A potential weakness in homeschooling

Some parents do a good job with homeschooling. Others need more guidance and accountability. 

We used all three approaches to education (home, private and public). I am very glad that we have the freedom to choose the best path for our children. I also know many home schooled families who are deeply committed to doing well.

But I’ve noticed some areas of concern. One potential weakness in homeschooling is related to authority. Let me clearly say that I know many home schooled children who are very respectful of authority as with many public and private school children. My concerns are not meant to be directed to any specific situation (this post has been in the works for a long time). I am more interested in drawing attention to potential challenges (which I realize could apply to any home no matter the choice of schooling). 

Yet when moms are the primary teachers and also carry most of the other household responsibilities, they easily become vulnerable to allowing their children to feed off their weariness and the sheer weight of their demands. In such an environment, children might learn to approach authority as something to argue with and wear down until they get their way.

Moms who jump at each demand of their children or who passively respond to precocious or disrespectful behavior are not parenting wisely. Children in such settings do not learn to respect authority properly and might even display this disrespect toward other adults — thinking they should jump for their desires.

If mothers and fathers do not decisively correct disrespectful attitudes and actions in their children, they set them up for troubled futures. If they tend to let their children consistently rationalize and make excuses for bad behavior, they do them a great disservice. Sometimes parents who homeschool strongly desire to believe that they’ve made a superior choice for their children and consistently doubt or deny their bad behavior.

Parents who prefer a fantasy version of their children rather than the truth must ask if they serve an image that is more important to them than the good of their children. This is especially dangerous and perpetuates more dishonesty in the lives of the children. These parents are typically the kind who do not seek help or counsel when faced with challenges, yet strangely are more than willing to tell others how to do things. 

When children have to sit among many other students in classrooms, it often helps them realize they can’t be the center of attention and get their own way with enough whining. This is an important lesson for life.

In homeschooling, children must not be allowed to think that adults will jump for them at their every need or desire. Some moms mistakenly think that this is what it means to be a diligent mother. These moms risk the error of being child-centered parents. Such parenting fails to decisively correct the core of the sin nature – the notion that I am the center of the universe and everything should revolve around me. 

Teaching children to respect authority is one of the most important lessons for life and perhaps for eternal life. If children will not respect human authority (something repeatedly taught in Scripture), why would you think they will respond with true submission to God’s authority? Rebellion is a big part of the sin nature and should be confronted and corrected not accommodated or excused. Accepting and making endless excuses for a child’s behavior is a sure way to set him up for failure in life. How will a this child be prepared for the truth claims of the gospel itself? 

It’s said that half the battle in overcoming a problem is understanding it and admitting the need to change. This post is meant to facilitate honest discussions among parents who homeschool. Perhaps there are ways you have addressed these challenges that you could share with others. 

Steve Cornell

Note: I could easily list downsides and potential negative influences in both public and private education. At the end of the day, parents are the most important and responsible ones for shaping a child’s attitude toward authority. But we all must be humble and honest enough to recognize potential weaknesses in the approaches we take toward education and parenting. 

An interesting post from a homeschool mom: The Dangers of Homeschooling

About Wisdomforlife

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32 Responses to A potential weakness in homeschooling

  1. thebreakfastdictator says:

    interesting timing of this post. are you familiar with this site that just launched yesterday? i thought your post may be connected to that. what are your thoughts on the stories related here?

    http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/

  2. Ben Wolk says:

    I appreciate Pastor Cornell’s desire to prompt an honest discussion. In that spirit, and as someone who’s spent generous amounts of time in the company of both homeschooled and public schooled students, I have to respectfully disagree with most of the points in this article.

    It’s perfectly true that when parents don’t “decisively correct disrespectful attitudes and actions in their children” they’re setting those kids up for “troubled futures.” But in my broad experience, homeschooled students are far and away more respectful of both their elders and their peers than students in public or private schools. I always found this so growing up; and in my job now at a national park, where I deal with thousands of people each year, I’ve found that, almost without fail, homeschooled kids can be differentiated from others simply by the maturity with which they interact with those around them.

    This makes perfect sense. A classroom setting is unnatural — herding kids together with only other kids (and one adult, the teacher) their own age is not conducive to instilling good social skills. By contrast, a homeschool environment is, to use a phrase in vogue, more organic. Kids learn to interact with their parents, with siblings older and younger than them, and with other homeschool families (since homeschoolers are among the most social people you’ll come across), all in natural, real-world settings.

    Homeschooling promotes the growth of individual skills and personalities, which is one of the surest ways to promote self-respect and respect for others. Granted that there are exceptions, but by and large, public schools operate on a cookie-cutter, stand-in-line, do-as-you’re-told model. This produces generic personalities who, when gathered in a group, tend to sink to the lowest common denominator, intellectually, ethically and otherwise. This is a tragedy, because it’s not the kids who are at fault, but the system into which they’ve been thrown.

