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Public school? Private school? Homeschooling? Unschooling? 

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not an expert in the field of education. I have done some research on this topic, but it is not comprehensive and may not even be representative. However, my readers have been asking me for a long time to share my thoughts on this topic and those requests have increased since we began our temporary stay in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal.  In the interest of full disclosure, as this may colour my thoughts on the issue, I went through the public school system in Quebec and we have chosen a small private language-focused preschool/elementary school for our children, which our son has attended for the past three years and where our daughter will be starting this September.

The right and the duty to learn

Because this will influence much of what I say in this post, I should start with my thoughts on the right and the duty to learn.

I believe in and support the Convention on the Rights of the Child's recognition of every child's right to a free education. I believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn the basic things that they need to function in society. This includes, in my mind, practical skills like reading and math, but it also includes knowledge of the natural world, history, cultures, and societal issues. It includes learning and retaining facts, but also learning how to solve problems, debate issues, and apply critical thinking.

I also believe in the duty to learn. I do not think that ignorance is bliss. I believe that ignorance is dangerous and destructive. I believe it is each person's civic duty to learn certain things, whether they want to or not. I believe this is good for them and essential for a functioning society. I do not, however, believe that everyone has to learn everything that is currently taught in the current public school curriculum. Nor do I believe that people who successfully graduate from the public school system actually retain everything that is taught as part of its curriculum.

These thoughts on the right and duty to learn have a significant influence on my opinion of different education options for our children.


I have a love/hate relationship with schools. This is coloured by my own experience in school, my son's experience so far, and the reading I've done on the topic of schooling.

I love that schools:

  • Provide a ready made opportunity for children to meet and play with a lot of children from different genders, cultures, and backgrounds. I don't have to worry about arranging and supervising play dates. I just send my kid to school and it magically falls together.

  • Have teachers, equipment and resources to passionately and effectively engage my children on topics and in activities that I am not able to.

  • Provide a safe environment for my children to be cared for while my partner and I pursue our careers and our own life learning.

  • Ensure that all children learn history and are exposed to a wide variety of beliefs and viewpoints (at least where I live).

I hate that schools:

  • Require all students to learn the same things and the same time, meaning that some will be interested, some will be bored, and some will struggle.

  • Are seldom able to provide the right level of support for students who are struggling in a specific area and often push it back onto the parents in the form of extra homework for them to do with the child.

  • Involve significant amounts of peer pressure, bullying, overexposure to things like commercialization, sexualization, and specific gender roles that I think are counter productive.

  • Do not provide enough time for experimentation, play, outdoor time and self-directed learning.

  • Often use grades, rewards, and punishments as a way to keep students in line because it is easier than encouraging self-motivation and teaching common sense and respect.

  • Can be abused for the purposes of spreading propaganda to youth.

These are, of course, generalizations based on my experience with schools where I live. I know that this does not apply all of the time to all types of schools, although I suspect most of these things apply most of the time. Private schools and alternative schools (sometimes public, sometimes private) are popping up in a lot of areas attempt to capitalize on the strengths of schools and address their weaknesses. However, it only goes so far.

Home Education

While I used the term homeschooling in the title of this post, which is the most common term used in North America, after much consideration I chose the term home education for the title of this section. It is the term used in the United Kingdom and, in my mind, conceptually does a better job of incorporating the wide spectrum of home education options, ranging from homeschooling according to a specific curriculum all the way to pure unschooling. Another term that is used by some is life learning, which applies to children but also to adults and signifies the importance of learning being a life long process.

I don't have a love/hate relationship with home education in the same way that I do with schools. Perhaps this is because I don't have any direct experience with home education as the primary education of myself or my children. That said, I am passionate about life learning for myself and hope to be able to offer my children many opportunities to pursue their interests.  Despite not having a specific love/hate relationship with home education, there are things about home education that I think  are inspiring and there are things about home education that concern me.

Before I list those things, I want to address briefly some of the reasons that people choose home education. Both my experience with home educators and my research on home education (one good example) has suggested that there are two, or maybe three, primary motivations for choosing home education. The first is ideological. This is where parents embrace a different ideology than is taught in the curriculum and object to the curriculum because it doesn't teach enough about their own ideology and/or teaches things that are directly contrary to that ideology. The second reason for home educating is pedagogical. This is where the parents believe the structure or curriculum of the public education system is pedagogically unsound. They believe, sometimes passionately, that children are able to learn much better outside of school than they can inside school. The third reason, which is one that appears to be more prominent in recent years among my cohort, is that the available school(s) are not a good fit for the child or the family. This could be because the child is struggling in school and not getting the needed attention. It could be because the child has learning difficulties that result in a classroom setting not being a good place to learn. It could be simply because classes are crowded, teachers are stressed, and there are more social problems in the school than in the past. Or it could be because the family moves around a lot (e.g. for one parent's job) and they are able to provide more stability and consistency to their children through home education.

These reasons for choosing home education are important to understanding what inspires me and what concerns me about home education.

I'm inspired that with home education:

  • Children often get much better academic results with much less time spent sitting at a desk, which gives them more time to spend outdoors, playing, and participating in all aspects of family life.

  • Children are freer to pursue their own interests.

  • There is more self-motivation and less coercion and force involved in learning. This, in turn, encourages children to learn more rather than getting the attitude that learning is boring and uncool.

  • Children are not as exposed to negative cultural and societal influences.

  • More parents take an active interest in their child's education.

  • Children are free to learn at the time of day that best meshes with their personality and body rhythm, rather than according to the ringing of a bell.

At the same time, there are things that concern me about home education:

  • I worry that parents who homeschool for ideological reasons may be shielding their children from the realities of the world (other belief systems, other cultures) and their selves (sexuality, gender issues, personal expression), which I believe is dangerous for the individual and for society.

  • I worry that a small minority of parents who homeschool for ideological reasons may be doing so specifically to pass on discriminatory and hateful viewpoints to their children.

  • I worry that parents who take their children out of school out of frustration with the school system (generally or for their specific child) may feel forced into home educating their children when really the school system should be changing and adapting to address those concerns.

  • I worry that children who grow up under the guidance of the most gentle, patient, loving and inspiring parents without being exposed to teachers who are strict, ineffective, jerks, play favourites, or use coercive methods may not learn how to deal with those types of people before entering the workforce and may be at a disadvantage (although to be fair, a lot of today's schooled youth aren't dealing with them themselves anyway - they are getting mommy and daddy to do it for them).

It is certainly the ideological issues that I mentioned in the first two bullets that concern me the most. I think the other two are more easily circumvented or dealt with.

