If your child is enrolled in school, it is illegal to take your child out of school to do family events, educational trips, etc. I know this because I when I had my son in first grade I ended up having to go to the truancy officer in my little Wisconsin town.

I told the truancy officer that my son is two grades ahead of his class and there’s no gifted program so why does he need to be in school all the time?

No answer. Except to tell me that I was the first person in the district he’s ever heard ask for a gifted program.

The thing is, especially until sixth grade, kids really do not need to be in school. At all.

We know from a large body of research that kids will learn to read on their own. And MIT just confirmed this long-known fact to be still true, even with kids on iPads all day long.

We have known since the 60s that kids don’t benefit from being taught math until sixth grade; kids who started learning in sixth grade quickly caught up to kids who started in first grade. This is because we end up learning addition and subtraction on our own, just like reading. And multiplication is very fast to learn when you’re ready and painfully slow when you’re not.

We know that social skills are not something you can teach in school. (If school could teach social skills all the kids with Aspergers would be cured by going to school.) We also know that kids don’t really get to talk with each other in school anyway. So homeschool parents do not need to somehow “socialize” their kids. The kids will do it just fine themselves. Because all the other kids are doing their socializing outside of school as well.

So there is not anything school is providing to kids sixth grade and younger that the kids cannot learn outside of school.

It’s just that once the school admits that, it’s hard to keep the order of the current system in place. We’d have to overhaul everything, which is not what big governments do. But your home is not a big government. You can overhaul whatever you want. And taking your kid out of school is the first step toward that.

57 replies
  1. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    I recently took my 6th grade daughter (with Asperger’s) out of school for 3 weeks over the holidays. WE travelled to Costa Rica where she saw sea turtles hatch, and monkeys being rehabilitated and incredible insects and played in the waves all day long. Her lovely teachers were thrilled for her, and gave us extra work so she wouldn’t fall behind in math. We came back to her being 3 weeks ahead of everyone, and we only did about 20 minutes of math 3 times a week. It was such a validation of the things I have been thinking about since starting to read your blog. Young kids don’t need school to learn. It’s what they do naturally. Parents need school to give them a break from time to time. No judgements, I am one of those, for now who send their kid to school, but I have a 3 year old that is making me think very hard about what school really is, and wether or not I want to put him through it.
    Thanks again Penelope for writing what I am thinking.

  2. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    This is a BIG, BIG problem in my family. The kids miss school A LOT, or are late. What happens is there is power struggle between the parents and the school and the kids get stuck inbetween. Our nephew dropped out of school because of this. And it did not end in a happy homeschooling story either. And all the stereo-types about high-school drop-outs are true, I am here to tell you. The thing is, schools practically push out the kids who really need them the most.

    Here’s another thing, snow days. Lordy the drama we have had with that one.

    It seems to me, much of this could be resolved by letting the kids go online themselves and do schoolwork. Then sick-days and snow-days are not that big a deal.

    I have always thought kids/parents should get liberal leave, like government employees, and be able to make up their own minds about when they are prepared to go to school or not. It would also put more responsibility on the kids/parents.

    I think I could go on forever on this topic, but I tend to get rambly so I’ll stop here!

  3. Lori
    Lori says:

    Not all kids will teach themselves to read. I read spontaneously at 4. My daughter has dyslexia. She only learned to read after a year of intensive and very expensive private tutoring. She progresses well with services, but it takes more support than I or her dad could give to keep her at grade level. It’s not perfect but homeschooling isn’t the answer for every education-related dilemma.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      Edit: But I do agree that missing school shouldn’t be a big deal as long as the parents keep the lessons coming. My dyslexic kid lost an entire grade level between 3rd and 4th grade, and she was a year behind to start with. We do all sorts of fun educational stuff on breaks, but forcing her to read every day is the first thing to slip. Kids need X# of personal days to be sick or just doing “something”.

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        I’ve read from several sources that dyslexia is likely caused by the commonly-taught methods used in school–namely, not using phonetics. Don’t beat me up if you don’t buy that…

        I have one who taught herself to read. The other is not a natural reader; it has been a very slow process (using phonetic based curriculum–especially _Alpha Phonics_ by Samuel L Blumenfeld and _The Logic of English_ by Denise Eide).

