19 February 2010

The Bad Homeschooler You Know

"I don't know about you and the circle of folks you hang around with, but I am closely acquainted with at least two families who say they are homeschooling, but actually do little or nothing to educate their children," Persuaded commented on this post. "In truth there are probably many families who are like this and I think that's kind of a dirty little secret that none of us homeschooling families want to admit to. "

Yup. I don't know any folks quite like this, but I won't lie and say they don't exist. Maybe bad homeschooling is like porno, and you just know it when you see it. There is likely a continuum of parenting, with the superachievers on one end of the curve and the parents of severely neglected and abused at the bottom.

All the arguments in the world that most homeschool families consist of the middle and upper ends of the curve don't help the kids who are truly not educated at the lower end. In fact, it bothers me when homeschool organizations trot out statistics or tables as though the scores or achievements justify homeschooling as a whole. They don't. Homeschooling rests upon the idea that barring extreme abuse and neglect, parents are best suited to make decisions for their children, and that ought include "good" decisions as well as "bad" ones.

And while there is no excuse for abuse no matter where it occurs, I fear that well-meaning folks or Satan or the NEA (or maybe they will combine to form the anti-Trinity... why is there no anti-Trinity? a doctrinal question from Mrs. C) will use isolated cases to further regulation of families in their decision-making. Only imagine if states wanted to regulate Mormonism because of what has happened on some ranch in Texas. It would be intolerable even to most non-Mormons. For now. But I'm concerned that the day is coming when religious practices and homeschooling will be more strictly regulated because I read the angry comments at the end of news stories. Hopefully, these folks don't all contact their representatives or worse, contact their representatives after figuring out how to turn off the CAPS LOCK button and enable spell-check. We'd be in big trouble.

I know that the logical pro-homeschooler argument would be to talk of the slippery slope. If it's not ok for someone to be 16 and be unable to multiply single digits, is it not ok for someone to be 12? Nine? Six? and not know these things. At what point should the state intervene in the homeschooling of a child? At what point IS it abusive to homeschool or "no-school?"

That's a good question, and one I don't think anyone has answered adequately.

Should other homeschoolers come to the defense of bad homeschoolers? Or should we only help the graduate-school parent nutty professor type whose child is an astrophysicist in her own right at seven... but *doggone it* Mom turned in her paperwork a day late? Yeah, most of us are in the middle but have our moments where we need inform our children of basic facts like, "No, sweetheart. The Great Wall of China is actually made out of stone and isn't 'of china' at all. Sorry."

I know another argument for defending all homeschoolers would be that HELLO, public schools do not ensure an education by any means, and it's a pot calling the kettle black situation. Imagine wasting 15 years of your life (two preschool years, kindergarten, and grades 1-12) at your parents' and neighbours' expense, only to find that your education is inadequate and shoddy. There are whole districts turning out crappily-prepared students. Dropout factories. Drug-and-violence free schools that are anything but. It's abusive to ask kids to even get out of bed on time to go to such places year after year, holding out that American dream and education is "the ticket to success"... talk about dashing hopes... and the state wants to go after homeschoolers??!

Yeah. It does sometimes.

I think "education" is, by its very nature, not compulsory. I *honestly* think that if my neighbours or friends don't feel like sending their children to school, that that should be ok as long as they aren't playing in my yard. Mind you, if they sign up? Those kids had better be there if I'm paying for it. Why can't we have a VOLUNTARY education system? If it's VOLUNTARY, bet you most people would still send their children to school. Much as we hate to admit it, there are a plenty of *great* parents out there who just don't feel up to homeschooling, and the mediocre to bad (or just plain poor and need to work or sleep after night shift!) parents see it as free childcare.

Why does anyone have to compel parents to send their children to school? If you have kids in the public school, you know it isn't just a matter of attendance. The children also must occasionally learn to speak in groupspeak for a grade, or as Patrick puts it, "Say something liberal and crazy." It's good preparation for those diversity workshops your son will need to attend when he works in the "real world" anyway.

It really isn't funny, even though I make light of it. Check out this link from a school district (naturally!) in California. Teaching gay "tolerance" becomes a mandatory teaching... hmm... and with students COMPELLED to go to school, would it not be nothing short of forced government indoctrination? Is it coincidence that the large STOP CHILD ABUSE sign is next to postings about discrimination against gay people?

