educational opportunities just to prove a political point?

    People seem to forget that 99% of all kids were homeschooled before the 1850’s. Most of our founding fathers, many of our early industrial inventors, etc. It should not be that radical to opt out of public school, as long as you don’t push for that option to be eliminated for those who want or need it.

  69. My friend’s sister homeschools through a program offered at the University I attend. I’m not sure what her reasons behind it are but she seems to enjoy it.

  70. Julie @70

    Sorry missed your comment. Surely not the only things at issue for PS are bullying and authority. Just an example of a legitimate issue that could be discussed. There in fact is a bullying problem in the public schools. It does NOT affect all students, but I would also not say that it is an “extreme” example in that it only affects a few rare cases. It is a legitimate issue that could be discussed from all angles. Homeschool, public school reform, character education, etc.

  71. To Brian @ #66 –

    One of the things I ask my students at the beginning of the semester is where they went to high school – it’s a way of getting to know them a little. They put it on their 3×5 card, along with their phone numbers and emails, and – recently – one thing they’ve done that other people probably haven’t (thanks, Scalzi!). I look at these to get a feeling for the makeup of the class, and honestly mostly forget about it after the first week or so. It’s hard enough to remember their names. When I go back at the end of the semester and look to see how things went, I usually find that the homeschoolers are disproportionately at the top and bottom. There are certainly homeschooled kids in the middle, just as there are non-homeschooled kids at either end – I have certainly had “bottom feeder students,” as you call them, from public/private schools, as well as brilliant ones. It’s a percentages game, after all, and individuals will always provide counter-examples to the general trend. That doesn’t obviate the trend.

    I don’t keep this information beyond the semester for privacy reasons, so I can’t go back and get records. So to answer your question directly, in the end it’s anecdotal – but with a decent base in the data, I think.

    While I can’t rule out bias on my part completely, I do think any bias on my part is pretty minimal because a) I generally don’t remember who is and is not homeschooled without looking at the cards, which I don’t do between the first week of class and after I turn in grades, and b) I don’t have anything against homeschooling in theory, just in practice. It CAN be done right, but – and here I emphasize again that this is MY EXPERIENCE and your mileage may vary – I have found that it more often than not HAS NOT been.

    I also live in an area with very good public schools – indeed, everywhere I have lived in three different states has met that criteria, which was not accidental on my part even when I did not have any kids or the prospect of same. So take that into account as well. It’s more expensive to live in those places, but worth it to me.

  72. But isn’t that an argument for better public schools in the US, rather than home schooling? Public schools don’t necessarily have to suck, just like healthcare doesn’t as a matter of course have to be private. It’s like… rather than try to fix the system, I’ll pull out of it and let it burn.

    First, I don’t have time for it. Good luck to you if you’re willing to give it a shot. My kids are growing up, and the system — the unions, the NEA, the state and federal legislatures, etc. — are not going to make changes fast enough for my kids.

    Plus, those folks are the same ones who think I’m not qualified to teach my own kids. They’re the ones who think they should be telling me what to do. Why in the world would they listen to anything I had to say about the entire system when they won’t listen to what I have to say about my own children?

    I’m dealing with reality: the system won’t change, at least not fast enough to benefit my kids.

    The First Question is: Why not both public and learning at home?

    Because it’s a colossal waste of time. Homeschooling is already more efficient than all-day school (public or private). Why waste time on both when you can skip one (the one that takes all day) and have lots of time to play and do other stuff you like to do?

    My second question is: What if they are wrong — who suffers?

    Primarily their kids. It’s unfortunate, but some will indeed “slip through the cracks.” That said, schools are “wrong” all the time with large numbers of children. In our local elementary schools, 37% of 6th graders scored ‘needs improvement’ or ‘warning/failing’ on the 2007 state reading/language arts test. Statewide, it was 32%. The high school in the town next to me has bigger problems: it has a graduation rate of 49%.

    Aren’t those bigger concerns than the occasional homeschooling family who falls down on the job or who teaches the kids that the Earth is 6000 years old?

  73. But isn’t that an argument for better public schools in the US, rather than home schooling? Public schools don’t necessarily have to suck, just like healthcare doesn’t as a matter of course have to be private. It’s like… rather than try to fix the system, I’ll pull out of it and let it burn.

    First, I don’t have time to fix the system. Good luck to you if you’re willing to give it a shot. My kids are growing up, and the system — the unions, the NEA, the state and federal legislatures, etc. — are not going to make changes fast enough for my kids.

    Second, these folks are the ones who think I’m not qualified to teach my own children. The NEA makes a proclamation about that fact each year: homeschooling is universally bad (even if the parent is a certified teacher!). Why in the world would they listen to what I have to say about the entire system if they won’t listen to what I have to say about my own kids?

    At some point, my kids may return to the local public schools. But at least we’d be going in with our eyes open.

    The First Question is: Why not both public and learning at home?

    Because it’s a colossal waste of time. Homeschooling is already more efficient than all-day school (public or private). Why waste time on both when you can skip one (the one that takes all day) and have lots of time to play and do other stuff you like to do?

    My second question is: What if they are wrong — who suffers?

    Primarily their kids. It’s unfortunate, but some will indeed “slip through the cracks.” That said, schools are “wrong” all the time. In our local elementary schools, 37% of 6th graders scored ‘needs improvement’ or ‘warning/failing’ on the 2007 state reading/language arts test. Statewide, it was 32%. The high school in the town next to me has bigger problems: it has a graduation rate of 49%.

    Aren’t those bigger concerns than the occasional homeschooling family who falls down on the job or whose kids grow up believing the Earth is 6000 years old?

  74. Lori @ 76:

    “The First Question is: Why not both public and learning at home?

    Because it’s a colossal waste of time. Homeschooling is already more efficient than all-day school (public or private). Why waste time on both when you can skip one (the one that takes all day) and have lots of time to play and do other stuff you like to do?”

    Source? Other than ideological conviction and/or biased pressure group.

  75. Eddie Clark @63: I’m a big supporter of better funding and educational practices in the public schools. But I don’t have any illusions that I would be able to change the school system for my kid. One parent can’t overturn an enormous bureaucracy… and even if I could, the kinds of educational opportunities you can offer in a classroom that has 30 kids of mixed abilities and only one teacher are necessarily limited.

    and @68: Colleges and employers are already out of luck if they want a standardized national curriculum, because the U.S. doesn’t have one. My husband learned different things, in a different order, growing up in Tennessee than I learned in New York. Private schools can teach completely different curricula than the public school down the block. Fancy suburban schools teach different things than crappy inner-city schools.

    Homeschooled kids who want to go to college take the same college entrance exams that everyone else does. Once they get to college, they take the same placement exams to find out if they can test out of freshman algebra. That’s where the assurance of a basic common denominator comes from.

    David@59’s comments are pretty different from other things I’ve heard colleges say about homeschoolers. Both Stanford and MIT, for example, actively recruit homeschooled kids. I’ve seen numerous quotes from admissions officers saying that in their experience homeschoolers are internally motivated and capable of independent learning.

    For example: http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2000/novdec/articles/homeschooling.html

  76. but you cannot be serious that home schooling shouldn’t follow a curriculum and/or involve testing.

    I was actually referring to a state-mandated curriculum (everyone one learns the same content at the same age) and standardized tests, neither or which are necessary to college success. (Some schools don’t require the SAT any more.) But now that you brought it up, no, I don’t think homeschooling *should* be this or that for *all* homeschoolers. What it should be is individualized for each family. To each his own. For some that will mean following a traditional curriculum, for others it will mean no curriculum at all, and for some, it will mean something in between. The whole point of homeschooling is to do what works for your individual kids, not to do what everyone else is doing.

    And for the record, I’ve taught Developmental Writing and Freshman English at three colleges. I’ve never had a homeschooled student in any of my classes, but I have had plenty of students who who couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence or a coherent paragraph, never mind an entire essay. And most of these young adults graduated from curriculum-based, standardized-test-giving public schools in the U.S.

    So, obviously, a curriculum and testing don’t really guarantee much, anyway.

  77. I have one other concern about homeschooling, which is I do wonder about the socialization of homeschooled kids

    Scalzi – Have you not had people question the same thing raising an only child?

  78. Eddie @ 78: Can you not intuitively grasp that one teacher / parent teaching 1 to a few kids is more efficient than one teacher managing a class of 25 with widely differing backgrounds and abilities? It’s simple common sense. My kids spend 2-3 hours a day on “school” yet both score in the 99th percentile on the standardized tests every year. My kids are not geniuses, the 1:2 teacher student ratio simply works much, much better than 1:25.

    More importantly, all that time not wasted in school allows them to dive far deeper into their passions and interests.

  79. Eddie Clark @78

    Lori can answer this for herself, but I don’t think a source is necessary for what is so clearly common sense if one knows how to tell time and simple addition and subtraction. If your kid goes to school 6 hours a day, and then you also supplement PS with X number of hours a day of homeschooling, it is going to take more time. If you just do X number of hours a day of homeschooling and skip the six hours of school, you save six hours.

    When I was in teachers college, I remember a study where it said that average amount of instructional time in PS at the elementary level was 46 minutes. (No I don’t have a source, sorry). But even if you don’t buy my statistic, it is common sense that when a student doesn’t have to line up, wait in line, be interrupted for procedural issues (attendance, for example), be interrupted for discipline issues of 30 students, wait to be called on, wait for other kids to finish working and be ready to move on, wait for other kids to be helped when they already know the answer, and the general hustle and bustle of classroom business, it is going to take less time.

    Calvert School, for example, which for all practical purposes is a very traditional school centered homeschool program which offers textbook based curriculum in all subjects, suggests that Kindergarten will take about an hour and a half, Elementary school grades between 3 and 4 hours, and middle school between four and five. It is just common sense.

  80. “David@59’s comments are pretty different from other things I’ve heard colleges say about homeschoolers. Both Stanford and MIT, for example, actively recruit homeschooled kids. I’ve seen numerous quotes from admissions officers saying that in their experience homeschoolers are internally motivated and capable of independent learning.”

    What David said does not contradict what admissions officers say. Homeschoolers may be at the very top, and at the very bottom. Although I have no data, I think it’s a safe bet to guess that the homeschoolers at the bottom aren’t applying to Stamford.

  81. P:

    “Scalzi – Have you not had people question the same thing raising an only child?”

    Not especially, although for the first couple of years at least, my feeling about school was just that: it was primarily to help her learn to be with others her own age (she already knew most of the stuff they were teaching her at that point). She’s socialized reasonably well so far.

  82. As someone who was homeschooled through the end of high school, on the bleeding edge of the movement in the 80s and 90s, I feel compelled to to clarify a thing or two. Further disclaimer, despite growing up with the material, I am not a young-earth creationist, nor do I subscribe to a literal reading of Genesis 1, that train left the station a looong time ago.

    In early grades, I grew up using a lot of the common science curricula that is probably still common with the more conservative ‘fundamentalist’ crowd.

    One common misperception: Parents wing it. Well, no, at least not the moderate religious or even the hardcore fundamentalist separatist folks. I can’t speak for the crunchies. There is a big body of material for these folks, i.e. “A Beka” “Bob Jones”, etc.

    Which ties into a second misperception: That it’s all crap because of a zealous literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Well, no, that’s not actually the case. Yes evolutionary biology is rather important to understand if you are actually going to [i]work[/i] as a biologist. And it is a gap. But frankly, you get such a abbreviated high-level view of evolutionary biology by the end of public high school that growing up with YEC biology materials is not going to make or break your education. Even with the slant/bias/blind-spot, the above do offer pretty comprehensive curriculum. It’s not like they are teaching the aether principle.

  83. I’d have to say on the subject of 3 skills everyone needs to get along and learn that math is not one of them. You need to know how to read, write, and listen. With those three skills you can learn anything including math at any level. However, math will never give you the ability to listen.

  84. I have family members and friends who home school, and I work with home schooled kids every summer so yes, although I don’t home school, I know a little about how it works and what home schooled kids are like. Of my home schooled nephews, both home schooled for LD issues, one has become 100% better person with far fewer behavior problems, and better grades and more engaging personality, the other has turned into violence obsessed mean, anti-social bully. So, from my personal experience it’s 50/50 if home schooled is answer to behavior problems or turning out kind well adjusted kids..

    I think “opting out” means either running away or putting your head in the sand. If you are not willing to stay engaged and work to fix a system, any system, then you have no right at all to comment on its problems. If you really want to improve the level of education in America rather than pull your kids, and the stability they would lend to the school because of your involvement in their progress, out of your local public school, you would work as a mentor or tutor at your school or some other educational institution or program. This would help all the kids in your area get a better education, both in academics and the life lessons that really matter. By the way I thing everyone, maybe especially people who don’t have kids and therefore have more spare time and money should do this. When parents who are engaged in their kids education pull their kids out of public schools, the system is made up only of kids who have no one at home to back them up and things go down hill. Big surprise there.

    Sorry I don’t really mean this as a personal attack on anyone here but I really have no patience for people who bitch and moan about things they are not willing to work to fix.

  85. Lol, I’ll stop arguing because most of the vocal people are disagreeing with me, and being told you’re wrong gets tiresome :P .

    All I’ll say is that a nerdy, gifted gay kid can get on fine in a school system and come out unscarred, less nerdy, and better adjusted than when I went in. It didn’t actually cater for anything over lowest common denominator, but I did that work on my own time, with my own reading, with the encouragement of my parents. And I don’t feel like I missed out on a childhood, or playtime, from going to school rather than learning at home.

  86. My kids go to highly rated public schools (in MN) and are in a language immersion program. I still think I could do a better job on the basics if they were home schooled, but then I would only be helping my TWO children receive a better education.

    Instead, my husband and I volunteer at the school. We go on field trips, help with class activities (my youngest son’s class just did a class play & parents kicked in for the props, costumes…) and other things like making copies of worksheets and cutting out projects. Our time and money, that would otherwise go towards homeschooling, goes into the classrooms of both of our children. That way, about 25 more kids in each class benefit from the things we purchase and the time we devote to the classes.

    Can you imagine what the public schools in this country would be like if every parent who was able to helped at the schools and donated money to the classrooms instead of homeschooling or sending their kids to private schools?

    BTW, my kids speak 3 languages, play two instruments and are well socialized at home, school and church.

  87. //If you are not willing to stay engaged and work to fix a system, any system, then you have no right at all to comment on its problems.//

    Sorry, but homeschoolers pay the same taxes as everybody else, therefore we have every right to comment on the problems.

  88. To David @ 75

    Thanks you, Sir.

