Attacks come at homeschool families from every side: grandparents, other family members, friends, the news media, and even complete strangers! Some of these sources are better off ignored (a well-lived life is the best response), but sometimes you just have to address the concerns being presented. If you have not yet read Socialization and Other Myths: Part 1 , please do so now as it deals with the number one criticism from non-homeschoolers – lack of socialization. However, if you manage to satisfy the opposition on that point, there will be several other arguments left in their arsenal.
Stupid Parents = Stupid Kids
It is degrading. It is frustrating. It is irritating. Do you know your IQ? No other parents are quizzed on their intelligence, and for that matter, few other professions are either – notably teachers. It is commonly acknowledged that it is the results that matter. But apparently not for homeschool parents. The thinking is that children will only be able to ascend as high as their gene pool allows if they are homeschooled, and if the parent is not the brightest crayon in the box, the children won’t be either.
What no one seems to take into account is that no one can force another person to learn. What any teaching/learning environment is trying to accomplish is to create a space that fosters learning. At a traditional school, unfortunately, the space often fosters many other things besides learning: bullying, fear, antagonism to Christianity, etc. Not exactly an ideal place for young minds to develop.
Compare that to an ideal homeschool environment. The entire space is organized to promote creativity, thinking, and learning. The student receives plenty of individualized attention and a variety of experiences. Effective schooling will not be primarily about drilling facts into a child’s head (most of which will be forgotten), but giving them the skills (critical thinking, research, analysis, etc.) to be able to learn anything they need to throughout their life. Homeschool is ideally suited to do just that, precisely because the learning is more closely connected to “real world” situations.
Outside of a parent being mentally disabled, most parents are more than smart enough to school their own children.
Being “Smart” About Homeschooling
Be careful of the temptation to focus on what you are best at as a parent. There is one person I know who will never be sold on the idea of homeschooling because some friends of his were homeschooled until high school, and then went to public school where he was their classmate. They spelled terribly, as did their mother, something he saw as much more than coincidence. If there are areas that you know you are less proficient in, then make sure to compensate in other ways such as:
● Re-educate yourself. Take the time to continually learn. Even in subjects that you are gifted in, there may have been new developments since you graduated high school. If it is a weak area, invest even more time in developing proficiency, at least one grade level above your students.
● Utilize both parents. If mom has trouble with math and dad is poor with penmanship (to use the stereotypes), then have the other parent teach that subject. Even if it is just supplemental tutoring from dad on the weekends, it can really help make up for the weak areas of the other parent. Homeschooling must be a team effort between both parents to give students the best possible education.
● Know your limits. As a homeschool parent, it is critical that you are extremely self-aware. There will not necessarily be a lot of other people to hold you accountable, give you feedback, or even offer a pat on the back for a job well done, so you must do this for yourself and each other as a husband-wife team. If there is an area that you just don’t feel comfortable in, look for outside help. And don’t homeschool just because you feel you have to. Despite all its benefits, homeschooling is not right for every family and every situation. Take stock regularly and see how you can improve.
Band, AP classes for college credit, drama class, yearbook club – think of all the things your kids will miss out on if they don’t attend public school! You’re response? “Are you aware that my children can get all those things as a homeschool student?”
Homeschool groups, community organizations, and even occasionally a public or private school on a pick-and-choose basis, can provide many of these opportunities. The Internet has also made it a whole new world, as many opportunities for additional learning (such as online college classes) are available for students. With homeschool, you have the unique opportunity to let your children explore whatever area of interest they have, whether the school “offers” that or not. Is your son geeked about marine biology? Maybe he can volunteer at the local zoo. Is your daughter interested in history? Perhaps the whole family can find a reenactment to be a part of. Without the constraints of school schedules, permissions, and having enough students to make an activity “worthwhile,” your children actually have unlimited potential for exploration and discovery.
Take time to provide unique opportunities for each of your children and soon everyone will wish they were “able” to homeschool too!
Are You Trained for That?
