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The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:29 pm
by GandK
G and I intend to go on the road once he pulls the plug, and we've always intended to homeschool eventually because our youngest will still be in elementary school when this happens. About a month ago, we decided to go forward with our plan to homeschool so we're not changing our school situation and our living situation at the same time in a year or two. Our youngest son, who is 7 and is the only child still at home, will take 2nd grade at home with me this fall. To prepare, I made a plan, made a budget, and chose a curriculum, and finally we told our family and friends that we made this decision.

And my phone blew up. I was not prepared at all for the strong opinions and the vitriol I've experienced.

Part of the problem is this area. I live in a place with relatively high concentrations of both practicing Christians and devout Muslims, so it happens that the public schools in this area are 2-3 Wheaton levels more liberal than the majority of the community that they serve. There is tension.

My friends on the right - mostly religious folks, a few libertarians - are cheering me on full blast with homeschooling. One Muslim woman said, "It's the only thing to do, friend. I mean, I've seen the village, and I do NOT want it raising my child." Conservatives all think I'm making a political statement, and they universally approve. Their well-wishes were generally followed by a rant about how things have all gone to pieces since [their favorite political complaint] happened.

My friends on the left are aghast. One was literally in tears when she called. The thrust of their comments is that by doing this I'm taking $10,000 from a school system that needs the money. My kid may be fine, but other kids need the money too. Did I just not think that through? And how can I possibly teach my child as well as one of the best school systems in Ohio when I'm not an accredited teacher, and oh by the way, how will he be socialized? Unless you have a special needs child, you're a wingnut if you homeschool. So I've just become part of "the problem with public education." There was screeching involved. I tried to reassure the people I love. I was a little more assertive with the others.

As you can imagine, I've pretty much stopped answering the phone until this dies down. And admittedly, I may need better friends***. It seems to be no use telling anyone that I'm doing this to best fit our family's future, and I wasn't actually trying to affect our district, our state, our nation, and all of humanity by teaching my second-grader math at home. (Which I do, in fact, feel competent to do.)

Has anyone else been involved in a homeschooling conversation like this, or witnessed one? Do you track with one side or another?

*** A couple of months ago, G and I were at a wine tasting and we randomly met a Mustachian couple. First time I've met another ER couple in the wild. It was neat! We've met again since, and are developing an enjoyable friendship. Over wine, too... yum. I wish more of you lived closer, but I really wouldn't wish Ohio on any of you. :roll:

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:52 pm
by IlliniDave
I home schooled my youngest daughter for the last two years of HS, but it was a workaround for what was diagnosed as panic disorder. Being in Alabama in an area with a lot of connections to military families, people just generally wished me well, though a few did "approve" because of their political/religious philosophy similar to what you described. I didn't experience anything close to what you did as far as negative reactions. I wasn't very active/prominent in any sort of community setting (church, school, neighborhood, etc.) so maybe I was just so under the radar that people who would of opposed me on doctrinal grounds just didn't notice or care. And I didn't tell anyone ahead of time, I just did it.

I'm sorry to hear of the reaction you received. Maybe it's a sign of the times. My experience was in 2009-2010. Much has changed since then.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:42 pm
by black_son_of_gray
Well I haven't been involved in conversations directly, but my sister has homeschooled her children for a few years before. They are a military (lived on a base at that time), right-leaning, and religious family - so I'm guessing from your experience they didn't experience too much social blowback (at least, I didn't hear of any). They also did the homeschooling for "best fit for the family" reasons. As for the socialization part, I remember she had some sort of affiliate program that she could take the kids to every few days (think a semi-formal extracurricular activity). Also, there were tons of kids in the neighborhood, so they had lots of social interaction.

For the record, it turned out just fine - the kids are whip-smart and socially normal.

There seems some inconsistencies with the logic that: 1) you can't teach you kids as well as the best school system around, and 2) if your kid doesn't go, many other kids will suffer. I mean, I know school funding generally is messed up (perhaps doubly so in Ohio), but I wouldn't think it is a particularly great school system if its mission hangs in the balance when a single child leaves?? If the system is that broken, then obviously you should homeschool if it works for you. If the system isn't really that broken, then it isn't a big deal to pull your child from it. You still pay taxes in that district, right? Then you are doing your part as well as anyone could reasonably expect.

