Friday, July 09, 2010

Answering the Critics

A friend of mine has a two-year-old daughter that she really wants to homeschool. Unfortunately, her family and friends are far less than supportive. She recently emailed me this question that I am (with her permission) posting here slightly edited for our readership to help answer.

What are some of your rebuttals to homeschool critics? When people say: "The children will not be socially acclimated." or "Can it be a little unhealthy for children to be around their parents so much?"

What are some other ones you've heard and please give me a tactful way to respond to these...

Here is the response I sent her:

For all of civilization, up until the late 1800s, children grew up at home with their families. Take for example the pioneers, who crossed the US in covered wagons. How much time did *they* spend with their parents every day? If you read the Little House on the Prairie series, you'll find out that Laura and her sisters were hardly ever in school until they were much older. They spent all day at home with their family. It was, in fact, a rare thing before the 1800s for a child to spend long periods of time away from their families.

That ought to cover the second question. Unless they think that all of humanity had unhealthy childhoods for thousands of years....

For the first question, I might then ask if they think that these famous people who were home educated were not "socially acclimated": Laura Ingalls Wilder, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison, etc. Just google for "famous homeschoolers for a MUCH longer list - public schooling is so very new that most of the famous people of history were home educated.

If they reply that yes, that was fine *then*, but public school is necessary to be "socially acclimated" now, then I would ask which parts of school are important. Then answer the specific areas that they are concerned about. For example:

Spending time with other children? They can do that at church or at homeschool group activities or at scouts or any other activities they're involved in.

Prom? There are homeschool proms.

The experience of being bullied (yes, I know people who think it's important to go to public school so that you know what it's like to be bullied)? 1) Not every child is bullied in school. 2) That's what family is for. Sibling rivalry, anyone?? 3) Are the bullies missing out in public school because *they* are never bullied?

Etc. I would also mention famous modern homeschoolers, such as the Jonas Brothers, Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye), and Tim Tebow (UF football player). Also, Will Smith and John Travolta homeschool their children.

Then I would be sure to tell them that scientists have studied the social health and success of homeschooled adults and compared them to public schooled adults. In most areas there is NO difference, and in the areas where there is a difference the homeschooled adults always scored higher.
But the truth is that I haven't really had to deal with critics much, and so I was hoping our readers could help me out. What response would you have given my friend? And what other questions do the critics ask that she should be prepared to answer?

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5 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    Do the critics really like the things our children learn from other children at school? (foul language, disrespect for authority, materialism, meanness, irresponsibility, general disdain for the concept of becoming mature...) Public school "socialisation" is like throwing your kids into a sewer of immorality. It is such a net negative that it justifies home schooling even without considering the academic advantages.

    Another approach would be to ask for concrete examples of people who are worse off because of home schooling. Most of the criticism I've heard is theoretical, based on faulty assumptions. Your friends or family may respond with a few dysfunctional situations they've read about. Those can be countered with overwhelming numbers of dysfunctional people coming out of the public educational system.

  • Laura

    I don't think it's valuable to become socially acclimated only to one very limited age group, and that's all public schools do for you. When you interact with only one age group, you learn that important social skills include listening to the right music, wearing the right clothes, and using the right slang. This kind of socialization is very temporary... once you finish all your schooling, you will be interacting with people from a mix of generations who may not even have heard of those bands that were such a big deal when you were in school.

    Homeschoolers have far more opportunities to interact with adults and children of different ages, and I think these are the kinds of social opportunities that help prepare kids for adulthood.

    As for the second question, I think the burden is on the asker to explain *what* they think is unhealthy about so much time with parents. I just don't see it. What I think is unhealthy is when parents *don't* want to spend much time with their kids... when they get so excited about school starting so they can get rid of their kids.

  • alice

    Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell and Robert Frost were all gifted and homeschooled at one point in their lives. Each did not fit in the conventional school system, but at home their educational needs were specifically tailored to them. I chose to educate my kids at private/public institutions but I truly respect a parent's desire to homeschool. While we send our kids to school outside the home, we also supplement their schooling at home. No one can underestimate a parent's ability to academically nurture a child. Good luck. Alice

  • CappuccinoLife

    My answer to both would be a giggle, probably.

    My 3 have spent 97% (or more) of their little lives with mama. They are gregarious, highly verbal, and very sociable. No sheltered little wall-flowers here. I have been around kids all my life, and made a few observations. One thing I am sure of is that "anti-social" behavior and shyness has nothing to do with *where* a child is educated. For some it's personality, for some it's parenting, and for a lot it's a combination.

    My boys have occasional moments of confusion ("Line up? What's that" or "Pokemon? Huh???") when around institutionally-schooled kids but nothing that gets in the way of having fun and making friends.

    As to too much time spent with parents being unhealthy, I'd have to ask "Sez who?" Really?? Is that even a serious question, or just randomly spouting stuff to make homeschooling sound bad?

  • Laura

    Haha, just came back and read Cappuccino's comment about her boys' "occasional moments of confusion" -- shoot, I have those moments all the time... every time my friends say "You know that commercial where blah blah blah...."

    I'm not sure how many more times they need me to remind them that the last time I watched TV was in 2007. :-P