Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Today on the 'here and there' menu, I offer a great blog entry, Home Education: Delicious and Nutritious found over at Here in the Bonny Glen. Melissa Wiley does an excellent job countering the homeschool skeptic's criticism and concerns such as 'Are you qualified?' and 'What about socialization?' Upbeat, fresh, and humorous, her post is a delight.

But maybe the Socialization Worrier meant something else. Maybe she meant, "See, I know this family who homeschools, and their kids are just plain weird/socially awkward/obnoxious/wild/[insert unpleasant adjective of choice]." To which I must respond: And you're saying that there are no weird/socially awkward/obnoxious/wild/etc. kids in schools? Because, um, I beg to differ. They were there when I was in school, and I know they're there now because I hear about them (or read about them in the news) all the time. Some of the weird ones—the nerdy guys in the computer club—grew up to become multimillionaires (and usually really nice people—but then, they were nice all along, just weird). Some of the obnoxious ones now draw huge crowds at the comedy club. Others are in jail...

...That's what I'd like to ask the "I know a homeschooling family and I don't like them" skeptics. Because I don't believe that if they really thought the matter through, they would believe that the problem with those kids would have been avoided by "socialization" in a school setting. The obnoxious kids would almost certainly be just as obnoxious (what our skeptic is really objecting to is probably a parenting issue, not an educational one), and the weird kids would be just as weird and probably a whole lot more miserable. After all, "weird" in this context just means "different," doesn't it? Kids who just don't fit in? How many times have we seen the school misfit blossom and thrive as soon as he finishes school or college and is finally freed of the pressure to squeeze into a mold that doesn't fit him? Heck, how many of us experienced this ourselves?

Another great article to check out is One Good Year: A Look at Short-Term Homeschooling by Laura Brodie, in which Laura decides to homeschool her daughter for just one year. The author is honest about the struggles and joys, and also includes homeschooling research that she found while making her decision. This is a point of view not often found, since many homeschoolers come from a long-term position and don't have to stradle the public school/homeschool fence.

In the end, I believe in supporting public education in America, especially in districts like ours, where the schools are small and safe. But in return, the public schools should be supporting America's families, not filling our children's family time with more schoolwork. While I am willing to leave my daughter's education in the hands of the public schools until three o'clock each day, after-school hours should be devoted to exercise, art, music, and unstructured play--all of the highly educational activities that many schools, in their test-bound shackles, have cut to the bare bones. When excessive homework gets in the way of family time--time for long conversations, as well as visits to museums and parks and concerts--that's when the schools have crossed my line in the sand. And that's when Julia and I will be back in our local coffee shop, spending our Wednesday mornings speaking bits of French over a game of chess.

One of my favorite reads on the subject of homeschooling (and public school as well) is written by a public high school English teacher and author of Snow Falling on Cedars. David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense weaves between anecdotal, factual, argumentative, and poetic style. A balanced look at homeschooling and public school, this book is a must read!

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