Wednesday, March 14, 2012

a (big) reaction from the homefront of home education

I am carrying books to the kitchen table, not one or two but a 4-5 months supply of educational materials & text.  On in the background beyond the sweet sounds of childhood in progress (8 yr old Boo & 9 yr old W playing school in Boo's room) is a radio program.  Today's topic Home Education.  Wonderful I think...and then as I carefully prepared my child's educational trajectory I listen and wonderful it was not! 

The predominate what's, why's, & who a home education family is, is so far off base for who WE are.  I was shocked to hear the callers’ questions, which were closer to accusations.  One asked if home education was about hiding our kids from issues such as global warming & evolution.  One was about keeping the kids from real life & another about isolation causing intolerance.  And what discussion about home education would be complete without the socialization question (as if the idea of isolation wasn’t already slapped down hard enough). 

I am honestly dumbfounded in this day and age to find home education is considered a radical alternative life choice.  Allow me to offer a different vantage on radical…not too many decades ago it was highly recommended families place their children with mental  (& physical )disabilities in institutions.  The reasoning behind such a travesty was it was too much strain on a family and that the institutions were better suited to care for them.  Eventually the ill fated logic was disproved and years later we look back in shock that thousands of children were separated from the families to be warehoused. 

It might seem an extreme comparison.  One might not feel waving good-bye to their child at the curb of school is a violation of their rights; it is viewed as a privilege ( or something so a part of life it is never questioned) so therefore keeping my child from it is a disservice.  What I see is a warehouse, an institution not unlike the hospitals set up to care for the disabled children of a generation of misguided adults.  I think it radical to warehouse your child. I think it is a risky choice.  And in some cases I think it is reckless and neglectful.  Be as angry as you want at my view points these are all things said directly to me about home education from well meaning people and I’m sorry if us sharing the same view of backside of water is uncomfortable for you. 
In theory a free public education for all is a good idea.  Like a soup kitchen is a good idea to help stop starvation, to lend a hand to those in need of it.  And yet the more who come to partake the thinner the soup becomes.  In practice (knowing what I know now and in the face of No Child Left Behind) I would only send my child to an institution if I was completely unable to provide for her/him, if we were starving.  For me once I caught sight of what the school system is I can’t un-see it. I don’t believe school is innately bad or evil just horribly flawed and over used.  

I understand home education is not for everyone.  I respect those who respect us.  Beyond respect, I admire my friends who spend hours & hours in their child’s classrooms, having painstakingly sought out cooperative learning environments for their kids.  These parents I consider to be home educators maybe even Paraprofessional and my hat goes off to them.  I also have friends who need special education services for their children, or perhaps use duel enrollments for subjects they themselves cannot provide for; and this makes sense to me. 
Eventually, we all need the help of an institution in one form or another.  Like I said, I don’t think school is bad but I do think it is inferior to the education one can achieve at home.  I’m not discounting the Teachers or the vast educational wealth and knowledge which backs them.  Almost any true teacher could put me to shame. But who potty trained your child?  A Proctologist, a Urologist, & a Therapist? Who got up at night with them? A Nightwatch Man? Who brushes their teeth, puts Band-Aids on their knees, and taught them to ride their bikes?  A Dentist, a Nurse, & Lance Armstrong?  I’m sure none of us have ever truly considered turning our kids over to any of those professional (or hiring the crazy list of people it would take to do the job of Mom/Dad) because we all know we are who is best at meeting the needs of our children.  Instead we know to use professionals as resources to support us as parents.  Why is education any different?  The answer is: it isn’t.  I think we have been sold short accepting that we are not capable of education our own children.

Next time you pass by a school yard take the time to really look at it, ask yourself if is this big space, this big building, all these kids lined up by date of birth, rows of desks & tables, books & whiteboards, are they really what childhood is supposed to look like or perhaps is this the 'one size fits all' of education something we have been sold?        

