The following information has been compiled from my personal experience and what my friends have told me from their personal experiences. I am friends with a good many homeschoolers, and also people who used to home school and quit. Homeschooling is not for everyone. Some people flourish in a structured environment, for the rest of us, there are other options. I am not forcing my views on homeschooling on you and certainly not judging you, I am just trying to share my knowledge on the subject with you, please don't take up arms against me if you had a great time at school, I am not denying that it is possible.

Self Directed Learning/Unschooling

I recommend this method. It can be used from early childhood, but it is better for an older child, like a teenager. Basically it consists of the child doing whatever they want. No actual requirements that they have to fulfill (save those set by your state so you are not considered a truant/accomplice to truancy). You may be worried that they will never want to learn anything by themselves. That is untrue. Maybe someone who has been in public school their whole lives would have a negative reaction to learning (Learning? That's work!), but after a while a lack of intellectual stimulation will cause them to actually want to learn on their own. Actually using something you learned on your own because you wanted to learn it is a much better reward than any 100% or A+. When I first started homeschooling/unschooling (I went to school until high school and then left to home school), I didn't do much of anything but read, nothing really caught my attention. But after a while the ball got rolling and I started finding learning things very enjoyable. I still do, and have actually taken courses at colleges not for credit because I found the subject matter interesting (rare, for a 16 year old).

When your child is too young to go to the library and get books themselves or surf the 'net for some information, you don't have to sit them down in a chair with a home-blackboard and teach them things, instead, just let them know that you are there for a ride to the library, to pull down things from the net and to explain whatever needs to be explained. You don't have to be their teacher, you just have to be their guide. There can also be a bit of mixing with self directed learning and homeschooling, they learn whatever they want, but you set goals for them. Say they have to choose 4 subjects to learn by the end of the month. They can ask you for suggestions or just find them on their own. Then, any subject that they choose that they cannot sufficiently research on their own, you can teach them. Just read some books and websites and find what best suits your child.


Homeschooling
When homeschooling a child, it is good to give them a good amount of freedom. You are their teacher, but also their parent. Whether you took them from school because you don't want them to deal with teasing or because you don't like the environment, whatever, one of the worst parts of school is when you are cooped up in a room on a beautiful day for 6 hours. There is no requirement on how many days you have to learn for, so why not just set flexible hours? If you give your child freedom, they will be less likely to reject the material you are teaching. I would recommend against following the requirements that the school system sets to the word. They are usually very lax with what you are required to learn. It is the minimum you have to do, and in a one on one teaching situation, you can get through material more easily. I remember taking courses at Pathfinder Center in Amherst when there was one teacher and only about 3 people in the class, and I learned more in just 5 or 6 classes then people my age learned all year in a class on the same subject. This doesn't mean you have to just give your kid 5 or 6 lessons, it just means that you have far more time to educate your child to the fullest. A one to one teaching situation is the ideal way to learn, don't waste it.


But This Will Kill My Child's Social Life

Not necesarily. If you think about it, since when is school a good place to socialize? You are punished if you talk in class, and talking in the halls merely causes congestion and is frowned upon. You won't really get to know someone if they talk to you in school, it's just a place to meet people. There are other places to meet people, and by targeting people with similar intrests you will find that you are more likely to make friends than enemies. The key is not to be afraid of social gatherings. Join clubs, play sports, introduce yourself to people at the mall. I find that alot of my homeschooler friends are more open to talk to strangers (in a well-lit public place) and make friends. As John Holt says, "Sending a kid to school to learn to soclialize is like teaching them to swim by pushing them into the deep end and screaming, 'Swim!'" (I am paraphrasing, he probably said it more elegantly, but I read it in an article in a Times that I no longer have. I may also be mis-attributing, but it's a good quote in any case).


Materials you may want to check out.

I was fortunate enough to live near Pathfinder Center when I started homeschooling, and since they helped me get started, I have very little personal experience with materials on the subject, so I suggest you check the net beyond what is listed here.

I would like to thank quoi? for his help with this node, and as always if you have anything to add or any comments (be they positive or negative), feel free to /msg me.

