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#1 M. Leary

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 10:07 AM

Something really odd happened yesterday. My wife and I talk a lot about the education of our two kids, and have both firmly agreed that homeschooling would not be the best option for us. We even recently moved so that our kids would have access to a better public school district, as we are both fans of public schooling.

But then my wife had a conversation with a friend yesterday who has decided to homeschool her kids through elementary school, and my wife's thinking completely switched. She now wants to give homeschooling a try, at least through third grade and with the potential to enroll our kids part time in art and PE classes in a public school. I never thought I would say this, but hearing her rationale for this decision along with a good curriculum plan has me near convinced. It doesn't hurt that she has a decade of teaching experience.

I would like some feedback on this idea from anyone who has made similar decisions either way. Any good or bad experiences with homeschooling?

#2 Anders

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 10:22 AM

It doesn't hurt that she has a decade of teaching experience.


I think this is key. As someone whose family and career are invested in education, I must say I've always bristled at the "anyone can teach" mentality behind a lot of homeschoolers. People who would never consider doing a lot of other things themselves without the necessary skills sometimes jump into the whole homeschool thing without considering what skills and resources are helpful.

That said, this doesn't seem to be the issue in this case. Same thing with my wife and I. She's a trained teacher. The decision of where to school our child is more open to us than most.

#3 SDG

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 10:30 AM

Suz was an education major before switching to nursing. She has been responsible for all our children's formal education to date, wouldn't have it any other way, has never looked back. Sarah, our oldest, has been accepted at Christendom College. She got a 2200 on the SAT.

#4 Tyler

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 10:50 AM

I was homeschooled all the way up from kindergarten, and now I'm a couple of months away from a Master's degree. Neither of my parents have formal training in education, but they did go to a lot of conventions and seminars when I was younger. There was a pretty big homeschooling group in our area, and I got to do things like drama and playing on a basketball team through that group (homeschooling is big in Indiana).

By the time I was in middle school, both of my parents were working, so I did most of my work on my own. That probably isn't the best plan for some people, but it helped me to learn how to manage my time and figure out things on my own. I'm also the kind of person who likes doing things on my own; if your kids are really social, homeschooling might not be the best option.

#5 Joel C

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 12:10 PM

I think this is key. As someone whose family and career are invested in education, I must say I've always bristled at the "anyone can teach" mentality behind a lot of homeschoolers.

Bristle no more, my friend. Studies show that while there is some variation between children of parents with little education, as opposed to children of parents with advanced degrees, the whole sample of homeschool children still vastly outperform their public school peers (80% or more in all subjects, for all children). You can read the peer-reviewed article here, or read a summary on HSLDA's website.

By the time I was in middle school, both of my parents were working, so I did most of my work on my own. That probably isn't the best plan for some people, but it helped me to learn how to manage my time and figure out things on my own. I'm also the kind of person who likes doing things on my own; if your kids are really social, homeschooling might not be the best option.

I don't know, I actually think one of the prime advantages of homeschooling is that is encourages children of various personalities to become autodidacts. I bristle at the idea that homeschooling is bent toward only one kind of personality. The whole point of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to adapt education to meet the needs and particular challenges of every student. Studies have shown that in every kind of school setting, from Public to homeschool, that the catalyst for academic achievement is at least one individual who invests in a student on a one-to-one basis. HS is custom-made for that kind of interaction.

Out of curiosity Michael, if you don't mind asking, what initially made you and your wife think homeschooling wouldn't be a good fit for you all?

Edited by Joel C, 18 January 2012 - 12:11 PM.


#6 NBooth

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 12:47 PM

FWIW, I'm a product of homeschooling (all the way up through high school) and I seem to have turned out fine (well, relatively speaking). At the same time, I've run across many homeschoolers who don't seem all-that-well-fitted to functioning in the real world; the take-away, I guess, is that much depends on who's doing the schooling.

