Sharing the gospel of homeschooling

Some of you know by reading my posts here that my wife and I homeschool our children. Actually, my wife Kristen does most of the teaching, although I like to be as involved as I can. I really like talking about homeschooling. Jaymie, our oldest daughter, is 6, followed by Julia (3) and Stanley (1). Jaymie is the only child actively being taught, but Julia gets to participate as well, and Stanley participates whether we want him to or not. We’ve been doing it for a year and a few months now, and the results have been encouraging. Jaymie is learning a lot, loves to read, has become great friends with her sister, has time to take an art class and a dance class, participates on a swim team, plays the piano, has tremendous poise and self-confidence, and is a delight to be around. I expect similar results for my other children (I know, blech, sorry, I can’t help myself. Feel free to brag about your own kids below). Homeschooling has been a great choice for our family in many ways, and as a result I like to share our experience with other people.

Kristen, on the other hand, avoids talking about homeschooling as much as possible with her friends. As we have discussed why she doesn’t like discussing homeschool, we’ve come up with a few reasons. She enjoys teaching Jaymie (although it is demanding work, and she never gets a break) and has felt like it has been a good decision, so she’s not ashamed or embarrassed by what she does.

One problem that Kristen faces is that the existence of a successful homeschooler in a community introduces an element of educational choice where often none existed before. She often receives unsolicited comments from other mothers praising their children’s schools or explaining why they aren’t able to homeschool. I suspect that subconsciously they are trying to justify to themselves why they have not made the same decision that we have made. These conversations can become subtly confrontational.

Another issue is that a sizable fraction of the homeschooling community is evangelical, by which I mean they seek to convince others that homeschooling is the One True Way to educate your children (a sizable fraction of the homeschooling community is also evangelical in the born-again Christian sense as well, a topic for another post). We do not hold to this belief, so Kristen tries not to project an image of a self-righteous mother out to convince the world that homeschooling is right for everyone.

I think that Kristen doesn’t like to feel like a curiosity. Many of the people that Kristen interacts with are genuinely interested in what our homeschooling experience is like, but some are simply curious about what they consider to be an odd subculture. She’s willing to talk about her experiences to other homeschooling parents or someone who is seriously considering homeschooling, but not so ready to make small talk about her life as a teacher.

Finally, some people feel like we are harming our children by homeschooling them, and they may express their disapproval openly. Fortunately, we haven’t really had any bad experiences with people who feel this way, but dealing with such people is a fairly common problem for homeschooling families in general.

In my life, I have found that I have had attitudes towards sharing the gospel that mirror the attitudes towards talking about homeschooling. My knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been a tremendous blessing in my life, so I often find that I want to share the message of the gospel with others. At times, however, I refrain, because I don’t want to come across as being self-righteous, or confrontational, or a zealot, or a freak. Sometimes I don’t want to argue, or open up things I hold dear to attack. And so I remain silent.

The major difference, of course, is that I believe that homeschooling is a good choice for my family, but not necessarily for everyone, whereas I believe the gospel message is important for everyone to hear. Furthermore, as a follower of Christ, I am commanded bear witness of Him and share His message with those of my brothers and sisters who have not yet received it. I am under no such obligation as a homeschooling parent.

Still, my experience with talking about homeschooling has given me a new perspective on sharing the gospel. Am I as excited about talking about the plan of salvation as I am about the math curriculum we’re using? (Singapore/Miquon for those of you who want to know). If not, why not? When I shy away from opportunities to talk about my faith, what is the reason? Is it justified? Or is that my judgment to make?

138 comments for “Sharing the gospel of homeschooling

  1. I think home schooling is great – but not for me.

    Mainly because my parents and I tried it and it did not work. At all. It was a miserable failure. For whatever reason, I learn better when I have lots of social interaction (despite being an introverted person).

    However, my younger brother did home schooling for several years and blossomed. It was exactly what he needed.

    I think more people should learn about home schooling, since it is a viable option. However, the reason most people are weary about home schooling is because of those who treat it like a religions (or in LDS circles, as the most important part of their religion).

    In my small home Ward in Homer, Alaska there were a half dozen families that home schooled all of their children. My father teaches High School and was regularly declared to be evil because he did so. Some of the parents would even, during testimony meeting, declare that highest, most celestial form of education was that of home schooling, and that public schools were telestial at best (and generally put the souls of your children at risk).

    I’m all about people having choices. Just don’t tell me I’m evil if I decide my daughter should go to public schools. (Bruce – I doubt you would say that. I’m thinking more of those families from my home ward).

  2. I don’t have specific plans to homeschool my children (my oldest is only three, so the choice isn’t imminent in any case)–although I would homeschool in a heartbeat should a particular school situation prove unacceptable. But I have experienced the same satisfaction and joy from teaching my daughter that you describe: she’s just beginning to sound out words and read, and it is both empowering to know that I was able to teach her such an important skill and humbling to see her intellect unfold, mostly on its own.

    Good luck with your choice, and congratulations on making a good one for your family!

  3. We’re a homeschooling family as well, as many of you know. A few thoughts:

    (1) I didn’t much like being a mother until we starting homeschooling two years ago. For me, sitting on the floor and playing with Lincoln Logs is generally painful (although good public radio in the background helps take the edge off). But snuggling on the couch and learning (me, too) about Vikings, or gems, or Little House on the Prairie, feels right. Listening to my 6-year-old do a stimultaneous translation of the chorus of “The Spirit of God” into Latin during sacrament meeting last week might be the height of geekiness to others, but to me it was actual evidence that I have done something productive in the last few months, something permanent, unlike the continual round of dishes and laundry.

    (2) Two useful lines for the kinds of flack that homeschoolers get all the time:

    critic: “What about socialization?”
    me: “Oh, we had a huge problem with oversocialization at first, but I think we finally have it under control.”
    (I’m not kidding. It’s hard to control the schedule to ever be home for a moment of peace.)

    critic: “I don’t know if I could stand being with my children all day long.”
    me: “I probably couldn’t stand being with _your_ children all day long, either.”
    (OK, I’d never actually say this, but I do think that, to the extent that *some* homeschooled children are better behaved than *some* other children, it is because it is one thing to tolerate burping games for a few hours in the evening and quite another to deal with them all day long. We spend a lot of time on discipline in this house.)

    (3) We use Moving with Math. (Note to outsiders: there are actual flame wars over math curricula on most homeschooling boards from time to time.)

    (4) 80% of LDS homeschoolers that I have met scare the daylights out of me. I am far more comfortable with Catholic and non-religious homeschoolers.

  4. I just caught the discussion about homeschooling on the ‘welcome Bryce’ thread, and wanted to note that we are about 1/2 way through our second year of following _The Well-Trained Mind_ and I highly recommend it, as long as you have access to a decent library.

  5. I was home schooled for grades 7-12 (1992-1997 — we spent most of that time as the only homeschoolers we knew), my younger sister was home schooled for grades 1-12 (1992-2002, with a lot of college classes in 2001 and 2002), and our youngest sister (well, within this particular household) is homeschooled today, and has been since preschool (c. 1995). Random thoughts:

    — I would have to be convinced beyond even a shadow of a doubt that there was absolutely no better alternative whatsoever, before sending my children to a public school. I was completely, fantastically miserable in “regular” public school (headaches and stomach aches every day for two years — being sent out of my own class to do the work of the next grade up, and still finishing too soon, for all the academic subjects — being tormented by everyone else for my birthmark — being forced into social situations and conflicts I was not comfortable with — etc.), and only marginally less so in “highly gifted” public school (grades 2-6), because at least then it felt like the teacher understood most of what we really needed (there was also a lot less stigma attached to being smart — only a few of us got sent out of our class to a higher grade for math or reading, because we had the resources to handle almost any level of learning within our own class group). I still hated recess, the time before school, and the time after school, more than anything else. I stayed home sick to get out of having to do the traditional 6th grade softball game (and I was only a spectator), instead of getting out of a test. I saw home schooling as the Garden of Eden when I was 11. It’s not that, but it’s still better, in my mind, than any of the alternatives.
    — my younger sister will probably home school, but she’s not nearly as vehement about it. She feels she would have been happier in public school. If her kids really want to go to a public school someday, she’ll probably say ‘okay’.
    — our youngest sister seems likely to send her kids to private school, because she doesn’t trust the public schools and yet she also knows exactly how much you have to work to home school a kid. Actually, we all do. I’m the only one of the three of this who thinks she has the drive to really do it. For what it’s worth, both of them think I have the necessary drive, too.

    — home schooling will not, by itself, fix anything. All it does is give the parents a chance to really see exactly what needs to get fixed, and a lot more time in the day to do the fixing. You also have to take the additional responsibility of educating your kids. If your kid is a procrastinator, who cheats on tests, does drugs, and mouths off to teachers, you are not going to wake up on Day 1 of your homeschooling project with an Eagle scout who passes the sacrament every Sunday, tutors 8-year-olds in reading, does his homework three days before it’s due, and always acts honestly and respectfully. You might wake up with a kid like that on Day 587 of your homeschooling project, but either some mind-control or a LOT of hard work are going to be along the way. The best math program on earth will not change that, and I’m convinced that a lot of homeschoolers whose kids had trouble in regular school think that it will.
    — you can be a social butterfly or a complete hermit (or something in between) as a home schooler. The only difference between this situation and group schooling is that you get more options as to who you hang out with, when and where you do it, and what you do while you’re hanging out. In particular you aren’t stuck with the same 30 kids who happened to be born in your birthyear, now living in your part of town, and you aren’t being (marginally) supervised by a stranger who doesn’t consider what you do with your friends to be his/her primary responsibility.

    — I have no life-or-death opinion about math curriculums, except to say that we were relatively ecclectic, I hated math (so did my younger sister), and yet we still have a 610 math SAT and two admissions to the highest remedial math course available as sophomores in high school amongst the three of us. My youngest sister is highly traumatized at the moment because she’s only three grades ahead of where she should be, in math, and is only at the 75th percentile for “indexing.” I plan on doing a mixture of some Saxon, some Glen Doman (teach your baby math — which helped me a lot), and some other random stuff, for my kids. Mostly because that’s what I’ve seen work, and because I already know how to use it.

    — some not terribly scientific evidence (comparing my father’s two youngest children, who both go to public school, to my sisters here in Ohio) leads me to think that home schooling makes smart kids less annoying and less irritable than public school does, over the long term.

    Still, some of my best friends were public schooled. ^_^ If you think it’s what’s good for your kids — hey, that’s the whole POINT of home schooling for me: if you think about it and decide that’s what you should do, I’m ecstatic. It’s the people who never worry about how their kids are doing, and who never make a conscious descision about it, that bug me.

    Actually, that’s kind of my view of the Gospel, too… if you’re trying to find the truth, I’m not going to spend all my time trying to convince you to do the searching (you’re already there) — I’m more worried if you’re toddling along without a hint of introspection and spiritual thought.

  6. My mother was converted to home schooling while I was on my mission; every child younger than me (six of them) received at least some home schooling. My mom was not consistent in her application of various home schooling programs, and often lacked the energy to adequately follow through on any of them, so the education of my younger siblings was a haphazard mix of curricula and projects, with occasional returns to public schooling mixed in. Still, her efforts had a pretty significant impact on the family; at present, of all of the Fox children who have school-age children of their own, Melissa and I are the only one’s who make use of the public schools. (I talk more about our decision here.)

    Between my older sister and a couple of my sisters-in-law, I’ve heard a tremendous amount regarding different math, reading, and other basic programs. Motivations in my family run the gamut–some of my siblings have become profoundly convinced (from a somewhat typical social conservative point of view) that the public school system is corrupt and immoral. Others are excited by various pedagogical theories which attack the idea of mass curricula and connect mental development to less structured/bureaucratic environments. I’ve learned a lot from all of them, and enjoy talking to them about what they’re doing with their kids. We’re somewhat fortuate, I suppose, in that Melissa’s and my current commitment to public schooling is at least as much a political decision as a lifestyle or strictly educational one, and since with only one exception my siblings are all pretty apolitical, our opinions don’t really intersect (and thus cause conflict) with their’s.

    The education of one’s children is the sort of thing which so much of one’s own hopes and beliefs can be tied up with that it doesn’t surprise me always hear about, from my siblings, various tensions within the home schooling camp, and between them and their non-home schooling neighbors. It’s like religion in that way.

  7. Thank you for your post, Bryce!
    I would turn to your basic question:
    “Still, my experience with talking about homeschooling has given me a new perspective on sharing the gospel (…) When I shy away from opportunities to talk about my faith, what is the reason? Is it justified? Or is that my judgment to make?”

    I thought the attitude of the Church during the Olympics was a very interesting one. For years we have been told to be missionaries all the time, to take every opportunity to share the Gospel. In the mission field we get the constant charge we have to talk to our non-Mormon extended family and to our friends, with sometimes even precise goals how many times we have to this a month. Visiting authorities remind us often of that prime obligation. But when the Church got a little criticized for showing this zeal in the year or so before the Olympics, the tone changed. Suddenly, there was sensitivity not to be intrusive, and direct missionary efforts were not only scaled back, but were to be avoided. No proselytism during the Olympics.

    Then there is the cultural factor. In the US it is not too uncommon to strike up a conversation about religion. There is religious diversity and most people seem to be able to change Church membership without too many problems. In other cultures, that is not the case. Religion is a very private matter, and/or strongly bound to the culture. In certain circumstances it may be easy to talk about religion, in others it is totally out of the question and goes counter to the most elementary etiquette. Moerover, conversion to another religion, certainly if it is a viewed as a faraway cult, is about the weirdest thing to do. So yes, that is also a reason that brings people to “shy away from opportunities to talk about [their] faith”.

    There may be other reasons: we know the joy the Gospel brings, but also the challenges and the sacrifices. Are we sometimes, unconsciously, reluctant to commit people to those also? Then there may be the fear to isolate oneself even further from non-Mormon family and friends. Especially if you are already isolated in area’s where there are few Church members. Yes, I understand why we sometimes shy away.

    It reminds me of the importance of having other, seemingly indirect channels to bring people in contact with the Church. Like inviting people to a performance by a “Mormon” group (see my post on From Mormon to LDS). It is less intrusive, culturally moer acceptable. In fact, that is what the Church did on a large scale during the Olympics.

  8. Kim –

    In small town Alaska, homeschoolers generally don’t have lots of social interaction.

    Please make sure you understand the whole situation before judging my parents.

  9. Also – I do not mean socialization in the general sense – I mean the socialization of having students in front of, behind and to the side of me during class. The socialization of being able to crack jokes in the hallway between classes and pass notes during lectures.

    That helped me learn. It did not help my brother – he needed to get away from that type of socialization before he could really learn.

    Of course – the other LDS families that home schooled in my ward have purchased a large plot of land in Missouri and have stockpiled a lot of ammo and food and have now hunkered down awaiting the second coming. I expect them to be in the news soon, engaged in a firefight with ATF and the FBI.

    So – we didn’t have a lot of other sane homeschooling families to deal with. When I was a kid, secular families did not home school and there was a small Christian (but anti-Mormon) private school for the Christians who wanted an alternative to the public schools.

    Blame my community, not my parents.

  10. The trend toward homeschooling hurts everyone. No sense of community, just what’s best for you and yours. No need to work to improve your schools or cities, just hole up in the mountains with your food supply and teach your kids anything but evolution. I loved how the movie MEAN GIRLS lampooned Home Schooling: “God gave us rifles to shoot dinosaurs and homosexuals!”
    The Mormon Moms in Texas who participated in home schooling were not allowed to teach in their little chapters of home schoolers because the baptists there believe Mormons aren’t Christians. See, that’s who HomeSchools!

  11. I think that’s a bit mean. I think Home schooling can be great and should always be an option.

  12. Because I have strong feeling about home schooling, tempered by reason at some edges but not in others, I am reluctant to jump in–but . . .

    I wonder, Bryce, if you don’t appreciate the irony of the analogy you draw between reluctance to share your excitement about homeschooling and similar reticence on sharing the gospel, when, by withdrawing from the public school system, you preclude yourself from great opportunities to share the gospel with a wide range of people you otherwise would never meet. At my daughter’s wedding reception here in our church in Brooklyn, over half of the guests were not members of the church, consisting primarily of her friends from Hunter College High School (contrary to bragging from Stuyvesant High, the best high school in the country) and my wife’s friends from the neighborhood whom she met, for the most part, at school. I remember the comments her teachers and others at the school made about what an extraordinary girl she was–and I’m glad that we didn’t make a choice that would have left them without the opportunity to know her.

    Another issue is suggested by my second daughter’s interest in the biological sciences, sparked by a middle school science teacher and by rigorous courses taught by inspiring teachers in high school. Neither my wife nor I have the inclination or the interest in science to have provided any of what her teachers did, and she may never have known, never have experienced the excitement of learning those subjects, had she been homeschooled.

  13. Bryce, I too would homeschool any or all of my children if the public school situation was untenable, or in some way harmful, or if the particular needs of a child demanded it. But I would have a lot of regret, if it came to that. I think public education is one of the truly great institutions that we have in the US, and I would feel remorse for not supporting the local school.

    Succesful schools require more than adequate facilities, teachers, and funding. They also need a critical mass of pupils who want to learn, and parents who are engaged with their children’s education and who will volunteer their time and talents. If we homeschooled our children, our local school would be worse for it. (In our case, I think my children would be worse off as well: I think they need to experience what it’s like to learn at someone else’s pace, to socialize with people against their will, to make friends and experience ostracism and all the rest of the ‘red in tooth and claw’ business of elementary school. But that’s just me, and my family; you do what’s best for yours.)

    If you think that public schools are evil, then this is not a concern. But if think that public schools are in principle a good thing, did you worry about neglecting your obligation to the community? Did you decide that the benefit to your child took precedence?

