Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 2.14

This afternoon, I subjected myself to a creationist “science” fair. The things I do for you people. A full report, with pictures will follow in a few days.
In the meantime, here is something to ponder.

The group putting on this event consists of mainly homeschooling families. What do you think of homeschooling?

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59 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t take out my own appendix, try to fly the 737 I’ll be on next week, or try to school my children. Some things are best left to those who have a modicum of training. As well, I think kids need to socialize with their peers before going to college.

  2. I’ve only seen homeschooling for two reasons: Mostly for religion-based instruction, but a little because the local schools just suck.

    I wonder if there are more secular homeschoolers in Clayton County, Ga., now that the school system there lost their accreditation.

    BTW, selling school supplies to homeschoolers is a big business.

  3. Homeschooling can be good, but let’s face it, it’s a red flag. Like when you hear that some white people are putting together an event based around “heritage”, you have to assume they might be white supremacists, even though you might be wrong and certainly hope you’re wrong. Mind you, you should check it out before taking that assumption very far. But you’re a fool if you ignore red flags, and “homeschooling” is one. Far too often it means controlling parents with wacky ideas about the purity of their children getting polluted by contact with other kids and other ideas.

  4. The only home schooled children I know are my niece and nephew – and they are terrific. Now in their early twenties, they were brought up in a non-believing family, and they are both very well adjusted. Their mother, my sister, is a stay home mom, and she took homeschooling classes and belonged to online homeschooling communities. The kids are bright, funny, social, skeptical and outgoing. My nephew reads this blog, too. :)

    So, all that really says is it can work. However, many fundies home school for the wrong reasons, in order to prevent their children from encountering “opposing views” at school. That probably doesn’t work as well. Also, as soon as they get to college, those fundy home schooled kids will encounter all those opposing views, and will probably (hopefully) embrace them in an act of rebellion.

  5. On the one hand I’m a big believer in the Law of Comparative Advantage, as Old Geezer pointed out, there are reasons to specialise. On the other hand, if you think the public schools in your area are useless (a notion that can’t be dismissed out of hand) and you can’t afford private schooling, what do you do?

    Also as a matter of policy, I get antsy when a provider of a service tries to play on the risks or dangers of using a competing product. As such, I worry when governments try to crack down on homeschoolers.

  6. Like most things, home schooling has good and bad points.
    I do agree, as Old Geezer put it above, kids need socialization. I include exposure to new and different people/thinking under that heading.

    Anthrosciguy and datajack also make a valid (and I’ve personally seen it) point. Many of these parent are not educating their kids as much as they are indoctrinating their kids in their beliefs and prejudices. They are also setting themselves up for major problems, because eventually those kids will get out into the “real world” and have to cope with everything that their parents tried to shield them from. Perfect setup for teen rebellion, with all the attendant consequences. Think “sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and alcohol.” Most of these parents don’t realize how ill-equipped their kids are for real life until they suddenly are into drugs or pregnant. Too late then.

    I also think this is the motivation behind many “Bible colleges.” They are propaganda machines to keep the young faithful well-insulated from opposing views and they sometimes succeed for life with some of these kids. Ultimately, when these kids get out into the real world, they find that as they “minister” to the “unsaved,” their world view is challenged in ways that can bring their entire philosophical structure to ruin.

    I find this true especially of those trained in “apologetics,” where they are taught to spout off rote answers to challenges and problems rather than to about them. This can really mess them up if someone hits them with something that they aren’t “prepared” for in their “script.” Of course, this presumes that they have the ability to examine themselves and be honest about what they find in themselves and in their philosophy.

  7. I think if the parents are good at teaching then it would work out ok but, like it has been said if it is just to insulate them from the out side world and they are crappy teachers…..well you know how the saying goes garbage in garbage out. I think what home schooled kids do miss is the ability to think and say no when an outside force comes in contact with them that they should not get involved with like gangs, drugs loose woman…….well ok not the loose woman they should be consulting them.

  8. I know two kids who are homeschooled for a valid (to me) reason. These kids have serious learning disabilities and do best with one on one teaching which they get at home with a tutor and their mom. They have a very active social life, sports, music, riding, outside of school, but these primary years are so important for dyslexic learners. Their parents felt that this was their best shot as the local private school that specializes in LD kids would not accept them due to the limit of the school’s scope. Many non-religious parents I know choose to homeschool due to lack of funds to send their kids to a good private school if their public systems blows. Also, many don’t want their kids in a certain poorly run portion of their local system. My city has a particularly horrible middle school system and my child will not be attending a public middle school here. However, I have seen to many mothers choose to homeschool as a way to hold on to their childrens’ dependence. They are afraid to vaccinate, breastfeed until kindergarten, refuse to allow the child in the backyard without an adult, and will go to extraordinary lengths to keep a child harnessed or rear-facing in a vehicle mostly to ensure their own control. This is couched in the guise of “love” and is sad for both the child and the parents.

  9. I have a nephew being home schooled, and I can only hope it works out for him. He’s very young, but he’s smart and thinks critically as much as an 11-year-old can. But, his curriculum is religious, and his parents are vaguely religious. I try to seed good ideas as much as I can, but if I’m having any real effect is up for debate.

    Personally, I was private schooled, then home schooled, then public schooled, then home schooled again. Now I’m in college, and it’s a much more fulfilling experience than any of the supposed schooling I’ve had in the past.

    Like my nephew, I went through Christian private school and Christian home school as well as In God We Trust public school. It was quite a ride, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I turned out alright, and despite everything I’ve had a Penn-like avoidance of drugs, alcohol, and belief in stupid shit. But I know that for all my nieces and nephews, that their mileage may vary.. and probably will.

