The Myths of Homeschooling #3


At homeschoolIf you haven’t caught the first two parts of this series (1 and 2), please read them first or you will have missed the rationale for the series and previous myths.

Myth #6: It is “more Christian” to homeschool

Christianity as a cultural norm has taken a few steps backward in this country in the last 30 years, so it’s probably not true that ANYTHING is “more Christian” today than yesterday. I was born in the early ’60s and have never met a peer who was homeschooled, so this forces the question: Were there no Christian parents before homeschooling took off in the late 1980s?

Many homeschooling pundits today claim you can’t be a good Christian and not homeschool your children. What a huge slap in the face to their parents! With almost no adults over 40 today taught through homeschooling, most American parents of my own parents’ generation were profligate in their children’s educations—if you believe the pundits. If we are starting to define a Christian home by homeschooling, then our parents were sinned by allowing us to go to public school. And then there’s the Protestant parents who sent their kids to private Catholic schools…

How foolish a myth, yet how often we hear it tossed out like a live grenade by well-meaning ministries that never think through their propaganda!

Schooling options exist beyond homeschooling and none of them violate the essence of our faith. Too many people forget that Christians started the public school system, and those pioneers had no problem violating the supposed sanctity of school at home. Nor were those schools simply for the unbelievers or for slack parents. Good Christian parents sent their kids to public school.

I understand that today’s public schools are a mess thanks to entrenched teachers unions and liberals who think along the lines of humanists like John Dewey. Still, many options for schooling exist: charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and more. Homeschooling is a choice, not a mandate.

God has not placed His sole imprimatur on homeschooling. In fact, I say with no hesitation that God is less concerned with schooling methodologies and school types han He is that our kids serve Him and love Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds.

Myth #7: Homeschooling protects our children

Our children are not ours; they are God’s. When we become Christians, we forfeit our rights to everything we own. We do not even own ourselves; therefore, we cannot “own” our children.

Would God have us build bunkers? Or is our light intended to shine in the midst of darkness? How long can we shelter our children before they must go out into a dark world and live as salt and light?

We miss chances to strengthen our children to stand up in the midst of a fallen world if we perpetually shelter them from the reality of wickedness this side of heaven. Better for us to teach them in the middle of the fray than to send them out untested with the hope that we covered every chink in their armor.

I’m not convinced a bunker mentality works. That line of thinking is based in fear and not love, in worry and not faith. Good parents will work with their kids to combat bad messages. If we want to train our children to think, what better way than to have them experience lies firsthand? My son and I sometimes turn on TV to watch the commercials so I can work with him to unpack the real messages in the ads. He can now tell me what is being sold, why, and how it is being packaged. If we had no TV in the house, would he be that wise? Hardly. But by exposing him to the world in supervised amounts, I know that he is using knowledge and God’s truth to make wise decisions.

My own personal experience is that the truly sheltered, once out from underneath mom and dad’s shadow, typically throw off the shackles. When I was at Wheaton College, I could tell you which kids were under their parents’ constant scrutiny. Once the all-seeing eyes were gone, the result became painfully clear, or to quote the rock band Kiss, “Junior’s gone wild.”

Myth #8: Homeschooled children are smarter than their peers

I searched forever online but could not find  the Ohio Department of Education survey that showed homeschooled kids scored equal to or lower than their public and private schooled peers in the state’s mandatory educational tests. Still, I remember reading that report and the statistics that backed up the conclusions and was startled—I expected the homeschoolers to be on par or higher, not on par and lower. With as many kids being homeschooled today—and the constant hype from homeschooling organizations—you’d think that test scores would be rising astronomically, but they truly aren’t.

Yes, the National Spelling Bee champion and the National Geographic geography savant are likely to be homeschoolers, but we seldom hear about the many homeschooled kids who are barely above Jell-O in intelligence. I meet kids like that, so they do exist. As much as homeschool proponents love to shine the spotlight on the 16-year-old med student who was homeschooled, they’re tightlipped on the ones who never make it to college or who tanked the SAT or ACT.

I searched online for any Nobel Prize-winning scientists who were homeschooled and couldn’t find a one. And though I did find one page that had interviews with Nobel winners who claimed to hate school, they obviously derived enough out of it to eventually win that coveted prize!