  14. Bryce, to judge by the heat that’s crept into this thread between the time I started reading and the time I posted, I think you’ve truly outdone yourself this time: not only have you brought up SSM and presidential politics in the last two days, you’ve discovered in home schooling a new third rail of Mormon conversation! Bravo! I sense a long thread coming on.

  15. Sorry for being mean. I would home school my kids if I thought they were in danger at school. And I know there are many resources that make home schooling a good option for some people.

    Thank goodness I can afford to live in an area that has a good public school system. That certainly isn’t true about most of the state I live in.

    Slightly OT: I also love the latest Billionaires for Bush infomercial parody that asks “Why should I spend money on public schools that my children will never attend?”

  16. First, my bias. My mother was a (grade) school teacher who loved her job — no, calling. Somehow I’ve inherited the attitude of defending the public schools from those that see only problems there & Nirvana in home schooling.

    My wife’s brothers have home schooled. One is doing it quite successfully (altho I worry about how the kids will adjust after leaving the cloister); the experience of the other has been disastrous. Each kid is a dolt, but can’t spell it.

    I attended high school in the San Francisco Bay Area in the Sixties. No lack of problems there. The school had 2,000 & Mormons were a 1% minority, right along with Afro-Americans, who were “integrated” in my sophomore year. I suspect that my “outsider” viewpoint is due in no small measure to my minority status in high school. It was a predominately “white” school yet us Anglo-Saxon types had to learn to get along with Portuguese, Italian & Hispanic (the largest ethnic groups) and many others. It was difficult at the time but looking back I think it was invaluable training. How do we learn to tolerate, accept & even appreciate Difference except by doing it? How do we learn to TALK to people who are different except by doing it? How can those skills of living in a heterogeneous environment be taught at home? And how can the homeschooled be “immunized” against Heterodoxy if they’re not exposed to it?

    The view is expressed — “I would have to be convinced beyond even a shadow of a doubt that there was absolutely no better alternative whatsoever, before sending my children to a public school.” For me, the burden of proof runs in the opposite direction.

    Then there’s Ivan’s comment: “Of course – the other LDS families that home schooled in my ward have purchased a large plot of land in Missouri and have stockpiled a lot of ammo and food and have now hunkered down awaiting the second coming. I expect them to be in the news soon, engaged in a firefight with ATF and the FBI.”

    Sounds eerily like my in-laws. And, I freely admit, part of my bias is my disagreement with that mind set. By any chance were you in Oregon, Ivan?

    Yes, the homeschooled may be very bright, but are they adaptable? Have they learned to live with Difference and been immunized against Heterodoxy? What happens when they leave the cloister? What happens when they’re assaulted by these things? How can they possibly be prepared for it?

    That said, I respect what has been written by the advocates for homeschooling. Obviously, your experience has been much more positive than what I’ve observed.

    Still, on balance I think it’s better to be tossed out of Heaven down here to Earth with all of its dangerously contingent experience.

  17. I think a lot of misconceptions about homeschooling are represented in some of the comments in this thread.

    (1) Isolation. Here’s a snapshot of our life. Keep in mind that I am trying to keep activities to a minimum this semester because of my pregnancy; normally we would do more out of the house:
    Monday–scouts, entire den of 30+ boys is homeschooled, we are only LDS there–nice mix of Catholics, nonreligious, moderate Protestants, etc.
    Tuesday–story time at library, which draws a lot of immigrants (i.e., women in burkas and/or limited English skills), play at home of friend who is LDS and homeschools
    Wednesday–LDS homeschooling coop, homeschooled LDS friends come over to play
    Thursday–play at home of LDS public schooled friends
    Friday–coop with my ‘granola’ nonreligious friends who basically vary in economic status from barely-making-it single mom to family living in a home that could eat our house for breakfast

    We have several different ‘circles’ of friends, only some of which are LDS and only some of which have similiar backgrounds. I think you’ll notice that this is a much broader range of associates than spending 35 hours a week with the same group of 25 kids that are all of similar SES by virtue of all living in our neighborhood.

    If I lived in a rural area, I wouldn’t homeschool. But the vast majority of homeschooled students in this country have rich interactions with a wider variety of children than they would in the schools. (True story: my good friend is considering homeschooling *because* her kids in the local public school have a total recess and PE time of 1.5 hours PER WEEK because of the focus on standardized testing. In 1st and 3rd grades, they average one hour of homework per night.)

    My point here is that, if you were homeschooled or knew homeschoolers in the 70s and 80s, you need to reconfigure your image of homeschooling. We’ve hit the tipping point in terms of a viable social community.

    (2) Lack of concern for the community. This has come up the last time that we talked about homeschooling around here. I maintain that my primary obligation is to my own children. If X% of the children in our community didn’t have access to health insurance, but we could afford it, I would without hesitation still get insurance for my kids. To not do the best you can by your children because others can’t do the same is immoral. And homeschoolers to support the community: our Austin group of older kids has a regular shift at the foodbank, scouts do community service, etc. And I am still waiting for my thank-you note from the school district for the 6,000$ donation that we made to them this year by keeping my kid home. We hope to have four children at some point, which means that we will be saving the local school system 24,000$/year down the road.

    (3) Mark B, you are operating under the misconception that homeschooled students are limited by the education of their parents. (I think the only area where this is true is oral language skills.) I have no intent of teaching my kids calculus; that’s what correspondence classes, community colleges, and private tutors are for.

    (4) Jonathan Green–you make an interesting point about critical mass; but the problem is that one parent can’t be that critical mass. In other words, I can’t singlehandedly lift the public school out of its tangled mass of underfunding, social problems, and bureacracy. I wouldn’t be saving the school by sending my kids there; I would be subjecting my kids to the problems of the school.

    I have taught in the public schools. I can tell you that 1 or 5 ‘good’ kids in a class doesn’t ‘leaven’ the bunch. What tends to happen is that kids who aren’t troublemakers are ignored while the teacher plays whack-a-mole trying to keep the troublemakers in line. As a teacher, from a discipline and social perspective, my concern would be the number of difficult kids in the room.

  18. Rob (who posted while I was posting):

    Surely you must realize that going to school in SF in the 60s was not exactly typical. What is typical is to attend a school that reflects the ethnic and economic diversity of the local neighborhood, which in most suburban areas is, uh, none. Because homeschool groups tend to draw from an entire city, there is more diversity.

  19. I also think Julie has the right attitude and if there had been homeschooling like that when I was a kid, I may have done better for the brief time I was homeschooled.

  20. No wisdom to impart here, just simple cheerleading: Go it, Julie in A.!

    I’m sure there’s some irreducible truth to the homeschooling criticisms posted here. Is anything an unmixed blessing in this world? All I can say is that my wife has a voracious appetite for learning, unbound enthusiasm, and infinite patience. If she decides to homeschool, watch out world! The Greenwood kids will be taking over.

  21. You sure started a vivid thread, Bryce! Your final and perhaps basic question about sharing the Gospel got lost, but I may pick it up in one of my posts this coming week.

    So I’ll join the discussion on home schooling with just a thought from the “international perspective”. Much also depends on the country you’re in, the existing educational network and the culture. In Belgium, and I suppose it’s pretty much the same in most Western-European countries, home-schooling is practically unknown. The few who try it face thorough controls by education inspectors and sometimes harassment because homeschooling is considered aberrant social behavior and detrimental to the quality of education. (I do not say that is per se my standpoint, I just report).

    A few years ago in Belgium we had a Mormon family with 9 children who opted for home schooling. Apart from the fact that 9 children was already considered totally irresponsible by the environment, the home-schooling drew outraged reactions from the local community. Rumors circulated about the Mormon-cult-education the children were receiving. At one point the police burst into the home and took all 9 children away to have them protected by a state agency. Extremely traumatic. After a few days the children were finally allowed to return, but the parents decided to try to emigrate to the U.S. They arrived here on a tourist visa and applied as political refugees because of the persecution they had been under in Belgium (yes, this democratic country where the NATO-HQ is). I’m not sure what their fate is now.

    All this to draw your attention to the liberty you have in the US to be allowed to have home-schooling! On the other hand, to what extent should the local government, responsible for education, control the quality of home-schooling and protect children against possibly extreme attitudes?

  22. As another LDS homeschooler (who also follows the Well-Trained Mind), I have to jump in too. I had all of the same misconceptions about homeschooling, and many more, that have been expressed here, until I met a woman in a previous ward who had been homeschooled all her life. It was the first time I had known an adult who had been homeschooled, and I was amazed that she was so “normal.” Of course one example was not enough to change my mind about homeschooling, so as I researched homeschooling more, I discovered that homeschooled adults are generally more likely to be involved in the community and adhere to the religion of their parents. Here is a link to a recent study of homeschooled adults:

    I still agree that many, not all, but many homeschooled children are not very good at dealing with large groups of children their own age. But that is not a vital skill that I feel my children need to have. I never really developed that skill even in public school, and I have never felt the lack since graduating from high school.

    I also often hear in Relief Society and in other church meetings that if I homeschool my children, they will not properly be “in the world.” I have been amazed, since I had always understood the desirable part of that phrase to be the “not of the world” part. I am sure that there are some homeschooling families that manage to keep their children isolated, but that would be extremely hard. The homeschooling families I know are involved in many things. Julie’s list is very typical.

    My children have actually had more exposure to other cultures, religions, and people because of homeschooling. If I were to send my children to public school, they would be in a place that was 97 percent white and almost 100 percent Christian. However, since my husband and I both speak Arabic and have many Muslim friends, my children spend time with Muslims and learning about Islam. We are able to go places and live in places that I wouldn’t even consider if I had to send my children to the local public schools.

    I don’t much like to talk about my decision to homeschool, for a variety of reasons, many of which match Bryce’s wife. It is mostly because people don’t understand my reasons for homeschooling, and they really aren’t interested in what those reasons really are. When some truly is interested, I enjoy talking about homeschooling. I think it’s the same with sharing the gospel. I do not share the gospel with everyone I meet because I generally feel as if there is no interest. But if religion does come up, I enjoy talking about and sharing the gospel when there is an interest.

  23. To piggy-back on Julie’s comments:

    1) Ever since I became familiar with actual, contemporary home schoolers, I’ve known that the “lack of socialization” claim is a false one, or at least almost entirely so. Certainly, people can use teaching their children at home as an excuse to control and limit their social interactions, but that is by no means typical of most of those who make the choice. On the contrary, I suspect that the average home schooling parent today actually has wider and more ambitious social and academic interests and ambitions than your typical parent. The idea of home schoolers as anarchists rebelling against the mainstream is hardly representative of the movement today. (This is especially the case given that home schooling today is more often than not a middle- and upper-class urban and suburban phenomenon. The poor, especially in rural areas, do not in my observation have either the time, resources, or support structure to home school; the endeavor has become “gentrified,” you might say, since the original wave of drop-out home schools in the 60s and 70s.)

    2) I also think that it’s false to suggest that home schoolers don’t contribute to their community: as Julie notes, parents who home school their kids are still tax-payers (though there have been more than a few proposals to give special deductions to such), and in any case home school groups support museums and parks, often volunteer, and in many ways can add to neighborhood life. But there’s a distinct issue here. When I said (up above and in the post on my own blog) that public schooling is for us primarily a political decision, I had in mind the idea that we and our children are committed to the creation and maintenance of certain civic goods (a commonly educated polity, an egalitarian ethic, a connection between one’s sense of self with one’s locality, etc.) which are beyond the reach of the individual choice to pay taxes or volunteer at a food bank; they are truly collective. Now if our local schools get bad enough that they aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, contributing to the generation of such goods, there’s no reason we would support them. Heaven knows we have a lot of complaints with the schools around here already (and a lot of things we’d like to see more of–such as various charter school and school choice options, carefully defined–aren’t supported by the public school establishment). But so far the problems have been “moderate” enough that we’ve had, I suppose, the luxury to make a judgment call–one which incorporates a sense of our own dispositions and capabilities–as to whether the educational benefits our children may be missing out on by attending (admittedly, often lowest-common-denominator) public schools aren’t still being balanced out by the good we derive from being part of something larger than ourselves. So far, we’ve answered in the affirmative.

  24. “Please make sure you understand the whole situation before judging my parents.”

    Then be sure to clarify that when you imply homeschooling does not provide social interaction that you mean there is no opportunity for social interaction in small-town Alaska. By making a broad statement that implies homeschooling generally offers no social interaction, expect people to defend homeschooling generally.

    Just because you lived in an isolated area with no social interaction does not mean all homeschoolers do.

    “I mean the socialization of having students in front of, behind and to the side of me during class. The socialization of being able to crack jokes in the hallway between classes and pass notes during lectures.”

    That is what constitutes social interaction? Sitting quietly amongst thirty students the same age as you? Occasionally passing a one sentence note to someone? Talking during the five minutes to get to class?

    I got more out of visiting with friends in the evenings and on weekends than I ever did in school. Pick up sports with people of different ages that lasted for hours. Or managing lemonade stands. Or going to church socials. Those offered me many more opportunities for real-world interaction than grouping me with students the same age as I. Since I graduated from high school, I have never once been in a daily environment where everyone was the same age.

    School itself does not provide substantial opportunity for social interaction. Recess and breaks may som, but you could have those same opportunities outside of school.

    “how can the homeschooled be ‘immunized’ against Heterodoxy if they’re not exposed to it”

    What makes you think they are not exposed to it? FWIW, until I moved into the inner-city, I never experienced multicultural classrooms in public school—everyone was white and everyone was Christian. My homeschooled daughter gets more exposure to multicuturalism and different belief structures now than I did for the first few years in the public school system.

    “…many homeschooled children are not very good at dealing with large groups of children their own age. But that is not a vital skill…”

    I agree. Such a ‘skill’ has no real-world application whatsoever.

  25. Why put limitations on how one may be educated? We started out home schooling our children. Last year our two oldest children went to public school. This year the five that are old enough to go are attending public school. Recently my oldest has had desires to homeschool again. He’ll have to complete the semester before he can start again at home. That’s the deal – If you go to public school, you have to see it through for the whole semester – no flip flopping like a fish out of water.

    We are fortunate to have a ward that fullfills the social needs of our children. Our neighborhood is their social bastian. What could be better than that? They’ve also had social interaction at a music academy where each has studied the piano.

    I personally feel that public education has a lot of problems. I get a little concerned when I see my children sweating over earning high marks rather than enjoying what they’re learning. Children tend to measure themselves against each other and are catagorized within the system by how well they adhere to the – almost – arbitrary demands of the system.

    I was a complete failure in high school – straight D’s and F’s. I took the california proficiency exam and got out a year early. (that was in the 70’s. I’m not sure such a thing exists today) Regarless of the fact that I lacked the discipline to complete my homework, I still felt that my failure was do to being a moron. I felt like an idiot. I even failed a music theory class (which we were very fortunate to have in H.S.) and I knew that there wasn’t another kid in the whole school that knew more about the subject than I did. Even so, because I failed the class, I felt deficient while those that passed it were not. It sucked.

  26. One positive element of my experience in public school is that the L.A. unified school district was probably the most ethnically intergrated system in the country at the time. For that, I am grateful.

  27. Julie in Austin, Kim, Amira, & Russell, all well said.

    I’m happy to note that some of the disagreement is over superficial matters while there is agreement on some fundamentals. Like the importance of diverse experiences & groups. My four kids have attended Fullerton High. The predominate ethnic group is Mexican/Hispanic (~ 40 – 50 %) with roughly equal-sized minorities of Anglo, Black & Asian kids. There is some important “education” in simply rubbing shoulders with that mixed group. In my “socioeconomic group,” (lawyers striving for Upper-Middle-Classdom), the big deal is private school. There’s a snootiness that I find off-putting. But the more serious objection is putting their kids (I still see it as “cloistering”) in an upper-middle class lily-white privileged environment. Maybe my lower-middle-class origins are showing (I’m two generations removed from the farm &, like Edward Abbey, am descended from a hundred generations of tillers-of-the-soil) but I really don’t want that for my kids. I see that Julie in Austin seems to have a similar take.

    I’m impressed with the diversity of experiences you offer your children. My own experience has been with the gun-totin’ relatives in Oregon & Idaho. That style of homeschooling is not my cup o’ tea.

    Julie in Austin: Is that Austin, Texas? How many handguns do you own & when do the kids have target practice. ;^>

    Just kidding. Really. Thanks for the exchange of views.

  28. I find Julie, Amira and Russell well spoken, but not Kim.

    Kim insulted my parents and blamed them. Then she insulted me by implying I am being disingenuous.

    Let’s look at what Kim said:

    That is what constitutes social interaction? Sitting quietly amongst thirty students the same age as you? Occasionally passing a one sentence note to someone? Talking during the five minutes to get to class?

    Yes, actually I do – thank you very much. The mere fact of having people around me, for whatever reason, helped me learn better. Call it synergy, call it my screwed up psychological profile – It helped. I had a hard time doing learning unless I knew other people were right there with me. Plus, my teacher in high school were big on class discussion instead of lecturing – so we all did a lot of talking – it wasn’t just lecturing. And the breaks between classes were ten minutes.

    I got more out of visiting with friends in the evenings and on weekends than I ever did in school. Pick up sports with people of different ages that lasted for hours. Or managing lemonade stands. Or going to church socials. Those offered me many more opportunities for real-world interaction than grouping me with students the same age as I. Since I graduated from high school, I have never once been in a daily environment where everyone was the same age.

    I didn’t get a lot of social interaction outside of school because I am by nature an introvert – plus the popular kids at church had decided I was too square, making me a social outcast at church (among my peers). School was about it.

    School itself does not provide substantial opportunity for social interaction. Recess and breaks may som, but you could have those same opportunities outside of school.

    I didn’t – as explained above. School was the one place I could congregate with my fellow chess nerds, sci-fi geeks and D&D players.

    But – see, you seem to have this idea that school is a mind-numbing place where kids rarely interact and learn even less. In our school, teachers encouraged class participation through discussion. Of course, out school district was unusually well-funded when I was a child.

