Home schooling.
October 2, 2000 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Home schooling. While it can be beneficial to some, I still have to wonder about the quality of education and the social stagnation kids may be subjected to...
posted by owillis (19 comments total)
well... the quality of education, according to the salon article, seems to surpass that found at a public or private school. and i can believe that. from what i understand, there is a strict curriculum to follow when homeschooling. and, after all, what's easier, teaching 30 kids or 1? sure, the social stagnation is a concern. that's why it's so important that a parent who home-schools not take that phrase so literally; rather, get their kid out into society so they can quickly learn to socialize. my wife and i have already talked about homeschooling when we have kids.
posted by bliss322 at 11:23 AM on October 2, 2000

Sometimes it can be very good. In some cases it's vital (some kids are physically incapable of attending a public school).

The problem is that the group it's most popular with is radical-fringe Christians (as opposed to the more reasonable sort who make up the majority of the religion) and the material they use would make your stomach turn. Forget any kind of traditional science; they get taught creationism and are not taught anything which might conceivably contradict it (which is basically most of science). And in a lot of cases the material is heavily weighted towards "traditional family values", by which I mean it's sexist, racist and homophobic. Finally, it's heavily laced with quotes from the Bible.

But to some people, getting their children the right religion is more important than anything else. But I have to wonder: if they're so certain that their religion is correct, why are they afraid to let their children to exposed to any other ideas?

Actually, it's more practical than that. They've seen others send their kids to public school, and before you know it the kid has pink hair and 9 body pierces.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2000

But Steven, isn't that the whole point? Parents who do not agree with the existing curriculum choose their own and can color it any way they want. This is actually an essential thing if, for example, the parents believe that an individual's religious beliefs need to be tightly integrated with his/her daily life. This is next to impossible in state-run education in the US.

While I can't say that I personally condone a conspiculously incomplete education, I wouldn't dictate other's choices for their own children. Their children's loss (or gain) is their own responsibility.
posted by plinth at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2000

Social stagnation? In grade school we were seated alphabetically, which meant I sat behind the same kid for seven years. Seven years of staring at the same neck.
posted by lileks at 12:29 PM on October 2, 2000

Besides, how many times have we heard people say that they learned more on the street then they ever did in school?

Then again, they were usually talking about sex.

Never mind.
posted by ethmar at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2000

according to this article from 8/23, muslims are beginning to homeschool, as well:
<<'The public school system is not accommodating to Muslims,' says Saleem... Islam requires its practitioners pray five times a day, which means interrupting the school schedule, and emphasizes modesty. 'The girls get a lot of flack from their peers for having to cover up funny and boys sometimes try to pull off their covering,' explains Saleem. She says teachers sometimes penalize girls who are quiet in class, unaware that in conservative Muslim families they are taught not to speak in mixed sex society.>>

and according to this one, home schooling may offer academic and cultural benefits, unless administered by the hyper-parent.

posted by rebeccablood at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2000

Home schooling is all about the idea that different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and that an education which takes advantage of those strengths and shores up the weaknesses will necessarily be superior to a "mass produced" education.

It's very difficult to argue with this idea. Whether parents not trained as teachers are capable of succeeding in this effort is a separate question, well worth considering, but thus far the evidence suggests that they are.

There is a second influential idea behind home schooling - not as universal, but it causes more controversy. This is the idea that parents have the right to transmit their culture to their children. If you peel back the religious rhetoric, this is what the conservative Christians who teach their kids at home are worried about: they consider themselves part of a minority subculture, and (with some justification) believe that if their children are brought up in mainstream culture rather than their own, their children's values, ideals, and loyalties will end up with that mainstream culture as well.

This, too, is hard to argue with. Kids form culture with their peers. Is it right to tell parents that they must allow their kids to grow up mainstream? This smacks of forcible assimilation and makes me very uncomfortable. If it were any other group than the conservative Christians I don't think anyone would even consider suggesting it. We may not like their culture, but they don't like ours much either.

The Socialization Question is a classic old saw that pops up at the beginning of every home schooling discussion. This one baffles me - that spending all day in the vicious, hierarchical, class-stratified, age-stratified, cruel, confused, and unfair soup that is "normal school" is supposed to constitute quality socialization boggles my mind. I have a hard time imagining how anything short of being locked in a basement could fail to be better.

Issues of preference aside, however, even if one could define the Socialization Question in terms clear enough to be answered empirically, there aren't enough data yet to settle the question. The homeschool movement only got going in the early 80s, and the first kids to hit the real world have only just broken into their 20s.

As a matter of opinion, I don't think there's going to be any problem. From what I know of homeschooling families, they tend to network at an astounding rate. They'll get together to take field trips, meet up for support group meetings, start choirs, sports teams, and every sort of activity together. Besides this, most homeschoolers live in suburban neighborhoods, and there are plenty of local kids to play with.

