Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Case Against Homeschooling: Answered

When I find anti-homeschooling articles or blog posts online, I love to take the opportunity to answer them, point by point. This article I found through Spunky Homeschool. Spunky, I believe, also answered the post point by point, but I have not yet read her response. I wanted to write my own first. The Case Against Homeschooling blog post can be found here at the blog Teacher, Revised. The post I'm quoting will be italicized.

The Case Against Homeschooling


Homeschooling: great for self-aggrandizing, society-phobic mother…… but not quite so good for the kid.

My first issue with this post is in the very first sentence. It's not the first time I've seen the sentiment, but it irks me a bit every time. It tells me that this is an opinion piece likely not formed by personal experience with homeschoolers. It's akin to me starting a blog post saying that schools are great for lazy parents who don't want to raise their own children. That's not something I believe, by the way. But it's a pretty big generalization to make. And of course I happen to know that homeschooling can be great for kids. Something the research backs up.

Here are my top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing:

Oh, do tell!

10. “You were totally home schooled” is an insult college kids use when mocking the geeky kid in the dorm (whether or not the offender was home schooled or not). And… say what you will… but it doesn’t feel nice to be considered an outsider, a natural outcropping of being homeschooled.

Being an outsider is not a natural outcropping of being homeschooled. And I'm wondering why this particular reason should matter if a kid can be teased whether or not they actually were, in fact, homeschooled. How one educates their child should be about what's best for the child, not possible teasing in college. Especially since one can be an outsider for so many reasons.

9. Call me old-fashioned, but a students’ classroom shouldn’t also be where they eat Fruit Loops and meat loaf (not at the same time I hope). It also shouldn’t be where the family gathers to watch American Idol or to play Wii. Students–from little ones to teens–deserve a learning-focused place to study. In modern society, we call them schools.

Historically, this was not so. Throughout history children have been taught academics, trade, or both, in their home. It's modern society that calls such a place "school". The old-fashioned way is to teach at home. Does anyone besides me remember in the book Little Women where the mother pulls the youngest daughter out of school after a whipping from her teacher, and she and the older sisters take over her education? That was done then, back when schools were still a fairly new phenomenon. Where were kids on the Prairie educated when they were no where near a town? Who taught Abraham Lincoln in his little log cabin? Homeschooling isn't new.

What I don't think many people without experience with homeschooling realize is that there is a whole culture that springs up when a family is homeschooling. Learning is something that happens organically, naturally, everywhere. Why exactly do we need to contain a child's learning to one focused place?

8. Homeschooling is selfish. According to this article in USA Today, students who get homeschooled are increasingly from wealthy and well-educated families. To take these (I’m assuming) high achieving students out of our schools is a disservice to our less fortunate public school kids. Poorer students with less literate parents are more reliant on peer support and motivation, and they greatly benefit from the focus and commitment of their richer and higher achieving classmates.

Ah, the "we're selfish" argument. This is another one that tends to irk me. As a parent, my duty is to my child. To provide them the education that best suits their needs. It is not the job of students to educate their peers. Nor do I think that a good case can be made that homeschooling is indeed depriving anyone considering the very low statistics of homeschoolers in general. Right now we appear to be somewhere between 1-2% of the school-age population.

7. God hates homeschooling. The study, done by the National Center for Education Statistics, notes that the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction. To the homeschooling Believers out there, didn’t God say “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”? Didn’t he command, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me”? From my side, to take your faithful children out of schools is to miss an opportunity to spread the grace, power and beauty of the Lord to the common people. (Personally I’m agnostic, but I’m just saying…)

It is a pretty huge leap from saying that homeschoolers aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to proselytize at school to "God hates homeschooling." There are many ways to go forth and share the gospel. In fact, my children are out in the world all the time, living out their faith. The author also seems to fail to take into account the many Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, and Atheist homeschooling parents out there as well as the idea that most parents are against attempts to convert their children at school.

6. Homeschooling parent/teachers are arrogant to the point of lunacy. For real! My qualifications to teach English include a double major in English and education, two master’s degrees (education and journalism), a student teaching semester and multiple internship terms, real world experience as a writer, and years in the classroom dealing with different learning styles. So, first of all, homeschooling parent, you think you can teach English as well as me? Well, maybe you can. I’ll give you that. But there’s no way that you can teach English as well as me, and biology as well as a trained professional, and history… and Spanish… and art… and counsel for college as well as a school’s guidance counselor… and… and…

Another very old and well refuted argument. I could not and would not pretend to be as good an English teacher as this author. She's a well educated teacher, and I give her a lot of credit. My parents both have Masters Degrees, as does my sister, and they worked hard to learn to be able to teach an entire classroom of diverse students. I do not have that kind of experience.

I do, however, have a great deal of experience with my own children. I know them better than any teacher could. I'm their mother. I have been studying them and how they learn, since the day they were born. And I do have an education. The one I got in a public school. Why can't I pass that knowledge on to them? It was good enough for me, after all.

I also think that many outside the homeschooling community are unaware of the many resources for homeschoolers to become better acquainted with the subjects they'll teach, get college counseling for their students, etc, or the many colleges who've created standards specifically for homeschooled kids (you know, because they do so well). And there is no guarantee that every teacher in a school is going to be both knowledgeable about their subject and a good teacher of it. But we expect elementary school teachers to teach multiple subjects. Certainly I can as well. At least to my own children. I admit I would be lost in a classroom setting!

