Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Friday, November 06, 2009


I have been wanting for ages to do a post about homeschooling. I think about it a lot, though I'm not sure if it's something I want to do. When I first started dating Abraham (who was home-schooled), I was very sure about whether it was something I wanted to do. So strong was my opinion, in fact, that I informed Abe that I would never be able to marry him. "Why is that?" he asked.
"Because I refuse to homeschool my children," I replied.
"What makes you think I want to homeschool my kids?"
I had assumed that all homeschooled kids thought that homeschooling was the best.
"You don't?"
"I don't know. It will probably depend on a lot of things. But no, I'm not adamant about homeschooling."
"Oh." Pause. "I guess we can keep dating then."
"OK. Good."

I have many, many things to say about homeschooling. However, in the spirit of my new resolution, I am going to whittle my feelings down to their barest bones:

1) I hate the word homeschooling. It makes me think of buck-toothed backwoods Christian fundamentalists. I would much prefer home education: "We are educating our children at home and in the community," not "We're homeschoolin' our keeds to keep 'em from learnin' about EVILoution in them hell-begotten liberal schools."

2) Provided that the home environment encourages learning, an at-home education is bound to be better. For example, the following is typical of a conversation I (public schooled) will have with my husband (homeschooled):
Abe: Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there when Karkatoa erupted?
Rachel: Nope.
Abe talks for a while about the size of the rock that would have been spewed out of the ground; the way the ash would have looked falling on the ocean, etc, etc.
Rachel: Wow. That would have been something else. What was the name of that volcano again?
Abe: Karkotoa? You know, the largest natural disaster in human history? (Slaps himself in the forehead.)

3) Homeschooled kids are weird. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it necessarily imply that they lack social skills or lives. However, homeschoolers are outsiders, and no matter how you cut it, homeschooled kids are going to be different from almost all their peers: their lifestyle is different, their day-to-day activities are different--therefore, their way of thinking about things is different. This will put them, to one degree or another, on the outside. This is not necessary bad, I suppose. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." And that is true. The people who really make an impact on the world are those who aren't afraid to stand out, to be different, to do their own dance.

4) I just happen to know a few homeschooled kids who aren't very good at doing things they don't want to do. And I'm not sure if that's the product of their educational background or if it's just a personality glitch. But I do know that if there's one thing that traditional school teaches, it's how to suck it up and do crap you don't want to do: how to trudge daily to a place you don't necessarily want to be, how to complete tasks in which you have little or no interest, how to spend time with people you may or may not like, how to priotize, how to organize your time. These are things you have to be capable of doing if you want to thrive in the economic world as an adult.

5) Homeschooling may provide more opportunities for kids to become more of who they really are, unfettered by fears of peer rejection or bad grades.

So those are some of my thoughts on homeschooling. And I believe it is now obvious that I am incapable of brevity. I am uncertain as to whether or not this was caused by my public education.


Simply Mother said...

Love it!

Here are my unsolicited responses:

1. Agree.

2. Karka-what?

3. Yes, they are.

Some people say homeschooled kids are only weird if/because their parents are weird. It makes sense because I think a great many homeschooling parents ARE weird. To even consider it, you have to be someone who questions "mainstream" thinking at least a bit, right?

And of course there are plenty of weird kids in school too.

But I agree there is a certain weirdness to homeschooled kids no matter what--they are different. The thing is, when I look at the majority of school kids (including myself), I kinda want my kids to be different.

4. Some say this is a really, really good thing because of your number 5. It may mean that they decide not to stay in a boring, horrible work situation and instead get creative and find something more fulfilling.

Of course we don't want to produce irresponsible people, incapable of taking care of their families, but I can't tell you how many schooled people I know in this category.

5. It's so wonderful. I love watching their little personalities unfold without so much fear of judgment. My kids will still get the peer rejection thing somewhat from church and other social situations, but as a whole, the homeschooled kids we hang out with are really, really . . . nice.

Holly said...

I think about educating my child(ren) at home frequently.

