A friend sent me a link to a really fun set of photos — it’s Barbie and Ken’s wedding day. But the professional photographer, Beatrice de Guigne who did the photoshoot did it exactly how a real wedding would unfold in photos.

What’s great is that de Guigne successfully makes fun of the absurd pretend perfection of weddings and the cliched way we document it.

Where is that ironic commentary for homeschooling? Now that I’ve been homeschooling for a grand total of two months, I think I’ve read enough homeschooling blogs to be a critic of homeschooling blogs. So much of the homeschooling community presents the equivalent of perfect wedding photos without any of the irony.

Here are three kinds of homeschool blog posts that epitomize the lack of critical, public self-examination in the homeschooing community.

1. Kids who were homeschooled talking about how great they are because of it.  These blog posts sound defensive rather than informative, and anyway, I do not believe the rest of the world should care. These kids have lived ten minutes of adult life and no one knows how they will fare. No one is talking about getting an 800 on the SAT when you’re 25. Your life has moved on. Talk about what you can do now.

The homeschool movement will be truly successful when people do not have to define themselves by it.

2. Non-risk-takers advocating risk for others.
Lots of people who tell parents to homeschool have not actually done it themselves. So it seems a little disingenous to me. The two types of people that advocate homeschooling who bug me are 1) homeschoolers who have never had kids themselves and 2) school reformers who don’t have kids. The problem is that homeschooling is a huge risk because it’s not just jumping into the unknown yourself, but it’s taking your kids.

So there is something odd, and off-balance to me about people who are not accepting large risk telling others to do so. I think the decision to homeschool is largely a risk-analysis decision. In business, there is incredibly useful discussion around risk analysis when making a life decision – from people who have been there. Homeschooling discussion without that aspect looks one-sided and shallow to me.

3. Parents talking about how great things worked out and using their grown kids as evidence. There is no measuring stick for good parenting. So the parents are just groping, and anyway, who knows if their kids are secretly dealing drugs on the weekends?

If the kid is 25 now, there is no way anyone can know how their kid turned out—the kid is still emerging from childhood into adulthood. And if the kid is 30 now, then they were probably living without Internet for most of the homeschooling years. Which means life was totally different.

You know that study from Payscale about how people don’t get raises after the age 40? The reason is people do not learn more in their field after 10 years,because their field keeps changing. Because the world keeps changing. So the information that is more than 10 years old is not relevant. This is true in all professions except surgery and law. So it’s definitely true in homeschooling.

The problem, really, is that the homeschool movement is isolationist. They don’t court naysayers because the will to homeschool is so fragile in a school-focused society. But it’s time to start letting other parents know where they suck. It’s time to let the kids know they need to shut up about how great they are because it’s not homeschool anymore. Nothing improves without free and open criticism.

 

21 replies
  1. christy
    christy says:

    Re: number 1. Do you know of the actress/writer/producer Felicia Day? She’s on Twitter, G+, etc.

    She mentions (and only *mentions*) on her personal website (http://feliciaday.com/) that she was homeschooled. The rest of her blog/site is about who she is becoming.

    Her first break was on the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From there, she got a role in Joss Weadon’s bizarrely wonderful Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. From there, she has gone on to make the web-only series The Guild, and just did another web-only series, Dragon Age.

    In other words, she is living her accomplishments.

    True, she is N of 1, but still, the shift you’re calling for has to start somewhere.

    Just wanted to note to you (from a place of attention you may not frequent) that there is at least one homeschooler out there already living and doing; not just talking about how wonderful it was to be homeschooled.

    I bet you could pull an interview with her for this blog if you wanted… :)

  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    I would add, sort of along the lines of #2, parents who speak as absolute authorities on the subject of homeschooling, but after a close read you realize that they self-define as homeschoolers because they’re home with their 2- and 4-year-old instead of putting them in preschool.

    (No, we don’t homeschool, but yes, I find the blogs and research fascinating.)

