Mar 26, 2013

Some Points of Contention--- Response to a recent article on Children's MD

I am writing this in response to an article written by Kathleen Berchelmann titled 18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children. Now you might think, "How could she possibly have a problem with a list that is promoting homeschooling?", but the thing is as I was reading this list many of the responses simply rubbed me the wrong way. I have to hope that the point was to try to connect with the "mainstream", but I really just couldn't let it go. I felt a need to address each of the 18 points. I am gong to try to not dwell on the fact that she is using the word "homeschooling" because she does seem to be speaking of "schooling at home", which I don't advocate for, but will try to just move past that to get to the gist of her points. Each of the points is listed below in bold face and my responses follow. It really would be most helpful to read the original post first to really get what I am saying.

1. We spend less time homeschooling each day than we used to spend driving.  ~~~ This can be true, but can also NOT be! When KM was in school we walked to school most days as the elementary school is less than half a mile from our house and her friends were right around the corner. Now KM has friends all over, some live well over 45 minutes away. We also are out to go to classes, library activities, hangouts, bowling, ice skating, chess club --- and the list goes on and on. I have put FAR more annual mileage on my vehicle since we have been home educating than I did when she was in PS. I only have one child at home and therefore can only assume that this would be multiplied by however many additional children a family has. 

2. We can't afford private education. --- I agree with this, but also feel that in most cases private education is not any better than public. 

3. Our kids are excelling academically as homeschoolers. --- I also agree with this one. No need to pull it apart, simple and clear. 

4. Homeschooling is not hard, and it's fun! --- OK this is one of the top 3 that really irked me a bit. It was very matter of fact with little substance. So many families feel like they have to live up to this "Perfect Homeschool Image" where everything is sunshine and roses. That is not the reality in the home ed families I see, speak with, tweet with, and read about daily - home learning can be hard, it can be REALLY HARD!!! There are going to be days when you want to throw in the towel or you think "wouldn't it just be easier to send them off on the bus!" and you would be right. But easier doesn't mean that it is better or right. The "boxed curriculum" fallacy is another point of contention - it is not going to work 100% of the time for any child and often is a huge cause of the frustrations for families. They are also super expensive and not at all worth it when you get nearly all resources you could possibly need online, for FREE! Home learning is FUN! School at home --- not so much. 

5. Use whatever public school services you like. ~~~ This is not true in quite a number of states. Some do allow home educators to pick and choose, most do not and some staunchly deny home ed families access. Not only that but it contradicts a few of her other points - like #11, #12, #16 & #18

6. I like parenting more, by far. ~~~ This is one of those that makes me think she is trying to reach the "mainstream mommies" and convince them that they could do it. You know the ones that ask you "HOW can you spend ALL day with your kids?" I do understand her point, I felt more like a warden than a mother when KM was in PS, constantly trying to meet their requirements and conform to their schedule. But the tone is just a bit....not quite as bad as #8 though.

7. Our family spends our best hours of each day together. ~~~ And the worst and everything in between. I again see her point, but this is another one that makes you think all the hours are going to be rosy, the kids are going to get along and every day will be blissful! Don't even get me started on the fact that she said "At recess time, the kids are actually excited about playing with each other!"

8. We yell at our kids less. ~~~ All I can say is did she seriously ADMIT that she spanked her kids???? Did I just get transported into the twilight zone....
 Apparently I need to clarify this better although I thought I was pretty clear in that I am shocked that someone would actually spank their children in hopes of coercing them to do something or the fact that I am even more shocked that a doctor would openly admit to spanking their children? Spanking should NEVER be an option and it is shocking to me that someone who is intelligent enough to become a pediatrician would actually think that that would be a means to a positive end.
Is that clearer?

9. Our kids have time for creative play and unique interests. ~~~ No issues with this one at all. It is extremely important and I am very glad that she is allowing them time to follow their interests, once they have completed her assigned tasks for the day.

10. We are able to work on the kids' behavior and work ethic throughout the day. ~~~ I agree with her main point here, but not her explanation. "we’ve been able to push him to his full potential" - really because the parent has the all powerful insight to know what the full potential of their child well before they have reached adulthood. At 34 I don't even know what my "full potential" could be. 

11. Get rid of bad habits, fast. ~~~ Ok I see this in a similar light to the previous one, I  agree with the main statement, but not her tactics in implementing. Didn't she say in a previous post that "loving authority" and "loving obedience" needed to be established and she seemed to want to emphasize free play, but I guess that can't work if you aren't "dressed properly." 

12. Be the master of your own schedule. ~~~ Couldn't agree more with statement, as long as you are also taking into consideration your family as a whole when you are mastering your schedule. 

13. Younger children learn from older siblings. ~~~ This is a tremendous benefit of home learning and I have no complaints here. 

14. Save money. ~~~ I don't really know where to start on this one.  You can save money if you are currently sending your kids to private school, but you could be spending more money if you send your kids to PS. This could really go either way especially for those of us who live in states where you can't pick and choose what you want your kids to participate in at the local PS - note #5.  I know many families who are home educating on incomes of less than $40K. It can be done at any income level, but you may not be saving.

15. Teach your kids practical life skills. ~~~ This is necessary in all kids and seriously lacking in many families.  So many parents are doing a disservice to their kids by coddling and pampering them. If your kid is 12 years old and doesn't know how to use the washing machine I consider that neglect. If your 16 year old thinks that toilet fairies clean the bathroom I consider that neglect. If your 18 year old is getting sent off to college without knowing how to eat nutritiously I consider that neglect.  You are a negligent parent if you are not teaching your children how to be responsible for meeting their own basic needs.  

16. Better socialization, less unhealthy peer pressure and bullying. ~~~ This one she has hit right on the mark with the one exception that although they can be far and few between there are bullies in the home ed world - there are bullies in every world, that is just part of reality. It does feel as though it can be easier to deal with the home ed community as it is usually addressed immediately and the higher level of parental involvement can help to make it a less scaring scenario.  

17. Sleep! ~~~ I have written several posts on this one, check the archives if you like! 

18. Teach kids your own values. ~~~ This is a good point and works into the freedom and managing your own schedule ideas. I was a bit surprised that she had no issue with the "values taught in either our public or private schools" but to each their own. 

All in all I think this article was a fairly decent way to connect with "mainstream parents". I don't however think that it was an excellent representation of the vast and widespread demographic that encompasses the home ed world as a whole, but really how could it. The amount of attention that it is getting is good, but the propagation of stereotypes is a bit disheartening. I think the tone and title of the article was more than a bit condescending - as if we needed approval from the white collar world to validate home education.

I would love to hear what others think so please leave comment and let me know which one you 

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