“I Could Never Homeschool.”

17 06 2007


“I could never homeschool.”

“My son doesn’t learn that way — he needs structure.”

“My daughter is not motivated.”

“How do you do it? We never could.”

These are not comments from uninvolved or uncaring or unthinking parents. These are comments I hear all the time from wonderful parents who are absolutely right.


Absolutely right.

Given the way that they have arranged their lives and their thinking about learning and the way they have been raised and have raised their children — to have most learning decisions made by someone else — they are correct.

The almost universal response from parents when they hear that we are homeschoolers is to act as if I have suggested they should homeschool. Or that somehow our homeschooling is itself a suggestion that they should convert. I haven’t and it is not. This very normal response is a defense of their choice, not in any way meant to denigrate my choice (these are nice parents I am talking about — not a rude bone in their bodies). And part of that defense is to say: “I never could.”

And, before I realized they were right, that got either a smile from me or, if that wasn’t enough, “Well, it’s not for everyone . . . “

And sometimes the conversations would go on a bit longer. Questions about testing and SATs and college and standards — etc. — those come pouring out.

If you are a homeschooler, you have had these conversations. And I have answers for all those individual issues. It’s not as if homeschoolers haven’t thought about it or don’t know what to do. If you have a question about homeschooling, there’s an answer.

But, I just realized, none of that matters. That’s what I finally got. One of those “aha” moments. None of the information that homeschoolers share with non-homeschoolers really matters.

Because they are absolutely right. They are not capable of homeschooling. It would be cruel to ask them to. (Not that anyone was asking them to . . .)

It’s like the jury I read about. They were deliberating and got to the point where 98% of the information they had examined pointed toward acquittal. A preponderance of evidence. Much more than a reasonable doubt standard would require.

But they could not decide on their own. So they prayed.

Whether for divine intervention or a granting of strength and clear thinking, they prayed.

It seems they were incapable of making a big decision on their own. They did not trust their own judgement enough to come to a conclusion.

And how much can we blame them? If they are religious enough to consider prayer in the jury room, they have likely been taught since early childhood that they are not capable. That decisions are beyond them. That their thinking is easily misled. That, when it comes right down to it, they should rely on a higher authority.

So picture yourself and your children having attended institutional school for years. Since you were very young. You have always been told not to trust your own judgement, to study what is next in the curriculum whether it interests you or not, to view the world as a set of tasks and tests set out by someone else. You are compelled to participate in this system by your family and the law.

Try to imagine what homeschooling, especially unschooling, must look like from that point of view. It must be quite frightening. Chaos!

It is a completely different way of living. Of learning about the world and your role in it. Of thinking about yourself. Full of responsibility, self-motivation and judgements you are not equipped to make.

While this feels like freedom and self-determination to those of us on this side of the mirror, it is organically so different from the schooled side, I get it now. It is literally impossible to imagine having this much control over what goes into your own head or your children’s heads if you have never had it.

You have not been shown that the world keeps spinning even if Johnnie doesn’t want to read a history text and Susie can’t stand algebra. You have not seen a child stick with something he is interested in — only because he is personally drawn to it, not because it is on the next test. Not as the everyday way of life homeschoolers see.

You have been taught, carefully taught, that that is not a reasonable expectation. That Johnnie will be a thief and Susie will be a pole dancer if they don’t master their times tables and on the school’s schedule. That nothing outside the standardized set of information is as valuable and the information within the standards is of incalculable worth.

And that you are not, and most certainly your children are not, capable of making decisions about content or method of learning. That your own judgement about what you want your children to learn and your children’s judgement about what they really want to learn cannot be trusted.

So, of course, you can’t homeschool. You are absolutely right. I’ll try to remember to just stick with, “Well, it’s not for everyone. . .”



27 responses

17 06 2007

Holy smoking cow!

I saw your name on ex-christian.net ““I Could Never Homeschool.” « Cocking A Snook!” and got a little irritated by the implication of the title. I thought “well here goes another brainless moron talking about things they don’t know about” and followed the link to see what other blather you were going to go on about.

Imagine my surprise!

My wife and I home school as well; well to be honest, we participate in a digital academy known as TRECA so have it a bit easier than pure home schoolers because . The very first question we always get is “Aren’t you worried about their social skills?”. This is quickly followed by the story of the socially backwards person that was home schooled whom everyone seems to know.

