I swear, as soon as you mention homeschooling in a national publication, the trolls instantly pop up. Didn’t anyone ever teach these people that stereotypes are a bad idea? I sat down with pen and paper tonight jotting notes on the comment section (because I’m weird like that) and found a grand total of 7 major homeschooling myths. So of course, I’m going to share 😉
Before we dive right in, let me remind you that with any stereotype, there will be a kernel of truth to it in any given population. Yes, you might know a stereotypical homeschooler. Does that mean we’re all that way? Nope! That’s because people are people: widely varied, incredibly complex, and utterly predictable (at times.)
1. Parents are unqualified to teach unless they have a teaching degree
You are correct. I am unqualified to teach … in a classroom. With multiple students. Think about it – a lot of what teachers study for their education degree isn’t geared towards teaching their subject of expertise. It’s about managing a classroom. And trust me, that’s a fine art that takes a lot of work and practice! I can barely manage 3 of my kids out in public, let alone a class of 30. I fully admit, I’m not qualified to teach – in a school.
I am qualified to teach my kids. What, did you think I was going to re-invent the wheel and come up with full curriculums myself? Ha! Of course not – all of us homeschoolers rely in some way on textbooks, courses, classes, or books written by educational professionals. We don’t head out into the howling wilderness armed with a dictionary and an encyclopedia expecting to do everything ourselves – that would be ridiculous!
Sure, I’m not great at every subject. I fully admit that I’m a little shaky in advanced math. I’ll even admit that I’ve forgotten half my times tables. That’s ok, I have other resources that I can pull on for those subjects. My husband, online courses, co-op classes, even community college when they’re old enough. You don’t have to know everything in order to teach effectively. You just need an answer key to the textbook (with step-by-step breakdowns.)
2. Your kids will be unsocialized freaks that can’t function around other people (otherwise known as the “What about socialization?” question)
Sooooo tired of hearing this one. It’s so old it’s falling over and gasping for breath. What do you think kids in public school do all day? Socialize? Play together? Spend time running around the playground playing made-up games and having fun with a little gaggle of kids? Wait, that’s my kids at the playground, whoops!
Kids in public school have less time to socialize than ever before. We visited a local elementary school for one of the Engineer’s evaluations a few years ago, and were struck by 2 things: 1. the kids weren’t allowed to talk, and 2. the Engineer couldn’t function in that environment! Even lunch was virtually silent. The only reason that we knew one of the rooms that we passed was a cafeteria was because of the slight noise of plates clattering. No talking. No chatter. No kid noises.
I find that most people spouting this stereotype have no idea what schools are like for kids these days. They remember the idyllic days of their childhood, spent gloriously in food fights during lunch or playtime in Kindergarten. Not so today’s children – they’re prepping for another test. No time to play!
On the flip side, my kids go all around town and interact with everyone. My 3-year-old shows everyone her carebear and tells them all about it. My 5-year-old will talk your ear off about the oranges we’re buying and the juicing machine he’s planning to make. They have no problem interacting with practically anyone, to the point that I have to remind them people have things to do besides listen to them.
We spend a lot of time working on socially acceptable behavior because the Engineer has difficulty reading body language. We can target this because we homeschool – but it’s not because we’re homeschooling. It’s because of his special needs.
3. All homeschoolers are religious freaks
Admit it, you think this one is true. A tiny bit? You just don’t admit it, do you? Once upon a time you might have been right. Back in the 80s and 90s the majority of homeschooling families homeschooled for religious reasons. Today, it’s simply not the norm.
Sure, you’ll still meet the religious extremists – and depending on the part of the country you live in, you may see more than I do. That’s not the average homeschooler any more. Even those who list religion as a reason to homeschool are rarely the extremists you hear about in the horrible cases of neglect and abuse.
Your average homeschooler today is probably homeschooling because of other reasons. Like us: the Engineer can’t function in a public school environment. Which is another way of saying they can’t meet his educational needs. He’s twice exceptional, and so far outside of the box that it requires a tutor-like regimen to keep him learning and functioning.
We’ve met homeschoolers who chose to do so because they live in a horrible school district with lots of violence and gang activity. We know some who ended up homeschooling because their kid was bored to tears in public school. We’ve met homeschoolers who decided to homeschool because they wanted to travel the world or the country. We know a few homeschoolers who chose it because of health issues – either public schools aren’t safe for their kid, or their kid is chronically ill and can’t handle it.
