This is a guest post from Lisis Blackston. She is a former pilot and now an unschooling mom.

Trying to talk to most people about homeschooling is a bit like trying to talk to creationists about evolution, or the Big Bang. They are so fiercely opposed to the notion, and have so much invested in their current world view, that it’s nearly impossible to make any headway toward changing their minds.

But it’s still a conversation worth having. From time to time, a mind will be just open enough to consider new possibilities.

I’m *hugely* in favor of having homeschooling as an option to “opt out” of public education, particularly for those of us who live in areas where the public schools may do more harm than good.

Many of the reasons people seem to be opposed to homeschooling are the very reasons WHY I homeschool my son. For instance:

1. Religious indoctrination
We live in the Bible Belt. Nearly every person who lives in this area is a Christian who attends church regularly. Most of the teachers and students at the public schools are openly, and unabashedly Christian… which is fine, except that our family isn’t. The amount of peer pressure my son would have to endure (to attend church, to be “saved”, etc.) is absurd. One of the main reasons I homeschool my son is to AVOID religious indoctrination.

Why don’t we just move to a more enlightened city? Well, we did for a while. But my husband’s aging parents live here and it’s important to be close to them.

2. Parental bias
It is true that if my son attended public school he would be exposed to ideas different from my own. Of course, where we live that means mostly the glorification of God, and sports (the other religion in the South). My kid is by no means sheltered. He reads whatever he wants, online and offline. He has access to a whole world of information and viewpoints. I don’t prevent him from knowing about any of them, including the local customs and beliefs.

But he is subject to my personal bias… that of self-determinism. I adamantly believe it is his duty to find his passions, skills, abilities and interests, and to forge a fulfilling life from those. He is well aware that he will only be paid for his passions if they happen to be of value to others (and should, therefore, choose which to hone as a career, and which to keep as a hobby).

It is a bias, but I don’t think it will hurt him much in the long run.

3. Socialization
Once again, the sort of socialization that is available to him at the local school is a bit… limiting. I’d much rather have my son seek out his peers (of any age) among those who share his interests and values, or at the very least, random people all over the world who are different and interesting for whatever reason. If all of his friends are his age, and they all worship sports and church, I feel the experience is a bit homogenous and not at all representative of the world at large.

Having said that, he has always been friends with the public school kids in our neighborhood… but those aren’t the ONLY people he socializes with. These days, much like his mother, he’s finding the most interesting people online! It should also be noted that for many segments of the U.S., the socialization available in public schools is downright dangerous. I would definitely avoid that at all costs.

4. Arrogance
I know my kid better than anyone. I know his skills, his abilities, his passions, and his goals. And I know that there’s no one-size-fits-all system that works for every kid.

I don’t presume to know each curriculum subject better than the local teachers, but I DO know I can find the best sources for each subject for my kid. Using the internet and libraries and friends and mentors, I’m certain I can pull together resources that are at LEAST on par with the local school he would otherwise attend.

Perhaps this is arrogance, or maybe it’s just common sense paired with a bit of resourcefulness. Either way, I’m not worried about MY lack of expertise. Experts are widely available these days… often for free.

5. Abuse happens
Yes… yes, it does. It happens to homeschooled kids, and it happens to public schooled kids. I don’t know how much abuse (bullying, inappropriate teachers, etc.) he would have to endure at our local school, but I do know he doesn’t endure ANY abuse in our home.

That isn’t the case for all homeschoolers, but abuse happens in ALL methods of education, even in fancy private schools.

I’m not saying homeschool is the best answer for everyone. But I do know it is a perfectly legitimate, often successful option that in many cases rivals what would be available in local public schools.

Homeschooling is different, and revolutionary, and uncomfortable for many people to consider. It’s not a better way, or a worse way. It’s just another way, better for some, worse for others.

 

46 replies
  1. Scott
    Scott says:

    The best reason to be able to homeschool and “opt out” of public school is that we are a free society and a free people. There are consequences of our choices and our kids have to learn to operate and thrive in our society. But any method of teaching both helps and hurts our children in this regard. Comes down to what compromises we are willing to accept as parents.