  10. I can understand home-schooling, to an extent. I’ve seen what monsters some parents raise and I can understand not wanting your own children to associate with that. But I know that I don’t know enough to provide anyone with a sound education. Plus, I’m paying school taxes anyway. If I had children,. I would certainly be sending my kids to public schools -and if I disagreed with what they were or weren’t teaching (sex ed, science, history, whatever), you can bet they would hear from me.

  11. To add on what Tyler wrote When I was going to Sunday School as a young lad I remember all the kids that went to the private religious school were kinda concerned about having to go to the large Public High School when they got older. I think it was a safety net issue.

  12. This is actually something I’ve given a fair bit of thought to, concluding that if I have kids they will most likely be homeschooled for several reasons. First, my experience with public schools is that they don’t exactly foster critical thinking or individuality. Second, I have huge issues with bullying and I think that this is horribly prevalent in the public system. Third, I am loathe to give up my children’s raising to a third party for such important formative years. Finally, by the time I have children I will have my PhD and will have a strong vested interest in my children’s education. I feel I can provide them a better education than most public schools at least up until high school.

    Some of the concerns I’ve seen are legitimate but not insurmountable. First, I agree that socializing is crucial but school is not the only place that this is available. There are all sorts of clubs and organizations through which children can learn how to socialize. Second, I think the concern that homeschooled kids turn out weird is not a matter of causation but correlation; those people most inclined to homeschool are doing so for the purpose of sheltering their children from external corruption, things like evolution, race and homosexuality. It is because the children have been indoctrinate and sheltered that they seem a bit odd as adults not due to any quality inherent to homeschooling.

    Just my thoughts; I realize that not everyone finds homeschooling appealing but I think it’s a great idea.

  13. I was “homeschooled” after the fourth grade; I guess five years of telling my parents I didn’t want to go back was as much as they could take. I put the word in quotes because we actually avoided it a lot of the time – a lot of people did, actually, in large part because of the association with Christian Homeschoolers (my mother was actually responsible for organizing, and often representing in the media, the non-religious homeschoolers in our area). I guess I also put it in quotes because it’s not like I had a desk and a blackboard, or even like my parents were my teachers – I did what I wanted. That lead to working full time in my industry of choice at the age of sixteen, among other things. I socialized, too – and better, I think, because it wasn’t just with a bunch of kids who’d been forced to sit in the same room with me all day. I went to university (for a while – I ended up deciding to move and change careers before I finished).

    It’s not right for everybody, or even necessarily a majority, and any one approach to homeschooling won’t even work for most homeschoolers. The existing school system(s) aren’t right for everybody either, though, and it burns me up when those of us for whom it wasn’t working, and who seek our own answers rather than quietly fall by the wayside, get lumped in with people who just want to avoid questions. There is a tremendous diversity among those who choose to educate their children at home or elsewhere outside the school system, of which even having been involved in organizing homeschoolers, unschoolers, freeschoolers and many others I have only seen a small fraction myself. Before asking what you think of homeschooling, I think it’s worth establishing out loud what you think it is, and considering that there might be more to it before you pass judgement.

  14. I think success of home schooling depends on what the parent’s goals are and how they go about it. If the parents really feel like they can take on the tasks of teachers by teaching all the academics and socialization that they do, maybe it can work. Personally, I’d rather trust the trained professionals. I was a very awkward kid growing up so I’ve heard some say that it might have been better if I weren’t sent to public school dealing with the other kids or teachers, but I think it has made me the strong individual that I am today.
    Actually, that was my grandmother’s reason for pulling my mother out of public school. She was being beaten up by classmates in kindergarden, so she was pulled out and sent to a Baptist mission school from grade school to high school.

    I do have cousins that were home schooled. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the parents home schooled them for religious reasons. They are all adults now, and two of them lead devout lives (one works for the Watchtower in New York, one travels as a missionary) and one left the church. Their academic education wasn’t the best (the one that left is working hard on getting her GED) and they’ve lead a very sheltered life. Not the type of life I would want for my child.

  15. Well, my wife and I are atheist home schoolers, and there are scads more of us that I know personally, and probably even more that I do not.

    Of course, being atheist home schoolers doesn’t mean that we are any good at it, but we are not doing the religious indoctrination (although we are making the kids learn about different religions, although that is usually their least favorite subject).

    Two observations from our experiences:

    1. Public school can work really well for the majority of kids who are “in the middle” in terms of interest, learning style, aptitude, etc. Now, every kid is outside of the norm in some way, but the more ways an individual kid is outside of the norm the harder it is for them in the public school. The larger the school district the less able/willing it is to accommodate children who fall outside of the norms. After four years of struggling to make the system work for our oldest, and two years trying to make it work for our youngest, we realized that we were never going to be able to do the best for our children in that system.

    2. Home schooling is easier than most think if you have curious children. Once a child knows how to read, a weekly trip to the library goes a long way. Magazine subscriptions are wonderful – the proliferation of magazines means that you can find one on almost any topic and at any reading level. Once you are thinking along the right lines, math, science, history, civic, and the arts are literally all around us (heck, that is what we call “civilization”) – you just have to talk with your kids about them when the opportunity arises.

    The great thing about home schooling is the talking with your kids and getting to know them. Once you do that (and keep on doing that as they grow), home schooling is not all that hard in most instances that I have experienced. The bits like “socialization” that many worry about are actually pretty easy – there are no end of sports teams, clubs, volunteer opportunities, and the like that kids can do.

    I know that this is long winded, and I also know that I could keep going on, but home schooling has been great for our family.

  16. @xenu: It varies widely. A lot of people do use prepackaged curricula which can in some cases be more or less interchangeable with the official school curriculum, down to the text books and even slides and suggested activities; the majority of Christian Homeschoolers I’ve encountered did this, except of course they bought the special Christian versions. Others, generally parents with a high level of education and maybe some prior knowledge of teaching methods, develop their own approaches. In my case, to be honest, I basically just read a lot and taught myself to do whatever I was interested in at the moment. I knew some leftover hippies for whom it meant letting their kids wander around in the grass and play guitar all day, the merits of which I don’t really understand myself though some of them seemed to do pretty well. Some people actually work with their local school, even attending certain classes, where the administrators are amenable – which they usually aren’t, of course. Most of my friends were actually kids in public school, because “homeschooling” wasn’t really much to have in common.

