Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Myth of Socialization

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve always been a little bit leery of the whole “socialization” objection to homeschooling.  But it’s always the first one that comes up, when someone, who’s likely never given homeschooling more than ten minutes of thought before, hears that you’re planning on going that route and decides that they must have an opinion/objection, even if they don’t know anything about the subject. 

The conversation goes something like this:

Random Person in a Store:  “Oh what a cute little girl!  You’re almost big enough to go to school!” (because when Sadie was two she was frequently mistaken for a kid that was getting ready to enter kindergarten…).
Me:  Nodding.
Paul:  “Actually we’re going to homeschool.” (He apparently hasn’t been discouraged enough by random acquaintances/hairdressers/ random people on the street to know that we don’t talk about this!).
Me:  Wincing.  Shooting Paul a “look”.
R.P.I.A.S: “Oh….  Well… Homeschooling.  Well what are you going to do about socialization?”
Me:  Still wincing as Paul begins to explain that there are plenty of opportunities for socialization….

That’s roughly a piece of the conversation that I feel like I’ve had 50 million times over the past three years (note: there may be some exaggeration going on in the actual number of times… but it sure doesn’t feel like it!). 

You see, I don’t launch into the whole “there are plenty of opportunities for socialization speech, because, while it’s true there are plenty of “opportunities for socialization” for homeschooled children, and I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of some of them in a few years, the very reason I first considered homeschooling was the “socialization” that I’d witnessed.  As an aside, explaining that last sentence that I just typed is definitely not a valuable point to interject in the conversation above….  Unless you want the person you’re speaking with to act like you’re insane. 

Paul and I differ in our reasons for wanting to homeschool, and his reason appears to be infinitely more acceptable.  He tells stories about a drunken teacher dancing around the room in a young grade school class and people nod in horror and understanding.  But my experience was different.  I had awesome teachers.  But when I try to explain the sort of “socialization” I’ve seen and experienced and people tend to get defensive.  After all, the kid has got to “grow” a “thick skin.”

I really began considering homeschooling when I was a cheerleading coach at a local high school.  I certainly couldn’t have been considered “sheltered” before the job, but even the wildest college stories I’d heard didn’t compare with what these fourteen and fifteen year old girls were talking about doing.  It was truly horrifying.  That combined with my own high school experiences of pretty severe harassment (105-lb-girl-slammed-into-locker-by-a football-player-who-“likes”-her type experiences… my high school horror stories are heavily bruised to say the least, which may be an explanation for the black belt I got in college, in case you’ve ever wondered!) and Paul and I came to a quick agreement that we wouldn’t be taking the traditional route.

Still, I’ve been rethinking “socialization” even more lately.  I lay in bed, tired but unable to sleep, thinking about it.  Do I need to subject Sadie to the playgroup pack mentality when one kid decides she won’t be playing with them today, even though they were buddies last week, and when she skips up and says “Hi!  I’m so glad to see you!” they turn and give her a good hard shove and are later caught trying to shove her off the top of the play tower because she kept following them around asking to play? 

Two months ago Sadie was bubbly and thrilled to go to playgroup.  Yesterday she sat for most of the day, staring off into space with a little frown, despite the ice cream cake we’d got for Grumpa’s birthday visit, after being repeatedly shoved and yelled at (“No, Sadie, no!”) when she asked to play, despite multiple interventions.  I’m incredibly grateful Nani was at playgroup, because I’m afraid if she hadn’t been, Sadie would be in the hospital today after an six foot fall to the ground below (that Nani was able to prevent when Sadie was shoved at the top of the play structure stairs).  I felt a little sick all day too, as I watched her realize that people can be mean. 

So we’ll be doing play dates.  But I think we’ll be avoiding the large-group activities for a while.  My three year old doesn’t need a thicker skin.  She doesn’t need to “toughen up”.  I’d like to preserve her innocence and joy a tiny bit longer.  Even if that means we aren’t doing any heavy duty “socialization” on a daily basis.  Besides, if having to get along with her sister, and any future siblings that we may be blessed with, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, isn’t socialization, I don’t know what is!  


  1. I taught in both public and private school and I will say that my experience was that meanness was rampant in both (the private school was a Catholic one). Yes, ultimately kids do have to learn to deal with mean people (as both my kids encountered in their suites in college). However, there's far more valuable lessons to be learning at 3 than how to deal with bullies. By the time your kids get into their teens they will be more secure in their own selves and more able to walk away from someone who doesn't care to be their friend.

    The nice thing about homeschooling is that you can introduce the whole socialization thing at a more individualized pace. They don't have to be subjected to the pack. The best argument I was ever able to make about socialization is that as adults we don't run around in groups of people all born the same year as us. We have friends who are younger, and older (possibly much older - some of my dearest friends as a young mom were women in their 60's). For the most part as adults we choose our friends and don't spend our time in groups that are purely competitive.

    I found in both public and private school settings that it was really difficult for the teachers to do much about the bullying. So much of it went on where the teacher wasn't looking. Even when you actually did do something about it, the victim was generally re-victimized by the bullies who got disciplined (again they would do it when no one was watching). It was so bad at the parochial school the year before I got there that they lost nearly all of the girls in one class to public school the next year. Apparently, the parents found that in public school there was less of the clique mentality than in that particular class in the private school. At least that's what one dad told me.

    One or two good friends, plus her siblings, is really all Sadie needs. She doesn't need to deal with the herd just yet. BTW one of the reasons we preferred 4-H to scouts was that it didn't have the age segregation thing going on. I happen to think that is one of the poisonous elements that increases bullying.

  2. You made some great points Liz! I definitely have experienced that my friends now that I'm older are a wide variety of ages. Before we moved we'd joke that I fit in really well with the 65-80 group at our Church.

  3. I decided to home school after my son had two years of not so good experiences with generally decent teachers who really had no clue how to teach HIM. Nothing like having your child come out of first grade in a school KNOWN for its excellent reading program NOT READING. That and I was sick and tired of homework for K and First that required that I teach the day's work in the evening to a tired child after the expensive private school had failed to teach the material during his BEST HOURS of the day. Oh, and then they had the nerve to suggest my child didn't learn because I wasn't doing my job as a parent!

    Lets just say that while I am a certified teacher and personally loved school when I was a child, between my education classes, student teaching and other experiences I am not a fan of the public school system. I feel sorry for the good teachers who are handicapped by a factory system of schooling that is nothing like the schools my grandmother taught in where black kids in a segregated school with no money and few books came out of first grade reading and doing their math WELL-- thanks to teachers who were paid $900 (yes you read that right, I once got to read her first teaching contract) and used a chalk board and their freedom to respond to the kids where they were at to teach kids who schools today say are too poor and troubled to learn to the high standard she simply expected.

    Home school worked pretty well for us. I'm going to do it again with my Little Tiger-- this time following more of a classical approach like that spelled out in the book _The Core_. With plenty of time for child directed freedom based learning. I expect we'll enjoy the work.

  4. We had joined our church mom's group over the summer. I was especially frustrated with how the kids acted. There were three 5 year olds, including my daughter, and the other two didn't want to let her play. Eventually one of their moms insisted, but they were not being nice. Another day the kids were playing tag but whenever my daughter got close to tagging them, they'd yell "base/safe" wherever they were standing and whenever she did manage to tag one of them, they'd turn right around and tag her back so it was her turn again. It simply wasn't nice. I finally interjecting asking just what was "base" and then finally one of the other moms corrected her kids but I had repeated difficulty with the other moms - Catholic moms mind you - chatting with each other and not paying attention or correcting their children and I got very tired of needing to keep the play fair by myself.

    Fortunately, I found a group of Catholic homeschooling moms (the church group were not homeschoolers) whose parents are much better about watching their children's behavior. Of course kids will be kids, mine included. But that is why it is so important to find other parents who do try to watch how their children behave and aren't opposed to correcting their kids when they do misbehave or don't play fair.

    I find it kind of funny when I get the socialization question. I have a 5 year old, a 4 year old, a 2 1/2 year old and an 8 month old ... who gets time to themselves? Our whole day is socialized! Be that as it may though, I do find it wonderfully beneficial that we meet the other Catholic homeschooling families at a Catholic Cooperative once a week. With 4 little ones, I can't handle more than 1 day a week, but once a week all my girls get time to play, talk and learn with other Catholic home schooled kids their own age. Their sisters are still their best friends, but they love having other friends their own age and it helps create play dates and other occasions for getting together (and I get to visit with other Catholic homeschooling moms!).

