I used to have a column on Yahoo Finance. I would write the basic advice that I wrote on my career blog, stuff like

Job hopping is good

There are no bad bosses

Don’t be the hardest worker

These are not controversial topics for my career blog. It has an audience of very smart, very high-performing people are who are managing their careers carefully so that they have interesting work that doesn’t ruin the rest of their life.

On Yahoo Finance, people were not so forward thinking. They would tell me that I’m an idiot. They would tell Yahoo to fire me. Sometimes I would get 1000 comments, and most of them were disparaging. In fact, someone at Yahoo had the daily task of removing the really offensive ones.

During that time I got really good at knowing what I know. I learned when to listen to criticism and when to ignore it, and how to keep myself focused on what I am investigating instead of getting sidetracked by people who have no idea what I’m talking about so they just criticize.

Despite my hard-won skills, I confess to be annoyed beyond belief by the current discussion on my blog about Seth Godin’s new book about education. I put the post on my career blog because he is so mainstream that I didn’t think of it as a purely homeschool topic. I thought of it as a career management post: How to know when you’re in a rut. I have known Seth for a long time, and he’s given me help every time I’ve asked for it, and mostly, his homeschool manifesto looks to me like he is lost. So I wrote about that.

What I didn’t realize is that Seth talking about homeschool being impractical is Seth preaching to a choir.

The choir is made of people who don’t want to change the status quo, singing made-up, bombastic arguments about why the status quo needs to remain. Activist types are the worst: They don’t see that the status quo is really just parents pretending to be education activists while they send their kids to school.

I thought homeschooling would be me, teaching my kids skills, like having confidence in their own ideas and how to have strength to focus on personal discovery. I was right—they are learning this from me, but not because I have curriculum for it. They are learning alongside me, as I learn each day to have strength to continue telling other people about how we homeschool.

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17 replies
  1. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    People often have a hard time hearing how someone is doing or viewing things differently than themselves. Even if all you do is speak to the truth for YOU they hear how they are wrong. Even when you don’t know or care if they are wrong or right.

    Seth is right. Homeschooling is not for him. If you believe you are not capable, you aren’t. Penelope you do not agree with his view of homeschooling and his views about why he can/can’t homeschool his own children. So what!?

    Think of him and his ditto heads as people on the learning curve. They may or may not be ready for another message or POV. You can lead the way by modeling your POV. When and if they are ready to hear it they will look around and see you DOING it. They will see it can be done. You can sing the praises of homeschooling until you are blue in the face but until it is meaningful and important to their own life it is really just so much noise – not unlike the noise we subject kids to in school. :-)

    Keep on keeping on Penelope! Someone will see you doing, trying, struggling, getting it right, getting it wrong (and surviving/thriving anyway) and decide to learn about or look into homeshcooling for themselves.

  2. Another homeschool mom
    Another homeschool mom says:

    Keep saying what you are saying. You are right on with what you say about parents and public school. When we started homeschooling four years ago it was because our oldest in 2nd grade who was tested ad naseum by the district and scored in the 6th grade and up on all subjects, was told just to sit and read all day. That was how public school handles the most naturally intelligent and quickest learners – ignore it! If I do that at home as a home educator, I am being negligent. Argh! So many times in my encounters with school staff, like when I was told by the principal and the school psychologist that “school is about socialization and not the academics”, I looked around for the camera recording my reaction of shock and dismay. And yes I realize that their sitting my child to read in a library all day contradicts their emphasis on socialization, but apparently they don’t see the contradictions.

    Learning at home can be hard. We all have times of doubt, times of security, times of hubris, and times of triumph. I wish for a time machine at points to fast forward and “know” for sure we are making the best choices. Then I look into my children’s eyes and can see the answer there – yes, we are.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      i wonder how many times kids are not necessarily “extra” intelligent or gifted. They just have a curiosity for learning, a strong desire, or their parents have set them on a path to pursue their interests and the schools just squash them.

      My husband thinks it’d be awesome if we had “gifted” children in one area or another. But I think that’s hard on people. Normally, if you are so super excellent in one area you are lacking in most because what makes you special can be a hurdle to be social or self suficient in any other areas.

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    I don’t know if Seth is sending his kids to school. But I think he’s doing a lot for the reform or redesign of the educ. system by writing a spelled out paper on why it doesn’t work the way it is now.

    It was common knowledge to you that did tons of research. But not to me that hardly knew anything about it. Just what I read here and the links. All my experience has been in the realm of school. That’s all I know.

    I know activism takes tons of time and energy. But maybe it does because we go about it the same way we always have. And to be an activist for something different doesn’t mean you have to stick your kids in school. Although you’ll get lots of criticism for it.

    Something I’ve learned here is to think different. If something doesn’t work it doesn’t have be a dead end. Maybe that’s the same with activism. There’s no sense in abandoning it; we’ll never see change that way. But we gotta do something at the same time be realistic that it won’t happen right away, or even in our lifetime. But it will. If we resign, society will continue on the same path to worse.