Those are the myths for today. There will be one last concluding post in this look at homeschooling, so stayed tuned.

Until then, I’m breaking into my own series since there have been many questions asked and various comments made about my ability to discuss the topic of homeschooling at all. That was to be expected since any deconstruction of homeschooling is bound to rile at least a few people.

I mentioned some of my qualification in the first post, but I’ll go over this in more detail here:

  • I graduated summa cum laude from Wheaton College in 1992 with a degree in Christian Education. That degree’s requirements included significant analysis of curricula of all kinds. Much of the curricula I examined was homeschool-related. In addition, I studied all the educational theorists and teaching styles, so I’m well versed in both current and historic educational methods.
  • I’ve written countless curricula myself in a variety of Christian and secular environments. I have more than a thousand hours of personal teaching experience.
  • Before Wheaton, I taught outdoor education at several Christian camps in Ohio and Wisconsin, encountering numerous homeschoolers. This was my first exposure to homeschoolers and my fascination with the burgeoning movement led to further personal study of trends within it.
  • I’ve continued to follow all aspects of homeschooling, talked with hundreds of homeschooling parents from all over the teaching methodology spectrum, tracked the most important Internet sites related to homeschooling, read the hottest books in homeschooling circles, and generally have known what’s what in homeschooling since 1987.

In short, I’m well qualified to discuss the topic. I’ve no problem if anyone wants to disagree with my conclusions, but impugning my experience isn’t worthwhile.

Someone said that I was fronting for Wendell Berry by advocating “The New Agrianism.” Well, I might very well be advocating agrarianism! Honestly, how well educated is a person who cannot feed herself or build himself a house? That used to be basic knowledge, but we’ve eschewed knowing how to cover the basics of food, clothing, or shelter for such relatively unusable pursuits as calculus, Latin, or Asian history. I’d just like to know why.

I also want to comment on an interesting outcome of this series. I’ve had both male and female commenters and it’s intriguing to me that men seem to agree with my analysis of the current state of homeschooling more than the women do. Can’t say exactly why that is, but I find it curious.

The conclusion follows: The Myths of Homeschooling #4.


This four-part series:

The Myths of Homeschooling #1

The Myths of Homeschooling #2

The Myths of Homeschooling #3

The Myths of Homeschooling #4

21 thoughts on “The Myths of Homeschooling #3

  1. Travis


    Certainly interested in this series! I want to ask your clarification on a few things here in Part 3, though:

    Myth 6: You’re essentially trying to refute an appeal to novelty (a logical fallacy) with an appeal to tradition (another logical fallacy). However, even if it were proper in this case to appeal to tradition, I believe you would need to go back further than your own generation; please look at a minimum of 150 years, so we can take a look at pre-Industrial Revolution-era education. If you’re forty-two, that means you probably would have attended school from 1970-1982 (not counting college), and that’s not the best period of U.S. history to hold up as a moral or spiritual example. 😉

    Myth 7: “But by exposing him to the world in supervised amounts, I know that he is using knowledge and God’s truth to make wise decisions.” How does this apply to the main thrust of your de-mything here? I don’t know of many classroom settings (other than homeschooling) where the parents regularly supervise the child over the entire course of the schoolday.

    I think before debunking myths regarding homeschooling, it would be extremely helpful for you to explain what you see as the “chief end” of education. This would provide a helpful grid for evaluation the validity of claims from either end of the homeschooling issue. As it is, you seem to be knocking down straw-men more than anything else.

  2. Travis,

    My point in myth #6 is that a variety of educational methods have existed throughout the millennia. None is any more inherently Christian than any other. Martin Luther was educated in a monastery and there is every reason to believe that the Reformation would not have occurred if he’d been homeschooled. God uses whatever education we receive for his purpose.

    You may not like my logical fallacies in that myth, but my point is to call into question the fanaticism with which some homeschoolers claim that homeschooling is the only Christian way to teach children. Then why didn’t their Christian parents use it? It’s not meant as a scholarly approach.

    As for 150 years ago, I covered that in my business series.

    As for myth #7, my mom discussed our days in school every day. We sat down and she “deprogrammed” the day for us. She was actively involved in the curriculum selection for the school and on and on. There’s no reason parents can’t do the same today. I talk over everything my son does when he’s away from me. We talk about his Sunday School class and the preschool class he attends twice a week. That kind of deprogramming worked for decades and yet it’s viewed as unacceptable today. Why?

