Julie’s Homeschooling Manifesto

October 7, 2005 | 160 comments
By

We’ve talked about homeschooling before, but once was Bryce’s baby and the other was a peripheral issue. Because people ask from time to time, I thought I’d set out my thoughts about homeschooling in a friendly Q-and-A format.

What about socialization?

Oh, that used to be a huge problem, but we’ve finally gotten our schedule under control so we can spend a little time together as a family.

Forgive the snark, but homeschoolers get just a teeny bit tired of this question. It may have been a legitimate concern twenty or even ten years ago, but it isn’t today. My children interact with other children literally every day of the week, and my biggest headache as a homeschooler is trying to fit in everything I want to do and saying ‘no’ to those activities I can’t do. The assumption that the best or only way that one can become ‘socialized’ (whatever the heck that means anyway) is in a room with 25 people one’s age and one adult is one that many homeschoolers dispute, anyway.

Why do you homeschool?

I want the best possible education for my kids. I also want to strengthen family relationships. I also think it is really, really fun.

How do you get everything done, and take care of your house, and take care of a baby?

Here’s a peek at my schedule. Just note that homeschooling takes a lot less time than you might imagine, and that a school-aged child who only does school work for a few hours per day is a built-in babysitter an asset to the home economy.

We school year-round, four days per week. Wednesday is for library, errands, park/pool, grandma and grandpa, field trips, appointments, visiting teaching, whatever.

We do school from about 9am to 11am-noon, depending on the day. The midday is spent wasting time on the computer cleaning the house and having lunch. We go out in the late afternoons: Monday is scouts (a den of 30 homeschooled boys) and playdate at a friend’s house, Tuesday is a playdate with a different family, Thursday we have a coop and/or friends over, and Friday we have a coop, gymnastics, and/or LegoLeague. In the early afternoons, we have quiet time, where I read to the boys (currently, the Little House series) and then everyone reads or plays quietly.

(Note that all of the links in the below paragraph take you to the curricula I use. This will be of no interest whatsoever to gentiles nonhomeschoolers, but homeschoolers may want to know.)

As for school itself, we have about an hour of work at the table (elocution, memory work, handwriting, spelling, dictation, math, Latin, and grammar) and about an hour of reading aloud (books to go along with history and literature) and almost-daily science projects and history projects. We also have weekly art, music, typing, and oral reading lessons. The baby increases the disorder in the universe during table work and naps during reading time. Once the baby wakes up, my oldest son plays with him in another room for about 20 minutes while I do math and phonics and Spanish with my middle son.

Not everyone can homeschool. Don’t you feel an obligation to support the public schools?

My obligation to my own children comes first, so I homeschool them. There are also many people without access to good health care or the Restored gospel, but I still take my kids to the doctor and to church. At the same time, much as I do the pathetic little I can to help the poor and advance missionary work, I do what I can to support the schools.

How do you decide what to do and what resources to use?

I came upon a book called The Well-Trained Mind. It is the book I would have written about homeschooling had I had ten years to think about it. We follow most of their suggestions, and I will recommend it without pretending that I am unbiased. If you are not easily intimidated, you can order the 1000-page Rainbow Resource catalog and pick from hundreds of different resources.

Well, I guess I am OK with you homeschooling because you are bookish/geeky/really commited/seem organized/have two degrees after your name. But a lot of homeschoolers worry me.

Perhaps they should. I know of some not-so-great homeschooling outcomes myself. But it isn’t as if the public schools are a guarantee of success, either. My personal feeling is that even a parent with only a high school education* could do a fine job homeschooling if she or he chose the right curriculum, but I am concerned that s/he wouldn’t have the depth of education to make the best decision. I’d advise someone in that circumstance to talk to a lot of other homeschoolers before they make curriculum decisions.

What do you think of the LDS homeschooling scene?

I haven’t seen anything that I like. It seems that those who identify as ‘LDS homeschoolers’ are the most conservative part of our community and want to do things like replace the study of great books with the study of great Church books or replace the study of art with a look at the Gospel Art Picture Kit. (They also seem inexplicably hostile toward evolution and science in general.) I’ve never seen a product, program, or approach geared toward LDS that I thought was worthwhile, and I don’t participate in the LDS homeschool activities here in Austin.

Can I email you about homeschooling?

Sure. People online and in real life ask me to walk them through the decision to homeschool and their options for homeschooling all the time. Contact info is in the sidebar.

*That’s shorthand for ‘lacking educational depth'; I realize that some people may not have gone to college but may still be freakishly-well-self-educated, while some may have been legacy admits to Harvard and dozed during classes, drooling all over their Prada, not learning a darn thing.

Tags:

160 Responses to Julie’s Homeschooling Manifesto

  1. GeorgeD on October 7, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    Brava Julie, I was once a skeptic, did not home school my children but believe that there is a likelihood that one day I will be involved in homeschooling grandchildren. Thanks for your comments and your example. Your children are incredibly blessed to have a mother of your commitment, intellect and testimony.

    I went to school but I know that I am self-educated (yes it shows so no snarky comments from the peanut gallery) and I think that the greatest thing we can teach our children is to educate themselves.

  2. Kevin Barney on October 7, 2005 at 9:30 pm

    How do the high school years work? Do the kids go to a public high school when they get old enough, or do you home school right through age 18? And if the latter is the case, do they need to take a GED exam in lieu of a public school diploma? If not, what do they put on their college applications, transcripts, etc?

    (I love the fact that you have Latin in your curriculum. It provides a great foundation for language learning.)

  3. Amira on October 7, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    So, are you happy with Beginning Wisely? Did you use FLL before that, or something else?

  4. Wilfried on October 7, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    Interesting contribution, Julie. I just would like to add that you are blessed to live in the U.S. where homeschooling has, overall I think, become well accepted. In Belgium, and I presume in many countries, any parent who would dare to do this would face a high degree of harassment from inspectors, police, etc. In theory there is, by law, only an “education obligation” towards the children, not a “public school obligation”. Which means citizens have the right to home-school, but in practice the control system & subsequent harassment make it virtually impossible.

    We have had one Mormon family in Belgium who, years ago, tried home-schooling. After a few months the police burst into their home and took the children away “to protect them”. Happily, they were reunited a few days later, but imagine the trauma… The family decided to emigrate to the U.S. where they could home-school in peace and be supported by a whole network.

    Sorry for the international interruption… But I wonder if we have T&S-readers with non-U.S. homeschooling experiences.

  5. Amira on October 7, 2005 at 9:57 pm

    We’re homeschooling in Kyrgyzstan right now. I imagine homeschooling isn’t legal here, but I don’t expect any problems.

    We are often asked about school for our children and I’ve quite trying to explain that we school at home. For people raised under a Communist system (I’ve talked to Chinese nationals, Kyrgyz, and Russians about it), homeschooling is nearly incomprehensible. The only locals I’ve met who have even heard of it work at the US Embassy.

    I’m not at all sure if a Kyrgyz or Russian family could homeschool- I doubt it has ever been tried here. I really doubt that the government would do anything about it right now- there are kids running around during school hours and no one seems to care.

  6. Julie in Austin on October 7, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Kevin–

    This is my plan for high school, but we’ll see what changes in the seven years (gasp! that isn’t that long!) between now and then: we plan to homeschool, but take up the local community college on their offer of two free classes per semester for students in their junior and senior year. It seems to make the most sense to do science and math for these, as those would be the most difficult for me to teach at home. All major colleges have experience admitting homeschoolers without GED or transcript. While standardized tests have many shortcomings, they do help homeschoolers by providing an “objective” measure of their performance. It seems to me that the most potent thing *any* student could put in her college application is a recommendation from a college-level instructor stating “this person can do and has done college level work,” so I think the community college classes will be a boon in that regard. Interestingly, I have heard that some colleges consider hsing a plus because it is a form of “diversity.”

    And Latin is a blast. If only I could get the four-year-old to quit shouting “CLAMO!”

    Amira–I used FLL. I wasn’t thrilled to pieces with it, but maybe that isn’t possible with a grammar program. R & S is very good (although the religious angle is very, very weird). We do 80% of it orally, otherwise it would be too much writing. Even for the sentence diagramming (obviously has to be written) I have the 7yo only put the first letter of each word on the diagram. For the next child, I will do FLL again (because R & S does move kinda fast), but I may not do quite all of it.

    Wilfried–

    Thanks for the international perspective. In this country, homeschooling laws vary by state. In some states (including Texas) there is virtually no regulation. Other states have quite a few hoops to jump through, although homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. It was only in the early 90s that Texas had a court case making it clearly legal.

    Many hsers are adamantly (to put it mildly) opposed to all forms of regulation. I will be the first to admit that most regulation would simply (1) be an annoyance to legitimate parents and (2) a waste of the time and money of state officials and (3) have no effect whatsoever on those who want to abuse or neglect their children. The one idea that I think might work is to require hsers to have three other homeschoolers “sign off” on their homeschooling plan. This would allow for maximum flexibility in terms of curriculum. It would also mean that the family has some contacts and support in the homeschooling community and, I hope, one couldn’t find three people to sign off on a family with no plan to homeschool or one obviously neglectful. I think this might also pre-empt the draconian legislation that is often suggested whenever a terribly abusive family is discovered to have used homeschooling as a cover for removing their children from society.

  7. GeorgeD on October 7, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    The high school problem may solve itself. At the pace Julie seems to be going they should be ready for most college classes by the time they are 15.

    I am not so sanguine to believe that every home schooled child would be ready for college at 15 but I think that the typical high school curriculum is too slow for most youth. Even youth of low ability don’t get enough focussed attention and they take three or four years longer to achieve their “potential” than they might if they had the kind of attention Julie is describing.

    Julie, don’t get your hopes up for Junior College. I don’t think they are all that you may be expecting.

  8. Julie in Austin on October 7, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    I took a few jc classes while in high school and they were worthwhile. My husband already had a BA in Japanese when he decided to get an EE degree and did his basic math and science at a jc. He found those classes to be of a generally higher caliber than his UC Davis classes because they weren’t huge and weren’t taught by TAs (who were often nonnative speakers) or professors more intent on research than undergrads.

    A lot of the above paragraph paints with a broad brush, but no broader than yours, GeorgeD.

    As far as ‘pace,’ my kids are a little ahead in math and reading, which I don’t think you can really avoid if you homeschool, but science, history, and literature are done for depth, not speed.

  9. Tana on October 7, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    More and more families are homeschooling throught the teen years. Many homeschool teens begin college in their midteens, and, no, a GED is not usually necessary. In fact, many “elite” colleges seek out home-educated people with good portfolios (collections of their academic, service work and life experience). The book to read is “Homeschooling for Excellence” by David and Mickey Colfax; they detail the experiences of their 4 homeschooled sons, 3 of whom graduated from Harvard. I mention the book not to be sensationalistic, but to point to one of the “pioneering” families and how they dealt with the traditional college entrance requirements. Many have followed their path. Also, there are many websites that detail what’s needed for a stellar homeschool college application.

    It is much easier to homeschool in the United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand than most other parts of the world besides the United States and Canada. As for Western Europe, Germany is the only country I know of where it is illegal, but, as Wilfried mentioned, it may not be smiled on in several of the countries where it’s “legal”.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on October 7, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    An amazingly nuanced and well informed view of homeschooling.

    Considering most people who bring it up that I know are either 1). so against it they attack anyone who suggests it might be worthwhile in some cases, or 2.) So for it they accusse anyone who participates in public schooling to be in league with the devil.

    My father just retired from teaching public school, so of course that’s where I went (but in Alaska, when I was growing up, our school district was top-notch and had great teachers with a demanding cirriculum), However, there were a couple of families in the ward that did home schooling who would publicly denounce my father for his diabolical profession, Of course, those families bought up lots and lots of ammo and now all live on a compund in Jackson County, Missouri, awaiting the second coming. I expect they’ll be on the news someday, in a firefight with ATF and the FBI or something.

    Not that that is here or there. Julie’s post was great and should be read thoughfully by all interested in homeschooling. In fact, there’s someone in our ward considering it, and I’m going to tell them they should read this post at T&S.

  11. Geoff J on October 7, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    Someone help me out here…

    My experience has been that 90%+ of homeschool kids I have met in my life are serious weirdos. Errr, make that severely “socially backward”. This was true when I was a kid and has remained true into my adult life working with church youth in my wards or as an early morning seminary teacher. Is my experience simply unusual? I can say it has made me extremely skeptical of the overall value of homeschooling…

  12. TMD on October 7, 2005 at 11:43 pm

    I’ll play the bad guy, I guess, and say that based on my peers who have been home schooled have tended to be peculiar people, often nice enough, but always peculiar in one way or another. And not in the good way. (I’m 26, and as such I have known as peers in college, etc. children who have had what I think could be called ‘mainstream homeschooling’ experiences in a way that I think people 10 years earlier have not.)

    By way of information, I went to a Catholic grade school, a public high school, an episcopalian college, and am in a public graduate school. (I’m a the child of a part-member family, and formally joined the church while in college.)

    And yes, socialization is a key part of it. Not just socialization at the ‘able to get along with others’ level, or the ‘can form friends with people from different backgrounds’ level, but their ability to interact with others in all sorts of ways. [Before we move on, though, the people who have been most socially disabled in my experience are those who have been pushed multiple school years ahead in school, with homeschoolers falling in at a close second; those who had ‘a bad time’ in HS often bloom in college much more than homeschoolers, in my observation.] They tend to have problems with people who disagree with them–either they are unable to comprehend how people can disagree with them, or if able to do that they are unable to effectively discus and debate, because they never had those experiences, they never did that in high school. It’s one thing to learn handwriting from one’s parents, but its quite another to disagree with them over how to interpret a classic adolescent novel (or movie, like one of my generation’s ur-texts–Dead Poets’ Society…my dad and I still inverterately disagree over whether it’s the teacher’s fault or not, a disagreement I think would be far less likely if I had recieved a ‘general interpretation’ of such issues from my parents alone). The ever-present personal relationship with the homeschooling parent does not exist in the school environment with one’s teacher, it seems to me, but it dominates the intellecual relationship of the homeschooler. This is not healthy. Either it encourages children who are intellectual clones of their parents or everly lesson increases the parent-child divide. I don’t think ‘ a few community college classes’ deal with this, either: socialization by those other than one’s parents is key to forming a distinct identity, and a few experiences once or twice in late adolescents are too little, too late: supposing that the CC courses are of actual worth, the kid will be either to arrogant to engage with others or so cowed by the age of their fellow classmembers as to be silent. Don’t count on the value of those cc instructors’ recomendations, either: thinking back to my HS rec letters, they were very different from the ones written by my college instructors (as I applied for grad school and other things), and the ones I now write for college students : yes, there was a part that testified to academic ability (and in much greater detail, because all except my advisors had limited exposure to me), but they also talked about things like character and one’s ability to be a productive part of a community, things which are important to a decent college admissions board because a college education is or should be about those things too.

    A final set of key points:
    first, becoming an independent, decent, functioning man or woman involves interacting with others in the world without one’s parents closely supervising. Even ‘group activities’, because they are supervised either directly by the parents or by people who have a direct personal connection to the parents does not address this issue: the kids are not learning to deal with the world on their own when there is a parent or a quasi-parent looking over thier shoulders every minute. Dealing with the daily moral challenges of the 3rd grade and the 6th grade are important in formation as an adult, I think. These moral challenges–to tell the teacher, or not; to help the bully, or not; to take the crayon, or not, just exist to a lesser degree when in the realm of parental control.
    Second, interacting with peers on in the less intensely supervised environment is also important. It’s not just a matter of learning how to be a boy, or learning how to be a girl: its also learning how you fit in with others, how you compare with them, what you’re good at and what you’re not outside, away from the often patronizing tendencies of parents and other adults.
    Third, there’s a real issue here for kids with special needs–be they learning disabiliities or the gifted and talented. There are certainly exceptions–but most parents, through quotidian interaction and lack of skill, would probably be later in recognizing these special children for what they are and then dealing with their needs. Moreover, these kids, particularly the gifted, often need both the special support and stimulation that come from being grouped with other gifted children.

    Now, I don’t mean to be disagreeable. But, based on my own experiences and interactions with people who have been around me who are of a range of different abilities, I feel surpisingly strongly that for an awful lot of children, long-term home schooling has negative effects that are ignored or discounted by HS advocates. Sure, schools have problems, and all children do not have equally good outcomes: but considering the commitment and effort of the parents involved and the (to a certain extent inherited) raw intelligence of the children who are homeschooled, I just tend to doubt that leads to adults who are reaching thier full potential.

    Sorry for so long…friday night plans got canceled…time on one’s hands & all…

  13. Ivan Wolfe on October 7, 2005 at 11:59 pm

    One more question for Julie:

    Latin, but not Greek?

    Latin is fine, but I find it overrated. Greek is where it’s at, unless you’re a papist. (Just kidding! That was a joke! Latin is just fine – but I always have wondered why “classical” learning systems tend to emphasize Latin and not Greek when the Romans stole most of their ideas from the Greeks anyway).

  14. Ivan Wolfe on October 8, 2005 at 12:01 am

    (that papist remark really was a joke. I’ve been reading lots of 18th century english poltical tracts recently, so I have the term “papist” on the brain – I really hope I didn’t offend anyone….)

  15. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 12:13 am

    Geoff and TMD–

    I think both of you are overgeneralizing from your personal experiences (which you will no doubt accuse me of doing, but at least I can claim personal knowledge of dozens if not 100s of homeschoolers, giving me a larger sample size, if nothing else). I also think it likely that you fall into this fallacy: you see an odd-acting homeschooler and think, “What a weird kid. Must be the homeschooling.” whereas if you saw an odd-acting schooled child, you would think, “What a weird kid–wonder why?”

    TMD, I think you overstate your case and underplay ways to get around it in every instance. For example, my little 7 year old already takes part in a great books discussion where he gets to hear a variety of viewpoints about the literature they read. Our approach to history involves reading 5-10 library books on each subject, and even at this young age, he already realizes that different authors have different viewpoints. I am not his only teacher. As far as interacting without parental supervision, this is a spectrum issue, not a yes/no issue. Neither of us (assuming you have children) would leave our child in a room with a child molester. We both think *some* protection appropriate. We might differ on the ideal amoung of supervision in other circumstances; I send my 4yos (it is a rite of passage) on a cross-country trip with grandpa to visit extended family for 2 weeks, and apparently a lot of people in my ward think that odd. But I don’t think the “advantages” of the unsupervised interaction children get in school outweigh the disadvantages of learning in a classroom setting

    In general, TMD, you raise concerns that, in smaller doses (again, I think you overstate the case), every homeschooler considers. (and, believe me, we have plenty of moral challenges during den meetings!) But homeschoolers have decided to work around them and have decided that the alternative is worse. You correctly identify some concerns for homeschooling; what do you think the list would look like if I identified some concerns for public or private or charter schools?

    The one area, TMD, where I strongly disagree with you is this: special needs. In virtually every case, these will be recognized more quickly and better responded to by a parent than a teacher. As a former public school teacher, I can assure you that this is the case.

    Ivan–The only reason we’re doing Latin is that until two months ago (and we started Latin almost 1.5 years ago), there was not a single NT Greek program for elementary aged students on the market. The new one is from http://www.opentexture.com and it looks preety good; I plan on doing 3-4 years of Latin, 3-4 of Greek, and then Hebrew (or another language if the child has a strong preference).

  16. Keryn on October 8, 2005 at 1:04 am

    Julie,

    Do you use tapes or CDs for the language study, for pronouncation and such? I guess that it doesn’t much matter for the Latin, but for the Greek and Hebrew, will you?

  17. Geoff J on October 8, 2005 at 1:17 am

    Julie: I also think it likely that you fall into this fallacy: you see an odd-acting homeschooler and think, “What a weird kid. Must be the homeschooling.”

