Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Homeschool Critic

Part One

 Once in a while I get the opportunity to respond to a homeschool critic, and share a different idea.  The original blog post found at http://findmeinfloridaagain.blogspot.com/  will be in italics, while my responses will be in bold.
In other news, I have a comment from a reader, speaksoftly. This person is asking why I am against homeschooling.
Several reasons:
1. I am educated. Most homeschoolers only have some college or just high school. Do you want your doctor to have a frontal lobotomy and forget everything he or she learned in med school? While parents know their kids, they often do not know EVERYthing.

Educated?  While I don't have a breakdown of the educational milestones of homeschooling parents as a whole, I do know about the educational breakdown of the homeschooling mothers I know.  And I don't know one who hasn't gone beyond high school.  Not one.   Since there is no data to back up the supposition that "most homeschoolers only have some college or just high school" as their education, I can only assume that this is the author's opinion and not known fact.
Still, Ms. Stark (the critic responsible for this piece) has three flaws in her logic.  One, she assumes that someone without an advanced degree is incapable of teaching their own children which simply isn't borne out statistically.  Two, she compares a doctor to a homeschooling parent.  I don't know how to perform surgery, and wouldn't dream of teaching it to my children.  I do, however, know how to read and write and feel comfortable passing that knowledge down.  Three, she functions under the assumption that someone with an education knows everything, which they don't.  Trust me, my parents both have Masters Degrees and gave well over half a century of service to our children in public schools, put together.  Now my sister (who also has a masters degree) follows in their footsteps in the inner city of Los Angeles teaching children there.  None of them know everything.  No one does.  But that doesn't mean that one isn't able to teach.  In fact, when homeschooling, there are times that you're learning with you child, which is a beautiful thing!

2. Why are you all against the schools in your area? Why bitch and moan about something you can get involved in? You pay taxes. Most homeschoolers are bitchy and moany and whiny and often have no training in what the state requires for the benchmarks for your child's grade level. And then, when they get to the high school level, they find out that their wonderful homeschool child cannot get a high school diploma. In Florida, they are only eligible for a G.E.D.

One doesn't have to be against public education to choose the homeschooling option.  And some of us don't want to put our time and energy into trying to fix the school system while watching our children fail.  We'd rather take them out, try something different.  The beauty of democracy is that we don't all have to do the same thing.
As for the G.E.D. issue, I don't have a problem with that.  First of all, I don't live in Florida, but more importantly, many Universities are making new rules for homeschooled kids because they do so well in college as a whole.  I also think it's important to note that while I value education, there are many people who are not called to persue higher learning.  And they too, are valuable members of our society.

Sorry. Homeschooling cheapens the whole process.

Cheapens what whole process?  Homeschooling is simply another educational option.
Now let the bitching and moaning begin. Most of them are small minded know it alls. Let the bitching and moaning begin about who is more a perfect Catholic. Let the bitching and moaning begin about how women shouldn't work and how they are praying for help with their finances, when these women can very well go out there and solve the problem all together.

I find this amusing, since it's Ms. Stark who seems to know it all!  Homeschooling does NOT make one a better Catholic or a better Christian.  I almost feel like I need to repeat that for emphasis!  I have seen pro-homeschoolers use it as a sign of one's devotion for remaining apart from society, but I don't think it should be used that way.  There are many wonderful Catholic and Christian kids in school, and I believe that God can, will, and does use them every day.  I have NO problem with people who utilize our public schools.  That's simply not the best option for my children, and consider this to be a matter of Christian liberty.  Read Romans 14, Ms. Stark.  It is wrong to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ for making choices for their families simply because it isn't what you'd do.  If we can respect the decisions of other parents and offer support, we'll do much to build each other up.  As for her comments about women not working, I simply don't know where they come from, and can't respond.  Since I work outside the home, I obviously don't have a problem with it.  Again, it's a personal decision for our family and a matter of Christian liberty.
Most of them are not in Florida anyhow. One even wrote me on another site moaning and boasting about how her midwestern "roaring fire in the middle of winter was soooooo nice because her older high schooler drop out was teaching his little brother".