But, you’re not a teacher! How can you possibly know how to teach? In some ways you may be more able to teach your children than a teacher, as you know their unique skills, abilities, and needs. Only recently, in the grand scheme of things, have teachers required special certification. It used to be that you just needed to have mastered the subject you were teaching. Even today in most colleges and technical schools, you simply need a degree one level above what you are trying to teach (for example a masters degree if you are teaching bachelor’s classes).
Most homeschool parents care about their children and want to give them the best. They will do everything they can to better themselves. But if you have prioritized other things, consider adding some of your own learning time into the busy schedule. Read up on child development, understand different teaching methods, and if your child has special needs, or is extremely gifted, be sure to understand the implications of that as well. If parents invest themselves, they have many more resources at their disposal than even the best schools.
And don’t be afraid to take advantage of those resources! Field trips, apprenticeships, shadowing a professional on their job, and more are available with some creativity and planning. There are also a multitude of curriculum, distance learning, and even online courses that are now available as well. If you are not completely confident in a subject area, use these tools to ensure your children are getting the best, not only spiritually, but academically too.
Of Course They Get an A! Their Mom Gave Them the Grade!
We live in a competitive world that requires we work hard and overcome obstacles to succeed. Those outside the homeschool community often view homeschool students as coddled and protected from the “realities” of life.
The first line of defense for this arrow is that homeschool students are able to experience many more “real” situations that prepare them for life. Whether it is helping to care for younger siblings (preparing them for being parents), working together with others in the family (preparing them for marriage), assisting with a family business or farm (teaching them invaluable skills related to business and finance), or even just participating in some of the options in travel or activity that the flexibility of homeschooling opens up, these children are at a better advantage in being prepared for the real world with its many twists and turns. Public school students are being trained, for the most part, for a single kind of life, one in which they get up, go to a 9-5 job, follow directions, and come home. Lacking is the entrepreneurial spirit, the innovation, the self-direction, and the initiative that is required to make this country great! If children learn to depend on outside input 100% of the time, they will never get the self-esteem and purpose in their life that comes from setting and reaching their own goals.
The second line of defense is transparency. I know this one can be hard. After all, why should we care what other people think? But you have to realize that it is not all about you or even your family. Creating an atmosphere that is friendly to homeschooling benefits many, many people, and that only comes when homeschoolers are willing to hold themselves accountable so that the government doesn’t have to. Have goals for your classroom, set standards, and stick to them, especially as you get into high school and need to demonstrate what credentials your child has that is preparing them for either work or college. Record keeping is essential.
What Are You Hiding From?
Possibility the most insidious accusation against the homeschool community is child abuse. Others cannot understand why parents would ever want to keep their children at home all day except to shield bruised children from prying eyes. Unfortunately, child abuse is a very real tragedy. The most helpful thing that homeschool families can do is to first acknowledge that, and treat the subject with the same concern and pain that our Heavenly Father feels as His children are being hurt. Parents who will abuse will do so whether or not their children are in school, are being “homeschooled,” or just kept home from school. People who really know you and your family should realize that you are not one of those parents.
At the same time, we must not make the mistake of protecting and excusing abuse. I remember a family that was in the homsechool band program that had all their children removed from the home on some pretty serious abuse charges. The leaders of the band encouraged everyone to come to court, write letters of support, etc. The problem was, this homeschool group consisted of over 500 students. Many of us did not really know the family in question. Just because they homeschool is no reason in and of itself to run to their defense. If the allegations are proven that they were abusing their children, then the whole homeschool community suffers a black eye and gets a reputation for breeding and protecting abusers.
God created community for several reasons, and one of those reasons was to hold one another accountable. If you are struggling with anger or other issues, seek a pastor or other trusted friend for help. If you have concerns about another homeschool family, approach them with your concerns and offer love and help. And yes, if the circumstances warrant it, you may need to contact the authorities.
The Bottom Line
Homeschooling is a wonderful and exciting alternative to traditional school models. Just like any other minority group, people tend to make judgements of the whole based on the one or two they have met – and if those experiences are negative they then apply that across the board. The vast majority of homeschool families raise children who are smart, happy, well-adjusted, and contributing members of society. We are being given a sacred gift in this country to educate our own children and lead them to the Father through our daily life. Let us treasure that gift, and ensure that the next generation has the same opportunity to teach our grandchildren.