    To Eddie Clark @ 78
    Because it’s a colossal waste of time. Homeschooling is already more efficient than all-day school (public or private). Why waste time on both when you can skip one (the one that takes all day) and have lots of time to play and do other stuff you like to do?”

    Source? Other than ideological conviction and/or biased pressure group.

    I can’t provide an firm answer but my (virtual charter school) kids have a 3-5 hour day.

    They’re following the same material as if their bricks and mortar peers do.

    I believe the diff is that they’re not doing a lot of the non-learning stuff that you have to in at the local elementary – assemblies, lining up, waiting, taking attendance, etc.

  89. //Can you imagine what the public schools in this country would be like if every parent who was able to helped at the schools and donated money to the classrooms instead of homeschooling or sending their kids to private schools?//

    They’d be exactly the same as a they are now. Homeschoolers and private schoolers make up less than 10% of the school age population. There simply aren’t enough numbers there to impact the system. If anything, all the parents propping up the failing system are doing more harm than good. We spend over $8000 per student on public education in my county, yet the teachers still pay out of pocket for classroom supplies, and parents are still hit up for donations of time and money on an almost daily basis. The real question is why can’t the public schools deliver a quality educational experience with a $8000 per student budget that grows every single year?

  90. I forgot to mention that our family has hosted 9 international exchange students from three continents. I highly recommend it as great education for the whole family.

  91. David, if you wouldn’t mind –

    Tell me what history book you think is so poor and why, and what book you’d recommend and why.

    I know dozens of hsers who would beg for a better book but frankly, what we’ve found in the PS books is little more than revisionist, agenda-driven drivel with more pictures than facts. Give us a good book and we’ll buy it.

  92. How much of that $8000 is wasted on crap like team sports? Bet the football team is never hard up for money. That’s the real problem in America, but it’s also a whole different issue.

  93. To #94 COD

    Do you realize how much of a public school budget goes towards employee health care, student transportation and heating/cooling of the buildings?

    Universal health care and renewable resources used for heating/cooling and transportation would make a huge amount of money available for actually TEACHING the kids.

    This is a whole society problem.

  94. To Fiona #91- When my children were in the public school we did do things like help out on field trips and class projects. I was there volunteering in the class and the library. The trouble is that all the volunteering in the world does not solve all the problems. It does not fill in all the gaps. Kind of like putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound. I think it is nice that you are in a place where the schools are great. We are not. My husband still goes and speaks at the local school for FCA. If we were asked we would do anything to help. We just feel it is better for our children not to attend.

  95. //Do you realize how much of a public school budget goes towards employee health care, student transportation and heating/cooling of the buildings?//

    How many of those employees are suits that have nothing to do with educating kids? If I were education czar I’d fire 1/2 the admin staff (at least) and funnel the money into better pay and resources for the teachers.

    Finland’s public school system seems to kick ass and does so without dumping hours of homework on the kids, and without a reliance on standardized testing. Public school can be done well, we just don’t do it well here in the US.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120425355065601997.html

  96. I was home schooled all the way through from kindergarten to high school, and I am now a socially deficient recluse who cannot relate to others and never learned long division. I’m afraid to do anything without my mother’s approval and the my life’s dream is to work at the creationism museum in Tennessee (or wherever the heck it is).

    More truthfully, since reading is my first love home schooling gave me the opportunity to indulge it as much as my library card would allow – to the detriment of my other studies at times, but I managed to get through college and graduate school quite handily.

    Honestly as others have pointed out above it all depends on your family and what you are capable of. As a self motivated above average kid I think I would have been miserable in public school. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so motivated and eager to self educate if I had been shoved in with the pack at a tender age.

    I don’t know if I will choose to home educate my own (hypothetical) children, but I fully believe it is as viable an alternative as public and private schools, as many of my generation are now proving as we become productive members of society. I can’t think of any of the many people my age I know who were home schooled who have had cause to regret it.

  97. //Do you realize how much of a public school budget goes towards employee health care, student transportation and heating/cooling of the buildings?//

    How many of those employees are suits that have nothing to do with educating kids? If I were education czar I’d fire 1/2 the admin staff (at least) and funnel the money into better pay and resources for the teachers.

    Finland’s public school system seems to kick ass and does so without dumping hours of homework on the kids, and without a reliance on standardized testing. Public school can be done well, we just don’t do it well here in the US.

    I tried to post the link but it got zapped into spam moderation and who knows how often our host here checks that stuff? If you want to read it go to my blog and search for Finland to find the link. It was a very interesting article.

  98. I think “opting out” means either running away or putting your head in the sand.

    We’re not running away from anything. We’ve made a choice to do something different. That’s a move in a positive direction for our family, and it really shouldn’t bother anyone else.

    Also, you can’t put your head in the sand when you’re busy exposing your kids to the world each day. We see the real world with all its wonders and warts, trust me. We just don’t do public school. We may again some day, but we don’t now.

    If you really want to improve the level of education in America rather than pull your kids, and the stability they would lend to the school because of your involvement in their progress, out of your local public school, you would work as a mentor or tutor at your school or some other educational institution or program. This would help all the kids in your area get a better education, both in academics and the life lessons that really matter.

    Is it okay with you if I’m on the board of a leadership and literacy foundation in my region? What if I’m involved in other charitable efforts in the community? Would that be altruistic enough for you? Or would I still be a selfish homeschooler who’s depriving less fortunate children in some way?

    Plus, children do not owe other children anything. It’s certainly not the job of some kids to “lend stability to the school” with their presence.

    Look, I’ve already said this: when our kids were in public school, nobody there wanted to hear from us about what we thought our kids needed. They sure as hell don’t want our input on how to make the entire school or district better. Sure, they’ll take my help on their terms (how many worksheet photocopies do you need today?), but they don’t want to hear anything of educational substance. They’re the experts and we’re “just” parents.

    It’s a brick wall that I’m not willing to bang my head against while my kids slog through. Parents have an obligation to our own children first. My job is to raise my own happy, healthy, children who become competent, self-sufficient adults. Our family gives back to our community in other ways, but we’re not deluding ourselves that we can change the way the schools operate. Not by a long shot.

  99. COD, two points:

    We have a VERY DIFFERENT society than Finland–more immigration (Minneapolis public schools have kids who speak over 50 languages as their first language) , more poverty and much longer distances for people to travel. I think you are comparing apples to oranges.

    The principal at my kids’ school is on the playground EVERY DAY with the kids. He is in the lunch room EVERY DAY. He visits classrooms, helps with projects and in general is THERE for the kids and is amazingly accessible to the parents. A good administrator is hands-on and knows what is going on in the school. Ours knows every parent and student by name, and there are over 500 kids at the school.

    I am very thankful you are not the “Education Czar” and will confine my personal comments to that, so they aren’t moderated.

  100. @Fiona: Who said anything about firing the principal? Are you really trying to defend the viewpoint that the schools are not top heavy with bureaucracy that adds little to nothing to the kids educational experience? If so I’d like to see a little more meat to your case than one anecdotal story from your local public school.

    Who cares if we are different than Finland? Your argument actually supports my point. If we are that diverse (and really, most schools are not particularly diverse) then that is an argument for reducing central control (and central administrators) and pushing decision making to the front lines to the people closest to the kids.

    Just like they apparently do in Finland.

  101. @ 94 COD

    They’d be exactly the same as a they are now. Homeschoolers and private schoolers make up less than 10% of the school age population.

    2.2 percent in 2003. I doubt it has increased more than a few points since then.

    The amount of noise this debate generates, compared to how many people are directly affected by it, is astounding.

  102. If you are not willing to stay engaged and work to fix a system, any system, then you have no right at all to comment on its problems.

    Sounds suspiciously like the chicken-hawk argument, a.k.a., Bull .

  103. TO lori # 103.

    You have every right to your opinion. My point is that people CAN change problem schools, because I’ve seen it done and have been part of the parents’ group which made the changes.

    If so many people are really upset about the public schools in the US, why don’t they DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT that will help as many kids as possible?

    We (taxpayers) pay the salaries of everyone in the school system. THEY ARE OUR EMPLOYEES. Pulling your kids out of the public schools may be the best choice for your kids, today. It doesn’t change the schools at all.

    Remember, people, the majority of kids go through the public school system. We are setting up our whole society for failure if our schools fail the kids. Those kids will someday be adults, who need jobs and can vote.

    If every parent got involved in the public schools, we could make huge changes.

  104. >If every parent got involved in the public schools, we could >make huge changes.

    The nightmare that keeps those that run the NEA up at night.

  105. Education is the biggest issue that I fall out of step with the economically conservative – I believe that if all children could have an equally good education, we’d be able to come darn close to true equality of opportunity. And I support the idea that a child doesn’t deserve a bad education just because his or her parents don’t care about education. Then, and only then, maybe the free market would really work and there wouldn’t be a semi-permanent underclass.

    The problem with economic inequality as I see it is that many people don’t understand basic economic theory and aren’t well informed enough to recognize when they’re being taken for a ride.

  106. I went to a Catholic grade school and a public high school. I was a terrible nerd and not very popular. However, I survived and (I think) thrived as an adult. This does not mean that regular schools are good or home schools are bad. Schools vary wildly in their effectiveness, and what works for one kid may not work for others. Parents have to make that call – that’s their responsibility.

    I do think “socialization” is overrated. Much of the mechanics of schools, from fixed hours to single topic classes, is a legacy of 19th and early 20th century attempts to make people into productive little factory workers. My real socialization came in college and the Navy, not from schools in my rural town of 3,000.

    Several people have said things along the lines of “if your school’s not cutting it, work to change it.” This sounds like a good idea, but in practice it’s massively difficult. Private schools simply don’t have to respond to public pressure – if you don’t like the program, take your kid out. (Or in my case, talk to the bishop in Peoria, responsible for half of Illinois, and see how that works for you.)

    Public schools are administered by a local school board, but their ability to impact curriculum, etc. is limited by layers of administration and state laws. This assumes one can persuade a majority of the board to support your plan.

    Bottom line – if the best option for the kid is home schooling, then home school away. Just make an informed decision.

  107. Well, I had kids relatively late (at age 34) and so spent the first 15 or so years of my adult life working in the school system and trying to improve the schools from the inside. If I (and many, many other well meaning teachers) can’t make a dent with 8+ hours a day for years on end, I don’t think that volunteering (and yes, it is to photocopy worksheets mostly) as a parent is going to really make a difference.

    Not to say that volunteering in the classroom or as a tutor is bad. Its great, and we all do our part and do what we can to change things.

    However, I think it is sticking your head in the sand to think that parents doing some volunteer work or belonging to the PTA is going to change the systemic and collasal problems that school systems face, many of which are a reflection of society as a whole as far as what we value and what we are willing to prioritize.

    Homeschoolers do affect public school change in the same ways as doing a number of other things affects change (voting, volunteering, donating, etc.). Homeschoolers stimulate discussion, they provide different successful models of education, they experiment with different cooperative educational efforts, they are more involved in the system of education than most parents are. This is not an invisible vacuum off to the side of the education debate. It makes the discussion richer, more multifaceted, and puts a new face on what our potential to educate children can be.

  108. We started home schooling both of our kids after elementary school– not for any religious reason whatsoever, nor are we what you would call new age/hippy types by any stretch.

    But, most of my middle school education was spent:

    1. standing in line
    2. doing busy work
    3. dealing with behavior on a daily basis that, in adult society, would be considered criminally psychotic
    4. sitting on a bus
    5. insulting or being insulted for: looks/clothes/athletic abilities/skin color/shoes/supposed sexual orientation
    6. learning nothing while the teachers dealt with discipline issues over and over and over (and over).
    7. fighting and/or watching fights

    That’s not socialization…that’s anti-socialization. Unless you plan for your kids to attend a maximum security prison in adulthood, middle school in the public school system is not preparing many of them for “real” adult life. At least not in the underfunded Florida school system.

    Working to fix it is fine, but it’s not going to happen overnight, and I’m not sacrficing my kids to what was for me a damaging institution in the mean time.

  109. A lot of the arguments in this thread sound to me remarkably like the arguments that people who choose to represent themselves in court make – i.e. I can do just as well as the pros, and more efficiently, too. You get the law books, you read the laws, you fill in the forms, and bang! DIY litigation. Some of the time that’s true – there are some terrible lawyers and some very intelligent pro se litigants. Most of the time, however, pro se litigants are confused, miss the point, and create chaos for themselves, the judge, and the unfortunate party that comes up against them.

    Likewise, I’m sure some very bright, well-organised parents do a better job teaching than professional teachers. I doubt this is true of the majority, however. I mean come on, I have two and a half degrees, but the only job I’m qualified to do is be a lawyer. I have huge respect for good teachers, and they’re as expert in their professions as I am in my tiny area of the law Maybe only particularly engaged or motivated parents whose kids have had particularly bad teachers do the home schooling thing, I don’t know, but isn’t it slightly presumptuous to assume that the average parent will be better than the average teacher?

  110. Scott@20 No socialization is about learning to treat others with courtesy and respect so that you can cooperate to accomplish tasks, whether those tasks are in a professional or personal setting. To those who went to public school, do you really think your experience there helped you to learn that? If so congratulations, yours was the exceptional experience.

    Home schooling accomplishes the task of socialization better than public school.

    I’m not saying people who go to public school don’t learn this socialization, it’s just that they usually learn it despite public school, not because of it.

  111. The topic of homeschooling is so diverse and the situations are so varied that it is impossible to make any generalizations. Instead I’ll throw out a couple of my personal ‘concerns’ and please feel free to tell me I’m full of it.

    First, how is patience taught? Patience is a very worthwhile life skill and yet it is rarely discussed.

    Second is the idea of a cultural “shared experience.” Is such a thing important for a society and if it is does public school serve that purpose?

    Third is teaching a sense of humor. Being able to use humor is also a very worthwhile life skill and is rarely discussed.

    I suppose all of these come under the general subject of ‘socialization’ but I think making specific reference to them is worthwhile.

  112. Rigel Kent @115:

    Sorry to follow my post with another but you made a good comment and I had not read it before making my previous post.

    What about the ability to be different and still ‘fit in?’

    I think this is specifically what many people mean when they say ‘socialization.’ In my work experience ‘Plays well with others’ has been as important as technical skill.

  113. Eddie Clark @118

    Then how do you explain the overwhelming success of homeschoolers academically? I mean, in addition to some of the links provided in this thread, just google “homeschool vs. public school acievement”. It is pretty impressive. Even considering that there are still varied degrees of success in line with the continuum of success in public school.

