Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?
January 15, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Looking for pros and cons regarding homeschooling.

We have come up with our own pros and cons list but want to see if there are reasons for or against we might have looked over.

Some facts about us:

I am a WAHM, running a home daycare and studying to be a Montessori Teacher. Mr.Abbril also works from home and is launching a graphic design business. Money is okay but we have to watch our spending. Our oldest daughter is in junior kindergarten but has been homeschooled as well, mainly using the Montessori Method. She is just 4 and can read and write and is showing an interest in science and math and doing exceptionally well. We have not seen any difference in her since she has started school other than she is more of a handful when she gets home due to being tired. School for her lasts from 830-1050.

The younger two children are happily learning as part of their regular day. The middle child, 2.5yrs, is learning colours and ABC's etc. and the baby of the family is learning to talk and to sign. Everyone is at or above the learning, physical, and emotional milestones for their ages.

Where we live in Ottawa has a fairly entrenched homeschooling community and we are already involved with a few online groups, though primary in a lurking mode right now. Junior and Senior kindergarten are both optional, and homeschooling further just requres a letter to the school board that indicates our intent to homeschool.

We have the desire, the ability, the resources, and support of our families.

Can you think of reasons we should or shouldn't homeschool?
posted by Abbril to Education (30 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a former teacher, I am extremely cynical about the education system here in BC. I don't expect much, other than that our son will be able to read and write and do arithmetic.

I think home schooling would be a good idea, it's just that I can't see myself devoted the time and energy necessary to making it work well for our sons.

You seem to be motivated and organized as a parent, and that's the most important thing.

A lot of people seem to think that going to school is good for building social relationships, and while I agree, I also think that your child is not going to lose out by not attending school.

Presumably you will still enroll your children in swimming and soccer or whatever, and presumably you're plugged in to a network of families with kids of a similar age.

I'd like to see some studies showing that home schooled kids lose out on the social interaction.

In short, I don't see any cons with home schooling, except that it means you will be a de facto single income family.

The school system is okay, but the way that it's designed (30 students per class, 830 start, single age classrooms, etc) can be so totally arbitrary; learning is often only a competing consideration.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you mean homeschooling forever or just for the kindergarten years? For kindergarten I don't think it's a huge difference IMO.

At some point I think it's healthy for children to have authority figures that aren't their parents and I think that from a social development point of view that school with other kids is very important but obviously these are not completely set in stone as most homeschooled kids turn out fine.

At any rate I guess I would suggest that this decision doesn't have to be forever and that while Grade One is a pretty convenient go/no-go point there's nothing to say that you can't do it for as long as it works and revisit your decision at any point as the kids change.
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on January 15, 2010


How many other kids are in your home daycare and what are their age ranges? If you both already have full time jobs, albeit at home, who is taking care of the other kids when your eldest daughter is in school?
posted by IanMorr at 10:34 AM on January 15, 2010


Also, while I would agree that structurally most public system don't exactly excite me as a parent there are a lot of very dedicated, excellent teachers out there. There are also a handful of batshit insane teachers out there (at least in Toronto) which are pretty frustrating if you're stuck with one of them for a year. But generally the great teachers have outnumbers and made a much bigger impression on our kids than the bad ones.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on January 15, 2010


that should be '...when your eldest daughter is in homeschool.'
posted by IanMorr at 10:35 AM on January 15, 2010


I was homeschooled for eight years--until graduation--so I can speak with some knowledge here, and I'd say that having the support of a network of other homeschooling families is going to be critical. More than that though, you'll probably want to be sure that they're the "right" sort of homeschooling families.

You're doing Montessori. This suggests that you aren't a staunchly conservative Dutch Reformed-type. Or a straight up fundamentalist. A lot of homeschoolers are, particularly the latter, even in places like Ottawa, which unless I miss my guess is a lot closer to farm country both geographically and culturally than either Toronto or Montreal are. It isn't just politics though. Differences in occupation, socio-economic status, and even location can make this sort of thing difficult. If your kid is the only only one who doesn't live on a farm--or the only one who does--that's going to make relating to the other kids harder. Same if your parents are the only professionals, or the only ones who went to college, or the only ones interested in sending their kids to college.

