More on Homeschooling

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Apple for the homeschool teacherLast year, I wrote a few posts on homeschooling that riled many. Seeing that a couple nerves were touched with yesterday’s post (“Super Christian Homeschooling Ninja Moms of Death“), I’d like to offer up those posts to new readers who haven’t encountered them before.

“The Myths of Homeschooling” series was widely quoted in homeschooling sites across the Web, proving to be one of the most divisive sets of posts ever offered at Cerulean Sanctum. Respondents ranged from wanting to have me boiled in oil to those who offered thanks that someone had finally come out and said what a lot of people thought but were afraid to speak in public.

Having recently encountered several people who clung to those myths like barnacles to a sunken ship, I can only say that nothing’s changed since they were written. In truth, I suspect that the environment is growing more rabidly partisan. I know that I recently encountered a mom who just about accused me of selling my son’s soul because I was enrolling him in a state-sponsored public homeschooling program, Ohio Virtual Academy. When she pointed out that this was not an explicitly Christian program (though the curriculum comes out of former Secretary of Education and The Book of Virtues author William Bennett’s K12 organization), I pointed out that I had a degree in Christian Education and could more than adequately cover my child’s Christian education. Needless to say, she doggedly stuck to her point, as if she knew my child and me better than I did. Pretty typical; you’ll find points on this in the series.

For 10 tips every homeschooler should know, I offered this post:

Not so many people found that post divisive. Just some musings on the whole issue and plenty of grace offered, too. Hope you all find these blasts from the past worthwhile.

27 thoughts on “More on Homeschooling

  1. DPT

    I can appreciate your comments about people being partisan. All of my four children were homeschooled to some extent. All are now in the—are you sitting down?—public school system. In some cases, theories of homeschooling have become corollaries to our partisan denominational preferences, and are defended with just as much vigor. The key in my mind is the same as with everything else in the Christian life: sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to direct you in and out of things that may be useful for a season, but only for that season. If you’re going to be doctrinaire about it, you’ll make the same mistakes as those who cling to their principles inflexibly anywhere else. The law was made for man, not the other way around.

  2. Dan, thanks for posting these links. Those were written before I had discovered your blog, so it was fascinating to read them. I just took the time to read through all of them, including all the comments (whew!) because this topic is very important to me.

    Starting this fall, with his 9th grade year, we are going to be homeschooling our son. Up until now, he’s been in the public school system, with the exception of 3 weeks at the beginning of this school year when he went to a brand new charter school. Unfortunately, the charter school ended up closing for a couple of weeks, and then decided not to have 8th grade after all when they reopened, so we had no other alternatives at that point, but back in the public school.

    I have seen some of the myths you are talking about, but I felt like some of it was a bit overstated. However, you are basing it on your experience, and I’m not going to belittle that.

    One thing I did want to point out, though, was with regard to a comment you had made to another commenter, I believe. You said something about public schools letting you come and look at the curriculum and know what’s being taught, etc. This is true to some extent. But what we have found is that teachers invariably throw comments in, or take the time to teach things, that are not in the curriculum. For example, our state (NC) has a “standard course of study” which refers to the “theory of evolution”. Yet, on several occasions this year, the science teacher has taken the time to tell the class how evolution is not a theory, and that they shouldn’t believe anyone who says that it is.

    Additionally, our children learn a lot at school that has nothing to do with the curriculum or the teachers. It’s the “street learning” that takes place in the halls, before/after class, etc. And it is that “extra-curriculer” learning that has caused us the most problems, and necessitated the most deprogramming. Ultimately, that was what drove us to consider (and decide on) homeschooling for the time being.

    I don’t see it as “THE only Christian way”, but I do have the feeling that to compare public schooling with homeschooling is a bit of an apples and oranges situation. At any rate, I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    steve 🙂

    • The extracurricular part you can never eliminate because there’s no way to live in a vacuum. As much as we insulate our son from a number of outside influences, he still gets to see and experience things we limit when he associates with other children.

      The question becomes one of degrees and how much garbage you can deal with effectively as a parent.

      • Dan, I’m sorry I didn’t realize you had responded. I was trying a new “comments reader” that, from the looks of things, doesn’t pick up on your nested replies, so I didn’t see this until today.

        I think you’re right about extracurricular (and thank you for spelling that correctly…I didn’t realize I had put an “e” in there!) being unavoidable to some degree. I guess the point I was making, though, is that it is happening to such a degree in the public schools (or any school other than home, for that matter…I even saw it when I was in a Christian school for a couple of years), and I’m not sure how much we, as parents, really look at the extent to which our child is getting educated by his peers.