    But when school (and sports after school) are the only opportunity for socialization, I don’t see why you have to claim that it is somehow worthless and that if only I had been more like you, I might have had a better life.

    You basically insulted my parents – two of the most loving, caring and intelligent people on the planet – merely because I had a bad experience with home schooling. All I was trying to say home schooling may not be for everyone – and you took it as a general condemnation and so attacked my parents.

  29. Wilfried asked a great question back there:

    “On the other hand, to what extent should the local government, responsible for education, control the quality of home-schooling and protect children against possibly extreme attitudes?”

    On the face of it, I would have no problem with government regulation of homeschools. (By the way, for a list of current laws by state, go to Good little citizens like me would file our paperwork, submit our curricula, and have our kids tested per the law. Unfortunately, your really antisocial radicals, religious nuts, and other assorted extremists would have no part of the above. So, regulation would (1) be an expense to the state, (2) a minor hassle to the people like me, and (3) a waste of money and effort when it comes to keeping the nuts in line.

    Of course, there are a very small number of homeschoolers who use homeschooling as a cover for abuse, etc., but I think we are better off using what we already have (i.e., CPS) than creating another layer of govt regulation that the crackpots will ignore or forge.

    Jack correctly points out that many people go in and out of various education plans based on the needs of the family. Nothing wrong with that. I predict that the next big thing will be university model schools. Austin has about 5 open or ready to open. The idea here is that students spend a small amount of time (maybe 15 hours per week) in classes (hence the name university model) and do the rest of their work at home. This seems like a good solution for a lot of familes.

  30. Ivan Wolfe,

    I haven’t really read this thread all that thoroughly. So no comment on homeschooling. But I can tell you that Kim Siever is a dude, not a lady. :mrgreen:

  31. “Then she insulted me by implying I am being disingenuous.”

    Oh good. For a second there I thought you were going to be talking about what I said. Since I am male, apparently you must be talking about someone else. Coincidentally, however, what you quote seems to be what I said. I suppose I will comment on it then.

    “Yes, actually I do ”

    You do, what? I do not believe in that statement that I asked/said you did anything in particular.

    “The mere fact of having people around me, for whatever reason, helped me learn better.”

    Fine. I do not believe anyone is saying anything otherwise. Keep in mind, however, that being around a bunch of other students because it makes you learn better is not the same thing as “[having] lots of social interaction”. Interaction require interacting. That would be the same thing as going to the pet store and then saying you interacted with the fishes because you were in the same room.

    “you seem to have this idea that school is a mind-numbing place where kids rarely interact”

    And this idea was developed after attending seven different schools in three different provinces. Your school sounded different than my seven, but if we talked in class, we got a ruler smacked on our desks, or we were sent home with an assignment to write lines. Hardly what I would consider encouraging social interaction.

    “I don’t see why you have to claim that it is somehow worthless”

    Funny, I do not believe I have made this claim. Of course, I may have overlooked this claim, so feel free to point out where I made it so I can be corrected.

    “I don’t see why you have to claim that…if only I had been more like you, I might have had a better life.”

    Again, I did not make such a claim. The closest I came to saying this was pointing out that I had more social interaction outside of school than I did in it.

    “You basically insulted my parents…merely because I had a bad experience with home schooling”

    First, I offered no insults. Second, what I said was that if your parents decided to homeschool you, then it was their responsibility to provide you with opportunities for social interaction.

    “All I was trying to say home schooling may not be for everyone”

    You implied that social interaction cannot be found in homeschool. More specifically, that homeschool cannot provide “lots of social interaction”. This is what I had a problem with, and this is what I addressed.

    “you took it as a general condemnation and so attacked my parents”

    I did not take it as you condemning homeschooling generally. I took it as you implying homeschooling cannot provide lots of social interaction. I am not sure why you keep putting words in my mouth. I also do not understand why saying it was your parents’ responsibility to provide opportunities for your social interaction is the same thing as attacking them.

    I have no idea why you are being so melodramatic about this.

  32. To me, the reason for governmental oversight of homeschooling should be to ensure that all children are being properly educated. I think it is beyond the scope of homeschooling laws to deal with abuse, wacko ideas of the parents, or really most anything else. Abuse really has nothing to do with homeschooling. Who gets to decide what the wacko ideas are? Even if those children were in public school, they would still be exposed to their parents’ wacko ideas every day. There are other government institutions to deal with these issues, as Julie pointed out.

    I do think that the government has as interest in overseeing the education of all children. Keeping track of who is being homeschooled and testing at the end of each year seem reasonable to me, even though I live in a state that doesn’t have any homeschooling requirements at all. I like not having to worry about any requirements. But if my state implemented a law requiring testing, what should be the consequence of not passing the tests at the end of each year? Go to public school? But many public schooled children don’t pass tests, if they are required, for each year either. Should kids who aren’t doing well in public school be required to homeschool or go to a private school?

    I would be very interested to compare several states, such as Texas and Idaho, with lax homeschooling laws to states like Pennsylvania which are much stricter. Do more parents homeschool in the “easier” states? Are their fewer “wackos” in the “stricter” states? How does government oversight of homescholing in specific states affect homeschooling?

  33. We should make a distinction between socializing and socialization.

    Socializing is interacting with other people.

    “Socialization, or the transformation of a human organism into a person who functions successfully within a particular social system, cannot be avoided. The essence of socialization is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments. And the most effective form of socialization is achieved when people identify so thoroughly with the social order that they no longer can imagine themselves breaking any of its rules.”
    -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D.
    -Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

    Since the main anti-homeschool argument is socialization that quote is pretty devastating. But school teaches socialization really well.

    And when was the last time you working in a place that had just people of your own age? Outside of school there is none, so big deal if they learn how to do something they can never use anywhere else.

    Just look at the reading rates, few people read anything once they have left school. Harry Potter is a huge seller at 10 million copies, or about 4% of the population of the US. Schools seem better at teaching people to hate reading rather then love it.
    The literacy rate has been dropping and it seems to be dropping at about the same rate as the birthrate. Or if you aren’t taught to read at home you will not learn to read at school.

    It isn’t that schools aren’t good at what they teach. I just don’t want my children to learn those lessons.

  34. There already is a good test to see if children have learned everything the state thinks they should:
    The GED or high-school equivalency exam.

    Why do we need anything more then that?

  35. “Why do we need anything more then that?”

    I can think of two reasons. First, it ensures the government has a curriculum with expectations that are reasonable by allowing them to see which areas are weak and which are strong. Second, it ensures that by discovering individual learning problems earlier, it will require less public funding for adult education.

  36. Wow, take some time off to go to a swim meet and look what happens.

    I’m a bit at a loss as to how I should try to respond. Part of me wants to just repond to Wilfried, whose comment #8 is the only one that responds directly to what I’ve written. Thanks, Wilfried.

    I consciously avoided making any mention of why we homeschool in my post precisely because I didn’t really want to get into the kind of discussion that seems to have cropped up here, not because I don’t like to talk about it (see my post above), but because I felt like it would be an abuse of my guestblogger status at Times and Seasons to take a thread to talk about homeschooling, which has not much to do with the kinds of themes I feel I have been invited to comment on here.

    However, since the conversation seems to have happened in my absence, there are several issues that I feel I should try to address. The best way to do this would probably be in a separate post, but I am reluctant to do so for the reason given in the previous paragraph. Another possibility would be to fire up a personal blog, since if I start my own, homeschooling will definitely be a recurring topic. However, I don’t have a blog of my own yet, and none of you would be going there for comment even if I did.

    So I’ll write a series of comments here referencing specific points already made. That way, I’ll get the comment count on the thread way up there:) I don’t promise I’ll get to every point made above, but I’m going to try.

  37. KIm – ah, sorry for the gender confusion. I knew you were a “dude” as danithew put it. That’s what I get for not editing my post.

    As for the insult to my parents: I found the phrase “blame your parents” to imply an insult to my parents. From there I went overboard.

    I apologize.

  38. First, a general comment:

    Talking about homeschooling in the United States is difficult because no one really has a good handle on what “homeschooling in the United States” means. There has been so much growth in homeschooling in the past few years that there is very little good research on the shape and dimensions of the movement. Consequently, most arguments proceed from personal experience. This is as good a place to argue from as any, so long as that personal experience is made clear as a part of the argument.

    Russell has provided a link to a nice description of his experience with homeschool and public school, Sarah in comment 6 also gives quite a bit of her history, and if you click on the link to her blog, you might stumble across this nice post that describes in great detail how she was homeschooled. Quite interesting!

    Others in their comments here have shared their experiences as well. I thank you all. What makes talking about homeschooling difficult is that as much as we stereotype and think we know what a “homeschooler” is, there are as many definitions of the word as there are children who have been homeschooled.

    I don’t mean to say that we can’t talk in generalities ever. However, we should be clear about the basis on which we make our claims. We should also recognize that two people with different views of the same issue may both be “right” in some sense.

  39. Ivan Wolfe —

    In comment #1 you said:

    My father teaches High School and was regularly declared to be evil because he did so. Some of the parents would even, during testimony meeting, declare that highest, most celestial form of education was that of home schooling, and that public schools were telestial at best (and generally put the souls of your children at risk).

    This kind of attitude (homeschooling is divinely instituted/government schools are tools of the devil) drives me crazy. It’s one of the things that makes me reluctant to call myself a homeschooler — guilt by association. The battles over homeschooling choice in this country were largely fought and won by those on the evangelical right, and consequently, the homeschooling movement in general has a strong “holy war” flavor to it. While I appreciate the ability that homeschooling gives us to include religious education in our daughter’s curriculum, questions of religion and faith played a very minor role in our decision to homeschool.

  40. Bryce – Julie (or others) might know more about this,

    but IIRC there were statements by LDS GAs waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the past that condemned public schooling. Those were what were generally trotted out by those in my ward who said my father was evil and public schools were run by Satan personally.

  41. Ivan–

    Yes there are quotes and I know about them because people I know use them in their email signature lines (grrr). My understanding, maybe someone can correct me, is that in the late 19th century, Protestant churches established free schools in Utah with the hidden purpose of saving young Mormon souls. Consequently, there are GA quotes about the dangers of allowing Gentiles to teach impressionable youth.

    Of course, quoting these quotes today, as if they reflected the position of the Church, is obscene.

  42. Kim —

    I’d be interested to read more about your experience with homeschooling. I didn’t see any links on your blog.

    Ah, the socialization argument. Arguing about socialization is like arguing about abortion — there are two party lines, and depending on what side I’m on, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. You and Julie and Amira have already deployed the main arguments very nicely.

    Here’s my two cents (I’ve got a whole pocketful of loose change on this one). I’ve met weird kids who were homeschooled. I’ve met weird kids who went to public schools. I’ve met well-adjusted kids who were homeschooled. I’ve met well-adjusted kids who were public schooled. We tend to focus on the weird homeschoolers, because homeschooling for many people is weird.

    Of course, a certain percentage of kids are homeschooled because they are weird: they don’t fit in at school, and struggle socially to the point where they can’t learn, or they are in danger, or they become depressed. It stands to reason that awkward kids might be disproportionately represented among homeschoolers.

    My personal experience: my oldest daughter is really a great kid to be around. Her friends’ mothers love having her over. She makes friends whereever she goes. She understands people in a way that I never did. If we ever decide to send her to school, my biggest worry will be that she will be one of the popular girls and abuse her power. Sure, we worry about finding opportunities for her to interact with other children. I daresay that because we homeschool, we think a lot more about Jaymie’s relationship with her friends than most non-homeschooling parents do.

    Really, the only way the socialization argument is going to go away is for the current generation of homeschoolers in the present boom to grow up and be well-adjusted, productive members of society. It’s like being a member of the Church. It used to be that being a Mormon meant that many people thought we were weird in a creepy sort of way, and the burden of proof was on us to show that we’re not that bad. Now, most people in the US know a member of the Church, and have seen that we’re ok, so we don’t labor under any false assumptions (or not as many, at least).

  43. Sarah–

    Thanks for sharing your experience in comment 6. I also enjoyed reading your account of your homeschooling experience at your blog.

    In your comment, you said:

    I would have to be convinced beyond even a shadow of a doubt that there was absolutely no better alternative whatsoever, before sending my children to a public school. I was completely, fantastically miserable in “regularâ€? public school…

    My wife didn’t really enjoy her public school experience either, and I think that that contributes to her desire to homeschool our children.

    However, along the lines of what I say in comment 40, there are as many different public school experiences as there are public school students, and there is no reason to expect that your children’s experiences in a public school would be the same as yours. Personally, I don’t feel that public schools are the option of last resort. They deserve careful consideration as an educational choice.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to lecture. As I said, I enjoyed reading about your experiences. Your mother sounds like quite a woman. I can definitely understand why homeschooling seems like the best alternative for you.

  44. Ivan, no worries about the gender issue. As I told someone earlier this week, “It isn’t the first time, and I guarantee you it isn’t the last”. I learned many years ago to just get used to a lifetime of it happening. I even went so far as changing my email to send out all messages with “Mr. Kim Siever”. All that has done is made people think I am pretentious. Sigh.

    I also apologise for my decision to sue the word “blame”. While it is semantically correct to use it in the context I did, I should have realised that the common perception of its meaning may be used to interpret my comment differently than I intended.

    Bryce, I am not a diehard homeschool, so you won’t find links on my blog. We homeschool not because we are vehemently opposed to the public school system—after all, I am a product of it so it can’t be that bad—but rather because we want to control what our children learn. If we want to teach them about Buddhism, then we do. If we want to start each morning with a prayer and an article of faith, we do. If we want to teach them multiplication and division in grade one, then we do. That is why we do it. It offers more control and flexibility than what we have experienced in the public school system.

    That being said, our experience has been very low key thus far. Our oldest daughter just entered grade one last month, so up to that point homeschooling was unorganised and spontaneous. Now it is more structured in order to make sure we meet certain curricula requirement of the provincial government.

    Our daughter’s courses take are math, phonics, spelling, science, reading, social studies, and music. In addition, she is also enrolled in her third year of ballet; as well, as art classes for the next eight weeks and swimming classes beginning next month. We also participate in group outing with other homeschoolers. A few weeks ago, they went to the local Japanese garden. Next Friday, they are touring the fire hall and the newspaper offices. The Friday after, they are visiting a Baptist church.

    Since I am gone all day, my role in the curricula is limited and mostly only incidental. My wife does all the footwork and planning.

  45. Julie —

    I’m not actually surprised that it happened, only the speed and the intensity of it all. As I said, I’m always happy to talk about homeschooling. I just don’t want to seem to be using my time at T&S for my own selfish ends.

    BTW, I’m interested to hear about your experience with the Well-Trained Mind. Sounds like we’re on similar tracks. We use WTM as a organizing principle, are using Story of the World, and are considering First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.

    Thanks for the link. I searched around a little to see where homeschooling had been discussed before here, but failed.

  46. The length of these comments is interesting; people have a lot on their minds. A couple of thoughts:

    First, the thought expressed in Julie’s comment 18, that disenrolling children saves the school money is not generally correct. In MIchigan at least, the school districts are allotted money based on enrollment. For a district with a falling enrollment (such as ours there) this is a problem because overhead doesn’t decrease in proportion with the budget. Also, closing schools is an ugly thing. Your governor will be glad, though, for the boost to the state’s general budget.

    Second, education under parents’ tutelage will happen whether the children are homeschooled or not. When a wall of kindergarten drawings illustrates what each child wants to learn that year, and one is a sectional drawing of the earth, it is obvious what goes on in the home of at least one child.

    A bias of mine is that I can’t say enough in gratitude for the public schools that served me so well. My debt to the Clark County [Nevada] School District is one of several I felt compelled to inscribe in my dissertation years ago. On the other hand, I admire the homeschoolers willingness to not just take what they are given, but to decide what they want and create it.

  47. I have undertaken a Sisyphean task, it seems.

    John Mansfield, I am inclined to agree with you on the issue of the cost of homeschooling to a community. As much as homeschoolers might like to think that we’re saving the school district money, we’re not. And people without kids pay taxes that fund public schools as well as we do, so we can’t claim that we’re somehow uniquely paying for more than we get out of the system. After all, we’re free to take advantage of what our taxes pay for if we choose.

    One possible funding alternative is for local school districts to partially enroll homeschoolers, in exchange for use of facilities, a la carte classes, and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, this is non-starter in most communities, as the large majority of homeschool parents do so out of an intense mistrust of government-run education, and are unwilling to accept government funding or assistance of any kind out of fear of losing control over their child’s education.

  48. Russell–

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts. I’m always interested in hearing the experiences of adults who have been homeschooled. Your post on your own decision to be a part of the public school system comes from a very different perspective from my own, and gives me something to think about. I may reply at length later, but I did want to get an additional link to your blog here for readers who missed it before.

  49. Wilfried–

    I have enjoyed very much reading your posts. Indeed, I feel a bit of regret that I am guestblogging here at the same time as you because I feel a certain commitment to my own posts that prevents me from completely engaging what you have had to say.

    Thank you for engaging my initial question. The instance of the Church’s public face is instructive. In a previous comment here (#45), I hit upon the similarity between homeschooling and Mormonism gaining acceptance simply by having its adherents going out into the world and being good people. I think that thought was triggered in part by reading your comment #8.

    As for your comment #23, others have addressed the question of the role of government in monitoring homeschools. I will add a thought to your story of the Belgian family persecuted for homeschooling, which you provided “to draw your attention to the liberty you have in the US to be allowed to have home-schooling!” The freedom to homeschool in the US is a fairly recent development. Legal battles were fought in the 1970s and 1980s in every state, primarily by evangelical Christians who wanted the right to control the content of their childrens’ educations. Even today, the one really major national homeschooling organization is the Home School Legal Defense Association, which provides legal representation for its members. Thankfully, such representation is not required nearly as often as in the past, but it still looms as a possibility. I don’t think my family would have made the decision to homeschool if someone else had not already fought the battle to make it legal and acceptable to the government.