    • Samantha
      Samantha says:

      As someone who made the decision to home school her children while I was still pregnant with my oldest child yes I did consider home preschool a valid level of home schooling. I didn’t blog during my oldest child’s time in the preschool years and I would never claim to be an authority on homeschooling even now that he is in 2nd grade but home schooling at the preschool level isn’t any less valid because we’re not teaching super difficult subjects. And I actually happen to value the blogs that post about their preschool days and activities as they have been a wealth of ideas for my own crew to try out.

  3. Jen
    Jen says:

    So, you’ve homeschooled for all of 2 months and you think you have it all figured out? You realize that that is roughly equivalent to the parent of an 8 month old talking about what a good eater the baby is and how they will never have a child who is a picky eater because they’ve got this kid thing all figured out.

    Why do homeschoolers feel the need to defend themselves? Because everywhere you turn there is someone there judging you and your decision to go against the norm. People who are ready to blame any quirk on homeschooling. People who turn a blind eye to the kids in public school who aren’t reading on grade level while expecting homeschoolers to be reading novels by the time they are 3 or else they are being damaged by overcontrolling, abusive parents who won’t let go of their kids. How many kids drop out or don’t graduate every year from public schools? Why aren’t people more critical of how badly the public schools are failing our kids? Why do they only worry about homeschoolers? Heaven forbid a homeschool child do something really great, that’s seen as self-congratulatory bragging by someone who’s been coddled and couldn’t really do it in the “real world”.

    If you are so critical of homeschooling, why are you bothering to do it? Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. It is lots of work and hard to be entirely responsible for your kid’s learning. Add to that the outright disdain most people feel towards homeschoolers and I’m surprised that anyone makes it. As a homeschooler, try not tearing others down. The ones who had to hide in their basements 20 years ago are the ones who paved the way for you to have the choice to homeschool today.

  4. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    On the other hand, after all these years people are still asking how homeschoolers can get socialized, get jobs, etc. and what do the kids think when they’re adults.

    These questions are 20+ years boring but people are still asking and people try to answer.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think what is really surprising me is the level of defensiveness I see. There are so many people in this world making unconventional decisions about their lives or their kids’ lives. I think if the homeschoolers mixed with more of these unconventional people then maybe homeschoolers would’t feel a need to be defensive about their own unconventional decisions.

      Penelope

      • Karen
        Karen says:

        There aren’t many other unconventional choices that have such a strong, relatively recent history of active resistance by the government. The issue of whether families could legally homeschool has really only been settled for about 20 years. Those 25 year olds you’re seeing are the ones who grew up against that backdrop. The homeschool leaders with the longest experience remember those fights and they don’t want anyone to forget it. Their default position is defensiveness, and as leaders they are influencing the next generation to be exactly the same way, whether it’s necessary or not.

        Sadly, defensiveness is also good for homeschool business. It sells unnecessary curriculum (better have plenty for when school and/or child welfare officials come knocking), and association memberships (just read the HSLDA website for its scare tactics).

        (The other prominent unconventional choice with strong government resistance right now is gay marriage – but public (and government) sentiment seems to be turning as they see how conventional gay families are outside of their sexual orientation. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, don’t frame the argument as how conventional they are, but for the fact that their kids don’t go to school.)

  5. Latha
    Latha says:

    Smart, smart Penny. Trying to establish the lack of evidence for homeschooling effectiveness on long term life aspects?

    Ultimately, most long term homeschoolers decided to homeschool not based on evidence on test results or potential life opportunities but based on their children’s needs and/or family philosophy. So perhaps once you rationalize the lack of evidence, you can decide whether you really want to homeschool or not.

    Finally, this is not a choice set in stone. A number of families go back and forth or try different configurations, based on the needs of the children and family resources. Raising one’s children (schooling, unschooling, homeschooling, wholeschooling whatever) is a dynamic phenomenon. You don’t have to beat yourself up if you stop homeschooling. It is okay even if the test results say otherwise. It is about meeting the needs of all your family members, including yourself.

    • Pamela Price
      Pamela Price says:

      “Raising one’s children (schooling, unschooling, homeschooling, wholeschooling whatever) is a dynamic phenomenon.” Yes. Dynamic is precisely the word, Latha. And all the options are changing so rapidly, making it ever more dynamic than before.