        Surely, my younger would have been slapped with all sorts of labels had she been in school.
        Homeschooling additionally eliminates the need for cookie-cutter teaching and for panic about learning and development timelines.

        • Jennifer Jo
          Jennifer Jo says:

          My daughter learned to read when she was just a couple months shy of turning thirteen. Her inability to read coupled with her intense desire to learn was extremely difficult to watch.

          And now? She’s insanely in love with books. I even confiscate them at times! And to think that one year ago she couldn’t read.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        My oldest daughter is 100% Visual-Spatial learner. If she was in school she would be diagnosed as dyslexic instead of what she really is, which is visual-spatial. Phonetic approach simply does not work with her. What *does* work is word games, spelling games, and sentence building games and fun educational apps.

        My middle daughter taught herself to read spontaneously at 3. She is 5 and can read, but not yet comprehend, college level text books on conceptual physics. She is also visual-spatial but she crosses all the learning styles, she is pleasant to be around, and loves making people happy. I have no doubt she would do well in school, but 35k for private school in Los Angeles is not realistic for us.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Do you have a Lakeshore Learning store, or something similar? I just go there and get fun board game sets. Graphic novels and comic books from the local comic book store… it has to be very visually stimulating. Words on a white page are painful to her…for now.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Amy,

            Here are a few online resources about visual-spatial learning and how to recognize what it looks like, without the www to keep it from comment purgatory:

            dyslexia.com/library/silver1.htm

            visualspatial.org/vslasl.php

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      My older son had dyslexia. So we got him a reading tutor. It’s not like schools do an amazing job of teaching kids with dyslexia to read. So it’s true that some kids need help. But they are the exception to the rule and I’m not sure it’s necessary to talk about the exceptions to the rule. (Like, blind kids probably need to go to school to learn how to be a blind person in the world when seeing parents cannot do the teaching.)

      Penelope

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I thought about that when I was re-reading this post. But I decided that my point here is that the research is so clear and overwhelming that kids don’t need to be taught before sixth grade that I’d stick to that argument here.

      A lot of people are scared to take their kids out of school when their kids are young, and I was thinking this post makes that easier to do. By the time you’ve had your kids out of school a few years, you have a much more clear head when thinking about school because the family is not being brainwashed every day in school.

      So I guess my point is if you’re thinking of taking a kid out of school who is younger than sixth grade, there is no risk in doing it. And take it year by year.

      Penelope

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        You know I find this really interesting.

        It seems that 12-14 is when kids really hone in on their passion/interests and start to take themselves seriously, independently.

    • Cay
      Cay says:

      What is the difference between a fifth grade education and a sixth grade education? What is the difference between sixth grade and twelfth grade?

      It’s just sitting in a classroom, doing homework, and taking exams. Sure, the material sometimes builds on previous material, so it might be different, but the stuff that is actually going to be useful is a crapshoot, and the standardization of education is so poorly done that it’s hard to believe that it is designed to serve the majority.

      I would guess that puberty has something to do with throwing a wrench into knowing the general trend of what happens after sixth grade. I do not speak as a mother, however, but as someone who has gone through puberty before. It was a doozy.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Whenever I read your posts about how school has absolutely no benefit, especially for young kids I always think about all the articles and news stories I have seen pushing for universal preschool. These advocates also have tons of studies they pull out to show how beneficial it is for children to get more school earlier. The exact opposite of what you are arguing for.
    Here are a few of the studies they cite:
    http://www.highscope.org/Content.asp?ContentId=219
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6040/360
    http://jenni.uchicago.edu/human-inequality/papers/Heckman_final_all_wp_2007-03-22c_jsb.pdf
    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_report.pdf
    Why do these studies seem to show pre-school gives kids an advantage?
    I can be easily convinced that homeschooling is better for your kids than traditional school, if the parent acts like a one on one tutor. But I have trouble with the argument that un-schooling is better than traditional school.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      It’s like a house of cards! Regular public school doesn’t work so now they need preschool! When results show that preschool isn’t what they thought, then what? Start from BIRTH! The whole thing eventually will crumble when people stop buying into the public education lies.

