Sunday, April 24, 2005

An Anti-Homeschooling Conservative

Well, as I love to do with these things, I'm going to post an article I read recently in it's entirety. I'll also put it in italics. This one comes from Illinois, and from a conservative Christian, so it's definitely a little more unusual. You can read it online here. But like most of these opinion pieces the author is generally uninformed. Here goes!

THOMAS: Home Schooling not a good idea for most

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

By Scott Thomas (

OPINION - There are many keys that open Pandora’s Box. I just never know when I’m going to stumble on to one of them. My radio listening audience, however, never fails to let me know when I’ve done so.

In the last week, I have discovered that Home Schooling is one such key, especially if, as I do, you generally oppose the practice of Home Schooling.

We homeschoolers do tend to get a bit annoyed when people attack something we do for our children.
I guess, as a true blue (or is that true red) conservative, I’m supposed to be a big supporter or home schooling. It’s one of those bedrock conservative issues, like the right to carry guns and lower taxes. But, I’m not in the home school camp.

I don't know about that. I know a lot of liberals who support homeschooling, or homeschool themselves.
To further thicken the soup I find myself in, I am a Christian and, for a myriad of reasons, home schooling has become quite fashionable among conservative Christians who wish not to subject their children to the liberal secularism prevalently found in our public schools.

Homeschooling isn't "fashionable". It's not a garment we threw on to make our families look better. That comment is condescending. Though I'll admit that getting away from liberal secularism is considered one of the advantages of homeschooling amongst many religious conservatives, it's hardly the only reason to do so. If you look at the statistics of families homeschooling, it's hardly that popular.
So, to maintain my conservative Christian membership credentials, let me clearly state that I am not against the parents’ right to home school their children. I just think, by and large, it’s not a very good idea.

I appreciate that Mr. Thomas supports my right to homeschool, even if he does think I'm making a big mistake.
I do allow that, in some cases, a few cases, home schooling is best for the child. For example, highly skilled and dedicated parents probably should home school their kids when the public schools don’t have the capacity to challenge the occasional true geniuses among students. And, there are other examples to be found.

Sadly, the true genius is hardly the only kind of student to fall through the cracks in the public educational system.
But, much more common, from my observation, is that parents choose to home school as a form of protection for their children.

Well, I think that observation is highly lacking. I do know a lot of homeschooling parents who believe that protecting their kids from school violence, bullying, and ideology that is contrary to the family's is one of the perks of homeschooling, but I haven't met any who homeschool only for that reason.
Typical of the emails I received from listeners is this: “We don’t want them (children) to be indoctrinated by Tolerance of everything & everyone (except for conservative Christians), Pro-gay lifestyles, Evolution-is-fact teaching throughout the curriculum (and not just science), Prayer in school is forbidden, and many other examples that permeate the academic agenda.”

Has anyone but me seen "Mean Girls"? Makes me think of the little children at the beginning who said that God created the rifle to kill dinosaurs and the "ho-mo-sec-shuls". I think it's better said that most of us just want a chance to really spend time with our children in which they learn what our world view, ideology, and morality is without competition.
I don’t like all of that junk, either. But, at what price, protection?

This is where he tells us why homeschooling is bad, bad, bad. I'm listening.
As one public school teacher told me, “As a teaching professional, I am deeply hurt by the Christian community's pull-out from the public school system. The (public school) teachers I know are excellent! And many of them are Christians! They have a wealth of experience and resources that can't be matched by home schooling parents. Not only are teachers highly-educated (all having Bachelor's degrees, and many having Master's or PhD's), but they are specialists in their fields. We go to conferences, read up on the latest research and have teams of Master Teachers who mentor educators new to the profession.

Okay, I have several responses here. I come from a family of public school teachers who support my decision to homeschool. Yes, many teachers are excellent, but that doesn't mean that homeschooling parents can't be excellent too.  And teachers have hindrances that I, as the parent, do not.  For example, trying to teach to standards that are unreasonable so that the kids can pass a test, discipline problems, overcrowded classes, etc. Yes, the teachers are really good, but they teach a class whereas I can focus on  my child. Each child learns at an individual pace, and the classroom is not always conducive to meeting the needs of individual kids. In addition, we homeschoolers also have a great deal of experience and resources.  Our experience is real life and our resources are support groups, co-ops, conferences, books, magazines, blogs, etc. We are hardly flying blind.
"Most parents do not have the level of expertise that we do. The parents that I have seen home school their children often struggle along needlessly, comparing various curriculums, uncertain of what their children should know. Add to that children who are struggling with disabilities or learning to read, and the gap between what parents know about teaching and what the trained professionals know, widens. Most adults wouldn't rewire the electrical system of their home on their own, they lack the expertise to do it right. Many would hire a professional. That, in one sense is what teachers are hired to do.”

