I understand that the articles written for the Voice of America are not complex pieces. VOA audiences usually live in other countries, and the listeners do not speak English as their mother tongue. Still, there is a lack of much depth at all in this piece.
For Some, Home is Where the Classroom Is, 16 January 2008, Voice of America, Washington, D.C.
These are parents who reject public schools and teach their children themselves in their homes. Many are evangelical Christians like Huckabee.
This can be costly, since one parent almost certainly must stay home rather than hold a job.
But it took hold as an organized movement in the 1980s among religious conservatives.
One criticism of home schooling is that the parents who teach are often not trained or supervised. Another is that children are isolated and miss out on valuable school and social activities.
Just fyi, and not directed specifically against this piece, here are some explanations about the various items of ‘common knowledge’ about homeschooling.
Homeschoolers are Christian.
The implication is that ‘most’ homeschoolers are devout people who hold certain religiously conservative viewpoints, and these people are somehow different from the average American citizen. According to polls, though, most of the Americans asked about their religious affiliation say they are Christian. Since homeschoolers of all inclinations come from the general public, it is likely that the religious breakdown of homeschoolers will mirror the belief breakdown of that general public. The people making up the general public mostly say they believe in one of the brands of Christianity (everything from snake handlers to the bells and smells ‘frozen chosen‘). Because homeschoolers come from the general public, it should be no surprise to find that ‘most homeschoolers’ are ‘Christian.’ The ‘fact’ that homeschoolers are often ‘Christian’ has about as much significance as saying most WalMart customers are Christian.
Homeschooling is expensive because one parent has to stay home.
Having children is expensive, period, regardless of whether you send them to school or not. If the concern is how much of ‘my’ income these other people (the children) will cost ‘me,’ then foregoing children altogether might be prudent.
Perhaps if a couple is comprised of two parents who both have the inclination to work outside the home in the first place, then homeschooling might result in foregoing paid employment outside the home, but this is not an across-the-board characteristic of all couples. Many times, parents might do cost/benefit assessments and discover that the cost of both of them working results in a higher cost than just one of them working. This would be especially true if one partner is not on a career track, or if that partner’s job field doesn’t have much room for advancement. Other parents might have something other than a ‘job’ in mind. Writing, perhaps.
Then there are the expenses of having children in school. A ‘free’ public education has its own strings. The first obvious cost is school supplies — we all have to buy them, so they cancel each other out when comparing homeschooling to public schooling. Other costs might be:
- trendy school clothes or mandated uniforms
- prepared lunchbox foods
- gym clothes and gym shoes
- bus fees
- locker fees
- PTA membership
- school photos and yearbooks
- band fees and instrument rental
- buying fundraiser-chocolate so your child doesn’t have to go out selling to the neighbors
- gas to go to sporting events (cancelled out by homeschooling parents being on the road?)
- renting or buying textbooks
Homeschooling does cost money, but doing anything costs money, including sending your children to public school.
“Religious conservatives” founded/popularized/stabilized homeschooling in the 1980s.
The School in the Home, A. A. Berle 1912
The infant as soon as born was not consigned to the dwelling of a hireling nurse, but was reared and cherished in the bosom of its mother, whose highest praise it was to take care of her household affairs and attend to her children. … The consequence of this regular discipline was, that the young mind, whole and sound, and unwarped by irregular passions, received the elements of the liberal arts with hearty avidity.
–Tacitus on the Training of Roman Children
Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of more than 400 famous men and women, Victor and Mildred Goertzel, 1962
The children enjoyed being tutored, whether by professional tutors or by their parents.
The secondary school was the most frequently disliked, and the prestige college was the best accepted.
Three-fifths of the four Hundred expressed dissatisfaction with schools and schoolteachers, although four-fifths showed exceptional talent.
A Brief History of American Homeschooling, by Linda Dobson
It is difficult to peg the exact origin of modern homeschooling. Some might say the seeds were being planted in the sixties and seventies by educational reformers and authors who questioned both schooling’s methods and results. Notable among them are Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society, Harper & Row, 1971), Charles E. Silberman (Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education, Random House, 1970), and the prolific John Holt (How Children Fail, Dell Publishing, 1964; How Children Learn, Dell Publishing, 1967; What Do I Do Monday? Dell Publishing, 1970), a teacher who eventually gave up his original vision of school reform as hopeless.
