Anti-Homeschooling: Various Issues

Edited since I guess it is a little silly to expect people to follow a link to a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: This post is written as a presentation of my view for my husband and posted here for the amusement of any who may happen to read my blog. We are both Catholics, so that factors into my arguments in a way which it would not if they were intended to convince a more general audience. Also, since both of us were homeschooled, all jabs at homeschoolers should be taken as joking self-deprecation and nothing else.

For this discussion “homschooling” refers to parents taking over the academic education of their children without the use of schools. It does not include hybrid methods of schooling such as those in which a group of parents report to the government that they are “homeschooling” but are running what is in effect a non-accredited private school where the children are taught by a various adults in the group and outside teachers.

Above all, it is not a critique of any particular homeschooling family. Many parents choose to homeschool because they want the very best education for their children and do not see any better option. While I cannot be glad that they are in such situations, I do commend them for doing the best that they can.

This post takes the form of “anti-homeschooling” rather than “pro-public or private schools” because we do not yet know what our future will hold. If my husband is right that homeschooling is inherently good, then the best thing for me to do would be to start learning how to teach. If I am right that homeschooling is inherently less than ideal, then the best thing for us to do is to factor in the presence of great schools as we choose where to live and work.

My experience is not at the center of this post, but it is nothing less than entirely valid, because my experience shaped me, and has thus shaped whether I would be a good homeschooling parent. Please remember, this post is about whether we should homeschool, not about whether you should homeschool.

Please consider reading both previous posts before taking offense.  :-)

When parents entirely take over the academic education of their children it means two things:

1. Children receive less academically since they are being taught by fewer people with fewer resources.

  • Unless the parent was educated as a teacher they are, by definition, missing out on the teacher’s training which should rightfully aid the child’s learning.
  • Teacher-student fights are mixed with parent-child fights, and both relationships suffer.
  • If the child’s learning style does not match up with the parent’s teaching style then it is not simply a matter of switching classes or hoping for a better teacher next year.
  • Family life may become a competition with academic life: the birth of a new baby suddenly not only means tired parents, it also means no school teacher.

2. Parents have less time and energy to dedicate to their primary purpose of the spiritual education of their children.

  • When parents are required to fill the role of primary academic educators, they must devote less energy toward parenting in the fullest sense. Homeschool parents may claim that this is not a zero-sum game, but I have seen how homeschooling mothers relate to their children during evenings and weekends, and it is different from the parenting of mothers who have the assistance of good schools. It requires significant effort to provide a solid academic education, and parents have a finite amount of time and stamina.
  • Parenting large families obviously presents a special problem in this area. It is one thing to both parent and educate three children who are close in age. It is quite another to deal with many children who are years apart with widely differing needs.


When skeptics question homeschooling they often bring up socialization. And they are right to do so. Unfortunately, they tend to focus on whether the child has friends or is socially awkward. As far as I can tell, this should not be a concern. Children are likely to pick up their parents’ social adeptness (or lack thereof) regardless of their school situation.

There is another aspect of socialization which is far more concerning for homeschooled children. What homeschoolers miss is the sort of socialization which trains one to be a happy and productive member of our society. Extreme speakers at homeschool conferences talk about how our public school system was based off the German system which turns free-spirits into zombies who produce for the government. They are on to something. The traditional classroom environment trains students to thrive as stable adults who work with other stable adults. This means that they may be less likely to come up with cool crazy ideas which improve the world. It also means that they are able to be happy and content in our culture.

I personally know many young adults who were homeschooled. The only ones I know who are

  1. stable
  2. successful
  3. happy

are stay-at-home mothers. Everyone else is lacking at least one of the three. This often means that they are amazing people who contribute great things to the world, but it is not a sacrifice which I am willing to deliberately make on my child’s behalf. I would much rather such a person be the result of some strong personality and fluke of the system than a typical result of the fact that they were not socialized to function well in our culture.

Time and the problem of electronics verses human teachers

I want to be actively involved in my children’s education. But how much time do you honestly think the average homeschooling parent spends on each child each day?

When I began to baby-sit for families in a wealthy neighborhood I was shocked. What I had seen as the normal amount of time dedicated to teaching for “homeschooling” was the same attention which the privileged families gave to their children in addition to the child’s time in school. After school, children played outside before working on homework with the help of the parent or babysitter. “Screen time” was limited to a half-hour reward, even if it was an educational program. Parents took time to accompany their children on fieldtrips, and filled weekends with both fun and educational activities and outings.

Homeschoolers often argue that homeschooling is superior because there are fewer students competing for the attention of one teacher. And then they turn to video and computer programs to educate their children. I would rather have my child in a classroom with many other students and a human teacher than by himself or herself in front of a computer. If the children are ultimately getting the same amount of parental teaching, then it is simply a question of how the other hours are filled. And it is difficult for me to believe that a good school could not fill the hours with something better than learning software and videos of teachers.

The limited knowledge and passion of parents

Prior to going to college it was entirely certain that I knew less than my mother did from her k-12 education. This is clearly not a good thing to have happen for multiple generations, and is especially problematic in the situations where the children homeschool “through college” before going on to homeschool their own children.

Parents say that they love homeschooling because they “get to learn alongside the children.” I say “I would like for my child to learn from someone who already knows.”

