A Public Teacher’s Thoughts on Homeschooling

Let me start by saying that I very much support those who choose to homeschool their children. I have friends who homeschool and they do such outstanding things, sometimes I secretly wish my boys could be homeschooled…by them!

That being said, I always find it interesting to talk to people who homeschool. I am just interested, especially as a public school teacher, why they choose to homeschool. It seems that the reasons are all over the board — which is nice, by the way; they are making the personalized choice for their family. But I have noticed lately that there seem to be two camps of thought and both of them have to do with keeping children from the other camp of thought.

Stick with me here.

On the one hand, are my progressive/liberal friends.When I ask them why they homeschool they cite wonderful reasons about personalized curriculum and hands-on learning. But many of them also worry about the right’s grip on education and the cuts and the conservatives who are busy banning books and science.

My conservative friends (yes, I have them), give similar reasons, but they also talk about sheltering their children from the liberal agenda and influences that steal innocence from kids way too early.

My first thought was: Holy cow…they are homeschooling their kids to keep them away from each other!

But that is really oversimplify it, isn’t it?

My first reaction is to argue about how “public schools work!” and scoff at the idea of keeping your child “sheltered.”

But who am I do that?

I know I do my best to be a great teacher to my students. But let’s face it, my students are high schoolers who see me for an hour a day. What about little kids who spend all day with their teacher? Even the best teacher might not be able to offer exactly what a child needs like a parent in an individualized curriculum.

And what is so wrong with wanting your children to be sheltered a little longer from the evils of the world? Kids these days do grow up too fast. Parents of the students I have at the junior high level are constantly complaining and fretting about how their children are being exposed to talk of drugs, alcohol, oral sex, and more. I can’t even wrap my head around my little 3.5 year old knowing about those things in the next 10 years.

One of my friends put it this way, “we are building up our children’s armor before sending them out into a dangerous world.” The armor, in this case, is based on their religious beliefs, but it’s really the morals and ethics you want your children to be able to stick to when they are faced with hard choices.

As much as I believe in public education, I am not arrogant enough to claim it is for everyone. I think it does work for most, but you know your child best.

My one request is this: when you are making your choices for the education of your children, please do it for them and not for you. Do it because you believe it is what will be the best possible thing for them…not for your feelings. Ultimately, it is our job as parents to make ourselves unnecessary — and whether it happens earlier or later, it needs to happen.

Comments

  1. Public schools work? I think the consensus in this country is that they don’t work very well. There is no reason that our country that has so many readily assessible resources should be ranked so lowly against other countries. There is no suitable excuse that after spending a total, on average, 682.5 hours in school, much of that time sitting for hours and hours at a desk, and end school not being able to find countries of the world on a map. Nor so they know the first thing about what they will be spending their lives actually doing, contributing to the economy. Sheltering? I find the public school students much more sheltered. They live in unusual circumstances, socializing with primarily kids with birthdays near theirs. Teachers hold a position of distance. I am so sad when I see classes pulling from life examples, knowing a lot of those examples come from TV, because the students don’t have the time to participate in the real world. Homeschooled children get to interact with the world, meeting people, seeing things first hand, working with people of all ages and backgrounds, being involved in different scenarios. They can learn about the world in a truly inclusive and exhaustive manner. Many times what I notice about public schooled kids is that they are very concerned about their image and social status. Homeschooled kids are freed from that constant stress. I have to say, I am rarely impressed with a public school kid in a conversation about something they’ve learned or thinking about a new topic. Personally, I don’t believe in sheltering my kids, I know homeschoolers that do it for religious reasons. I still feel that is usually a good thing. Those children are given the opportunity to really learn a perspective by someone who loves them very much. We don’t stay in school or our parent’s home for our entire lives, and those kids will certainly be given a chance to weigh their education against what they notice as individuals about the world. As far as learning to function without parents, aren’t human children designed to be close to their children compared to other animals for the reason of learning before they are older? Public school kids learn some things in school, but are they truly prepared for all the trappings of a good life? More utilitarian things are thought of as not the best use of time when a more pertanent issue of college is looming. I homeschool, there is time for all the things that are useful for kids to learn, including the art and enjoyment of living. This is the second time that I’ve heard a teacher retort with loaded and unsupported comments such as sarcastically saying that we are full of ourselves and not doing what is best for our kids by sendin them to school, maybe doing what is best for ourselves, but do you truly believe that the sacrifice involved could be made without grave thought of what is best for our children? Doesn’t any teacher spend a good amount of their time thinking of the best interest of their student? Why would you assume at it is homeschooling parents that care less and think about their kids less than those parents, many of whom, not all, are largely glad for the free babysitting service at public school? Why don’t you ask them if they thought about what is in their kids’ best interest?

