A Note About Homeschooling

Every once in a while the media circus sets its sights on homeschooling. This usually generates an outcry about fundamentalists, leading people to conclude that homeschooling is what religious fanatics who want to hide their children from the world do. What’s interesting is that when we are analyzing other types of people, we never bring up the public school system they might have gone through and spend time wringing our hands over whether or not a one-size-fits all curriculum fails anyone.

Isn’t that funny?

I’m a big supporter of school choice, because I think keeping kids pent up and in seats for 8 hours a day is detrimental to the learning process and to their creativity. This was true for me as a child, so when my parents decided to homeschool when I was high school age, I was relieved.  No more being yelled at for having to go to the bathroom, and no more shame when I didn’t understand something (I just spent more time on the subjects that I had a harder time with. Shocking!)

Suddenly there was less social pressure:  no more schoolgirl cliques where the idiotic idea that older people were scary and younger people were reprehensible was reinforced.  I befriended adults and other homeschooled kids that were younger or in different walks of life.  In school, I was made fun of for reading. In homeschool groups, seventh graders were reading War and Peace and looking at me like I had a third eye because I hadn’t heard of it.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that homeschooling didn’t work for. That’s fine. Honestly, it’s a privilege, and one that most people can’t afford. My mother used to complain about the assumptions people made about her. Everyone assumed she was a paranoid nut who didn’t want her kids to be corrupted by the real world. Well, she has her college degree, and spent a few years teaching elementary school before I was born. When she didn’t know how to help me with something, she got resourceful. I attended the local college for AP Latin and Math classes, and ended up able to take Chemistry and Anatomy at the local high school for just those subjects. She tracked down college professors and MA students to tutor me in subjects I was interested in, and we found a collaborative homeschool group that organized classes and activities. The sky was the limit: nothing was out of bounds. I wanted to learn Japanese, so I did. I wanted to take art classes, so I learned how to use Photoshop and took drafting.

Maybe other school systems are better- maybe some public school are in better neighborhoods and the class offerings are great. Well, not so for me. Homeschooling was a chance to spread my wings and make my schooling an individualized experience while still covering all state requirements needed for graduation.  I flourished socially. I gained confidence. By the time I got to college, I was ready to slip right into the educational environment without much culture shock.

Will you meet homeschoolers who think the outside world is evil, that evolution and climate change aren’t real, that all girls should wear skirts and don’t really care about education to the detriment of their children?

Sure you will. Just don’t judge the method by those who do it badly, and I’ll keep my public-school quips to myself.

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