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APRIL 22, 2009 2:55AM

Why I Homeschool My Children

Rate: 20 Flag

I've been wanting to write about homeschooling, but have been holding back for some reason. After reading about the eleven year old boy who hanged himself, I decided now was the time to write.

I started homeschooling my oldest back in 1988 when it wasn't the popular thing to do. Michael had just turned five when we started Kindergarten. Although it was legal in Missouri, even back then, not everyone had heard about the concept. As a matter of fact, most people back then hadn't heard of homeschooling. Trust me, it wasn't the easiest thing to do when just about everyone else was sending their kids to school.

Why in the world did I want to undertake such a responsibility, especially when I, myself, had attended school...and even loved school? It boiled down to a handful of  reasons: I absolutely adored my kids, loved being with them, and just didn't want to send them away every  day, five days a week....especially at the tender age of five and six years old. They seemed too young to be separated from their family. Plus....I did it for social reasons...yes, even back then. My oldest son truly appreciated classical music more than pop or other types of music. I wanted him to be able to continue that appreciation without  peer pressure to listen to what every other child was listening to. I wanted him to wear the clothes HE wanted to wear even though they weren't the "brand" name clothes. I didn't want him to have to participate in activities just because every other student was doing so. Basically, I wanted Michael, and my other five children whom I ended up homeschooling, to be free to be themselves. I didn't want them to feel  they had to become exact copies of everyone else.

My original intention was to homeschool just through third grade...just enough time to make sure they got a good start in their education. I had no idea that I would end up  homeschooling them  until they entered high schoool. One year lead to the next and before I knew it, grade school was over. At that point, they were given the option to continue homeschooling or to attend our local Catholic high school. I warned them that if they didn't end up liking school, they would have to at least finish the ninth grade and then I would continue homeschooling them. I didn't want them to quit too easily. If they enjoyed it, like I figured they would, they would just continue until they graduated from high school. Even though they appreciated homeschooling, they were usually eager to give school a try.

The interesting question I heard throughout my homeschooling years was, "Are you concerned about socialization?" I never heard, "Are you concerned about their academic progress?" Even though I was always able to answer the question well enough to satisfy people's curiosity, inwardly, I was a little nervous. The irony was that I was NOT concerned about socialization or social skills. As a matter of fact, that was one of the big reasons I chose to homeschool....for social realsons. I was MORE concerned about the academic part of homeschooling....even though no one else seemed concerned.

In my mind, a child learns socialization by socializing with others of all ages and not just from peers his/her own age. Except in the school environment, where in the "real" world does an individual work and play all day with same aged peers? Later on I found out that homeschooled children seem more at ease with adults than children who attend typical school do. Homeschooled children also seemed more comfortable with kids of all ages compared to the kids who attend formal school.

Needless to say, I didn't keep my children confined to the home all day every day. They joined Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, swam on the neighborhood swim team, took art lessons, helped their Dad tune pipe organs, spent time with their Grandparents, attended church services, and played with neighborhood friends. One of the pleasant outcomes of homeschooling is the balance that is maintained among activities, school and family life. Parents are in control instead of the "system." If a family happens to be sports oriented, then the homeschooled children will have ample amount of opportunities to compete in soccer, swimming, tennis, baseball etc. On the other hand, if families don't want to become "soccer Mom's and Dad's," they don't have to. They are free to choose their own lifestyle and not pressured to live someone else's dream.

Do I ever question the decision I made to homeschool vs. sending our kids to school? You bet I do. Needless to say, no system is perfect and without faults. There were definite sacrefices made in order for me to homeschool...mainly financial....and of course more wear and tear on the house since you actually live in the house all day instead of just in the morning and evenings. Was it worth it? Definitely, yes. I believe our family is closer because of it. I also feel  fortunate that I got to spend day to day life with my kids as they grew into young adults....not only as their Mom, but as their teacher. They learned from me and I learned from them.

Homeschooling wasn't always a picnic with a red and white checkered table cloth and a basket full of overflowing goodies. There were many  plain peanutbutter and jelly days with clouds, rain and brewing storms within our home and  within our hearts. But no matter how difficult homeschooling may be at times, the smiles, laughter, learning and love experienced make homeschooling an unforgettable adventure and journey!

"I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)

 

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If it worked for you, that's great. I just remember most of the homeschool kids being out of step with fashion, slang, and frankly to most of us, a bit creepy. I think that's why when that homeschooled girl won the national spelling bee everyone commented on how she didn't seem to know how to act in public.5
I also remember when working on the high school yearbook staff, the editor rejecting the inclusion of a few homeschooled kids' pictures because they did not attend our school. One comment was "Why should they get credit for coming here, when they stayed home with mommy and didn't have to suffer through the same crap we did?"
In college one formerly homeschooled girl broke out in a panic attack in our dorm and left soon after because she wasn't used to being around so many people.
I don't mean to criticize, perhaps your kids are the odd exception who will easily assimilate with the common people, but it seems sometimes in trying to protect our children we sometimes do them a disservice.
Whereas all the public-school kids were so normal, Nerdyjen? ;)
Nobody's ever normal. It doesn't exist. With the exception of a few people, high school is generally one of the most miserable times in a person's life. It does give you stories, gives you strength, though. I'm not saying that homeschooling is bad and that nobody should do it, I'm just saying the homeschool kids aren't given the opportunity to mix with the little people too often and the kids who attend public and private school generally resent new people.
As someone who's taught a few home-schooled kids at the post-secondary level, I have to say I agree that they are often "out of step" with the other students. It's not that they dress oddly, although they sometimes do, it's more that they don't get how social systems work. They are awkward and not always accepted by other students.

