Culture and Society,  Pedagogy

On Homeschooling

Tony Woodlief has written a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, opinion piece about why he and his spouse have chosen to homeschool their children. He writes, in part:

The reason we’ve broken with tradition, or perhaps reverted to a deeper tradition, is not because we oppose sex education, or because we think their egos are too tender for public schools. It’s because we can do a superior job of educating our children. We want to cultivate in them an intellectual breadth and curiosity that public schools no longer offer.

Somewhere there is now an indignant teacher typing an email to instruct me about his profession’s nobility. Perhaps some public schools educate children in multiple languages and musical instruments, have them reading classic literature by age seven, offer intensive studies of math, science, logic, and history, and coach them in public speaking and writing. The thing is, I don’t know where those schools are.

I think were I to have children, I’d want to do much the same thing. Not so much because my own K-12 experience was mostly horrendous, but because of the education I received from my over-educated, intellectually curious book-loving parents. They encouraged me, and provoked me, and fed my brain and mind, while most of the time I was, quite honestly, just parked in a holding pattern by well-meaning but over-worked teachers. (Granted, there were some exceptions: Mr. Muchnick, and Virgina Hall, to name two).

Had I stayed in high school, I would have graduated in 1980. My high school was, and is, one of the better ones in N.H., but I was essentially warehoused. I spent every spare moment in the library, and in the Keene Public Library, the tiny Westmoreland public library, the Brattleboro Public Library . . . not to mention reading pretty much everything else I got my eyes near, and being regularly “fed” books by my older siblings.

But, for a variety of reasons, despite some wonderful teachers, like Mr. Jobin, endlessly patient in French, I was invisible in high school; my guidance counselor told me that I wasn’t college material, and suggested I attend Colby Sawyer for a secretarial degree, where I could meet a nice young doctor from Dartmouth.

It’s much worse now, where “No child left behind” has frequently resulted in a cult of mediocrity.

Go read what Woodlief has to say. He makes a lot of sense.

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  • Christopher Kastensmidt

    Good post.

    I’m still a few years off from having to worry about this, but it is something I think about. I agree that homeschooling would provide a better education for my children and I do consider it, but I do worry a little bit about losing the social aspect of school. As much as I hated some of my school years, I did make a lot of lifelong friendships along the way.

    In any case, since either my wife or I would have to quit work to teach home school, we’re probably more likely to go the private school route. We’re fortunate enough to be able to afford it, and the public schools here are a step down even from some of the bad US schools. We’ve already researched many private schools in our area, and I like a couple of them quite a bit.

  • Kleinman

    So who do we blame for the fact that you’re a pretentious bore? Is it the school system that failed you, the library and the literature it exposed you to, or your parents? Seriously, some people aren’t a fit within the “system”, it doesn’t mean it failed you, it means you weren’t cut out for it. Plenty of people do well in school, succeed and become functional members of society. Should the fact that success rates are not 100% be blamed on a system that is trying to educate “the many” as opposed to “the one”?

    It’s a shame that school didn’t work for you. Socialization (barring a peer raised society) is a necessary part of growth. There is an element within government that would like to see public education sacked and bankrupted. The fact that you didn’t fit or flourish within the “mold” is hardly evidence of anything. In the end those that will be hurt by and exodus from the schools will be the poor and minorities, those that need the public education system the most. Those kids might not have the time for emotional issues, they might be looking for a couple of decent meals during the day and to actually better themselves.

  • Lisa Spangenberg

    I’m sorry you feel I’m a pretentious bore; but you are, nonetheless, neither reading my post carefully nor understanding it–and you are jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

    There were 13 girls in my eighth grade class in rural New Hampshire.

    More than half were pregnant single mothers before they were eighteen. They didn’t graduate from high school. They didn’t get jobs, they didn’t benefit at all. Look at the drop out rate for Washington state — 33%. I’m not suggesting vouchers, or that parents of home schooled students should be exempt from paying taxes; I’m suggesting that for people like me, with parents like mine, rather than warehousing me because I’m profoundly dyslexic and “not worth the effort,” it makes far more sense to simply homeschool students like me, so that someone without the resources I was lucky to have, has a better chance.

    I taught, briefly, in a public high school. I was pretty uncomfortable around the armed security guards, and didn’t linger beyond my contract. I teach in public colleges and universities, and have more than twenty years of experience volunteering for adult literacy–teaching adults who were, in fact, profoundly failed by the educational system. Most of them, by the way, were warehoused pretty much the way I was because we weren’t confrontational–we just couldn’t read, or had problems writing, or had dyscalculia.

    So we were parked. They were short-staffed, and had inadequate resources. I understand that.

    I’m simply saying that for some of us, homeschooling is a better option, and, at the same time, frees some resources, however small, for someone else.

  • Cassiopeia

    It has been my experience that the school system is unwilling to step up to the plate. I don’t buy into this ideology that children must fit into the system. As a society we expect and fight for our rights a the individual. Why then should we accept less from our educational system?

    I have had two children successfully conform to the norm. However, my last child who has scored so high on his testing at the age of 12 has had nowhere to go in the last five years. With his brilliance comes a price. One with a few learning and occupational difficulties. I was reassured that he would be looked after and yet for the most part his teachers were annoyed they had to go the extra mile for this student.

    This a boy who is engaging and gets on well with anyone he meets. He has no trouble fitting in, he’s never in any trouble. So why then were his teacher’s balking at the accommodations?

    You can not force a gifted child with learning disabilities to fit the system and it is hypocrisy at best to claim that a school system believes in the “no child left behind” policy when it refuses to comply with even the most basic of federal and state laws.

    My son is now in a program that alternatively allows him to be home schooled and allows him high school credit and a GPA to graduate. Unfortunately, he had to wait until he was 17 to qualify for the adult educational system set up by the state for online school.