Well, it depends who you ask.
I was responding to a blog post today about how homeschoolers are “blind” to how homeschooling can ruin their kids, because, well, they are homeschoolers. And how parents with strong personalities can make their kids basket cases.
Ok. So, let’s turn that around. Public school parents/administrators/teachers are “blind” to how school can ruin their kids, because, well, they are public schoolers. And how parents and teachers and other kids with strong personalities can make their kids basket cases.
I’m not saying that homeschooling is better. What I am saying is that homeschooling is not worse because there are some that “fail” or have a hard time as adults. Homeshcooling is only “worse” because most people haven’t experienced it, and don’t get it. So they see it that way. And because people make the choice to homeschool, instead of choosing their preferred educational choice, it is treated with some kind of higher expectation than anything else. That if a kid doesn’t live up to society’s expectation of what they are supposed to do, it’s an indication that homeschooling is a problem, and should be questioned, monitored and otherwise messed with. That if homeschooling “fails” a kid, then some huge horrible thing has happened. Yet, when kids in school come out of it with many, many adults who have let them get screwed up on the way, it’s just, well, the natural way of things. And, let’s slap on another rule, regulation or test that still doesn’t change the results all that much.
Schools don’t generate 100% returns. Many kids have problems. In fact, a much higher percentage of kids come out of schools with various problems, issues and struggles. Yet, few question the validity of whether the schools are the best place for kids to grow up. Well, except for the people who leave school to homeschool. Every year we pump through a graduating class of children that absolutely know for sure will produce at least a certain percentage of unhappy and unready almost-adults, yet we keep doing it year after year after year. How is that any different, or BETTER, than a few homeschooling students coming through the process with some unreadiness issues? How is it that homeschooling “failures” are worse than public school failures?
Here’s a way to explain this what one person considers to be the “best” place to grow up differs from the next. Yet, in the end, none of them are the best for everyone. No state is the best state, no city is the best city, no religion is the best. Everything is determined by the individual making the assessment. The same is true with education. We’re OK with the idea of different people wanting to live in different states. But we (as a society) are not OK with the idea of different people wanting to live a different educational life.
It’s the current state of thing that in this country, most people believe from their point of view that public school is the best place for all. Doesn’t mean it is actually the best. It means that’s what our culture knows. What we understand.
Where we sit is limited by our experiences. To say that someone else’s position is “wrong” simply because it isn’t the same seat we are in is myopic. It’s the very thing our culture says that public school is supposed to teach us not to do—instead we’re supposed to understand where other people from different backgrounds and places are coming from.
Yet, those who are the most adamantly opposed to homeschooling have very little understanding. And create a concrete opinion based on limited personal experience and media exposure. Hell, even those IN the community do that. Homeschoolers who don’t approve of other homeschoolers. If homeschoolers themselves can’t find common ground, how can we expect non-homeschoolers to even come close to understanding where we are coming from?
This is one reason that my husband and I homeschool our kids. Not because we wanted to shield them from what’s going on in school. But because we wanted them to see the stuff that isn’t taught in schools. The many different viewpoints. The alternate ideas. To question things, and be free to say, “I want to know more about this and really understand it.” And have time to do that. To be able to explore the world – even the stuff that nobody wants anyone to know. To see that their view is not privileged. Nobody’s view is privileged. And that in any society, the majority opinion is not “right”. There is no such thing as “right”. There are only trends in thought. Can you imagine a school that taught that? A school that really allowed its students to see that the school is just a system that everyone has agreed upon, and that’s why it works. It doesn’t work the way it does because it’s right. But because all the participants have tacitly agreed to follow the rules, even if they don’t make sense.
(Don’t worry. Our kids get plenty of exposure to arbitrary rules and systems. They are involved in park and rec classes. Some with some seriously boot-camp teachers. And we go to Disneyland, the kingdom of tacit rule following, on a regular basis.)
The only kinds of things we shield our kids from are things like the idea that in order to be worth something, someone else has to say that you’re good enough. That’s the biggest lie that our students in school are taught. That if they don’t do the right thing, don’t get good grades, don’t live up to everyone’s expectations, they’ve failed. Another is the idea that children have to spend their entire lives performing to get that prize that never arrives. Sure, everyone gets judged in “real life” and we have people who we need to please in order to get what we want. But not everyday. Not every single piece of work we produce. And man, we don’t need to have to “practice” that all the time in order to be able to deal with it. Plus, anyone who has that in everyday life is living a pretty crappy life in my opinion. Adults choosing that kind of crappy job is one thing. That’s their choice. But children who don’t have a choice, that’s just mean.
These are some of my personal reasons. This doesn’t mean it’s right or that anyone else should agree with me. I respect those who don’t agree with that and make different life choices for their children based on different values of what’s important in life. But just because I don’t agree with how school should educate children, and I choose not to be a part of it, doesn’t mean that I need some sense slapped into me. I’m free to choose. And so long as we are free to choose in this country, I will choose. Take away choice for people to have their own opinions and do things their way, even if it seems a “disservice” to kids, is not freedom. It’s forcing people to bend to the current social point of view. Which, if we look at history, has *never* been right. Why, is right now, in the time we just happen to live in, the “right” opinion? In 50 years, we’ll look back at today and see just how wrong we were.
And who knows, maybe homeschooling is actually better, but because 99% of the country has never tried it, they’re all missing out.
Or maybe homeschoolers actually are missing out. But, if I have to make a wager, I’ll bet on homeschooling. There’s always time for kids to go to school if they want. Once that window of childhood freedom is over, it’s rare that we get a chance to be this free again. I’m betting that we’ll miss out on less if we homeschool. And, if it does turn out all homeschooelrs have screwed up, we’re only 1% of the population, remember? Why is that even interesting to public schoolers? Even if we were 5%, that’s still far less than the percentage of kids who come through the school system braindead, burned out or lost.
As a conclusion, homeschooling is better than school if you think it is. It’s not better if you don’t. Simple as that. Not worth fighting about. It’s like fighting over which is better – apples or bananas.
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