    Regarding my “chief end” of education, I’ll discuss that in my conclusion.

    Thanks for being such a loyal reader! I appreciate having you around.

  3. Travis

    Good! I appreciate being around. =)

    “You may not like my logical fallacies in that myth, but my point is to call into question the fanaticism with which some homeschoolers claim that homeschooling is the only Christian way to teach children. Then why didn’t their Christian parents use it? It’s not meant as a scholarly approach.”

    Well, they would probably say their parents failed in that area. 😉

    Scholarly approach or not, you seem to be appealing to sentiment rather than objective truth when you lay out your opposition in this manner. (I’m not in any way saying your conclusions are wrong. I simply think that you can’t tear down a myth apart from a faithful presentation of the truth; otherwise, you’re just creating a new myth.) In appealing to “how your parents did things”/”how dare you question your parents?”, you fail to adequately address the reader who would claim that his parents did, in fact, fail to teach “the only Christian way.”

    “As for 150 years ago, I covered that in my business series.”

    Specifically parts 4 and 5, am I right? However, your remarks regarding “youth groups” seem similar to the homeschooling “myths” you’re debunking. Is the difference between “myth” and “generalization”? If so, what is the difference? (Please forgive me if I’m crossing over into offending you. I assure you, I have no effigy-related goals in mind!)

    “That kind of deprogramming worked for decades and yet it’s viewed as unacceptable today. Why?”

    Probably because “those people” would say that this kind of deprogramming did not work, and they’re tired of beating a dead horse.

    But while we’re on the topic, could you demonstrate how the positive results of this “deprogramming” (where and when they occur) are the rule, and not the exception? I would venture to say this “deprogramming” was as common then as you imply significant parental involvement in homeschooling is now (in your coverage of Myth #2).

    “Regarding my “chief end” of education, I’ll discuss that in my conclusion.”

    Bah! How many more myths are you going to write about? I could be waiting for months! Don’t you know that the whole purpose of a blog is to write what other people want you to write, when they want you to write it? That’s what makes blogs different than newspapers, magazines, and the CBA! (lol!)

  4. At barely 5, he can now tell me what is being sold, why, and how it is being packaged. If we had no TV in the house, would he be that wise? Hardly.

    But does he need to be that worldly wise at five? To what end? My son can learn that steadily as time goes by. He doesn’t need that information now, anymore than we need to have an indepth discussion of the evils of porn before he turns eight. I don’t feel the pressure to create a worldly wise prodigy.

    You know, I’m still waiting for the point of this series. For all your expertise in homeschooling, I don’t know many homeschoolers who hold to many of these myths we’re supposedly clinging fanatically to. As far as why women seem to be disagreeing with you and the men agreeing with you… Well, dude at 3fattriplets is – um – a dude. And he’s been refuting this point by point. Travis doesn’t seem to be completely on board either. Interesting generalities.

    One thing I would say is that women, as a rule, are the ones in the trenches actually doing the schooling. By virtue of experience, both as homeschoolers ourselves, and as the friends of other homeschooling moms, we are in the best position to look at your myths and go, “Hmmm. I don’t know very many who think or act like that” But then perhaps our experiences with homeschoolers don’t count as much as yours?

    I am trying not to be sensitive about your posts. And I have found them interesting. But there has been an overall tone of smug arrogance that is growing steadily less enjoyable. Frankly, my impression has been that your final conclusion is going to be that homeschooling is right for you because you know how to do it right but that the rest of us are just too unenlightened to successfully prepare our kids at home and better leave it to the “experts”, whomever they might be.

  5. blestwithsons,

    I hope that arrogant is not the way I’m coming off. People questioned my ability to speak on this subject, so I put my credentials out there. And despite those credentials, I’ll be the first to admit there are homeschooling parents that would run rings around me. Heck, I wish at times that my own son could homeschool with them instead of me!

