I've believed in homeschooling since before I had children. I've practiced homeschooling for nearly 20 years. Now, better-late-than-never, I've become a fierce defender of homeschooling!
For years I allowed public opinion and my own fear of offending others to temper my attempts at defending my choice to homeschool...a decision which, ironically, I had made with complete confidence, believing that it was the ONLY choice for my children. Yet, despite my personal convictions, when questioned, I found myself uttering half-hearted responses like:
- "Homeschooling is a great option, but it's not for everyone."
- "I always wanted to be a teacher, so homeschooling was the perfect option for me...I can be a teacher and stay at home with my children."
- "My school district isn't the greatest, and I can't afford private school, so homeschooling is really my best option."
- "'What about socialization?'...well, my children go to Sunday School, Awana, baseball, dance class, library story time, YMCA gym class and homeschool field trips."
However, a couple of years ago I began to listen--really listen--to the answers I uttered in response to my curious and often skeptical friends and family. And when I listened, here's what I heard myself saying....
- "For some people, school is really a much better option. Homeschooling doesn't work well for everyone."
- "The real reason I'm qualified to teach my children at home is that I am a certified teacher."
- "A good school system is really a better option than homeschooling."
- "Socialization is such a critically important part of the public school experience that homeschoolers need to work extra hard to fill their children's lives with a plethora of 'social' experiences so as not to permanently damage their emotional and psychological development."
I'll give myself credit for one thing. I'm a nice person. But in my attempt to be nice, I spent a lot of years making a big mistake. By offering these somewhat apologetic answers, I managed to undersell...and even undermine...the success of the very thing that I have staked my childrens' entire academic futures on. And in the process, I have managed to give the impression that I think homeschooling is nothing more than just another option. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, here's the truth as I see it:
- Public school is RARELY the best option. While public schools don't fail every child, our country's public schools put all children at risk spiritually, academically, emotionally, and socially. Why would any parent knowingly expose their children to these risks if they don't have to?
- Despite what "the experts" have to say, a child's parent is almost always better qualified to teach his or her children than a certified teacher. (And unfortunately, I do feel the need to qualify that statement to some degree!) A parent knows and understands a child's academic and emotional needs and is better suited to meet those needs than anyone...even without "credentials".
- Even in "good" schools children do not achieve the same level of success as their homeschooled counterparts. Lynn O'Shaughnessy's recent article helps to strengthen the argument that public schools, even at their very best, can NOT compete with homeschooling in terms of producing a well-rounded, well-adjusted, well-educated child.
- The socialization that children are exposed to in schools today is largely negative. Period. When a child is socialized in a group of other children, very little good can come from it. Socialization is the process by which a child develops into a mature, productive member of society. Exactly what qualifications does a school-aged child possess that authorize him to assist other children in this all-important process? The process of socialization is accomplished more effectively at home than anywhere else. Studies increasingly show that homeschooled children ARE better socialized than children schooled in public schools.
So, in recent years, I have attempted to give more honest answers to the questions that I am asked about homeschooling. In fact, at times I have been brutally honest when asked to defend my own decision to homeschool.
Guess what? Some people don't like hearing the truth. And I think I know why.
Sometimes the truth hurts.