I have also noted huge gaps in knowledge in some students -- not every parent who home schools is well educated or able to teach -- but the thing I notice the most is the lack of boundaries. Many in my area were home schooled because their parents are fundamentalists and there is NO boundaries at all for these kids in secular settings. Despite clear guidelines, presentations would often turn into sermons and other students would complain. And religious topics would always dominate their assignments, which were not appropriate for the course work.

Worst of all was one very talented student who had a future as an animator, but had zero social skills. When she industry types asked about her work at a student function, she told them they were trying to steal her ideas and that ended that job opportunity.
should read: there are no boundaries
I don't quite get many of your justifications. If your kids have good friendships through their activities (scouting,etc) then they are subject to peer pressure over what to wear.

Parents (and kids) are never required to do what everyone else does (sports, etc). That's your choice. Whether your kids go to public school or private school, you decide if you are going to keep up with the Jones or go your own way. And you model that behavior for your kids.

Also, by saying "parents are in control, not the system" makes me wonder if you really understand public schools. I don't see a "system."
Glad you posted this Patricia. I am all for homeschooling when it works - and it sounds like it has worked well for your family. I homeschooled my son for kindergarten and first grade and loved it. We needed me to work, though, so my daughter and son have been in public school since first and second grade respectively, and thankfully they have had a good experience so far. It is hard to think outside the institutional school box for many people. I disagree that homeschooled children are out of step socially. What about the hundreds of thousands of public school children who bully and abuse drugs and can't add two plus two? That is supposed to be normal? Anyway, I'm not anti-public school, but it is far from the only game in town.
I could not have homeschooled my kids exclusively; teaching is just not my gift. I've known families who did it very well, and I've known families who did their children a terrible disservice by homeschooling them. I'm a great believer in improving education by participating fully in the public school system, not opting out.

That said, to the extent that my children are well educated, that happened mostly at home. Our schools here don't manage to do it, and so much of the responsibility falls to parents anyway. Match up social demographics with test scores, graduation rates, lifetime success, or any of a number of indicators, and there's no denying the influence parents have. I agree that learning how to deal with others is an important skill; I'm just not convinced that throwing kids into the deep end of the pool with little instruction or supervision (because educators are so overwhelmed with other responsibilities) is the best way to teach that skill, and there is definitely an age beneath which they don't need to encounter some lessons. So yes, whenever I thought it was to my children's benefit to do something with us instead of go to school, I didn't feel the least bit guilty.

Note to teachers: I am sympathetic, truly; I'm just not a teacher, and my district is one of those that the state has taken over because of poor performance, even while some children were doing quite well.
This is mainly to Nerdyjen. I know what you mean about some of the homeschooled kids being a little out of step with everyone else. I've seen that in a few homeschooled kids, but it's not the norm. I believe that for every "out of step" homeschooled kid you've seen, there are countless homeschooled kids that not only "fit in," they rise above the norm. I think it depends on the parents' personalities in lots of cases and perhaps the reasons for homeschooling.
My four oldest kids didn't perhaps shine academically (they weren't the stereotypical 4.0 students like so many of the homeschooled kids who attend highschool are), but they were exceptionally social, kind and mature compared to so many of the schooled kids they integrated with at high school. Most of the other students didn't even know they hadn't ever been to school before. When they slowly found out, they were surprised and envious in some cases....but never made fun of for their unique experience. My six kids tend to be gregarious and people oriented. I've had two that were a little more shy as young children, but my daughter outgrew that before she left high school and my son is still only 12 and tends to be a little shy, but respectful and kind to all. All six of my children have always had lots of friends and lots of opportunities to attend parties and other social gatherings. I believe it's because they are well liked and appreciated, not just by their peers, but also by the adults in their lives.
I remember once when my oldest complained to me while he was in high school that he wished he could be number one in something. Even though I don't remember exactly what I told him, I do remember telling him that his main gift, talent, ability or whatever you want to call it, was his people skills and the way he treated others. I told him that that would get him far in life, more than anything else. So far, that has been true in his life as well as in the lives of my other older kids. That particular son, Michael, is an Air Force pilot and doing very well. He just returned from a 5 month mission in Kuwait and was recognized by his peers and leaders with quite a few recommendations. One of them being, he was ranked as the number one co-pilot in Kuwait while he was there. That was not only because of his flying skills, but because of the way he gets along with others. He's always wanted to be a general in the Air Force. I see that as a real possibility for him.
As far as being "creepy." To me, "creepy" is bullying your schoolmate to death. To me, "creepy" is bringing a gun to school with the intention of killing your classmates and teachers. To me, "creepy" is selling drugs in school. To me, "creepy" is all of the sex that goes on in our high schools and in some cases, grade schools.
Even though my children have never been too "out of step" with the other kids, I actually don't mind a little "out of stepness" in an indivdual....especially when I look around in our world and see and hear about so much suffering, dishonesty, hatred and disdain for our fellow man/woman.
Thank you very much for sharing your story Patricia. I agonize over what will happen to my daughter and whether to homeschool- or at least have her at home for preschool. I was one of those who was "out-of-step" and uncomfortable in social situations (I still am) and I went to school since the age of three. Preschool (a misery), grade school(sheer hell), junior high(better), high school(better still), college(finally enjoyed being at school). I liked learning. I had a lot of trouble with other people. And I'm not sure public school helped those insecurities at all. Again- thank you for sharing- I continue to wrestle with these questions.
Hey, if it works for you (and more importantly, for your kids) great!

