In my home, the children are home schooled. This is an option I started exploring in 1985, and my wife and I started preparing for when we married in 1994. Our first child was born in 1997. I mention this because I am constantly amazed when people hear that we do this and automatically assume that they have objections to home schooling that I never considered.
When people ask why I home school, my answer is generally the same:
I want my children to get the best education possible.
I can’t afford personal tutors, and no one can afford public schools.
Most objections to home school fall into two broad categories. To be fair, most people would not phrase them just this way, but I believe they are accurate.
Objection 1: You are too incompetent (stupid, uneducated, unsophisticated, or myopic) to provide the children with the education they need.
Objection 2: Your children will become social misfits because they have no interaction with other children.
Under Objection 1, I include all these questions:
“What are you going to do about high school?”
“How can you be arrogant enough to think you are better than a REAL teacher?”
“Even REAL teachers don’t try to teach all subjects at all levels. What makes you so special?”
“How can you teach what you don’t have a degree in?”
“What happens when they get to college?”
My fundamental problem with all these questions is that they assume some mystical ability imparted by a degree (or school "structure"), and totally ignore the facts.
Every international comparison shows that in kindergarten, American kids are as academically developed as anyone. Odd that these kids have had 4-5 years of parental influence and very little from REAL teachers. By grade school, they are falling behind, and by graduation, they are at the bottom of the list among developed countries.
I wonder whether it is really possible for parents to do worse.
A parent who has decided to home school has made other decisions as well. First, they pretty much have to be married. Good luck home schooling after a divorce. Second, they have made children a priority over a second income. That decision alone means that home schoolers give up lots of “extras”, but it also represents a huge commitment. It’s rarely easy, and often it’s downright traumatizing. In a time of financial difficulty, all your friends and family are telling you to put your children’s education second and just get a job like everyone else. They believe they are helping. They don’t understand that to a home schooling parent, the souls of the children are more important than fancy homes or cars. The easy way is rarely the best way.
For parents who need academic help, there are innumerable support groups in every city, every state, and online. Every subject has live experts available for free or very inexpensively. The academic stuff is the easy part. It’s the close attention that comes from having teachers that are personally invested in the child’s success that is impossible to duplicate outside the home.
Objection 2 is so laughable to me that I am amazed when otherwise intelligent people cling to it. The ability to interact and communicate with children may be important for a short time, but the ability to interact on an adult level is going to be important for much longer, and in more arenas.
My children, like many home schoolers, have done dance, karate, gymnastics, and other classes where they interact with people of their own age. It’s true that they don’t swear as much as the children they meet there, but they seem to make themselves understood. They don’t know or care what the most popular toy is this year. They wouldn’t know Britney Spears from Michael Jackson on sight. Somehow, though, they are happy, and they make friends easily enough.
Whatever you may think of a home schooler’s “social skills”, you can pick them out of a lineup of 1,000 others any day. They are the ones who know how to interact like adults.
I have had the opportunity and responsibility to interview many people for employment over the years. Never have I found that someone communicates on too adult or professional a level for me. I have often found people with high school diplomas or even college degrees who are incapable of putting a coherent thought together. They speak in slang as if my business is supposed to adapt to their limited vocabulary. Those who get hired on (by others in my company) write emails that are incomprehensible or inappropriate.
I don’t know why so many people who choose public school want to attack the choice to home school. Maybe they just want to justify their own decision – or lack thereof. Maybe they really believe their way is the right way despite every study. In that way, it reminds me a little bit of television viewing. I took my TV out when my oldest was born. Every study in America says the average household watches 6 hours per day. Nevertheless, when someone finds out we don’t do TV, they invariably say “We don’t either” – sometimes after telling me every detail of the latest “Talent” show or their top ten favorite commercials.
Public school proponents remind me of that. First, they bring up the two objections I already noted, then they tell me about how wonderful their particular school is. Never mind that statistically, American schools are failing across the board. Never mind what I just heard them say to another public school parent two days ago. When I talk to them, their school is fantastic, and they never watch television.
Who knows where their child picked up the “Sponge Bob” theme song they have been singing for the past 20 minutes while he demonstrates his superior social skills by throwing sand at the other kids on the playground? He probably picked it up from those weird home school kids.
~ Just Jim, Ghostblogger!