In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics says that 30 percent of American families that homeschool do so primarily for religious reasons. Realistically, I do not think that there is any reason why parents cannot teach their children about their faith outside of school hours. Therefore, choosing to school your children at home for religious reasons means that there are things that are taught in schools that you don't think your children should be exposed to. While there are probably some instances of inappropriate curricular content, I think that is better addressed by suggesting changes than pulling your children out. My guess is that in most cases, among those who homeschool primarily for religious reasons, there are perfectly reasonable and factual things taught as part of the school curriculum that the parents do not want their children to learn (evolution, birth control, homosexuality, other religious beliefs). This, I think, is problematic.  Then, in the extreme, and in a very very small minority of cases, are parents who actively teach their children hatred (e.g. white supremacy, antisemitism).  This is downright dangerous. Note: green text added above to clarify that I didn't mean "in most cases" among ALL homeschoolers, just among a specific subset.

I know that a lot of people view lack of socialization as a concern with regards to homeschooling. I don't see it that way. I think that most homeschooling families do participate in a variety of activities with friends and family that allows their children to be effectively socialized. The only times I worry about the socialization factor is where parents actively avoid socialization with certain types of people (races, religions, sexual orientations) for ideological reasons, but that goes to my previous point.

Back to rights and duties

So where do I stand on schooling versus home education? I'm on the fence.

I believe more strongly in the child's right to an education than I do in the parent's right to raise their children any way they want. That said, I see many flaws in the current school system and the many benefits to home education. From that perspective, I don't blame parents for wanting to pull their children out for pedagogical reasons or just because it isn't working for their child or their family. But the ideological reasons, the ones that involve immersing your children in your beliefs and shielding them from others, are not my cup of tea.

I also believe in a civic duty to not be ignorant. This means that if you believe something, being exposed to other beliefs should help you to confirm your beliefs, rather than threaten them. Parents with specific belief systems should be prepared to explain to their children why they believe those things, rather than just pretending it is the only thing you possibly can believe. I also believe that to participate in society, as a citizen, people should have a basic understanding of history and social issues. This means that when you participate, as a citizen, and attempt to influence political decisions or address community issues, that you should have a basic understanding of how we got to where we are today. So if important things were left out, because a parent shielded their child from it or because the child chose not to learn it, that puts us at a greater risk of bad history repeating itself.

I don't think it matters if a child learns to read at age four or age nine. I don't care if a child learns to add and subtract at a desk or by doing real life activities. I don't think it makes a difference if you learn world geography first and then local geography later or the other way around. But I do believe that there are certain things that all citizens should learn. Those are the things that should help  reduce hatred, war, and discrimination. Those are the things that allow children to learn about and assert their individual rights. So things like good sex ed programs, which significantly reduce teen pregnancy rates or things like comprehensive religious culture and ethics programs that teach children about different beliefs, viewpoints, family structures and relationships are extremely important. Parents who chose home education should be required to teach their children those things (and are in some jurisdictions).

In Germany, homeschooling is illegal. Children have to go to school. They go to schools where they learn about things like the World War II and the Holocaust, in hopes that history doesn't repeat itself. Despite those efforts, the neo-nazi scene is growing, with one in seven German teenagers (14.4%) having attitudes deemed highly xenophobic. Is the school environment contributing to the growth of the neo-nazi movement? Or would the movement be even bigger of right extremists were allowed to homeschool their children and teach them that the Holocaust is a lie and foreigners are ruining their lives?

My firm belief, and the reason I avoided writing this post for so long, is that there are no easy answers when it comes to education. Nothing is perfect, everything has risks, lots of things have to change.
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Reader Comments (256)

I just spent an hour drafting a post (not published yet) about deciding where to send my son for kindergarten. Public or private. For some reason home schooling never entered into the equation. 1. I work. And 2. I always considered it as something people only do for religious reasons. Thank you showing me that is not always the case.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjodifur

Great post! As a teacher in a public school, I unfortunately have to agree & am hopeful for change!

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

I worry that children who grow up under the guidance of the most gentle, patient, loving and inspiring parents without being exposed to teachers who are strict, ineffective, jerks, play favourites, or use coercive methods may not learn how to deal with those types of people before entering the workforce and may be at a disadvantage (although to be fair, a lot of today’s schooled youth aren’t dealing with them themselves anyway – they are getting mommy and daddy to do it for them).

This is one of the anti-homeschooling arguments that I find most distressing and frustrating, because it draws a fallacious parallel between school situations and professional situations. Exposing a child to bullies, jerks, etc. (whether students or teachers) doesn't teach them how to stand up to those people or work with those people -- it teaches them to be victims, to keep quiet when they should speak up, or to tolerate abuse or idiocy they shouldn't tolerate. Unlike with a job situation, where you can walk out if you are being treated badly, a child doesn't have the power or freedom to walk away from a school situation. They don't choose their school like an adult chooses a job. They aren't federally mandated to spend x hours a day, x days a year in a job. In a professional/business setting, the adult has a significantly greater degree of power than a student. It's that power imbalance that makes a negative school situation so harmful. Mistreatment at school isn't comparable with dealing with tough bosses -- it's much more comparable to domestic violence in its emotional effects.

This is one of the topics I've covered in my regular "Ask a [Smrt] Homeschooler" column on my blog. I think I've gotten more feedback about http://smrtlernins.com/2010/02/09/ask-a-smrt-homeschooler-about-exposure-to-tough-situations/" rel="nofollow">this post than almost any other.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSmrt Mama

Well spoken. We are home educating our daughter because public school was a disastrous fit for her (in kindergarten!). My daughter is a totally different person now than she was a year ago, when kindergarten ended. She was anxious, bored, crabby, bored, tired, bored, stressed by the other children's misbehaviours, bored... I was terrified to keep her home, but it was the best decision for my girl.

I'm a 19 year old unschooler, and I wanted to comment on your apparent concerns about children outside of school not learning about social issues, history, etc.

A few weeks ago, my sister (unschooled for life) and I went to a class a couple of friends of ours (both Aboriginal) were hosting on Native Spirituality on their CEGEP. They naturally talked a bit about about Native culture and history as well, and I was absolutely amazed, and horrified, to discover that virtually none of the people (all traditionally schooled) attending the class had ever even heard of residential schools. That's something my sister and I known about for years.

Both my sister and I are feminists and anarchists, and we're very socially conscious, outspoken people. We know more about the history of oppression, more about the oppression going on around the world now, than do most of the schooled people I've come into contact with, who tend to have a much more government supporting, complacent outlook on things. Yes, there are some people who "homeschool" for religious reasons: who shelter their children from knowledge of the world, who teach prejudice. But... From what I've seen (in the US especially, though in my home province of Quebec as well), there are JUST as many (or more) people who are homophobic, racist, sexist, have more misinformation about sex than anything else (etc. etc. etc.) in school as out. I haven't seen any evidence that shows homeschooling produces any more "isms" or "bics" than traditional schooling does!