But then I remember how cool it would be if they would go to school for six hours a day and I would be by myself. By myself! This vision is what makes me hesitate...

heidi said...

R--Ooo! Ooo! This is such an interesting topic.

I was sure, for the longest time, that homeschooling is the only option I'd ever consider... But then--well--what Holly said. What if, after giving up all my free time to be a mom of young children--I DIDn't add on the overwhelming responsibility of educating them as they got older, but let someone ELSE do it and have those hours to myself? Or at least, all to myself and cleaning the house and doing chores and endless other such things?

I'm undecided. But it sure is tempting to rely on outside options, especially here in Boise, where there's some progressive options. But one compromise that totally continues to excite me--the whole Dual Enrollment thing. I think I could really groove on that. I think even doing a quarter of one's schooling at home/on one's own would give a person a certain necessary freedom from school's dictatorial pressures. A sense that choice and individual interest and self-direction were all an ongoing part of learning. That learning wasn't just complying with instructions.

I'm going to be brief (for me) in honor of this post's brevity (which I'm MARVELING at!), and come to a stop. But I did want to add just one more thing... I know one example isn't a scientific survey at all, but, on the topic of #4--my years of public schooling seem to have deeply affected my ability to do things I don't want to do. It's like I burned out my "suck it up" energy center or something.

Oops--one more--"Simply Mother"'s input was really interesting.


Rachel said...

Kate: The post itself was a solicitation for responses. And I nodded in agreement all through yours.
Holly: Yeah, huh? But I think (and this is pure speculation, because I know these things never turn out like you think they will) that as the kids get older, you'll have more opportunities to be alone, whether or not they're in school.
Heidi: I adore you. Also, I too am a big fan of the dual-enrollment thing.

Karen said...

I don't have any opinion on the homeschooling topic, except to do whatever you want or whatever works best for your kids ( I mean 'keeds')

Also this statement: "buck-toothed backwoods Christian fundamentalists" was my very favorite.

Margaret said...

I am honestly so glad to hear you debating this-- I'm also feeling more like I may want to try it-- me, the teacher who always swore that people with teaching degrees knew better! :D But every time I think about sending my son off to school, I don't know if I can. And we live in a VERY liberal state, which always trickles down whether you like it or not. If you do want to, I suggest you read the "Homeschooling" section of thepioneerwoman.com. It gives me hope. :)

Margaret said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Hey, where did Katherine's comment go? I wanted to see the ensuing discussion. Or was that on Facebook? You kids these days with your so-called social media... who can keep it all straight?

Have I already recommended the book Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense? Despite the title, it's not a crazed Christian homeschooling book. I've read it a couple of times and found it very helpful and inspirational.

I'm still pretty gung-ho about home schooling. We'll see how it works out as the years go by. Ideally, what I'd really like to do is cover most academic topics at home, but have my kid(s) also take part in community or school-based activities like choir, band, art, sports, debate, etc. Those collective sorts of activities are the one thing I think I'd have really missed if I hadn't been public schooled. Of course, you can do a lot of that through civic and/or church groups.

I agree with Simply Mother -- I'm fine with my kid seeming weird in comparison to the standard school drone, er, child. I certainly don't want them to be lacking social skills, but I don't think school necessarily does the greatest job of socialization anyway. In fact, it's often a pretty friggin' toxic social environment.

As for not doing stuff you don't wanna do, I think that has a lot more to do with parenting practicies and attitudes toward work and self-discipline than anything else. I think homeschooling can provide an adequate dose of "you just gotta work through these two hours of math/finish this class/write this essay or there's no video games for you!" without subjecting kids to countless hours of enduring the time wasteland of public school. Kids also learn a lot of the self-discipline and reap-what-you-sow lessons by gardening, taking music lessons, sitting through boring church meetings, etc. Most school kids simply learn how to do the absolute minimum possible to slide by and/or let their parents fix everything at the last minute, so I'm not sure that's the kind of motivation they need to succeed later in life anyhow.