I don't think there's a one-size-fits all solution to education. Personally, I would not have done well as a homeschooled student. From kindergarten on--even though I HATED school until the seventh grade--I liked the independence from my parents that getting on a bus and going to school offered. Contrary to scaring me, it was a huge thrill for me to get off the bus at the wrong stop and have to find my way back home through the neighborhood. I used to daydream that I was in a big city and had to navigate the transit system and find my way around. (I had relatives in Chicago and it impressed me to see all the people getting on and off the El and the buses and knowing exactly where they were going. This was in kindergarten and first grade, as we later moved to the country and the bus came to the end of our driveway.) I liked having a life outside of them, that while they monitored it, they weren't REALLY a part of.

(Of course, I was also the kid whose fourth birthday wish was to be twenty-nine, because "I'd still be young enough to think the same things, but then people would take me seriously." I'm 28 now and it's amazing how spot-on that wish was...maybe I've just never grown up....)

I excelled in English and especially writing, the grading of which is of course subjective. I would not have wanted to write for my mother or father to grade...there's just too much baggage there for either of us to actually evaluate my work. I didn't even begin to enjoy school itself until junior high, when instead of having one teacher all day, every day, I had seven, for an hour each, and they weren't as emotionally wrapped up in my success/failure/proper development as the ladies at St. Mary's were.

I've been around homeschooled kids who were socially awkward and inept, and ones who were just fine. The same seems to hold true for traditionally-schooled kids--but when one of them is not "normal," we don't blame the school system, we think, "Huh, he's weird."
I agree with Leeandra; I would not have done well as a homeschooled child.

Even though the preponderance of the physical violence I suffered as a child came at the hands of my schoolteachers, my mother gave them a run for their money in the psychological torture department; having the influence of the Sisters of St. Dominic, even though it was bought with tears and pain, was ultimately a good thing in my life.

I always detect a whiff of selfishness in the reasoning of the homeschooling mom; not Octomom-sized selfishness, of course, but it's there. I felt it, too; I never even wanted to take my kids to the park when they were young, to keep them uncontaminated by "them;" they were MINE.

Ultimately, sending them to school was the best thing for all of us.

And having taught elementary schoolers for four years, I know this; the classroom is sometimes the only place in a child's life that is not chaotic, neurotic, and inverted. The schoolteacher is sometimes the only sane adult in a child's life.

Maybe that's not a very good reason for schoolschooling, but it's good enough for me.

But thanks for sharing your point of view and your experience; glad it worked for you.
My cousin is a teacher in California who "supervises" home-schooled children, their work and the adults (parents) who are responsible for the teaching. She has said, on more than one occasion, that home schooled children are extremely well behaved, learn as fast or faster as kids in public schools and are as socialized as any she sees in the public sector. Good for you.....your children will benefit.
My concern is generally about the quality of the teaching. If the parents don't have teaching certificates/degrees, what or who is to say that they are fit to teach the subjects effectively to their kids?

I look at your post above and see the possessive/plural confusion that happens a lot these days and wonder whether you caught those issues in your children's work? It's not a big deal for many, but for me learning grammar and writing from those trained to teach it, in addition to the other subjects of math, science, and language is very important. And I do not feel qualified to teach all those subjects to my child.

So my question is whether there is a certification process for the parent who decides to homeschool?
I would have loved to be one of your kids. :) Odette's latest post pretty much sums up my school experience prior to high school when I became 'hot'. My public school time was not consumed with education- it primarily was an education in learning when to run and when to hide. Not all schools are the same as far as education, but groups of people- large groups of people will always be the same...unfortunately.
I think there are plenty of good things about homeschooling, but I would have to be careful to make sure my kids got plenty of social opportunities, as I tend to be shy, and they might as well. (Of course, I'd worry about the academics, first, but even well-known colleges have supported the development of online curriculum for kids, so I'm told.) I would even want to make sure they went to camps where they stayed in the summer without me, just so they learned to fend for themselves away from home. I would think, as well, that they would have to be exposed to group work, because you (unfortunately many times) get assigned that at some point in time in college. They would need to learn to have many different teachers--not just me--as they grew older. I remember tutoring a homeschooled boy at Sylvan. He was sweet and ahead of his grade level, but he seemed almost too trusting to me based on his age level. I worried that, when he was on his own with other kids, the meaner ones would make mincemeat out of him.
Teendoc, I must admit that your comment about my writing abilities made me feel a little defensive. I was a Math major, not an English major and so I am probably better at Math than I am in English. With that said, I honestly believe my writing skills are way above average in spite of my mistakes. I'm sure even trained writers and English majors make mistakes also. I think you were possibly just looking really hard for a reason to criticize me. But to address your concern, I am a certified Math high school teacher, although that is not necessary to teach effectively. As long as you can read, write, do basic Math and possess a love of learning, you can teach your children. What helps to compensate for any weakness is the love that a parent feels for his/her child. That love and interest in your child goes a long way.
One more point, just because your child attends a school, doesn't mean she or he will learn to read, write, do Math etc. If that was the case, our American educational standards wouldn't be as low as they are. It's well known across the country that our high schools are graduating students who still cannot write or read well.
Are home schooled kids better behaved because they are home schooled or are parents more likely to choose to home school well-behaved, cooperative kids who always do as they are told?
But Patricia,