  50. Warning: controversial question that will further hijack this thread to follow.

    Several commenters have extolled the virtue of children experiencing racial and religious diversity as part of their education. I want to know–does classroom (or homeschool community) diversity of that sort really make for a better education?

    Let me say, first off, that I am all in favor of integrated neighborhoods and classrooms, and that I support affirmative action, as well. (But please, that’s not the conversation I want to have.) I want my children to grow up without social prejudice of any kind, and I will do my best to instill those values in them. But I’m not fully convinced that a) exposure to diversity is necessary to develop tolerance, or that b) diversity in and of itself improves the learning value of education.

    My doubts about both of these liberal orthodoxies stem from my own experience: I grew up in an affluent suburban southern california neighborhood and attended the public school, which was, aside from a sizable asian group that was well integrated culturally, fairly homogeneous, both racially and socioeconomically. As far as I am aware, I am racially and religiously tolerant: I seek out friends and associates of all races, I vigorously oppose any sort of racial-essentialist thinking, I support political measures that, in my judgment, will promote racial equality. (I am not suggesting that those who oppose those measures are opposed to racial equality.) Furthermore, I do not think that the homogeneity of the student body adversely affected the quality of my education: I earned top scores on standardized tests, earned top scholarships, and was well-prepared for rigorous graduate training.

    As I said, I think an integrated classroom is a beautiful thing, and I support affirmative action–but not because I think that racial diversity in and of itself improves the quality of education.

  51. Ok, we aren’t “making sure our children follow the Alberta curricula” we are making sure they LEARN what they want and need to learn. Though I think we are meeting the requirements. Maybe.

    Oh and their religious education is LDS. In the future we will probably delve into other religious beliefs for knowledge purposes but the way Kim puts it we are just teaching them everything right now! Well, no, lol. They are learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of course. At home and at Church.

    The Baptist Church is the venue for an afternoon workshop our registering school (which is a homeschool registering board) is offering. She gets to do drama and make tree decorations and do PE activities and eat lunch :). Ah I love homeschooling. So does Sinéad. She gets to do so much.

  52. Mark B.–

    Ah, here we get to some more personal questions. I will start by saying that I would be very interested to know why in comment 13 you say “I have strong feeling about home schooling, tempered by reason at some edges but not in others.” I am a bit reluctant to engage you fully without knowing the reasons for that strong feeling, but I will address the content of your comment as I see it.

    First, your assertion that “by withdrawing from the public school system, you preclude yourself from great opportunities to share the gospel with a wide range of people you otherwise would never meet.” You make at least two assumptions here that are not necessarily true. The first is that I would not meet members of the community that have children attending the public school that my daughter would attend if we were to choose to send her there, and that I would if she did. While the public schools provide one very significant opportunity for parents to interact with other parents, they are not the only place this can happen. Growing up, there was a Catholic school near the elementary school that I attended. While I did not attend classes with these kids, we played sports with them, used the same playgrounds, and had other chances to meet them, so that when we ended up at the same junior high school, they were not strangers to us. And there were plenty of kids in my classes whose parents I am sure never met my own parents.

    The second assumption is that as a homeschooling provides no similar opportunity to share the gospel with people I would otherwise not meet. Contrary to some stereotypes, not all homeschoolers seek to isolate themselves from the world. Most of us actively seek some kind of community. There is not a large LDS homeschooling population here (2 other families in our ward), so we have met a lot of homeschoolers not of our faith as we search for others who share our educational choice. Indeed, I imagine that it is easier in some ways to share the gospel with these people as they tend to be comfortable in general with discussing their own faith. I can affirm that I would never have met any of these people had we not decided to homeschool. Furthermore, associations of homeschoolers are not limited by geography and age as public schools are, so our potential to make non-LDS friends is actually greater as a homeschooling family than as a public schooling family.

    As for the issue of providing a broad education and the opportunity to meet inspirational teachers, I offer a few responses. Our children will never have a teacher who is more interested in them, who knows them better, who is more willing to spend time with them, who wants them to understand more than me and Kristen. As homeschoolers, we have the flexibility to take a particular interest that our child has and explore it in depth in ways that public school children cannot. As for subject matter, I have degrees in English, physics and computer science, minors in math and Japanese, and Kristen has a degree in biology and a teacher’s certificate. Plus I was a pretty good quiz bowl player. I’m completely confident in our ability to provide a well-rounded education to our children. We’re also willing to admit that we can’t do the job if it turns out that our kids don’t respond well to us as teachers. We haven’t eliminated public schools as an option — we talk about the possibility of sending Jaymie to school regularly. We feel that right now, we’ve made a good choice, but reserve the right to change our minds in the future.

    Finally, having graduated at the top of my class at a public high school that has similar pretensions to national preeminence, I can say that I’m pretty sure that we can provide an education for our kids that is better than they would get at the best public high school in America.

  53. Rosalynde —

    I offer my own anecdotal evidence to your own. I had a similar experience to your own, it sounds like, only on the East Coast.

    And second-hand anecdote: we live in a racially and ethnically diverse city. The mother of one of Jaymie’s friends who attended kindergarten at the public school that Jaymie would have attended had we not chosen to homeschool her tells us that when the school year started, she (the mother) was excited by the prospect of her child having the experience of being in a classroom with sizable groups of white, black, and Hispanic students. She was dismayed to discover over the course of the year that what happened is that the children segregated themselves into three groups: the white kids, the black kids, and the Hispanic kids. Not the lessons that we hope our children will learn. And this was kindergarten.

  54. I forgot to put in my two bits about this thread. My take on homeschooling is that it works great for some children, and other children need something else. It depends on the motivation of the parents as well. Homeschooling or not homeschooling; there isn’t any right or wrong answer. I was public school educated and personally I did alright, though I think I would have done better being homeschooled. However, my parents definitely would NOT have done well homeschooling any of us. It just wouldn’t have worked. They had no desire to do it or any idea how to do it. Nothing against them. That’s their choice. Not good or bad, just the way it is.

    Our reasons for homeschooling actually vary. I prefer the “control” (for lack of a better word) over choice in curriculum. I enjoy the freedom to be involved in many other areas of interest. I like being able to focus on what our daughter wants to learn, and go with that. We do the basics and just add on to that. I look forward to what the future brings us. Our daughter is a “visual” learner so she is so so easy to teach. Our son is a kinesthetic learner and so I know we will have to take a different approach. He is more hands on (so maybe a Montessori style?). But this is another thiing I like. I know my children. I am not going to label one child slower or less intelligent than another just because he learns differently. I saw this happen so much while I was in school. They had the regular reading group and the “advanced” reading group and a group for slower learners. This happened in almost all subjects in elementary school. Children who can’t follow the public school idea of learning are dubbed “slow learners” and this affects them for life. Trying to fit all children into one ideal of learning hurts many of them. And not all teachers are able to spend the time individually with each child (how can they with 30 plus students in a class??). And this doesn’t leave room for individual progress (not all children can read by the time they finish grade 1, on the other hand, some are reading before they START grade 1)

  55. Well, Brother Bryce, if your real topic was those two paragraphs on reticence to share the gospel, I can go along with that. I can second Brother Wilfried’s thought that knowledge of the costs can be a factor. A couple years back in stake conference we had a set of excellent talks on sharing the gospel. Wishing I could give them my full attention, but giving more effort to keeping two small wrestlers on metal chairs from disturbing all around them, my thought was that I wouldn’t wish my position on anyone.

  56. Rosalynde-

    I completely agree with both of your points. I was raised in Utah by two white, Mormon parents and attended a school that was almostly completely white and completely Mormon. I know there were people in my community who were racist. But my parents taught me to be racially and religiously tolerant, and I feel that they were very successful with me and all my siblings. We have lived around the country, and around the world, and feel at home wherever we are.

    I think many homeschoolers, including me, bring up the activities, the cultural-awareness things we do, the peope of different races and religions we associate with, because we are often seen as isolated, intolerant, and afraid of anyone who isn’t the same. My children’s education can (and hopefully will!) be as rich even while we are living for a time in a very Mormon town in Idaho, far from our Muslim friends, as it will be when are living in the Middle East.

  57. “But I’m not fully convinced that a) exposure to diversity is necessary to develop tolerance, or that b) diversity in and of itself improves the learning value of education. My doubts about both of these liberal orthodoxies stem from my own experience . . .”

    Rosalynde, IMO, it’s a necessary but not a sufficient condition. Familiarity can breed acceptance. Unfamiliarity creates a sense of strangeness or otherness which extended unfamiliarity only reinforces.

    Rosalynde, growing up in So. Cal. in the years of multiculturalism (implicit if not explicit), I’d imagine you had exposure to Blacks & Hispanics on your high school campus if not other places, am I right? And I know you had the positive example of your parents who are downright saintly. (Dang, I’ve undercut my own argument, haven’t I?!) Remember, I can call your dad. ;)

    To develop a positive appreciation for the Other (more than just a bloodless & abstract ideal of toleration), I think you have to rub shoulders.

  58. John Mansfield–

    My freshman Book of Mormon professor at BYU, Maren Mouritsen, started off her class by telling us, “Some of you aren’t going to like this class, because what you learn here will require you to do something about it.”

    As for keeping your kids under control during stake conference to my shame, given our three children, if anyone so much as sniffs the morning of stake conference, we declare them too ill to take to a two-hour meeting with no breaks and hard chairs and do church at home.

  59. IIRC there were statements by LDS GAs waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the past I kept waiting for someone to talk about the “warning signs” letter that went out, as home schooling was on the list of flags to look for in people going iron rod crazy …. (paraphrasing, of course). Alas, that statement didn’t discuss that.

    Home schooling seems to run a gamu and to not be for everyone in every time and placet. My four year old loves her preschool. Begs to stay longer. She loves the other kids and the steady pace. Her penmanship is improving (they are more disciplined than I am), though her reading doesn’t seem much affected. She is still at the “Hop on Pop” level she reached over the summer when school was out and she taught herself to read and write. On the other hand, she now brushes her teeth with a religious fevor.

    The last homeschooler I talked with insisted that their kids didn’t need any math, just visits to museums and art galleries from time to time. I haven’t talked to the homeschooler in our current ward about math. My daughter will graduate from high school with two years of honors physics and calculus. And three years of varsity rifle team membership.

    But, I can think of places that if we lived, it would be private school or homeschool for sure.

    disenrolling children in Texas it costs the school district money. Heck, kids who are enrolled and who don’t show up cost the school district money. My kid’s grade school in Wichita Falls was keenly aware of the way the state handled missing a day vs. showing up and then going home early. Parents got educated on the financial implications of it all.

    exposure to diversity is necessary to develop tolerance I find that for most people, to have a comfort with diversity, exposure helps. Too often I meet people who in the abstract are tolerant, but who are uncomfortable, and the discomfort leads them to act as if they were not tolerant, if that makes sense.

    segregated themselves all I can say is, luckily not in my daughter’s schools. Or neither of them would have their current best friends, both of whom I’m grateful for.

    What I also see in homeschooling of the better sort, is associations that function much like schools, where the kids get together for joint sports/P.E. activities, etc., almost as if the kids were in the older model of tutorials and classes (with mom & dad providing all the tutorial and the group providing the classes instead of the school).

    Mary Siever — nice post.


    Still, my experience with talking about homeschooling has given me a new perspective on sharing the gospel. Am I as excited about talking about the plan of salvation as I am about the math curriculum we’re using?

    Good question. Home schooling often seems like an ersatz religion the way some people approach it.

    BTW, the socialization quote is not the generally accepted definition. And yes, children socialized to adults make wonderfully delightful children, but they can have issues fitting in with other kids. A whole interesting set of issues htere.

    I’ve learned a lot and thought some. But, my daughter is home from her homecoming dance, so I’m going to bed.

  60. One man who shared the gospel much more frequently than me expressed in a quorum meeting years ago that sharing his testimony was always an act of faith because he never knew how it would be received. My limited efforts bear that out. Some are meaningful, some fall flat, a few turn out ackwardly and once with offense given.

    The standard cheerleading holds that there is nothing to fear, that all will be great if we will open our mouths. Some fears are justified, but still need to be faced, not shrunk from. Dallin Oaks’ talk from October 2001 was a great one on this topic. He didn’t treat our fears as silly. He discussed the challenges and how to best face them to fulfill our duty and benefit others.

  61. Ok, Jonathan Green and then I’ll stop (although I appreciate Mary Siever stopping by and may have something to say about comment #59 tomorrow).

    Jonathan said:

    I think public education is one of the truly great institutions that we have in the US, and I would feel remorse for not supporting the local school.

    Succesful schools require more than adequate facilities, teachers, and funding. They also need a critical mass of pupils who want to learn, and parents who are engaged with their children’s education and who will volunteer their time and talents. If we homeschooled our children, our local school would be worse for it.

    Julie has already made the “my kids are my top priority” argument. I’ll approach this from a different angle.

    You’re right. What is required for a schooling community to succeed is a group of parents who are committed to their children’s education. The ideal you envision seems to be one where the committed parents work to improve and maintain the quality of public education. The problem remains of how to build that critical mass. No matter how you try to spread the wealth, the tendency will always be for committed parents to segregate themselves from the parents who are indifferent.

    This tendency manifests itself in a number of ways. To the extent that spending on education correlates with quality of education, parents with means who care about their children’s education aggregate in communities of other high-income families with excellent public schools. Others send their children to private schools. Even within public school systems, parents pressure school districts to create magnet schools where their children can go to receive a different quality of education than is available in their local school. My cousin experienced this. She is a freshman Presidential Scholar at BYU, having graduated from Thomas Jefferson HS in Fairfax County, Virginia, a well-known magnet school with a national reputation. She didn’t get into TJ (as it is known) the first time she applied, and she was very unhappy with her school experience that year, as all of her intellectual peers had moved to TJ, and the high school she was attending was consequently drained of its top talent. Would you have advised her to remain in that situation?

    Homeschooling, in a sense, is a means of creating a community of parents dedicated to their children’s education. There is the larger community of homeschoolers, and the community of two, the mother and the father (and in some cases, communities of one, as some single parents manage to homeschool, and others do without much support from their spouse). It does require some means, but homeschooling is much more open to low-income families than private schools or high-income communities. I know many people (through online relationships) who homeschool with very little means.

    Our own point of entry into homeschooling was the dilemma full-day kindergarten. Kristen felt strongly that Jaymie did not need a full-day kindergarten. Time was that all kindergartens were half-day or less, but with the growth in the number of mothers who work outside the home, kindergartens have been expanded, at least in our area, to full-day all over the city. By most accounts, the afternoon portion of all-day kindergartens are wasted time — naps and snacks. Kids that age in general aren’t ready to engage in seven hours of learning. We knew Jaymie wasn’t. She probably still isn’t.

    The problem is, the local school wasn’t so keen on the idea of us enrolling Jaymie half-day — pulling her out at noon. I can’t blame them. It would probably be disruptive to the rest of the class. Our next option was a private kindergarten. We found a couple, but were unable to get financial aid, so no go. Homeschooling was our next best choice.

    We tried it, and lo and behold, we liked it. Do I feel guilty? Not really. Look at it this way: if the public schools are not meeting your child’s needs, you have a few options. You can do nothing and make the best of it. You can complain and hope that you can cause some change. Or you can register your dissatisfaction by opting out of the system. The last two choices seem like the only reasonable ones to me. And given the fact that I believe that enacting change in American public school systems is greatly hampered by fact that the bureaucratic system that administers it is highly resistant to change, and that more than other bureacracies, the public school bureaucracy seems to exist primarily to perpetuate itself, rather than fight the good fight in hopes that future generations may benefit from my children’s struggles, I choose to contribute to the collapse of the system, hoping that the crisis will come that will either trigger real systemic change or completely undo the system, in the hopes that something greater can arise out of the ashes.

    For the record, since you said

    If you think that public schools are evil, then this is not a concern.

    I don’t believe that public schools are evil. But neither do I believe that the current system is worth sacrificing my children’s education for.

    Finally, I reiterate what I have perhaps not made entirely clear in all of my voluminous ramblings: Our decision to homeschool is not final by any means. Kristen and I regularly discuss the possibility of sending Jaymie to public school, and often raise the possibility with Jaymie so she knows that the possibility exists.

  62. John Mansfield–

    The last question in my post is the one that interests me the most — I think there are times that we are justified in refraining from sharing our testimony. The question is, how can I know when I’m being wise and when I’m being a wimp? Reading the scriptures, I generally get the sense that I’m being a wimp, but Winfried’s example of the Church’s approach to proselytizing at the Olympics gives me a different model to work with.

    I’ll go look up that talk. Thanks. Here’s a link for everyone to use.

  63. Ethesis–

    You said

    Home schooling often seems like an ersatz religion the way some people approach it.

    Someone up this thread made a similar observation (Russell I think). What actually happens is that some homeschoolers conflate their belief in homeschooling with the rest of their religious beliefs. It can be confusing, disorienting, and a bit unnerving at first talking with someone like this if you don’t share the same belief system.

    Of course, there’s the usual passion about which math curriculum is best. That’s ersatz religion for sure.

  64. Ethesis —

    As for homeschooling kids not fitting in with other kids, you may be correct, but perhaps not for the reason that you think. One reason that homeschooling kids don’t fit in with “other kids” is that most other kids attend school in a classroom. Homeschooled kids generally fit in just fine with other homeschooled kids (or at least have the normal amount of hangups). Now that the number of homeschooled kids is growing, we may find situations where it’s the classroom-schooled kids that don’t fit in.

    People who complained a lot about smoking in airplanes and restaurants used to not fit in. Now New Yorkers can’t smoke in bars.

  65. From Elder Oaks’ talk on sharing the Gospel: “The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion.”


  66. People who complained a lot about smoking in airplanes and restaurants used to not fit in. Now New Yorkers can’t smoke in bars.

