Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why homeschooling?

One night, when my husband (and then, just a nice young man I have seen only three or four times) brought me home after taking me out to a cup of coffee, we were sitting in his car and talking. I don't remember all of our conversation, but it was an interesting and long one - we talked about many different issues, from Torah and science to sustainability and simple living.

At one point, he looked uncomfortable and said uncertainly:
"OK... now I'm going to say something that will sound very freaky."
I waited.
"I think children are better off when they are educated at home."
I blinked. I couldn't believe that someone I randomly met - a stranger, basically - is voicing something I often thought, but didn't dare to say.

Homeschooling families are rare like unicorns in Israel. Homeschooling isn't illegal, but it is strongly discouraged by both law and society. The handful of families that homeschool are typically English-speaking, and originally from places where homeschooling is common. I haven't studied all the specifics of local homeschooling laws, however I do know that each family which plans to homeschool is required to send an individual request, with explanations of why they think public education isn't suitable for their child, what exactly they intend to teach their child in the upcoming school year, and who will be teaching.

Both my husband and I have been public-schooled, and other options were never considered when we were growing up. I was born in USSR, where homeschooling was actually illegal whenever there was a possibility to attend school. I was educated in secular school. My husband went to religious school and then yeshiva. Despite our different educational backgrounds, we both reached the same conclusion: children are probably better off educated at home. There are several reasons why we think so.

School - even a very good school - cannot possibly provide the individual approach which makes children thrive and succeed in their learning. A large group of children (anywhere between 25 and 40) is crammed into a crowded classroom and required to perform the exact same task, at the exact same time. If a child is a quick learner, he will soon be bored. If a child lags behind a bit, he will feel pressured. If a child fails to perform a task when everyone else completed it successfully, he feels like a failure.

Some very gifted children are naturally slow thinkers who require plenty of individual attention they cannot possibly receive at school. My experience in private tutoring often showed amazing examples of how a child can grasp a subject in an hour, when learning is done in a quiet room and in a non-pressuring manner - after the very same subject couldn't be learned for weeks spent in classroom. Of course there are also children who will successfully learn in a classroom - but they, too, will normally learn more thoroughly and efficiently when they are taught one-on-one and encouraged to think on their own.

School, by its very nature, wastes a lot of time. During my school years, less than half of the time we spent in school was actually dedicated to learning. I don't think it will be an exaggeration to say that at least half of each lesson was spent just trying to keep all the pupils quiet and get their attention ("Stop pulling at her hair! Put that inside your bag! Go out and don't come back without a note from the principal!"). Add to that changing classrooms or waiting for the teacher to arrive, individual questions which are not necessary for all pupils to hear, and different administrative announcements that often disrupt the structure of a lesson ("I just wanted to remind everyone that those who want to participate in the school trip next week must get their parents' permission in written form"), and you will see that institutionalized education isn't a terribly efficient model.

The school I graduated from, the one I attended during six years, prided itself on having "a prolonged school day". Yet what was it good for? Simply making it convenient for parents to work longer hours, knowing their child is "safely" (more on that later) shepherded someplace else. I would come home exhausted, with my head buzzing from noise. The same material could have been easily learned at home, more quickly and efficiently, freeing more hours in a day for the child to pursue individual hobbies, read, engage in creative activities, and simply play outside.

As for the actual "safety" of school environment, I could talk about this alone for hours. You name it, we had it: alcohol, drugs, immodesty, promiscuity...not to mention that history, geography, and social studies curriculum was composed by biased ministers who wanted nothing but to push their political agenda down students' throats, and parents had little control over it. One might think that in Israel, with the abundance of religious schools we have here, parents can ensure the safety of their child by opting for such a school. Not quite. It's true that problems such as drugs and promiscuity are less common in religious schools, and parents can choose a school with likeminded administration - but eventually, the child is still sent away for many hours, which he spends without the supervision of his parents.

Another big problem with schools is that they are so hooked up on curriculum, exam papers, and diplomas, that they don't help to build a mindset of creative learning. We believe learning is done from the first day of a child's life, spontaneously and naturally. How come young children, who are thirsty for knowledge and will ask any number of questions about any subject if you only let them, turn into bored teenagers who sigh when they open their schoolbooks, and settle in front of the television for the entire afternoon and evening? An observation from my tutoring experience: I encountered a great number of children who simply have no motivation for learning at all, or try to memorize facts instead of learning. It is not natural. It is the unfortunate consequence of spending too many years in a system which only cares about cramming facts into their heads. In many cases I had to throw curriculum aside and simply work on a child's desire to learn. I did it by praising the children, asking for their opinions about what we are learning, and adding interesting facts to "spice up" the subject.