Thought experiment: If you responded to your upset friends with: "I will be homeschooling my child and also donating to the school the amount of money that the school loses", would that assuage their concerns, or would they just bring up some other objection? Given the screeching, I think I know the answer. No point in trying to satisfy the insatiable.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:49 pm
by George the original one
GandK wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:29 pm
The thrust of their comments is that by doing this I'm taking $10,000 from a school system that needs the money.
Huh? I mean in Oregon whether you homeschool or send your kid to private school, you still pay the property tax that funds public schools. Charter schools might be a different issue. They do it differently in Ohio?

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:02 pm
by GandK
In Ohio, once those taxes are collected, "The amount of state funds that a district receives is based on a formula that takes into account the student enrollment and the property wealth of the district." Source: Ohio Department of Education. So yes, when you take a child out of a district here, the amount of money that district receives for its operating budget goes down. To the tune of roughly $10,000 per school year per child.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:22 pm
by suomalainen
Haven't been involved in conversations, but I can confirm that a similar stigma attaches to homeschooling here in the northeast as well. I think people tend to see the correlation between religious right, homeschooling and "weird non-socialized kids" and assume it's the homeschooling that was the causation (or that's the "more polite" option). Methinks the weirdness, if there is any, would shine through regardless of whether the kids attended school or not. I would tend to think that the reactions you are getting are coming from the messaging people are receiving. Each group sees a message, but the conservatives read it as a "huh, you're one of us" while the liberals read it as a "holy shit, they're whack jobs?!" I dunno. This statement rings truest of everything you wrote:
GandK wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:29 pm
I may need better friends
I've joked with wife about retiring, homeschooling and taking the family on the road...yeah...not. going. to. happen.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:15 pm
by Riggerjack
I don't have kids and never will.

However, as an adult, who had already made the above decision, I am fascinated by strategic parenting. I never saw anything like this as a kid. Watching people who grew up wanting and planning for a family, then going about it with the intent to do the job well, is inspirational. Not inspirational enough to get me to do it, but fun to watch, anyway.

So I have some friends and family who homeschool. One is part of a loose religious homeschool network, she teaches art, and others teach other courses. In a nutshell, it's just the one room schoolhouse, in a more modern setting. Each parent subscribes to the classes they want to, and delivers kids as they choose. Then homeschool for the rest.

Another has 6 kids, all homeschool, but 2nd grade is public school. As each kid hits 2nd grade, they go off to school, and return, to review their day at home with the siblings who are homeschooled. This means each kid gets a year where they are the "star" who had a different experience than the others for the day. This counters the stresses of public schooling, read any of 7w5' s teaching posts to see what I mean. All the kids participate in team sports, and other extracurricular activities. The kids seem very bright and well adjusted, but we will see how this translates to adulthood.

I think the homeschool stigma came from the early adopters. I knew some when growing up. Kids who could teach the class, but we're so dysfunctionally backwards in group dynamic and emotional abuse that they made me look balanced. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

So, for people looking to optimize the learning experience, homeschool is a great option. Looking at public school, the bar is pretty low (42% of DC seniors are on track to graduate, after you remove all the underclass dropouts!) But schooling teaches all kinds of skills, not merely the academic ones. And as the homeschool network expands, it seems better than the public options.

And if your kids miss the opportunity to be indoctrinated early, there's still a secondary education where in they can learn to signal groupthink compliance. It's a handy skill to have, and it's becoming necessary for success in some areas. I would suggest it be part of the curriculum at some point in the future. How to be who you are, and believe what you believe, and yet be around people who have other ideas of right, without triggering their tribal affiliations. This is where the early homeschoolers failed, IMO.

Good luck!

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:41 pm
by ZAFCorrection
As a kid who didn't see a classroom environment until college, I got to experience this kind of situation from the third perspective. My parents are extremely conservative Christians and didn't think even the local church-run schools were of sufficient quality, theologically or otherwise. Our crowd (evangelical Christians) was such that I don't believe they got much shit for it, at least not explicitly. My parents organized our activities such that there were plenty of opportunities for that all-important "socialization" without any of the attendant "brainwashing" of popular culture. We also learned enough stuff that when I hit college I found it to be pretty easy in terms of the coursework. Though, even by the standards of the weird fundie kids I hung out with, our family still managed to be weirder in terms of religious observances and the random quirks of my parents.