    You are probably right that I over-generalize homeschool kids and that my experience is not as extreme as it seems to be to me. And you are right that it is not uncommon for me to meet a weird kid and think “hmmm, I bet that kid is a homeschooler”. The problem is that it is not at all uncommon that my hunch is right.

    This might be because of a few things. First, a lot of weird parents seem to homeschool. Not that all parents that homeschool are weird, but it seems to me that weird parents are especially attracted to homeschooling for whatever reason. (I knew the parents as a youth leader and seminary teacher and I think all of them were ranging from a little to a lot socially odd). In some cases the parents took their kids out of public school because they were so backward that they were picked on by other students. (The wisdom of that strategy is certainly debatable.) So what I’m saying is that I know that correlation is not causation and that being homeschooled may not cause kids to be weird, but my experience has made me very leery of the homeschool idea.

    Do you (and others here) think that the tide is turning with home school and the socially-well-adjusted-kid to socially-weird-kid ratio is improving or staying the same? Or do you think my experience is either misjudged by me or completely inconsistent with the norm?

    Now perhaps you figure it doesn’t matter if an unusually high percentage of homeschooled kids are weird as long as yours are not. I can’t argue with that – especially if home schooling is not what made the weird homeschoolers I have known weird to begin with. But I also have seen a lot of the home school kids connected to play etc because homeschooling parent like to band together for support. So if that is true would hanging out with mostly weird kids wear off on otherwise socially well-adjusted kids (like yours) and make them socially weird too? In other words is nerdiness (and not the good kind) contagious?

    Just wondering what you think…

  18. Seth Rogers on October 8, 2005 at 1:42 am

    Warning: we’ve hit a hot button here (prepare for a rant)

    This whole socialization thing is kind of silly.

    First off, those who fret about kids’ becoming socially adjusted during home school have WAY too high an opinion of our public school system.

    Here’s my take on public school:

    Watching one of my friends repeatedly get his head shoved in toilets and other acts of public humiliation by the local “alpha males.” I remember that Robbie had to actually hide in my parents’ backyard EACH DAY after getting off the school bus because the other boys would try to beat him up. These particular little alpha males were also, incidentally, the nice-looking popular types at school who everyone was so giddy over for being so “well adjusted.”

    Getting stuffed with sheer refuse in the school cafeteria and then being expected to sit for hours. If you sit, you are a “good kid.” Just about everything else is secondary to not making any disturbances. Recess was a nice break from this (provided you didn’t get beat up and teased), but I hear many schools are getting rid of it to keep up with “No Child Left Behind.”

    Do not excell! If you surpass your peers too much (raise your hand too much, etc), you will be labeled a “loser” by your peers and will have ketsup squirted down your pants. Mediocrity pays off in public school.

    Instead of getting a realistic view of human sociality with various age groups working and living together, you will spend most of your childhood with about 30 kids exactly the same age as you. Just about every issue in your life outside of the home will be decided “Lord of the Flies” style. Remember: whoever has the conch wins!

    Don’t expect to learn much at school. Your parents will likely have to re-teach the entire day’s work between the hours of 5 and 8 pm. Homework is where you will actually learn this stuff. I don’t know why people think their kids are learning much at school. After all, the teacher practically admits that nothing was accomplished in class every time he sends the kid home with homework. Why not just be honest with ourselves and admit that the kid is doing all his learning at home anyway?

    My own experience in school was that about 30% of the students were being routinely harrassed and tormented at public school. The bullies rarely remember details like this into adulthood and the other “average bystander kids” don’t tend to remember the teasing either since they typically ignored the unpopular types.

    These are my happy memories of public education.

    RE TMD:

    You think the homeschooled kids are weird? Imagine what would have happened to them on the playground!

    The correlation between homeschooling and wierdos is there because in the early years it took serious problems at school for your average 1970s parents to even consider bringing the kid home. The kids were already having problems at normal school. The homeschooling didn’t cause the problem, it was a response to it.

    Secondly, if by normal and socially well-adjusted, you mean “no different than any other kid on the block,” then yes, I would agree that homeschooled children tend to be odd.

    But in this case, I would prefer being odd. At public school “normal” = the lowest common denominator. If you want mediocre kids, go ahead. Send them to public school and you’ll have a pretty good shot at it.

    This isn’t to say public school is incapable of producing smart or original kids. But it does seem to be pretty uncommon. If you want proof of this, just ask any English 101 professor at almost any college about the quality of most of the papers they have to grade.

    I consider public education an abysmal failure on just about every front, including socialization.

  19. jp in lv nv on October 8, 2005 at 1:51 am

    I debated whether or not to homeschool my children. My dearest friend homeschools hers, and I respect her for doing it. However, my thoughts run toward the Geoff and TMD train of thought. For similar and one very different reason. I am not going to be their for my children every minute of their life. They are not going to be around people that particularly will even care what they do the rest of their life. Even if they had a co-op it would be with other mothers who were always handing out warm fuzzies like me all the time. This is NOT life. Life is not easy, no one really cares about you but your loved ones. End of story. I am not a fatalist, I am a realist, with an English degree. I think it is vital for my children to go to school. They live IN this world. They have the gospel. They have loving parents. They have the ablilty to foster a relationship with the Savior. This is MY job. I feel that my children have been huge influences on the children around them for good. Their Christlike attitudes have contributed to their classmates lives. Without being able to understand who and what they are my children would be living life in a fishbowl-and I believe most homeschooled children are. I am not thrilled with public education, and I supplement it regularly. I am known by my first name by every office staff member in my childrens’ school. My children’s teachers always know I am there to help ANY child that needs assistance. I believe witholding ourselves from the world is not always the best way to be–or to teach our children that they are somehow better and not subject to the realities of life. Most homeschooled kids I know, and they number up with Julie’s, hit too hard when they have to join the real world.

  20. Seth Rogers on October 8, 2005 at 1:53 am

    OK, I realize that was incredibly disjointed, and over-wrought. So sue me.

    But to respond to Geoff:

    Realize that modern homeschooling typically includes quite a few social activities since homeschoolers tend to either:
    a) share the load with other homeschooling households;
    b) enroll their kid in lots of extracurricular activities; or
    c) both.

    Also remember that the phenomenon of forcing kids to interact almost solely with their own age group is a very recent innovation (it only started around the early to mid twentieth century). Before that, kids were typically educated in one place with the older kids studying side by side with the younger ones. Or the kid simply learned at home and in the fields.

    It’s twentieth century homogenized classrooms that are the social abberation, not the homeschooling model.

  21. Geoff J on October 8, 2005 at 2:06 am

    Seth: modern homeschooling typically includes quite a few social activities since homeschoolers tend to either:
    a) share the load with other homeschooling households;

    As I mentioned, this is the one that scares me. If social weirdness is contagious (which is cetainly not a proven fact) then I don’t like the odds at all on this one…

  22. Seth Rogers on October 8, 2005 at 2:21 am

    What I’m wondering is why homeschooling gets scrutinized for producing mal-adjusted kids and public school does not.

    If you balanced the chances of public school warping a kid with the chances of homeschooling warping a kid, I think you’d find this is really a non-issue.

    Public schools didn’t magically provide me with lots of friends, a realistic view of the “outside world” or, for that matter, a good grasp of basic algebra.

    My point is not that homeschooled kids aren’t wierd. My point is that you’re giving the public schools far too much credit by assuming that statistically they are more likely to produce well adjusted kids. I don’t think reality meshes with that view.

  23. JKS on October 8, 2005 at 4:48 am

    I tend to defend homeschooling when people say that the homeschooled kids in their ward growing up were weird (I simply ask them what the parents were like, nerdy and socially awkward? Well, kids of nerdy, socially awkward people tend to be nerdy and socially awkward so it probably wasn’t the homeschooling).
    I have considered homeschooling. I have enjoyed teaching my children up until kindergarten and even past kindergarten. My daughter at two knew the names of 45 states and where they were on the map and my son at five knows the names of Jupiters Gallilean moons….pretty much because I enjoy helping my children learn.
    My decision NOT to homeschool was based on the following…in no particular order.
    1. I would like my children to have a normal American life experience, except for being LDS and having those beliefs and standards. I think having a common history is important.
    2. My local school is an above average school that will probably teach my children grade level academics.
    3. I have 3 children, including a toddler and I find it difficult to multi-task. I think I could happily homeschool one child.
    4. Life sometimes has disasters/challenges and I feel that during those times, my child’s education might not get the attention I would want to give it. When I got pregnant with #3, for instance, some things had to go.
    5. My family has a dynamic between siblings. I think it is good for them to have a chance to have a different dynamic outside of the family.
    6. I’d like them to learn about other people and the world…although I wish it could be a litte more limited.
    7. I volunteer in my children’s classes.
    8. My children surprise me when they go to school. I learn different things about them, different talents or personality traits that weren’t obvious to me.
    9. I sent my 3 year old to Early Intervention with the school district and was happily surprised that the teachers worked so well with the students and over time I saw that the class environment gave my child added educational experience in a way that I couldn’t myself.
    10. If my child has a serious education problem or social problem, I can easily homeschool for a period of time down the road.
    11. Children are only in school 176 days of the year, the rest are mine.
    12. I can concentrate on the younger children while the older are in school, and I get to enjoy those hours with them.
    13. I can teach plenty to my children during after school hours or non school days. I feel that the educational enrichment activities I do with my children will make up for the slow pace of the school’s academics (my kids are top readers and math students so they don’t get to learn in those areas).
    14. There is much that my children do learn in school, even if they are ahead in reading and math.
    15. I worry about where to draw the line too. Protecting my children vs. not keeping them in a bubble. . I do know that bad things can happen to your kids even if you don’t send them to school.
    16. I don’t know where to draw the line on holding their hand and doing things for them vs. throwing them in the deepend so they know they can figure things out themselves. Because of my son’s language delays, I found myself thinking if I just work hard enough, I can teach him everything he needs to know before he needs to know it. But how sad if I fix all his problems for him that he never gains confidence that he can handle his own problems. I don’t know the right age to throw your child out into the world to start figuring things out on their own. I’m a SAHM so it wasn’t at 6 weeks. But age 6? Yes, maybe.
    17. Driving to after-school types of activities is a pain when dragging multiple other children with you! Having more than one child in baseball is a nightmare.
    18. I believe public school will be a more positive than negative experience for my children and for our family.

  24. Wm Jas on October 8, 2005 at 5:05 am

    I and my brothers and sisters were homeschooled all the way through high school, so I might as well provide some anecdotal evidence. Academically we’ve all done extremely well, and none of us had any trouble getting into a good university. Socially, I would say that, yes, we all ended up rather weird, but I don’t have a problem with that. (I wouldn’t, I guess, being weird and all.) We’re all happy, have plenty of friends, and are productive members of society, so being “normal” has just never had much attraction.

    Of course it’s really hard to untangle which way the causation runs here. I’d be inclined to say that both the academic ability and the oddness are mostly genetic in origin, but then they do fit the homeschooler stereotype very well.

    The stereotype itself is something to take into consideration, too. Homeschooling is still viewed very negatively in most of the world. A homeschooler can turn out perfectly normal and well-adjusted, but he’s still going to be stuck with that label — at least until he gets old enough and far enough away from home that people stop asking where he went to high school.

  25. Dan Barnes on October 8, 2005 at 6:35 am

    The families that we know that homeschool are usually doing it in an attempt to make sure that their children become clones of their parents, hence, the problems they have later in life when someone disagrees with them (no one EVER disagreed with them, “me and mom always agreed!”).

    In working with kids that were homeschooled I think that accounted for their “weirdness” in dealing with others. The internal conflict they have when someone tells them, “nope, we’ll do it this way” is something you can see on their face. Soon, they wanted to bring their mom along to make sure everyone knows they are right–ALL THE TIME! And, mom wanted to come along, for the same reason.

    We always believed in home school, just as soon as the kids got home from REAL school.

    In our area we cannot name one homeschooler who got into BYU, and they all tried. In fact, we don’t know one of them that ever left their parents shadow. I wonder if that is the real motive behind Home Schooling, to keep your children in the compound.

  26. Shawn Kellis on October 8, 2005 at 6:41 am

    Ok Julie. I am now much more enlightened to the home-schooling arena. However, at the risk of admitting to ‘lacking educational depth’, I must know the english translation of ‘CLAMO!’

  27. Jonathan Green on October 8, 2005 at 8:59 am

    Julie, I have two questions.

    My older children are in public school, and we’re very happy with the results, and plan to keep them there. But I can also imagine several situations where we’d homeschool, like if the school was a physically dangerous environment or incorrigibly backwards, or one of our children required attention that the school simply couldn’t provide. Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider public schooling the better choice for your children?

    To briefly summarize Dan B, Geoff J, and TMD to the point of distortion: “Homeschoolers are all weird.”
    To do the same to your response: “No, they’re not.”
    To do the same to the penultimate point of your post: “LDS homeschoolers are all weird.”
    Are Dan, Geoff, and TMD perhaps merely noticing the same thing you have observed, if overgeneralizing a bit? Assume, for a moment, that as Mormons most of the homeschoolers they are aware of are LDS. Both you and they are not terribly enthusiastic about what they see. Is your post a manifesto in favor of homeschooling, or in favor of your kind of homeschooling? How would you draw the line between a great education at home, and weirdness? If most LDS homeschoolers don’t seem to be getting it right, is it because they’re LDS, or because they’re homeschoolers? This is all one question, really.

  28. jjohnsen on October 8, 2005 at 9:00 am

    “My experience has been that 90%+ of homeschool kids I have met in my life are serious weirdos. Errr, make that severely “socially backward”. This was true when I was a kid and has remained true into my adult life working with church youth in my wards or as an early morning seminary teacher. Is my experience simply unusual? I can say it has made me extremely skeptical of the overall value of homeschooling…

    This has been my experiance, both at my job and in my ward. A young man that I work with that was homeschooled has serious issues dealing with co-workers, and will most likely lose his job because of it. The two familes in my ward that homeschool both seem to have problems. One of them homeschools the daughter because “she could never wake up and get to school on time” the other because her kids “won’t learn about health issues(sex I’m guessing) and science(evolution), it isn’t necessary”. Again, it’s all anecdotal, but I wonder where all the well-adjusted, smart hs children are?

    Shawn, I believe clamo means shout or yell. We learned “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” in a class, I’m pretty sure clamo was part of that.

  29. jjohnsen on October 8, 2005 at 9:02 am

    Ah-ha! Jonathan may have just explained why I meet the strange homeschoolers, they’re all LDS.

  30. Salem on October 8, 2005 at 9:20 am

    I tend to defend homeschooling when people say that the homeschooled kids in their ward growing up were weird (I simply ask them what the parents were like, nerdy and socially awkward? Well, kids of nerdy, socially awkward people tend to be nerdy and socially awkward so it probably wasn’t the homeschooling).

    No, it probably was the homeschooling. The poor kid is stuck with the crazy parents all day. It’s nice to get away from your parents and learn on your own.

    Public school is not and should not be expected to be responsible for your childs education. However, it can help in a lot of ways that homeschooling cannot. It seems like everyone on this post is choosing 100% homeschooling or 100% public schools. That is a mistake. Certainly public schools will not educate your kid 100%, that’s why they don’t go live in dorms, and spend 100% of their time at school. If they go to school 25% of the day, well the other 75% goes to you parents. Spending some time teaching Latin at home is awesome, but there are some advantages to public schools that one cannot learn only at home.

  31. Rosalynde on October 8, 2005 at 9:34 am

    I don’t plan to homeschool unless some unforeseen circumstance arises, and I found that I was well served by the (admittedly superior) public schools that I attended. But I have no doubt that Julie is raising well-adjusted little boys, and I admire her dedication.

    And I have to say: the other day my daughter shocked me by reading an entire sentence from the new Friend with complete fluency, and it was quite a thrill to know that *I* had taught her to do that. I’m starting to get why Julie likes it so much.

  32. Russell Arben Fox on October 8, 2005 at 10:10 am

    “Assume, for a moment, that as Mormons most of the homeschoolers [Dan, Geoff, and TMD] are aware of are LDS. Both you and they are not terribly enthusiastic about what they see. Is your post a manifesto in favor of homeschooling, or in favor of your kind of homeschooling? How would you draw the line between a great education at home, and weirdness? If most LDS homeschoolers don?t seem to be getting it right, is it because they?re LDS, or because they?re homeschoolers?”

    Julie, I think Jonathan’s question(s) here is an important one to discuss, and potentially very helpful to a lot of people considering home schooling. As of the present moment, out of all the school-age Fox grandchildren, ours are the only ones that attend public schools. All the rest are home schooled or are in private schools. Among the home schooled kids (all from active LDS families) I see a lot of variety–a lot of wonderful things being done, and some of the stuff you criticize as well. Do you think your negative comments about the LDS homeschooling scene might have something to do with your location, in an area without a large body of LDS homeschoolers networking and learning from one another. Several of my siblings and siblings-in-law regularly attend homeschooling conventions in Utah, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere, and are innundated with methodologies and cirricula; maybe that’s just not possible in Texas, and so the LDS homeschooling movement there becomes insular as a result? Or are your observations based on more than just what you’ve experienced locally?

    Thanks much for your thoughts, by the way; I’ve wanted you to write a post like this for a while.

  33. AE on October 8, 2005 at 10:42 am

    How about structure? Do home-schoolers develop the ability to sit for long periods of time in one place they may or may not want to be, to stick to a schedule, to take long tests, etc?

  34. Stephen M (ethesis) on October 8, 2005 at 10:48 am

    It seems that Austin schools are terrible, unlike those in Plano. My five year old loves school for the social interaction (she was already reading at a second grade level before she started and had a beginning on fractions). She is still learning at home.

    The home schoolers we had in the area all skipped math as “girls don’t need it.” Sigh. The current one sent the kid to the local community college for math and other subjects and by her “junior” year she was full time at the JC and doing well.

    But Rachel wants to stay at after school care every day too, to play with the other kids, finish the crafts and snacks and then go home. But our schools are excellent.

    On the other hand, I think I may do home school Spanish with her, since they don’t offer it and she wants to learn it. I don’t know.

    Interesting to read the comments here.

  35. Seth Rogers on October 8, 2005 at 10:53 am

    You can throw around annecdotes all you want. I’ve got my own. Most of the “weirdos” I’ve known in life came out of public schools.

    So, am I to conclude that public schools produce maladjusted kids?

    Until someone can offer more than preconceptions and annectdotes we’re not going to get anywhere with this.

  36. Wilfried on October 8, 2005 at 11:17 am

    Some of the latest comments draw the attention to the influence of location and availability of schools/programs. I presume that is why in some countries (Western & Eastern Europe, Japan…) homeschooling is frowned upon or simply forbidden: the quality of the schools is, overall, (perceived as) so high, that is seems unacceptable that parents would not take advantage of it. Homeschooling is then immediately associated with cultish behavior, isolating children from society, last-day-doom-atmosphere, etc.

    Coming back to the U.S., are we then to believe that in some places the public school system is so poor that homeschooling is to be preferred by default? Or, if so, is it possible that such negative perception is unjust / artificial?

    Another question for Julie: what about children who do not want to be taught by their parents? I know situations where children hate to be taught or helped by their father or mother when it comes to school topics.

  37. TMD on October 8, 2005 at 11:27 am

    In for a penny, in for a dollar…

    Couple of comments I’d like to respond to, a couple of things to add.

    First and significantly, it seems to me that most who ‘defend’ the socialization experiences of homeschoolers have seen homeschooled children only as an other, rather than as a peer. Bright kids are often well-praised by adults, particularly if they know unusual things…they seem ‘great.’ But that does not mean that their peers see them the same way, that they are not missing key connections with the people they will interact with the rest of their lives, or that they are getting all of the experiences that they need to develop into well-rounded people. Some of us are young enough to know peers who have had recent, main-streamed home-schooled children (I actually know more outside the church than in), and while I deal with people (being a grad student) who are of good ability and work ethic, I still find the key social differences standing out. Yes, my sample size is smaller, but that only means the standard error is larger, not that the pattern is lost. Of those who are in the top 10-20% academically (in college and after), I would say that there is indeed a social marking that results from homeschooling.