Parents are great at transmitting their academic passions, but it is important that students also be exposed to teachers who have additional passions. Children should not be limited to loving what their parents love, and should ideally have many wonderful role-models who can teach them the delight of all the subjects.

Why should parents trust themselves to impart a love for physics to their children when it is not one of the parents passions? How much better it would be to give the child a chance to learn from someone who has chosen teach the subject because they love it.

“Love is the most powerful thing, and no teacher will ever love your children as much as you will.”

True, but I do not need teachers to love my children as much as I love; I need them to help my child academically. Just like I do not need the pediatrician to love the child as much as I love, I need her to help my child physically. Healthy love does not want to be everything for the child; it wants the child to have the best of everything.


What culture has ever thought it was a good idea to leave their most valuable children (sons of the elite) to be educated by only their mothers until adulthood? I cannot think of any. This either means that homeschooling failed to teach me about these cultures, or it means that no one other than current homeschoolers has ever thought this was a good way to educate. Mothers are supposed to be able to be mothers. They are not supposed to have to teach their children everything

Interaction with other students

Who are we kidding? Siblings are not the same. Children should get plenty of time with their siblings as a part of daily life and that interaction should be allowed to have a different quality than the interaction with peers in the classroom.

Specific Problems

There can never be sufficient regulation of homeschooling. It is not the government’s place to intrude on the choices of parents’ to the extent required to have sufficient regulation to protect homeschooled students from severely inferior academic preparation for adult life. When children are in school there are many people involved in both shaping the academic situation and insuring that academics are taught in a reasonably balanced way. There are no such protections in homeschooling, and so it naturally fosters dysfunction.

One of my parents’ friends left the Church and joined started attending a Protestant church which was “homeschool friendly” because of a fight with the priest over sacramental preparation. The priest allowed the homeschool families to complete First Communion education at home, but he had specific requirements which were similar to what was taught in all regular religious education classes. But this woman had gotten used to doing things her own way and decided that meant she needed to leave the Catholic Church so that she could exercise her right to educate her children without restrictions in all areas.

She was obviously prone to extremes, but I have no doubt that my personality is just as warped in other ways. And there is something about stepping into one’s own little educational world that facilitates irrational parenting decisions for those who already struggle.

The same freedom which makes homeschooling great for children with ADHD or particular academic gifting also makes it so that learning disabilities can go undiagnosed and untreated, and that teens know little about the subjects which disinterest them. If a homeschooled teenager hates academics, then it is very easy for parents to “let things slide.” If the same teen delights in learning, then it is far too tempting for the parent to remove academics as punishment. And that is simply sick.

People did not understand Elizabeth Esther, but she described it so very well. My natural tendency is not toward safe, it is toward crazy. And I would love to have the structure of a normal school system to keep me in check and protect my children from a very warped education.

Next up: Josh’s pro-homeschooling response, and then our answers to your questions. You are welcome to help Josh out by chiming in with comments about how very wrong I am. :-)

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48 thoughts on “Anti-Homeschooling: Various Issues

  1. Erin

    I could not agree with you more! There are very few things that we do that are truly selfless. I think that parents need to examine why they as parents want to homeschool and what they are getting from it. It takes someone who is truly insightful to see their own selfish reasons – and we all have them for everything we do, if we are willing to see them.

    More random thoughts:
    I loved going to school and I’ve never entertained homeschooling, so maybe I’m unique in our debate.
    Our culture or wanting/expecting/feeling entitled to being stay-at-home-mom’s is incredibly unique. Other similarly developed countries do not have nearly the percentage of SAHMs – it is just not the norm, nor is it desired. Homeschooling is closely tied to SAHM in our culture. I previously mentioned the blog post where a SAHM felt she needed to “do” something – so she decided to be a homeschool teacher to her kids (as above – examine your own motivations).
    Finally, what is with all of this unschooling talk? I’d never heard of it before this week – do people really do this with their kids? I don’t get it!

    Looking forward to the comments and more posts. I want to understand the parents who want to homeschool as I still don’t quite see the other side.

    1. Allison

      Erin, you make it sound like being a SAHM is a bad thing. Is this your feeling or did I read it wrong?

      I know that is slightly off topic, but I’m just curious about that..

      Personally, I think even if you’re not homeschooling it’s a great thing for moms to stay home with their young children. Then when they’re school age, if they choose not to homeschool have the mom go back to work. But then, I don’t like daycare.

      I guess as it stands I don’t have many comments about this post, as I said in your other post that I’m undecided about homeschooling. I think it appeals more to me for the younger children as they don’t require quite so much in-depth education. And I think that they waste a lot of time in school when they’re of a young age.

      1. Erin

        Hmm… I think I have a lot of ambivalence about SAHMs. My mom, my husband’s mom, nearly all of my friend’s moms were SAHMs. I can think of a few friends whose mothers were doctors or lawyers, but everyone else had a SAHM. (Now that I think about it, it is interesting that if my friends’ moms worked, they were professionals).

        There are a group of 10 of us women who all went to one of the best universities in the country (and became close friends there). Afterward, we went and got law degrees, med school degree, MBAs, PhD’s, masters in Ed, masters in design… you get the picture. We are a bunch of over educated white girls!

