Home School

simpsons schoolThis is very interesting to me. I just heard a story (by Nancy Mullane) on NPR’s Weekend Edition about home schooling. (The link is here, and audio will be available at that page shortly). It focuses on the issue that African Americans are the fastest growing group of adopters among minorities in the US. I was also not aware that homeschooling is on a rapid rise.

This raises all sorts of questions for me. Very basic ones. How well does homeschooling work? Does the “product” – an educated person – perform well afterwards, once they’ve rejoined educational settings with the more traditional social environments (colleges and universities). Does the reduced level of social interaction during those homeschooling years have an adverse effect, or is it compensated for by social interaction that presumably takes place after school? Perhaps there are arguments that the reduction in social interaction even helps in some ways? I really don’t know much about this. Do you? I presume there’s all sorts of statistics on this, but I’d be curious to hear a bit of anecdotal discussion in the comments. Perhaps you were homeschooled? Have friends who were? Are homeschooling someone now? Are being homeschooled now? Tell us what you think!

I wonder about this since I’m curious as to whether this results in a different (better, one hopes) range of career choices (and successful ones, hopefully) for the homeschooled population. Given the powerful influences of peer pressure, stereotyping and the like which skew a child’s perception of what sort of careers they can aspire to pursue (I’m – of course – thinking of black kids and science, girls and science, but also a broader spectrum as well), might homeschooling reduce some of that? (I say “reduce” but not eliminate, given the same stereotype problems that exist in the images in entertainment and the media at large) Do the numbers bear that out? Are there numbers on that at all?

Thoughts welcome.


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28 Responses to Home School

  1. Jude says:

    I think that the variety of homeschoolers makes the question unanswerable. For example, one homeschooling blog I read regularly, Sprittibee, is written by a mother who wants to isolate her children from society. She doesn’t intend for them to go to a secular university. She doesn’t want them to learn about the “evils” of evolution, for example. She feels that she made mistakes in life because of the bad influence of her peers, so she wants them to avoid the same mistakes.

    Other homeschoolers do it because it’s best for their kid. For example, Rick Riordan, a former middle school teacher/author of a great series of kid books (and apparently adult books as well), homeschools one of his sons because he was having problems in regular school. An acquaintance of mine homeschooled her son Troy because he was expelled from regular school after he got into a fist fight. (His brother died unexpectedly a few months before, and he was distraught). Last spring, I ran into Troy and he told me he was working 40 hours a week (as a 14-year-old). I said, “When do you do homeschooling?” “At night.” I was happy to see that his mom put Troy into high school. It should be nice for him to get a break from working adult hours.

    I homeschooled my son when he was suspended on the *first* day of 7th grade for refusing to dress out for P.E. I kept him in band (which to me is the most important class in school). We studied things I knew they weren’t talking about in school such as prejudice (interestingly, when he took the Implicit Association Test at http://www.understandingprejudice.org/iat/ he was not biased against blacks, even though we live in a community with less than 1% blacks. However, even after our prejudice unit, he’s still prejudiced against flute players). We also studied Latin. We became quite close, but he is highly social, and he hated being just with me all day while he waited for his friends to get out of school. He returned after 9 weeks with an improved attitude.

    I homeschooled my daughter for 9 weeks because she was so stressed out after 8th grade when she went to state with the National Geography Bee, missed 14 days of school because of chicken pox, and generally overachieved in spite of it. She studied Shakespeare, speed reading, and study skills, then went to school in the afternoon for band. She was an “A” student, but from my perspective, she worked too hard for her “As” so I tried to teach her shortcuts. Since I was working full-time then, I left her assignments every day. It turned out that she was not motivated to study without the external motivator of grades.

    Christopher Paolini, who wrote Eragon, had time to write a book at the age of 15 because he’d already graduated from high school. Now he’s wealthy from writing Eragon and Eldest (with a third book to follow). If you feel, as a smart kid, that school is holding you back, homeschooling makes sense.

    Most homeschoolers have plenty of social interaction. They meet in groups for that reason. Since I am a social phobic, that’s something I couldn’t provide my son,but I would think that few homeschoolers are as isolated as my son was. In general, I think that families who commit to having one parent at home to do the homeschooling are kid-centric. They do whatever it takes to help their children succeed. I homeschooled even as a single parent because I had an online job with flexible hours, and we’re used to being poor.

  2. Jude says:

    Make that “fewer than 1%” I hate that less/fewer mistake. Oh, well.

  3. Elliot says:

    I hope that the increase in homeschooling among African Americans is not the result of the fact that they often get the short end of the stick in public education with less qualified teachers, lower expenditures per pupil, and unsafe environs. I fear that it is.

    I strongly believe in public education as a means for social integration. To shelter children from the world as it is or may be, in my opinion does more harm in the long run.

