In 2013 I began to homeschool our then 6 year old. I was terrified at first that I wouldn't be able to educate my daughter as well as a public school teacher could. I worried she wouldn't find friends so she'd suffer socially. I experienced a lot of self doubt but I was encouraged by a friend who had homeschooled her two children all the way up to college. Now her eldest son is enrolled at the University of Chicago studying to obtain his PhD in evolutionary biology & botany. Knowing she could do a great job educating her children gave me the faith that I could also.
(Short Version) Our oldest child was educated by the public school system and it was quite the journey for our family. When she started school I enrolled her in a public charter school. By the middle of 1st grade we removed her because she was struggling academically and instead of the teacher's working with us to help her catch up in the areas she was being challenged they labelled her as suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and told us she needed to be medicated. Her piano teacher who had a couple of students struggling with ADHD disagreed with that assessment. Her pediatrician who had a lot of experience with kids struggling with ADHD also disagreed with that assessment. So, I transferred her to a Christian private school (Lutheran). I thought the small class sizes (12 per teacher) would help her remain focussed and learn better. Her teacher's knew our reasoning for transferring her to their school mid year. Within a month her 1st grade teacher said my daughter definitely struggled with ADHD but didn't think it was to the point of needing medication, by 2nd grade that opinion changed. Together her 1st and then 2nd grade teacher agreed that she needed to be medicated and made it clear that if we objected they could legally force us to do it. Wanting to avoid going to court over the issue we spoke with our pediatrician who was willing to prescribe Adderall as a trial run to see if it would help her focus. All it accomplished was severe weight loss and lethargy. My very creative, bubbly child became a depressed lump on the couch so I made an appointment with a psychologist. The psychologist disagreed with the assessment that she had ADHD. I then consulted a lawyer that informed us if the school forced the issue of medication they'd have a legal challenge on their hands and at that point I was willing to take it that far. There was no way I would allow my kid to be drugged again especially knowing that 4 kids in her class were already being medicated for ADHD. I found that highly suspicious. Also, not one teacher from the private or charter school had ever informed us of any issues with our daughter. It wasn't until I mentioned that I noticed she wasn't reading as well as her peers that they then diagnosed her with ADHD. As parents our mistake was believing we needed their guidance to help her but they wouldn't provide any assistance other than to label our daughter with a disorder I later would learn they were not qualified to do.
At that point I stopped giving her the medication and the following year I enrolled her in the Kumon Tutoring Center and the director there told me to remove her from the Christian school immediately and send her to a public school of her (the director's) choosing. I did. After the new school assessed the situation they determined my daughter had been so poorly educated in those early years at the charter school and private school that she had several gaps in her learning and because she was behind she would daydream in class which led to falling further behind.
After my daughter enrolled in the new public school she did very well. The principal ran the school with an iron fist, I liked that because it made the teachers exceptional. The principle stayed in constant contact with the director at Kumon and my daughter began to thrive. Sadly she didn't completely catch up to where she needed to be by the time she hit 6th grade. Luckily, in middle school there were several teachers that tutored students outside of school so we hired math teachers over the summer to help her get caught up. Unfortunately, because my daughter was very artistic, always positive, friendly but introverted, she was bullied repeatedly by boys in middle school. One boy had to be reported for sexual harassment twice for refusing to keep his hands to himself. Middle school was not a happy place for her. She was adored by teachers for being respectful, always willing to help, engaged in class, and hardworking but not always embraced by all her peers because she was not into trends and didn't succumb to peer pressure.
In high school things were good and bad. The school bombarded my daughter with an excessive amount of homework. She had absolutely no social life for most of 9-12th. At this point she was now working for the same Kumon tutoring center she had been educated by and she was getting As and Bs in school, but she would be locked in her room for 4 hours a day doing school work and we learned that was pretty much the norm for many of the students at her high school. It finally broke her end of 9th grade. All of the stress from the teacher's at the private school, trying to catch up in areas where she was behind, the bullying from middle school, the drama she was now facing with students in high school, the constant pressure etc... It became too much. After having a panic attack one morning we decided to keep her home from school for a few days. We had many long talks and we again consulted with a psychologist that taught her how to cope with stress, which she was having trouble with at that point. She later returned to doing 4 hours of school work each night but with a whole new outlook on life. She learned how to filter out the things she didn't understand like: her peers taking drugs, the physical fights in the hallways, the girls cutting themselves, the promiscuity and teen pregnancies, the competitiveness amongst students, the insecurities about who had better clothing or the latest cell phone. After she graduated high school she enrolled in community college and worked two jobs. Once she obtained her Associates Degree she enrolled in the the BFA at the University and is now completing her degree. Once she is done she intends to go for her MFA. She has come a long way but not without a lot of bumps and bruises that could have been avoided had we homeschooled her.