      To be fair, I have read some of the studies, but they are almost always entirely centered around the very poor populations of an inner city. In those cases it was demonstrated that starting preschool helped those children graduate high school compared to other poor children who did not start school until Kindergarten. So is this study and its results merely for poor people? Wouldn’t it be better to help these parents rather than suggesting everyone in the population needs preschool to justify what they are really trying to accomplish? Also, it certainly seems like a jobs program. We need preschool for everyone so that means we need more preschool teachers, that means more jobs!

    • CeeBee
      CeeBee says:

      They are prescribing preschool because more parents than ever parent inadequately. When kids show up to kindergarten with the vocabulary of a 3 year old, can’t function in social situations, have no one reading to them at home, and don’t have a steady source of food and positive personal influences, it makes learning impossible. If you can put these children in preschool for two years, it’s possible for a teacher to make up for all the things parents aren’t doing at home and put them on equal footing with their peers whose parents put the time in. But we can’t single out inadequate parents so we have to make everyone do it and slap a banner on it that people are conned into agreeing with.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The studies about universal pre-k are not done on rich kids. We have reams of data to show that rich kids don’t even need school, let alone pre-k. And the data that shows kids doing better because of pre-k doesn’t control for the fact that when kids are in a bad parenting situation any place with alternative adult supervision helps the kids do better in the long run. So then this is an argument for school as a social service to poor families. This is not an argument for teaching kids the alphabet whether they are ready or not.

      Something else: When Obama gave his big speech about universal pre-k, he didn’t focus on kids needing school. He talked about parents needing affordable day care so they could go to work. So then pre-k is about getting women back to work after they have kids. If women really wanted this, it would be great. But most women would rather be home with their three-year-old than having their three-year-old spend the day in state-funded babysitting.

      Here are two posts I’ve written about this topic:

      http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2013/02/18/universal-preschool-is-bad-for-everyone/

      http://education.penelopetrunk.com/2013/02/18/forget-universal-pre-k-obama-should-launch-a-program-to-fund-homeschooling/

      Penelope

      • Andrew
        Andrew says:

        Hi Penelope. I’m in the UK and we’re quite a few years ahead of you on universal pre-school. I have to say that you’re right. It has become a stick to beat families with and parents (usually it’s mum, occasionally it’s dad who wants to stay home and take care of the children) are made to feel like they are not contributing fully if they choose that parenting is more important than “work”. It is an awful cycle and the parenting has been devalued when in fact the huge contribution it makes to society should be celebrated. I just thought I’d drop in that perspective from someone where we are a long way down that line…parents should apparently be grateful for the “opportunity” to go out and do a minimum wage (at best) job whioe the children are put in childcare (usually carried out by minimum wage workers with kids of their own in childcate) because that is better – we are told – than staying home and dedicating time to your children.

  5. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Have you read the smartest kids in the world?

    It profiles the educational systems in Finland, South Korea and Poland (three of the highest ranked countries on standardized tests like the PISA even when controlled for socio-economics etc.)

    To summarize, the differences between the American educational system and those in the countries mentioned can basically be distilled to two points: 1) higher quality instructors (i.e. in Finland only those excepted into one of the three most prestigious schools in the world can qualify to teach—and that’s after a master’s degree) and 2) more rigorous academic demands.

    While I think the book’s findings support homeschooling in general, they seem to be at ends with the principals of unschooling. Anyone have any thoughts?

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I think it depends on what we are measuring in the data. Are we measuring results of standardized testing? I don’t believe in standardized testing, and my kids are not standard. All those tests show is that other countries focus on these tests to get the kids to pass the tests and score really well. High test scores on standardized tests are irrelevant to me and my family and show only that someone is really good at memorizing information and regurgitating it on an test.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          I just don’t agree that just because something works for another country in raising their test scores automatically means we should somehow try to replicate their process here.

          Fact memorization is unimpressive to me.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          Vanessa,

          Interesting reading the Wikipedia page : Only students at school are tested, not home-schoolers.

