I remember when I first decided I would homeschool my children. I was 16 years old! That was a looong time ago. But, at the time it was so “fringe” and you would go to a book store and maybe find a book or two about it. Now there is a whole section on homeschooling. The US Department of Education recently released a report on the number of homeschooling families in the US. In 1999, 850,000 students were homeschooled – now it is approximately 1.5 million. This still only amounts to 2.9% of children ages 5-17 but that is up from 1.7% in 1999. I hope that this increase will help dispel some of the misconceptions about homeschooling.
Misconception #1: Homeschoolers are Religious Nuts
I thought it was interesting that the primary reason cited by 85% of respondents in the survey was concern about the school environment including safety, drugs, and negative peer pressure. One of the oft cited misconceptions about homeschooling is that it is only done by religious fanatics. Desire for religious/moral instruction and dissatisfaction with academic instruction held the 2nd and 3rd place for homeschooling reasons. My own personal reasons would be a reverse of that: dissatisfaction with academic instruction, then moral instruction, and lastly (and to a lesser extent) school environment. For me the school environment is more about the unnatural context of same-age children sequestered in a non-real-world environment than it is about sheltering kids from peer pressure and drugs. This plays into my primary reason which is that learning is a natural and fun human need that has all the life sucked out of it by industrialized, assembly-line “schooling.” I’d rather have my children learn than be schooled.
Misconception #2: Homeschoolers are Socially Awkward.
This is the thing I hear the most and it is just absurd. I don’t think a single positive socialization comes out of bully-ridden, age-segregated, shhhushed-by-the-teacher public school. If you plan to homeschool in rural Alaska then perhaps socialization would be a problem. In most areas there are vibrant homeschooling organizations to provide kids with group activities (think science fairs and field trips). Homeschooling kids are better able to socialize with various age groups and this is well supported by research (I’ll dig it up sometime).
Misconception #3: I’m Not Qualified to Teach My Children
Pfft. Absurd. Do you know what you need to teach? Love and resources. For some reason our society has recently (public schooling is about 150 years old) decided that learning occurs when someone who “knows” passes this knowledge to a child. Au contraire. Learning is discovery. If your child wants to learn french you don’t have to know french yourself. Go to the library, order Rosetta stone, find a french person to help, get a french pen pal! Learning is about seeking and seeking is something public schooled children are not encouraged to do. People say to me “well homeschooling is ok for you because you have college degrees.” Not true. Anyone can do it. Can you read ? Do you like to learn? Do you have a public library? You are good to go.