If I may, here are a couple of contrasting lists. They're personal, but perhaps they'll be helpful since they come from a product of the process:

Pros:

  • I was able to study at my own pace--which resulted in me graduating a little earlier than most kids my age.
  • The study was mostly self-directed, which meant I could follow my interests into whatever rabbit-warren I desired. This can be a bad thing--I'm pretty well-grounded in certain areas of literary study, but not so much in the hard sciences--but it can also be an exceedingly good thing. (Also: everything is school. Including trips--we once went to South Dakota and prepared by researching the history of every single state through which we would pass).
  • I seem to have skipped over cliquishness and distrust of adults during my teen years. Perhaps that's not entirely the result of my education, but I like to think that being homeschooled played no small part in it.
  • No bullies. Since I was a bookish kid, that was probably a good thing.
Cons:

  • Socialization. I know, I know--there's homeschooling groups and all that. My family have never been joiners. As a result, I got all my socialization from my church--which is to say, mostly white (or white-passing) lower-middle class kids. I think I could have benefited from some diversity.
  • Self-absorption. Related to the above. "Know Thyself" is kind of difficult when there's no-one to contrast oneself with.
  • It's probably my milieu, but there are an awful lot of self-righteous homeschoolers, and I'm afraid some of this rubbed off on me, even with my family's non-joiner status.
  • This is a bizarre one, but I seem to have missed out on all the social markers that most of my peers take for granted. Prom? Nope (and I know that some homeschool groups have proms--but not us). Grades? To this day I can't figure out how old someone was in the "tenth grade." Moving to a new school and having to make new friends? I know it's painful, but only in theory since I never experienced it until college. Those are all little things, but I do feel like I missed out.

So yeah. My experience was mostly positive, as was that of [most of] the other homeschoolers I knew. The difficulty is that--since it's, well, home schooling--it's kind of hard to generalize.

EDIT: Oddly enough, this video has been circulating among my home-schooled friends on Facebook. I think it actually demonstrates most of the points on both of my lists above--though perhaps a bit unintentionally on the "con" side. ;)

Edited by NBooth, 18 January 2012 - 01:18 PM.


#7 M. Leary

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:54 PM

This is all immensely helpful. Thanks so much for all this feedback. All of you are quite smart and eloquent and interesting, so just identifying yourselves as homeschooled is enlightening to me.

Out of curiosity Michael, if you don't mind asking, what initially made you and your wife think homeschooling wouldn't be a good fit for you all?


Three things:

1. The social issue. My daughter is fairly introverted, and I have always thought homeschooling would exacerbate that.
2. The diversity issue. How will she become aware of cultural and economic diversity, and develop the skills to interface with social differences and disparities?
3. The personal development issue. In a larger group setting she would encounter and experience the kind of broader decision-making skills she will need as an adolescent and adult.

#8 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:02 PM

FWIW, link to our existing thread on homeschooling, which focuses more on the legal issues around this subject.

#9 John

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:46 PM

We spent a fair amount of time in a church that was made up primarily of families that homeschooled, working with teenagers in that church. My brother's family also has chosen that path, though we have not chosen homeschool (our oldest is in first grade). A few things have guided our decision. First, we have come to see the school as one further opportunity to engage with our immediate community. With so many households on the go all the time, we have wanted to take every opportunity to be active in our community, to know our neighbors, and to really connect with them. We've enjoyed being involved at the school as a family largely for this reason.

Second is the diversity issue. My experience (and I recognize it's limited), is that homeschool groups tend to be made up of white, middle to upper middle class families. Far be it from me to look down on those people . . . I am one! But my wife and I grew up in an extremely diverse environment (we were the minority in HS), and that was a good and formative experience for us. We'd like our kids to have something approaching that experience as well. Third is the social issue. My kids are very social. I cannot imagine my first grader watching his neighbors get on the bus every morning (it stops in front of our house) and then have to be without that interaction all day.

We do have very few concerns about our local schools or district, either educationally or for other reasons like safety. That doesn't mean we agree with every choice--there's no way Kindergarten needed to be full day--but on the whole we have been pleased with the way they've helped our son to grow and develop. We also tend to think of our home as a place of learning--it's filled with books, we're constantly quizzing each other on this or that, and we're exploring different parts of our area or country with an educational bent. I want to create an environment here that honors and encourages learning. In that sense, maybe we are homeschooling!