    Funny thing – many people homeschool because they believe the public school agenda isn’t Christian friendly, even in the bible belt south. Guess is all depends on your viewpoint.

  2. Amarie
    Amarie says:

    I agree with this post, yet on different perspectives. I am a teacher. Choosing to homeschool my children means choosing to be unemployable because I have turned my back on the system. I am ostracized by both sides. But guess what? I do not care. We are christians, but disagree with the hype about it. We teach love, not judgement. My children are different because we allow them to be. They are not robots to be programmed by propaganda, but budding individuals with their own interests. I homeschool, but I work with parents contemplating their educational choice, also. Most parents I talk to in rural America want to homeschool, but are afraid of the consequences the local school systems will lash out upon them for exercising their right. I have been through it. Instead of admitting their fears, they give some canned excuse they have convinced themselves is truth. This is what leads to the bias against homeschooling. Homeschooling parents are willing to fight the system, right? But most simply host school at home. Few are willing to venture into unschooling because that takes guts. Curriculum for homeschoolers is a million dollar industry. Sure, learning fundamentals is awesome, but I use precious little curriculum. Looking at the statistics of the homeschooling hype of using curriculum AND fighting the school system, well, you have to be Donald Trump to afford all that, now, right?
    Yes, people are confused. I know my children, I know what they need to learn vs what is stupid, watered down propaganda designed to brainwash their precious minds. However, with all this confusion a negative stigma is formed against homeschoolers. In reality, most parents feed into this.

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    School shootings.

    I know I know. Some people will think I am exaggerating.

    But at this point is like Russian roulette! and I am thinking “is this a chance I am willing to take with my child??”

    Also, most people who argue that homeschooled children are shut-ins or not socialized or weird…ugh! I just don’t even give those people the time of day.

    If they are not willing or smart enough to realize those are the most outdated views then I am not interested in having a conversation with them and swapping notes. I have better things to do with my time.

  4. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    I agree with your thoughts. I really think that people are afraid of change. We are getting some not so subtle push back from our choice to homeschool and explore the revolution happening in education. There are some personalities that will always push back louder than others. I wrote about that this morning and how we are embracing this unknown with our kids. I know this is teaching them to explore new ideas and leave fear out of it.

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    We recently moved to Austin. I cant share the viewpoint of the author because people ask where we live and then what school, but almost all if not immeadietly, also say ‘you know if school is on the table?’. It seems the local community is really open to whatever schooling people choose here.

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        I guess so! I found it odd at first that people were so accepting here, even the conservative clans in McMansions. A teacher that sends her kids to the school my kids are zoned for asked first if I was going to send them to school, not when. The difference is that no one takes personal offense. It’s an ‘to each their own’ mentality. I took my kids to a science day for HSers and I wasn’t sure what the other families would be like. You know, like the author describes in Bible Belt, but to my pleasant surprise there were many mom’s with 3+ kids all really enjoying each others company, plenty of well mannered ‘normal’ families.

        It makes it easier when the surrounding community is not judgmental.

    • Kathy Donchak
      Kathy Donchak says:

      We are in Austin too, but have moved around the state. I think Texas in general is fairly open to homeschooling, but Austin in particular is so much about everyone doing what is right for them that you don’t as much grief. Houston and Austin both have so many opportunities for hacking your child’s education that if you did not want to be the actual teacher (like I don’t), you have plenty of options.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Wow, it’s so crazy reading your experience. I live in CA, and in my experience, people are against homeschooling because one, they are afraid they will screw up their kids with them missing out on something from school, and two, because they want to work instead of be with their kids all day.

    So I have to explain, that I’m not screwing up my kids lives, I’m improving them! And, being with your kids all day isn’t the boring, mundane thing people imagine… but it isn’t smooth sailing either. Most people that I know come to homeschool because they are out of options, let down by public school, let down by private school, now they need to do it at home. Then they are always like, “Why didn’t I do this from the beginning.” And I’m like “See, I’m not crazy after all, huh?”

  7. Fatcat
    Fatcat says:

    I’ve been homeschooling for 10 years and I’ve gotten a variety of reactions. I also come from a different perspective, that of a Christian who definitely believes in the big bang theory. I also love the show by the same name.