Yes, many of us try several curricula, attempting to find the one that will best suit the needs of our child. But school districts have that struggle too. They have to find the curriculum that will meet their standards and fit their budget. The advantage that I have is that I can find the curriculum that's right for my child specifically. The school district can't match that. They have to find the curriculum that will best suit the needs of the most children.
Comparing the rewiring of one's home to the education of one's children is also hardly reasonable though appears frequently as an anti-homeschooling argument.  It's true that I am not up to the task of rewiring my home.  I wouldn't even know where to begin.  But the things I'm teaching my children as a homeschooling parent are things I know.  Things I learned in the public schools.  It's knowledge that I have.  I am in no way trained to manage a classroom. But that's not what I have to do. And I am much more knowledgeable about the needs of my child than any teacher, no matter how good they are.  They are better suited to meeting the educational needs of a large group of children.  So, it's not that a teacher and parent start off being equally suited to teaching but when you add a teachers education, etc. they become better suited to teach the child. We were never equally matched. We can't even be compared.  
Bingo! That is what teachers ARE hired to do. That’s why I like the sound of “school choice” or “school vouchers”.

Ya, I'm torn on this issue, so I won't comment.
Let’s give parents, most of whom are NOT great teachers, the option to send their kids to real, professional, great teachers. Let’s hold teachers accountable to high teaching standards, and only hire and maintain those who do. Let’s insist on not allowing public schools to trample on the constitutional rights of our children, and let’s hold our elected school board officials accountable for maintaining the standards that we, as citizens of each school district, demand.

He's may be right. Perhaps I wouldn't be a great teacher. At least if you put me in a classroom. But most of us are great teachers when educating our own kids. 
If you perceive problems with your public schools, you can choose, as a family, to be part of the solution, or you can run from the problems and home school. While that may be the right decision for a few, in my opinion it is more often a decision that deprives students of some very fine teachers, and doesn’t teach them a thing about how to get along in the real world.

I have chosen what I believe is best for my child and my family. How is that running from the problems?  Homeschoolers are not just a bunch of whiny babies who took our ball and went home. If my children aren't receiving what they need to thrive in the public school, I'm just supposed to leave them there while I help to try and figure out a solution? I'm sorry, but my son came out of kindergarten hardly where he should of been. I had him reading on a second grade level withing a couple of months. I might have deprived him of meeting some really great teachers, but I have given him one, his mother. And as for getting along in the real world, well, my son sees more of the real world. He's out there, going to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor. He talks to people, and not just people his own age. I personally don't think one learns all that much about the "real world" in a classroom with thirty other people the same age all day long.  Regardless, there may be a time when public school is the better option for him.  I'm making the decision I am because it's what's best for my child and because we love it.  What's so wrong about enjoying the time spent with one's children, watching them learn and grow?
There’s the key. Feel free to open the box. But, before home schoolers email me in droves, I hope you’ll ask yourself if you really are, at the end of the day, the very best Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, English, German, Latin, Literature, Grammar, Health Science, Physical Education, Music Appreciation, Composition, Psychology, Social Studies, Current Events, American History, World Geography, Communications, Astronomy, Computer Skills, Graphics, Art teacher, classmate and soccer coach your child can possibly have within your school district.

If the answer to all of those is “Yes”, then home school. If not, then ask yourself if the “price” of missing all that is worth the protection they’re getting.

No. I'm not the best teacher of all of those subjects. But I am the best teacher of my children. And, sadly, there is no guarantee that my kid is going to get the best teacher in all of those subjects anywhere.  In Elementary school you have one teacher for all of your subjects. I doubt they're the best for all of the subjects taught. And in Jr. and Sr. high school you may get someone who's really great at the subject, but not necessarily. Even a teacher who may be really knowledgeable about the subject may not be good at teaching my child or vice versa.

I wish that people could understand that there are many reasons to homeschool, and that if they're going to write pieces about why homeschooling isn't good for our kids that they could back up that opinion with some actual facts, statistics, or information to prove their point.
© 2005 -- all rights reserved

Please feel free to give them your opinion. Since he kindly left his e-mail address. And if you'd like to read other responses to Mr. Thomas, click here.

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