#10 Anders

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:57 PM

I'll agree that the data on the academic performance of homeschooling is compelling, as well as the opportunities for personal development, etc. I will seriously consider it, especially given the kind of environment that we want to create for our son, where all of life is a kind of education.

But I can't shake the feeling that many (although, to be fair, this DOES NOT seem to be the case with most of you who were homeschooled) Christian homeschoolers are motivated primarily from fear and a desire to keep their children apart and "unsullied" from the world. I have the same misgivings about many (again, NOT all) private Christian schools.

#11 NBooth

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 03:50 PM

But I can't shake the feeling that many (although, to be fair, this DOES NOT seem to be the case with most of you who were homeschooled) Christian homeschoolers are motivated primarily from fear and a desire to keep their children apart and "unsullied" from the world. I have the same misgivings about many (again, NOT all) private Christian schools.


That's a fair assumption, particularly regarding the...more vocal Christian advocates of homeschooling. I've encountered everything from "mildly protective" to "flat-out weird"--and if you look at the best-selling textbooks, I think you'll find that they tend to come from A Beka and Bob Jones, both of which are most likely to appeal to protectionists.

Which, of course, says very little about any of the homeschoolers--former students or parents--posting here, but it does give a sense of the general environment.

#12 Christian

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 04:30 PM

This subject came up recently with my wife and mother-in-law. Sarah and I decided a couple of years ago not to home-school and to send our kids to public school. Sarah has flirted with the home-schooling idea since, but never very seriously. She has a part-time business and, although she's favorable toward home-schooling and thinks she might be good at it, she didn't feel fully committed to it.

Recently, my in-laws came to visit, and I was blind-sided one night to sit down next to my wife and mother-in-law, who were, it turned out, discussing home-schooling. Sarah turned toward me and said she was thinking again about doing it, but she thought it might be good to do it starting after the kids were out of elementary school. This is not how most home-schoolers I've known pursue home schooling. They usually home school earlier in the child's life. If they elect to send the kids elsewhere for schooling, they do so later in life.

I pressed as to why Sarah had experienced this change of heart, and my mother-in-law -- a wonderful, Godly woman I might add, although more Fundamentalist in her beliefs -- said that the girls might suffer socially in junior high. That's when the ostracizing seriously kicks in, she said (she's nearly 80 years old, which doesn't make her wrong). My wife, who had a tough junior-high experience at private school, looked stricken at the thought of our kids experiencing what she'd experienced. My junior-high experience was similarly miserable.

But that wasn't all. No, my mother-in-law raised the prospect of bullying. Bullying! It's been in the news a lot lately, you see. It's getting worse. Or something like that.

That's when I snapped and fought back, laying out, with barely suppressed anger, that every rationale my mother-in-law and wife had just given to me for home schooling was rooted in fear that the kids might be hurt emotionally or even physically. No positive reasons to home school, just negative ones. I told them that, and said I'd never let my kids be home schooled based on such muddled thinking. Are there risks to sending my kids to public school? Sure. Do I want them to be miserable? No, although most everyone I know had a bad middle-school experience and lived to tell about it. But the bottom line is, if you can't come up with better reasons for home schooling than those, then the discussion is over.

For now, at least.

Edited by Christian, 18 January 2012 - 04:30 PM.


#13 David Smedberg

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 04:58 PM

But I can't shake the feeling that many (although, to be fair, this DOES NOT seem to be the case with most of you who were homeschooled) Christian homeschoolers are motivated primarily from fear and a desire to keep their children apart and "unsullied" from the world. I have the same misgivings about many (again, NOT all) private Christian schools.

I was homeschooled, and this is exactly why my Mom chose to take us out of public school--the sex ed curriculum was too gross and too early. They couldn't afford to put us all into private school, but as some of us (I'm 3rd of 7) grew up we went to Catholic school for periods of time in order to correct specific problems, esp. rebelliousness. Leary, this is one takeaway from my family's experience: Natural rebelliousness can be exacerbated pretty strongly by homeschooling, esp. if one parent works away from home and thus there's no 2nd person to enforce discipline.

