12 July 2009
Is Homeschooling Child Abuse?
It is according to some comments posted at Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory blog, to wit:
"The real tragedy is to see the children who are the product of homeschooling. Yes, there is evidence to suggest that *some homeschooled kids out perform their public school peers, but I’ve taught a number of these kids over the past eight years and it isn’t pretty. Most of the kids I’ve taught with this background find it very difficult to adjust to a school community. Many haven’t spent enough time learning how to interact with their peers, but the biggest disappointment is to watch them in the classroom. The kids I’ve taught are very obedient and well-behaved, but try to get them to question what they read or what the teacher says and you will end up pulling your hair out. They were never taught to formulate their own ideas or to see school as an opportunity to develop their own views about things. It’s very sad. I’ve seen up close what happens to kids who are taught to see US History as “God’s plan”. In a previous comment someone said that it reminds them of child abuse and I couldn’t agree more." ~ Kevin Levin (Emphasis mine). *Try most. See graph below: How Do Homeschool Students Score?
And this baseless comment from a reader . . .
"If you think about it, Kevin, what you saw in these kids is inevitable. Many parents who insist on home-schooling their kids have a set of beliefs which they don’t *want* their kids to question or dispute, and that is what they see school as being for: The simple transmission of information. So the kids get a double-whammy: Not only are they taught ridiculous junk, but they are taught that none of it should be questioned."
And more misinformation:
"The problem is compounded for kids who are homeschooled early on and than [sic] have to adjust to a classroom like mine. Much of what I do is organized around discussion and debate. I want my students to question one another and me as part of a process that will lead them to their own conclusions about what they read. But look at this from the perspective of a homeschooled child. They’ve little exposure to debate and/or the questioning of authority figures. So, they come to my class not having questioned their parents and are not inclined to challenge me and they are surrounded by students who take such a stance for granted even if not all of them exercise it." ~ KL (Emphasis mine).
And more misleading comments from another reader . . .
"I can’t tell which of my students now were homeschooled (though I sometimes have my suspicions) but a few years ago I worked in a museum and we had students on tours from public schools, private schools, and homeschooled. One of our docents described the homeschooled kids as “little robots.” The public school kids were the least well behaved but they tended to ask the best questions. An unscientific survey certainly, but I much preferred the more rambunctious public school kids." (Emphasis mine).
"Little robots", huh? How nice. Well-behaved children are "little robots" while those misbehaving are simply "rambunctious." Uh-huh. Certainly no bias against homeschoolers here.
And yet another reader used the term "religious and regional numbnuts in Dixieland" to characterize certain religious Southerners. Isn't that nice? Nothing like open-mindedness and the embracing of diversity from academia. You'll notice that no one objected to that bigoted characterization. Of course, South-bashing and Christian-bashing is just a figment of our imagination.
I must say that many of the comments in this post contain some of the most non-thinking, cliched, scripted, ill-informed, prejudiced, intolerant, narrow-minded, and intellectually dishonest (Did I miss anything?) ideas and thoughts I've ever seen expressed in regard to homeschooling. What began ostensibly as a critique of John Dwyer's book, The War Between the States: America's Uncivil War, descended quickly into a rather dark homeschooling/Christian parent-bashing free for all. The comments noted above went way beyond any reference to Dwyer's book and it is those comments that are the subject of this post. The broad and baseless generalizations expressed in the comments, and the shallow thought process that went into them, betray a number of things about those who wrote them: fear of what they do not understand, as well as a resistance to embrace positive change in educational trends--specifically homeschooling.
Those making these comments are obviously unaware of recent studies, statistics, the astounding successes, and trends involving homeschooling. All of these ill-informed mischaracterizations were disproven years ago and are outdated. The only thing these comments prove is that those who wrote them are clueless about homeschooling and its broad acceptance and continued explosive growth in the United States. The comments quoted also reveal an underlying current of rigid, elitist thinking regarding the teaching of children i.e. - "Leave it to us experts." The ignorance expressed in the comments about one of the most successful educational options in modern America is jaw-dropping astonishing; even more so when you consider many of these comments came from those who are educators and members of academia.
Before I respond to the comments, allow me to give you a little background about my family and our own experience with homeschooling. Most who read this blog with any regularity know that my wife and I homeschooled 4 of our 6 children and that I am an enthusiastic proponent of homeschooling. Our two oldest children's education was comprised of a combination of some public, but primarily private school with our son finishing his last two years of high school at a military school. So, in addition to homeschooling, we've had plenty of experience with the diverse options for education available to most Americans. I know more than a little about that which I'll be commenting. Moreover, my wife would concur that homeschooling our 4 youngest children was one of the most rewarding experiences we've had in our 50+ years. We would most assuredly do it all over again - only we would have started sooner.