5. As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off. (That’s good enough for #5.)

It did my family at first, too. But then they saw how well my children were doing, and how willing I was to take advantage of all of the resources available to me, including a family of public school teachers, and they no longer feel that way. As I pointed out in my post recently Education Is The Goal, it doesn't have to be an us vs. them mentality. We all want the same thing. I'm not homeschooling to thumb my nose at hardworking teachers, but because I love teaching my kids and think they're thriving in a homeschooling environment. The two whom I think would be better served by a school setting are in school. It's all about what's best for them.

4. Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism. Unless the student is being homeschooled at the MTV Real World house, there’s probably only one race/sexuality/background in the room. How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?

Intolerance and racism exists everywhere. In homeschools, private schools, public schools, everywhere. My homeschooled kids play with a number of different kinds of kids in the neighborhood, which is pretty diverse. And we're out in the world, at the park, at the zoo, everywhere. My kids aren't afraid of different kinds of people at all. Kids aren't guaranteed diversity at school. It depends on their school. And going to school is not living among other cultures.

3. And don’t give me this “they still participate in activities with public school kids” garbage. Socialization in our grand multi-cultural experiment we call America is a process that takes more than an hour a day, a few times a week. Homeschooling, undoubtedly, leaves the child unprepared socially.

Undoubtedly? Let's see. Schools are structured. They don't allow socialization during classroom time, generally speaking. It would make teaching rather difficult. My son hardly has any time with his friends at school. He's too busy with classes. Even lunchtime is short, most of it spent trying to get and eat his food.

Socialization isn't just being around other people but learning how to work with them. This is often easily done in families. In fact, it is familial socialization that has been a huge benefit to my younger child with Autism. Between the socialization he gets at home, and the specialized services he gets at school, he's thriving. But he doesn't socialize much with the Autistic kids in his class. He socializes with his neurotypical siblings at home.

I wonder, Did anyone read Little House In The Big Woods and say how concerned they were that Laura and Mary Ingalls weren't being socialized properly because they were too isolated? No. They were learning how to behave socially from their parents. There are many ways to teach socialization as homeschoolers, both at home, at play with others, and in the community. I don't think it's healthy to expect other kids in a classroom to teach mine how to be social.

2. Homeschooling parents are arrogant, Part 2. According to Henry Cate, who runs the Why Homeschool blog, many highly educated, high-income parents are “probably people who are a little bit more comfortable in taking risks” in choosing a college or line of work. “The attributes that facilitate that might also facilitate them being more comfortable with home-schooling.”

More comfortable taking risks with their child’s education? Gamble on, I don’t know, the Superbowl, not your child’s future.

That the well-educated and wealthy homeschoolers (which by all means do not account for all of us) may feel comfortable taking risks with their college or career choice does not mean that they are taking risks with their children's education. Most homeschoolers put a lot of thought and care both in the decision to homeschool and in how they carry it out. Statistically, our children do very well. I don't think it's a gamble. And as insulting as the author finds the idea that homeschoolers might not trust teachers to teach their children (not a reason I homeschool) I find it equally insulting that the author thinks that my decisions with my children would be so shallow. My children are my life. And my choices for them are made with a great deal of research, thought, and care.

1. And finally… have you met someone homeschooled? Not to hate, but they do tend to be pretty geeky***.

*** Please see the comments for thoughts on the word ‘geeky.’ But, in general, to be geeky connotes a certain inability to integrate and communicate in diverse social situations. Which, I would argue, is a likely result of being educated in an environment without peers. It’s hard to get by in such a diverse world as ours! And the more people you can hang out with the more likely you are to succeed, both in work life and real life.

Geeky people are everywhere. Every geeky person I know went to school. Again, not a good reason to choose one method of education over another.


  1. Hey Anne, you RAWK! I linked to this article from my blog! :)

  2. The person who wrote the original article has her head up her A$$. The thing is, she is ignorant and doesn't research the topics of her articles well. Had she been homeschooled, maybe she would be a more talented writer. I'm just saying. ;)

  3. I stumbled on to this "debate" this morning and as a homeschool mom who has been in BOTH systems...this rebuttal was fantastic! You know, I'm so done with the criticism...they can dish it out but can't seem to EVER acknowledge that it just may work for some families..thank GOD my kids are now able to communicate and reflect on their own what homeschooling does for them. Are they geeks? I don't know...we certainly are not the sterotypical homeschool family, in fact I'd bet that the author may not even pick us out of a lineup. lol...
    lots to think about, and even all the more reason that we as homeschoolers need to share our voice, as diverse as that voice is.:)

    WELL DONE...and that comes from a fellow comma abuser and a ... freak...or should I say 'geek?'


  4. Great post! Its funny how people think they know "the other side" so well. I don't claim to know it all about the public school. So much for "acceptance" and "diversity." ;)

  5. great response. the original post is so biased and full of contempt for homeschoolers and their parents that it doesn't say much for the author's superior socialization.

    we, too, homeschool our kids, and not for any of the reasons she listed. our oldest has an autism spectrum disorder and we found that public school was not able to meet his needs in a way that we could at home. our other children have since joined our family homeschool and are thriving.

    i wish that more people would take the time to see both sides of the story and to recognize that there are benefits and drawbacks to either scenario. i appreciate being able to choose the format of my children's education and to tailor their schooling to meet their individual needs.

    found you via twitter.

  6. Very good response. It was hard to really say much about. Mostly it read to me like "I hat homeschooling just because."

  7. Great response (and thanks for the link). I agree with Dana, it reasons were not very well thought through, but sometimes you just have to answer some of them. Thanks for taking the time to put this response together.

  8. Bravo! As good a rebuttal as I have heard in 20 years of homeschooling. Thank you for taking the time to respond to the criticisms so many of us have grown tired of hearing, and just tuned out.


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