Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top Ten Reason Homeschoolers Are Doing a Right Thing

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Ten Reasons Why Homeschooling Parents Are Doing the Wrong Thing:

Not Tuesday, but I've got a Ten. Here are my top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing a right thing:

10. So “You were totally home schooled” may be an insult among college freshman in the dorm.
Let's balance it with:
"Homeschooling seems to be working great. Your children are so comfortable speaking with adults." (Our pediatrician.)
"I love having homeschooled kids in the library. They're so well-behaved." (Our librarian.)
"I wish I was homeschooled." (Many children my children meet and play with on the playground, at gymnastics, in the neighborhood.)
And my personal favorite, since college is, after all, about getting an education and not just a taller version of middle school: "I love having homeschooled students in my classroom. They ask thoughtful questions and are more interested in learning the material instead of slapping something together for a grade." (A college professor living on my old block.)

9. "Students–from little ones to teens–deserve a learning-focused place to study. In modern society, we call them schools."
Hahahahahaha! Hoohoohoohoohoohoohoohoohoo! Heeheeheeheeheeheeheehee! This is supposed to be an argument against, I think, doing schoolwork at the dining room table (and by extension at home in general). Although I'm pretty sure public school families eat their Fruit Loops and meatloaf at home at their tables too, right smack where many kids do homework.

What kind of argument is this? The table on which the learning takes place has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of learning. I could quibble back about buzzing fluorescent lights, the kid flicking his pencil, whispered conversations, texting in class, staring out the window wishing to be outside and on and on, but the reality is that most children will learn where they are taught. Having a learning-focused structure and routine in a homeschool or a public school is far more important than the table or the place.

8. Is homeschooling selfish?
I enjoy my childrens' company and know that their time with us is short, so I want to savor every moment. Is that selfish? We love learning and exploring together. Is that selfish? Though I am committed to my community and expect my children to model kindness and compassion and good behavior, I don't feel a responsibility to send my children to school to be role models for others. As a matter of fact, I think that would be a struggle for them, and I also believe there are many other areas in which they can reach out to others far more effectively. Is that selfish? I know that I can offer a quality rigorous individualized education that allows them time to explore their passions and develop their talents and gives them time to play and be children. Is that selfish? We happily and willingly pay our tax dollars to support our local and state schools, and we choose not to send our children to already crowded public schools because we've thoughtfully and carefully chosen a different lifestyle, one that suits us. Is that selfish?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I believe in sending out into the world creative, joyful, well-adjusted, educated young adults with a sense of honor and of responsibility to their communities. That's my goal, and it's an important one, not just for me and my family, but for the community and the world at large.

Not selfish.

7. God has given us our children to raise up and doesn't have anything official to say one way or the other about homeschooling. That's a conversation between Him and those asking. Period.

(Quite frankly, #7 was a cheap shot. Score a point for that tolerance kids are supposed to be learning in schools. Or not.)

6. Homeschooling parents/teachers are confident and want to teach our children to learn. Since we're educated and wealthy (see linked post, argument 8) we can teach many subjects, and for those we can't, we often can afford to pay for tutoring, private classes, college classes or internships. Even when we can't, we're creative and smart enough to find resources in our communities for subjects we are not comfortable teaching. We learn with our children, which offers them the realization that the world is not divided so easily into "experts" and "non-experts" or "imparters of learning and wisdom" and "receivers of learning and wisdom."

Notice I didn't list my degrees or qualifications. I've got them, but it's more important that I am willing, like any good teacher, to continue to educate myself in the subjects I'm teaching and how to teach them.

5. I can understand why some school teachers might feel threatened by homeschooling, even though my personal decision is to teach my children at home is absolutely no reflection of my beliefs about public schools or public school teachers. As a matter of fact, most public school teachers are heroes in my book, and I support my neighborhood schools. But one person's like or dislike of a particular education style is neither here nor there, and to expect to make a rational case against anything by saying, "I don't like it" is a stretch. I don't like chocolate cake, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

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?"
Hmm. It could. Because hey, I may have mentioned that families are the primary unit for socialization. But then again, I could write a similar statement about public school. When we homeschool, the world is our classroom. Our children learn and interact with people of all ages, beliefs, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds and get to explore their unique talents rather than being stuck in age-segregated classroom with children of roughly the same socio-economic status (because they're all from the same neighborhood) learning exactly what everyone else is learning. We study other cultures in-depth instead of skimming, skipping, focusing primarily on Western and American culture and history, and making a Chinese dragon every Chinese New Year and calling it a study of the rich and complex culture and history of China.

