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For your review: Homeschooled essay

 

I recently wrote this for an English class, and wanted to know what my loyal readers thought of it. I really enjoyed writing it, but another teacher told me that my writing was very choppy. I’d love to have your opinion on the style as well as the content. Thanks!

~L

 

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There is a rising group of people today who are committed, grounded, and knowledgeable. They have the tools and know-how to change the world, and indeed they might. Why, then, does the way they were schooled still impact the way people think of them? They are smart, studious, friendly people with all the tools to succeed in a big way, yet they are still regarded as strange and unusual – almost freaks. But they are not ‘freaks.’ In fact, the old stereotypes that have been held against them are beginning to fall away as these young people begin to graduate from high school and head off to college. First-generation home schoolers are setting the standard not just for subsequent home schooled generations, but, as the minority, they are also setting the standard for a nation of under challenged public school students.


Home Schooled Freak?

People have many questions about home schoolers. “How much time do you spend on school a day?” “How many subjects do you have?” “Do you have friends?” “What about sports and music?” “What is it like to be with your family so much?”
These questions, impertinent though they might seem, are all very good questions, and, when asked with the right motives, can open someone’s eyes to the world of home schooling like nothing else.

Many times, people question the quality of education and amount of socialization home schoolers get. These people also frequently use stereotypes on home schoolers – they are snobby or bigoted, or they are ultra-conservative and over-religious. Home schoolers are not stupid. In fact, they have more sources of educational guidance and higher-quality socialization settings. The stereotypes applied to them are largely unfair. Home schooling is a choice, and in a free country, parents should have the choice to school their children at home without the feedback they get from the culture at large – culture that is not in the least familiar with home schooling and shows no signs of being fair or equitable toward home schooling families.

Home schooling provides quality education, despite the typical stereotypes. The success of home schooling is evidence in several different ways: by the colleges that are now accepting home schooled students, and by the percent home schoolers are above public schoolers in standardized tests.

Educational quality

The quality of education home schoolers receive is often called into question. Many times people will ask what a home schooled student has learned. Parents know their children best. They have seen them at their best and their worst. They know their kids’ likes and dislikes, and they have a fairly thorough understanding of just what makes their child tick. There is no one better than a parent to understand an individual child’s limits – and to push on and on until they reach excellence. Parents who do not have the expertise in math to teach it to a high schooler can send their child to a home school co-op and learn along with their child. Parents, however, have motivation to help their child achieve their best. They honestly want their child to succeed – unlike a stressed teacher with four classes of fifty kids to keep track of. They will make time to help their child grow.

Colleges and Home schoolers

Some colleges have trouble believing that home schoolers are often more academically talented than strictly public schooled students. Barmak Nassirian, a policy analyst with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, says that, “As the numbers (of home schooled) have increased, and there have also been more admitted to college, they’ve actually performed quite well.” Nissirian’s spare word, “actually,” gives him a slightly surprised sound. But should he be? The American educational system is one of the worst in the world (CNN, 2004). Alan Caruba, author of The Subversion of Education in America, has this to say about the American Educational system.

“The American public education system today is not about educating students; it is about indoctrinating them. It has less to do with imparting information and more to do with instilling politically correct attitudes. It is producing docile, ignorant people who know little about their nation’s history. This is imperceptibly-and some say deliberately—weakening our society.” (Caruba, 2007).

Not only is the American education system fundamentally flawed, it is harming individual students and giving them lots of great opportunities to fail. Contrary to popular opinion, home schooling does offer a viable alternative. Granted, not all parents have the resources or know-how to home school. But if they can, they should keep in mind Alan Caruba’s insight on the public education system.
Many colleges are now ready and willing to accept home schoolers. This might be partly due to the fact that home schooled students do very well on standardized tests. Even though a greater part of their academic emphasis is placed on learning, not testing (CNN, 2004), they are still doing very well on standardized tests like the ACT. Home schoolers now hold an unbroken ten-year record of scoring higher on the ACT than the national average. (Home School Legal Defense Association, 2007). The emphasis home schooling families place on long-term learning instead of superficial ‘test learning’ pays off in the long run when their students go to college. Plus simply cramming for tests from school day one (Cabello, 2007) is not the best approach. This leads to a lot of stress, pressure, and general panic, instead of actually focusing on learning the subjects. Naturally this does not work well, as the entire purpose of attending school is to gain a working understanding of subjects and properties. When all students do is cram for a test, no real learning is being accomplished.