    And, yes, I’ve seen it go quite wrong for some people, and not just the kids of religious nuts. It is a challenge, and it’s understandable that the majority of parents would want to have professionals trained to give their kids the best education possible. My own parents would have liked that if the professionals had shown any sign of knowing what to do with me. I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone for choosing to put their kids in school, or those who teach there.

  17. I’m definitely biased, since I was homeschooled from 4th-12th grade. (Followed by a liberal arts college and large university grad school). My family was part of a support group of non-religious homeschoolers (there were other support groups for religious homeschoolers), and that group believed some wacky things too, but more about natural foods and vitamins. I personally was raised to question everything and to be a critical thinker, but in a healthy skeptical way rather than being obnoxious.

    Socialization isn’t really the issue everyone seems to think it is. I think being in an urban area helps, though. I had plenty of friends, both homeschooled and regular schooled, and I went through all the same traumas that kids in regular school did. I think I managed to get most of the best types of socialization and less of the worst types.

    Once I started college, no one knew I was homeschooled unless I told them. I fit in just fine socially, and academically I had the advantage of knowing how to work and think independently. Same thing with grad school. My job now requires me to constantly interact with strangers, not be judgmental, and speak in front of groups.

    Of course, this is my own anecdotal experience, and I’m sure the experience of people heavily schooled in any ideology would be very different.

  18. @ksmcgimpsey: You (with a doctorate) are more likely to be successful with homeschooling, IMHO, because presumably you would have taught as part of your grad studies. At least you would have the advantage of advanced education and some experience.

    Fuzzykitty, elexina, xenu and bonechar all make good points above. It’s definitely not for every parent or child. There are good reasons why teaching school is a profession, especially in this high-tech world. It’s a shame that we don’t support our school system and teachers well – It’s a national scandal, IMHO. :-(

    For example, I’m pretty sharp and recently (2003) got my BS degree. My wife is an RN BSN. We would have found home schooling our kids in advanced math, chemistry, etc. virtually impossible, though.

    The ones that concern me are the parents with no post-high school education or undergrad degree who choose to home school for religious reasons. These people are not likely to be proficient in teaching or in the selection of a strong, rounded educational program. Some of the religious-based programs I’ve seen are pathetic drivel with a strong religious bent. They are aimed at the parents and meant more to propagandize than to educate.

  19. It is the great experiment. Will these kids be better or worse? In Phoenix, the public schools are not worth a warm bucket of spit. No doubt home school is at least a learning alternative to what the public schools offer. Kids will become indoctrinated by their parents no matter what. But we do need educational reforms, in a broad way, because education is the silver bullet.
    I would think most parents would want their kids out of the house– but maybe that would be my bias.

  20. Homeschooling does not work for every kid. Neither does group schooling. Homeschooled kids probably spend less time “socializing” with other kids that are the same age, but in most cases spend much more time with children and adults of various ages and stages. (I have yet to be convinced that putting kids in large groups sorted by age is the best way (or even a good way) to help them become productive members of society.)

    My 2 sons were homeschooled, one unconventionally (ie mostly unschooled) for 3 years of highschool, and one more conventionally using standard curriculum for the last part of his last year of highschool. Both have recently graduated from college, with honours.

    I think public schools are a Good Thing – I even do some volunteer teaching at a junior high school in my spare time. I would love to see a reduction in the knee-jerk reactions on both sides – the secularists who can’t imagine how homeschooling could possibly work, and the homeschoolers (mostly, but not entirely fundamentalists) who think that all groupschooling is evil.

  21. I think that homeschooling is a bad idea in most situations. I agree that kids need to be socialized, because once they get out into the real world they aren’t going to have the social skills necessary to survive in the real world. The other big problem is that most people aren’t equipped with the skills necessary to really teach children what they need to know, and textbooks aren’t a good substitute for teachers.
    On the other hand, our public school system is awful, and does a terrible job at preparing kids for real life too. And in many cases the social scene can be just as damaging as not having one at all.

  22. @TomDG: In my own experience, most homeschooled/unschooled/etc kids (excepting the fundamentalist Christians) are ALREADY in the real world, which is potentially a much better sort of socialization than the artificial environment in school, as theobromine mentions above, which as you say can be pretty negative sometimes.

    It seems like the sticking point for a lot of people is the “home” part. Realize it doesn’t actually mean we spend all our time at home; we’re not invalids or shut-ins, we’re just not shut up in the same building as all the other children.

  23. I was homeschooled during my high school years. The local public school system was terrible, and I had serious bully problems. My parents couldn’t afford a private school, and the local charter school just didn’t work out. Homeschooling was the only option available.

    At first, we did what’s traditionally considered homeschooling. My parents compiled a curriculum cribbed from the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, put together daily lessons, assigned homework, and tried their best to evaluate progress. This wasn’t very successful given that my parents had never been trained as teachers, and I didn’t have the diligence to do things on my own.

    To our relief, we discovered a clever way to hack the system. The local community college had an open enrollment policy and was a lot less expensive than any private school. My parents persuaded me to take the placement test there, and based on those results they signed me up for the appropriate classes. From then on, my homeschooling consisted entirely of going to community college. While I was there, I even picked up a GED to make everything nice and legit. I’m now in grad school working towards a PhD, but I digress.

    The point is, not everyone who homeschools is a religious weirdo trying to shelter his or her children from the secular evils of public school. There are many legitimate reasons to homeschool and it’s very unfortunate that people tend to associate it with ignorance.