Just my experience...

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIdzie

First let me say that I am a homeschooling parent. I homeschool for so many reasons they are too numerous to name in this comment. I read your post with an open mind. It is well written, well thought out but you lost me when I read this "I believe more strongly in the child’s right to an education than I do in the parent’s right to raise their children any way they want."
I'm sorry but I didn't bring children into this world to turn them over to society, a government, or any other person on this planet to raise them. You may not agree with someone's ideology but deep rooted spiritual and religious beliefs cannot be denied when parenting ones children, or even when educating them. I was raised in a strict, right wing conservative home and attended private Christian schools. I can assure you that it didn't hinder me from being open minded and exploring my own spiritual, moral, and political beliefs nor did being parented this way hinder me in anyway socially when interacting with other races, cultures, or those of differing religious beliefs. I can assure you that those of us homeschooling, even those that do so due to ideology, are educating our children thoroughly and parenting them to be productive members in our society.

And if anyone must know, we are secular homeschoolers but I feel it is important to defend my religious homechooling friends.

I should add that I'm a rigorous, classical secular homeschooler (though some of us has decided we prefer the term "evolutionary homeschooler") , who made the choice based on a combination of concern over teacher bullying, lack of adequate advanced/gifted curricula, and many other factors. The secular homeschool population is growing rapidly and there are so many wonderful resources available to ensure a home-educated child covers all the necessary subjects.

For those interested in homeschooling, I'd recommend reading The Well-Trained Mind and visiting the http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/" rel="nofollow">Well-Trained Mind forums. For those interested in secular homeschooling, you can find support and advice from The Secular Homeschool Community.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSmrt Mama

Smrt Mama:

I agree when it comes to jerks and bullies. No one deserves to be exposed to them in a school or in a workplace. However, with regards to the other types, there are plenty of them out there and if someone "walks away" every time they have to deal with a not so wonderful boss or client (not that I am suggesting someone who is homeschooled would do, I only bring it up since you mention walking away as an option), they are not likely to get very far in their career. Every office has wet noodles. Every office has people who play favourites. Every office has people who will bribe their employees to do something they don't want to do. I had to deal with plenty of those people as teachers in elementary school, high school, and university before I started my career and I learned how to deal with them. That doesn't mean that I learned how to accept them or to be a good victim. It means I was exposed to it often enough that I had the opportunity to consider how I would handle the situation if it came up again and it means that I got better at being assertive (rather than being a victim or walking away).

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have previously sent my children to both private and public schools. I can think of many valid reasons to send a child to public or private schools. I just don't think that learning to get along with unpleasant/conflicting/etc. personality types is a particularly weighty argument in favor of the institutional school setting.

It seems there might be an assumption here that school is the only place, or at least the best place, for one to have those experiences, though. Homeschooled children are involved in clubs, volunteerism, religious organizations, co-ops, classes (like music and art), and society as a whole. Plenty of opportunity to learn to grin and bear in, to deal with difficult situations, or simply with incompatible personalities under conditions where the child is more empowered and is on more of an equal legal and social footing with those around him -- and also under closer observance, at least initially, of the parents. I don't think six or seven years old is the ideal time to learn that the world is full of unpleasant or disagreeable people who will try to thwart, manipulate, or get one up on you. I don't think that's an age where they need to be on the losing end of a teacher playing favorites. That's SO damaging.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSmrt Mama

We're homeschooling because we have one very active little boy who is academically ahead of the curve. We were already getting "suggestions" that we should consider medicating him and there's no way that I'd do that to a 4-year-old. He absolutely loves to learn and pulling him out of preschool to give homeschooling a try is one of the best decisions that I've made as a parent.

He is exposed to a wide variety of people through classes, activities, real life situations and playdates. We plan to do a good amount of traveling with him as well. We love that we can teach him at his own pace and cover topics that he loves in a depth that would never be available in a traditional classroom setting. He'll likely will go to a more traditional school in the future, but for us, this is the right decision for right now.

People homeschool for a vast number of reasons. A lot of them have very little to do with sheltering their child from the big, bad world. I'd be willing to bet that people that homeschool to pass on bigotry and hatred to their child would pass those things on even if the child went to traditional school.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPathfinder Mom


Thank you for sharing your experience. Having been through the public school system in Quebec, I can say that the History of Quebec and Canada curriculum is way too invested in sharing French Canadian history and injustices to provide sufficient space and discussion on native issues. That is problematic and part of the "propaganda" issue of schools that I mentioned.

I have found that unschoolers and the parents of unschoolers tend to be some of the most open minded people there are. I think you have to be open minded as a parent if you agree for your children to be educated in that manner and I think that unschooling does tend to produce very open minded individuals. My concern about isms and bics is more in scenarios where parents are actively trying to teach their children hateful viewpoints or presenting one world view as the truth, rather than as a belief. That said, I certainly agree that they exist in schools too (and even that some schools can be breeding grounds for that type of thing).

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Pathfinder Mom:

I did list a number of different reasons for homeschooling in my post and emphatically stated my support for most of them. I hope that didn't get overshadowed by my concerns over the ideological reasons some people have for homeschooling.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is, as always, a well thought out article, and my hat is off to you for your thoughtful analysis. I would counter, however, that just as you "do not think that there is any reason why parents cannot teach their children about their faith outside of school hours," there is no reason to believe that racist, hate-filled parents can't create more of the same, while still sending their kids to school. In fact, one of the reasons I'm choosing to home school my children, at least while they are young, is to prevent them from being "socialized" by other children whose parents I don't know, and who may have ideas about racism and other things that I don't share and don't want my impressionable little ones picking up.

Of course, there are numerous other things on my list of pros and cons about public education. It is a hard decision, and one not everyone makes easily. Thank you for throwing your hat in this particular ring. :)

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Lots of theories on what WILL happen if a child is not exposed to whatever jerks and bullies, playground mentalities, unpleasant teachers, and Lord of the Flies stuff at school. It sounds like a lot of hand-wringing theorizing, to be honest, especially when you admit you have almost no exposure to home education whatsoever.

I had to deal with plenty of those people as teachers in elementary school, high school, and university before I started my career and I learned how to deal with them. That doesn’t mean that I learned how to accept them or to be a good victim. It means I was exposed to it often enough that I had the opportunity to consider how I would handle the situation if it came up again and it means that I got better at being assertive (rather than being a victim or walking away).
My brother and I went to public schools and were exposed to the same teachers (literally). I am confrontational and assertive, he is passive-aggressive and timid (to over-generalize our natures). Smrt Mama wrote that bad situations "teach [children] to be victims, to keep quiet when they should speak up, or to tolerate abuse or idiocy they shouldn’t tolerate." I would definitely say my brother was in this category. Just because you prevailed (or believe you did) does not mean it isn't a harmful environment that many parents are well-within their rights to eschew.