    Tripp:

    I think your questions fall under the assumption that kids sit at home all day, alone, with just their siblings and a parent or two. Homeschool is a bit of a misnomer. Its more like “world school.” Your question about patience reminds me of someone saying to me once, “Well, why are you knocking waiting in line? Kids need to learn how to wait in line. Waiting in line is part of society.”

    My reply was that my kids wait in line at the grocery store, at the theatre, the museum, the zoo, at the drinking fountain with their homeschool group, the slide at the park, etc. My kid isn’t in a bubble, here. And at three, they got waiting in line. I really don’t think that 12 more years of it in school is needed just to make sure they REALLY, REALLY understand how you have to be patient to wait in line.

    Sense of humor is along those same lines. These kids are not isolated all day with their mom. They actually have more opportunities to meet different kids and adults in the community and thus be exposed to different personality types and sense of humor.

    Culturally shared experience? This is what I termed up thread as zeitgeist. What would PS shared experiences be? Dodgeball, school lunch trays, dententions, pep rallies? Sure, these things have their place, but I’m not sure that we don’t gain more value in society from diversified experiences. As I alluded to, listening to Scalzi talk about the Webb School, his boarding school, I can tell he had a different experience than I did in public high school. I find his experiences interesting, not alienating. Besides, we aren’t talking about homeschoolers going to another planet. They will still be familiar with the same music, social trends, sports and news events, geographical landmarks and hangouts, as their PS counterparts.

    And with that, I thank you all for reading through my comments and do apologize for my spelling errors. I am at a computer where it is hard for me to proofread in the comment box and I keep forgetting to click preview before submit comment. It’s been fun, but I’m off to work.

  114. //What about the ability to be different and still ‘fit in?//

    In what public school in America will you learn this? The public school playground teaches kids to conform, or else.
    And since when did it become a school’s job to teach patience, or a sense of humor? Will joke telling be added the annual tests required by No Child Left Behind? I imagine kid will continue to learn those traits the same way they have for thousands of years. From their parents, neighbors, friends, relatives, etc.

    Somehow, our civilization in this country did just find up until the 1920s without the shared cultural experience of mandatory public school. This shared experience so many people seem fond of was invented to get people off the farms and into the factories. There was nothing noble about it. Read “The Underground History of American Education” by John Gatto sometime. The entire text is available online.

  115. Fiona, I hear you and I applaud your positive outlook and can-do attitude. I’m honestly glad your efforts have helped make positive changes in your local schools.

    Our decision to homeschool was about having a particular lifestyle along with freedom in education and a few other factors. Basically, homeschooling is best for our family right now. I’d still want to do it even if we had the best public schools in the state in our town. Plus, it’s a lot of fun! My kids and I are fortunate to have this time together — they’re only kids for a short time — and we’re making the most of it.

    With my limited “free” time, I choose to support a private organization that offers alternatives and supplements to public school for young people (and some adults) for whom public school doesn’t/didn’t work. I see significant, tangible results for small groups of people each year. That’s powerful and meaningful to me.

  116. Eddie @114I don’t know, but isn’t it slightly presumptuous to assume that the average parent will be better than the average teacher?

    No, it’s not presumptuous. The skill set that a one-on-one tutor needs is entirely different from what a teacher of two dozen requires.

    Tripp@166: You’re right about one thing. It’s impossible to make any generalizations about homeschooling. You can’t even generalize within families, as Mfitz pointed out above – two kids, same family, totally different outcomes.

  117. Cassie@121: No, it’s not presumptuous. The skill set that a one-on-one tutor needs is entirely different from what a teacher of two dozen requires.

    Absolutely right.

    Many teachers are no doubt better at controlling 20-40 kids than the average parent may be. But it’s really not about controlling, herding, or parking kids for 7 hours a day –it’s about teaching.

    Give me a caring, involved “amateur” parent actively involved with a child over a great teacher who has to spend most of his/her time contending with everthing -but- teaching any day of the week.

  118. #119 COD
    //Somehow, our civilization in this country did just find up until the 1920s without the shared cultural experience of mandatory public school. This shared experience so many people seem fond of was invented to get people off the farms and into the factories. There was nothing noble about it.//

    Oh, yeah?

    Please tell that to African-Americans who got the used books that were “unfit” -i.e. too used, torn, dirty or out-of-date, for “white” kids, so they were passed on to the “coloreds.”

    Please tell that to the Asian-Americans who were not even allowed to go to any “public” schools in many cities.

    Tell it to the Native Americans, too.

    In fact, the WASPs were the ones who benefited most from them pre-’70s segregated schools. They were also the ones who were first, in the South, to start private schools so their kids didn’t have to go to desegregated schools. I see that so much is a local homeschooling community –not all home schoolers, but one local group in particular.

    I am the mother of two children who would not have been allowed to get a “real” desegregated public education pre 1920, or even pre 1970, so give me a break! It was NOT better in “the good old days” for many citizens.

  119. to AliceB @#85

    You are correct that most of the students I see are not likely to be going to Stanford. Some are, or at least could, but the range of students at my institution is quite broad. I teach at a 2-year institution designed to feed students into the state university system. Its main purpose is to gather up the students from the third quartile of high school students and get them academically prepared for a four-year institution, which we do very well (our students do better at those 4-yrs than students who start there do). We also get higher-ranked students who can’t or won’t move their lives around for a remote 4-yr campus – single parents, students with full-time jobs, students looking to save on tuition money before moving on, and so on. Lots of non-traditional students of all varieties, too. Admissions is NOT selective, nor is it supposed to be. In an average semester I see about 120 students. Maybe five of them could survive comfortably at the Ivy League school from which I graduated. Another 15-20 are really stretching to come to us – they have a great deal of difficulty functioning as university students in any meaningful way because they lack basic knowledge, basic skills, and/or an ability to deal with heterogeneous groups. Homeschoolers are over-represented in both of these categories, in my experience.

  120. Cassie:

    “Eddie @114I don’t know, but isn’t it slightly presumptuous to assume that the average parent will be better than the average teacher?

    No, it’s not presumptuous. The skill set that a one-on-one tutor needs is entirely different from what a teacher of two dozen requires. ”

    *sigh* how bout you respond to my point instead of chopping semantics. Fine – if you don’t want an unqualified architect building your house, why do you want an unqualified person tutoring/teaching/facilitating the learning of your kids?

  121. To Cassie @#96

    Okay, but a couple of caveats:

    1. I looked at this book in 2000, so other than the overwhelming sense of academic apocalypse I got from reading it, I don’t recall too many details.

    And 2. I took the publisher at their word that it was the best-selling homeschool American history textbook – that’s what it said on the cover. I suppose they could have been exaggerating, but there you go. It wasn’t worth researching.

    The book was called something like “America’s Providential History,” and as I recall its main idea was that the history of the US somehow was an unfolding of divine will. I found this problematic on many levels.

    First, history is a discipline – it has rules, methods, and standards of evidence. This is why it is difficult to teach without at least some training – history is not just what happened; it is a way of analyzing what happened. This book did not meet any of those standards, nor really could it. Providence is by definition a matter of faith, not evidence, and therefore more suitable to a religion course than a history course. When your fall-back position is “God willed it so,” that sort of precludes any serious analysis of evidence. Omniscience and omnipotence will do that.

    Second, it made any number of factual errors of the sort common to fundamentalist pronouncements all over these days – the US was founded as a “Christian nation” (demonstrably false – the US is a nation mostly of rather zealous Christians, but that is not the same thing), the Founding Fathers were evangelicals (also demonstrably false – there were evangelicals floating about in 1787, but these were not them), you can extrapolate all of American history from John Winthrop (what about William Penn? Thomas Jefferson? or, if you are fixated on Puritans, Roger Williams, who was advocating the separation of church and state in 1635?) And so on. You talk about agenda-driven drivel that is light on facts? This book had it in spades.

    There was probably more. But fact-free preaching without regard to historical methods, standards or evidence sort of did me in. I bogged down about halfway through and never finished the book. It just wasn’t getting better. And it scares me that anyone – homeschooled or not – would consider this appropriate material to stuff into young minds.

    As for what to recommend, well.

    For younger students, I got nothin’. I am completely unfamiliar with anything K-8. For high school students, I would actually take a look at the college survey texts. Most of them are written at about a 10th grade level anyway, and can be decently substantive without noticeably pushing any agenda too hard. I’ve had success with Gillon and Matson’s “American Experiement,” and there are any number of good ones. Go to your nearest university/college bookstore and skim through the History 101 textbook – it might work for you. At worst, it might require a bit more investment of your time to work through it, but from what I gather in the comments here, that is something homeschoolers pride themselves on providing anyway.

  122. Eddie @ 126 *sigh* how bout you respond to my point instead of chopping semantics. Fine – if you don’t want an unqualified architect building your house, why do you want an unqualified person tutoring/teaching/facilitating the learning of your kids?

    [sigh]

    Do I want an architect who designs three bedroom colonial houses for suburbia to design a skyscraper?

    Do I want a probate lawyer to defend me against murder charges?

    Different skills. A teacher in a school room setting must have a whole set of skills that I don’t require to teach my children at home. Back in college, I listened to ed majors gripe about how they learned more about classroom management than anything else.

    A diploma from a college is no guarantee of competence in a teacher. My lack of education degree does not make me unqualified to teach – I’ve taught in classrooms.

  123. Sorry Cassie, I’m not meaning to personalise. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there’s no guarantee a parent is going to do a better job educating their kids one-(or two or three etc)-on-one than a teacher would in a class of 20 plus. Some do, I’m sure, but that depends on the parent, the kid, and the teacher they would have had.

    I just think for most people a school-based education works just fine, thank you very much, even for bright or slightly odd kids. I was both, and it worked fine for me :). Bored on occasion, but I was also bored by various parts of college and work.

    Bright kids can be extended at home even if they go to school.

  124. [horribly embarrassed]

    Oh, David, I’m sorry you were inflicted with that book. It is without a doubt one of the worst agenda-driven pieces of trash I’ve yet seen. But there are plenty more out there from the other end of the spectrum, where no white-Anglo-Saxon-man did anything of any value. I’d be happy with something that chronologically laid out the history of the US with actual dates/datelines. My son’s public school history book didn’t even mention the date of Cornwallis’ surrender. That was as far as I chose to look before handing it back to him with disgust. How can a teacher or a homeschooler use that?

    If you’re looking for a side job, go for a comprehensive middle school (grade 5-8) US history book. I know hundreds if not thousands of homeschoolers who would buy it.

    I’ll check out your recommendation. Thank you for it.

  125. Eddie, I’m not taking it personally, I’m just proving that competence is not granted by a piece of paper. Just as there are specialties in the law or in architecture, there are also specialties in education. Being a tutor doesn’t require a degree in education.

    There are plenty of studies that show that parents without high school educations are successfully educating their children. Do we dare to call them incompetent?

    I’ll take this part of the discussion a bit further, if you don’t mind. There are some people in the homeschooling dialog who believe that our American educational system fails our children because it takes them too long to be employed in their chosen field of study. For example, my son is taking high school English. When he goes to college, he will take two other courses that cover exactly the same material.* He will be done with AP Calc, but there’s a strong likelihood that he’ll be stuck taking some 101 math class. Instead of moving students on to their majors, we force them to repeat classes that they don’t need.

    I appreciate the need for a liberal arts education – I have a liberal arts degree myself. But homeschool can cut out a lot of that repetitious, costly educational morass and move students into jobs and careers more quickly. Don’t ask me how many homeschooled high schoolers I know taking college classes, I don’t think I could. When those students enroll full-time in college, they’ll often have a sophomore standing and get into the job market a year or more than their public schooled contemporaries.

    *Or not. Finally someone figured out a way for high school students to take English 101 at a local college during high school and let the credit apply to both the high school and college diploma. I wonder if this wasn’t a response to middle and lower class families unable to afford college for their children, based on the evidence that homeschoolers were succeeding in the classwork.

  126. I was publicly schooled, and at generally excellent schools. With the exception of two teachers, all of my teachers were very dedicated to their students and to teaching them the skills the State decreed necessary for those students’ success. I also had most of a college experience. I was very, very well schooled.

    My education began after that. I am trying to educate my children (all four homeschooled), not school them.

  127. “Socialization” is a reason to keep kids out of public schools, not keep them in. I got plenty of practice learning to interact with people in a civilized manner by meeting other kids on my block, going to the park, and so forth. What I- and many people I know- got at school was year after year of relentless abuse, at the hands of people we were forced to be in close proximity to, day after day. You were strong and learned to abuse and dominate, or you were weak and learned to live with being abused and dominated, or you were somewhere in the middle and learned not to speak up or interfere.

    The “socialization” of the schools has little bearing on preparing for adult life, because virtually no law-abiding adult a in a first-world country will ever have to deal with anything even close to the Hobbesian chaos and relentless cruelty that characterizes the school environment for millions of children. Really, unless you’re going to spend your adult life as a mob enforcer, a Somali warlord, or an inmate of a poorly supervised maximum-security prison, the school social experience teaches little that’s useful. (Useful to the student, at any rate. Citizens raised in an environment where the most valuable survival traits are cringing submissiveness and reflexive conformity are presumably useful to someone or other.)

    This sort of environment is bad in general, but it’s especially awful for kids who are noticeably deviant in some way- weird looking, too smart, interested in lame nerd stuff like science or history, socially awkward, whatever. If I had a kid who came even close to any of those categories, I’d sooner drop him off in the forest to be raised by wolves than send him to a public school. (Or a lot of private schools, for that matter.)

    Mfitz,

    “I think “opting out” means either running away or putting your head in the sand. If you are not willing to stay engaged and work to fix a system, any system, then you have no right at all to comment on its problems…. I really have no patience for people who bitch and moan about things they are not willing to work to fix.”

    It’s very important how one chooses the questions one asks about social problems, because that determines the possible range of answers. If the relevant question is “How do we make the public schools better?”, then taking your kids out of the public school could be called “running away.” (Not that running away is always the wrong choice- if I had a kid inside a burning house, I’d get him the hell out first and worry about how to fix the faulty wiring later.) The question frames the issue in a particular way, to the advantage of some ideologies and to the disadvantage of others, by putting some courses of action outside the range of acceptable answers before the debate has even begun.

    But why should everyone consider that the problem? I consider the relevant question to be, “How do we make education better?” This is not the same question. It treats the government schools as possible means to my desired end, not an end in themselves. If that is the question, then educating ones children at home is not “running away” from the problem; it’s merely addressing the issue in a way you don’t like.