  5. I went to public school and one quarter of my freshmen year of high school was independant study. My husband went to private Catholic schools and two years of homeschooling during middle school. Due to our combined experience and knowledge of education we are planning on homeschooling all our children. I also recently offered to homeschool my niece who is in 6th grade. My sister-in-law asked about her image of awkward homeschoolers that was in her head and I told her that I saw far more awkward, anti-social kids in public school. It largely depended on the personality of the child and how sociable they would become.

    I was one of those kids on the outs. I was not popular and kids didn't want me to play with them. I spent much of my time reading, being by myself, playing with the kids who were much younger than me, or hanging out with adults. Any time I tried to interact with my peers I was ignored, as if I didn't exist. If that is a good way to learn to socialize, people are crazy.

    My best friend was homeschooled and it shocked me in college when I met her and she told me she was 14. She was one of the most popular students with everyone. The teachers loved her, the students loved her, and she was so honest everyone wanted to be her friend. Homeschooling is not anti-social. Also, check out Haystack Full of Needles by Alice Gunther. It's on Catholic socializing for homeschoolers.

    to be

  6. Cam,

    I homeschooled ours until they reached 6th/8th grades, and you are totally correct about the socialization thing. If they can get a couple of nice friends, then homeschooled life will be great. My kiddos, especially my son, were far nicer and polite before the lovely (grr) school experience. Days were calmer, we didn't have all the drama, etc. Homeschooling is awesome!

    People kept telling me (especially my MIL, who worked in the school system for her career as a teacher and then administrator) that I couldn't teach everything. Well, let me tell you - my kids went to a large public school more than prepared for accelerated classes. My son (now in 9th grade) brings home vocabulary words I gave him in the 3-5th grade.

    My daughter needed vision therapy to be able to learn to read. Had she gone to school, she would have been labeled stupid, etc. because she couldn't read at all going into 2nd grade. No question it would have been a nightmare. It wasn't until many tears later and me demanding the optometrist LISTEN that we had her evaluated by a specialist and she was treated. Now, she reads all the time and our problem is getting her to put down books.

    They knew WAY more about the Catholic faith than kids who went to school and relied on RE classes, since we did RE every day as a part of our school work.

    Looking back, a few things stand out:
    * having Dad's support is critical, not just in theory but in being there, seeing what is happening. The kids need to know that BOTH parents expect the work to be completed. Believe, the nicest kid can get a bit stubborn at times.
    * Character ed is way important than an advanced academic pace. Believe me, looking back I would have put even more time into that - and it wasn't like I ignored it back then. Having the kids do chores needs to be a subject in my opinion, and one thing I would have emphasized more.
    * Having a good friend is important to kids, not a herd of friends. My son's unhappiness in homeschooling as he become older was tied to two things - and his best friend moving away was one of them. Without any "guy" friends, it started to get to him. He didn't meet hardly anyone in the HS groups his age, couldn't find a friend. Very hard. Now he has tons of friends. Same with my daughter - when her best friend started attending PS, she was very lonely. Maybe if my children had been same sex and good friends, that wouldn't have been such a problem. But, I have a boy and girl, very different, and the girl has some issues that make her difficult to be around all the time. My son was going nuts! LOL!!!
    * As they get older, it is important to learn deadlines. Too many homeschooled children get lax in that area - "Oh, Mom, we were busy, but I'll work on that paper tomorrow!" Well, sometimes flexibility is great and needed. Sometimes it becomes an excuse for not insisting on good time management skills, perserverence and responsibility. I won't get on my soap box about that issue right now, but having talked to many teachers in PS (especially at upper levels) that is one of their big compliants about HS kids. The get assigned a deadline and to too many of them is it taken as a suggestion.

    I have to go now, great post!

  7. Couple things Cam:

    1. People ask us about moving to Alaska what are opps for socialization are... for ourselves. No joke. (I guess it is a crime to grad. from law school and then choose to live a more modest and moderate lifestyle. "You bake your own bread?!!")

    2. My oldest isn't 2 yet. But we would like to homeschool... possibly. It is really big here in Alaska, and our non-Homeschool friends here make the "socialization" argument. Yes... some kids have problems, but those kids would probably have the same "problems" in public school.

    3. We spend the first 4-5 years doing everything possible to teach our children EXACTLY how we want them to think, act, and believe. Then we are going to ship them off to a bunch of strange teachers and kids, to have them shaped by them? Socialization? Yeah, I dont know if I want my kid thinking and believing some of the things these people believe. Do we even know who the teachers are? What about the kids? We cant control who they are, what they think, and what their parents teach them in the way or virtue and values. Socialization, it will be an intentional effort, but Id rather be intentional about it, than have the default be an intermingling of random people.

    4. As for preparing them for the real world... We dont hand our kids $100 and drop them off at a store and say, go get food, cuz that is how the real world will be. We take them in the store and show them for 18 years. Even then when the kid turns 16/18, they drive to McDonald's every day thinking that it is OK to eat there all the time.

    Ok, I am starting to ramble, but I think you get my point... heh, and I wasnt even homeschooled.

  8. I'm sorry your little girl was hurt. We've been on both sides of having my kids get hurt by other kids and having them be the one being mean. I'm guessing this was a playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers (less than school-age), right? Did the mom step in when her child was pushing? At that age, I don't really think you can call it bullying When my oldest was 2 or 3, she went to a phase where *she* was the one pushing or grabbing toys at playgroup. It was really hard, and we ended up avoiding playgroups at people's houses (that involved toys...she was fine at playgrounds) until she grew out of it which she did by age 4. She is now a totally, normal, social, sweet 9-yo. :) I think that when you have a bunch of toddlers together that kind of behavior happens because that is normal toddler behavior. But the parents do need to be on top of it and deal with it, if it happens.
    As my kids got older, I've seen much less of that, although occasionally we have experienced exclusionary behavior at a homeschool park day, it's not that common. Generally the kids are more willing to include others in their play (plus at homeschool events you get a much wider range of ages than you would find at even a playgroup and the range of ages seems to be key in keeping some of the "mean" behavior at bay (along with the greater supervision).

    We do homeschool to protect our children from bullying and mean behavior, but they are also involved in some group activities, which I do think are important for kids (when they are older, they don't need a group when they are re 3). And, yes, there are PLENTY of opportunities for socialization when you homeschool. I think my kids have more friends as homeschoolers than I did as a public schooled child.

  9. Liz, I think you must know a friend of mine! ;) He talks the same way and the reason for homeschooling was so that his children could socialize with different ages. Unfortunately, he had to stop homeschooling (for reasons I won't get into because they are too personal). He put them in a Waldorf school which has two grades together and the teacher follows them each year. His children have had some socialization difficulties. I asked him about it and apparently his daughter is having a hard time learning to listen to others rather than take over the entire conversation. She's the oldest. Some of this could be due to her not being around older children or children her own age while she was homeschooled. I don't know.

    He's also a big promoter of the Montessori model because they also have mixed age group classrooms. It's something that I've been considering sending my son too, but haven't decided yet.

    I'm not big into homeschooling because through my friend I saw the pit falls of what happens if your not organized or there's a family crisis etc. etc. You really have be very vigilant about making sure your children stay on task and that they do have those social opportunities. And I'm not sure I'm up to doing that all myself. Yes, it sounds like a cop out for not homeschooling. But I think every family has to decide if they can really juggle a baby, a toddler, and homeschool their older kids.

  10. I do think the relationships kids form with the other kids in their school are important, and are not exactly the same as, say, friends made on the soccer team or Sunday school. There is a special bond you have with the kids you went to school with, and I would hate for my kids to miss out on the experience of having a "class." My high-school class was VERY close-knit, and to this day many of us keep in touch and laugh about the "old days" - the teachers we had, the pranks we pulled, the CIF championships, the parties, the pep rallies, the dances... I would hate to make my kids forego that opportunity. I think there is value in being in the classroom, with another non-parent adult in charge, in a group setting with peers. Sure, there will be troublemakers. Sure, there will be kids who don't have the same values you do. There will be parents you don't care for. Your kids will probably come home with new "creative" language that you don't like. I do think it is important that we give our kids the opportunity to navigate these situations, make choices about friends on their own somewhat, learn to obey other adults who do things differently than Mom and Dad, and learn to function in a group setting where maybe everyone is not best friends.

