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What is the deal with Home Schooling?

It seems that everyone has heard of home schooling, and that everyone has their own ideas about what it is and who does it. That said, this being a blog, here are my thoughts on the rational and reality of home schooling.

Let me start by saying that I home schooled my oldest daughter for part of high school, I currently volunteer in an elementary school, I tutor a number of students, and I teach in my religious school. I spent over a decade teaching at University. In other words, lots of teaching experience in a bunch of different venues.

Having said all that, home schooling has gotten a pretty bad rap. The stereotype of the bible-thumping nut who insists that they re going to raise their kids “on the bible” is pretty pervasive. To be fair, there are a lot of home schoolers that pull their kids out of school because their ethics do not match what is taught in the schools. However, all of the kids I know that are home schooled for “religious” reasons have been provided with a science education that is pretty comparable to what the high school kids in the local public schools get. I know there are exceptions, but I have been recruited by home school groups to write curriculum and teach science (including evolution, which I teach as fact). What most of the parents of these children tell me is that home school because they do not want their children exposed to the sexuality, drugs, and general lack of morality that pervades the public schools.

I have to admit that I cannot argue with them. It is common for fourth graders to have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” – at an age when most o them have absolutely no idea what that really means. Anyone who has walked into an elementary school will see little girls dressed like the cheapest whore you’d ever find on a New York corner. Junior high school and high school are even worse. There isn’t a public high school in the country that doesn’t offer its students a wide array of illegal drugs, and almost all junior high schools have the same problem, as do many elementary schools. To many of these kids, drugs are the modern day equivalent of cigarettes in the 60’s. Everyone knows they’re bad for you, but everyone who’s cool knows about them and expects to at least try them someday. None of these problems are new, and the american public has always done a great job of pretending that their school is different. The home schoolers decided that instead of pretending, they’d protect their kids from an environment that they feel is unhealthy.

Another major reason for home schooling (the one that drove my daughter to decide to home school) is a common trend in many Junior and senior high schools. Any kid that is an A student and an athlete has it made. Special privileges, instant access to faculty and administration, extra help if they need it – whatever the school can provide to make sure that this model student remains at the top. Any student who is not an A student and an athlete is pretty much left on their own (as long as they stay out of trouble). If they can figure out how to make it on their own, they’ll stick around and graduate. If not, who cares?

My daughter (A good student with absolutely no interest in athletics) got sick of the whole system. After a teacher accused her of plagiarizing a paper because the teacher disagreed with my daughters politically incorrect conclusions, she decided to punt the whole thing and asked me to home school her.

So what does home schooling entail? First of all, you have to accept the fact that your local public school will do everything possible to convince you not to home school. They’ll lie about the laws, threaten you with Social Services, insist that it is impossible for a parent to educate a child, and insist that you are ensuring that your child will be a social reject and a failure for life if you home school. Once you accept the fact that the school is really threatened by the idea that you can do as good a job (or better) than they can, you can dig into what you need to do.

The details vary from state to state, but in general you have to put together a program, and occasionally convince some one that you are really making progress. Usually, you have to demonstrate that your child is meeting the state education curriculum goals. Of course, in most states that means that a high school graduate has to have mastered what most of us would consider to be a 3rd or 4th grade education. In any case, look up your state’s requirements. I guarantee you will be appalled at how low they are (then stop to think that probably 1/4 of the schools in your state are failing to meet these goals).

Now, you have to figure out how you’re going to teach your kid. If you have a young child – elementary school age – you probably don’t need anything special. You can teach everything an elementary school curriculum includes without much more than normal day-to-day interaction with your child. In middle school you may actually have to do a bit of work, especially if you have let your basic math and science skills slip. For High school, it is a good idea to see about working with a home school group, enroll your child in courses at the local community college (most of them operate at a high school level anyway), or even better, at the local University.

If you think back on what you did in high school, you’ll realize that there just isn’t that much material that is covered – especially if you elect to leave out the stupid PC crap and actually concentrate on academics.

One issue that is real is the social impact home schooling can (Note: can not will) have. If your child has been attending public school, and is in middle or high school, they are used to spending about 6 hours a day socializing. This is the main activity at school (no, it isn’t studying or learning, it’s socializing). Your child will be cut off from the majority of peers that (s)he is used to. If you are lucky, there are enough home schoolers in your area to allow your child to socialize with them, but you will never be able to replace the constant social activity that takes place at school. It is up to you to decide if this is good or bad. Expect it to be tough on your child – the older they are, the harder it will be. If you are starting young, and your child has never attended public school, you shouldn’t have these problems. All of the home schooled kids I know are well adjusted, and can interact socially – usually better than their counterparts that attend school. Think about it. A kid in public school has a social circle comprised entirely of other kids the same age. A home schooled kid is going to be interacting with adults, older kids, younger kids, and the entire age range of the local population. Who would you expect to be better adjusted? Yes, as a parent you will have to expend a bit of extra effort to ensure that your child has adequate social interaction, but it really isn’t that hard. Besides, once you are free of the “school schedule”, you won’t have the time constraints that most parents do – your child will be in “school” 24/7/365.

So, is home schooling right for you? Only you and your child can answer that. Chances are pretty good you are already providing a lot of home schooling, you just don’t realize it. If you aren’t, your child is almost certainly not learning much at all – the schools certainly aren’t teaching the kids much except how to pass a standardized test.

 If you do choose to home school what are the likely results? Overall, home schooled kids do better at University – so much so that many top universities actively recruit home schooled students the same way they recruit top athletes. Because home schooled kids usually develop good study and learning habits, a higher percentage of home schooled kids complete college instead of dropping out. A University class of “traditional” incoming freshman class is expected to have a 50% failure/drop out rate. The percentage of home schooled students that fail or drop out is in the single digits. All evidence suggests that a parent who is committed to home schooling will do a much better job of preparing their child for life in the real world than any public school will. Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort. Yes, one of the parents will have to stay home to teach. But, you will be raising and educating your child. The ethics and mores that are important to you will be what your child learns. In other words, you will be a full time parent.

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2 Responses

  1. What’s your view regarding working with tutors for homeschooling? This is particularly relevant for parents who may not have the skills to teach children all the subjects they need to learn. There are several companies offering unlimited tutoring for under $100 per month and I was wondering if you have any experience with them. I’ve come across a number of online tutoring websites (e.g. tutor.com, homeworkhelp.com, tutoreasy.com, http://www.schooltrainer.com, etc.). Has anyone prepared a comparison of the various companies (pricing, quality, etc.)?

  2. Working with tutors is a great way to suplement homeschooling – or to cover areas that the parents can’t.

    I tutor a number of kids in science and math – from elementary through university.

    Another good mechanism is to “team up” groups of local homeschoolers can join together, and use the skills that individual parents may have. I have done this as well – wroked with a small group of children on science and math – their parents covered the other parts of their education, but did not have the background for the ones I taught.

    Different states ahve different laws about who can act as a “teacher” in a homeschooling situation – some states require that it be the parents or a certified teacher (which I am not – I taught at University, not in the public schools, so did not need any certifications…). In most of the cases that I have dealt with, the parents are willing to ignore the laws that would make it impossible to homeschool thier kids – their goal is to make sure thier kids get a good education….

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