And to answer the callers' concerns & questions: 

1. I am not a religious fanatic hiding my child from the world.  We live in Utah on a small urban farm on the wrong side of the tracks.  We are not members of any organized religion & yet I respect the right to raise your family according to your own values, church or no church.  And specifically me, the agnostic evolutionary biologist, believes strongly in the value of a stay-at-home-parent, supports praying in school & before games & in the ER (the more we pray together the less we fight), I support the crosses on the side of the road for fallen officers, sex education, I lean towards socialism, I am against the death penalty, for physician assisted suicide, & I am pro-life but I would be horrified to see a woman's right to her own body over turned.  I am a straight line Democratic Party voter, I vote in every election and have only one time voted for a Republican, which was for Governor Huntsman. So what box does all that fit in?

2.  We are not anti-American or anti-social.  Our choice to home school is not an assault on the American way of life, nor is it an attempt to isolate our children from other people.  We have 2 adult-ish children who start to finish went to public schools, we did the room mom thing every year, but never joined the PTA, coached youth soccer for 15+ years, and we pay our taxes.

3.  We are not home educating to avoid sex ed.  The main reason we started home educate with our youngest child was because she missed the Kindergarten Deadline & by the time she entered Kindergarten she was bored sick and the school didn't know what to do with her.  3 yrs later the 3 top reason we remain home educators are: there isn't enough science taught in schools, the institution of school is an unnatural environment, & our child is a self directed learner who does not need outside pressures such as grades to motivate her.  In fact, I believe she puts so much pressure on herself that it would be counterproductive.

5.  The question of socialization drives me so nuts!!!!  Don't you worry about socialization? No, I don't.  This maybe the rudest thing anyone has heard from me but: it is okay to think before you talk, please especially if: you are asking me this question while my child chats to the cashier in the grocery line, is in the middle of her gymnastics team or swim team, is selling you girl scout cookies, counting back your change at her booth at the farmer's market, attending a community rally, playing with your child at the library, or asking question of the zoo keeper at the zoo while your child hides under your skirt. Home education is not for everyone but neither is public or private school.  I don't know all the numbers to prove it works that's not my job.  My job is to do what is right for my children.  Yes, she misses out on some things not being in a classroom group M-F and yes, if your child is in school M-F guess what? They are missing out on some things too.  You can't have it all. 

6.  The question I don't mind is (which was not asked on the show): How do you do it?  That is extremely respectful & thoughtful to realize that when you take on home education it is a job like Motherhood.  It is 24/7, on call all the time, it is invasive into every aspect of your life, and worth every second, worth every misconception, every judgemental stare.  It is worth everything becasue that is my child and she belongs with me.


  1. Misty, this is a great post. I think your statement, "Home education is not for everyone but neither is public or private school.... My job is to do what is right for my children" Really hits the nail on the head. I think to some extent school is akin to expecting a pill to cure your every ache/pain/illness while not being willing to take care of yourself. Of course, we're in school, but the school we're in was chosen after much consideration and comparisons and is continually evaluated through our lens. If it no longer is "right" for Ellen, we will choose to do something else. People need to understand that the responsibility of making sure your child gets the education you want them to have depends on you as a parent -- no matter what vehicle you choose to employ to deliver that education. In our case, we have a school now that gives Ellen so much more than we could give her ourselves -- and that's what we want. As you say, you can't have it all, so we take some negative with the very many positives. That's the evaluation that has to go on constantly.

    Love your views!

    1. Kristen, You are so wonderful! You are one of those parents who I respect so much. You are an amazing thoughtful friend we are lucky to know you. I have always admired the life you create for Ellen, absolute balance & grace. Thank you for seeing this post for what it is and for expressing what I couldn't quite formulate: responsibility. Thank you :)

  2. It's really sad that homeschoolers are still viewed as strange and anti-social. Personally, I never liked being institutionalized (in public school) and don't want that kind of life for my kids.

  3. Such a great post! I love your comments about socialization. We have not run into too many people that will ask us about that (mostly because my daughter is just now old enough to be considered school age), but I will keep your comments in my back pocket for when they do come up.