Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Amy" Speaks Out in Defense of Homeschooling

I remember when the command career counselor paid me a visit in the McMurdo bakery. I was 22, a second class petty officer in the US Navy serving in Antarctica, and I was less than a year from being discharged from a five-year tour of duty. When the Radioman Chief asked me about my future plans, I politely told him that I was leaving the navy to attend college. His reply was to tell me how he left the navy after his first tour of duty, attended college, dropped out, and returned to active duty. He honestly thought that he had a convincing argument to make me reenlist. I may have been less than politic when I replied, “So, what you are telling me is that since you failed, I will too?” The conversation quickly soured, and Chief never spoke to me again. I went on to fail miserably, graduating with honors and teaching professionally for seven years.

I recently encountered the same quality of thinking in the comments of two articles concerning homeschooling written by Jeff Mangum and published online in the Pomerado News. Mr. Mangum is a “Poway [California] resident, attorney and former PUSD board member.” In his original article, “To homeschool or not to homeschool,” Mr. Mangum attempted to offer a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of homeschooling. I believed his analysis was seriously flawed, and wrote my lengthy response in the comments section. Because of length restrictions in the software of the comments section, I was forced to leave my response in four separate comments. It was obvious from one of the replies, as well as Mr. Mangum’s second article, that three fourths of my response was completely ignored. I quickly realized that ignorance was a preferred tactic in the Pomerado News homeschooling discussion.

The anti-homeschooling arguments were the usual clich├ęs that can be summed up in one word: socialization. We’ve read and heard them all before, and answered them repeatedly here at THA. In discussing whether or not homeschooling was advantageous, Mr. Mangum wrote that, “the homeschool community has strenuously opposed mandatory standardized testing. As a consequence, there is simply no reliable data available to compare the academic performance of homeschooled students to public school students.” That’s just wrong. But when I cited Dr. Lawrence Rudner ‘s 1998 study Homeschooling Works and Dr. Brian Ray’s Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics, both sources were simply dismissed in the follow-up article “Readers speak out – loudly – on homeschooling” as ”statistically flawed and unreliable.” That made them, in Mr. Mangum’s opinion, not worth mentioning. It’s amazing how some people who truly believe that they are rational, reasonable thinkers simply dismiss out-of-hand that which is inconvenient. That’s ignorant.

The basis for most of the anti-homeschooling comments appeared to be anecdotal. This shouldn’t be surprising. What is left after you dismiss the studies? I particularly enjoyed the commenter who wrote, “When I homeschooled my daughter, I learned that distractions at home make it difficult to accomplish much, even with a motivated student. (My daughter credits that year of being home-schooled for having destroyed her good study habits.)” Basically, what that commenter wrote is that since he failed at homeschooling his daughter, the rest of us will fail, too. With apologies to Michelle over at Eagle Eye Academy, that person is a prime candidate for a career in the Navy.

I’m not going to rehash standard replies to the anti-homeschooling arguments. If you desire, you can read the two articles, and my replies, here and here. Please let us know if you leave a reply. You will find that in his second article, Mr. Mangum changed my name from “Arby” to “Amy.” Anonymity, you know. Because I tried so hard to hide my name when I left my original comment. Four times.



  1. Well, Amy, at least you tried. ;-)

  2. Hey. New blog name idea. Amy Speaks Out ;-)

  3. Seriously though...I get so discouraged by idiots like these. They WANT us to fail so that their baseless arguments will be validated. Makes me crazy.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Haven't headed over there to read yet, but I will!

  4. I felt like the original article was about as balanced as it could be. The big problem here is that since homeschooling is left up to each individual family, it is not really appropriate to try to generalize about the results achieved by anyone. Yes, the example of the foster kid who wasn't actually schooled is completely irrelevant to the discussion. But that is the fear that we are competing with when the discussion turns to whether or not homeschooling should be legal.
    I love how the author suggests that there is something wrong with homeschoolers resisting the idea that our children should be subject to standardized testing. I thought every professional educator hates the standardized tests as well. And don't we all, those of us who have taken tests, agree that tests don't accurately guage the educational achievements of all students? Why is this a discussion point?
    I have gaps in my education too. Because schools don't actually teach that vaunted "socialization" thing...
    In danger of hijacking your thread...