More Praying, More Learning … Really?

Home SchoolI have expressed my concerns for home schooling earlier on this site (see). In that treatment I was concerned about the reasons for home schooling, which often revolved around religious practices, and the lack of what I feel is the most important skill learned in grammar school: socialization. My post was triggered by the news of the death of an abused child that was being home schooled; the sadistic parents were able to conceal the abuse which would probably been noticed by the school administration if only the child want to school.

Of course I heard many responses about how that was an isolated aberration and how home schooling was far superior to public education. I saw lots of evidence that this was true and casually wondered why it seemed so.

Well, it actually didn’t take too much thought to realize that home schooling was only undertaken by those parents that wanted to be home school teachers, that were willing to make a classroom in their home (even if on the dining room table), and spend many hours preparing lessons and teaching their own children. I suspect that home schooling was abandoned in instances where, other than strict religious training, the students didn’t respond well to the method of educating them. The fact is that home schooling works because it is fundamentally limited to those families that encourage education within the home, and public education has problem because it is designed to education each  and every student that walks through the doors of the school, and these students don’t have a caring adult hovering over them during their lessons. Bottom line: home schooling skims the cream off the top of education so no wonder it appears to be more successful. Ask any public school teacher if they think they would be more effective if they only had one or two students and see what the answer is.

Salon just posted a piece that should have many readers questioning Home Schooling. It originally appeared on AlterNet, written by Kristin Rawls and titled:

Home-schooled and illiterate

The religious right calls it the “responsible” choice, but for some kids it means isolation with little education

In recent weeks, home schooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s home-schooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of home schooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some home-schooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.

While the practice of home schooling is new to many people, my own interest in it was sparked nearly 20 years ago. I was a socially awkward adolescent with a chaotic family life, and became close to a conservative Christian home-schooling family that seemed perfect in every way. Through my connection to this family, I was introduced to a whole world of conservative Christian home-schoolers, some of whom we would now consider “Quiverfull” families: home-schooling conservatives who eschew any form of family planning and choose instead to “trust God” with matters related to procreation.

Though I fell out of touch with my home-schooled friends as we grew older, a few years ago, I reconnected with a few ex-Quiverfull peers on a new support blog called No Longer Quivering. Poring over their stories, I was shocked to find so many tales of gross educational neglect. I don’t merely mean that they had received what I now view as an overly politicized education with huge gaps, for example, in American history, evolution or sexuality. Rather, what disturbed me were the many stories about home-schoolers who were barely literate when they graduated, or whose math and science education had never extended much past middle school. …

Luckily, more than a few adult home-school graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of home-school-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what home-school advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

prison busErika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A home-schooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.”

The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.”

Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.

As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.

“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.’” …

Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in home-schooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of home-schoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system.

For more examples and further discussion, please read the full article at Salon.com. I found it especially interesting that some home schoolers contend that they are being heavily restricted and persecuted by government regulation and another group of home schoolers insist that there needs to be more government oversight to eliminate home schoolers that are harmful or minimally doing a poor job. As you might expect, home schooling is more successful that more education the home schooler has. Too many home schoolers are not up to the task and insist on home schooling based on an ideology, such as a fundamentalist religion, or an anti-government stance.

I’m not happy with the public school system, but I recognize that a lot of its problems are related to not having strong support, especially financially. Home schooling, despite the success stories, still hasn’t earned my trust and support.

What are your thoughts on this?

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