As far as "wet noodles", if that's a homeschool pitfall then why do you see so many of them (most of which obviously went to school)? I kind of think each "wet noodle" has their own story, and it's not fair to lay it down in theory to some kind of parenting choice. I think many who can't handle conflict are those were exposed to lots of Might=Right, authoritarianism, etc. and did not receive the guidance and opportunity to struggle through these issues on their own - not those who've learned when to stand up for oneself and when to let things go by having their parents A. model behaviors in doing so and B. support kids' in getting in touch with their intuition and sense of Right and Wrong.

I kind of giggle at the idea of the home-educated child being "hidden away". I certainly allow there are all types of people in all walks of life who insulate their child either physically or with other coercive measure (case in point: the many kids being abused at home who go to school but the abuse is never "discovered" because the child is good at hiding it and adults are good at not seeing). But of course, my children - like most life learning kids I've met - spend more time in the public with ALL walks of life than any other children I know. They run across plenty of "jerks and bullies" in neighborhood kids and adults and camp counselors and wait staff and soccer referees and lifeguards (I hasten to add, most people we run across are not in this category) and I am amazed at their abilities to handle these difficult people. Sometimes they "walk away", but usually they speak up with respect, force, and clarity. I see them handling things with a strong sense of Self, a directness I don't see in many other kids, a deep empathy, and a lack of timidity. It's clear to me daily that "home educating" as you call it is a good fit for my family. Notice I do not call our lifestyle prescriptive for others.

As far as sex ed and learning about other cultures etc. This is funny when I think of the patriarchal, racist, ableist, etc etc "education" I received in public school! (and let me tell you, I enjoyed - or thought at the time I enjoyed - school and did very well at it).

The sex ed, cultural, or moral education conversation feels a bit like a potential trap. If I were to explain how we've learned about some of these subjects there are many who'd say I expose my kids to TOO much information (i.e. at 6 and 8 they know a lot about sex, contraception, LGBTQ issues, abortion, miscarriage, home birth; on the "cultural" side of things we've been watching http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain/" rel="nofollow">We Shall Remain, a five-part documentary about Native American history in this country). I allow my friends to educate their children (through school or at home) in their way and I'd hope they'd afford me the same rights and responsibilities without nit-picking. It's easy to help my kids with their education on social justice, religion, world views, poverty, feminism, socio-economic injustices, racial relations, etc. etc. because my husband and I are passionate and interested in the subjects themselves.

If one is to say, "OK, OK, it sounds like you're doing a good job - but what about the 'backward' homeschooler etc etc." - like your listed concern: I worry that a small minority of parents who homeschool for ideological reasons may be doing so specifically to pass on discriminatory and hateful viewpoints to their children. "Discriminatory and hateful viewpoints" are the parlance of home-educating families now? This is news to me as the most homophobic and misogynistic things I've heard out of children's mouths are from the neighborhood kids (schooled) who come play in our home.

I know the concept of "backward" thinking scares many people but as you point out a few times, there is no school system in existence that stomps this out. Many families are 'backward' according to the value system of the person telling us all What's Good for Our Families & America. Something like 98% of kids go to school in this country. If school was a major ameliorating factor towards "backward" thinking and actions, well. We would have a very different country.

Most of the arguments you've written here are ones I've seen many times over. It is interesting that few parents are put down for say, making a general choice not to bring cable television or junk food into their house because (in their view) the harm outweighs the good. But when parents say, "Hey, school's not for us" they are so often vilified or concern-trolled. I'm *not* saying you're doing that here necessarily; that's for you to decide.

I think my post is coming off as hostile but please know I write about life learning quite a bit and I'm no 101 writer on the subject. I understand this is a rather 101 article and you are genuinely trying to explore the issue. This is a good thing, this exploration. Please do take my comments as someone who's rather familiar with about four thousand articles on the subject. Not that I'm claiming expertise of some sort - I am not! - just, a lot of exposure.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Oh, I understand what you're talking about: my family was involved with the local (largely conservative Christian) homeschooling community when I was young, and some of the people I met were definitely pretty anti-evolution, anti-gay, anti-decent sex ed etc. However, I've encountered SO MUCH prejudice from those in school. Sure, they all know about evolution, but many schooled folk don't treat GLBTQ people any better than those conservative Christian homeschoolers!

I should make it clear that I don't agree with that type of world outlook AT ALL (if it wasn't already obvious from my personal views). I just don't think there's a significant difference in that area between homeschoolers and public schoolers. Or, perhaps a *difference* (religious homeschoolers, in my experience, definitely do seem to be more sheltered, and less aware of the wider world. Schooled people, again, in my personal experience, are more likely to be crueler, meaner, more likely to bully, etc.), just not a better one. It seems to me that both cause harm in different ways!

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIdzie

I have run across anti-gay, anti-evolution homeschoolers (to use your terms). What's interesting is I've had many direct conversations with the parents on the subjects (as I hold very different worldviews, similar to your expressed outlook) while we watch our kids swim or whatever. I am not going to claim I can change "hearts and minds" but. At least conversations are happening between us. Wonder if they do so frequently amongst schooling parents?

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

[...] I’ve read some of the exceptionally thoughtful comments to her blog (like Kelly and Kim @ Beautiful Wreck’s). Now, I’d like to hear yours. Tagged as: christian homeschooling, homeschool, [...]

"My guess is that in most cases there are perfectly reasonable and factual things taught as part of the school curriculum that the parents do not want their children to learn (evolution, birth control, homosexuality, other religious beliefs)."

Therein lies the problem. No matter if you are atheist, agnostic or otherwise, you are teaching your child your own personal religious views. What one believes is "reasonable and factual" may not be so for another. I do protect my child from certain world views and ideas because he is young. At a time and a place that is more appropriate, he won't be sheltered from knowing what choices people make, but he will be educated on what we believe. One day he'll have to make his own choices, but it's my right and privileged to share what I believe to be the truth with my kids. You can't shelter a child for ever, but especially at a young age I believe it is your right and your responsibility to protect them from harmful or inappropriate information. Kids are growing up a lot faster than they need to, let them be children for a time!

By saying it's "problematic" to shelter your children from certain religious view or lifestyle choices....that is indicative of exactly why some have chosen to home school. It's problematic to you because you believe YOUR views should be taught. That they are "factual and reasonable" but I do not. your views are not mine, so yes, I teach my child the truth according to what I believe is the truth and you do according to what you do. Anyone who argues otherwise does not see plainly that is the fact of parenting! We teach how we live and what we know based on our own worldview. Sure you can teach "other" world views but what you model is what you are truly teaching.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTia

I'm looking at home schooling my daughter next fall. We'll be testing it out over the summer so I don't officially pull her out of school until I know that it's a match for us.