    The homeschool moms I know are very evangelical about it. They really think it's awesome, to the point where I often feel they think it's "tragic" that my children go to a Catholic school. It often comes across that they feel I am "uninformed" - since many started out in the school system and removed their kids. I am super happy with our school, by and large. It is very conservative, the academics are outstanding, the kids are mostly great, and so are the families. I think it's really important that kids get to forge their own little niche at a school without their parents, but in the care of adults that the parents trust to educate their children. Honestly? Really honestly? I think everyone in our family appreciates the break the parents AND kids get from one another during school hours. I think it's good for kids to get a break from mom, and I need a break from them. They are AWESOME kids, and we love doing things together - but I need some time, and so do they. I love that they have their own little world at school. I do not think it would be healthy for any of us to be together constantly. I do have four kids, and mom needs her time too!

    While I do understand the desire to shield one's children from the bad things in the world, I'm just not sure it's healthy or possible. I do think it sends the homeschooled kids the message that "traditional school is a bad place that I wouldn't send you" or "Kids who are in school are the kind of kids I wouldn't want you to be around." The truth is that most of the children in my kids' classes are awesome, polite, respectful, kind, funny, fun and faith-filled.

    School offers a lot of opportunities that are impossible to recreate in the home environment, no matter how intelligent, dedicated and skilled the parent is. Sometimes it seems like the homeschooling moms I know are really in a contest with other moms over who can be the biggest martyr mom or the most extreme in their parenting choices. Kind of like childbirth - for some reason, it's popular to garner attention doing the most extreme kind of birth ("You had a natural birth with a midwife in a hospital?? Well, *I* had a homebirth!" "Oh yeah? I had an unassisted birth under the full moon!") I am certainly not saying you would make this choice to get attention or be a martyr, but it does come off that way to moms who choose school *sometimes*

  11. Cont...
    Ultimately everyone has to do what they think is best for their family, taking everyone's needs, personalities and values into account. I totally respect everyone's right to make those choices. But we are REALLY happy at our neighborhood Catholic school. I think most kids can go to any school, and as long as they come home to a strong and loving intact family, they will grow to be great people!

    At the end of the day, we are not raising just children - but future adults. Our job is to train and teach our children to grow to be adults who are capable, independent, prepared and confident. Part of that means learning how to function in a group away from Mom and Dad and having a really sound academic education. For us, that comes from a great school.

    And remember - when so many people question your choice to homeshcool, it's not necessarily because everyone else is ignorant and intolerant - it's because school generally works, you know? Sometimes the unorthodox choice is unorthodox for a reason.

  12. Ann- That would be so frustrating (the part of them suggesting it was somehow your fault!)! I’ve been really excited about going the Classical route with the Well Trained Mind once the girls are a little older (with some other things thrown in!).

    Katherine- That sounds a lot like what’s been happening with us (your first paragraph). I think often times everyone is so happy to see each other and socialize, or people are busy with younger kids (I’d probably be included in that) that the “older” kids get away with more than they otherwise would have!

    Jana- Your experience sounds a lot like mine. I would read a lot. And I’ll definitely check out a Haystack Full of Needles! I’m always looking for homeschooling reading information!

    Angela- Thank you so much for the tips (and I’ll always appreciate more!). Learning from other parents homeschooling experience is great when your first going into it, so I’m always asking people what they do when I hear that they homeschool!

    Joseph- LOL! I think I’ll be baking our own bread when Paul’s a lawyer someday. Then again I think we’ll be paying off our school debts forever…. so saving money will still be a big plus for a while I would say. And I think points 3 and 4 are especially great!

    Amelia- I think everyone was just so busy with other things that they didn’t really notice, but the meanness has been growing for the last few weeks of get togethers, so I think we’re going to take some time out. The kids that she’s been having problems with are a bit older, four-ish, but I think it’s the whole “this is my friend so you can’t be my friend mentality” that kids tend to get around that age. Sadie’s still in the “love everybody” phase that I guess is a little younger, where she’s thrilled to see any kids and just doesn’t get why they don’t want to play with her. I’m sure the shoe will be on the other foot in the years to come though! All the other moms are great… I think with so many little kids though the bigger kids get away with a bit more (again something that definitely happens with me too when I’m distracted by Mae!).

    Deltaflute- I’ve heard a lot of moms say great things about Montessori and their model lately! And I totally don’t think it’s a cop out. I mean, it’s an all day, every day thing, so if you don’t really really want to do it I can see it becoming pretty miserable pretty fast!

  13. Hi Anonymous-

    I went to the same type of school and many of my classmates would probably say the same thing about our experience. Unfortunately the experiences that some students undergo as a result of the “troublemakers” can be quite extreme. Obviously this wasn’t your experience. Prayers that it is never the experience of anyone that you love. It is, however, the experience of far too many children.

    I think it’s important to help form our children a bit more before we send them out into the wilderness. There’s a good chance that they’ll be fine. There’s also a good chance that they’ll have experiences similar to mine (I know quite a few girls that did). I’m not talking about “creative language.” I’m talking about outright violence. I’ve been picked up by my neck and thrown. I’ve been slammed into walls. I’ve been hit with a 2x4. My junior year in high school involved more bruises than I’ve likely had in anything other than my rugby days. I know too many people with similar stories to believe that my experience is isolated (okay, the 2x4 thing is unusual, but that’s pretty much it).

    As you’ve demonstrated, the non-homeschooling moms can be pretty evangelical about it too. : ) For the majority of human history the family was where children learned. I don’t see the advantage of placing children in an artificial environment for their formative years. Just as you’ve given many examples of why placing children in a class with non-family educators is wonderful, there are a plethora of reasons why, it’s not great. We have to evaluate and decide what’s best for our own families.

    Obviously we disagree on what “healthy.” I’d rather not my children be exposed to the pressures of sex and drugs when their minds are quite so impressionable. I don’t think hearing about graphic sex acts in the bathroom (which definitely happened a surprising amount at the school I worked at) when they’re 14 is something that’s “healthy.”

    It’s sad that you see the homeschooling parents you know as martyrs. I guess everyone’s experience is different. The homeschoolers I’ve met are pretty excited and passionate. They’re doing what they believe is best for their children and while that isn’t always the easiest thing, it is certainly rewarding. And I don’t think the “martyr” roll is limited to homeschooling moms. Many people can be pretty whiny.

    I’m glad that you’re happy with your Catholic school. But I think we’ve made the best decision for our children for the present and the future. It’s certainly not necessary to thrust children and young adults into the situations that they are likely to encounter these days in the classroom (and more importantly the hallways and bathrooms and locker rooms) for them to become “capable, independent, prepared and confident.” They’ll surely learn to function away from us, just as all the children who were taught by their parents over the span of human history did.

    I, and many others, disagree with your assessment that “school generally works.” I’m glad that it works for you and for your children. For the many children that fall through the cracks, or for others who graduate first in their class like I did, it doesn’t work. I was valedictorian, so I certainly wouldn’t say that I “failed” but it was certainly a scarring experience that took years to work through. And as I hear more and more parents, Catholic and Protestant, homeschooling, I’m finding it’s the less and less unorthodox decision for a reason. Because parents aren’t satisfied with the results that they’re seeing, and more and more are choosing a different path for their families.

    It’s becoming more and more mainstream for a reason, a sad reason, but one that we ignore at our peril.

  14. My son just turned a year old yesterday, but long before we had children we focused on how we would raise our family. We have decided that depending on the school system, we might homeschool. Personally, I have seen both sides of the coin.

    My aunt homeschools and her children are not allowed to interact with anyone outside their home-church program (one practice in which I heartily disagree- both the home-church and the level of interaction my cousins get.) My oldest cousin is 15 and has never spent *any* time around boys her own age. I don't think that is a healthy option, as she has the personality type that is submissive and shy to the point where the first boy who ever shows her attention will end up marrying her, whether or not he is a good fit for her. It is so extreme that we can see her abused by a spouse in the future. Her younger sister is 13 and has found opportunities, even within her restricted social group, to have sex. Again, not a healthy option. The only boy is 6 and is perfectly well adjusted. The youngest girl is 3 and still behaves like a baby, down to drinking only out of a bottle and sleeping in a crib. Overall, the way they homeschool, including only studying the Bible for history (my cousins don't know about 9/11 or the fact that we are in a war), poses challenges for those who want to homeschool in a more mainstream fashion.

    My mother, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and sister are/were all teachers, in both public and private schools. They fully support school systems, but as someone who has witnessed both parochial schools and public schools, and has seen what teachers go through as well, I believe that I am well-informed enough to say that good schools (either parochial or public) are few and far between.