I agree with everything you have written here and I thank you for consolidating this nebulous thought that I’ve had so that I can now point at it and explain to someone else “Here, this is what I mean”.

Thank you.

17 06 2007

Oops, wrong reference, saw your name on Bad Astronomy Blog, not exchristian. Sorry for the confusion.

17 06 2007

Nance, this is BRILLIANT!
(I can’t believe I didn’t write it — and I wish I had, and glad you did!)
What a plain explanation of what I keep trying to articulate about Church and School being not just entangled rather than separate, but actually the SAME THING.

17 06 2007
Nance Confer

Thank you, mtdew, for the encouraging words. I hope you are quicker on your feet than I usually am and actually do get a chance to use this thought. Nebulous is just the right word. Until I saw that article about the jury. . .
And I hope that the snark that I sense when I reread what I wrote doesn’t come through. I don’t mean this in a snarky way. Or any sort of negative way. It’s just that I suddenly realized I have been talking to people who have a completely foreign frame of reference. No wonder they don’t really seem to get what I mean.
Did you see the excellent comment at Daryl Cobranchi’s blog the other day — scroll down to o.h.’s comment and you will never again have to explain “socialization.” This was another “aha” moment for me.
In my 50th year, maybe it’s about time I started having more of them! 🙂
And thank you too, JJ, for the encouragement. Maybe all the connections you have been writing about lately just took a while to stew together and connect up in my brain. Thanks! 🙂

17 06 2007

Doc does a great job with another angle of this at her place, with “Education Gaps.”
Regular readers will know how bristly she can be to fundamentalist Stepford Wife types, yet here she writes from the heart (and head, love it!) about how conservative Christian kids who’ve homeshcooled, can THINK and do independent research to back up their arguments (she doesn’t much like what they choose to think or argue about — 🙂 — but as a science professor she knows they are still better off than the schooled ones, just going throught the motions for the grades. She says that at least there is hope for them, enough that they might be classified as, dare I say it, educated.

p.s. Doc promises a boffo Country Fair Carnival tomorrow touching on all this and much more, and it’s the first carnival I ever made a personal submission to, just because it’s Doc — so don’t miss it, up Monday morning! 🙂

17 06 2007

What a great post! I’m so glad I surfed over here from Pharyngula.

My atheist family unschools in rural Kansas. Yeah, there’s no local co-op for that. Thank the internet for blogs like yours.

You have a new reader.

17 06 2007

HI mommyrex,
if we may call you mommyrex? 😉

Kansas, ack! Well if you have the sense of humor it sounds like you do, try searching this blog for Kansas just for sport. Oh wait, I can do that for you, as a little plate of welcome goodies. . .

Toto, we’re still in Kansas with Bible and computer”

“Rooty-toot-toot for Smoot!”

“Firing Stephen Foster, Promoting Uncle Ben” — it’s mostly about my state and thoughts that connect to anybody’s state of mind, but Kansas IS mentioned, see if you can find it! That goes for this one too

And there’s one about Ar-kansas that came up, which you might consider fudging but I like it anyway. And one that I can’t see Kansas or even Arkansas in but it’s another gem from Nance, maybe longer even than the above and equally a bullseye, so mine is not to question why it popped up too:

Glad you found Snook and hope to see you often. 🙂

17 06 2007
Nance Confer

My atheist family unschools in rural Kansas. Yeah, there’s no local co-op for that.
LMAO!! I’ll bet there isn’t!

Welcome! 🙂


17 06 2007
Not June Cleaver

I love this post, Nance, and the one you linked to at Doc’s, JJ. Thanks for posting. I’m still recovering from homeschool camp, but I hope I can, at the very least, muster the effort to link to this post if not blog about it.

18 06 2007

JJ and Nance, thanks for the welcome (and goodies!).

People can’t resist the humor that is Kansas. I grew up in Maryland, and no one ever had funny things to say about Maryland. From the Old Line State … to the Punchline State. Ah, well, at least most people smile when they say “Kansas,” and smiles are good for everyone. 🙂

Kansans and coastal dwellers alike wonder how I can live out here. I get a lot of mileage out of that phrase, “It’s not for everyone…”

-mommyrex (I’ll also answer to ‘rex’ or ‘meg’)

18 06 2007
Tuur Demeester

good article. I work at a sudbury school and we get the exact same comments all the time.