  8. Jen
    Jen says:

    I thought this would be a good article but you lost me with the why don’t we move where people are more enlightened meaning non Christians. Christians are the ones that started the whole home school movement in the first place . Their the ones that fought the battle for us to home school . I am a Christian asking you why you think your more enlightened?

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        That’s rude. Just ignore the comment instead of going that route. I screw up my spelling all the time, I swear I’m smart anyway. ;)

      • Jen
        Jen says:

        Your mud slinging didn’t answer my question. Many doctors can’t spell so what does that mean. The whole attacking a person’s spelling errors on the internet to make yourself feel big is getting really old.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      A lot of people believe that if you have religion you’re duped.

      A lot of religious people believe that if you don’t have (their) religion then you’re damned. Or lost. Or have issues. Or are a heathen.

      I find it best to not expect much of people. It’s a pleasant surprise when I find those who never believe that science and religion are at odds just because.

      I have my own judgy thoughts. Like how some people believe that if it’s not proven by science it’s virtually nonexistent. It’s amazing that these people can be so smart and so limited in their thinking. Especially because they are dogmatic about science. Real scientists know that there’s a lot we don’t know yet. And they are always seeking for the truth but they know that sometimes the truth cannot be measured (or a measuring stick hasn’t been approved yet).

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    My favorite homeschool quote ever: “People who have no understanding of what really goes on in homeschooling have no ability to reach the necessary level of nuance required for an intelligent conversation.” Penelope Trunk

  10. Aurora Moore
    Aurora Moore says:

    I love the way your mind works, Penelope and now follow you regularly. One of the things that I love about it is that you think like a social scientist– you think about trends, about how systems work and how human behavior drives these systems.

    So I’ve been giving a lot of thought (perhaps too much!) to your passion about homeschooling. I’m a PhD in education policy who grew up attending Waldorf schools and an alternative, democratically run public high school. I think much of what we call “education” is not really education, and that because we haven’t really invested in education as a nation, homeschooling is a great option for those who can manage it.

    But I don’t understand how you–with your mind that so quickly and easily sees big pictures and connections– can proselytize about homeschooling without acknowledging that our school system props up the economic system we live in–and that the careers and livelihoods of just about everyone depends on it.

    It’s interesting how homeschooling conversations so easily move into “what’s best for me and my child.” And I guess that’s not so different from conversations about having a fabulous career… it’s just interesting to me that when you’re talking about having a fabulous career you’re thinking about the whole system and when you talk about homeschooling you are really just thinking about your own kids and the personal experience of homeschooling.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Our current economic system, as an aggregate, children included, overemphasizes consumption and deemphasizes family.
      That’s like saying if everyone went frugal our economy would collapse- when in reality our economy would shift and the foundations would be healthier and sustainable. That’s the argument behind unschooling and homeschooling. As a whole it would increase individual and societal productivity.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        Also, I think that thinking that we can’t shift the system because of the way the economy is only shows that we’re ignoring history.

        When school became compulsory I am sure many parents were upset because they needed their kids to work and pitch in to help maintain the household financially one way or another.
        We got around that. Painfully but it happened.

        Then when women started working I am sure many people were like “but what about the childrenssss!?!?!?” and then later the economy responded by accommodating to the cultural shift that more women were working full time outside the home. Then daycare centers became normal.

        On and on. Our economy changes because when there’s a need and there’s money to be made off it a new business will pop up. Then if it happens repeatedly enough or if those businesses are making a serious amount of money then they become a staple of the economy.

        For example, Google knows that hiring a bunch of geniuses is a package that comes with marriages and children that probably have autism. So their insurance covers that very well. This was just a response in the chance of the culture in the company.

        I think the economy will accommodate for homeschooling if parents push for it enough. I say this because the majority of homeschoolers in America are the middle to upper class well educated Americans. These people not only get involved with voting and policy making but they have a say so in how they allocate their money.