          I am interested in building critical thinking skills, but it should be work that is valid and meaningful to the learner. Multiple choice questions don’t allow the person the opportunity to explain how they made their answer.

          Also, I think it is more important that we don’t just teach children how to take tests, meaning teaching only things that will be tested. I think whole-child learning and development are more important.

    • Sheila
      Sheila says:

      It interests me that Finnish children don’t start school till age 8. Seems to go against the “start them younger” theory.

    • Hannah
      Hannah says:

      It often appears that the Nordic countries have everything figured out- the Finnish are the best test performers, the Danes are the happiest, they all have the best healthcare outcomes etc.

      But then, I speak with people who moved from the area and they frequently report that they’ve moved away because it is so difficult to be an individual or a non-conformist there.

      My hypothesis is that in the Nordic countries, it is easy to be average, and average is quite comfortable, but to want more is frowned upon. I think I am too much of a free-spirit to desire the things that make for an excellent average.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        Having lived in 4 countries for several years, and shorter periods of time in others I can assure you there is no perfect place. They all have their good and less good attributes, and some places fit you better then others. One thing is for sure – the average Swede is more humble and laid back than the average American. On the other hand there are loud and aggressive Swedes and humble and shy Americans. Always depends on your personal environment, and what works best for your lifestyle. And don’t judge by a few things you have heard here and there (or the two weeks of holidays spent in a country).

  6. Emily
    Emily says:

    Please never stop writing about education and homeschool/unschool. I love it so much! So encouraging. You say what everyone else is thinking but won’t say.

    I toured a fancy private school when my daughter was in preschool, and the principal told me that they teach Handwriting Without Tears from preschool (age 3!) to 1st grade. My daughter was 4 at that time and not writing. I asked if that was a problem and the principal said that they see children with no HWT experience “catch up” in 1st grade very quickly. I remember thinking, “well then why not just let them PLAY while they’re so little!” but of course I didn’t say that.

    Then we found Sandra Dodd and unschooling and your blog and poof! All better!

    You are a lighthouse, Penelope.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      About six years ago, I was chatting with a woman at a party. She said she taught “at-risk” kids.

      I asked her what “at risk” meant. She said, “Kids who didn’t go to preschool.”

      In other words, the System is threatened by families who spend time together.

      See, in order to properly-indoctrinate children, the System has to get ’em young. To do that, they must make the parents fear their child will be behind if the kid isn’t within the control of the System.

      Doctors assist with this fear by measuring and weighing kids, and assigning a “percentile” to each kid.

      So now it is normalized for parents to not trust themselves; the System has parents convinced that parents are not qualified to raise and make decisions for their own kids. And not only are they not qualified , but it is down-right abusive to not pass over their children to the System.

      As I told a proud-about-early-learning elementary school principal, “Actually I’m not one bit impressed about very young children learning to read by being taught. Their minds are meant for learning other things during those years.” He agreed.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        In our public schools here, “at-risk” means: not able to read by third grade. If a child isn’t reading by third then they will drop out of school at some point before high school graduation.

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          Are you saying that as a fact? Or are you saying that’s what they are saying?

          So what about the 10- and 12-year-olds who “suddenly” learn to read and when they do, they choose to read college-level literature?

          I think kids who don’t stand still and quietly in lines could be considered “high risk” in an institution.

          So the buzz word “high-risk” is thrown around quite a bit for things which just might not be high-risk after all when put in the context of a natural and nurturing setting.

          The topic of buzz-word scare-tactics reminds me of something from my local paper. In the crime section, it described two adult brothers fighting each other as “terrorism.”

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            That is what public schools mean when they use the term “at risk” in my state. It’s true for public schools because if a child isn’t reading by third grade then they fall behind across the board. In our schools, once a kid already is behind they lose that intrinsic motivation to try to catch up. Instead of schools keeping a child in third grade until they are ready to move on they pass them anyway because there is a stigma with being held back.

            These kids most definitely would benefit from homeschool and learning to read on their own schedule without any stigma.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Public school terminology has no place in my home. My kids are free to be authentic individual people with rights. They are not high-risk, low-risk, at-risk, those are public school terms used to describe public school scenarios.