Your kids--not to mention you and your husband--are going to need to be able to socialize with other people involved in the same project, and a lot of the best things about homeschooling come from co-ops and similar family-oriented organizations. I was part of three different ones growing up. Not sharing the same religious and cultural values with that community is going to make things difficult for you. I would figure out what the local homeschooling community is like before taking the plunge. You might be okay for a year or two, particularly in early-childhood grades, but unless you're basically on the same page with the rest of the community, this will get harder as time goes by and your kids get older.

That being said, there are a lot of advantages, the chief of which being the ability to tailor your child's education to your standards and their needs. Maybe you want your kid to learn Latin. You add that to the curriculum. Maybe you want them to know things about world history they won't get in normal survey courses. All of a sudden that trip to Rome you've been talking about counts as school time. Maybe she displays a preturnatural ability to fix things. Get her enrolled in tech/trade classes. Maybe she sucks at math but can't get enough writing. Adjust your emphasis. Then again, maybe you consider facility with multiplication tables to be one of the absolute bare minimum requirements for an educated person. Spend as much time as you need to get 'er done. Maybe you want to do one subject at a time, finishing a textbook every few weeks before moving on to the next. You can do that. Maybe you want to do school four days a week. Maybe you want to do three days a week but go all year round. Maybe you want to start at noon and go until after dinner. The possibilities are endless, and the fact that they don't do it that way in "real" school is suddenly no reason not to do things your way. With homeschooling, the focus really becomes educating your child rather than getting a group of unrelated and dissimilar children through a series of bureaucratically-imposed hoops which may well wind up in them getting moved through the grades without actually learning anything at all.

It is what you make it. But know that the only structure that you'll have--and you will need structure--will be that which you impose. You may find that Montessori isn't structured enough to work much past 1st grade. Then again, you may find that it's the best fit ever. Be willing to flex and do what needs to be done rather than riding some ideological theory about what education ought to look like into frustration and failure.

Good luck!
posted by valkyryn at 10:45 AM on January 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't have any information on it, but I know that often homeschooling groups will coordinate the learning into groups. That way the kids are socialized and the teaching burden is spread out. Some parents might be better at math or trig, for example.

I know that universities often work with homeschooling groups and the kids get to do neat stuff they wouldn't normally get to do in mainstream school.

The only homeschooled kid I know who is weird and socially awkward said that he was jealous of the other homeschooled kids who did the cool stuff I've mentioned above. His parents were fundies and kept everyone at home all the time except for church stuff.

There's lots of great resources and if people around you already support it, making teaching groups etc shouldnt be too hard.

You sound like you are pretty knowledgeable already so you'll probably be just fine....and so will your kids!
posted by sio42 at 10:58 AM on January 15, 2010


I do kids & teens events at a public library and have a good deal of experience with homeschooled and public schooled kids, and one of my own kids is in the middle of a very challenging year at at an open-styled public school where the first year teacher has been removed mid-year and some parents have pulled their kids out.

I have no doubt that many kids will learn more, faster, better, and more fun in a homeschool environment, but to me, the best part of public school is that you have to learn how to get along with a wide variety of people, how to have fun and enjoy yourself despite heaping piles of bullshit, and most important, learn how to deal with assholes. The world is full of assholes.

I know my 2nd grade son learns more about physics, math, civics, biology and such just as we walk to and from school than he'll learn in the classroom, but the things he's learned at school about how to know who is worthy of trust, how to neutralize negative actions from jerks, excluders, or bullies, and how to find your passion and chase it even surrounded by meaningless hoop-jumping, are invaluable to him turning into a grownup who can thrive in challenging situations.

I work with a lot of idealists. Many of them get so upset when they have to deal professionally with an asshole that they lose control of their rational minds. I know as parents we want to protect our kids from bad things, but just like bacteria, if you don't give them an opportunity to have exposure and develop and exercise their defenses, they'll be laid low by something that would have bounced off of others.

I don't think that homeschooling is a bad idea. It sounds awesome when the resources are available and everybody involved is engaged in learning. But I see too many parents who believe that a suboptimal learning environment is something that their kids must be protected from, instead of exposed to. I suppose I'm jaded, but I think that the most important skill that kids can learn is how to thrive and enjoy life amongst and despite bullshit and assholes.
posted by ulotrichous at 11:14 AM on January 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


on preview, what valkyryn said.
posted by sio42 at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2010


I think the argument that kids should learn to be in school to get along with "many kinds of people" or to "thrive amongst bullshit" is itself a bullshit argument. There is no place else in life where children/people are so entirely powerless to improve their environment or escape from abuse, or from witnessing abuse. To the extent that I am a protectionist parent, this is one of the reasons I homeschool.