    Second, I think that its more useful to think about this in a systematic way. Most of the ‘good homeschoolers’ (kids into harvard, etc) are often parents of unusual education and motivation. Beyond those cases, what is the average homeschool experience like? (Julie, I think you fall into the ‘above average’ category–a lot of the homeschooled kids I know tend to be much more apt to do the state mimium, rather than the ‘state minimums + latin and greek’ approach.) Because there are hours to fill, most public school students end up doing more than the state minimums…performance on tests notwithstanding. Among those who are skeptical, I think it not so much a skepticism of unusually excellent homeschoolers, but rather of most homeschoolers. And I think most homeschooling parents aren’t involved with groups, so evidence from them is already reflective of higher motivation and effort… So, yes, there are ways around many of the (many) problematic issues of homeschool, but are there systems that facilitate getting those options to most of those who are homeschooled, even if the parents aren’t that wealthy or aren’t that super motivated? I don’t think so… Of course, this brings up issues of class (in the marxist sense)…but I don’t have time for that.

    Next, I think its wrong to knock classroom education quite as strongly as many do. I attended a mediocre high school–900 students, mostly blue collar with some white collar families, in almost every respect in the middle of the 40 + school districts in a county of more than 1 million people. Most of the teachers explained things most of the time better than the text books did; some–usually the oldest and most wed to ‘traditional classroom methods’ with 30 + years of teaching–used textbooks only as a source of homework problems and got more people further along the path to understanding than anyone else. Moreover, the pattern of interaction with impersonal functionaries (this is how berger and luckmann, authors of one of the great books about socialization, the social construction of reality, describe teachers who are not of the family or close to it) provides both an introduction to the demands of the world and give students and opportunity to glimpse different ways of living. Sr. Monica, a Sister of St. Joseph, taught my second grade math class with an iron hand (though she was not uncaring) and in doing so she introduced us to the idea that sometimes, you do have to do things, even if you don’t want to; sometimes, getting the job done on time is really important, cause you can face humilation otherwise (she had a big red pen she wielded publicly); certainly she improved many of our work ethics in so doing. Sr. Dolorosa, the almost 80 year old nun who taught my 6th grade religion class (again, parochial grade school, catholic high shool was too expensive, though) was a person of profound love but also a flinty strength that emanated from her barely 5 foot frame, introduced a rigourous and serious and significant study of religion, something which I still benefit from. My parents, even a group of parents of similar background and a carefully prepared curricula, simply could not have done these things; in so doing, they could not have introduced me to a wider world of opportunities and ambitions.

    There’s one last bias I think I should introduce: I don’t think the socialization I got from my family necessarily prepared me for all the things I would need to do (they are wonderful and I love them, but that doesn’t change the facts). My dad is a shy man; in a meaningful sense I did not know how to make friends with other boys; I was the excluded boy in middle school, the kid everyone picked on. No one can tell me about being bullied in school: during 6ht-9th grade, I had no allies, and I did not have, at first, the tools to deal with it. (My two friends had moved away, by evil coincidence, at the end of 5th grade.) But through the experience, I gained the strength necessary to deal with every-day life; importantly, my faith also deepened, in good part through increasing participation in LDS activities. I learned to let some things slide off my back; I learned how to respond; I quit crying about being excluded; and I saw the odd things I did as others did and was able to shed many of the things that made me akward. I am a far stronger, and a far better, person, because I went through that experience. And, as time passed, through my experiences in school, and then my summers on a camp staff, I learned how to be a guy, how to be a friend, how to get on in the world, how to thrive in it. By the end of high school, I was friends with many of the popular and smart and athletic kids, if not exactly one myself in all those categories. I came to belong through school–in so many positive ways, it made me what I am. And I’m terribly concerned for kids like me who, because their parents choose to homeschool them, don’t get those things, and end up less for it, smaller people with smaller worldviews and smaller ambitions about who and what they can become.

  38. jjohnsen on October 8, 2005 at 11:43 am

    “How about structure? Do home-schoolers develop the ability to sit for long periods of time in one place they may or may not want to be, to stick to a schedule, to take long tests, etc? ”
    Isn’t this why we bring toddlers and young children to Sacrament Meeting ? ;)

  39. Susan M on October 8, 2005 at 11:53 am

    I always wanted to home school my kids, but it just would never work for me. I went to an unusual elementary school myself, where kids took responsibility for their own learning and worked at their own speed, and I loved that. And I love that about home schooling.

    There are a lot of good alternative schools nowadays, though. When we lived in Kent, Wa, my kids attended one that everyone referred to as the homeschool school. It was created originally as a resource center for homeschooled kids, because the district was losing so much money on parents homeschooling. The deal was, you had to use their resources on-site for a certain number of hours, and the district could get money for it. It ended up evolving into a full-fledged school. Parents were required to volunteer a certain number of hours a month. It was very small. My kids loved it–and really flourished there.

  40. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    Wow, I sure hope that those of you willing to generalize about homeschoolers from a few anecdotal experiences don’t do the same for race, class, nationality, etc. I’d also hope you would consider the following:

    (1) Many kids are homeschooled because of pre-existing social issues (mental/emotional/learning difficulties, bullying, etc.). You cannot then blame homeschooling for their issues.

    (2) Many homeschool parents are socially weird; you have to be to be a nonconformist at this level. So you cannot blame homeschooling for the kids’ issues.

    (3) Socialization is a two edged sword. To use a teeny tiny example, my 7 and 4 yo were thrilled to find a Star Wars sticker book on the clearance rack and happily played with it and showed it to a public-schooled friend (who is a very good boy from an LDS family). He informed my boys that they shouldn’t play with it any more since the first Star Wars movie is no longer popular. I found out about this because they asked me later what popular meant. So some kinds of social normalcy we are happy to do without. It makes me sad to see other people’s 7yos looking like they stepped out of the ad from a department store; mine wears the shirt his uncle brought him from Trinidad as often as he can because he loves it. He is unaware that shoes can have prestige. So if you looked at him, he might look like a misfit. Given our current cultural priorities, this may be a good thing.

    (4) Further, even if we are missing out on some of the ‘good’ socialization, that has to be weighed against the benefits we get, which include: improved depth of sibling relationships, improved depth of parent-child relationships, more family time, improved educational quality, and more enrichment activities.

    (5) Further, studies have shown that giving a teacher biasing data on a student (gifted, problem kid, talkative, etc.) will, over the course of several months, actually CREATE a student with that attribute where none existed before. You should all consider that your attitude may do the same to the homeschooling kids that you encounter.

    Geoff asked, “Do you (and others here) think that the tide is turning with home school and the socially-well-adjusted-kid to socially-weird-kid ratio is improving or staying the same? Or do you think my experience is either misjudged by me or completely inconsistent with the norm?”

    I think the tide is turning. 20 years ago homeschoolers were almost solely motivated by religion or another desire to ‘escape’ the world. Today, with the increased number homeschooling for academic excellence, you get more ‘normal’ people.

    “So if that is true would hanging out with mostly weird kids wear off on otherwise socially well-adjusted kids (like yours) and make them socially weird too?”

    Again, if I had my choice (and I do) between the 7yo at the coop who wants to talk about battleships (and knows more about them than most adults) and the 7yo who wants to enforce the orthodoxy of Hollywood and Madison avenue, guess which I’d pick?

    jp in lv nv “Most homeschooled kids I know, and they number up with Julie�s, hit too hard when they have to join the real world.”

    The thing is: school is not the real world. Will everyone who works in an office that meets the below description please raise their hands?

    –everyone on your team was chosen because their birth date is within 12 months of yours
    –no one will be fired for poor performance or lack of motivation; instead, the company will slow down the work to meet their needs
    –the team has to accept anyone who shows up, regardless of skill or motivation
    –you cannot walk through the hallway without hearing extreme profanity (I’ve taught junior high; I know whereof I speak) and sexual references
    –employees who physically fight with other employees or bully them or steal from them or sexually harass them will be back on the team in a few days
    –the employees cannot choose to leave for another work place

    In other words, schools are a social construct, and an odd one at that.

    Shawn: ‘clamo’= I shout

    Jonathan Green: “Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider public schooling the better choice for your children?”

    It is always a balance of advantages and disadvantages and I can think of several things (there are probably others) that would throw the balance in favor of school: long-term illness on the part of any family member that took too much energy from our schooling, the necessity for me to earn an income, a deep-rooted parent-child issue that meant homeschool involved too much fighting to get done, a student with a deep need (grin) to play high school football, etc.

    “If most LDS homeschoolers don�t seem to be getting it right, is it because they�re LDS, or because they�re homeschoolers?”

    Most LDS homeschoolers that I have met (which isn’t that many) are in it to protect their children from the world. These tend to be the weird ones who end up with misfit kids. The LDS homeschoolers who have been in it for educational excellence have been reasonably normal. Because our LDS culture encourages the first type more than the second, I think that it why they are a little off (at least to my way of thinking). Also, LDS homeschoolers like me (and at least 2 other families I know/knew in AUstin) tend not to associate with the LDS homeschoolers for this reason and find other homeschool circles, thereby exacerbating the right-ward tilt of these groups.

    Salem–I hope your estimate of a public school student spending 25% of the day at school isn’t the result of the deficiencies of your public school educaiton.

    Russell, I answered some above, but to your question, “Do you think your negative comments about the LDS homeschooling scene might have something to do with your location, in an area without a large body of LDS homeschoolers networking and learning from one another. Several of my siblings and siblings-in-law regularly attend homeschooling conventions in Utah, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere, and are innundated with methodologies and cirricula; maybe that�s just not possible in Texas, and so the LDS homeschooling movement there becomes insular as a result? Or are your observations based on more than just what you�ve experienced locally?”

    I know Austin LDS homeschoolers as well as the Internet presence of LDS homeschooling, but have no experience with the community in other states/areas. I think the Internet prevents the insularness you are talking about. In a place like Austin, people like me (not the far right edge of the Church, doctrinally or culturally) will just be more comfortable with nonLDS homeschool groups. Also, I admit that the sample size is so small here that I may be overgeneralizing from just a few wacky families. (But what I see on the Internet would seem to suggest otherwise.)

    AE–Depends on the homeschooling family. I’ll be clear and state that my highest goal for my children is not that they are able to sit still for long periods of time, and I think schools often ask developmentally inappropriate things of younger kids in this regard. At the same time, if I had a junior-high-age child who couldn’t/didn’t sit and read for over an hour at a time, I would work on that.

    Stephen–city of Austin schools are terrible, Pflugerville is OK, Round Rock and Georgetown are better. But there’s a whole host of issues here: suburban (exurban!) sprawl, long commutes and their effects on families and the environment, that come into play when you start thinking about moving 50 minutes away from your job to go to better schools.

    Wilfried asks, “Coming back to the U.S., are we then to believe that in some places the public school system is so poor that homeschooling is to be preferred by default? Or, if so, is it possible that such negative perception is unjust / artificial?”

    Unfortunately, there seems to be little overlap in the areas where public schools are that poor and parents with the ability/willingness/vision to homeschool. One exception is that some urban African American parents, who may live in areas with poor schools, may homeschool because they perceive that the schools will not give A.A. kids a fair ride.

    “Another question for Julie: what about children who do not want to be taught by their parents? I know situations where children hate to be taught or helped by their father or mother when it comes to school topics.”

    As I said, intractable parent-child problems would make me consider changing course. But in many cases, small changes around the edges can alleviate these problems. (Silly story: I have a friend whose 6yo begged and begged and BEGGED to go to school. Finally the parent was able to draw out the reason: lunchboxes with cartoon characters. A lunch packed in the morning with said box solved the problem.)

    TMD–As a gifted youth, everything you said about homeschoolers applied to me–and I was in the public schools. Again, you are overgeneralizing. See above.

    You write, “most public school students end up doing more than the state minimums” TMD, all the data suggests otherwise.

    You write, “And I think most homeschooling parents aren�t involved with groups,” Evidence? I know exactly one family out of the 200 or so hsing families that I know who are not involved in groups.

    Susan M points to what I think is The Next Big Thing: part-time schools. They re cropping up all over the place in Austin and they seem to meet a variety of needs all around. I predict that this will be huge in a decade or so.

  41. TMD on October 8, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    “I sure hope that those of you willing to generalize about homeschoolers from a few anecdotal experiences don’t do the same for race, class, nationality, etc. ”

    !!!

    Julie, I had not taken you as one to toss such epithets so casually, merely in service of an argument…

    That aside,

    First, some of us may have more than a ‘couple of anecdotal experiences”. Fine, you know “200”. I’ve had interaction with 25-40 (I don’t count…) including some relatives who are, for their high school + ages, woe-fully undereducated, unaware of the possibilities of eduction, and who do do the state minimums. Moreover, I have argued that I’m writing from a different perspective on those cases (as peers, rather than the child-adult posture). What’s your magic number for moving beyond anecdotal evidence? Moreover, because all of your data seems to come from similarly classed, highly motivated, highly engaged people (i.e., the 199 in the groups you are familiar with), how exactly do you know that you are not over-generalizing from an exceptional group…are these 200 all of the homeschoolers in Austin, and how would you know?

    Second, most of us skeptics are addressing the structure of the situation and the nature of the practices/experiences, rather than the nature of the people…so in no way are homeschoolers comparable to an ascriptive grouping or even a semi-ascriptive one, like socio-economic class.

    Last, regarding two of your main points,

    –“Many homeschool parents are socially weird; you have to be to be a nonconformist at this level. So you cannot blame homeschooling for the kids’ issues.”

    Yes, yes you can. Because of homeschooling, they have less oportunity to grow out of their parents’ foibles through exposure to alternatives, and systematic time away from them.

    –Regarding battleship boy…aside from the fact that this may reflect aspergers’, it shows how you are looking at the products of homeschooling as an other rather than as a peer. Yeah, now, as an adult looking at him now, you’d prefer to talk to him. But, if you were his age, would you like to? After ten more years of this, (were you his age) would you want to date him, to marry him? And what will you say in ten years when he doesn’t understand how to present himself (fashion-wise) in a way that others won’t make fun of, ’cause it was never stressed that there are ways to be presentable and to know what is presentable when he was learning some of those basic things? These things matter…they matter every day in the adult world, as adults interact with adults. But somehow, lots of adults forget that when they look at kids…yet childhood should, fundamentally, be about making good adults.

  42. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    TMD–

    You appear to value social conformity a lot more than I do. Even if I *knew* that I was creating social misfits, I think educational excellence and deeper family relationships are worth that price. But I believe no such thing, based on my interactions with a variety of homeschoolers. I think we’re reached the point of diminishing returns in our conversation, so I’ll disengage from discussing this with you, unless you want to explore a different issue related to homeschooling.

  43. TMD on October 8, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    Julie: Social non-conformity, when chosen, can be a great blessing. When not chosen, or its origins are not understood, it can be a great curse.

    Nice talking with you…

  44. Kevin Barney on October 8, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Julie, I have a couple of thoughts on your language program. First, I think what you are doing is terrific My (public) high school didn’t offer Latin, but if it had, I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole. My language and grammar skills weren’t that great in high school; English was the worst category in my ACT and dragged down my overall score. I didn’t become interested in ancient languages until after my mission in college. But learning them has been the bedrock of my own education, and the earlier you can get started the better.

    I think Latin is best learned before Greek. My professors would deny it, but I think Greek is at least marginally more difficult than Latin. The vocabulary is much more extensive, with plenty of English derivatives and cognates but not as many as Latin, and it seems like there are more of everything: tenses, moods, numbers, etc. Someone who has already learned Latin has a huge step up in learning Greek, however, which I think is why it is rather traditional to learn the languages in that order.

    I have a couple of suggestions. First, if you can find the curriculum to support it, I would start with classical Greek rather than the New Testament. You know, Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, that sort of stuff. If you learn the classical forms of the language, the NT is easy, but if you try to go the other way, it will be very difficult. (And by all means, learn ancient Greek, not modern demotic Greek, for the same reason. Knowing modern Greek and knowing ancient Greek are not the same thing at all.)

    Second, at some point (whether in lieu of or in addition to Hebrew), I would recommend learning a living, modern language. I know four dead ones, but I have always regretted not learning German (which is a language that is very important for the types of ancient studies I am interested in) while I was still in school. (I took a community college class a few years ago, and have worked through grammars and listened to discs on my own, but I am still at a beginner’s level.) French, German, Spanish, Russian or whatever your children are interested in would make a nice compliment to the classical languages.

    Just a few thoughts.

  45. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Kevin, I, too, learned Latin before Greek, so it seems more natural to me to do it that way. (Although I admit that I made the decision to teach the kids Latin first just because of what was available in terms of resources.)

    As for your suggestion, the only (nonmodern) Greek program for elementary aged kids that I know of is Koine, so it seems better to me to do Koine than to do nothing, although given what you have said (and the fact that I know no classical Greek) I may need to reconsider. I may need to think more about the goals here: Greek is, for me, primarily to read the NT untranslated and to learn the roots for English, but there is, of course, value in reading classical Greek texts. Need to think about this more, unless a classical Greek program comes on the market and solves my problems!

    I forgot to mention Spanish! I do a little ‘for fun’ with my K4 and K5 aged kids, but I do think that if an LDS homeschooling family has the means, the two things that they should do to benefit the Church are to teach their kids Spanish and how to play the piano. However, unlike the dead languages that I can comfortably teach despite having forgotten half of the little I ever knew of them(!), I think that a modern language needs a conversational component, so I’m holding off on those until the kids can take them in a class setting with a native (or close to it) speaker and gets lots of conversational practice. In a few years when the budget isn’t so crunched and there is no naptime to mess up, we’ll start Spanish classes.

    Thanks for the advice, by the way.

  46. GeorgeD on October 8, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    I think its a bit broad to say that LDS homeschoolers are all “protect their children” from the world types. I have seen all types of LDS homeschoolers including your type Julie.

    I do want to respond to the socialization concern. When we were young parents, a book by LDS psychologist Victor Cline was a popular child rearing guide for LDS parents. Cline really emphasized conformity and something he called competence. He described conforming and competent children as the kind of kids who fit in and were not weird. My wife and I read it through and thought that’s nice and then we saw it in action by an LDS neighbor who took it seriously. We threw it out. We considered it the most non-Christian thing we had ever read. As we read it (or arguably misread it) Cline encouraged parents to help their children choose non-weird friends, make sure that didn’t obsess on anything (i.e. strive for excellence) and on and on.

    My observation has been that suburban LDS families obsess on conformity and competence. A child that is a little slow athletically, a little obsessed with art, music, animation, history or poetry is quickly labelled weird and falls out of the competent or confoming category and isn’t a suitable friend for their children.

    Raising my children in suburbs with such people has been one of my biggest challenges in the Church. Interestingly I have seen any number of these families raise kids who took the conformity to such levels that their sons weren’t able to serve missions and their daughters weren’t worthy of temple marriages. Some guidebook.

  47. Gary on October 8, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    My wife and I have nine children. To date, they have (not including eight spouses and three foster children) a combined total of 142 years of schooling—and our youngest son is still in high school. As parents, we have always been actively involved in the education of our children, at home and in both private and public schools.

    We began in the mid-70s, with our oldest in public kindergarten. Several things about that experience prompted us to try a small LDS private school for several years. We actually moved 100 miles away and I found a new job to facilitate this decision. But as our family grew, even tuition breaks for doing janitorial work weren’t enough. We couldn’t keep up with it financially. So, for a few years, we (mostly my wife) home-schooled. We used Beka Books and our children thrived academically.