Three of our four youngest children were educated through a combination of a private Christian school and homeschooling, with our youngest child being educated solely through homeschooling. One of these 4 children is now a lead teacher at a private Christian school in our area and our youngest child was accepted into Patrick Henry College, a very selective and highly respected school which caters to homeschoolers. She decided not to attend PHC and now, in addition to being a wife, mother, and helping my wife in her business, is pursuing her degree part time. She's written columns for our local paper and elsewhere as well. We began homeschooling our youngest son when he was 12 and he had originally planned on attending Virginia Military Institute. He changed his mind when VMI was forced to go co-ed. He started his own business when he was 17 and today is a very successful farrier, husband, and father of two. Our other daughter whom we homeschooled is a mother of two and married to a pastor who serves a church in Canada. I consider our efforts in teaching our children a success and we are grateful to God for His blessings on our family.
Now, let me address some of the comments noted above. Levin writes that most of the homeschool children he's encountered "find it very difficult to adjust to a school community" as if that's the purpose of their life up to that point - to prepare them to adjust to his classroom or to a "school community". Rather presumptuous, wouldn't you say? Why would one assume everyone is going to accept the premise that herding 20-30 into an institutional classroom setting where a stranger presides over their education is something worth adjusting to? Why would one assume that there is only one definition of "school community?" We could turn it around and say that children coming out of a public school would have difficulty adjusting to a "homeschool setting." What's the point? His comment is a rather weak straw man to shoot down, but let's acknowledge that many children often have trouble adjusting to new settings when changing school environments, moving, etc. So what? The comment proves absolutely nothing and is meaningless. Besides, I could cite numerous cases where homeschooled children who moved to a private or public school were well-advanced of their peers and who had no trouble adjusting, except they felt somewhat stifled by the rigidity of a traditional classroom setting - not always the best atmosphere for learning. So let's move on to the next straw man.
Then Levin trots out the old worn-out concern over "socialization" - "Many haven’t spent enough time learning how to interact with their peers, but the biggest disappointment is to watch them in the classroom." That baseless charge has been disproven so many times that you rarely even see it brought up any more. Recent research totally refutes that old phony concern. Only those who are uninformed about the subject, or pushing an agenda, would still attempt to present it as a concern. The comment conjures up images of poor, lifeless children locked in a spartan basement by cruel parents who forbid their children to interact with anyone other than their parents or siblings, and who never venture outside their "agrarian farmstead." It is utterly ridiculous and baseless. The positive comments we most often received about our homeschooled children were in regards to their level of maturity and behavior. If they had any trouble "interacting with their peers" it was because they sometimes thought the silly, immature conduct of some of them was not something with which they wished to interact. In other words, many other children their age were behind in their emotional and social development due to the fact they spent so much of their time "with their peers" and emulated immature, youthful behavior. I find rejecting silly behavior to be a positive, not a negative. The point of education, in our view, is to prepare young people to serve God, their fellow man, and become productive members of society and not so that they can "interact with their peers" - that's nothing but distracting psycho-babble. All of my children had lots of friends their age while growing up, got along just fine with them, and still do.
As for "socialization," most homeschooling families, including ours and that of my oldest daughter, get as much or more interaction with other children as does any other child in America. While our children were being homeschooled, they were very involved in numerous church activities, ministered to shut-ins at nursing homes, lobbied legislators, attended church camps, participated in 4H clubs and competitions, took music lessons and competed against other children, attended music camps, competed in spelling bees, went with other homeschooling families on joint field trips, etc, etc, etc. The socialization homeschooled kids receive, in most cases, is far more diverse and educational than what many children receive in the rigid, bureaucratic "box" mentality of government schools; or many private schools for that matter.
The church our oldest daughter (who holds a bachelor's degree in education and is state certified to teach) attends sponsors a homeschool "co-op" where families meet every Friday for joint activities and field trips. Scores of children show up, along with their parents, every week. Just more "religious and regional numbnuts in Dixieland" I suppose.
Levin continued with "try to get them to question what they read or what the teacher says and you will end up pulling your hair out. They were never taught to formulate their own ideas or to see school as an opportunity to develop their own views about things. It’s very sad."