Socialization
An interesting point some opponents of home schooling bring up is that of socialization. “Where will they learn their people skills? What about their peers?” they ask in worried tones. What they do not seem to realize is that home schoolers’ people skill training begins the first day they are required to speak to an adult other than their parents, which is usually fairly early. From that point on, that child is learning to communicate with adults, not just kids his or her own age. This helps home schooled students in college interviews and teaches them respect. Most people who have watched teenagers “communicate” understand how important it is for kids to talk to adults. Otherwise, they have no standard to live up to – nothing better than the “yo, wassup??” of their peers with which to compare their own speaking skills. Because home schooled learners grow up in a family-oriented home, they learn to use their speaking skills to communicate with every age level – from their father to their older siblings to their younger siblings. (Barone, 2006.) These differences in communication levels give home schooled students a high standard to live up to, as well as the benefit of learning to communicate with adults and younger children. A 17-year-old home schooled poll respondent said that she is “comfortable communicating with anyone,” – just as long as she understands what she is talking about. This type of communication does not seem to be expected of adults any longer – much less of teenagers! This can be ascertained by the frequency people say that they simply couldn’t get a point across to someone due to age or background. Home schooling does not cut socialization, but improves it to the point of excellence.

In fact, home schooled students are as much – if not more – in the ‘real world’ than public schoolers. Where public schooled students are forced to learn in a vacuum – a classroom in which they are confined for roughly 180 days a year with no one but their peers – home schoolers are actively out and about, learning to communicate through speech and debate, and taking field trips all around.
Dr. Kathie Carwile performed a study on the very topic of home schooled socialization or lack thereof. This is what she found:

“The investigator [researching the socialization of home schooled children] was not prepared for the level of commitment exhibited by the parents in getting the child to various activities…It appeared that these students are involved in more social activities, whether by design or being with the parent in various situations, than the average middle school-aged child.” (Carwile, 2007).

 


On a similar note, Professor Brian Ray is quoted as saying,

“Rakestraw, Reynolds, Schemmer, and Wartes have each studied aspects of the social activities and emotional characteristics of home-schooled children. They found that these children are actively involved in many activities outside the home with peers, different-aged children, and adults. The data from their research suggests that homeschoolers are not being socially isolated, nor are they emotionally maladjusted.” (Ray, 2007).

 

Much evidence points to the social adeptness of home schooled students. A recent study performed at a local speech and debate club indicates that most of the home schooled students interviewed were quite comfortable speaking to people of all age levels and are, in fact, very heavily involved in beneficial activities like speech and debate, theatre, music, and art.
For truly zealous pursuants of the socialization issue, there is always the NCFCA. The National Christian Forensics and Communication Association requires teens ages 12 through 18 to learn to communicate with adults in a fun, competitive environment. The rules of this debate league require professional attire and professional behavior – a tough call, some might say, for teenagers. To tell the truth, personal experience says that teenagers absolutely love having a place to both spend time with friends and compete with others – all in the same modest, wholesome environment. Speech and debate tournaments last between one day for small practice events, three days for regional and national qualifiers, and five days for the national competition. All in an environment where there is no alcohol, no drugs, no sex, and lots of adult and teen company. Winning over a judge in a debate round is an antidote for any apathetic teen who has no desire to reach out and communicate with others, while having fun with friends lets stress off and creates an environment of practical, family-friendly fun. However, the moral structure of home schooling Christians is so different from those of secular public schoolers, it is almost impossible to compare them – a topic for a completely different paper.

Self-esteem
Self-esteem is another issue brought up by the pro-socialization movement. They want to ensure that home schooled children have a ‘proper’ view of themselves. It is difficult to find common ground on this issue, because home schooling parents and public educators/proponents of public education are not at all on the same page. These parents understand the core error of human nature (an issue that could take up another whole paper in itself) and inform their children that they are not perfect. Their children take this well in stride, as they understand that they can and will receive a sense of accomplishment from learning core subjects thoroughly and well. Phyllis Shlafly says in her 2002 article, “Home schooled students won’t have any problem with self-esteem because their self-esteem will be earned by achievement in mastering the important truths of history, literature, math and science.” (Shlafly, 2002) But a home schooled student’s worth is never tied to his or her performance in school. Because they are at home with parents who have taken the time and have dedicated themselves to help their children learn and grow, they are usually taught that they receive worth because they are modeled in the image of God.

Home schooled Stereotypes
This Christian ‘stereotype’ of home schoolers often extends beyond just non-socialization, though. Some people see home schooling families as ‘arrogant’ and ‘condescending’ simply because they choose to home school. While there may be some home schoolers who are conceited because they chose to home school, a majority of these families are genuinely kind and understanding. They will not press their ideas on others. But because home schooling families typically have large numbers of children, the organization, harmony and overall fluidity these homes must necessarily possess is enough to prompt questions from families who have chosen to educate their children in other ways and who don’t have such tightly organized homes and, as a result, see a good deal more chaos from their two children than their home schooling friends have with six or eight children. In a large family, like many home schooling families are (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1999), each individual is not undervalued or overlooked. In fact, each person’s individual importance is valued to keep the family functional. As a result, they learn individual responsibility and actually learn to understand themselves better as they lead their younger siblings and help keep themselves organized in order to get the most out of their time.

