What if all the parents who are telling me to homeschool are actually more uninspired teachers than the uninspired schools they are supposedly rejecting? Bruno Bettleheim told millions of parents how to raise their kids all while he himself was a child abuser. There is no watchdog when it comes to homeschoolers. There is only the cacophany of parents dissing the schools for failing to reach goals the parents may or may not reach themselves.

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14 replies
  1. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Go to homeschool park days and homeschool conferences with teen activities, and meet and talk to the kids. I think you will find, as I have, a wide range of kids with a wide range of interests, styles, and personalities. But I am pretty sure you’ll be impressed by many of them.

    Results don’t lie.

  2. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Actually you’re wrong. I know that in the UK and in many (if not all) states in the US some form of regular assessment is made of homeschooling families to ensure that the child is receiving an adequate education and isn’t simply truanting.

  3. Paul
    Paul says:

    I’m pretty sure (at least in our school district) that homeschooled kids have to take the same standardized tests that public school kids do.

  4. Candice
    Candice says:

    Different states have different requirements of homeschoolers. California, for example, has almost none.You can declare yourself a private school and move on with your life. Some states require attendance records and testing.

    There’s no government oversight on parenting either–at least not until things go dreadfully wrong. Some parents will do a great job and some will suck. Same goes for homeschooling parents, and public and private schools.

  5. Benjamin Atkinson
    Benjamin Atkinson says:

    Ms. Trunk,

    Homeschooling for me was primarily about increasing my time with my kiddos. Secondly, it was to customize a curriculum for them. Thirdly, it was for lifestyle flexibility.

    I think something important is no longer passing between children and parents. They seem to have so little time together. We chose homeschooling to our children close and hopefully keep the soul food our mana or whatever passing from us to our kids.

    Today’s online tools allow me to tailor lessons to my children’s interests. Lesson plans are more like treasure maps for me. My kids share many of my interests. Perhaps this is why teaching seems more like playing. Or, perhaps education professionals are trying to hard.(I think Ivan Illich warned us about this.)

    Scheduled learning seems like scheduled sex to me. Sometimes it’s the only way to get it done, but it sure sucks a lot of the fun out of it. Homeschooling has allowed me to see how much fun my kids can have while learning to read or reason or classify…etc.

    I wouldn’t deign to recommend homeschooling to anyone. It’s a personal choice that requires much soul-searching.

    I wish you the best as you ponder this choice. I’ll be reading to see what you decide.

    Better get outside…we’re learning to walk a slack-line…and we’re making slingshots today, in advance of the financial apocalypse.

    Ben out!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, wow. This is a lovely comment, Benjamin. Thank you. I was thinking that a lot of my drive for homeschooling comes from feeling absurd sending my kids away for eight hours a day. But it feels a little selfish to me. Like, is it okay to say I want to be with them all day? I am not sure. And then, if I’m gonna keep them home all day, then is it okay for me to read my blog cmments after lunch? Should I be being with them or something???

      Penelope

      • Benjamin Atkinson
        Benjamin Atkinson says:

        I think an important part of the ‘mana’ you impart to your kids is letting them see the work you do. My studies of masculinity suggest that prolonged male adolescence is partially brought on because sons no longer see the work their fathers do. I believe this applies to both parents…and children of either gender. Allowing them into your workspace is still valuable time with them…in my opinion.

        Before the industrial revolution, children observed and participated in the parents’ work. Factories (and cubicles) changed all that. Mass production made mass education necessary.

        As for maintaining a work schedule. I’m blessed with a flexible schedule, currently. And, we can compress the education from an 8-hour school day into less than 3 hours at home. One-on-one teaching makes this possible.

        Thanks, very much, for your blog! You make me think.

        Ben

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      I think so much time away and in a structured environment for young children is a lot too. It is all right to want to be with your children, and it’s not selfish to have that feeling. You can be mindful of their needs and when it is appropriate to let them be away and receive guidance and mentorship from other adults.

