Monday, April 5, 2010

I'm reading an article on homeschooling by a dad who is homeschooling his five-year-old twins. And being what seems like a homeschooler who is actually concerned that his children learn things and get out some, he is understandably a little offended at questions like "do you have a curriculum" and "what about socialization." It's true that the school system and the philosophy behind your basic school system in America today aren't exactly the greatest things since sliced bread, and I could understand why that might make some people who have the time and the means and the impetus want to teach their children at home, at their own pace, and so on. But look, here's the thing. Though you and your wife may be, at least for now, completely competent homeschoolers, not all homeschooling parents are. Not all homeschooling systems are good. Many adolescents that grow up in the homeschooling "system" emerge with quite poor social skills, so "what about socialization" isn't a completely unjustified question. Many homeschooled children are overseen by people who don't think that mathematics beyond addition or subtraction have any importance, or by people who don't know how to be in charge. When a student has complete control over his own education, sometimes he finishes high school at fourteen and moves on to college courses the next year. Other times he ditches algebra and earthscience, and decides that he's rather learn about Quenya or Grand Theft Auto. I am not making these things up. These are things I have seen. So no, I am not against homeschooling on principle. I am only against the kind of homeschooling where kids don't actually learn.


  1. Well, I'll admit that I have something of a homeschool bias - but I guess having been homeschooled from 4th grade onward might do that. More than that, I think it worked out wonderfully for me. This is not, however, to say that it will (or does) work out wonderfully for everyone. Nonetheless, the aspect that jumped out at me the most about the situation you describe is that the father took offense to, what I consider, two of the most basic challenges presented when trying to successfully homeschool. Many a conversation have I had with my college professors who had young children and were considering the pros and cons to homeschooling, and I always told them that those two are the greatest challenges - but that they also offer some of the greatest freedoms. The trick is to find a way to overcome the challenges while maximizing the strengths - and do it in a way that encourages the growth of those being homeschooled. It works for some kids, while not for many others. So for him to take offense to those questions seems... unsettling, somehow.
    So you're absolutely right - much of the time it doesn't work out, and the kids end up right back in the public school system after having spent a year doing little to nothing of worth. But in those situations where the parents dedicated themselves selfishly to the task and shape the experience for children ready to learn, it can have pretty awesome outcomes.
    Oh - and don't be hatin' on Quenya now! :-D
    (honestly, I think if someone ACTUALLY learned Quenya as part of their homeschooling, that'd be pretty durn impressive, and probably taught them a lot of other things along on the way - which is not to be confused with the casually fooling around with it which I expect was your intended reference) :-D

  2. I was actually imagining your response as I wrote this. I found that he took offense a little unsettling as well, but bear in mind (perhaps I didn't mention) that his twins were five years old, so he hadn't been homeschooling for long.

    I agree that it can be a fantastic way of learning (from what I know), if done well. But I worry that most of the time it isn't done well. I don't have any research to back that up, though. I just knew some kids who did end up messing around with fictional languages instead of learning much of worth, and the kids (I'm fairly certain) never did go back to public school. I don't really know what they're doing now. Clearly that isn't always the case, but stories like that can strike fear into the hearts of future parents...