        We are all turning 30 this year. The first just had a baby a few weeks ago, we have the last 3 weddings coming soon. We are doing everything a bit later than average to say the least. And every single time we get together for brunch or vacation we talk about the exact same thing, over and over and over and over – to be or not to be SAHM.

        We all love our mother’s and believe they did a fabulous job raising us. We are a very fortunate group of women with ten amazing mothers. However, we are now watching all of our stay at home mothers having a bit of a life crisis. They are saying things to us about how they wished they’d had our careers, they feel the need to find something to “do”, they are a bit listless, not sure how to move ahead and looking back on their lives and missing their careers (nearly all of them gave up young careers to be SAHM’s). The doctor and lawyer mom in the bunch are doing great – they are looking forward to retirement and don’t have these same regrets. Anyways, these comments from our moms have really effected all of us (and these moms don’t know each other).

        Since the first of the group had a baby at 29, we’ve had some time to watch other friends become SAHM’s – and a lot of them feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves and a few honestly admit that they don’t rejoin the work force not out of choice, but because they can’t get their career back after a break. On the other hand, our group discusses how we liked having a SAHM and how we all work ridiculously hard at our careers and we are quite jealous of the “busy” SAHM going to Starbucks and the park every day. Being a mom and having a career, quite frankly, currently “sounds” a lot harder than being a SAHM (again, this is our perception, no babies yet).

        I’m writing a post over here in the comments section, which is quite rude! Sorry! I’m ambivalent about being a SAHM, but I strongly support women making whatever decision they want. I think the issue between SAHM and homeschooling comes in from your last comment: “Then when they’re school age, if they choose not to homeschool have the mom go back to work.”

        I think you are right – when kids are school-aged, mom’s choose “do I want to go back to work or do I want to homeschool?” and then the MOM chooses to homeschool instead of her finding a job outside of the home. The mom chooses. That’s what bugs me – it’s not driven by the children, but by the mom feeling she needs to go find a job or homeschool (to justify her not finding a job?)

        Hoping for a baby in September 2011 – I’ll let you know if I work out my internal SAHM debate :)

        1. Rae Post author

          I love posts in the comment section. I regularly leave them myself. :-)

          I am actually working on a set of posts about SAHM vs. um… non-SAHM (I think that there are actually many options for paid work that do not all fit in the same bag). I firmly plan not be a SAHM and I am getting some great guest posts from women who are in a somewhat similar stage in life with a similar religious-philosophical take on the world. I think it is quite interesting to see how we have such different plans even though we have very similar values.

          Anyway, please continue on with discussion in whatever form you like. :-)

        2. Allison

          Okay, thanks for responding. Very interesting thoughts.

          For me, I’m a bit younger than you, but I plan on being a SAHM. As I’ve said, homeschooling or not is still undecided. But I did post in another comment (not on this post) that I believe at some point the choice of homeschooling should be made by the child. I don’t think as a child I would have liked to be homeschooled. But my fiance would have like to. I think it’s important to listen to your child. But the initial choice to homeschool does have to be made by the parent, because at the age that it generally starts (around 5 or so) the child isn’t quite old enough to understand the differences on a large scale.

          And as far as being a SAHM, I think that differs by person. I’ll never judge someone who chooses to work versus staying home with their children. It’s what my mom did, but I wish she hadn’t (case of the grass is greener perhaps?). I loathed daycare. I still remember it, even as an adult. And I think it’s hard to find someone who will raise and instill the values into your child as you would do yourself. I think that we need to raise our own children (yes with support from others, but our children are our own). For what it’s worth, I am college educated (albeit only a B.S.) and graduated magna cum laude. But I don’t feel like my education would be wasted to stay at home with my children.

          Do you see working as a selfish thing? Seeing as you kind of see homeschooling as selfish. Are you putting your wants and desires for a career and to get out of the home above the needs of your child? (not saying you are or aren’t, I’m just genuinely curious). Do you feel that sending your child to day care is adequate?

          As far as the SAHM’s feeling as though they’ve lost a part of themselves, well I guess my question for that would be, are they doing anything to not feel that way? There are plenty of programs available for mom groups. It’s just that one needs to find them. I understand where that statement comes from. You go from working with coworkers who share the same ideas as you, to staying at home with a baby who depends on you. However, you can get out and meet up with other moms who are dealing with the same emotions. And, they do get out and do fun things together. It’s important to have that support group.

          I think the bottom line is, we’ll all act based on our own experiences. Perhaps I had a bad experience with a working mother and daycare and as a result I will be a SAHM. While others see their mom wish that she had worked when she had children, and as a result they will work. Neither is necessarily wrong. But I do think that at some point we need to act selflessly and decide what we think is best for our children. Perhaps a family can’t survive on one income and as a result the mom has to work. Well, in that case she is helping out her kids. Or perhaps a family can survive on the one income and the children will benefit from a close relationship with their mom etc.

          Anyways, sorry to go off on a tangent!

    2. Rae Post author

      Ohhh. I think that we might need to add unschooling to our topics! I was partially unschooled, but I like to call myself “nonschooled” since as my mother said I “slipped through the cracks” and so had even less direction than is the norm for unschoolers (at least in theory).