We fall into the group that is pulling kids out for school issues. The one she's at now is just not a good match. Maybe it would be better next year with a different teacher, I don't know, but with budget cuts the class sizes are going to be bigger next year, and the principal doesn't even know which teachers will still be there after layoffs are complete.

Add in how quick she is to pick up new information. She's incredibly bored. At the same time, the lack of challenges means she doesn't try hard enough on the occasional challenges that do come along.

Plus, I really feel the teacher was "teaching to the test" all year. Nothing but math and English homework all year until just these past couple weeks, now that standardized testing is over. Suddenly they have more interesting assignments, had a field trip a couple weeks ago and another one next week. The school's test scores have been low in the past, so I assume they're trying to raise them. I don't agree with doing that by making school less interesting for the kids or by teaching them less. It's been shown time and again that a well rounded education is better for kids and test scores.

We'll see how it goes for us. I'm sending my son into kindergarten in the fall because, for all the school's faults, his greatest need right now is other kids and learning to deal with more people. He's really looking forward to meeting other kids away from his sister, but also nervous about dealing with so many kids.

I expect a very interesting and educational school year for both my kids.

Choosing the appropriate venue for your child's education is not easy. When my daughter started kindergarten (she is now finishing grade 7), we explored EVERYTHING, with the exception of home schooling (for reasons which I will explain shortly). We had a spot reserved for her at the neighbourhood english public school, at the french immersion public school, at the co-ed private school up the street and at the Catholic school just behind us. In the end we chose french immersion, favouring the language skills and the "private school within the public system" reputation, and we have been very happy, although all of the public school drawbacks that you mentioned are a reality. One thing to think about during this decision-making process when the kids are small is that high school is coming faster than you think. In Vancouver, B.C., high school starts in grade 8, and you go through this selection process all over again, adding subject-area-specific mini schools into the mix and this time with an eye to university and beyond. It does not get easier. We have decided to stay the course, and our daughter is remaining in french immersion.

We did not consider home schooling for several reasons. First, I worried about the additional strain it could feasibly put on parent-child relations. It's a lot of work being a mom. Being a full-time teacher too, I don't know. And I also know, in hind-sight, that just helping with homework as it becomes more challenging can create tension. I would not want this to be my everyday reality, nor hers. Second, having one teacher, every day, for every subject, for every grade seems so narrow to me. Some teachers are better than others, but it seems to me there is value in diversity. Finally, the only home-schoolers I've ever known, and there have not been many I confess, home-schooled for the reasons that concerned you - to withhold their children from ideologies that were different from their own. This has never sat well with me. But, having said all of this, for all the home schoolers who make it work, good for you!

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Know It All Mom

I agree with Kim's & Kelly's comments 100%.

I think that you wrote this post earnestly and thoughtfully, but as you admitted, you don't know very much about homeschooling.

Parents who are racist/bigoted/sexist/etc. are going to impart those views on their kids regardless of where the kids go to school. I don't know what things are like in Canada, but here in the US, parents can pull their kids out of sex ed class if they feel that it conflicts with their religious beliefs. I think that this is misguided, but it is their right to do so. I can't expect to be allowed to make my own parenting to choices if I insist on making them for others. Everyone is entitled to parent their children as they see fit, as long as they are not abusive.

I went to private and public schools, but plan on unschooling my daughter. The positive experiences that I've had during my pre-college school years are virtually non-existent. The negative ones have been life changing and even though I am a stronger person for them, I would never want my daughter to experience what I've experienced. Surviving anything traumatic can make you stronger, but that doesn't mean that trauma is the only way to become a strong person.

I have met more homeschooling families than I can count, most of whom (unlike me) consider religious ideology to be a major factor in their decision to homeschool. Not a single one of them was bigoted or racist, nor was I treated poorly by any of them even though I am a very vocal atheist. I personally know of a person who went to a very diverse public school and yet managed to only have friends who went to his church and continues to associate only with other people who hold the same religious beliefs as he does. Sadly, It's not an unusual occurrence.

As for social skills, this is one of those things that always makes homeschoolers laugh, because their kids have excellent social skills. I have yet to meet a homeschooled child who didn't have excellent conversation skills, self-confidence, or a high maturity level for their age. There are obviously exception on both ends on the spectrum, but as someone who has only recently (past 4 years) been exposed to homeschooling/homeschoolers it's been an overwhelming positive and enlightening experience.

I really appreciate your candor and thoughtfulness. Your posts are always interesting. I do hope that you're able to have more personal experiences with homeschoolers so that you can understand them better and have your concerns addressed. I'm looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLimor

"I believe more strongly in the child’s right to an education than I do in the parent’s right to raise their children any way they want."

You lost me here too. The two are not mutually exclusive. I firmly believe that both can and often do hold true together, whether a child is home educated or attends a brick-and-mortar school. My child has a right to a rigorous education AND I have a right to raise--and educate--my children as I see fit. The education my children get at home is as rounded and challenging as the education they'd get from the school down the street, if not more so.

And the idea that homeschoolers who homeschool for ideological and/or religious reasons don't teach children "certain things that all citizens should learn...the things that should help reduce hatred, war, and discrimination....the things that allow children to learn about and assert their individual rights" is insulting. You're creating false either/or arguments. EITHER children attend government schools and learn the ideologies du jour OR they are not taught to address these issues at all (at least not to the current popular cultural standards), as though homeschool families, particularly those who home educate for religious reasons, don't teach about peace or sex or government or individual rights. Most homeschoolers I know (and I know many articulate, thoughtful people of different faiths who homeschool for religious and social reasons) put a great deal of time, thought, effort and discussion to teaching these issues at home.

And finally, I am a fan of public schools. But the U. S. school system is groaning under the burden of more students with more significant issues, and dwindling dollars. Schools are designed to teach the greatest number of children possible, to teach to the middle. If you'd ever spent time advocating for a child with special needs or a child who learns in a very different way, or just pressing for higher academic standards in schools just struggling to satisfy the burdens imposed by legislation like No Child Left Behind, you'd understand that just advocating for change is daunting at best, and expecting a straining unwieldy system to adapt to an individual child's needs is unrealistic.

I do appreciate your well-thought-out arguments. Though I vehemently disagree, it's refreshing to read an opinion piece about homeschooling that acknowledges the plusses and attempts to be respectful. Thanks.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCat

"Surviving anything traumatic can make you stronger, but that doesn’t mean that trauma is the only way to become a strong person."

Well-said, regardless of a homeschool discussion or no.

