Due to my recent concerns about aspects of fundamentalist homeschooling, some thought that I oppose homeschooling in general. This is NOT the case! In those articles, I stated repeatedly that my concerns did not apply to homeschooling in general.
I think there are many good reasons to homeschool one’s children:
- Having special needs children who cannot be adequately served in public schools
- Providing improved, individualized education beyond the ability of structured public schools
- Objection to public education for religious, political, or philosophical reasons
- Accommodating families whose work requires frequent relocation
- Concerns about public school environments including bullying
Depending on the motivation and commitment of students and parents, many children thrive as homeschoolers. The resources available to homeschoolers is overwhelming—including curriculum options, group support, and experienced guidance. In many states, homeschoolers can even access public schools to participate in sports and extracurricular activities and can enroll in tougher classes such as higher math and science.
I asked homeschooling readers of my articles to share their homeschooling experiences, and I am very pleased with the response. This was not a controlled, scientific poll but a voluntary one, but it does demonstrate the potential in homeschooling.
Here are some of the responses, along with selected comments from the articles themselves. Because of the audience, I received little or no response from fundamentalist homeschoolers. This is longer than my normal posts but is easily scanned, and you can choose what to read.
On Reasons for Homeschooling
We have two children diagnosed with high functioning autism whose needs would not be as well met in a typical classroom or by the pull out special education available in our area.
My youngest was being bullied at school. She had stopped talking (amongst other things) and had withdrawn herself from life. The school offered no solutions to the issue. My daughter has changed so positively. She’s started talking again. Is doing Biology and Law GCSEs 3 years early. Loves life again. She has stared painting and painting. My house is strewn with canvasses and paint. (UK)
I kind of fell into it because I was homeschooled myself. It was just what I knew.
I don’t think homeschooling is right for every family and homeschoolers as a whole don’t judge people who send their kids to school. We don’t think we are better than other parents. I do care about public schools and teachers because I care about an educated populace.
My children attended a preschool that was part of a private school that aimed for experiential, theme based, hands-on, standardized test-free, empowering, well rounded learning. I began to believe that this school offered a much better cultural and educational experience than the local public schools.
My brother got a degree in education and had been warning me that schooling had changed drastically since we were kids and that coercive education models kill children’s intrinsic motivation and love of learning, damage their self-confidence, and hurt them physically because of the hours of sedentary work.
My kids felt disempowered by the unfair collective punishment practices (keeping the whole class in for recess because a couple of active boys can’t sit still and concentrate), and they started to lose their intrinsic motivation to learn.
We got into homeschooling because of our progressive Christian faith. Our planet is dying. Our economy is terribly unstable and uncertain. Unschooling teaches kids how to learn best. It teaches them creative problem solving and gives them the confidence to try to find unconventional solutions that other people might scoff at. Public schooling does the opposite. The best gift I can give my community is to raise the kind of people who will help solve the monumental problems our world faces.
Many people homeschool because the system has failed their disabled or challenged child.
We are a military family and a number of factors influenced our decision. With disruption of our lives every year and a half when my husband deploys, getting the children into school is nearly impossible.
Both my children have physical and developmental disabilities. In the four years we have homeschooled, my nonverbal ASD kids have not only become verbal, but become comfortable talking to adults, experiencing new places and new people, and taking risks in ways they feel comfortable.
We purposefully decided we wanted to expose our children to more cultures, belief systems and socioeconomic diversity than would have been possible in the neighborhood school.
I homeschooled my son for a few years. He was ADHD, and the school was treating him like a juvenile delinquent.
I was homeschooled for a time to protect me from the abuses of a teacher who singled me out for unwarranted discipline.
I advocate passionately for public schooling. I also opted my kids out of it.
One reason we homeschooled our kids was so they could *positively* socialize, i.e., get along with people of all kinds, not just exact age-mates; function well in the real world from an early age; volunteer in the community; and think critically outside a limited prescribed curriculum.
It had to do with the quality of education that the public school system offered in the area we lived in.
It sometimes comes in handy for children who don’t fit well in the public school for one reason or another, such as bullying.