My youngest child was born 11 years after my eldest. I had learned a lot about our charter schools and public school system by the time she came into our lives but even so, after she finished preschool we enrolled her in public school kindergarten. One thing we noticed almost immediately (among other things) was the lack of control her teacher had over the entire class and we didn't want a repeat of what we went through with our older child. There were a couple of boys in the class that demanded all of the attention and did not understand the meaning of sit down, be quiet, and behave. It made learning for the other 25 children very difficult, so I decided to remove her and give homeschooling a try.
We found a very welcoming (secular) homeschooling community almost immediately. I think we are fortunate here in Minnesota to have a lot of homeschooling support. My daughter is now 13 and in 7th grade.
BTW/ Secular, for those that don't know, means not religious. Seems everyone has their own way of defining what secular means but what I've experienced over the years is that secular can mean you are, for example, a Christian but you don't bring any type of religious attitude or belief into how you homeschool. Of course most of the secular homeschool groups are agnostic or atheists but not all. There are Muslims, Christians, etc... but they don't use religious material to educate their children and they don't bring their religion to homeschool activities or other functions. They may attend a church or a mosque but that is the extent to which they take their religious beliefs. Those that are much more conservative in their beliefs and adhere strictly to religious doctrine would not be part of a secular homeschool group. Believe it or not, there are people who have a religion that don't believe in indoctrinating their children.This brings me to the point of my blog post. I recently read that Harvard was holding a Homeschooling Summit titled "Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform." Not open to the public! Below is an explanation on what the summit is about.
On the surface it doesn't look like a big deal. I think education can always be improved and homeschoolers are not immune to problems especially in states with zero oversight. I personally believe all states should require annual assessment testing for homeschoolers the way my state does. It is definitely one tool that helps me as a parent make sure my daughter is meeting the educational requirements set by the state. But what I learned is that isn't what the Harvard homeschooling summit is really about. Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet, who calls herself a "child advocate", is the leading force behind the summit and she has it in her head that all homeschoolers have evil intentions. In her law review article she states that 90% of homeschoolers are driven by Christian beliefs and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture. Before I continue I have to say in full disclosure that I am not a republican or conservative and never have been. I am a progressive environmentalist. Not a single person in our homeschooling group supports the Republican Party, not even those who are Christians. Now back to Elizabeth.
If you read over her review you'll see that she has an issue with conservatives and devout Christians. She cherry picks homeschool cases to reaffirm her view that children who are homeschooled are somehow at a disadvantage and quite possibly in serious danger. Her view does not reflect reality at all. Sure, there will be families that homeschool and abuse their children or leave them to their own devices so they emerge at 18 a bumbling idiot but that also happens every day with public schooled kids. Every person in America knows at least one person who graduated from a public school that can barely spell or one that was physically or sexually abused and never got help. Should I list the names of those I know?
For a Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet made a really weak case for why homeschooling need to be micromanaged but I will make a strong case for why many families choose not to send their children to public school and I will conclude with how awesome homeschooling has been for my youngest. So here ya go...
For starters, contrary to what Bartholet says in her review, most people don't homeschool to remove their children from mainstream culture unless you consider violence and child abuse part of our culture. Parents often homeschool because they fear for their child's mental health and physical safety. Many also homeschool because their district schools are poorly run and at home they can provide a better education.
Within the homeschooling community I know, including those of friends I have that homeschool in other states, I have never heard any of the following being an issue, but everything on this list is a problem in public schools.
1. Teen pregnancy - I have yet to even hear of a homeschooled child getting pregnant. You hear about it every single day in public school.