    My husband went to a Catholic school (Notre Dame Academy for high school) until he went to college. I went to Lutheran schools through middle school and a very conservative high school in a Seventh Day Adventist run town where we prayed at the beginning of every class. I graduated in 2007, so it wasn't that long ago! I preferred the public school, as it was actually more faith based than the Lutheran schools I went to.

    For us, it is not just about socialization, or raising our child in faith, although both things are vitally important. I know, with our educations, as well as those of family members, we can teach our child better than what he can be taught in most school systems. We are wanting to teach him in a classical method, and also we want to push him for academic excellence, following his strengths as a guide. We can't be assured that he will be encouraged as well by a teacher whose focus is on at least 29 other children as by us, who will be focusing only on our child (or possibly children). Socialization is what play groups, touring museums and galleries, going to the playground, and visiting places like the police station or a farm are for!

    Sorry this is so long, I'm just very passionate! :)

  15. Homeschooling is definitely not for me or my kids, on so many levels, but if someone really feels like they need to educate that way - good for them! Luckily I have never witnessed ANY behavior like you described at my kids' parochial school. Sheesh! That's nuts. The worst I've seen is some mild teasing, and we're K-8 and I volunteer in the classroom at least two days a week (as do most of the moms!) But our school is VERY family-oriented. I really cannot imagine any physical altercations or serious fighting happening there.

    It's a hard line to draw between wanting to shelter and protect your kids, and letting them have their own lives and experiences and work things out for themselves. The longer I've been a mother, the more I lean toward the "let them work it out" side of things, but it still stings to see your kid be teased or rejected. I've had both the "pusher" and the "pushee" and it's no fun for anyone. The answer isn't to avoid any situation that isn't 100% perfect, but yeah, if there is a danger, mom must intervene. I look at most child interactions as learning experiences!

  16. I homeschool my 3 children (ages 9,7 and 3). The main problem with homeschooling is that when you homeschool..EVERY trait a child has is attributed to homeschooling. Your child can read at age's because they are homeschooled...or you child can't read at age's because they are homeschooled. Your child is polite and social and's due to homeschooling. Your child is quiet, introverted and socially's due to homeschooling. Your child gets all assignments done early and is super's due to homeschooling. Your child is disorganized and can't turn assignments in on's due to homeschooling.

    Actually children are just children whether they are homeschooled or traditionally schooled...some more academic, more athletic, organized, disorganized, socially charming, socially awkward, ahead, behind...etc.

    My kids are in a homeschool cooperative and other activities...they DO get the opportunity to be in a class with another teacher. My oldest has homework and has deadlines for presentations and assignments that she has no problem completing on time. We are in several different homeschooled groups and my kids are around children of other ages and religion on a regular basis.

    Yes, there are a few opportunities in classroom that we can't get at home, but my children have also had many experiences at home, that I never got in the public school....such as ice skating or theatre group. In school, we went on maybe 2-3 field trips a year. My kids go on at least one a month and sometimes more. They see other homeschooled children a few times a week.

    Homeschooled teens I know have much more time available for working or volunteering (and learning about the "real world") than children that are in school for 7 hours a day AND then have more homework at home. In many districts, homeschooled children can play sports or do other extra-curriculars through the school. Many homeschoolers have banded together to put on dances or proms for teens.

    Whether homeschooled or public schooled, some children make close friends and others don't. I barely keep in touch with anyone from my high school and I certainly never considered us a close class. Before Facebook..I had ZERO contact with anyone from high school.

    Homeschooling parents aren't martyrs. It doesn't require some super human power. Homeschooling parents are just like all other parents. We made the choice we feel is best for our family. I would find dealing with many aspects of a traditional school to be very difficult (the schedule, dealing with teachers, etc.) Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice..not just an educational one.

  17. Unlike 'Anonymous' above, my high school years were totally miserable, filled with bullying and snobbish cliques. My shyness and social discomfort was only exaccerbated by my experiences there. When I found out, at the end of my junior year, that by taking Senior English in summer school I could be admitted to the Universtiy of Tenn. I was out of there! I said goodbye to my class, prom, etc., never looked back, and never regretted leaving early. That high school was a place that I never wanted to see again!

    But to my main point...This year we have started homeschooling my granddaughter using the Florida Virtual School. Her elementary school was satisfactory academically up until fourth grade, two years ago. At that point something seemed to change in the curriculum. Chaos reigned. Assignments became increasingly disorganized, material given as homework had not been taught in class, and my daughter and I realized that the child was not learning basic skills, even in her accelerated class. Combined with our trepidation about violent behavior, inappropriate sexualization, and drug use in middle school, homeschooling seemed like the best choice.

    And sure enough, as soon as I told some of my friends that we were going to give homeschooling a try, their first question was "Well, what about socialization?" My response was that, firstly, we didn't think that she needed to be exposed to potential harm to be "socialized." She knows that bad behavior exists; she doesn't need to be on the receiving end of emotional bullying or physical violence to know that. And secondly, she still has her friends. She keeps in touch with her friends from elementary school, and has friends among her mother's friends'children. She can also converse politely with adults.

    Homeschooling is time consuming, and sometimes demanding, but so far it is working for us and is rewarding on several levels. My daughter is a nurse in the NICU, and so I assist my granddaughter with her learning on the days that she works. We have fun with her lessons, she is learning ever so much more, and I feel that I am blessed to have such a close relationship with her and to be a real part of her life.

  18. Alice Gunther has a beautiful blot that she no longer updates but is still chalk full of beautiful stories about her family.

    The most important thing we need to remember is not that we are raising future adults but that we are to teach our children to love God and that they are the future generation as warriors of truth. It is important they become responsible adults but not at the expense of being a child of God. What I mean is that what was considered responsible in Germany in WWII was not in compliance with our faith. We must be careful to not get swept up in the experience of going to school or being involved in sports or even socilization. What matters most is how you will be judged by God not your peers (and I'm talking about you and the other concerned adults out there as peers).

    God entrusted you with the keeping of those children, they are his not just yours.

  19. Some public schools are great, others are awful. Same for private schools and yes, homeschooling situations (not everyone's family will be suited to it no matter how much they care). Just because one person had classmates bringing drugs and sex into the school environment doesn't mean that happens everywhere and frankly it's insulting to act as if every public school is some sort of brothel where innocent Christian children turn into little heathens.

    It also seems presumptuous to call homeschooling a necessity when it's not possible to know what the local school options will be when the time comes and whether the parent and child will even be suited to homeschooling. Some simply won't be, and that's okay. Maybe the best local private or public school isn't perfect, but further academic and religious education can be supplemented on top of the school experience. That may just end up being the best option. And that's okay!

    Hypothetical question: if one of your children ended up being a social butterfly child who was miserable schooling at home and the local Catholic school was well-known for great academics, lack of cliquey behavior, and high quality religious education, would you still insist on keeping the child home? What if it was a great public school and you had the resources to add your own religious education outside of that?

  20. Hey!

    Anyone remember that time when a couple of home schoolers killed all those people in Colorado? Or what about the homeschooler shooting people from a clock tower in Texas? Or the homeschooler that killed all those people at the college he went to?

    Me neither. Because they weren't home schooled. They were all educated in public institutions.

    Man doesn't come together to form society. Man was born into society when he was born into a family unit. Perhaps that is a point that isn't stressed enough nowadays.


  21. Hi Nicole-

    My intention certainly wasn't to act like all public schools are "brothels" that turn "Christian Children into Heathens." I think that's pretty apparent from the post. There's no need to be defensive. After all, I've written a post here on my blog and I'm in no way condemning your decisions to put your kids in school, public or private. I think I've been pretty clear that homeschooling isn't for everyone, because not every parent is up for it. I even said that in a comment above. And my previous comment, elaborating on my experience was in response to another comment.

    The thing is, despite my experience, I went to a pretty awesome public school. I had wonderful teachers that cared about the other students. I had good friends. But it only takes a few people doing evil things to make pretty horrible things happen.

    I'd hope that all parents are supplementing their children's education, regardless of where they go to school, or how incredibly great it is. After all, we're our children's first educators, whether they go to home school, public school or private school. And for some parents, that will be the best option. For many others, it won't be. Each family must assess their situation and decide what's best.

    I'm sure that on a basic level we'd disagree on quite a few topics related to education. I don't believe that placing children in a class with twenty other children of the same age is the most effective way to teach them about life, or to educate them. Lots of people agree with me. Lots of people disagree with me. And that's okay.