    Comment by Bryce I — 10/24/2004 : 1:20 am

    At least the ones in Dallas can’t. ;)

    Seriously though, I read a bit, a long time ago, about people who sold their homes and went to sea in boats. The kids get homeschooled, of course. The best read I had was a full length book, and the guy writing said he noticed that kids that were pre-high school seemed to do just fine, but all the kids who were older, went strange, so he sold the boat when his kids got older and went back to the land.

    20 years ago most home schoolers were solitary.

    What I’m reading here, other than the fact that not all home schoolers just drop math as “unnecessary” (glad to read that, btw), is that most successful homeschoolers have group activities and programs that they use for socialization.

    Which is why I made the comment that it seems much more like a tutorial learning program than an old fashioned home school program.

    But, it does seem very much a community activity, and in some school districts, very much a good solution.

    I’m lucky enough that the schools here are excellent. Almost all my daughter’s classes are taught by people with MAs or PhDs. This past summer she spent three weeks in Europe with the humanities class.

    I couldn never have gotten the time off to take her, or done as well in guiding her through it.

    But I’ve known people in places I think no child should be exposed to. Teachers (about ten miles south of here) whose statistics show that at the end of the school year the kids know the subject less than they started knowing it and a school district that has blocked public access to that information.

    Hey, visit my blog,


  67. Bryce, your very thoughtful response to Jonathan’s defense of the public school ideal was excellent; it touched on a lot of the central tensions and divides in how children are educated in America today (mostly of them having to do with money), and where home schooling fits into all of that. Let me make one point at length, and then add some others.

    Julie has already made the ‘my kids are my top priority’ argument.

    I meant to mention this when I wrote eariler, Julie, but other comments crowded it out. Very basically, I just want to ask: is this even a very persuasive argument? I mean, it makes sense in general terms, but what does it exactly explain or justify? Julie’s version of this argument included the claim “to not do the best you can by your children because others can’t do the same is immoral.” Well, there’s a whole range of possibilities packed in there. To do “the best” I can for my children might involve sending them on all-expenses-paid educational and cultural tours of Europe, which surely would benefit them in innumerable ways, while the child next door happens to die because his parents can’t afford food. Is that “moral”? I don’t think so. So evidently, there are degrees of obligation here. Another example: most of the people reading this probably pay tithing. If you do pay tithing, then clearly your children aren’t really your absolute top priority, because that 10% which you send to Salt Lake City could possibly cover the cost of any number of your children’s essential needs and wants–you could feed them slightly better, clothe them slightly better, educate them better, take more time off work and play with them better, if you only had that little bit of extra cash. Now I suppose you could argue that paying tithing is in fact in the “interest” of your children, because the Lord will bless you materially, or because it will teach them to be obedient members of the church which will make them happy, etc. I suspect, however, that most of us recognize the flaws of thinking of tithing in such calculative, transactional terms (“I’m making this sacrifice for your sake!”). If we pay tithing, in all probability we do so because we understand that, as baptized and covenanted members of the church, we are part of something larger than ourselves and hence are expected to contribute to such. In other words, there is a good out there–the temporal needs of the church–which is, at least to a degree, accepted as larger than the good we are committed to delivering to our kids. If you’re willing to accept such collective obligations in the name of a common good in connection to the church, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to accept similar obligations in regard to public schooling, or any other social or state activity.

    Of course, one could easily argue that the church is uniquely the site of such obligations, and that such reasoning does not hold for any other social or civic entity. That’s certainly plausible, but that’s a political argument, not a moral one.

  68. A few other points Bryce:

    To the extent that spending on education correlates with quality of education, parents with means who care about their children’s education aggregate in communities of other high-income families with excellent public schools.

    Very true, which is why so many of the problems with public schooling in America today are either directly or indirectly the result of our country’s disasterous tradition of funding schools primarily through the local property tax base. I can understand the argument for keeping the money mostly under local control (the people who provide the funding can direct the spending, after all), but the result has included a great deal of explicit and de facto segregation which sets schools and districts against one another. This isn’t the tired (and only partly true) complaint of the teacher’s unions that there isn’t enough being spent on the public schools; it’s an observation that the way the money is provided and spent perpetuates haves and have-nots.

    She is a freshman Presidential Scholar at BYU, having graduated from Thomas Jefferson HS in Fairfax County, Virginia, a well-known magnet school with a national reputation. She didn’t get into TJ (as it is known) the first time she applied, and she was very unhappy with her school experience that year, as all of her intellectual peers had moved to TJ, and the high school she was attending was consequently drained of its top talent. Would you have advised her to remain in that situation?

    Not knowing your cousin, any response is likely to be both ignorant of her personality and situation, as well as moderately insulting. So let me instead just delicately toss out a general observation: is there really no other possible social response to the imposition of a meritocracy than to knock oneself out trying to get to the top of it?

    It does require some means, but homeschooling is much more open to low-income families than private schools or high-income communities. I know many people (through online relationships) who homeschool with very little means.

    While you surely know many more, and know a lot more about, home schoolers than I do, Bryce, I have to say that your observation that “many people…with very little means” home school doesn’t match what I’ve seen. But we may be talking about different categories here; after all, there’s a fair amount of income relativity built into your statement. Clearly, home schooling costs less than moving one’s family into a wealthy neighborhood, or simply sending your children to private or prep schools. In that sense, it is an option for many who otherwise have few educational choices for their children. But the rural poor, or those in inner cities, between poverty, work schedules or other physical or social obstacles generally, generally have no educational options, as opposed to a few that are within their budget and a few which are not. (This is one of the reasons voucher programs are so popular among inner-city minorities and other very poor segments of society–because it introduces some degree of choice into an environment where, for all intents and purposes, it is either public education or nothing.) If I’m wrong please correct me, but I am simply unaware of any significant trend towards home schooling among people that are not at best lower-middle class; all the conferences and e-mail campaigns and neighborhood meetings I’ve ever heard about always seemed to have educated professionals and suburban or upscale urban dwellers behind them.

    I choose to contribute to the collapse of the system, hoping that the crisis will come that will either trigger real systemic change or completely undo the system, in the hopes that something greater can arise out of the ashes.

    A fairly popular position today, I’ll admit; similar to the strategy, often expressed by Grover Norquist and other high-level conservatives, than since the American people are at present unwilling to vote, say, the social security system out of existence, the best thing to do is to encourage as many people as possible to opt out of it, thus speeding along its eventual breakdown and eliminating the program through bankruptcy and collapse, rather than direct political action. This is partly why the teacher’s unions oppose vouchers–because they are convinced it’s all part of a broad program to erode the base of support for the public schools, thus leading to their downfall without ever having to put the question to the vote.

    I should note that, for all my defenses of public schooling, Melissa and I are perfectly aware that we may change our minds and have to eat our words at some future point, especially if we end up living in an area which has more bureaucratic, overloaded or insular school system than the one’s we have experienced thus far. Like your family Bryce, when we realized, three years ago, that Megan would have to attend kindergarten for full day instead of a half-day as we’d experienced it years before, it was a real challenge. We came quite close to pulling Megan out. But we decided we should at least give it a shot–and found that it wasn’t that bid a deal, especially since Melissa was willing and able to volunteer and work in the classroom with Megan’s teacher to a great extent. (Which she has continued to do ever since. Were our local public schools to suddenly become resistant to parental participation, as I know happens in some places, I strongly doubt we’d keep sending our kids to them.)

  69. Sitting together in a classroom will let you learn about as much about the other people there as sitting next to someone in a movie theater. Not very much. Socializing is all about interaction not just being in the same room together.

    As a parent I can deal with my children’s interests far better then a teacher, who needs to try and make one subject interesting for 20-30 children who are only together because that was how they were sorted, not because they all had the same interests. A child will be 30x more likely to remember something she is interested in then not. I think the real power of homeschooling associations is in the interest level not that they are not in school. Schools could do better if they allowed students to focus on interests and not just slog through everything.

    I went to public schools but my parents took me to places that were mostly interesting to me, or rather explained in such a way as to catch my interest. Not to say I wouldn’t get distracted by something else there but missing some school for some external learning was just fine by my parents.

    My mother wanted me to learn to read so she bought me lots of comic books later I moved to Tom Swifts and then scifi-fantasy, She didn’t really care what format I read but that I read was important to her. Now I read all the time on all sorts of topics.

    I got a perfect attendance award in High School, and I was disappointed by it since I knew I hadn’t done anything fun with my parents that year.

    Sharing the gospel and homeschooling is very similar to me since there is a lot of time spent up front defining things so everyone is on the same page. Most of the problems have occurred when there has been a misunderstanding between us because we are using one word with vastly different definitions to each of us. I end up saying things like, “I mean….” and “Do you mean…?” a lot.

  70. Stephan said:
    Sitting together in a classroom will let you learn about as much about the other people there as sitting next to someone in a movie theater. Not very much. Socializing is all about interaction not just being in the same room together.

    Apparently my public scholl was an anamoly. In my high school we did not just sit there as though in a movie theatre. We discussed things heavily. Our homework was, for example, to read half a dozen of the Federalist papers. There were quizzes to make sure we’d done the reading, but after that we had group discussions – the teachers lectured maybe 40% of the time and we all discussed the subject matter the rest of the time. It was actually a lot like how graduate school is for me now.

    It might be more akin to watching a movie and then all the patrons stayed in the theatre to discuss the movie for several hours afterwards. There was definete element of socialization to my public schooling experience.

    But the way the people here talk about it, I must have been in some alternate universe.

  71. Russell–

    Your comments here have been the most challenging to me, and very valuable. Your perspective as someone who has engaged the idea of homeschooling both as a student and as a parent, with experiences in both the homeschool and public school worlds, who has decided on public schooling as an option is unique among the people I know who have written on this issue. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I’ve been trying to stay away from this thread for a bit, to see if anyone still cares, but since you’ve responded so thoroughly to my comments, I feel I should take some time now to respond.

    is there really no other possible social response to the imposition of a meritocracy than to knock oneself out trying to get to the top of it?

    In retrospect, I probably should not have dragged my poor cousin into my argument, as I could very well be misrepresenting her experience. The point I was trying to make by introducing her story was that parents within the public schools find mechanisms to leave their local schools just as homeschoolers do.

    The problem we all face in making educational decisions for our children is that the pace of change is slow, and though we may fight for change, our own children are unlikely to benefit directly, and will probably suffer because of the fight. The consequences can be far-reaching and life-altering in the extreme instances. Given this dynamic, I think that many parents react reflexively to maximize short-term gains for their children. I know that I make decisions differently based on who will be asked to bear the burden of any potential sacrifice. I will sacrifice for someone else’s benefit if I am the one who suffers; I am much less willing to impose that cost on my children when they have little or no say in the matter.

    While you surely know many more, and know a lot more about, home schoolers than I do, Bryce, I have to say that your observation that “many people…with very little means� home school doesn’t match what I’ve seen

    I probably didn’t think this one through very well either (look at how much I wrote last night — I wasn’t being too careful, I guess). I did hedge, saying initially that homeschooling in any case requires “some means.” You’re right — my sense of low-income is different from yours. My main evidence for the claim I make, that low-income (whatever that means) families can homeschool comes from a lengthy argument I had on a homeschooling board in which I took the opposite position. I was shouted down so loudly that I figure there are at least some people who manage to make things work out.

  72. Bryce–

    _The Well-Trained Mind_ is the book that I would have written about education if I had ten years to think about it and were a lot smarter. A few things I appreciate:

    (1) By not using textbooks, you don’t get this “History in the Voice of God” approach of the text as indisputable fact. When you read 5 library books about the Egyptians, and some call him Re and some call him Ra, you have an easy intro into the idea that what we know and write about history is the best we can do, but not a perfect record.

    (2) We love Story of the World. We’re into the second year. As I mentioned above, I think you would miss out on a lot without a good library nearby but fortunately we don’t have that problem.

    (3) Science has been great. We use the Janice van Cleave books for experiments.

    (4) I won’t pretend that I *love* First Language Lessons (we’re a little over half way through), but I don’t know that grammar can be fascinating. It does the job, the 3 year old chants along when we do helping verbs, and Mad Libs are a fun supplement.

    (5) As someone with appalling gaps in my own knowledge, I appreciate the systematic approach.

    (6) I think narration as an evaluation and learning tool is absolutely brillant. I was mostly done with my undergrad before I was taught this method; how much better begin when you are 5 or 6.


    As for the various comments about school funding, the bottom line is that we could be claiming 6K/year in services from the state. We are not. The money is going somewhere else, to benefit someone else.

  73. The real problem with lower income families is that they lack education. Yes, it’s the sad truth. There is a direct corollation between educational levels and income levels.

    As for resource materials, how about the local library? My wife has checked out thousands of books and CD’s over the years.

  74. Bryce, about that sentence: “If you think that public schools are evil, then this [i.e. weakening the public schools by absenting your children from them] is not a concern.” I hoped it would be clear that I was not attributing that sentiment to you, and I apologize if it was not. I understand that you always considered public school an option for your children.

    But I’m concerned–or, more accurately, dismayed and depressed–by how you talk about public education in your response.

    For example: I don’t believe that public schools are evil. But neither do I believe that the current system is worth sacrificing my children’s education for.

    Do you really view sending your children to public school as sacrificing their education? That seems a bit overdramatic. Forgive me if your local school is really that bad. It may well be, but so far all you’ve mentioned is full-day kindergarten. We faced the same situation here, we were also not thrilled about it, but we sent our kid to school for seven hours a day and everything seems to have worked out more or less OK. I didn’t notice that anyone’s education had been sacrificed. Do the particulars of your situation make your statement valid for you, or did you mean some other kind of sacrifice?

    And then there’s this one: …I choose to contribute to the collapse of the system, hoping that the crisis will come that will either trigger real systemic change or completely undo the system, in the hopes that something greater can arise out of the ashes.

    You seem to be saying here that the public school system is so ineffective and hopelessly unreformable that it would be better for the whole thing to collapse. (If this is really what you think, what more do you want before you call the public schools ‘evil’? Pentagrams on the floor of every classroom?) That harldy seems in the best interests of the millions of public school students in the country, for whome homeschooling and private schools are not viable options. I prefer to see the public schools strengthened, not undermined to the point that the whole system has to be replaced.

    To reiterate, I don’t doubt that you made the right choice for your daughter. I agree that public schools have lots of problems, and I understand that your experience will have confronted you with a different set problems than I’ve seen. I wanted to find out how you weighed your obligation to the education of other people’s children against your duty to educate your own child. If you think that a public school education is so immeasurably worse that all other factors are insignificant, or that hastening the revolution is the best way to help, then my question is answered. If you wouldn’t phrase it quite that way, please let me know.

  75. Ivan (75) Maybe you went to a better school then I because most of the time we were just lectured with question periods. Between periods wasn’t too great to talk since I usually had to run from one end of the school to the far end nearly each period. I just didn’t have much time for discussion if you don’t count the wisecracks from the back of the room.

    I don’t believe that public schools are evil, just useless. They are very bureaucratic and bureaucracies are very hard to kill and seldom die. I just feel that they are not providing the children with what they need: the ability to handle their time, their money, their relationships and how things interact. Argh, this is not coming out right.

    From the credit problems the average person seems to have they don’t know how to handle their money, the average person is so overworked because they don’t know how to handle their time. Divorces are common so they obviously don’t know how to handle relationships. Most people don’t know how their computer works.

    All of these things I had to learn outside of school, maybe your school is better but it would be more the exception rather then the rule. Are these things schools should teach, I don’t know, but children need to know these things, so why not teach them these things in school. Since they don’t, why should I send my child someplace that doesn’t teach them important things.

    If I have to teach them the important things myself anyway why not just do it all. Last year there was a letter from one of the local principles telling students to take charge of their own educations. Well, what is the difference between that and homeschool really. If you care about learning nothing will stop you from learning and you will learn al lot more a lot faster, the only problem seems to be that public school does not instill any love of learning in anyone, the parents do it and they can do that at home.

  76. Jonathan–

    I didn’t think you were trying to attribute any motives to me when you said “If you think that public schools are evil, then this is not a concern,” but I realized that I probably had not yet in this thread made my position on the public schools clear, and furthermore, many homeschoolers do think that public schools are evil, so I took the opportunity to clarify my position.

    As for the rest of your comments, I find that re-reading your initial comment, I didn’t answer the
    question correctly. Here is the question:

    If you think that public schools are evil, then this is not a concern. But if think that public schools are in principle a good thing, did you worry about neglecting your obligation to the community? Did you decide that the benefit to your child took precedence?

    The correct answer is no, I did not worry about neglecting my obligation to the community. I didn’t consider it at all. The reply that I gave you accurately reflects my current feelings about the state of public schooling in the United States, but that thinking did not enter into the initial decision to homeschool Jaymie. It’s thinking that has evolved along the way.

    One thing that I find interesting about this thread is that most people proceed from the assumption that the decisions to homeschool are made out of despair, that homeschoolers homeschool because they find something wrong with the public schools, and are searching for an alternative. Generally, this is true. However, although our initial impetus for looking into homeschooling was a dissatisfaction with the kindergarten schedule in our town, we continue to homeschool Jaymie in first grade not necessarily because we find the public schools deficient, but because we find homeschool to be a positive and effective method of educating our children. Choosing to homeschool for me is not necessarily like a vote for Kerry simply because he’s the viable alternative to Bush.

  77. Jonathan (continued)–

    That said, I did make a pretty grim assessment of the current state of public schools in the US, so I should elaborate. First, the term “sacrifice.” I suspect that if Jaymie were a typical student I would not find myself using that word. However, Jaymie is not a typical student. I’m not sure if she’s gifted as measured by standard assessments, but she achieves more with less effort than any of her peers. Her friends’ mothers’ have told us that academically speaking, ps kindergarten would have been a complete waste of time for her (I recognize that academic studies are not the sole purpose of kindergartens). Our biggest struggle with her is finding reading material that will engage her at her reading level (at the very least 4th grade, but who knows how to measure these things), but whose content is appropriate for her age.

