02 May 2008

It's not homeschooling

Spent some time with my husband's aunt this morning. Why the subject of homeschooling came up, I don't know, but there it was. I got the preamble of, "I understand homeschooling and why some parents do it, BUT...."

Hubby's aunt used to work in a school, specifically in the alternative ed program where many of the kids are discipline problems or don't function well in the confines of a typical school setting. So, we know her perspective on things.

She was telling me about a mom whose son was failing even in the alternative ed program and she pulled him out of school to "homeschool" him.


For the next five minutes I heard the horrors of what this mother was doing..."I KNOW she is doing his homework for him." Well, folks, this IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING. Pulling a kid out of school for discipline issues or whatever garden variety bad behavior situation they may be in and letting the kid lounge around the house under the GUISE of homeschooling is not homeschooling and totally denigrates what serious homeschooling families do every day. They are not the same any more than getting your diploma out of a Cracker Jack box is similar to a university degree.

Homeschooling in this case is just a smoke-screen for a much larger issue, which many times is a dysfunctional family situation. My husband's cousin pulled their two delinquent daughters out of school (rather than having them kicked out) and said they would "homeschool" the girls. Yep, mom and dad both worked full-time while the teenagers were left at home alone all day. Bet they did an enormous amount of studying.

But, what do I hear about when the topic of homeschooling comes up? Nothing about the homeschooled kids who are academically kicking butt, instead it's the same snarky litany of abuses that some how gets grouped in with the people who are really doing an outstanding job of teaching their kids. Not just teaching academics, but morals, manners, social mores, discipline, virtues, you name it.

I just kept repeating to hubby's aunt that what these people were doing is not homeschooling. It's not homeschooling. If these people think they are "getting away" with something by bucking the system, the only thing they are really managing to do is academically short-change their own children. As Dr. Ray says, it's a tough world out there and what lessons these kids don't learn as adolescents will be dispassionately, and even harshly, taught to them by future employers, or law enforcement, or judges, or even criminals that have less of a sense of right or wrong than they do.


Anonymous said...

When my kids were young I taught a little neighboorhood pre-school. I seriously thought about teaching them at home past pre-school. But decided against the idea. Learning social skills is as important as education--even if your smart, but cannot apply the education due to lack of social skills--what good is the education?

There are some very good homeschoolers--excellent homeschoolers, but I believe that many are like you said, "academically short-changing their own children." Those children lose out on both--social and educational.

Marcy Muser said...


I'm sorry that you have bought into the worn-out argument that school is the only place children can learn social skills. Most kids learn the vast majority of their social skills before they ever go to school - at home! And children who are shut away from all but 30 or so of their exact age-mates all day every day are less likely to learn the kind of social skills they are going to need in our diverse society.

It may be that in the days when homeschooling was illegal, homeschooled kids had some social issues. After all, wouldn't you turn out a little weird if every time the doorbell rang you had to hide under the bed? But today, homeschooled kids have FAR more opportunities to interact and learn social skills than schooled kids do. My two kids have friends of ALL ages - from tiny toddlers to senior citizens. When my older daughter needed to do some fundraising recently, she got her friends and relatives to give her money and we all three went to a nursing home and spent some time with the residents, painting nails, playing Bingo, playing music, and just getting to know them. My kids were amazed to discover that one of the residents had been a trained circus clown, and had gone to our local children's hospital to perform for the children. If they'd been in school, they'd have missed the whole thing. They also have friends of different races and religious persuasions. My younger daughter is allergic to corn, and both girls go with me when we go to the Jewish deli downtown to get corn-free products for her. We mix with people of all different socio-economic situations, too, not just those that live in our neighborhood.

Not only do my kids get to interact with people of all different ages, races, religions, and socio-economic situations, but they also get to learn by modeling - they watch adults, people who already have good social skills, interact with each other. Then they practice the behaviors they've seen, trying them out on kids their own age, on adults, on younger kids, on teachers, on cashiers - you name it. School kids model their behavior after other kids the same age as them - do you really want your 6-year-old modeling their social behavior after some stranger's 6-year-old?

Sorry, but the longer I homeschool, and the more homeschooled kids I get to know, the more convinced I become that social skills are MUCH better learned at home and about than in a group of 25 or 30 other same-age peers, all closed into the same little classroom.

There may be other reasons why you were better off sending your kids to school, but "to learn social skills" is not a good one. My kids are better off both socially and academically because they are homeschooled.

Adrienne said...

I have never met a home-schooled kid (and I have many) that was not more socially adept, well-spoken, polite, and waaaaay smarter than a public school kid.

swissmiss said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. And welcome to my blog, Marcy and thanks for your thoughtful comments! The more I get into homeschooling, I find that many people, surprising to me, have a weird idea of what homeschooling really is. The folks that truly homeschool work hard and their kids achieve and succeed...it's not just sitting around watching Barney or having mom do junior's homework. I really don't know where those ideas come from, but they are so far from what is actually happening in the families I know.

Anonymous said...

I worked with the "homeschooled" teens your aunt talks about too. As you say the one thing they all had in common is they were NOT homeschooled. They had no social skills and some of them could barely read or write. That is NOT homeSCHOOLED. For some of them they were hardly at home-let alone getting any education.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with how I am homeschooling my children!

I do get rather bored with the worn out canard about socialisation. Children are socialised at home not school. Poorly socialised children do badly in school. Ask a teacher!

Homeschooling is hard, hard work. I know some parents do it rather badly. But the rest of us are doing our best and our children are doing well. They are-according to research all over the USA and an increasing amount of research over here in the UK-doing better socially, academically and psychologically than the average school kid.