I was sent a copy of a viral blog post from bluntmoms.com. I am not familiar with that site and after poking around a bit I found I am not of the same mindset as their readers. It should have come as no surprise that I would not be a fan of the article that was posted and has since been removed: Let’s Talk About Homeschooling. Let’s just say it was very inflammatory and insulting to a large number of families who have chosen this educational path and family structure.
I could tackle the post point by point offering counter points, demonstrating the inconsistencies and fallacies in her arguments, but there are plenty of rebuttals floating around already. What bothers me is that there is a growing push back against homeschooling using arguments that seem to come from the 1800s.
Do you really think I teach my kids all subjects? Heck no! I would not want to do this. I want my children to be exposed to other adults, teachers, and professionals. My girls have taken classes at Soundwaters in Stamford, Yale University, The Peabody Museum of Natural History, Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Western Connecticut State University, and with NOAA. They have taken classes at local coops, with fellow homeschooling families and even studied math with their Aunt for a semester when they were younger. They study sign language from Deaf teachers and they study music from musicians. They studied history from a retired history teacher, and pottery from a potter. I do not know one family who assumes the responsibility for all subject areas. Let’s not forget that even the subjects that are "taught" at home (like math and history for us....) are not solely taught by me! There is Khan Acadamy, Teaching Textbooks, CurrClick and many many more online lesson sites and software programs, some free and some quite expensive. Just this week Lilah begins a class on making natural health products and both girls begin a class on glass making next week.
Is a degree in teaching necessary to homeschool? Hardly. I have one, an advanced degree. It has not helped me with the education of my children at all. The proposals that homeschooled parents should have degrees in teaching, or have proof that they have taught reading, or proof that they have graduated a child are ridiculous. Laughable really. If you have people invested in the well being of a child, whether they are a public school teacher, private school teacher or parent, children will learn. They may not all learn the same thing at the same time, but I don’t subscribe to Common Core, and I realize that all children and all adults have gaps in their learning. Learning should not stop at graduation. I have filled in so many of my learning gaps in the 5 years I have been educating my children. I never knew there was so much I did not know!
What about socialization? Well, when they were taking classes at Yale, at WCSU, at UCONN and at coop, they were interacting with other children. The continuing thought that homeschoolers are under a curfew during school hours and sitting home replicating school at home may be true for some, but again, I have never met a family that educates this way. I am constantly seeking opportunities for my girls to learn collaboratively and engage in time to just be teens. They participate in youth group at church, teen book club, teen writing group, and hang out at least once a week with a close friend who attends the local high school. They visit friends and play with puppies, the volunteer, they go to movies, they attend plays. Just last weekend we saw Macbeth, by Penny Lane Players, a homeschooled Shakespeare company. It was better than the Elm Shakespeare production we saw in New Haven two years ago. They have friends who are different religions, ethnicities, and cultures. I would say they are pretty well rounded teens.
What about college? It is true that some homeschoolers, especially unschoolers, do not view college in quite the same way. Many of us do not believe in standardized testing, teaching to the test, and jumping through hoops for the College Board. However, our children do go on to college. How? By meeting the requirements, just like every other applicant. My girls will not have a transcript similar to a high school transcript, but they will have an academic resume that is quite impressive. Homeschoolers achievements are matching and sometimes exceeding the achievements of traditionally schooled children. My girls resume will not be filled with grades, but with experiences, achievements, recommendations, and accolades from the adults she interacts with in her life. And for the record, homeschoolers DO have diplomas. They are issued by the "homeschool" a.k.a. me, and are equally as valid as a school issued diploma. If they need the SAT, they will take the SAT, write an essay, and log book lists into the common app as a separate transcript because it will be that impressive. While Grace's peers in school read two books a semester, she read 14 novels for European Literature and Book Club, 4 fairy tales, 5 books for research in her independent study, and 3 novels for sign language.
What about “real life”? What about it? I’d much rather skip the bullying, worrying about the latest fashion trend, the social pressure to smoke, drink, and have sex, in favor of real life issues like holding your first paying job at 14. Or learning to budget your money. Or planning a road trip. Or volunteering at a homeless shelter, or with church or with kids who need extra help. Or playing the piano at an assisted living center and beginning to teach piano lessons. Or baking for charity. We have lots of real life here. So much real life that the girls do not view school as real life.
To close, Grace asked me this week why she would be expected to go to college and put her “real life” on hold for 4 years. She admitted that the next three years will go by quickly and she does not want to leave her family and her pets behind to go live somewhere else to study. Why would she leave her beautiful piano, her own bed, her home cooked meals, and her ability to make money? This is how she approaches life. Learning and life are not separate. They are completely intertwined. Life is learning and learning is life. I replied that there is no one way to “do college”. Work and take a couple classes. Take a gap year (she will only be 17) and meet the requirements necessary if a traditional path is what she chooses. Live at home. Commute to one of the great schools in our area. We have countless schools to choose from. It is much easier to attend college as a day student than as a residential student beginning in January, not September. Approach college the way we approach high school....make it your own. Make it memorable. Make it valuable. Make it meaningful. Make it matter.
So in response to the authors of the articles that float around this time of year possibly influencing families on the verge of homeschooling, my biggest advise is do not write about what you do not know. For those families considering homeschooling my advice is talk to homeschoolers, as many as possible. Get on your local Facebook group, Yahoo group. Ask questions. Research. Open yourself up to the possibility of an entirely different way of life. Do not believe stereotypes. Believe in your own abilities.