The thing that sticks out the most for me is when you layer a bunch of oddities on your kids, it's character building and whatever, but it can also be a huge grind to be the super-confident arch-weirdo. Maybe keep that in mind when you are executing your master plan.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:21 pm
by Jason
I know many homeschooled families and guess what? The success depends on the teachers!!!!! Some of the kids went on to Ivy league some are barely literate. If you are committed, it's the greatest thing you can do for a child. Don't let anyone sway you. It's now accepted. Or should I say reaccepted as way of educating children.

And unless you consider having your child tea bagged at lacrosse camp a necessary rite of passage, there are plenty of places for socialization. Usually the music and arts programs are communal.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:46 am
by Farm_or
Home schooled kids seem to fit in one extreme or the other. (Disclosure: my wife is elementary school teacher).

I used to have a pic on my phone that I would share because it was funny and illustrated the all common failure of homeschooling. It was a picture of a sign that was hung on the door knob while an internet lesson was occurring. It read "SCHLOOL IS ON". This child and the attempt were failures. He was behind- way behind grade level and socially disfunctional. He was simply a spoiled brat made worse.

The opposite extreme of that case is a neighbor's boy, whom I got to know well by hiring him. He was above grade level, extremely well mannered and just a really great kid. His mother who did his homeschooling? She was an ex high school principal- highly educated, motivated and capable. The boy also played sports.

There must be middle ground, but I have only witnessed the two extremes. My wifey often gets failed experiments that she is burdened with trying to get back up to grade level. Fifth grade is very telling in Oregon due to all the mandated testing at that age. More often than not, homeschooled kids are failing at that grade level. I can't help myself: " Are you smarter than a fifth grader? "

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:34 am
by jacob
"Are you smarter than a fifth grader" came to my mind as well.

(It's implied by the show that most people aren't. Or at least that most people have long forgotten what 5th graders are learning. I don't know if I'm smarter than a 5th grader. I do know that I was a lot better at Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy right after graduating high school than I am now.)

So with homeschooling, I think there's a real danger of Dunning-Krugering yourself as a home-teacher. I don't know whether there's any testing (formal or informal) to see if teacher-parents are qualified to teach but maybe it's similar to the non-existent testing to see if one is qualified to become a parent in the first place :P

As a result those who are most confident in their ability to home school are either people who are highly qualified or people who lack such qualifications in particular when it comes to realizing that they lack them. Since choosing to home school requires substantial confidence, I'd bet many home-schooling parents are either at the top of Mt Stupid or at the top of Mt Expert (like the school principal above).

Hence the DK-risk.

Hence the results where the children turn out to be either the most well-behaved angels ever ... or alternatively ignorant terrors. Clearly there's a sampling bias here and when discussing success/failure rates with others. In comparison, the public school system seems to turn out people based on a bell curve.

That aside, I think it's also important to consider not just the child, nor just the parent, but the relation between them. I'm confident (ha!) I could teach a reasonably smart child STEM to a very high level. However, I'm not so confident that I could overcome the pedagogical gap required to teach an average or a dumb child STEM. I would not be able to detect where their struggle is. Insofar, they struggle with solving 4x+2=10, I wouldn't even know where to begin...

And woe be unto the child (any child) that would receive classes in literature from me. Especially @#$^!% poetry :evil: Suppose my child was gifted in that direction, there's a risk I might ruin or at least stunt their development permanently. In terms of work-style, ideally I'd put a book on top of their head and they'd absorb the content by osmosis. This is how it works for me. I get frustrated with dialectics. I positively hate group work. OTOH, the child might learn best in a group work setting---but I'd be physically short on people to create such a setting.

On the flip-side, the school system provides a preset format as well and that might not suit the child either. If the child is mathematically or any kind of gifted-gifted, they will spend 10 years in mandatory boredom. If they prefer flying solo, then group-work is going to be torture. If they prefer dialectics, they'll find the teacher doesn't have time for this but here's a book and later we'll discuss it in a group setting. And so on...

I hated the school system I grew up in and I would never wish to inflict that experience on anyone [like me] (part of why I've chosen not to have children---there are other reasons too). However, had I been home schooled, I also know that after the 7th grade or so, I would pretty much have been on my own and having to become self-taught.