18 06 2007

mtdew said:
“This is quickly followed by the story of the socially backwards person that was home schooled whom everyone seems to know.”

That’s so true! From the opening of the movie “Mean Girls” to the unfortunate spelling bee champ on YouTube last week. (see “Had Enough Defending Homeschooling?”)

The way you put it here makes me think of the fruitcake. You know, the single proverbial fruitcake, the one everybody passes back and forth during the holidays because it’s the social thing to do, but nobody ever unwraps and eats?
Of course homeschooler and fruitcake isn’t a link we need or want to encourage but —

18 06 2007

Nance, on the subject of being taught prayer as a thinking aid, how does this story fit, do you think?
Feel free to seek spiritual guidance before deciding . . .

In the Classroom, a New Focus on Quieting the Mind


“Tyran Williams defined mindfulness as ‘not hitting someone in the mouth.’ . . . prompting one teacher to grumble that it was “Cloud Nine groovy-hippie-liberals bringing ‘enlightenment’ to inner city schools” . . .

And ponder this too — why is it always STANFORD??

18 06 2007
Nance Confer

Much to ponder, JJ. As I run all over town today.

It’s going to be one of those days. 🙂 Art school then walking then bank and errands then doctor for DS — his foot might not be broken??? It’s an adventure.

But such nice feedback! What a good way to start the day. Thanks everybody. I’ll have to catch up with everyone later and make a visit to the carnival too! 🙂


18 06 2007

And here’s something off the wall. It’s not just their nurture but maybe their nature, written in their genes that they can never homeschool! —

Remember this NYT story from the NHEN forums two summers ago?:
“It is not that opinions on specific issues are written into a person’s DNA. Rather, genes prime people to respond cautiously or openly to the mores of a social group.

Only recently have researchers begun to examine how these
predispositions, in combination with childhood and later life
experiences, shape political behavior.”

Aside from Rolfe’s — Wouldn’t you think an Harvard-educated evolutionary biologist, for example, self-primed to make “important” contributions to science education for kids and curious about how homeschooling is different and why, would conceive of questions at that level, rather than engaging homeschoolers in their supposed inquiries only to put the same old questions, along the lines of “do you abuse your kids or do we have to abuse them for you?”

Back to the NYT story (by Benedict Carey, June 21 2005, if you can’t access through the link but want to cite) — the story’s end suggests that our education ideas and beliefs will remain diverse, may in fact widen:
“The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less!”

18 06 2007

And here’s something off the wall. It’s not just their nurture but maybe their nature,

I really find a genetic predisposition to be anti-homeschool a rather far fetched idea. I think their beliefs are really just based on what kind of environment they grew up in. My cousin was initially very anti-homeschool when the subject first came up with my children. He began a diligent campaign to learn all he could to be able to competently argue against us and in the process became a firm supporter of it.

18 06 2007

Sorry, that first line should have come out in quote form…

18 06 2007
These Go To Eleven » I Could Never Homeschool

[…] posted on “Cocking a Snook” yesterday about her “aha” moment regarding people who say “I could never […]

18 06 2007
Nance Confer

I don’t think it’s about hsing specifically, mtdew. When confronted with an unknown do you respond with fear or not. Do you conform or not. Out of fear or after consideration. Are you comfortable with change or not. With chaos? Etc. Whether that can all be trained into you or not — that’s what I think the article was about.

Given the same input, why do some people, like Not Jane at These Go to Eleven, go one way and most people go the other?


18 06 2007

I was wondering the same thing Nance. Perhaps it is because I wanted something different for my kids and I just couldn’t figure out how to get it through the “accepted” channels?? Maybe I’m the exception, because I certainly get the same sort of responses that you get from people. The funny thing is that the further I get from my old way of thinking, the harder it is to understand how I ever had it!! 😉

18 06 2007

Thanks Nance, I missed the obvious. I thought what I was reading seemed a bit off 😛

19 06 2007

Through the blog grapevine comes yet another perspective. 🙂

19 06 2007

I don’t know if Stephanie at Throwing Marshmallows will see my comment because I got this strange error message when I posted there.

But I think she and Mary had good points, they were just in addition to or on top of what I was trying to say.

