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M. Leary

Homeschooling

66 posts in this topic

I hate that you feel that way. I actually think this is worthwhile, since the purpose of this thread seems to be, in part, an inquiry into the environment of the homeschooling movement. This sort of thing is absolutely worth discussing, particularly for parents who are wondering what in the world they might be getting themselves into.

Well, I'm not trying to storm away in a huff or anything like that, but the textbook hair-splitting is getting to be a little tedious.

[And this is why the discussion of textbooks is absolutely germane. If a parent is considering homeschooling, they need to know how great a wealth of resources will be available. I've suggested that, while there are materials available, they might take more digging to come across. You've offered alternative resources; I've critiqued their paucity and offered an alternative link. I'm not MLeary, but I suspect this is very helpful in trying to develop a possible curriculum.]

I think it is helpful to a certain extent. I also think that a homeschool parent looking for a good textbook on evolutionary science is going to spend more than the five minutes I spent, and will probably reap more from the process as well.

However, arguing over these menial details is exactly the thing I tend to not enjoy when having a discussion online. To be honest, it feels unsophisticated and monotonous. And I'm not pointing the finger, I've certainly contributed to it. But I'm starting to run a little low on banter fuel.

Good for you. FWIW, I am too, though I suspect my background is more conservative (my parents weren't so fundamentalist; my father's congregation was). I'm also a leftist, a quasi-socialist and a theological centrist. Not that any of that matters; what matters is whether these opinions are common. From what I can tell, they aren't, really. And that's not just my impression coming from the Deep South; it's an impression that was confirmed at my (conservative but not fundamentalist) Christian college and further confirmed through the reasoning I've laid out above.

I had no doubt you adhered to such a perspective. I think such people are more common than you're giving them credit for. And for what it's worth, I could say the same about my own "reasoning". :) Which is exactly why this discussion is too subjective to come to any conclusions. I went to a (very secular, very liberal) college in the Northeast, and had numerous homeschool friends, all of whom I met by luck of the draw, and several of whom came from non-religious backgrounds. The top graduating student in my major in 2010 was a homeschooled liberal atheist. My experience tends to lead me to see homeschooling as far more mainstream and diversified than your experience is telling you. Which means that by consequence of our varying perspectives, homeschooling must represent a diverse group of people! :)

I'm not trying to say Fundamentalists aren't out there in the homeschool circles. I've run into my share of them for sure. But I've run into as significant a share of fundamentalists outside homeschool circles as inside them. Besides that, I don't think homeschoolers even need to fit the "evolution-believing, socially-liberated, leftist, quasi-socialist, theological centrist" mold to be considered mainstream and normative in comparison to the broad Christian population at hand. Reasoned conservatives are fine, too. :)

So there's no need to get irate or feel like anyone's attacking you. As far as I can tell, that's not happening. General observations aren't the same as pronouncing on individuals.*

I'm not irate, nor am I feeling attacked. What I am feeling is that this argument has gone on quite a while, and has taken up a lot of time, a commodity I'm finding a little scarce at the moment.

Edited by Joel C

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Reading back over, realized that when I said that it was "not a worthwhile discussion", you probably took me to mean that I felt the whole discussion was worthless. Definitely a bad choice of words on my part. What I should have said was that it did not seem worthwhile to continue down the same path we were going any further, as it felt we would only get into effectively meaningless parsing of words, ideas and statistics. I'm not at all sorry that I've been part of this conversation, and on the contrary it's been very enlightening in many ways. However, the bulk of what I have to say has been said, without clicking the repeat button.

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[And this is why the discussion of textbooks is absolutely germane. If a parent is considering homeschooling, they need to know how great a wealth of resources will be available. I've suggested that, while there are materials available, they might take more digging to come across. You've offered alternative resources; I've critiqued their paucity and offered an alternative link. I'm not MLeary, but I suspect this is very helpful in trying to develop a possible curriculum.]

I think it is helpful to a certain extent. I also think that a homeschool parent looking for a good textbook on evolutionary science is going to spend more than the five minutes I spent, and will probably reap more from the process as well.

However, arguing over these menial details is exactly the thing I tend to not enjoy when having a discussion online. To be honest, it feels unsophisticated and monotonous. And I'm not pointing the finger, I've certainly contributed to it. But I'm starting to run a little low on banter fuel.

Perhaps a better tack would be to mention some texts you found helpful yourself (and, actually, it would be interesting if currently-homeschooling parents weighed in and shared what books they find helpful).