    I know that the socialization factor is school is an important part of education. Dealing with failure, bullies, challenges, competition, unfair, or even unquaiified teachers has taught my children a great deal about living in the world.

    There may be particular cases where home schooling is the right decision for the child. But I hope that the decisions made regarding this are really made for the child and not the parent.



  4. spyder says:

    Across the spectrum of homeschool constructs, as Jude points out, there are a diversity of parental orientations and intentions. Certainly the vast, and expanding, network of religious-based homeschooling is predicated on the removal of the children from the societal influences of the dreaded and feared secular humanists. Many of these parents organize grouped homeschooling around their church or other congregational communities, to further insulate the kids from the “outside” influences especially the media. I would think (and will look into the actual numbers and provide them when i get them) that many of those expanding African and Black American homeschools are religiously oriented.

    The UC system has maintained a fairly sophisticated curricula database of homeschool texts and courses. It does so because it accepts home-schooled admissions as long as they have met the A-F requirements (as per approved curricula materials) and some form of extra-curricular activities including music, drama, athletics, etc. I would think that USC has some pretty solid numbers themselves in their admissions office.

    The State of California offers public-supported homeschool programs through the local County Offices of Education and some of the large Districts. A portion (usually 40%) of a district’s per student ADA funding can be allocated for homeschooling programs usually expended on instructional resources and lab opportunities (high school). If a student is properly enrolled in a public homeschool program they become eligible to participate in various extracurricular school-based activities including sports, music, drama, etc. This allows kids to socialize outside the classroom but still under the umbrella of the school’s authority.

    In an Utne Reader special issue (a number of years ago), that included a very detailed study of homeschool students matriculation on into colleges and universities, i was fascinated to learn that they attended universities at a slightly higher rate than the publicly-educated population (greater than 17% enrolled in the large four-year universities versus 9%); although certainly a huge number of the overall percent chose to attend religious colleges using family or scholarship money arranged through congregations and religious foundations. At that time (early 90’s) UC Davis had enrolled quite a number of homeschool students, nearly all of whom had great success engaging in a full cross-section of academic diversity. USC may also have some data on their homeschool admissions and their progress.

    Given that most high school graduates in the US (The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%. For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students—but nearly ten years later that rate has dropped below 70% not counting GED and adult education diplomas) do not attend universities nor complete four college programs (>24%) my sense is that homeschoolers may matriculate at higher rates than the general population (keeping in mind that a majority of that is religious). That is a relatively good sign i suppose.

  5. Marcy Muser says:


    Wow, you’ve certainly gotten some negative comments against homeschooling here! That surprises me, given that the research shows conclusively that most homeschooled students do exceptionally well, both academically and socially, after they leave homeschooling.

    Take a look at http://www.nheri.org, especially the link there entitled “NHERI Research.” The National Home Education Research Institute has found, for example, that “The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem. ”

    Not only that, but research is being done on adults who were homeschooled, and they have found that they: “1) participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, 2) vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and 3) go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population.”

    OK, enough statistics – now for some personal anecdotal evidence. I was homeschooled myself for grades 1, 6, and 9-12. My years homeschooling provided me with some of my best memories and my strongest relationships. I slipped easily into college, which I greatly enjoyed, and graduated magna cum laude from one of the more challenging private colleges in the country. I actually made the transition into college much more successfully than my public-schooled husband, who made few real friends there and was thrilled when he got a C on his first test, because he had never learned to study.

    I have homeschooled my daughters for their whole lives. My older daughter is 11, and is doing beautifully both academically and socially. My younger daughter is 7, and is still ironing out some rough edges and learning what friendship is all about (as are most 7-year-olds). I do make it a priority to ensure my girls gets significant social experiences, including some that are consistent enough to make real friends. Both girls are enrolled in a one-day-a-week enrichment program, where they take band, drama, art, Spanish, and other subjects that are hard to teach one-on-one.

    I find most homeschooled kids are actually better socialized than most public-schooled kids. I think this is because social skills and cultural values are more effectively taught by adults than by large groups of children. When my daughters encounter difficult social situations, I am usually immediately or quickly available
    to help them process their feelings and their responses, and to provide a mature perspective on the situation. They don’t have to wait all day, stewing on their feelings and maybe making the situation far worse. Not only that, I’m there with them to model mature, adult social behavior (which I hopefully exhibit most of the time!). They see how I deal with difficult social issues, and they learn to respond in a healthy way, rather than watching a bunch of other 7-year-olds (or junior-highers), and modeling their behavior after them.

    I think you’re right, too, that homeschooling can reduce the effects of peer pressure and stereotyping. My daughters don’t learn that “girls can’t do math,” for example; in fact, my younger daughter is exceptionally good at math, and I would not be at all surprised to find she ends up in some math-oriented career. Because I’m with my daughters most of the time, I see their strengths; because I provide their primary input, I can encourage them in the directions in which their gifts lie. My older daughter is a great leader, and school interactions with peers and teachers don’t squash that tendency.