    Eventually, we decided that at age eight we’d put them into the public school system. Four of them were already older than that, but eight of our nine were home schooled until at least the age of eight. We’ve now sent four of them to BYU, two on scholarships (one Presidential) and we now have five University degrees (three from BYU including one Doctorate) with more on the way.

    Home schooling in our family is now in its second generation with two of our children educating their own at home.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your Questions and Answers. You are right on target. Just as you are doing, my wife read the Little House series to our children, also the Black Stallion series, James Herriot’s All Things books, and Jim Kjelgaard’s adventure books, to name a few. More recently, our family read together Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (all five volumes).

    You mention supporting the schools. My wife was president of the PTA one year while home schooling the younger ones!

    I’ve also known several LDS home schoolers and I don’t know of any who restrict themselves to great Church books and Gospel Art Picture kits, although I confess that I myself am skeptical about evolution but not inexplicably (see ndbf.net and ndbf.blogspot.com) and not about science in general (astronomy, for example, is one of my oldest and most loved hobbies).

    You surely will not regret your decision to home school.

  48. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 3:14 pm

    GeorgeD–I hope you didn’t think I was calling all LDS homeschoolers overprotectors. I specifically mentioned some counterexamples and would add my own family to that list. I appreciate your thoughts on the value of (non)conformity.

  49. Bryce I on October 8, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Hey, I’m a LDS homeschooler too — draw your own conclusions.

  50. Sarah on October 8, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Dude. My mom homeschooled all of us (I was there for 7-12, my sisters were there for 1-12 and K-12; the youngest is in 12th grade now) and to suggest that she was there every single second, coddling us through our math problems and reading and history work, is the most laughable notion I’ve ever heard. I was lead cadet in my Sea Cadet troop for three years — I spent an evening a week doing everything I could to cajole 7 to 12 fellow cadets into completing their basic military requirements and doing PT. I was in theatre (bit roles, mostly) where everyone else went to Naugatuck High and I was the lone homeschooler (and everyone else knew each other, from kindergarten on up they’d been in the same classes;) my mom went to my final performance, I think. The day I moved to college was the last time I spoke to her for a month and a half (she visited on my 17th birthday.) Maybe we’re not typical LDS homeschoolers, but still… we’re taking personal experiences as iron-clad truth today, right?

    Nearly all generalizations are false. Including this one. =P

  51. Jonathan Green on October 8, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Julie, thanks for the answers. A lot of the discussion has focused on socialization, but the more comments I read, the more ambivalent I’ve become about sozialization as a reason for choosing one form of schooling over another. As much as the next person, I want my children to learn to get along with others and do what their teachers ask, but I also want them to do some profoundly weird things: excel academically, avoid peppering their speech with vulgarities, foreswear coffee and tobacco and alcohol and other social pharmaceuticals, and spend a few years pestering people about religion. I’m starting to think that “socialization” is too broad a concept with which to approach a very complex topic, and one that might just be tangential to the public-part time-home schooling question.

    Also, I’d second Kevin B’s suggestion not to wait too long to start a modern language. Children have a limited window in which to acquire a native-like accent, after which it becomes much more difficult. As hard as learning grammar rules can be for adolescents or adults, it’s trivial compared to the effort it takes to acquire native-like phonetic production. Even with a couple of certified language teachers in the house, though, we haven’t found much in the way of a workable kids’ currculum for German, and I haven’t had time to see if any of the FLES work can be transferred to a home context. We’re not impressed with anything we’ve looked at so far, but there might be more available in Spanish,. My preferred solution, of course, is for parents and children alike to spend extensive time in a country where the target language is spoken.

  52. Jonathan Green on October 8, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    Well, Bryce, considering Stanley’s evident proclivity for flamboyant cross-dressing even at age 2, I think we’ll stick to public schools, thank you.

  53. Susan M on October 8, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Off topic, but my former boss put both of his children in a Spanish-immersion program at a public school in Bellevue, WA, that I thought was really interesting. The kids are taught totally in Spanish, as I understand it. At first, they’re behind grade-level-wise, but by third grade or so they’re working at grade level. I don’t know all the details. But I know when they took a trip to Mexico and their 6 year old curly-blonde-haired daughter was translating for them, they were proud. :)

    BTW, I think social skills are overrated. I can say that, as someone who has never had good social skills, although I’m much better now that I used to be. School did not help me improve on my social skills at all either.

  54. LisaB on October 8, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    We’re also homeschooling in lieu of public school. I don’t believe parents ought to have to defend the choices they make about their children’s education to anyone. I do think regular guidance from the Spirit regarding each individual child is essential.

  55. Ashley on October 8, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    LisaB, I agree with your sentiment that parents shouldn’t have to “defend the choices they make”–but being able to clearly, concisely, and intelligently give an explanation for the unconventional choice of homeschooling is important.

    We’re the only homeschoolers in our ward, so people are curious about our choice and I’ve fielded many questions–I haven’t considered any of them rude or intrusive, so maybe I’ve been lucky. The process of “defending” my decision to homeschool has actually refined my own thinking about why we’re homeschooling right now.

    The tricky part, for me, is to sound just as respectful of their choice (public school) while I’m enumerating the reasons why homeschooling is the better option for us. It’s difficult to say, in essence, (as Julie did) that I want the best possible education for my child–without it being a resounding put-down. So occasionally I’ve found myself emphasizing (unfortunately) my daughter’s ADHD and her academic precociousness, which can be TMI.

  56. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    Ashley–

    You make a very good point about how you convey a desire to achieve academic excellence without implying that your questioner is denying their children the same!

    I hope it has been clear from this thread that I don’t think homeschooling is the best choice for every family, and that I think most students in most schools can get a perfectly adequate education.

    I’d also like to state that I think (after four years of homeschooling, but I didn’t think this when I was one) that public school teachers are miracle workers of the first order–given the constraints that they have to work under, the fact that they teach anyone anything is truly amazing.

  57. Gabrielle Turner on October 8, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    Julie,
    I haven’t read all of the responses, but I really enjoyed your post. I plan on homeschooling my boys (twins that are 4 and a little one 21 months). I will start formally on this starting next fall. I have already chosen a curriculum (Sonlight Curriculum), and I am so, so excited about it!! I loved your responses to common questions, and I am copying and pasting them to a document that I will save for future reference.
    I actually completed the secondary education classes at BYU to be able to teach (all except my student teaching), and that actually was what prompted me to think about homeschooling. I kept thinking about all the things I could do with my kids at home that would be so much more fun and efficient than what even an energetic and passionate teacher can do in a classroom.
    Anyway, thanks for your post!

  58. LisaB on October 8, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    I think you’re right, Ashley, that often people ask simply to gather info. When this is the case, I am happy to talk with people about our (multi-faceted) choice to homeschool. When it’s clear that people are simply trying to impose their views about the matter on you, it’s pointless to engage anyway.

  59. Bryce I on October 8, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    Gabrielle–

    I don’t use Sonlight, but am active over at the Sonlight boards. Look for Bryce I.

  60. Bryce I on October 8, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    Jonathan (#52) —

    What, Eric and Joseph don’t enjoy dressing up in their sister’s dance recital costumes?

    What’s really funny is that Stanley insists on watching football dressed up like that.

  61. Julie in Austin on October 8, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Um, Bryce I, we *do* have standards around here . . . I’ll have to check with my cobloggers, but I am pretty sure links to pro-cross-dressing websites are out.

  62. Bryce I on October 9, 2005 at 12:33 am

    An actual comment on homeschooling:

    One of the big problems with talking about homeschooling is that the only evidence anyone can bring to bear is anecdotal. There aren’t any reliable numbers or studies that give a good picture of the homeschooling movement, the performance of homeschooled students, and the effects of homeschooling on socialization. To be sure, there are studies out there, but they are from organizations that can hardly be called unbiased. The one thing that can be said with certainty is that the number of homeschooling families in the US has grown tremendously in the past few years. This growth means that even if there were good studies out there, they’d most likely be out of date, as the rapid growth means that the overall composition of the homeschooling population is changing at a very quick pace.

    I’ll throw in my anecdotal evidence and unsupported arguments now. First off, there are definitely a lot of weird kids who are homeschooled. It’s not at all clear that this is because they are homeschooled — remember, correlation does not imply causation. Certainly, kids who have a hard time adjusting socially at school are often homeschooled because of those problems — no causation there (exacerbation, perhaps). And since homeschooling, despite its increasing popularity, remains a rather extreme option for most families, most families who homeschool are extreme in their beliefs and actions in some way. It’s not “normal” to homeschool, so why expect homeschooled kids to be “normal”.

    I often find myself defending the public schools when talking with other homeschoolers. I’m not of the mind that public schools are necessarily terrible educational options for families. We seriously considered putting our school-aged daughter in public school this year because of the arrival of a new baby in our home. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that public schools, or classroom-based schools of any kind, are somehow bad or inferior, because they may end up in such a school someday, and they have many friends who attend such schools, and in many cases they’re not bad or inferior. Clearly, we feel that homeschooling is our best option right now, but that doesn’t mean that I think everyone should homeschool.

    I think that as more and more families homeschool, homeschoolers will become less weird, in part due to the increased numbers of less-extreme families homeschooling (as homeschooling becomes more accepted and easier to do), and in part because there will be more homeschoolers, period. Normal is defined by what everyone else is doing; if many people homeschool, homeschool outcomes become more normal.

    This last month we discovered yet another benefit of homeschooling. My daughter Jaymie had been complaining that she didn’t like math. Kristen (my wife) and I worried a lot about this. Jaymie’s not bad at math, but she has to work harder at it than any other subject; everything else comes easily to Jaymie. We realized that we had been assuming that Jaymie learned mathematical concepts as quickly as everything else she tried, and had been going too fast for her to get a deep understanding of the concepts she was learning. Once we slowed down, Jaymie lost her dislike for math, and has become much more enthusiastic about her studies.

    The thing is, Jaymie had been able to do her assigned work all along. She just didn’t like it, and she didn’t have a real understanding of what she was doing, but if we had just been looking at her work, we would have concluded that she was doing just fine, and that math just wasn’t fun for her. Since we can focus on her individually, we can do more than just make sure she can pass the test — we can help her develop a love and appreciation for the subjects she studies.

  63. gst on October 9, 2005 at 12:49 am

    Can’t I homeschool my daughter after she gets home from, you know, school-school?

  64. JKS on October 9, 2005 at 1:49 am

    gst,
    That’s kind of my philosophy.

    Bryce I and Julie,
    I have to admit I’m a tiny bit jealous. I do think I would enjoy homeschooling. But, as I posted above, I have plenty of good reasons why we send our kids to school.

    Guess what? I just did the math. School only being 25% is right. Assume 356 days/year, with 14 hours awake per day=4984 total hours, 176 school days of 7.5 hours each is 1320 school hours (26%) leaving 3664 hours to the parents which would be 74%. Salem, you were pretty right on! I appreciate your point. I have control over what my children are learning that 74% of the time and I should use it wisely.

  65. PoNyman on October 9, 2005 at 3:43 am

    Thank you Julie for your excellent post and comments. They have been very helpful as my wife and I are deciding whether to home school or not.

    As to the debate over socialization my own experience was excellent in public school K-6. Soured in 7-9 and picked back up again in 10-12 (after I picked up a sport and friends big enough to pound or at least pressure the bullies that were physically and mentally torturing me, from stealing homework and books to lighting my pants on fire with cigarrette lighters.) My lone goal in high school was to be smart enough to get into higher level classes and get away from those horrendous people. I went from a D student in junior high to near the top of my class in high school. In defense of public school, I found that I was fairly well prepared for college and that includes socially. But real life was far easier and more satisfying than my junior high school years. Anyone in the real world caught doing what those kids were doing would be at least fired if not jailed. I find the real world, in the U.S. at least, to be more protective than what I felt in school. I know, I know, I still harbor issues from those days. Sure, “all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end”, but some things go too far. Issues in the office that have to be overcome (good), Abu Ghraib (bad.)

    As a kid, I envied the home schoolers that I knew. They were so much more well read, from my point of view as a peer, and far more socially adjusted than I was, and I was a voracious reader, I just didn’t have a clue what direction to take in my reading. They may have had issues, but I had no idea what they were.

  66. John Kane on October 9, 2005 at 4:17 am

    Julie, I am sure you are doing and will continue to do a fine job teaching your children at home. And I wish you continued success.

    With that said, I’ve encountered quite a few products of the home school option (at work, on my mission, and in college), and rarely are they well developed socially.

    But again, the point was already made that you are most likely doing an above average job, as many others in this country are I am sure. Of course, an accurate generalization cannot be made because HS children share a general experience, they do not have THE SAME experiences/parents/teachers. It’s all up to what you do with it.

    The name of the game is to be careful, just as a parent of a child in public school should keep one eye (or both) on what their kid is being taught when they aren’t around. But I would be careful…

  67. JKS on October 9, 2005 at 4:40 am

    Puberty can hit pretty hard. It’ll do that, you know. Most people have teenage years of horror/misery/angst. I would love to spare my children all of it, but if they aren’t angsty at school, they’ll be angsty at home instead.

  68. Jeremiah J. on October 9, 2005 at 5:50 am

    My wife and I have considered homeschooling in the past. We’ve not done it yet, and our daughter has been in public school. So I haven’t been very opposed to homeschooling in general. But today I do have concerns, which tend to be mainly republican (small r) ones. In short: doesn’t some part of your children’s mind belong not just to the church and to you, but to the political community as well? When your children become adults, their government will be able to draft them into military service and send them to risk their lives for their country. They will also have the right to vote and perhaps the obligation to serve on juries. Is there no educational prerequisite to these duties and rights? I think that there probably is.

    Granted, many homeschoolers in fact do a very god job of educating their children to be good citizens. The irony of American Catholic schools used to be that they were, for the anti-Catholics, the symbols of Catholic disloyalty to the republic, but their social studies programs were patriotic and ‘American’, moreso than the public schools in many cases.

    And yet many homeschoolers seem to be motivated by the idea that education is entirely a family matter–regarding content and manner of education the larger community and the state have no legitimate rights at all. Indeed the horror stories about political correctness and the talk we hear about our educational system being corrupt beyond repair sometimes approximates the mindset of the morally sensitive but nonetheless bad citizen: “I will only respect and honor my country’s institutions inasmuch as they measure up in every respect to the moral law”. Indeed the education system does have its problems. But so do the legal system, the democratic process, etc. Loyal citizens don’t abandon them for that reason.

    But there is another aspect to social and political membership which does goes beyond the educational prerequisites and support for fundamental institutions. It is the basic experience of being with others in general that replicates the experience of democratic communication and deliberation. In public school I don’t get to choose who I look at everyday, whose voice I have to hear, whose presence I accept. It’s not about ‘learning to make friends’. It’s about having to be with other people not of your own choosing, other people who are there merely because they live in the same community as you do. Many Christians have decried the practice of “choosing a congregation” that goes on in some denominations. ‘We are all part of the body of Christ, but I’ll sit in the pews with those who look like me and make comparable amounts of money, thank you.’ I think a similar claim (though a weaker one) can be made about citizenship. Freedom means choosing our own friends and associates. But democracy seems to entail not getting to choose who you have to look at, hear and see, at least for some part of your life.

  69. Bryce I on October 9, 2005 at 9:09 am

    Jeremiah J.–

    You describe a wonderful ideal, but I don’t see how it happens in practice. You say, “It’s about having to be with other people not of your own choosing, other people who are there merely because they live in the same community as you do.” Well, most people pick the communities they live in, both physically and virtually. Public schoolers and homeschoolers alike are trying to find like-minded groups of families to associate with. Families that send their children to “building school”, as we call it in our house, do it by moving to neighborhoods that their realtor tells them are in good school districts, or by finding a private or religious school, or applying to magnet schools, or charter schools, or requesting in-district transfers, or any number of other means.

    So I laughed when I read this statement of yours:

    Many Christians have decried the practice of “choosing a congregation” that goes on in some denominations. ‘We are all part of the body of Christ, but I’ll sit in the pews with those who look like me and make comparable amounts of money, thank you.’

    This sounds exactly like what happens in the public schools.

    I don’t want this to sound harsh — I would love it if the world worked as you describe.

  70. Jeanne on October 9, 2005 at 9:34 am

    Just wanted to call attention to a little error in logic. Folks here have spoken of the weird people they’ve seen who often turn out to be homeschoolers.

    I wanted to say, you probably don’t think to ask all non-weird people (whatever that means) how they were educated, so a lot of non-weird homeschoolers are “passing” your weirdness test all the time, unnoticed by you.

    My kids are neither prodigies nor dummies, seem to have no tics or social discomforts, have read a few of the classics and are conversant in the major video games, are outstanding athletes; well, you get the picture. These are big, good looking, articulate, socially comfortable, physically able kids who get followed around by the high school girls at WalMart who seem not to have a CLUE that they are supposed to be weird.

    A new acquaintance recently told me, “Your kids are so — normal! Except nicer than some of the teenagers I know.” This applies to a lot of their teenage friends, I might add.

    Many of the other explanations about why some homeschoolers or formerly homeschooled adults might be deemed “weird” are also valid, but I just wanted to point out that “regular” kids also benefit from homeschooling, deserve the opportunities that homeschooling brings, and are probably operating right under your nose — with no questions from you about how they are/were educated.

    You have a bit of a false “control” if you ask all the weird people (whatever your definition) how they were educated but don’t ask all the non-weird people. Your assumption will prove your hypothesis every time with that kind of construct.

    Perhaps homeschooling provides a haven for “weird” kids who would have a hard time with the school setting; perhaps it provides a more humane option for parents, weird themselves, who have a genetic predisposition to producing weird kids. Perhaps homeschooling even enhances the tendencies toward certain weirdnesses in kids who have a proclivity toward being weird, just as public schooling may enhance the tendencies toward certain other weirdnesses in other kids. But perhaps, like in public school, a certain number of kids are just going to be weird, and a certain number are not going to be weird.

    And perhaps weirdness, subjective as it is, is a blessing that bestows benefits on individuals, families, and societies. Certainly we have seen some artists, musicians, scientists, mathematicians, activists, writers and just plain strange folks who have enriched our world, and many times we learn that homeschooling was a big ingredient in their lives.

    I for one am grateful that both the weird and non-weird have the opportunity to benefit from home education.

  71. gst on October 9, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Is it important for kids to know how they rate against other kids in the various kidly endeavors?

  72. Julie in Austin on October 9, 2005 at 11:38 am

    gst–

    Lots of people ‘afterschool.’ It can be a gret way to supplement and round out an education. The danger is overloading the kid; not that that is insurmountable, it is just something to be aware of.

    JKS–I thought Salem meant in any given day.

    PoNyman–You are right about junior high being the worst for some people. I have known parents who have only homeschooleds the junior high years in order to avoid this. Usually they have large families and feel that they couldn’t hs all kids all the time, so their priority was junior high.

    Jeremiah J.–I think I have a duty to teach my kids about the government, principles of democracy, etc., but I don’t think that the state has a right to insist that they do that teaching themselves. I hope it is clear that I am not one who thinks that the govt shouldn’t regulate homeschooling–I just think it needs to be done with extreme care to have any positive effect.

    You then write, “It is the basic experience of being with others in general that replicates the experience of democratic communication and deliberation.”

    Would you apply this critique to charter and/or private schools as well? What about vouchers, districts with open enrollment, and (the most common) parents who select a home based on the school district?

    It isn’t that I don’t think that you are describing something good and useful, it is that I think you shouldn’t uniquely apply to homeschoolers. Plus, the advantages of homeschooling outweigh this good–for our family. Additionally, my son spends a lot of time with people he didn’t choose–his brothers (!), boys in his scout den and coop, etc. I’d note that there is far more diversity across our homeschool groups–which draw from the entire city–than there is in the neighborhood school in our very homogenous neighborhood (all homes built at once by one builder, at very similar cost).