    3. Elizabeth

      To be completely honest, one of the things that attracts me to homeschooling is the whole “what would I do once they go to school?” I would really enjoy doing it, for myself. Knowing this is actually the biggest thing that keeps me from saying that we would ever do it! There are several things that attract me to homeschooling, but I don’t want to ever feel like I’ve compromised my child’s education because it would make me feel good, just to feel like I had a purpose.

      Wanted to make more comments on the post itself, but I’ve got to run. Looking forward to coming back to this post and reading the other comments soon!

      1. Rae Post author

        I actually think that having parents who delight in homeschooling is a great asset to homeschooled children, just like having mothers who delight in mothering is a great benefit to children. So while I obviously would not encourage you to plan on homeschooling before you even have children or options, if it does turn out that homeschooling *is* your best option, it will be much better for your children if it is something that you find fulfilling.

  2. Kristy

    I agree with you, Rae. Full disclosure: I was raised Protestant and went to public school for my entire education. Any bias that may come with that side, I think you make your points well. I could say more, but I’m having a hard time being concise. I’ve rambled, deleted, rambled, and deleted. So I think this is all I’ll say for now.

    I’m very interested to “hear” Josh’s response!

    1. Rae Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I did not intend to imply that there was anything wrong with being a Protestant… simply that in this case changing from Catholic to Protestant because she had to have complete control over her child’s education may be a sign of homeschooling fostering dysfunction. I am sorry if I am misunderstanding your point or was overbearingly Catholic. :-)

  3. Genavee

    You put this so perfectly, I don’t know if there is anything I can really add. Not that I’ll let that stop me, but still.

    I agree 100%. I was homeschooled for one year in elementary school. In some ways it worked very well, I was a curious child, and when I returned to school the next year I was able to skip a grade thanks to the accelerated homeschool schedule. However, ultimately my parents decided to place me back in school because they realized that they themselves just could not provide all of the experience and learning that I needed.

    For me, that’s what it comes down to. Even assuming that they have the knowledge, resources, patience and skill to teach children all they need to know (which I doubt most parents have) 2 people just cannot provide the depth of experience and differing perspectives that children need. School isn’t just about learning academic material, its about learning how to interact, exploring different perspectives and a whole host of other skills that are hard to develop in a more controlled family environment. It is so important. It’s not universal, but I’ve met far to many homeschooled people who have difficulty grappling with new and differing ideas and circumstances, and I think that is largely because when growing up their lives were so controlled and undiversified.

    I now see homeschooling as a somewhat selfish, controlling act by many (certainly not all) of the parents who engage in it. It often seems to be more about a parent wanting a child to grow up a certain way than about encouraging and helping a child to grow into a full, independent person. (I’m grossly overgeneralizing, I’m sure many parents are just trying to give their children the best education they can, I just wonder about their definitions of what best means.)

    Apparently I’m more opinionated on the subject that I realized. I look forward to reading what other people have to say, especially your husbands post in support.

    1. Rae Post author

      From what I have seen most parents choose to homeschool because they want the very best for their children and are willing to sacrifice to give it to them. I just happen to think that they are often dead wrong about it being the best thing for everyone!

  4. Naomi

    “Healthy love does not want to be everything for the child; it wants the child to have the best of everything.”

    This sentence is dynamite! I’m packing for a trip so I don’t have time to ramble on the way I am tempted to, but as a former homeschooler (grades 2-6) who is now in graduate school, I think you’ve nailed a lot of the issues!

  5. Maggie

    Wow! What a great post! Like I said in my previous comment, my husband and I don’t feel called to homeschool our children. Another reason I’d rather not homeschool is because I LOVED going to school. The learning, the interaction, and the excitement of telling my mom what cool things we did that day. Perhaps those arne’t very good reasons to NOT homeschool, but you have made some excellent points for me to tack on to my reason to send our child to school!

    1. Rae Post author

      Oh, very interesting. I had not previously thought about the dynamic of the child arriving home from school and what a special time that could be.

  6. melody

    Very interesting and thoughtful points. There are many reasonable responses that could be given to your objections that support a homeschooling position. I don’t have time presently to dive into them all. I will say that your opinions are largely based on your personal experience of school/homeschooling and do not give an accurate and objective overview of the success/failure of a home-based education. Each homeschool is as different as a fingerprint. If you claim one thing about it, you’ll have a bunch of homechoolers immediately point out that they don’t live according to your presumptions. Have to get to an appointment now but thought you’d appreciate the results of an objective study of a very large group of homeschoolers. Says a lot more about actual results versus our opinions about lifestyle:

    1. Rae Post author

      Good point about each homeschool family being different. I tried to address that a little in previous posts and disclaimers. I am, however, confident that what I say is in fact generally true of homeschooling as a concept and that most of it would be true for me in particular. I am anti-homeschooling, not anti-homeschoolers. :-)

      What part of the study do you think comments on the results of homeschooling? I suspect that Josh will not bring up such stats in his argument because neither of us tends to place a high value on standardized tests as an indicator of a good education.

      And my husband agrees with you that there are many reasonable responses that can be given. I hope that you will check back to see his pro-homeschooling post, and maybe you can comment with anything pro-homeschooling that you think that he missed.