In my case, it was more of a hybrid. My mother worked early mornings and so was home when we came home from school. She was always there to help (if needed) and make sure that all homework was done and finished on time. My parents couldn't really answer some/any of my questions anymore after grade 7 ("smarter than a 7th grader?") but they maintained the structure---not that they had to because the early years pretty much ingrained it already. OTOH I've seen (very busy) modern parents who pretty much ignore their responsibility in that area figuring the school system will do everything for their children including raising them. I suspect that's a big reason why school classes are how they are with some children refusing to sit down or some who are always late, etc. What were seeing now are the first generations of children coming out of predominantly two-income households. I think they're somewhat appropriately called DIKs :?

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:10 am
by Jason
I don't think the question is whether you are smarter than a fifth grader, it's whether or not you can/are willing to teach one. And the old joke that teaching is being in possession of the lesson plan one day before the students, well, I think most adults can do it. Now a teacher who loves a topic will instill that in a student. My ninth grade geometry teacher made it clear he became a teacher to avoid getting his ass shot off in Viet Nam which by that point was probably less painful. My English teacher loved literature and communicated that to me.

My friend and his wife converted a spare bed room and turned it into a classroom. It had all the trimmings, a black board, the alphabet, number charts etc. They broke up by their interests and specialties. One would do English/History. The other math/science. They had a specific worldview, so they spent time on that as well. The non-learning disability kid looked like a father of four when he turned 16. The learning disability kid is still learning disabled and creeps me the fuck out.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:25 pm
by jennypenny
Homeschooling can be anything from parents doing all of the schooling to kids completing all of their assignments in an online school sanctioned by the state. By the upper grades, kids are learning mostly from online teachers ... think presentations, power points, online classroom discussions, skyping into lectures, etc. Parents are more administrators than teachers, and their involvement can be similar to regular schooling where they are helping with learning and assignments but not teaching.

It's been several years since I had to homeschool my son, but at the time homeschooled kids were technically enrolled in their public school system* and were therefore eligible to participate in school sports, concert bands, gym class, etc. Each state is different but my state isn't that helpful wrt homeschooling so I imagine the opportunities are better in other states.

Around me, if you homeschool most people assume it's because your kid is on the spectrum. I never said why I was doing it. It's nobody's business.

@K -- I'm sorry to be frank but like I said, it's none of their fucking business. How would they react if you called them to tell them you don't approve of how they are raising their child? Like if you said you think they aren't taking a medical issue seriously enough or that you think their kid plays too many sports? Don't feel compelled to defend your decision. It's yours and G's and no one else's.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:30 am
by GandK
Thank you for your thoughts, everyone.

Homeschooled kids here are neither in nor associated with public schools. The first school year you homeschool in OH, you just tell the state you're doing it, and show them the high school diploma of the parent who's the primary teacher. You can pick any curriculum or program(s) you want for your school year. But in order to be given permission to homeschool for a second year here, you have to do one of two things first: you either have an accredited teacher on the state's review list sit down with you and review your child's progress for the year and then sign off on another year of homeschooling for your family, OR you have your kid take the EOY standardized 3 R's test for his grade (which OH gives annually to all public school students who are exiting grades 3-11)... your kid has to test in at least the 25th statewide percentile in each subject for the state to approve another year of homeschooling if you go that route. Your choice of method; you do one or the other every year. Since there is no 2nd grade EOY standardized test, we must do the progress review for our first go-round next July.

Because I did a lot of research into homeschooling across the country as part of our domicile state selection process (we were looking for a state without check-ins, or with check-ins that could be done remotely), I can tell you that OH is in the middle of the pack with regard to state requirements for homeschooling. States in the Northeast are generally more stringent and helicopter-y about homeschooling (especially MA; I'd never homeschool there), and as you go Southwest the requirements become more lax. TX is easiest: conceptually, homeschooling is the default there, and public schools are a resource you can use or not to accomplish the goal of educating your child. They have no requirements and no annual check-ins whatsoever.