        It’s one thing to know that occasionally he is being subjected to stuff (through friends, or whatever) in a very small proportion to the amount of time he is being subject to “the right stuff”. But 180 days, 6 hours a day, and then perhaps several hours of homework when he comes home, dinner, and bedtime — how can we compete with that?

        I think it is that disproportionate teaching taking place outside the parents’ control and belief system that is driving a lot of homeschoolers, not the myths that you put forth. It would be very interesting to see you put together a list of myths about public education, too! 🙂

        Thanks for the dialogue. I’ll try to stay on top of the comments better now that I know I’m not seeing them all in my reader.

        steve 🙂

  3. Joy

    “Listen to the fact that some women no longer introduce themselves as “a mom of four kids,” but as “a homeschooling mom of four kids,” as if the “homeschooling” tag must be added in order to ratchet up the standard of successful parenthood one more notch.”

    Just something I’ve noticed is that a number of stay-at-home moms add this as a way of deflecting the criticism of “wasting their education” by being a stay-at-home mom. Too often in our society, women are derided for any and all of the choices they make, as the prevailing winds of thought shift to and fro.

    There is one thing I know to be true. Every mother is a working mother. Whether she is able to stay at home with her children or finds it necessary to work outside the home doesn’t matter. We need to respect the choices and efforts of all hardworking mothers.

    regards,
    Joy

    • Joy,

      Yep, I understand that concern by moms who don’t want to be dissed. Still, I guess what I want to know is why we’re dissing at all, especially within our own tribes. I can understand intertribal conflict, but I don’t understand when one tribe consumes its own. We’re doing that, though, and what I write about is a perfect example when it’s not enough to homeschool, the homeschool has to be exactly the right kind.

      That’s just nuts, frankly.

      • Joy Jackson

        Dan, agreed. It is nuts. It makes me think of a book I read a couple of years ago, “Queen Bees and Wannabees.” It discussed how groups of girls behave, regardless of what kind of school they attend. It’s the pack mentality with one female as the leader. In this case, she would be the one who decides the right curriculum, attire for worship attendance, which movies and books to read, how much of ________ is enough, etc., etc. In church communities with hierarchial structures that include deacons & elders, the “Queen Bee” may well be the wife of one of the men holding such a title. Percieved power, perhaps, that is grasped and wielded in a worldly manner. Bottom line, it’s an opportunity for Satan to gain a foothold and discourage the community as a whole and individually as well. To try to avoid this, it is necessary to be alert to our own behavior and motivations and be willing to “speak the truth in love” when we see such behaviors as you have described. Not easy in any respect, especially when many of us have been taught to “go along” to “get along.” Not a scriptural behavior, to be sure but I have no doubt that many practice this so much in the world that it has become second nature. Sad.

  4. Julia

    Oh thank you for blowing away the layers of dust hiding some of the not-so-not realities of home schooling. We taught our daughters at home for 8 years. Good times. Hard times. Good fruit in their lives. It cost me a lot. I don’t regret it. But, I admit it.
    They’re all grown now and in fancy grad schools in different corners of the country. They turned out fine and remember homeschooling fondly.
    During those years I saw an increasingly legalistic movement within the homeschooling community. I’m very very concerned about the mentality that leads to Ninja Moms of Death. Women all over the country are being told: You MUST home school. If you can’t or don’t want to or just plain aren’t cut out for the whole thing, you’re being unspiritual, immature, and, worse, are disobedient to God’s will (It’s in the Word somewhere….2Queens I think..Thou shalt teach thy children at home, preferably wearing a dress and using Bill Gothard’s curriculum…at least I think that’s the verse) Then, more burdens are heaped upon these mothers – and families. The “really creative” mom “helps out” financially by running a little home business “on the side.” (Which side, I’m not sure. After doing the whole Ninja, Beth Moore, sexy wife, Bill Gothard chain of command thing, is there a side left?….Other women must have more sides than I do, I guess)
    Then, the really scary stuff. Don’t just home school. Home church. Isolate yourselves in small groups of like-minded families with male-centric leadership and similar (meaning identical) theology. Finally (maybe it’s not really final..and there’s more since I was in the homeschooling circle of trust) don’t use birth control.

    I am honest when I say I am terrified that we will see women in mental hospitals, committing suicide, and driven to breakdowns in mind and spirit by the demands that they become these “super” women. too many children too quickly. The demands of homeschooling. The isolation of the home-centered church, school, support group, circle of friends, and world. The added expectations of contributing financially, keeping an attractive home, being physically and emotionally available to your husband, being “in the Word” and in prayer regularly. Holding home and soul and mind together (plus teaching math and Intro to Chemistry while nursing the baby).

