In my teaching career, I remember many different common beliefs among teachers and public educators. Some of them revolved around home schooling and home schooled kids.
Before listing these beliefs, I remind everyone that the focus of most public school employees, administrators, and bureaucrats, is the preservation of their jobs. This means that they cannot afford to lose students to other options such as private schools and home schooling. The more students they have, the more public education can increase staff and ask for ridiculously high funding. They can plead need and poverty of their systems, while they themselves take extremely high salaries. Do you know how much your local Superintendent makes a year? Do you know how much administrators make a year? Research it and I think you will be shocked.
So, private schools and home schooling disrupt that narrative. I remember being told that homeschooling was “cruel” and only conducted by cultists and religious zealots. Parents who home schooled were described as extremists who prevented their children from being fully educated in content but chose to teach “crazy” stuff. Public educators couldn’t understand how the government allowed this to happen.
It was also said that home schooled students were academically stunted because they were taught by parents and not certified, trained, teachers.
First of all, these “trained” teachers, are not always well trained in the content they are teaching. At the elementary level, a teacher has to teach all subjects, whether or not they are competent in any of them. They are taught general theories of child development, learning theory, etc. Most of the time, children are being taught by young people who have little or no expertise in anything.
I would say that two out of ten new teachers had any idea of how to teach and what to teach. And as their careers continue, it doesn’t get better. The system takes over and teaches them “social justice” and other content that is geared more toward indoctrination than education. These teachers are themselves stunted by the long list of county, state, and national “content” frameworks they must use in their teaching.
Those who are gifted in their areas have to wait to get the most academically advanced students in high school, and they often come to them ill prepared to handle the needed content. And, many of these students have not had to meet high or even any expectations in their learning. Teachers have been taught the necessity of grade inflation in order to survive and stay employed. This is why you have students who should be getting C’s getting A’s, regardless if they know the content or did any work in class. So, the teacher who DOES know content and has high expectations has to spend valuable time retraining these students.
It’s why our students compete poorly internationally in all content and don’t even finish in the top ten among developed countries while we spend more per student on education. Educators have other excuses for that, but that’s for another day.
Meanwhile, homeschool students compete much better and are more advanced on average. They are not subject to the useless educational fads that are adopted in the public schools every few years.
Sometimes great pubic school teachers either quit or are fired because they won’t give up their own standards for learning and grading. They go to private schools where they prefer to get paid less in order to apply their teaching craft the way it should be applied. Or they go to another occupation.
We also used to say that home schooled kids were weird. Since they didn’t get to mingle with other children they didn’t learn how to get along with others. It was said they were “backward.”
All you need to do to dispute that is look at what our public school students are doing right now. If the recent trend of school violence is any indicator of how well our kids have learned to get along and how progressive they are, we are in serious trouble.
Homeschool students are generally polite, well spoken, confident and curious. Just like any other population, they have differences in their cohort. And, unlike the stereotype, homeschoolers make an effort to get their kids into recreational sports and activities, and many have opportunities to meet other homeschool kids and participate in field trips and group events.
But why should I continue to tell you all this. I think I will let an experienced home school parent share her story.
Brandy is a friend who I met earlier this year. She is bright, passionate and out spoken. I asked her to address some questions about her homeschool experience. Read her account of her life as a homeschooling Mom:
“I have spent more time thinking, researching, and praying about my children’s education than any other area of my life. I went to private school Pre-K through 12th grade and graduated from what I would say is one of the most prestigious private schools in Maryland. I experienced what elite private education is like inthis country along with all the good and bad that comes with that. It never crossed my mind before I had children to ever homeschool them. I did not have any friends growing up that were homeschooled, and I bought into the stereotypes of who and what homeschoolers were.