    Of course, we could argue educational theory ad nauseum, but ultimately I would urge everyone to simply spend some time around homeschooled students. Anyone who does so is bound to be impressed.

    • thebreakfastdictator says:

      Ben, in my experience, i’ve seen the opposite — homeschooled kids being bizarre and socially retarded. i’m always surprised when i meet one who’s not.

      • JW says:

        The Breakfastdictator,
        You must be the one that is socially inadequate. I am an educator in the NYC public school system and I have seen a wide range of students. I have met more students lacking social sufficiency throughout my teaching career than I have the home schooled students who are not socially”up to par”. I feel as though I am able to make a sound judgement in this matter because I was home schooled throughout my entire education. Therefore, I have seen and experienced both sides of the spectrum. Perhaps you are the one that needs to get out more before you start throwing around the term “socially retarded”.

    • JF says:

      Well said

      • thebreakfastdictator says:

        I admit that I do have my social flaws. I was sheltered in private christian school for my 1-12 grade years. When I got to college, I was terrified to be social, but that has mostly since passed (i’m 32 now), though I do struggle with social anxiety on occasion. One specific home schooler I knew stalked several of my female friends — showing up at parties over an hour from where he lived — uninvited and unannounced. The girl who he did that to had no idea how he found out about the party or that she was going to be there. He did this to multiple friends of mine over the course of a 6 year period. The rest of his siblings were not as creepy, but still rather difficult to interact with. There were others who played sports thru our private christian school who we had trouble being friendly to as well.

        One of my best friends girlfriends was home schooled and she’s incredibly social. I was truly stunned to find out she was home schooled.

        I don’t mean any offense to you specifically, but this has been my experience. And to compare NYC public schools to “normal” public school socialization is apples and oranges. There’s a host of social issues that belies those kids before they even get to school, so that’s truly an unfair comparison of public school to home school in general.

  3. I dont disagree with these general points. I too have met and know many wonderful kids who have been or are being homeschooled. I can say the same about both public and private school kids. We always say that the key is not the schooling as much as the home and parents. Homeschooling joins education and family. I have deep reservations about how we do public education and some very definite concerns with Christian schools. Yet I do believe that some in the homeschool context are overly defensive about objective critique that might point out some potential weaknesses. At our church, we make it clear that we support parents in their choice of education and will not allow anyone to soap-box one approach over another. This does not mean that wholesome discussions of pros and cons cannot take place. At the end of the day, I am a team member for the kids in our Church no matter where they go to school.

  4. Tammy says:

    Hey Steve, It’s your oldest sister here, throwing my log on the fire. First, what qualifies me to speak on the topic: 17 years of homeschooling my own sons, helping launch 4000+ families into homeschooling, many years of teaching workshops for homeschooled teens and planning all manner of homeschool events, 20+ years of tutoring kids from all school backgrounds, teaching teen and adult literacy, extensive research regarding the facts of home, private and public schooling for at least 200 articles I’ve written on the topic.

    With that said, the obvious has already been stated — parents are the most important factor in shaping a child’s character. So when we’re discussing character development, we’re talking about parenting. Anyone who watches modern society knows that caving in to whining kids is typical behavior for many stressed parents — homeschoolers, working moms, parents with bad marriages, parents who are overcommitted to their social or church lives, and so on. It even happens in families where parents are not particularly stressed by anything other than whining children (kids whine).

    The argument about homeschoolers and socialization is pretty much old stuff by now, except in some isolated instances and circles. The evidence is in and homeschoolers are doing just fine socially. Colleges are recruiting them not only for their academic success but because they are serious about life and preparing for it. The studies show that homeschoolers are more likely to be involved in their communities, in government and in volunteer efforts (this is not to denigrate others, just what the studies show, which is to be expected due to the high commitment of homeschooling parents to their children’s character; many public and private schooled children also exhibit these characteristics).

    The point you make that concerns me most has to do with authority. There is today what amounts (in my opinion) to a bit of an obsession with authority, as in submitting to it, rather than having a healthy suspicion of it. Few things corrupt like a little authority, and a defense against that corruption is raising children who hold authority to the highest standards and accountability. It takes self-confidence, even a bit of chutzpah, to do this. The more authority is challenged, the more it bears down on those who threaten it. Courage to stand up to abusive authority does not come from a population that has been taught the importance of submission (ask Hitler — he knew this, implemented it even further than it was already being implemented in German schools and benefitted from the fruit of it).

    What most people view as impudence in homeschooled children is actually self-confidence not fully matured. Generally, by the time these children are older teens, two things have happened: 1. They have learned to temper their confidence so that others don’t feel threatened by it, and 2. Their more adult age makes them seem less of a threat to those who feel children should not deem their opinions as equal in value to adults.