I couldn't have loved my way into teaching my son calculus or AP Physics and Chemistry, or German, or Spanish. And I love him a lot! He needed teachers with skills in these subjects.
I am glad it worked out for your kids. Most people don't ask about the academic part of it because they either assume that the public schools aren't doing such a great job of academics or they secretly have questions they just don't want to insult the parent's intelligence. The socialization question is a safer and more obvious concern to raise.

That being said, as a high school teacher I was pleased to meet two fabulous redheaded children who were homeschooled through the eighth grade and their mom did a fabulous job of preparing them academically to enroll in the AP program. They were a little bit socially maladjusted in that they spoke a little too eloquently for their peers but they were able to make friends and have a good experience overall I think.

The flip side, I know in particular of two homeschooling families that have done their children a gross disservice in not preparing them for even jr. college or a viable professional future. These families were fundamentalist Christian and in each case, wanted to prevent their children from being challenged in taking the Bible literally (i.e. blind them to things like evolution). One woman in particular was never much for schooling or education herself, so her homeschooling is mostly a protest against educatin'. The local church she is affiliated with has a woman who administers and grades the state competency tests and she ensures that the kids get a passing score. There is NO oversight.
That kind of homeschooling I think is a form of child abuse.

My biggest fear in eventually sending my kids to public school is exposing them to bullies and potential psychopaths. I am trying to balance my fears against the more realistic probability that while they will endure some rough patches, those will be outweighed by good experiences. I loved going to school. Even during the rough patches it never occurred to me that I would have been better off hanging out with my Mom all day (and she was a certified teacher herself!).
I can appreciate that this worked well for your family. Sometimes I wonder how much my daughter (a 3rd grader) is really learning in school. I can't help but notice that she made more reading progress over the summer when I was around more to help guide her reading than she did during the entire school year this year. Home schooling gives one a certain flexibility to move ahead (or fall behind) in certain areas. Also, if a kid has special interests, he/she can pursue them. Yet, sometimes it can also be helpful for a kid to learn to adjust to different teachers and personalities. I do worry about the home schooled kids who are fed only fundamentalist ideas and never get to experience a broader range of thought. That doesn't seem to be the case here at all.
I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to homeschooling, largely formed because of my long association with public school teachers. Just to get my bias out in front.

I worry about the qualifications of parents to teach; I worry about the socialization of the children and their ability to adapt in upper grades/college to a structured learning system. I worry about the motivation of parents who choose that course for their children.

In my area, the kids who were homeschooled were fundamentalist Christian kids whose parents feared "contamination" by other kids. They also tended to be racist and white supremacist. Scary.

I'm not trying to project; I'm really grateful that you have shared this story. Thank you.
I think you were possibly just looking really hard for a reason to criticize me.

I'm not sure why I would be looking for a reason to criticize you. I've never read you before today and have no stake in the issue you discussed. I just have a pet peeve about plural/possessive confusion so it jangles for me when I read it. I didn't look hard for it, I promise.

But to address your concern, I am a certified Math high school teacher, although that is not necessary to teach effectively. As long as you can read, write, do basic Math and possess a love of learning, you can teach your children.

I can't say I agree. I learned French at age 11 in an immersion method taught by a Parisian teacher at my school in LA. The woman didn't even speak English. Consequently it was a different method than that which is traditionally taught. And no amount of love of learning could have me duplicate this for my child if I were not absolutely fluent in the language as was my teacher. In addition, physics can be a difficult subject for someone (a parent) who has never studied the subject at all. The same for calculus. So no, I don't think it is as simple as knowing the basics and having a love of learning.

Some parents are great teachers, but I do not believe that all parents are equal or better than all teachers in educating children and adolescents in all subjects.

Your kids did great, in your estimation and that is what matters most (well that and their perceptions). But for my kidlet, I prefer people who are trained educators (not me or my husband) to teach her in school and we will assist in her learning. That is the beauty of our ability to make the choices we feel are appropriate for our families.
I'm afraid my experience with homeschooled kids has been similar to Nerdyjen's. The ones I have known didn't know how to dress, how to talk, how to function socially. When they finally do escape from the helicopter home and head off to college, the girls typically go wild and end up pregnant with herpes and a drug habit in less than a semester, and the boys spend the entire four years locked in their rooms.

But the homeschooled kids I have known have mostly been raised by religious zealots who carefully segregated them from other children. A homeschooled child who was also allowed to be a Girl Scout might be quite different.

