As my son enters the final lap of his grade school career, I’ve noticed a marked increase in anxiety. An increase in my own anxiety, of course, but also in those who remain unconvinced that homeschooling for high school is a healthy option for my son. I don’t mind discussing the pros and cons of home education with people particularly when an intelligent discussion ensues. Frankly, I enjoy it! Home education is an exciting undertaking and sharing that adventure with others is often a pleasure.
For years, we have been fielding the high school question. Many people assume that our cute little foray into home-education will end once high school approaches and we wake up to reality. I’ve been saying the same thing all along: We intend to home-school for high school because we think it is best for our kids, academically and socially. I don’t think people believed us. Now that it is just about time, they are unsettled. (So am I but for entirely different reasons.) The big guns are coming out. People are making their final attempts to convince us that we will be wasting the talents of our son if we insist on our current course. And there will be quite a few watching to see what happens. I’m rather curious myself!
Recently, my son found himself defending our home-school from attacks by an adult family friend. It’s not the first time he has been in this situation but this time it was about Science in particular. The core of the argument was that homeschooling is inferior because we could not possibly have a full Science lab in our home. And apparently, lab experience is important. Vital, in fact. While it is true that we do not have an in-home lab (unless you count what happens when the children are left unattended in the kitchen), the argument falls apart when it is exposed to the light of the facts.
Like most arguments against home schooling, this one is fear-based. How can you possibly grow to be an intelligent, well-educated person without lab experience? You’ll miss your vocation as a chemist! You’ll be a loser!! There is no perfect way to respond to someone who is convinced of these things. But I have to tell you that there’s hardly anything, academically or socially speaking, that a modern home-schooled child cannot have access to these days if there is a desire.
You want a lab? You can create one in your home or do high school sciences at the community college.
You want specialized instruction? Standardized tests? Classroom experience? Chess club? Theatre? Sports? Whatever it is, a creative and determined family can make it happen. Think Tim Tebow and the Jonas Brothers.
What about prom? Setting aside how I personally feel about prom, if you want your child to go, there are ways. I know many home-schooled kids who’ve gone to prom looking like movie stars, socialized successfully, and have pictures and video to prove it.
How about a learning environment where kids are lumped into a same age peer group for years and forced to compete for status control? Okay, I suppose it’s possible in home-education… but you might have me on that argument.
Once it’s demonstrated in discussion that home-schooled kids can do pretty much anything institutional school kids can do, the attention invariably shifts to the experience of schooling. Socialization. While I acknowledge that there are challenges to providing a balanced social experience for home-educated children, I just gotta ask: Have you seen kids at the local high school? Wouldn’t you agree that an uncomfortably large number of them have pretty questionable social skills? It would be easier for detractors if home-schoolers would just agree to being the largest group of socially-maladjusted people in the universe. Too bad it isn’t true.
If you have seen home-schoolers who strike you as truly strange, it is also likely that you have been in the presence of significantly greater numbers of “normal” home-schoolers… and you weren’t even aware of it. Odds are also pretty good that there’s someone in the world who thinks your family is pretty strange, too. Just sayin’.
From a Washington Times Op-ed piece by HSLDA President J. Michael Smith:
“Critics of homeschooling often claim that this form of high school socialization is necessary so students can face the real world. But does the real world look like high school?”
“It’s difficult to imagine a more artificial environment for socialization than the public high school. Children are segregated by age and move from grade to grade within a narrow band of their immediate peers. This is a completely foreign environment to the one high school graduates will face. The high school experience does not easily translate to the real world. Home-school critics falsely believe that in order to be properly socialized, a child needs to spend long hours in his or her peer group.”
“Home-schooling is a much healthier environment because home-school teens do not have to be exposed to the high school system. The constant presence of peer pressure simply doesn’t exist in the overwhelming majority of home schools. It’s unnecessary. The home-school teenager is able to focus on gaining an excellent education and interacting with more adults than children.”
“But what of the critics’ claim that home-schoolers have difficulty socializing? According to a recent study by the National Home Education Research Institute, home-school graduates are happier and more involved in their communities than the average public-school student.”
It’s a short but good piece. Read the rest of “Socialization in High School Oversold” here.
Our family’s super-busy-social season is about to begin with the overlap of athletic teams. I know this question of high school is going to occupy at least 30% of my adult court-side conversations. I know this because it happens every year and now the subject matter is directly upon us. First, there is the surprised look when someone finds out we homeschool, are great at sports, and don’t look Amish. Then the period of thoughtful, confused silence… followed by the questions. I’d like to say that all questioners are respectful and positive. Most are. The negative ones always seem to find me at the end of an 8-hour tournament with low blood sugar and a whining brood of dirty, tired children hanging all over me… but the journey of motherhood is an immersion in humility. And anyway, I know those snarky people are just jealous of my ability to simultaneously nurse a baby, carry a stroller, feed a hotdog (without the bun) to my preschooler and brilliantly expound on the merits of homeschooling. I’m sure they secretly admire the messy ponytail look that I sport so effortlessly and marvel at how many things I can stuff into the pocket of my hoody sweatshirt at one time. It’s an art and a gift. Hence, the snark from less secure people.
Fortunately for me, my kids are the best proof that home-education is working for us. Many common misconceptions that people have are immediately addressed when they meet the children who are relatively well-behaved (with regular but generally mild to moderate exceptions).
As I gear myself up to be a high school home-educator for the first time, I’m on my knees in earnest. It is a certainty that our high school will be imperfect with imperfect teachers and imperfect students. My prayer is only that our school will be good; that we will be good; and that we will serve God to the best of our abilities throughout this journey. I’ll let you know how it goes.