    2. Rae Post author

      Also, I am constantly looking for homeschool grads who are meet my definition of achievement. You obviously cannot introduce me to the people that you know well enough to know whether they are happy, but I would love it if you have any links to blogs or websites maintained by homeschool grads who exemplify what you would like your children to grow up to be.

      I am seriously deeply concerned that new homeschool parents have no clue about the long-lasting pain and instability that can be caused by what appears to be such a great education. And seeing at least a few adult homeschool grads content with the result makes me feel a lot better. Unfortunately, I recently realized that everyone I had encountered who met this standard was a SAHM, and I hope that is not the only profession available for homeschool grads! ;-)

        1. Rae Post author

          The group is really small and self-selecting, so I do not think that it can be proof of negative results of homeschooling, but those interviews did not make me feel better.

          They were all with women, all of which were very recent homeschool graduates who had not had a chance to feel the sting of normal American adult life, and none of them appear to be supporting themselves financially. Only one had a college degree from an accredited university where she had to actually take classes. And she said “after graduation, I interviewed for an entry-level marketing position for a non-profit. Although it seemed like the perfect job, God had something else for me. That summer, I prayed for direction and God led me to buy a new Mac computer and launch my business.” This may be great for her, but it gives no indication of being able to function as an employee, only that she can take on new challenges (presumably with her parents’ financial backing). One of the other interviewees said that she had skipped college in order to make films with her Christian world view intact. To me this says that these young women were prepared to be SAHMs, but not prepared to function as stable, happy, successful adults in a normal American community.

          That is fine if it works for them, but it is not something that I want for my children. I want them to at least have the option of being able to get through a normal college and work at a normal job.

          1. Allison

            Okay, well perhaps we’re looking for different things in terms of how we define successful.

            I don’t know. I run my own business so I know how hard it can be. And can see how rewarding it can be to be your own boss and not be the traditional employee.

            If they’re happy with their life then what’s the problem? Maybe they feel bad for the people who are stuck in the 9-5 grind. I don’t think there’s one right way to live your life. :)

          2. Rae Post author

            Oh, being able to run your own business is great… though I do not consider it to be a success if one cannot support oneself. I also want my children to be socialized so that they can work with others as well.

            And I am confident that Josh agrees with me that the best education for our daughters would prepare them to support themselves financially. It is fine if they choose to be SAHMs, but a good education should enable them to make choices about their vocation without being limited by being unable to color inside the lines when necessary.

  7. Kacie

    Okay, I’m going to push back on a couple points even though I don’t plan to homeschool. :) My husband and his siblings were homeschooled. I see them as sort of the best possible situation for homeschoolers. They didn’t have much option, for one thing, they were in another country and the local school system conflicted with the US school system, and when they DID come back to the US they needed the kids to be prepped time-wise to drop back into American schools.

    Secondly, their parents were both trained teachers, so this makes them rather rare. The parents were intense about providing them with a good education, and despite me always being in advanced classes, they are far better than me in grammar, math, music…

    You mentioned the parent/teacher dynamic. I will say that sometimes relationships suffer because these two things are entertwined. They did for me – my mom’s teaching style and mine conflicted, we conflicted, and it was bad. Thus we stopped homeschooling after a year. On the other hand, it really worked for my husband’s family. They adopted different styles for each child and really worked to pace the schooling with their learning. The parent/child dynamic is closer because of homeschooling. Even the sibling relationship is closer because of homeschooling. There’s never a time when family can feel like near-strangers since you spend so much of life apart. They were each others’ closest community and there is a deep intimacy between them.

    Socialization IS an issue, certainly. However, it isn’t insurmountable. My husband is known for being a social extrovert, and people gasp when they find out he was homeschooled. He’s getting a graduate degree in order to teach theology, and is passionate and successful at whatever he’s put his hand at so far (of course I’m biased). My sisters in law are equally driven and outgoing. One is an elementary teacher, the other is a linguist. Both known for being the likeable, outgoing ones in their social circles. I am the most introverted and awkward of the entire family, and the only one schooled in regular schools.

    I don’t agree with your statement that no society ever left the training of the most successful youth to their parents. I would say many societies did, however, there was a limit. Usually in the late teen years they were sent off to “higher education” of some sort. and thus…. college. You can’t homeschool college. I would argue that even the late high school years should really be in normal schools.

    So – that is coming from someone who is just fine with regular schooling. :) I just also believe that homeschooling CAN work in certain situations. I am not a teacher, though… so it wouldn’t work for me!

    1. Rae Post author

      You win on all points. :-) I do think that homeschooling is the best option in some situations, I just hope to never be in that situation. Also, I do not think that socialization is in any way a problem in terms of making friends. What concerns me is the cases such as the interviews linked to in previous comments: some homeschoolers are socialized to have to always be in charge of their own destiny to the extent that they cannot handle college or a job which requires them to work for or with others.

      And I wish everyone knew that “you can’t homeschool college.” :-)

  8. Megan

    A perspective I see missing in all the discussion of SAHMs is that it is, or can be, a *season* in your life. It doesn’t mean you are forsaking your personal goals. Rea, you mentioned you’d like to be a nurse/midwife in your bio. The midwives at the practice we choose to birth with had a rotational set-up, and my two favorite midwives were in their 60s. Both had stayed home with their children and took up midwifery when they were older. They offered support, understanding and wisdom that the younger women, with all their text book learning, could not possibly know.