There's one special reason I distrust homeschoolers in general. Working with abused children, I encountered several abusive families who kept the children at home to hide what was happening. There need to be laws which require that some outside adult see all children on a regular basis, even if the child doesn't attend school.
In my opinion, just about anyone can teach most subjects in grade school. Assuming the parent was educated in basic education, the teaching parent will actually relearn herself as she progresses through each grade with her child. My grammar and writing skills actually improved as I relearned the rules in grammar while teaching it to my kids. It also reinforced what I already knew, but had forgotten. I must admit, that I would not be as comfortable teaching all subjects at the high school level if I was to homeschool my children throughout highschool. I would teach what I could and then rely on tutors, local junior college classes and online learning to get my kids through the rest. Even though I've never done it, I have known families who have continued homeschooling through high school and have done a fabulous job doing so.
Teendoc, you haven't expressed your opinion about our country's declining educational standards in relation to other countries. Not everyone is learning in the public school system.
I used to think homeschooling was weird but now I'm starting to wish I could do it (sole income earner, not an option). I am fighting a constant battle with my daughter's teacher over the oppresive amount of homework she assigns in grade three. I just refuse to make my daughter do it. We do what we can in the hour we set aside each night for homework. More than one hour is too much. It ruins our time together and doesn't really advance her education. Yet the teacher just keeps at us to complete the homework, complete the homework, complete the homework. Apparently everyone else does it all the time. I'm a little surprised how big a deal it is not to conform to the homework standard in grade three. I can only guess at how much courage it takes to just exit the system altogether and do your own thing. Glad it worked out for you and your kids.
The comment stream is fascinating to me. People are SO emotionally involved in the subject of home schooling. Actually, any and all parenting issues seem to get me VERY defensive. Is it because the stakes seem so high that I feel you have to be right? Has anyone mentioned the fact that they might have strangled their kids if they had to homeschool them?
I'm certainly not minimizing anyone's concerns here, but I think you're being a bit harsh on the homeschooler. Please do not take this as an invitation to debate on this thread but I do think you have to know the person and the community and the schools that the parents have from which to choose before you judge.
The school my children would have attended had I not taken them to the private school where I taught was a place where few teachers have command of the English language. That school taught them very little and in our particular situation when I stopped teaching in private school we homeschooled our youngest daughter. She knew more about the subjects at thirteen than most of the teachers in our hometown. If she didn't know, she knew how to "look it up." That goes for a lot of parents, too. They may not have perfect writing or subject area knowledge but if they know how to teach their children to use their resources then that is a very valuable skill, too.

It is very, very difficult to generalize about this subject. If you walked the halls of my hometown school, you'd be yanking your kids out of there so fast they'd lose their shoes. You'd homeschool, too. It just depends on the community. Public schools are that unpredictable and they are NOT homogenized like our shopping centers are.

Just my two cents.
I think homeschooling could work really well for children -- to a point. I fear that the authority dynamic in the parent-child relationship could become a barrier to the critical thinking that is necessary later in life (particularly at the college university level of education). I have a feeling that the longer a child is home schooled, the less likely he is to question authority and think critically.

In the earlier years we learn concepts by integrating information in ways in which the information becomes imprinted in our minds for easy recall (through rote memorization, auditory and tactile stimulation). As we get older our education shifts over to developing the ability to think critically. We begin questioning the assumptions that we have made through our earlier concrete learning. I would say this shift takes place in early adolescence.

Parents are a primary source of authority for children and it may be a lot harder for a child to question their parent than some other authority figure. Parents who teach their children at home may be less receptive to challenges by their children. For example, how would you react if the child questioned your religious beliefs? I have a feeling that most parents would try and reinforce their own personal belief structure (atheists too!) rather than encourage an honest exploration of a variety of religious concepts.
I've enjoyed reading your post and all of the comments, and I'm with Hells Bells - I simply do not have the patience to have taught my daughter at home. Some nights even doing homework together is more than stressful! But that being said, parents shouldn't assume that their kids will learn everything at school - they should be willing to help with learning as well.
I want to second Emma and teendoc: my biggest reservation about homeschooling concerns academic quality. That's not to say that all regular schools do a great job.

And, although this seems not to be the case with patricia, homeschooling is a popular method among people who want to indoctrinate their kids in anti-scientific dogma and highly colored versions of history.
Education is best achieved in a one on one setting. If a parent is learning and remembering what they teach, then it's academically best, and it teaches a child to teach themself.

I didn't learn anything from school, although I picked up a few things from the text books and lectures that occupied it. Everything I learned, I taught myself with the learning skills I learned in my private violin lessons, or the study skills my parents taught me.

As for socialization, activities with like minded individuals are much more helpful than being thrown into a group of people who are associated by meaningless geography.
I can see why you felt some trepidation about posting this! People do indeed have very strong feelings on the subject. I'm a former public school teacher, and like many here, I've seen good outcomes and bad. I think people don't realize how far homeschooling has come these past years. There are excellent curriculums available, benchmark tests to assess progress, online courses through community colleges, and cooperatives for advanced subjects like physics.

Sounds like you and your kids did great, and you seem like a very happy family.
To add to Annette's comments because she brings up a good point. Homeschooling parents have a large amount of resources to draw from - in fact while I was in the schools teaching I could often find more material on a subject in homeschooling data bases than "regular" because there is a flurry of publishing in homeschooling arenas by certified teachers.

There are also some wonderful groups out there for getting kids together for field trips, activities, and even graduation ceremonies! I think it's great especially in lowly populated areas. Yes, there are some who abuse it just like parents who abuse the public school system by dragging their kids in late every day, keeping them out of school half the time, etc.
This is all very interesting to me, because I'm a high school English teacher, but I've found myself wondering lately if homeschooling is actually the way to go for my son.