      I’m glad you’re letting go of the “bad” things about school. If people saw us day to day they’d have complaints about our parenting too, but there are pros and cons to everything and everything yields something. In the end, they will miss things if they don’t go to school and will have opportunities at home that they never would have had if they’d been at school.

      You really can’t use others’ testimonials to determine what you should do. Everyone could be wrong and crazy, but if it’s right for your family, that’s what matters.

      I really liked a book called “I Learn Better by Teaching Myself.” The author did not convince me with her credentials, but inspired me to recognize my own enthusiasm and confidence in homeschooling.

  6. Mel
    Mel says:

    Hi Penelope.
    I’ve been homeschooling six kids since my now 15yo eldest son was a preschooler. I can tell you that experienced homeschoolers spend very little time talking about how bad the schools are and lots of time talking about educating their own children well.

    As for oversight, I had a friend whose children are in a private school express shock that in our state no testing is required. I asked him what should be done if testing revealed that a child was not achieving in an area? Force them into public school? If that’s the case, the same standard ought to be applied to public and private schools, right? And what of a learning disabled child that is actually excelling in HSing, but still isn’t testing well? These are issues rarely considered outside of HSing circles.

    Finding your groove in HSing in terms of outside pursuits takes time. Personally, it works best for me to make mornings homeschool time and most of the afternoon my time. I wish you well. I have found nothing more fulfilling than HSing. :-)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Okay. This comment really shifted me. Thank you. I am not going to complain about the schools anymore. There is nothing that can be done — at least from where I am. So I just have to decide if I am going to take the kids out or not.

      I would rather be in a discussion of the positive stuff I do at home rather than the negative stuff I see in schools. I am getting there…

      Penelope

  7. anne
    anne says:

    My three kids, now 23, 20 & 17, did not go to school. I had hopes that their superior intellect would validate that decision; that people would be in awe of their focus and accomplishments, perhaps with at least one of them going to an Ivy League school at an early age. Alas, they have turned out to be normal kids. They know all the x-rated lyrics to gangsta rap songs. They watch TV and spend hours on the computer. They don’t clean their rooms. They like junk food. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from their schooled peers (except for their rather rich vocabulary and diverse interests).

    What they do have, however, is an unbreakable bond between them. Sure, they bicker amongst themselves but there has never been the cruel taunting or rejection I’ve often seen as siblings replace their at-home-families with at-school-families. These kids defend and value their brothers/sister.

    Is homeschooling “the answer”? Nah. But it sure has given me 3 young adults who know how to use a semi-colon, parallel park, feel comfortable in mixed-age groups, enjoy a wide range of interests, question the status quo, and sing in harmony. All because they know Life is bigger than passing the next test. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

  8. Carlee
    Carlee says:

    I’m a new “unschooler”: my daughter is 2yrs 4 months old. I occasionally worry that she might be “missing” something that her daycare/schooled friends are “getting.” And, I openly acknowledge some kids are much better off at school than at home because they don’t have parents that can or want to attend to the child’s intense emotional, physical, and intellectual needs.

    So, I was thinking. I don’t know any 2yr olds (off the top of my head) who can instantly identify wasps, hornets, bumblebees, damselflies, dragonflies, cicadas, frogs, toads, and 40+ species of plants. Seriously, she knows these species better than her father. I don’t know many who can easily feed themselves in a field or forest with no adult supervision and reliably select edible species. She regularly speaks five and six syllable words and can identify 20 or so body parts with their Latin name. She can also talk to you at length about childbirth, the uterus, vagina, labia, anus, and abdomen. And, her “intestines talk.”

    I took her to a “Science Saturday” hosted by the University of Oklahoma Senior “Education Majors” and designed for children ages 3-9. Fantastic displays!! They had a table with plants and soils, but did not know the plant species. My 2yr old did and found the peppermint, basil, and hibiscus flower immediately. I asked the education majors if the mint was spearmint or peppermint. They shrugged their shoulders. I asked my 2yr old, and she chewed the leaf and replied, “Peppermint.” They had several sedums (a.k.a. “fuzzy plants”). The education majors said, “We only know they are not poisonous.” So sad.