    What often gets missed in the national dialog about leaving no child behind is that the nation’s public schools are underserving its best and brightest students. If public schools are optimized to meet the needs of the middle of the achievement scale, the students at the tails of the achievement distribution will not be well-served by the general model. The ps system has recognized the need to provide different services to special needs students, and has invested a significant amount of money in a parallel or supplemental education system to address their particular needs. At the other end of the scale, ps systems generally pay lip service. The level of funding for gifted and talented programs runs at probably less than 10% of the funding for special education, even though the magnitude of the problems in providing appropriate levels of education at both ends is roughly equivalent. In almost every state in the US, gifted and talented programs are not allowed to provide accelerated instruction to their students by law. Instead, their extra intellectual and creative energy is shunted off into “enrichment” activities that amount to not much more than really high-powered day care.

    All of this is a result of the ps system’s inexplicable insistence on age-segregated classes. Acceleration is not a viable strategy in general if students need to be placed two or three years ahead of their age group peers — the socialization problems are too great. So the best and brightest are placed in holding patterns, and no one cares because they still get good test scores and don’t cause problems. But their potential is being sacrificed to the system just as much as the kid who graduates without being able to read. even if the long-term consequences aren’t as severe.

    I lived through some of this myself. In the second half of my sixth, seventh, and eleventh grade math classes I was sent to the corner or to the library to study on my own because I wasn’t getting anything out of the class. Did I learn anything during that time? Absolutely nothing. I was given no direction, no guidance, just time to myself. And I went to really good public schools.

    Sacrifice is a strong word, but I think it applies in this case. I’ve got my reasons for wanting my
    daughters to get as much schooling done as early as they can — but that’s a separate post.

  78. Bryce, many thanks for the clarification. It helps tremendously. Educating gifted students is a topic worthy of its own 100+ comment thread, so you might want to hold off a bit before pressing the issue too much. I would guess you overstate the ratio of gifted/special education funding–I’d put my money on <1%. Anyone out there have some hard figures? And how did you get three years doing math on your own? I only got one.

    Another random thought, not a direct response: home or public schooling isn’t necesssarily an either/or thing; in some ways we do both. Eric’s first-grade teacher concentrates only on math and reading, so we have to supplement the science, and teach him the math he’s interested in, and find books that are appropriate to his level. At the same time, I feel better knowing (or presuming) that there’s someone trained and experienced covering the basics methodically. Eric is way ahead of his class in reading now, but he definitely needed his kindergarten teacher’s methodical approach to get him going, at least until the last few months of the year.

    You know, there should be three standing threads, one for people to talk about how much they excelled in school, another to talk about how gifted and talented their children are, and a third for people to gag and retch over comments made in the first two threads. I think I would be a frequent commenter on all three.

  79. Now, to address this question:

    You seem to be saying here that the public school system is so ineffective and hopelessly unreformable that it would be better for the whole thing to collapse. (If this is really what you think, what more do you want before you call the public schools ‘evil’? Pentagrams on the floor of every classroom?) That harldy seems in the best interests of the millions of public school students in the country, for whome homeschooling and private schools are not viable options. I prefer to see the public schools strengthened, not undermined to the point that the whole system has to be replaced.

    First, incompetence is not a sign of evil. When you’re talking to homeschoolers, it’s important to keep that distinction clear. I think that the ps system in the US is not serving the needs of its students well. I do not think that this failure is a sign that the public schools are evil. There are a lot of homeschoolers who do think the public schools are evil, and would think so even if the ps were doing a good job of producing well-educated students.

    I believe that any ps situation can be changed for the better locally. The problems that I see are on the state and national levels (although the situation on the ground in Durham is not terrific, with a racially divided school board that regularly votes 4-3 on racial lines).

    The funding equations in the public schools in the US are shamefully inequitable. The haves get more, the have-nots get less. Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities should be on every American taxpayer’s reading list. Changing this meaningfully will require coordinated action on the state level among poorer communities. It’s a big job, and in the 13 years since Kozol’s powerful critique was first published, not much has changed.

    Another recommended read is The Language Police by Diane Ravitch.
    You can save yourself the trouble of reading the book by reading my summary of Ravitch’s argument here. Basically, she describes the self-censorship regime that textbook publishers in the US impose upon themselves due to pressure from both left- and right-wing pressure groups, and the resulting negative impact on the quality of the textbooks used by virtually all students in US schools. Again, a difficult situation to change at the grassroots level. (To see how persistent these problems have been, I also recommend reading Richard Feynman’s account of his frustrations serving on the California textbook advisory panel in Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, in which he describes many of the same kinds of problems Ravitch does, only decades earlier.)

    Struggles over NCLB (No Child Left Behind), various national standards proposals, teacher accountability proposals and other reforms demonstrate the power of the entrenched education bureaucracy. In North Carolina, the state legislature recently passed a bill requiring schools to start their school year no earlier than August 25, in a sop to business owners on the Outer Banks, who need longer summer vacations to increase tourism revenue. Scheduling decisions have been taken out of the hands of local school boards.

    Even locally in our town, the school administration recently changed all high schools to a block schedule without informing the school board or seeking public comment. The change will stick although many people are not happy about it.

    Sure, I could fight, but what’s the point? I can become a full-time activist, or I can register my protest by taking my kids out of the system. I’m willing to struggle for changes in the local system, but faced with nation-wide issues, I choose to opt out, a choice that I feel is both more effective in making a long-term difference and that has better short-term consequences for my children.

  80. Jonathan–

    I guess I should hit ‘refresh’ in between posts.

    You know, these kinds of conversations were a lot less obnoxious sounding when you, Bill and I were living together. That’s the problem with T&S. No privacy :)

  81. Ethesis (Stephen M)–

    You might consider changeing the URI when you comment to the address of your blog. That way, the blog would be accessible every time you comment.

    Just a thought. I stopped by today. I really liked the essay that Heather wrote.

  82. Bryce, thanks for elaborating on your arguments about public education so much in these recent posts. You make numerous excellent points: the costs of age-segregation in the classroom, inequities in funding between different special-needs students, the way local school boards are so often pushed around or captured by various divisive groups and agendas, etc. Kozol’s book is clearly, in many ways, the ur-text of a lot of your (and my) complaints: the often profound injustice and absurdity in the way Americans fund and run their public school system has rarely been more effectively displayed. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that, given Kozol’s manifestly zealous attachment to the egalitarian public schooling ideal, there’s a good chance he’d consider your reaction to his treatise to be part of the problem, rather than part of a solution. (But then again, I’m not sure if Kozol has any children of his own.)

  83. Bryce-

    Your comments on the inadequacies and failings of the public school system are well taken. The funding structure stinks. The bureaucracy is overwhelming. Too often bright students are bored and slow students don’t get the extra time they need — the classes are dumbed down to the average student and if you aren’t average, too bad.

    But. But, but, but.

    That’s looking at the worst public schools. There are many very good public schools as well — schools that do have enough money, schools that have well organized and well run gifted and talented programs, schools with committed, talented teachers. I attended a very poor rural school system. But my teachers pushed me, the bureaucrats in the school board office had enough vision to fund what were at the time very advanced technology education programs, and I and my siblings have done fine.

    On the other side of the equation there are certainly parents who do a great job homeschooling their kids. I know several. There are also parents who do a horrible job at it. I know several of those as well. In my experience, the best homeschooling is not as good as the best public school — I defy any parent to match, say, Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County Virginia or The Bronx High School for Science, or Henrico County High School in Henrico Virginia — and the worst homeschool parents are, educationally, *much* worse than even a really bad public school system. Admittedly I don’t know what the “average” performance of each type of student is, although I would suspect that any homeschooler “average” performance would be biased up due to the presence of homeschooling parents who aren’t motivated enough to get their children tested. I know of several of those as well; I know of at least two families of homeschooled children who are functionally illiterate because they are being taught by functionally illiterate parents.

    You have to compare apples to apples. Except for the safety issues, which I understand and am sympathetic with, you can’t say homeschooling overall is good by comparing yourself and your wife, who do a good job of it, with a really bad public school system.

  84. Glen–

    Your comments are well taken. I’ve said in previous comments on this thread that one of the problems about talking about homeschooling and public schools is that there are as many different types of homeschools as there are homeschoolers, and the same applies to public schools.

    Our decision to homeschool is largely a positive decision: homeschooling has turned out to be a great educational choice for our kids so far, so we choose to continue to do it. It is not primarily a reaction against the public school system where we live. My dire comments about the public schools are not necessarily driving my decision to homeschool. I made this point in an earlier comment, but I certainly don’t expect readers of this thread to read everything that I’ve written — there’s too much for even me to keep track of.

    You say “In my experience, the best homeschooling is not as good as the best public school – I defy any parent to match, say, Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County Virginia or The Bronx High School for Science, or Henrico County High School in Henrico Virginia.” I respectfully differ with you on this point. I graduated at the top of my class from Scarsdale High School, which while not a magnet school like TJ or Bronx Science is nonetheless one of the top public high schools in the nation. Probably 95% of my graduating class went on to four-year colleges, and probably 25-30% went to Ivy League schools. Furthermore, two of my cousins are graduates of Thomas Jefferson High School. While we all received fine educations, and I would not belittle the job that these schools do, I can say with conviction that having seen first-hand what an education at a top public high school looks like, my wife and I can do a better job with our kids. Whether we actually go through and homeschool through high school has yet to be decided — our oldest is only 6, after all. However, if we do choose that route, I know we can give them as high quality an education as they will receive at any school anywhere.

    I’m not trying to compare the homeschooling and public schooling on an insitutional basis — I was responding to a question about how I view my responsibility to the public school community. I will be the first to tell you that homeschooling is not a good option for a lot of parents. It may not even be a good option for us next year.

    Your comment points up a problem that I mentioned in a previous comment (#40) There’s not a whole lot of reliable data on the current homeschool movement. What numbers there are I don’t put too much stock in, as they tend to be generated by organizations with definite agendas (homeschool groups and teacher’s unions, primarily). Furthermore, the homeschool movement has grown so rapidly that any good numbers that do exist are likely out-of-date. The result is that we all end up arguing from anecdote and personal experience, which makes for great internet discussion, but not great policy.

  85. Bryce-

    You write:
    “I can say with conviction that having seen first-hand what an education at a top public high school looks like, my wife and I can do a better job with our kids. Whether we actually go through and homeschool through high school has yet to be decided – our oldest is only 6, after all. However, if we do choose that route, I know we can give them as high quality an education as they will receive at any school anywhere.”

    Of course that is a decision that can only be made in view of the particular children and parents in question, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to econd guess you, especially as I don’t know you or them. Clearly all children have different educational needs, and involved committed parents are more attuned to those needs than even the best teachers, and you seem very attuned to yours.

    However, I would like to share what my wife and I have discussed regarding the decision of how to educate our children.

    First some background — I have a PhD in aerospace engineering, and I’m qualified to teach hard science and math at a college level. My wife has a veterinary degree and a PhD in animal science. She’s qualified to teach biology, chemistry, and anatomy at a college level. If any of our children decide that what they want to do with their lives involves science or mathematics, we’re eminently qualified to school them, probably much more qualified than any high school teachers they would have. But what if they want to be musicians? Or writers? Or political scientists or philosophers or actors or artists or businessmen/women? We would not be qualified to teach them those subjects at the level of an experienced high school instructor. And if we were to homeschool them we would implicitly be denying them exposure to those subjects, because they would not be surrounded by teachers and students who are passionate about them.

    Plus, even if they do want to be scientists, mathematicians, or engineers — TJ, a school I know a fair amount about because I just mentored a TJ student — has a Cray supercomputer, for heaven’s sake. And a robotics lab. And a chemistry lab and so on and so on. We couldn’t match those resources even if we could match the level of knowledge of the instructors. Of course TJ is unique, but most high schools these days have extensive art departments, theater troupes, decent chemistry labs, and so on. It would take an enormous amount of money to match all of that.

    My $0.02…

  86. Glen–

    I think that I’m not being clear about what I mean when I say that if we choose to homeschool our children through high school we can provide an education on par with the best public schools. I do not mean that we would be necessarily teaching our children in every subject. In the elementary grades, this is not a problem, but at higher levels, you’re right — there is some specialization that homschooling parents on their own can’t duplicate.

    At that point, homeschooling becomes more of an exercise in directing an education rather than providing the education directly. We deal with this even now. Jaymie has some real artisitc talent. Neither Kristen or I have much knowledge or ability in this area, so we have found an art teacher for Jaymie.

    As for facilities, again, we’re not trying to provide the same infrastructure as the public schools. Homeschoolers just have to find access to facilities, not provide the facilities themselves.

    There are some studies and activities that can’t be done at all without a group: team sports, bands/orchestra/chorus, drama. Kristen wants all of our kids to have the opportunity to perform in some kind of musical group, so we would have to find a group to do this with outside of the home.

    My confidence comes from the fact that my wife and I have a lot of knowledge ourselves, and more importantly, we know the boundaries of that knowledge. I think that one of the hardest things about homeschooling is knowing enough about what you don’t know to know that it exists, so that you can find resources to fill the gaps. One thing that my quiz bowl playing has done for me is given me a broad, shallow exposure to a lot of fields, so I know enough to ask questions about things I know little about.

    That last paragraph is very difficult to parse. Sorry. I feel like Bill Clinton.

  87. I haven’t followed these threads all that closely though my sister went through some homeschooling … but let me just say that I’d love to enroll any future kids I have into math teaching from Bryce. Maybe I should attend with them. But from his past observations he probably already has me on his “hopeless-with-math” list.

  88. I agree, and I think this brings up a very interesting question about the philosophy of educatino, namely — at what point do you need to seek specialized instruction?

    Regarding finding access to facilities, clearly a homeschooling parent can do an awful lot. You can hire art and music teachers, external drama groups, and so on. My hesitation comes from the limitations of that approach; it would be pretty difficult to find an external outlet for a love of chemistry, for instance; there aren’t any independent chemistry teachers the way there are independent art teachers. Seems to me that teaching writing would entail a similar problem — I love to read, but I wouldn’t claim to be a great writer, nor could I critique the writing of a student who was trying to learn. And I have never heard of independent writing instructors (not that I’ve looked).

    My other hesitation comes from something I mentioned in a previous post, which is that often interest in a subject comes from being exposed to others who love that subject. If my children were homeschooled, they would never be exposed to people who love theater, for instance, and consequently would be less likely to explore that avenue themselves.

  89. Bryce, thanks also for the second explanation. I still don’t think that making things worse and worse until the system collapses and people revolt is a good strategy in any context–it worked out well for Lenin, less well for the Russian people–but that’s not the point you’re making, and not how you phrased it.

    Glen, your two cents are quite valuable–as always, it’s interesting to see how people make educational decisions for their children. Bryce and the other homeschoolers who have commented here can probably point out that homeschooling parents often seek out the expertise of others to cover topics they don’t know well, and you might hear some dissenting opinions concerning your assessment of the equipment and programs available to most high schools in this country. (As for myself, I’m a product of the post-Proposition 13 California schools, where we had the best–wait, second-best–quick, change that to ’13th best’–nope, 35th–47th–wait for it–where we quickly ended up with the dead last level of school funding in the country.) Magnet schools like TJ and generously funded elite publics aren’t necessarily good comparisons to the typical situation, and some people might regard them as part of the problem. They are not my ideal, in any case. Bryce has pointed out a number of times that they reconsider their decision all the time, and I’m sure they will do so before high school as well.

    What I find interesting is that we made the same decision as you in favor of public schools, but for very different reasons. My wife and I have academic backgrounds that cover a lot of ground. I’d like to think we could do a better job than most of my high school teachers, and give the rest a pretty good run for their money. We could certainly teach our first-grader a lot more, a lot faster than his current teacher does. But considering that our family home evening last night only managed to get through an opening and closing song and prayer plus a two-minute runthrough of the last point of the second missionary discussion, I’m not sure we’d be good early childhood educators every single day. I am the world’s worst disciplinarian, and I’m content to let the teacher be the bad guy (although our child, we understand, is very well behaved at school). I don’t think my wife and I have the time or energy for homeschooling. I’m sure there’s a homeschoolers FAQ somewhere that addresses all these concerns, but I don’t want to resolve them. It’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. For now.

  90. Ethesis (Stephen M)–

    You might consider changeing the URI when you comment to the address of your blog. That way, the blog would be accessible every time you comment.

    Just a thought. I stopped by today. I really liked the essay that Heather wrote.

    Thanks, I’ll change the ulr to — who knows, maybe someone else will visit too.

    Heather is a great kid.

    About bad homeschoolers, in the old days, in Wichita Falls, people would homeschool their kids until they qualified for SS disability and then put them back in public school, and live of the disability payments.


  91. Glen–

    One thing about the explosion in the growth of homeschooling is that the problems of finding access to facilities is shared by all homeschoolers, so the more homeschoolers there are, the easier it becomes to find a solution to the problem. Families can pool resources, point each other in the right direction, and create markets for outside companies to fill needs. Julie (comment #31) has told us about university model schools in her area where students can go to get a la carte classroom instruction. Other solutions will present themselves as the need grows. It’s safe to say that homeschooling isn’t going to go away. The real issue is how the public school establishment chooses to respond.

    If recent statements by the NEA and other teachers unions are any indication, it’s not going to be an easy transition. The virulently anti-government wing of the homeschooling movement is equally culpable in throwing up barriers to cooperation. I dream of someday seeing a homeschooling parent run for a seat on local school board and winning, but I doubt this is possible in my own children’s time in school. Perhaps my grandkids.

  92. Bryce-

    The market for homeschooler resources is interesting. How would you access, say, a chemistry lab or a video editing classroom without ceasing to be a homeschooler? Is the parent-instructor model what you value about homeschooling, or is it the fact that you can tailor the experiences your child receives more carefully? At what point do you stop being a homeschooler and start being a “private school”-schooler?