In America homeschooling is booming. Largely due to the fact that many parents who hold religious beliefs find that the public schools do not instill the values and beliefs they would like in their children. Over 75% of those homeschooled are in families holding religious beliefs. Another reason many families choose to homeschool their kids is because they believe the public school system's standards have been lowered. I am a teen who has been homeschooled since the 2nd grade. Personally I find it very cool and I am a better human being because of it. Many people don't feel this way, even some homeschoolers. I am going to give you some pros and cons to let you see why some kids accept it and some don't and also some of the pros and cons of public school.

Brief History of Public and Home Schools
Public schooling started as a vision by the American people to insure that everyone (regardless of race or income) would be able to receive education. In the late 1800's, around the time America started to boom in population, the public school system was being built-up more then it had been before. Even from the colonial days of the United States, public classrooms were in place. They just weren't available to everyone. It always kind of bothers me to see those shirts that have pictures of famous Presidents, Inventors and Patriots and telling of how they were homeschooled, to justify homeschooling. Most of them were homeschooled because they had to be. The system wasn't really in place. John Dewey (1859-1952) not only laid the groundwork for the public school system, he also secularized the system. His book "Democracy and Education" gave arguments for the abolishment of God and the Bible in school.

Now for homeschooling. Homeschooling has always been in place in America, but it wasn't until after prayer and Bible reading were taken out of schools in 1963 that people started to be aware of the possibility. Even before this Dewey's sway on the education system caused some parents to start homeschooling their children. A culmination of lack of religious ethics, evolution being taught, and the deterioration of the older teaching methods led more and more parents to choose homeschooling. Homeschooling has continued to grow slowly each year since the early 1980's. Now for the list.

Pro: You get to sleep in and less school.
I know for a fact that for some homeschoolers this is not the case, especially if your mom is a cruel taskmaster, but for me it is. Many public school kids get a high lack of sleep because they wake up early, go to school for 6-8 hours, maybe go out with their friends and then come home and do homework 'til 11 every night. Oh, and I forget to mention that some kids have jobs which make them stay up late trying to make money. As a homeschooler I get a lot more time to sleep, but most of the time I choose not to. It is true that as you get older sleep isn't really a biggie on the priority list, but if you are a teen it's a different story. It can get kind of stressful being a teenager. I hear more and more about kids I know getting ulcers. Which is why R & R should be a daily part of a teens life.

Con: Diminished social interaction.
Now this can be debated. I really don't have much of a problem with it because I have friends and I see them all the time at work, church and other extra-curricular activities. I also have a wide scope of what kind of friends I have. I have Christian and non-Christian friends, punkers, preppies, goths, geeks, jocks, and even some popular kids. But for some kids they are separated from the world because their parents kept them that way or the kids just decide they don't want to have any social interaction or they are just introverts.

I cannot speak on authority about social interaction within public schools, but as far as I can tell there is a lot of peer pressure (depending on your view, that can be a bad or a good thing) and there are a lot of hard choices to make. It's how you personally deal with it. I also must stress though that I know many kids that are homeschooled that aren't perfect angels either. I guess it depends on who has the biggest effect in your life. In homeschooling, your parents have the big effect and that can be a good or a bad thing depending on what your parents are like. In public school, your friends have a bigger influence on your life and that can be a good or a bad thing depending on what your friends are like.

Pro: Your way of learning can be stretched and exercised.
In the short time that I was in public school I always had the hardest time understanding and grasping the concepts I was being taught. My teacher couldn't help me. All she ever did was yell at me over and over. I believe part of the problem was the blasted desks. The chairs were so uncomfortable that after awhile my hiney became sore. I couldn't concentrate on anything because I was so uncomfortable. Then when I became homeschooled, I realized the joy of lying down and doing my school. I was comfortable and it allowed me to focus more on my schoolwork. Of course I started listening to music and talk radio while doing my school which didn't help my concentration level much, but after awhile I got used to it.

When I entered High School it became easier for me to do my schoolwork on my own and I find that this is the case with many High School homeschoolers. The curriculum basically explains itself and all you really have to do is practice the principles in the book. Now for some kids it is not this way, because people learn different ways. Some learn by seeing, hearing or doing the work. Homeschooling allows a person to find which way is the best way for them to learn.

