Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Silly Questions

Every once in a while, I come across questions posed to homeschoolers. Sometimes, they’re well thought out questions from people who seem to genuinely want to understand why homeschoolers might make the decisions that they do.

Other times, not so much.

Offering up the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that these questions are in the ‘sincere’ category:

1. Is it worth trading a childs social life for a “better” education?

To put this question into perspective, here’s the author’s position:

Homeschooling is a great way to make a child book smart. The down side is that homeschooling hinders social development. Homeschool kids tend to become brilliantly educated and social retarded. By sheltering your child, you prevent them from learning how to deal with everyday social situations. Homeschoolers are shy for the most part and lack interpersonal skills.

Le sigh.

Honestly, I find this laughably ignorant. This assertion caters to two homeschooling stereotypes, that homeschooled children become some kind of super-students simply by virtue of being ‘home schooled’, and that not growing up in an institutionalized environment somehow creates socially inept citizens. Neither stereotype is true, yet people really seem to enjoy perpetuating them. Other bloggers have clarified the ‘socialization vs. socializing‘ distinction, so rather than re-hash that, I’ll link and let you read Smrt Mama’s post outlining the differences between the two.

I think that an important point in this question is the idea that a child’s social life is or should revolve around peers. My ‘social life’ as an adult is filled with people of all ages. By virtue of being homeschooled, my children’s social circle also includes people of all ages – children both younger and older than they are, and adults of all ages with whom they have little difficulty conversing – much more so than they would have if there were stuck in school for 8+ hours every day. I think that the wider age range of social contacts that most homeschoolers enjoy is far more indicative of ‘real life’ as an adult than the segregated peer groups that most schools employ. I also think that many people place more importance than is due on socializing. Yes, children need to have friends of similar ages, but they’re better socialized when they are not limited to peer groups for social contact. So in short, I don’t think that there is any ‘sacrifice’ involved in the social life of homeschoolers.

2. Are you really qualified to teach your child if you don’t have a teaching degree?

Absolutely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I were not fully capable of managing my child’s primary education, then the school systems that educated me (which include both the local public school system and homeschooling) have fallen short of their mark.

Another misconception that I have run into numerous times is that homeschoolers ‘do it all themselves’. Again most, if not all, homeschooling parents I know take full advantage of the bounty of resources available to homeschooling students. From videos and teacher’s manuals to mentors and fully supported online curriculums and local remedial teaching centers, none of us who homeschool are going it ‘alone’. Additionally, many homeschooling parents reach out to the online support communities and local support groups for more hands-on help and encouragement.

I’ve posted about gaps in education before; neither educational system is without gaps. The primary goal of education is to impart basic skills (reading, writing and foundational maths) and the know-how to obtain the information one needs when one needs it. Both the public school system and homeschooling teachers augment those basic skills with a variety of other core information and even among public schools, there is a wide range of what is considered ‘core’. Homeschoolers don’t miss out on that any more than if they moved from one ISD to another during their school career.

3. Which would be better for the child: homeschooling or active parental involvement in public schooling?

The fallacy in this question is assuming that both methods have equal effect for the child. The structure of homeschooling is in no way comparable to a brick-and-mortar classroom setting. In a homeschooling environment, one or two children are the focus of the teacher at all times. Even in larger families, the ratio of student to teacher is still far less than you would ever find in the public education system. No school can compete with that level of individual attention. That alone has tremendous benefit to the student.

Ask yourself this: if you were learning a new skill, how would you learn faster? In a classroom where you will be expected to progress at a set rate regardless of your individual ability, or with a dedicated mentor at your side and ample time to master each step of the process? Homeschooling is in no way a cake walk. It is hours of work and study and preparation on the parent’s part – and that’s before the child even enters the picture. Few parents take on the monumental task of being the primary educator for their children. Those who do are committed and dedicated. When education is free and available for the taking, for a parent to choose another path speaks volumes.

The most dedicated and involved parent in a school is only as effective as the system allows. Even volunteering in parent-teacher groups is only as effective as the system allows. Most schools don’t allow parents in the classroom as regular volunteers; they consider them a distraction. Most teachers are set in their ways, so suggestions or ideas that upset the apple cart are overlooked or disregarded, or impractical in large group settings. Speaking from experience, it was incredibly frustrating to see improvements that could be made, suggest them, be willing to work to implement them, and have those efforts go exactly nowhere. As a homeschooling parent, I feel like my efforts on my children’s behalf are far more effective and worthwhile.

4. How do you plan on developing your childs social skills if you are homeschooling them? Homeschool groups are like social special ed classes and don’t help children develop social skills that can be applied later on in life.

Dictionary.com defines social skills as: the personal skills needed for successful social communication and interaction. Most children learn ‘social skills’ at home, before they ever school. Basic social skills are reinforced every day – how to wait your turn, how to stand in a queue, to be polite, to be respectful. One need never set foot inside a school to master basic social skills.

Homeschool groups and co-ops are excellent opportunities, though not essential, for both socialization and social growth. Any type of ‘group’ setting is an opportunity for social growth, and an opportunity for bettering your communication skills no matter what your age. Library book clubs, doctor’s office waiting rooms, in line at the grocery store, visiting the park – all are opportunities for social interaction – a venue for practicing one’s social skills, and better at actually exercising them than at a playdate or event where you know everyone there. Improving communication is an ongoing process that should not end. Sad would be the day, indeed, when one feels that s/he hasn’t anything left to learn about communication and interacting with people.

It’s obvious to me that the person posing these question has little interaction with ‘real’ homeschoolers. More likely, he or she is repeating what’s been overheard, or is letting fear speak for them. The heavy focus on social opportunities makes me think that the questioner is a young person as well. From that perspective, I can see how you might fear such a scenario when you’re accustomed to the daily social gathering of ‘school’. I hope that I’ve answered these questions with my usual mix of sass and insight. Feel free to add your own replies in the comments!

Warmly,

~h

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4 responses

  1. Well written. 🙂

    November 17, 2010 at 2:34 pm

  2. Where’s the little icon of the clapping hands like you find on forums? I need one of those here in the comments. Bravo, ~h! Well said!

    November 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

  3. Debbie

    Well said and thanks for saying it!

    November 18, 2010 at 12:09 am

  4. PB&J

    My biggest beef with this argument is that EVERY group, whether it be homeschoolers, public schoolers, christian, pagan, blue, green or orange will crank out kids who are socially inept. Because, like you pointed out, socialization starts in the home. I hate the, “I know this homeschooled kid and he is sooooooooo weird!” argument. Can’t we all make that argument about someone, somewhere??? I know PLENTY of public school kids and they are sooooooooooooooo weird.

    Le Sigh is right!

    November 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm

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