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Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Case Against Homeschooling... really?

If you google (loving that new verb) "The Case Against Homeschooling" you will come up with a huge number of hits. I was naively surprised, since the first I'd heard about it was this post. I figured some random teacher had gotten a stick in an unfortunate place, but apparently there has been an on going discussion (campaign?) around this for a while.

I've summarized and then answered the concerns I've seen most frequently.

How can a parent be as qualified as a professional teacher?

Let's talk for a moment about what makes one qualified. Presumably a degree? In what? What does a degree signify? It shows a person was able to make it through so many college courses and achieve a certain minimum score on a series of tests, papers, and projects. It doesn't signify natural aptitude, or how much they learned and then retained. It doesn't signify their investment in and enthusiasm with their students. Nor, in my opinion, are all degrees created equal. I have my own biases, but really, is a BA in English, Music, or Education really as valuable as a BS in Engineering? I've got the later, but can write, teach, and am now a professional musician. Anyone with only the former able to design a dam or water treatment system?

How qualified is a "professional teacher?" After 13 years (and more than 13 teachers) in public school, I had 2 who were truly exceptional. A degree signifies little when it comes to the ability to connect with children.

How can any parent, even if somewhat qualified, cover all the necessary subjects to the degree necessary for both primary and secondary education?

Any parent who can read and write in their native language has the skills needed to facilitate their child's learning. We don't have to know it all. We're don't have to teach "subjects". We just need to support our children in their exploration of all the amazing resources available. Between the public library, the internet, and the many generous adults willing to share their expertise with others, there's no reason any subject is out of bounds of a willing learner.

We've become a society dependent upon "professionals", to the detriment of the individual's ability to function with independence. I'd rather belong to a society filled with enthusiastic amateurs who work together to accomplish their goals.

What about (all together now) SOCIALIZATION?
Won't homeschooled kids turn into geeks and social misfits?

School is no guarantee of social "coolness". Ask any of us who were "geeks" in high school. In fact most of us "geeks" have taken to embracing the term for someone who cares and is enthusiastic enough to share their delight in a subject.

"Geek. Geek. Geek." :-P Name calling isn't going to work to vilify homeschooling.

Besides, if the modern pop culture of highschool can make one a misfit, and fitting in is important, mightn't those kids be better off with other "geeks" where they will fit in?

What about the civic duty to mix with others and develop tolerance for diversity?

While schooled kids are locked in a classroom with the same age classmates they've known since grade school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40+ weeks a year, homeschooled kids are generally out in the real world on a near daily basis. They are not segregated by age and so are used to interacting with people from 2 to 82. Our kids know their postal carriers, librarians, and store clerks by name. Homeschooled are known to local civic and charitable groups by name themselves. They interact not only with other homeschooled kids at homeschool activities, but with schooled kids at church, in Scouts, on sports teams, and in music/art/theatre groups. Homeschooled kids are socialized to get along in the broader society.

As for civic duty, I don't recall active citizenship requiring giving up ones freedom to associate with whom one chooses.

We need homeschooled kids (who tend to come from upper middle class families and have higher IQ and/or ability, and certainly seem to have higher average test scores) to mix with less advanaged children in order to inspire them and help the schools achieve better.

Wait, aren't these the kids being "taught" by parents who supposedly aren't qualified to teach? So, why are they doing so well that we're depriving the schools by keeping them home?

Seriously, are you saying that we should sacrifice our kids on the alter of public school so that the other kids aren't quite as bad off as they would be otherwise? What does this say about the schools? This is a confused argument if you're arguing that homeschooled kids are better off in schools.

If you're saying the the schools need our kids, I might agree. But I would argue that in this case the choice of the individual is more important than that of the collective. Homeschooling is not a privilege. Homeschooling is a right.

And, by the way, there are plenty of homeschoolers who fall outisde the social strata of "upper-middle class". We're not all rich white folks, people.

Given that the burden of homeschooling falls most often on the mothers, isn't homeschooling is just another way to add to the unpaid labor of mothers? For women to be truly liberated, children must go to school, thus freeing their mother's time for actualization.
Last I checked, homeschooling was still optional. If you believe in a woman's right to choose her own path, then choosing to homeschool her kids is her right.

FYI: I like homeschooling my kids and don't feel unduly burdened. (Well, no more than any other parent. :-) ) Most of the homeschooling dads I know are very involved with their children's education, even though it means a "second shift" when they get home from work. I even know one stay-at-home homeschooling Dad. So, don't get too caught up in the stereo-types.

That said, if you really want to support women, look into supporting families, equal pay, fair access to health care, and other "social" issues. Maybe the "burden" of homeschooling wouldn't fall so much on the mothers if they earned as much as their husbands when they did work. Maybe fathers would be more involved if they they didn't have to work full time just to provide access to medical insurance.


April said...

Here's another response to the hoopla:

Goomama said...

Here, here!!

Did I ever tell you my BIL thought it was ridiculous that I would home school my child -- that smart kids were especially needed in the schools, and that I should "take one for the team?" (His words). I think he's changed his tune, but he's kind of an enigma that way.