    All–

    It isn’t that I think homeschooling is perfect. There are disadvantages. But to me, the comments here are nibbling around the edges (possible socialization issues, community-building, etc.) and ignoring the meat-and-potatoes: EDUCATION and FAMILY. In a gospel context, these trump other issues. Which, again, is not to say that I think everyone should homeschool, but just to point out that (if it came to that, which it doesn’t) I’m willing to hedge in socialization and community for the sake of education and family. They are higher goods.

  73. Julie in Austin on October 9, 2005 at 11:39 am

    gst asks, “Is it important for kids to know how they rate against other kids in the various kidly endeavors?”

    To an extent. Some schools overdo their one-dimensional competition. My son knows when he loses the Pine Wood Derby, when another kid writes more articulately than he does, when another runs faster than he does. He isn’t shielded from competition.

  74. jp in lv nv on October 9, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Julie, I am not refering to the slowing down, same age, etc. that you mention in your comment. What I am referring to is racial, ethnic, social/economic diversity. And yes, many people must work with people they cannot stand and deal with people that are morally and socially offensive. This is the real world I am talking about. I went to school and heard all of the terrible epithets and nasty comments that my children will. This did not corrupt me, destroy me or damage me. I am a perfectly normal person who realizes that this world is made up of a myriad of individuals who God loves. I need to learn to deal with my brothers and sisters–so do my children. I think often living in a world with no outside influence can produce people who are unwilling to accept indivduals for who they are and to see past downfalls and different ways of living life. It is great to read about this, but experience is another concept all together. Many of the homeschooled children I know are turning into people unwilling to accept anyone or anything that isn’t within their ‘box’ of thinking. This is what I mean by the real world–

  75. jp in lv nv on October 9, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Julie, I guess my biggest hold-up with homeschool is the motivation. I can understand homeschooling if you live in the inner city or a crime infested neighborhood, but other than that, I am perplexed.( I live in the fifth largest school district in the country.) It has been my experience that the homeschooling families that I know seem to somehow think they are better than everyone else and an exception to the norm. It seems to me that often these families-who are not all LDS- and who are spread over 3 states–feel that what is in the school is too much for their little ones. This ranges from ‘we just think our kids deserve better’ to a self-righteous ‘I am raising the next prophet’ attitude. It seems that fear of how their child will deal with school is the motivating factor. My response, often enought to my friends and their motivation, is to teach their children the truth, and let them decide for themselves–truth taught but untried is useless. I’m not anti-homeschool–I just don’t think its best for my family and I don’t think the homeschoolers that I know are raising very adaptable, open-minded or empathetic children.

  76. GeorgeD on October 9, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    jp in lv nv, It sounds like a little cognitive dissonance here and it may be going both ways. We human tend to need to justify our choices and one way of doing that is denigrating other people’s choices. Perhaps some homeschoolers do that but I think some public schoolers look at the claims (many very legitomate I feel) for homeschooling and out of some gult that they are not doing enough for their children start to denigrate it.

    How we school our children is a choice we parents have to make but we should always try to do it based on what we think is best for the children without reference to other people’s choices.

  77. Jonathan Green on October 9, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    Julie, whatever skepticism I might have about homeschooling in general, or in other cases (most particularly my own), I have no trouble accepting that homeschooling is the best option for your family. What do you consider essential preparation for homeschooling as you practice it? What elements of your education, or experience, or reading, or other part of your life have enabled you to be a successful home schooling parent? Is there anything you now wish you had done earlier? Any recommendations to prospective future homeschooling parents?

  78. Russell Arben Fox on October 9, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Jeremiah’s comment, followed by Bryce’s response, put me in mind of the thread Julie mentioned in her post; it unfolded just about exactly a year ago, and it was a real education for me to go back and review the exchange which developed between Bryce, Jonathan Green, myself and some others, regarding the legitimacy and/or the effectiveness of home schooling as a response to, or a rebuke to, or an alternative to, our various civic obligations. All of it is still relevant, and I’d urge Jeremiah and anyone else interested in the “politics” of home schooling, broadly construed, to go take a look at it.

    My own take really hasn’t changed since this post I wrote defending “state educations” way back when, though I think–partly because of my wrestling with arguments made by homeschoolers like Bryce and Julie, as well as much of my family–I’m a lot more willing to acknowledge that the sort of reforms necessary to make public schooling the truly, civilly empowering project I believe it ought to be are huge, rooted in the bedrock of how we fund and conceive and apprortion education in the U.S., and there’s a not-unpersuasive strategy behind simply refusing to work with the creaky old dinosaur which is our public education regime beyond a certain point. Julie and Bryce are right to suggest that Jeremiah’s comments about home schooling are equally applicable to how parents shop for school districts, how private schools break-up the same notions of community, etc. I’m at the point where, unless some critic of home schooling is also willing to attack certain elite private school arrangements, I’m going to be very doubtful they have anything to say worth listening to, whether or not I’m in basic agreement with them.

  79. Bonjo on October 9, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    Don’t you feel an obligation to support the public schools?

    By paying taxes to public schools, and not sending your kids to those schools, I’d say you’re doing more than your fair share to support the public schools! My opinion of the public education system is that it is over-burdened and under resourced. Many public school systems should thank their lucky stars for homeschoolers.

  80. Julie in Austin on October 9, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    jp in lv nv–

    I’m not sure why you would think hsers have less exposure to diversity than schooled children; as I said above, our homeschool groups–being citywide–have more diversity than our neighborhood school.

    You write, “I think often living in a world with no outside influence . . . ” This is such a bizarre statement; check my schedule above to see the outside influences on my children.

    As far as motivation, I think I’ve been clear that my motivation is to provide my children with the best education possible, and I have no doubt that I am doing a better job that the local school would–for my children.

    Jonathan Green asks, “What do you consider essential preparation for homeschooling as you practice it? What elements of your education, or experience, or reading, or other part of your life have enabled you to be a successful home schooling parent? Is there anything you now wish you had done earlier? Any recommendations to prospective future homeschooling parents?”

    (1) For people who want to homeschool, I would recommend that they attend a homeschooling convention in a large city in order to get the lay of the land–both speakers and what curricula is available. I’d recommend that they read The Well-Trained Mind, but recognize that it sets out one (of about five major) homeschooling methodologies and that the others are legitimate as well. They might want to ‘hang around’ the major homeschool online boards, two biggies are from Sonlight and The Well Trained Mind. I’d like to note for the record that my teaching certificate and experience add absolutely _nothing_ to my homeschooling ability save the knowledge that I am not missing anything by not being a trained teacher (which some homeschoolers worry about).

    (2) As far as my life, I think the primary requirements are neither depth nor breadth of parental learning (it is easier than you think to learn along with your children), but rather motivation and discipline. I meant to put this in the original post, but if you are one of those parents who canot consistently manage FHE and family scripture study, there is no reason to think that you would consistently homeschool. Good organization (papers, books, art supplies) helps, too.

    (3) What I wish I had done earlier? We pretty much got in on the ground floor because I decided to homeschool when my oldest was barely four, but I wish that I had been more consistent reading chapter books (not just picture books) out loud every day in previous years. It is immensely beneficial and I haven’t always been consistent with it. I also wish that we had made more use of high-quality children’s audio CDs, such as everything ever done by Jim Weiss, who is _amazing_ and all families should listen to. We do listen to them a lot now.

    (4) Recommendations? Dont’ go overboard with your first child in K! You are excited, I understand, but K should be gentle and kind and virtually anything you prepare for science, art, music, or history/social studies you won’t use again because you’ll probably want to ‘fold in’ your subsequent Ks into what your older kids are doing. Also, if you have more than one child, you may want to choose materials that are nonconsumable. There are handwriting books that cost 18$ each and you use once and there are handwriting books that cost 7$ each where the child writes on their own paper. These little things add up and there is really no difference in quality or outcome between the two. If you have a large family, this makes a difference.

    Thanks for your questions.

    Russell–

    Maybe you should post on public school and our obligations thereof similar to my health care post. This month’s Atlantic goes on at length about the unfairness of the college admission process, and I kept wanting to scream that college admissions aren’t the problem–the problem is a K12 system that is so painfully inequitable. (College admissions are the effect, not the problem.) What should the Saints do about this?

    Bonjo–

    I always get in trouble when I make that argument, but you are exactly right.

  81. jp in lv nv on October 9, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    George D. I am perfecty NOT feeling guilty about my children. (They know we can do homeschool-they don’t want to.) I am simply making an observation. Since I am obviously outnumbered here, I will bid my Adieu and wish you all continued success.

  82. Amira on October 9, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    I’d love to see Russell post on public school and our obligations. I do feel an obligation to support public schools even though I homeschool. However, the schools I’d like to support are those schools that are truly struggling; the schools in most places I’ve lived in have done reasonably well. I don’t think that sending my children to those schools would really do anything to improve public schools overall, or even locally. It seems that the best I can do is make sure I teach my children those extra things (and there are enough that afterschooling wouldn’t cut it) that are so important to me.

    Is there anything I can do to support the schools that really do need help? After living in Trenton, New Jersey, I really believe that many problems with people not having enough opportunties in the US begins with poor public schools- children don’t have the chance to learn what they need to learn and that is all too often a great disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

  83. Bryce I on October 9, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    I don’t buy the tax argument — I recognize that I am in some way hurting my local public school system by homeschooling. As I understand it, dollars are generally allocated by number of enrolled students, so even though my tax dollars go to fund education in general, the amount of money that flows to the school district that my children would be a part of if we did not homeschool is decreased.

  84. Julie in Austin on October 9, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    But Bryce I, the money doesn’t *disappear*. You are still paying your taxes. It ends up *somewhere.* So depending on your state, it may not end up with your district, or even being used for education at all, but it is ending up somewhere. Your family could be claiming tens of thousands of dollars of government benefits–and isn’t.

  85. matt on October 9, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    Julie,
    I am really interested in the possibilites of homeschooling my unborn children, but then again I think I would want to approach the decision in an informed manner. Do you know of any books that are anti-homeschooling? I think there are a lot of common critiques, but I would be interested to see if there were any long-term studies, academic persepectives on the subject? Do you know of anything along these lines?

    Thanks

  86. Julie in Austin on October 9, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    matt–

    Homeschooling unborn children can be a bit of a challenge . . . (just kidding)

    I don’t know of any full-length works against homeschooling. The closest that I can get you is that the NEA takes an officially anti-homeschooling position and has statements to that effect on their website, but I don’t think they spend a lot of energy developing it.

    I suspect that the reason there isn’t more “anti” stuff (and, by the same token, the reason that you should be suspicious of the “pro” stuff) is that homeschoolers are virtually impossible to study: some go in and out of the schools, some homeschool because of pre-existing problems (either in the child or from the schools), some don’t attempt academic excellence but homeschool for religious reasons or so their child can pursue intense athletics (often gymnastics or swimming), many are never tested (my kids have never been tested and won’t be for a number of years), etc. Further, the population of homeschoolers is undergoing a rapid expansion and shift in composition from “world avoiders” (mostly on the right but some on the left) to “academic excellence” people. The proliferation of homeschooling curricula also complicates things.

    But, to sum, every negative except one* about homeschooling I’ve ever heard has been mentioned on this thread.

    * The one y’all forgot is this: a friend was told by one of her friends that her homeschooled children would
    end up with malformed feet because they didn’t wear shoes all day.

  87. Seth Rogers on October 9, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    Julie, just curious about what you think of the Christian Right’s recent wholesale embrace of the homeschooling movement (now we can have school prayer and creationism!)? This seems to be a very large component of the popularization of homeschooling.

    My worry is that the association is going to harm the movement as mainstream Americans start to see homeschooling (rightly or wrongly) as a magnet for backward religious nut-jobs.

  88. Joanne, The Happy HSer on October 10, 2005 at 12:52 am

    I’m a non LDS homeschooler. I’m also a Christian, but not the kid most people would assume knowing that I homeschool. I write a pretty strident and opinionated blog about homeschooling. Most of the stuff is party line on homeschooling, but I do author an occassional original thought. I’ll blog spam some related entries:

    http://happyhomeschooler.blog-city.com/bullying.htm

    http://happyhomeschooler.blog-city.com/are_public_schooled_children_more_mature.htm

    http://happyhomeschooler.blog-city.com/socialization_2.htm

  89. Katherine on October 10, 2005 at 2:09 am

    I think there is an economy of time for our family by homeschooling. If you add my preparation time to school time, we still save quite a bit in the day over sending our children away to school. I’m really happy to give my kids more time to play.

    I guess in aggregate, that isn’t the case–meaning that if every few children had their own teacher the sum of all effort would be much higher than it is in our usual education system. Of course, I happen to think that that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. :)

  90. Jeremiah J. on October 10, 2005 at 2:09 am

    “So I laughed when I read this statement of yours:
    Many Christians have decried the practice of “choosing a congregation” that goes on in some denominations. ‘We are all part of the body of Christ, but I’ll sit in the pews with those who look like me and make comparable amounts of money, thank you.’
    This sounds exactly like what happens in the public schools.”

    Don’t worry, it’s not “harsh” to say you laughed at my comment (which was intended quite seriously), it’s just rude. As for your substantive point: People do choose the communities they live in. This is true not just of neighborhoods but of countries. Only bad regimes don’t allow people to leave. But the option to leave doesn’t make the duties of citizenship also optional. While you’re here you’re one of us.

    But in your point about public schools you’re referring to one of two things: the fact that there are cliques in public schools, or that people choose to live near (and hence go to public school with) people who are similar to themselves. In either case you’re conflating free association in a common social life with radical privacy. The former suggests a society where people accept the fellow membership of those who are not their friends, the latter suggests one where they are resigned to a common life with non-friends only because the alternative is practically impossible at the moment. I’m arguing for the former, and it’s not a ‘beautiful ideal’, it’s a living reality in any decent society that isn’t kept from civil war by force only. I think that public school, even in it’s klunky American form, promotes the former and I’m wondering if homeschooling also does (or how much of it does).

    The “beautiful ideal” you claim I am depicting is not some commune-like union of minds where all see eye to eye. Neither is it Spartan common messes where everyone recieves a rigorous and idential education to virtue. Rather it’s a concrete environment where people who for 95% percent of their lives are free to shape their world according to private choice are made to exist in the presence of others, not according to private choice. The point isn’t that we meet representatives of all possible walks of life in public school. Rather it’s that it’s not purely a matter of private choice whom we do meet.

    As Russell suggests, much of what I have to say applies to private school as well as homeschooling (I never said otherwise, despite suggestions to the contrary–if I’m singling out homeschooling it’s because that’s what we’re talking about). Private school suggests a class- or religion-based exception to the publicity and universality of the public education system. In addition it is even more dependent on priviledge than homeschooling is. But homeschooling is indeed more radically private than private school is. Whereas private schools are bastions of priviledge, homeschooling is often an ideological enclave. What I learn in public school may indeed be incorrect, biased, etc. But it is subject to political and social scrutiny in a way that homeschooling is not. Inasamuch as education has anything to do with real facts, with getting it right about truth, homeschooling seems to hold the danger of fostering private facts and private truth.

  91. manaen on October 10, 2005 at 2:46 am

    79 (&83 & 84)
    Bonjo,

    “By paying taxes to public schools, and not sending your kids to those schools, I’d say you’re doing more than your fair share to support the public schools! My opinion of the public education system is that it is over-burdened and under resourced. Many public school systems should thank their lucky stars for homeschoolers.”

    My understanding is that funds usually are allocated to schools/districts not according to enrollment, but according to attendance. They not only don’t receive funds for home-schooled pupils, but also for truant enrolled students.

    … and you believed they take attendance each day solely out of concern for the students. They’re also protecting their paychecks.

  92. E Heath on October 10, 2005 at 3:39 am

    For those of you doing a “classics” approach to homeschooling I recommend checking out George Wythe College in Cedar City, Utah. They have correspondence and distance courses. http://www.gwc.edu

  93. Russell Arben Fox on October 10, 2005 at 8:20 am

    “As Russell suggests, much of what I have to say applies to private school as well as homeschooling…But homeschooling is indeed more radically private than private school is. Whereas private schools are bastions of priviledge, homeschooling is often an ideological enclave. What I learn in public school may indeed be incorrect, biased, etc. But it is subject to political and social scrutiny in a way that homeschooling is not. Inasamuch as education has anything to do with real facts, with getting it right about truth, homeschooling seems to hold the danger of fostering private facts and private truth.”

    This is an interesting comment, Jeremiah (and is part of a larger comment I basically agree with). It suggests, though I’m not sure you intended it to, a “ranking” of possible deviations from the ideal of a common, egalitarian, public sphere. There are those which escape from the civic realm because money allows them to–in a free society, or at least in American society, those with resources are usually not prevented constructing their own privatized (limited, quality-controlled, exclusive) alternatives to what the rest of society collective pursues through taxation, zoning, various social goods like public education, etc. You can discern this in gated communities, private security firms, etc., and you can certainly see it in private schools. Then there are those who escape from the civic realm because their beliefs or ideology demand they do so. They find public life morally degrading, full of falsehood, corrupt and dangerous, violent, short-sighted, or just plain inefficient, and thus decide they can do better on their own. (Which they often can.) The whole range of “simplicity” and home-based industries draws on this phenomenon, including homeschooling.

    Obviously there’s a lot of overlap between these groups–while homeschooling doesn’t cost nearly what private school does, it’s a given that families which are utterly strapped financially, working two jobs to keep food on the table, aren’t going to be able to homeschool. Similarly, while I’ve no doubt there are a fair number of outright elitists among those who send their children to private schools, I suspect most of those who choose to spend their money that way do so for a substantive reason: they want their child to get extra or needed attention they aren’t getting in public schools, they have strong religious beliefs that lead them to reject the secularism which often comes along with public school curricula, they have serious concerns about public school pedagogies or methodologies, etc. So drawing this line is to overstate the case. Still, I think there’s something to this distinction.

    If I’m reading and extending upon your post fairly, Jeremiah, then comes the question: which is more harmful (assuming one holds public schooling to be a good which can be harmed, a point we agree upon but which others in this thread don’t)? You seem to be saying, as I read you, that while privileged enclaves do undermine community, they don’t necessarily remove those educated in private schools from the public world of debate, critique, and argument. Homeschooling, on the other hand, potentially creates an ideological enclave wherein those educated at home live without a sense of the public’s role in the scrutinizing of facts, and thus get used to living solely within private opinion, in accordance with private truths. In other words, private schools don’t elude the burden of truth, whereas homeschooling, being even more privatized and intimate, just might. Am I getting your point here?

    If so, I would disagree. This line of reasoning would suggest that parochial and religious schools are the worst possible form of schooling, since they often combine the worst elements of both. And I reject that: partly because I’ve known too many kids that were products of rather strict and orthodox parochial schools to believe that they aren’t an important contribution to our public health, but mostly because my understanding of the public realm is, I think, less ideological than yours. That is, I really think we need to keep our eye on the purely civic need for a healthy public square, and how education can contribute to that; I’m not sure I believe that modes of education ought to be assessed primarily in terms of “getting it right about truth.” In short, if the civic context is still strong (in terms of participation, common rituals, etc.), I don’t particularly care if the content our public space consists of high school graduates with numerous, radically different academic “truths” in mind. You can probably conclude from this that I have, at least in principle, a far greater beef with non-sectarian, elite private schools then I do with religious schools or homeschooling. In practice, of course, all require scrutiny, to the same degree that the public schools require reform.

  94. Jordan on October 10, 2005 at 8:58 am

    For what it’s worth- all of my home-schooled peers at various graduate programs at Oxford and the University of Michigan were some of the most well-rounded and pleasant people I have ever met in my entire life.