As a homeschooler, you need to make the effort to get your kids and yourself out and about, and depending on the homeschool community where you live, this can be easier or harder. For instance, where I live, there are a couple of park day groups for secular homeschoolers, but until this year, when some moms I know started a new program, the only organized academic co-ops were run by religious homeschooling organizations and required you to sign a statement of faith to participate. One of the social groups, I have stopped going to because it is dominated by anti-vaccinators with whacky diet ideas (like the woman who thinks she can never get cancer because of her raw food diet). The other is made up of more "mainstream" families and I really like it, but it doesn't get together as often, so our social opportunities have suffered.

You also have to be responsible for choosing and planning curriculum or learning activities, and it can be pretty overwhelming. A friend of mine who just pulled her 9-year-old out of school a few weeks ago is in the study-up-and-choose stage, and she just said to me yesterday, "See, this is one of the things I liked about having him in school--they made these decisions." I like making those decisions, and yet there are so many options that I have a tendency to second-guess myself. Also, decisions I think I've made are regularly un-made in the face of the reality of who my children are. For instance, I thought we had settled into a math curriculum, but for various reasons I am now thinking of investing in a different curriculum for my older child. Aw valkyryn said, flexibility and being honest about who your kids are--and who you are--is really important.

I am highly critical of schooling, and yet at the same time I think there are many kids for whom homeschooling is only marginally better in some way than school. That is, school is not going to destroy them. My 5-year-old son, for instance, I think would do OK in school: he's got a lot of energy, he's smart, he's pretty easy going, and he loves to do traditional academic I-explain-it-verbally-and-then-he-does-worksheets kind of work. In fact, I am not a fan of early academics and didn't start formal academic work with my older son until last year, when he was 7, but ended up beginning it with #2 when he was only 4, because he wanted it.

On the other hand, there are kids who for whatever reason just really need not to be in school. My older son, for instance, who is quirky, non-compliant ("Here's how you do this." "I think I'll do it this way instead."), out-of-sync in some ways (extremely bright and verbal but "behind" in both math and reading, for instance), and so introverted that five full days in a classroom would exhaust him beyond his capacity to recover over the weekend.

So, one of the pros of homeschooling is that it lets you work with kids like my older son in ways that work for them without overwhelming them. For instance, my son has developed social skills so good that people regularly comment on them; by homeschooling, we've been able to pace his social activities so that he gets enough interaction with other adults and kids that he can learn the norms, practice problem-solving and getting along with people who have different personalities, and at the same time not overdo it. A lot of people will say that an introvert like my son needs to be in school to "get used to dealing with people," but that's like throwing him into the deep end and hoping he can swim, and I think it would be horrible for him (his friend who has just been pulled out of school has suffered terribly for 4 1/2 years). Homeschooling allows a more gradual approach that I know is better for him.

Even if your kid is not as "quirky" as mine, you might want to homeschool if your kids are academically gifted, if, like me, you reject the notion that, as a developmental psychologist said to me once, "gifted kids just need to learn to deal with boredom." No, thanks! Or if they have some other quality that gives them a need that schools, even good ones full of good, dedicated teachers, can't meet.

Another con is that you will burn out from time to time. At least, I do. It always passes but it can be hard.

Oh, another pro: homeschooled kids I know, including my own (and this is totally anecdotal so I could be blowing air out my ass) tend to be more comfortable with mixed-age groups and to get along better with their siblings. I have a theory that it has to do with avoiding strict age-segregation, and the kind of "that kid's a baby" stuff you get in school. I remember when I was a child, it was something of a defiant act for my brother, three years older, to come to the "little kids" side of the playground to ask me to check my new Minnie Mouse watch for how much time was left in recess. I remember this as a supremely nice thing he did for me, because I was very proud of my new watch, in part because I knew that he would be teased for coming to our side of the playground, and for talking to his little sister at recess. But I obviously haven't performed a double-blind study on this or anything, so make what you will of it.

Finally, a pro of homeschooling is that you get to spend a lot of time with your kids, enjoying them, and sharing their successes. Childhood passes quickly and I am greedy to be with them while I can.
posted by not that girl at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can you think of reasons we should or shouldn't homeschool?