  24. I find the idea of people homeschooling their children for religious reasons quite scary. There are certain things that every child should be taught, and that includes real science. That being said, however, there is no single way to go about this. I was unschooled myself since fifth grade with a crazy mixture of alternative school classes, private tutors and self-teaching (I never took a single lesson from my parents), and I found that when I got to college I had a lot more ‘real world experience’ than my public-schooled friends. I’m about to graduate with degrees in music and English and planning to go on to grad school.

    I do think that there should be some government oversight of homeschoolers. In the state of Washington one of the parents most have a four-year college degree and the child must be able to present proof of the proper level of education at any time it’s asked for (though I was never asked for it). It’s important that the child is getting a good education; it is less important how the child gets it.

  25. Okay, wow, this is a really nice series of comments for me to read now. One last from me tonight to say that, in the entire time I’ve been reading skeptical blogs, I think this is the first time I’ve seen comments from anyone other than myself mentioning homeschooling as potentially positive. I was starting to wonder if it was just me.

  26. I was not homeschooled and I suck at “socialization”. I don’t really see how twelve years of public school did anything to improve me in that respect. And it wasn’t the way I was raised. My parents were fairly outgoing. My husband is probably worse than me, total introvert and another public schooler.

    We have three kids, all of them outgoing–never met a stranger. They talk to everyone about everything, all the time. Drives me crazy sometimes. Of the three, my son is the most extroverted which is odd because he was the only one that really wasn’t socialized for the first few years of his life. My husband and I were both working full time and he stayed with relatives instead of daycare. Until he was six or so, he didn’t really have a regular group of friends. We didn’t do this on purpose, it was just how it worked out because times were tough for us.

    Ranging in age from eight to eighteen months, all three are homeschooled now. We’ve never used the school system. We are part of a huge secular homeschooling group in Georgia and have a really great local group that we see at least once a week, often more. Obviously, I’m in favor of homeschooling. It might not be for everyone, but the socialization concern is such a joke.

  27. I homeschooled for part of high school, and for me it was really helpful. It allowed me to study what I was interested in, so I actually enjoyed learning for once, and that really helped me get prepared for college.

    Whether it’s a good idea really does depend on what your reasons are for homeschooling, and what kind you do. I agree that the creepy religious homeschoolers who are just trying to shield their kids from evolution are really harming their kids, and I do think there should be standards to make sure that homeschoolers are getting a good education.

    I think in some cases, homeschooling really can work better than traditional schooling, for two main reasons. For one, you can go at your own pace, so you’re not being held back by a curriculum that’s too easy for you (which was the main problem I had in school), and on the other hand you’re not falling behind in a class that’s too fast for you. The other advantage is the one-on-one attention: Public school classes are just too big for the teacher to really invest time with each student, and having that direct attention makes education much more engaging. Homeschooling works best for certain kinds of students, especially gifted students that need the freedom to do their own projects, but also students who have learning disabilities and need special attention.

    Obviously, there are drawbacks, and not everyone is suited to it. For one thing, it usually requires a parent at home, and most families don’t have that luxury. And it is harder to socialize with other kids if you’re not in school, so you have to make an effort to go to homeschooling gatherings and line up lots of extracurriculars.

  28. Historically, homeschooling started in the ’70s as part of the counter-culture in opposition to the establishment. John Holt and his ideas of “unschooling”–letting the child’s interests determine the curriculum–were very influential. Then the fundamentalists got into it as a way to keep the Darwinists and humanists from influencing their children.

    We actually considered homeschooling our daughter, and there were a lot of humanist and Unitarian-Universalist homeschoolers nearby when she was about to go to kindergarten, but I was at home with her then, and my wife and I decided that I wasn’t really the elementary teacher type, so we decided to send her to public school instead. That seems to have been a good decision as the schools she’s been in have been good. If they ever aren’t, we might rethink.

  29. I tend to be a little suspicious of homeschooling, and I’ll admit, not just the wacky religious type.
    For one thing, I’ve met a lot of people who were homeschooled and broadcast the impression that they thought they were extra special – that they had been homeschooled because they were too brilliant for group school. In reality, most of them were just brighter-than-average kids who chanced upon the combination of parents who had the resources for alternatives to public school and probably a crappy local school system. A couple of them I met in university were in for a nasty shock when they discovered that the vast majority of their peers were just as capable as they were. This attitude wasn’t totally universal, of course, but it was prevalent enough that it gave me a negative impression of the practice.
    I’m also concerned over questions of consistency in education. I might have loathed math, but I still figure it was important that I have taken it, at least to give me some challenges. A friend of mine, on the other hand, didn’t learn to read until she was ten because she thought she didn’t need to – her mother read everything out for her.
    I can definitely understand some of the motivations underlying the desire to take kids out of a system that is definitely lacking in many ways. On the other hand, the problem is that usually the people who jump ship are the ones who are the best equipped to help fix it, leaving behind people who don’t have the means to look to alternatives, and having them suffer the consequences. I often wonder if the money and time spent on homeschooling and private schools were dedicated to improving the public system, how much better off everyone would be.

  30. What do people mean by “Socialising” in children? Is that kids learning to be obedient to authority? or not questioning what they are told by authority? or accepting being bullied without fighting back (if someone picks on you and you punch them, YOU get into trouble)?

    In fact when you talk about “Socialising” kids at school what you really mean is programming them to be nice, complient, obedient, docile, efficient consumers. Isn’t that what school is really about? Sure you might pick up a thing or two (but most adults can’t do long division or multiply fractions, so not much) but the real education is to prepare you for a lifetime of being told what to do and think. Just smart enough to work the machines, but not to realise how the system is f*cking them.

    How could you possibly claim that interaction with children is informative as to how one should act with adults?