Well, lots could be said, and I'm sure I'd have more credibility if I'd actually done any home schooling of my own, but I'm persuaded that it can be a wonderful thing if it works for you and your family.

Rachel said...

Karen: THANK YOU so much for appreciating that phrase. I put it in there for the pure pleasure of the image it would conjure up.
Margaret: I totally thought of you when I was writing this post because I remember you being quite vehemently opposed to homeschooling at one point in time.
Scott: The Kat conversation did continue a little on Facebook. And I have read Family Matters. It's actually in my cue of books to be reviewed; I found it quite persuasive. I also found your comment to be rather persuasive.

I am leaning towards homeschooling. We'll see where it goes.

Natlaya said...

Thank you! I could never figure out what bothered me about "homeschooling" before! But now I know! It's the word itself!
I totally have thought a lot about point number 4. The one about how public school teaches you to suck it up. I don't know if I can suck it up. I know I get annoyed by a lot of little silly restricting rules in public school settings.
Lots of agonizing pros and cons here. At least for me.
I think knowing about little science facts like Krakotoa (sp?) is not necessarily enriching. What I think would be a better trait to have is being able to process the information you've ingested. I wasn't very good at that when I was in public school nor "home education." I'm just learning how to do it now (age 32)--and it rocks!
Scott's point about parenting practices affecting your ability to educate at home is very touche. I'm trying to hurry and be a perfect parent before I have to decide whether to send my oldest to kindergarten next year.

heidi said...

Holy Cow, Rachel! 10 Comments! And such long/thoughtful ones! I so enjoy things that come in bulk.

That's really all I wanted to add, but, since I'm re-commenting, I'll confess: I'm totally with Kay in my enjoyment of the clever lines. And you're RIGHT! The phrase "homeschooling" IS annoying. It just is.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I love this! Hello everyone! My name is Katherine, and being educated at home myself and currently schooling my oldest at home (he's the only one old enough. Correction, I'm schooling all of my kiddos, they just don't know it.) I have loved reading all of your comments and ideas. I'm just going to post this to see if it's even possible for me to do so before I write a bunch. I usually don't have time to blog.

Anonymous said...

Hey! It worked. I totally agree with you Scott. The whole time reading your comment I was saying YES!
As a mother home educating my children I have come to realize how much my mother gave up schooling 10 children at home. I don't consider us wired, probably because we were always socializing with each other, but also because I have a very normal mother who wanted to home school when it was a very new thing (not very well accepted). Since I have started schooling my children I have been amazed at how much my love has grown for them. I thought that it would be a burden keeping them home and me not getting "my time". (Which I think is a very selfish thing to say.) But then I had to think about what matters most in this life more then the raising of my children? You can always find "your time". Mine's from 5:30-7:00 at the gym. It’s a little inconvenient, but well worth it.
~Reasons why I home school~
*Is keeping them home always fun? No! Some days are really hard, especially having younger babies, and it’s tempting to send them ALL away. But I know that in the long run they will be better off.
*I have read so many studies about a Childs value system not being set until the age of 8. Young kids are such sponges! Why would you want to introduce them to all sorts of value systems at the age of 3-4 for pre-school?
*I always said I wouldn't home school to protect my children from the world. I don't believe in that. But the more I thought about it I thought "why not". It’s a scary place out there and there is a lot that they don't need to know. So I'm not doing it to keep them from the world, but to have them be a more peculiar people.
* Quality of education. Not so much wasted time. Who knows your Childs learning style more then you? Who can take them farther, faster?
*Government involvment. Need I say more. In our state they are catering a lot more too home schoolers and putting out more options.

Ohh, I could say a lot more. But truly, it comes down to you, the mother or father. I know it’s not for everyone and don't feel bad if its not. There are a lot of options out there. I did the duel enrollment and loved it! Choir, seminary, sports, school dances! It was all fun. But now home schooling my boys, my love has grown for them ten fold and there's nothing better then watching their little faces light up when then grasp a concept and know that I taught them that!!! I love it!

Rachel said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Kat! Also....did you see my post on your wall about Julie?


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