    As far as admitting to faults and engaging in self-critique, you might try going to some homeschool meetings. Few people critique themselves (and poke fun at themselves) more than homeschoolers, but they tend to do it, as they should, within circles where good can come of it — correction, encouragement, improvement. Just as it is inappropriate for a pastor or Christian to take his or her cirticism of the church to the secular world, so it would be inappropriate and counterproductive for homeschoolers to air their own issues to a non-homeschooling world that would only use it as “I told you so” bombs and would not and could not offer constructive advice.

    I would venture to say that most pastors would resent and defend themselves against critcisms from non-religious reviewers of the Christian scene. Likewise, homeschoolers tend to feel a little defensive when those with no or very limited experience offer to help them do a better job, especially when they know how much they’re already engaged in critique of themselves.

    If the goal is to help parents find a way to teach children a healthy balance between submission and self-confidence, or to help mom and dad learn how to resist caving in to whining children, there is no need to mention education methods at all — parents of every education persuasion face these same problems — they are problems of human nature and worldview.

    • Well said! The kind of interaction I hoped to create. Yes, titles and specific aims tend to generate more focus and feedback then bland generalized concerns (a dime a dozen in the blogosphere). I certainly can take the “heat” that comes with this because light (such as you offer) also results. I must come back to your musings on authority later (when more time allows) but my opening line sets the tone, logic, aim and is easily verifiable case: “Some parents do a good job with homeschooling. Others need more guidance and accountability.” I welcome feedback that strengthens some and fills the need for others.

      I do believe the scenario I describe (while not the only possible one)realistically presents particular challenges related to homeschooling. “… when moms are the primary teachers and also carry most of the other household responsibilities, they easily become vulnerable to allowing their children to feed off their weariness and the sheer weight of their demands. In such an environment, children might learn to approach authority as something to argue with and wear down until they get their way.”

      Yes, there are other scenarios related to working moms, single parent homes, bad marriages, etc… I’ve written on many related themes. This time my focus related to particular challenges in homeschooling. Each area is a worthwhile concern and should not be considered off limits for addressing.

  5. Tammy says:

    Two points: First, the problem simply is not a particular challenge to homeschooling. It is a particular challenge to all parents. Children challenge authority. It’s one of the biggest issues all parents face. It has little to do with overburdened or harried moms. Children will look for and exploit whatever opportunities they find, so every mom and dad face this issue. Framing it in reference to homeschooling defeats your stated intent to help. What happens instead is you utilize language that puts your audience on the defense and defeats your purpose.

    Back to why a homeschool audience might feel defensive in the first place. I’ve already mentioned their own self-critique and diligence, but I’d like to add one more important point. When you use terminology like “guidance and accountability,” you may mean something rather benign, but homeschoolers regularly face people who would like to see their freedom abridged by law and these are some of their favorite words. Some of these people are actually well-meaning though misinformed. Others are overtly malevolent — they hate homeschooling for personal or political reasons and think nothing of stripping someone of their freedom for their own satisfaction or gain. I’ve worked to thwart several legislative efforts that promoted themselves as efforts to “help” homeschoolers.

    We are constantly tempted to “fix” (keeping in mind that we are defining as a problem what others may not see as such) other people by means of accountability, which usually means using authority to impose our views on another. This is what scares homeschoolers and all freedom-loving people. It’s what scared our founding fathers, which is why they fashioned our country to protect us from this as much as humanly possible.

    Homeschoolers also often wonder why it is public schools face little accoutability (all rhetoric to the contrary), yet they must constantly fight those who wish to impose restrictions on them in the name of accountability. If we wish to help one another become better people and better parents, suggesting the need for “guidance and accountability” is not the place to begin or end. These words carry the weight of political threat — not only to homeschoolers but to anyone to whom they are applied. If a voice of leadership or authority were to announce that churches needed more guidance and accountability, you would wisely start monitoring the press and the politicians. The threat is real and it is frightening to homeschoolers, church leaders and others who face challenges to their Constitutionally-protected liberty when people they think are or should be their “friends” begin to use the language of those who mean them harm or extinction.

    There are ways we can help each other improve — as parents, as spouses, as leaders, as human beings, but if we wish to do true good, we must be careful to “first do no harm.” Much harm is inadvertently visited upon others by those who actually mean good. Much good goes to waste because of one or two ill-chosen words.

    • We did not experience anything but support when we chose homeschool. I realize that Lancaster is an area more sympathetic to it but I never had to think of it as something to defend. It was a freedom we exercised. I am glad for that but also recognize that some states are no where near as friendly. In our Church, if we heard someone condemn another for choosing homeschool, private or public, we would ask them not to interact with others in this way. We tell people up front that we support and encourage parents in the choices they make. But we will not neglect offering guidance and accountability where it is needed. Churches that neglect this cease to be the kinds of Churches Christ builds. Now I quickly qualify the difference between legalism and accountability. The first is repulsive to God; the second is mandated among the followers of Christ. Even in society, we want authorities to offer guidance and accountability in protecting orderly and safe community.