And "homeschooling" is not synonymous with "schooling at home." You can find homeschoolers out in the community, visiting the elderly, working with master gardeners in community gardens, volunteering in the animal shelters, serving meals at the food banks, teaching young children, helping their neighbors, out in the woods. That's an awful lot of exposure to the many subcultures we can find in our own communities.

3. Oh boy.
A) Socializing children by throwing them into a room year after year filled mostly with children of the same ages....not natural socialization. Large-scale public age-segregated education is a fairly recent historical development, folks.

Ask a teacher who's been teaching for 20+ years about how behavior has changed in their classrooms over the years. (Go ahead, and before you criticize, I have asked. I've had this conversation with many experienced teachers.) They'll usually point to two things: Video games and television, and families. The family is and should be the primary unit of socialization. Even the most homeschool-hating teacher has to agree with that. Kids with parents who expect and insist on appropriate social behaviors usually display appropriate social behaviors, no matter what their school choice. Add in the bonus of getting out into our communities and homeschoolers follow something much closer to the time-tested model of healthy human socialization than age-segregated group education. Not a criticism of public schools or group education. I'm just pointing it out.

And b) Only an hour a day? Including neighborhood play time? Obviously the writer of this post hasn't looked at my calendar, or the calendar of the homeschool families I know. As far as socialization, at the park you might be able to pick out the homeschooled children because they're friendly to everyone, not just the kids their age. They're confident with adults. But other than that, guess what? They're kind and rotten and sweet and selfish and funny and angry and creative and quiet and wild. They're kids just like all the other kids.

2. Homeschooling parents are risk-takers. We're not necessarily folks who will choose the path that everyone else is taking. Guess what? That's good for us, for our children, for our communities and for our society. None of us, parents or teachers, want cookie-cutter kids, a society of automatons. When families choose to homeschool, we're "gambling" that we're creating a life-long love of learning, that our children will be leaders, that they'll grow up to be people who think for themselves and take risks. Every path has risks, and the fact that a thoughtful decision was made for a child to go to public school or private school or to homeschool is far more important than choosing blindly because other people are doing it or because it's just the way we do things, no matter which path you choose.

1. "And finally… have you met someone homeschooled? Not to hate, but they do tend to be pretty geeky."
So glad there's no hate there. Who was concerned about tolerance and acceptance?

The homeschooled children I know, from preschool age up to post-high school graduates, have all been exactly who they are. Some confident, some creative, some intelligent, some funny, some mannerly, some charming, and yes, even some "geeky." Just like kids in public school. Just like kids all over the world. Kids are kids, people are people.

It's time to put to rest the idea that homeschooled children are socially inept. Or, for that matter, that they are all paragons of good behavior and virtue. We're just like everyone else. Some kids are socially gifted, most are socially fine, and some struggle with social skills. (Which, incidentally may be why some are pulled out of school for homeschooling in the first place, because the teasing or the feeling of not fitting in became intolerable.) But the idea that sitting in a classroom for several hours a day=appropriate socialization, or that homeschoolers never get out around other children, or heck, even that all public-schooled students are mouthy cursing pregnant's just. not. that. simple. When we start making those kinds of generalizations we distill the richness and variety of human experience into something so much less.

Gah, I hate those Pollyanna people who chirp things like, "We should all learn to celebrate our differences," but (shhh, don't tell!) I may be turning into one of them. Goodness, this forty(ish) thing and all of that "with age comes wisdom" stuff sucks. (Not that I'm necessarily wise, just...nicer? More tolerant? Definitely older, anyway. Heh.) Let's take a little time to learn and respect. It's all right to disagree, but maybe before we start taking potshots (ahem, "God hates homeschooling"??) at someone we don't understand, we should try having a conversation. A real conversation, the kind where we ask one another questions and try to see why others do what they do. We might actually learn something. And that's what it's all about.


Brenda said...

Amen! Your children are great, Cat! Continue on your journey!

Amy said...

Thanks for posting a link to the article and your rebuttal.

KarenK said...

Well said!