  95. LisaB on October 10, 2005 at 10:06 am

    Great contributions, Jeremiah and RAF. I think we’re really starting to talk here about some of the issues that people are instinctively but not necessarily consciously reacting to or against when discussing education: the larger ramifications for and implicit beliefs about what it means to be educated, what it means to contribute productively to society, and how that can be achieved. Important things for parents to think about. And I hope those who have big concerns about homeschooling continue to participate in the discussion. Your considerations and contributions are vital.

    Julie–I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions in #80. Especially I’m really glad you said this: I”’d like to note for the record that my teaching certificate and experience add absolutely _nothing_ to my homeschooling ability save the knowledge that I am not missing anything by not being a trained teacher (which some homeschoolers worry about).”

    As for #2, I am not disciplined by nature and our homeschooling is much more organic as a result. My husband is more disciplined, and his approach on the subjects he covers with the kids on evenings and weekends follows that as well. I think parents can successfully teach children in a variety of styles. Clearly we are not going to be great examples of traits we have not ourselves developed. This is perhaps my greatest concern about homeschooling (and parenting in general!). So we see to providing other teachers, mentors, examples, and learning experiences for our children. I do agree that dedication/ motivation are more important than the depth or breadth of parental learning. But I think that a parent who doesn’t consistently have family prayer or FHM could potentially be a great homeschool parent/teacher/guide. There are so many other possible approaches, characteristics, and strengths for individuals to draw on.

    Thanks also to everyone who has listed available resources.

    Okay, now some general spewing:

    For those who wonder at the wisdom of certain parents educating their own children, I wonder if you have ever questioned God’s wisdom in entrusting spirit children to their care. I think a certain amount of questioning in this vein is positive and healthy, but also believe that our Heavenly Parents know what They are doing in sending us to untrained, imperfect, and highly varied “teachers.”

    Next topic: homeschool focus. I want to give my own children the best possible scholastic education, but I am not sure that is the most important part of their education. In fact, I feel sure it is not. That does not mean I think it unimportant; in fact I usually prize it much too highly. But it is important to me to defend the right to homeschool even of parents who do so for different reasons, and with different emphases–much like Joseph Smith’s defense of any religious person, not just LDS.

    I worry about statements that seem to derride homeschooling parents whose children are not “meeting the minimums” academically. I know families homeschooling for special needs whose children do not in any way meet academic minimums. I also know families who fit in the “not of the world” religious homeschooling variety. I also know of families homeschooling for very (politically) liberal reasons–because they don’t want their children to learn our cultures’ “conservative” values of materialism, violence, and conformity as just a few examples (see http://www.mothering.com for articles about homeschooling along those lines including the “unschooling” approach).

    I think children are inculcated with their parents’ attitudes (as I was with my parents’) regardless of the type of education they have. It is very difficult to reverse how a child is “raised up” in the early years–good or bad. That is our nature (divine and mortal). Much as I enjoyed public school, I don’t see it as a solution to the reality of parental responsibility. That doesn’t mean no one should avail themselves of the option to send their kids to public school. Just that it should be seen as one option for educating their child(ren).

    RE: homeschooling your unborn children–we actually do do this when our children are in the womb. But that’s a whole ‘nother subject!

  96. LisaB on October 10, 2005 at 10:13 am

    Actually, I think what I meant to say in my 2nd to last paragraph is that we ought to recognize that all parents do homeschool their children, just as we recognize that parenting is a full-time job regardless of what other work a parent does in or outside the home.

  97. Andrea Wright on October 10, 2005 at 11:30 am

    Julie, thanks for your thoughts. I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if I’m repeating a question. Please also forgive my ignorance, but are all your expenses for your curriculum materials, project supplies, etc out of your pocket?

  98. gst on October 10, 2005 at 11:33 am

    Russell Arben Fox: Perhaps the solution is to put out an eye of every matriculant to a nonsectarian, elite private school. Even up the score a little.

    I myself went to a parochial school, but for elitist reasons. Where does that fall on your scale of objectionable educational decisions?

  99. AE on October 10, 2005 at 11:51 am

    LisaB,
    What do you mean we homeschool our unborn children while they are in the womb? Does it make some impact on the child whether or not you read when pregnant or something?

  100. Russell Arben Fox on October 10, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    “Perhaps the solution is to put out an eye of every matriculant to a nonsectarian, elite private school. Even up the score a little.”

    But they’re rich enough to buy false eyes. Not just crummy old glass ones, mind you, but powerful, bionic ones, granting them 20/10 vision as well as the ability to shoot laser beams. No, we’ll have to be more creative than that.

  101. Julie in Austin on October 10, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    Seth asks, “Julie, just curious about what you think of the Christian Right’s recent wholesale embrace of the homeschooling movement (now we can have school prayer and creationism!)?”

    Their centralization makes their participation obvious; what is less obvious are the non-allied parents who decide to homeschool–because they don’t share an affiliation with any one organization. My sense is tha,t proportionally, the number of non-religious-right homeschoolers is increasing. What is also interesting is the effect that the CR’s fleeing the public schools will have on the schools: I would expect the battles over evolution, textbook content, prayer, etc. to become muted as the parents who favor those things leave the system.

    Jeremiah J. writes, “But homeschooling is indeed more radically private than private school is.” I admit that it appears this way, but the reality is otherwise. If my child were in a religious public school, his circle would be limited to children of his religion from families who could afford the school. But today, my boys will attend scouts with kids from a variety of religions (and no particular religion) and economic backgrounds. Then they’ll go to a playdate at the home of kids who go to public school. In other words, homeschooling is (or, at least, can be) radically less private than all other alternatives.

    Jeremiah J. writes, “Inasamuch as education has anything to do with real facts, with getting it right about truth, homeschooling seems to hold the danger of fostering private facts and private truth.”

    Yes, there is this danger. But I invite you to read Diane Ravitch’s latest book and then get back to me about the public school’s “private facts and private truth.” In other words, all forms of education hold this danger. It is obvious with homeschooling, much less obvious in the public schools, and that makes the PS potentially more dangerous.

    LisaB–I may not have well stated my point about FHE/scripture study/prayer. It isn’t meant to be a condemnation of anyone but rather an honest question: If you desire to do those things, but find that something (anything!) stands in the way of them getting accomplished on a regular basis, then what will you do to prevent things from getting in the way of your plan to homeschool? It is _really_ easy to wake up late on a rainy Monday and decide to skip school today . . . tomorrow . . . for a month. A parent needs that level of discipline to be sure that homeschooling (whatever their version of it is) gets done.

    LisaB, I was starting to sympathize with your comments about focus and thinking that maybe I have been too harsh on the ‘minimum’ parents until I got to your point about special needs. I hope it was clear that I wasn’t talking about them! But I do think that all parents–even the homeschooling ones–have a legal (in all states) and moral/religious obligation to provide their children with basic reading and math skills. Unschooling appears to be a perfectly legitimate (although, to my mind, not ideal) way of accomplishing that.

    I’d like to hear more about homeschooling your fetuses . . . I sing to mine in the shower, but that’s about it!

    Andrea asks, “Please also forgive my ignorance, but are all your expenses for your curriculum materials, project supplies, etc out of your pocket?”

    All supplies are out of pocket. I’m something of an online bargain shopper (ebay, comparing prices, etc.), but it costs 200-300$/year for the first child to do a grade and then most of those materials are reused for the other children when they reach that grade and only about 30$/year is spent for subsequent children. I’ve chosen ‘extracurriculars’ (scouts, coops, playdates) that are very inexpensive because of our budget–that’s another 150$/year or so.

  102. gst on October 10, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Perhaps the reason that many resist the homeschool movement is that they’re concerned with the prospect of someone that thinks that she can teach a fetus also teaching science to children outside of the womb.

  103. Julie in Austin on October 10, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    Perhaps the reason that many resist the homeschool movement is that they aren’t masters at multitasking.

  104. Seth Rogers on October 10, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    A benefit of homeschooling nobody has mentioned yet:

    You don’t have to do your family vacations when every one else in the nation is doing them (due to official school holidays).

    Want to do a two-week tour of the Pacific Coast in May (when the whole thing is almost deserted)? The option is available if you’re homeschooling.

    Certainly not a valid reason to homeschool on its own. But definitely a perk.

  105. Andrea Wright on October 10, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    Another perk is a family I knew had 5 girls they homeschooled and those girls were hot commodities as they were the few babysitter options during regular school hours. I’m sure they earned lots of money.

  106. gst on October 10, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Julie in Austin: Am I the only one who doubts the proposition that children can be educated in utero? I mean, I ask my wife to lay off the malt liquor when pregrant, but beyond that I’m skeptical that one can do anything that makes babies smarter until they are born.

  107. ESO on October 10, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    While I would not hope to change Julie’s mind (she seems quite sure of herself) I have very serious reservations about homeschooling:

    1–I have my own opinions, and I am very sure of them, but it would be horrifc for my children to ONLY be exposed to my opinions. They need to hear many people’s take on life. Having a variety of teachers and classmates is a very effiecient and interesting way to get many people’s opinions. For example, I think the Pledge of Alliegence is stupid and would probably not teach it to my kids if I homeschooled, but I value their exposure to it at school.

    2–Homeschooling (and private and charter schooling) is a way to self-select your associations. Wether you self-select yourself (or rather, your kids) into a world of families who can afford to have a well-educated parent stay home and school them, self-select them into a private school in which every family has an excess of money, or self-select them into a charter school for math+science geeks, your self-selected kids ARE NOT getting a realistic picture of our world, or of how to negotiate relationships in it.

    3–We have SO MANY wonderful SUPPLEMENTARY programs our kids can enjoy outside of school, wether that is their Mom teaching them Latin or attendence at the local Hebrew school or art classes at the museum. There is no need to complain of a sub-standard public school–you can supplement all you want.

    4–Homeschooled kids run the danger that any sheltered child does: they are taught implicitly and explicitly that the rest of the world is BAD. I don’t want my kids to learn that. Imagine that you told your child when he was 4 that you were teaching him at home because you can teach better than those yahoos at school and because you love him so much. At 11, that same child may well tell his schooled cousin that his mother loves him more than her mother because she teachers him at home and that she (the cousin) must be stupid because she goes to school. You may think this sounds far-fetched, but aside from the previously mentioned tendency towards weirdness, I think many homeschooled kids are extraordinarily egocentric.

    I have known many homeschooled peers and while I would say that most are very bright and, indeed, know interesting things, I do think that their parents did them a dis-service.

    I went to public schools in 5 different school districts, ranging from top-notch (Fairfax, VA) to sub-sub-standard (New Orleans, LA). The experiences I had, however, in LA schools were inavluable life experiences. I could NEVER have received that real-life sociological training from homeschooling, and I am better for it. My kids will always be public-schooled, although I look forward to supplementing.

  108. LisaB on October 10, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    gst #102 ROFL!!

  109. LisaB on October 10, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    AE Merely that parenting begins in utero. Our diet becomes their diet. The air we breathe is the air they breathe. Our stress responses form their stress responses since our blood flows into them (adrenalines, endorphins, etc. included). That they hear us and feel us and respond to our touch and our voices while still inside (both father and mother, siblings, others around enough to be regularly “heard”). That after birth they recognize music and voices that they have heard inside. That taste has already begun to be developed (amniotic fluid tests w/ salty and sweet water injections). That they can sense light an darkness. That they respond to our emotions and communications. A couple books for anyone really interested in this: Prenatal Prescription, Nurturing the Unborn Child, Fathering Right From the Start, Creating a Joyful Birth Experience, When Men Are Pregnant, Your Amazing Newborn, The Miraculous World of the Unborn Child.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  110. LisaB on October 10, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    Okay, Julie–I agree that a basic amount of organization and diligence is required to homeschool. I just don’t want less organized or less diligent people by nature to feel discouraged from homeschooling if they felt it would be the best thing for their family. I do think most parents who are not interested in homeschooling should not have to. But I do have one friend who is homeschooling because their child did not get into the private school they wanted and they live in an area where the public schools are pretty bad. And another friend homeschooling one child PT because she didn’t feel the special programs her school offered were meeting her child’s needs. So I guess there are situations where even that’s not true.

    re: focus, minimum requirements, and special needs… I was discussing focus as a different topic than minimum requirements and special needs, but I’ll take the last two first: I agree that parents have a moral and legal obligation to provide basic math and reading skills. Do you know homeschooling parents who are not providing these? Or were you talking hypothetically? I guess the only homeschoolers I know whose kids are behind the curveball on the basics are those who have special needs.

    Just to be clear, I do think it is reasonable for states to have schooling requirements and guidelines for homeschooling and I think it is also important for them to have religious exemptions available for groups like the Amish who are opposed to government intervention and public education for religious reasons. But overall, I lean more in the direction of less regulation when it comes to parenting issues (abuse and neglect being major exceptions–though defining those can get sticky and can involved education issues). I myself am not an unschooler. I was simply using that as an example that seemed different than what you were describing as good homeschooling.

    As for focus, I guess we would agree that it’s reasonable for parents to focus on different things/ have different educational goals/ priorities/ objectives so long as “the basics” are met. (Maybe that’s what you were saying.) Our state does specify that “adequate progress” must be made each year (judged either by test or portfolio), and that for parents without a 4 year college degree, the State’s “Standards of Learning” must be part of the curriculum. So in our state the school superintendent and professional educators are the ones deciding what the “minimums” are, but a parent can decide to have a child “repeat” a grade if necessary, so the “standard” can be in effect lowered.

    ESO–I agree that only exposing your children to your own ideas would be a very poor education indeed. In fact, I don’t know that I would even call that an education. Where in Fairfax Co? I graduated from WSHS.

  111. Julie in Austin on October 10, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    ESO, you make some very good arguments, unfortunately, none of them are actually relevant to homeschooling.

    ESO writes, “it would be horrifc for my children to ONLY be exposed to my opinions”

    I agree completely. That’s part of the reason why I don’t want my child spending 30 hours per week with one adult–a schoolteacher. With homeschooling, my kids are able to encounter a wider variety of opinions. They also learn about history and science from 10-20 library books per week instead of from 2 “correlated” textbooks.

    ESO writes, “a world of families who can afford to have a well-educated parent stay home”

    While I’m the first to suggest that homeschool stats are poor, everything I know about the homeschooling community is that people are choosing, in some cases, to live in ABJECT poverty to homeschool–most of them aren’t wealthy. This argument you make is false also because our neighborhood school (and most elementary schools in suburban and urban areas) is extremely homogenous in terms of socioeconomic status. There is much more socioeconomic variety among our homeschooling associations.

    ESO is right that parents should supplement, but there’s only so many hours in a day. Kids who have been sitting in school all day in to run around, play with toys, etc., and not just sit and learn Latin. Why choose 7 hours of school plus 1-2 hours of homework plus 1-2 of supplementing when I can produce better results with 2-3 hours of school and have the rest of the day free for real life?

    ESO, your 4 is a slippery slope. *All* kids need to learn that they aren’t the center of the world, making perfect decisions to the exclusion of all other loser families. Ask me about the cute little LDS kid who told her Catholic friend that she was going to hell! We work really hard around here to communicate that homeschooling is different–not better. Further, by your logic, one wouldn’t give one’s child any advantage, lest s/he develop a superior attitude about it.

    LisaB, I think we are in agreement on all major issues. I’m a little bummed, tho, that your kids didn’t learn calculus in the womb.

  112. JKS on October 10, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    Julie
    In response to your comment “ESO is right that parents should supplement, but there’s only so many hours in a day. Kids who have been sitting in school all day in to run around, play with toys, etc., and not just sit and learn Latin. Why choose 7 hours of school plus 1-2 hours of homework plus 1-2 of supplementing when I can produce better results with 2-3 hours of school and have the rest of the day free for real life?”
    My second is in K for only 2 hours 40 minutes, so I’ll skip him. My daughter is in 2nd grade for 7.5 hours per day. She is a very smart, energetic kid. She has no problems sitting. (This seems to be a worry of yours about your kids being able to sit? Perhaps because you have boys? Do they have problems in Primary?) I voluteer at school and it isn’t really sitting and staring at the teacher or doing work at your desk all day. I am only familiar with younger grades, but they try to have kinetic learning, visual learning and auditory learning. OUr school still has recess for 50 (30 minutes after lunch, 20 minutes in the afternoon) minutes per day. They can choose to play outside, or go to the library to read, play quiet games or draw. Isn’t that cool? Our school has music & PE & library.

  113. JKS on October 10, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    cont. from above
    Also, my 2nd grader finishes her homework (given out weekly) in about 5 minutes a day (she is a quick worker) plus the require 15 minutes of reading at home. Since the school doesn’t really give out much homework she doesn’t mind me giving her more advanced math worksheets that she can do in 5 minutes. The educational supplementation I give my children are art projects like making a solar system mobile or drawing a viking ship, or going to the science museum, or looking at maps and talking about states & countries, or making rhymes while driving in the car, or having quiet time where they read/look at books by themselves for 30 minutes every day, or reading to them, or language orientated activities because of my son’s issues.
    The car is a pretty great place to count up to 100 or more together, think of words that start with S, do which number is larger, or three digit addition questions, etc. You pretty much have their attention because there is nothing much better to do. And, since they think it is a fun game, you get to answer their which number is larger questions which requires them to think too.

  114. Julie in Austin on October 10, 2005 at 8:36 pm

    JKS–

    You are lucky to live in an area with 1/2 day K, that is becoming rare. We don’t have that here. My boys–4 and 7–sit fine, but I mention it because it is a huge issue for some families and the general expectation that the kids will sit in school causes no end of educational and behavorial problems for some families. You are also lucky to live in an area where non-sitting-at-desk learning is valued. My friend with kids in the local PS says her 1st and 3rd average 1.5 hours of PE *and* recess per WEEK! They are very standardized-test focused and spend almost all of their time in pencil-paper work. So your perspective makes sense given your local school, which is, unfortunately, atypical. As for homework, it is this same friend who reports 1-2 hours per day for 1st grade and up.

    You sound like a wonderful parent, doing fun things with your kiddos. May I suggest the audio version of Schoolhouse Rock and anything by Jim Weiss in the car? Or, if you want to do some history, buy the Story of the World audio CDs. My kids love all of these.

  115. AE on October 10, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    LisaB –
    Thanks. I appreciate the book recommendations also.

  116. Bryce I on October 10, 2005 at 11:11 pm

    Jim Weiss is terrific. I second Julie’s recommendation.

    Before we started homeschooling (my oldest child was probably 3 at the time), I heard this statistic at a seminar completely unrelated to the homeschool debate (it was a panel discussion on future directions in computer science research, my field of graduate study): high school students spend an average of 46 minutes per school day actually engaged in learning activities. The presentation was on how we can use networked technologies to reduce inefficiencies in the classroom — I don’t remember any of the proposed solutions, but the number stuck with me. My wife, who has been a high school biology teacher, agreed that this was not a ridiculous estimate.

    Sure, you can send your children to school for 6-7 hours a day and supplement when they get home. Is this an effective use of their time? For some children and some schools, the answer is certainly yes. However, we’ve decided for our kids, at this time, that there are better uses for their time at home.

  117. claire on October 10, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    Jim Weiss is so good at story telling, in fact, that my six year old sat rapt through most of ‘Rapunze’l until the prince fell from the tower when she started screaming “turn it off! turn it off!” at the top of her lungs and acted like she had witnessed her kitten being eaten by a dog. She has a very lively imagination and it was just TOO real for her!

    I have to agree with Julie that the ‘typical’ elem. school in my experience for a second+ grader includes 1+ hours of homework (my 4th grader never spends less that 1.5), gets very little physical activity, and is extremely geared toward standardized testing and paper/pencil work. In fact, they spend what seems like several weeks teaching them HOW to take the tests.

  118. Seth Rogers on October 11, 2005 at 12:48 am

    This learning-to-take-multi-choice-tests approach is likely to only get more and more prevalent if “No Child Left Behind” is any indicator.

