Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thoughts on Homeschooling

I'm guest blogging for Chris while he's camping, and finding myself with a bit of performance anxiety. So, to alleviate this, I'm going to tell a little about myself and then post a post from my other journal that's on topic for Deeply Blasphemous to get my feet wet over here.

I'm a feminist, an atheist and a socialist mother of two, living in Texas. Texas is not an easy place to live when you are all these things, but I try to teach the kids right and keep my head up (and sometimes my mouth shut, since there's only so much social stress I'm able to put up with.) On the walk on the way to my son's school there is a replica Civil War cannon with the words "The Army of the Lord" down the side of the barrel. I think that says a great deal about the community we live in. We call this the Jesus Cannon, around our house. It's a source of great mirth.

But, without further ado, the post:

Maybe someone has thought of this stuff, but Homeschooling is such a sudden sensation (I know it's been around a long time, but has, in recent years, become much more widespread, to, I think, unprecedented levels) that I'm imagining there are a lot of cracks to fall through. Plus, my neighbor across the street recently switched over to homeschooling her son, and her flippancy about how easy the process is (Just having him fill out, essentially, worksheets provided by the company and reporting his scores to the company.) sets off a few alarms in my head.

I mean, the first and most obvious is who is really regulating what kind of education these kids are getting? It doesn't seem to me that there's a lot of real oversight involved in this, which means that there are going to be kids coming out of this undereducated when it's too late to effectively reverse the damage done. Now, I admit that it's my opinion that on average homeschooled kids get a better education than kids in public schools. They get personalized instruction by someone who really cares about them getting a good education, and can learn at their own pace, etc, etc.. but sometimes they're *not*, and who's looking out for those kids?

The second thing, slightly more worrisome in a more long term way is... do these kids get vaccinations? Kids have to have vaccinations to get into school, and a lot of them, frankly, wouldn't get vaccinations if they didn't have thie requirement. Vaccines are unpleasant, inconvenient and often expensive. I remember with my son's vaccines getting into Kindergarten, the pediatrician wouldn't give them unless he also had a full physical, which cost me 120 bucks. Ouch. But, we did it, because we *had to*. Now, I also believe these things should be provided free of charge, but even without the cost there are those who would not get vaccinated if they weren't compelled to do so. And the reasons these diseases are next to unheard of in this day and age is because most everyone has been immunized against them, so they can't take hold here. Without that shield, might we see outbreaks of, say, polio?

Here's my real concern, though... schools catch abuse. Often abused kids have only their teachers and officials at the schools they attend as adults they can trust outside of their families. Homeschooled kids have the potential of being incredibly socially isolated, and thus powerless if they have an abusive parent or parents. There are ways, as my brother (who intends to homeschool) points out, to be sure the kids get socialization with other kids their age - group classes, outdoor activities and the like. But there's no requirement to become involved in these sorts of things, so that homeschooling could be an excellent way to disguise dysfunctional or dangerous family situations.

Like I said, I haven't really researched it. These are just my thoughts, but it seems problematic, on the surface.


Shane said...

Hi Becky! I love your Jesus Cannon by the way. I will, one day, see it for myself. Take a picture. And show it to everybody I know.

Homeschooling: I have a close friend who was homeschooled. I think that homeschooling potentially serves two purposes. The first and probably best quality educations come from parents who strongly disagree with the social aspects of public school and, for whatever reason, have opted out of private schools. I have a very good friend whose parents are incredibly religious who was homeschooled. He is a brilliant person and, aside from a weakness in math (that lots of us public schooled folks have too,) got a strong education. I would hazard to guess it is generally the fundamentally religious and strong political dissenters who home school and tend to do a good job.

The other reason that immediately comes to me is for some sort of social problem. Maybe the child was expelled, or maybe the family is very poor and the child has to work during usual school hours. I'm at a loss as to what the ratio is between the two situations, but it is the second that I'm most alarmed about. But I suspect that the majority of these cases happen in poor school districts with poverty stricken families in the first place, so treating the problem of poverty would directly impact this difficulty as well. Just another reason to stop ignoring problems associated with poverty in the US.

I don't have a good comment regarding vaccinations. There are several other institutions that are state run that require vaccinations as well, but I don't think there is a program out there to get vaccinations to folks who aren't plugged into the system.

Probably your last point brings up my biggest worry too. I mean, beyond just abuse, wide interaction with society as a whole is going to foster a healthier, more well rounded child. Both because it helps to push a certain "norm" on the family (which has good points such as abuse prevention, and bad points as well...) and because it seems deeply unhealthy to cloister a child away. My homeschooled friend has a number of social anxiety problems that he's still struggling to overcome that are directly related to that upbringing.

March 28, 2007 3:08 PM  
divabeq said...

Yeah, I think I said in the post that it's my opinion that *in general* kids being homeschooled get a better education than public school goers, but my point is that there's no guarantee of this. Indeed, there seem to be few checks on this at all. My neighbor across the street, for instance: her son was on the verge of being expelled from school (4rth grade) and so she withdrew him to be homeschooled. She still works all day, and he stays home by himself all day. She was telling me about the homeschooling program she signed him up for, and it sounds as if she gives him worksheets to fill out, and she sends in his grades maybe... or tests filled out. I wasn't completely clear, but it would be laughably easy to cheat the system.

And that's besides her leaving him at home alone all day every day. A child troubled enough to be expelled from elementary school alone all the time that way. And there is no system to discover these sorts of things. I can only imagine if it was the case that she was physically or sexually abusing him, rather than *merely* neglect.

March 29, 2007 3:32 PM  
pistol pete said...

You might be interested in checking out my post, "Homeschool Hostages" on the blog "Necessary Therapy"

March 30, 2007 6:31 PM  
divabeq said...

Hey, thanks, Pete. I'll check it out.

March 30, 2007 6:34 PM  
divabeq said...

Yeah, Pete. I think in the post I displayed a basic preference for homeschooling over public school. I said kids get a better education, and it's by someone who cares about them and has a vested interest in them getting an excellent education. Hell, I even said my brother (whom I love dearly) plans to homeschool his kids.

BUT, I said that the system has the potential for abuse.

So, basically, I said "Here is a basically good system that has a potential for abuse" and what you're reacting to is: "Homeschooling parents are stupid, abusive jerks"... there's a slight difference between the two phrases. If you continue to have trouble with it, you might have someone read them aloud to you.

Furthermore, jeez, dude, is the smarm really necessary? What did I ever do to you?

March 30, 2007 6:46 PM  
Homo Escapeons said...

If I lived out in the middle of the sticks I would homeschool my kids..and dagnamit they would be expert marksmen, believe that there is a conspiracy to control the world banks, and they'd be ready to take up arms when the 'guv'ment' men come to take us down 'Waco-Style'.

Seriously, from up here in Canada we get the distinct impression that nearly every child will be left behind because your government treats Teachers like crap. Like Medicine (you don't even have a Health Care system you have a Disease Management System that is imploding) and everything else in your country, the Almighty Dollar, and not the Hokey Pokey, is what it's all about.

Smart kids can adapt and excel anywhere and let's face it there are legitimate reasons for allowing your kids to avoid bullys and social deviants throughout their school years...only to be blindsided by those very same miscreants upon entering the workplace later on in life.

Kids need to learn how to cope with being surrounded by sociopaths and idiots if they are to have any chance at all in this world.

How do you do that being imprisoned in your little home (magic bubble) for 18 years?
Like lambs to the slaughter...

March 31, 2007 8:48 AM  

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