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    First of all, I like this photo (I’m pretty sure this is the second time you’ve used it here on this blog) and I do appreciate you sharing your homeschooling journey. I don’t know if there’s any practical benefit for me by reading about it but it is fascinating.
    “The choir is made of people who don’t want to change the status quo, singing made-up, bombastic arguments about why the status quo needs to remain.” I’m not so sure the choir doesn’t want to change the status quo. I’m thinking they want to change the status quo without doing the heavy lifting … or maybe doing some heavy lifting over time on a gradual basis … an evolutionary process of small step by step changes that doesn’t feel like a knee jerk reaction to a serious problem … even if it means keeping their kids in an educational environment in need of much change.
    Intuitively, I think a lot of people you may view as your detractors see the value and promise of homeschooling. However, they’re afraid of experimenting with their child’s education and future. I think it comes down to their need for some sort of verification and certification that their child has met the education requirements deemed necessary by society. High school diplomas and college degrees are something that can easily be shown. I think that’s why tests are so popular. We are obsessed with making measurements to chart progress. It’s a rite of passage so to speak. The child has gone to all these classes and done all this homework … and passed. Unfortunately, the child could also be lacking some really critical learning skills. Education in a school, as in most things in life, doesn’t guarantee anything but it is better than no education which I’m afraid would happen in some households. The self-directed child needs some assistance, guidance, motivation, and inspiration and the parent needs all the above as well as perseverance and patience. Initially, it’s a lot of work to set up and get the ball rolling. It’s similar to the process necessary to start some chemical reactions – activation energy. Once started, they will hopefully be sustainable and “fulfilling”.

  5. Greg
    Greg says:

    The argument that frustrates me the most is that homeschooling is only appropriate for the rich and educated. This is so arrogant. You don’t have to be middle class to help your children pursue their interests. Sure, there may be some limitations, but compare this to teachers who cannot directly address children’s interests at all.

    There are parents who do not see it as their responsibility to provide learning opportunities for their children. And yes, this attitude leads to poor homeschooling. But it is the existence of the schooling system which enables this belief.

    • Working
      Working says:

      So Greg, what home-schooling platform would you recommend to the high-school drop-out, single moms that work in the Taco Bell by my house.
      How would they surpass their ‘limitations’?

      Or maybe they don’t count as mothers?

      • MoniqueWS
        MoniqueWS says:

        I mentor teen parents. I work with this population frequently. They are capable. They make some of the most wonderful parents. Being a teen parent in some cases is the thing that saves their own life. These moms CAN home school their children. No one says the HS parent has to know it all. They need to be willing to help a child find the resources/people who do know about the thing the child wants to learn about. HS parents can learn alongside their children too. There is something pretty powerful in leading by modelling.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I think the issue is not the quality of the person, and I am sure there are many teen moms or single moms who are great people and do their very best to provide and give the best to their kids. It seems to be more a question of the day having only 24 hours – if it ends up as a choice of working two jobs to get the food on the table and provide for decent shelter, and homeschooling your kid instead of the second job, the food and shelter will most likely win.

      • Greg
        Greg says:

        I believe that given proper government support, including financial support, these mothers can be great educators. But I write this as someone from a country with a large welfare state and an extensive support network for single mothers. The type of government intervention I’m thinking about might not be a possibility in America.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I am not sure you could justify even in a country with a well-developed social support system to pay single mothers to homeschool their children. However, in most states with an extensive social support system the support for public schools is a lot better then in the US.

  6. Lori
    Lori says:

    I’ve been homeschooling for 8 years so I’ve had my share of raised eyebrows and “what about socialization?” from other people.

    I have to say that long ago I stopped defending homeschooling from a purely philosophical or research-based position.

    I decided that the proof would be in the pudding: as my kids grew, and learned, and so did other people’s, anyone would be able to see that homeschooling truly is better.

    Sure enough, after 8 years, it’s clear to everyone that my kids are more creative, better behaved, more curious, more excited about learning, and have much larger vocabularies than their cohorts who attend public or private schools. And probably a hundred other positive things as well.

    You’re really only responsible to your kids for how and why you homeschool. If other people can learn from your example, that’s great. But it’s not your job to convince everyone that homeschooling is the best way. Let them watch you do it rather than listen to you talk about it.

  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I was homeschooled for 2 years in late elementary. Then my younger brother and I went to public school for middle school and high school. I wanted to do it at the time, but in retrospect homeschooling would have been better. The worst homeschooling experience is no less than equal to the average public school experience, for the simple fact that you avoid so much of the bulls***: backpack induced injuries, bullying, busywork, assemblies, the sheer amount of walking and waiting, distractions, peer pressure. Anyone who thinks that stuff is somehow necessary training for the real world probably has different priorities than homeschooling parents. They probably think that a life full of BS is somehow desirable for kids.

  8. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    But I should mention two things I don’t regret from my high school experience:
    1. Team sports
    2. My art class teachers

    My mom couldn’t have given me either of those experiences. But that isn’t to say it couldn’t be circumvented. When I have kids of my own to homeschool, I will let them join community sports leagues and get tutoring from an expert in a pursuit they are interested in.

  9. Sonia at Marriage Counselling Toronto
    Sonia at Marriage Counselling Toronto says:

    It does depend on the parents’ situation if homeschooling fits into their life style. For example if you’re a single parent it can be challenging to keep a roof over your head at the same time home school your children.

    I also feel it’s extremely important that kids socialize with other children. Homeschooling your kids may not be the best decision.

    • MoniqueWS
      MoniqueWS says:

      Let us just be clear here … homeschooling and socialization is a RED HERRING. Of course any family that completely keeps to themselves is not going to have the as many socialization experiences. I really do NOT know any homeschooling families that only keep to themselves.

      Why is it important for children to socialize together? I believe it is more important that children have experiences with people of all ages.

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