#14 M. Leary

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:00 PM

For us, the decision is weighing the balances of opportunity rather than fear.

1. A key part of us leaning toward public school is the chance it provides to become integrated into our community and school life. For us, the public school decision was a part of our overall ecclesiology.

2. Homeschooling offers us the chance to teach our kids things they aren't going to learn at school, as we would follow a classical curriculum and supplement with Latin instruction. We would also have the opportunity to try out different forms of education, like travel, that we wouldn't have available.

Edited by M. Leary, 18 January 2012 - 05:12 PM.


#15 Darren H

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:08 PM

Joanna and I have never even considered homeschooling -- mostly because Joanna is not at all interested in being our daughter's teacher (although she'd probably be very good at it) and I can't afford to leave my job (although I'd probably enjoy being a stay-at-home dad). I grew up in a church that, by 1980s standards, had a relatively large number of homeshooling families, and all of my peers who were homeschooled transitioned successfully into college life, often at large public universities. I'm certainly not opposed to homeschooling, but I've devoted my career to public education and am an advocate for it. Rory's still a couple years away from kindergarten, but, like John, I'm looking forward to becoming an active parent in our local schools, and I regret that those schools have lost a lot of good families (including many of our friends) to homeschooling.

Edited by Darren H, 18 January 2012 - 05:10 PM.


#16 M. Leary

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:24 PM

...I'm looking forward to becoming an active parent in our local schools...


I was also. But now I am trying to think from different angles about alternative ways that we can be involved with the life of our local community. Perhaps there is an similar alternative.

Edited by M. Leary, 18 January 2012 - 05:25 PM.


#17 D. Adam

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 07:01 PM

My wife and I were both homeschooled, though our experiences were different on a few levels. Since my family moved every four years (my dad was in the Air Force), my mother decided that teaching us at home would give us a more stable educational environment. She was also a trained music teacher, which probably influenced her decision. I ended up attending a private Christian school for high school, unlike Audrey, who was homeschooled until graduation. I think I turned out okay, and was more than ready for college, but I do envy Audrey's home education. She had a larger family than I did (6 siblings to my three sisters), was active in a large church (we rarely attended) with a healthy homeschooling co-op, had a large extended family in the area, and had greater curriculum diversity (we did straight A Beka). We now attend the same church she attended with her family, where the homeschooling community has grown almost exponentially. We'll probably educate our kids at home, but we have a few years until we have to make decisions in that direction.

One thing I have noticed, knowing a lot of kids from church both homeschooled and not, is that the socialization issue has two sides. Homeschooling parents have the option of removing their children from society, which can lead to crippling social inadequacy. Most of the families I know, though, are very active in the church, in the homeschooling group, and in the community at large, and because of this, the children are comfortable socializing with most everybody. Most (not all) of the kids who regularly volunteer to help in the nursery or who join the adult men's and women's groups at church are homeschooled. Attending any school can lead to greater opportunities to socialize with one's own peer group, but rarely do you get to spend time with anyone else. Most of my friends from high school were from 3-4 classes behind me or my teachers, and as an undergraduate I talked to my teachers more often than many of my classmates.

#18 Darryl A. Armstrong

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 07:58 PM

2. Homeschooling offers us the chance to teach our kids things they aren't going to learn at school, as we would follow a classical curriculum and supplement with Latin instruction. We would also have the opportunity to try out different forms of education, like travel, that we wouldn't have available.


Besides the travel part, is there any reason you can't supplement public schooling with a bit of added home education? During Summer break, for instance. Not that you'd want to overload your children, of course.

#19 Joel C

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 12:19 AM

And now for something completely different...


Edited by Joel C, 19 January 2012 - 12:21 AM.


#20 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 01:02 AM

Joel C wrote:
: And now for something completely different...

Not quite. See post #6 above. :)