Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anti-Homeschooling Views - part 4

This is the end of the series (part 1, part 2, part 3) of posts on anti-homeschooling attitudes.

Most things don't happen for only one reason. Attitudes and biases are often a combination of factors. Regardless, psychological reasons usually play a part.

1. Envy

Homeschooling allows a great deal of personal freedom. We travel in the off season. The weather is nicer and the lines are shorter. Airfare and hotels are cheaper. Families tied to the school calendar are limited in their travel plans. I can't image how awful it would be to go to someplace like Disney Land during the summer. When our family went to Disney Land, we went in the middle of October in the middle of the week. The weather was comfortable. The lines were relatively short. If I had spent a hot summer day standing in line, I would feel a bit cranky too.

Homeschooling allows a high degree of individualization not available to most children in public school. Misery loves company. If your child has to suffer through a boring class with bad text books, why should the homeschool kids not have to suffer too. (See Andrea 's comment on part 1.)

2. Ego

It is human nature to feel superior to others. Many see homeschooling as an affront to hardworking, dedicated teachers. Professional educators would like to believe that their teacher certificate makes them a better teacher. Academically, teaching degrees at universities are the easiest course work offered. Teachers have the lowest post graduate test scores. On the first administration of the Massachusetts Teachers Tests, 60% of the teachers failed. In California, the failure rates are similar. There are many gifted and talented teachers out there, but it is in spite of their education, not because of it. (See Daryl's comment on part 1.)

In fairness, prejudices based on ego afflict homeschoolers as well as public schoolers. Homeschoolers need to be careful to not let their egos get in the way. Public schoolers should not be made to feel like they are "loosing face" by embracing homeschooling.

3. Need for affiliation

Homeschooling is a more independent lifestyle. Personalities are different. Some people only feel comfortable in the "herd" with structured rules and external authority. Not everyone has the disposition to be a "trail blazer."

Many view homeschooling as spending all day at home alone with little outside contact. (I would like to add that I spend far too much of my time in the car driving my children from place to place. I few days home with no outside distraction would be nice once in a while.)

There are many ways to homeschool. Those with a desire for more affiliation can homeschool under the "umbrella" of a private or public school, and/or can participate in support groups.

4. Guilt

This one is also tied up in politics. Many people want to help make the world a better place. However, if they don't spend their time or resources towards this end, it causes feelings of guilt. Saying the you "support your local public school" and voting for "taxes for school" relieve the individual's feelings of disquiet. They have the illusion of "helping save the world" without having to dedicate their time and their money towards the cause. The government is doing it for them. This particularly annoys me. Generosity is what you do with your money and your time. Raising my taxes to pay for some government program that pretends to help children is not a virtue. (See Malcolm Kirkpatrick's comment on part 1.)

5. Frustration

On the other end of the spectrum from those against homeschooling because of "social" guilt, are the hard working individuals trying to save the world through the public schools. These people donate a great deal of time and money to improve the lives of children and families through the schools. The heroic efforts often show very little results. They want to believe that if everyone embraced public education, things would be different. Because of their involvement, they know just have bad things really are out there. They are painfully aware of missed opportunities. Homeschooling takes the brightest and best away from their cause. They expect us to sacrifice our children in the hopes of saving someone else's children.

I've pondered on this myself. The way I make the world a better place is by encouraging more families to save their own children while financially supporting educational charities.

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derek said...

The statement "Why don't you use your passion to help fix the public schools instead of just giving up and pulling your kids out?", is something I've just started encountering. My father tried to give me a little "in your face" the other day. He said: "Did you here about how the Southern Baptist Convention came out against homeschooling?" (We're Southern Baptists, by the way). This is a typical misrepresentation of the facts that most people become guilty of when they here something that they think supports their point of view. I informed him that the Southern Baptist Convention did not come out against homeschooling. They merely failed to pass a statement encouraging Southern Baptists to homeschool. I said they decided to try to fix public school instead. To that he replied: "Sounds noble to me."

I've never understood that thinking! God has given me my children to raise and instruct and they are my #1 priority, not fixing public school. Why should I sacrifice them upon the altar of public school in the vain hope that our influence might help the whole situation. I'm sorry, but I've got to have my priorities in line, and I see no where in the Bible that says I should put my children's education, faith, and morals at risk in an effort to benefit society at large.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Mass. teacher's certification exam, I think it's a little unfair to imply that the people who took the exam were not smart enough to do well. When students do poorly on standardized tests, I don't assume that they're not very intelligent. So I don't make that assumption about adults, either. Many factors affected the test scores on those first Mass. certification exams, as the article you link to points out.