    Then, at the “sink or float” water station they talked about air being the reason why the objects would float in water. When I started talking about density and buoyancy, they looked perturbed and uncomfortable. They had no idea what I was talking about. Thankfully, my daughter heard the words and my discussion with them.

    This experience jolted me to reality: I am INTENSELY curious. I want my child to be with INTENSELY curious people. I don’t want her to learn what a “lesson plan” suggests when she may want to learn about kidneys, ureters, and bladders (three months ago). I certainly don’t want her life left in the hands of well-meaning, but complacent, incurious people. What a fantastic learning partner I can be for my daughter. She asks a question, I find an answer, a book, a diagram, an experience. But, she doesn’t know the “ABC Song” or “Simon Says.” She’s lagging behind ;-)

  9. L
    L says:

    Carlee, I think your daughter is very luck.

    Penelope I think people choose to home school for different reasons. So about me (the short version) married, age 36, highly educated, make tons of money and just paid about 15k for IVF which will be happening in 2 weeks. So my decision to home school is based on the part that my husband and I could educate (our child to be if all goes well) so much better at home. He is a chemist so we won’t have a problem teaching them any of the sciences or advanced calculus. I think also paying the money for IVF has definitely influenced my decision. Why would I pay all this money to have a child then to let someone else educate them. If I got pregnant at 23 and wasn’t married I would feel differently. I think you will have to figure out your own reason to home school and then decide.

  10. Lori
    Lori says:

    What, exactly, is the link between Bruno Bettleheim being a child abuser and the possibility that not all homeschool parents are doing a great job? I don’t see it. There are people in every profession who say they are one thing and really are another and it doesn’t invalidate everyone else in any other profession.

    Are there homeschooling parents who aren’t doing a super job? Yes, there are a few. Are there public school teachers out there who aren’t doing a super job? Yes, there are a few (probably more than a few), but in either case, it’s not the most important thing that you should keep in mind when considering homeschooling vs. traditional schooling.

    What is the purpose of schooling? It’s a great question. Surely, everyone can agree that there’s a set of basic knowledge (reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic) that children must learn. Beyond that, though, what should they learn?

    Public schooling has a hidden agenda. As a matter of fact, the real things it wants to teach our kids have nothing to do with academics. I can’t say it as brilliantly as John Taylor Gatto, so I urge you to read his essay “The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher”. http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html

    In the process of homeschooling my own kids (daughter, 7 and son, 10), I’ve seen firsthand that the kind of freedom they have to pursue their own interests, the ability they have to work without fear of grades or tests, is such a boost to their learning that even if I wasn’t doing a great job, they would still be light years ahead of their peers who go to public school.

    It sounds to me like you like the idea of homeschooling, but you’re also afraid of it so you’re throwing every possible criticism at it to see what sticks. That’s one way to approach it, I suppose, but I think you need a paradigm shift.

    One of the great things about homeschooling is that THE TEACHER (who in public school is the most important person, the center of attention, the seat of learning), takes a backseat to the student. You wouldn’t believe how much kids can learn when you actually get out of their way.

    That means that asking “Are all homeschooling parents inspired teachers” is the wrong question. That’s not what homeschooling is about. We’ve been conditioned to think that unless the teacher is practically doing backflips to teach math or science or whatever, kids aren’t interested in learning.

    Well, if you stuck my homeschooled kids in a dingy classroom in front of a chalkboard with 30 kids their own age, someone probably *would* have to do backflips to get them to learn. Thankfully, homeschooling is nothing like that outdated, manufactured “school” environment.

    It’s not bad that you are searching. Searching is great. But it is important to ask the right questions, and (to use your term), to reframe the issues when you get more information.

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes, which pretty much sums up homeschooling: “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” You’re wondering whether or not homeschooling parents are great bucket-fillers, when what we’re really doing is lighting fires.

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