      Unfortunately, I’ve spoken to a number of people who check and certify homeschool work for parents but feel pressured by them to “cut corners” or even be dishonest. In such cases, guidance and accountability are more than needed.

      I am beginning to wonder if I wrote about weaknesses in public or private education (as I have) if I’d get the same kind of response to critique. I’ve critiqued public education from the pulpit and, as a leader, I would never allow any group to make themselves off grounds for comment. When I make specific applications to one group, I do not always feel the need to either generalize or name every possible applications. In this case, somewhat ironically, I actually did expand the application.

      I remember the days when Christian school was the only option acceptable in some churches and those who chose public were considered to being throwing their kids to the devil. We need to get beyond this when it comes to the choices parents make for educating their children. But this in no way means that the public has no vested interested in a well educated populace. As long as such interested is not wrongly intrusive I support reasonable and respectful standards. I have quite a number of friends who serve in higher positions in public education and do an honorable job. One of the people I know is in a very high positions and invites my feedback in a meeting every other month (for years). He has repeatedly acted on the concerns raised and perhaps does so at risk of someone crying foul over a Church-state violation.

      I am more than a little intrigued by the responses I’ve had to this subject. I did “tone down” my title but (as stated above) I am not a bit hesitant to be specific. I write and speak specifically on many subjects that could be generalized. Unless wrongly inflammatory or factually off base, I accept this means of communication.

  6. JF says:

    Tammy, You couldn’t had said my thoughts any better! We as home schooling parents are quite AWARE that teaching can not work if respect for authority isn’t present. Two outcomes usually prevails; Mothers quit homeschooling due to the lack of respect, or they use homeschooling as an opportunity to get a handle on the issue. I can not even count how many times mothers told me that they could never teach their kids because they could never get them to listen. You hit the nail on the head, when you said there was no need to mention education methods. Its clearly an issue that all parents must face!

  7. Tammy says:

    JF, Thank you. When I’m helping a new family start homeschooling, I warn parents that it can take time to establish the mutually respectful relationship necessary for good education to happen. The good news is that when it does happen, it’s often so dramatic that parents are delighted with the “new” child in their home.

  8. Tammy says:

    Steve,

    A few comments… when I spoke of defending homeschooling, I meant at the legislative level. It’s likely you did not follow the proposed laws in PA — Pennsylvania has had its share of legislative threats to the liberties of homeschoolers.

    Here’s an interesting fact: The test results show that in the states in which homeschooling is least regulated homeschool students score just as high as in the states where it is most regulated. This is the measure by which states judge the success of homeschooling. If states were to also hold parents accountable for how “respectful” their children are, how much they whine or try to get their way, well… Don’t think that’s so far-fetched. There are those in authority who support the idea of monitoring the social, mental and emotional “progress” of children, and I have spoken with many parents whose children were judged in these areas and who were forced to take their children to psychiatrists.

    Martin Luther had some interesting views on accountability — he was all for it, especially in the public schools of his day — until things went awry and their definistion of accountability no longer matched his. This is always the problem — and it is why we must be extremely careful when we wish to hold others accountable by way of government compulsion. What works for you at one time will come to haunt you later — history is replete with examples. It’s the nature of government. People turn to governmental power — rules, accountability, oversight — for three reasons: 1. They naively believe it can work — that they can make people live by their definition of right by forcing them to do it, 2. They are controlling by nature, 3. They despair of improving the world any other way. Whatever the reason, it has never worked and never will work, and it has always turned on its creators.

    It’s fine and dandy to have government officials making sure you parent and educate your children properly as long as they are operating by your particular definition of such things, but what are you going to do when a new standard takes hold — one antiethical to your standards? It will happen. This is the danger of trying to place “accountability” in the hands of the state, which is the only place it has any consequences that satisfy people who are absorbed with it.

    You speak of the vested interest the general population has in the education of children. The implication is that if they have a vested interest they have the right to also dictate how people will fulfill that interest. The general public has a vested interest in people eating healthfully — poor eating habits cost taxpayers billions of unnessary dollars. The general public has a vested interest in keeping people from smoking, drinking, engaging in risky sports, The general public has a vested interest in what temperature I keep my thermostat at, in how much money I spend and save, and the list goes on.

    Government was considered a necessary evil by our founders, which is why they wrote a Constitution limiting it. There is no entity that is government, though. What they were limiting was the drive of men to control one another by means of force.