    A social butterfly can do just fine homeschooling. It's not as if I'll be locking them up in the house and throwing away the key. There are plenty of groups and co-ops out there. Homeschooling needn't clip an extroverted child's wings. And to further answer your question, no, I won't be putting my child in public or private school if there's any way I can help it. Because, as I've already made clear, in my experience it's not about how awesome the curriculum and teachers are. The secular world has thoroughly saturated our culture, and that is going to be pretty much everywhere. My children will be in the thick of it soon enough.

    After all, we're raising members of the Church Militant here. And so, like you, I'll do the best I can, and do what I believe is best for my family, just as you will do what you believe will be best for yours, and we'll both pray that it works and that our children exercise their free will in a way that brings them closer to God. In the end, that is all that matters.

  22. Thomist,

    The vast, vast majority of children in the United States attend public schools. The fact that the majority of crimes are committed by kids who have attended school is, well, not surprising. Since only about 2% of American children are homeschooled, it would make sense that traditionally-schooled children would be responsible for 98% of juvenile crime. And I don't think anyone here is saying that every public school is fabulous and that every family who sends their children there is fabulous. What we're saying is that sometimes it's actually good for kids to be in imperfect situations.

    Man was originally supposed to live in communities, not isolated single-family units. As unnatural as it might seem for children to be educated in groups, it is equally unnatural for fathers to go away to work every day, leaving the mothers to care for her children, alone, in a solitary house. We are descended from a social culture where extended family and tribe-members lived in very close community, all contributed to the rearing of the children, and all contributed to the sustaining of the group. In fact, there are still cultures in the world that live this way, and they would be shocked at all our single-family homes, apartments, fences, how we don't know most of our neighbors, etc. The idea of a family unit being an independent household consisting of one mother and father and their children is quite modern, and quite American.

  23. Amelia- I totally never thought of that aspect of homeschooling (the everything your child does/is is because they're homeschooled aspect). I can see that getting old really fast! And thank you for the rest of your comment too! As I said before, it's good to hear from someone who's been there and done that and is further down the road!

    Anonymous #2- I'm so glad you and your daughter were able to recognize the problem and find a solution for your granddaughter! Like you my shyness, even in a small school, made life more difficult. That's something else that comes to mind when I think of the "socialization" argument. Throwing a person into that sort of situation doesn't necessarily guarantee "socialization." As an INTJ I'm going to be pretty awkward no matter what!

    Jana- Thank you for the link! And your very relevant point!

  24. I'll let Thomist answer for himself, the above comment (and as a sidenote, I have no control over his posts...), but I did want to point out that our children were living with four generations in the same area until we left for school. And I'm not entirely sure that we can compare the extended family/ village situation with putting a bunch of five year olds with one adult in a classroom.

  25. Anonymous,

    First, 96% of all statistics are made up.

    Secondly, for your hypothetical to work you would need to show the amount of actual crime that the "2%” commits. For my, or anyone else's money, I am willing to bet that the homeschooling 2% is less likely to get into criminal activity than any 2% randomly selected out of your fictional 98%. (I'll take back the fictional statistic argument when you can cite to an actual link.) I posit this to the family structure that surrounds homeschooling which proportionally speaking is absent to those who go to public schools. For the most part homeschoolers come by and large from families that are still intact, which as is common knowledge much lower in the general public.

    As for man's living conditions it was meant originally to be in families. Society grew first from families. If you go back far enough families, not pre-existing communities, founded society. Then as families got bigger and society grew it branched out more into a clan/tribal society. Eventually the nation state was formed. Of what? Families. Nations are formed from families. It's only been within recent history that the family unit was ever in danger as it is today. Society has never existed without families. Families are the basic building block on which society was built upon. When the family goes so to does much of what was once civilized.

    Thirdly, fathers have done what they've always needed to do for their families. Whether that is to hunt, fish, work on the farm or to have any sort of marketable trade. Once man began to create agriculture, he began leaving the house every day to work in the fields. Even going back to hunters and gathers it would make sense for the fathers to go out to hunt and the woman to only come out when it was safe. In fact, I cannot think of any time when the males were expected stay in the home. Even the mythical amazons didn't have the men stay in the house. To the amazons men were just used for breeding purposes.

    And I'm sure you could go into the Amazon and drag up a few straggling tribes (unmythical) that couldn't tell you anything about the modern world. It still doesn't prove anything except that they live in a really isolated region of the world. It certainly doesn't help your argument at all. If anything it bolsters mine. My point was that family structures need to be maintained and that homeschooling is a great way in which to do that. Children can learn good morals apart from trendy morals and can learn that being a family doesn't just mean a sperm donor and a mom. Instead these homeschoolers most likely have fathers that are more involved with the rearing of their children than their public school counterparts.

    Finally, the idea of a singular family as you describe it predates recorded history and is certainly older than America. After all, clans don't develop out of thin air. It takes families to build them.


  26. We began homeschooling in September of last year, for various different reasons, some of which had to do more with the parents of the other children than the children themselves.

    I've never quite understood the whole "socialization" argument surrounding homeschooling. With the exception of 20-minute lunches, and a 20 minute recess, what socialization happens during a school day that lasts for 7 hours. The rest of that time the children are required to stay quiet, pay attention to the teacher, and get some work done, in which they inevitably have even more work to do after they get home. (8-9 hours of work a day and only 40 minutes of it spent actually socializing?) My two oldest (5th and 2nd - who's getting ready to move onto 3rd - he turns 7 in Jan.) get their school lessons done in 3-4 hours out of the day. Which leaves the rest of the day to socialize with other children from homeschool families, participate in other local activities, and take field trips on a regular basis.

    My 4 year old's preschool program simply consists of calendar/weather/story time, which I often let my 5th grader lead. And then I have a 22mth old and a 3 mth old.

    I, alone, have experienced GREAT public schools, GREAT private Schools, horrible public schools, mediocre private schools, and everything in between. Despite my extreme lack of organization, homeschooling works for us. Partly because it allows my children to work at their own pace. Setting deadlines and being responsible for getting work done will come with time.
    But as my husband says the most important subject for our children is religion, followed by reading, writing, and math. If all we get to on a given day is prayer, catechism lessons, along with reading about a saint, writing a short paragraph synopsis, and a page of math, then it's a great day. Because I guarantee, they also learned about history (in the story of the Saint) and geography (looking up on the map where the Saint lived), science (helping weed the garden or finding the best way to rake leaves), art (making a leaf collage) and music (piano lessons and singing in the car with mom). If you begin to figure in baking cookies, sorting laundry, folding laundry, making beds, picking up rooms, running errands, cooking dinner, you start to have a rather well-rounded day. And I haven't even gotten to the backyard races- for exercises, legos - for fine motor skills, and independent reading.

    Goodness, I'm exhausted just thinking about our days. So glad tomorrow is the Lord's day.

    BTW: my husband is in charge of Catholic schools for our diocese.

  27. I guess my point is that using extreme anecdotes as reasons for your decisions isn't the most effective way of explaining your choices. Then when you add in complaints about the "secular world" as if there's something wrong with it, it doesn't make it seem like you must think too highly of those choosing that environment.

    (I didn't even go to public school for middle or high school and don't have kids yet, but I had good experiences there when I did go and know people in the public system now having great experiences.)

  28. Nicole-

    The situation often is extreme, which is exactly why the anecdotes are fitting. Because they're true. Because they represent the experience, at least in the level of harassment, if not in the particulars, on a fairly wide scale. It's not as if ignoring the bullying that goes on, or pretending it doesn't exist, has helped anyone in any way.

    There's something about your statement of "you add in complaints about the 'secular world' as if there's something wrong with it..." that is troubling. We are supposed to be in the world, but not of it. And the secular world, the one in which moral relativism has been raised to the highest level and in which feeling good is often seen as the highest good, is highly problematic.

    Many kids do excel in schools. Many don't. Obviously I don't think highly of the choice for our family, because it's pretty obvious to me that it wouldn't be a good fit for us. But it's certainly not a moral obligation and we're all left to come to the conclusion of what is best for ourselves and frankly, I don't really give any thought to what would be best for people that I don't know, because I'm pretty busy pretty much all day wearing the various hats that I wear as a wife/mom/small business owner.

    Regardless of whether we send our children to public or private school, or decide to homeschool, we are called to teach them that the most important world, isn't the one we're in right now. It's the one we must strive to be in. So yeah... there's something wrong with the secular world. And I really, really hope you can see that.