    Having a baby derailed my plans for graduate school. But I am unwilling to ship her off to a baby warehouse so I can continue on my career path. I work evenings and substitute when I can fit it in. I realized the time-line for part-time study coincides perfectly with my child being grown enough to incorporate some paid work, either flexible office hours or freelancing.

    SAHMs make a sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean they are weakly throwing their dreams away, nor does it preclude taking up a new adventure a little later than they’d planned. It requires an ingenuity and balancing act, every bit as fulfilling as juggling paid work and a family, that perhaps you are not giving us credit for.

    1. Rae Post author

      I am sorry for coming across as anti-SAHM. I have no problem with my daughters choosing to be SAHMs. What I have a problem with is choosing to educate them in such a way that being a SAHM is their *only* option for a healthy, happy, stable, and productive adult life in our society.

      This is not the case with all homeschooling, but it happens to be the case with all of the homeschool grads that I know, and so I have no confidence that we could overcome the issue with our children.

  9. Jenelle

    Wow, well thought out post and lots of comments (I didn’t have time to read them all so I may repeat some things). I agree with one comment that one person’s experience – while it rightly can dictate what you feel comfortable with in regards to the future education of children, is not a complete story.

    I’m Catholic, went to public school then Catholic (5-7) than back to public. I live in MI where we have some great schools and the district I went to has an amazing reputation and gets awards. The Catholic school was small, expensive and the middle school teachers did not show compassion thus the switch back.

    Homeschooling is an option that is discussed in my household. My husband switched around schools and found all to be lacking. Even in the best districts in the area there are cracks and I was teased to the point of clinical depression in 4th grade (reason for the first switch).

    I also have had the privilege of meeting well-adjusted adults who graduated college with me and were completely socially adept. I also marched in Washington in Jan with a senior in high school who was homeschooled all the way through and talked about all the community resources she does use (not just technology). She was well spoken and confident while marching for Life with a group of people she had never met before the bus ride.

    I feel comfortable homeschooling my children, and almost more so as they get even older. I have a secondary education degree (grades 6-12) and I sub in all subjects now. I don’t mean to brag or think I’m an amazing teacher (because I don’t have to come up with any of the lesson plans). But even in subjects like Chemistry – which is struggled through in high school – I get comments that I explain it better than the teacher that loves chemistry. The teacher may love the subject but not know how to teach it to someone who does not. When I sub I try to take the time to explain it in a way that I could understand even if I had to relearn it that morning. I don’t know all the super advanced stuff but if you have materials that help you understand it and you have some teaching ability, you can teach more than some might think and I have discovered that in my three years of substitute teaching.

    As for having different teachers, even when homeschooled there should be teachers of family members, God parents, pastors, friends, peers. If you take the time to research and set up a realistic plan ahead of time I believe it can be done and not just in theory. On the other hand, I agree it is hard to regulate and it is a hard thing to do on your own especially without a teaching (or even college) degree.

    1. Rae Post author

      This post is actually my side of an argument with my husband. So it is not about other people’s homeschooling, it is about whether homeschooling is an ideal which we should take on for our own children.

      In the post I only hinted at my lack of education because this is primarily arguments for my husband to consider, and he knows better than anyone else my limitations which come from never receiving an adequate primary education. I have a college degree, but it in no way qualifies me to teach math or phonics.

      It sounds as if you are quite well prepared to homeschool, should that be the best option for your family. I actually really like the idea of students going to a Catholic school (especially a Montessori school) through the eighth grade and then homeschooling for high school. At that point they can take classes at a local college and be involved in community organizations as well as extracurriculars with the local high school.

      1. Jenelle Ponkowski

        Yes, I know you were talking in your case and they are definitely valid arguments for you. In many ways I feel more adequate after about 2nd grade because some of the basics are taught by then and I won’t have to be completely responsible for telling time and some other super basic stuff that I don’t know how to breakdown and teach. I see Montessori schools as some of the best out there and hope we will do a couple years of that when the time comes in the future.

  10. Tienne McKenzie

    Rae, thank you for this post. I’m very eager to read your husband’s point of view, too. We are discerning the right school for our kids based on their personalities, my personality, our financial situation and the condition (socially and academically) of the schools in our area. It’s a hard decision, and one that needs constant revisiting.

    We homeschooled my son for 1st grade this past year (I say we, but really I mean “I” because although I had my husbands support, the entirety of the schooling itself fell to me.) I encountered many of the problems you point out, and that’s factored into our decision to send him to our Parish school next fall. Still, I feel trepidation because I have heard so many negative stories about faulty teachings, snobbery, and a degradation in character due to peer influences. I just don’t see school as a positive force in a child’s life. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong!

  11. Young Mom

    You seem like a pretty stable, happy and succesful person to me. But then again, I am a homeschool graduate myself, and a stay-at-home mom to boot, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

    1. Rae Post author

      I am happy, but I guess blogs can be deceiving when it comes to perceiving stability and success. :-)

      Perhaps you misunderstood my comment about SAHMs? I listed them as the single example of homeschool graduates who have done well by my standard. My problem is that I do not believe that all children grow up to be SAHMs, and thus I believe that they should be prepared for more than that one path.