    Let me speechify a little more on the “standards” to which we might hold all people who assume the education of children. It is my opinion that the foundation of a good education is history. I know some people who believe an education is incomplete without immersion in the arts. Others believe that all children should master higher mathematics. You get the picture. Now, you might think a good approach would be to compromise — but that has been tried. The result is that everything gets dumbed down and everyone is angry and the fight goes on. The government’s standards for education are one thing one year, another thing another year. These are the varying standards they apply to their own public schools, and the ones that would be applied to those who choose not to utilize this offer of schooling from the state. The standards of the moment depend on who knows who, who has the deepest pockets and best lobbyists and loudest voices. One group and ideological set of standards is in one day, another the next day. If you read the history you’ll find it’s not a secret.

    So, how do we make people toe our line? We don’t. As a society, we choose the most aggregious crimes — theft, murder, etc., and we commission government people to punish those crimes. Thus far, we have chosen not to make criminal such things as neglecting to teach children morals, neglecting to love our children enough or properly, neglecting to teach children to love one another, neglecting to teach children respect, over-indulging children. Interestingly, except for the case of homeschoolers, no one has suggested we criminalize neglecting to give children a good education. No one suggests we take children away from public schools that fail to meet certain standards (there are a few places where students have the choice to transfer or even where schools performing below standard have been handed over to private organizations — and a very few have been shut down and students transferred to other public schools, but these are always fads of reform and don’t last).

    The truly ironic thing is that so many people wish to force homeschoolers into cookie cutter standards when, with only a few exceptions, they are performing well above standard.

    But there’s that issue of perceived disrespect, caused by overwhelmed moms being too lenient with their children. What shall we do by means of accountability to conform these parents and their children to whatever standards have won the particular day? If people choose to attend your church, you have some authority, but they can leave. Then what?

    Life is not perfect. Parents, children, leaders, no one is perfect. No one gets a perfect education or a perfect upbringing. How we choose to help improve the situation is of utmost importance. Methods of good example and persuasion are hard work. It’s much easier to threaten people with accountability and potential punishment (their kids forced into public school?).

    Some parents choose public school — that is their choice and I’m not denigrating it. I work with public school parents as well as homeschool parents. I cheer the success of all children, regardless of their means of education. And when I see a child foundering, I find there are endless ways to help. I’ve tutored public schooled children and homeschooled children free of charge. I’ve encouraged, provided materials, followed up. I will not pretend I haven’t seen children who were not getting what I consider a good education or who are beinf failed in the department of character development– a few in homeschooling circles, many in public school circles. What might I do to hold the teachers of these children “accountable”? The usual answer for homeschoolers is “scare them into doing better or force the children into institutional schooling.” The answer for public school teachers? Report them to the teacher’s union, the state? Threaten to take away their teaching credentials? I’m starting to sound dramatic, am I not — extreme, maybe a little scary? Yet that is what is proposed for homeschooling parents with hardly a thought.

    So, if not this sort of thing, what is it you mean by accountability? How might we hold these parents who worry you accountable for their children’s character growth and education? You have the right to critque as you see fit, though my wish is it would come from a stance of true and deep knowledge of a situation — because, as I have mentioned, the poorly informed critique of someone in a position of leadership can do incredible harm, especially to the fragile flower of freedom (but not much to the strong arm of the state) — but that does not address the issue of accountability. I think I don’t quite understand what you mean by it.

  9. Just a mom says:

    Danger of Public Schooling

    Some parents do a good job with their public schooled children. Others need more guidance and accountability.

    We used two of the three approaches to education at one point or another (home and public). I am very glad that we have the freedom to choose the best path for our children. I also know many public school families who are deeply involved.

    But I’ve noticed some areas of concern. One potential weakness with public schooling is related to authority. Let me clearly say that I know many public school children who are very respectful of authority as with many private school and home schooling children. My concerns are not meant to be directed to any specific situation (this post has been in the works for a long time). I am more interested in drawing attention to potential challenges (which I realize could apply to any home no matter the choice of schooling).

    Yet when moms spend time helping with homework, running their kids to sporting events and music lessons (to many to mention), AND also carry most of the other household responsibilities, they easily become vulnerable to allowing their children to feed off their weariness and the sheer weight of their demands. In such an environment, children might learn to approach authority as something to argue with and wear down until they get their way.

    Moms who jump at each demand of their children or who passively respond to precocious or disrespectful behavior are not parenting wisely. Children in such settings do not learn to respect authority. Moms who jump at each demand of their children or who passively respond to precocious or disrespectful behavior are not parenting wisely. Children in such settings do not learn to respect authority properly and might even display this disrespect toward other adults — thinking they should jump for their desires.

    If mothers and fathers do not decisively correct disrespectful attitudes and actions in their children, they set them up for troubled futures. If they tend to let their children consistently rationalize and make excuses for bad behavior, they do them a great disservice. Sometimes parents who send their children to public school strongly desire to believe that they’ve made a superior choice for their children and consistently doubt or deny their bad behavior. and might even display this disrespect toward other adults — thinking they should jump for their desires.