"As for social skills, this is one of those things that always makes homeschoolers laugh, because their kids have excellent social skills. I have yet to meet a homeschooled child who didn’t have excellent conversation skills, self-confidence, or a high maturity level for their age. There are obviously exception on both ends on the spectrum, but as someone who has only recently (past 4 years) been exposed to homeschooling/homeschoolers it’s been an overwhelming positive and enlightening experience."

Yes, this is one of the homeschool Bogeymen that keeps getting passed around as a valid concern of the lifestyle - and I agree with you, it's very funny as the vast majority of the many h/s kids I've known do very well; I have to say, often better than their schooled peers (although I love all groups of kids dearly, invite them into my home and cook for them and have them for sleepovers, et. al!)

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I've got to agree with Smrt Mama on this point. Bullies are a part of life, bt young children need to be taught how to deal with them rather than expected to dive in and swim. There are bullies/jerks every where (we have some right across the alley that frequently bother the boys), but they can watch me deal with them and learn how.

Like cooking, I help my children learn next to me in the kitchen. I don't drop them off at a restaurant and hope the head chef isn't too big of a jerk. To me that's a huge benefit of home education in early years, they get to learn how to deal with jerks from their parents, rather than teachers who not as emotionally vested and toss it off as "just ignore him" or "well deal with it then."

I was bullied often, so that's my view of it. I would have rather had a caring adult show me how to stand up to a bully than be told to just ignore them, or stop tattling, or that I must have been aggravating them, etc...

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I'm a former home educator, current mother of public school kids and did scholarly work in the area of education and citizenship and I think the major humbug here is that you would be challenged to find a provincial school system that teaches well or at all "good sex ed programs, which significantly reduce teen pregnancy rates or things like comprehensive religious culture and ethics programs that teach children about different beliefs, viewpoints, family structures and relationships are extremely important."

The major issue with public school and citizenship is, if you look closely at what is going on in some (or many) schools, is even if there are curriculum objectives about democracy, equality, respect, trust, listening, etc, the "hidden curriculum" or how children are treated within the schools don't live up to those ideals.

A particular example is the Canadian failure to live up to its commitment to teach children about the Convention on Children's Rights and the violation of rights that occur in schools every day- (like having input into decisions that affect them, let alone issues of illegal search and seizure in high schools and other privacy violations.)

(I do think this is a great post, though, and my overall belief is that the children of parents who care about education and learning- no matter what educational setting the children spend their days in- will generally have kids who turn out to be active, engaged, learning people.)

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterradmama

Provide a safe environment for my children to be cared for while my partner and I pursue our careers and our own life learning.

( Safe with the bullies, school shootings, drugs, etc. ? )

Ensure that all children learn history and are exposed to a wide variety of beliefs and viewpoints (at least where I live).

( You obviously haven't read anything about the changed to Texas textbooks on history ! )

I worry that children who grow up under the guidance of the most gentle, patient, loving and inspiring parents without being exposed to teachers who are strict, ineffective, jerks, play favourites, or use coercive methods may not learn how to deal with those types of people before entering the workforce and may be at a disadvantage .

( I will not put my children in a lousy school so that they learn from strict, inneffective, jerks, who play favorites, or use coercibe methods just to please you. There will be plenty of time for my children to learn this in high school or college.

I am a rigorous classical secular homeschooler of 22 years. With three homeschool graduates and two just starting out. My older children do not lack anything. Two of my sons are serving in the Army and the Navy. All three are attending college. I am proud that I don't just warehouse my children in lousy schools because it is expected. I want my children to learn to think for themselves.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJana

*I worry that parents who take their children out of school out of frustration with the school system (generally or for their specific child) may feel forced into home educating their children when really the school system should be changing and adapting to address those concerns.*

While I am home educating my son precisely because the system was not set up to handle him-gifted/autistic/learning disabilities-I had to make a choice. Did I spend his remaining school years fighting the system, or did I spend them making sure he was educated to the best of his ability to learn? I had so many people tell me that it was my duty to fight the system.

I chose to educate him. The fight is right for some people, but my son was already in middle school, and by the time I might win the fight (if I did win it) his school years would have been over. I already had school refusal, hours on homework that should have taken maybe 30 minutes, and an anxiety driven child. I was already fighting, trying to get my son educated. I was fighting him.

Do I wish the school system would have been able to do right by him? Yes, I do. However, I have been told repeatedly by school systems, and by therapists, that they do not have programs for a child like mine. They do not have the resources to put programs into place. I am on my own.

I love the journey we are taking together. I love learning about my son, about how he thinks, learns, experiences the world. I would not trade this journey, though it was not something I wanted in the beginning. He still takes hours on what should take minutes. This is part of his disability. There is no more anxiety, no more school refusal. He gets up in the morning, and says So,mom, what do we have for school today? Let's get to it!

This is why I home educate. I felt forced into it, yes. It has been the best educational choice for my son.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermartinsma

As a former public and private school teacher and current homeschooling parent, I visited your blog ready to feel attacked. How relieved I am to see that your piece is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. I think we do the most harm in commenting about education in any form when we make assumptions and blanket statements about both education and families. When I taught in a public high school, where both prominent and poor families sent their children, I witnessed the spectrum of educational possibilities. I have seen children genuinely loved by their teachers--encouraged, challenged, and well-taught. Most of these students received an excellent education and have gone on to top universities and sought-after careers. I have been very fortunate to stay in touch with many of my former students, and I am thrilled to see their success. I have, though, also seen kids attacked, stabbed, and raped at this same school. We have found students having sex on the stairwell in the middle of the school day, and we have had to make allowances for students to change classes at very planned intervals because of the risk of fighting and gang activities. I have seen children neglected, ignored, and honestly? Intimidated. When it was time for me to decide what to do with my own children, we spent some time in a private school--which was ho-hum at best, and a public school--which was a great experience--but I have some philosophical differences with the process of public education (too many to discuss here). I ultimately decided on homeschool with a classical approach because the philosophy of a classical approach to education makes sense to me, because my oldest daughter had some learning holes that I felt like could only be filled with very personal attention, and because my son could move ahead in some classes where he was ready for greater challenge. They have been so successful at home, that we have, for now, chosen to stay on that path. We currently live in a state that is ranked in the bottom of the U.S. in terms of education, and we recently had a girl raped in the bathroom at our local middle school. So, for us, safety and quality of education is an obvious major concern. But my experience is not the same as everyone else's. I deeply believe that the key in understanding each path is meaningful dialogue. When we stop listening to each other and only talk louder and louder to be heard, no one profits. I am happy to be part of your dialogue, and I thank you for an honest and, I think, healthy perspective on both choices.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I believe if tested on this you would change your mind in a heartbeat. Under the threat of something you didn't like, or didn't feel was safe for your kids you would interfere. I can't believe anyone would feel Parent's don't have a right to raise their kids the way they want!