The homeschooled kids I've met tend to be quite accomplished in their post-homeschool education, whether that be in high school or university. They also tend to be quite clueless socially, and have a lot of trouble fitting in and making friends normally. They haven't had years of learning how to play and interact with other kids. I've never envied them. I've always thought that kids benefit most from going to school, and having parents who are dedicated to helping them with their homework, reading to them, and ensuring they don't fall behind in anything.
posted by Dasein at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, another pro of homeschooling is that kids can be on "maker's time" instead of "manager's time." I cannot tell you how many times my kids have spent time drifting from one thing to another, exploring this and that, and then found themselves so deeply engrossed they stayed with something for hours. When would they ever have the opportunity to do that if they were in school five days a week? And yet because of it they sometimes do extraordinary things--like my older son's 12-volume epic book cycle, "The Electric King." Or sometimes they do non-extraordinary things, like play dress-up, but with deep engagement and joy--and they get to do it until they're done.
posted by not that girl at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


We homeschooled our daughter for five years. In our case, it was to rescue her from a failing disaster of an elementary school, run by a principal who was indifferent to anything except discipline and order. Our homeschooling experience was a fantastic one - our daughter thrived educationally, and actually had more time for socializing with friends than when she was in school.

I will bring up one "con" that we experienced: if you have any classroom teachers among your circle of friends, your relationship will be strained. To the very last one, the educators we know viewed our homeschooling as suspicious, and we were constantly put in a position of having to defend our decision.

Another con that we experienced: We decided, at the very outset, to end homeschooling after the 8th grade. The transition from an educational and social perspective was a breeze. On the other hand, it seemed at the time that our local school district put as many barriers as possible in the way for homeschoolers transitioning back into the public education system. One educrat from her high school insisted that our daughter (who was 14 at the time) would have to go back and start over in the 4th grade, since she had been "truant" since then. (A letter to that person citing the appropriate state law with CC to the principal fixed that problem)

A third con - I don't know what the social climate is like in Ottawa, but here in the US Bible Belt, we had a great deal of trouble finding a homeschooling group that would allow us to join, as we are non-Christians. Homeschooling is predominantly the domain of radical Christianity here.

One more: by the time your kids are teenagers, they won't want to be around you. This isn't really any different for homeschooling families than non-homeschoolers, but when mom and dad are teachers as well as parents, it complicates things.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2010


One more and then I'm done: As they get older, it is easier for homeschooled kids to do meaningful work. This can become important as they reach the high school years. I hear a lot of criticisms like Dasein's, but so often the opposite seems true to me. For instance, I know a 15-year-old who teaches knitting classes at a local yarn shop, a 14-year-old who teaches robotics to younger kids, and a young man, now in his 20s, who has been playing professionally with local folk music groups at least since I met him when he was 15 or 16. i'm sure schooled kids could do these things, too, but I think homeschooled kids have more time and opportunity, and maybe spend more time in environments where they're treated like they might have something valuable to contribute.

Or Dasein and I could both be guilty of confirmation bias. *shrug*

Parents of older homeschooled kids tell me that finding social opportunities for their kids gets harder as the kids get older, that their kids struggle to find a community of teens to be with, whether that's for socializing or sharing academic interests. So that's a con as well.

I'll stop now.
posted by not that girl at 12:09 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you read Kingdom of Children? It's a study of a diverse population of homeschoolers, and pays particular attention to the strengths and weaknesses of different types of homeschool groups/organizations. The author isn't judgmental of the fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers or the hippie liberal unschoolers, he pretty much just reports the triumphs and challenges each approach can lead to. I found it incredibly enlightening about the daily life of homeschooling families.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:09 PM on January 15, 2010


I think it will be easy to have a more successful academic experience in homeschooling, but (despite some other commenters' negative reactions to the idea) harder to have a successful social experience. I am a close friend of one home schooled person and long-term dated another, and they both had difficulty fitting into social situations; for one of them isolation was the answer to dealing with social awkwardness in adult life, and for the other, generally insane public behavior.

For both of them, though, the homeschooling was tightly integrated with fringe-y religious upbringings. I think you can deal with the social aspect fine by taking the suggestions about getting out, socializing, etc. Just be careful about the isolation.
posted by dervish at 12:18 PM on January 15, 2010


There are many types of homeschoolers and many ways to do 'homeschooling'. Be careful that "homeschooling" can be branded based on one specific type. The Pros/Cons of homeschooling may well be too broad a generalization to be useful unless you're taking into consideration the type of homeschooling. Are you planning to follow educational units at home? Many homeschoolers are religious based. These are just 2 examples. You might try googling: Unschooling as another approach. And The Unschooling Handbook is good too even if you are using more structured homeschooling models.

