Dear Secretary King,
Earlier this week, you stated you were concerned many homeschoolers were not getting the socialization and educational opportunities as their peers.
You must be unfamiliar with contemporary homeschooling. Not only are many homeschool families excelling in academics but are also on the cutting edge of 21st-century education. In fact, the education world could learn a lot if they spent some time studying what contemporary homeschoolers are creating. In many cases, it is educational entrepreneurship at its finest! Regarding socialization, I find the opportunities for homeschoolers as vastly superior to those in conventional classrooms.
Let me break down and address your reported concerns:
- You worry that, in a lot of cases, students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of the breadth of instruction experience they would get in school.
We are able to provide our kids with truly customized, high-quality educations. We don’t use a one-size-fits-all curriculum, and we aren’t bogged down by hierarchies and bureaucracies to make change. We don’t teach to the middle or to a test. I never planned to homeschool but had to pull my son from public school because he was so far ahead of his peers. He was bored, and our local public school in an upper-middle-class area was not able to provide adequate rigor or challenge.
There is a large and impressive ecosystem in place for homeschoolers to take academic and enrichment classes. Some classes my kids , currently ages 6-10 years old, have taken with their homeschool friends over the past several years include physics, chemistry, public speaking, NASA engineering, art, Spanish, aviation, Meet the Great Composers, chess, engineering structures, Lego Writing Club, cooking, botany and violin. In my view, our kids are exposed to so much more and in a much more enjoyable way than their conventionally-schooled counterparts.
- They’re also not getting the opportunity to build relationships with peers unless their parents are very intentional about it.
I love the way my kids are socialized with our homeschool friends. They are not confined to the same desks, playground and cafeteria day-after-day. Instead, they are often out in nature enjoying the freedom and purity of those landscapes together. Other times they are interacting in places as diverse as museums, nature centers, restaurants, galleries, workshops, performing arts theaters, farms, planetariums, and more. This stimulates tremendous creative interaction amongst the homeschoolers.
They are more actively engaged in conversation, thought, movement and play with friends. Their friendships are strengthened as they learn and play together in a wide variety of interactive environments. This is in stark contrast to the humdrum of being in the same classroom with the same teacher in the same desk each day.
Additionally, homeschooled kids build relationships with peers of a wide age range. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, wrote in The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined:
“There is nothing natural about segregating kids by age. That isn’t how families work; it isn’t what the world looks like; and it runs counter to the way that kids have learned and socialized for most of human history…..As anyone who’s ever spent time around children can tell you, both younger and older kids benefit when different ages mix. The older ones take responsibility for the younger ones. The younger ones look up to and emulate the older ones. Everyone seems to act more mature. Both younger and older rise to the occasion. Take away the mix of ages and everybody loses something. “–From The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan
- Students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of “rapid instructional experience” they would get in school.
I don’t know exactly what you mean by this. One of my friends, who is a former science teacher, replied to your comment, “That just means they go so fast and shallow that many kids don’t get it, and the others don’t care about it.” The typical homeschooler takes a different approach. We go deep into subjects. The lifestyle of learning in the homeschool community is a beautiful thing. It goes beyond our academics and can be found in the vacations we take, types of birthday parties we have, weekend activities and more. Two of the most important skills of a 21st-century education are curiosity and a love of learning. If you spend time in the homeschool community, you will see children who are frequently out in the world joyfully learning in a variety of environments from people who are passionate about their field and craft.
Also, a large chunk of homeschool families have at least one parent who is currently or was a teacher. This really should raise some eyebrows as to what is going on in public education when so many who have taught in the classroom have decided they can do better by taking them out of the system. A veteran public school teacher with decades of experience is the person who really encouraged me to pull my son from public school and homeschool him.
- They’re often not getting those relationships with teachers and mentors other than their parents. You worry whether home school students are getting the range of opportunities we hope for all kids.
Homeschoolers are able to get their academic work done in about half the time of their conventionally-schooled peers. This gives them far more time to be out in the world engaged in their passions with mentors. If they love birding then they can volunteer at the Audubon Society and learn from the naturalists there. If they are passionate about fossils then they can volunteer with a paleontologist. My homeschooled cousin is the youngest docent at our local aquarium. At just 10 years-old, she leads talks throughout the aquarium for visitors.
Additionally, there is a huge infrastructure of classes for homeschoolers. Homeschool parents are educational facilitators for their kids and often sign their kids up for classes. They have the flexibility to find the best teachers, tutors, and mentors they can. They aren’t stuck with whatever teacher they end up with at conventional school. True educational customization!
You did concede there are some families doing it well and you knew of some homeschoolers in college who had “very tremendous academic success.” I am thankful for our freedom in homeschooling and agree with you that “it’s up to families if they want to take a homeschool approach.” Homeschoolers, in my view, are by far the most entrepreneurial segment of the U.S. education system, and homeschooling is superior to any public or private school when done well. Nothing beats the level of customization homeschooling parents can offer their children with all that is available to us today.
The Contemporary Homeschooler
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