Actually, what's sad is that someone would actually try to make their case with such a baseless accusation. Maybe it's the teacher who can't relate with students from a different background than what he or she is accustomed to. Why should anyone assume the children are the ones with the problem? It's certainly true that homeschooled children are often more courteous and respectful of authority than many of their peers and might be hesitant to challenge a teacher. That is not necessarily a bad thing - to a point. But I've found quite the opposite to be true regarding questioning ideas and authority among homeschooled children. None of my children are afraid to question authority - respectfully - when warranted. Lord knows they've questioned mine more times than I'd like to remember.
Case in point. A couple of years ago, my youngest son and his wife took their first daughter to their pediatrician. My son was in his early twenties. His daughter was experiencing some digestive problems and the Doc, after a very brief examination, prescribed a strong anti-acid medication. My son objected and started asking the Dr. about side affects, how often did he prescribe this drug to infants, why so quick to prescribe medicine without first considering a change in diet, he wanted another opinion, etc. My son told me the Dr. very intently stared at him for a moment and then asked, "You were homeschooled, weren't you?" My son, a little shocked replied, "Well, yes I was, but why do you ask?" The Dr. answered, "Because 99% of young parents I talk with NEVER question my opinions or treatments. Every time someone your age does, I discover they've been homeschooled." Turns out my son was right, by the way. They altered my grandaughter's diet somewhat and that resolved the problem. I could give other similar incidents regarding my other children but, suffice it to say, the notion homeschooled children are "little robots" or were never taught to think for themselves and challenge authority is nothing less than cliched, ill-informed nonsense. It is an offensive, demeaning, and agenda-driven insult.
"Develop their own views?" Is anyone really naive enough to think that education takes place in a vacuum? The views of the teacher and educational philosophy is always part of the environment - to one degree or another. Certainly no one would be silly enough to suggest that whoever is doing the teaching is not "steering" their pupil in a certain direction. Yes, we want children to think for themselves and form their own opinions, but every teacher influences their pupil in one direction or another, whether you wish to admit it or not.
"I’ve seen up close what happens to kids who are taught to see US History as “God’s plan”. Mr. Levin calls teaching this view of history "child abuse." Child abuse! Wow. I'll tell you what I've seen. I've seen many of these kids (including my own) who are taught a Christian worldview of history grow up to be productive members of society who are active in their church and who give back to their communities. I've also seen that many of these kids are much less gullible to leftist propaganda and lying politicians who wish to limit and take away their freedom (which is one of the main reasons educational bureaucrats don't like homeschooling).
Whether elitists want to accept it or not, there are millions of Christians in the United States who believe that God's providence directs history and that all nations are a part of His plan. Being intolerant of those views is nothing new, but such beliefs are certainly common among Christians and not outside the mainstream. To suggest that teaching that all of history, including US history, is part of "God's plan" is a form of child abuse is an extreme, radical position to stake out. That position truly is outside the mainstream.
And if you think its only Christians who believe that public schools are involved in propagandazing children, think again. The following comment comes from the Atheist Homeschool Blog:
"I didn’t like the way the kids were taught to be followers instead of leaders. [Uh, does she mean "robots?"] I didn’t like how they downplayed the importance of families. I didn’t like how filled all the curriculum was with governmental propaganda and the social agendas being pushed upon the children."
Homeschooling is the most positive, cutting edge revolution taking place in education. It has grown from what was once considered a "fringe movement" to being very mainstream, acceptable, and practiced across diverse political and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is, in the truest sense, a "people's movement" - taking place from the bottom up and, quite literally, has turned the failed traditions of conformity in government and private education on their collective heads. To be so ignorant of a stunningly successful educational movement involving hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially when that information is so readily available, reveals a willful blindness to the truth or an overt attempt to suppress it.
Not surprisingly, those who wish to impugn, demean, suppress, and downplay the success of homeschooling are usually those who have a vested interest in doing so - protecting their turf. Teachers and administrators in traditional educational settings are no doubt feeling a little threatened by the competition - with good reason.
Homeschoolers have the means to provide a quality - and often superior - education for their children at a fraction of the cost without exposing their children to drugs, violence, political correctness, and wasted time that is so often the case in both public and private school settings.
The other overriding concern of many statists in big-education is the fact homeschooling prevents "the machine" from indoctrinating the minds of children with liberal and progressive philosophies, leftist ideologies, moral relativism, Darwinism, and other things to which many parents would object. As already noted, it is an elitist mindset that is anti-freedom and anti-liberty. And, according to all the studies, does not include the best interest of the child as its motivation. For every child who is homeschooled, that translates into less money going to the public school locality which means less money for salaries, bigger facilities, sports programs, etc., etc. This has been pointed out over and over and I've had public school teachers and administrators admit this to me - on the condition of anonymity, of course. It's all about money and control.