    • Um, I never said that homeschool parents care “less” and I wasn’t being sarcastic.

      This statement: “This is the second time that I’ve heard a teacher retort with loaded and unsupported comments such as sarcastically saying that we are full of ourselves and not doing what is best for our kids by sendin them to school” is assumptions and wrong. I never said ALL parents are full of themselves or doing their kids a disservice. I do personally know some that are keeping their kids home and it’s a bad situation. One in particular has an almost 6-year old who can’t write her name or even hold a pencil correctly. She has no idea what letter her name even starts with…that is not Ok.

      In general though, I truly believe that homeschool is a wonderful option, and if you read any of my other articles here, you would know how much I support that choice. I think parents who choose to homeschool {and do it with full knowledge of all they are taking on} are brave…and lucky! I don’t even have the option to make that choice for my kids since I HAVE to work. I am lucky enough that the work I do is as a teacher for other kids. For parents who can’t (or won’t…or don’t want to) homeschool.

      And I DO believe public schools work. I teach high school. I see it every day. Your generalizing about public school is as bad as someone generalizing about homeschool.

      And you have to remember that as public school teachers in the united states, we are required to teach ALL students. Unlike in countries (such as most Asian countries) where only the top students get to continue on past elementary school (and the poverty-stricken don’t attend at all).

      And lastly, I teach in a very at-risk district. I know ALL ABOUT parents who are uninvolved or absent in their child’s education (and largely their life). I would MUCH rather have them send their kid to me than keep them home. Even if they look at me as a babysitter…at least I can {hopefully} teach their child something. What will they teach them?

      Not all public school teachers are against homeschooling. Seriously. Re-read my words. They were not written with sarcasm at all…they were written honestly.

      • “And you have to remember that as public school teachers in the united states, we are required to teach ALL students. Unlike in countries (such as most Asian countries) where only the top students get to continue on past elementary school (and the poverty-stricken don’t attend at all).”

        Like a boss, Katie.

  2. I went to public school and received an excellent, well-rounded education.
    I do think it’s hilarious that people are sheltering their kids from the exact opposite agendas. Personally, I think school choice should be based on learning styles of the individual child, the quality of the school district and affordability. If a family’s values are that tenuous, the family has a lot more problems than school.

  3. Katie, this is an interesting post. As a homeschooling parent, the decision was made with a lot of thought and prayer (especially considering I did teach in public and private schools), and everything came down to doing it for the kids. We believe we were entrusted with these kids and it our jobs to raise them up in a way that honors God. For us, that happens in the home. I don’t think we can ever make ourselves “unnecessary” in our children’s lives. That goes against the idea of what a family is. As an adult, I still very much need my parents and siblings. But, I understand what you were saying. We need to raise them to be informed, educated and independent members of society. We happen to believe that is exactly what we are doing with home education.