I worked with students who were struggling in school and saw a very disturbing pattern: sometime between K and 4th grade a student would have a bad year, a teacher who was a poor fit, a subject where the class pacing was too fast for the individual, a situation where the student could not connect with the material, and the desire and/or joy of learning was damaged. Almost every struggling student I saw would tell me an experience that fit into that pattern and the evidence in their school records was that every year since had been a struggle.
Testing teaches only one thing: how to take tests. US businesses agree. They complain that graduates look good on paper, but they cannot solve problems, cannot think, cannot be creative, cannot function in the business world.
We have always had to look for connection outside of the established homeschool groups. Which has absolutely been to our benefit.
I know of two families that home school, and the children are involved in sports and community activities with other home schooled children, plus involved in their churches. They are well-adjusted kids, happy not to be in the current public school system.
It is very difficult to learn how to treat people from other faith traditions, ethnic groups, education traditions, etc. with respect and understanding if you’ve only ever known people who think the way you’ve been taught to think. This means that children who participate in classes with other fundamentalist homeschoolers are less well socialized than children who are homeschooled by parents who make an effort to nurture relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds.
It simply is harder to make friends because you aren’t around kids as much. Especially if you are not involved with a church. My kids had formed some friendships like that with kids in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, we moved and our new neighborhood has very few kids. They have very close friends in our co-op and are still friends with people from the old neighborhood, but they don’t live very close so it isn’t the same as having someone to run the neighborhood with.
I’d argue segregating children by age for most of their day hardly prepares them for the social realities of life outside school. The parents I know who homeschool clearly make a lot of intentional decisions to expose their kids to a lot of varied opportunities to socialize, with a wide range of demographics.
My children are far more socially active than their counterparts who are limited to the same 30 children in one class separated by age and neighborhood.
As for socialization, out of our homeschool support group of about 50 students, all but about 10 went on to have normal lives. Most of my friends who were homeschooled could not hold down a job, could not keep a relationship, and lived very miserable lives as adults.
Why do Christians want to hide their children away from the world? What are they afraid of, Jesus said, ‘Don’t fear’.
Public education started as a way to brainwash people so they would be good factory workers for the industrial revolution, and would not cause trouble for the oligarchs. Most of school is to socialize people to obey authority without question, respond to bells telling the when and where to go, and get used to thinking of themselves as cogs in a wheel.
On the Homeschooling Experience
She gets to dive into history and science in a way that she enjoys, spend time during the day in the neighborhood library, and work with a rescue fostering dogs.
As an adult I now view my homeschool experience with gratefulness. I received a solid education and have been well prepared for life. As a child, I was not so pleased, as all I wanted to do was go to school and be “normal”.
I have health issues and this means that on bad days we just enjoy a day off.
Try to find balance. Getting out to group meetings/sports things. Covering maths, English, Sciences and whatever topics she find interesting. Getting some GCSEs under her belt (we are in the UK).
It has been a blessing for our family to be able to let our kids grow in the way that serves them best.
We put our kids in a self-directed learning center, with a much more community-focused, less rigid structure, and much more nurturing and mentoring by the staff. My children attend three days per week, and they homeschool with me the other two days.
I teach for a Christian liberal arts school now. I have many home schooled students. Some are grossly under prepared; others are stellar. It’s an inconsistent bunch, and the same could be said for public and private schooled kids.
I’ve known hundreds of homeschooled kids, and the vast majority went on to be successful – mostly non-fundamentalist. I used to work at a homeschoolers‘ resource center.
So often the negative stereotypes, (which are frequently reinforced by the fundamentalist movements that have created the illusion that they speak for all of us), overshadow the good things that can be a part of this style of education. I refuse to join any homeschool group that requires me to sign a statement of faith in order to participate.
We greatly value the diversity we enjoy in our network of fellow homeschoolers.
We are eclectic and casual. I let my kids lead me in the style they prefer. So far, they have all fallen into a style that likes to have Mom sit with them to answer any questions, then they prefer to work alone.
When my exhaustion and a personal medical crisis overlapped, my mother in law stepped in and continued teaching so I could heal and recharge.