    I was home schooled until I was 7 as my parents thought 4 was too young to start school (in Germany it’s still the case that children don’t start school until 7) and those three years of being homeschooled gave me a huge advantage over my classmates in that I could read, write and do aritmatic at the level of a 12 yo who’d been through the public system.

    I was also lucky in that my mum didn’t work and to all intents and purposes my education continued through the summer holidays with trips to museum’s, galleries, the library etc.

    Frankly, you learn nothing at school. Anything you do happen to pick up between the age of 5 and 16 is coincidental, and probably something you saw/heard on a Science/History program on R4, C4, BBC2 or BBC4 (In fact a History Degree is roughly equvalent to 10 years of watching BBC2 and C4 History programes)

    High-School Maths is a joke. Drama, Art, Textiles, History and RE are a waste of time, money and effort. It’d be easier to teach a monkey to talk than teach any Foreign Language. Txtspk is dstry’n Englsh innit? No qualified Chemist of Physist wants to waste there time try to teach students who can’t even add up, so those subjects are taught by unqualified Biology graduates, who’re so appaling at their own specialiaity that only 30% of the population believe mankind evolved (LESS than 40 years ago!). 90% of school biology departments should be rightly renamed as “The Department of Flower Pressing and Butterfly Collecting”.
    And sex ed is so terrible that a 13yo has became a father this week. He’s only 4 foot tall!

    That’s why the world swarms with empty vessels, it’s not that people are dumb but rather they never been taught anything.

  31. @QuestionAuthority: I agree that the school systems and teachers should get more of our support. Especially since they have to teach children of all different abilities.

    So that leads me to the question, what about home schooling children with special needs? I’m talking about all kinds of special needs, such as special education for learning disorders, and children of different language requirements (I was one of them–I was in ESL for several years). I wanted to know more from the people that are more familiar with the non-religious aspects of home schooling if there are special support or programs for those cases.

    I also wanted to know what other people thought about extra education time spent at home or at learning centers outside of school. I was naturally more interested in the arts and sciences so my mother gave me extra attention and we did some extra studies outside of school on those topics. My mother helping nuture my interests in that way helped a lot.

  32. We moved from Northern Va to Western Wi a few years back as part of a transfer within my husband’s company. At the first Christmas party I got to meet all the wives and make the usual chit-chat.

    In the course of conversation with one, I found out she home-schooled. Now, I’ve known people who home schooled because of bad school situations, so I don’t jump to conclusions. But she then clarified she didn’t just home school – she Christian Home Schooled.

    I didn’t blink or miss a beat, and asked her what the difference was between home schooling and Christian home schooling. She informed that really, it was about always thinking about how their religion impacted all the learnings.

    My husband said if he didn’t know me, he would have thought I thought that was just hunky dory, I did such a good job of paying attention and making the right encouraging noises. Inside, yes, I was seething. Mostly for the kids.

    If religion is that important to you, then send your kids to a parochial school. I don’t necessarily like it, but at least your kids will be exposed to other kids and social situations. But to keep them at home so you can basically say to them “What Would Jesus Do about fractions?” How is that helping your kids prepare for the larger world?

  33. @russellsugden: I don’t think it’s fair to say that you learn “nothing” in school. And “socializing” in the context we’re using here means “learning how to interact with others in a respectful and productive way” not “producing obedient mindless Deltas for the factories”.

    The quality of public education can be high. It can also be abysmally low. It depends on the standards demanded by the community and the resources that can be put into it. If you think it sucks, do something to change it instead of just dismissing all public education altogether.

    I think of homeschooling much the same way as public schooling, actually – can be good, can be bad, can be VERY bad. Only it’s much more variable and there’s much less oversight. If you don’t like what’s going on in your school district, you can work to change it. If you don’t like what some homeschooling parents do (assuming you have any info about it)…tough luck.

    Maybe all home-schooled kids should have to take a standardized test at the end of Grade 8 and maybe in the middle of high school (to see if they’re getting an adequate education) and not allowing the parents to continue to homeschool if the kids do really poorly. That might balance the parent’s right to homeschool with the child’s right to an education.

  34. All of the home-schooled kids I know are somewhat ..um, eccentric. They are all great kids.
    I think its because they don’t spend a good chunk of each weekday in an environment where they are peer-group pressured to conform, and have the freedom to develop their own unique personalities.

  35. @Chasmosaur:
    We used to live up that way – Wausau and Rhinelander (Northwoods). Many of the parent up there that home-schooled their kids had a kind of “bunker/persecution” complex. They acted as if they were permanently under siege. They only listened to far-Right conservative radio, only watched Christian-themed videos (Live TV only in emergencies like storms) and home-schooled their kids with Bible-based propaganda. (The Internet had barely started then.)

    As a result, the group was very odd, almost cult-like. Sometimes it remended me of a bad s/f movie where everyone else was “taken over.” It was one of the “formative” moments that turned me away from religion. I could easily see how the wrong leader(s) could turn those folks into something scary and dangerous. I felt very uneasy around them and we soon started going to churches outside of their influence. That made us “suspect,” to them, of course.

    @fuzzykitty: I understand that there are special needs kids that may need to be home-schooled. However, in the US they seem to be the minority. I was dumped into the parochial school system in Puerto Rico knowing no Spanish and within a year or so, I was fluent in spoken and read Spanish for my age. However, my Spanish writing never caught up to my spoken Spanish. I say this not as a criticism of ESL, because I have no experience with it. I use is as an example of other ways in which kids can become bilingual (or more) without special schooling. I also know there are health reasons that can make public schooling unteneble or impractical.

    I also agree with KristenMH that public and parochial schools can be both good or terrible. That is where parent involvement comes in. We were active with our kid’s teacher’s to the point where we were on a first name basis with them. It paid off in “early warnings” of problems with grades and subjects they were having difficulty with learning. it also paid off in understanding what was really going on when contraversial topics like sex education were on the agenda. I think that frequently parents overreact to things like sex education because they don’t go to the school or teachers to find out what and how it will be taught, but listen to televangelists and other parents instead.