Con: May or may not improve your relationship with your parents
Sometimes being a parent is stressful enough, but having to be a teacher too can make it even more stressful. There are parents who handle it very well and there are others who totally breakdown over it. For some kids homeschooling may not be the way to go, because they know they couldn't deal with it. Some kids need that interaction with friends and a group setting. For some kids, it's whether or not your parents could even take being at home with their kids ALL DAY. I think some kids do need constant supervision though. For instance: I have a friend who is homeschooled, but his mom is never home because she is a truck driver and always on the road. He is TWO grades behind because of this. His mom can't be home because she needs to make money and she can't pay someone to teach him one-on-one. Many have said (including me) that he needs to go to public school, but his mom refuses to let him go.

What a lot of people don't realize is that homeschooling doesn't just entail buying books and throwing them at your child. It takes planning and spending time with the kid to make sure they understand what they are supposed to do. It means being there when they have a question and also being ready to answer. There is a flip-side to this though. Some parents go way too gung-ho. They even try to make a room in the house look just like a classroom in a public school. This may work for some kids, but it never worked for me. When my mom first started, she did the whole she-bang. I couldn't sit at the table and just quietly do my work though. I eventually got my mom to let me go into my room, lay on my bed and do my work. All of a sudden, I could concentrate better and I became able to do the work without supervision.

Pro: Individual attention and higher grade average.
One of the main reason parents choose to homeschool their children is because of the one-on-one factor. In public schools it is hard for one or even two teachers to make sure that each and every child receives the attention needed to grasp the concepts in school. Some would say that this is what homework is for, but even then how does a child understand their homework. In this day and age it is hard for a working parent to spend enough time and energy to give their kids the attention neede to make sure they understand their homework. Many parents can do this and I commend them, but for some parents (especially single parent homes) to give this type of attention is extremely hard. In some ways (like lack of individual attention) public schools need to be reformed or they will continue to go down hill. Many children fall through the cracks and it's not always the teachers fault. No one can be in two places at once. I must also give mention to some of the "special" schools that have unique learning techniques, such as the Sylvan Learning Centers and other local alternative education schools. Side note: It is virtually impossible for both parents to work and give the necessary attention to a homeschooled child. Some states do not even allow this.

Con: May have problems getting into colleges.
I am a senior so I am about at the stage of looking, but I haven't had any trouble yet. I know it is an uphill struggle for some homeschooled graduates. One thing I would recommend is if you are able to afford it, there are satellite schools that offer curriculum packages. They also grade your work and send tests. Liberty Christian Academy offers these options and a transcript once you graduate. If this is not an option, many parents choose to keep records of papers and tests. It has been proven that many homeschoolers earn scholarships and grants by excelling in things such as spelling and geography bees and writing contests.

Summary
The whole point of this node is to give out the practical information on both sides of the issue. We all know that the public school system is not perfect and yet we also know that homeschooling is not perfect either. But in either case it all boils down to personal and parental responsibility. We live in a world to day where many people are royally screwed up and we all know it. So what do we do? Here's a suggestion. Be a mentor, a tutor, or even just someone who cares. It is true that children are our future, but if we let them drown in ignorance we won't have a future.

http://www.christianparents.com/jdewey2.htm
http://www.prayer-in-public-school.com/
http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/roots_in_history/choice.html
www.homeschools.org/ (Liberty Christian Academy)
http://www.uhea.org/stats.html

One of the most fascinating things about the American homeschooling movement is the incredible range of people it has brought together. Indeed, the early stereotypes of homeschooling families, which were not entirely off the mark, were that the parents were either fundamentalist Christians or radical leftist hippies. The homeschooling population has grown, though, and so has its breadth. While each of these groups still makes up a significant fraction of homeschoolers, many do not fit into either. Because of this great variation in politics, religion, and other ideas, the pros and cons of homeschooling vary from family to family.

Like Inflatable_Monk, I am a high school senior who has been homeschooled for several years. By pointing out some of our differences of opinion, I hope to illustrate the range of philosophies encompassed by the homeschooling movement.