For my own family, we found Saxon Math to be incredibly helpful. And this book is, to the best of my recollection, a pretty solid guide to setting up a well-rounded homeschool curriculum.

I had no doubt you adhered to such a perspective. I think such people are more common than you're giving them credit for. And for what it's worth, I could say the same about my own "reasoning". :) Which is exactly why this discussion is too subjective to come to any conclusions. I went to a (very secular, very liberal) college in the Northeast, and had numerous homeschool friends, all of whom I met by luck of the draw, and several of whom came from non-religious backgrounds. The top graduating student in my major in 2010 was a homeschooled liberal atheist. My experience tends to lead me to see homeschooling as far more mainstream and diversified than your experience is telling you. Which means that by consequence of our varying perspectives, homeschooling must represent a diverse group of people! :)

I've said (several times) that location matters. The reasons people homeschool in rural South Georgia are different from those of city-dwellers. That doesn't change the numbers. There's a huge difference between saying "most homeschoolers seem to be fundamentalist" and saying "all homeschoolers are fundamentalist." Religion is among the most frequently cited reasons for homeschooling. This paper seems pretty fair about the issue:

"The point of such a comparison, however, is not to imply that

homeschooling inherently fosters religious fundamentalism. The structural

flexibility of homeschooling, and the space it provides both literally and

ideologically, lends itself to countercultural movements of all kinds. For

instance, it also supports a socially progressive critique, which is where the

modern homeschooling movement gained early inspiration, in the writings

of John Holt" (Gaither, 2008).

It's a simple demographic observation.

So there's no need to get irate or feel like anyone's attacking you. As far as I can tell, that's not happening. General observations aren't the same as pronouncing on individuals.*

I'm not irate, nor am I feeling attacked. What I am feeling is that this argument has gone on quite a while, and has taken up a lot of time, a commodity I'm finding a little scarce at the moment.

Fair enough.

Reading back over, realized that when I said that it was "not a worthwhile discussion", you probably took me to mean that I felt the whole discussion was worthless. Definitely a bad choice of words on my part. What I should have said was that it did not seem worthwhile to continue down the same path we were going any further, as it felt we would only get into effectively meaningless parsing of words, ideas and statistics. I'm not at all sorry that I've been part of this conversation, and on the contrary it's been very enlightening in many ways. However, the bulk of what I have to say has been said, without clicking the repeat button.

"Ah," said he, leaning back and peering through the rising smoke, "But where would we be without parsing?"

Nah, I feel ya. The reason I'm so insistent on this point is that (again) I think that a fair consideration of the issue demands a recognition of the limits, and potential problems, of homeschooling.

Incidentally, the 'blog that linked to the article I quoted above is here. The author is by no means anti-homeschool, but does seem to have a clear-eyed view of the field. Here's a post looking at an article on "three types of homeschoolers." Here's one on family intimacy. Here are two reviewing a book about fundamentalism and homeschooling. One on "why Black parents homeschool." There's also a series of posts on the Quiverfull movement.

Sorry for the linkspam, but my point is this: it's possible to be fully aware of the broader trends in the movement without tarring the entire field with one brush. Indeed, that seems to me to be the only clear-eyed approach to the matter.

Edited by NBooth

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Perhaps a better tack would be to mention some texts you found helpful yourself (and, actually, it would be interesting if currently-homeschooling parents weighed in and shared what books they find helpful).

Of course. A fairly comprehensive place to start would be McGraw-Hill Education, for a variety of subjects. Their textbook selection is vast, and they have a wide variety of supplementary resources as well.

However, the beauty of homeschooling is that you get to be creative about the learning process. To wit, here are several non-textbook-based ideas for exposure to basic scientific concepts: Non-fiction mass-produced books which present basic pictures and ideas, such as Steven Jenkins', Life on Earth. Getting a subscription to kids NatGeo is also a fantastic idea. There are the Kids Discover magazines, which are fantastic for kids of all ages, on a variety of topics. And of course, nothing can replace a visit to a local zoo, aquarium, or local botanical gardens.

It's a simple demographic observation.

Well, no demographic observation is simple when you dig into it. Like the fact that the author grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt, in that most fundamentalist of institutions (far more so than homeschooling), the private Christian school. So his reaction to fundamentalism in any paradigm will potentially be stronger and more pronounced.

Look, like I've already said, I'm not trying to prove that fundamentalism doesn't exist in homeschooling. Of course it does. But general paradigms like "public school", "private school" or "homeschool", as we've already established, can't be comprehensively or definitively fundamentalist. Incidentally, parents and families can. The beauty of homeschooling is that what one family believes is really irrelevant to what you believe yourself. Every homeschool family is as free from the bounds of ideological institutionalization and standardization as they want to be.

