Answering the same homeschool objections again

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I started home educating my oldest son when he was in first grade. Unhappy with the private school he was attending, and a bit concerned about the condition of the public schools in the area, my husband and I decided to try homeschooling. I was working for a large mortgage bank in the legal department, but I had attended college in order to become a teacher. The idea of teaching my own child sounded like bliss. So we went for it.

In these last 20 years, I have heard the same objections to homeschooling again and again. They have been addressed over and over, in newspapers, magazines, by educational establishments and research projects, but that doesn't stop people from asking as if they are the first person on earth to imagine them.

moderndaychris is a blogger, and a junior at Gettysburg College, studying American Studies, Music, and Education, with many exciting opportunities in his future. To that I say, "Congrats, and go for it!"

He is again asking questions, often in the form of accusations, at this post "The Home School vs The Public School". So I thought I'd answer a few of them.

First, I want to say that I do not view public education and home education as in competition or as adversaries. They are both legitimate options for parents. Private education is also in the mix as a valid choice when deciding where their child will receive academic instruction.

I can understand that for many people, having only experienced public education or the traditional classroom, it is difficult to imagine that a parent could provide anything similar in their own home.

Of course, that assumes that I want to provide something similar to public education.

However, the idea that public schools are the only place where students can learn teamwork, converse about modern culture and entertainment, or debate ideas, is incredibly narrow-minded for someone who claims to have a broad view of the world.

Are we supposed to believe that a classroom is the only way to learn about the 'real world'? How much 'real world' experience happens in a classroom? I've been in the world for 47 years, and the last time I was in a classroom as a student was in 1989. The rest of my life has been 'real', I am almost sure of it. I've married, worked a few jobs, had four children, read hudnredds of books, traveled a little, and enjoy being involved in our community. I've been a volunteer in nursing homes, helped train service dogs for disabled children, and learned sign language in order to communicate with the deaf. My Spanish really sucks, though. But I am really, really sure that this is the real world. 

We are also supposed to believe, according to Chris, that only in public schools are we going to meet folks of different ethnicities and cultures. That is certainly news to all of us who have not been in public schools for lo these many years, and yet manage to have many friends, acquaintances, and business associates who are from a variety of backgrounds. My children are not excluded from these regular interactions, and they are free to form relationships of their own. I am sure this news about how their African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, and agnostic friends are quite possibly figments of their imaginations will be a great disappointment to them.

Oh, and while every private school in America is also only attended by people of one ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic background, somehow every public school is rich in ethnic, socio-economic, and religious diversity. Apparently even the ones in suburbia and inner cities. Neat-O. And in public schools, kids are introduced to new ideas, allowed to make their own decisions, and never forced to comply with or internalize what their parents, friends and teachers believe. Ever.

Chris asks some specific questions that he believes will get to the heart of the difference between public schools and homeschooling:

Does your child feel comfortable interacting with students the same age? Are they able to work with students they generally don’t feel comfortable around?

Yes. They are around all kinds of people for various reasons at regular intervals. I'm not going to expound on where we go and what we do and how we live our lives.

But wait- Chris says that social situations can be manufactured by the parent to ensure the child's comfort, thereby robbing him of any social challenges- "..if the child is involved in tennis than the students that child is working with are also interested in tennis, where as the students in public school all share a diverse interest and you can maintain a friendship whether child A likes tennis or child B doesn’t like tennis."

To which I say, "Huhwha?"

Chris is attempting to point out the flaws in the 'homeschool system', because no system is perfect, and apparently he has had some unpleasant experiences with homeschoolers who have claimed to be perfect, or that homeschooling is always flawlessly performed by perfect homeschooling parents and perfect homeschooled children.

Ok - valid point. People aren't perfect, therefore any system or methodology invented by or utilized by man is highly unlikely to ever reach perfection. Except for coffee makers and curing bacon, without which the world would dissolve into oblivion, as life would no longer be worth living.

Homeschooling, however, is not a system. It is an education method used by individual parents who wish to have the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling allows.

Some families are religious, some are not. Some are two-parent homes, some are not. People of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds are homeschoolers. Many military families are able to provide a consistent education experience in spite of moving from base to base at regular intervals. Athletes often opt to home educate so that they can focus on their sport. Musicians and artists also are grateful for the freedom to spend time honing their skills.

Homeschooling isn't just about parents wanting their kids to receive a top-notch education, although that is often a motivating factor at the outset. Once parents begin the homeschool journey, they realize the abundance of opportunities available for their kids to get a taste of the real world by living in it, volunteering in it, apprenticing in it, and getting a job in it. As opposed to spending day in/day out in the same few rooms on the same campus with 30 kids their own age.

By the way, Chris, have you ever seen a John Hughes movie? Just askin'.

Let's get to the point - this means that public schools aren't perfect either. There are awkward, shy, learning-disabled,  and even sociopathic kids in public schools. There are learning gaps, and some kids still fall through them, no matter how much we try not to leave any child behind. There are teachers who are dedicated and creative, but are hamstrung by NCLB, CCS, and teaching to improve standardized test scores. There are also teachers who are abusive sexual predators. There are kids who don't want to learn who consistently disrupt the class, thus ensuring the material is not covered properly. There are buildings in disrepair, and schools that do not have the staff or funds to provide teaching and training in the use of new technologies.

If I were to employ Chris' debate methods, I'd make a case against public education by pointing out that jails and mental institutions all over America are jam-packed with people who graduated from a public school. But I am not going to pit one straw man against another in a divisive attempt to 'prove' that public education can make you criminal or make you crazy.

Chris is right though - no system is perfect. So I traded in the imperfect public school experience for the imperfect homeschool experience. My kids and I can live with that.

Chris ends his blog post with this statement-

"In order to better understand the world you must interact with it, become apart of it, and understand it."

I agree, Chris. That's why we homeschool.