The student you have to teach is the real one in front of you, not the ideal you had in mind before you started.
We practice self-directed education. For resources, I recommend Whole Family Learning and Peter Gray’s Alliance for Self Directed Education. Most people would call our approach “unschooling.” We do not have any curricula or set times where we must be studying anything. We let life unfold naturally.
We do use a lot of resources. The library is wonderful, of course. There are great local museums, farms, and wilderness areas. We use the internet constantly when we want to find out more about things. We use family and friends who have knowledge and expertise about various fields.
Watch Professor Robinson’s TED talks. He’s done a few, but this is a good one: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity
On Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Burn out for the parent is a huge issue when homeschooling.
It requires quite a bit of personal sacrifice to do well. It also means that if there is family disruption, school is disrupted. After a family trauma that made us miss about 3 months of school, the flexibility of homeschooling allowed us to catch that all back up with ease.
We are less connected with the town we live in. We have wonderful community with our neighbors and other homeschoolers. But you have to work harder to create community as a homeschooler – it doesn’t just happen automatically the way it does when you are part of the public school system.
It is harder for both parents to have careers.
The negativity towards it from some sections of the British press.
It is expensive – in that public school is free, and homeschooling puts one parent in a much lower earning potential.
Having worked with child protective services…I know there are a lot of people who don’t have their children’s best interests at heart.
Some people get into homeschooling for the wrong reasons. If people are abusive, they are going to abuse their kids, whether or not they are home schooled. If people are fundamentalist, they are going to be fundamentalist, whether or not they homeschool. If we want to protect kids from abuse, targeting homeschoolers is not the place to start. Abuse is the place to start.
On State Involvement
As someone in a low regulation state, I know that students fall through the cracks. I personally am not opposed to some level of oversight, although I don’t know what the right balance is.
If states get involved, they will destroy the ability of homeschooling parents to give their kids the education experience we want to provide. In particular for unschoolers, the most important part is the lack of coercive learning. If we are forced to test our kids or prove some sort of metric, we will be going against our basic, foundational, central philosophy.
In my state the regulations are great. The parent must have 45 college credits OR take a qualifying course OR be approved by the local school superintendent. Every child over the age of 8 must be tested or assessed every year and keep those results on file (they are not turned into the state but the state can request them if needed).
As a homeschooled kid who homeschools now, I have seen some homeschooling failures. But I’m not sure how to prevent those without impinging on the spirit of homeschooling, which is parent led and directed education outside the governmental system. Freedom has a cost.
I don’t think increased regulation is going to impact abusive families or those who are under-educating their children. Abusive families will abuse no matter what. Parents that are educationally neglectful can quite easily do that in a public school system too.
I am compliant with twice yearly inspections for our state but beyond making sure we touch and document all the required subject matter, we are free to explore topics as organically as we like.
DCF [Department of Children and Families] is far from perfect. I will not tolerate those institutions judging whether my homeschooling is “adequate”. I don’t need government oversight to decide my parenting/education style doesn’t fit their definition. The village a child lives in must be aware and ready to step in when warranted.
I homeschooled my children – now college grads – because I thought I could do a better job. And I surely would have fought ANYONE who thought they needed to come into my home to check on the well-being of my children, JUST because I was homeschooling.
My children are not only homeschooled; they are unschooled. They are doing entirely self-directed learning—because the research on self-directed learning outcomes is so conclusive. Exactly what I do NOT want is some government official demanding that my children conform to their outdated, flawed educational approach.
I would never want to submit to any government oversight or evaluation as a homeschool parent. Many homeschoolers don’t subscribe to the arbitrary system of checks and grade levels invented by the schools.
I think that Home educators should be registered, but that state intervention can be daunting for children who have been damaged by state education. My daughter was terrified by the home visits and afraid they would force her back into school. That the state shouldn’t require a certain style of teaching (because children all learn differently and not through the styles prevalent in Western education).
I think there should be more concerns raised about home education by religious parents who teach the most awful stuff (i.e. ACE). Why are governments reluctant to clamp down on that awful ACE teaching?? (UK)
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