    Both of our kids turned out to be high-achieving scholars, so I can highly recommend it to other parents. We just considered it part of being good parents. Yeah, there were times that we wanted to skip teacher’s meetings and activities, but we rarely did, even when I had to be at work at 0400 the next morning.

  36. @QuestionAuthority: Just curious, how old where you when you were in Puerto Rico? Due to my father’s career (US Navy), I went to both English DoD schools and Japanese schools. I was in ESL from grades 1 through 3. I think the younger you are, the emersion technique of language learning works better. With me, I was sent to ESL for the times I was in the English school and went to some Japanese classes to make sure I wasn’t falling behind in the other subjects. It required lots of time spent in the class rooms (from 6AM to 6PM), and definitely harder for kids with short attention spans. But my teachers were all good and I think I turned out OK. About the only issue I have is that my English reading is still on the slow side.

    I agree with both you and KristenMH that parental involvement is important. I don’t have school age kids yet, but I will keep those advices in mind. :)

  37. Well now. I was ‘homeschooled’, sort of, from the age of twelve to sixteen, at which point I went to college. At the time, certainly in Middle England, it was very rare, and nothing to do with religion. Indeed I only started to associate homeschooling with religion in the past few years, and it mostly seems to be a USA thing although I believe it’s growing here.

    When I tell people now that I was educated at home, they automatically assume it was for religious reasons, which is amusing because it paints an entirely wrong picture of my childhood.

    I spent most of the four years with my mom, although I had a tutor for an hour a day for part of it. When I was fifteen we moved to a large city and I tried the local school for three weeks. Mostly in those three weeks I learned to run away when another child was hitting you. I also realised that I knew a LOT more about a lot of things than my peers, and nothing whatsoever about some other things (mostly boys, alcohol and drugs), and I found myself at a loss to understand the peer pressure that seemed to dictate what these other teenagers did or didn’t do, or what was cool and what wasn’t.

    I stopped going, mostly to avoid another kicking but also because I had clearly missed a huge step in peer pressure/social development and you can’t just jump back in. Neither did I want to.

    Back to being taught at home, then when I went to college at sixteen I found my niche (cause the course was computer programming so all the other kids on it were fellow geeks). It took me til about aged 20 to adjust socially though. I didn’t have a boyfriend til I was 17, and struggled in large social groups (mainly cause I gave off an air of superiority which wasn’t intentional).

    I think the homeschooling experience gave me more than I lost. I’d have a problem with sending my kids to mainstream schools with classes of 35 . Fortunately I don’t have any kids so the point is moot.

  38. @FuzzyKitty: I was there from about 6 years old until I was about 13. I was very young, so it worked very well for me. My sister was five years older than me and decided that she didn’t like it there, so she learned little Spanish. Her loss.

    My only regret is that when we came back to the mainland, I didn’t keep it up very well. I thought it would never go away, but I was too young to realize that it would without constant practice.
    I can still speak some Spanish, but I lost my native PR accent quite some time ago. :-( I’m sure it’s recoverable with practice, but who has the time for much extra with a full-time career anymore? I keep wondering where the “leisure life” I was promised by the futurists in the 1960’s and 1970’s disappeared to…Without practical life extension (talked about previously here), I see no way to do/learn even a fraction of the things that I want to do/learn.

  39. It seems to me that many people view this issue as a ‘one or the other’ type of thing. I went to public schools, which in my understanding are on the whole much better in Canada than in the States, but we spent so much time at home doing educational things. I think I probably learned more from my parents educationally than I did at school in terms of science, literature, and culture (at least during the elementary school years), but school did give me socialization and experience dealing with a range of social issues, from multiculturalism to bullying. I think a lot of parents turn their kids over to the school system with the expectation that it will cover everything for them and that their job as parents does not include educational aspects, but that just isn’t the case. Parents who feel their children’s needs won’t be covered by the traditional school system opt for the complete opposite, homeschooling. It seems to me that a balance of both works very well for most children, but anyway that’s just my $0.02.

  40. I’ve really not wanted to comment on this post. But I’m a very worn out and hung over guy right now. So, here it goes.

    Mind you, these are only my opinions.

    First rule: The world is a ghetto.

    The quicker you get used to that, the better off you are. Public schools (rightly or wrongly) are an excellent place to learn that.

    I don’t agree that “once you’re out, you can’t get back in” (or something or other).

    The this is a simple thing. It’s just that nobody ever told you what the rules are. (And that’s wrong, you deserve to know). Really, anybody can do it.

    The rules:

    The first rule A: Treat everyone with the proper amount of respect.

    The first rule B: Act like you “belong there”. (If I wear a lab coat and carry a clip board, I can go just about anywhere at my work, it’s the same way in the hood).

    The first rule C: If after careful observance of A&B, “they” start pawing at you; hit the one doing all the talking, in the jaw, just as hard as you can.

    More about C: They’re gonna beat the hell out of you, for that. Fine, that can happen to anyone.

    The next day, do it again (only if A&B still aren’t working for you). Make sure you hit the same guy (this is important because you’re only gonna get one punch. Try to break that jaw, if you can). Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    By day three, I’ve got a hundred bucks that says when “the group” comes up to you and you say “Hey, what’s up” (like nothing happened, and that’s important too) they’re gonna answer back appropriately and keep going.

    Even more on rule C:

    Basically, these people are bullies. The only thing a bully cares about is, well, the bully.

    The only thing they fear is crazy folks. This is because they have no clue what a crazy person might do (and injure their precious, precious selves).

    By doing these things, you’ll convince them that you’re crazy (no matter how poorly or well you can hit or how tough or big you are, none of this matters).

    Not only will they leave you alone, everyone else will too. In fact, you might get a little bored with all the people trying to be nice to you.