Fundamental Reasons for Homeschooling

Inflatable_Monk quotes a statistic stating that over 75% of homeschooling families hold religious beliefs.* I suspect that this statistic should be significantly higher, as the vast majority of Americans hold some variety of religious belief. However, this is a moot point, as data more pertinant to the question of how religion affects Americans' decision to homeschool is available. According to a 1999 U.S. Department of Education survey of parents, 38% of homeschooled students are homeschooled "for religious reasons." This was the second most popular response. 49% of parents said that their reason for homeschooling their kids was a "better education at home," 26% cited a "poor learning environment at school," 17% cited "family reasons," 15% said they wanted their kids to "develop character/morality," and 12% "object to what school teaches." (Participants were allowed to select more than one answer.) These results suggest that Americans homeschool primarily for academic reasons and secondarily for religious and ethical reasons.

Flexibility of Curriculum

Many of the reasons people homeschool, both academic and religious, stem from wanting to choose ones own curricula. Families who homeschool for religious reasons often do so to avoid materials dealing with biological evolution, secularism, and religions other than their own. Many homeschooling families, both religious and secular, use materials provided by public school districts or by umbrella schools, but others cobble together their own programs of study. The unschooling movement, in particular, is based upon the idea of not forcing school textbooks and organized classes upon students. Unschooled students follow their own interests, which are often varied enough to provide a decently well-rounded education. (The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn is an excellent resource for teenage unschoolers and parents, and a good starting place for those interested in the general philosophy of the liberal wing of the homeschooling movement as well.)

"What About Socialization?"

When I tell someone I've just met that I'm a homeschooler, the most frequent questions I am asked is "What about socialization?" Most homeschoolers are so used to being asked this question that we come up with neat, prepackaged answers to respond with. Here's mine:

It hasn't really been a problem for me. I'm part of a local homeschooling organization, and have a number of friends through that. I also have friends who go to school—well, they're in college now, mostly—that I've met both through school, when I went to school, and through homeschooled friends. And I have friends through work, too.

At the point I usually pause, as the person I'm talking to often has another question of some sort or other. My point, though, is that I have friends of a variety of ages, many of whom I've met in the same ways adults meet friends. I personally am a fairly stereotypical introvert (not shy, exactly, but generally calm and reserved), but I know homeschoolers who range from slightly more introverted than myself to extremely gregarious and outgoing. As suggested in my self-quotation above, most homeschoolers take part in group activities, volunteer work, and part-time jobs which serve social purposes.

Homeschooling and College

Homeschooling and getting into a good college are not at all mutually exclusive. A number of books have been written on this subject, so a short summary will of course leave out much. Even so, here it is: There are basically two ways to homeschool through high school in the United States. One involves homeschooling independently and then getting a GED. The other involves working with an organization: either the local public school system (a few offer help to homeschoolers, but be careful when working with them if you don't want to be forced into their curriculum), a charter school, or a private school such as Clonlara School, which can award a standard private school diploma. Clonlara in particular is widely utilized by homeschoolers because their program does not require the completion of any particular curriculum, although they do have requirements of certain numbers of hours of work in each subject.

Once one is on a path to obtain a diploma, college applications work in much the same way that they do for public school students: one takes tests, such as the SAT or ACT, and puts together applications to schools. Some colleges have special requirements for homeschoolers, such as extra tests, essays, and interviews, but such requirements are typically modest. The University of Michigan, which requires an astounding six SAT II tests, is the exception of those I have looked at. Oberlin College, where I received early decision admission, generally simply turns its recommendations for public school students, such as visiting for an interview, into requirements for homeschooled students. In addition to required material, I sent in a portfolio of my essay writing, web design work, and pictures of me teaching physics to other homeschoolers. I suggest putting this sort of extra effort into a college one is truly interested in, as without grades such a thing forms a big portion of what the school knows about you.

I'd like to end this writeup with Inflatable_Monk's wonderful "school/company" entry from his home node: Home, The Wonderful World of Experience. To me, that's what homeschooling is all about.

