Schooling Institution attendance vs Unschool/Homeschool

I put this issue forward out of great respect for Cecil’s mighty intellect and the pooled brainpower of the Teeming Millions. Since all of us were probably public school students (and a remote few raised on communes or as auto-didacts on remote farms in Appalachia) we might have an opinion on this.
So - didja get edjikated, or not? Do you feel that school was something you survived, or an environment where the seed of your intellect found purchase and was nurtured? Are people who homeschool their children all racist fundamentalists? Are the unschoolers living in reality? Can Socialism be compatible with homeschooling? Is it a myth that the American public school system is in bad shape? (PHEW! I’m wore out.)

And were you homeschooled, putting a Great Debate in the General Questions Forum? :wink:

Generally, this Forum is reserved for questions with clear-cut, factual answers. You have an interesting set of questions, but they are the sort that people might haggle over for days.

I’m an unschooling/homeschooling parent. I am emphatically not a fundamentalist nutjob. I’m also not racist in the slightest. Umm I can say though I have encountered many more fundies IRL who are homeschoolers than I would have otherwise done. I’m probably on the socialist end of the spectrum.

However my homeschooling choices have been made for different reasons to that of the majority of homeschoolers. It’s worked OK for me and my kid. I’m not the only sane homeschooler I know though :wink:

As to whether unschoolers are living in reality… I dunno. I’ve heard incredible stories on homeschooling lists and I have been alarmed to hear of kids who are not reading at 10 and older. I am a very unstructured homeschooler at the moment but we go through phases of structure.

For my particular kid and his needs at this point in time, homeschooling is our best option. He’ll return to school at some stage because of the laws in my state. I can’t find a way to give him the option of university without doing 2 years of school.

So I don’t know if I have answered the question or just rambled…

Absolutely not.

I know several homeschoolers, and they’re not particularly religious or out of the mainstream. Yes, I realize that homeschooling may be particularly attractive to fundamentalists, but they’ve hardly got a monopoly on it.

It’s also possible, you know, that some people might keep their kids out of school to AVOID racism, rather than for racist reasons.

As one of the few that was raised, in part, on a commune…the “unschool” option was in no part a racist/fundie decision. Like Primaflora, my mother was - obviously - a pot-smoking, kumbayah, commie, alternative beat-generation hippie woman. I realise, however, that my experience is not typical of present day home-schoolers…I do think, that generally I received an extremely good education. If I expressed an interest in astronomy, my mother tracked down an astronomist to give me lessons. I was always exposed to books, and encouraged to be creative and resourceful in learning; as were my siblings.

As to the US public school system. What schooling I did get was modelled on the British school system. Since we travelled a lot, I was put into the US system overseas a few times (military-base schools) and was consistently two years ahead in most skills than my US counterparts. Except for math - I am very dyscalculaic, and will never master second grade arithmetic. Eight years ago, my youngest brother was doing mathematics in his final high school year in Scotland what my ex-husband was doing in his second year at the Colorado School of Mines; generally regarded as a first tier engineering school. I’ve seen friends’ kid’s homework assignments here in the States. It’s utterly laughable. If I had children, they would NOT be educated here.

I suspect Carina42 that there are more families like yours than there used to be. There are a lot of us on homeschooling lists who don’t fit the stereotype.

Many parents of kids who are exceptionally gifted and above, are forced to homeschool by circumstance. I could probably advocate strongly enough to get my kid accelerated to the point his academic needs are met but until he is a bit more mature emotionally I’m not putting him in a classroom where the kids are going to be significantly older than him.

And contrary to another stereotype, most of us don’t hothouse our kids either. My kid does less school work at home than he would in a second grade classroom.

I can’t comment on the US system but I was a tad amazed at the elementary/primary system in Australia and NZ. i kinda wondered how it could take all those years to master those skills.

For myself I HATED school

"And were you homeschooled, putting a Great Debate in the General Questions Forum? "

Dear TOMNDEB: my apologies for being a hosebrain newbie. Mea maxima culpa. And I am a survivor of public school and alterna-colleges. Is there a way to cut-and-paste this whole page? Heh, heh? I promise to try and sort out my issues more assiduously from now on…

Carina, I’m jealous. I spent my formative years having to shove my projects aside in order to do what seems to be, in retrospect, stupid monkeywork. Out of all the teachers I had, exactly two come to mind as having actually TAUGHT me something useful. I realize it takes two to tango here, and that it’s not all the fault of those other teachers that I didn’t learn anything in their classes. Mostly what I got from school was institutionalized. But then, I am an old punker, and I would cop that kind of attitude.

Passiflora, I wonder if there really are more people doing what you are doing, or if it isn’t just a big pain in the neck to pull it off. Seems like you would really have to step out of the system to do it.

I was home schooled, and my parents are about as far from racist fundamentalists as it is possible to get (they are rabidly atheistic libertarians, in fact).

My dad is a lawyer, and many times represented home schoolers who were being harassed by DFS. One saw a preponderance of religious home schoolers among his clients (not surprising since we live in Bible Belt Missouri), including many Mennonites. So it appears to me that home schooling is largely, but by no means exclusively, dominated by religious families. Yet, in Missouri as elsewhere, even the religious home schoolers’ academic performance statistically matches or exceeds that of public school students. (In America, this may be damning with faint praise).

I don’t see any reason why Socialism, or any other odd doctrine, would be incompatible with home schooling. Socialism is no more irrational than fundamentalist Christianity, which is pretty clearly compatible with home schooling.