    • Amanda, you’re the example of excellence that kept running through my head as I wrote this. And yes, “unnecessary” was a terrible word to use, but I am glad you got what I was saying. Independent of us would have been a better phrase. I believe homeschoolers like you are doing a fantastic job of this. I worry about those that I know who are skipping things (like an almost 6 year old I know who can’t write her name…or even hold a pencil correctly). But your kids? I am just sad I will never have the privilege of having them in one of my classes 🙂

  4. All I have to say is Public schools do work, when you send them to the right school. I was very blessed to go to a school where the teacher do care about the students and want what is best for them. I learned so much from my teachers. I have gotten some of the best advice ever from my teachers. They were the ones that I knew I could talk to and tell them anything and they would help me through what ever was going on. They were my family. They were the ones that would pull you to the side and ask what is going on and make sure you were okay. I am so thankful for my teachers and how much they have been there for me and helped me. And I have sat hours and hours at my desk and and at the end of school I can find countries on a map!! Public school doesn’t destroy a child. If you raise your child right and raise them to know right from wrong than your child will do great in a public school. I think homeschooling is awesome, if you do it right. I know some children that are home schooled and are way to shelter and have no idea how to function with out their parents and I know others who makes me want to home school my children when I have some. So I think both options are great when you are doing what is best for your child. I agree that some students come out of public schools not the smartest people ever, but that is not the teachers fault. It’s the students. They’re the ones that stop caring and don’t want to be there. I know the school I went to teachers would try and try to get the students to care and they would work so hard but sometimes the students just don’t care and it hard when the teacher is the only parent the students, so the teachers don’t get any help for the student’s parents/guardian to get the student on track. Public is great, just got to find a good one to send your children to.

  5. Katie, thanks for your response, I do agree that not every family should homeschool, and obviously it still needs to be ensured for each child that they are receiving at the very least, adequate preparation for being an adult. I share your concern for the child that cannot write her name or hold a pencil. There are some theories that encourage later introduction of those skills, that doesn’t resonant with me and I take an opposite approach, I came from a family that public school really affected me in a very positive way. My husband’s mother had a poor education from a one room schoolhouse and he went on to becoming very successful, voted as the best student in the area and gong to an Ivy League school. I think is
    wonderful. I had a very highly ranked school system, had great relationships with my teachers, made high grades and got a scholarship to college. However, I lived in South Korea, I taught English and that is when I realized how deficient our schools really are. I think the curriculum is poorly conceived. I also think it is really hard to teach in such a diverse country. I know good ethics and positive thinking is taught and encouraged in schools, self esteem is taught, task completion is taught, of course there is education happening, too. I just know we could do more, I have seen it myself, South Korea is ranked #1 in education for the whole world, so my perspective having seen that is different than many other Americans. I do believe though that in most cases, parents are first considering their children when making that decision to homeschool. I have a degree in music education, I have a second degree in business. I love teachers, I always have celebrated teachers, appreciated them, respected them, admired them. As a side note, teachers in South Korea are among the highest paid and are held in such esteem that even language is special and more respectful when talking to teachers. Yet, when my passion for education, love of of researching educational theorists, love of children, unending searching for techniques, resources, examples meets a teacher’s ears these day, since I’ve made the decision to homeschool, the teachers often get very argumentative and angry. I think every profession has the tendency, my husband is an architect and I warn you not to ask him about “stock plans” (pre made house plans) So, as I an interested in the improvement of the educational system, I hope homeschool parents and teachers can contribute together towards brainstorming how we can all serve the next generations as best as is possible. Thanks for the conversation and many wishes to you in your teaching!! And thanks for all you do!!!!

    • Thank YOU for coming back. There are so many things I am passionate about changing in the US public schools…you are right, our curriculum is behind the rest of the world. Sadly a lot of that comes down to funding and valuing our teachers and schools…and an ever larger part comes down to how many uninvolved parents there are that, like you stated earlier, just see school as a way to get away from their kids…and that the school should be teaching all the morals and basic life skills. Can you imagine if we could JUST focus on academics? the US would have a HUGE jump in achievement. It will be interesting to see how some of the changes we have in development will pan out…or not. I just pray that the capable parents who feel it on their hearts to homeschool, keep it up. And for those who don’t? Well, I promise that with my whole heart I will do the very best I can with who walks through my door every single day!

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