*In fact his source, a Utah Home Education Association webpage, states that "over 75% attend religious services." This is a much higher percentage than the 40% of all Americans who attend such services regularly, but that may be in part because homeschoolers especially appreciate the social aspect of churches and other religious communities.

Sources:
Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream (http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/admin/books/files/homeschool.pdf)
Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2000 Section 1: Population (http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/statab/sec01.pdf)
http://uhea.org/stats.html
I homeschooled my daughter from preschool through the end of sixth grade. For our family, it was a wonderful experience, and it gave my daughter time to figure out who she was before she was introduced to peer pressure and societal conformity. When Amy was still at the preschool stage, I wrote this piece more than ten years ago in answer to many of the questions that I was asked about homeschooling.


Almost every week, I have a conversation with somebody I don't know, which goes something like this:

Lady in grocery line: What a cute little girl! How old is she?

Me: Amy just turned three.

Lady: Well she's just adorable! (Pause) Does she go to nursery school?

Me: No.

Lady: Oh! She's really missing out, you know. My four year old loves his preschool! He's got lots of friends, and he's learning how to obey a teacher and sit still in class. That kind of experience really helps when they go to Kindergarten. You really should send her to preschool. Why, my son already knows his ABC's because of preschool.

Me: Well, our family is homeschooling. The schools in our area aren't very good, so we feel that this is the way to go.

Lady: But are you a teacher? Only a teacher can show a child how to read.

Me: Actually, Amy has already begun to read. She knew her entire alphabet over a year ago, and can now sound out simple words and read some Dr. Seuss books.

At this point, the conversation either comes to an abrupt end, or the lady will ask about socialization, or she will ask me how we decided to home school.

Although waiting in a grocery check-out line can seem to take an eternity, it really doesn't. So usually I give a very brief explanation, and leave it at that. If I had the time, I might tell the lady something like this:

The public schools in California are in dire straits. Putting aside the problems about safety and quality of education, the schools are buried under piles of red tape and run by a blind bureaucracy. Art and music programs are no longer offered in many schools. When we lived in South San Francisco, I spoke with a public school principal there, who told me something that curled my hair. SSF had just closed two of its grammar schools, and had to make more budget cuts. The first place they cut was music. When told that the schools could no longer afford to pay the music teacher's salary, the teacher offered to come in to the school one day a week and teach for FREE. The California Teachers Association heard about that, and they went haywire and filed a lawsuit to block the music teacher from doing pro bono work in the public schools, saying that doing so would destroy the union's bargaining leverage during contract negotiations in the future. The CTA won, and the children of South San Francisco were denied a musical education.

The school district we currently live in laid off the teacher aides for K-3rd grades in 1991 due to lack of funds, yet for some reason, they had enough funds to total refurbish the administrative offices with oak desks and file cabinets, new paint, new carpet, even new phones. (The last redecorating at this school occurred in 1989- two years before the most recent redecorating.) The funds they wasted on unnecessary cosmetic improvements would have paid not only the salaries of the four aides who were laid off, but would have hired two more aides as well.

These are just two examples among hundreds that I know of. Follow this with things like Pulitzer prize winning author Alice Walker's short story being removed from the state achievement test for 10th graders due to protest by the religious right, and clear gender bias against girls and we have some major problems here. Somewhere along the line, the school system lost sight of its primary purpose, which is to educate children. When that happened, California's kids began to suffer.

Private schooling is not an option for most families (including ours), due to its prohibitive cost. Perhaps if the school voucher initiative had passed this would have helped. But even so, private school would be out of reach for most of us.

This leaves home school as the only viable alternative for my family. We approached the idea with some trepidation. My husband and I bring an interesting combination of educational experience to this task. I was labeled as hyperactive and incorrigible by the Boston public schools. I also picked up two more labels in the school system. Through some strange reasoning, I was both learning disabled, AND a gifted child. (Probably because in 6th grade I was reading on a college level, while my math was at a first grade level.) After a very difficult school "career", I dropped out at the age of 15, and got my GED in 1987, at the age of 23.

My husband Koji was born in Japan, and moved to the US when he was in 3rd grade. He was always an honor student, and graduated from MIT in 1984, just after we met.