  128. From reading this thread I’d be under the impression that every child that goes through middle school is subjected to the worst behavior imaginable that society can provide, that they will be scarred or damaged in some way for life, if they are bright they will receive no learning whatsoever of any use and will spend their times in unproductive boredom, and if they have a learning disability they will be ignored or abused.

    Bullshit.

    Yes, in some places, in some cases, it occurs. Just as in some homes, parents abuse their children. It doesn’t make it the norm. Somehow the majority of adults on this board managed to survive middle school, even learn something, and lead productive lives. Surprise!

    Homeschooling may be a good choice for a kid or a parent. But it serves no one to demonize public schools that, overall, have done a pretty good job at getting the vast (vast) majority of this world educated so that they can function in society.

  129. Eddie@130, look at it this way. At the moment my daughter was born, she didn’t know anything. Now she is three.

    She learned to roll over, sit up, and walk while she was under our care. We taught her to talk (or at least, we didn’t get in her way while she taught herself to talk). We taught her to identify her colors, shapes, numbers, and letters. We read books to her and took her to museums. We took her to the zoo. We hiked with her. We taught her how to do puzzles and cut with scissors and sort the laundry and dust furniture. We improved her grammar and her manners with gentle reminders. We taught her how to identify the different player positions on a baseball diamond. We taught her about big and small, long and short, heavy and light, hot and cold. We taught her names of dinosaurs and planets.

    She sits on my lap, points to a picture of a spider, and says “That’s not an insect – it has too many legs. And it only has two body parts. An insect has a head, a thorax, and an abdomen.”

    She’s only three years old, so everyone agrees that it’s okay for us to teach her things for now. But in two years, suddenly we’ll become unqualified? Suddenly the methods we’ve used to teach her so far will magically stop working, and only a credentialled teacher will be able to fill the gap? Suddenly reading her stories and taking her to museums and talking to her about things will become the educational equivalent of wiring done by a drunk apprentice electrician?

    And: if you really don’t think I’d be qualified to teach a FIVE-YEAR-OLD what she needs to know, what does that say about the value of MY public school education?

  130. AliceB, I speak from 12 years of experience.

    All homeschooling dialogs devolve into public school defense/bashing, socialization, and accusations that homeschoolers are racists.

    Middle school always comes up, too.

    This discussion isn’t going to break the record. [sigh]

    It has been slightly more civilized that most, however.

  131. No no Cassie, I think they have almost solved it and come to the ULTIMATE CONCLUSION. Don’t stop them now, I smell epiphany.

  132. Alice B #135

    I went to public school. I did not have a horrible experience. It was fine. My education was decent. I was not abused, or scarred for life.

    However, much of it was a colossal waste of time. I was “gifted,” which meant that many of my classes consisted of teachers handing me the textbook and telling me to come to them when it was time for the unit test.

    No one has yet offered me a compelling reason for similarly wasting my children’s time, and the resources of teachers that simply wouldn’t have time for them.

    At home, in a tutoring situation, I can ensure that their educational time is efficient, and is not wasted. Because we do that, they have free time in which to pursue their own interests and passions.

    So — I’m not demonizing the schools. It’s just I think that both my kids, and the schools, benefit from not having them in the schools.

  133. I had a very good public school education– to the point where I’m unwilling to subject my children to anything less. But the biggest arguments for homeschooling have been my observations in college and beyond:

    1) In college, I had several friends who were education majors. Their descriptions of the classes were horrifying– mandatory classes in elementary school math, where several of their peers were struggling, separated classes in diversity that taught that separate classes in diversity were worthless, a whole lot of busywork filling out worksheets, and so on. A few of my friends were wistful about my (then) engineering major because it actually sounded challenging.

    2) I work for a photography studio that does yearbook photography and our clients include one of the poorest schools in the area and one of the richest. Honestly, I’d be afraid to send my child to either one. At the poor school we have the nightmare of trying to photograph kids who are too high to track the camera. At the rich school we have kids who are in for a rude awakening someday when they have to deal with the fact that their parents won’t replace things when they lose them. (Their drugs are after-hours, at least.)

    That’s not my problem with the schools, though. My problem is that 95%+ of these kids obviously hate being there, and speak about hating their schooling, the subjects, the place. Kids are so curious; what are we doing to kill that?

    3) I have a friend who is an English teacher at the junior high level. She routinely deals with students who are incapable of forming coherent sentences, who have no idea about the parts of speech, and pretty well hold the class back until they can be taught these subjects. But what’s worse is the testing. They’ve got quarterly tests, pre- and post-quarterly tests, progress tests, review tests— all mandatory. She’s not allowed to teach novels in an English class until those are all done– the last month of school. She was telling me that she’s managed to slip in “Flowers For Algernon” and The Diary of Anne Frank in spite of the rules this year.

    4) California wants certification? How about certifying the teachers in the system first? There is a statute that allows for “emergency certifications”– a few years after it was put in place, over 10% of the teachers in the state were not certified. Now that percentage is more than twice as much.

    *

    I used to think of homeschooling as a last resort. As time goes by, I’m considering it more and more– and what’s more, I’m getting a lot of support from the teachers I know. They know what the public school system is like around here and they don’t consider it the best alternative by any means.

    Incidentally, there are a lot of versions of homeschooling that don’t rely on a single parent-educator. A coworker of Evil Rob’s has her children taught with a once-a-week tutoring system; she rightly points out that they’re getting far more face time than their peers in classrooms of twenty-five plus. (I was always in classes of thirty or more, BTW. I just had the luck to be in a group of kids who collectively decided that we got to have a LOT more fun if we all behaved.) There are, as pointed out above, co-op learning groups where parents teach their particular strength.

    If I were to homeschool, I would probably do a hybrid system with bringing in tutors, teaching myself, and using the assistance of my mother, who used to be a substitute teacher. And if I didn’t know the subject, I’d be very sure to research it before trying to teach it– part of my reluctance to homeschool is the idea of all the studying I’ll have to do.

  134. I was home schooled for High School and I have to say I completely agree with many of Mr. Scalzi’s points, and completely disagree with many others. First, let me say that my particular School District (Lake Washington #414, Washington State) had a center that specialized in classes students wouldn’t normally be able to taught by their parents. Math, science, drama, that sort of thing. I made many friends, fell in love with a girl and went to prom with her and while I recognize that my district’s program might be unique I also know that nearly no one in my area has ever heard of it. Very few people I talk to in the area, even ones with children realize that I wasn’t really HOME schooled, I just went to a different kind of school once or twice a week and then did (or didn’t do) a lot of home studying and homework. I did meet a lot of kids with very little socialization but looking back on it I think that was more to do with them being in High School than Home school, and in many cases (mine included) the social awkwardness that drove them away from public schools.

    I had few friends in public schools, I was picked on and teased heavily and by the time I was in 6th grade I was a depressed quiet little child with anger management issues. Had I been home schooled then I probably would not have had the same level of teasing and low self esteem, but that’s speculative. Once I got into sixth grade I began to act at a local youth theater. This was where my socialization finally began, not in school, not in the home, but outside of it.

    In essence, if you’re considering home schooling your children you should look at the programs your local district has, and consider that home schooling is not the same as grounding. Children can leave the house for things other than school. Sports, boy scouts, theater, youth centers, any of these are, in many ways, far better methods of socializing children of any age.

    Oh, and how come every time I hear about an unsocialized home schooler he’s either got a camera in his face or is standing in front of a microphone. Spelling Bees are not social occasions.

  135. COD and Lisa and everyone else,

    I appreciate getting your points of view. As I said earlier it is impossible to say anything general about a topic as diverse as homeschooling.

    Still I do appreciate having a civilized discussion about this and would like to continue that.

    //What about the ability to be different and still ‘fit in?//

    In what public school in America will you learn this? The public school playground teaches kids to conform, or else.
    And since when did it become a school’s job to teach patience, or a sense of humor? Will joke telling be added the annual tests required by No Child Left Behind? I imagine kid will continue to learn those traits the same way they have for thousands of years. From their parents, neighbors, friends, relatives, etc.

    Perry Elementary school to be exact. Then Algonquin middle school. Thank you for asking.

    I was bright and slightly overweight. I am convinced that the middle school years are pretty awful for most adolescents. I can barely stand being around my own kids when they are that age. The coping skill I learned at that time was being funny – specifically making my classmates laugh. I already knew how to make my Mom laugh but that only made me weird to my classmates.

    Learning Uncle Henry’s sense of humor makes a kid odd not funny.

    As a coach I have also noticed homeschoolers expect more adult attention than is possible in that group setting. They expect to interact one on one with the coach.

    I know the history of public schooling and I know many of the problems. I experienced many of them. I also know I am fortunate to live in a place with excellent public schools which was a personal choice I have made that I am fortunate to be able to make.

    From my perspective many of the homeschooling proponents exaggerate the problems with public schools and ignore some of the benefits. I can’t relate very well to some of the stories here.

    One quick example – bullying. I know bullying. I was a victim. Fortunately over time I’ve learned some good things from it but I want it eliminated so no other kids faces it. Well just this weekend I was at an Elementary school attending a HS speech competition and the main hall had a series of posters up that addressed bullying and worked to eliminate it. I’m no Pollyanna and I don’t think a few posters by themselves will make a difference but that showed that the school was interested in addressing the problem.

    In a way homeschooling feels like a cop-out (here comes my 60’s upbringing) and “tune in, turn on, and drop out” sounds groovy but it doesn’t help society.

    I’m just saying. I don’t think people should sacrifice their kids to help society but sometimes dropping out is not the answer either.

  136. Well, I resent like hell when someone says I’m copping/dropping out of society when I’m doing nothing but the sort. Homeschooling to me seems like one of the most community/society/world-involved things I’ve done. We are in the community, my kids alone and with me, every single day. In a variety of settings and in very involved ways that seem way more tuned-in than just dropping my kids off at a building all day and picking them up seven hours later.

    And thus lies the problem of every homeschool debate. It doesn’t seem like the real issues are what it is about. It is about people getting offended at the notion that they are not making the best decision for their own kids. People who put their kids in PS are villified as putting their kids in some kind of ineffectual, hellish, war zone. HS parents are accused of sheltering their kids from society and turning them into freaks.

    The truth is, most of the time, neither is the case. People need to do what is best for their kids, their family, based on their situation and their location, needs, interests, financial situation, whatever. I believe that in most all cases, parents do have the best interests of their kids and family at heart and make the best decisions they can that will work the best for their family. Both PS, HS and Private for that matter are legitimate options. The responsibility we have as parents is to guide our kids to an appropriate education for them. Not to do it in any one particular way.

    My only concern is that people inform themselves, as objectively as possible, with all the options.

  137. Lisa,

    Well, I resent like hell when someone says I’m copping/dropping out of society when I’m doing nothing but the sort.

    Fair enough. I really do appreciate getting your viewpoint. After I wrote my last comment it occurred to me that what I said in this paragraph could be turned around and still be true:

    From my perspective many of the homeschooling proponents exaggerate the problems with public schools and ignore some of the benefits. I can’t relate very well to some of the stories here.

    Swap “public schools” with “home schools” and it is still true.

    I suppose it is human nature to be afraid of something different and it is human nature to worry about how our children will do.

    Thank you for letting me say some things that annoyed you and thank you for responding.

  138. Leaving aside competence and topic issues, the problem here is that people think that an education is about learning readin’ ritin’ ‘rithmetic. It most certainly is NOT. An education is about learning to function at the level needed to live in our society, hopefully without being restricted to being the lowest man on the totem pole. Frankly, no family by itself can provide this, and our society has developed mechanisms for improving upon the situation. Take, for example, the school counselor who can tell you to avoid going to Podunk State, which has a truly and disturbingly bad physics program, or a history teacher who can let students know that all the deadwood from when they were students at uni are still there. Parents do not have typically have access to these resources. Parents are not peers and therefore cannot substitute for socializing to the peer group, which is something kids damned well better learn. Parents cannot provide the environment needed for learning to signal all manner of behaviors that a person needs to learn to function well with others (including in unpleasant situations) because the power structure of the parent-child relationship overrides other possible types of interaction for much of a kid’s developmental years. Frankly, homeschooling kids handicaps them in ways you cannot imagine. That’s why I could never do that to my hypothetisized dread spawn.

    Now, back to that other issue. Anyone can do the job of dozens of other people? Bull. That idea ignores the real world implications of education, both for the person being educated and for society at large. I can teach basic physics better than many people with years more experience, but only (and I stress ONLY) because I had training from someone with a long history in physics education research. I am far from competent to dabble or instruct in most other fields though, and I recognize this limitation (unlike the physicists who shoulder a large part of the blame for the equities end of the subprime crisis because they tried to shoehorn a type of thinking onto something it doesn’t work for). If you are exception enough that this last bit about limitations doesn’t apply to you, then you are so far from the typical person that we can safely assume you are not the typical homeschooling parent.

  139. agm, you’re offering proof by carefully arranged antidote. As a high-school student, I was better off relying on my dad (who was an adminstrator at a large urban school district, and on a first-name basis with local college officials) than on my school guidance counselor (whose idea of ‘guidance’ was to tell people not in the Honors program that maybe they should think about vocational school). A homeschooled kid who has plenty of time to engage in extracurricular activities like 4-H, swim team and LAN parties is going to have a lot more positive peer interaction than his cousin who spends 6 hours a day in classes and has 4-5 hours a homework per night, plus studying for exams.

    Julia, the nerve you hit is the one that responds to people who blather about things they don’t know much about, telling people how to do things they themselves aren’t interested in, based on “well I’m on the Internet and I feel like shooting my mouth off”. If it makes you feel better to think of this as some kind of parent-vs-childfree smackdown, I’m not going to stop you from wallowing. But it’s not what you’ve done with your uterus that makes your post ignorant.

  140. <<>>

    This is a surprise to my family, which has succesfully provided this. This would similarly be a surprise to the hundreds of homeschooled families we know (having homeschooled in three states, we know a lot of them), who also provide this.

    <<<>>>

    This does not match up with my experience in preparing homeschooled kids for college at all. We have had all the information we need and are quite capable of asking questions to find out more. Our college visits and research have been quite illuminating. In fact, we visited an engineering school for our middle son this past week, and he was strongly encouraged to apply for the scholarships they are offering JUST TO ATTRACT MORE HOMESCHOOLED ENGINEERING APPLICANTS. That is – the scholarship funds at this PUBLIC university are RESERVED for homeschoolers, because the faculty so strongly believes that homeschoolers bring to the table what is needed to succeed in this field. However, we are well aware of the relative strengths and weaknesses of this school and will weigh the scholarship opportunities, along with other advantages/disadvantages, before assisting our son in making a decision.