Here’s what I tried to post there — fwiw. 🙂
Stephanie: Often when I bring up these points, people start to nod their head. Sometimes, they look disbelievingly at me. But it usually makes them think. And I have to think that some of them might, like Mary, get it. (and I have actually known some folks who do)
Right, right. Terrific. I hope more than a few follow up with research and are able to change their thinking, as you and Mary have done.

My thought was not to discourage anyone from encouraging that change or at least pointing the way or to block the way for others to homeschool. Certainly not.

My thought was to stop being disappointed or baffled, though, when so many of the people I talk to literally have no way of understanding what I am talking about. They have been taught one version of reality and homeschooling, especially unschooling, is just directly in conflict with their reality.

So I’m not going to be surprised when they do “look disbelievingly” at me and move on. 🙂


19 06 2007
Not June Cleaver

Nance, when I pulled that particular quote (as an afterthought, for those of you who read my post before I edited it to add my “disagreement” point), I was worried that it might look bad out of context.

I love what you just said about stopping being disappointed or baffled. That really is the key. Some people not only will never get it, they don’t want to. I’d hate for the dialog to stop though. The dialog is what gets people like me to change.

20 06 2007

Just a little thing I wrote, awhile back.

To Friends and Family, and random people we meet in Walmart, or in restaurants, or the grocery store!

We have home schooled our kids since our oldest son was 6 years old, he is 15 now. I know you are concerned about our children. I also know that people, even people we do not even know, have concerns about the whole home schooling issue, and I understand that. It seems like a new phenomenon but it really isn’t. It was the method used many years before public schools became the norm. It just seems like a new strange idea and because the public/private school is so ingrained in our recent memories people mistrust the whole idea.

People have asked; Are people who home school some kind of strange, weird Jesus freak nut cases trying to make little fundamentalist warriors out of our kids? Are we just so anti-government that we have withdrawn from society? Are we shielding our kids from the real world? Will our kids miss out on socializing with other kids? Will our kids be warped socially, and not able to deal with real life? Are we afraid of new ideas they may get from public school kids? Do we fear the real world? Do we keep them locked up in the house all day? Do they get any exercise? Will they become the next Tami Fay and Jim Baker, or go the other way and be serial killers? Will they hate us later?

The stereotypes abound and we have heard them all. If I were to ask you how you could wake your kids up at 6:00am to ship them off on a bus to spend 8 hours with a bunch of snotty nosed little drug dealing heathens having sex at ten, to be taught a liberal social agenda by sexually perverted teachers around child molesting custodial workers, would that offend you? It should, if you are a loving concerned, involved parent, because it is a blatantly false stereotype. It should bother you, knowing that your school is a great school academically and in all other measurements, has great teachers who care and that it meets the goals which are important to you as a parent. People don’t seem to have a problem however, asking me the most asinine questions like; am I not afraid that my kids will be warped socially and unable to cope with real life or deal with other people, or are you guys afraid of outside ideas and aren’t we concerned about outside activities or athletics. As concerned parents it should go without saying, that we are concerned with all areas of development of our children. You see, both of those statements above are generalizations and untrue stereotypes aren’t they? Neither of the statements are true at all and I am sure that your kid’s public school is a great school academically, socially, and meets all your child’s needs physically and in the arts and athletically and is a safe place and a great learning environment. However, people seem to feel perfectly free to tell us what they think of our home schooling, or to make judgments about it, or apply all the hateful stereotypes, without knowing all the details, but would take great offense if I did the same about their choices, or actually made the statements above as if it were the truth, and yet somehow I am not supposed to be offended by it. All I ask is for a little respect on both sides. That is not too much too ask is it?

I fully understand that the stereotypes about home schoolers is out there. I am also not blind to the fact that there are home schooling families who do follow a strict religious agenda with their kids and in fact try really hard to shield them from real world influences. However this is not my wife and I. I also am pretty sure that the school your child attends does not fall into the stereotype some outsiders have applied to them, otherwise you wouldn’t have your kids in that type school, right?