When my oldest son was four, I knew we had to start making some decisions about his education. We had just bought a house in the “good” public school district. It’s the one that my husbandgraduated from and always saw his kids going to. The one that parents drive their kids to from out of area. We also toured and looked at local private schools. At that time, a pilot kindergarten program had opened at a local preschool. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity and we went for it. The program did notlast and so I felt that the best fit for us would be homeschooling. My husband was not convinced; he wanted me to enroll them in public school. I needed to produce a way to convince him that it was the right thing to do. So, I said, “You know that they only get 20 minutes of recess a day in public school?” We had two boys that loved to explore and move and be little boys. He told me that I was exaggerating and that it was not true. So, I told him to go investigate it for himself and he did. Well, that was the little miracle that convinced him, and we started our homeschooling journey with a first grader and a preschooler.
It became increasingly evident as I homeschooled that my older son was having some learning challenges. We eventually got him evaluated and he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, severe dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and a language processing disorder. And on top of that he was in occupational and physical therapy for motor skill issues and muscle development problems. He was seeing reading specialists and speech language pathologists and I was trying to figure out how I could best help my kid. The reading specialist that we were seeing at the time suggested that I put him in a local private school that specialized in high functioning kids with learning disorders. I was so taken aback when she said that. I was not going to stop homeschooling! But then all this fear and doubt started to creep in. Was I messing my kid up? I wasn’t trained to help someone with all these problems. So, we ended up enrolling him in that special school and, since one child was going to school, we decided to send the other one. We found this sweet little private school to send my youngest to. Each day when I dropped my younger son off, I knew that he was loved and nurtured when turning my child over to an institution for the first time, whichwas most important to me.
Around halfway through the second year of having both boys in school, we knew that we were going to pull my youngest son and go back to homeschooling. But I was unsure of my oldest. Did he still need more time at his special school? Would I be able to give him what he needed? Then COVID hit and the decision became easy. We pulled both and have been homeschooling again for the last year and a half. It has been wonderful. The only regret that I have about homeschooling is stopping when I did and doubting my ability to give my children the best education possible. My children have expressed no desire to return to conventional school and very much enjoy our homeschool lifestyle.
In Maryland, it is a straightforward process to register to homeschool, but every state is different. You need to file a letter of intent to homeschool with your County’s Board of Education. You will then have to do two portfolio reviews during the homeschool year with the Board of Education. They will check off that you are meeting subject matter requirements and offer any feedback and/or suggestions. It sounds way scarier than it actually is. The other option is to join an umbrella group which we have done. Our umbrella group costs $100 a year and we only have one review, plus The Man isn’t all up in your business. Most of my homeschool friends have opted for this option.
Every homeschool family looks different. I think we try to fit in a lot and some days we succeed and some days we don’t. I like to start our days at 8:00 am because we are morning people and, again, we have a lot of activities that we try to fit in. Some families start later in the morning and some even homeschool at night. It just depends on what your family’s rhythm is.
We belong to a homeschool group called Classical Conversations. Every age group is on the same curriculum except for math. We meet one full day per week with that community. We spend several thousand dollars a year on homeschool programs and curriculum, but that number varies greatly with each family. There are ways to spend very little and homeschool. Many curriculums will offer free downloads. There is a homeschool resource shelf at the library and homeschool swap and sell sites on Facebook. Plus, many of our meetups areat local parks and are completely free.
I am incredibly blessed to have my mom come over one to twomornings a week and work with the boys. She has a great brain for math and enjoys doing that subject with them. My kids also like playing the piano for her and showing what they have been working on in their piano lessons. They will read their papers to her or just talk about what they have learned. I know how very lucky we are to have her involvement.
When I started homeschooling I felt very overwhelmed with teaching math. It was always my worst subject in school. I will say, though, that the more I have taught it to my own kids, the more it has clicked and I’m not sure what I was so scared of. We have also begun learning Latin this year and that has been a real challenge for me. We are learning that subject together! I think homeschooling affords families the opportunity to study things that aren’t available at conventional schools. There are not many school that still teach Latin, so that has been a wonderful opportunity. Another example is that last year my younger son took a month-long online engineering class with his hero, Mark Rober. He was only eight when he started the class, and he was in there with teenagers and adults. He got to learn how to do actual engineering builds and get feedback. That is not something he would have been able to focus on if we did nothomeschool.