Be aware that the various homeschool groups/communities (I am only passingly familiar with this in Ottawa) may well be a bit inbred from specific types of homeschooling. For example, where I live most of the homeschool community does religious based homeschool, whereas in other locations/groups the dominant flavour might be another type. I would suggest that you shop around for a homeschool community that suits you if the first one you come across isn't a real match to your teaching or your child's learning styles.

FWIW, we do half homeschooling (blended) for our 3 children (1 gifted, 2 autistic).
posted by kch at 12:21 PM on January 15, 2010


I was homeschooled through tenth grade, so I'm probably biased. So here are my pros and cons:

PROS:
1. The best part of homeschooling, in my opinion, is that you can go as fast or slow as your child wishes. In math, for example, I blazed through all of the problems in no time at all. When I went to high school junior year, I had to wait for other people to catch up, and I wasn't challenged. If your children seem particularly gifted in some areas, or, alternatively, struggling in some areas, homeschooling would allow them to cover material as quickly or slowly as they feel comfortable.

2. Following from that, homeschooling allows you to cover material much more in depth. If your children are really good at art, for example, you could schedule full days at museums, or long periods where they can paint or draw. I wasn't good at art, but I loved history, so my parents would help me find out as much as I wanted about a famous person or event. In school, you can't spend all that time on one subject.

CONS:

1. It might be hard to do homeschooling with other people if they don't share your educational philosophy, particularly if they are super Christian. If your area has a lot of different types of groups, though, that shouldn't be such a big deal.

2. Your kids might be socially awkward. I actually don't agree that this is a real worry. If you put your kids in sports or dance or some other kind of social group, they will interact with other kids. Just take care not to raise your kids in a bubble, and they'll turn out fine.

I liked homeschool. I don't think I would homeschool my (future, hypothetical) children, but that's due more to my lack of patience than any bad experiences I had while homeschooling.

And, for what it's worth, I go to a top 10 university in the U.S. I credit my parents and their homeschooling for getting me here.
posted by pecknpah at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2010


I realize that your daughter is young, but I think you might enjoy reading The Case Against Adolescence. I thought it was a fascinating book, and it speaks to some of the things people have brought up about young people having the opportunity to explore and interact with a variety of people and do productive work at younger ages.
posted by decathecting at 12:45 PM on January 15, 2010


ok, as to most of the answers: tl;dr - so, sorry if I repeat anything that's been said.

I can't speak to your school system or homeschooling in your area specifically. What I can list are things that public or private schools tend to have that I think are really important for a child's social and academic development:

-school sports
-music (not just learning an instrument, but being part of a band or choir)
-general interaction with other children (and eventually dating, gossiping, and heartbreak - these may sound like things you want to protect your child from, but they really are part of a girl's experience growing up - despite how hard those things may have been at the time, I definitely don't wish that they never happened)
-learning to respect, listen to, and sometimes tactfully argue with adults other than your parents
-punishment by adults other than your parents (going to the principal's office is a totally different experience than getting a time out from your parents)
-school activities - dances, field trips, class projects, etc

All in all, public or private schooling exposes your children to a wide range of situations, people, and experiences. The largest factor in a child's success in a public school, IMO, is parental involvement. As long as you remain involved in your child's education, and you can supplement that at home, I think public/private school is a better option.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2010


I was home schooled for two years in grade school, and later attended a shitty public school, a large private school full of entitled rich kids, a small private school capped at 10 kids per class and a large well-funded public magnet high school.

Ultimately, I think my learning experience at the small private school and the well-funded public magnet high school was better than when I was home schooled. In each of those cases, I was in an environment where teachers and students valued and rewarded learning, and I was being taught by people who were skilled experts at their subject matter. Even though my mom followed a curriculum and bought academic books when she home schooled me, she definitely put more emphasis on the lessons that she found most valuable and interesting, and less emphasis on the lessons that she cared less about. When I returned to public school, I found myself behind my peers on math and science and far, far ahead on reading and writing.

However, home schooling was MUCH better, socially, than dealing with the snobbery and elitism of the large private school. It was also MUCH better, socially and academically, than the shitty, underfunded public school.