    <<<>>>

    Well, we agree that parents are not peers. I’m not sure why anyone would assume that homeschooling families think this. My kids have socialized with kids of all ages and backgrounds, and, in fact, in some of the places we have lived, have had a more diverse peer group in our homeschool community and the community itself than we would find in our local suburban schools. My kids and their homeschooled friends are in high demand as employees, volunteers, and friends. In fact, I just saw another ad for a business SPECIFICALLY seeking homeschooled kids as employees for this summer. I guess it’s all that lack of social skills and ability to handle money, show up on time, etc., that’s causing them to recruit homeschoolers.

    <<<>>>

    Again, what an interesting thing to find out after all my years of providing the environment my kids have needed to successfully grow up and attend college, have jobs, manage their relationships well, etc.

    <<<>>>

    I would agree that your homeschooling your kids might have this effect. However, fortunately, homeschooling is rather self-selecting for people who aren’t considering their prospective children as hypothesized dread spawn.

    <<<>>>

    I urge you to read the Associated Press story today that points out that, for instance, schools in Detroit now have a 25% graduation rate, many other cities only slightly better, many at 50%, and even suburban schools around 70%. Here is one link:
    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/H/HIGH_SCHOOL_GRAD_RATES?SITE=PAREA&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
    I must say, this is not exactly intimidating to homeschoolers, this great job being done by professional educators in our public schools.

    I’ve actually found it to be easier to homeschool my kids than to deal with the inflexibility and goofiness of “the system” for the years I tried as hard as I could to make it work for our family when our older children were young. I’m not saying I do the jobs of 20 people; I’m saying I do the job of one homeschool mom.

    <<<>>>

    I don’t think you have a clue what typical homeschooling parents DO or how homeschooling typically works. It’s true, I’m not a physics expert. However, my kids attended a physics and engineering “club” run by someone who IS a physics expert, and the son who is going to pursue a B.S. is taking physics at our local college before he goes away to school. By the way, he is currently making the grade in the college classes he is attending, so I think the physics problem solved. I have a friend whose always-homeschooled daughter is now TEACHING physics at a university (that’s right: homeschooled kid becomes physics professor — PhD and all!), despite the fact that neither of her parents were physics experts. They helped facilitate her education in the areas of her interests and expertise — they didn’t become her Only Insight Into Physics. This is what homeschoolers everywhere do. However, I must admit that there are unbelievably good physics resources out there for anyone wanting to learn about physics, and many homeschoolers avail themselves of these and go on to perform quite successfully in physics at the college level. Homeschoolers also manage to become fluent in foreign languages their parents don’t speak (my oldest son is very competent in Spanish and often called on by his employer to translate. Just yesterday he translated for someone in a physician’s office just because they needed someone while he was there. A woman in the waiting room turned to me and said, “My daughter took three years of Spanish in high school and can’t speak a word of it.” Again, this does not exactly make me feel incompetent — but I do keep in mind that *I* did not *teach* him Spanish, I merely facilitated his learning it.

    I could go on and on. But this misrepresentation of homeschooling is quite painful to read over and over; people want to believe that their preconceptions are correct and are willing to pass them along without examining how homeschooling works in reality. I’m glad I looked beyond my initial *anti* homeschooling feelings to find what works so well for so many of us.

  141. I think AGMs strong objections come from his/her archaic idea of what it is that a teacher does. Teachers are not these elitist experts that pour their expertise into an empty vessel, the child. Look at Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, even Albert Einstein to a large extent. None of these people had any schooling from any teacher/expert in their respective fields. People are not taught, they teach themselves.

    A teacher provides opportunity; facilitates the child teaching him or herself. Now, this may mean providing information, or assisting the student to find another expert in the field to provide information or apprenticeships. But in general, if their opportunities are not blocked in some way, anyone can learn almost anything themselves. Teachers are merely guides that help light the way.

    As for all this parents can’t be peers bullshit, that doesn’t even make sense if you have even skimmed here what every homeschool family has been saying ad nauseum. They are not trying to be their children’s peers and entire social life. Their children are not sitting home all day without any interaction with the outside world and their own peers. Get over that misconception or there is no point in even talking further about it because you are talking from a totally false position.

  142. The very last thing I want from my kids is to be their peer.

    I am their mother. Why on earth would I step down to be a peer?

  143. Over the many years our unsocialized sheltered homeschool kids have participated successfully and joyfully in: piano lessons, ice skating lessons/clubs, guitar lessons, neighborhood play (and play and play and play), Cub scouts, Boy Scouts (two Eagles so far — my third son says he will make the hat trick, but I’m not counting Eagles before they hatch), recreational soccer, competitive soccer, YMCA soccer, baseball, basketball, karate, swimming (public pool, private pool, neighborhood pool), six or so homeschool groups and their various activities including campouts/co-ops/picnics/park days/plays/talent shows/writing group, engineering club, book clubs, teen book & movie club, gymnastics, homeschool co-op (Shakespeare, science, etc.), university continuing education classes, community college classes, etc. We’ve also hosted an exchange student from another country and sent one kid to South America for a school year — another one is probably going to Mexico this summer. Don’t get me started on pickup games of football, volleyball, etc. nor their social video gaming (I can’t believe I once worried that this might NOT be social – hah!) and game development (co-creating games with friends – yes, using existing software) nor their church activities, volunteer work (animal shelter, library, homeschool conferences, trail clearing, teaching ESL). Yikes – I left out canoeing and hiking (all in unsocialized groups, of course) — the parties, the dances, and the dating.

    Our house has generally been full not only of OUR kids, but also the neighborhood kids (I’d like to have a dollar for every kid who’s begged for me to homeschool him – and I am talking kids from 7 to 17) and our homeschooling friends.

    Now, the thing is, I don’t even think this is necessary to homeschooling. I really don’t. It can even be a problem sometimes. (The homeschool in-joke is: Yes, yes; socialization is a big problem for us. There’s just too darn much of it). But it happens that I have active kids, and we are a high energy family. We also are able to make some good trades with people (for instance, our son went to Ecuador in a private exchange I arranged after hosting a student here), and we’ve been at this for a while with multiple kids with differing interests and in different locales, resulting in a ridiculous list.

    But I offer this just to give a closer-to-reality picture to people who imagine us sitting in my kitchen at the table with our small stack of “school books” (another big Ha! to that one. Many homeschoolers don’t use SCHOOL books because we are so busy reading real ones).

    Oh, and I forgot to mention their various business ventures: like pet sitting, kid-sitting, yard work, and far, far too many lemonade stands. Then we graduated to part-time and full-time jobs (I know – boggles the mind! Homeschool kids working with the public and getting paid for it! LOL)

    Hope this provides a little more background. Other families choose other approaches to activities that are perhaps more sane — but get this — even with ALL those things we’ve done/we’re doing, we also had hours to read aloud, cook together, discuss politics and go vote, visit our relatives, build computers, identify fungi (we lived in Mississippi for a while and there were just an unbelievable number of mushroom species right on our property), bird watch (O! The Hummingbird Festival in Holly Springs Mississippi!), go apple picking, and, most important of all, fuss with brothers over who has committed the biggest offense against which other brother and why and how and for what duration. Oh yeah, and clean the bathrooms.

    It’s a family. That’s homeschooling. That’s why it works, and that’s why it can’t be evaluated on school terms. And that’s why a mom and/or a dad can be successful at it.

  144. My conclusion is that homeschooling is simply classist just as private schools are. It is not an option for the low income brackets. And the more families that have the luxury to opt out of the public system the less motivation there will be to fix it leaving the poor with the scraps and widening the gap.

  145. Anon @153

    Actually, in many cases, homeschooling is the private school option of the not so rich. I am not alone in my single-motherhood, 2 jobbing, 30K salary with 2 kids (and one other kid who is not mine that I teach at cost). I originally had thought I’d send my kids to Montessori school (and would have also sent them to public charter montessori if one had been locally available) but, alas, I cannot afford it. So, homeschool is the much cheaper option.

    My neighbor down the street is a SAHM/homeschooler because she cannot afford the before and after school daycare and miscellaneous costs of sending her kid to school. She also cannot drive (and no bus is provided) to the public school her child is districted to attend. I’m not saying their aren’t rich, classist homeschoolers, but try not to stereotype us all, okay?

    Also, anyone who has ever visited a variety of different suburban, rural and urban public schools would not argue that class politics is not alive and well in PS. While a suburban school was building a multimillion dollar sports complex in Blue Valley Schools in suburban Kansas City, I entered the urban KC elementary school I taught by going through a metal detector and being patted down, and where we did not have a gymnasium at all, and where there was no school library, and where the water in the drinking fountains was rusty yellow and leaked through the ceilings below. Ever read Kozol’s Savage Inequalities? Don’t tell me classism doesn’t show itself prominantly in public school.

  146. Right, there’s another myth. Homeschooling gets criticized for being classist. My family is a one-income family, that’s true. We’ve managed to spend money on lessons and opportunities for the kids, but for many years, our second car was well-over-ten years old and was an out-of-style Griswald station wagon.

    When we went to Mount Rushmore, we tent-camped all the way there from Mississippi, packed all our own food and prepared it as we went. Otherwise, we would not have been able to afford to go.

    We are remodeling our fixer-upper house, doing the work ourselves. Meaning the plumbing, the sheetrock, the painting, the cabinets. You get the picture. We don’t pay for house cleaning, yard work, and most car maintenance (and many repairs, when possible). We love to find books, resources and toys second hand. Whenever possible we barter for opportunities and create our own learning trades — I lead a writers group for a buncha kids and someone else leads engineering or crafts. We pack our lunch and our thermos of tea for field trips and make our pizza from scratch.

    Now that my youngest child is ten, I freelance, working late and early hours to make everything fit. My husband and I have worked very hard to save for retirement while consciously choosing to have a parent-at-home despite financial losses due to that decision. We have no regrets, but spare me the portrayal of my family as upper class snobs who *opt out.* We made sacrifices to take direct personal responsibility for the children we brought into the world, and we know others who live joyful lives but much closer to the bone in order to make this choice work.

    I’d still call my family solidly middle class, but in my homeschool groups, there have been lots of one-income families who by necessity and philosophy shop only at thrift stores, make their own home furnishings, rent modest homes or *trailers*. They would be really surprised to find themselves considered to have any kind of “luxury;” in fact, they even qualify for scholarships for homeschool conferences.

    Aaaaannnnnddd, before anyone says “yeah, but only one-income families can do it,” please know that families with two earners make it work as well. That is challenging, to be sure, especially in certain situations, but people work it out if that is their need and priority.

    Just like there is no one picture of THE representative *public school family,* there is not a single picture of THE representative *homeschool family.* We work it out in different ways, according to our means and priorities. Yes, one of my kids has had expensive ice skating lessons, but it was partly possible because of the Griswald car and the thermos of tea – not to mention a family’s ingenuity at working out trades and cooperative learning.

    Not looking for any accolades for making this work, you understand, but frankly I think this is one of the things that homeschooling (not me, just the process) should be recognized for. It rewards personal responsibility and high ingenuity; it’s really a very entrepreneurial process in a sort of bootstraps way.

    It always strikes me as odd that many homeschooling critics often celebrate (or say they celebrate) individualism, responsibility, thrift and prioritizing, thinking outside the box, leaps of creativity, achievement, entrepreneurial endeavors, community cooperation and so on — but fail to see the pervasive way in which these qualities characterize homeschooling.

  147. Jeanne@148 and 155,

    OK, here I go sticking my head out again. Go ahead, nail it.

    Read your comment at 148. Paraphrasing – homeschoolers get special scholarships no one else can get. They get special job offers. They obviously get a much better education than, say, those awful public schools in Detroit (which is poor and non-white).

    For some homeschooling is a way to opt-out of the public school system. I know Lisa got mad as hell when I suggested she was copping out or dropping out because she was not dropping out of society but you must admit homeschooling is an opt-out of public schools. And yes, I know you still pay your taxes for public schools but can you admit that you would have a whole lot more skin in the public-school game if in addition to paying taxes your kids went there?

    Put bluntly – how is homeschooling different from white-flight when the poor start moving into a neighborhood? Those with the means flee. The rest are left to fend for themselves.

    I know these are pretty big social concerns and they are too big to place on any one group’s shoulders. I don’t have the answers. In many ways I have done a similar thing when I moved to a place where I could work and associate with people of roughly the same education and income I have. I think we all engage in some kinds of self-segregation, and I can’t in all fairness ask you to do what I have not done. I guess I am asking that we all be aware of how the personal choices we make for good reasons may lead to certain outcomes.

    Personally I think the strong should help the weak and I try to follow what Jesus said when he said “what you do to the least of us you do to me” but that is my personal choice. I cannot judge others. Maybe I can open some minds as people have opened mine.

    That is why I really do appreciate your comments here. I know I have learned much from these comments.

  148. So, we can’t win. We’re told we don’t succeed in college and employment situations, but when we offer evidence that one of university’s most challenging disciplines offer specialized scholarships to attract our kids, and that employers seek our kids, then it’s seen as special treatment. I think this is a little like what’s-her-name saying Barack Obama has an advantage because of his race. You know, like all those other seriously contending black political candidates over the years have had such an advantage.

    Those who have extended special outreach to homeschoolers have recognized something unique about homeschoolers that they want to benefit from. Trust me, the scholarship monies available at that university for publicly schooled kids continues to far exceed that offered to homeschoolers, as it should, even just considering percentages. It’s just that they don’t want to miss any homeschoolers who may be considering their school of engineering, because of their experience with homeschoolers and their desire to attract them.

    Your white flight example is interesting. This is exactly what I alluded to earlier. In some of our bedroom community/suburban locations (we’ve moved a LOT), our local schools have been LESS DIVERSE than our homeschool groups. Certainly they have been less welcoming to folks of different races, alternative lifestyles, etc. Our homeschooled kids live and work and volunteer in a larger community that includes people in a broader range of nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, religious faiths, than the local schools they would have attended. That may not be true of ALL homeschool groups, I understand. But there are many people who particularly seek or form “inclusive” groups and actively seek to focus their work and volunteer efforts more broadly than what would be available in local schools.

    And right – I think you were sniffing out your own logical flaw there when you mentioned that the problems of failing schools with left behind kids might not be created by homeschoolers’ choices. Our numbers are just too small. Also, it’s sort of weird to blame a marginalized group for marginalizing other groups. We are told we are strange and unsocial and un-community-ish and unacademic — and then we’re blamed for the ills of public schools because we are among the people who could have helped out those poor kids who are left behind? It seems our critics should struggle to put both those thoughts into one basket. Either our families are too weird to have a positive effect, or we’re so positive that we are leaving others in the lurch when we don’t participate in the schools. Huh?