    Do I like or approve of all this? No. But I’ve got to deal with the choices I’m given, not how I’d like it. So does everyone else, sooner or later. That’s just the way it is, as I see it.

    However, I’ve lived in the “second worse neighborhood in Long Beach” for 12 years (beat Six, for those of you keeping track at home; only beat Nine is worse and that’s 200 feet due North) and I’ve never once had to shoot or stab anybody.

    Heck, half the time, I don’t even lock my doors and I never lock my garage. (Just lazy, I suppose…) Nothing is ever taken.

    Well, that’s my rant.

    Again, it’s just my opinion from a lifetime in “the hood” and this is certainly not a world I would have made, if I’d been asked for my opinion (and I’m still pretty pissed that I wasn’t asked).

    I merely put forward that “fitting in” isn’t all that hard, once you know what to do. It’s a “step by step” thing which most of you are really quite good at by nature and it doesn’t require great boxing skills or anything (though that would help, the difference isn’t worth the extra effort for most people).

    However, good luck to all of you, no matter what your choices are,

    rod

  41. Rodney, I just found most of your post patronising and presumptuous. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but you should realise that kids who refuse to ‘fit in’ quite often grow up to be extremely successful individuals precisely because of their refusal to conform. That is how the BIG ideas are made into useful reality.

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that people who don’t fit in, want to. It’s certainly a mistake to make one list of arbitrary ‘rules’ and assume that they could or would apply to everyone. In inner city Birmingham, for example, punching someone in the jaw may result in you being stabbed by a gang after school. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ tactic to counter bullying and I hope any young person reading this doesn’t take your advice, unless you are a suitably qualified child counsellor or similar.

  42. Personally I think there’s no one right way to raise your kids and just because most people do it a certain way, doesn’t mean your kids are going to be better or worse if you do things differently.

    There are several options for educating your children and I think homeschooling is an appropriate choice for those who feel it’s appropriate to their situation for whatever reason.

    There are also several options for socializing, and other interpersonal skills, and I don’t see that missing out on public school necessarily means that it’s harder for kids to socialize. It just might require more community involvement and creativity on the part of the parents. Not a big deal, IMO. Definitely doable.

    You’ll never hear me say a definite statement about either homeschooling or public school because I think it really depends on the situation. If we’re talking about an uneducated person with no teaching skills homeschooling ignorance into their kids despite an available decent public school, well I can see a problem with that. But if we’re talking about capable parents (or in a bind and need to do their best – with supports), I see no problem with it.

    That being said I think part of the reason “public school is terrible” is a lack of parental or community involvement. That’s just my guess. Anyone know any numbers on this (like are there any differences in grades or anything between schools with and without involved community supports)? Maybe public schools would be better if we started treating them like we would when we carefully home school our own children.

    There are usually exceptions that make any option have it’s caveats. It’s no reason to say something is good or bad in absolute terms.

  43. PS. I have been considering homechooling my future kids. What I care about is their education and them turning out to be good kids. I can’t understand when people lament that they’ll missed being bullied or something because it’s “good for them” or that being at school makes people “come out of their shell”. I call bullshit. I couldn’t possibly know how my kids would have turned out if I did things differently. All I can do it make a choice and hope it was a good one.

  44. @Kimbo Jones: Your made some great points, especially the last one.

    It seems to me that if parental/community involvement increases, then governments would be more likely to provide better financial support to the public system as well, since their voters are more likely to demand it. On the other hand, the more alternatives, such as private, charter, and homeschooling situations exist, the less likely this is to happen.

  45. I am vastly relieved to say that my offspring is now 19 and in college. He attended public schools all the way up through the bitter end. When he was pre- and elementary school age, the notion of homeschooling seemed pretty sick to me. Even back then, when I happened to be going through a born-again Christian phase, I never understood parents who waxed ecstatic about how “lucky” they were to be able to homeschool. To me it sounded like “keep Mom barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen until the kids turn 18, and then helicopter them until they get married.” It sounded like a horribly claustrophobic lifestyle to me. Mainly it still does. Like the first poster, I have the “smarts,” but hardly the qualifications to teach EVERY subject thoroughly. Plus, I think kids should have their own realm (school) to a certain extent, and that parents (read: mothers) should have the right to a bit of space. Just like most fathers have a place they can go to during the day, no matter how much they may complain about it at home.

    It was only when my son experienced school both in the northeast and the south, that I began to have second thoughts. The public schools, especially in some parts of the US, are in horrific shape. In the south especially, the battle over segregation continues to rage. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. In some parts of the Bible belt, parents will take out a second and third mortgage to send their kids to private ELEMENTARY school, just to minimize their kids’ contact with minorities. And when the private schools just aren’t affordable, they keep the kids home.

    I’ve also found the converse here: parents who are so discouraged by the pervasive religiosity in BOTH public and private schools, they homeschool to protect their kids from that element. These parents come from the west coast and New England, and are horrified by the backwardness that is everywhere.

    Yes, that’s right — there’s plenty of religion all through the public school systems in the south, especially where the demographics are heavily black. The mindset is that black kids will behave badly if left to their own devices, so local ministers and other religious leaders are brought in to have revivals, prayer meetings and other such events, usually heavily subsidized by private foundations. Learning? A distant second in priority.

    I am SO glad those years are over for me, but it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the younger kids now.

  46. Sorry,

    I didn’t mean to come off that way.

    I certainly know enough about it to know that kids aren’t picked on “by choice”. That certainly was not my intent.

    As for seeking the advice of a counselor. Hell yes!

    I recommend that at all times and, in extreme (mind you by extreme I mean border line autistic, cry myself to sleep over what these jerks are doing to him) cases many of them have sent children straight to me, for boxing lessons, only.

    I am no expert in any other field and my opinions are necessarily limited to that.