I now remember an especially dear student of mine, who fell completely behind in her schooling. How should I put it? The train has long gone by, and she was left behind at a forlorn station. She was so used to being a failure that she was afraid to ask a question, and passed through lessons by trying to make herself invisible. The poor child's eyes grew enormous the first time I encouraged her for doing something successfully. And worse of all, she was bored. Here in Israel we study lots of modern Jewish history, and most of it is about European Jewry, taught with a false assumption that most students are from European background - which they are not. My student's parents' came from Ethiopia, and she had no clue about European history or geography. Half of her class was in the same situation. Yet no one ever bothered to make history lessons more interesting for them.

Since we don't have children yet, some time will pass before the matter of schooling becomes a pressing one for us. However, when I tried to discuss it with a good friend of mine, she was horrified at first, and then said: "How can you teach? You don't even have a teacher's diploma!" - see, we're all so stuck on diplomas that we believe a piece of paper makes someone more qualified to teach a child than his own mother, who knows and loves him from before he was born, who studies his strengths, talents and weaknesses every day of his life. And of course there are all the objections such as, "you will over-protect them"; "they will feel isolated"; "they won't develop social skills"; "you don't have enough knowledge about everything they need to learn" - if you ever read blogs of homeschooling moms, I think you'll know what I'm talking about.

Since this post is getting monstrously long, I will touch just one last point. Several readers were curious about what we intend to do in order to make sure our children receive proper knowledge on subjects we don't know enough about. For example, Jewish education and religious studies (especially for boys). Well, I think there are many solutions beside formal schooling. Two families can make an exchange: if a fellow mom knows mathematics well, she can tutor my children in maths, and in exchange I can help her children with English. For deeper religious studies, boys may join a local study group with a rabbi (there are many of those where we live), and when they are older they may choose to go to a yeshiva.

Whatever choice a family makes, it's important to make sure that first, there is a choice; and second, that the choice is fully informed. Who knows how many families would have chosen to homeschool, and how many children would have benefited from it, if the opposition to home education hadn't been so strong, and if parents weren't made to feel inadequate to teach their own children just because they don't have a piece of paper that says they are qualified to do that.


Anna said...

I was homeschooled. The whole "social skills" argument is ridiculous. In NO other area of life is a group of people of the same age put in the same room for 8 hours a day. In the real world (ta da) people must socialize with others of all different age groups and all different walks of life, just like homeschoolers learn to do with their siblings, their neighbors, people at grocery stores, etc.
I don't think public school is evil, but I do believe homeschooling gives children better opportunities for education, for learning in the "real world", and keeps them from worldly influences at a time when they are very young and impressionable.
Don't let other people's opinions keep you from making this wonderful choice.

Gothelittle Rose said...

You are absolutely right in so many ways.

Interestingly, the predominant question has changed in my lifetime from socialization to qualification. Personally, I would rather see people question the former than the latter.

It's silly to think that someone who learns how to behave from adults and learns how to treat other people from adults is somehow worse socialized than someone whose primary teachers know nothing more on the subject than they do. Schoolchildren, in effect, create their own socialization through experimentation by immature minds. We don't lock a bunch of kids together and expect them to derive mathematics up through algebra by highschool, so why do we expect them to develop socially the same way?

But to me, the greater problem is the growing belief that it takes a government sanction of some sort to make anything permittable. No, I don't need a teacher's certificate to homeschool. I shouldn't need to, and neither should you. These little pieces of paper are useful in assuring employers that you've been trained uniformly in a certain skill, but they do not in themselves confer the skill upon you, and lack of the paper does not mean lack of skill.

I find the growing reliance on government approval troubling, especially when (topic change) it contributes to people seeking to legalize immoral behavior so that they can justify it to themselves by pointing to government approval.

Bailey said...

Bravo! Bravo!

And I suppose proper "socialization" means being able to look past a friendly adult saying "Hi" and wear a bored, "Who are you, lady?" :)

Kacie said...

You've outlined excellent reasons why homeschooling is a great idea for many children.

My husband and I were also educated in the public school system, but in the United States.

Here, teachers are underpaid and overworked. And, only a rare few are actually talented, dedicated teachers. Most of them are pretty lousy.

Based on what I know about you from your blog, you're absolutely qualified to teach children! I hope that you're able to find local homeschooling groups for support.

Anonymous said...

I had thought about homeschooling my daughter when my husband was in the military. When he got out we decided we would let her go to a public school (she will start preschool in Sept) but gosh Anna, your post reminded me of the reasons I wanted to homeschool in the first place and now Im reconsidering!

