SmackDown: Would You Homeschool Your Kids?

Filed under: Opinions

Homeschooling, a good or bad idea?

Illustration by Christopher Healy

I was Homeschooled, and So Are My Kids.

by Crystal Paine

There is overwhelming evidence that the majority of home-schooled students are thriving -- they score high on standardized tests and also do well in college. These studies and statistics are impressive, but they are not why my husband and I have chosen to home school our children.

For us, the main reason is a religious one: We are Christians and believe the Bible is to be our basis for all of life and practice. Scripture speaks very clearly to the role of parents in the education of their children in Deuteronomy 6: 5-7:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."

It is hard for us to follow this Biblical mandate if we send our children to school to be instructed by others for the bulk of each week day.

Both my husband and I were home schooled and had very positive experiences, so this has also significantly impacted our decision to teach our children at home. I loved the immense amount of quality time home schooling afforded me to spend with my parents and the close relationships I developed with my siblings as a result of having them as my classmates.

Some people bring up the argument that home schooled students aren't socialized. I think that's one of the biggest myths on the planet. Think about it: When else in real life, but in a classroom setting, are you put into a situation where you are only interacting with people your own age?

Instead of growing up in a peer-based, age-segregated system, I learned to communicate and interact with people of every age -- from babies and toddlers to the elderly. In my opinion, that's true socialization.

Homeschooling has advanced so much in the last 20 years. While there used to be only a few textbook options available, there is now an almost-overwhelming plethora of curriculum available. For parents who feel apprehensive or unqualified, there are support groups, co-ops, distance learning opportunities, self-teaching computer programs, online tutors, local classes and more. The wealth of homeschooling resources available online and offline is almost limitless.

A classroom setting tends to encourage a one-size-fits-all conveyor belt education which caters to the lowest common denominator, whereas homeschooling provides the freedom for children to pursue opportunities tailored to their interests and gifts. For example, I was very interested in creative writing in high school. After completing a few grammar and writing courses, my parents encouraged me to start a bimonthly newsletter which eventually ended up with more than 200 subscribers from around the world.

For four years, I spent close to 40 hours per month on the newsletter, writing and editing articles, designing the layout, communicating with subscribers and printing and collating. Little could I have dreamed that this foray into publishing would lay the foundation for writing a blog read by hundreds of thousands of individuals across the globe.

I'm so thankful for the many wonderful real-life, hands-on opportunities that being home schooled provided me. And I'm excited to offer the same for my children, as well.

There's no denying that home schooling is a lot of work. It takes commitment; it takes perseverance; it requires a great deal of effort. But it's absolutely priceless to get to be right by my daughter's side as she learns to read and grasps each brand new concept.

Homeschooling? Not for My Kids.

by Amy Hatch

When it came time to send our daughter to school, we struggled a bit.

The public school in our neighborhood wasn't up to our standards, and private school tuition was going to be a stretch. We joked more than once that maybe we should home school the girl, laughing at the idea of a writer and a musician settling in to teach algebra and physics.

Sure, we probably could have managed during the primary years -- after all, we'd already taught her letters, numbers and most of the basics she needed for kindergarten. Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of prepackaged curricula available for moms and dads who choose to teach their kids at home -- even some that don't include a religious bent.

In the end, we chose to send her to a private school and we made the financial commitment for one reason: We believe in schools.

Both my husband and I had rich academic experiences at schools both public and private. We took full advantage of the extracurricular offerings made available to us -- I worked on the school literary magazine and was editor of the yearbook, and my husband was an active member of the music community at his school from the age of 9.

How could we possibly replicate that experience for our daughter if she was at home with us all day?

Homeschooling proponents say their children have ample opportunities for socialization, but I don't buy it. In our small community, the ability to organize a sports league or orchestra would be limited, at best. And then there's the time factor -- as working parents, we just couldn't manage.

Some may say those reasons smack of selfishness, but keeping our family afloat financially is a priority, as is serving as role models who have healthy appetites for our work. The passion my husband and I have for our careers is partially the result of our parents and how we were raised, of course, but the teachers we encountered at school were no less influential.

Restricting our daughter to our world view would deprive her of teachers like Ed Ladd, my high school English instructor, who demystified the written word and showed me you can make a living as a writer. Not only that, Mr. Ladd believed in me and he made sure I knew it.

Would we deprive her of a teacher like her own father, who taught music to elementary school students for nine years in an impoverished western New York city? He taught scores of kids to play the violin, viola and bass -- kids who otherwise might never have touched an instrument.

We know there is at least one special teacher out there who will mold our child in ways we cannot.

Sure, when she comes home with teary stories of being left out on the playground, it's hard not to fantasize about keeping her home with me and teaching her about the planets and American history without any mean girls to taunt or distract her. But learning to deal with rejection and conflict is also an essential part of her education. Protecting her from the harder life lessons won't prepare her for a world she is certain to inherit, one that is fraught with competition.

And that's really the bottom line, isn't it? Preparing our children to go out in the world -- without us. School is the first step on that long journey toward independence, and possibly the most important step we take.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.