Tag Archives: homeschool

Why We Homeschool


Warning: This entry is a little off of the usual nptech topic. Feel free to skip if you only come here for the geeky thoughts!

The decision to homeschool our kid wasn’t a slam dunk, but it was the right one. We made it after thoroughly investigating everything — our son’s learning style, both through the school system and via our local Children’s Hospital; every public, private, and non-public school within about a six town radius; and conversations with educators, administrators, parents and other experts. Given what we now know about how our son learns and what options are out there, we aren’t guessing that this is the best route.  We’ve verified it.

But we are constantly questioned about the decision.

We are conscientious, aware parents who value our son’s education and happiness highly (just like you!) and we have identified and followed the path that will work out best for him.

There is no need to be offended if your child’s best environment is a different one, like a public school.

There is no need to be panicked about his psychological well-being:  He has lots of friends, makes new friends easily, and is well-behaved, polite and happy.

There is no need to worry about our qualifications:  We know what we can teach him and we know where to find museums, extra-curricular programs and classes, qualified tutors and other external resources in order to get him what he needs.

Do we have opinions about public schools, and what they’re like under the testing-obsessed No Child Left Behind act, in a system where the key educational decisions are made by the middle-management bureaucrats and local politicians?  Sure.  But our opinion isn’t that children can’t succeed in those schools.  It’s that children who are conducive to that learning environment do well, and we have it on good, credentialed authority that our kid won’t.

Do we think our curriculum, which mixes standard K-12 materials with lots of trips, history and science classes, arts, gymnastics (circus school!) and hands-on activities is, in many ways, superior to the brick and mortar experience?  Of course! We can do a lot of  training that is targeted to our son’s learning style, as opposed to mostly desk-bound training generalized for a 20 to 40 child audience.  We appeal to his creativity, and let his interests guide an appropriate percentage of the curriculum. Schools can’t afford to provide this level of individualized attention and responsiveness to their students.

Are we sheltering and insulating our child from a heathenous, corrupting culture that would steer him away from the path of God and righteousness? No, we own a TV and he watches it.  And we rest pretty heavy on the heathenous side of the scale in the first place.  We are protecting him from a lot of character-building bullying, peer pressure and anxiety, but we are extremely reassured that he has plenty of character all the same.  My friend Jane has a joke about this:  “Yeah, in order to give my  homeshcooled kid the school social experience, once a week I take her  into the bathroom, beat her up and steal her lunch money.”

I think that last one is the big one — I think a lot of the well meaning questions about socialization (a word that every homeschooler has ample reason to simply loathe) boil down to a concern that our child won’t be able to cope as an adult because he missed out on the sheer brutality of spending five days a week with a slew of other children, experiencing all of the social confusion and frustration that they experience and inflict on their peers.  Our kid experiences self doubt and frustration.  He knows what it feels like to be criticized, and he can be critical of others.  He might not get kicked and ridiculed with the intensity that we were when we went to public schools; he might remain a quirky, individual who doesn’t take fashion cues from The WB; but homeschooling him has not resulted in some sort of avoidance of human doubt and discomfort.  In that, he’s a lot like every other kid. And he’ll deal with it, learn from it, and become an adult that shows no external signs of having been homeschooled.

It’s just getting to be a bit much, being constantly questioned about something that we did the work to identify as the right thing for our child.  It is not an affront on society.  It’s what’s best for someone who we not only care incredibly about, but are actually responsible for.  So, please, if you know us, have a little faith — we show pretty good judgment and intelligence in the other things we do, why would we be any different about something as important as this?

Horton Homeschools a Who

As anyone who has kids, was a kid, or was an adult who has the good sense to read great kid books knows, Horton was an elephant who heard a tiny voice on a speck of dust and sought to protect the infinitesimally tiny population therein. His antagonist in Dr. Seuss’ classic “Horton Hears A Who” was a sour kangaroo who maintained “A person on that? … Why, there never has been!”. Not to belabor the obvious, but we have Horton representing imagination and free thinking, and the kangaroo preaching narrow-mindedness and suspicion.

So, I took my family to see the movie yesterday. The movie takes the ten minute tale and strrrreeetttccchhess it into a 90 minute film with mostly topical humor. As father to a homeschooled son, I was pretty offended by one joke. Early on, the haughty, over-critical kangaroo, voiced by Carol Burnett, protests that Horton can’t be allowed to spread these horrible lies about tiny people, that he’ll corrupt the youth with his overactive imagination. But her little kangaroo will be all right – “he’s pouch-schooled”.

This promotes the sad, but popular stereotype of homeschool parents as over-protective and narrow-minded. It’s this type of stereotype that, last month, led a three judge panel to rule, in a case of possible domestic abuse, that children can’t be homeschooled in California unless the primary parent doing the homeschooling is an accredited teacher.

Three judges ruled on one case of possible neglect and abuse, and then took a giant club and swung it as wide and far as they could, hitting every one of the estimated 200,000 homeschooling families in California. We aren’t abusing our child; we aren’t hiding him from the world — quite the opposite! What we’re doing is working as hard as we can to provide the educational environment that he will soar in.The state government should respect that.

I’m blogging this because it’s the tip of a very large iceberg. While homeschooling wasn’t our first choice, public school isn’t an alternative that we would consider, even if our kid was one of the minority of children whose learning style meshes with that educational model. The No Child Left Behind Act is ravaging our school systems, and creating an environment where fear and threats determine the curriculum, much as fear and threats have dominated our political arena in the George W. Bush years. Children are taught to pass tests, and the ability to test well is a skill unrelated to the ability to think.

The kangaroos are in the classroom. What kind of world will my child grow up into, if all of his peers are taught only how to memorize, not to imagine and discern?