Is it a myth that the American public school system is in bad shape? As an outsider to that system, I’m less qualified than most to judge. Still, from my limited perspective the plight of the public school system appears to be no myth. Time after time, I am confronted with news articles showing a lack of basic knowledge among America’s student population (and sometimes its teacher population) and statistics ranking America’s students behind those of most developed nations. The response from the American educational establishment always seems to be either 1) ad hominem (“you’re criticizing teachers and students, so you’re anti-education”), 2) excuses (the Germans and Japanese don’t have to teach the slow kids, we do), or 3) denying the problem exists, often re-norming test scores to conceal the students’ academic deficiencies. The men in suits will apparently say anything rather than address the issue.

The socialist thingy is this: isn’t homeschooling/unschooling the option only for the privileged few who can afford to live on one income, aren’t members of an oppressed minority, or singly-parented?

Two-income households are not necessarily excluded from home schooling. For a substantial part of my home schooling career both my parents worked outside the home. You don’t have to be rich, either; most home schoolers I’ve met were middle class, and you can be certain that your average Mennonite farmer is not making money hand over fist.

As regards oppressed minorities, it might be difficult to home school. I have met dozens of home schoolers, but not one has been black, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American. For whatever reason, minorities appear to form an insignificant portion of the home schooling crowd, at least in my neck of the woods. This is odd, when you consider the strong current of religious feeling in America’s black population. Still, I can’t see any reason why a minority family couldn’t home school. It’s very clear to me from reading books by successful black men who were born in segregated America that many learned more from their parents than they did from the sorry excuses for schools that Jim Crow provided them. The only obstacle I can think of to minorities home schooling today would be if the state DFS or equivalent were staffed by racists, so that the authorities might make more trouble for the minorities than for other home schoolers. I don’t know if this is a common problem.

Home schooling would be extremely tough for a single parent. I don’t know how they do the job when the kids are in public school, much less how they would handle the entire load of educating the kids. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible - some of those parents have amazing dedication - but most couldn’t do it.

The single biggest obstacle to home schooling is probably just the parents’ education level. I was lucky enough to have two parents with college degrees. It is well known that the single most important factor influencing public school students’ performance is the parents’ educational level; obviously, this is even more crucial in a home school environment. If you’re poor and uneducated, you’re going to have a much harder time educating your kids. Still, many of the parents my dad represented had not completed college, yet on average they educated their kids better than the Missouri public school system did. (Again, outperforming the Missouri public schools is not necessarily that impressive an accomplishment).

I don’t think I’d homeschool my kids instead of school, but I’d definitely homeschool in addition to school. I think it’s absurd that students are expected to wait until high school before learning calculus. I think that it’s quite possible for children to learn calculus even before junior high, and if I ever have kids I will definitely be putting this hypothesis to the test.

Ryan: I think your attitude exemplifies arguments both for and against homeschooling. On the one hand, I agree with you: if you child has stregnths and abilities, s/he should be challenged to excel, not mainstreamed, as lack points out. OTOH, a kid like myself, who could not manipulate numbers or understand numerical concepts, may be held back significantly if this isn’t recognised. I wanted to be a vetinarian from a very early age; by my early teens I realised this was impossible because I could never do arithmetic or “hard” sciences. Feh.

Danimal, I think the reasons that many “minorities” (I do so hate that term) don’t homeschool are many. You state that parents’ education level plays a part in how many regard the importance of education for their kids - you answer part of your own question right there. Also, one cultural difference that may come into play is the willingness of some cultures to maintain the educational status quo within the current paradigm, (WAG, I’m thinking Asian immigrants here.)

At any rate, I see education as a joint effort between parents and the school system. The “failure” of the US system cannot be blamed on parents, society, or the school system alone. Children from educated and affluent homes may barely slide through “good” schools, and other kids from poor, less educated backgrounds can excel. It is not an easily defined problem, and there aren’t easy answers.

No, it isn’t a myth. It truly is crap. I went through it, and despite taking all the advanced and accelerated courses I could find, and being in schools better than most around here, I can say with total sincerity that I was never satisfied with the pace or depth of public education. I always felt that success and mastery of the material was something to work for, it was something that was as natural, and assumed, as breathing – and again, this was with the highest courses possible. I can only imagine what the lowest are like, but judging by the absolute ignorance of the average American citizen, it must be pretty damned low. It boggles the mind that some people actually do not know things I that take for granted, like geography, basic algebra, world history and basic sciences…and not only do they not know them, they act like you’re some sort of intellectual show-off if you do. It’s unbelievable.

Homeschooling easily has the potential to surpass public education by far, and spare the poor kid the cultural programming and social Darwinism that is public school, but these are both double-edged things. It just as easily has the potential to provide less education, or on a more limited range of topics, and avoiding the mainstream culture could result in a sheltered, myopic view of life (this is why I’m very leery of fundie/religious homeschooling). So while public schooling truly does suck, homeschooling isn’t necessarily better.

If I’m not mistaken and my information isn’t too old, last I heard, the least-served population in Our Public Schools was African-American. I’d think, if that were the case, they would be the first ones looking for financially viable alternatives. Maybe that’s what’s up with charter schools, Marva Collins,etc. Vouchers? Wonder why homeschool has missed the radar…

I also think you could muck up homeschool worse than public school in that, where’s the accountability? At least there are other teachers around to mitigate the influence of a bad one.

Ah, but then again, you don’t have The Lord Of The Flies at recess time. Perhaps some of you had a, shall we say, more positive experience in the social realm than I did. Fortunately, my temper has cooled with age, but had I been armed in eighth grade, there would have been a coupla dead bodies and hold the pig’s blood, please…

Whoops, my psyche is showing. It can be hard to remain objective about Education…as it is at some points also about our childhoods. (Is it okay to pluralize the word childhood?)