A Teacher’s View of Homeschooling

February 22, 2012

I’ve seen a couple of articles recently about the evils of homeschooling. My hackles were especially gotten up by one saying liberals shouldn’t home school because home schooling runs counter to liberal values. At the moment, Cate and I intend to home school both our children, so I thought I’d take a moment to dispense with all the major arguments against homeschooling while providing an educator’s viewpoint on why it can sometimes be a necessity.

Argument 1: Your kid will be poorly socialized/School socializes your kids

Certainly, this is true of some kids, but that has more to do with the parents than anything else. If you want to cloister your kids, you certainly can, but you don’t have to. This is not the goal Cate and I have. We fully intend to have our kids involved in a number of activities. They’ll get plenty of socialization that way. And frankly, school often only teaches kids what it’s like to be constantly picked on by assholes. I can do without my kids encountering that and the negative consequences that can come with it.

Argument 2: You’re afraid of exposing your children to outside views and unfairly indoctrinating them

This is certainly the case for some, especially religiously motivated home schoolers. That doesn’t mean everyone approaches it that way. I find it absurd, however, that people believe public schools aren’t involved in indoctrination. Public schools tend to push a particularly simplistic and devotional version of patriotism that, while consistent with the goals of a government organization, isn’t good for critical thinking and an honest assessment of the society in which we live. Correspondingly, many students come out of school with ridiculous views about the benefits of capitalism and the risks of socialism. The current Obama as socialist panic is a good example of this kind of nonsense.

Argument 3: You aren’t qualified to teach your child

You might not be, but I am and so is Cate. We’re educated and fairly intelligent people. To an extent that’s our luck/privilege, but it’s also reflective of our values. If you don’t value education and don’t make an effort to constantly educate yourself, then no, you should probably not home school your children. In our household, it’s just about impossible to imagine our children surpassing Cate and me in the humanities, especially English and history, before they turn 18. It’s more imaginable that they’ll best us in science and math, but if that happens, there are other routes we can take to get them the education they need. We’re not afraid to outsource. And we won’t be unschooling. We’ll allow our children more room and time to explore those things that interest them most, but they will cover all of the basic subjects and there will be dedicated school time on a daily basis.

The other implication with this argument is that a high school education is highly advanced. In many, many schools and for many, many students, it isn’t. In fact, recent education reforms have mostly had the effect of forcing focus onto the lowest performing students (who are typically low performing for reasons that have nothing to do with teachers and schools and curriculum) and diverting it away from the highest performing students who could really excel in an area or two before reaching college. (aside: I’m not saying we shouldn’t divert extra resources to kids who need them, I’m saying we shouldn’t do it at the expense of other kids and in the useless way testing currently forces upon us.)

Argument 4: When parents home school, it lowers the quality of public schools

This is completely true. In an ideal world, school populations are ethnically, socially, and economically diverse. They are not testing focused. All children go to public schools. This isn’t an ideal world. A much bigger issue is the percentage of children in private schools and the way affluent Americans are able to congregate around the best public schools thus condemning many schools to high percentages of at-risks students and all the educational difficulties that come with that. As soon as there is genuine effort at educational reform that addresses the inequality inherently built into the educational system, I will totally get on board and send my children to a public school. However, as long as educational policy makers continue to live with their heads in the sand, I will be keeping my children out of the system.

Conclusion

Most teachers and administrators struggle daily to educate students under duress from higher authorities. I can tell you from experience, it sucks. A lot of teachers also utilize homeschooling and private schooling because we fully understand the problems inherent in the system and realize that sacrificing our children to such a system accomplishes little to nothing. I am a teacher because I believe that education is important and that I am reasonably good at educating kids even in our flawed system (though I would be better if we could get rid of pretty much all current policy). I understand that many people can’t home school and that their children still deserve a good education. By teaching, I am trying to do right by those children. I am, however, also a parent and I’m going to do what’s best for my children until the rest of the world gets on the same page and starts doing right by the public education system.

8 Responses to “A Teacher’s View of Homeschooling”

  1. Lacy P said

    My niece, who’s a high school freshman, could do with a lot LESS socialization. She spends so much time and energy at school keeping up with her friends, enemies and frienemies (if you’ll pardon the term) that she can barely keep up with things like learning. She spends longer each night deciding what to wear to school the next day than she does on her homework.

    Also, unschooling scares me. At some point you meed to learn to spell even if you don’t want to.

  2. Katy Riker said

    Jason, please feel free to delete this comment. But as you are an English teacher, I feel compelled to note:
    it’s just about impossible to imagine our children surpassing Cate or I in the humanities, especially English and history, before they turn 18.
    It should be Cate and me. You know this, I’m sure, but you have done this in the past. I’m a fussy person about this type of error (I wrote to Cate about it once too!), so please accept my apologies if this comment offends you. It just hurts me to think of a teacher making this error! I truly enjoy your posts. Best wishes – hope the little guy shows up soon!

    Katy

  3. Mandy said

    You’ve pointed my homeschooling meter much farther towards the “yes” side. Can we move closer and homeschool together?? πŸ™‚

  4. Angela said

    What a great post. (I am hard pressed to find a post of yours with which I haven’t nodded in agreement or felt challenged by, in a positive way.) We have three girls and an unknown on the way and we have entered the Montessori lottery here in Washington. It is free with limited spots and I love the educational model it offers. If our daughters don’t get in, I am seriously considering homeschooling. What has stopped me in the past is my lack of confidence in my own skills. I have a master’s in literature and am still academically engaged, but I just worry I’ll fail them. Thanks for writing this. It made homeschooling seem more accessible and daunting in a very doable way, if that makes sense.

    PS I laughed at Argument 2 because, during my HS social studies, our teacher, a retired cop in our tiny town in Idaho would not stop talking about how evil liberals are/were and how if there were in power, Saddam Hussein would join with the Russians and blow us to heathen bits. My grade went up significantly when I stopped openly arguing with him during class, but I’m sure that was just a coincidence. πŸ™‚ No indoctrination in public school whatsoever.

  5. Cate said

    I still maintain that the education I received from my mom from kindergarten through third grade was in many ways far superior to the education I received in all my following years of public school. Of course, much of that is because the student teacher ratio was 1:1. But as you’ve noted, public schools have huge systemic issues that simply having caring parents send their kids to public schools will NOT fix. For example…how many times over the course of my public school education did we learn U.S. history, by which I mean all about the Revolutionary and maybe the Civil War, hardly ever getting past 1900? And I’m still eternally grateful that I was enrolled in an AP World Civilizations class because it genuinely was WORLD civilizations, not All About Europe. Let’s not even talk about things like testing and tracking.

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