    Parents who prefer a fantasy version of their children rather than the truth must ask if they serve an image that is more important to them than the good of their children. This is especially dangerous and perpetuates more dishonesty in the lives of the children. These parents are typically the kind who do not seek help or counsel when faced with challenges, yet strangely are more than willing to tell others how to do things.

    Perhaps public schooled children need to sit among other homeschooled students in homes, it often helps them realize they can’t be the center of attention and get their own way with enough whining. ( Considering “mother teacher” only has to manage between 2 to 4 kids instead of 30. Sounds rather simple to keep on top of bad behavior doesn’t it?) This is an important lesson for life.

    Public schooled children must not be allowed to think that adults will jump for them at their every need or desire. Some moms mistakenly think that this is what it means to be a diligent mother. These moms risk the error of being child-centered parents. Such parenting fails to decisively correct the core of the sin nature – the notion that I am the center of the universe and everything should revolve around me.

    Teaching children to respect authority is one of the most important lessons for life and perhaps for eternal life. If children will not respect human authority (something repeatedly taught in Scripture), why would you think they will respond with true submission to God’s authority? Rebellion is a big part of the sin nature and should be confronted and corrected not accommodated or excused. Accepting and making endless excuses for a child’s behavior is a sure way to set him up for failure in life. How will a this child be prepared for the truth claims of the gospel itself?

    It’s said that half the battle in overcoming a problem is understanding it and admitting the need to change. This post is meant to facilitate honest discussions among parents who send their kids to public school. Perhaps there are ways you have addressed these challenges that you could share with others.

    From,
    Just a homeschooling mother who is concerned about the guidance and the accountability of public school mothers.

    PS
    Is this not a parental issue?

    • I’ll post this response but I think the point has already been made both in the post itself and the comments. I am not sure why this sparked such a strong defensive response. I am perplexed because this was not an attack on anyone or on homeschooling but an observation that one could easily say, “Yeah, I could see how that would be a potential challenge.” I just see the response as unnecessary. Those who choose to homeschool should not allow themselves to feel any need to defend their choice. I think we are (or, at least, should be) well beyond the early days when people felt the need to defend the choice. When something is not an inflammatory or unreasonable analysis too much protest raises curious questions. Part of me wants to say, “Relax folks. No one is being singled out and I am certainly not opposed to homeschooling.”

      • Heather Borawski says:

        Steve,i generally admire what you write and value your opinion as you know I will often call you to ask you about things.But I think this time it is time to raise the white flag and admit you stepped into unfamiliar territory. It is deffinetly a topic in which you have very little expeience and therefore no authority to write on.Heather

  10. Tammy says:

    Steve,

    I think if you will go back and carefully read the posts that have seriously addressed your original one and work at seeing through other eyes, you will see what the concerns are and that they are legitimate. The need to defend homeschooling socially is not nearly as great as it used to be, but the need to defend it legally is just as great as always. What leaders (pastors, government, etc.) who are unaware of the legal threats don’t understand is that every time they loosely toss around the word “accountability,” they throw fuel on the fires that are constantly lit to deny homeschoolers their liberty. People who object to homeschooling are fond of latching onto criticisms that come from those who are considered usually supportive of homeschooling, like pastors. This is not an extreme view — it’s a simple fact. There are at least two defense organizations who employ numerous full-time attorneys to monitor the legal scene and defend homeschoolers from abuse of power.

    No doubt, we all tend to act a little defensively when people poke at the things we hold dearest, especially when we feel those people do not have personal experience sufficient to merit authority on the topic, but that does not mean our reaction is without merit — it may be completelty on-key, in spite of our tone in expressing it. When the poking holds the potential for actual harm (or contribution to it), you can expect emotions to run much higher. If someone started talking about the need for the guidance and accountability of pastors because some abuse their postions, I’m inclined to think you’d be speaking loudly. (Of course, this has happened and pastors have protested vehemently, in spite of the fact that it’s true that more than a few have been guilty of all manner of crimes against the people who trusted them.)

    Thanks much for the opportunity to air thoughts on this.

  11. Joy says:

    I was pondering why this article was so off the mark. Steve, you made it clear that you were aware of this situation and it bothered you enough to have the need to address it. So I assumed you must have actually witnessed children who feed off the weariness of their mothers and Moms who jump at each demand of their children or who passively respond to precocious or disrespectful behavior. And also seen these same home schoolers who are now self centered and do not respect authority. To be totally honest, if I witnessed such behavior in any child, I would have thought to myself, “Oh that poor mother! She has has not taught her children to respect her.” The method of education that child was receiving would have been the farthest thing from my mind.

    Now, how can I say this without being accused of being” defensive.” I’ll start by saying that through our years of home education, we as parents and our children became under much scrutiny. I can’t begin to tell you how well informed people want to point out our children weaknesses and blame it on home schooling ( ex. shyness) You can not imagine how closely our children are analyzed!!!! ( I could write a book.) The only time its seems we are left off the hook is when our children are extra exceptional. For example, like being extra talented in a school sport or “highly outgoing”, and so on. And this is a shame. So if it seems that this letter is defensive to you, please give us a little slack.

