Thursday, June 27, 2013

10 Reasons Not to Home School #3

Reason #3  To give your child a custom education.

At a recent home school convention I was excited to find a lot of the books on my list at a used  book booth. As I was ringing up my stacks and stacks of books, the woman eyed me skeptically and asked, ‘And how many students do you have?’

  ‘One right now, - and a second in a few years” I answered brightly.

  “I knew it.’ She smiled condescendingly.  ‘One kid. I can always tell the type. I was so worried about covering everything with my first few too- “ I have 9 kids” she interrupted herself to announce this with pride as if announcing her PHD. Then she waved her hand at an awkward 12 year old boy, and 14 year old girl helping run the register.  “With the last few, - I don’t even have to do anything!”  She chuckled and shook her head at me.  ‘You’ll see.”

  I glanced at her friendly, but backward children, - who obviously spent more time working for the family business than pursuing any real education, and had to bite my tongue hard. Oh I saw all right. Little did she know.

       One of the most touted benefits of homeschooling is the fact that you can give your child a custom tailored education.
   It sounds wonderful.  When you build a home, work on a car, or decorate your house, custom means unique. Custom means exactly what you want and need. But mostly, -custom means expensive. Why? Because custom means ‘not pre-packaged’ – not ‘builder grade’ not ready to go pre-assembled, it means someone has to start from scratch. Hours of intensive labor go into custom.

Hours of intensive labor go into custom.

    When homeschoolers talk about a ‘custom’ education, they start by pointing out the obvious, - that each child is unique. Each child has different strengths and weaknesses; different learning speeds and styles. With these concepts I agree.

  Unfortunately, the application of ‘custom education’  often means that that the basic standard of education is completely thrown out, and replaced with whatever the heck the parents feel like putting in its place. Some parents do this unconsciously, one baby step at a time, maybe because they are tired, or worn out, - or maybe weren’t that well educated themselves. 

    Others are proud of the fact that they are NOT going to go along with ANY preconceived notion of what makes a person educated. After all, - who says knowing how to diagram a sentence makes you more or less educated?

 ‘Who says knowing how to diagram a sentence makes you more or less educated?”

These parents love bucking the ‘they’ of the world out there that accepts certain ideas, proudly live in ways that defy all traditional conventions and raising their children to be different is their crowning achievement.

    Under these conditions, - ‘custom education’ actually means ‘little or no education’.

In the 1980’s when I was one of the very first wave of homeschoolers, - the very concept of parents being responsible to teach their children was barely legal in some states. Even in states where it wasn’t prohibited, it could be a battle especially in some school districts or counties.

   The parents fighting for this right were soberly determined. They were also extremely conscious that if they did not produce results, they could lose the option. As a result, early home school Mom’s were very driven, focused, and determined to excel. A generation of parents, often armed with no more than a high school diploma themselves, produced some of the best readers, highest test takers, and most sought after college applicants in the country.

    As it became more socially understood that home schooling could and did produce strong students, and successful college graduates; as court battles fought long and hard strengthened parent's rights in all fifty states;  as homeschooling became more mainstream; and as families with a few years under their belt started to feel confidence, the nation as a whole began to relax and breathe easy.

   Homeschooling was no big deal. Of course parents were capable. Look at all the home school test scores! Look who wins the national spelling bee! The urgency and drive that had pushed the first families was no longer there.  You just aren’t as motivated if you aren’t afraid the SRS will take your kids away.

      Parents now not only had the right to educate their own children, - but they proudly flaunted the right to change the very concept of education.  Principle and character based programs emerged which stressed that they could help you teach your child the most important things they needed to know. And it wasn’t anything in your standard textbooks.

   ‘Un- schooling’, ‘child directed education’ and other movements, - speakers, articles and conferences boosted a parents confidence in challenging what our society generally accepts as education, and encouraged them to decide for themselves what things were important for their child to learn.

 Gradually, homeschooling went from simply being an alternative means to an end; to being the path to a different end altogether.  

Instead of changing HOW a child learned, it changed WHAT a child should learn.

   No longer driven by a desire for academic excellence, and even deriding those who put too much focus and pressure on their children to ‘perform’ academically, these families none the less were riding the wave of freedom that past achievers earned for them.

      Sister philosophies of large families, and home businesses played into the shift in homeschooling. One woman simply could not give the same attention to 5 or more children doing things the same way that she had with 1-3, and a child’s usefulness as they grew older means ‘life skills’ became an attractive alternative to rigorous high school studies.

     The truth is, - that ‘natural learning’ and life skills are hardly a new concept. They are as old as primitive peoples who have dwelled in mud huts. Life skills are important. But they are not education. And I am horrified that this seems to be the highest standard that many current homeschoolers seem to be trying to attain.