  29. Bethany-

    I'm exhausted just thinking about your day tomorrow!!! But you brought up something I'd been thinking of but somehow hadn't managed to write about: the amount of time that's saved when you don't have to slowly make sure 20 kids understand something. I think I spent most of elementary school, high school and college doodling in the margins of notebooks while we went over concepts that I'd understood forty minutes earlier. That was one of the things that really appealed to me when I first began to read about homeschooling. Individualized lessons that are focused on where each particular child is at that particular moment. That was a big draw for me!

    And I love the part of the comments about learning about the saints. I love to see the saints come alive for the girls as they learn, and I love to see how that extends to the world around them! Thanks for sharing!

  30. "After all, I've written a post here on my blog and I'm in no way condemning your decisions to put your kids in school, public or private. I think I've been pretty clear that homeschooling isn't for everyone, because not every parent is up for it."

    I disagree with this. Homeschooling isn't not for everyone because not every parent is "up for it." Homeschooling isn't for everyone because a lot of perfectly intelligent, loving, faith-filled parents thoughtfully and prayerfully decided that it was not the right choice for their kids or their family. For most, it has nothing to do with being "up for it" (which implies that the reason for not homeschooling is the laziness of the parent.)

    If you do not intend to condemn anyone for choosing traditional school, then please don't imply that the reason a family chooses it is because Mom isn't "up for it" (i.e. she thinks it would be too much hassle and isn't willing to take on the extra work.) Most parents do what they believe to be safest, healthiest and most advantageous for their children, taking into consideration the needs of the entire family. Public/private school is not a cop-out for the lackadaisical or careless parent.

    It's this attitude that turns people off of the culture of homeschooling. It's just one of many areas of parenting where proponents imply that, "If you were as informed and/or as loving as I am, you'd (home birth, breastfeed, cosleep, stay home, cloth diaper, use a sling, make your own baby food, homeschool, not vaccinate, etc.) I wish mothers would quit being so judgmental and competitive. We're all doing the hard work of raising up our kids the best we can. Women should support one another.

  31. I know this is such a passionate subject for parents as we can see from all of the responses that you have gotten. I think peoples perception ofbhomeschooling is based off of one crazy family they know of or heard of and assume that is the way home schooling goes for every family.

    There are so many resources, coops and support groups today that there really is no valid argument against a family that really wants to do it. It is just a personal family decision that should be determined by what will work best with the those involved.

    Good luck with your decision and I agree sweet babies should stay sweet as long as possible:)

  32. Anonymous if you continue to put words in my mouth my saying I'm implying things that I haven't said, I won't publish your comments anymore. Let's do each other a favor. I won't assume that your implying anything than other than the words that you write and you don't assume I'm implying things that I haven't said. So if you find yourselves writing the word: "Imply" or "assume" you can just backspace away if you want to find your comment posted here.

    As it is I'm pretty lenient publishing anonymous comments at all, and if you continue to say that I've said things that I haven't I'll be a lot less lenient.

    Because you can scour my words and find things that I've "implied" all over the place that I don't believe and haven't said, by projecting your own insecurities or annoyances or whatever it is that you're doing right now on what I've written and by taking a few words in a sentence out of context. When people have a problem, and go off on long winded responses, about things that I've "implied" I often begin to believe that it's more about them than it is about my words. But, since I'm not a mind reader and I only have your words to go on, along with those pesky impressions and implications that I'm not going to judge your response by, I'll forgo putting either words in your mouth, or trying to figure out why you wrote what you've written.

    So... go for it. Put/keep your kids in school! It sounds like it's definitely the best thing for you! Because it's clear from your other comments that you don't think very highly of homeschooling. Right? You've insulted homeschooling moms and said all the homeschooling moms you know are martyrs. You've made a very week argument that "it's unorthodox for a reason" that really deserves and will receive it's very own post in response (It's not every comment that garners it's very own post! Congratulations!).

    I'm sorry that you felt that it sounded like I was in some way putting down parents that send their children to schools. It was never my intention. I've said that over and over again. I'm sorry a single sentence in my post was able to be used to back up your assertion that I believe that. It's unfortunate that you couldn't have used one of the dozens where I said it's a case by case basis, but I don't think you were looking for the good in my post or responses, were you?

    When I wrote this post I was explaining our reasons to homeschool. I think it's pretty clear that that wasn't meant as a slap in the face to parents who put their kids in school. I don't think the vast majority of my readers have taken it that way. I'm always happy to hear about schools and kids that have wonderful experiences. That's great for them! It's not the path we're taking. And the reason I'm writing about that path, is because it's relevant for so many people (as the responses her have shown).

    Again to be clear: It's great that you're confident in your decision. Maybe you could use a little more charity when you think of the homeschooling moms you know though? Because the words you've written here about them haven't been very kind. And after all, we women should support each other, right?

    Is calling your acquaintances martyrs your way of supporting them? I wonder if you'd be as daring about saying the things you've said here if you had to put your name to your comments. Because if you aren't willing to take credit for your words in real life, you may want to question whether or not you really should say them.

  33. And I'd like to point out that saying a parent isn't up for homeschooling isn't necessarily the insult that you've painted it to be. I'm not up for sending my kids away to school. Does that mean that I'm in some way deficient as a parent. No. It means I don't think it's the best thing. That's pretty much what I mean when I say, not up for homeschooling. That they don't want to do it, or have decided against it for whatever reason. As this post isn't about the reasons people don't homeschool, I decided not to list the plethora of possibilities for why one may not be "up for it." I explained why I'm not up for sending my kids to school. So perhaps you'd consider that there's more than one way to read my words. Maybe you could look for points of agreement instead of contention. That would be the we're-all-women-let's-support-each-other thing to do, wouldn't it?

  34. Hi Cam,

    I am sorry that my words came off harshly. That was not my intention. When you say things like not everyone homeschools "because not everyone is up for it" - how should I accurately interpret that? I do not want to make you angry, but I am interested because it appears as though you are not open to the idea that homeschooling is not right for every child - even children of wonderful, loving, Catholic parents. Please set me straight if I am interpreting that incorrectly.

    When I used the term "martyr" I was talking about the type of mom that seems to do things for attention, even if they make more work for her. For example, one mom I know, who is a nice person, has home births, uses cloth diapers, co-sleeps, sews, cans her own fruits and vegetables, line dries her clothing, does tons of crafts, homeschools her kids, etc. She is constantly talking about these activities on Facebook, instead of just quietly going about her life. I wonder if she tries to do all these "old fashioned" things so that other mothers will admire her dedication and hard work, and maybe feel badly that they aren't as domestic or as good or dedicated a mother. It seems like she has to do everything the hard way. I do not understand wanting to constantly engage in the type of work our great grandmothers would have loved to eschew and that modern technology and development have outmoded. I suppose my assumptions ARE uncharitable, because I do not know for sure what this woman's motivations are, but it is really hard for me to wrap my brain around wanting to go back to the "good old days" which my own grandparents constantly told me were not quite as wholesome and romantic as we like to think they were.

    It seems strange, to me, that you say homeschooling should be chosen on a case-by-case basis, and yet earlier you said you'd homeschool no matter what the circumstances were. Are you open to the idea that if you have several children, homeschooling may NOT be the best option for one or more of them? Perhaps a child that you butt heads with and who learns better from someone outside the family? Perhaps a child who simply desires to attend traditional school and be a part of that environment? Or that by the time your children are school-aged, you may decide homeschooling isn't really right for you after all? I'm honestly curious, not trying to trap you.


  35. Hi Elizabeth (it's always so much easier to do this when there's a name! I always get multiple anonymous responders confused and then I'm not sure if I'm talking to the same person!). I'm sorry I started to get annoyed when I felt like my words were being misconstrued. I think I answered your first question in the post above (I'm guessing you typed this as I posted the elaboration on what I meant when I wrote "wasn't up for it." To elaborate a bit more, think of it as someone asking if your up to go to the park. Does saying no mean that there's something wrong with you? Not at all, it just means that for ever reason you've decided to do something else. I hope that helps clarify how it could be used in a non insulting way..

    There might be another way to look at the friend that you know who posts updates on facebook. I do a lot of the same things she does. I write about it here a lot, and post, less often, about it on facebook. She may do those things because she loves them. And they tend to save money. See, I love quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, cooking and baking. They save my family money, make money and allow us to live at a level that's much higher than we would otherwise if we paid someone else to do the things I do. And I really enjoy doing them and feel rewarded when I've completed a task. Other things, like cloth diapering, aren't as unpleasant as you've guessed, and can save a lot of money and make a person feel better about not throwing out a ton of diapers every week (although I wouldn't list that under the same category as the others in terms of "enjoyment." See, a new, and often times more expensive way, isn't necessarily an improvement (especially since the expense if often quite a bit more). You're friend is saving a lot on diapers, a lot on power costs (by line drying, especially since she cloth diapers) and probably feels pretty rewarded while doing so.

