I was reading some blog comments about homeschooling today that really got my goat. I realized that I consistently hear people propagating myths about homeschooling that I would like to dispel.
- Homeschooled kids don't have social skills. This myth is the most pervasive and for me, the most upsetting. This notion presupposes that the only way we get social skills is by spending most of the day in an institution where we are largely required to listen and not speak. What we are free to do in these institutions is to fend for ourselves when the bullies come to call. I don't know about you, but in my adult life, I am allowed to talk with people for most of the day and I haven't been beat up since I was 11. The truth is that homeschoolers have more opportunities to develop mature social skills than traditionally schooled students and fewer opportunities to develop immature skills like how to speak to adults disrespectfully.
- Homeschoolers are disadvantaged academically. I have had people seriously worry about how my children are going to do on college admission tests and get accepted to the best schools. These issues aren't my primary concern, first of all. I want my children to have a good education, but more importantly, I want them to have a good character. While there are a few opportunities not available to homeschoolers, it's actually the case that traditionally schooled students suffer the disadvantage. Homeschoolers have all day long to study, go on fascinating field trips, and be apprentices while their peers are in school. Test scores suggest that homeschooling is an incredible academic advantage. More and more, top colleges are looking to admit them.
- You have to be really organized and patient to homeschool. What's interesting to me is that I've never heard anyone say that to a classroom teacher. Why is that? The truth is that there are disorganized, impatient homeschoolers just as there are classroom teachers. But it's also true that homeschooling teaches you to be more organized and more patient than you would be if you sent your children away to school all week. The corollary to this notion is this question: how can you teach SIX children? I answer: how can a classroom teacher teach TWENTY FIVE?
- Homeschoolers should have to be more accountable to the state. First let me say that while there are homeschoolers who neglect or abuse their children, the overwhelming majority do not. If you don't enjoy your children, you are more likely to send them away to school for the better part of the day than to keep them home with you. Child abuse and neglect are a part of many traditionally schooled students lives, too. Are we doing enough to adequately protect them? Is homeschooling really a primary risk factor? Many times I hear people clamoring for more testing of homeschoolers. Remember that homeschoolers score four grade levels ahead of public schoolers and then think about what the state would do with more testing data. Even if you have a learning disabled child who is working at the maximum of his ability because of homeschooling, the state could use a low test score to require that he be sent to public school. If testing can be used this way for homeschoolers, it would have to be used this way for private schools. The application of such a policy for public schools implies that when their students score poorly on a test, the parents ought to be able to demand a private education or funds to homeschool him. Because I don't see that happening, I don't want mandatory testing of my students.
- Homeschooling is an expensive, elitist education. Recent research suggests that student achievement is not related to how much parents spend for their children's home education. I have several friends whose income is lower middle class and who successfully home educate. One does not have a home computer. The number of free resources available today is staggering. More and more, African American families are choosing to home educate, too.
- Homeschoolers are weird. This one is the most true of all of the myths I've listed. Homeschoolers are engaging in a counter-cultural activity, so of course they're weird. I know homeschoolers who are weird in other ways. There's no denying it. However, homeschoolers haven't cornered the market on weird. I know very weird private and public school families, too. Don't you?
I understand if homeschooling isn't for you. But please don't perpetuate the myths that could keep families who would benefit from home educating from giving it a try.