I have lots to say on this issue (feel free to email me if you'd like to find out why) but probably shouldn't spend all day ranting.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:34 PM on October 2, 2000


As a 24 year old former home school child (6th - 12th) who is moderately successful in "real life", I want to thank you for your response. Very well thought out. Bravo!

If anyone has any questions, I would be more than happy to contribute my own (firsthand) experience, but I will go ahead and say this--

Having been a home schooler who went through the entire "non-traditional" high school experience, I am asked quite frequently if I would home school my own kids. In fact, during my freshman year of college I was the first home schooler to apply to the Honors Program at the University of TN. Part of the entrance interview was that precise question.

My response? It depends almost entirely upon two things-- the child and the parents. As I have neither spouse nor child, this has always struck me as an incredibly stupid question.

Personally, for me, it worked. But then again, I was always incredibly bored in a traditional classroom. As someone who has been reading almost since I could walk and with a verified reading rate of nearly 900 wpm, it always seemed to me that class was a joke-- until my parents home schooled me. I was reading, on average, 1.5 500+ page books a day on all manner of subjects, in addition to my normal curriculum.

So, for me, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. But, as I said, that has no bearing on my (hypothetical) children.
posted by tsitzlar at 1:56 PM on October 2, 2000

as long as the public school curriculum is full of bigotry, lies, and imperialist propaganda, as long as the school system employs the racist and otherwise destructive practice of tracking, and as long as the government relies on standardized tests to assess performance, there's no way my kids are going to public school.

i sure wish i'd come across a copy of the Teenage Liberation Handbook when i was younger, though i bet my parents are glad i didn't.
posted by sudama at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2000

People are worried about "quality of education" for homeschoolers? Good Lord, it's not as if it would be any great feat for a parent of even average intelligence to singlehandedly provide a better education than most public schools. My public-school "college prep" courses fed me easily-remembered pabulum and completely failed to teach me how to study, leaving me floundering the first time I ran across something I couldn't learn cold just by reading it over once -- my Freshman year in college. Nice job my teachers did of "prepping" me.

I'm on record with friends as having decided not to have children until I can afford either a good private education or to have myself or the child's mother stay at home and teach them. As far as I'm concerned, that's a basic cost of having children. Public schools simply are not good enough.

And "social stagnation"? I think I'd rather have my hypothetical child completely insulated from all other human beings than subject him or her to the "Lord of the Flies" environment that is the public school milleu. God help any child who is not cut from the same sheet of cookie dough as the other kids in the school. "Be cool or be cast out." You can be just as isolated in a school with hundreds of other kids as you can be sitting at home.

There are furthermore plenty of ways for children to socialize outside of school: community athletics, scouting, martial arts, various clubs and societies, even churches for those who go in for that. Relations and family friends with kids of similar ages. Et cetera.
posted by kindall at 2:25 PM on October 2, 2000

I must admit to being somewhat anti-home-schooling, largely because the two (yes, only 2) home-school kids I met were both antisocial freaks.

...and I don't mean "not willing to get drunk" -- I mean "unable to shut the hell up and stop interrupting other people". I also mean "unable to recognize that nobody gives a flying f*ck about your opinion and we didn't ask you for it".

This is not, of course, an indictment of home-schooling in general. Obviously you get people like that in public schools as well. I dunno -- it's just something to watch out for when y'all start home-schooling. Academic success isn't everything.
posted by aramaic at 6:50 PM on October 2, 2000

> Academic success isn't everything.

Very true, and one of the many reasons we have chosen to homeschool our kids. I taught school for more than six years. I know how hard it is to actually *teach* in the public school, let alone influence. Those teachers that make a difference, and they are out there, deserve much credit.

However, we have chosen to be the primary influence on our kids, and one way to do that is to teach them at home.
posted by iblog at 7:11 PM on October 2, 2000

In my experience, private school society discourages individualism much more than public school, and homeschooling is almost inseperable from arrogance and a confrontational stance on pretty much every issue. Like it or not, the punishing environment of a group of peers creates a much more likable, humble person than if the same person homeschooled and received praise for everything. From a student's perspective, I think the ideal way to foster both socialization and learning is to encourage your kid to read, write, experiment, etc. on his/her own, but send them to public school so they can get used to real life.
posted by kidsplateusa at 7:43 PM on October 2, 2000

"private school society discourages individualism much more than public school"