    I’m no fan of the NEA; they are far to entrenched to be of any use to someone who wants to change the public schol system, even in places it needs to be changed. I’m intrigued, though, by your wanting a homeschooler on the school board. I thought the school board’s purpose was to set policy *for the local school system*. I don’t know of any school boards that can levy taxes. So what purpose do you see in a homeschooling school board member?

  93. Glen–

    It’s difficult for me to answer your question because there are as many different possible responses as there are homeschoolers. Homeschooling is attractive to me for many reasons: we go at Jaymie’s pace, have more time with her, can explore her interests more fully, are not bound by someone else’s schedule, have more influence over her moral development, can work more one-on-one with her on her weaknesses, and the list goes on. For many other homeschoolers, the primary reason for their choice is to keep the government’s influence over their children at a minimum — specifically, they want to be able to instill what they consider to be Christian values in their children without outside interference. Ultimately, the common thread is probably choice — we all want the freedom to choose what and how our children learn.

    Even in private schools, students are largely restricted in what and how they can study by the organization of the school and the classes offered. Homeschoolers can outsource as they see fit, but don’t have to have lessons in evolution along with the chemistry lab, for example (I hasten to add that I don’t have a problem with evolution, but give the example simply because it is real for many homeschoolers).

    As for my comment about the school board, the idea is that homeschooling as we know it would in some way be integrated into the larger system of how we as a community educate our kids, not that homeschoolers as they are presently should have a say in what happens in the public schools. It’s not going to happen anytime soon.

  94. Bryce,

    Thanks for an interesting discussion. I would also like homeschoolers to be somehow integrated into the way a community educates its children, although I suspect we would disagree on the specifics. There are so many different issues surrounding education that it’s difficult for any two people to come to complete agreement. But in any case, kudos to you for being so involved in your children’s education; if all parents were as motivated I suspect many of the world’s problems would evaporate.

    Also, Jonathan — an excellent point. One of the driving factors in our decision not to homeschool is exactly what you point out. For some children the most effective teacher is *not* the parent, a fact that gets ignored by some militant homeschoolers (of which Bryce is not one). Our oldest daughter is an example. Very bright, very motivated to learn, very unlikely to listen attentively to her parents. But she does great with her current teacher, who has her number.

  95. Bryce, does this observation sound more or less accurate to you?

    Some parents want the public school to take care of all aspects of their children’s education.
    Some homeschooling parents don’t want their children to have any contact with the public school system whatsoever.
    In between, there are probably many parents with children in public school who wish that their child’s education was more tailored to his or her individual needs, and who try to enhance their child’s education outside of the classroom, but who also wish it were easier to do so: more time, more accessible programs, etc. Also in between , I would guess, are many homeschooling parents who wish for easier access to certain facilities, programs, or experiences. That is, homeschool vs. public school is usually considered an either-or thing, but it shouldn’t have to be that way.

  96. Bryce,
    We’re still wimps, the Olympics notwithstanding. I think its a mistake to take the Church’s macro missionary strategy as our micro model for our own interactions. (Otherwise we’d be inviting our neighbors over to our bedroom to watch our daughter ask us to read her a book or something. Family. Isn’t it about time?).
    I personally think that the Church’s feel-good macro strategy is meant to make our forthright micro efforts more successfull.

  97. This whole discussion reminds me of a sister in our ward who—upon hearing we were using the same school as she did for our homeschooling resources—said, “Oh, you better be careful of those people. They don’t do any of the teaching.”

    Well, if you wanted someone to do all the teaching for you, why were you homeschooling?

  98. Adam —

    What are you talking about?

    Oh yeah, I had asked about our obligations in sharing the gospel.

    To address your point, you’re right to the extent that we excuse ourselves from speaking up when the opportunity presents itself and we fail to act upon it. However, the Church’s actions at the Olympics do have micro-level analogs, I believe. There are definitely times when speaking up can do more harm than good.

    I’m thinking mostly of situations in which confrontation seems to be the only possible mode of discourse. I don’t suggest that saying nothing is the proper action then; I don’t think you can ever go wrong by bearing simple testimony. But engaging in an argument is probably counterproductive.

    Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. That’s the problem I was getting at initially — how can I judge properly? Or maybe you’re right and we should all follow the example of Abinadi. (Not trying to be snide — I really think I’m a wimp sometimes).

  99. Bryce:

    Odds are that you will have nice, normal, smart kids. If so, one question you will probably think about as your children get older is their need to develop independence. At some point you may decide that in order to grow your children simply need more time away from their loving, supportive and brilliant parents, even though the only practical alternative is a less than perfect public school. Good luck.

  100. mj–

    Most likely you didn’t intend this, but the tone of your post comes off as pretty snarky.

    I do think you have a valid point about the need for older youth to negotiate the world without parental handholding, but there’s a world of difference between that and throwing your five-year-old in to be socialized by two dozen other five-year-olds, who, if the averages hold, watch 27 hours of TV per week and are otherwise shaped by all the worst our culture has to offer.

    Because of the diversity and liberal bend of the homeschooling culture here in Austin, I have no doubt that, as teens, my boys will have plenty of opportunities to work out their own socialization with fear and trembling. That’s as it should be. But, at this point, if there is a playground scuffle, I want it mediated by the mothers of the children involved.

  101. Jonathan–

    You asked: “Bryce, does this observation sound more or less accurate to you?” My answer is, hopefully more, most likely less.

    One of the big problems with understanding homeschooling as a movement in America is that no one really knows what it looks like. Estimates of the number of homeschooled children range from 500,000 to over 2 million. There’s a hodgepodge of organizations and internet sites where homeschoolers congregate, but no national center.

    The biggest and most established homeschool organizations are driven by the evangelical Christian movement to keep the Bible as the center of the educational experience. While many of these groups admit homeschoolers of all stripes, the overall agenda is driven by the leadership’s particular religious beliefs. For the most part, these beliefs include a strong distrust of the government-run school system.

    It is possible that there are a number of homeschoolers like Kristen and me who would be amenable to more cooperation with the public schools. It’s not likely that we would be able to organize very easily. There’s generally only room for one or two active large-scale homeschooling groups in most communities, and these by historical precedence generally have an evangelical bent.

    As for public schoolers wanting a more flexible ps system, I don’t really see it. From where I sit, the trend is toward more outsourcing of education (I could be totally off on what I’m about to say, however). For example, the move where we live is towards universal preschool. Our governor is campaigning on expansion of low-income preschool programs, which is a laudable goal. However, one result is that middle and upper-income families begin to see preschool as necessary for their children as well, when for the most part children in such families might be better served at home.

    So while I would hope that your observation is an accurate reflection of the current situation, I doubt that it is. Things are changing rapidly, however. I may be wrong.

  102. mj pritchett–

    I think part of what I’m seeing in this thread is that the term “homeschool” conjures up an image of children sitting in a room all day with a parent. No parent and no child would ever choose to homeschool if this were the case. Homeschool does not mean that children never interact with other adults, or outside of the sight of their parents. In many ways, homeschooling opens up opportunities to develop independence that are closed conventional schoolers.

    One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that, done properly, it is extremely time-efficient. I heard one statistic in a forum unrelated to homeschooling (the topic was developing technology-assisted classrooms) that said the average high school student spends an average of 46 minutes per day actually engaged in studying or learning new material. Looking back on my own experience, this is not hard to believe.

    So homeschoolers can get done in a day what public schoolers get done in a week. What to do with the rest of the time? As students get older, they can pursue other activities outside the home. They can take classes, volunteer, work at an internship, any number of things, all of which are more productive and more indepenedence-promoting than sitting in a classroom waiting for the roll to be called.

  103. “As for public schoolers wanting a more flexible ps system, I don’t really see it.”

    I disagree–a great many people want it, both within the system and without. It’s just that such decentralized, multifaceted, flexible reforms have been historically untenable within the present bureaucracy. America’s ridiculously unjust and irrational patchwork education-funding system has undermined the confidence and coordination of local school boards, and has had the consequence of making top-down, universal reforms the ones with the best track record in terms of actually being implemented. No Child Left Behind is a classic example: who can possibly be opposed to common, fundamental performance standards? No one, that’s who. And so, the standards get introduced…in the form of an authoritarian, poorly funded mandate that ends up driving variety (music, drama, etc.) from the cirriculum–and, not surprisingly, driving excellent and committed parents like Bryce away from the public school system.

    This isn’t to go back on what I’ve written in defense of public schools. But I think most people who are heavily involved in public schooling know what has to happen, and what the real fight is fundamentally about: flexibility, school choice, vouchers and charter schools and related reforms. I don’t think I’ve expressed any criticisms of home schooling as a way of educating one’s children; my only complaint with it (if you can call it that; really it’s more just an observation, because plainly not everyone thinks the same way of about social goods and collective goals) is that home schooling as a civic strategy (i.e., “let the corrupt system collapse”) is, I think, poor one.

  104. Julie in Austin–

    I feel bad that we’re at comment 110 and I haven’t had much chance to talk shop with you. There’s a few others that expressed interest in discussing methodology, but I think we lost them long ago.

    Kristen read The Well-Trained Mind and liked it for the way it laid out a concrete plan for organizing the day, the week, and the year. I think it’s a good resource, but I’m not crazy about the approach over the long haul. I agree on the avoidance of authoritative texts, the use of the early years to get factual data in place, and the approaches to writing (journals, narrations, dictations). I’m not sold on the 4-year history cycle. WTM shares a deficiency with almost all homeschool curricula/philosophies in that it doesn’t know what to do with math, which should be as tightly integrated with the rest as possible, especially science, in my view.

    We use Story of the World for history, Spelling Workout for spelling, Wordly Wise for vocab (not very much yet), Singapore/Miquon for math (Miquon very occasionally right now). We’re planning on getting First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, but I’m afraid it’s going to be deadly dull and slow for Jaymie. I’d like to take a look at English for the Thoughtful Child, which sounds interesting, but is too expensive to buy without seeing first.

    Things have been a bit slow this year so far as we adjust to Stanley not having a morning nap. I assume you’re a bit worried about life with a new baby.

    I hang out at the Sonlight boards a lot, even though we don’t use Sonlight’s curriculum as such. We do use the catalog for reading ideas a lot. I’d spend time at the Well-Trained Mind boards, but the software they use is very annoying.

    Hope you’re surviving ok. Hang in there!

    BTW, what’s the final verdict on the Halloween costume?

  105. Russell–

    I spoke carelessly. I agree with you on the issues of choice within the traditional school systems. Vouchers, charters, and other proposed reforms are worth discussing seriously, and many people do want them. When I said “As for public schoolers wanting a more flexible ps system, I don’t really see it,” I was responding to Jonathan’s description of a possible silent majority: “In between, there are probably many parents with children in public school who wish that their child’s education was more tailored to his or her individual needs, and who try to enhance their child’s education outside of the classroom, but who also wish it were easier to do so: more time, more accessible programs, etc.”

    I don’t see lots of parents wishing they could do more personally to enhance their children’s education along the homeschooling model. Many people do wish for more choices, but not more direct responsibility. Again, as I said in my other comment, I could be totally wrong on this one. I just know what I see.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t think of my individual choice primarily as a statement against the public school system, although when asked to give an opinion, you’ve seen where I stand. I don’t know if you caught this this summer, but there was quite a bit of news coverage given to a resolution presented to the steering committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that ends with the resolution

    the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention encourages all churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention to provide all of their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian private schools.

    (link to full text). I have problems with movements like this. Is opposing proposals like this inconsistent with my personal decision? Perhaps. I’m still working it out.

  106. The academies of Franklin’s era and the high schools from the late 19th Century, were invented as more efficient, practical, terminal alternatives to a university education. Even the junior highs opened during the Depression were intended as an alternative to high school, not a preparation for it. These alternative educations kept transforming, though, into being part of the system, with universities on the top. One reason for this has been the aristocratic aspirations of the lower classes. Status more than learning has often been the aim of education. (Not of anyone reading this, of course.) Personal study with a private tutor is about as aristocratic as it gets. Hiring Aristotle for our Alexanders is beyond reach for those who aren’t yet aristocrats, so let’s hear it for the highly educated mothers who are so enriching their children.

  107. Bryce–

    I’m curious what you don’t like about the four year history cycle. 1.5 years through, I can say that it has worked well so far. Although I do have my doubts (after seeing the table of contents for the next volumes) that American History will get enough air time. I was actually just discussing this with my husband, and I did manage to answer my own question in two ways: (1) we’ll just spend more time on history to fit Am. History in and (2) in the 20th century, I can’t think of much Am. History that doesn’t involve other parts of the world. Of course there are exceptions, but you know what I mean.

    Integrating math with the rest of the curricula. Hmmm. Interesting point. I am not a math/sci person, but I have to admit that I have some trouble seeing this in the early years and, at the same time, it does seem to work itself out (we come home from Scouts with a carrot plant, my son wants to keep a growth chart for it, and work with the numbers we generate, etc.)

    The nice thing about First Language Lessons is that it is easy to skip the parts that might render your child catatonic.

    Maybe I am deluding myself, but I am not worried about the baby. I have found my babies to be fine as long as they are held and/or fed just about constantly, and homeschooling provides no impediments to that. What I am worried about is the one year old grabbing at everything. So check back in a year on the state of my mental health.

    The WTM boards are annoying, but I feel like I ‘know’ the people there as well as I know those here, so I put up with it. Kindred spirits are hard to come by. Any place where discussions of parenting can be peppered with ancient history quotes (“He who eats my bread does my will”) has something going for it.

    My surgery date was bumped to Oct 28th, so the only Halloween costume that I’ll be wearing is one of those horrid little hospital gowns.

    Here’s the question that I like to ask LDS homeschoolers who know something about classical education: it’s easy for me to do grammar-stage scripture study and I feel off the hook for rhetoric stage, because of seminary, but what would logic stage scripture study look like, and if I do it wrong, will that warrant a link to Gordon’s teen apathy post?

  108. Julie, that’s a good question. I hadn’t thought of applying the trivium to scripture study. I would imagine that is because so many of us are still stuck on grammar stage learning in the scriptures. I have had very few gospel doctrine teachers who get much beyond grammar stage. Too bad I’ve never had you for a teacher.

    For logic stage, I would like to tie our study of history more to our scripture study, and also, like logic stage should be, to ask why. This is not to say that religious studies would replace history. I cannot stand any of the Christian history texts (as in those that teach from an exclusively Christian point of view) that I have seen, and it does a huge disservice to children to think that everything in history relates to something in the Bible.

    I realize that there are many questions about the scriptures that wouldn’t be easy for a 11-year-old to ask, but I want them to learn to ask questions about the scriptures, and not just accept everything they are told. Why did the Jews feel morally superior to the Samaritians? Why didn’t they try to bring the Samaritians back to full activity, as it were, when they asked to help rebuild the temple? Why didn’t Laman and Lemuel just go back to Jerusalem by themselves? Why do we have the story of Peter denying Christ? Why did Emma Smith have a more difficult time with polygamy than some of the other wives of church leaders? I think my goal for logic stage would be to introduce them to and encourage them in asking why questions about the scriptures.

    I don’t think Seminary will really go beyond grammar stage learning, based on my Seminary experience. But we shall have to figure that out then. But I would want them to keep asking questions.

  109. Too bad that my brother Jordan has been away from his computer all weekend looking for a house in Dallas! He would have enjoyed this thread, especially considering his interest in homeschooling and some of his own thoughts as he begins the process.

    For my part, I have too little confidence in myself to embark on homeschooling (I know I would overlook something important and my kids would be ruined). Also, I wouldn’t want to wish that on my wife–she already has a handful as it is (it would be different, I suppose, if she had a burning desire to do it, and to some extent she already has experimented with it with a homeschooling preschool program) and I just don’t see us as homeschoolers. Who knows, that might change in the future. I can imagine that if my daughters’ teachers were explaining to them the mechanics of lesbian sex and where to put which sex toys when, then I would start homeschooling immediately (if not move to some remote location in the middle of Wyoming or Montana to escape such wanton and flagrant defiance of the natural family and basic moral values [i.e. even the LCD ideas of what is appropriate in decent society]).

    Despite my own cowardice in the face of homeschooling, I am commenting on this thread just to point out something in Saturday’s news from Germany. The linked news story is in German, but perhaps Reuters or AP has something on this. Apparently, a marginalized “cult” in Bavaria is staging a musical protest because some of its members, who are heads of households, have been arrested because they reject the obligatory state education and insist on homeschooling their children. The state, of course, claims that it is concerned that the children will not learn the “right” things (now what would that be, I wonder?) and that the parents must conform with the obligatory schooling, which is provided for in Article 7, among other places, of the German Basic Law (their Federal Constitution). Ironically, the Basic Law also provides, in the immediately preceding Article, paragraph 2, that “[t]he care and upbringing of children is the natural right of parents and a duty primarily incumbent upon them.” I guess that only works if such “care and upbringing” are approved by the State, who has appropriated the final say in German children’s upbrining.

    I love Germany and have much experience there, both academically and socially. But in some things, I am truly grateful to be an American (sorry Wilfried and Ronan).

  110. Yikes. I hate to think my comment helped steer the conversation away from the point of the original post… the remainder of this comment is labeled by paragraph as to what you’re likely to find — skip anything that might make you mad or annoyed or whatever, I don’t mind!