I pray that Ms. Stark's heart is softened.  I think it must be hard to be so angry and judgmental. 
Several q's here. Why are they truant? Why is she keeping them home? Is she a control freak?

They're not truant, they're homeschooled, which is a legal form of education.  We parents who homeschool do so for a variety of reasons.  We want to encourage the bond of family, we want the joy of teaching our children or seeing them learn, we believe we are best able to cater to our children's needs, etc. etc.  But in the end we do it out of a deep love and sense of responsibility for them.  We do it for the same reasons that people make other choices, because we believe it to be in the best interests of our family.
Yeah, I think so. When I wrote back and told them that in Florida a "roaring fire" only happens like three or four times because of our mild weather. Our cold weather only lasts for a week in a half at best.

I don't know how Florida's weather is relevant to the topic of homeschooling, and it appears to be a way for Ms. Stark to feel superior.  Well, I can only say that God made the entire Earth, and loves a Midwestern Winter as much as a Florida Beach.  Having grown up in California, I'd take the Midwestern Winter of the Florida heat, but that's just me.
This is where fear and geography meet.
By the way, this is Catholic Schools Week. And more and more of them are closing because of this homeschooling epidemic of fear and denial.

Cough it up ladies, get a job and help your husbands.

I don't put my children in a Catholic school because, quite frankly, I can't afford it.  Now, I do have a job and help my husband financially.  Of course, I also want to state that working is not the only way to help one's husband, and there is a GREAT deal of value in being a stay at home mom.  As for me, I don't homeschool out of a sense of fear and denial, but love and responsibility.  I suppose I could work more days a week and make enough money to send them to Catholic school, but that is more time taken away from my family.  More time that I don't get to spend with them.  Ms. Stark is studying to be a teacher, and is rightly attached to the job she will one day perform.  But she is not a parent, and does not seem to understand that families are spending so much time apart these days.  It is more important for us to be here for our children, and to grow as a family than it is for me to bring in a better paycheck.  Even if it's to pay for Catholic school.
Since my choice to homeschool has not been met with any criticism within our Parish, or from our priest, I don't think that Ms. Stark is in a position to judge.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:


Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones."31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:
He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.32
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.33


The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.
As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.38 Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.
Since the Church gives me the responsiblity for their education, and the fundamental right to choose the school which corresponds to my convictions, I believe that attacking fellow Catholics for their choices is not appropriate.  It does not build us up as a faith community.  And honestly, this will never persuade a homeschooler to rethink their position.  If the children are really your concern, Ms. Stark, I encourage you to do some research and put some meat into your argument of why you think it's wrong.  When you've done that, approach your homeschooling brothers and sisters from a place of love instead of attacking them for making what they believe to be the best choice for their kids.  We're understandably sensitive when it comes to the choices we make for our families Ms. Stark, and some sensitivity to that would go a long way in our discourse.  We probably still wont agree with you, but at least it will allow room for discussion, and hopefully understanding.
In the end, even if homeschooling isn't what you'd choose for your family, it is my right as an American and as a Catholic to teach my children at home.

This post brought to you by a high school drop out who thought she knew all that high school had to teach her, passed the GED the first time (in half the time alloted) and had the highest score they'd seen in a number of years, who then went on to go to nursing school and serve her community by both her role as a wife and mother and her position as a nurse caring for the elderly of the community.  I suppose I could be looked down upon for not getting an MBA from USC like one of my sister's, or a Master's Degree in education from UCLA like another, and yet my family is proud of me, have no doubts about my intelligence or ability to homeschool, and think that my children are bright and well educated.  For me, their approval, the approval of my faith community, and the support of my husband mean a lot more to me that the post quoted.  But I had to answer, because it makes me sad to think that people could be discouraged by this person.  And I ask that all who read this say a prayer for the author who is our Sister in Christ.

Please Read Part 2

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