The Truth about Homeschooling
I was homeschooled from middle school up to college. Homeschooling was (and still is) a good fit for my family, and I did really well academically because of it. Each year, at the beginning of the summer, my brother and I would take a standardized test and mail it off to be scored by the state. The results would be sent back to my parents and the Board of Education. The Board would acknowledge our passing from one grade to the next and send a letter of formal excuse from school for the following year. I was homeschooled without the use of a computer (however, we did own one) for 5-7 hours a day five days a week by my mother. To those on the outside, those tactics seemed extreme, but my siblings and I were still left with quite a lot of time to play and participate in extra-curricular activities.
Even with proven evidence that homeschooling is an effective alternative to public school, there is great mistrust from the general public toward homeschooling families and homeschooled students. Most of the animosity is based in pure ignorance instead of fact.
Getting into college isn't a matter of academics, but paperwork.
The university I attended (The University of Akron) did not have any qualifications for homeschooled freshmen to complete along with the standard application form. I had originally wanted to attend Kent State, but I discovered that homeschooled students were required to take a GED test in addition to submitting transcripts and formal proof of school dismissal. I'm not kidding. Now, to you, it may seem like a technicality. Why care? What angers me, and others, about a GED requirement is that it is an exclusionary practice. If a student's test scores have proven that he or she has completed a state approved curriculum, it makes no sense for an institution to require proof of those scores to only a handful of their freshmen who are equally qualified with the majority. Though my school did not do that to me, it did manage to “lose” my high-school transcripts a total of three times, threatening to drop my classes if I didn't make the paperwork magically reappear.
The exclusion of homeschool graduates doesn't just involve college admissions. Up until last year, homeschool graduates wanting to enlist in the U.S Army had to score 20 points higheron the Armed Forces Qualification Test than students who attended public school. People have had their jobs threatened for having been a homeschool graduate, and forget about entering an academic contest as homeschooler.
In 2004, a Homeland Security training exercise performed a “mock terrorist attack” on a school bus. A terrorism exercise involving a school bus is enough to raise eyebrows, but the “terrorists” in the situation were a fake radical homeschool group. The fictitious radical group was called “Wackos Against Public School.” A formal apology from Homeland Security was issued, but I don't understand how a drill of that nature even seemed like a good idea in the first place.
Homeschooling isn't a selfish choice.
Among the issues that plague the education system today is a lack of parental involvement in the child's education.The U.S. Spends $800 billion annually on education; juxtapose that with the headlines about the declining education system, and it's easy to see that throwing money at the problem is not working. Earlier this year, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry's monologue about children belonging “to the community” (and that they should be educated by the community) rather than their parents caused quite a stir. I do agree that in order for change to happen in anypart of society, a collective effort needs to be made, however, raising and educating your children is your responsibility, not an abstract “community's,” and most definitely not the government's.
Parents desperate to send their children to better schools have gone to prison for lying about what districts they live in. In my own neighborhood, a parent named Kelley Williams-Bolar faced jail time a year ago for doing just that. There are dozens of cases of similar cases happening with increasing frequency, yet, to the layperson, homeschooling is seen as selfish. To others, homeschooling is a “denial of education and a future outside the home.” Even more outrageous statements have been made by those with enough education of their own to back up claims with peer reviewed research.
My parents chose to homeschool when they could no longer afford sending my brother and I to our private Christian school. They refused to send my brother and I to the alternative, which were schools on academic watch or had police on site because of violence. Though our faith was important, it was not the driving force behind the choice to homeschool. 38% of parents who decide to homeschool do so for reasons other than religious beliefs. Those who have chosen to homeschool due to religious beliefs are well within their rights to do so. Only 4% of parents were interested solely on a non-traditional approach to educating their children.
Parents who homeschool can definitely teach.
I applaud my mother's quiet diligence in homeschooling my siblings and I through the years. Not only because it was obviously hard work, but because there were (and still are) nagging naysayers. The worst part about them is that they were her own friends. Occasionally when such friends would visit, they would try to ask us kids sneaky questions, like “how many presidents has the U.S had” or “how many miles is the Earth from the Sun?” On one particular occasion, my then 5 year old sister brought her favorite babydoll, Zeke, to meet my mother's friend. After telling her his name, the friend quietly asked her, “do you know how to spell his name?” She thought for a moment, then slowly spelled out “Z-E-K-E.”
Assuming that a parent does not have the credibility to teach a child is the number one myth surrounding homeschooling. Homeschooling parents who are not “qualified” (ie. Certified teachers or college graduates) produce students within the 83rd percentile. Even in comparison to the students in the 90th percentile with parents who are certified teachers, they are still scoring 37% higher than the national average. My brother and I always scored above our grade levels in all subjects, but my sisters (who've never attended traditional school) have had test scores well into high-school grade levels while still in elementary school.
Homeschoolers aren't socially awkward.
Tvtropes.com has compiled a list of the most noteable homeschooled characters in visual media, and most of them are extreme examples of stereotyping. For example, Ezekiel , a fictional character from the animated show Total Drama Island (a satirical depiction of shows like Survivor and Big Brother), is pop culture's view of the average homeschooler. Socially inept, nerdy, and sexist, Ezekiel is the odd-ball-out until finally turning into a Gollum-like creature by the end of the series.
So, are we really like this? Absolutely not. The idea that homschoolers are trapped in their homes with no contact with the general populace is completely untrue. My younger sisters, who have never been to school, are both perfectly able to handle themselves around adults and other children. They are both talented dancers within their ballet school and get along with the other students and instructors like any other child would. Because I was homeschooled, I had more time to pursue things that interested me, such as volunteering at a children's hospital. I went to summer camp and did “normal” things that kids in regular school would do, and I had no trouble “fitting in” with everyone.
When I entered college, I was ready for an adventure. Naturally, my parents were beaming with excitement, but others close to my mother were less than enthused. They were adamant that the urban campus would be too much for me to handle, and that I wouldn't understand the pressure of college life. After all, I didn't go to high-school, how could I possibly grasp the concept of socialization with my peers? The adjustment for me was minimal at most. I made friends and was generally liked by most people I met. Through 5 years of undergrad, I never found college to be more than I could handle.
An individualized approach
My goal here is not to shame or demonize public schooling, but to shed some light on the common complaints of homeschooling from the view of the student. Homeschooling, while great, is not an approach to education that all students will benefit from. It's also not a choice that all parents can commit to. What is often overlooked is the time and effort required by parents to homeschool (which should make us all appreciate educators even more). I personally don't see myself homeschooling my children whenever they arrive in this world, but it's not something I would rule out.