      • Trilby
        Trilby says:

        I don’t think the percentile system doctors use is intended to compare one kid against another and make parents feel inadequate. It’s to track each child’s growth to ensure that they are following the growth curve. If they are not, maybe it isn’t a big deal, but maybe it’s an indicator that something is going wrong and should be looked into.

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          Based on many parents’ responses to and discussions about percentile, it seems like it must be a pretty big deal to them. And how it is presented in a doctor’s office, as one of the ‘highlights’ of the appointment, also speaks volumes.

          • Lee
            Lee says:

            The American health system seems crazy to me… in Australia if your child gets sick you go to a GP (General Practitioner) who then refers you to a specialist if required. As far as a can tell kids only go to Pediatricians in America, i am interested if it results in better health outcomes or if it just help make healthcare unaffordable.

            Anyway that is not the point, i have a 3 year old, i didn’t take to get measured in her first 12 months, at 15 month her eye turned in, turns out she is missing a section of her brain close to her pituitary glad… which impacts her growth, percentiles and growth velocity is important for her because it impacts her eligibility to receive growth hormone.

            Even with this condition i think measuring percentiles regularly is unnecessary if you are an attentive parent, if your toddler isn’t growing you will realize because their clothes get worn out before they get too small.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      There are some really nice progressive schools here…that cost $35,000/year. That’s a lot of money to get an alternative private education for most people. It’s more cost effective for the majority to unschool their children than to work for a salary to pay for the kid to go to that school.

  7. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    So really, for kids with no options other than public school, it would be much better for them to be in an all-day supervised daycare environment. Free to explore and do projects and learning on their own with facilitators and mentors. No forced learning or standardized testing, just freedom, similar to democratic schools.

    Since kids naturally learn on their own, public school would retain specialists for kids that need additional assistance.

  8. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Truancy, like so many other “success metrics” is a proxy that has been taken to the extreme by administrators and politicians.

    Kids who actually show up to school are more likely to not be in abusive/neglectful situations. They are more likely to have parents who remember to wake them up and tell them to brush their teeth. They aren’t as likely to be at home babysitting their 4 year old brother on a school day.

    I am of the opinion that very few proxy metrics should be used in public policy, and none should be used in how we make family decisions.

    I like how you have pointed to the reality behind the proxy. Thanks

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      That’s assuming abuse and neglect doesn’t happen in institutions. I have personal experience with it happening in institutions all the time amongst children, unseen by the authorities. And of course by some of the people in charge as well. The less personal our relationships are, the easier it is for people to not care.

      And in the private schools and southern U.S. school I attended, corporal punishment was accepted and followed.

      Plus, there was plenty of time for abuse after and before school.

      Also, I question whether it’s the public’s business if a kid gets up at x time of day or when/if a kid brushes their teeth or if they are babysitting their siblings.

      “Good” parenting is very subjective and no two parenting styles are the same, just as no two parents or two children are the same. We all became parents for different reasons and want different things for our own kids. There are too many variables to determine what every parent and every kid should be doing.

      There was a study, don’t remember all the details, but it went something like this:

      A small town was informed that the firefighters would be off duty for x amount of time (bad weather, I don’t know). The number of fires in the town went down during that x time. In other words, when people are personally-responsible for their own, and won’t be ‘saved’, they just might be inclined to protect and care for their own.

      But anyway, taking away rights from the majority because a few don’t want to take care of their own, doesn’t seem too good to me. (I don’t have the answer for how to handle the irresponsible people…)

