Sunday, May 31, 2009

Response to "A Case Against Homeschooling"

A recent blog post written by Jesse Scaccia at Teacher Revised is getting a lot of attention from all over the internet. In his post, this self-proclaimed education expert gives ten reasons why he believes parents are wrong to home school their children. His reasons are intolerant (to use a favorite word of those with a liberal agenda), arrogant, and obvious uninformed. Since there is just too much to respond to, I decided to bring my response here rather than the comments section of Teacher Revised. The italicized text are his words, followed by my personal opinions and thoughts.

10. “You were totally home schooled” is an insult college kids use when mocking the geeky kid in the dorm (whether or not the offender was home schooled or not). And… say what you will… but it doesn’t feel nice to be considered an outsider, a natural outcropping of being homeschooled.

I do not understand the thought behind this argument. Should the education of children be based on how public schooled young adults bully other kids? Perhaps, rather than using this argument to try to convince parents to enroll their children into public school, we should teach those who are already in public school proper manners and tolerance.

9. Call me old-fashioned, but a students’ classroom shouldn’t also be where they eat Fruit Loops and meat loaf (not at the same time I hope). It also shouldn’t be where the family gathers to watch American Idol or to play Wii. Students–from little ones to teens–deserve a learning-focused place to study. In modern society, we call them schools.

If this is true, then why do schools send children home with copious amounts of homework to be completed where the students eat Fruit Loops and meal loaf? Shouldn't those same schools be focused on getting that teaching and learning done in that very same "learning-focused place of study?"

It comes down to whether or not children are able to learn adequately at home, and study after study has proven that they can. Not only can home schooled students learn adequately where they eat their Fruit Loops and meatloaf, but they are excelling and surpassing their counterparts who are spending 6 1/2 hours in a learning-focused place of study. Thus, your argument has no merit whatsoever.

8. Homeschooling is selfish. According to this article in USA Today, students who get homeschooled are increasingly from wealthy and well-educated families. To take these (I’m assuming) high achieving students out of our schools is a disservice to our less fortunate public school kids. Poorer students with less literate parents are more reliant on peer support and motivation, and they greatly benefit from the focus and commitment of their richer and higher achieving classmates.

Unfortunately, the author of the USA Today article which you link to has learned, too well, the lesson of how to lie with statistics. Voddie Baucham provides a brief argument against the USA Today article, complete with proper citations. Here are some of his arguments in brief:

What USA Today called "higher-income" actually matches the median income, and is well-below the mean income, according to the census bureau.

The story also fails to mention that the median income in 1999 was substantially lower than the median income now, which means everyone has a higher income now, not just home schoolers.

According to the Hoover Institute, 25% of higher income families choose government-run schools where only 22% of families in that same income bracket choose home schooling.

The USA Today article also states that home schoolers are increasingly white. Yes, the percentage of white families who home school have increased from 2% to 4%. However, the article ignores the fact that minority families who home school have increased by 20%.

When looking at statistics, one must look at all of the statistics. By looking at the rest of the story, it is easy to see that the author of that article was obvious using statistics to lie about home schooling trends and is, thus, not a good source of information.

7. God hates homeschooling. The study, done by the National Center for Education Statistics, notes that the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction. To the homeschooling Believers out there, didn’t God say “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”? Didn’t he command, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me”? From my side, to take your faithful children out of schools is to miss an opportunity to spread the grace, power and beauty of the Lord to the common people. (Personally I’m agnostic, but I’m just saying…)

Since you admit to being agnostic, I suggest you consider actually reading the Bible before attempting to state what it says. The Bible has much to say on the raising of children. Many Scriptures tell us that children belong to God and are given to parents, not the public school system, to raise. Further, it tells us to bring up our children in nurture and admonishment of the Lord, something that public schools are not allowed to do because of separation of church and state. It tells us to teach [the Lord's commands] diligently to our children while we sit in our house, while we walk by the way, while we lie, and while we rise up. It certainly sounds like we are to spend our day, our entire day, teaching our children. We can't do that if they spend a majority of their waking time away from us.

To respond directly to your argument about being witnesses, I say that it does not apply to children because they are not yet equipped to be witnesses to the world. To send out a child before they are adequately prepared, means we'd be sending our children out to be influenced rather than to be an influence. That is why we must first teach them diligently while we sit, while we walk, while we lie, and while we rise. If we do a good job teaching them, they will grow to become the witnesses that God has called them to become.

6. Homeschooling parent/teachers are arrogant to the point of lunacy. For real! My qualifications to teach English include a double major in English and education, two master’s degrees (education and journalism), a student teaching semester and multiple internship terms, real world experience as a writer, and years in the classroom dealing with different learning styles. So, first of all, homeschooling parent, you think you can teach English as well as me? Well, maybe you can. I’ll give you that. But there’s no way that you can teach English as well as me, and biology as well as a trained professional, and history… and Spanish… and art… and counsel for college as well as a school’s guidance counselor… and… and…

Honestly, it sounds as if you are the one that suffers from arrogance with the way you spout off your supposed credentials. In my experience, qualifications don't make a person a good teacher. Plenty of people may be "experts" in their field, yet still be unable to teach adequately. The best teacher isn't one who has the most knowledge in a certain field, but rather the one who cares the most about the student. It is the latter who will alter her teaching style to fit the student's individual needs, seek out the best teachers/mentors/tutors to fill in the gaps she cannot teach, spend hours locating the curriculum and books that will best help her student, etc. To be my child's best teacher, I don't need to know English, biology, history, Spanish, or art. I need to be willing and able to find the best curriculum, books, classes, and mentors who will help me teach these subjects to my children.