Below, I've included some information which was in an article written by Dr. Brian D. Ray. It has some excellent information and statistics about homeschooling-- all verifiable. I've also included some links for those who are interested in finding out more about homeschooling.
Homeschooling – that is, parent-led home-based education – is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Home-based education has also growing around the world in many other nations (e.g., Australia, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom).
There are about 2 million home-educated students in the United States. There were an estimated 1.8 to 2.5 million children (in grades K to 12) home educated during 2007-2008 in the United States. It appears the homeschool population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 5% to 12% per annum over the past few years).
Families engaged in home-based education are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources for their children’s education. The finances associated with their homeschooling likely represent over $16 billion that American taxpayers do not have to spend since these children are not in public schools
Homeschooling is quickly growing in popularity among minorities. About 15% of homeschool families are non-white/nonHispanic (i.e., not white/Anglo).
A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, and Mormons; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with Ph.D.s, GEDs, and no high-school diplomas.
Reasons for Home Educating
Most parents and youth decide to homeschool for more than one reason.
The most common reasons given for homeschooling are the following:
· customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
· accomplish more academically than in schools,
· use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
· enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
· provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
· provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
· teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.
* The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (Percentiles range from 1 to 99 on these tests.)
* Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
* Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
* Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
* Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
* Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges. [I found this to be the case with all of my homeschooled children.]
Social, Emotional, and Psychological Development
* The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem. (Emphasis mine.)
* Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.
Gender Differences in Children and Youth Respected?
* One researcher finds that homeschooling gives young people an unusual chance to ask questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What do I really want?,” and through the process of such asking and gradually answering the questions home-educated girls develop the strengths and the resistance abilities that give them an unusually strong sense of self.
* Some think that boys’ energetic natures and tendency to physical expression can more easily be accommodated in home-based education. Many are concerned that a highly disproportionate number of public school special-education students are boys and that boys are 2.5 times as likely as girls in public schools to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Success in the “Real World” of Adulthood
The research based on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:
* participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population,
* vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and
* go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population.
* internalize the values and beliefs of their parents at a very high rate.
The above findings are extensively documented in one or more of the following sources, all (except one) of which are available from www.nheri.org:
· A Homeschool Research Story, Brian. D. Ray, 2005, in Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader.
· A Sense of Self: Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls. Susannah Sheffer, 1995.
· Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits, Brian D. Ray, 2004.
· Home schooling: The Ameliorator of Negative Influences on Learning, Brian D. Ray, Peabody Journal of Education, 2000, v. 75 no. 1 & 2, pp. 71-106.
· Homeschoolers on to College: What Research Shows Us, by Brian D. Ray, Journal of College Admission, 2004, No. 185, 5-11.
· National Education Association. (2005). Rankings and estimates: A Report of School Statistics Update. Retrieved 7/10/06 online http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/05rankings-update.pdf.
· The Truth About Boys and Girls. Sara Mead, 2006.
· Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, Brian D. Ray, 2005.
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. is an internationally known researcher, educator, speaker, and expert witness, and serves as president of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. He has taught as a certified teacher in public and private schools and served as a professor in the fields of science, research methods, and education at the graduate and undergraduate levels. His Ph.D. is in science education from Oregon State University and his M.S. is in zoology from Ohio University. Dr. Ray has been studying the homeschool movement for about 24 years.
State regulation of homeschooling doesn't help test scores
Home School Legal Defense
National Black Home Educators
Jewish Home Educators Network
American Homeschooling Association
Virginia Homeschool Groups - (Over 150 of them)
Even elitists will have trouble with the overwhelming tsunami of research and evidence that proves homeschooling is working extremely well for thousands of Christian and non-Christian families and, in many ways, producing superior results for the children involved. Not exactly what I'd call child abuse.
Note: Anyone wanting to comment on this particular post must stay on topic. I won't post any comments, pro or con, that I deem intended to distract, obfuscate, or stray from the topic; including any comments, pro or con, about Dwyer's book. This post is not about Dwyer's book, it is specifically about the negative comments regarding homeschooling. If you wish to comment about Dwyer's book, do so on Kevin's blog. Other than that, I'll take all comers. Come prepared.
I understand that there are many good, dedicated teachers and administrators working in the government school systems. I know several of them personally. My comments are not meant to be a criticism of their work or their efforts. They work hard, love their jobs, sacrifice for their students and are doing the very best they can in a system that is, in many instances, working against them. I hope they make a positive difference and pray God's very best for them.