        And never mind with the influence of a well stablished blog people will start noticing. It used to be that the old media (newspapers, radio, tv news) shifted the way people thoughts. I think for gen X and above it’s not the old media but social media that changes mentalities. And that’s the playground of many people in the socio economic bubble that decide to homeschool and be very vocal about it.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have said before that homeschooling is not an education revolution but rather a family revolution.

      I think schools should be social service hubs for kids who need a safe place to go. The funding should not be decreased but it should all go to kids whose parents are looking for help.

      This means we’ll have the same number of government jobs but they’ll be different – no unions hiding under claims of education, for example.

      I also expect parents to work fewer hours because they have to take care of their kids at home – no more universal free daycare for school-aged kids.

      The economy will slow down. That’s true. But I don’t see a big problem with that. We are already on our way to losing superpower status in the world. This is just a more generous and graceful way to do it than being trounced economically by China and Brazil.

      Penelope

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        The counter to that is that we’d be raising a very resourceful generation that would have the intelligence and tenacity to be a super power again. That’s what the current educational platform needs to be sold on- the future benefits of raising kids without being instructed constantly what to do and how to do it. Give the kids to freedom to innovate and fail and they will succeed.

  11. Laura Watts
    Laura Watts says:

    Unenlighted, southern, Bible Belt Christian homeschooler here. It cracks me up that one of the commentators moved to Texas and was so surprised to find nice, normal families. Austin may be weird, but there are nice, normal families all over the south and many are, gasp, Christians. As a public school teacher, I never found the environment particularly Christian, but we began homeschooling to escape the rat race we felt we were trapped in. We wanted our family back. The relaxed atmosphere and quality family time we have gained far outweigh my lost salary. I almost always get positive responses when people find out we homeschool, even from public educators. Even here in the unenlighted, Bible Belt south.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      “It cracks me up that one of the commentators moved to Texas and was so surprised to find nice, normal families.”

      Why does this ‘Crack you up’?

      • Laura Watts
        Laura Watts says:

        Because it’s funny. Why wouldn’t there by nice, normal people in Texas? I’d expect to meet nice, normal people just about anywhere I went.

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          It’s like people thinking that if you step foot in Mexico (anywhere in Mexico) you’ll get shot immediately. Or stuffed with drugs and sent back to America as a mule.

          Come sit by me.

    • Rayne of Terror
      Rayne of Terror says:

      I think that’s a kind of privilege that’s hard to see. If you are a Christian you don’t see what happens as particularly Christian, but when you are not (I am not) you do notice how much Christianity is pushed on your kids in public school. I live in a rural Illinois town that is very religious (Protestant, mainly) and my kids get proselytized to nearly daily. Once I had a teacher (we have had her 3 years and love her) call me at home to ask if it was true we didn’t have a Christmas tree and if so, why not? That is way crossing the line, IMO. I see on FB a post going around our elem school teachers about how to be a Christian teacher and demonstrate Christianity in a public school. So maybe that behavior is invisible to you, but it’s obvious to others.

  12. Jayson
    Jayson says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about religious indoctrination. I grew up in the bible belt (OK) in public school and haven’t a religious bone in my body. In second grade I recall kids telling me all about god and I just asked questions and kept opinions mostly to myself.

    Also, you don’t want to avoid it, you want to expose him to it in an abstract way like explaining mother goose. I’ve already had conversation about this with my 5yo son who keeps coming home from his montessori with dreidels and stars of david. (Once he even had a pamplet on sikhism, the parents had come in to discuss a festival). I have zero fear that this will have long-term impact.

  13. Katybeth Jensen
    Katybeth Jensen says:

    Perhaps people don’t homeschool because they are afraid, or while they love their kids they don’t want to devote there every moment to them or they believe in public education. Or their moms would be upset because she knows homeschooled children are not properly socialized.
    I didn’t homeschool because I fell in love with Waldorf education, my Mom approved, we were willing to sacrifice for it and I like gnomes.
    I’m from Texas and a wobbly speller, don’t mess with me :-D.