    I remember in college interacting with a professor about what I wanted to do with my life. That professor belittled me, saying, “Do you really think, in this day and age, you can actually do that?” I struggled with that question, because it was a person of some authority and someone I respected who had told me that. But my previous experiences, especially being homeschooled, gave me the courage. I decided I WOULD do that, no matter what this professor or anyone else thought; and I have done just that. I believe the foundation I’m giving my girls will help them, too, to accomplish whatever they set their minds to do.

    I hope this post encourages you to investigate the issue of homeschooling further. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the positive experience homeschooling can be.

  6. Marcy Muser says:


    One more thing – I think you’ve posed some really good questions about homeschooling here. I have posted some of your questions, along with my answers (mostly as you see in my comment above), on my blog, http://marcys-musings.blogspot.com.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about these topics again.

  7. Elliot says:


    You apparently are referring to my comment above on you blog as critical and scornful comments from a liberal.

    1) I do not think my tone above was “scornful”.

    2) When I look at your blog and your links it seems that some of your reasons for homeschooling may be religious in nature and have nothing to do with the value of the actual education. Can you confirm this or it is simply coincidental that you seem to “prefer” christian evangelical sites? I think it is relevant as your post above does not suggest any religious reasons for home schooling.


  8. spyder says:

    Thanks for getting me thinking about these topics again.
    This is perhaps her most disingenuous statement of the bunch. Scanning a quick review of her latest posts reveals she thinks about these topics all the time. Unless of course she doesn’t think about homeschooling while she is homeschooling???? mmmm… And as for all those statistical indices that represent conclusive proof “that most homeschooled students do exceptionally well, both academically and socially,” i would think that the terms “conclusively, most, and exceptionally” are very highly-biased value judgements on her part.

    As someone who has been in public education (across the spectrum and grade levels including university faculty positions) for the last 40 years, i chose to send my children to Waldorf schools rather than any other form of education. From my perspective, and my own personal opinion (not based on highly biased statistics) Waldorf provided the most complete and well rounded opportunity for my kids to discover their own talents and gifts while being challenged to overcome their weaknesses. Not all of my kids matriculated successfully through universities, but that was a matter of choice and opportunity; the three out of four who did (with a fifth working to graduate high school and move on to one of the UC’s) were prepared and ready for the experience. That there are Waldorf-based homeschool programs available is a good thing i think. But again it is a matter of personal preference.

  9. spyder says:

    One further point: The following is a quote from Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. (CEO of NHERI) regarding public education:

    It is well-known among educators, and many others, that there is a hidden curriculum in the schools, having more to do with values and acculturation than with reading, writing, and arithmetic. It has to do with how people behave and with what understanding of reality and society guides their thinking. The hidden curriculum affects the psychological and spiritual development of a child.

    Yikes, hidden agendas of the secular humanists, curse them for that.

  10. Elliot says:


    yeah. God forbid kids should learn how to play together nicely in school.


  11. Samantha says:

    I am reflexively anti-homeschooling.

    I have not (and won’t be, sorry about that) looked at the statistics (then again I don’t feel too badly about this since Marcy was unable to read this blog sufficiently to gather than Clifford’s initials are CVJ). Rather what soured me (at age 18) was the experience of two childhood friends of mine who were home schooled at the behest of some very (very) strong adult personalities in their lives. They were great children and are great adults, but had a lot of emotional and academic problems when they tried to integrate into the academic world at the university level.

    And somehow this was their failure as adults, none of the aforementioned strong personalities questioned that it might have been the homeschooling that was the problem.

  12. TammyT says:

    Let’s try changing some words in Samantha’s point, to see how it sounds:

    “I am reflexively anti-school.

    I have not (and won’t be, sorry about that) looked at the statistics (then again I don’t feel too badly about this since stats don’t tell us much about kids’ emotional lives when they become adults). Rather, what soured me (at age 25) was the experience of several childhood friends of mine, and half my friends after college, who were public schooled at the behest of some very (very) strong adult personalities (most of whom didn’t even know them personally) and society at large. They were great children and are great adults, but had a lot of emotional and adaptive problems when they tried to integrate into the real world of being involved with their community, finding a satisfying job and generally being happy with how their lives turned out.

    And somehow, this was their failure as adults, none of the aforementioned strong personalities (or society at large) questioned that it might have been the schooling that was the problem.Or if they did, shrugged it off as just part of what everyone has to go through as part of life.”

    I’m not saying that homeschooling is better. What I am saying is that homeschooling is not worse because there are some that “fail” or have a hard time as adults. It works both ways.