I wonder this because I've noticed that, for a variety of reasons that I won't go into here, kids tend to think that what they do at school doesn't matter outside of the classroom they are sitting in at that moment, and that anything they are asked to do in school will automatically be awful. Many kids and parents worry about grades, not about skills gained. They want my class to be as easy as possible so they can get their A, go to college, get a good job, and make a lot of money. I increasingly feel like school actually kills intellectual curiousity.

Of course, I've never experienced homeschooling first-hand, and I know there are people who keep their kids home for the wrong reasons (i.e. abuse). However, I wonder if some of the joy of and life in learning is better maintained when kids are allowed one-on-one attention, educational time that is less categorized and structured, and learning experiences that are not automatically rendered meaningless by peers.

I'm gathering data on this now. It sounds, Patricia, like your kids really did gain quite a bit from your homeschooling.

Thanks for posting this.
I find it odd that people think that being "out of step" with other students is a horror. I go to bed every night praying that my kids will always be "out of step" with most of the kids I see at, say, the mall. I want so much more for them, especially on an intellectual level.

Having said that, I don't think I've got the stuff (neither the energy nor the breadth of knowledge) to homeschool my kids. But I work hard to supplement what they learn.
Great post, Patricia! Thanks for opening up an interesting topic.

My experience is that most people, especially liberals, have a bias against homeschooling, mainly because they associate it with the evangelical right. From my research for an article on the history of American social movements and from anecdotal experience, it's clear people forget or simply don't know that liberals started the movement and their driving intellectual literature is foundational. It's true that conservatives have "hijacked" homeschooling to the extent that it is practiced today, but most practitioners have diverse political philosophies with perhaps a mild discontent with the status quo in common. As far as I've been able to tell here on Open Salon for the past six months, the status quo it generally not something generally defended here, which is why I think people are either uninformed or defensive about their own choices. (I don't know what your own political inclination is and don't want to assume anything; I mention all this merely as a possible explanation for the tepid reaction you are receiving here.)

For what it's worth, I have a teensy slice of homeschooling experience myself; I did it one year for one of my three boys (long story), and in spite of our schizophrenic experience of playing tennis with the fundamentalists who didn't like Harry Potter to taking art classes with the children of the flaming liberal professors at Oberlin College nearby (almost none of whom wanted their kids in public schools b/c they hated the conformity of the system) to getting online with the unschoolers who were mostly wiccans, we noticed they all had something in common--a child-centered way of parenting and a genuine enjoyment of the company of their children.

teendoc and others who question the academic qualifications of the parent/teachers: You made me laugh out loud. Are you kidding? I mean, I want to shout it from the rooftops: Are you kidding? As a substitute teacher for many schools and many years (I prefer the variety of ages and the sporadic schedule for my writing), I promise you that anything Patricia writes here is better, in both style and content, than anything every single elementary teacher I've worked with is capable of. I am faced almost daily with the excruciating ethical decision of how much correction I can get away with when I take over for a teacher who has obviously taught a fundamentally incorrect math principle or has the students performing atrocious sins in the name of writing. Once I had to leave a note that the handmade sign on the teacher's easel had an incorrect rule of possession (Her rules included, and this was formally written out, that irregular plural possessives were formed by adding an s and then an apostrophe. Think about that. Yes, that would be womens' and childrens', and at least one of those was listed as an example). I run into this stuff every single day that I choose to teach.

Also to teendoc: Licenses don't make good teachers. The focus in ed programs is on behavior management, not academic content, and the admission requirements for schools of education are generally lower than in any other program (last data available, 2005). That is to say, if you want to go to Ohio State University, you need a 3.8 GPA and at least a 30 on your ACT. But if you want to be an education major, you can have a 3.2 GPA and a 24 on your ACT. It looks like that all over the country.

Malusinka: You ask whether home schooled kids are more compliant than the general population. The largest growing segment of the hs population is among parents with so-called difficult children; that is, those with an ADHD, ODD, OCD, Autism, or Aspberger's diagnosis. Like Patricia, these parents just want their kids to be able to be themselves.

Also to Malusinka: You bet there's a system. It's the system that's wrong and drives excellent teachers out. There are great teachers here on OS--I have nothing against the profession and consider it the highest calling. It's "the system" though, that requires good teachers to spend way too much time teaching to tests, treating kids like parts in a factory system, and focusing on all the rote things (like rules of noun possession) at the exclusion of real, actual, honest-to-goodness critical thinking. I think I'm a kick-ass teacher, but I leave most days feeling like I've not done enough, not served individuals well enough.
Patricia, thanks for having the guts to post this.

I may have something to add to the comment thread; I was homeschooled 1990-2003. After finishing high school at home with dual-enrollment at a community college to cover some of the more advanced subjects (biology, Spanish, advanced algebra), I went on to graduate from college in 2006 with a BA in English.

@r. bomb: You fret that homeschooled children will be brainwashed by their parents. In my experience, children rarely cooperate with their parents' agendas. My parents did want me to follow their rather ridged, narrow-minded version of Christianity, but look at me now. At 24, I'm an independent (my parents live several states away) agnostic. The important thing is, my parents really did want to give me a good education. They did so, and, in the process, I learned how to think for myself.