I think context matters.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2010


Another note: My home schooling experience happened pretty early in childhood, and I feel like I got all the social interaction I needed just by hanging out with same-age neighborhood kids and the children of my parents' friends.

Two of my brothers were home schooled as high schoolers, and they had to find other ways to meet their social interaction needs. Both were pretty involved in the youth groups of their Unitarian church. If church isn't an option for you, for whatever reason, you should think about other ways for your future teen to get the interaction she needs.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2010


I agree with most everything not that girl has said, except that my homeschooled teen son has many public school friends and tons of social opportunities that have nothing to do with school. Don't most teenagers? There's dating, church, hanging out with friends after school, shooting baskets and chatting on Facebook. He just doesn't stand at the bus stop in the morning. He does his schoolwork on the couch. As for fitting in, he goes to his girlfriend's school prom, and wears her school's homecoming week t-shirt to mow the grass. He's as 'normal' as any other teenager.

He's been homeschooled for six years. Since he's been in high school I make a week-long lesson plan on Monday and he plans his time to get it all done by Friday. Time management and working independently are some of his most prized skills. Like not that girl's son, he started this journey quite introverted and he's become an assured young man. He is assured with folks of all ages, not just his peers. Many adults have remarked about his confidence and leadership abilities.

Unlike valkyryn, we do not feel that homeschool groups have been crucial support for us. There were no groups near us when we started that did not require a statement of faith, which I wouldn't sign just because I'm contrary. We live in a neighborhood full of kids in public school available to play after school and on weekends. We have been on a few "everyone is invited" field trips with local hs groups in recent years. Those were very fun. If you can find groups that you fit in with, by all means, take advantage of them.

I couldn't disagree more with ulotrichous more. Send your kids to school so they can be around assholes all day so they can learn that the world is full of assholes is NOT an excellent parenting strategy. Being a parent who is tuned in to what your child needs is. One of my kids needed not to go to school, and has grown up into a wonderful young man. One of my children was perfectly suited to a public school atmosphere. She has become a lovely young person, of whom I am immensely proud. Do what's best for your child. Feel free to message me with any questions.
posted by toastedbeagle at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Even though my mom followed a curriculum and bought academic books when she home schooled me, she definitely put more emphasis on the lessons that she found most valuable and interesting, and less emphasis on the lessons that she cared less about.

I think that's very important to consider. If I home schooled my kids they'd be so lacking in the math arena. Beyond simple addition and subtraction I'm quite useless. However, they'd be experts at reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and nature.

Just make sure to be balanced.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:40 PM on January 15, 2010


I notice that while your post says you have a list of pros and cons of your own, everything in it sounds pro-homeschooling. So I think you have really made up your mind already and just want to bolster that decision. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I, myself, question home-schooling. I considered it for my own kids, as I have a degree in education, but elected to work with the system rather than outside of it.

In part this was because I have met several homeschooling parents and found, overwhelmingly, that their children were almost painfully naive and socially inept. Some of them are very bright kids, and well-instructed in the curriculum their parents have laid out, but simply lack social skills. Others are kids with real behavioral problems whose parents merely think they are gifted/talented/etc. Many times these kids would do better with some outside structure and discipline.

I know others will rush in and say I am wrong. I can only speak from my own experience. All the home-schooled families I have known (14 kids in all) were punctuated by *extremely* socially awkward children. Yes, I know they have field trips and such for home-schooled kids. They usually go on these with their parents as well, since the parents are their teachers. They are rarely out of their parents' sight.

Whenever their parents aren't around, they seem completely lost. I have seen them go to birthday parties and hang onto their parents while the other kids are milling around, enjoying themselves. It can be very hard to draw them out and encourage them to step away from Mom, Dad, or siblings to interact. I am introverted myself, but we are talking about extremes here. One high-school aged girl will not even leave her own home to go to her friends' houses; they have to go to hers. Her parents prefer to have her in their sights so they do nothing to help her correct this agoraphobia. Another girl is set to go away to college next year and has never been alone with other kids her age. I can see her having trouble navigating the waters of college, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. These things may not be obvious to the parents because the kids seem fine when they are with their parents.

I can understand the mother above wanting to help her son who was non-compliant but extremely bright. I'm sure that he always does what he should, just in a different way. But I can also see the value of teaching that sometimes you need to do things a certain way. When an employer tells you to get the job done his way, your livelihood can depend on your making that concession.