      Of course with all that dynamism comes lots of rough and tumble bits with jagged, thought-provoking edges. Like, well, this post for instance.

  6. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Is it really all or nothing? Homeschool when it seems like the kids need it, and send them to school the years the mother needs it, or if the kids seem to prefer that. It could be more fluid over the K-12 life of a child than is acknowledged in the “debate”.

    I have no children, have no strong opinions for/against home-schooling, but do have a strong opinion that people should be able to do what they think is best for themselves and their families and the freedom to change course at any time.

  7. Jason
    Jason says:

    I guess I am agreeing, but then I can’t really read most homeschooling blogs for many of the reasons you list. I only care how other people are homeschooling as a reference point not as a measuring stick. I like your blog basically because your are critical and skeptical and struggling with it – same as us. Sure our kids are 2 and 4, and wouldn’t really be in school yet and I don’t consider us homeschooling experts. But – we have made decisions and commitments and are accepting the risks.

    In the end though isn’t it really the same as the argument about kids going to college – that it doesn’t really do much good as a learning environment. Kids may or may not learn anything, but the whole deal is about the kids and the environment – not about the actual attendance. We are just choosing to extend that logic for their entire learning “career”.

  8. Karen
    Karen says:

    Love the Barbie and Ken photos!! Pure awesomesauce. This is the only homeschooling blog I read because all of the others I have seen are some variation on “look at how great we are – don’t you wish you were as great as me?”. My experience with homeschooling does not even remotely match up with what these bloggers are writing about. It seems like some kind of fairy tale alternate universe. A realistic blog post would detail how a mom blew her stack 3 times last week and made her kids cry, or how we wasted 2 days in our PJs watching movies. And I think that would be more likely to happen if homeschoolers were generally less defensive about their choice. Yes, it sucks to be asked about it all of the time and I’m sure some people have families who are not supportive (my mother and I have agreed to disagree and do not discuss it) but seriously, the best way to deal with that is to not take the bait. I will answer specific questions when asked but will not defend myself but quoting research etc. Just get on with it already.

  9. karelys
    karelys says:

    when i was in high school i knew this girl who supposedly had to be homeschooled because of lyme disease. so she would only attend one/two classes and sports/cheerleading.

    there were rumors that she wasn’t that sick. i never knew. but i always wondered why would just anyone be able to take their kids to school for certain classes and sports/activities.

    if i had that chance i’d love to just go to school for art/woodshop/etc. classes. or if there was a really cool history teacher i’d totally go to school for that class and then sports/extracurriculars and then educate myself at home.

    i sort of tried to do that recently because i wanted to do pottery but the only shop in town closed and then the college only offers pottery classes at arbitrary hours (i’m at work during those times).

    i didn’t care for someone to teach me. i wanted to discover the process by myself and watching others, mainly using intuition. i love it when through intuition i can solve/learn like that. But the college classes have all the materials and equipment so i’d be a lot cheaper to go that route.

    sadly, can’t do it.

  10. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Where is that ironic commentary for homeschooling?”

    This blog? :)

    I like the Ken and Barbie wedding photo shoot to homeschooling blogs/community analogy. When I look at wedding photos, I don’t spend much time looking at the customary (staged) shots. It’s the informal, unexpected captured moments that I spend more time on and that interest me. The same holds true with a blog post or article. I want to see some messiness and then watch/learn how it’s “patched” up.

  11. mimijml
    mimijml says:

    Amen. I want to read about the struggles and thoughtful decision making regarding homeschooling choices (whether and how). Share the wisdom, not the self-righteousness, darn it! ;)

    I’m still doing exploratory eavedropping about homeschooling. We just moved our second and fourth graders to a tiny new charter (public) Montessori school that is a much better fit than their local suburban “traditional/conventional” school was. So far, the Montessori approach is in line with many of my homeschooling fantasies, so I’m considering it a good choice for us, for now.