CDC teen pregnancy statistics
2. Drug Use - Common amongst high schoolers in public school.
The Monitoring Our Future Survey was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
3. Self Harm - In 2018 according to a survey of high school students the American Journal of Public Health found nearly 1 out of 4 teenage girls inflicts harm to themselves on purpose. The rate of boys reporting self harm without wanting to die was 1 out of 10.
4. Peer Pressure - Peer pressure in high school
Teacher's, Parents Need to Know About Peer Teen Pressure
5. Lock Down Drill for Active Shooters - 57% of students surveyed said they worried about a shooting happening at their school.
Experts worry active shooter drills in schools could be traumatic for students
What are active shooter drills doing to our kids?
6. Bullying - 1 out of every 5 students reports being bullied in public and private school according to the National Center for Educational Statistics 2019. The reasons for being bullied include physical appearance, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender, race/ethnicity. Bullying statistics.
7. Violence -
National Center for Education Statistics - School Crime
8. Molestation by Teachers - an estimated 10% of K-12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school according to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
9. Teacher Abuse (Teachers being assaulted by students) - According to federal education data 6% of the nations 3.8 million teachers were physically assaulted by students. Nearly 10% were threatened with injury.
10. Alcohol Consumption - according to the Youth Risk Behavior survey done by the CDC in 2017 on high school students (public and charter): 30% drank alcohol, 14% binge drink, 6% drove after drinking, 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking. "Results from the 2017 Ntl YRBS indicated that many high school students are engaged in health-risk behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among persons aged 10-24 years in the United States."
11. Vaping - Another survey done by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found vaping is a skyrocketing trend in high school. 32% of 10th graders and 37% of 12th graders reported vaping within the last year (2018 survey).
12. Sexual Assault by Fellow Students: K-12 schools keep mishandling sexual assault complaints. Will new Title IX regulations help?
13. Poor Education - according to the Ntl Center for Education Statistics between Oct. 2015 and Oct 2016 523,000 students between 15-24 yrs left high school without obtaining a degree or going on to obtain a GED.
US students continue to lag behind peers in East Asia and Europe in reading, math, and science, exams show.
US students show no improvement in math, reading, and science on international exam.
The US was once the leader for healthcare and education - now it ranks 27th in the world
Just have to add...my eldest had to evacuate public school once over a bomb threat and once for a chemical spill. Fun times!
After reading about the Harvard Homeschool Summit I saw this on Twitter.
Ridiculous, right? Yes! But what's just as idiotic as the poster in the photo above are the comments that came after it was posted. Someone suggested the young girl in the photo must be homeschooled and these were the responses that followed:
The very first comment by Miz Ulmer is quite sad for a retired school teacher from Texas. It does explain why some parents don't like or trust certain public school teachers though. Here you have one judging a whole group based on her experience with just a few. According to the U.S. Census Bureau over 1.5 million children are homeschooled in the United States. I wouldn't want my child being educated by an individual that teaches stereotypes or one who would encourage my child to ever think they know everything about ALL people based on a handful of experiences.
Pediatrician Whitney Edwards thinks that homeschooling because you live a nomadic lifestyle is a good reason but not if you want to avoid having your children exposed to active shooter drills, a 10% chance of being molested, getting sexually or physically assaulted by a fellow student, bullying, watching your teacher get their head smashed into the cement by a student (that happened in St. Paul, Minnesota at Central High School in 2015 - teacher ended up with a traumatic brain injury). Remember, the majority of families surveyed said they homeschooled because they were "concerned about the environment at schools."
Whitney also says homeschooling prevents kids from hearing diverse voices and it's the reason behind why most people homeschool. I admit, my daughter doesn't spend time with conservatives. My daughter is Mexican and my husband is from Mexico. If you follow politics I really don't have to say much more about that. Plus, our society is very polarized right now so I am sure a Trump supporting family would not enjoy being around us anymore than we'd enjoy being around them. With that said, you tell me. This is my daughter. Without knowing anything about her, does she come across as being dangerous to society and lacking in the diversity department?
^ Here she is helping to table for a non-profit that protects gray wolves
^Here she is holding a sign while walking to protest a pipeline that would negatively impact indigenous lands in our state
^Here she is attending a rally at the state capitol to protect Lake Superior from sulfide mining.
^Here she is with her big sister meeting with our state rep. on behalf of the Humane Society to protect wildlife and pets in our state.
