Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Homeschoolers - The Cultural Threat

Whodathunkit??... Apparently us homeschoolers are a threat to society. We create jealousy and unease because we have chosen a path different from the "norm" and we have been gaining very good results. And to add further threat, our numbers have been growing.

Check out the article that appeared in EdNews entitled, "Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort", by Sonny Scott.

Unfortunately, parts of this article contains the run of the mill stereotypes. It talks about homeschoolers as having perfectly behaved kids (they apparently never were around when my kids misbehaved!) and families dressed in matching homemade clothing (The Von Trapp family we weren't) but somehow misses the point of what really happens beyond the outward stereotypical appearances to make this demographic so very successful and enviable.

Here are some excerpts:
You see them at the grocery, or in a discount store.

It's a big family by today's standards - "just like stair steps," as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.

There's no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task.
First off - not all homeschoolers have large families. We had three children and very seldom did my daughter sport braids, and she has never ever been seen in unfashionable clothing! Tasteful yet current is what she aims for. I will admit to the no-frills shopping list - wasting money on useless trash just doesn't make sense - although I will spend some extra money on organic and healthy food items. Homeschoolers do splurge - ask anyone of us who has been to a book sale!

The article goes on to say:
You are looking at some of the estimated 2 million children being home schooled in the U.S., and the number is growing. Their reputation for academic achievement has caused colleges to begin aggressively recruiting them. Savings to the taxpayers in instructional costs are conservatively estimated at $4 billion, and some place the figure as high as $9 billion. When you consider that these families pay taxes to support public schools, but demand nothing from them, it seems quite a deal for the public.
Homeschoolers indeed have done well academically - because they work at it. Kids have real focused instructional time which allows them to also have time away from academics to have fun and pursue other interests, which also expands their minds. They aren't bogged down with busy work or redundant homework assignments. They have time to develop their own interests and incorporate their love for a particular interest into the rest of their studies. They have the opportunities to do so many cool things. They have the advantage of flexibility to choose what, where, how and when to study.

As for savings to the taxpayers... the public school people ought to be ever so thankful that we continue to pay for education resources, in our respective towns, that we do not use, in the same way as our private school counterparts. One would think that public school administrators would be more than happy to push kids out of their school door to be homeschooled, so they could have less kids to worry about, and a bigger pie of funding to distribute to educate less kids. Instead they tend to fight the homeschool model and block kids from leaving. I think it's mainly a "control thing". Heaven forbid parents teach something at home that other people cannot "content control".

The article goes on:
Home schooling parents are usually better educated than the norm, and are more likely to attend worship services. Their motives are many and varied. Some fear contagion from the anti-clericalism, coarse speech, suggestive behavior and hedonistic values that characterize secular schools. Others are concerned for their children's safety. Some want their children to be challenged beyond the minimal competencies of the public schools. Concern for a theistic world view largely permeates the movement.
Oh I think some of this is a bunch of hokum. Religious families are not the only ones who homeschool, and not all families homeschool to escape a school environment some may liken to "Sodom and Gomorrah". People homeschool for all sorts of reasons, and believe me it is impossible nowadays to isolate any kid from the "evils of the world".

Maybe what exists in a homeschool environment is respect and discipline and self-accountability. People are leaving secular schools because the public school model is failing too many kids. Many people believe that government schools aren't providing a decent education and they aren't covering material that should be covered. The proof of that is how we measure up to other countries in areas of the sciences. The lack of depth in the study of many subjects is also a problem. Study about other countries and cultures equates to a romanticized version of their culture and even stereotypes. History is relegated to a watered down study made up of dates and events versus why and how those events actually transpired. The study of History is interjected with politically correct nonsense and moral relativism. There is much lacking in a typical government school curriculum, which is more the reason why people have made other choices, be it private school or homeschool. Homeschoolers pick and choose their curriculum very carefully and it is not based on what texts California schools are using or what nifty presentation a textbook company can sell to a school board. We look for challenging, interesting and factually correct content. More importantly, our kids have input into what they will learn, and they ultimately develop ownership of their education. There is that and so much more.

