It’s no secret that I was homeschooled until middle school. My boyfriend was homeschooled, as well, and his mother is still a huge advocate of it. But I know this is going to be a point of tension between me and her. I wouldn’t trade my years of public school for the world, no matter how many times I referred to my peers as idiots.
As a child, I begged my mom to let me go to elementary school. I would daydream about it every single day. But no, like so many others, my mother was sure that public education was evil, and we could get a better education at home. In some ways, she was right. By the time I started seventh grade, I was at a high school reading level. My dance classes had kept me in good shape (which I’ve retained to this day, twelve years later). While my reading and physical activity soared, my math and social skills suffered. So, as an awkward twelve-year-old on my first day of seventh grade (halfway through the year), I was dropped into a math class, and handed a worksheet. And I had no idea how to divide. I spent most of that first class figuring it out by way of logic. I was lucky enough to be adopted by a bunch of extroverts, but without them, I would have been lost, because I had no idea how to interact with peers.
Thanks to my disadvantage, I failed my way through high school math, and didn’t graduate until two years later than the rest of my class, through an adult education program. In college, I’ve taken remedial math classes, which is finally putting me on an equal mathematical footing with everyone else. I’m doing rather well, and working toward getting my degree.
Homeschool is idealized, with all the good things it can offer families (especially conservative families) these days. It keeps the little ones safe from the evils of the world, whether these evils be a school shooting or that child who has two dads. It doesn’t focus on grades and tests, but mastery of a subject, allows families to grow closer, and can easily be personalized according to the child’s needs. There are also plenty of groups your children can be involved in, so they’re still learning how to socialize—and with different age groups!
The first problem is that children need to learn how to socialize with their peers. If they don’t learn it as a kid, they’re going to struggle with it for the rest of their lives. They deserve to have the option to go to school with the kids who live near them, to know who their friends mean when they talk about that one annoying guy at school, or a certain teacher.
Second, all these homeschooled group activities seem to be pretty optional. A child’s social development should not be optional. It’s the primary reason for public schooling to exist, in the first place.
Third, homeschooling has this way of allowing parents to be lax. It’s a huge responsibility that many fall short of. It all depends on the parents, whether children will learn or not: you can’t expect the kids to teach themselves. You have to be teacher and tutor, which means you have to actually know your shit. A good homeschooling parents should never tell their six-year-old kid to go look at a workbook when the kid can’t figure out how to subtract. You have to construct a schedule and stick to it. You have to include all the basic subjects, not just the ones you like.
Fourth, teachers are trained for this. They know what they’re doing. I’d argue that you shouldn’t even attempt homeschooling without a degree in education, combined with a psychology background. And regular check-ins with the DCFS. From the start, they’re not just teaching your child about how to read and count, they’re also teaching them memory and social skills.
Fifth, public school provides a more rounded worldview for a child, so they can better see what’s normal or what’s not, and so they can make their own decisions, rather than continually parroting the opinions of their parents. They learn what’s standard behavior from teachers and peers, instead of being confined to what’s standard within the family.
Sixth, schools are a model for the workplace. A child who’s homeschooled may not have the same access to things such as “career days,” or have the same set schedule, every day, where they have to be somewhere or risk penalties.
Seventh, and most important, the privacy of a homeschool environment can be a breeding ground for child abuse. Not all homeschool parents are abusers, and not all public school children avoid being abused. But it’s creating a secretive environment where a kid could be getting beaten up every day, and nobody would know. School provides a safe place for kids to be away from their parents, and gives parents time away from their kids, so at the end of the day, they can enjoy being together a little more.
I’m far from an expert in any of this, but I’ve had to struggle to make up for my mother’s disastrous attempts at homeschooling. I’ve been encouraging my boyfriend to get a GED, and trying to help his little sister, who reached out to me asking how I managed to get into college. I know firsthand what a mess homeschooling can be if it isn’t done right.