    Clifford, gonna try to answer some of your questions from a “liberal” homeschooler’s POV here.

    How well does homeschooling work? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. And, what the definition of “works” is. For me, whether an educational choice “works” or not, is not based on grades, % of college entrants, or how much money people are making. Whether it “works” is based on whether kids are involved in the world, care about something other than themselves, are able to make choices based on personal integrity instead of fear, able to stand up for what they believe in, fill their days with meaningful activity that helps others or at least doesn’t hurt anyone else, and know, that no matter what, they are capable beings even if they make a choice that’s not generally popular. You can’t test these kinds of things. But if you are looking purely at grades and academics, homeschooling seems to work pretty well too. Isn’t it pretty well documented that children’s academic success is directly related to parental involvement? Most homeschoolers (not all of course) are pretty close to their kids.

    Do homeschooled kids integrate into a school system pretty well? Well, that depends on the kids, on the situation and on why they are there. Most life-long homeschooled kids I know who went to school because they wanted to had a short period of adjustment. Kind of like on the job training. The only problem I heard about were the people who weren’t all that understanding and started complaining about how incapable these kids were because they were homeschooled. I’ve found that people who complain about homeschoolers in school are not that understanding of people in general, and have very high expectations of what people should do, rather than meeting them where they are at and giving them some assistance to find their way. These same teachers have trouble with kids who don’t perform well in school. So, basically, if you have good teachers, and a positive learning environment, the homeschoolers do well. If the teacher is opinionated and nasty, they don’t do well. Funny how the interpretation of how well integrated a homeschooler becomes in school is completely dependent on the teacher’s perception of homeschooling. As for grades and such, homeschoolers pick that up pretty quickly. It’s not that complicated. You do what the teacher wants, you get a good grade, you don’t, bad grade. If a Kinder kid can figure that out, an adult homeschooler going into college can pick that up pretty quickly.

    Does reduced level of social interaction effect homeschoolers? Ah, well, see, that makes the assumption that homeschoolers get less social interaction. I would say that homeschoolers don’t get less, they get a *different* kind of social interaction. What kind that is will vary by family, city, neighborhood, age, interests, personalities. Generally, homeschooled kids get the kind of interaction they need, and don’t get the kind they don’t need. Sure, some families keep their kids from something they want. But, that exists in public school too. And school kids get social situations forced on them that are not good for their psyche. It all evens out. Most homeschoolers would say it’s “better” than public school. I say it’s better if you don’t like the way that kids are socially isolated at school, and homeschooling’s worse if you do like that. It all depends on what one considers to be “good” socializing. See, it always boils down to – depends who you ask. And who gets to say “I have a better seat to see what’s good and bad.”

    Lastly, about careers – it seems to me from the homeschoolers that I know and know of, their career choices are all over the board. Overall, homeschooled new-adults go through the same career decisions as any other kid. Some practical things are different (like portfolios or taking the CHSPE in California instead of getting a diploma, stuff like that). But overall, no career is impossible, or even all that more challenging, because of being a homeschooler. The difference between homeschooling kids and school kids, generally, is that homeschooled kids have many different possible paths to where they want to go. Schooled kids have one, or maybe a few if they are lucky.

    I hope my book-length answer helped a little. Good luck with your search for “the truth” about homeschooling.

  13. Samantha says:

    Yup. Thanks for rewriting what I wrote. I already pointed out that I am completely biased on this subject based on my one personal experience, but I have to say the sort of ready-to-go comments being trotted out here don’t help me see reason.

  14. Elliot says:

    Is the “rewriting” exercise one of the tactics that home schoolers use to try to get their point across. I only ask because Marcy used exactly the same technique on her blog in response to an NEA statement. Seems a bit coincidental.

    Clifford, unfortunately and perhaps naively you have walked into a hornets nest here. The questions you raised were valid but for many of us devil worshiping secular humanists, home schooling is often code for, “since they won’t teach my kid about God at school, I guess I will have to do it at home.” That is obviously a gross oversimplification but if we could find valid research on this topic, you will find this is the single most prevalent reason for home schooling. Despite of course the fact the the United States is not a Christian nation and therefore the education system correctly does not promote a particular religious agenda, many think it should.

    To your questions about does this help women or minorities by isolating them from negative stereotypes etc. I say NO. The answer is to change the educational environment and landscape so women, minorities, and others who do not fit in do not feel threatened or inadequate. Your response to Tommaso re: Lisa Randall and continuous and vigilant activism to ensure that the educational and professional environments are what we want for our society is I believe the best course.

    Can home schooled children be successful? Of course. Are there cases when it is a better choice for the child? Undoubtedly. Is it the best choice for the child? Or is it a choice their parents make for them because they know better than hundreds of thousands of professional educators what their kids really need.

    Hopefully this comment is clear enough without a re-write.