If my public school experience was at all representative, that's a really scary thought. If you weren't a preppy or a jock or an anorexic cheerleader with bleach blond hair teased out to your elbows, you were scum.
posted by shylock at 12:56 AM on October 3, 2000

the punishing environment of a group of peers creates a much more likable, humble person than if the same person homeschooled and received praise for everything
I have to take exception to the assertion that homeschooled children are parised for everything they do, that is entirely dependant on the person doing the schooling which is the real distiction which should be drawn - it's not just a school vs home thing, each descision should be made on an individual basis, it's impossible to say whether, generally speaking, home schooling will be beneficial or detrimental to those children who undertake it. Homeschooling to further one agenda (christian beliefs, academic results...) without any analysis of the possible pitfalls such as the social skills shortfall is highly likely to end up in children similar to those described by kidsplate et al. But if the children receive improved schooling and still retain a social life where they have regular contact with their peers (school isn't the only time kids interact) and the kid is happy with this situation, then I can't see any reason why there should be a problem.

posted by Markb at 5:09 AM on October 3, 2000

"send them to public school so they can get used to real life"

Pardon me while I laugh my ass off. Thank God real life is nothing like school.
posted by kindall at 6:07 PM on October 3, 2000

I've recently decided that I will homeschool my daughter (currently 17 months old), as well as her cousin (one year old today), her cousin-yet-to-be-born (8 week old fetus), and all the other children yet-to-be-conceived in her generation in my family, assuming that all of their parents are willing, plus a couple other kids for good measure depending on what the total # of kids turns out to be.

I've only started researching homeschooling, but I am extremely certain I (plus helpers, their parents, adult mentors, etc) can give them a hell of a lot better education than ANY school can.

Plus, in Colorado, where I'll be doing it, they can participate in extracurricular activities at the local school. Plus they can have music, dance, or other sports activities, according to their interest.

It's going to be an amazing adventure. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do with my life. It's going to be a challenge, but I relish it.

They'll be socialized just fine. With a group of 6-10 kids or so of varying ages, plus coordinated activities with other homeschoolers, plus summertime soccer if they want to do it, and the extracurricular activities with school kids, they'll be fine.

And they'll avoid most if not all of the pathological socialization that comes with school - popularity contests, cliques, worrying about the rich kids' better wardrobes, violence physical and emotional, subtle and overt. They won't be frisked for guns before entering school. They won't need to be.

They'll learn about the world in a wholistic way, how to USE math as we study dinosaurs or butterflies or plan a garden or an addition to the playground, or measure out feed for the goats or horses. That's just one f'rinstance, I could go on all day.

They won't be interrupted by a bell if they're in the middle of composing a poem or completing an art project.

They will have the freedom and the guidance to learn how humans are supposed to learn. At their own pace. Each in their own way. And I will guide them in learning to teach themselves, as I expect they will use such skills throughout their whole lives.

They won't be subject to a lot of the bullshit I had to go through, just a tiny piece of which was being held back a year in math, TWICE, because they wouldn't have had a (high-level) class to put me in if they hadn't. Bastards!

And I was in the best, richest school district in the state.

Anyway, they'll all have the choice to go to school if they would prefer to, and to come back to homeschooling if they don't like it as much as they thought they would.

I think of all my time, energy, and enthusiasm that was wasted in school, and I'm soooo glad my daughter won't suffer that.

For the record, I graduated at the top of my high school class, and was a national merit scholar. But I never finished college, and I don't know if I ever will.

And yes, there will be some idiots who homeschool their children as a way of locking their minds shut. Oh well...
posted by beth at 6:17 PM on October 3, 2000


Good for you!

One piece of advice, though-- if you plan on doing any high school level kids, make absolutely sure you find a good umbrella school.

My parents did and so, unlike most home schoolers, I actually graduated with a diploma AND a 4.0 that meant something. (Most of my peers ended up with GEDs which is rather sad when you think about it.)

Anyway, once again, good for you.

posted by tsitzlar at 8:16 PM on October 3, 2000

Home-schooling has both its advantages and disadvantages. I did it for two years in New Zealand through mostly the government system (called the correspondence school) which meant I sat the same exams as everyone else ( I went to a normal high school to do the exams). It does prepare you well for university as you have to plan what you will study. At first, I found this difficult, but you have to adapr. When I was at university many friends of mine (who went to a high school) found it difficult adjusting from the spoon-fed high school system where attendence is compulsory to the university system where no one gives a shit about you and you must study by yourself. I had already gone through that adjustment. My mother told me if I want to do something else during the day she didn't care as long as by Sunday night I had finished the week's work. I was able to take a part-time job during the week for two days. Home-schooling, if well-implemented, is good as it teaches you responsibility. My mother was also a trained high school teacher, but I usually tried to find out the answer myself before I would ask her. Nevertheless, you do need a support network if you do it for a long time and you will come in contact with the most anti-social freaks in the world on field trips or camps. Fundamentalists, as alluded in the article, are in control of most home-schooling support organisations. I was too old for them to convert me to their extreme ways ( I did go to church when I was young so I wasn't anti-church or something). If you don't believe what they do, you are an outsider and they are worried you will influence their children. The bigoted fundamentalists are the main problem of home-schooling and you will come into contact with them.
posted by jay at 3:55 AM on October 4, 2000

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