    She probably shares on facebook because... it's her life... and that's what people share on facebook. Think of it this way... at least she's not sharing the things that some people share! And on another note, I share our activities here, because I know they can give other people ideas of different ways to do things and save money. I know I get tons of ideas from other blogs, and so I try to share what I know in return!

    In response to the last paragraph, I'd say that homeschooling should be on a family by family basis. I don't believe that anyone else will be able to educate each of my child and meet their individual needs better than my husband and I will. We're both highly educated, we both have experience working with and teaching children and we'll avoid the pitfalls that we've both experienced. Thus this is the best route for our family. Other families weigh the risks that they find, weigh their responsibilities (does mom need to work too? and that sort of thing) and come up with their own best answer.

    Because of my experience and my husband's experiences I doubt will change our mind. I mean, I could see some sort of horrific accident changing the path we're on, but short of that and God-willing, we're going to homeschool all of our children. As I said above, I don't believe anyone else is more equipped to educate my children than I am.

    Hopefully that answers your question, about how I could believe this is absolutely the best thing for our family, while not condemning families that make different choices!

  36. Can you please explain where you were charitable about non-homeschooling options? You’ve kept saying you’ve been making your approval of them clear but I’m not seeing it. You’ve only said two things about it being okay in this entire conversation: that it’s not a moral obligation to homeschool and that you don’t condemn people who decide to send their child to a school. But they’re hardly compliments and the following is just plain insulting (asterisks for my emphasis): “I’m glad that you’re happy with your Catholic school. But I think we’ve made the best decision for our children for the present and the future. *It’s certainly not necessary to thrust children and young adults into the situations that they are likely to encounter these days in the classroom (and more importantly the hallways and bathrooms and locker rooms) for them to become “capable, independent, prepared and confident.*”

    Presumably (I know, bad word), you mean to say classroom learning is not a necessity. In wording it as you did, you say school = bad situations. Therefore, parents choosing to send a child to school are choosing bad situations in lieu of keeping them at home and not in those bad situations you claim are widespread. It’s not an assumption, it’s the logical conclusion of what you wrote (on multiple occasions in these comments).

    Basically, any time you act as if the alternative choice is horrific, you are going to come across as judging it and condemning it whether you mean to or not. If your bad experiences are why you’re making your choice, that’s fair and your right as a parent. But you can explain it far more charitably. “My husband and I had some experiences in schools that were negative. We know some schools are different but given our other educational preferences, it’s great knowing on top of that that we’ll have direct control over whether our children experience those bad things or not.”

    You don’t like when people act horrified by the idea of homeschooling (and headcovering and dresswearing, etc. and it's very understandable to be put off by that reaction) and that’s without them using examples of ineptly sheltered relatives and friends that are the equivalent of you saying school = getting beat up and exposure to sex and drugs. I know you mean well and don’t intend to condemn, but your way of defending your decision really is not charitable to those making a different choice.

  37. I think with the advent of the internet, homeschooling now has plenty of opportunity that wasn't there before. My own state has an online program for high school students to get their diploma online instead of in a traditional classroom setting. If you live near a public library--even better! Plenty more opportunities for learning.

    You're active members of your church, surely there must be Sunday School and youth group/CCD classes for your children as they get older, if socialization is the end goal. Public school did give me the opportunity to meet people different from myself--but again, this was before the internet was quite as big as it is now.

    Now--in defense of public schooling: I did not grow up with parental figures who were capable of providing the same education that the public schools in my area were able to provide. Furthermore, if it weren't for being in public school, I would not have had the resources and safe adults to talk to regarding the abuse I was enduring at home. This is why I find myself worrying about evangelical kids (particularly young women) who are homeschooled, it's far too easy for abuse to be hidden when children are educated in the same location that they are being abused in.

  38. Nicole- This post isn't in defense of public or private schools because that's not our choice and isn't a relevant part of our lives. I've made it very clear that it is a choice that each family must make for themselves and that they must decide what's best for them. The responses you've sited were in response to comments that said that a classroom situation was necessary. I was stating that I don't think it's necessary.

    The choice in words was not my own because responding, by repeating what had been said and that last part about "strong, independent, prepared, and capable adults" which was a direct quote. Maybe you could go back and disagree with the person who used those words in the first place and said that classroom education was necessary for a child to become a "strong, independent, prepared and capable adult" and take issue with the perceived lack of charity you saw there?

    The comment I was responding to had sad that it was good to put kids in difficult situations where they had to make their own decisions. I responded and said that I didn't think that putting kids in situations like those I and people I know have experiences, is necessary. I think you need to read all the comments, to find out the context of my responses, instead of reading mine, looking for things that anger you and then shooting off a response. My guess, from your lack of understanding of the direction of the conversation, is that you're only reading my responses, right? Otherwise I'm sure you'd be offended about the lack of charity in other responses too?

    With all the incidences of bullying that are on the news I'm somewhat surprised that anyone can doubt that the problems that face educators and students aren't fairly widespread. Again, I'm not saying there aren't great schools out there. But there are problems too. There are problems that families are going to run into homeschooling (better add that before I'm accused of being unfair). We're human and we're down here in a fallen world. We make the best choices we can and we live with the results.

    But you're basically saying, don't share your experience, which again, is very much a part of the bullying culture that exists in our country, because it might make other people feel bad. Sorry. It's my experience in schools. It's shaped my decision. I'm not sharing it here to make other people feel bad. I'm sharing it to explain how we came to our conclusion. Other people are free to take all the information they have, and make their own decision.

    I don't see how saying, what basically amounts to "I'm glad your happy with your decision. We're happy with ours." is insulting in the least. I was responding to comments that basically questioned whether any parent was as equipped to teach as a teacher in a classroom. Again, you can't really take things out of context and expect them to make sense.

    I'm genuinely glad that there are good schools out there. That's not the path we've chosen to take. And no I'm not to going page through every comment I've written and find every place where I said, each family must decide what's best for themselves, which pretty clearly shows that I believe that what will be best for each family will vary.

  39. (nicole response continued) Would you like me to pretend that bullying and violence isn't horrific? I think that violence against children is, and always will be horrific. I think it's pretty horrific when children lose their innocence at a very young age too. And no, I don't think that happens to every child every where, but it's a large enough concern that it should be mentioned as a definite possibility.

    I think specifics are important in these situations. You've basically said that I should be quiet and not share the violence that I experienced because it might make someone feel uncomfortable. You're actually say that sharing my experience of being picked up and thrown by my neck, hit with a 2 x 4 and slammed into walls is uncharitable. I think you really, really need to think about that. There's a reason that victims feel afraid to speak up in this country and it is in part reactions like yours that say they should stay quiet. After all, we wouldn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Parents need to know what to look for, regardless of their decision, and know the risks associated with either decision.

    I'm sorry you don't think my experiences were "charitable" enough to be mentioned. I didn't really think they felt all that charitable either when I was 16 years old and experiencing them.

    I let your comment be posted, despite the fact that you flouted the rules and "presumed" quite a bit, twisting my words and responses as if they existed in a bubble and using them to show how mean you think I'm being. I'm not going to give you a second opportunity. If you presume/assume/or wrestle "implications" from my words that aren't there, I'll be hitting the delete button next time. Respond to what I've said, in context. No twisted sound bites please. This isn't MSNBC.

  40. Catherine- Thank you for sharing your experience. I hadn't thought about that. It's such a fine line between a personal rights and state overview and I can definitely see how a child could be trapped in a very bad situation. I'm glad you were able to get help though and that does show one of the advantages, on the opposite end of the scale, of classroom education.

  41. LouLou and Kateri! I'm so sorry I missed responding to your comments earlier because they were both great! I read them and meant to come back and got swept up in the debate!

    Kateri- I think we're pretty much on the same page on intervention. Try to let kids work things out for themselves, until it becomes clear the situation is dangerous. That's pretty much our take too. Who knew it would be so stressful (like Sadie's situation with shoving the other day) when they were still so little?!?!

    LouLou- That's horrible about the experience of your family members. That would be so frustrating to watch.

    On a brighter note, we're pretty taken with the classical method too. I love reading the Well Trained Mind. It gets me so excited about homeschooling!