    PERSONAL OPINION STUFF: All I have to say is that for me, personally, I would have extraordiary difficulty reconciling what I see as my personal obligation to my kids (future tense, mind you — I don’t even have a boyfriend right now, as I kind of swore off dating until I actually finish my degree) with sending them to a public school. I’ve been inside of about a half dozen public high schools and two middle schools since we started homeschooling (I took the ACT, the Ohio 9th Grade Proficiency Test, and a civil service exam in public school buildings — I also worked with the US Navy Recruiters’ office when I was a Sea Cadet, and did presentations in a couple of high schools in the area). They were uniformly cold, depressing, intimidating, and unpleasant. My mom used to be a public school teacher, as well, so I saw the inside of her high school in Watts and a middle school in Apple Valley. As the six week Star Wars line happens about a block from Hollywood High School, I’ve also walked the grounds there. My impressions of public schools are that they feel like prisons when you look at them, and that the students think and act like prisoners when you talk to them. I won’t talk about the things I personally experienced in public school (and what some of my good friends experienced, and then related to me) that suggest that schools are a dangerous place to be, from a moral standpoint (or even a physical one — I recall a huge shouting match at a parent meeting when I was in 4th grade, over a plan to send all the 6th graders from my very safe elementary school to a middle school that had to schedule periodic “drive by drills” thanks to previous incidents on the schoolyard); I think those points are just too easy to make, and won’t persuade people who won’t be persuaded.

    PERSONAL OPINION, CONT’D: None of that is the most persuasive aspect of why I plan to homeschool, it’s just the gut reaction I get when I contemplate sending an innocent child to a place like that. It’s my impression, my feeling, and, together with whoever is brave and foolish enough to marry me, my decision.

    A LITTLE BIT OF POLITICS: Part of me isn’t really thrilled with the idea of having to pay for other people’s kids to go through what was, for me, a largely tortuous experience that hurt my emotional and intellectual development and allowed me to develop some really atrocious habits. A bigger part of me is annoyed that those other people, who aren’t in fact going to have to pay for my kids’ education, want to have their representatives tell me what my kids should learn. My major comfort is that my standards are higher than the world’s, and that most state requirements aren’t nearly as high as one would fear. ^_^

    EVERYONE BE HAPPY!!: But in any case, as I said before, I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person. If you prayerfully and thoughtfully consider the situation and make a conscious choice, observing how things are working for your kids, you’re doing your job as a parent as far as I’m concerned.

    MORE BORING PERSONAL OPINION: The “option of last resort” mindset I have has been prayerfully considered; I’m always willing to reconsider on presentation of further evidence — it’s just that nearly twenty years of epxeriencing public shool, then home schooling, and then doing a lot of research and reading and all of that sort of thing, has only strengthened my belief that home schooling is the best option for me and whatever family I will have in the future.

    OOH, SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: I could add something here regarding my opinion on how much putting obnoxious/irritable/impressionable/maleable youth together for extended periods of time with minimal supervision and inadequate intellectual stimulation is just asking for pain and suffering all around, but I think that just this sentence will do. I WILL point out that all three of us (my sisters and I) enjoyed the flexibility of home schooling — the fact that we could volunteer to be docent/reenactors at the Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio Village on Thursdays, or spend one day a week learning about marittime history at Mystic Seaport, or participating in Irish dance lessons 72 miles from home, or being in Sea Cadets — and the social interactions and generally awesome experiences that that flexibility allowed us, even more than the lack of “bad” stuff that home schooling ensured. Actually, strictly speaking, it wasn’t a whole lot of “home” schooling; at least 30% of what we did each week was very much outside of our house. Given the extremely hostile attitudes towards the Church that we found in our communities (especially here in Ohio –the Church withdrew the elders from our branch for a year or so because of organized anti-missionary efforts from a local pastor), incidentally, I’m going to say that we probably did a better job of representing the Gospel in our extracurricular, nowhere-near-huge-groups-of-kids-who-have-tribe-like-attitudes-towards-those-who-are-different activities, than we could have as the Only Mormon in School (most of the young women in our branch seemed to avoid letting people know they were LDS).

    ^__^ Now everyone give somebody a hug.

  111. Bryce, your posts have helped a lot to help me understand your decision and position, and I can see why you would be irritated by people’s assumption that homeschoolers are all far-right survivalist nutjobs whose illiteracy is now being passed on to their children. Letting people know about your decision, and how well it’s working out, is a good way to undermine those stereotypes. A good way to share the gospel of homeschooling, to get back to your original point.

    You should probably take pains to avoid the mirror image implication, however. Parents with children in public school probably won’t react well to being told that they are sabotaging their children’s education by not homeschooling, or even to the assumption that only homeschool parents look for individual learning opportunities for their children (neither of which you have so baldly stated). What you say about your choice for your daughter is absolutely convincing, but you should give public school parents more credit. Specifically, concerning the point, I don’t see lots of parents wishing they could do more personally to enhance their children’s education along the homeschooling model, you may want to postpone judgment for a bit. Let’s posit a couple million homeschooling families in the country. I would guess that there are at least as many and probably more families with children in public schools where the parents spend much time and effort helping their children learn and arranging educational opportunities for them and doing projects together and all the other things that make homeschooling worth pursuing.

    Your point that homeschooling can be more efficient, and that the family therefore has much more time for these types of activities, is unassailable. I’d suggest looking at it as a difference in degree rather than a difference in kind, however. If asked whether we homeschool or send our children to public school, I want to be allowed to answer “Yes.”

  112. Julie–

    Your’e right, I didn’t mean to be snarky. (I’m not exactly sure what snarky means, but assume it has something to do with snide, snarl and/or sharks, and isn’t a good thing.) I guess that’s just one the dangers of trying to blog about a topic which is as sensitive as methods of parenting.

    My point is that, in my view (as a parent of a middle schooler, a high schooler and a college student) homeschooling makes sense for a bigger slice of younger children and parents than it does for the corresponding slice of middle and high schoolers and their parents. This is notwithstanding the fact that from a parent’s point of view a typical middle school or high school seems far more threatening than a typical elementary school.

  113. Jonathan–

    First point — perhaps I could be more circumspect about how I describe my perception of general parental attitudes regarding their direct involvement in their children’s education. I will point out that you cut off my quote. The full statement was

    I don’t see lots of parents wishing they could do more personally to enhance their children’s education along the homeschooling model. Many people do wish for more choices, but not more direct responsibility. Again, as I said in my other comment, I could be totally wrong on this one. I just know what I see.

    I tried to leave plenty of room for others to correct my perceptions, as you have done.

    What I’m slowly working towards in the conversation spanning comments 102,108,110, 112, and 118 written by you, me, and Russell is a defintion of homeschooling that can be used to distinguish it from public schooling. You started the conversation by proposing a continuum with hands-off public schooling parents at one end and isolationist homeschooling parents at the other, further speculating that most people fit in closer to the middle than the ends. My contention is that the distribution is bipolar — clumped near the extremes. Russell correctly pointed out that many people do want increased availablilty of choice within the public school system, and you rightly add that there are plenty of parents who spend time at home with their children helping them learn in addition to and outside of their public school studies.

    I don’t disagree with either of your points, but somehow I still resist the notion that homeschooling and public schooling as I presently understand the terms are not mutually exclusive. My objection must be purely on the basis of how I define these terms, as you and Russell have clearly provided evidence that might reasonably be construed as counterexamples to my claims. Thinking about it some, I come to the conclusion that I’m basing my definition on something like the concept of base accountability. I’m still working this out, so feel free to poke at it if you want.

    In the homeschooling model, the parents assume direct responsibility for determining what and how their children learn. They may choose to send their children into the classroom for a specific subject, or a certain period of time, but ultimately, no one else makes the determination of what and how the children should learn (I guess the children themselves may be involved in the decision-making process). Public schooling then refers to a situation in which the parents choose some institution that they believe will provide an educational experience whose content and manner fits with their own personal beliefs. Once that responsibility is delegated, the parents monitor their children’s progress, and if they see a need for change, they are able to voice their concerns, and in extreme cases are free to change their choice of provider, but given a particular choice of provider, the amount of control the parents have over the content and presentation is restricted.

    Certainly public schooling parents under this definition are free to supplement or provide additional educational experiences at home and elsewhere, but the primary burden of deciding what is taught and how resides with the school. I imagine Russell would frame this distinction in terms of communities and individuals: in the public school model, decisions on curriculum and pedagogy are made collectively, and members of the system agree to abide by the decisions made by the group. Homeschoolers reject/abandon the group, taking all responsibility and control for themselves. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

    It’s possible that I’m setting up a false dichotomy, and there’s certainly room for middle ground in this model, but given the way the actual education establishment is set up in this country, it’s a very rare situation indeed where a parent would be able to say they are a homeschooling public schooler or a public schooling homeschooler under these definitions. Even if they’re ultimately false (and I’m not saying that they are), there’s still value in them in the current climate.

    Feel free to argue–as I said, I’m still working this one out.

  114. John–

    Tell Jordan to stop by. I was expecting to see him around here — sounds like he had a good reason for staying away.

  115. I don’t think anyone is still reading this, but I wanted to get this on the record anyway.

    Most of the homeschoolers and sympathizers have been playing defense for the last 100+ comments and I wanted to present the (positive) reasons why we homeschool. We aren’t so much avoiding other things (like public school) as we are enjoying what we have chosen.

    (1) Educational excellence.

    (2) Efficiency. The efficiency of one-on-one tutoring boggles the mind. I don’t wish to brag, but my son is academically advanced despite the fact that we do school for only 8 hours per week (yes, week). This leaves him time for everything from outside activities, to deciding to build a paper model of the covered wagon from Little House on the Prairie, to watching School House Rock, to jumping on the trampoline, etc.

    (3) Sibling relationships. My boys (6 and 3) are much closer than they would be if one were out of the house for 7 hours per day. I suppose this goes for parent/child relationship as well.

    (4) Individualization. I can already tell you that the 6 year old will do robotics and the 3 year old fencing. And we’ll have time for it.

    (5) The family learning adventure. I love learning about history and science along with my boys, and we all love discussing what we’ve learned around the dinner table. We all huddled around the epsom salt crystals and discussed ideas for more experiments. And everyone helped mummify the chicken :) .

  116. Julie–

    I would add my own voice to yours on all of your points (although we took a pass on the mummifiied chicken). I would emphasize the benefit in sibling relationships. Jaymie and Julia (also 6 and 3) are best friends. It’s been really exciting to see how much they like to be together, and like to share experiences with each other. Julia has a little co-op preschool; this week they decorated Halloween bags to carry their candy. Julia’s first question was if she could write “Jaymie and Julia’s Halloween Bag” on it instead of just Julia.

    One more benefit that we’ve seen is that our kids are highly self-directed in their play. I haven’t heard them complain about being bored in months. They just find fun things to do on their own. This may not actually be a direct consequence of homeschooling, but it is unusual among the kids I’ve seen (not watching TV probably contributes).

  117. Bravo Julie.

    My family does not homeschool as a rejection of anything. Our choice to homeschool is not a reflection on anyone else’s choices. We just love doing it because of the things we gain. Will it be right for everyone in our family forever? I don’t know. But for now, it’s wonderful for us.

  118. Amira–

    I haven’t engaged you at all in this thread, but I want to thank you for adding your perspective to the discussion. You weren’t arguing with me, so I didn’t say anything.

  119. Bryce-

    I’ve enjoyed your comments. Since we were on the same side, I didn’t expect much response. I know very few LDS homeschoolers, and it has been nice to see well-reasoned, thoughtful approaches to homeschooling from an LDS perspective.

  120. Adam–

    Not to worry. The chicken will be back–in four years, when we start the history cycle over by studying archealogy and digging him up. We call him King Cluck.

  121. One argument people have for public schooling is “How will you teach since you don’t have the proper equipment, like a chemistry lab or video editing lab?”

    From what I have seen the locals schools can’t do anything more dangerous then you already do in your home kitchen, so all that special equipment is going to waste.

    Besides doing a Junkyard Wars type experiment is more interesting as your are solving more problems and not just following the directions.

    As for a video editing lab, a lot of schools are using iMovie as their NLE. You get iMovie for free if you bought a Mac in last 4 years and a new eMac is only $799.

    The best way to learn and get interaction is joining some of the local hobby groups. If you want some real chemistry you can join a model rocket club that builds their own rocket motors. Public schools would NEVER let a child build their own rocket motor.

    I just read about a study that found that students will retain THIRTY (30) times as much information about something they are interested in, compared to something they are not. I am pretty sure that parents know what interests their children and will be able to relate most things to their children’s interests, far easier then a school teacher will.

    And if schools are so well equipped why do they always have to run funding drives every year for the basics: like paper, pens and crayons? It only costs ~$20 to outfit a child with a ream of paper, a notebook, a few folders, several pens, pencils and a box of crayons. Somehow that don’t have the 0.5% of the money they get on each child (~$5000) to spend on basic supplies. Something is wrong here.

  122. Bryce, now is another one of those times when I wish Bill would condescend to post here, or would post to condescend here. Consider two things: the chart for recording progress in reading all the Newberry winners, and attending the re-enactment of Washington crossing the Delaware. Where on the graph would you place Bill’s parents? Are the extremely involved home- and public-schooling parents at opposite ends of the U curve, or are they neighbors? This is not meant to question anything you’ve said, just to give you more to think about, in return for the plentiful food for thought you’ve offered here.

  123. Follow the link in John Fowles comment (116) to see a photo of “polygamist hair” on German religious radicals.

  124. Be careful when you follow that link to the German news article. Some of the ad bars are very unsavory (it is, after all, a German website, and the advertising follows their standards–sorry).

  125. Jonathan —

    I understand where you’re coming from, and I’m willing to grant what you’re proposing, that it is entirely possible for parents of public school children to be as deeply committed to and involved in their children’s education as homeschooling parents. That is, if the question is how can we describe the level parental involvement so that we can encourage parents to engage more fully in their children’s education, then I’m all for blurring the distinction between homeschool and public school. I should add that I do not believe that homeschooling as such indicates a greater level of parental interest and invovlement in the education process, although in practice this turns out to be the case a great majority of the time.

    What I’m interested in exploring in the past few comments is a definition of homeschool and public school that informs how we should construct policies for encouraging interaction between families in each grouping. Accountability and responsibility seems to be the proper means of discrimination in this case. I can send Jaymie to public school and still do all kinds of stuff with her at home, even going beyond the curriculum that she is exposed to in her classroom. Still, the public school is primarily responsible for her education, at least that portion of her education that takes place within the classroom, and as the responsible party has authority to make decisions regarding that education. As a parent, I have input, and if the school is to do an effective job, it will need to cooperate extensively with me, but ultimately, the school system reserves the right to make what decisions it will. The only option I have in the case where my differences with the school system are incommensurable are to sue, in cases where the school system is making decisions that do not relate to my child’s education, or to withdraw my child from a particular class or school. This state of affairs is essential to the functioning of a public school. With many interested parties, no one person should be able to control how the school operates without having been granted authority to do so by the rest of the school community.

    As a homeschooling parent, I might choose to send Jaymie to classrooms for all of her instruction. However, ultimately I am responsible for her education and how it happens. I may not have control over how a class she attends is conducted, but I am much more free to take her out of a class and find an alternative method of instruction that I would have in a public school system. Now, I can envision a system in which classrooms are operated on a community-supported basis, but the choice to utilize those resources rests in the hands of the individual. Still, the question must be answered, if the child is failing, who should we as a society hold responsible? In the public schools, the school system is held to account. For homeschoolers, the responsible party is the parents. Authority to act and decide is granted accordingly.

  126. I was only just made aware in an email from Bryce that my name had been invoked here. I suppose since I have no children I was insufficiently interested in all the arcana about various curriculum choices and so abandoned the thread. But now I have read it all and may as well add my two cents.

    I attended eight different public schools in four states. Perhaps the most interesting experience was first grade at Orville Wright elementary in Dayton, Ohio. It was an inner city school where corporal punishment was still common (in 1977!) and a Darwinian order prevailed. For someone who already knew how to read, being in a class with others who were struggling to learn the alphabet was not ideal, but it gave me the opportunity to explore an inner self, to learn as Pascal said, that “All man’s troubles come from not knowing how to sit still in one room,â€? and to feel some compassion.

    Perhaps it’s a little self-indulgent and unseemly for someone of relative privilege to luxuriate in nostalgia for what was for many a hopeless situation (especially since we moved after four months to a much more idyllic situation out in the countryside) but I wouldn’t trade the experience.

    I had my share of boredom in most of the other schools too, and frustration at time wasted. Of course, I experienced these to an even greater degree at Sunday School and in the Boy Scouts. In all these situations I was able to learn that “What am I getting out of it?� was not the most important question. At the same time, self-preservation is also important. When I became really serious about practicing the piano, I had to jettison some useful social activities.

    Jonathan mentioned the rich educational environment I and eight other siblings enjoyed at home. It’s true: I probably learned much more from all the books, national geographic maps, conversations and projects that surrounded us at home than I did at school (at least until I started learning chemistry and calculus) But I have many fond memories of good times at school, and I’m glad I didn’t spend all my time at home because I would probably have appreciated it less.

    I would be nice if we could all have been tutored in Greek at three and Latin at seven, like JS Mill, or have an orchestra to try out our compositions at twelve like Mendelssohn, and then be ready to make contributions to society by fifteen. But I fear we’re really going a different direction with all the coddling and catering to every whim: we are effectively infantilizing our adolescents and young adults. I noticed this trend teaching undergrads at Columbia even more than I noticed it at BYU. I have a feeling that home schooling needs to take special pains to guard against this tendency, although public and private schools are equally culprits.

    As you can infer from the above, I’m more sympathetic with Jonathan’s and Russell’s choices, but I’m sure many home schoolers are having great experiences, so let a thousand flowers bloom.

  127. We homeschool our 5 children, oldest is 10. I think the analogy of sharing the gospel is apropos. We reluctantly decided to homeschool for academic reasons but now have come to the conviction that we would never do anything else, at least of our young children.

    A lot of what folks on here have said in favor of homeschooling is right on point. There has not been as much focus on the lifestyle change, although Julie in Austin has mentioned some of the advantages.

    Although it sounds a bit dogmatic, I now have hard time understanding how anyone can send their young children to public school.

    There is a saying that applies to both homeschooling and Christianity: “from the ouside, you can’t understand it; from the inside, you can’t explain it.”

    PS. A good site for LDS homeschooling information is

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