As parents, we want to protect. But we also have to prepare. Ultimately, our goal is helping our kids become independent, successful adults. Only part of that comes from what they know--from textbooks and curriculum. Much of it comes from interacting with others and learning from those interactions.

Other cons: Divided time when you have more than one child means you have to juggle curriculum and varying attention spans. Kids learn in only one environment and are anxkous outside of that one and unsure of how to proceed. Social adjustment is difficult. No time away from your kids to regroup or get chores done unless you cut into lesson time can be very stressful.
posted by misha at 5:25 PM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had a pretty shitty time in the public education system, but as I've aged and gained distance from it, I realize that a lot of that had to do with not having a safe and secure home life.

I am glad of one thing that I got from public school, and that was the opportunity to know really poor kids. As a teen, I knew people who had to leave home and go on teen welfare because of shitty home situations, whose parents were on welfare, or were poor farmers or minimum-wage workers. I didn't know them as people to feel sorry for, I wasn't introduced to them through any "do-good" agenda or program, they were just people I knew at school, some my friends and some not so much.

In my adulthood, I've become much more ensconced in the professional/academic class, and I don't know very many people who struggle to make ends meet anymore. However, having that up-close and personal experience with people whose lives were really different from mine has made me much more aware of my own privilege, and more than just privilege, of the way in which my options are simply different from many other people's. I think that having had that exposure as a kid has been helpful to me, personally. I don't know if your kids would be able to get that experience either in public school or homeschool. But I guess it seems to me that there is, because of what it is, there are simply more different kinds of people at a public school. To me that is important, and it's a big part of why I want to send my kid to public school when it's time.

I'll add that every intellectually-oriented parent homeschools, it's really a question of when and how much. If you send your kids to public school, it's not like they won't continue learning with you. So, given that you are in a position to meet their academic needs at home either way, I think the question is to ask what benefit public school might have, and whether they outweigh benefits of homeschooling, for your family.
posted by carmen at 7:16 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


there are so many excellent reasons to homeschool. some of the best, brightest, and most well adjusted kids i've met have been homeschooled -- they tend to be interested in the world around them, active, social adaptable, and adult (in the best of ways) before their time. this isn't necessarily everyone who's homeschooled, but this has been my experience.

i really recommend reading grace llewellyn's real lives: eleven teenagers who don't go to school tell their own stories. i've read widely on the topic, but this book is especially accessible and a lot of fun to read. grace llewellyn's website also has a good list of homeschooling links.
posted by tamarack at 10:35 PM on January 15, 2010


I was homeschooled from 1st through 12th grades. Most of my positive experiences with it have already been covered, e.g., maker time vs manager time, depth of study, adaptability to my learning style, etc. So, I'll cover the cons I experienced. 1) Social isolation. I didn't have many friends I could relate to until college. I didn't go on my first date 'til I was almost 20 years old. There are certainly plenty of solutions to this problem, but it's something you have to be aware of. Socialization doesn't just take care of itself, contrary to what some homeschoolers might think. 2) I had a very poor math education. You can't necessarily learn everything from a book. Just be aware, have your kid take some classes at the local community college, whatever works.
posted by signalnine at 11:52 PM on January 15, 2010


As a datapoint about socialisation: I was naturally a socially awkward kid. I went to school, and I did very well there, but social skills is not something I learned at school. Groups of 30 same-age little kids are not like any other social group you might meet, and social skills you learn by being at school are not very transferrable to adult life. The activities we did at school were very individual: I don't remember ever being asked to work as a team. We played team games, but even then I don't remember any guidance on playing those games as a team rather than a group of individuals.

However, if I'd stayed at home I'd have been worse off; my parents are themselves socially awkward and had no clue how to impart social skills.

Also: I never was a Scout and don't know much about them, but every kid I meet who's been a Scout seems to be unusually socially competent for their age. I suspect that smaller mixed-age groups and lots of team activity helps.
posted by emilyw at 6:23 AM on January 16, 2010


Thank you to everyone who responded. We are fairly sure that we are going to move forward with homeschooling.

I am not going to make best answer because each answer gave us things to think about and helped us reach our decision.

Thanks again to everyone and please, if you still have more to add go ahead, I would love to hear more peoples opinons and experiences.
posted by Abbril at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2010


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