    You have to understand that many of us ARE refugees from these systems ourselves. Most homeschoolers I know are indeed people who worked very hard to try to improve schools for all children. Do you see that when a system offers NO HOPE for change, that when good people invest time and effort and see their own children flailing along with others despite ALL THEIR BEST EFFORTS over many YEARS — that it becomes an act of civil bravery to say — I cannot be a part of this any longer? It becomes an act of saving the children you can to get them out of a nonresponsive system? That expending effort spooning water out of a boat taking on gallons of it is not heroically saving the ship, it is, to mix in a few more metaphors, putting your head in the sand and refusing to see that the emperor has no clothes? I cannot pretend that it’s ok to do this. I have lived it, I have tried to use all my (pardon me if I say so) considerable energy and ability to attempt to change this. I have volunteered extensively in schools AND been a paid employee of what was considered to be a very good school system. It. Is. Not. Okay.

    Have I abandoned the children who are left in those schools? I say not. I continue to do extensive volunteer work to encourage positive parenting, create stronger families, and help people find alternative ways to meet their children’s educational needs when/if school doesn’t work. I spend a LOT of hours doing this. I feel I have personally changed more lives outside the system than I was ever able to change inside it. I feel I have helped more children who don’t have the same advantages my children have had.

    The school model is entrenched. The money and power involved in not changing it was something I was unable to counter despite years of investment on my part (I worked on getting school bonds passed, I photocopied endlessly, I tutored in ridiculously-devised reading programs when it was clear to me that what the kids needed was to be read to endlessly, and on and on and on). I was certainly unwilling to continue sacrificing my own children’s lives.

    I also think that homeschoolers’ choice not to avail themselves of government-funded schooling (and their success in doing so) sends a message that may be a hope for stimulating a real examination of the education establishment in the United States. By not tacitly going along with what isn’t working, by not pretending that it’s a method of education that worked or works well for my children, I am, in a way, committing a tiny act of social deviance, perhaps even civil disobedience (it’s legal to homeschool but largely not socially condoned), that draws attention to a healthy alternative.

    That’s my awareness of “how the personal choices we make for good reasons may lead to certain outcomes.”

    I share with you a wish that people would examine their personal choices in this light. Do choices made by default, due to what has come to be seen as the social norm, contribute to a negative status quo for education in our country? I have my faults like all homeschoolers and all nonhomeschoolers, but making personal choices without examining their outcomes on others is not one I’ll concede.

    My deviance from the norm provides impetus for positive change — either on a family-by-family basis, or, hopefully over time — on a societal basis.

  149. Put bluntly – how is homeschooling different from white-flight when the poor start moving into a neighborhood?

    I bet you thought the implications of racism and classism in your post were all that subtle and clever. They’re not. If you’re going to say “schooling your kid at home is just like moving away from black people”, do us the courtesy of coming right out and saying it, ‘k?

    If you have to have a kid in public school to have a stake in public schools, then apparently you agree with all those folks who say “I don’t have kids, my taxes shouldn’t pay for other peoples’ spawn” or “why should I pay the government when my children go to private school?”. The quality of public schools affects all of us. It’s important to all of us. The sort of person whose interest in schools stops the moment their child graduates would have that attitude regardless of whether or not they homeschool.

    I admit that I’m also a little uncomfortable with all the emphasis on public schools, as though private schools are all wonderful and perfect.

  150. Tripp@157, get back to me when you start getting all your health care in free clinics and inner-city emergency rooms, or when you move to a slum neighborhood so that you can help improve the condition of your neighbors. When you make a principled stand not to benefit from anything that the poorest can’t afford, *then* you can start talking to me about how my five-year-old should do the same.

  151. Jeanne,

    So, we can’t win. Excellent point. I realized a moment after I sent my comment how I was creating a ‘damned if you do/damned if you don’t’ situation.

    I shared my concerns with you and you have done a great job allaying them. Without this talk my concerns are left to fester, and I appreciate getting them out so they can be addressed. I don’t take that for granted, I don’t demand that from you. I asked for it and I appreciate the response.

    For mythago and Rivka,

    My intention was not to be subtle or clever. I did not want to bluntly accuse someone of racism because then the discussion would be over, the drawbridge would be raised, and the battle would be started.

    I did want to see classism addressed, and Jeanne did a great job. If you wish to see me as ‘holier than thou’ then go ahead. I don’t think I am but it is hard to see ourselves clearly. I do prefer that you not put words in my mouth. If you want to argue with your fantasy of me I would prefer you do that in private but I really have no say in the matter.

    I think that whether we want to or not ALL of us have a stake in how all our children turn out. As my own children have told me, they will be choosing my nursing home or whether I have to stay home with them (ugh) so I better be careful.

    I will not throw stones because I am not without sin. My intention was to share some of my failings and misunderstandings and concerns so they could be addressed. I admit this was selfish and nobody owes me an answer. I am just glad some have chosen to give it.

  152. Rivka,

    One last thing. I understand. I would never ask you to sacrifice your child. I will say that through my example my (barely) adult daughter is living without electricity and running water in Kenya with civil unrest in order to help street girls there who have no home. I am very proud of her and I know that while I tried to set an example for her it is now she who is setting the example for me. I also fear for her safety.

  153. Brian @33> Oh sure, some teachers don’t know anything – but I’ve always thought of that as a downside to public school…

    The thing is that, sure, I could read about, say, WWII and then talk about it to a child; I guess we might both learn something – but I can’t write an essay, I don’t know what a good essay looks like; 18 years of schooling failed to teach me that and I wouldn’t want to pass that failing onto any child, and on that I can’t be “one step ahead” I have to be enough steps ahead to be able to mark the work and discuss not only the historical errors (in a history essay) but also why it is a good or bad essay.

  154. Natasha @ 163

    Aside from the overwhelming amount of curriculum available out there (I have a catalog that’s about 2 inches thick on my desk) and the assistance both local and through the net, I’d say from your post that you’re not illiterate and could probably do well enough. You used a semi-colon and John probably appreciates the lack of serial comma.

    This is the real misunderstanding of homeschooling – that Mom does it all herself from scratch at the kitchen table. Bah. I have a series of math books, a series of grammar, spelling and writing books, and a huge fine on a regular basis from my library.

    While fraction instruction does include baking cookies and cutting pizzas at my home, a nice feature that public schools don’t provide, I’m not flying solo here. There is help everywhere.

  155. I know what I’ve seen, and I’ll stand by many of my arguments, because they have exactly the same persuasive weight as any of you have. I was homeschooled up until university, so my anecdotal evidence is as good as your anecdotal evidence, and my observations are as good as yours. Mayhaps the difference in opinion arises in that I’m from a border town. The choice of public schools can include things like high school with the national highest pregnancy rate in various years, or, people shooting at this side of the border, so I don’t blame my mother for doing this. However, having made it to grad school at an R1 and survived up to ABD, I have no illusions that there were vast, amazing resources I never know existed until long after it was too late to take advantage of them. Amongst all the homeschoolers we knew over those years (several dozen families over a decade), my family is not atypical in terms of access to these resources.

    Homeschooling is irrelevant to the matter of completing of a PhD, which is about endurance, luck, and having a good-enough advisor. I’m happy your associate had the resources and support to finish the degree instead of ending up ABD), but I still counterbalance that argument too since I also teach physics at the college level. In terms of what we know now about physics education, most parents are missing the know-what-you’re-doing part, and most everyone is missing the how-to-transfer-knowledge-better-than-a-TV-show part. If you can communicate and foster an understanding physics, you are not the typical human being, let alone the typical homeschooler.

  156. agm,

    I’ve always loved physics and try to say fairly current with the field. I do have a question.

    I was thinking that when I die and get my one question for God I would ask him to explain in detail what happened during the Big Bang.

    Lately I’ve been concerned that he might say “I dunno. I’m God. I can do anything so I did it. You’re so smart you figure it out.”

    My question then is how long do I need to stay alive until you guys can tell me the answer?

    Thanks and I’ll take my answer off the air.

  157. agm, I do find it rather unusual that as a homeschooler, you would not know about vast, amazing resources until it was too late to take advantage of them. Perhaps this was pre-internet?

    I find that my 17 year old has certainly been able to avail himself of resources both vast and amazing, even without my guidance, for the past several years if not more. Don’t even get me started on what my older kids find, know and understand because of their ability to locate and inteprpet vast amazing resources. Perhaps your family took a more “school-at-home” approach?

    Our homeschooling is more integrative than that; my kids are pretty darn good at research and resourcefulness. Our emphasis has been on critical thinking, making connections, and research rather than on a “school” curriculum. However, even among my colleagues who choose a more typical schoolish approach for home education, I would be shocked to find a single family in any of my groups who had been snookered by failure to be aware of resources, procedures and insights that help their kids get ahead.

    Recent conferences I have attended have included sessions on preparing transcripts, college admissions, SAT prep, etc. I attended one last year with a large panel of admissions representatives from a wide variety of colleges and universities. We also network regarding learning disabilities, educational psychology, career planning, and drivers ed, for goodness sake. If you don’t want to attend the conferences, you can find all the same information in books and journals. Yes, dear, we have professional development too!

    I suppose one COULD avoid all this information, same as people don’t join the PTA and don’t volunteer and don’t become room parent and don’t attend parent-teacher conferences in public schools. And, as you say, that would still provide some protection if there are social ills in the school that are too difficult to combat from within. But even my teenagers know how to find out about this stuff – and regularly bring it to my attention and vice versa. It’s sort of an ongoing dialogue.

    As for physics, right. I’ll agree that my E=MCSquared is not as strong as my Shakespeare. However, I’ve found a passable layman’s understanding in Hawking and company, which actually exceeds what I received in high school (zippo) and what many of my children’s schooled friends receive during more modern times.

    Perhaps the high school physics instruction in your neck of the woods far exceeds that in the places I’ve lived and is accessible to a far greater number of children. (In our last community, exactly 28 students per semester got to take physics, in a school of about 1,000 kids. I don’t know about my current school, but I’ll ask around). If your school system’s provides more, that’s a good thing, and I’ll hope for atypically excellent physics teachers there who can foster an understanding of physics. I’ll assume this is reaching the 25% – 70% of children who don’t drop out of those schools. In the mean time, I’ll keep reading things aloud like Hakim (her Story of Science series is excellent, though not truly high school level. Still, my 16 yo was stunned that he was the only person in his first computer networking class (yikes!)who truly understood and could function with binary numbers, and he had first become interested in binary numbers thru Hakim’s work in her Newtonian book) and Hawking to my 10 yo and see if he can catch up to his brothers over time.

    One other thing — you know, there just aren’t educational emergencies that require a one-time this-is-your-only-chance approach. There just aren’t. If you miss taking the whatevah test by this deadline, you take it by that deadline and start one semester later. In the scheme of things, this is no big deal. You could talk yourself into being afraid of moving if you thought there was always and only just one path to a given goal, and that you have to complete each task on the path on a given timetable. That is a very ingrained “schooled” thought, and experience (not even homeschooling experience, just life experience) tells me otherwise. I know too many people who become doctors at 43 and pastors at 52 and goat farmers at 25. As homeschoolers, we sort of get away from limiting constructs that say otherwise, and I just don’t hear of folks for whom this creates dead ends. If ya miss something, ya just go back and get it. That’s life! I mean, I hear of many students who change majors several times and take extra time to get thru college, law school, grad school, etc. What’s the big deal?

    I appreciate your standing by your anecdotes; that’s fine. I’ll stand by mine. The hundreds of homeschooling families I know just don’t seem disadvantaged by not having any special key to the kingdom, but I suppose it’s possible. Anything’s possible.

  158. so my anecdotal evidence is as good as your anecdotal evidence, and my observations are as good as yours

    Except that you’re trying to portray your anecdotes as proof about homeschooling *period*, and not merely as a) an example of when it can be a bad thing or b) as a counterpoint to someone arguing that homeschooling is ALWAYS the right choice (which is an argument that hasn’t been made).

    Tripp, are you saying you kind of wanted to accuse people of racism and classism, or that you did so unintentionally? Because throwing a fit that anybody took your “white-flight” analogy as exactly what it suggests is more than a little disingenuous.

  159. I adore the genuflection to which certain commenters here are prepared to give the Public Schools, as though they were an end in themselves.

    My experience is as follows:

    I went to parochial school through first grade, when a particularly bitter old crank made me feel like the lowest form of life because my pencils kept disappearing (read: being stolen).

    I then went to public elementary school. In second grade, I had a wonderful teacher who let me go over to the library whenever I wanted, and read, because she knew I would absorb more that way, and kept my busywork to an absolute minimum. No Special Ed or testing involved, she just knew what I needed and let me have it.

    After a mostly pleasant experience at public elementary school, I went to public middle school, in exactly the same district, with largely the same population. It was the deepest pit in hell, for all the reasons which have been before mentioned. Seventh grade was the last year I spent in public schools.

    Back to parochial school for eighth, and then two different Catholic High Schools; one which was Catholic in Name only, but employed good teachers, one which was more Catholic, and also employed good teachers.

    A Jesuit University for college.

    Then I went into teaching myself: five years at the alma mater catholic high, then a few years substituting in the local suburban public school system (public schools have issues about hiring private school teachers). I now am again teaching at an all-girls Catholic High School.

    My conclusions:

    – Private schools are marginally better than most public schools, especially when it comes to socialization. This is because private schools generally serve smaller populations than do public schools. I’ve seen the worst sides of both systems, and the worst of private schools is as nothing compared to the worst of public.

    – Middle schools are indeed horrendous experiences for a great many people, regardless of social background. I have also taught at wonderful middle schools. Again, size plays an important factor.

    – “Fixing” public schools is not going to happen as long as the schools are single-outcome-based. Can we admit to ourselves that not everyone is a scholar? Can we admit that passing through a brick building with a toxic social structure does not prepare one for anything? When we can, we can let the unscholarly meathead who’d rather do anything than read a book go learn a trade so he can eat, and spare the intelligent kids his disruptions and wrath.

    No one learns anything they don’t want to. Beyond a primary instruction, everything is career-based. So let’s admit that to ourselves and let the kids who don’t think formal education is worth their time learn the hard way, or prove us wrong. Yes, this means out on the streets they go, where bad things may indeed happen to them. The streets are where the downside of life belongs. Not in schools.

    Homeschooling is a stop-gap for many parents fed up with a system that has become an idol of middlebrow faux-learning, which values so-called “critical thinking” over actual knowledge about the world, in addition to being an asylum of nigh-psychopathic immaturity. It is a cry for help. The parents who do it shouldn’t be scolded or treated like secular heretics, they should be listened to.