Janine Cate said...

>Why should I sacrifice them upon the altar of public school in the vain hope that our influence might help the whole situation.

You sound just like me. I use that exact phrase sometimes.

Even if the "sacrifice" of the homeschooling/private schooling families would "save" public education, would it be worth the damage to your child? I don't think so.

Janine Cate said...

>I think it's a little unfair to imply that the people who took the exam were not smart enough to do well.

If you could pick your child's teacher (something most schools don't allow), would you choose someone who couldn't pass an 11th grade level test (which is the level of the teacher certification tests)?

I wouldn't. There are some extraordinary teachers out there. There are also many mediocre and down right awful ones. It's the roll of the dice which kind you get.

Also, there are some really bad teachers who can pass the test but who don't work well with children.

And there are the abuse problems at school as documented here.

Anonymous said...

If you could pick your child's teacher (something most schools don't allow), would you choose someone who couldn't pass an 11th grade level test (which is the level of the teacher certification tests)?

I don't trust standardized tests enough to make that kind of decision. First of all, I don't think standardized tests tell us much more than how well prepared someone is to take that test. In fact, the case with the Mass. test pretty much bears that out. WHen the teachers didn't know until the last minute that their scores would count, they did poorly on the test. When they knew their scores would count and had more time to prepare, they did much better. Doesn't it make you go hmmmmmm?

So the shorter answer is yes, I might pick a teacher who had failed that test. It depends.

Also, there are some really bad teachers who can pass the test but who don't work well with children.

Which is why the test is essentially meaningless to me when it stands alone.

And there are the abuse problems at school as documented here.

I'm not sure how this is relevant. There are abuse problems *everywhere*, including in people's homes and their relatives' homes, at their churches (there was one at the Mormon church in my town about two years ago), at the Scouts, etc., etc.


Janine Cate said...

>There are abuse problems *everywhere*, including in people's homes and their relatives' homes, at their churches...

Yes, but the difference is that I have control over who has access to my child. At school, I have no such power.

I personally know quite a few teachers who are very good at what they do. But, school is a mixed bag. It is like eating a brownie with just a little dirt, rocks, broken glass and dog poop mixed in. I don't care how good the brownie looks, I'm not interested.

More than what we are avoiding, is what we have. We have precious time with our children. We have chidren who model their behavior from adults of high moral character. We have a flexibility to adapt to the individual needs of each child. I could go on and on, but most of all we have peace of mind.

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

When I was at the university, I noticed that most of the kids who were education majors were NOT the "best and brightest", and that really concerned me. I am sure there are those sort of teachers out there, but my personal encounters were with very average party boys and girls. As an anthropology major, this trend really concerned me, even then.
Once I became a parent and homeschooling became a lifestyle choice for us, the rememberance of how average those education majors were empowered me to know I could easily do as well, especially because I was more invested in my children's success.

Janine Cate said...

I had a similar experience with someone. She was doing her student teaching in Kindergarten. She said that she chose kindergarten because the 2nd grade math was too hard. I didn't know what to say to that.

Anonymous said...

Posting anonymously for once...

The ego thing among many (yes, not all, I know, but MANY) teachers drives me to distraction. In our large homeschool group, I've met many, many ex-public school teachers, and as a rule, they are both the most arrogant and least able homeschoolers I've met. They are the most likely to be wedded to a homeschooling ideology that they pursue regardless of how it actually works for their family. Usually they just aren't all that smart or well-educated, but will talk frequently of how their training in writing up scopes and sequences and the like makes them uniquely qualified to homeschool.

One ex-teacher I had much unavoidable contact with was horrendously verbally abusive of her poor cringing kids, and yet she never tired of sharing her copious advice as to how a *real* teacher disciplines children. Another was in such need of psychiatric intervention (as were her kids) that a homeschooling ex-M.D. felt constrained to intervene, telling her either to get help or stay away from the other families.

I have *never* met a homeschooling ex-teacher--though the laws of probability say they must be out there--who made me think "I'd be okay with that person teaching my children." Yet homeschooling only seems to make the teacher ego thing worse, not better.