  14. Heather
    Heather says:

    I also live in the South. I am a Christian, but I started homeschooling for different reasons. My son, who had yet to be diagnosed with autism was being horribly mistreated in school. He was a frequent target of bullies and the teachers were not much better. My son who had trouble controlling himself and his impulses would often be put outside the classroom. One day I was brought down to the school where the principle explained why he had spanked my son, then he actually expressed remorse because he said it was evident that my son didn’t know how to control himself. The next year I started homeschooling. My son is now 16 and he has two little sisters. I made the monumental decision to homeschool all three this year. I am also a full time student myself. I have had nothing but condemnation from my family for taking the girls out of school. They both have been on the honor roll the entire time they have been in school and as my father in law pointed out, “Look at where homeschooling has taken Matthew.” That comment is what brought me to this site. It is daunting enough to take on the challenge of your child’s education, but to have to experience the backlash that comes from ignorance is almost too much. My son has problems, and I have never worked harder in my life to see that he at least gets some benefit. Ultimately, I am limited in what I can do for him. His last words to me were a threat. He said, “You better have those girls in school come Thursday.” Really? Or what? What exactly are you going to do? There are a lot of resources for homeschoolers, but I haven’t seen very many support groups, and I know I could use a good support group because right now I am feeling very overwhelmed. (Forgive any errors, I expanded my screen and lost a couple of words on each side.) :)

  15. Yolanda Green
    Yolanda Green says:

    I believe home schooling is what a lot of parents and guardians would want to give a go at but apart from finding time for it, I guess another major reason the simple reason is that you are not sure you are laying the right academic foundation for your child.

  16. Jen
    Jen says:

    It’s to bad people can’t leave their comments without concern about the mean spelling police woman.

  17. Jon
    Jon says:

    Anecdotal to the conversation above, my wife was asked yesterday, “if you don’t go to church, how do your kids learn family values?” – clue is in the question I guess… I might add that my wife, and the lady posing the question, got on famously and saw eye to eye on many topics, but this one left my wife speechless for a few seconds…

  18. UnschoolingMama
    UnschoolingMama says:

    I don’t intend to take this discussion down a controversial path, but I often think of the opposition to homeschooling as I do the opposition people have when they hear of new parents choosing not to circumcise their sons. (I am NOT referring to parents who circumcise for religious reasons with this post.)

    Where I live in the Midwest, the rate of parents choosing circumcision dropped significantly with this new generation of babies. Many, many more babies are uncircumcised now here. However, the majority of the fathers were circumcised at birth. So it’s a big change within a generation, and the grandparents and the parents choosing circumcision still today can feel threatened and insulted by it. When other people are stopping a cultural trend or tradition en masse, what does that say about their decision to continue with it?

    There can be a lot of defensiveness. Often this group does not want to agree with the group discontinuing the trend. Nothing can convince them the decision to change is right. Because by agreeing they’d have to admit, even on a small scale, they’re doing something wrong to their kids, or their parents did something wrong to them. That can be very painful to do.

    • AP
      AP says:

      We chose not to circumcise our son and you’re right about the opposition to it. I had no idea it was so controversial. I just didn’t feel it was necessary and the thought of cutting my newborn unnecessarily didn’t feel right. Whenever someone finds out we didn’t circumcise our son (which doesn’t happen much anymore since he isn’t a baby) I almost always hear, “Oh, you better hope he doesn’t get cancer or AIDS.” It used to piss me off. But then I trained myself to envision a big anus suddenly appearing on the offender’s forehead.

      I’m in favor of homeschooling. I want to homeschool our kids even though they go to a fancy private school. It’s a good school, but we don’t fit in there at all. And I’m surprised at how mundane the school day is for how much we pay. They spend way too much time doing worksheets, too. I could save a forest by pulling them out and homeschooling. My husband is totally against it. He’s against almost everything I want to do, though, so it’s no big surprise. I think my son will be kicked out this year, so I’ll probably get my wish soon enough. I just wish my son wouldn’t have to suffer through another school year with people who just don’t get that all he wants to do is study space and how to make time travel possible. lol. He’s a bit quirky, which is why he doesn’t fit in at school.

      • Marie
        Marie says:

        Was she pushing you to have a tree or was she just trying to understand your family better so she could help your child navigate being in the minority? If you loved her very much, maybe she was just that good, that she understood you were in a fairly unique situation and wanted to make it better for your kid? Just a thought.