  12. LJM
    LJM says:

    From #1: These blog posts sound defensive rather than informative…

    Recently you posted that people who say homeschooling isn’t for everyone are arrogant liars. You’ve said that people who go to college have given up on independent learning.

    Penelope, in the humble spirit of “your fly is down,” I must say you’re being very hypocritical, here.

    From #2: The two types of people that advocate homeschooling who bug me are 1) homeschoolers who have never had kids themselves and 2) school reformers who don’t have kids.

    and: In business, there is incredibly useful discussion around risk analysis when making a life decision – from people who have been there. Homeschooling discussion without that aspect looks one-sided and shallow to me.

    You’ve recently posted that all your research has led you to conclude that homeschooling is best for kids. Why does someone need to have kids before they come to the same conclusions? Or maybe someone knows lots of homeschooled families that are happy.

    And who, exactly, is suggesting that people start homeschooling without assessing the risks?

    Most importantly, where on earth do you find the emotional energy to be “bugged” by this? Why do you allow yourself to be “bugged” by such trivial, and, honestly, petty details? It seems you have a lot going on in your own life that require more attention than what you baselessly perceive to be faults in the reasoning of strangers who advocate homeschooling.

    Your points in #3 typically require you to refuse to accept the objective fact that there are lots of 25-year-olds who don’t fall into the parameters of the study you cite. There are lots of 25-year-olds who are more mature and accomplished than lots of people twice their age and many of them were homeschooled. Ignoring this objective fact isn’t honest.

    You falsely claim there’s “no measuring stick for good parenting.” There are actually lots of measuring sticks, not just one. It’s easier to determine bad parenting, but it’s also extremely reasonable to say that a happy, independent, and kind adult who looks back fondly on his or her childhood and who loves, respects, and enjoys time with his or her parents, is the product of good parenting. This is an obvious truth.

    Again, you’ve posted baseless assertions and petty gripes based on sweeping generalizations. And you’ve done it in an essay in which you write, “Now that I’ve been homeschooling for a grand total of two months, I think I’ve read enough homeschooling blogs to be a critic of homeschooling blogs.”

    I hope you were being self-deprecatingly sarcastic.

  13. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    Have you looked at Jessica Very Mom/Kerflop/Balancing Everything’s homeschool posts? She has four children 10 and under and is not a life is perfect Mormon mommy blogger. http://balancingeverything.com/category/home-education/
    She discusses going curiculum free, her kids ride ATVs, and she has at least two internet business that she and her husband run out of a shop on their property.

  14. Gerson
    Gerson says:

    The homeschool blog posts (and sites) worth hating are ones that trash other homeschoolers. We are, let’s remember, a seriously misunderstood minority. I’ve been directed to your site several times by people who assume snarky posts are edgy and interesting when really, they’re just snarky. The overall gist of this site seems to be I’m Different Because I Work mixed with quite a bit of I Find Fault With Other Homeschoolers (particularly those who have long, hard won experience).

  15. Bonnie
    Bonnie says:

    I think there is another kind of blog post that you should add, because I see it a lot. The blog posts where someone claims that all they ever read is blog posts about homeschoolers who act like life is perfect or their kids are perfect.

    We’ve been at this gig for 24 years. I love homeschooling my kids and don’t regret any choices that I’ve made, but family life is hard. Relationships are hard. Motherhood is hard. I read several “homeschool mom” blogs, and I have one myself. I have never read a homeschool blog that doesn’t explore the difficulties that homeschoolers encounter. To be sure, I think that’s why we blog. Cheap therapy. So I don’t know where these homeschool likes, misconceptions and trickery come from, because I don’t see them. Maybe I don’t read Those Blogs. Certainly I’m not writing that drivel.

    What I have read on many occasions and on many blogs are posts like this one, which smack of “I transcend the need to portray perfection in my homeschooling, I’m doing it because it’s best.” We all are. We’re not doing it for the pats on the back. We’re not doing it so we can blog about our perfect life. We’re not doing it because the pay is so good. We’re not doing it because we’re trying to convince others.

    We’re doing it for the self same reasons you are. We believe, through whatever difficulty we may encounter, that it’s the best choice for our kids.

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