Some thoughts from a former home schooler

On Facebook my brother connected me with someone who’s going to do a local broadcast piece on home schoolers. Since I was home schooled full time from 5th to 8th grades and part time from 9th to 12th, and since I have occasionally had my kids in home school, Tracy thought I might be a good resource for her. As I would have thought, she’s really looking for current home schoolers, but since I took the time to answer her question about why I had home schooled (and why I would consider home schooling again in the future) I thought I’d share it here, as well.

I might not be the best choice to talk to since I haven’t home schooled for several years. Currently my kids have such excellent teachers and programs, and seem happy and well-adjusted enough at school, that I don’t have enough incentive to keep them at home–even though there are some ways in which I would prefer having them at home. But here are some of the reasons and circumstances when I’m in favor of home school:

1) Schools are trying to get kids to read and do math at younger and younger ages, often before the average typical age for cognitive readiness. Kids who are simply not mentally ready to do something can acquire a belief that they’re unable, and a dislike for the subject. (Often the dislike will be a fear of failure cloaked in dislike.) In fact, since the typical math readiness age is younger for boys than for girls and the opposite is true for reading, I think the young ages that math and reading are introduced contribute to a trend of many adult women disliking math, while many men dislike reading. So, keeping kids at home during the earliest grade school years can protect them from developing these false beliefs of inability.

2) A lot of research shows that young children (up to about age 8 ) thrive best and learn most in an intimate one-on-one relationship with a primary caregiver. So keeping kids at home gives their brains more opportunity to develop in this way.

3) Adult self-esteem and success correlates strongly with having been required to do chores as a child. Schooling can take up so much of a kid’s time that there’s little time for them to develop practical life skills.

4) Home schooling is much more time-efficient than public schooling.

5) If at a public school kids are poorly supervised, and if compassionate, kind behavior is not modeled, the “socialization” that occurs at such schools can teach kids the world is unsafe and unkind.

I don’t have sources for all of the above–my mom has done a lot of research and I take her word on what she’s read. (I have also occasionally encountered articles about the research myself, but haven’t kept track of when and where.) But as you can tell, I think there’s a lot to like about home school. But, again, my family has situations for our kids at school right now that are very good, where we trust and like the teachers and feel that the instruction, although not always perfect and certainly not always time-efficient, is still of a very high caliber and worth sending our kids away for. I also put my kids in the “early bird” schedule (our elementary schools have two different schedules for kids) so as to have as much family time as possible for chores and recreation in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough time, and I’m always sad to send my kids back to school at the end of the too-short summer, but again, for now we’ve decided the benefits of public school outweigh the drawbacks.

Update: Since this was a quick, off-the-cuff answer, I left a lot out–such as my belief that public schools currently favor girls’ typical learning style, and can be hostile towards boys, especially very active young boys, or toward children of either sex who don’t easily sit still for long stretches of time.

Also, I’ve seen people argue that the world is in fact unsafe and unkind, and that the sooner kids face that and toughen up, the better. But while I agree that sooner or later all of us will have to deal with danger and meanness, I think that having a predominantly loving and secure environment while very young equips a child well to deal with its opposite later in life–as well as making it much less likely that the child will grow up to contribute to meanness in the world.

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3 Responses to Some thoughts from a former home schooler

  1. the MomB says:

    I’m glad you already learned the reporter’s only interested in talking to current home schoolers, because I’ve been thinking about input. Of course I have lots and lots to say on the subject, but for now, what I want to say most is that one of the saddest effects of public schooling has been the widespread belief that school has more authority over children and parents than it actually does. I was talking recently with a home-schooling* library colleague of mine, who rattled off a lengthy list of things she’s been told by teachers or school officials (many of which started with “It’s illegal to…”), not a single one of which was true.
    By the way, if someone decides to home school, neither the state nor the local school district can require parents to fill out any kind of form, let alone one stating how many hours will be spent and what subjects will be studied. This friend has 9 children, some of whom are in a charter school they’re happy with. I don’t know what all of her children are doing, but one is enrolled in a fabulous (& accredited) online high school, so that he can be on his local high school football team (yes, this is not only possible but backed up by law) and still have time for family and social activities–and chores.
    *My definition of home schooling is that the family/parents choose where and how the children will be schooled. That’s what you’ve done, Zina.

  2. Pingback: To Write or Not to Write; to Educate or Not to Educate; Puppy Dog Eyes as a Literary Device | My Imaginary Blog

  3. Holly says:

    Great thoughts! I’m going to try homeschooling my Kindergartener and 1st grader next year so I find this kind of thing really interesting.

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