It also bothers me enormously when people say or infer that Christians homeschool to "brainwash" their children into believing what they do. No matter what you believe, Christian or not, this is what you are teaching your children. If you do not believe in God you teach your child He doesn't exist. If you believe in reincarnation, you teach your child this. Gay couples teach their children about alternative lifestyles. No matter what you believe or don't believe you are teaching your children what you "know" to be the truth.
As for the Hate crimes, I think these parents can do just as much damage after school hours. I do not believe keeping their children home allows them to poison their minds more than just living together does.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

Many people assume I homeschool but my kids are actually in public school. I always thought I'd homeschool or send them to private, but when the time came, public was the better option for us. In my case, I'm very thankful and have had a good experience, especially with my oldest child needing extra help, he has an IEP, etc. It's been a good thing so far (my oldest is in 3rd grade). I do believe it is a choice best made for each individual child (not necessarily each family, as I think some kids are suited better for school versus home school, so maybe having 1 in school and 1 home educated would work better for some families, etc).


For a better education on the origins and purpose of compulsory schooling, I would suggest the John Taylor Gatto books, The Underground HIstory of American Education or Weapons of Mass Instruction. Some of your points in favor of public school and against homeschooling would seem ludicrous were one to know all the background on compulsory schooling as well as the reality as it exists today. Because, here's the kicker: You wish for all children to be knowledgeable about history, various cultures and worldviews, and ps is the absolute worst place to get that education. It is the primary reason I homeschool! And you might want to note some inconsistencies exist in your article. How can religious people have plenty of time outside of school to teach their religion, yet ps prevent bigoted parents from effectively doing the same (as would be inferred from some comments?)

And as a previous poster pointed out, what you call factual I call theory. How many evolutionists have ever witnessed evolution? How many old earthers were around to observe the dinosaurs millions of years ago? So do not tell me they are factual in the true scientific meaning of the word. They are technically theories. [Scientific method and accepted scientific process of moving from hypothesis to fact or law says theories must be able to withstand the test of being observable/reproducible multiple times over to be considered fact-those I mentioned can never be reproduced nor observed.] Just some thoughts for life learning.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLakota Myers

I've always been interested in how many people who send their kids to public/private schools also practice homeschooling? While my daughter is only in kindergarden that is what try to do. We spend lots of time outdoors and I teach her about plants and we play math games and read a LOT of books. I wonder how much some folks who homeschool or unschool do with their kids each day and wonder if what I do in addition to sending her to school is over kill or just us spending time together having fun and learning. WOuld this mean I don't need to send her to school at all because I am doing enough? I usually chastise myself for not doing enough with her. Anyway, I know I've gone off on a tangent here, but I always like to do the best of all of my options, so on some days I like to think of myself as both a homeschooling mom and one who sends her child to public school.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie


I do not believe in God and I teach my children that some people believe in God and some people don't. I do not believe in reincarnation, but I talk to my children about it being a possibility.

I do not think that gay couples teach their children about alternative lifestyles. I think that gay couples are more likely to teach their children about the variety of normal lifestyles that exist.

I agree that parents with hateful views can do damage after school hours. However, there is the potential for it to be balanced with reality in a school setting and also for a teacher to notice something problematic is happening (like a Manitoba girl who went to school with a swastika drawn on her arm).

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree completely on both points.

On the first one, I wrote a post a while back called "http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/08/25/that-which-does-not-kill-us-makes-us-stronger/" rel="nofollow">That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Or does it?" I don't think trauma has any place in a school. I am not advocating that trauma is good for kids. I don't see learning to deal with difficult people as equivalent to trauma. I wouldn't equate the horrendous bullies I faced in school (which I would call trauma) with the wide variety of generally difficult or ineffective people that I ran across (which I wouldn't call trauma).

With regards to social skills, I completely agree that homeschooled children generally have excellent social skills.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


In the part of Canada that we usually live in (when we're not in Berlin), parents cannot pull their kids out of sex ed class or out of the religious culture and ethics classes. These are mandatory for all schooled and home educated children. I think this is an excellent approach.

The personal experience I have with homeschoolers is mostly with atheist and/or humanist homeschoolers and I am consistently impressed with them and their children. I don't have a lot of direct experience with religious homeschoolers, but do know from reading the news how vehemently they objected to the mandatory curriculum on religion and ethics that the Quebec government introduced. I also have read a lot about the damage that very fervent religious views can have and while I recognize that those views exist even among families whose children do attend public school, I feel that at least school (or mandatory homeschool curriculum) provides some semblance of balance and forces them to consider why they believe what they do rather than simply accepting it as truth.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I just wanted to say that I think this is a really great post! Thought-provoking and balanced.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

The Know It All Mom:

The first reason you stated for not homeschooling is also one of the main reasons we have chosen to send our children to school. I love my kids to death and enjoy the time that we spend together immensely, but I don't feel like I have the skills or the patience to be the person who is primarily responsible for their education. This is a limitation of mine, not a limitation of homeschooling.

On your second point, however, I know that a lot of homeschooling families (if not most of them), do not have the parent as the "one teacher, every day, for every subject, for every grade". The children learn a lot independently. The parents trade off with other parents. They take advantage of community resources, groups, and activities.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I don't think anything should be presented as factual that is not factual. Not in the school system, not in homeschooling families.

I don't believe that only MY views should be taught. I believe that ALL views should be taught (well, except for hateful ones). I believe that teachers in public schools should present different beliefs as different options and not present one as being correct or better. I believe that parents should also be tell their children about different beliefs and carefully explain to their children why they believe one thing and other people believe other things, while still being very clear with their children that they have the right to make up their on mind about what to believe.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I do teach my children a lot of things at home. I teach them about the things I am passionate about. I teach them about the things that I think are important to becoming a valuable member of society. I would also like to think that I create an environment where my children can pursue their own passions.

At the same time, there are things that I cannot (easily) or do not want to teach them, but that are interesting or valuable to my kids. I am not big on doing crafts and art projects with my kids, but I understand the value that those types of activities have and my children really enjoy them. I speak French, but not perfectly, and I only speak a small amount of Spanish. I am thrilled that my children have the opportunity to learn those languages from native speakers at school (that includes both teachers and other students).

So like you, I combine homeschooling and sending my children to school.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I don't think you have to have observed something first hand to know it is true. I never ran into a live dinosaur personally, but the evidence of their existence is pretty damn impressive. I haven't been to Mars, but I am confident that it exists. Not because I simply believe these things, but because there is scientific evidence of their existence.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am a mother of one public-school child (in Australia) and two younger children who will also attend public school in their turn. Well, *probably* will! I am really drawn to home education and would love to do it on so many levels, and if our local public school wasn't so lovely (and really, it is - we are lucky) we'd probably be doing it right now. It was and remains a lineball call for us.