  119. JKS on October 11, 2005 at 1:39 am

    Julie
    Thanks for the recommendations. I need ways to help my children with their auditory processing/listening skills. Story of the World on CDs sounds really cool. I’ll definitely look into those and the Jim Weiss stuff. Where’s the best place to find them-internet or are they at real stores? My kid’s birthdays are Wed & Thurs. so if I’m buying stuff I might as well make it a birthday gift.
    Wow, I can’t believe other schools are that intense. Our school is a good, above average school, but not a top school. Of course they are obsessed with test scores, like everyone, but still have a decent balance.
    The school gives you a choice of half day kindergarten, or you can pay $270/month for all day. My daughter actually went all day, every other day (Mon, Wed, plus one Friday per month) so they didn’t have to bus kids home at mid-day (this year they found bus money in the district budget). It sounded weird, but I actually ended up really liking it. I’m sure it is better academically to have the more consistant every day.

    Bryce I
    I believe the 46 minutes. The problem I see in math in first grade, for instance, 1/3 already knows it so they aren’t learning anything, 1/3 of kids are still struggling with more basic concepts and so the material is going over their heads, so only 1/3 of kids are actually learning something. It was very obvious that I could teach the entire first grade math curriculum to my daughter in the space of one hour.
    Both my 7 and 5 year old children have Oct birthdays so they are oldest in the class and they are smart in math and reading. Yet, I think they are average in some areas (my son is considered below average in language and receiving special services). School is a great language experience.
    Because of my experiences working with my son, I have come to appreciate the different approaches we made with his education. I have done an excellent job working with him, I spent time with him one on one, but I appreciate his group preschool experiences and his one on one private therapy with an SLP. Together, I think we’ve done everything possible to help him.
    So I look at my children and see their strengths, some of which are the same as mine. And I see their weaknesses, I think. But some of those weaknesses are mine too. To me, my oldest is completely normal. It is hard to notice what might be missing. Her stories were pretty lame (as in nothing happened in them) in kindergarten compared to other children’s. I am happy that she gets to have these other educational experiences at school. I guess I think I might unintentionally lean homeschooling in certain ways to play to my strengths? their strengths?
    I have spent years of my life with the weight of my son’s future on my shoulders. A child’s education is so vital to help them reach their potential. I guess it is nice to know that there are others who are willing to help in this huge responsibility, and I am going to try to use them effectively.

  120. PoNyman on October 11, 2005 at 2:05 am

    I agree with ESO to the extent that the scenarios offered are possible, but they are worst case scenarios concerning home schooling. I believe that whether the parent self-selects the type of education that their child receives or lets the cards fall where they may that child will always be in an environment where relationships are formed or lost, decisions, for better or worse, are made, and education will happen in more ways than just the class room.

    I, like you, also went to many different schools as a child. And some of my best experiences were in what could be conceived as a sub par school it was definitely located in a sub par neighborhood. Funny story, I was the minority in that school and my nickname on the playing field was white bread. One day, I was having a really lousy game and so I was a getting pretty frustrated. I had decided that I had had enough of the white bread talk and called the kid burnt toast. I felt like I was running for my life, but once it had all blown over we got a pretty good kick out of it. I have to say that I was lucky in that the school took education seriously. One of my teachers was a National Teacher of the Year recipient. She was heavy on the sciences and hygiene (poor neighborhood, but she was very discreet in making sure that those kids were taken care of so as not to embarras them.)

    But I have to say that if I were to live in an area like that again and found that the education was sub par, I would home school my kids if I had the ability. I think that the time that my children spent at that school would not only be a waste, but border on neglect. If I really, thought that I could teach my kids far better than the school could, why not do it. There are so many more productive ways to give the children an upfront view of the “real world”, whatever our current definition of that is. Tuturing/mentoring programs, sports, YMCA, service oriented organizations, heck, in some of those circumstances I wouldn’t even have to be present (I believe that was one of the points made, that the everpresent parent may be a detrament to the kids.) The children could really be involved in real life and I wouldn’t have to re-teach or, even worse, teach the children all over again after they are done with their “real world” studies. Would I not be doing a disservice to the community by leaving them in school? Of course, this is all hypothetical and discusses only ideal circumstances and it doesn’t deal with the fact that the children may actually make the schools a better place all around just by being present, but is that really their job?

  121. Nance Confer on October 11, 2005 at 8:57 am

    JKS: My second is in K for only 2 hours 40 minutes, so I’ll skip him. My daughter is in 2nd grade for 7.5 hours per day. She is a very smart, energetic kid. She has no problems sitting. (This seems to be a worry of yours about your kids being able to sit? Perhaps because you have boys? Do they have problems in Primary?) I voluteer at school and it isn’t really sitting and staring at the teacher or doing work at your desk all day. I am only familiar with younger grades, but they try to have kinetic learning, visual learning and auditory learning. OUr school still has recess for 50 (30 minutes after lunch, 20 minutes in the afternoon) minutes per day. They can choose to play outside, or go to the library to read, play quiet games or draw. Isn’t that cool? Our school has music & PE & library.

    Me:

    Very cool. Sort of.

    My two children have been unschooled now for about 7 years. Actually, we started off sort of structured and discovered that that wasn’t a good fit for us. The beauty of hsing — you can custom-fit your learning to your life. Instead of the other way around. Anyhoo — it is cool that your school still has recess. Many schools here do not. Too time-consuming, doncha know. Have to prep for that FCAT (I’m in Florida — substitute your state’s standardized mess).

    Our “schooling” has plenty of time for “recess” — we go outside whenever we want to — and music and PE and the library is going to have to give my DD her own wing. :)

    We tried the ps route. My DS lasted 7 months. He is a K dropout. :) Actually, the problem was that he could already read and they had no clue about what to do with him.

    Unschooling works for us. Both kids are happy, healthy, literate, friendly, etc., etc. — all those things we all wish for our children.

    What they are not is bored — unless they want to be. Sometimes a rainy day is good for being bored and watching some dumb movie — and look, the world keeps turning. :) What they are not is bullied or tested or standardized or trained to walk in straight lines and follow directions without much thought.

    Yep, they get a large dose of my views and Dad’s views — and proudly so. Have I mentioned we live in Florida? The butt of many a joke! :) So the kids get to hear and participate in all sorts of “discussions” about politicians and other ne’er-do-wells. We think that’s healthy.

    OTOH, we are not religious at all. We are atheists and the children are being raised to appreciate the beauty of the world and to try to understand it through the wonders of science. Maybe the LDS and other religious hsers wouldn’t approve but that’s OK. :) Maybe people here who have only met religious hsers need to seek out more inclusive hsing groups to get a real perspective on this aspect of the hsing community.

    Or not. Continue in the belief that hsing is not for you and send your children to ps and make the best of that. I wish you great happiness and success in that choice. I will not judge you harshly for your choice. It is the choice that most people make. And hsing is not for everyone. But, then, neither is ps.

    Nance

  122. Seth Rogers on October 11, 2005 at 10:03 am

    I think Nance makes a good point. Hs isn’t for everyone, but neither is ps. I have to congratulate both Julie and JKS for making very good cases for both paradigms.

    I’ve spit out my own heated diatribe against public schools. But in reality, our own home is a little more balanced than that. My wife was a model public school student and really had a lot of fun there as a kid. My own experience was less positive. However, we tend to balance each other out.

    You can make a lot of arguments for or against. But, in the end, I think the deciding factor for me is whether it’s fun or not. If my wife, kids and I (in that order) find homeschooling fun, then we’ll go with that. If public school is more fun, then we’ll go that route.

    Outside the fun-factor, I think the overall positives and negatives tend to balance each other out.

  123. Rosalynde on October 11, 2005 at 10:51 am

    re #121: “And hsing is not for everyone. But, then, neither is ps.”

    All the homeschoolers on this thread have stressed this point: I’m okay, you’re okay, my choices are right for MY children, but yours are fine and dandy for yours, etc. This, of course, is a prudent political position, but I don’t think it holds up to the arguments I actually see most of you making. What I really see you arguing is that, under optimal circumstances, homeschooling IS indeed a superior intellectual and social experience to public schooling—even if public schools can still provide an “adequate” experience.

    You concede that for a limited set of families in sub-optimal situations—stressful family environment or poor family relations, uneducated or undisciplined parents, necessary out-of-home employment for both parents—homeschooling is a poor choice. But then you present the failings of public schools that affect all children—standardization, sitting, teacher-student ratio, homogeneity, peer pressure, bullying, etc etc etc. Thus, by this logic, those children who enjoy optimal home environments—like my own—would be better served in every aspect by homeschooling.

    I’m completely comfortable with my decision to public school my children, so I don’t feel particularly defensive about the implication of your arguments. But I think it’s somewhat disingenuous to retreat to “everybody’s okay” when the heat is on. Show the courage of your convictions!

  124. LisaB on October 11, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Ah but Rosalynde, all is well, all is well!

  125. LisaB on October 11, 2005 at 11:27 am

    I don’t think it is disingenuous to acknowledge that the strengths and weaknesses of the various options will play out differently with different children, parents, and circumstances. So saying that homeschooling is the best option for scholastic or moral or other reasons for our family doesn’t mean that it would necessarily be the best option even for those same reasons for other families. Besides, if any homeschooler here took the strident, impassioned approach you encourage here would be more easily labeled (and dismissed) as extremist for missing the validity of other possible perspectives or approaches.

  126. Nance Confer on October 11, 2005 at 11:31 am

    Rosalynde: I’m completely comfortable with my decision to public school my children, so I don’t feel particularly defensive about the implication of your arguments. But I think it’s somewhat disingenuous to retreat to “everybody’s okay” when the heat is on. Show the courage of your convictions!

    Me:

    I’m happy for you. :)

    But this is exactly why a lot of hsers are quick to assure non-hsers that we are not all trying to push hsing on you. This reaction. This obvious sense that your decision about what is best for your child is somehow being questioned by my act of hsing. That I am somehow judging you and your parenting choices.

    I am not.

    I do think hsing is a better choice than ps. But this must immediately be followed up with about a ton of caveats. Practical considerations are usually thrown up first — so many parents have to work, etc. “I could never figure out how to hs.” “I ain’t got no lurning.” Even: “I can’t stand to be around my kids that much.”

    Then we could discuss learning philosophies. How we organize our lives. What choices and options and worldviews we want to provide for our children. What we value. What we believe.

    Some of these more philosophical views cry out for ps as a the answer. You want your kid to get into a decent college and get a 9-5 job and “do well.” You want your child to be nothing but normal. You have a shot at that by putting him through a decent ps, staying on that lower-risk, conforming track.

    Say you don’t have your child’s life mapped out though. Say, like my family, you are self-employed. (Having been an employee, I can assure you I am a much better wife/bookkeeper/office manager to the boss. :) )

    More and more people are self-employed. Discovering the joy of a flexible (read that: work until the bills are paid and then take a day off in the middle of the week but work all weekend because of that crazy client :) ) schedule. The joy of juggling bills. The joy of being your own boss. The joy of no retirement plan (otoh, some employees have experienced that joy as well). The joy of freedom — to spend time with the kids, to plan your own days, as much as practical.

    Say I never envision my kids holding down a 9-5 job. Say I hope to all that is beautiful in the world that they avoid that fate!

    Say our home is more about learning than about material wealth. Conveniently enough, we are not wealthy. :) But we are rich in our appreciation of ideas and a lifetime of learning. Say we don’t feel that love of learning, owning what is in your own head, curiosity about the world, etc., is the real focus or result of ps.

    So our feelings about the benefits of a standardized education may be different from the goals and feelings of a more college/career-focused parent.

    You don’t approve? Sorry. Think I’m short-changing my kids? You’re entitled to your opinion.

    I would never go onto a forum or blog and insist that you are somehow harming your child. That your child will turn out to be some sort of maladjusted burden. Yet, hsers are regularly confronted with this sort of demand that we justify our decision. We are a tiny minority, so maybe that is normal.

    But the demand is an unfair one. And it is rarely, that I recall, a demand made of ps parents. “Why do you send your child to ps? Justify it. Now!” I may not think it is a good choice, personally, for my family, or generally, as a way to groom the next generation. But I would never attack you personally for your choice. So please don’t feel attacked just because we choose differently.

    I think it is a very common reaction. “She bottle feeds. She must not approve of my breast feeding.” “She’s a working Mom. She must not approve of my being a SAHM.” We set ourselves up for these false arguments. We don’t have to do that.

    It is not a retreat for me to say that “your choice is OK for you and mine is right for me.” It is a plea that you quit questioning mine. I haven’t questioned yours. Although, as I’ve written, I don’t think it is a good choice in general. For many reasons. But I don’t fault you personally for that. Do you see the difference?

    Nance — feeling I may have rambled but the library beckons so please try to read for meaning and understanding, not as an attack.

  127. Nance Confer on October 11, 2005 at 12:06 pm

    Amira: Is there anything I can do to support the schools that really do need help? After living in Trenton, New Jersey, I really believe that many problems with people not having enough opportunties in the US begins with poor public schools- children don’t have the chance to learn what they need to learn and that is all too often a great disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

    FWIW, my Mom volunteers at the local elementary school. The school I went to as a girl. :) They are thrilled to have her help with grading papers, etc. She also comes in handy for wiping noses and hugs. :) And she goes on the field trips. They also depend on her to bring in paper towels and other basic supplies whenever she can. Which I sometimes think is more than she can afford but she loves doing her bit.

    Nance

  128. Julie in Austin on October 11, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Claire, your experience with Jim Weiss cracked me up. I was able to see him perform live this summer. I was on the second row. It was stunning; he’s actually much better in person. I could have listened to him read the phone book.

    Some of the Weiss and all of the SOTW (actually, Weiss does v3 of SOTW but not the first two) can be found at amazon. Weiss’ site it greathallproductions.com and chinaberry also carries him.

    “It was very obvious that I could teach the entire first grade math curriculum to my daughter in the space of one hour.”

    *This* is why I homeschool.

    ” I guess I think I might unintentionally lean homeschooling in certain ways to play to my strengths? their strengths?”

    This is a real risk. I very deliberately plan things that I don’t like! Whether that is scouts (for flag football, ice skating, camping, etc.) or messy art projects, etc.

    Nancy, this LDS homeschooler is all about the wonders of nature and science!

    RW: I’m not sure how much of #123 was directed at me, but if it was: I genuinely do believe (it isn’t just PC blather) that my family’s set of circumstances makes homeschooling best, not because the circumstances are optimal but just because they are different. The following would make homeschooling a worse choice than public school for *my* family: having a poor library system, being in a rural area, being in an area where I couldn’t find playdates or other activities. There are other advantages of involvement with the school system, including the ability to fellowship and serve other parents, particularly those in difficult situations. Further, because I’d be home with my little kids anyway, my presence in the home isn’t much of an opportunity cost, but once all of my kids are all school-aged, think of how many things (service, temple trips, family history, teaching more institute classes) I *won’t* be doing because I am with my kids all day! There are _real_ trade-offs in this decision, and I do _not_ think less of other parents for whatever decision they make–as long as it is the one that best meets the needs of their family.

  129. Bryce I on October 11, 2005 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve occasionally wondered why homeschooling provokes such strong reactions from so many people. I think one of the reasons is that it represents an educational option that many parents frankly haven’t considered. Now, if you don’t do your homework and get the wrong cell phone plan, you’re out some money, but there are no long lasting consequences (except for when your call got dropped in the middle of that big contract negotiation). But if you drop the ball on your kids’ educations, well, that’s another matter entirely. Confronted with the possibility of a viable, previously unconsidered alternative to whatever educational choice they have made for their children, such people have the option of reconsidering their choice in light of new information, or of rejecting homeschooling out of hand. The second option is much easier.

    I’m not implying that any of the posters in this thread are of this ilk. Rosalynde’s challenge to the homeschoolers to “Show the courage of your convictions!” got me to thinking about why passions can run so high on this subject.

    As for why I’m not a proselyting homeschooler, I partially addressed the issue in my post here. Plus, I’m not dissembling when I say that homeschooling isn’t for everybody. We nearly bailed out this year, even after all of the positive experiences we have had in the past two years. Some of us homeschoolers are extra sensitive about seeming to judge others for their choices, since there are plenty of parents in the homeschooling community who will not hesitate to tell you that the public schools are godless places unfit for any believing Christian — forgive us if we overcompensate a little.

    Unrelated thought: In general, I think homeschooling is best done as a positive decision (“We’ve considered all of our options, and we feel this is the best for us”) rather than as a move of desperation (“the public schools here are so terrible, we had to do something else.”) Many people, when they first hear that we homeschool, assume that we have done so because of the reputedly poor quality of the public schools in Durham, when in fact we would choose to homeschool at this point in our lives even if we had access to excellent public schools. Kristen and I smiled when we read in Julie’s initial post that homeschooling is “really, really fun.” Hopefully, this is the case for all children in whatever schooling situation they find themselves.

  130. JrL on October 11, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    “One of the big problems with talking about homeschooling is that the only evidence anyone can bring to bear is anecdotal.”

    Right! My own anecdotal experience made me a skeptic about home schooling. I watched far too many apparently intelligent home schooled kids fail (some of them miserably) at the transition out of high school and into college. My skepticism has ebbed a bit in recent years as I’ve watched some kids from regular school have the same kinds of problems — though not in the same proportions. I wonder if there are any studies….

  131. JKS on October 11, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    Count me as someone who sends my kids to school, but doesn’t attack homeschoolers. I hope my posts have shown that I have actually considered homeschooling, so I feel like I have things in common with parents who homeschool, but have ultimately chosen to send my kids to public school. My posts should reflect me going through why I made the decision I did, and why it is working for us.
    I find discussing homeschooling very interesting, and it is fun to imagine what if.

  132. Ashley on October 11, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    I’m really interested in why Rosalynde (#123) says she is “completely comfortable with public schooling [her] children”–maybe she’ll detail this in another post. Given that public schools vary so much, and the needs of one’s children can change in any given year, it seems quite a sweeping statement to make.

    Likewise, ESO’s “my kids will always be public-schooled” (#107) is stated so curiously strongly; it doesn’t match my experience at all. Maybe both of you are assuming you will always be able to hand-pick the public school your children will attend.

    I envy you in this; we live in rural Washington state while my doctor husband fulfills his scholarship obligation–and the local public school is so disappointing! Homeschool has been our lemonade from lemons.

    I enjoyed reading RAF’s link to his previous post detailing his thoughts about public school (#78)–the thing is, his ideology is compelling, but general ideologies re: civic duty vanishes when it’s my own children who aren’t being well-served by public school.

  133. Seth Rogers on October 12, 2005 at 1:14 am

    Well Rosalynde, I tend to get on my high-horse from time to time. I still do have serious misgivings about the public school system. However, several of the more balanced posts defending ps made me think that perhaps I was being a little too absolutist. I felt a more balanced re-evaluation was in order.

    I still think the ps system offers me plenty of reasons to get out of it until it has sorted its own problems out. But I am willing to entertain JKS’ suggestion that ps may be quite good for some.

    You can call my response “being teachable” or you can call it simply being wishy-washy. Both are equally likely.