    You wish to “fix” the public schools, do you? Why? If a thing is broken, shouldn’t it be permitted to whither and die? Why can’t we realize that spending ever more money and creating ever more work for teachers, parents, and administrators will do nothing? The system itself is entirely questionable.

    And politicians are no help. Bi-partisan reform gives us No Child Left Behind, which everyone hates yet which somehow passed Congress. If you really think the federal government knows what your child needs, I have a bridge to sell you. They, of both parties, are nothing more than strutting money middlemen.

    When you’re prepared to really, radically re-think education, instead of simply climbing a soapbox to throw greenbacks and pretty words at the beast, then the homeschoolers might take you seriously. Until then, a personal weathervane will be the best way to show you what direction to urinate in.

  160. I understand a lot of the concerns people have about the children, but one of the things that concerns me about homeschooling is the parents. My understanding – and I’m sure to be corrected if I’m wrong – is that it’s primarily women who stay home to homeschool their children, giving up opportunity to be productive earners. When the children grow up, what then? Especially if you’re not a credentialied teacher, you’ve just spent 18 years of your life doing something that won’t facilitate your entry into the workforce. I wouldn’t homeschool because we both need our incomes to feed ourselves, pay the rent, medical bills, et c. – and because we all have to provide for our own futures. If you don’t work for 18 years, and your husband leaves you? You are up a creek without a paddle, honey. I think it’s a real way to disempower women and keep them dependent.

  161. I still say that by stepping out of the institution of public school, a system that is itself bigger than any one parent, teacher, administrator or school board, a system that has its own bureaucratic life of its own that cannot be stopped by any one person or group of people, homeschoolers will, in the long run, be the people that do the most for public schools.

    Opting out of public school is “doing something for public schools.” It is making a statement, a vote, if not with your dollar than with your trust. Sometimes it does take a mass exodus (and we are far from “mass” but growing in numbers) to push change to occur. Sometimes, by seeing what can be done from the outside and from a different perspective, it helps those on the inside to change instead of being caught up in it and not seeing the forest for the trees.

    Many homeschooler families and kids have intriguing ideas about how public schools could change. I can’t go into detail here, but things like having public community centers where the city libraries, park and rec, school, senior centers, community college, health care facilities are located together, or at least affiliated somehow. Generations could come together and assist each other. Kids could take classes off of a menu so that this heirarchical age and level tracking would become obsolete. If you are in fifth grade reading level but only 3rd grade math, then you take the appropriate courses with whoever else. Seniors could volunteer tutor, kids could volunteer to help seniors. Special ed services would be available to anyone who needed extra help, not just those who are ‘diagnosed’ with whatever label is in vogue right now to give the school district 3X the funds per sped pupil as a regular pupil. There are some interesting ideas out there that homeschoolers can model with their co-operatives and their ‘real life’ experience methods. I do get that some parents just can’t homeschool. But they shouldn’t have to have a lousy public school be their only option. I’d like better options for them. I’d like better public schools for them.

    As a student, as a teacher, and as a parent I will not be able to make a dent in the issues of ps as much as I feel that I can as a homeschooling parent. I really think that the innovation that comes out of homeschooling is going to be a change agent for public schools.

    (Also like to add, somewhere up-thread, John Taylor Gatto’s book on the Underground History of American Education is available online. I started reading it and am finding it quite fascinating. I do not agree with all of his politics or interpretations of history, but find much of his experiences as a 30 year veteran in the public schools of NY–teacher of the year 3 times over–to ring very true of my experiences as a teacher in PS. The link is: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/ )

  162. mccn: I know many homeschooling mothers who

    1) are still in the workforce or in college themselves (I admire them!)

    2) have, after homeschooling, found it to be less of a handicap than you think – I’ve heard a few stories of women whose homeschooling activities either prepared them for a job or helped them land a job based on their skills from homeschooling

    3) found new careers or became self-employed.

    There are also plenty of homeschooling dads.

  163. I think my husband would really like to see someone call me disempowered and dependent in front of the both of us, that’s what I think, LOL.

    You might be interested in knowing that many homeschooling women consider themselves feminists, albeit a branch of feminism known as maternal feminism. Many of us do not find anything disempowering about nurturing children and find the homeschooling life to be richly rewarding. We don’t find the “successful male” model to be something that is the only thing to emulate in order to find value in our Selves. We may or may not have gender-traditional roles within our marriage, but we also ensure egalitarianism as far as the power within our marriage. You can be sure that *our* earnings, savings, and assets are in both our names and that I am highly educated about my access to those. I’m sure any of my sons would tell you that their parents share the power in their relationship, and I am proud of having modeled that women and mothers who choose to be at home are worthy of respect and do real work of living. I am proud to see their relationships with women are healthy and egalitarian.

    You can also bet that while I have concentrated on being at home, I have also kept my professional skills up to date. My earning power today would be less than my husband’s, partly due to my time out of the full-time work force, but more because his field (manufacturing) pays more than mine (writing/editing/speaking/professoring) in the first place. But both he and I have felt it important that I “keep my hand in,” keep up with technology, keep professional contacts, and, indeed, earn money.

    As a woman, I am doing a very radical thing by choosing to homeschool. Probably less than 1% of mothers choose to homeschool their children. Children who attend schools are attending institutions run by one of the whitest, malest set of professionals of any (actually, I think if you do research on school superintendents, you will find it to be the most male-dominated of any profession, but I haven’t done that in a year or so, so this could have changed). I fail to see how my placing my children in this kind of institution would make me less empowered.

    I, in fact, do a talk on the homeschool circuit called Homeschooling and Personal Empowerment. I’d be glad to drag out my dog and pony show for any non-homeschool audience that is interested in learning about how living as a radical maternal feminist is one of the most empowering experiences a woman can have. This talk comes complete with an examination of self actualization, liminality, what it means to be radical, and comes complete with the F word (feminism).

    This is not to dismiss your concerns. They are valid, and that is why we have so consciously chosen to meet them head on within our own marriage.

    I would point out that valuing paid work above all other work – and highly paid work most highly of all – is probably the most unempowering thing that can happen for women, since we tend to do the majority of unpaid care giving at both ends of life. Pegging paid work as what is of value is probably the least feminist approach in my opinion, but I’d have a lot of “working moms” fighting me over that one. However, an awful lot of those moms use low paid female help to clean their toilets, pick up their children from school, and care for their kin in nursing homes. Somehow there’s gotten to be a real disconnect in what we THINK we value and what we ACTUALLY value.

    If my husband leaves me after 18 years, I think that we’ll both have a hard time economically. But I think I’ll be just as prepared, possibly more prepared, than my non-homeschooling counterpart. I have more work than I can do now. As for up a creek without a paddle, I’ve known plenty of wage-earning women and men who couldn’t have had a foggier idea about how to have an egalitarian marriage or partnership and who suffered financially when their marriages ended.

    My choice to leave a full-time professional career was just that, a choice. It was an informed choice, and together, my husband and I suffered income loss over the years. However, we’ve attempted to compensate for that in all the informed ways we can. If I am empowered to make decisions for myself, then those who would see me as unempowered must also allow me to make this informed choice without assuming dependency on my part. Now assuming dependency? THAT is really victimizing women, in my opinion.

    As for not being a “productive earner,” I think there’s a lot of bias in that statement that should be examined. If I have readied sons for the world and assisted countless other families in doing the same for their children, is not my contribution to society productive? These are well-adjusted, tax-paying, creative, respectful young adults who vote, volunteer, and are fun to be around.

    Is this “women’s work” only to be done by low-paid and largely female and largely disadvantaged child care workers and female teachers? (For, despite males hugely dominating the superintendency at something like 98%, something like 98% of all elementary, primary, and preschool teachers are female. Is there a disempowerment thing going on in this institution? Is school a feminine-but-not-feminist atmosphere? Is that why our boys have considerable trouble with some of the atmospherics of a sit-down, be-nice classroom? But I digress.) Is it more feminist to pas on these tasks to lower paid women, so you can actualize yourself at a higher pay scale?

    And. What. If. We. Want. To. Take. Care. Of. Our. Children?

    People interested in informing themselves more about this point of view might read Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life by Daphne de Marneffe.

    I wish I could be dependent and unempowered for you in order to validate your concerns, but I’m too busy being productive and independent.

    To quote de Marneffe: “Though feminist activism has helped secure for women the public power previously denied them, it has done little to challenge the assumption that women who spend their time caring for children are powerless, un-self-actualized, and at the margins of cultural life. . . .The creation and nurture of children transforms men and women alike. They provide a unique opportunity for reconsidering the premises of one’s life. We live in a culture that enshrines acquisition but profanes care. When a person, still most likely a mother, feels the desire to care for her children, our tired cultural scripts shed little light on the profundity of the situation” (from the introduction, page xiii).

  164. Sorry — I got mixed up in too many double negatives — I should have said I fail to see how placing my kids in male-led school systems would make me MORE empowered.

    I also wanted to add – that many, many families who are SURE they need two incomes to survive do indeed make substantial lifestyle changes to have one parent stay home (dad OR mom), if they decide that homeschooling needs to be their way of life.

    It’s just a matter of choices.

  165. I’d agree with everything Jeanne said. (and, btw, I work and am single without a man for backup. I am decidedly underemployed, but that is my choice.)

    Feminist issues in this regard open up a whole ‘nother can of worms that will take us far astride of this already long thread. However, I’d just posit that the main feminist matter at issue here is the undervaluation of the work that women do in regards to childcare. Women who work full-time employ a team approach to child-rearing. Teaming up with child care providers and teachers and the like. And that is fine. Woman who do more of it themselves are only in danger of being put in situations where they might be left in a financial lurch not because of their choice to raise their children, but because of how women are used in this manner with no regard to value of their work or compensation. I have had a variety of jobs and a career (that I still try to keep up with as well as I can). Being a mostly SAHM is hands-down the toughest job I have ever done. And it is also the one where I feel the most useful. And it is also the one that is least valued by society. Homeschooling just extends that issue further. But it isn’t the choice of homeschooling that is anti-feminist, it is how mothers and educators (even paid teachers and child care workers) are devalued by the patriarch.

  166. “But it isn’t the choice of homeschooling that is anti-feminist, it is how mothers and educators (even paid teachers and child care workers) are devalued by the patriarch.”

    Wish I’d said that.

    I’d add that it is most concerning to me that so many women have bought into the patriarchal view — and I’d actually say that this view MUCH more than the tiny impact of homeschoolers’ flight might account for why our schools don’t come up with a model that is flexible and responsive to students’ needs and parents’ desires.

    Homeschooling families are busy doing what works – but it is a decidedly nurture-based model with intensive one-on-one time for children. As a society, we pretend that this has no value, and we build institutions that are designed (purposely or not) to thwart this approach. And then as a society, we blame people (homeschoolers) who have opted out because they realize a non-nurture based model doesn’t work for millions of kids (see drop-out and illiteracy rates), and we circle around and around trying to come up with reforms that don’t address the root cause.

    Because nobody really wants to do the massive thought experiment and re-work that it would take to get us out of it; it feels better to push around the canaries who made it out of the coal mine (homeschoolers) than to admit that society largely forgot to take into account the nature of children, the importance of relationships, and the value of the work done by people who find it impossible to overlook the importance of truly meeting children’s needs.

  167. you spoke a lot more intelligently than i ever could about it, though i tried once:

    http://wrekehavoc.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/homeschool-is-anywhere-you-hang-your-head/

    homeschoolers magically found my inarticulate rant and went, er, howler monkey mad. admittedly, i was a little, er, brash.

    but one of the ideas that sends me slightly over the edge about homeschooling is the idea of public school abandonment. instead of trying to make things better, people just take their kids out and make a go of it. yeah, let’s leave school to those kids, the ones whose parents obviously don’t care enough about them to do the best for them. i often feel this way about parents who pull their kids out for private school as well. it’s like they are giving up on public schools and can’t be bothered to tinker with an existing structure. eff that: we’ll make a new school.

    it’s something i would expect of the conservative religious right, but the fact that these unschooling people are doing it too — well, i’m mystified. no one seems to care about the entire learning community. they only want to care about their own little portion.

    ::sigh::

  168. #170 mccn
    I am a stay at home mom who homeschools. I do not feel that my life is a waste. As I look back years ago when I only had one child and had a job, I do think those were wasted years. Ironically, those are the times that were the worst for my marriage. A spouse leaving is not easy for anyone. I do not see how that is a valid argument against homeschooling.
    There are plenty of homeschooling dads out there. My husbands job offers lots of flexibility so he is here with us more than the average dad. A friend of ours left his job (teaching at a “real school”) to focus on his ministry and homeschool his daughter.
    BTW being an earner does not alwyas translate into being productive. I know a LOT of families who say “oh we could NEVER make it on just one income”. That is their excuse for driving expensive vehicles, living in huge houses, wearing designer clothes and their kids spending all day in school and daycare while they spend long hours six days a week at work. Do not get me wrong: I know there are good parents who have to have two incomes to survive. I am just saying that there are people who at the end of their life are saying “I wish I would have been there more for my family”, not “I wish I would have worked more”.

  169. We opted for no schooling at all, and instead pursued a life of learning, connecting, caring, and giving. My two teens never had any formal schooling until they started college. No textbooks, no assignments, no tests, just real, mindful, everyday life, with all the possibilities it offered.

    Together, my two teens and I have volunteered more than 2000 hours over the past year, contributing to educational enrichment (drama/theatre arts), outdoor education (backpacking, hiking, orienteering), literacy programs, food relief, hospice care, aid to Darfur refugees, community organizing, political campaigns, and more. My son’s rock band has done numerous benefits for cancer research, a teen health clinic, and a homeless shelter. Both teens participate in a theatre troupe that does benefits for theatre education and AIDS/HIV education and supportive care.

    I also work for pay part-time, and my teens do consulting, video editing, audio recording, and child care work for pay. They can spend what they earn however they want, and they choose to contribute some of it.

    Both plan to transfer to college full time when they are 18 or so, but they are currently taking college courses part time. One is 14, and the other 16. Each has been offered admission and scholarships to several different universities already (they are both in the honors program at their college and have 4.0 averages), so they will be able to choose from those offers or apply for others, if they choose. Neither has ever taken the SAT, ACT or any other standardized test, except for the placement (ability to benefit) tests that were required by the college when they started. Yes, they placed into college level courses in all areas without ever having any formal education at all.