  15. Samantha says:

    Elliot, that is so much better said than I ever could. Thank you.

  16. Elliot says:

    You are very welcome.


  17. Clifford says:

    Everyone – thanks *so* much for an interesting discussion. Yes, my questions were naive, but still valid questions and I do believe they achieved the desired effect of bringing out some honest opinion on both sides of the issue. I have no problem asking naive questions. I have to say that while I think that there is a large population that is motivated by the religion issue you mentioned, Elliot, I am not convinced that is the main motivation for many, and it is certainly not enough of an argument against, on its own (although it is a huge one, I’d agree – school education and religion should be as separate as possible – that is clear). I did not, for example, detect much of an overtone of religious motives in the NPR story I pointed to, but perhaps I missed it. I think that Jude’s comment that the motivations are so varied is worth keeping in mind. It’s many people’s personal solution to what is often a terrible local situation, and I have some sympathy with that. My own gut feeling is also that we should of course work hard to fix the existing infrastructure, since the value of children learning to get on in life by interacting with other children should not be underestimated, and I worry that the homeschooling cannot come close to replacing that. But some people don’t want to wait around for it to be fixed while their own children are going through what might be a terrible time.

    It’s a tough one alright.


  18. TammyT says:

    Thanks CVJ 🙂 Very nice summation.

  19. Marcy Muser says:


    Apparently because of the fact that I am a Christian and a homeschooler, there are some on this blog who have decided that I am therefore a) homeschooling exclusively to shelter my children from the “secular humanists,” and b) therefore not worth listening to or having an intelligent discussion with. I find this disappointing.

    The primary reason I decided to homeschool is that when I went to enroll my then-3-year-old in a local private preschool, I discovered she had already accomplished ALL of the objectives they had established for their kindergarten. I did not feel it was fair, to her or to them, to enroll her in that program – and I did not believe, based on my experience teaching and working in various schools in different states, that any preschool was likely to meet her needs. As I began investigating homeschooling, I discovered that I had already been doing one kind of homeschooling, known as “interest-driven” homeschooling, with her as I chose a given interesting topic each week and read to her, and as I talked about letters and their sounds, counted with her, and pointed out various colors. So I naturally decided homeschooling was a good choice for us.

    As we have continued to progress, I’ve seen my daughter survive and thrive in a homeschooling environment, and move even further ahead of her peers academically. I still work in the school system, in various responsibilities, on a part-time basis; I find my decision to homeschool continually validated as she advances both academically and socially. She is 11 this year; she will be ready for algebra and high-school level biology within the next year. Meantime, a friend two years older in the public middle school she’d be attending is taking first-year algebra for the second year in a row, not because she didn’t pass the first time, but because that’s the highest math class the school offers, and she has to have a math class. I simply WILL NOT put my child through that kind of nonsense.

    Yes, Elliott, I am a Christian. However, I do not homeschool for religious reasons, but for practical ones – because I find my daughters benefit both academically and socially as a result of being homeschooled.

    Spyder, I apologize if I came across as disingenuous when I said Clifford had “gotten me thinking about these topics again.” The “topics” I was referring to did not include homeschooling – obviously I think about that a great deal. Instead, I have been thinking again about socialization and particularly about prejudice and stereotyping in relation to homeschooling. I find it fascinating that you, who are involved so heavily in the public school system, chose to send your own children to a non-public school – one that is well known for providing children with a great deal of freedom and individual attention, contrary to the average public school system. You are certainly correct when you point out that I’ve used fairly strong terms, “conclusively, most, and exceptionally.” There are a couple of reasons why I used those terms: 1) I look at a lot of information about homeschooling; I have yet to see ANY research supporting the conclusion that homeschool students are behind, academically or socially. The research that does exist shows homeschooled students scoring at the 80% level on standardized tests (not that that’s the be-all and end-all of academic achievement, of course, but it is one way of measuring it). The research that exists also shows homeschooled adults more civically involved (voting and participating in public meetings), more active in public service, and far less likely to be unemployed or on welfare – thus apparently doing better socially, though of course this doesn’t measure their friendships with other people). 2) I know an enormous number of homeschoolers, due to my years involved in it and my work in the field. The vast majority (“most”) are ahead academically and socially. In fact, of the hundreds of homeschoolers I know, I can think of only a dozen or so who are behind academically; perhaps 25-30 who are behind socially. I don’t believe it’s exaggerating to say “most.” Perhaps I did get a bit carried away in saying that “most” homeschoolers do “exceptionally” well – I am quite certain that most homeschooled students do better than average academically and socially after homeschooling.