    I’m very concerned. I don’t see the church speaking out honestly about the potential for great hurt. I was horrified when nobody – NOBODY – in the christian Community spoke honestly about that poor, desperate woman in Texas who lost touch with reality and killed her children. Did the fact that their family life fit my description in every element have anything to do with her psychotic break? Are there other women out there who, though probably not as seriously, are broken and barely hanging on to sanity?

    • Julia,

      You took the words right out of my mouth on a number of those issues you bring up.

      What I don’t like to see is the church mandating all those things but then providing zero support in making them happen. That’s utterly evil in my eyes. If our churches require us to be a certain way, they should be ready to help us be that way or else they’re just adding millstones around our necks.

      Parachurch organizations are especially prone to this. I’d name a few, but you can probably guess already who they are.

  5. hmm what you said in your old article actually mirrors some of the problems I had in parochial schools.

    I actually think home schooling has a tremendous opportuunity to help kids if the parents who are doing it, really, really, really know what they are doing. Based on certain factos like the teacher to student ratio etc. But in the same way, that it can be optimal, it gives people the opportunity to really screw things up.

    Another important side issue is the developement of social skills. There is a former guy from the ooze who really hated the notion of homeshooling, of course both he and his wife are teachers so I see a bit of bias/ conflict of interest going on there. But be brought up notions of learning independence, social skills and so on.

    I think that is a point of consideration, although I can’t see that alone impeaching the concept by itself. I think kids have plenty of room to learn that stuff playing with neighbor kids etc.

    Anyway if the parents are skilled at teaching, parenting etc. I think this is a great blessing. But if not, they could be rolling the dice on their childrens education based on idealogical reasons (many seem to do this because they are afraid of their kids being corrupted by the public schools).

    • Dee

      Regarding social skills: The fact is, among many homeschoolers I know, very little interraction takes place with the neighbor kids. This kind of interraction is reserved for church kids or other homeschoolers.

      Even if the intent is to protect the children from the evils of the world, there is merit in having them learn how to communicate with and interract with other people in the world. They are being set up to have problems when they have to enter the real world at adulthood. Not to mention the surprise they will experience when they see who else makes it into heaven….

      • Dee

        I need to add that I am not opposed to home schooling. In fact, since we have begun the process of adopting an older child from Russia I am seriously considering home schooling for a bit before sending her to school. My reasoning is that it will be an opportunity to do some bonding. I am also giving it serious thought because I am thinking she might have a better chance at learning to read English if she has the undivided attention of her teacher.

        Dan, do you or any of your readers have any personal experience or wisdom to share regarding this unique situation?

      • Bonnie

        whoah, Dee, jumping generalities! “Surprised to see who else makes it into heaven”? This is going a little overboard to assume that parents who wish to protect their children from picking up bad habits (cursing, poor attitudes, defiance- all of which I have to deal with in my firstborn because of other “neighborhood kids'” example- and yes these behaviors are a complete mimic of what the other children constantly display ) are not “Christian” enough to raise children who can interact outside the church (or within some).

  6. Dee

    Bonnie,
    I did not say that parents who wish to protect their children … are not “Christian” enough …

    I was observing that some homeschoolers I know protect their children to the point that they are pretty much isolated from everything non-Christian. Although I understand why they want to do that, I don’t think it is healthy to be completely isolated.

    For example, there are some homeschooled kids in my neighborhood whom I never see. I suspect they are EXACTLY the kinds of kids I would prefer my children to play with, but they never come out of doors except to walk their dog or to get in their car. Bummer. My youngest child would enjoy having friend his own age in the neighborhood. Instead he keeps bringing home older kids who model the kind of undesirable behavior you mention. Bet those homeschooled kids would be surprised to learn there are other Christians just down the street. They might know that if they bothered to (or were allowed to) interact with the rest of us.

  7. Julie

    I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for writing the Myths of Homeschooling series.

    I was not homeschooled, but I went to a college that was very homeschool-friendly, so I got to see the immediate results, both good and bad. That alone was enough to convince me that homeschooling can be very good and very bad.

    When I tell homeschooling moms that I went to public school, they sometimes respond with a “you poor thing” attitude, and it makes me mad. I’m very grateful for my public school experiences, and I had a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if my mother had kept me at home (which I begged her to do!). I was blessed to have a great public high school where I lived, and parents who chose to live in a place with good schools because that was the best thing for their kids. (They would have been terrible teachers, and they knew it.) On the other hand, a close friend of mine was homeschooled, and she feels exactly the same way about her education as I do about mine.