    But what is not being confronted here—and it’s my main reason for writing—is that homeschool is being used like a set of brass knuckles to the jaws of some parents out there. They are being crushed by guilt for not homeschooling or are being likened to being sinners or profligate parents for not homeschooling. Those folks know who they are and I hope they’re reading this and seeing that homeschool is not the be all and end all of life. I also want those parents who are homeschooling their kids to know how to work the land or raise animals that they are not freaks for doing so.

    I meet people like that and they are indeed hurting. They hurt even more because they are good Christian people many times and yet their own churches are labeling them because they either don’t homeschool or they think some things are more important than understanding Plato’s dancing shadows.

    I see the moms with seven kids who are homeschooling them all. They get all the accolades anymore. Good for them. But what about the mom who can’t homeschool because her ailing parents take up all her time? Then to have people berate her for it! That disgusts me! And I’ve seen that happen.

    Homeschooling is being increasingly used as a ruler by which to measure people and judge their fitness as parents. If you don’t see that, then count yourself lucky that you live in a place where people don’t do that. I don’t live in that place. Despite living all over the Midwest and California, I’ve never lived in a place where homeschooling wasn’t used to judge people.

    All I want is to tone down the rhetoric; it’s hurting people. It’s also forcing people into homeschooling who are not equipped or are overburdened already. If keeping up with the homeschooling Joneses is what it is coming down to, then we need to offer people more grace to pursue other options without feeling like the spawn of hell.

    That’s all that this series is about. Hopefully, the people who need to hear this are getting the message.

  6. I really think it depends on the student, and their parents who are doing the homeschooling. I have a friend who homeschooled her kids because of their emotional and learning issues, (and her local schools were HORRIBLE and they could not afford private education) and they all did very well. She homeschooled through a relationship with a special school in Florida.

    However, I teach in a Christian school, and every single homeschooled student that has come to us is behind the other kids in almost every subject, and they have social issues to overcome as well. I certainly understand why some parents make that choice. Our local school system here has caused a dramatic increase in homeschooling. The economy is terrible here, so those that would prefer private education but simply can’t afford it are opting for homeschooling. But if one is going to do it, one needs to make sure that it’s being done WELL, and you cannot discount the impact it has on your child’s social development.

  7. Dan, thanks for your very gracious response.

    I see what you mean. And I have seen homeschooling used as a criterion to judge… but as another commenter pointed out – it happens just as frequently in the other direction. If it’s not one thing, it’s another – know what I mean? Goes all the way back to the eating meat sacrificed to idols thins – and who’s circumcised and who’s not?

    Personally, I ask people if they homeschool or are going to out of a)curiosity and b) a desire to find support. I prefer to hang out with other homeschoolers, not because I think they’re better Christians, but because I can pick their brains. (I’m fairly new at this) That and it’s nice to be with people who aren’t constantly quizzing me about socialization. (grin) Also, our schedules match up more than with public school parents. On the other hand, my son’s best friend goes to public school…

    I believe you that some hurtful criticism goes on, but I also believe that some of the time a snobbery is perceived that is not there.

  8. Scott W. Somerville

    About that study showing “homeschooled” kids scored lower on tests… the only study I’m aware of that might even remotely be what you’re talking about is a study of “cyberschool” students. These students are educated at home, but they are public school students using public school curriculum delivered via computer. The researchers noted that they weren’t “typical” homeschoolers, but explained that they were the only ones they could get data for. (This drives independent homeschoolers a little nuts, by the way…)

  9. Having read through your three posts, I leave feeling as if God has been left out of the decision making. Many people feel just as “lead” or “convicted” to homeschool as though who send their children out to be salt and light. I am glad that David, when facing a goliath, flanked by wimpering men, didn’t take time for an analytical review of the situation. He did as God called him to do and down Goliath went.

    For me and my house we will serve the Lord. In that capacity making the sacrifrice to homeschool is the right thing to do. Will God direct us to send our child to a public or christian school? (Both equally need some salt and light) Perhaps. Until then. It is school at home for us.

    Thanks for a well thought out post. Perhaps take some time to look at the other side. Benefits to homeschooling.

  10. kaiandstacie

    I like what The Ohio Guy had to say. Dan, I guess I am one of those rare women b/c I do agree with allot of what you have written concerning homeschooling.
    I live in Tx, and I have seen and heard many women talk about how they feel “judged, and less than” b/c they do not homeschool.