  12. Young Mom

    I think you are basing alot of this on how you understand stability and success. I worry about my children’s schooling as well, and I am not sure what route I will take yet. But I feel that if I approach raising my children with a strict idea of what I envision my children becoming, I am bound to dissapoint. I would be making the same mistake your parents (and my own) often made. By equipping and training my children only for those things that I personally feel define happiness and success and stability, and not leaving any room for whatever may make my child feel happy, succesful, and stable.

  13. practicinghuman

    I think one element I would like to add to the question is that the choice to home school is often like the choice to use a boarding school. Not all kids are a good match for all types of schools. There are some kids for whom public schooling is a wretched option, some kids for whom home schooling is a wretched option, some kids for whom boarding schools are wretched options, etc.

    I do think that it’s a universally bad idea to place children with teachers who do not have a passion for teaching. Not all people can be teachers; if parents know that teaching is not something they feel like they can do, then they have no business homeschooling.

    I generally support quality home environments for learning as long as the child fits the opportunities in the learning environment. Some children will outgrow their environment at different rates, but I do honestly support many parents who think they can give their child the best K-3 education. Some key literacy skills emerge during this window of time. I think parents must reflect to make sure that their children are developing along normative pathways; I sincerely doubt that many parents have the training to foster appropriate interventions if something is wrong. So there will always be a need to be mindful of when a parent might need to call in a specialist to support their child.

    1. Rae Post author

      Well stated.

      Because of my experience I am especially concerned with the importance of K-3 education as crucial for establishing the base of education through foundational reading and math, and a bit less concerned about later years. Otherwise I think that I agree with you completely.

  14. Emily J

    This is an interesting post followed by interesting comments — I continue to struggle with both these issues: homeschooling and staying home jobless. I homeschooled 5 kids for 4 years and have had the olders in school for 4 years at different times. Neither situation has been ideal. I homeschooled because I knew some homeschoolers whom I admired (including a college professor’s family), because I had a disappointing public school experience, because I didn’t like the battle that accompanied getting ready and going to school, because I had experience teaching in a both public and private school and was disappointed with the quality of instruction, the behavior of the students, and the attitudes of the administrators, because I believed that reading excellent literature and experiential learning is effective. Our first two years of homeschooling went well – we did not unschool, but we did a lot of field trips and projects. We also participated in museum classes and homeschool co-op classes. The last two years were more difficult because of my husband’s travel schedule and the addition of a new baby and the strain of my extra-curricular volunteer activities. I was trying to do too much.

    Kids are back in school now at a Catholic school, a change precipitated and facilitated by a move across country. All 5 are doing great, made friends, have great grades, and are well liked by their teachers who are surprised they were homeschooled. However, I don’t think they are getting challenged nearly enough – they watch movies like The Chipmunks at school in free time. They have picked up all kinds of potty humor and tease and pester and name call each other much more than they ever did before. My youngest son hates school – he is an active five year old boy stuck in all day kindergarten where he has to sit quietly or play with toys he doesn’t like for 3/4 of the day. My daughter is now infatuated with teen divas. The older boys are desperate for more video games and ipods. Their textbooks are dull. They get no foreign language instruction (we were doing Latin and Spanish), and the younger ones don’t have history (social studies instead) and have very little science. A few of their teachers are good, others are burned out.

    Ideally, we could find a small, academically challenging, and artistically oriented school – something like a Waldorf school or one of the Trinity classical academies – and be able to afford it. Since we are military and move frequently, I am hoping we are sent next to a larger city with IB programs or overseas to an area with good DOD schools.

    On being a SAHM- I’m not a professional nor do I have any desire to be a dr, lawyer, marketer, etc., nor do I want to run my own business. I have taught parttime at different times, but arranging childcare and paying for it is often more of hassle than the pittance I have earned is worth. However, with the youngest now old enough for school next year, I have unsuccessfully looked for a teaching job – the market is bad and my resume is dated. I substitute occasionally, but pay most of what I make to the babysitter. If we stick with school and don’t return to homeschooling, I’m considering returning to school or getting more involved with volunteer work, which has been a great source of satisfaction to me in the past.

    There are some good points about the negatives of homeschooling here, and I love reading the perspective of someone who has been homeschooled. It’s easier to find homeschool lovefests than honest evaluations of the struggles and failures of homeschooling. I also tend to idealize the homeschool experience and to overlook some of its challenges and drawbacks. However, unless you have access to the best schools, most are disappointing academically and have more negative social influences than positive ones. I’m sorry for the cynical tone of this comment – I know there are successful home schools and traditional schools out there (although maybe the most successful are the alternative schools); the challenge is finding and affording them. So is “good enough” the solution?

    1. Rae Post author

      Thank you for sharing your insight. Real life is messy, and I suspect that you are right that “good enough” is often the solution. I read your comment as realistic rather than cynical.

      I do think that well-prepared dedicated parents can come up with a better education for their children through homeschooling than that which would come from many “traditional” schools. But not only did I have a less-than-good homeschooling experience, I went to college with many students who were educated in the very best schools. I can’t help but compare the ideal homeschool situation to the ideal school situation and find homeschooling wanting. I recognize that this only works in theory and not for most people’s reality.

