Monday, March 16, 2009

Why We Home School

Update 3/18/09: Upon reflection of the below post, I felt it necessary to clarify that it is not an indictment against the people involved in the public school system, the vast majority of which are good teachers who are very committed to their work. It is the system itself that is at fault; it's big, bloated, political, and driven by money (as most government institutions are). The teachers and students alike are both simply victims of an outdated, monolithic structure that has been ordained to be - like so many other things - "too big to fail."

People involved in the Home Schooling community frequently see news stories like the one below (emphasis mine on bolded portions):

Raleigh, N.C. — A judge in Wake County said three Raleigh children need to switch from home school to public school. Judge Ned Mangum is presiding over divorce proceeding of the children's parents, Thomas and Venessa Mills.

Venessa Mills was in the fourth year of home schooling her children who are 10, 11 and 12 years old. They have tested two years above their grade levels, she said.

"We have math, reading; we have grammar, science, music,” Venessa Mills said.

Her lessons also have a religious slant, which the judge said was the root of the problem.

Entire Article Here: Wake judge orders home schoolers into public classrooms

People who are “against” home schooling generally fall into one of two categories: they either simply do not understand it, or they do understand it and have something to lose.

We pulled all of our kids out of public school in 2001 and have been home schooling ever since. Why? Here are just a few reasons:

A diverse, top-quality, balanced education. You don’t have to look far in any school system to see graduating seniors tripping over common 3 & 4 syllable words. Forget that they have no idea what those words mean, they can’t even pronounce them after 12 years of public schooling. And forget mathematics. Most kids in public school (at any grade level) don’t even have a basic grasp of their times tables. My children do not have those problems.

No public school can provide my children with a 1:2 teacher/student ratio.

I never have to ask my kids “What did you learn today?”; I always know exactly what they’ve learned.

My kid’s free time is not wasted doing hours & hours of pointless “homework” each day; when they’re done with their lessons for the day, they’re done. They have time to be kids. An average public school day has 6 “1- hour” classes. Each of those “hours” is actually only 50 minutes, since the kids get 10 minutes to move from one class to another. At least 10 more minutes of each class is then wasted on roll calls, handing in assignments, shuffling books, passing out papers, addressing disciplinary problems, etc. Out of each “1-hour” class, the best you can hope for is maybe 40 minutes of actual teaching. From my own public school experience, I know that it is actually more like 20 – 30 minutes, but for sake of argument we’ll say 40 minutes. From the time your children step on the bus at 7:00 a.m. to the time they step off at 4:00 p.m. (that was my schedule as a boy), 9 hours have elapsed, of which a grand total of only 4 hours (max) was actually spent “learning” anything.

My kid’s don’t come home with the bad language, habits, and attitudes of children that I would not in any other circumstance allow them to be around. The morals, ethics, & integrity of my children are defined by their parents, not by a government approved curriculum or the other kids they would be influenced by in a public school environment (the vast majority of which I neither know nor would want to know).

I never have to worry about teachers destroying the self-esteem of my children. My 10th grade AP English teacher Mrs. Banks once told me – in front of the entire class – that I didn’t deserve to be there. Her reasoning was that I never did any of the assigned homework and did not put forth any effort at all in her class, which was true. I guess she never saw the irony in the fact that I could put forth absolutely no effort whatsoever in her advanced placement English class and still pass it easily with a high “C” average. I wasn't stupid; I was bored.

No one will ever attempt to sell drugs to my kids in my home.

No one will ever bully my kids in my home.

I don’t have to worry about my children being the victims of a school shooting or terrorist attack.

My children never have to spend time outside in the dark, rain, and/or cold waiting for a school bus to show up.

There is no “mad dash” every morning to get the kids up, find the “lost shoe”, and get them out the door.

I can teach the "hard" subjects better than public schools can. When I graduated from high school, I could not do even simple algebraic problems. If you showed me “3x = 12” and told me to solve for “x”, I literally could not do it. And that was after 2 years of high school Algebra and a year of Geometry, which I passed. I eventually learned Algebra, but not because of anything that happened in a government school. Both of my kids already know more Algebra than I did when I graduated, and they’re not even in “high school” yet. Even if you aren't very familiar with them, with the resources available today, teaching “hard” subjects is no trouble at all.

The list goes on and on; I can debate every point, and win. In fact, there is nothing that public schools can do to educate our children that Catherine & I can't do better. And the school systems know this because they are continually seeing home schooled students out-perform public school students. That’s why the only card they ever seriously throw into play is this one:

What about socialization?

Okay. Let’s talk about socialization. My kids are polite, articulate, & well-mannered. Not only do they have no trouble at all “socializing” with other kids their age (and, in fact, “socialize” better than their public school peers), but they also have no trouble at all holding an intelligent conversation with an adult (which none of the “socialized” public school kids can adequately do at all).

The bottom line is that the public school system is a broken institution. They’re losing, and they know it. Every child that leaves the public school system to be taught at home is a threat. They’re losing money. They’re losing credibility. And they’re also losing what that judge in the article above is really worried about: the ability to teach my children what they’re supposed to think.

As Home Schooling parents, we don’t just teach our kids what to think, we teach them how to think.

Some may find that thought a little unsettling.

Note: Five or six years ago I came across a very thought provoking essay written by Paul Graham in which he examined public schools from his perspective as a product of the system. I highly recommend reading it: Why Nerds Are Unpopular


Anonymous said...


My five have been homeschooled all their lives, and all though these years they talked to adults very articulately and amazed the adults with whom they were conversing. They are known at Pizza Hut, the doctors office the grocery store and the hardware store, and our bank for their manners and being able to talk to adults easily. What always seems surprising to their father and I is that our kids are just polite and respectful, and helpful. It's a shame that is so rare it gets one noticed!
Celeste Peterson

MamaHen said...

Believe me, we are watching this case closely. It is only 45 minutes from where we live, and just down the road from the Department of Non-Public Education, where we homeschoolers have to register with the state. Since this case first hit the news, the "judge" has now said that he hasn't signed the order....but what is he waiting for? I don't like it one bit. My children will NEVER set foot in a public school again, it would be quite literally over my dead body.

MamaHen said...

An update on this case...a very good friend of mine actually met the mom involved in this case this week. Apparently the husband's real reason in wanting the kids in public school, is financially motivated. He figures that if the kids are in public school, he won't have to pay as much child support. After all, he has a new girlfriend to take care of. So he is going after his wife's religious beliefs, getting people to label it a cult because they don't believe in celebrating holidays. I guess lots of people would be labeled cultists then, because I know MANY people that don't believe in holidays because of their origins or whatever. Has nothing to do with brainwashing. It is a very sad situation. As of right now, she has to put the kids in ps next year.