We come back to the point. We have to balance the child's genuine need to be protected and nurtured against his right to be free from state coersion in the formation of his personal credo. I think the state can make good schools to which parents will WANT to send their child. As it stands right now, I don't see the good of the compulsion. But I also don't see many other people who feel the same way because of the "what if" questions. Questions like, "What if we see millions of children grow up and be unable to find a job? Wouldn't they qualify for welfare, and then we'd be paying a lot of money out for them and their children?" Because of course that's not happening now! :P

And here I have to pop in a disclaimer. JUST because a school is a public school does not necessarily mean that it's going to be an indoctrination factory or do a shoddy job for your child. In fact, it might just do a better job than you can. I think the choice should be up to you as the parent. For my part, as my children age, they get a great deal of input into the decision as well. I think we all have enough on our plates without worrying about the less than obvious abuse cases in this world... there are certainly (unfortunately!) enough of them with which to concern ourselves.


  1. MrsC: an often overlooked fact of homeschooling ~ or any schooling for that matter~ is the simple fact it requires a modicum of co~operation on the studrnt's part. No matter how good the education provided is, if a student absolutely refuses to learn there's not much anyone can do about it~ not even the government. Conversly a student determined to learn will do so no matter how shoddy the arrangements. The govt should worry about its own poor track record & let homeschoolers worry about their own.

  2. You wrote: "Maybe bad homeschooling is like porno, and you just know it when you see it."

    I completely agree with your thought here: "I fear that well-meaning folks or Satan or the NEA [snip] will use isolated cases to further regulation of families in their decision-making."
    In fact this is really what I was trying to say in my original comment. It gives ammunition to those parties who are averse to homeschooling. Please let's don't give them more power than they already have!

    I also agree with your feelings about the public schools and their inconsistent success at educating.

    But here is a point where I think we part company; you wrote: "I think "education" is, by its very nature, not compulsory. I *honestly* think that if my neighbours or friends don't feel like sending their children to school, that that should be ok as long as they aren't playing in my yard."
    It troubles me greatly to see children that are not being educated- whether those kids are in public school, private school or homeschool. It is our job as adults to care for, protect and equip the young folks under our care. A person who enters adulthood without an education is severely handicapped. That person is not adequately equipped for adulthood. It especially troubles me when parents- under the guise of homeschooling- simply neglect to educate their children. And in my experience (which obviously is limited to those within my own circle,) the homeschooling families that are neglecting their children's education are not doing it out of anything more or less than disorganization. Or being overwhelmed. Or depressed. Or something similar. They all have good intentions but for whatever reasons are not able to follow through on those. And so their children's education is neglected. I know of one family in particular who has "graduated" three kids so far. None of them have been able to get any work other than the most menial type. Please understand that I am not denigrating menial labor- it is honorable as is any type of hard work. But it is a shame to me that these boys will forever be limited to this type of work, when they could have a much wider choice of employment if they had simply received a basically adequate education. It will be hard for them to support their future families, and should they lose their current jobs, new ones will be hard to find. I would not feel as though I were a successful responsible parent if my children left my care so ill prepared for adulthood. It troubles me to see any child entering adulthood in such a state. I don't think it is wrong to care for the welfare of other folks' children.

    We are our brother's keeper after all. ☺

  3. I'm not a parent, but as far as the "diversity" classes go, I'd rather just see a general class on basic manners (thank you notes to polite language) and an overall atmosphere of respect. Considering the rate of suicide among GLBT teens, I do think there is an unfortunate need to teach "don't call anyone a faggot" but suspect all the "tolerance"-type classes could be reduced if the school fostered a respectful environment. Probably way easier said than done :)

    I'm all for individual and parental rights, but within reasonable parameters. I think every child has a right to be equipped adequately enough to meaningfully contribute to society. It doesn't mean every child must be pushed into higher education or paid employment, but that that they are prepared to be productive in a very broad sense of the word. Depriving a child of an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to society *is* a form of abuse, in my opinion, and while I suspect the vast majority of homeschoolers are indeed educating their children, it isn't unreasonable to have limited safeguards in place to ensure that some minimum level of teaching is actually taking place. Obviously, though, children can have wildly different educational goals - and ways of meeting those goals - which is probably why a lot of people homeschool in the first place :) I don't know how the rules work, but I imagine that I'd rather have the state ask me for my yearly goals and check-in on my progress instead of telling me my 8-year old needs to be at "grade level."

    Just a disclaimer - I don't think that one has to be an astrophysicist to make a meaningful contribution to society :) I volunteer with adults whose only *objectivley measureable* contribution to society is stamping envelopes at a rate of 2 per hour. But I view that as a basic right - to know what it feels like to participate as a productive citizen.

  4. Ganeida, I think I could have gotten a LOT more out of my education if it weren't such a *have to* at my house growing up. You just can't pressure someone into an ambition, though, or I'd be a physician or lawyer or something like that instead of a loser with six kids and a homeschool blog. :)

    Persuaded, perhaps we do part company on this. I just can't see myself advocating for parents to educate their children to a certain *standard* any more than I can tell them what religion to teach them.