    Perhaps if this article would have been written on a slightly different angle, you would have gotten many home school mothers agreeing right along with you. Giving advise on how you would like to see mothers not fail at homeschooling (especially since you apparently approve of it) would have been a great start. And you could have brought your concerns of parenting along side of it. It would have been wonderful to offer advice to help mothers not give up and stay the course. Give them knowledge HOW to teach respect to their children so they don’t give up and send their kids back to school. (which often happens.) I just had a home school mother call me who was seeking help from me on this very topic.)

    When it was your goal to offer guidance and accountability on home schooling, one would assume they would have lot of experience on the matter. I don’t think this was the case. Christians are told to hold other Christians accountable, likewise it’s just received better when home schoolers hold one another accountable. (We have enough government officials down our backs holding us accountable.)

    Not sure why you felt it so necessary to point this “potential weakness” out to us, especially in the name of accountability and guidance. You have mentioned that this article was in the works for a long time. I believe you could have used this time to have written something much more beneficial to homeschooling community.

    • I appreciate your thoughts and regret that people have been unkind and wrongly judgmental of you and your family. If such behavior happened in our CHurch, as leaders, we would have admonished those making wrongful judgments not to do so. This is the spirit we must not allow in the Church.

      But I do maintain my observations and expressions of concern (which were not offered in a spirit of judgment). Over the many years, I have noticed a few examples of people who obviously would have benefitted from more guidance and accountability in homeschooling. I’ve also known homeschool moms who admitted to being worn down in the ways I mentioned (and I find it hard to believe that those who have commented on this blog have not also witnessed these things in others). One certainly doesn’t need to be an expert in homeschooling to make the kinds of observations I’ve made. I agree that the applications can extend to other settings but this doesn’t mean one should not address specific settings. There really is so little need to get worked up at my expressions of potential weaknesses. I welcome robust feedback as long as it is of the generally calm and rational kind. I see benefit in this. When you write two political columns each month for a Newspaper that goes out to 85,000 places, you get use to a variety of response. I try to keep tough skin and a tender heart. Yet I get a bit of a feeling that writing in any way constructively critically about homeschooling will put one permanently in the proverbial dog house. Yes, there are always other ways of saying things. I never realized how potentially touchy it would be to offer observations like the ones I made. I’ve written directly on MANY subjects and rarely receive the kind of feedback this piece gathered. But I am ok with that. I wasn’t aware of code words like “accountability” or the guardedness about government intrusions. I remain completely supportive of homeschool and deeply grateful to have been able to do a bit of it myself.

  12. Ray says:

    As parents who are homeschooling, we say thanks for the warning. We had no idea as parents that our children could pull such a stunt as taking an advantage of their mother’s weariness. As home schooling parents, it never crossed our minds that we could create self centered children. ( Since we never thought of character building as one of our goals going into it. ) In the light of this potential weakness, it makes all our other struggles of homeschooling seem so easy. Truly, this article was such a big help and I’m sure will be to the MANY who are struggling with this issue. Thanks again for bringing this weakness to light.

  13. An interesting post from a homeschool mom: The Dangers of Homeschooling http://www.themodestmomblog.com/2012/08/the-dangers-of-homeschooling/

  14. Tammy says:

    Steve, I don’t think anyone addressing this issue doubts your appreciation for the freedom to homeschool. Accountability is not a “code word” — it’s a term you used but left unclarified. If I suggest that pastors be held accountable for something, surely you would want to know what I mean by that — accountable to whom and in what way. A number of people have taken the time to express reasonable concerns and make good suggestions about the way you approached this topic. I think it would clarify things for all of them to have you define the most important term in your post.

    • It may be that other homeschool families could do the best job providing each other with accountability as in the example here: http://www.themodestmomblog.com/2012/08/the-dangers-of-homeschooling/

      Again, I have no doubt that you and others who homeschool know very well of homeschool situations that could benefit from anything from encouragement to exhortation to admonishment regarding their approach to schooling. I am not personally opposed to some kind of cooperative assessment from government so long as it is respectful of parental authority and is not overly intrusive, particularly in the area of curriculum selection.

  15. Tammy says:

    Steve,

    One final note, because this cannot be let go. Assessment by the government as long as it is respectful of parental authority and not overly intrusive? Government is almost synonymous with intrusiveness. We check it by depriving it of power it can abuse — because it will abuse it (this is the premise of our Constitution). When we lose this understanding, we lose our freedom (which we are doing). When we don’t even stop the instrusiveness at the doors of our homes, we are in very serious trouble. 86% of school-aged children attend government-run schools — the government already has full control of the education of the vast majority of children. The impirical evidence says they’re not doing a very good job of it. If government were concerned about good education, it would concentrate on the 86% of children already in its control, but efforts are made constantly to gain control of the relatively few who choose to see to their own education… because government is about intrusiveness. Freedom is about controling government. When government controls us, we are not a free people.

