One good reason not to homeschool…

Column Day! It’s back to school season and today I wrote about our adventures in Grade 1. In our house, that involves reading Beowulf and dressing up like a Roman centurion. You can read about it here.

In my column I talk about how home-schooling works great for us but I don’t think it’s necessarily the One True Path for every child and every family. Incidentally, between when I wrote the column and when it was published today, I came across this article in the Globe and Mail reporting on a study that home-schooled kids aged 5-10  in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (where we live) did better on standardized tests than kids in public school.

I don’t think this is surprising. It seems natural that a kid who gets a lot of one-on-one attention from parents who are highly focused on her education will do better on a test than a kid in a class of 27 kids.

But is it a vindication that home-schooling is the best possible form of education? Not necessarily. Again, I think it comes down to the family and the situation. And it’s important to ask: is academic performance what you ultimately want to impart to your children?I think education has other important  components too.  Developing character, wisdom and empathy; working with others; learning to cope when life doesn’t go your way; learning how to function in the world around you.

Can you develop those qualities at home? Of course. Heck, I think it’s crucial to develop all those qualities at home. It’s my job to help my kids become good citizens more than it’s a teacher’s job, whether they’re in public school or not.  But can public school play a role in social development? Yeah, it can.

The comments on that Globe article are interesting. I was genuinely surprised by some of the balanced and thoughtful discussions taking place; you don’t always get that on newspaper comment boards. But scroll down far enough and eventually you’ll hit all the stereotypes about home-schoolers. To some, we’re all “religious wingnuts” who are raising kids with no social skills.

Belief does play a role in a lot of families’ decisions to home-school. Most of the home-schooling families I know are Christian, including us. But for us it’s more about flexibility and creativity than it is about sheltering our kids from the horrible, terrible things they’d learn in public school.

This is one area where I think Christian families especially need to be careful when it comes to home-schooling. It’s easy to dismiss the criticisms as ill-informed stereotypes, but I do think it’s important to stop and evaluate motives every now and then.

Why are you home-schooling your kids? Is it because it’s really the best option for your family and everyone is thriving? Or is it because you’re afraid to send them to public school?

Homeschooling is like so many other things: there are many ways to do it and no one-size-fits-all solution. Done well, it can produce well-balanced, creative and independent young adults who are a real asset when they go “out into the world.”

But done poorly, or for the wrong reasons, homeschooling is simply the ultimate form of hyper-parenting. It can be just another way of keeping your kids in a bubble.

I’ve said before that fear is a lousy reason do to anything, and it’s an especially lousy reason to home-school your kids. Fear leaves no room for  faith and hope that our kids can make a difference in the world around them instead of being dragged down to the lowest common denominator. Frankly, it’s setting them up for failure. It only sends the message that the world is a scary place and you don’t think they’re equipped to handle it.

Of course I’m not advocating against home-schooling. We love it, our boys love it, and it’s going really well. But I think it’s important that we do it for the right reasons–to fully prepare our children for life, not to shelter them from it.

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2 responses to “One good reason not to homeschool…

  1. Well said, sir. I’ve thought the same thing myself, but it’s great to hear it coming from someone actually engaged in homeschooling.

  2. Here’s an article on Christian homeschooling parents you’d probably enjoy that’s related to your post.
    http://www.joshharris.com/2011/09/homeschool_blindspots.php

    And thumbs up on both this post and your CH column. We’ve been homeschooling for 8 years now and although I was convinced school was dangerous and homeschooling was the only responsible choice when I started I’ve since mellowed and now firmly occupy the same territory as you. It works for us, school works for others. We’re all doing our best as parents and in the end, it’s not a competition.

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