“The Humanism Behind Homeschooling,”By Theresa Willingham
Religious conservatives routinely claim homeschooling as their own, pointing increasingly to the “four pillars* of homeschooling,” the doubtful title of four relatively well known, largely conservative and HSLDA associated figures who have somehow come to take credit for the modern homeschooling movement.
Yet homeschooling is first and foremost a humanistic endeavor, conceived of by early education reformers in the 1960s who were quite “different” from today’s charismatic homeschool celebrities, and with no motive other than that of decentralized, uninstitutionalized learning.
[* use ctrl+F to search for "pillars"]
OK, most of us are untrained in teaching school. I will freely admit that I wasn’t trained as a teacher, or as a parent. All my training before becoming a parent was in general education (high school); how to march, shine shoes, and starch a skirt so well it could stand up by itself; how to be a teletypewriter operator; and then (since there were no teletype operator job in the U.S. for WACs at the time) OJT in personnel records.
So, if most people aren’t trained as parents, how’s come it’s OK for us to be allowed to keep babies? Who is more at risk from incompetent parents — children that parents have successfully raised for some years, or thoroughly helpless infants? Why is it that the more experience the parents gain, the less competent they’re assumed to be?
Despite my presumption that more experience equals increased competency, do some children have parents who aren’t up to the job? Of course. If parents were ‘graded on the curve’ (a process most of us recognize from tests in school) so that everyone lined up all parents according to skill, the most parents would be in the middle with fewer ‘best’ and ‘worst’ parents on either end. This would be an example of the bell curve of normal distribution. There always have been ‘best’ parents and ‘worst’ parents if the ‘grading’ is on the curve.
Now, depending on what is looked for, any individual’s position on ‘the curve’ will vary. For me, if automotive knowledge was measured, I’d be on the ‘worst’ end. However, if baking knowledge was measured, I’d be shuffling around the 85th percentile. But, you may say, automotive knowledge and baking knowledge aren’t what is important concerning schooling. (that’s what you’d say if you didn’t need to go someplace, or if you weren’t hungry) What about teaching physics and chemistry? (two favorite examples) Well, in that case I’d look around and find materials that explain physics and chemistry. The Mechanical Universe and Beyond, for physics and High School Level Chemistry for chemistry. That wasn’t hard at all, even though I haven’t been trained as a teacher.
But, getting back to untrained parents, what can we do to eliminate the ‘worst’ parents? Probably nothing. This is, after all, normal distribution. I would guess that, as with crime, all we can do is manage the effects as people have been doing for millennia.
I would imagine that all groups of people have their own ‘laws,’ from the school lunch room ‘laws’ as to who can sit with whom, on up to international treaties. Have any of these laws, or the punishments attached, ever prevented all violations of the laws? If the wonderful laws of any country have stopped people from breaking the laws, mention of it hasn’t made it into the history books under the heading of ‘crime eliminated in _______.’
I don’t think managing social disruptions means we accept behavior we feel is negative and merely punish the people who do it. Rather, we accept that social change moves at a slower pace than, say, technological change, and keep putting one foot in front of the other without succumbing to moral panics. We may be living in the 21st century (according to the calendar commonly in use), but babies continue to be born not much different than they were in the stone age, and the little ones must be civilized to 21st century standards (or not). Some of us manage this better than others.
I think we should support those still working on their skills, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Homeschooled children are isolated
Oh, come on. Even in school, surrounded by grades-worth of other kids, children are isolated. Invariably there is someone who is always on the edge of the playground, or who has few friends and moves from class to class as a singleton. The characterization of ‘wallflower‘ for a person who isn’t popular was coined long before homeschooling became well known. The synonyms at the Urban Dictionary site will be familiar to anyone who has been in high school: “loner loser shy boring dance nerd quiet ugly virgin.”
Also, does no one remember the mother’s classic admonition — “if your friends jumped off the Empire State building, I guess you would, too?” This usually followed being caught doing something Really Stupid. Peers, known in one early rock and roll song as “your hoodlum friend,” (I remember hoodlum friends) were not considered the best of influences by many of our parents, and a little isolation (being either ‘grounded’ or ‘on restriction’) was considered a good thing.
Besides that — homeschooled kids have friends.
Like I said earlier, I’m not trying to jump on the VOA writer who probably has no idea that anyone has newsreader alerts for any item with the word ‘homeschool’ in it. I’m just supplying answers to the ‘facts’ that ‘everyone knows’ and no one needs to check.
posted by Valerie