  16. Tammy says:

    It all started out with just a little government involvement in education. Here is where it has gone…

    Excerpt from the Nov. 2, 2005 opinion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (and note that it confirms the opinion of another court). The Ninth Circuit case was specifically addressing interviews conducted with children in a California public school in which first, third, and fifth graders were asked explicit sexual questions as well as other disturbing and intrusive questions. The parents who sued lost their case.

    Excerpt: [O]nce parents make the choice as to which [public] school their children will attend, …their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished. The constitution does not vest parents with the authority to interfere with a public school’s decision as to how it will provide information to its students or what information it will provide, in its classrooms or otherwise. See Yoder, 406 U.S. at 205. Perhaps the Sixth Circuit said it best when it explained,

    “While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their child to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child. Whether it is the school curriculum, the hours of the school day, school discipline, the timing and content of examinations, the individuals hired to teach at the school, the extracurricular activities offered at the school or, as here, a dress code, these issues of public education are generally ‘committed to the control of state and local authorities.’ ”

    The authority of parents is not respected, period.

    • On one level, this makes me thankful for the public school district in our area — a significant departure from this characterization. They approached discipline far better than the Christian schools in our experience. On another level, we’re grateful for government when it enforces the good laws and comes to our aid in times of emergency. Do you oppose government aid? One of our biggest problems is the entitlement and welfare mentality in America. The more families and Christian schools (Liberty University is an example) accept government aid the more problematic it becomes to tell the government to stay out of other areas of our lives. I am certainly not ok with letting parents do whatever they want with schooling. A responsible citizenship is interested in guiding these matters to some extent. We certainly wouldn’t want it to be up to parents to do school or skip school or do a half-hearted approach. The severely dysfunctional nature of MANY families only invites steps of intervention. Many times, in a more general sense, I am glad someone steps into family situations (where drugs, alcohol and abuse are present) to protect children from parents. Other times, I find it outrageous that government intrudes. I am grateful for most of the judges in our area for holding government agencies accountable. I am sure we are an exception to many other areas — as I recently wrote about transgender stuff in Massachusetts schools.

  17. Tammy says:

    Steve, This subject is complex, because it involves knowing a fair amount of history, including the history of education in America, the history of public schooling in particular, the history and philosophy of government and our government in particular, the history of the welfare state and the things that have brought us to the point we’re at, literacy history, and more. I address a lot of this on my blog: http://www.educationconversation.wordpress.com.

    No doubt, we have created a monster for ourselves, both on the social and the education front, and there is no easy answer. But the answer is most certainly not to provide the monster with new food. I support parents, families and children, wherever they find themselves in the education system — and I try to help the unhappy ones find better solutions for their children. I know many very dedicated public school teachers who are not at fault for what they must deal with and are doing their best to give kids a good education and something of a moral footing. Are there irresponsible parents? Yes. But we do not monitor all parents in response. Are there irresponsible drivers, teachers, pastors, employers, etc.? Politicians and government officials are one of the most irresponsible as a group, abusing their power in myraid ways, and we don’t even monitor them for the most part. When bad individuals come to light, laws are in place to deal with those individuals. We don’t punish everyone by taking away their liberty because a few fail.

    Of particular importance is the concept that there is some over-riding public interest in education that justifies the state stepping in to take that responsibility over from parents. If you read the history of public education, you will find the over-riding interest has never been in good education but in social control and in keeping people only educated enough to not be a problem to those who wish to be in control. You don’t even have to read what the historians have written — you can read it right from the pens of the founders of public education and those who supported and bankrolled them. On the other hand, people have always had a personal interest in educating both themselves and their children. It’s true that the government has taken away a chunk of that interest via the welfare system — but that’s where reform is needed.

    Maybe the best thing for you to do is read the book, The Underground History of Public Education by John Taylor Gatto. It sounds radical by its title, but Mr. Gatto taught school for 30+ years — public and private, elite to ghetto, and won NY State Teacher of the Year twice. His experience, especially with students and parents in ghetto schools, is very thought-provoking. I urge you to read it — I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

    Thanks for seeing this discussion through. I’m not trying to argue for the sake of it — this issue is critical to the future of our country, which is very important to me. Our children and grandchildren and so on must live with the freedom or lack of it we leave them and will follow the example we set in rearing their own children and guarding their own liberty. We need only to look to China, Russia, Nazi Germany and many other tyrannies to see the effects of government control of children — it didn’t just happen — it was/is part of the plan. Hitler wrote about it, as did Stalin, Mao and others. They understood it.

  18. Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long)
    so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for rookie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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