@jacob Wow. I agree with what you said, but I'm not sure how to act upon it since people on top of Mount Stupid don't know they are. I feel very competent in some areas but less so in others... are the more competent areas more suspect? LOL. :? :lol:

@JP You're right. I shouldn't be defending my decision no matter how defensive I feel (a lot). But because assertiveness is not one of my strengths, especially with people whose opinions I value, G has been running interference for the last week or so.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:42 pm
by 7Wannabe5
jacob wrote:Insofar, they struggle with solving 4x+2=10, I wouldn't even know where to begin...
I would begin with the nomenclature. Present the number sentence as (4 X __ ) +2 = 10. Then introduce the concept of variables and review the use of "of" as clue that multiplication is likely operation suggested by various story problems. Your brain skips right over the "of", but to somebody not yet familiar with the nomenclature "4x" might even be interpreted as meant to represent some number in the range of 40 to 49, or order of operation might puzzle.


I'm not at all surprised by your experience, but hang tough. As with all things, maintaining more options is ideal. My kids did not want to be home-schooled, but at one point I used my willingness to make that choice to force a change in my son's placement. I also served as the math resource tutor at a school for home-schooled kids many years ago (the kids came and went as they pleased and created much of their own curriculum.) Some of the teenagers were there after having trouble in public setting, but the young children seemed pretty happy and engaged. If you are at all concerned about standardized testing, I would recommend making use of some of the popular computerized educational series such as Lexia and FrontRow. The program will allow you to see where your child is getting stuck, and then you (unlike some beleaguered classroom teachers) will actually have the time and patience to figure out how to get him unstuck through other methods.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2018 3:57 pm
by jacob
@GandK - I don't have a recipe for figuring this out, but I do have a few rules of thumb:
  • You need to understand about 4x as much as your lecture includes in order to explain it well.
  • If you can't explain something in at least three different ways, you don't understand it very well.
These two hint at the same thing but come at it from different angles.

It mainly has to do with this:

I think Wheaton levels apply to this pyramid. I think the person to learn from is two levels above (parent?) and that the person to follow (older sibling?) is one level above, because three levels on the pyramid is too much.

The very best teachers of all will be able to span two or more levels simultaneously. One could say that this [spanning] ability is what defines one's mastery of teaching.

Re: The Political Minefield of Homeschooling

Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 11:14 pm
by BlueNote
I was one of those students who got bored with public school K-12. Unlike Jacobs experience I wasn't some physics genius who was forced to do time with a bunch of people who just couldn't level up, it must be very lonely at the extreme far right of the IQ curve sometimes... I just got really bored sitting around in a desk all day, usually I'd stare out the window and day dream. I remember school like some sort of mixed gender minimum security prison and I behaved accordingly by spending lots of time in a mental escape. The time and place was the 80's and 90's in Canada. For whatever reason, at the time, it seemed like 80% of all the kids with any sort of learning disability or behaviour issues were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and prescribed ritalin (the gentlemens meth). I was one of these kids and I remember never being able to eat lunch because the meds took away my appetite. As a result I had a David Bowie-eque Physique but man did I pay attention. I could pay attention to tons of boring crap when I took those pills. They made me anxious and skinny but as long as I compliantly kept my butt in the chair and my attention on the teacher or paper the institution was satisfied. I was always skeptical of the ADD diagnosis. My mother took me to Toronto to see a special doctor there, a researcher. He showed me some sort of brain scan that showed people with ADD have lower frontal lobe activity and that when they were given Ritalin it would normalize the activity as shown on his before and after brain scan pictures (I don't think science should be taught like a Tide detergent commercial). Other people told me that it was actually a disorder that has been around forever but only just recently discovered, usually they'd cite Einstein and/or JFK as having it because they were forgetful or some such thing. To this day I think it's BS , the institution is the problem, but it won't change. The fact is in my day I could go to the park with some friends and hang out, play road hockey etc. and nobody would care. In my parents days they'd be working at 16 and in their parents days they'd often be married at 16 and nobody gave a shit about ADD. Nowadays, in North America, people call the childrens aid agency to report negligent parents if an under 13 year old kid is walking around unsupervised. This didn't happen over night, it crept up and all these "disorders" came with it, treat kids like criminals/incompetents/untrustables and you'll get this sort of reaction from some of them. Maybe home schooling is a good idea, with that sort of model I figure I could have gotten all the necessary stuff out of the way in the morning and spent the afternoons in a sort of freestyle learning mode, that would have been much better than the public system which, to some degree, isn't a good fit for a significant part of the population.