Having grown up in a hippy household, I've always been very open minded about homebirth, homeschooling, tofu, and granola. Koji grew up in a very straight, traditional Japanese home, and when I first mentioned homeschool (a few years before Amy was born), he went ballistic, raising all kinds of arguments against the idea. But gradually Koji has come around, and if anything, he is even more committed to homeschooling than I am.

(This section written in 1997, several years after the first half of this article.)

When the topic of homeschooling comes up, so do the Misconceptions, or as I prefer to call them, the Mythconceptions. I hear a lot of questions and comments: What about socialization? Isn't that illegal? My kid won't listen to me when I tell her to do the dishes, so she'd never obey me as her teacher.

So let's debunk the myths.

Myth #1: "The homeschooled child misses out on socialization, and can't interact with his peer group."

This was our biggest concern when we first contemplated homeschool. It is now the least of our worries. We asked ourselves a few questions: Why does a child go to school? How much opportunity is there for socializing in a normal school day? Where and when did we do most of our socializing when we were children? Our answers were: a child goes to school to learn, not play popularity games. At school, children really only socialize during recess, and just before and after school, and much of that "socializing" is in the form of teasing each other, fighting, and peer pressure. When we were kids, most of our friends were the kids who lived in our neighborhoods, and we played after school and on weekends. We didn't just play with the kids in our age group or school, we played with kids who went to private schools as well as kids a year or two older or younger than us.

We also looked at the facts. Violence in the schools is escalating. Most schoolkids know someone who has brought a gun to school, or have done so themselves. Ten year olds are using drugs, 11 year olds are having babies. Kids are being killed for their gym shoes or jackets. We decided that we don't want Amy's socialization to come from the wrong end of a gun, or an abortion clinic. Peer pressure is a very powerful factor in a child's life, and we believe that before a child is exposed to that kind of stress, they should be given time to be a child. Time to grow up and figure out who they are BEFORE they are faced with difficult choices.

Myth #2 "It is illegal to homeschool, and only a qualified teacher is capable of teaching children."

Please excuse me while I wash my mouth out. In California, there are several ways to legally homeschool your children. You can hire a private tutor with a teaching credential, you can participate in an accredited correspondence school, you can file an affadavit with the county you live in that makes your home a private school (in California, private scools are not required to have credentialed teachers on staff), or you can join together under an umbrella school that handles filing the affadavit and keeping records. This last is the option that my family has chosen.

Most other states have legal provisions that allow for homeschooling as well. These can be researched online or at your local county courthouse.

(Update, July 25, 2005: Two Sheds has just informed me that homeschooling is legal in every state of the US, although getting permission to do so legally involves different hoops to jump through. It is also legal in every country except for Germany. His source is The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.)

Myth #3: "Kids won't sit still and learn from their parents."

Kids learn from their parents each and every day. How do you suppose they learned to talk, to zip their pants, to use a fork, or to use a crayon? Who says that in order for a child to learn anything academic they must be sitting at a desk with two pencils, a textbook, and utter silence? That is ridiculous! Every homeschooling family takes its own approach to education, taking their child's needs and individuality into serious consideration.

In our family, the approach that we use is referred to as 'unschooling'. What this translates to is child directed learning. What interests Amy is what we work on. Some days this just means sitting quietly with a book and reading it. Other days it means three or four hours of math (unlike me, Amy enjoys math, and keeps me working writing up addition, subtraction and simple multiplication problems for her), it could mean spending an entire day at the California Academy of Sciences or the Exploratorium, or painting and drawing. This approach seems to be working. Amy is reading books that her older, traditionally schooled friends have difficulty with, she has a firm grasp on human biology, she understands more about wildlife than I do, and she is performing at a second grade level in math. She is 6 years old, and would be entering kindergarten in the fall of 1997 if we were traditionally schooling her. Best of all, Amy doesn't hate learning. She is inquisitive, always looking for new things to learn, always seeking information.

There are other methods of homeschooling as well, from the curriculum based approach to the combination approach and I am certain there are others that don't spring immediately to mind for me.

