September 4, 2003

Homeschooling Misunderstood... This CNN article provided me with hope as its headline spoke of an increase in homeschooling in our country. However, a closer reading of the full article left me annoyed again. The article is peppered with unsubstantiated claims about the problems of homeschooling. It is almost as if the author can't decide what really bothers him/her about homeschooling and so decides to outline some of the ever repeated criticisms, without ever really making any true arguements. It seems to me that the writers are just throwing things out there to see what sticks if anything does.

As a homeschooling family I tried to keep an open mind but find statements like the following really bother me:

The National Education Association, which represents 2.7 million teachers and other school workers, says home schooling as a parent's choice 'cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.'


Her interest in the social scene speaks to another concern for the critics: that home-schooled children are not getting adequate exposure to other kids or the chance to develop social skills.

On the first subject - homeschooling not providing a comprehensive education experience. I truly am curious what the NEA considers a comprehensive education experience and if they have ever really sat down with homeschoolers to see what they learn. Of course Serona'a reaction was classic - 'If a comprehensive education includes metal detectors and being patted down for drugs in the morning for school - then the NEA is right about not getting that in a homeschool education. Homeschooling opens up the possibility's for a more comprehensive education experience in my opinion. The child's education can focus on their interests as well as the 'neccesary skills' - when my child gets interested in Greek Mythology - we can spend as much time as she wants on that and still get reading, writing, math and all her other subjects in - but enhance the areas she is interested in and work with rather than against her interests. In addition there are so many resources available to offer a child a 'classical' education if that is what works best for the family. I can not think of anything that my child can not learn at home that she can only get in school (oh wait I forgot bad values, negative influences, a political, social and cultural agenda I may not support, violence, and the myriad of other problems that plague our school systems.), what academic goals are impossible to teach at home?

The second criticism is one that drives me NUTS, because it is just false. Homeschooled children are not sheltered from all other kids and without social interaction - if anything the opposite tends to be true. Now I know there can always be exceptions, however they are not the rule. We have met quite a bit of homeschooling families and finding friends for their kids or opportunities for their children to interact with others is not the problem. Rather choosing between options and limiting your amount of outside activities seems to be harder.

This fall I had to make some tough choices and prioritize what was most important in our schedule, we could be out of our house every day and with many other children if that is what we chose. As it is my 4 year old will be around a group of children her own age and a range of ages around her between 3-5 times a week. The size of the group ranges from 6 children to about 30 depending on what we are doing. She is in two weekly groups: one a large playgroup with limited structured activity with about 20 other homeschool families with mixed ages of children from newborn to around 8 years of age, with many her own age. The other weekly group is a learning cooperative we started with two other families with structured lessons and freetime all together - there are 6 children involved in this with mixed ages. She also has her Sunday school class and a weekly dance class. In addition we will attend a music class, science class and field trip once a month with around 20-30 kids her age. She has several close relationships and many other kids she knows, plays with and interacts iwth on a regular basis. And I love that the groups are mixed in age.

An unexpected benefit of homeschooling we have experienced is the relationships our kids build with other adults in their lives. My kids have a very close relationship with several other mothers from our groups and they can and have gone to them with concerns or just for a hug. I look forward to seeing how this continues to develop.

Bottom line is it all depends. There can be really great homeschooled kids and really great public or private schooled kids. Children can learn and thrive in both environments, some will do better in each environment. So I find it foolish and unsubstantiated to make blanket statements about the problems of homeschooling and how this increasing trend is putting our kids at risk, which is what the article implies even when it doesn't directly state it.

To their defense CNN did outline some of the positives of homeschooling, the flexibility, the children's enjoyment of it, and some examples of smart homeschoolers (winning National Bees and so on). But the overall tone of the article is disappointing to me. And i sincerely hope people don't just buy the lines that are thrown out in this article.


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