    But, I’m in the LBC, (people get stabbed here) I’ve never gotten anyone anything but prom king/queen (sometimes, the same couple).

    However, I would like to be forgiven for putting simple answers to complex questions. Just because it “works for me”. That’s the worst kind of thinking I can imagine and I’m guilty of it.

    I can say “works for me” but we all know an idiot who has gotten away with stupid things forever. That doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s a great sign that you’re riding for a fall.

    Good thing the Earth is my friend. (We embrace often. Like a great fist, reaching out to make me pay…)

    To sum up:

    If some professional should suggest that boxing lessons are appropriate. That’s the way to go. There is zero reason to listen to me on that matter until that line is suggested.

    Please don’t ruin your children because I made a stupid post.

    I’m sorry,

    rod

  47. @Volly: No surprise to me at all. We lived in SW MO for nine years and it was there, too. It was just not as blatant, because we were in a state university town where people from outside the area lived and worked. Many were on the liberal side (like us) and protested if the religiosity got too heavy-handed.

    Still, the town had two major Bible “colleges,” and is the world home for the Assembly of God church (That fact gives the town away. It’s deep in Ashcroft country. ) Personally, I prefer my God to arrive fully assembled, but some are “do-it-yourselfers,” I guess…

    Our kids went to public schools in WI and MO. WI was by far the better of the two states. The tax burden was heavy but everything, including the schools, worked. Religion was kept in the church and not in the school system. Science was taught as science and ID and other myth-based hypotheses were ignored in science classes, as they should be.

    I no longer complain about the tax burden, as I agree with Justice Hugo Black when he said that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

  48. I hated school and I wanted to be home-schooled but my parents wouldn’t have it. It seems like this science fair thing is hypocritical since a lot of times people leave their kids home in fear of them being made fun of or hearing other ideas. And what is this crap about the secular scientists not using the scientific method?

  49. Rodney,

    I agree with your basic advice, having experienced it, thankfully just once, in middle school. You are absolutely right — when outnumbered by your challengers, you figure out which one is “the boss” – the one the others follow or lean on. When that one goes down, they all scatter.

    That is the unfortunate reality of some school environments. I don’t know if the whole world is a ghetto, but it’s tougher out there than it was during my school years of the 1970s. The incident described in paragraph 1 was bad enough, and there was never the thought of a gun or knife being present. It was mainly bluster and muscle.

    Hope the hangover’s better!
    :)

  50. @ volly: I paid extra money to have my kid in a 50C/30AA/10H/L/10 other school in the SE USA. Her private school had the best diversity in our minor city. When you have to pay for diversity, you know you’re screwed. At this point, she’s in a neighborhood public school with lots of extra enrichment from home. I consider her partially homeschooled.

  51. My kids are 6 and 4 and I have decided to home-school them. The schools here are not what I want for them. Here in GA, they are cutting school budgets which means larger classes, no teacher raises and they are cutting the school nurse program (this one scares me since my son has severe allergies to nuts.) I also don’t think they will get the math and science education that I envision for them. I like being able to take my kids to museums. My cousin home-schooled 8 of here 9 kids mostly for religious reasons. I looked at the science book (and I use that term loosely) she used and it was appalling.

    I don’t know how long I’ll try this. I just hope they don’t turn out to be social misfits.

  52. My wife decided to homeschool this year. My oldest daughter was having a very difficult time with cliquish girls in hear grade. We thought she needed a break.

    It has worked out great so far this year. Both of them share an interest in biology. They have had a wonderful time dissecting a frog and several sheep’s organs. Although, with the dominance of religious/creationist based curriculum available, it was difficult to find real science texts.

    My daughter will most likely return to public school next year, but it has worked out well for us.

  53. I don’t have kids now, but I’ve started to think a little bit about what I would do if I had them.

    I went through the public school system through fourth grade, catholic school 5, 6, and 7, then public from 8 – 10, when I dropped out and got a GED.

    Overall the socialization did me zero good, I was just waaay too awkward. I never really caught onto those social graces. Eventually I just stopped caring, which is probably a good thing. The academics were mediocre at best, with a few shining moments. I’m slightly dyslexic, and I couldn’t read until 3rd grade, and I think the school system should have done something about that. Since I really liked to learn I probably would have done just as well with being homeschooled, even if I was left to my own devices. With any sort of actual curriculum or someone guiding me with independant projects I probably would have really exceled.

  54. I did a combination of homeschool and community college here in Arizona (where public schools are number 49!*). I think it worked out pretty well for me. I suppose I didn’t do much socialization (I know there are programs, but I did not avail myself of any of them), but given how I always ran to the library during recess, I doubt I would have anyway. My dad got some homeschooling textbooks and such, which were the fundamentalist Christian type, since they dominate the market for home school books and were rather cheap. He worked against, rather than enforced, their fundamentalism, though, and I wasn’t really susceptible anyway, so it didn’t do any harm. I always liked defying the book, though — in the English text, one of their essay topics was ‘write about why abortion is immoral and should be illegal.’ I wrote an essay about why legalized abortion was good for society (for which my dad gave me an A).

    There are a couple things I would recommend to those who choose to take this path, though, mainly in the areas of testing and college applications. You can take the PSAT as a homeschooler, and it can get you many scholarships, so I do recommend doing that (and, of course, the regular SAT). Also, even if you finish the K-12 homeschooling curriculum and only do community college (or possibly lower-division liberal arts college or university classes), I think you could probably still count it in the high schooling and apply to universities as a freshman (which could get you financial aid longer). I think I wish I would have done these things (but don’t really know — who’s to say how it would have worked out?).

    *That’s not 49 factorial, but might as well be.

  55. I have no direct experience with this, so my input is limited. I can definitely say, however, that I think home schooling to prevent your children from being exposed to ideas you don’t like is bad…no matter what your religious or political inclination.

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