The one thing they all have in common is their dedication to their children’s education, not that they’re the same religion.
4. Homeschooling will make your kid weird and awkward
No, your kid will be weird and awkward if that’s the way they are. Sadly, many homeschoolers with special needs kids deal with this stereotype a lot. The difference is that yes, the kid may not be “normal” (I hate that word!) but homeschooling helps them avoid the harsh bullying they would encounter in public schools.
In our case, we have the weird no matter what. Either we help our kids accept who they are and love themselves for being different, or we send them into the shark tank to meet a legion of bullies. And if you don’t think bullies aren’t a problem everywhere, then you don’t have kids.
Homeschoolers love hanging out with their friends (many of whom are public schooled, from what I see) and they do the typical kid stuff like play sports, go to summer camps, boy scouts/girl scouts, and so on.
You might learn at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to be isolated.
5. You kid won’t be able to function in the “real world” when they graduate
Wrong. Colleges want homeschool kids because they know how to learn. Once you teach a kid how to learn, they use those skills on everything. And really, you think most kids these days can’t use a smart phone, computer, or Uber? Even if you don’t have a computer at home, there’s this wonderful tool called a library.
It’s filled with books, movies, magazines, and wonder of wonders, they have a computer section! It’s free to use, just sign up for a card (most libraries, anyway.) Plus, they have these awesome people whose job includes helping people learn. Isn’t that the coolest resource ever? (sarcasm over.)
Unless you live off the grid in the middle of nowhere, homeschoolers are pretty mainstream. They have phones, computers, the internet: Google is a pretty powerful learning tool.
6. Homeschool is child abuse and educational neglect
I have to admit, I’ve never heard this one so strongly put. I think some recent news stories about abuse have put homeschooling in a spotlight that it never wanted to be in.
First, blanket statements are difficult to defend. As much as I would love to say this one isn’t true, I can’t. Because in some cases, it is truth. Not all cases. Not most cases. In a very few, horrible, tragic cases, this is true.
I dislike blanket statements as a general rule, so I’ll simply say that it’s possible. Just like it’s possible for public school employees to abuse children. It’s rare, but it happens. Just know that homeschoolers are not abusers, but some abusers are homeschoolers. There’s a huge difference between the two.
Homeschooling is not responsible for abuse or educational neglect – the parents of the victim are. Abuse and neglect are a social ill, not a homeschooling symptom.
7. Your child will grow up to be functionally illiterate
Another blanket statement that doesn’t hold water. Sure, some homeschoolers will grow up not knowing the things mainstream society thinks are important. Some may even be neglected (see # 6.) In some cases, homeschoolers of special needs children cheer every hard-won mile and don’t worry about the massive discrepancies between their child’s accomplishments and the grade-level standards. Children aren’t all the same. They don’t learn the same, they’re not all at the same level, and they all have different needs.
Homeschooling offers an opportunity to tailor education to fit your child’s needs. And your child may have wildly varied needs than other kids – that’s ok. You work with them, encourage them, and teach them at their level.
Most homeschoolers that I know test at grade level or above. Those who fall below level generally have a reason – a disability, a stint in public schools with knowledge gaps, or the teaching method isn’t clicking. Unlike public schools, homeschoolers have the opportunity to pause subjects until the student truly understands the problem area.
I think it’s important to point out in my newly-minted role of homeschool defender: homeschool isn’t superior to any other type of schooling. It can be done well, it can be done mediocrely, and it can be done quite poorly. It’s not an option for everyone, and it’s not a choice that everyone would want to take. There’s a certain freedom in handing your kids over to become someone else’s problem: in our case, we knew that would be detrimental to our kids because of their needs.
That doesn’t mean the public school system is bad or that private schools should be eliminated. Not at all – there’s a strong need for a great public school system, just as there’s a strong need for a variety of options. Choice is good. Because with more choice, you can find the right option that fits your family’s needs.
For us, that turned out to be homeschooling. Sadly, homeschooling is the option of last choice for many families who feel like they have no other place to go. They feel that they have no choice but to homeschool. And that is just as sad as having no choice but the public school.