We follow a classical curriculum, and it is my favorite way to educate out of all the methods that we have tried. For me, getting to reread the classics and discuss them with my kids has been pure joy. Overall, I love being with my kids every day. We have good days and bad days. Some days I want to go sit in my car with the doors locked and blast music and some days I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. The good always outweighs the bad,though.
I would like to homeschool through high school. Our biggest obstacle to that will be sports. Most states in our country now allow homeschoolers to play on public school sports teams. This is known as the Tim Tebow Law. Tim was a homeschooler who also happened to be a good football player. His family was able to get the law changed in Florida so he could play football and it worked out well for everyone involved. Maryland will allow homeschoolers to play on private school teams but not public ones. For us, since we live in a rural area, there are not as many team sports opportunities. My goal is to get the law changed in Maryland so that my children can continue to play team sports through high school.
If there is one important lesson that I have learned though this homeschool journey, it would be that it’s not an institution’s job to “fix” your kid. I went from as involved as you can get in my children’s education and progress to pretty checked out when they were attending schools and were not being homeschooled. It is necessary to utilize specific services sometimes, but you can successfully homeschool a child with learning difficulties.
I meet a lot of parents who don’t think they can homeschool for various reasons. The one that always make me want to scream is when people say that their kids don’t listen to them. Well, don’t you think you should sort that out? It’s not a school’s job to teach your kids to listen to you or adults in general. Or to teach your kids values, morals, manners, and good character. That’s a parent’s job. I know many families who want to homeschool but don’t feel they can live off one income. I know families where both parents work full time and they homeschool, or the dadstays home or one parent works part time. In an ideal world, itwould be one parent’s full-time job to homeschool but that is not the world we are living in now. I am at a place where I would sell everything that I own and live in an RV to keep homeschooling, but that’s me.
What about socialization? This is the very big annoying question that all homeschoolers get. For starters, 87% of peer-reviewedstudies show that homeschoolers perform better thanconventional school kids socially, emotionally, and psychologically. Our family is part of a homeschool group called Classical Conversations. We meet for one full day per week andget together for field trips and other social gatherings. We are also part of a group called Wild and Free that meets for nature hikes and spends time outdoors. We meet other homeschoolersfor recess, parties, and special classes. Also, my kids play sports. My children average about six hours of unstructured recess per week. I recently watched a video of a homeschool mom talking about this subject, and she hit the nail on the head. You can tell some people all the things I just listed about homeschool socialization, and they still aren’t satisfied. And the reason is because they are looking for conformity and you aren’t giving it to them. I never once worried whether my children “fit in”. They have lots of friends and know how to act in different social situations and are respectful but that’s not what we are really talking about here. It makes some people very uncomfortable when you live outside of societal conditioning.
My older son is doing amazing with homeschooling, despite all his challenges. He spent years in occupational and physical therapy and was eight years old before he could even put toothpaste on a toothbrush. He was late riding a bike and had noticeable issues with muscles not cooperating. He’s 12 now and you wouldn’t believe all those things if you met him today. This fall he played starting offense and defense in his conference’s championship football game. Strangers and opposing team coaches would come up to him throughout theseason to congratulate him on his games. His talent and determination are apparent. I also did this crazy thing this year and bumped him up an entire academic grade so he could participate in the older kid’s group at our homeschool program. It’s really, really challenging for him, and he and I have had to work our butts off to make it work. None of the academics come easy for him but we are doing it and I will not let him give up. I’m not sharing any of this to brag, but instead to show the power of a mother’s love, the grace of God and what is possible when we stop relying on institutions and the government to raise our children.
We have an incredible homeschooling community where we live. It’s large and supportive. The other homeschool moms have become some of my best friends and they are like aunts to my children. It makes me think that this is what communities used to be like before families left home every day and went in separate directions. It’s a beautiful life and my only regret about homeschooling is that I ever stopped.“
I think she said it all. Remember, when the public school devotees tell you homeschooling is not good, they have an agenda. And that agenda has everything to do with their bottom line and very little to do with what is best for your child.
Thanks to Brandy!!!! Well said!
Maryland Homeschool Association