@Nerdyjen and several other commenters: What disturbs me is the underlying assumption that it's somehow "wrong" to differ from the norm. What's wrong with "being out of step with fashion" or with failing to like talk like this to make like, you know, lots of friends. JenniferC writes that two homeschooled children she had in her class were "socially maladjusted" because "they spoke a little too eloquently for their peers." Is that a problem with the homeschooled kids or a problem with the kids who don't understand big words or well-constructed sentences?

Yes, homeschooling is not for everyone, and in some rare cases it is a cover for abuse. But the majority of homeschooled students are getting good educations. If parents care enough to spend all day with their kids, they probably care enough to give their kids a great education. As for those of you who worry about homeschoolers fitting in, it might help to think of us as immigrants. We don't know the customs quite yet, and we might have a different way of talking, but we pick up on things pretty quickly, when you get right down to it.
I am lucky to live where the public schools are both academically well ranked and physically safe. My daughter’s public school first grade class has only 15 children. Yet, despite this, many mothers choose to homeschool where I live. (Yes, I know dads can homeschool. I just don’t know any.)

I know some homeschooling moms who act very superior about themselves, their kids, and their parenting choices. I think that is why other parents get defensive. I get defensive when I hear some of these women talking. Patricia doesn’t strike me in that way at all.

Parenting is such a personal issue that we parents can feel judged merely when someone makes a different choice than us… even if the writer did not intend judgment.
I am a parent of a child with Asperger's. School has been difficult for him. We did try homeschooling for a little while because I felt he was falling behind. It didn't work. He returned to school in a Special Education classroom with a teacher who was trained in teaching children with emotional disabilities and he flourished.
It took a lot of fighting and I wanted to give up but my child was worth it. All of these people complain about their school system, but how many of them actually work to improve their schools?
Like I said, if it worked for you that's great, but some children should not be homeschooled just like some parents should not homeschool.
Susan Smith the Texas mother who murdered her 5 children became overwhelmed homeschooling her children. This is a major extreme, but if there was some sort of oversight and standards in homeschooling maybe that tragedy could have been prevented.
Nerdyjen, I'm glad your son is getting a good education. I've observed that special ed niches, whether pull-out or push-in or whole class, often serve as the very best kind of small-group interaction there is to be had in schools. I wish you knew, though, how very predictable it is for people to go to the "murder" thing with homeschooling. There is far more abuse that happens to children of traditionally schooled kids than anything you can attribute to homeschoolers. And truthfully, the abuse thing is going to happen or not; the homeschooling aspect only happens to mask it for longer. People don't homeschool so that they can abuse their kids; they are abusers who just don't send their kids to school and get found out way too late. I think calling homeschooled kids "creepy" and suggesting that anyone for whom it works is the "odd exception" is simply knee-jerk and offensive. I wonder if you have noticed that of all the comments here, the most neutral or open to homeschooling come from teachers. My own experience homeschooling was very limited, but the families I know who have done it almost exclusively are educators. Every single one of them. That should tell you something.

By the way, if there's anyone still here and interested, my latest post, a true story, was inspired by this thread.
There are many comments on this board questioning the qualifications of parents to teach, however just because a teacher passes some minimal requirements does not mean they are necessarily better able to educate a child than a parent.
From the U.S. department of education’s Report of Teacher Quality (2006), “Minimum passing scores on teacher certification and licensing assessments generally are set by states at a level that is lower than the national median scores for these assessments. This means that more than 50 percent of the individuals taking the tests nationwide will score higher than the minimum passing score for
teachers, and the HEA Title II data show that there is little to no state movement to expect higher scores from teacher candidates.” (http://www.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/2006-title2report.pdf)
Some states have reading requirements below the 25th percentile of the national average, so I really don’t think the argument that parents aren’t as qualified to educate children because they are not certified holds much merit when teacher qualification means so little.
Subject Exposure Argument: Most high school students today do not take Calculus and Physics and much of the language teaching is a joke. Ask any 25 year old, not exposed to college language programs, to speak coherently in the language they “learned” in high school. You are likely to hear some unimpressive results. There are numerous ways to expose children to languages, along with other subjects the parent might not be familiar with (such as advanced math and science). There are many language programs and many homeschoolers participate in groups at reduced rates. There are also many places to receive tutoring in subjects such as calculus and physics and online courses are available. You could also send the kid to language camp or enroll them in a study abroad program.
Some home-schooling parents do indoctrinate their children, and limit their exposure to certain ideas however many suburban schools are pretty homogeneous as well and kids will be exposed to other kids just like themselves. Kids in school are often taught how to pass a test more than how to think for themselves and are forced to perform meaningless monotonous tasks; for example hours of homework in elementary school. And you wonder why some kids end up hating school?? Public schools can easily stifle a child’s independence and force conformity. This can be especially true for students a little bit different who are quickly diagnosed with ADHD and any number of Autism Spectrum disorders, who end up being medicated or sent into behavior modification to make them clones of the other children.
There are some great home-schooling parents and others are not so great, but there are also many substandard teachers and schools as well.
Patricia, it sounds like you did a wonderful job homeschooling your children. Thank you for sharing your story.
I am glad you did what was right for your family. No one can do that, except you.
As a product of the public school system, and a public school teacher, I firmly believe that 90% of parents (who care) do know what is best for their children. Your children are very lucky.
I had the misfortune of knowing a very good friend who was schooled by his politically rebellious parents-- killed by a police officer when he "talked back" after he was pulled over and asked to step out of his vehicle. His lack of social skills killed him.
So there is a flip side.
There are parents who do NOT prepare their kids. And this is why there is no one answer to any given question.
“killed by a police officer when he "talked back" after he was pulled over and asked to step out of his vehicle. His lack of social skills killed him.”
I would say an overly aggressive police officer abusing his power (likely a product of public schools; a great place to learn about abuses of power) killed him, not his lack of social skills….
Nerdyjen (interesting name for someone who's questioning the normalcy of homeschooled kids)... I work with homeschooled children regularly through baseball practices that friends of mine conduct and that I volunteer to help out with. They homeschool their 2 children and network with others who homeschool their children. This network has created what is called HAL... the Homeschool Athletic League. It's exactly that. An athletic league that homeschool children have access to sports through and also have access to socialization through.