Yes, my daughter knows how government works. She has been meeting with members of our state legislature since she could walk. Shocking, right? After all, she's homeschooled.
No, we are not the exception, though I'm sure that is what the homeschool hating crowd would like people to believe. We call that willful ignorance.
I could say that Whitney Edwards is the one that needs some diversity training. After all, she is very judgmental when it comes to homeschooling families and she is attaching her negative views to a picture of a child expressing her own personal views.
Now let's move on to the writer John R Johnson's comments. He says there is no rational reason to homeschool our children. Well, I think 1-13 listed above are excellent reasons to homeschool.
John Johnson says homeschooled children exist within an impermeable bubble yet when someone came along and disagreed with his statements about why parents homeschool and gives a logical reason why her parents homeschooled her he says she has no manners and then mocks the fact that she was once bullied. Obviously ignoring the fact he set off the tone of that conversation by insulting over a million homeschoolers across the United States and reaffirming her point about being homeschooled - bullying.
Wow! Maybe John Johnson is projecting on that impermeable bubble comment.
Enough said about all that. Now let me tell you what homeschooling our youngest has been like for our family.
Our youngest daughter is a lot like her older sister. She is very artistic and a bit of an introvert. She is also a voracious reader and writer who also loves nature and animals. When I ask if she believes in God she says "I'm not sure, I believe there's something." When I ask her if she wants children she says "yes, but I don't want to give birth so I will probably adopt" When I ask what she wants to do for a career she says "I'm not sure yet, something in the arts"
Here she is reading the book IT by Stephen King
Here she is building a dollhouse to occupy her time during the covid lock down.
Homeschool has allowed our daughter to flourish without the pressures and fears that come with going to public school. Her annual assessment exams continually show her scoring above grade level and more importantly, she is happy!
Let's look at some of the biggest misconceptions people have about homeschooling.
1. Kids aren't socialized.
My daughter has genuine social experiences NOT the robotic kind you find in public schools where the teachers control the time, setting, and nature of the conversations. She never gets sent to detention for trying to talk to her friends.
My daughter goes to a local college to participate in their homeschooling fitness program along with dozens of other children of various age groups. She attends fun outside classes in science (taught by a naturalist and environmental educator), acting (taught by a local theater company) sewing (taught by a retired home economics teacher), and history (taught by fellow homeschooling parents) where she again encounters numerous children. We meet weekly with other homeschooling families at a local park. She is in constant contact with a core group of 5 friends. She also goes on multiple field trips and to camps throughout the year.
One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is the wide range of ages children learn to socialize with. Our group has children from birth to age 15 and a variety of age groups will play games or sports on our meet-up days. The older kids are always helping the younger kids. The boys and girls hang out together. My daughter's closest friends are 3 boys and 2 girls.
NO, this is NOT unique to our family. All of what we do is typical for homeschooling families.
2. We are not meeting state standards when we educate our children.
Our family, like many others, uses a curriculum designed to meet state standards. We chose Oakmeadow for our daughter. There are numerous curriculums to choose from.
Our state also requires all homeschooled students take a nationally normed achievement test every year and the test must be approved by the superintendent.
3. We homeschool to control how our children think.
Quite the opposite. Herd mentality is what you get in a public school. Learning is an organic process. We treat our children as the individuals they are by understanding that not everyone learns exactly the same. It is the cookie cutter education that can be harmful to some children. In public school, kids are pressured by teachers and their peers to conform. In homeschool, children are allowed to explore various learning styles and activities that fit their needs best. In public school most kids drink and do drugs because their friends are doing it. Most kids want the latest cell phone and the trendiest clothing because that's what their friends have. Schools are not teaching kids critical thinking skills. If they did we wouldn't have the majority of the nation believing everything they read on the internet. The 2016 presidential election was decided by people who had zero critical thinking skills, most of which went to public school.
Funny fact - Miz Ulmer, Whitney Edwards and John Johnson all became the poster children for why some families homeschool. They represent what public school has to offer. Indoctrinating children into the belief that if others are different than you they must be strange and therefore dangerous. Imagine those three being parents of children your child encounters when she first enrolls in public school after being homeschooled. Think about how those children would treat your child.
(Previous post on homeschool myths)