I think what Melodie says above is very thoughtful and reflects my experience too. My eldest child is in her second year of public school in Australia and so far it has been a very positive experience for her. My second child will start at the same school next year. However, we also do a lot of learning extension at home. My eldest is pretty maths-sci focused, so we do experiments (a lot of them - sigh ;-) and she attends Astronomy Club with her dad, and keeps a star journal / star chart. Both my two eldest like to read well beyond the parameters deemed normal for 5 and 7 year olds, so at home we read lots of stuff (classics, science, poetry) and so on.

But then perhaps this is just reflecting what I think is the case for so many families - that wherever the daytime education takes place, parents and home contexts provide an essential part of any child's educational experience.

On the other points, I think I'd probably agree with the tenor of the commenters above who have suggested that exposure to different kinds of people and different styles of authority doesn't have to happen in a school and in fact often happens detrimentally in a school (power imbalances being what they are). Similarly, not sure that I buy the dilution effect of public schooling on exposure to negative parental attitudes (or positive ones for that matter, or philosophical ones, or religious ones). I'm of the view that parental attitudes are pretty powerful in influencing young children and become less powerful as time goes on.

That said, my *personal* philosophy is that I actually do not want my children to absorb my worldview by osmosis, nor do I want to shield them from alternative perspectives. I want them to hear views diametrically opposed to mine, and I am not bothered if that happens when they are young. I trust them to think it through, being as how they are people and all. (I think you advert to something similar above, Annie, when you talk about what you tell your children about beliefs).

That is of course only my personal philosophy, and I know it is absolutely not shared by everyone (some philosophies demand a transmission of truth to the next generation, in fact). But I would say that the willingness to be open and allow your children to be open is a trait shared across all schooling sectors and in fact a common demoninator in my own home education circle of friends. I would not say that closemindedness characterises that community at ALL.

What a diffuse ramble this has been! To summarise - I think your piece is thoughtful, I think home education is a broad church, and I think formal schooling also covers a wide array of parenting styles and philosophies. I have no general preference for one model or another, but I think each family should be able to make the choice and should be prepared to do the work in making that choice an informed one for their particular circumstance.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

martinsma: Thank you for sharing your story.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


If I was in Texas, I would homeschool too. Or move.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I hope you'll click on the links that supported the sentence that you quoted. The first is about the impact that good sex ed programs have had. The second is on Quebec's religious culture and ethics curriculum, which I think is excellent. The full curriculum is available online. I'll probably do another post just on it another day because I think it is truly exceptional.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Thank you for all of your thoughts.

Just to clarify on the "wet noodle" comment. I wasn't suggesting that homeschooled kids are more likely to be wet noodles. I was just including "wet noodles" in the long list of challenging people that someone might run into in an office environment. As a schooled child, I had project partners who were "wet noodles". I had teachers who were "wet noodles". I learned how to create my own success in spite of them.

In any case, as I said in my post and as Smrt Mama pointed out eloquently in her comments, I think that "concern" that I had about homeschooling is one that is easily dealt with. I wouldn't list it as a reason not to homeschool. Just as something to pay attention to. I do think that the way that schooled children learn to deal with difficult people is sometimes unfortunate. But they are exposed to it and taught it, whether they want to or not.

I don't want to belabour the point because I don't think it is a critical one. My biggest concern, as I stated, is around the ideological reasons that some (not all or even most) parents have for homeschooling.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


That is an excellent point.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I want to address one concern about this post that has come up in a message board discussion. People are saying that I contradict myself when I say that I am concerned about ideological reasons for homeschooling (i.e. people who do not want their children exposed to certain ideas or facts at school) but then say: "Realistically, I do not think that there is any reason why parents cannot teach their children about their faith outside of school hours."

I should clarify that in an ideal world, I do not think that parents should teach their children that one belief system is better than another. Period. That said, I recognize the right and desire of a lot of parents to pass on their faith to their children. I think that is fine, as long as the children are also exposed to other ideas and beliefs too so that they can make up their own mind.

I think there is a big difference between trying to pass your beliefs on to your children while they also learn about other options versus pretending there is only one truth and shielding them from other views.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

As someone who was home schooled off and on up until I started high school, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring. Although I agree that home schooling doesn't lead to poor social skills. I do think there are some gaps (or at least there were in my case). While I have always felt comfortable and confident in social situations with adults, it wasn't always the case with teenagers. And when I started high school, although I was academically more than prepared, socially it was extremely difficult. Having been previously in a very challenging and nurturing environment I was ill prepared for the bullying, bitchiness and ritual humiliation of my school experience. Full disclosure - my home schooling was religion-based and therefore may have been more isolated than many others.

That being said, I'm not sure if that is a reason to avoid homeschooling. Indeed, it might be an argument for it. And I'm also not sure if it says more about my personality than it does about the experience as a whole.

I don't know what the answer is to the negative experiences in schools - is it better to be desensitised to bullying over a long period of time, or avoid it entirely? I do know that what I was always taught in my home schooling environment - that if there were any conflicts they were dealt with by talking about our feelings one on one - were not considered to be an appropriate or even a useful method of resolution in the traditional school environment.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZoey @ Good Goog

I am a home school graduate. My high school experience included co-op and online classes, but other than that it was mostly the kitchen table (or my bunk bed, or outside in the play house, or...) My parents are Christians, and raised me to be a Christian, and taught me how evil Nazis were (from our own family history, as well as from the history books), and they definitely pushed me to learn why we believed what we do.

When you say- "I should clarify that in an ideal world, I do not think that parents should teach their children that one belief system is better than another. Period." -you lose me. Parents should teach their children that they (the parents) believe something despite it being no better than any other option? So I should teach my children that I'm a Christian, but if they want to become a Nazi skinhead that is ok too, since all belief systems are equal?

I suspect everyone would be nodding until the Nazi bit. But I see that as very inconsistent... allowing and encouraging all viewpoints... except for the exclusive ones, that think they're right, and the hateful ones, that nobody likes. I think that my parent's approach of teaching me what we believed and expecting me to ask questions, read differing view points, and be able to coherently explain them, was much more reasonable.

I realize that this isn't actually the point of your post... but while I enjoyed quite a bit of your post that kept sticking out to me.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie


When I refer to beliefs, I mean things like whether there is a God(s), what happens after we die, whether you should/need to pray/worship and if so how, etc. I think children should be taught that different people believe different things and be encouraged to explore different options. However, their parents certainly can explain why they believe what they do. They just shouldn't present it as the truth. They should present it as a belief.

I would separate beliefs from things like hate and discrimination (which are often promoted by religious groups, but are not inherent to religion). I don't think it is right to advocate for hate or discrimination under any circumstances.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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