Saturday, July 02, 2005

Answers to some misconceptions about homeschooling

The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room started a post about The Cost of Homeschooling that now has a dozen comments after it. Rather than take up space in the DHM's comments section, I would like to respond to a few of the comments myself.

1. "Very few people have the discipline, knowledge and talents to properly homeschool."

That may be true. But who says you have to go it alone? Our family has had the blessing of wonderful local and online support, including that of people like the DHM who have children older than ours and who have given us the benefit of their experiences. We share knowledge and talents with others, including the hundred and fifty families in our local group and the approximately two thousand families who are or have been connected in some way with the homeschool curriculum we use (a free online project, conceived with the idea of supporting each other and sharing resources).

2. "The net cost of homeschooling is about $15K per child."

Well, that would be more than our total income spent for the educational needs of our two school-aged children. Since we still have the lights on and we ate dinner tonight, that obviously isn't the case. We would be absolutely unable to afford private school tuition; we have, on the other hand, homeschooled happily for nine years on a single income.

3. "Affluent white kids do as well or better in public schools as anywhere else."

Please define "as well as anywhere else." I don't want my children to learn merely as well as they would anywhere else; I want them to learn all they are capable of and all that God wants them to know. Of course my children would probably do fine in public schools, in the sense at least that they would learn to read and probably learn to play the game of taking tests quite well. (We may not consider ourselves affluent in terms of income, but in the sense you're talking about, we would probably be counted as at least middle class.) In practical terms, and based on my experiences as their teacher, my own children probably wouldn't do nearly as well in a classroom setting as they have done with a one-on-one style of teaching.

4. "I recently had a student who came from homeschooling and wasn't prepared at all for high school. Innate intelligence isn't enough."

Please define "prepared." Emotionally? Socially? Academically? One student doesn't make much of a case for your side. I could present some young homeschooled teens such as Tim, Pipsqueak and Jennyanydots, Katelyn, and my own 13-year-old as examples to the contrary in all those areas.

5. "One of the reasons that homeschoolers look better than the average on test scores is that they are a very select group with highly involved families."

Yes, but are you saying that these families are otherwise an elite group? People from any socio-economic group can choose to be highly involved with their children, or not.

6. "Thus, homeschooling is not really different than other forms of school."

My contention, and DHM's original point, is that it's very different. Night-and-day different. For my children, school is not just something to get through; it's learning for its own sake, knowledge for its own enjoyment. We read and write without worrying about graphic organizers, or filling out sheets of comprehension questions and vocabulary words. We can do the next thing in the math book, and also jump forward when somebody wants to know what square roots are. We listen to all different kinds of music, take things apart, read poems, do science experiments, make timelines, and talk about the latest pop psychology theory of teenage brains. Does this require an exorbitant amount of money or a parent with a teaching degree? No. We listen to music on the radio. The books come from our fairly extensive yard-sale-and-thrift-shop library. Anybody can afford a 25 cent used copy of Heidi, and if they can't, there's always the public library. I taught my kids to read without an expensive phonics system--actually we used a game involving an egg carton and Cheerios, but that's another post. Looking at ants in the back yard or ducks in the park is free. Counting house numbers and cars, and going to the corner store to look for packages with M's on them, is free and doesn't take superior intelligence. It just takes time.

Finally, one last point. Some of the disadvantaged (non-homeschooling) parents mentioned by the DHM's critics are immigrants who came from developing countries or other situations where they did not have the chance to have an education, or who are otherwise in bad circumstances because of their struggles since arriving in North America. They may certainly be excused, to some extent, for not being able or willing to teach their own children. As for the rest of these disadvantaged parents--are they not almost all the products of the North American public schools? Did our schools do such a terrible job with them that they are now unable even to teach their own children their colours or how to hold a crayon, or to take their children to the public library and pick out something to read to them? And yes, I AM picking on the public school system, even if the DHM wasn't.

P.S. We live in Canada, not in the U.S., but the problems are the same.


TheHeadGirl said...


That was a mah-vellous post, Mama Squirrel. I particularly loved the last paragraph, although it was all brilliant.

Mama Squirrel said...

Thanks, HeadGirl, and happy 4th of July.

coffeemamma said...

Cheering from the castle!

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...


Write on, Mama Sqirrel! The masses are CHEERING!!

Ann V. HolyExperience