Caveat: College professors, current or ex-, seem to make great homeschoolers.

Janine Cate said...

Let me guess, you're a college professor. ;-)

I only know one former teacher who homeschools and she's great. She also said her teacher's certification was a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Nope, ex-lawyer. Couldn't you tell from my winning personality?

Reading back, my rant is probably excessive; but I do seem to have hit a 1.000 success rate with my encounters with ex-teachers. I'm glad you know an exception.

Stephen said...

Before my comments, let me say that though I don't homeschool, I do help my child get through his education - I view my role as tutor, but not primary educator. I've not encountered anyone who is Anti-Homeschooling, though i haven't looked very hard.

On the first administration of the Massachusetts Teachers Tests, 60% of the teachers failed.

Wow. And yet, it's very hard to evaluate the issue here.

Recently, I got a copy of a high school astronomy test. I went through it, and without having the answers to check, convinced myself that i'd likely get 100% if i'd taken it for real. And yet, i didn't really like how the test had been put together. At least 20% of the questions (maybe 6 to 10 of 30) were worded in a way to misdirect the test-taker to an incorrect answer. Extraordinary care, and some knowledge, was what it would take to get everything right. I should point out that i'm not very fond of tests in general. The alternative, which is to assess competence through one-on-one interaction is much harder to achieve, and always includes an element of non-reproducible subjectivity.

This test was taken by students before starting a high school astronomy course. The test was also given to the same students after the course was finished.

I don't have exact figures at hand, but students scored something like 35% before, and 47% after - a gain of 12 points, which these teachers considered dismal. Teachers, on the other hand, averaged 98% - basically perfect.

The only way to evaluate the Massachusetts experience, is to get a copy of the test, and figure out what it tests. And yet, the 'objectivity' of tests - and the playing field is level, suggest to people that it is a bigger deal than it is. If the field really is level, then only relative scores matter. If you need to be in the top 60% to pass, then expect a 40% failure rate. If there is an arbitrary threshold, then the test needs to be examined in detail. That is, the test needs to be tested. What does it measure, and how much is good enough?

Maybe astronomy high school teachers are good at figuring out the distracting puzzles built into tests compared with teachers in general.

One problem with the No Child Left Behind campaign is this idea that all children are above average.

Janine Cate said...


Very interesting points. I agree that No Child Left Behind is a problem.

Anonymous said...

Public school teachers are required to pass teacher certification tests in the area that they are to teach. For example, a teacher could be certified in Middle School Math 6-8 grade. They specialize in that curriculum. Parents who home school should be required to pass a state test in the subjects that they teach. That would be only fair. How many home school parents would be able to pass a Praxis II test in the subject areas that they teach? I have known many who do not know Algebra. Fair is fair. If parents want to teach their children, they should be fully qualified. If teaching is their love, let them go to college, get their degree, and pass the state test in order to teach at home.

Henry Cate said...

Public schools are suppose to provide a service for families. They are supported by our taxes. Your claim makes as much sense as someone trying to impose restaurant rules in my kitchen. If I happen to open a restaurant then there are some laws I would have to follow. But the government has little business telling me how to cook corn or if I want cake, or should I eat fruits before vegtables.

The reason public schools test teachers is to make sure the teachers know the subject.

The real problem is public schools are failing and that is why so many people are turning to homeschooling. Public school supports would do better to fix the public school system then try to regulate homeschooling. Currently homeschooling is doing very well. There are a few exceptions, like one in ten thousand. With public schools it is like one iten, or one in five.

Anonymous said...

I have always found my self answering questions about home schooling to those who are truly curious. I don't mind answering their questions, but I am certainly not going to try and sell them on the idea. Which is why when I was approached by some one who was eager to ridicule me for being a homeschooler I was really annoyed and felt this person was really getting emotional about how I raise my own child? I did more listening than talking trying to avoid conflict that this person was trying to have with me. This kind of anti-homeschooler is nuts! How do you avoid this kind of insanity?

Henry Cate said...

You might enjoy the Pass the Bean Dip approach

Anonymous said...

I have one to add. How about... the fact that parents who homeschool think they know material and techniques better than professionals who went to school and have been in the classroom for many years!

Anne said...

Thank you for your insights. I am struggling with this big decision as I write this.

Henry Cate said...

Anne, if you have any specific questions, ask, and we'll try to answer them.

Good luck with your decision.