    Elliott, I’m sorry, but I think you are completely wrong in your statement that “you will find this (the desire that schools teach children “a particular religious agenda” is the single most prevalent reason for home schooling. ” I’ve said before that I know hundreds of homeschoolers. There are as many reasons for homeschooling as there are families who do it. I’ve given you my reasons for homeschooling; others homeschool because their kids had trouble in school, or because they want their children to have more freedom than the school provides, or because they don’t think kids ought to be segregated based on age, or because they think schools limit African-American children, or just because they genuinely like to be around their kids and don’t want to send their 6-year-olds away all day long. Certainly SOME families homeschool because they are afraid of the “secular humanists”; in my experience that is not the majority. Take a look, if you will, at this site: http://lifewithoutschool.typepad.com/lifewithoutschool/2007/07/celebrating-our.html. It’s a page from the Life Without School website entitled “Celebrating Our Diversity.” You will find few religious, paranoid, secular-humanist-fearing homeschooler in this bunch – instead, you’ll find a tremendous diversity of people all of whom believe it’s better for our kids to be at home.

    As for your argument that homeschooling doesn’t “help women or minorities by isolating them from negative stereotypes,” do you have any evidence of this? The ideal answer might indeed to be to “change the educational environment and landscape,” but that’s a very long-term solution. When parents are facing the immediate situation, working for long-term change might mean they sacrifice their children’s future in order to (hopefully) benefit someone else’s children someday. Some might choose to make that sacrifice. I have only this go-round with my daughters; I’m not willing to sacrifice their futures. Once they are grown, and as I am able even now, I will work for change in the system (and no, I don’t mean religious change – I have NO interest in having the schools teach religion as I personally don’t think they do an adequate job of the subjects they do teach). But in the meantime, my kids are going to get the very best education I can possibly give them, and that for our family means homeschooling.

    Clifford, I hope you will keep asking questions and investigating the issue of homeschooling. I hope you’ll check out the link for Life Without School, too – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at who’s doing it and why. The longer we are involved in it, the happier we are with how well our children are doing, and the more convinced we are that many other children would also benefit from it.

  20. Anna says:

    Where I live, it is easy to assume that homeschoolers are locking their kids in the basement to teach Bible verses and creationism. The Christian homeschoolers have been instrumental in shaping the laws that dictate what I have to do as a homeschooling mom. They have kept the government out of it, and I appreciate that.

    The push for religion in our schools is precisely one of the reasons that I chose to homeschool. Indiana starts its day with a ‘moment of silence’ which is code for ‘bow your head and pray or get your ass kicked at the bike rack’. It is a handy tool for weeding out the non-believers.

    As for social interaction, how much do you think happens at school? In our area, recess is down to 20 minutes a day. Many schools mandate 10 minutes of silence during lunch. When do you think kids are interacting? And with whom? My children spend their days with people of all ages, all races, all religions. That would not be true in our school district. The construct of school does not allow for cross-age socialization. We live around a bunch of white, mostly evangelical Christians. No diversity there. In addition, they have time to just be kids. They can walk down to the creek in our neighborhood, the can play in the sand box; they can pretend that they are cats…all of which are activities that promote neural stimulation and brain growth. There is no time for those things when you are being given worksheet after worksheet of busy work.

    As amazed as some people are that a family would choose to homeschool, I am usually surprised when people choose to send their kids to school. I come from a family of public educators (both parents and a sib), and I know the values and pitfalls of public education. For our family, though, the optimal situation is to homeschool and to have the freedom to explore the world as it is.

  21. Valerie says:

    To Elliot: Marcy didn’t do the re-write of that years-old NEA resolution that the NEA membership reaffirmed at their 2007 conference, I did. At her blog, Marcy copied what I had written at the blog for Home Education Magazine — and that is fine with me. 🙂 I don’t know if anyone else is re-writing negative viewpoints about homeschooling (other than me and my online friend, Tammy), I do it just to put the shoe on the other foot. (and, when one’s Muse is on a coffee break, it’s an easy blog post ;> )

    As for homeschooling being a circumvention of secular teaching, it can be, just as secular schooling was a way to circumvent the religious teachings of immigrants. See Pierce v. Society of Sisters:
    On 7 November 1922, the voters of Oregon passed a referendum amending Oregon Law Section 5259, the Compulsory Education Act. The referendum was primarily aimed at eliminating parochial schools, including Catholic schools. Many Protestants felt that religious schools prevented assimilation.[1]
    Homeschooling can also be a way for those of us who are evolutionists to avoid the controversies of the debates around evolution, and just get on with things.
    The Evolved Homeschooler

    As for the benefit of homeschooling to women or minorities, it may very well turn out that homeschooling does help them. Like Elliot, I think it is important that the educational environment change, but I got tired of waiting for that change, and working for it, when my children were in school. While people’s lives move on — especially childhoods — institutional change grinds slowly. For my part, I didn’t want to waste much of my younger children’s childhoods waiting, again, for change. (our oldest son was publicly schooled to high school graduation)

    And back to Clifford, whose blog it is, after all. 🙂

    ** Does homeschooling ‘work?’
    Yes. So do private schooling and public schooling if you mean by ‘working’ do X% of the graduates go on to live reasonably happy and productive lives.