I grew up in a small crossroad country town, and went to a school with only 75 in my graduating class, but was this the only thing which prepared me for life in the real world? Of course not. It didn’t hurt, but it was not the biggest single factor. I really got mostly prepared for life while in college, and in the workforce itself, and to be honest I overcame some of the attitudes and character flaws I had encountered in junior high and high school years, (and this was from some of my teachers), to go on to be the successful, intelligent, good looking man that I am today, oh and humble too I might add. There were a lot of good things about my high school experience, some very good teachers and I still have quite a few good memories and good friends from those days, whom I see from time to time still today, so don’t get me wrong my high school experience was overall a positive one. However, it was really my days in college and in the workforce where I really learned how to deal with other people effectively and how to be confident in my own abilities. Not much in my high school days made me a supremely confident person ready to take on the real world. Maybe for some this was all they needed, but not for me. So our decision to home school had nothing to do my previous experiences, or my wife’s or anyone else’s experience with public school. It was just something we thought about, looked into, and our situation was such that we could do it and wanted to do it, and so we tried it for a while and found that we really liked it. That is pretty much it.

I could go over each and every thing we like about home schooling, (like one on one instruction, individual attention in problem areas, curriculum selection, more quality family time with our kids, more influence in our kids lives, free time to take days off or travel when we want to without having to work around the schools schedule, etc, etc), and why we still think it is the right thing for us, but some of you might take it as a condemnation of what you do, and why you do it and that is not the point of this letter. My wife and I make absolutely no judgments about how you choose to educate your children. That is fully your business, and your business alone. There truly are some great public schools out there and I have no doubt that your child is in a good one.

If my children do turn out to be some kind of warped human beings incapable of dealing with life in the real world, or excelling in the academic world, then my wife and I will have nobody else to blame but ourselves. However, most of my family and friends know that I am not a religious fanatic, or anti-government. Some of them have also come to see that our kids do have lots of social interaction, they have lots of friends, attend social activities and events, dances, pool parties, going over to stay with other kids at their homes and we have had as many as 8 kids stay at our house for the night, and those who know us realize that I do not shield them from life in the real world either, even alcohol or sex, (OK, not that they are allowed to engage in either activity yet, but we do talk about it, the good and bad). Heck our kids do more now than I ever did at their age. All I did at this age was go to school, and then come home to drive a tractor on the farm. If our goal was to shield our kids from all external influences, we wouldn’t even bring them to our family reunions.

As parents, it is our goal to produce intelligent children that become adults who have confidence in their own abilities, including the ability to think for themselves, make decisions based on facts rather than just an ideology or superstition, have compassion for others and not be narrow minded, but open to other ideas, and are able to have fun in moderation, in other words; well rounded human beings, just as I am sure that this is the goal for your children. This cannot be done if we shield them from outside influences or real world experiences, and we don’t. There are just different methods to get to this goal, and ours is through home schooling. Also we make no accusations that sending your kids to public school will somehow make them mind numbed robots that can’t think for themselves and are destined to wind up doing drugs and kill themselves as a teenager. It is simply not true.

Generalizations and stereotypes like those above simply have no place in this discussion on either side of this issue. Home schooling works for us, is something we are happy to do, is best for our family, keeps our family close knit, and we have no regrets and I trust that the method you choose to educate your children works just as well for you, and you don’t need anyone questioning your motives about it.

If you have read this whole document and feel like this was an attack on public schools or upon you and your decisions, then you missed the whole point and read it all wrong. Am I mad, sure, I am mad as hell at the stereotypes, on both sides and I am mad that people feel that they have the freedom to interject themselves into our personal decisions, without knowing the first thing about it.

If you don’t think people do this, then just try home schooling your kids. Home schooling is not a social disorder folks!

The truth is that the biggest factor in how any of our children will turn out is the involvement of parents in their lives and the direction, instruction and values given to them by their parents first, even more than what school they attend.

In the end there is no doubt that the proof will be in the character of our Children, and all of the feedback my wife and I have gotten so far has proven us right.

20 06 2007

If I were to ask you how you could wake your kids up at 6:00am to ship them off on a bus to spend 8 hours with a bunch of snotty nosed little drug dealing heathens having sex at ten, to be taught a liberal social agenda by sexually perverted teachers around child molesting custodial workers, would that offend you?

My favorite part. 🙂

Thanks for sharing!


21 06 2007

Wrote this about two months ago.
Dealing with family, (yet again) concerned, (yeah right), about our kids, when I ran across this blog. Needed to get it off my chest again.

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