For our family, the question was not "Why homeschool?", but instead, "Why take the risk of quenching her thirst for knowledge by placing her in an uncaring environment that is NOT conducive to learning?" We made our choice, and we stand by it.


Amy asked her father and me to enroll her in public school at the beginning of her seventh grade year. We agreed and did so, in part due to her request, in part because it was becoming apparent that I was going to have to move away and she should be in a school environment before I left so that she didn't have two major adjustments to make at the same time. She took the Stanford Achievement Test and scored in eleventh and twelfth grade levels for every subject except for math, where she was performing "only" at a ninth grade level. She has been on the honor roll two years running and was given the highest grade ever given by her science teacher for her science fair project last year. She has friends galore and is headed for sure success in life.

Yesterday, I happened to come across this node on homeschooling while browsing through Everything. Later that same day, I came across a report about how a Christian fundamentalist caused an effective ban at his daughter's school of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth.1 I was reminded of some articles (more below) I had read earlier about how home schooling was used by Christian fundamentalists as a cover for abusive treatment of children.

Some points to consider:

  • In a 2001 NCES study, 38.4% of respondents cited "religious reasons" as their motivation to homeschool their children;another 15.1% said "to develop character/morality".2 This correlates with what Inflatable Monk states in his WU on the same topic.
  • More than 80% of Americans claim to be Christian.3
  • The Bible strongly recommends beating children to instill obedience.4,5 One group explicitly suggests the use of quarter-inch plumbing line.8
  • Schools, among other institutions, are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse.6
  • 17% of all reports of child abuse or neglect come from educational personnel.7
  • Home schooling associations are giving their members advice on how to obstruct child abuse investigations by social workers and police.9

No airtight syllogism links these assertions into a clear-cut conclusion such as "Christian parents beat their children to the point of injury and engage in homeschooling to evade notice by authorities." In fact, in studying many other homeschooling resources not listed under the references, I have gained the impression that most homeschooling efforts have as their primary goal to provide children with a better education than is available in public schools.

However, especially (9) reveals an attitude of defensiveness bordering on paranoia; policemen are pictured as anxious to "cuff and stuff" and methods are presented to obstruct them and social workers access to the extent permitted by the law. Again, no solid incriminating evidence can be expected from a public Web site, but – are these people trying to hide something?

A 2003 CBS documentary reported on a handful of cases of severe abuse of homeschooled children, including one fatality.10,11 It could be said to suffer from TV-typical sensationalism. Home schooling organizations were up in arms, as evidenced by countless Web sites dissecting the logic, wording and conclusions presented.

To my references below, I would have liked to add a link to one site in particular that originally made me aware of the problem: The page I read, some months ago, posited precisely that Christian fundamentalist homeschoolers were keeping their children away from public scrutiny by homeschooling them so that teachers would not become aware of injuries sustained from corporal punishment; and that furthermore, homeschooling groups and communities advocated a network of "Christian-friendly" doctors and other medical personnel who share the religious parents' views on corporal punishment and would therefore not report injuries clearly indicative of abuse. Alas, no amount of Googling found that site for me. Either I've been using the wrong keywords or the site has been shut down. Thus, I can only report, sans attribution or further substantiation, that someone else has reached exactly this conclusion.

The line between "healthy" corrective discipline and abuse is fuzzy, particularly in the United States. While many European countries have outlawed corporal punishment of children outright, US legislation is very permissive toward parents who apply physical force against their children. Also, standards for abuse vary from locality to locality and are often left to the discretion of the local judiciary. Thus, the severity of beatings or other punishments may or may not constitute abuse in the legal sense.

I don't doubt for a second that the vast majority of parents try to do what they believe is best for their children. Governments recognize this and generally allow parents to raise their children as they see fit. Problems arise when some parents, for religious or other reasons, choose to practice a child rearing regimen that is, demonstrably or by accepted standards, harmful to the child. I believe that neither the expectation that parents will act in good faith nor a blanket of "religious freedom" should provide a cover for child abuse, or activities that will harm a developing person for life.