    ** Public perception of reduced level of social interaction.
    As a humorous fyi about how homeschoolers see socialization, we often refer to it as the S-word. ;>

    “Socialization” can be like beauty; it’s in the eye of the beholder.
    — ‘You’ see “reduced levels” of social activity, and we see a relaxed pace of life.
    — ‘You’ wonder about statistics, and many of us say we’re not lab rats and we don’t have to be, so we’re not. (there is also the self-selection bias so that any statistics about homeschoolers come only from those people who think statistical research is a good use of their time)

    Survey and Lobbyists Cause Problems for Homeschoolers
    As another example: It is highly unlikely that the test scores reported on the survey are representative. States that require testing are probably over represented because more people from those states have scores to report. Also, people are more likely to include test scores if their children did well. In addition, remember that many homeschooled children do not take such tests and would have nothing to report.

    Different upbringing can lead to non-standard behaviors and outlooks. My elder daughter had fun with this in an undergrad sociology course. The professor had the students go out in public and do something anti-social, but benign — my daughter drew an eye on her forehead and walked around WalMart. (I think she had earlier inspiration — click on Unschooling in a word:
    http://www.militaryhomeschoolers.com/ )
    (That’s our youngest in the photo; she was a theater major in college.)

    As for career choices, that’s another iffy subject because the makeup of a successful life can also be in the eye of the beholder, sort of like that email joke from a few years ago about the rich man and the beach bum. The rich man was working hard so he could have enough money to live as simply as the beach bum already did.

    A real-world example would be Gerald Durrell, a popular author and founder of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a breeding zoo for endangered species on the Channel island of Jersey. Even though he wasn’t ‘homeschooled’ as part of the modern homeschooling movement, you can consider his life. Did his schooling ‘work?’
    The Most Ignorant Boy in the School

    Btw, Clifford, as another fyi, I found your blog when it showed up in the daily alerts Google sends out for variant spellings of homeschool.
    Google Blogs Alert for: “home-school”

    Home School
    By Clifford
    This is very interesting to me. I just heard a story (by Nancy Mullane) on NPR’s Weekend Edition about home schooling. (The link is here, and audio will be available at that page shortly). It focuses on the issue that African Americans …
    Asymptotia – http://asymptotia.com

    Thanks for the nice chat. 🙂

  22. Dawn says:

    Clifford – I think the best way for you to answer your question is just to dive into some of the resources out there and have a peek at what some of us homeschooling parents are doing.

    //Does the reduced level of social interaction during those homeschooling years have an adverse effect, or is it compensated for by social interaction that presumably takes place after school?//

    My kids, 9 and 5, are both outgoing and quick to make friends. They have a very firm sense of themselves and are generally very adapt at communicating with children and adults. I really don’t know what, if any, is due to their nature, our family or homeschooling. I do know that not having them in school hasn’t created any problems with their social deverlopment.

    // Perhaps there are arguments that the reduction in social interaction even helps in some ways?//

    I’m sure there are. Personally, I’d like to see some evidence that the level of social interaction most kids get today is helpful. The environments a lot of kids are in today with large schools and large classes of same-age peers for hours on end and isolated from the larger community most of the week is pretty damn new. Nevermind homeschooling, it’s not even reflective of what many schools were 50 or 60 years ago and I’m not sure we’ve realized that and taken a good look at what it can do to a child.

    // I really don’t know much about this. Do you? I presume there’s all sorts of statistics on this, but I’d be curious to hear a bit of anecdotal discussion in the comments. Perhaps you were homeschooled? Have friends who were? Are homeschooling someone now? Are being homeschooled now? Tell us what you think! //

    If you look for statistics, check the source carefully. There isn’t a lot yet but much of what’s there comes from the NHERI and HSLDA, sister homeschool organizations that are right wing christian in nature. Their studies only reflect their membership which is a pretty specific and homogenous subset of homeschoolers.

    //I wonder about this since I’m curious as to whether this results in a different (better, one hopes) range of career choices (and successful ones, hopefully) for the homeschooled population.//

    The only difference I may have noticed is that some homeschooled kids seem to have more specific career goals that they can pursue a little earlier due to not being in school. That’s anecdotal though.

    // Given the powerful influences of peer pressure, stereotyping and the like which skew a child’s perception of what sort of careers they can aspire to pursue (I’m – of course – thinking of black kids and science, girls and science, but also a broader spectrum as well), might homeschooling reduce some of that? (I say “reduce” but not eliminate, given the same stereotype problems that exist in the images in entertainment and the media at large) Do the numbers bear that out? Are there numbers on that at all?//

    I don’t think so. I have lots of anecdotes but don’t know of any studies.