    For us, this has turned out to be the best of all worlds. We have had a lifetime to spend in a whole, meaningful, useful way, not tied to someone else’s schedule. We have been able to put our strengths to work to really make a difference for those less fortunate in our community.

    My children have a wide community of co-participants, co-workers, and acquaintances, valued mentors, and a core group of close friends. They have learned to be be both resourceful and a resource.

    Over the years we have participated in book clubs, science clubs, math clubs, young writers clubs, chess clubs, youth groups, soccer, gymnastics, a variety of dance programs, drama, basketball, park days, ceramics classes, drawing, a family center, caving, climbing, environmental programs, swimming, one-act-play competitions, other academic competitions, service organizations, nonviolent communication workshops, homeschooling conferences, and much more. We have also traveled to 30 states, and 8 foreign countries.

    Now you’re probably thinking we’re well-off, but we’re not, though we consider ourselves fortunate to have the resources we do (about $45,000/year for a family of 4).

    These days, I spend a lot of time trying to help people figure out how to make the biggest difference they can for their children and for those around them. For some, that means working with schools, or within a “system” of some sort, but for most, it means they think and work outside that box, because it simply isn’t where they can be most effective.

    I believe there are an infinite number of ways we can move forward, and no one way is the be-all and end-all.

  170. I should probably also have noted that we are a family of feminists who are atheist/agnostic with respect to religion and liberal/progressive politically.

  171. RE: #177, “but one of the ideas that sends me slightly over the edge about homeschooling is the idea of public school abandonment. instead of trying to make things better, people just take their kids out and make a go of it.”

    Many of us did work within the system before trying homeschooling. I wrote a mimeographed monthly magazine for my children’s elementary school. I worked on the School Advisory Committee (overseas military version of a school board). I worked with the School Improvement Program. I was a lunch-room and playground monitor. None of this helped my kids. In their various ways, my kids were slipping here and there, and ‘things’ happened that weren’t beneficial for my children. My work was going to, presumably, help other children, while my own were inching down despite all my efforts at school and at home. Our oldest son had already graduated from the public system, so it wasn’t as if I was considering the effects on his brother and sisters in a vacuum.

    For my own sanity, I had to put my energy where it would do some actual good rather than just beat my head against the schoolroom wall for another three-children’s worth of school years. My children were not going to be fodder for a system that was incrementally dragging them down. I couldn’t save the world, but I could help out my own children. So I did.

    My responsibility to the public school system is to pay taxes. Through the use of public money, much of it from people who cannot use the system because they either have no children or their children are not of an appropriate age, the public system owes an education to all children whose parents wish to use it. The public system is not entitled, though, to all children.

  172. Andrew P,

    You wish to “fix” the public schools, do you? Why? If a thing is broken, shouldn’t it be permitted to whither and die? Why can’t we realize that spending ever more money and creating ever more work for teachers, parents, and administrators will do nothing? The system itself is entirely questionable.

    Looking back at history I see that the times when publicly funded school systems did not exist had one pretty big problem. There were few paths available for upward mobility and as a result they had a greatly polarized two-class system which was unstable and vulnerable to attack from within and without.

    Put bluntly – either the peasants finally revolted or some other society with competent people in the appropriate jobs came and kicked butt because just because someone is the offspring of a rich person does NOT mean he/she is good at being President or General or even running a baseball team.

    One could make a case that this time things are different and abandoning the publicly funded school system would be better – we’ve got the internet, we are starting with generally educated parents top to bottom, and slippery slope arguments are generally suspect.

    I don’t have any final answers here. I can see many good points in this debate. Sometimes it is best to throw out what is broken and sometimes it is best to fix it. There is no simple answer that will be correct every time.

    Jeanne – as an aside – you are awesome! I’d want you teaching my kids any day of the week. Everyone else – you have clearly put a lot of thought into this and obviously are doing what you think best for your own children and also for society.

    mythago,

    Tripp, are you saying you kind of wanted to accuse people of racism and classism, or that you did so unintentionally? Because throwing a fit that anybody took your “white-flight” analogy as exactly what it suggests is more than a little disingenuous.

    I don’t think I “threw a fit” but I suppose that is the way it may have looked to you. If it did perhaps you are over-reacting and maybe that is because I hit a nerve.

    To clarify my position on racism and classism – the white-flight I referred to took place in the 60’s and 70’s and was a real phenomenon driven primarily by racism. I think that today there is less racism than there was then. It is not gone by any means but more young people are growing up without it and among older people it has become covert and not overt. Classism, on the other hand, has been sorely neglected and indeed has been encouraged by much of the right-wing rhetoric that we get drummed into us every day. It is especially insidious because it is not discussed openly but instead is put into the “assumed, not questioned” part of our brain that frames discussions and subtly shapes our thoughts.

    I admit my white-flight example was a very poor choice to illustrate classism. I could not think of any short word that describes the case where poor people move into a neighborhood and many of the people already living there move away because they are afraid of increased crime and lowered property values, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I wanted to (and did not) accuse anyone of anything. I wanted to bring up my concern that some homeschooling may be driven by classism and have that concern discussed openly. Jeanne did a great job of responding and I sincerely appreciate her patience and tolerance in doing so.

    You, on the other hand, seem ready for a fight. I choose not to at this time but name the time and place and I’m your huckleberry. Your emotions and hot-buttons would allow me to chew you up and spit you out.

  173. Tripp, please flex your virtual biceps in some other context. You know that ‘white flight’ refers to a racist phenomenon and you’re backpedaling because you got called on it. Cope.

    Nothing wrong with wanting to discuss classism–which, frankly, I think is an overblown concern when we’re talking about homeschooling. People who have money and see themselves as above Those People can certainly afford private school, or tutors, or moving to a location with better schools, and that’s generally what they do rather than homeschool.

    I am just saying that there are people who at the end of their life are saying “I wish I would have been there more for my family”, not “I wish I would have worked more”.

    I doubt many people at the end of their life are thinking “I wish I’d scrubbed more baby oatmeal out of the carpet.”

  174. mythago,

    You know that ‘white flight’ refers to a racist phenomenon and you’re backpedaling because you got called on it. Cope.

    How wonderful you can read my mind.

    I admitted that I knew white flight refers to a racist phenomenon and I admitted it was a mistake to use that example. I also explained why I made the mistake.

    Feel free to call that back-pedaling.

    Feel free to once again read my mind, tell me what I really meant, build your straw man and knock it down if it makes you feel better. Feel free to run away and live in your own fantasy world. I’m sure it is nice and cozy for you there.

    Baby.

    (Sorry John)

  175. I would rather you not be sorry and simply not post comments that prompt you apologize pre-emptively, Tripp. If you suspect you’re about to post something that’s going to be something I find out of bounds, the solution is to find another way to say it that gets the same message across, but which doesn’t make you look like a dick.

    Just a thought for next time.

  176. I have read this discussion with much interest. I know people who homeschooled part of the school years, all 13 school years and not at all.

    If I could do it again, I would have homeschooled my extremely bright oldest child. She was bored to tears all through school, and never learned to really study because everything came easily to her. She was verbally abused, physically injured (the school didn’t punish the injuring child because “N…is having issues at home and just acting out. !!!!) All of our attempts at advocay were brushed aside, ignored, or caused her to be more abused by the adults.

    Now, in college, she is having to learn to study. It is a tough lesson to learn as an adult. She was “socialized” well…she has a great inferiority complex thanks to her peers.

    I have already declared that I will homeschool my grandchildren, if I ever have any.

  177. Very interesting post. I come at this from the perspective of having been homeschooled due to my parents religious biases. I have since accepted science and spent a lot of time trying to re-educate myself on that deficient part of my schooling. As for socialization, I was not well socialized, although I have known many homeschoolers who were. I was not and I am now having to make up for that in my adult life. It really, really sucks. I did play soccer on a team in highschool and I debated. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late. Children learn social behaviors of how to make and keep friends very early on. I definitely suffer from not being able to make friends easily. I intend to send my children to private school when the time comes.

    The one thing I did enjoy about being homeschooled was learning to self-motivate. I actually did fairly well in college because it was all new and interesting to me. Also because I had learned to motivate myself. This might not be the case with every homeschooler. My parents didn’t so much teach me as I taught myself by the time I got to highschool. I never had problems getting up for 8am classes in college and I started all my papers at least 2 weeks ahead of time. Yes, I know, overachiever. There are some benefits to homeschooling. However, in the real world we have to get jobs and work with people. Frankly, I wish I had been more prepared for that. My parents are rather unsociable and controlling. I think that with many homeschoolers we suffer from the parents’ dispositions more than other kids would because we don’t receive other viewpoints. I am all for people homeschooling if they want to, but make sure the kids get out when they’re young and make sure they understand they can have opinions other than their parents’ beliefs.

  178. Comming form a northern european background I am inclined to view education as a communal responsiblity. If people at the high and withdraw from it then the whole society will suffer. Apart from that I can’t imagine being 24/7 with my kids as much as I love them.

  179. America does not educate, it trains.

    School is a job training program.

    Most people have no idea what education is.

    The Theory of Education in The United States by A.J. Nock is a good place to start.

  180. Well, I live in South Korea, and though we may be living in the US by the time we have a kid — who knows — believe you me, if we’re back here by then, our kids will be homeschooled.

    It’s not just the violence in the schools — including violence on the part of plenty of teachers, who seem able to act with impunity. (They sometimes don’t even lose their jobs after students’ cell-phone footage of an assault in the classroom gets onto the Net and onto national news!)

    It’s not just the overall racist environment, where kids are literally being taught from a postwar curriculum that still teachers Koreanness is about have pure Korean blood — despite the coming wave of kids born to Southeast Asian mail-order brides — and how this creates an environment of open season on the mongrels.

    It’s not just the cost of so-called “foreign schools,” where the quality of teacher is, I’m sorry to say, as low as at cram schools… that is to say, random anglophones with a BA, in many cases, and Korean teachers essentially like those in the public system.

    It’s not just those things, it’s also that the education system here is stuck in the 1800s. At least, what Korean had in the 1800s, which was a rote memorization-based schooling model. Where students are rewarded for NOT rephrasing things in their own words, because that’s not exactly how the original was phrased. Where students must memorize and memorize and are only very rarely called upon to think or question anything. Where a huge proportion of school time is devoted to preparing for standardized tests, and where the results of standardized tests are well-known. Where, in some private schools, a student can know his or her national ranking in terms of last semester’s grades. (I’m the 1,637th best 11th grader in the Country!) Where the last year of high school is wasted on preparations for the equivalent of the SATs, which determine whether you get into the best uni in the country, and have the connections for a good job, or get into a lesser one and are stuck earning $800 a month for the rest of your life.

    Where the nail that sticks out is hammered in. Where being really good at something makes you shy about it, and you have to hide your ability except on tests. Where you get students who have gone for years and years of language courses and never spoken the language once, and get students who are accustomed to finding a way of coping with being in school 12 or more hours a day… the perfect training for a low-productivity, long-hours workforce.

    I don’t want my kids, when they are 22 years old, to feel like they should ask an authority figure permission to go pee, as my college students have been trained to do. I don’t want them to have been trained into the state that I spend so much time trying to bust my own students out of.

    So if and when we have kids in Korea, I’ll absolutely be homeschooling, as long as I can manage to make the time — even if it takes sacrifices. They’ll still socialize with other kids, but not in unheated, prison-like schools, not strictly with kids born in the same year as them (how is that natural?), and they won’t be giving up their piano lessons or participation in a garage band or whatever just to write some cruddy test to get into a Korean university.

    And yeah, my own experience of a Canadian high school wasn’t quite as bad, but I have to agree with the “howling monkeys” comments above: high schoolers unsupervised (as they often are) are often led by the uncivilized, period. Thinking of this reminded me a lot of Paul Graham’s Why Nerds Are Unpopular. Whether you agree or not with his argument about why, his description of the “socializing” going on in schools is, in my experience, spot-on.

  181. Honestly, we do homeschool, we homeschool because my son got stabbed in Kindergarden and the school did nothing about it. He used to cry every day, now he’s happy, and learning so much more, the proof is in the standardized testing that our state makes us do.

    As far as socialization, we take part in at least 7 activities outside of the home, only two of those activities are with only homeschooled kids. We are the norm, most homeschooling families in our area also are in this many activities.

    Oh, and I will teach evolution. and I fear that my son will never come close to winning a Spelling Bee, maybe a geography bee, but never a spelling bee!!!!

  182. I enjoyed reading everyone’s posts.

    I’ve been homeschooling my daughter for two years now. I started right after second grade. My daughter has become even more social now that I have taken her out of school. She used to be very shy. She has so many friends now that we have to turn some invitiations down…

    I think for us we found girls can be very mean in a classroom, group, situation and sometimes I don’t think teachers are even aware what’s actually going on. It was even rough in pre-school. There is always one queen bee that seems to rule all the other girls. Now that my daughter is out of the hostile environment she seems to have come out of her shell.

    My daughter attends school two days a week with other homeschooled children that are in the same grade as her. The school sets the schedule, picks out the books (although the parents do have input). They go on field trips, have school performances and participate in everything a normal school would do.

    Homeschooling is the hardest job I have ever had. My step-daughter is very strong willed and doesn’t always treat me respectfully. I think some of the posts above which state that the children are weird are very funny my daughter doesn’t fit the above listed stereo types.

    The parents of course are way more involved with the teachers than a normal school. We have their cell phone numbers, home numbers and they are always available when we need help.

    One of the things I love about homeschooling is that I know instantly when my daughter is struggling with a subject – then we are able to stop and go over it more.

    I also love the flexibility. Tomorrow my daughter is going whale watching. Last week we went to Disneyland and there were no lines because everyone else was in school. My daughter competes in equestrian competitions and it’s very nice that I don’t have to pull her out of school for these competitions. We just finish our school work ahed of time.

    Yes, I am a Christian and we do live in California.

    I’m not a math major or science freak like my husband but he tells me there are many assumptions with evolution that are not even scientific. Carbon dating very flawed… Darwin tell us where some skeletons of transitional animals are?

  183. I think this may be a bit out of context but the specific case mentioned here in CA was more about child abuse than teaching credentials. The ruling came about as social workers were trying to investigate allegations of child abuse with a family that home schooled and would not allow social services to see or interview the children in question. So a judge stepped in and ruled that homeschooling can’t be used to hide child abuse. Many religious types viewed this as a attack on them, but it’s not. As a Pastor myself I can see their problem, but at the same time maybe having some accountability is a good idea. Perhaps not a full teaching credential but at least passing some sort of general knowledge test not unlike the CBEST that CA substitute teachers must pass.

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