    I think being my brother's keeper shouldn't enable him to get all codependent and foist his children on me and stuff... Cain knew he was wrong because he had KILLED someone, not because he failed to do Abel some GOOD.

    Then again, doctrine is not my strong point. The Golden Rule may advocate your position, though biblically I cannot find ONE example of children being taken from their parents for not doing a good enough job. I'm open to references, though, if you have them. I do see the "helping the widow and the poor" idea embedded in the public/charity school IDEAL, however, and admit it does do some good as well as bad.

    The "ammo" you're talking about is often really abusers using the law to their advantage, resulting in lawmakers taking the situation to fit theirs. I think though (honestly, just an opinion) that the next wave of homeschoolers will be transients who will be ill-equipped for the demands homeschooling will entail, but will start this method of teaching because transferring schools frequently is so difficult. Just a thought. And I'm not sure if this will bode well for homeschooling as a whole, but can I say those people should have fewer rights than my family?

    Allison, I'm not into the diversity teaching thing, either, but MY! some of the things I've been reading on facebook from my son's "friends" are chilling. You know all fags must die, right?


    I'd like to be a reasonable person and agree to reasonable parameters... but if public schools are mandating when my children receive eye exams and what credentials our doctor must have when we do it, I can't imagine that these are people who would respect my parenting decisions or give me the benefit of the doubt. And I keep thinking about what happened to Elf... with friends like this, do we need enemies? Even the thought of school makes him upset.

    What if some petty bureaucrat social worker decides what I'm doing isn't enough? How can we protect the CHILDREN?

    Maybe I am going about this from my own biased opinion and unusual experience, but in the past the people that should have protected children, didn't.

    I know that kids like my Woodjie are more than just what their contribution to society would suggest. :)

  5. Does your state require annual testing of children who are home schooled? I was from Colorado before moving overseas, and when I looked into it, I found that Colorado requires annual testing of all home-schooled children (or at least it did 20 years ago, at the time I checked into it). That is when I discovered that MOST home-schoolers there WERE exceeding the testing standards. (Apparently the school district in which they live has to do the testing, and the people responsible for the testing in the district I checked were the ones who told me this.)

    Of course this wouldn't prevent the occassional family from doing a poor job. But hey, having public schools doesn't prevent the occassional school from doing a poor job, either....


  6. I'm a little late to the conversation, but I've just got to say it:

    The thing that drives me crazy about the arguments based on "bad homeschoolers" is that it assumes that public school is going to fix all that family's problems, that it'll magically place those kids in a position to make something of themselves.

    It won't.

    It's not really about education, it's about parenting. I've done enough work with at-risk kids (and that's the population you're talking about here, homeschooled, or public schooled) to observe that they generally have enough things going on in their lives that however smart they might be, education just isn't on their radar. Education, when there is abuse, neglect, huge health problems, or other trauma (and I've never seen a "bad homeschool family" that didn't have some sort of issue like that was distracting them), just isn't something that people have emotional energy for.

    1. I used to work at a facility for mentally and emotionally handicapped teens. They had to have an IQ less than 70 to be admitted, in addition to some sort of emotional diagnosis. It is my opinion that there were those among our residents who had nothing wrong with their brains whatsoever but couldn't read, couldn't take a test, and so on, because the abuse they'd suffered had made that irrelevant. Who can concentrate on reading when someone's molesting them?? (These kids were public schooled.)

    2. There is a family I know that pulled their kids out of school, and a few years later the father had a breakdown, and has suffered from severe depression since then. Because I am friends with an adult daughter, I am aware that there is quite a bit of emotional and sexual abuse that goes on in this household. The kids were eventually put back into public school, but it really didn't make any difference. Actually, the best adjusted of them graduated from the homeschool, and the younger kids that have graduated and dropped out of public school are in sorry shape.

    3. Another family I know homeschooled all their children right through highschool. However, the father had a nasty motorcycle accident, Mom had to go back to work, and school sort of fell by the wayside. The kids are now adults, working some of those menial jobs mentioned by a previous poster.

    It's not the school that makes the difference. It's the situation, the parenting, the way situations they choose and the way they handle the ones they have no say in.

    A blog I read has a quote at the top of her page. "Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to public school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood." -Author Unknown-

    I think she has the right of it.


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)

Woodjie's Roller Dance Routine!

Only a few people were selected to perform their routines at a recent club fundraiser.  I went to upload this video and was pretty shocked...