  42. The socialization argument is that your child should learn from other immature children how to interact with people. Ya, I don't get it either.

  43. Wow I intended to comment on this post as soon I read it but forgot...and now it has blown up.

    I was homeschooled, private schooled, and public schooled - all for significant amounts of time, in the same state in which I now live. My mom is a public school teacher. And I'll say this - homeschooling was by far what I loved the most, but it was the part my brother HATED the most. It made me academically excel, it made him sullen and lazy. Different kids sometimes need different types of schooling - my mom says in retrospect, she wishes she had sent him to military school, because he thrives off a highly structured authoritative atmosphere (which is why he joined the Marines, I'm sure).

    I think that Nicole is right though when she says that homeschooling moms tend to think their choice is better. I think she's right because presumably, everyone thinks their choice is better - that's why they made the choice they did, right?? So public school moms harbor thoughts of how much better their choice is just like homeschooling moms do - and that's the way it should be. If you don't like your choice more, then you need to make a different choice.

    And Elizabeth, that mom that talks about what she does on facebook is in all likelihood just tapping into her community as much as possible. She's probably connected via internet to other moms that enjoy the same choices she does, and so she puts that stuff out there to support them and to get support herself. Just give her the benefit of the doubt.

    If parents follow where God leads them and are truly open to His will, then everything will work out. It's when parents just go with the status quo (in my group, that's homeschooling) instead of evaluating it that we run into problems. We have to always remember that it's our vocation to raise up holy men and women, to serve God and proclaim the gospel. That's the goal: not making sure they think we're good parents, that other people like us, that they're popular, that they fit int, that we look holy, that we feel good. If it produces greater holiness in our children, that has to be what we choose.

  44. I totally agree, Martha! We do parochial school and love it. Great kids, great teachers, great environment - we are so fortunate. Having said that, I only think my choice is best for my family. The school has high behavioral and academic expectations and teaches in a very traditional, structured way, so it probably wouldn't be the best environment for a super artsy, creative child who needs a more flexible and arts-driven curriculum. It's very Catholic, so it wouldn't work for a Mormon or Jewish family. We also have awesome charter schools and neighborhood schools in our area, and a lot of my friends are very happy with them. I know some families that homeschool and that really seems to work for their kids. I even know a couple "unschooling" families, and while I have concerns about that method - you know, to each their own. I am open to the idea that my little ones may need something different than my older ones, you know?

    I totally understand what your mother means about your brother. Sometimes one mode of education does not fit all, and you do have to be flexible about what might work for each individual you are raising. I have a good friend who is very artsy, creative and quite the esoteric modern hippie - she SO wanted her son to do a program in our area that is an open classroom magnet that focuses on the arts. She was really drawn to the curriculum and environment and couldn't wait to send him. As it turns out... He's not artistic - he's a very introverted, serious bookworm. So she had to change her expectations and "grieve" the loss of her "dream school." Now, her son is totally thriving at his traditional neighborhood school and is doing GREAT. As with most things, one size rarely fits all (but it's nice when it does!)

  45. As an educator who home schooled, I had no difficulty structuring the educational pathway for the particular talents and inclinations of each child. I've taught an introverted child, an LD child, a gifted child, an artsy child and each time a particular educational pattern was not serving the particular child, we changed. It was one of the greatest joys of home school for me.

    The public schools cannot possibly fit every child. They take a middle of the road method with different lessons angled for different learning styles in an attempt to meet the majority of needs over-all. Some kids fall through the cracks because they need something not possible in a classroom. Other kids do really well because they just happen to learn best the way that fits the classroom. I disliked the middle path of the public and private schools.

    I went to public schools and did not hate them. However, the bulk of my education did not happen there which also influenced my choice to home school.

    As a kid, we traveled with Dad on business and so the teachers would hand off lesson plans, worksheets and textbooks to my mother for each of us and mom would do school for a couple hours a day and when we returned we would be AHEAD of the class. This also taught me that school work did not have to take all day. We did an entire days schoolwork, to mastery because Mom wouldn't take anything less, in a matter of 2-3 hours a day. Home School allowed me to give that to my own children. It opened up those other hours for enrichment that was unique to each child.

    I'll skip the BAD experiences I had when I tried three different private schools and the public schools. It was not a good experience for me, and not a good experience for my eldest child in any of the schools. One of the other kids hated the private school and was happier in the public school, but the truth is that kid learned more in home school. Details don't matter and while I know there are good schools out there, and even these schools were good for some families, the fact was that they cannot meet the needs of every child nearly as well as a program free to be adapted to the individual.

  46. Nicole- As you may have noticed I won't be publishing any of your attacks any longer. I'm not going to waste my time reading them. This is my blog and it's not a debate forum. It's a place where I share my thoughts. You don't have to read them if they're so incredibly offensive to you. I'm sorry that you feel that I'm not careful enough with my words. Maybe you should read a blog where the writer is more sensitive/intelligent/holy and in line with what you'd like to read. And maybe you could say a prayer for those of us still down here in the mud trying to take baby steps towards holiness.

  47. I was homeschooled for most of my time in school, (K-2 in a private school, the rest at home) and absolutely loved it. What I've discovered is that how much and what kind of social opportunities are available depend on both you local community and how much work you are willing/ able to put into it. My family was involved in a co-op for several subjects: science, Spanish, history, etc, I regularly volunteered at our local library, my sisters played many years of basketball, softball, and volleyball, we organized a annual spring formal and many other things and we weren't even in everything that was available to us! The key thing in all of these activities was parental involvement, which I feel is likely the single greatest factor in guiding a child's outcome in life, no matter what the school decision ends up being for that family. My parents were, and still are on the board for our local homeschool group, and it takes *someone* stepping up to the plate and volunteering to run things for at least a while to get things going.

    All that being said, I currently have a 4 month old daughter with an unknown number more to come in the future, and our current ideal plan is to homeschool them all the whole time, but that may change depending on where we end up sometimes- my husband is in the Army and we may get stationed somewhere that makes it less then ideal, such as if we're stationed in Germany or such.

  48. Thomist,

    Not to make you mad or anything, but there are homeschoolers who commit horrible crimes. Google Joshua Komisarjevsky. He killed a mother and her two daughters (and also raped them) during a home invasion. A lot of his defense has been that he was raised in an abusive home where he was molested, but he was homeschooled. Just wanted to point that out. Homeschoolers don't turn into model citizens simply because they were homeschooled. A lot of it has to do with home environment as well as the behavior of the offender.

    You can apply the same logic to public/private schooled children. Not all abuse victims commit horrible crimes, but some do. And not all offenders came from bad situations; some just have physical/mental problems.

    It's really a nurture vs. nature thing not really a homeschooler vs. non-homeschooler thing.

  49. I've come quite late to this particular discussion. We're well past schooling our own daughters (27 and 30) and are now interested in the schooling option(s) that our DD and SIL will choose for our new grandson, when the time comes.

    Our own girls received very good educations through our parish Catholic school and the local Catholic high school. Though home-schooling was an option, it was a rarely chosen one at the time. Today, there are far more options for Catholic home-schoolers here (deep South), and the parochial school our girls attended is even better than it was then; making the best choice for your children is not necessarily easy.

    Our daughter and SIL are just besotted (in a good way) with that sweet little boy (now almost 8 months) and this will be a difficult decision. Some of the home-schooled kids we know have been downright awkward and ill at ease around other children and adults ... and some have been delightful, friendly kids (two of whom later were valedictorians at our excellent Catholic high school, which they entered after being home-schooled through grade 8.)

    Choices such as these are not easy; whatever they choose, we'll support them (and I might even teach some spelling, grammar and literature if asked!)

  50. Hi Deltaflute- That is a good point (I'm not sure Thomist is reading along at this point because he has a contracts final today and has been pretty tied up with it). He'd asked me if I knew of any homeschoolers who'd done anything horrific like the Columbine and I hadn't, but yikes. It's all just so sad no matter what the situation that causes the end result. It would be lovely to think that parents who want to educate their children are doing so for good reasons, and it's pretty awful when you hear the horror stories (on either side). This whole fallen human nature thing is pretty awful all around!

    Hi Dixieeagle, Grammar! That's where I'll need help! : )

    The only time I remember being formally taught grammar before high school was in second grade. I can write because I read so much, but that's one I'll be excited to learn along side the kids (as much as it isn't my favorite subject!). It's nice when grandparents are close enough to help too! I do miss that!


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