Nah, I feel ya. The reason I'm so insistent on this point is that (again) I think that a fair consideration of the issue demands a recognition of the limits, and potential problems, of homeschooling.

You seem to be considerably more concerned with pointing out the problems and perceived limitations than seeking to equally affirm its potential and inherent strengths. I am seeking to balance that sentiment out. Call me the yin to your yang. :)

Sorry for the linkspam, but my point is this: it's possible to be fully aware of the broader trends in the movement without tarring the entire field with one brush. Indeed, that seems to me to be the only clear-eyed approach to the matter.

Linkspam indeed. Too much to respond to right now, sorry. I think trends are interesting (even when we disagree about them), but ultimately less relevant to a parent considering homeschooling. It's a little akin to saying a majority of Americans are conservative. This may or may not be true, but it doesn't really matter to me as I get to decide my own perspective, and I spend time and develop friendships with the Americans who hold similar perspectives. The same is true of homeschooling.

I think your ultimate objection is that fundamentalism in homeschooling somehow makes it hard to be a non-fundamentalist homeschooling family. I guess I feel I'm a living example to the contrary.

Edited by Joel C

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I don't really disagree with any of that, although I stand by my "demographic observation" point. The author's upbringing is irrelevant to the fact, pointed out in the paper, that "religious conservatives likely remain the largest subset of homeschoolers, at least in the United States." The author goes on to cite the same survey-data I did earlier and draws the same conclusion that "it helps lend credence to the generally

accepted notion that conservative Christians comprise the largest subset of homeschoolers in the United States."

Again, that's descriptive, not prescriptive; nor is it derogatory of all homeschoolers everywhere.

I think your ultimate objection is that fundamentalism in homeschooling somehow makes it hard to be a non-fundamentalist homeschooling family. I guess I feel I'm a living example to the contrary.

Actually, I'm not making an objection at all (unless it's to the idea that fundamentalism isn't somehow closely tied to the homeschooling movement). I'm making an observation and pointing out that it may make finding an appropriate covering (depending on whether the state requires such)/appropriate texts difficult for non-fundamentalist parents. It's less a matter of objecting to anything than it is of pointing out potential trouble-spots. The fact that your family seems to have successfully avoided (or, perhaps, navigated through) these reefs doesn't mean they don't exist.

Edited by NBooth

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I don't really disagree with any of that, although I stand by my "demographic observation" point. The author's upbringing is irrelevant to the fact, pointed out in the paper, that "religious conservatives likely remain the largest subset of homeschoolers, at least in the United States." The author goes on to cite the same survey-data I did earlier and draws the same conclusion that "it helps lend credence to the generally

accepted notion that conservative Christians comprise the largest subset of homeschoolers in the United States."

Again, that's descriptive, not prescriptive; nor is it derogatory of all homeschoolers everywhere.

Agreed, and agreed. However, "Conservative Christian" is quite different than "Fundamentalist".

Actually, I'm not making an objection at all (unless it's to the idea that fundamentalism isn't somehow closely tied to the homeschooling movement). I'm making an observation and pointing out that it may make finding an appropriate covering (depending on whether the state requires such)/appropriate texts difficult for non-fundamentalist parents. It's less a matter of objecting to anything than it is of pointing out potential trouble-spots. The fact that your family seems to have successfully avoided (or, perhaps, navigated through) these reefs doesn't mean they don't exist.

Let's just agree to disagree on the whole parsing of fundamentalism, shall we?

And I suppose we'll also have to disagree about the "covering"/textbook issue as well. I thought that perhaps my list of resources above would negate at least the textbook side of things. As for the "covering" (a term I'd never heard until this conversation), this is somewhat of a non-issue to me. My family has lived in four different states while homeschooling, with varying severity of homeschool laws, and we were never part of a fundamentalist umbrella organization. As a matter of fact, the most Fundamentalism-inclined state we lived in, TX, didn't even require a "covering".

No doubt homeschoolers will have to wade through the waters of strong fundamentalist attitudes, somewhere along the way; but, let's be real, nearly all evangelical Christians will wade through those waters, no matter what their schooling choice.

Edited by Joel C

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Actually, I'm not making an objection at all (unless it's to the idea that fundamentalism isn't somehow closely tied to the homeschooling movement). I'm making an observation and pointing out that it may make finding an appropriate covering (depending on whether the state requires such)/appropriate texts difficult for non-fundamentalist parents. It's less a matter of objecting to anything than it is of pointing out potential trouble-spots. The fact that your family seems to have successfully avoided (or, perhaps, navigated through) these reefs doesn't mean they don't exist.