    We have started to homeschool this year with our 5yr old son, I really am enjoying it. I also am interested in co-op’s (I have zero pride when it comes to understanding that I do not know it all).

    The last ‘myth’ that I hope you talk about is the “you need to go to college if you want to be successful in life” mantra that continues to be preached even in christians communities.
    Over the last couple of years the Lord has been teaching and continues to teach my husband and I what it really means to live and walk by faith, to truly trust Him for EVERYTHING. I say all of that for this reason: the Lord has graciouly shown us how much leaven of the world and its system had gotten into our thinking.

    Home, Private, Public schooling all for the most part preach this message — “You need your education”. As a christian I am responsible to train my children up to know Jesus, to walk in His ways, to speak His truth, and to be a light in this dark world. I also am responsible to encourage them in the particular bent that they were created to go in and to pursue their God-given desires and dreams.

    College education is not the great end-all. The Lord might be calling my son to go into the military ( to be a General of course—smile)
    He might want my daughter to own her own business or to be an artist, my youngest He might lead to be a farmer or go into the ministry. I say all of this to conclude that I want to be faithful in raising HIS CHILDREN to fulfill their God-given destiny.
    I really like your site, I have been reading your archives and I love so much of what you have written. I am a fan.
    To God be the Glory, and be blessed today.

  11. Paul

    I don’t know a lot of homeschoolers, but here are some of what’s gone on with the few I know.

    One family actually doesn’t homeschool. They recently began attending our church because they were the only family in their former church who didn’t homeschool and they were constantly made to feel guilty for not doing so.

    The other instance is a family that left our church because no one in our church at the time homeschooled. Because we, as a church, didn’t promote homeschooling as the only valid option, they left for a church that had an abundance of homeschoolers in it.

    I think these are examples of what Dan is describing. Certainly not all homeschoolers are like that. But it is interesting that out of the two families I’ve known personally who have been affected in one way or another by homeschooling Dan is so far 2 for 2 in his descriptions.

  12. Julana

    “but we seldom hear about the many homeschooled kids who are barely above jello in intelligence.”

    Our son has Down syndrome and had seizures as an infant. He is quite delayed. I spent two and half hours this morning in an IEP meeting with our son’s principal, teacher, and several other people. I would be surprised and dismayed to hear this language coming out of their mouths.

    Re comparing test results. There are no mandated state tests that cover homeschoolers in the state of Ohio. I have attended several annual CHEO conferences. You may take a standardized test, or meet with a teacher who looks at a portfolio of your child’s work. S/he can submit a narrative covering the child’s work to the proper authorities, and state that your child is performing acceptably, basically to the best of his/her ability.

    There are some standardized tests that show homeschoolers are consistently scoring higher than the norm. However, since these seem to be largely elective, I’m not sure how persuasive the data is.
    Ed Ray is the speaker who covered the topic in the conference I attended.

  13. I’m a little late to the party. 🙂

    As for why your women commenters disagree more vehemently (I haven’t read the comments– I’ll take your word for it), I wonder if it’s because those women have just spent the last 14 hours alternating between homeschooling and home care and child care.

    I can’t imagine any woman taking on the task of homeschooling unless she was absolutely convinced that it was the best possible option. To suggest that this might not be so is to suggest that her efforts have been in vain–at least to some degree. So she wants to stamp out your words. But they are helpful words, nonetheless.

    I appreciate what you’ve done here. I’m thankful to have a place to send friends who are considering schooling options.

    God bless.

  14. Sarah Oakes

    Well I thought I’d make a quick comment 6 years later!
    I”ve tried home schooling my children over the past few months and have enjoyed reading this article I’m currently waiting for my application to go through for a primary school where I’m hoping the children will be very happy. I agree that theres a lot of myth and hype surrounding home schooling, I can’t describe how cut off from normal UK community I’ve felt in these months, how misunderstood by Christians and non – Christians alike I’ve felt and how rare it is to actually be able to talk sensibly (as this article does in my opinion) with anyone about the pros and cons as people have a militant view either way in my experience. At the end of it all, I’m concluding that involvement with your children and teaching and helping them at every step is the best and the most that we can offer. This is as possible if they attend school as if they do not and in some cases, more so! My three are VERY active children and I’m exhausted. Can’t wait to hear back from that school 🙂

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