      Random ramblings…

  9. Eldon Miller
    Eldon Miller says:

    I don’t know that I agree entirely with this. Having been homeschooled from 2nd grade through 8th grade, Im afraid its a bit too simplified and transparently anti-establishment. I agree with some of these points, namely that it is stupid (and counterproductive) to require students to all fit into the same mold, and that not allowing students to be out for educational trips is completely ridiculous. However, I have a serious disagreement with the statement “We know that social skills are not something you can teach in school. (If school could teach social skills all the kids with Aspergers would be cured by going to school.) We also know that kids don’t really get to talk with each other in school anyway. So homeschool parents do not need to somehow “socialize” their kids. The kids will do it just fine themselves. Because all the other kids are doing their socializing outside of school as well.”
    There are so many things wrong with this paragraph that it makes me rather angry.
    First, saying that school’s inability to teach social skills to students with a diagnosed medical condition that inhibits them from understanding social skills is indicator that school doesn’t teach social skills is a ludicrous (and extremely offensive) employment of a false analogy. Ill leave it at that.
    Second, saying that “kids don’t really get to talk to each other in school anyway” is so ridiculously wrong that it barely needs to be addressed. Go visit a 5th grade class for 1 day and you will realize that that is pretty much ALL they do all day.
    My third point is the one that hits the closest to home for me. The assertion that “…homeschool parents do not need to somehow “socialize” their kids. The kids will do it just fine themselves. Because all the other kids are doing their socializing outside of school as well.”
    Depriving your children of a large, diverse and vibrant group of peers is probably the most cruel, unhelpful and detrimental thing you can do. This is my big problem with homeschooling. The lack of peer interaction that many homeschooled children deal with is what gives homeschooling such a negative reputation. When you look at the common stigma surrounding many homeschooled children, namely their lack of an understanding of how to interact with their peers, you see this misguided theory in its horrible glory. Granted, homeschooling has come a LONG way in the past 15 years, and I think many parents are doing an excellent job of providing opportunities for peer interaction, but so long as this mentality continues in the minds of those that are taking on the job of educating their children, homeschooling will continue to be as flawed as the current school system.
    Please know that I am in no way anti-homeschool/unschool, etc. I am a huge supporter of the idea that there are many ways to educate a child. However, I am also a firm believer in the idea that there is no perfect path. The current school system, flawed as it is, still provides the vast majority of students an excellent opportunity to learn, interact and develop. Homeschool has just as many pitfalls, dangers and flaws as the modern school model. Just remember that for every person who is fortunate enough to be able to provide a carefully planned, healthy homeschool environment, there are 10 people who for myriad reasons are unable to do so. We all benefit from an educated society, and while some paths may seem best for you and your family, please refrain from disparaging the paths of others.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      I’m not sure what school you went to but I got in trouble several times during elementary school and middle school for talking in class. We weren’t allowed to even ask questions in middle school social studies class.
      Many schools are like this and I developed very poor social skills because of this.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      “When you look at the common stigma surrounding many homeschooled children, namely their lack of an understanding of how to interact with their peers, you see this misguided theory in its horrible glory.”

      Well, my kid talks to anyone and everyone: Adults, kids, toddlers, babies. He’s not afraid to ask for a straw, or napkin, or ask our doorman if we have a package, or strike up conversation with an adult about sports, or compliment a little kids cuteness to their parent. He engages constantly with the world. We live in a building full of families and the kids knock around all the time. They surprise each other with home-made gifts daily.

      I can’t imagine how he’s not being socialized.

    • Katarina
      Katarina says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Eldon. I think it is incredibly important to share it because too often people make statements hoping that they are true but not having the personal experience to back it up. You know what you are talking about from personal experience. As a homeschool parent, I do focus on making sure my son has different social opportunities. He also finds them for himself and plays with kids in the neighborhood. The neighborhood kids particularly enjoy his company, even though they are 2 -3 years older. I think that one of the reasons they like him is that he isn’t like the kids at school and they can relax and just talk and have fun without any of the usual pressure. Having taught at a university for several years, I encountered many students who were so stuck in their social circles that they completely ignored each other. I had one student come to me after class (we had been doing pair/group work in a German class) and thank me for pairing her with a guy who was obviously not as cool. She said that he was a nice person and that if I hadn’t required them to work together, she would have never spoken to him or had any contact with him. Facilitating positive social interaction seems to be needed for students of all ages, no matter the educational setting. But I do agree, people (not just kids) need to experience different settings in life and be around different people to grow in their social skills. And social skills are a process. This reality doesn’t have to scare anyone away from homeschooling, but it is a reality that has to be faced constructively. I disagree with a lot of Penelope’s statements about unschooling and homeschooling as she tends to be extremely black and white about her topics. Unlike other people in the blogosphere, she doesn’t dismiss anyone who disagrees with her. There are social skills needed even for the blog world!