Again, the evidence to this is already available. If public school is the best educational choice for all children, the proof would be in the results. The results, however, show the opposite it usually true. Home school students consistently out perform public school students...on annual assessment tests, on college admission tests, in competitions

5. As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off. (That’s good enough for #5.)

Well, that is pretty obvious from the tone of your article. I suspect that this reason alone means that you cannot be persuaded to take an objective look at home schooling.

4. Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism. Unless the student is being homeschooled at the MTV Real World house, there’s probably only one race/sexuality/background in the room. How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?

I will agree that homeschooling could breed intolerance and racism; however, those families that teach that are a very small minority of home schoolers. The majority of home schoolers, however, are better able to appreciate other cultures because we are out interacting with a diverse world in a respectful manner rather than being sequestered in classrooms limited to same-age peers, in schools that are often segregated by socioeconomic class. Public school students learn and live with bullying based on gender, race, intelligence, cliques, etc., as evidenced by your own admission in reason number ten.

3. And don’t give me this “they still participate in activities with public school kids” garbage. Socialization in our grand multi-cultural experiment we call America is a process that takes more than an hour a day, a few times a week. Homeschooling, undoubtedly, leaves the child unprepared socially.

Again, there is evidence to the contrary. Studies show that home school children often have better socialization skills and are more mature than their public school counterparts. Further, research shows that home school graduates fair better than public school graduates in many areas of social success. Home school graduates hold a wide variety of jobs, are more active and involved in their communities, are more civically active, and are more content with their lives than their public schooled counterparts.

2. Homeschooling parents are arrogant, Part 2. According to Henry Cate, who runs the Why Homeschool blog, many highly educated, high-income parents are “probably people who are a little bit more comfortable in taking risks” in choosing a college or line of work. “The attributes that facilitate that might also facilitate them being more comfortable with home-schooling.”

More comfortable taking risks with their child’s education? Gamble on, I don’t know, the Superbowl, not your child’s future.

I take this statement to mean that they are more willing to do what is best for their children rather than doing what the rest of society is doing. We are willing to look at our options and evaluate which is best for each of our children, rather than blindly throw them to the wolves. If all the arguments and evidence is for home schooling, it is not an unreasonable risk to take. Further, I can reevaluate my choice as we go, and if it is not working out to my child's best interest, I can take another route.

1. And finally… have you met someone homeschooled? Not to hate, but they do tend to be pretty geeky***.

*** Please see the comments for thoughts on the word ‘geeky.’ But, in general, to be geeky connotes a certain inability to integrate and communicate in diverse social situations. Which, I would argue, is a likely result of being educated in an environment without peers. It’s hard to get by in such a diverse world as ours! And the more people you can hang out with the more likely you are to succeed, both in work life and real life.

Most home schooled children, in my experience, do not meet your definition of "geeky". Further, there are plenty of "geeky" children in public school. Is it the school that caused them to become this way? Of course not! Children come in a wide variety of personalities, with a wide variety of interests. Unfortunately, some less educated folk would consider those who are interested in academics to be geeky while those who are most interested in sports or "fitting in" to be not geeky.

Your last statement is actually a pro homeschooling argument. Rather than hanging out with the same 20-30 children day in and day out for 180 days of the year, home school children are interacting with more people who come from more diverse backgrounds than that found in the typical grade x classroom. Contrary to your belief, home school children are not being educated in an environment devoid of peers...their peers are just more diverse than those found in public school. Further, research shows that home school graduates are more likely to succeed, both in work and in life.

There is one point that I will agree with you on, and that is that public school is the better choice for some children. However, I will not concede that public school is the best choice for all, or even most, children.

I challenge you, Mr. Scaccia, to do some research on the subject. Perhaps, you will find that your uneducated opinions on home schooling are wrong.

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The Four Week Vegan said...

Awesome rebuttal!

mllsak said...

Kudos! I know our choice to homeschool really does step on the toes of some public educators, but if they would not take our choice personally, I think they'd see it really comes down to the numbers. Seven hours in a public classroom verses three or four hours in a home classroom. Home school test scores verses public test scores. And one of the biggest, in my mind - 18 short years that they are "ours."

~ Homeschool mom of four, ages 6, 7, 8 and 10.

Suswan said...

Well said. I didn't homeschool my kids but only because I felt that I didn't have the energy I would need to do that. My ADHD son had me so exhausted by the end of every day that I sat and cried every night after he went to bed.

I don't think you have any worries that your kids are missing out on anything by not going to public schools. They are super, super lucky to have you as a teacher. You are probably much more excited about learning yourself than the teachers in public school are. I think that's part of the charm of what you are doing. You are a learner and that is a terrific model for your children. :-)