    I definitely see the pressure to homeschool within the church family. I feel it, and I don’t have children yet! I even know one of those no-birth-control moms that Julia was talking about. She’s trying to be SuperWoman, and it’s sad to see her hurting from so much unnecessary pressure.

    Thanks for taking the time to shed a little light on this issue. I hope people can realize that what’s best for you and your family isn’t best for me and my family.

  8. Hi, i came late on this post, but I really enjoyed it. I recently did a post (and ongoing series) on putting my teenaged daughter into public highschool (as encouragement to someone thinking of doing the same thing). I am still homeschooling my two younger sons. I also work in a college ministry and have seen homeschoolers come through the college at which we are working. And of course I see many students who come from vastly different backgrounds than those who were homeschooled.

    I don’t know why, but we don’t have problems recruiting newer believers to missions, but the ones who grow up in the church—the most “qualified”—are the ones least likely to go. Why is that? It is so incredibly sad to me, I cannot even begin to express it. Younger believers who have a tougher background and not as great a church foundation are the ones who are often more ready to go on a mission trip to a scary country or give up a summer to learn to evangelism and discipleship. They are the ones who say, “I’m going to sacrifice my time to reach out to this particular group of people on campus.” And they do.

    All that to nicely say, is that this next year I am taking the plunge and am enrolling my daughter into public high school. I want her to get to know people different from herself, so she can develop a heart of compassion for them. She will have a chance, but God’s grace, to be strengthened in her faith as she interacts with a culture that is scary and lost, rather than in the future feel intimidated or worse yet, completely detached.

    I don’t think the last 10 years of homeschooling were a waste, but they have prepared her for this. I need to trust God and let her go now, knowing that He cares for her and wants to meet her deepest needs even on a public school campus. Yeah, I could have her take the exit exam tomorrow and she would pass. But I think that is missing the point. Homeschooling is not about “beating the system.”

  9. I read this post, the previous post, and your older series on homeschooling, ad I’ve jsut gotta say thank you so much! I have the utmost respect for homeschoolers, as I have known most of them and was mostly homeschooled myself. But I also know many youths who were not trusted and basically consider to be “bad christians” because they attended puiblic school. It’s good to get away from the idealized veiw of it and see it as it really is. Will I homeschool my future kids? I’m not sure of that yet, but I do know that I will be teaching them either way. and I think that’s the most important part of it. Again, thank you.

  10. Public School at home is NOT homeschooling. Your child is still a public school student. Parents who do public school at home are like renters. Just because you live in the house and consider it your home doesn’t make you a home owner. On the other hand real homeschoolers are like homeowners. We have the freedom to replace the tile with carpet in our homes without asking permission of anyone. Homeschoolers enjoy certain freedoms that public school at home parents & students do not. By insisting on using the homeschooling label for something that is not homeschooling you are opening the door to confusion among lawmakers that may one day curtail homeschooling freedoms and force all of us to do public school at home.

  11. David Williams

    Thanks for this series. I just found it through a link on a similar topic from Tim Challies blog. My wife and I are prayerfully considering the options for schooling since we have a daughter due to start school in 2 years and a son just born. Therefore it’s a massive decision that we have to start thinking about and weighing up. While I’m heading more towards homeschooling at this stage, it’s good to view both sides and I appreciate you for offering your say on the matter.

  12. Anna Mae

    I just wanted to jump in and say that I, along with all five of my siblings, grew up in public school. The funny thing is that most people assume that we were homeschooled! People are always really surprised when they find out that we were not. I actually think what influences children EVEN more than a public education is then coming home and continuing that same education via the television. That and having parents who are hypocrites and/or teach their children that Christianity is about being safe, healthy, comfortable, and entertained. It’s not surprising that people from homes like that end up pursuing those things instead of Christ, regardless of what their education was. My family treated everyone the same: poor, rich, and in-between, and we were never taught to value material possessions. We didn’t celebrate Halloween, and we were not allowed to dance. Thus, we learned that Christians do have to sacrifice to not become part of the world that they are in. Our house was always the neighborhood hang-out. I am the only one who went to a Christian university, and I absolutely hated it because of all of the hypocrisy and people trying to get into the “cool” in-group. All of my other siblings went to state universities, and three of us have master’s degrees. I married a guy from Southeast Asia and now live and work here, too. We’re not perfect by any means, and my parents made a lot of mistakes, too, but all of us are all still growing in our relationship with Jesus. I think that is the sign of successful parenting.

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