  23. Dave says:

    Does the reduced level of social interaction during those homeschooling years have an adverse effect, or is it compensated for by social interaction that presumably takes place after school?

    I think that the reduced level of social interaction with children who are not interested in learning and overworked, inattentive teachers is adequately compensated for by social interaction with parents and children who love learning.

    Your question creates an interesting conundrum for public educators. Is it their primary function to enable social interaction, or to enable academic learning? Apparently, you would have them expend their energies on ensuring that all of their young clients spend most of their time comfortably chatting and playing. You should try out a “country club reform” proposal on your local school board in order to minimize the worrisome distractions of academic work for public school students.

    Whether public school social interaction represents some kind of “real life” is a totally separate issue. I’m sure that for someone who has never worked outside of a school or prison, it seems quite normal.

    Good for you for deciding to explore these issues!


  24. candace says:

    When I consider the “social interactions” I had to endure at the hands and mouths of my peers (and occasionally teachers) throughout my public school education, I don’t see them as necessary or even desirable. If my mother had offered to homeschool me, or even to allow me to homeschool myself, I would have leapt at the chance. Instead, I took another path.

  25. Adam Drake says:


    I was homeschooled after 8th grade for multiple reasons, not the least of which were my disciplinary problems in public school. In hindsight my bad behavior was the product of boredom, though I didn’t recognize it at the time.

    After being able to work at my own pace I completed grades 9-12 in just under two years and started my first semester of college at age 16. After that first semester I decided to leave academia for a while in order to work in the ultra-lucrative IT industry (give me a break, it was 1999). I worked as an IT Director for about 5 years before going back to school to get my BS in Applied Mathematics which I recently completed. I started graduate school this summer and am currently working towards my PhD in mathematics.

    For people who are self-directed and passionate about their interests home schooling is an invaluable way to cut out the BS of public school. For those who are unmotivated or lazy it is an absolute waste of time as they will never accomplish anything without constant prodding.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  26. a cornellian says:

    I’m going to throw a wrench at the statistics about home schooled kids. The claim that home schoolers are above the national averages, there for homeschooling is the way to go does not hold up. All of the home schooled kids I know tend to be well above average anyway and have very well educated parents as well. For the statistics to mean anything you need to control against their true peer group (ability, wealth, and background wise) instead of the national average. Also, how old are those numbers and when did the relgious home schooling take off? Does it count evangelical activities as public service?

    Home schooling makes sense for lower grades, but I am not convinced that it is good for high school. How many people have parents that are capable enough at teaching physics, chem, bio, english, and history to provide a solid education? How many parents have the resources to run the labs for the sciences? How many parents have the time to devote to doing home schooling right?

    oth, my younger sister was home schooled for a half a year due to medical issues and rejoined the high school the next year.

  27. Lady S 16 says:

    I am in Home school…………………… I hate it, I have no friend’s no one teaches me i do everything myself, i was taking out of school for having an argument with a girl, we didn’t even get close enough to actually hit one another. My mom’s a preacher she says she’s praying wether are not I should go back but honestly I think it’s her that just wants me to stay out of school.
    I try to prove I’m not like her and that I’m not gone do the same thing’s she did, I wanna Learn and be around people my own age, so far the only thing home school has done for me is 1. make me angry 2.I’m more depressed 3.I’m not as out going anymore 4.I have way more emotional problems now.
    She never listens how i feel about it, she hears me but nothing has changed yet……………….

  28. Amber says:

    I just wanted to say a few things on the homeschool issue. I homeschool my little girl. I started her in public school for kindergarten and promply removed her before Thanksgiving. In her class, she had mates that sang lyrics to songs that shouldn’t even be heard by that age group.( this alludes to a break down in values of the home) I wasn’t thrilled when she repeated the lyrics back to me. Next, my dd came home everyday saying that she was bored from doing worksheets all day. From this experience, I will never understand why so many people have a problem with a parent wanting to do what is best for their child. I am totally “biased” on this subject. Why every parent would run out and remove their kids from the cookie cutter, one size fits all education that public schools provide is beyond me. As for socialization, how does any child socialize in an environment like a prison? Everyone has the same “uniform”(whether imposed by authority or peers), the kids are told to sit and be quiet and do their work. As far as I can tell, the only socialization opportunities a student can have is at P.E., before/after school, or at lunch. This logically tells me that “scialization” can take place anywhere and doesn’t have to be in a ,prison-oops I mean public/private school setting. As far as the “re-entering” society question goes, I think there isn’t a problem especially if the parents are doing their jobs. I believe this question is a little absurd b/c homeschoolers never leave society in the first place. It’s just a different way of socializing where they kids learn to interact with people of all ages, not just their same age peers.