      I hope that your next location has both better school options and better job options.

  15. Dawn Farias

    Rae – my first reaction to this post is an emotional one: such a sad and depraved view of homeschooling. Perhaps even an overreaching view of what education outside the home accomplishes.

    Having said that I suppose I could go on about how well homeschooling is working for us. The problem with THAT, and with all the other opinions brought up here, is the relative nature of such arguments.

    Therefore, the only real decision maker for this topic is “what does your family feel called to do”? Argument done. (‘your’ being a general term)

    I also tend towards crazy (I knew exactly what E. Esther was talking about) and when I was (briefly) pregnant recently I immediately entertained thoughts of sending my kids to school. I KNOW myself and knew that AT THIS TIME another baby on top of homeschooling would be too much.

    Now that there is no baby, no immediate prospects of trying again for one, AND my youngest being a very manageable age of two… I am positively giddy about the upcoming year and all the things we’ll be able to explore with relative freedom and license.

    What a change of opinion, eh?, depending on my life’s circumstances at any given moment.

    I wish I could hang out in your kitchen and talk about this for a while. So many complex issues can play into this decision.

    1. Dawn Farias

      OK – I think I didn’t mean “depraved” I meant more like deprived or anorexic or nutritionless or something HA! like that. It hit me as I was walking around after posting that depraved is totally the wrong word. There’s a word I’m thinking of that just means “less” or “not enough” or something.

      And perhaps using the word “giddy” at the end was a bit strong, too. Let’s just say “happy”.

      And this is why I’m trying to quit making replies where I have to think and be careful with my words. They haunt me later, LOL.

      Thanks for the thoughtful post, at any rate!

      1. Rae Post author

        Thanks for clarifying. I told Josh that “a blogger I ‘know’** commented on my last homeschooling post and said that my view was ‘sad and depraved.’ I would think that she meant ‘deprived’ but she is pretty careful with her words!”

        And I think that giddy could be good. :-)

        **As opposed to the random people I’ve never heard of before brining up this topic.

        1. Dawn Farias

          Yes, and then I kicked myself even more when trying to clarify and I used the word ‘anorexic’ but meant ‘anemic’. I’m glad you knew what I was trying to say better than I did.

    2. Rae Post author

      I think that I can grant all of your points. :-) Of course I think that my view of homeschooling is sad because the way that homeschooling has hurt so many of the “guinea pigs” *is* sad. But I can also recognize that homeschooling may be a great option for others in this far from perfect world. It is fabulous that you are able to be so enthusiastic about your upcoming school year. I have no doubt that that will result in a good experience for your children.

      1. Dawn Farias

        Yes, I can see that, about the guinea pigs thing. That is said.

        I sometimes am afraid I am guinea pigging my own kids. It is a fearful thing to realize I am responsible for all my kids’ educations, both spiritual and bookish.

  16. MyFeminineMind

    Ahh. A subject near and dear to my heart. The education of children. Quick question. Have you read John Taylor Gatto? His most recent is “Weapons of Mass Instruction.” I highly recommend it for whatever my recommendation is worth. So when my husband and I first decided to homeschool it was slightly overwhelming, thinking of all the things I would have to teach my children and therefore all the topics I would have to know well myself. (Even though I have a Bachelors in English, and minors in Biology and Spanish, and my husband a Bachelors in Information Science Technology–computers– and a minor in art. So we had a lot of the “subjects” covered between the two of us). When I discovered unschooling and especially when I read John Holt’s “How Children Learn” I felt so excited, because I didn’t have to know everything and be their instructor. I just had to be me and provide my child with resources to explore the world and be willing to explore the world with them. But it sounds like your parents would say you were unschooled? But maybe you didn’t receive help or guidance when needed? Didn’t get the banquet? Did I misinterpret your comment? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Rae Post author

      I need to read Holt. My only knowledge of him comes through my husband. Josh’s explanation of Holt’s view on schools turning out robots (I can’t remember the actual explanation- forgive me if I am totally off in my recollection) helped me to think through my views on socialization. I think that schools are worthwhile because what Holt views as a horrible process actually enables people to be happy, healthy, and stable in our society. So homeschooled (or radically unschooled) children may grow up more freely, but the freedom comes at the cost of not being able to function in a way that is required to really live well in our culture.

      The problem is that when people typically criticize homeschoolers related to socialization, they are completely off-base in being concerned about children making friends or being able to look others in the eye when talking. That is silly. But there *is* an issue in being socialized (or, in the case of unschoolers, not socialized) in such a way that you must jump from job to job and never be able to settle down unless you are lucky enough to be a woman who wants to be a SAHM. Then you are able to be your own boss, set your own schedule to a large extent, not worry about being fired for failure to conform, and not have to actually earn money with your dream. But I personally haven’t seen homeschooling/unschooling turn out to my standards for anyone other than SAHMs.

      My parents would say that I was unschooled and while I think that I did not receive enough help and guidance, I think that it is only fair to point out that I was offered at least as much as any other unschoolers of my acquaintance. So I am not a fair judge. :-)

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