Another stereotype is that home schoolers are all homogenous and boring. Aside from being a very broad and most unjustified generalization, it is completely false. Saying that all Home schoolers are boring is akin to saying that all public schoolers are suicidal and manically depressed. It’s simply not true. Of course, there will be families who have different priorities, and, as a result, all the girls will wear skirts, and all of the children will be subdued and laid back. But it is important here – as it is everywhere – to remember that home schooled students and parents are people, too – individuals just like anyone else. Classifying anyone as ‘boring’ is a fairly sure sign that the classifier has not take enough time to get to know the person or group of people they are classifying.

Reasons people home school

There are many different reasons people home school. The following is a chart of the top ten reasons people home school.

Figure 1. Ten reasons for homeschooling and the percentage of home schooled students whose parents gave each reason. Note: From Homeschooling in the United States, Education Statistics Quarterly, 1999. Retrieved December 14, 2007 from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/quarterly/vol_3/3_3/q3-2.asp

It should be quite apparent that there is great diversity in reasons for home schooling. The majority of these reasons are based on the public school system and the problems parents see therein, and one of the most prominent reasons is that the parents want to develop character and morality in their child – a development that they, apparently, feel will not be sufficiently addressed in a public education setting.

Home schooling families do not home school because they feel that their children are better than public school students. They choose to homeschool because they feel that it is best for their children.

Questions people ask home schoolers

There are also a number of questions most people seem to like asking home schoolers, and these can be quite humorous.

First, “Do you know any boys?” (–directed to me as a girl). There are many wonderful young men and women in the home schooling community! Speech and debate lets you meet some of them and build friendships there. But, again, here Christian home schoolers take a completely unique approach to dating and relationships – one most people don’t understand. I do not understand it completely myself, but I do know that the way home schoolers approach dating and marriage often leads to lasting, firm marriages.

More people than you might guess also ask if we do school in our pajamas or in bed. The answer to these questions – for most home schoolers – is no. Home schoolers must be self disciplined in order to accomplish anything at all. It’s the same idea as working from home: You get up and get dressed as if you were going to the office. It gives you a feeling of preparedness and, to a degree, sharpness.

Conclusion

Home schoolers really are not that different or strange. They are people who take a unique approach to education and just about everything else – but they are just people. There is no reason to regard them as antiquated or uninformed because they have chosen a different path of education.

In summary, look at the end result of home schooling.

“Home schooled students in the US score 15 to 30 percentile points, on average, above their school peers whether the subject is reading, writing, mathematics or science or social studies. The mediocre science scores of public school students were front-page news in January. In May, the news that most US high school seniors had a poor grasp of their nation’s history was also on the front pages.” (Caruba, 2007).

Home schooling keeps standards high. Students must learn core subjects and learn them well. Take it from a home schooled student – a parent can tell when you’ve learned something well! Instead of relying on tests, parents are able to monitor a student’s grasp of a subject as they apply that subject to everyday life.

From a small poll conducted recently (completely unofficial, of course) most home schooling students are comfortable communicating with many different age groups, teaching younger children and learning from adults. They are inquisitive, energetic, committed individuals – even at 13, 14, 15 years of age. For these kids, not attending a regular school does not cause social handicaps. And for many of these students, community service is a really big thing: Many of them truly enjoy helping others without receiving compensation for it, in AWANA, church programs, youth groups, scouts, speech and debate, and other organizations. Anyone who honestly cannot think of a reason to accept home schooling as an alternate education source should stop in on a speech and debate competition. The organization, clarity, and honest communication of these students is amazing to everyone who comes to judge.

Putting socialization and self-esteem at the top of anyone’s list has never been a good idea. Home schooling focuses on learning the core issues solidly first, and lets self-worth and friendships come into their proper places – after the fundamental subjects.

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I am intentionally leaving off my references.  If you are interested in any individual reference, please comment on it, and I’ll get it to you.  I can’t get the formatting to work (yes, I’m a dork) and I don’t feel like putting them all on here because they include my last name.  Yeah.  Better safe than sorry, right?  Sure.  Just let me know! 🙂

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4 Responses to “For your review: Homeschooled essay”

  1. Bravo! This is an excellent analysis of the home-schooled versus the government schooled student and I was particularly pleased to be quoted.

  2. I like it, nice job.

  3. Great Job!
    I love getting the, aren’t you lonely, do you have any friends? question, because I get to look people straight in the face and say sweetly, “would you like me to name all my friend for you?”

  4. Oh, wow! Amazing response to this post. 🙂

    Having one of my sources comment certainly makes me hope I cited everything correctly….


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