  19. Allie
    Allie says:

    Wow! Couldn’t have said it better. We’re in the South as well, and sometimes they really do forget, it’s a big world with lots of beliefs. I don’t know what we would have done if homeschool wasn’t an option. I do know that people cling to stereotypes like a lifeline. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a convenient way to not have to think it through, and be responsible for their own opinion.

    Jaded, huh? Anyway, way to go!

  20. Lea
    Lea says:

    Instead of flinging mud at the public schools, wherever you live, and hiding out in your homes to “save” your children from the world they will have to live in, and the vast variety of viewpoints they will have to know how to deal with every day of their adult life, why don’t we stand up and fight for our schools and the excellent teachers who are working harder every year to give our kids a quality education with their hands tied behind their backs. Why not put the blame for the things we think are wrong with our education system where it really belongs – Washington, DC. If Washington would get out of our schools and let the public and the school districts have much more say about what is needed for a quality education for their kids, and then let our teachers do the job they were trained and hired to do – teach our children- you would be pleasantly surprised to see a vast difference in your public schools and the excellent education that your kids would be receiving. Teachers don’t actually care what religion you practice or don’t practice. They just want to give your kids a good education. I am a dedicated Christian, but I am responsible for my child’s religious training at home and at church, not their school. Teach your religious views, or non-religious views at home and leave the rest of your child’s education to the teachers who are wanting to do their dead level best to do just that. We all need to quit trying to squelch everyone who doesn’t believe the way we do, crying “discrimination” and actually practice our constitutional right to freely think and believe whatever we want. Talk about peace on earth!

  21. Allie Paxton
    Allie Paxton says:

    I think you may have misunderstood homeschholing. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t want to “save” my son from anyone’s viewpoint. I just think that I’m better equipped to help him learn to deal with world viewpoints. My goal is to teach him to evaluate all opinions and situations based on his own value system, rather than one based on someone else’s values. Personally, I’d leave the heated rhetoric out.

    • Lea
      Lea says:

      So, parents aren’t able to do just that unless they homeschool their children? Why not? Most parents in my acquaintance, who are sincerely interested in their children’s education, even if they go to public schools, have been closely attuned to what their kids are getting at school from day one, and they weigh in constantly with their kids, reinforcing their family views and values. It’s not hard to do at all. Actually leads to some interesting conversations with the child.

      • Allie Paxton
        Allie Paxton says:

        Actually, that’s exactly the point of homeschool. It’s a choice, not a value judgement. Every parent,not just homeschool parents, are in tune with their kids. We don’t all have to make the same choice, or judge each others reasons as right or wrong, or better parenting or worse. That was exactly the reason I liked her post. She explained why it’s okay to be different and insure each child’s right to remain individual in their thinking without judgment.

      • Marie
        Marie says:

        Lea, don’t assume home schooling parents have not tried to do exactly what you say.

        My husband and I tried a small neighborhood school, a magnet, a charter, and I taught school. We tried very hard to be involved in a positive way. We also advocated for local control.

        I have a friend who worked closely with her local school and got elected to the school board. She was improperly forced off by the other members. She had to move to home schooling before her kids could learn how to read and not spend the day under the gun with a miserable teacher in a battle with the principal.

        The system as I’ve experienced it is simply too far gone, and too many parents either acquiesce or live in ignorance of the worst of the system. They assume the schools are about like they were when they were attending, and are discouraged from visiting or volunteering in a way that would show them the real nature of the schools. I saw stuff in nice, middle class schools that would make your blood curdle. There may be some pockets where the schools are still managing to teach and keep the kids healthy, in mind and body, but I haven’t run into one.

        Go the way you wish when / if you have kids, but don’t assume I didn’t try to fix the schools from the inside before opting out — I really, really did.

  22. Marie
    Marie says:

    Good point about abuse. Never heard that one before and it is a great point.

    I winced a bit at your “funny” intro, though. I know a ton of folks who teach creation science who understand Darwinian evolutionary theory much, much better than 90% of the folks I know. Disagreeing in a conversation is not the same as having a closed mind.

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