  134. carolyn Smith on October 12, 2005 at 10:07 am

    I have a socialization comment to make about homeschoolers. I will be homeschooling my daughter for Kindergarten next year. My daughter is PAINFULLY shy to the point where she is almost selectively mute outside our home. I have done everything I can possibly do to remedy this situation- she has been in group situations, story times and classes since she was a year old. She is now in her third year of a part time preschool. She does fine but will not talk to the teacher, or request to use the bathroom and has difficulty interacting with these children in a group. She does wonderfully if I invite children on a one on one basis to our home for a playdate which I try to do often. My daughter has been reading now since she was three but no one will ever know it because she freezes if asked any question from the teacher. In fact, the teacher told me to repeat her 3 year old year of preschool since she “didn’t know” her colors or shapes, which was ridiculous. I am afraid she will be completely overlooked when she attends Kindergarten and will be extremely intimidated. Because of her birthdate, she will also be the youngest and physically smallest in her class.
    I have decided to homeschool her, continuing with lots of small group activities and playdates, to increase her confidence and hopefully place her in a private school when she is 8 or 9. I do not know if this is the right decision or not, but increasing her confidence and not having it shattered seems paramount to me and this is the only way I know to do it.
    Anyway, my point is, I am sure that as soon as I announce that I am “homeschooling” people I know from church or community will take a look at my “antisocial” daughter and assume she is this way “because” I am homeschooling and thus a stereotype will be formed, instead of looking deeper to see what came first.
    I would also like to comment that group think and the conformity issue seem to be creeping into lower and lower grades at school. Materialism and the Hollywood mindset seem to be so important and in our town’s paper- all the third grade girl’s letters to Santa(which were published) included the desire for some type of Brittany Spears paraphenalia or some type of pop music CD. It seems like kids are being forced to grow up so much quicker now days. Although, I want my daughter to fit in, I want to her to be true to herself and what she likes to do. I am not sure how to do this!
    So I am homeschooling for right now. And I am one who would have thought that homesc hooling was wierd and certainly not for me in the years before I had kids! –Carolyn

  135. Rosalynde on October 12, 2005 at 10:19 am

    Ashley (#132): Good point! You’re exactly right: I don’t know what future circumstances my children will face, so I can’t know absolutely that I’ll NEVER choose to homseschool. What I meant when I said I was “completely comfortable” with my choice is that, given our current set of children and circumstances, I’m comfortable going ahead with our plan to public school—but of course when that set of children and circumstances changes, my decision may change, as well.

    Thanks, Lisa, Julie, NC, Bryce and Seth for expanding on your positions. Not to worry, all of you were very mild and inoffensive in your arguments (well, maybe except for Seth! ;) ); I for one didn’t feel at all offended or attacked. I guess I still see two very different sorts of arguments being made: one suggests that the decision to homeschool should be based on a normative calculus of the resources and needs facing any given child; the other suggests that the decision should be based on a subjective reflection of the values and preferences of the parent. I think these are both defensible arguments, but they produce two very different sorts of conclusions: the former, being based on normative factors, suggests that all children facing similar constellations of resources and needs will do best in the same environment; the latter suggests that there is no normative answer, since the values and preferences of the parents are (within) reason all equally valid. I see you occasionally mixing and matching the two arguments with the two sorts of conclusions.

  136. Bryce I on October 12, 2005 at 10:44 am

    Carolyn Smith —

    A word of encouragement: I attended public schools as a child. I too was the youngest in my class because of my birthdate. I too was painfully shy as a young child. In kindergarten, I didn’t speak one word the entire year. To anyone. My teacher at first thought I didn’t speak English; then she thought I was learning disabled. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I started reading at 22 months. My poor mother was distraught.

    Somewhere along the way, I figured things out. I may not have been the most popular kid, but I always had a group of good friends, some of which I still count as friends to this day. I’m not great at parties, but I have absolutely no fear of speaking in front of groups. I don’t think anything my parents did had anything to do with my getting over my shyness. It just worked itself out.

  137. Julie in Austin on October 12, 2005 at 11:09 am

    RW writes, “I guess I still see two very different sorts of arguments being made: one suggests that the decision to homeschool should be based on a normative calculus of the resources and needs facing any given child; the other suggests that the decision should be based on a subjective reflection of the values and preferences of the parent.”

    I may get in trouble here, but I think that values and preferences become part of that normative calculus. For example, we value family togetherness, which leads to the homeschooling decision, but if we didn’t have a good circle of homeschooling friends, we’d have to rethink that.

  138. annegb on October 12, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    I’ve skipped most of the posts, so forgive if I’m out of context.

    I have a bias about home schooling because I haven’t seen any successful experiences in real life.

    My son-in-law was home schooled and he told me he was so lonely. They let him go to high school and those were the happiest years of his life. He is still challenged socially, but the sweetest boy imagineable.

    They still home school their remaining three boys. They are so lonely. Not much schooling goes on that I can see and I believe that, in this case, it’s almost a form of abuse. Those poor kids are so isolated.

    My daughter and her new husband are solid in their decision that they will not home school their children.

  139. ESO on October 12, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    Ashley–perhaps you did not read my entire post (don’t blame you)–I have actually been a student in many many school systems, taught in many others, and lived on 4 continents–I cannot imagine a situation in which I would not public school my children, and given my exposure to schools, I think I can be pretty sure about that.

    Julie–I am glad that you tell your kids homeschooling is a “different” experience rather than a “better” one, but the message is simple: you think homeschooling is better and believe me, even public schooled students can pick up on the difference. Seperate but equal? Glad you SAY that, but it is very clear that you do not, in fact, believe it.

    I cannot remember who pointed out that a neighborhood school is not economically diverse. I would be surprised if that were true. I think anyone privy to confidential school information could, in fact, inform you of great diversity. I graduated from Fairfax High School, not a huge place, but we had the children of US Senators and homeless kids attending and everything in between. When we lived in New Orleans, we lived in a hoity-toity gated community but made up a minority of the local public school, which also included a diversity of neighborhoods. If, in fact, you live in an all white, all middle/upper class neighborhood, I suggest you move.

    Clearly, diversity is in important thing to me. Perhaps my first comment emphasized economic diversity, but racial, cultural, ability and religious diversity is important to me. I only know white homeschoolers, although I have heard of a racially mixed family that does it. In your homeschool groups, is the racial diversity of your community reflected?

    Julie–it is great that your kids read so much, but I think we all recognize that we learn a lot more from people than from books. By the time I was in 6th grade, I was reading a novel-sized book a day (just making the point that I was a reader), but I continue to learn a lot about people and life from people. My books taught me something, but people teach me more.

    Homeschoolers are also more likely to identify themselves as such. Skim the bios of the bloggers, and you will find several. It seems to be a badge of pride. I wonder how that affects your psyches. My mom, who did not homeschool, was, I think, overly involved in her children’s lives and continues to have a very hard time as they leave the home. When your life revolves around your children and their education, how does this affect you (and others you know whose kids have moved on)? It seems a bit unhealthy, but I am sure it affects different people differently.

  140. Julie in Austin on October 12, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    ESO–I think homeschooling is better *for my family, in our current circumstance*. You can believe about me what you choose, but the previous sentence reflects my belief. In above comments, I’ve given several different scenarios that would make me choose differently, as well as listed some of the disadvantages of hsing that would cause others to choose other options.

    As far as diversity, our local elem. (primary, actually) draws from *one* subdivision, built by one builder, in one year, with a very small margin between the most expensive and least expensive homes. Hence, very little economic diversity. Our homeschool group(s) have MUCH greater economic and social diversity and are about equal to my local school for racial diversity.

    ESO, scan my bio. My life doesn’t revolve around my kids’ education (in fact, it gets precisely 8 hours per WEEK of my time): I teach Institute and SS, I write for publication and for T & S, I read voraciously, I go out to dinner with my friends, and I ignore my kids so I can blog.

    To sum, I think you are still guilty of making really good points . . . that have nothing to do with my life.

  141. ESO on October 12, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    Julie–I would agree that I am adressing homeschooling in general and not your specific situation. I was pressed for time when writing my last comment, so I truely do not intend to tell you that your homeschoolling life is psychologically unhealthy, but I wonder if it might be for some (suseptible, as my mother and sister are, to having kids be the only thing on their plates). I would be very interested to know if homeschoolers encounter these issues at a different rate than the general population. I suspect they might, but have no idea.

    I do think you do great things for your kids, and it sounds like you are just an all around wonderful person who does interesting things. We disagree on this issue, but I am OK with that, and I am sure you are, too (maybe Rosalynde can weigh in on wether or not we are actually both OK).

  142. Rosalynde on October 12, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    Well, ESO, I’d say neither one of you is any more likely to raise screwed-up kids than I am—so take that as you will!

    (ESO is my cousin, by the way)

  143. MDS on October 12, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Julie,

    I haven’t read the whole thread, so I apologize if I’m asking a redundant question. I want to ask a more focused question on the socialization issue that I don’t think has been addressed, and which to me is more valid a concern than the general complaint that has been thoroughly parsed in this thread. It is this: what socialization concerns does homeschooling raise for church-related peer groups, i.e., Primary classes, Aaronic Priesthood quorums, YW classes.

    My experience is that it can cause real difficulties in that the homeschooled kids tend to be left out of common experiences that the rest of the church peer group shares. This can be exacerbated by homeschool scout organizations. The homeschooled child is perceived, and sometimes rightfully so, as looking down on the LDS scout unit and those who participate in it. In turn, members of the LDS scout unit may retaliate. In more negative situations it can lead to more active ostracism from the public schooled cohort. I am aware of families who homeschool and are inactive allegedly because of the negative treatment from fellow church members.

    Does there come a point when homeschooling has enough negative repurcussions for the community of the saints that it is no longer a good thing? Or is it an opportunity for us to learn to interact with the other in a charitable manner, and therefore something we should be encouraging?

  144. MDS on October 12, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Maybe that wasn’t so focused a question after all!

  145. b bell on October 12, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    here is an anecdote

    have two homeschool kids in my YM last couple of years.

    One from a normal outstanding family. He is totally normal and has no issues to speak off. He is quite a great kid with a wide future.

    One from a kooky family. Guess how the kid is?

    My point is that it really depends on the people involved on how the HS will turn out. A lot of really broad generalizations opposing HS in my opinion.

  146. Julie in Austin on October 12, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    EDO, I appreciate your latest comment. Note in the original post that I am not one to think that all homeschoolers are necessarily doing a good job, and you have mentioned some valid concerns that homeschoolers should watch out for.

    MDS–

    Good question. I suspect it depends on where you live. What I mean by that: if you live in an LDS-dense population where the entire YM and YW attend the same high school, then, yes, a hs kid may have some ‘leftoutedness’ in the ward. Once again, however, this is all about costs and benefits and the parents and child would have to decide if the advantages of hsing outweigh those costs.

    Here in Austin, our ward draws from two public high schools. We also have a lot of charter school kids. We also have at least one, maybe more, in private school. In a situation like that, the kids aren’t getting any group cohesiveness from all going to school together, anyway, so hsing won’t cause the problems you mention.

    Scouts is tougher. I don’t know if you have been following the BCC thread, where I mentioned that we belong to a nonLDS pack. This is a situation that I plan on watching, but I see it more as a learning opportunity: just like my kids aren’t supposed to tell their Catholic friends that they are going to hell, they shouldn’t tell their LDS-scout friends that they belong to an ‘inferior’ pack! Also note that this isn’t really a hsing issue: I’ve known public-school LDS kids who have belonged to nonLDS packs.

    “Does there come a point when homeschooling has enough negative repurcussions for the community of the saints that it is no longer a good thing? Or is it an opportunity for us to learn to interact with the other in a charitable manner, and therefore something we should be encouraging?”

    Well, the Church has recently pronounced itself officially neutral on schooling options, so apparently we haven’t reached that point. As stated above, I don’t see hsing bringing disadvantages to the body of Saints any more than private schools, charter schools, or public-schooled kids-in-nonLDS-scout-packs bring. But I agree with your point about charity.

  147. Anna V on October 12, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    “Forgive the snark, but homeschoolers get just a teeny bit tired of this question. It may have been a legitimate concern twenty or even ten years ago, but it isn’t today. My children interact with other children literally every day of the week, and my biggest headache as a homeschooler is trying to fit in everything I want to do and saying ‘no’ to those activities I can’t do. The assumption that the best or only way that one can become ’socialized’ (whatever the heck that means anyway) is in a room with 25 people one’s age and one adult is one that many homeschoolers dispute, anyway.”

    I think most people read that comment and say, “yep, homeschoolers are strange.” And there is nothing wrong with being different. But don’t quack like a duck, waddle like a duck, and then say you are a swan. It is disingenuous.

    Celebrate your peculiarities, but please don’t try and persuade us that they are mainstream.

  148. Julie in Austin on October 12, 2005 at 7:38 pm

    Anna V: Who did that? The _last_ thing I want to have are mainstream children!

  149. Ana on October 13, 2005 at 2:40 am

    Every once in a while I think I could homeschool. I have a child with ADHD who sometimes struggles to fit the mold at public school. Then I have a reality check. Or two or three.

    A few weeks ago we met with a learning and behavior specialist at my son’s school. She is a member of our stake who offered us really helpful ideas and resources for helping Sam succeed. I deeply appreciate having these kinds of options, not having to do it all myself.

    I work outside the home right now, as I’ve posted before. Without this, we would be one of those families in abject poverty. I tried that for a while. Hated it. Was miserable. Was not a particularly good mom under all that stress. I don’t need to be that martyr anymore.

    Sam draws himself to sleep every night. Last week beside his bed I found a drawing of himself with a big smile and huge pointy teeth. Captioned, “I am happy because my Mom is happy.” (creative first-grade spelling corrected; I don’t want you all comparing his emerging English skills with your kids’ advanced ancient Hebrew.) That says a lot, I think. Different moms, different kids, different right solutions for education.

  150. annegb on October 13, 2005 at 9:06 am

    My neighbor (given to onery hyperbolic ranting) told me that the stake had (I don’t know what or who the stake is that she refers to ) told her husband that the four signs of impending apostacy were:
    1. home birthing
    2. gospel meetings at home
    3. I forget, but my son-in-law’s family does it, maybe vegetarianism
    4. home schooling

    I asked the wife of a member of the stake presidency about that and she said no way, they didn’t say that. Now I’m not so sure, it could go either way. But my son-in-law’s family is pretty on the road to apostacy in a lot of ways. Well, they’ve left the church, but are not excommunicated. He went on a mission and remains loyal to the church.

    I have heard a lot of stories about successful home schooling, like the one family somebody refers to above, but I just don’t know any. Except for the people on the blogs who seem like very intelligent, together, nice people. I don’t know, go figure.

    I do know one young boy whose mother chose to home school him when he was bullied at school. I love this young kid and I think she did the right thing by him. He wasn’t cut out for it and he’s better off now.

    Do you think some people home school out of fear for their kids and this excessive need to protect them in reality causes them harm? By protecting them so much they can’t deal?

    I suppose it’s sixes.

  151. Julie in Austin on October 13, 2005 at 11:42 am

    Ana, beautiful post. Let me tell you what filled my field of vision when I woke up this morning: a small notebook that said, “Don’t turn this page and read the sentenence [sic] on the other side.” and then, of course, an arrow.

    Not being one to turn down forbidden fruit, I turned the page. On the top it said “BIG, FAT BUTTS.” Beneath that it said, “See I told you not to turn the page.”

    And let me assure you that none of the above was in ancient Hebrew.

    (I was just happy to see the apostrophe used corectly.)

    “Do you think some people home school out of fear for their kids and this excessive need to protect them in reality causes them harm? By protecting them so much they can’t deal?”

    Yes. And that’s bad. But it isn’t a sign of the last days ;)

  152. Seth Rogers on October 13, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Julie, you mentioned “5 major methodologies” of homeschooling. I’ve already found “The Well Trained Mind.” What are the others and what books/websites correspond to their approaches?

    (Sorry, but this thread is just getting too long to re-read for speicific info)

  153. Ana on October 13, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    Julie, I’m snorting at my desk. My four year old was crying this morning because his brother “wrote him a bad note.” It was a bank statement with this on the back:

    “BOTHED.”

    That is “butthead,” for those of you not conversant in creative first grade spelling.

    Sometimes it is so hard to keep a straight face when administering logical consequences!

  154. gst on October 13, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    Sometimes I get bank statements with “Butthead” written on them. From my bank.

  155. Julie in Austin on October 13, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    Seth–major methodologies as follows:

    (1) classical–Well-Trained Mind and other resources

    (2) unit study–say the topic this week is ‘farms.’ Everything–spelling words, writing assignments, science, history, etc., has to do with farms.

    (3) unschooling–no formal curriculum, child-led learning

    (4) school-at-home–basically, replicating what would be done in the classroom

    (5) eclectic–the reality is that *all* hsers are eclectic, borrowing pieces from the above methods as meets their needs

  156. Seth Rogers on October 13, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks Julie.

  157. JKS on October 18, 2005 at 2:28 am

    Julie
    I ordered the History of the World part 1 on CD. I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival. Thanks for the tip.

  158. gst on October 23, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Here’s a real homeschooling triumph: http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=1231684&page=1

  159. Scott W. Somerville on February 10, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    This has been a fascinating thread! I am an Evangelical attorney who serves over 300 Utah families who are members of the Home School Legal Defense Association. (HSLDA is a non-sectarian membership organization with Evangelical leadership, and we have a fair number of LDS members.) Here are my two bits:

    Parents who are concerned about raising “weird” children are probably not in much danger of doing so. Homeschooling CAN be a wonderfully effective method of education, if parents (typically the mom!) are willing to make the effort. If you can avoid the guilt, stress, and anxiety that goes with doing anything so counter-cultural, homeschooling can be an absolute delight.

    Our own family has been using the “Tapestry of Grace” curriculum, which integrates every subject but math and high school science around history. We cycle through the history of the world every four years, and the children tackle the same subject material at an ever-deeper level as they go. The whole family is learning about the same topic, even though each child is dealing with it on their own level. On Fridays, we often watch a movie together about the era we’ve been studying, and everybody gets so much out it because they put so much into it! It’s a way of learning that you just can’t do in a traditional school.

    Oh, yes–my kids aren’t “weird,” by anybody’s definition. But they do love God, their parents, and each other.

    Or is that “weird”?

  160. carolyn smith on March 13, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    This really is an interesting thread. The bit about the positive value of conformity I really found interesting and highly idealistic and not grounded in reality.. Conformity in the schools as we know it has changed drastically in the years since I was in school(30 years ago). Today, conformity might mean having boyfriends as second graders and discussing a variety of inappropriate topics that used to be reserved for teenagers. It might mean wearing make up and middriffs in elementary and having endless discussions about pop music. For some kids, boys especially for some reason, conformity might mean having to hide that you are smart and actually find some parts of school interesting.
    I say this having worked in public schools now for several years. Now, I think any good and involved parent can combat this and produce nice, capable kids regardless, but it will be hard work to undo the effects of a growing peer culture and we have only so many hours in the day.
    Homeschooling makes this easier and is a much more efficient use of time in my opinion.. However, the challenge of homeschooling is not to take forgranted the GOOD socialization that can and does happen in schools. Many parents assume contact with agemates doesn’t matter and they don’t go the extra mile to provide this for their homeschooled kids. I have seen some strange homeschooled kids- inevitably, their parents were odd individualists themselves, highly independent and often reclusive. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
    To be a successful homeschooler, I think you need to make the extra effort to be involved in group activities with other kids(regardless of where they are schooled) on a regular basis, even if the parent doesn’t feel like it. The kids also need to see the parents being involved with groups and social as well.
    I don’t think homeschooling can be successful for everyone. If my child were very different from me in temperament and we were constantly at each other, I think my child would do better taking instruction from someone else.
    If I tended to be highly impatient and found myself often irritated at a child that “couldn’t get it”, my child would be better off taking instruction from an impartial teacher.
    If I was lazy and tended to be a slacker, or lacked the creativity to make up or find the best materials for my child available or preferred to let the computer or television teach all the time(thus taking away one of the positives for homeschooling-building close relationships), my child would be better off in school.
    If my younger children or my spouse were not getting much attention, due to my not finding a balance in my homeschooling, our family much better with the children in school.
    If my child were more of a social bent and complained of feelings of dissatisfaction with homeschooling, I might give the school a try(assuming the school were of a good quality).
    That said, I think homeschooled kids today will for the most part seem more mainstream than the ones years ago, only because there are tons of networks and social opportunities available now than in the past, which is in turn attracting more mainstream families who are intrigued by the efficiency and the creative educational experience that can result. –carolyn