Let's just agree to disagree on the whole parsing of fundamentalism, shall we?

And I suppose we'll also have to disagree about the "covering"/textbook issue as well. I thought that perhaps my list of resources above would negate at least the textbook side of things. As for the "covering" (a term I'd never heard until this conversation), this is somewhat of a non-issue to me. My family has lived in four different states while homeschooling, with varying severity of homeschool laws, and we were never part of a fundamentalist umbrella organization. As a matter of fact, the most Fundamentalism-inclined state we lived in, TX, didn't even require a "covering".

Ah, "covering," "umbrella"--any of those will do. It's been nearly a decade since I've had to worry with any of it. Some states require 'em and some states don't. And depending on where you fall on the rural/urban map you may have more or less choice about what the umbrella organization is like (as we've both said--location, location, location).

(And why am I not surprised about Texas not requiring an umbrella? ;) )

Edited by NBooth

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Ah, "covering," "umbrella"--any of those will do. It's been nearly a decade since I've had to worry with any of it. Some states require 'em and some states don't. And depending on where you fall on the rural/urban map you may have more or less choice about what the umbrella organization is like (as we've both said--location, location, location).

You do realize you sound uncannily like a realtor, right? :)

(And why am I not surprised about Texas not requiring an umbrella? ;) )

That was definitely the best response to that comment in all worlds possible. :lol:

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Ah, "covering," "umbrella"--any of those will do. It's been nearly a decade since I've had to worry with any of it. Some states require 'em and some states don't. And depending on where you fall on the rural/urban map you may have more or less choice about what the umbrella organization is like (as we've both said--location, location, location).

You do realize you sound uncannily like a realtor, right? :)

Nice to know there's something to fall back on if the literature thing doesn't work out. ;)

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FWIW, i/r/t the exchange above, Andrew Sullivan links to an article on new trends in homeschooling:

We think of homeschoolers as evangelicals or off-the-gridders who spend a lot of time at kitchen tables in the countryside. And it’s true that most homeschooling parents do so for moral or religious reasons. But education observers believe that is changing. You only have to go to a downtown Starbucks or art museum in the middle of a weekday to see that a once-unconventional choice “has become newly fashionable,” says Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford professor who wrote Kingdom of Children, a history of homeschooling. There are an estimated 300,000 homeschooled children in America’s cities, many of them children of secular, highly educated professionals who always figured they’d send their kids to school—until they came to think, Hey, maybe we could do better.

Sullivan also links a Slate piece and a couple of pieces by Dreher. Of course, Dreher calls suspicion of homeschooling a "fatwa" and calls on "less-capable minority" rhetoric to make some of his points, but if anyone wants to check 'em out, Sully's got the links.

Edited by NBooth

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Back to our textbook discussion, just found what seems to be a very cool up-and-coming approach to K-12 education, and what might be a great resource for HS parents: Kahn Academy.

There are a lot of online instructional resources, but few are this comprehensive, and also free.

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Back to our textbook discussion, just found what seems to be a very cool up-and-coming approach to K-12 education, and what might be a great resource for HS parents: Kahn Academy.

There are a lot of online instructional resources, but few are this comprehensive, and also free.

Thanks Joel, this looks interesting. We are getting close to settling on a math and phonics curriculum, but additions like this look helpful.

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*Poking my head in*

FWIW

I grew up in a non-church home (I became a Christian in high school) and went to public schools until college.

I know a few people who were homeschooled for some it was a good experience and some it was not. Same with public schooled friends of mine.

As for me, I think that my parents deep involvement in my educational and intellectual life had more to do with how I turned out than the school I went to. My parents (especially my father) loved the arts and so we went to art museums, the ballet, classical music concerts etc. We had hundreds of books in our home. I was expected (but not required) to go to college.

Most of my school friends didn't have these opportunities and were the poorer for it: meaning lower grades, test scores etc.

So my conclusion is that home environments are usually a primary influence on a child's education no matter where the child attends school.

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And despite all the valuable advice here, my wife has swung back entirely toward public schooling. We ran a quick benefit analysis, and it tilted in favor of public school for two main reasons: 1. Our daughter loves school, as I described above. 2. It gives us a better opportunity to dwell with and among our neighbors.

We do look forward to layering a number of activities in and around her school routine. I was so gung-ho about pushing forward with the home schooling option, but I am fine either way at this point.

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