    • mh
      mh says:

      Eldon,
      I’m glad you posted your comment.

      We know a lot of homescholers, and since we live in an area where most of the homeschooled children have parents who are scientists/medical doctors/PhD’s/well-educated immigrants, those are the homeschooled kids we are around the most.

      I look at this as a correlation/causation situation. Are the parents who are most likely to homeschool the same people who don’t place as much value on/obsess about their children’s freindships and preschool playdates in the first place? Because if the parents don’t care that much about “social” activities for their kids, that may explain something about the style of the kids.

      Also, how many parents have decided to homeschool after their child was mistreated at a school? LOTS. That is a large number of people. Children are mistreated at school for many reasons, but the most usual reason is being not “like the teacher”: gregarious, positive, group-oriented, verbal, and/or female.

      I don’t think children magically change their personalities or parents’ personalities once homeschooling begins, becoming suddenly “unsocialized.” We are who we are, often because of who are parents are or in response to who our parents aren’t.

      Homeschool protects children from the judgment of their peers and unsympathetic adults much better than compulsory school does.

  10. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Are social skills taught? Or are they learned?

    My kids have the opportunity to engage in conversation with anyone of any age that they choose via unschooling.

    I was socialized in traditional schools both private and public and it is probably the main reason why I do not like people, and have very little patience for others who do not understand simple concepts that I try to explain.

    Is talking to 20 other kids of the same age and same location truly socialization? Or is it finding true peers through shared interests regardless of age or location and delving deep into conversations that you both care about?

    Is school really the place you want your children to learn social skills or social development? Where being a sensitive boy is sure to make you a target of bullies? Or reading on the playground instead of playing gets you labeled as anti-social? Yikes.

  11. Kim
    Kim says:

    I remember reading a blog about how the effects of unschooling allowed a young woman to be unable to get through basic level math in college because she felt “unprepared”. I find it interesting since many students go through college without understanding the basic level math. I remember getting a “D” in remedial math despite studying for hours.
    What happens if someone simply doesn’t have an interest in math. Does it mean that hours of drilling, worksheets, etc. will set them straight? It didn’t work for me.
    My mother’s excuse was that I was an [expletive] but that’s another story.
    It was until I developed an interest in math that I started to understand it. There was no way it could be forced into my head until then.
    I remember sitting with my daughter trying to get her to understand a math worksheet.
    It wasn’t until she learned that she would be counting the money in her piggy bank that she completed it effortlessly.
    I get awfully tired of hearing people bemoan unschoolers who can’t read at 12.
    The mind will learn when it’s ready and no amount of drilling or forcing will change that.

  12. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    I have to agree with Eldon that kids do talk to each other at school all day long, at least in grade school. I helped once a week in my sons class when he was still in school which is how I know this. It’s the one thing I can’t replicate at home for my very social son. We do many activities every week and he has siblings but I still feel that school meets his social needs better than homeschooling. He is happiest surrounded by a crowd of people. At the same time being home schooled has not hurt his ability to interact in socially appropriate ways. He has a natural ability to make friends wherever he goes.

    It doesn’t bother me that homeschooling is not perfect. As long as I’m convinced it’s better than our other options that is enough for me.

  13. MBL
    MBL says:

    As I am reading this, we are in St. John for my mother’s 70th birthday. To think that the school system could tell us that we couldn’t do this is so foreign. Just before bed my mother and nine year old were playing fruit ninja on the iPad and my daughter checked to make sue we knew that plums were drupes, oranges were berries, and peaches were members of the rose family. Could she be learning more useful stuff at school? Maybe. But I don’t care. These are the memories that I want her to have.

    Today we swam with dolphins on Tortola and she said it was the best day of her life. Could we have done that over spring break? Sure. But there would have been three times as many people and it would have been a lot more hectic and it would have been months after my mother’s birthday. We prefer our own schedule. We prefer life on our own terms.

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