So the article goes on to examine why people seem to hate homeschoolers or find them a suspicious lot:
Methinks American middle-class people are uncomfortable around the homeschooled for the same reason the alcoholic is uneasy around the teetotaler.

Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar's be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

Just as the jealous Chaldeans schemed to bring the wrath of the king upon the Hebrew eunuchs, we are happy to sic the state's bureaucrats on these "trouble makers." Their implicit rejection of America's most venerated idol, Materialism, (a.k.a. "Individualism") spurs us to heat the furnace and feed the lions.
Yeah, I can see that. People in my town (one which is known for "excellent schools") all ask me the same question..."why would you want to homeschool when we have such a great school system?" My answer is that I didn't think it was so great when my kids attended it, and more importantly neither did my kids. The questioner is stunned because government schooling is good enough for their kids, how come it's not good enough for mine? Then of course in the same breath they proceed to tell me about all of the problems they have had to deal with. I find it amazing actually how much parents are willing to have their kids put up with. Some of it almost borders on child abuse. They then find a reason why homeschooling doesn't or wouldn't work for them - usually including how they would probably strangle their kids if they had to be around them for any length of time. I think that's kind of a shame, although even homeschoolers have kids that really try one's patience.

There's always many good reasons for those parents who say they could "never homeschool their own kids" - usually they also say that of course my kids "are different" then the "usual kids". (Oh you mean because I brought them up to be different?) Then they get all annoyed at revealing that they just might have some sort of family relationship problems, which I seemingly do not share, and they might even show a tinge of jealousy as a result of that revelation. Then there is the defense mechanism of acceptance of their situation that emerges with the declaration that having a non-communicative rebellious teenager is the norm and therefore o.k. (We all know they would much rather have the kid who contributes to the family and respects their parents). But then again, we all know that not all homeschool families are perfect either.

But, homeschooling really is not for everyone. I just ask that people who have submitted to the government school system just leave us homeschoolers alone and let us raise our kids. If you are annoyed that our kids talk to us and excel in academics - well that's not our problem really.

People might like to say that because of homeschooling my kids are more dependent on me - nope - they are the most independent people I can think of. I can trust them and I do. I allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. To them, I am not the enemy. (and for those wondering, I also means my husband and I). Things are not perfect - we argue and disagree - but we are a family and we work together. That is something that families must cultivate from their children's birth. Homeschoolers want to learn and do well because they understand it is in their best interest - it is not merely the grade that matters and it isn't merely the school day or school year that measures the time they are required to learn. I think that is the benefit of homeschooling. You learn that you are not learning for someone else's benefit - to get an "A" to please your parents or your teachers - but instead because you are interested, and you want to learn and explore and do well for yourself. Learning stays interesting and is done on the child's terms. There is so much more beyond the news stories of high SAT scores and other achievements.

Non homeschooling parents find us an odd lot, and they are somewhat suspicious as to why we do not accept what they have accepted...that we do not give up "the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers."

The article ends by saying:
Deep down, however, we know that our generation has eaten its seed corn. We lack the discipline and the vision to deny ourselves in the hope of something enduring and worthy for our posterity. We are tired from working extra jobs, and the looming depression threatens our 401k's. Credit cards are nearly maxed, and it costs a $100 to fuel the Suburban.

Now the kid is raising h... again, demanding the latest Play Station as his price for doing his school work ... and there goes that modest young woman in the home-made dress with her four bright-eyed, well-behaved home-schooled children in tow. Wouldn't you just love to wipe that serene look right off her smug face?

Is it any wonder we hate her so?
Yes, and that's why there are folks in your town who will vilify you for your homeschool choice, call you militant and anti-education. They want to make it seem like you are hiding something or that you are a candidate for heavy medication. Because you don't want to walk the same path they have implies that their path is bad or substandard. They don't want to hear that. They don't like the proof that your kids have done just fine without jumping through the hoops that they and their kids have had to jump through.

My question is - if homeschooling works well for your family, why should anyone really care about your choice? Afterall, I really don't care much that people put their kids in government school. That's their choice too.

(Hat Tip: Dawn L.)