This article attempts to show that homeschooling provides an opportunity to bring more control and force to bear on children than would be possible in an environment with more exposure to outside scrutiny. It is proven in a few cases and highly likely in more that some parents are –usually in the best of intentions– exploiting this opportunity to subject their children to injurious and clearly illegal levels of physical violence. While the practice may not be widespread, every effort must be made to prevent it. Insisting on minimal standards of homeschooling oversight would be a helpful first step.


References

  1. Federal Way Schools Restrict Gore Film
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/299253_inconvenient11.html
  2. Home Schooling in the United States - 1999
    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/Homeschool/fig2.asp
  3. Largest Religious Groups in the USA
    http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html
  4. What the Bible says about spanking children
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/spankin8.htm
  5. Protestant Fundamentalism and Support of Corporal Punishment
    http://www.nospank.net/irreg.htm
  6. Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect
    http://www.smith-lawfirm.com/mandatory_reporting.htm
  7. NDAS: Child Abuse and Neglect
    http://tinyurl.com/vgqbx
  8. Child abuse on the religious right
    http://www.benedictionblogson.com/?p=2458
  9. CHASE SC Homeschool Association - How to Deal With False Accusations in a DSS Investigation
    http://www.chasesc.com/investigation.html#3
  10. A Dark Side to Home Schooling
    http://tinyurl.com/qstr
  11. Home Schooling Nightmares
    http://tinyurl.com/r0n7

I'm afraid I have to weigh in as being adamantly against homeschooling. I worked my way through college doing special orders at an independent textbook store, way back before Amazon.com. Well, Amazon might have been around back then, but it would have been very new. Anyway, we were pretty much the only source of K-12 textbooks in that city, so we had a sideline supplying the homeshoolers. First: Only one - ONE - family ever ordered science or math books. Second: They were all crazy. They were all foaming-at-the-mouth crazy, and of course their children will be poorly socialized because they're being socialized by the crazy parents.

More than a decade later, Fox had a new reality show called 'Wife Swap', where the wife from a family of uptight squares would be swapped for two weeks with the wife from a family of crackpots. More often than not, the family of crackpots would be homeschooling their kids. Of course, the crackpots' kids were so obviously ignorant, you hoped Social Services was watching the show.

At about this same time, I had a co-worker who spent more money on his self-designed tattoos than on birth control, and thus impregnated his girlfriend. He had dropped out before high school, and was known at work as 'The Lunch Thief', because several times a day, he ate someone else's lunch on company time. He and his new wife are naturally planning to homeschool, because they're very devout Christians. Let me summarize from the details above: This guy is a moron. What chance do his children have?

I'm sure lots of people will declare that they know of homeschoolers who are smart, moral, not crackpots, etc., but the ones I've met failed at school and at life. They can't admit that their failures may be their own, so they remove the opportunity for their children to show them up. "I failed at team sports. Therefore: Team sports are stupid."

What if a pair of pretty good classical symphony musicians forced their homeschooled kids to follow in their footsteps, only to have the children grow up to be mediocre? Maybe one of the kids could have been the world's best builder of electric cars, but now the world will never know. The parents can only teach what they themselves know. Are any two people smarter than an entire school district full of professional teachers? Stop before you react with, "But, in California..." Teachers, much-maligned that they are, go to college specifically for this, get fingerprinted, get a license, and are constantly monitored. How many of these homeschoolers have had classes in education? How many even succeeded at high school?

These are just my observations, and they are subjective. But, I have met A LOT of homeschoolers.

I am home schooled, I was in a private school until the third grade, I am now in the 10th grade (I also finished eleventh grade chemistry, and am now starting calculus). I started home schooling due to a number of factors. Firstly I was in a catholic school and I am not a catholic, many people at that school, both adults and children, did not really seem to like that. Secondly I was "too smart" (my teacher really told me that I was not going to learn anything in her class). Also I did not work well with that style of schooling.

Home school has been the best thing I have ever done. It works well for me, as for socialization I have had more time interacting with my peers after I left school than I did before. I also seem to have a better ability to talk to adults than many of my friends. One of the worst things that I hear from people is "you must not have any friends" or "you must be lonely" so many people have so many bad views of home school.

I have already taken my ACT and was accepted into any of the colleges I wanted to go to.

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