   It is not hard to have an ignorant, uneducated, undisciplined, or untrained child.

   That is their natural state.  It is not easy for them to apply themselves to the disciplines of sitting still, listening, and following instructions. Some subjects that are difficult for one student are easier  for another.

     You cannot change the definition of education just because you feel like it. Just because you don’t think it is necessary for your child to know the definition of a pronoun or how to do algebra doesn’t mean you can still call them well educated, just because they know how to bake bread, like reading history books and built a to-scale catapult.

    Your child is not well educated. The public school system’s sad success rate at producing well educated students is irrelevant to the fact that there is a generally accepted standard by which we know if someone is educated.

     Giving your child a home based custom education does not mean you get to skip the subjects or stuff you’d rather not struggle through, and focus only on what you think is fun. It doesn’t mean catering to your child’s lack of attention span by reducing what he is required to do, and it doesn’t mean determining, based on their gender, what subjects your child should have to study.

  Giving your child a home based education does not mean that you do not need to test, or grade your child, because you are more concerned about character or family interests and activities.  It is shocking to me how much I have read and heard Mom’s reassuring each other, - that while their child is not capable of performing grade level, - this does not matter because they are good at (insert skill of choice).

       Anything less than the basic standard means you are choosing to not educate your child.  I think we should be honest. If your kid is behind and you are ok with it (in that you are not doing all you can to change it), you are not doing a good job as an educator. You are flunking and your child will pay.

   Being a committed homeschooler means you are unwilling to look to others to help educate your child and insist on going alone, regardless of the academic outcome.

Being a committed parent means that you put the needs of your child first, and give them the best education possible...

  If it’s not working for you and your child, - it’s just not working.  Home school parents are the first to say that an education is not just about the books. It isn’t just about pencil and paper and numbers, - it is knowing how to use knowledge in your everyday life. Are you? Are you able to honestly evaluate your child’s abilities and performance and act accordingly?

   You may have lofty religious or moral goals for your child, - and by all means strive to meet them. (This is for the parents who say, ‘all I want is for my child to love Jesus. If I do that, - I’ve done enough’)  

   However, - religion, morality, and education are not mutually exclusive. In fact, - a morally rigid, thoroughly religious person with no education is a potentially the most misguided and dangerous person on earth. Look at history. Of course, - if you have not felt it necessary to study history, and impose facts, dates, and a keen understanding of the last few thousand years on your student, - they will not be aware when they are repeating it.

   I cannot understand parents who bemoan the thought of making their child study, (a WHOLE hour!) at a subject that is difficult. I feel astonished. Our children are brilliant. They are capable. They are superbly intelligent.
How dare we expect so little of them!?

   Homeschooling is supposed to be a chance to give your child more, - not less. It is a chance for more one on one, - more hands on activities, more in depth study, more time devoted to actual study, it is a chance to get ahead, and not be held  back by the rest of a class that needs more review.

   Greatness does not just happen. It does not occur because a person wins the genetic lottery. Greatness comes from learning the discipline of doing hard things, of pushing yourself, of setting a high standard and trying to surpass it. 

   Our world needs children raised to greatness. We desperately need people of great moral character, of great physical strength, and of great intelligence and knowledge, that has been cultivated early and constantly challenged.

   Are you short changing your kids with low expectations? Do you believe they can achieve greatness? What are you doing each day to give them an edge and help them grow beyond your own limitations??

This is number three in a series of 10 Reasons not to Home School.
To read the others, please go here.



  1. Good perspective. This has bothered me in the homeschooling community too.

  2. Thanks! I stopped by your blog and was totally inspired by the work you've done! I tried 3 times to comment there but kept having glitches... I LOVE the colors in your current quilt, and was quite impressed with the free hand pattern you quilted in an earlier post. Keep up the beautiful work!:)

  3. Great article! I just found your blog posted by someone in my homeschool co-op ironically! :) I too was homeschooled, and this has been a big battle for me because I was NOT educated, and had a hard time getting into college. We wanted our son to thrive, but didn't want the lack of education. It finally hit me one day that I CAN homeschool with a different motive than my family. Theirs at the time was to protect us from the world. Eventually they found out that doesn't work. My motive to homeschool is for my children to thrive, so that means reevaluating our choice each year, for each child. Thanks for a great post! Looking forward to the rest!

    1. Thanks so much for you comment Gina! I LOVE your goal being to see your children thrive! Isn't that what it is all about? It sounds like you have discovered what works for your family and I love hearing that! The truth is many of us homeschool grads have faced challenges. I believe the key is balance, and being willing to address uncomfortable issues so that others can benefit from our experiences. Glad to have you aboard!!

  4. This is a great article from a unique perspective! Good job!