These kids play and learn a gamut of sports and activities... baseball, soccer, dodgeball, karate, roller hockey, football, basketball, etc. (I know I'm forgetting a lot). They have experienced people in different the areas teach clinics and classes, and then the kids play the sports.

From my experiences with the baseball practices, I clearly can see that homeschooled children are WAY MORE polite and respectful than non-homeschooled kids. Also, they have a sincere interest in learning and are WAY MORE aware of the "real" world and knowing things that just aren't taught in schools. They are very intelligent kids.

My friends told me that when they go on vacations and before leaving, they buy books on the places they will visit and teach their children about them and research them, so that they have a real world awareness of them and can appreciate them more. How many non-homeschooled children receive this perspective?

Also, this family does EVERYTHING as a family (except, of course, bringing in the family income). They are a very close family with solid values, and their kids aren't smart asses like most other kids are. They are a model family, IMO.

This also is true of the other homeschooled kids I work with. I have NEVER EVER heard any of these kids make a smart ass remark, put anyone down, be disrespectful, or anything of the sort. They are a true joy to work with and are mature for their ages.

To the contrary, last summer, I helped out a friend who needed someone to keep score for his son's baseball team. I helped several times, and when I did, the kids that were there (friends and relatives of the kids who were playing) were the most unruly, disrespectful, bothersome, smart asses that anyone could ever imagine... and they were there completely void of any adult supervision (and the adults who were there acted oblivious to their actions... jeez... I wonder where the kids learned their behavior from).

I couldn't stand school and would've given up some body parts to be able to be homeschooled... but as Patricia stated about her kids, I grew up in the 70's and 80's, a time in which this was almost unheard of, and people weren't aware that they had this option.

If I ever have kids or adopt, those kids will NEVER step foot in a traditional or religious school to learn!

So, if all of this means that homeschooled kids aren't normal, then I welcome not being normal.
teendoc... one doesn't need to have a degree or a certificate to know how to teach and to be successful at it. That's one huge thing that's wrong with our society. That's the same as saying people who don't get a degree in education are not empowered or educated enough to teach their children successfully.

Give me a break... truly.
Regana, who needs calculus? So far, it has been completely useless in my life, much like algebra, Shakespearan literature, and so many other things that public schools waste time and money on and bore kids to death with.
I was so flippin' bored thoughout my school career... because most of the work was far too easy for me. I remember wondering why so many kids had problems with some subjects, while they were too easy for me. So, for the most part, I was very unchallenged in public school. I would've loved to be homeschooled and actually have a challenge.

I was told once, by my 4th grade teacher, that I couldn't develop my own style for printing and handwriting while we repeatedly wrote the alphabet (isn't that a bit old to be doing that, anyway?). What did I think at the time? My thoughts were that I didn't care what he said and that I was going to write my way, even if he didn't like it... so I continued to do so (I'm an artist/graphic designer/multimedia artist... someone who thrives on inspiration and creativity).

So, from my experiences, public schools stifle imagination, creativity, challenges to learning more than can be spoon fed out of a book, inspiration, creative freedom, etc. and promote that institutionalized type of thinking that they are known for.

No wonder Americans suffer with their level of education.
Oh, and I think my grammar and punctuation skills are pretty good... and I don't have a degree or certificate in English.

Also, I didn't learn how to speak Spanish fluently until I actually started going to Mexico several times. Yes, I had a good base for the structure, grammar, spelling, and pronounciations of it in high school, but I couldn't put a sentence together for the life of me until I actually started traveling to a Spanish-speaking country and engaging in actual dialogue. I also didn't learn how to speak it through my college Spanish classes, either. The first time I went to Mexico, my sister had to translate everything for me. I was completely lost.
Your story was lovely, and I had to laugh at the commenter who feared homeschoolers wouldn't assimilate with society. That's kind of funny. I think society is a bit sick, twisted and unhealthy with their pre-occupation with celebrities, keeping up with the Joneses, fashion, processed foods, violence, sexual fetishes and consumer credit.

If I do ONE thing right as a parent, may it be that my children do NOT assimilate with popular culture:)
Why do people ever think homeschool kids are separate from society, a la Nerdyjen's "odd exception" comment? My kids take dance, art, pony riding, etc., classes with school kids. They see the same popular fashion, know the same popular TV characters, etc.

The only thing that might set my kids apart from schooled kids is how friendly and outgoing they are with adults.

As an aside, my girls would never dream of calling themselves something self-deprecating like Nerdy-anything. I'm glad they haven't assimilated to that particular societal custom.