Anonymous said...

Good luck in your journey!! Goodness knows the Israeli school system isn't ideal. Although you will be facing some challenges along the way....I doubt that there'll be another religious homeschooling mom in your area with whom to share the teaching, and the study groups you speak of are probably only an hour or two after school, leaving you with much material to cover if you want your future boys to have the option of ever attending a quality yeshiva.
One thing I have always wondered: how do large homeschooling families do it? The old one room school never had kids under 6 attending, let alone babies and toddlers. How do they manage to teach the older kids challenging academic material with little ones hanging around, crying for attention? I know there are a few perfect families out there with perfectly quiet kids, but I wish I knew how a regular family with 5-10 kids homeschools, especially if there's a special needs or ADHD kid among them.

Michelle Potter said...

I found one of the comments on the previous post odd, suggesting that homeschooling was especially ill-suited for a Jewish family. I'd like to know what public school the patriarchs attended. How about David or Solomon? For that matter, how much of Proverbs is the advice of a father to his child? (Not a public school teacher to his students.)

Children have been very well educated at home for thousands of years, but suddenly we need the government to do it for us. Nonsense.

EllaJac said...

Wonderful post.

What I want to know, is what was your response to your future husband and what was his reaction to it? :)

Michelle Potter said...

Anonymous, you ask how a large family homeschools when there are smaller children around who need attention?

At times it can be a challenge, but probably not as much of one as you think. First you have to remember that homeschooling does not take 7 hours a day like public schooling; not only is homeschooling more efficient, but we don't generally count lunch and playtime as part of the school day as public schools do. On top of that, some of the children's work will be independent and won't require constant parental input or supervision. Finally, don't forget that younger children typically take naps (mine nap 2-3 hours a day), or can be distracted with their own age-appropriate activities.

If a homeschooling mother is clever, it is really not that hard to instruct the older children while the younger ones are sleeping or otherwise occupied, and play with or tend to the younger children while the older ones work on their own, still leaving much of the day free for activities that are not strictly "school related," but which can be fun and enriching for all of the children.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly stated! I homeschool my 2 girls, 7 and 5. My 7 yo has some special needs. She has a LD along with some developmental delays. I wouldn't dream of putting her in public school where she would be labeled by other children and lost in a regular classroom. ANNON: you can also look at unit studies where all of the kids can be learning about the same thing, then just give them activities and work on there level. I teach my 7 and 5 yo the same science, social studies, Bible and history lessons. I just aske questions to my 7 yo that she should be able to answer and same with the 5 yo.

lorelei4mc said...

My husband and his brother -- both exceptionally bright -- started in private school but were then homeschooled for several years, when it became clear that they were fast learners and easily bored by the school's curriculum. His parents saw that most schools' 'one size fits all' approach clearly didn't fit either one of their sons. The result? They started university at age 14 and 15, respectively. Socially, it was awkward, since they had little in common with most college-age students except their academic capability. But my husband made up for that by joining extracurricular clubs of students with similar interests.

There are audio learners, who do well if they hear a teacher's lecture, visual learners, who do well if they read for themselves, and kinetic learners, who thrive when they experience something hands-on. It's a rare school that can identify which of those a student is, and even rarer is the school that caters to the needs of the kinetic learner. (Like my husband, who figured out on his own how to fix engines in his early teens by tinkering with cars that didn't run.)

Homeschooling can be a great solution for many students. I'm sure you'll have great success, when it's time, since you've already tutored and have had an excellent preview of how to approach it.

Amanda said...

This was a great post!

I have one son (so far!!) who is 19 months old. My husband and I intend to homeschool him, at least through elementary school.

Before I had my child, I worked in the public schools as support for children with Autism (these children were in mainstreamed classrooms). In my school, everyone had to learn the same thing at the same time. The smarter kids were bored and the slower kids struggled so much. And much of the time the teachers seemed to be teaching "to the tests." A love of learning did not seem to be instilled in the students.

It's an obvious choice for me personally to homeschool my children.

Anonymous said...

I have desired to homeschool our 5 children due to my miserable experiences in public school. I was in advanced classes most of the time but never really learned how to discipline myself for independent studying and procrastinated most of the time. I see in retrospect that I was well prepared for testing by teachers but never really learned the material. When I had my first child I began reading and learning so much on my own. I have finally experienced the joy of learning and absorb much more now than I ever did in school.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Personally, I think I'd find it easier to homeschool with an infant, a five-year-old, and an eight-year-old than to public-school 20-30 girls and boys, each with their own personality, learning styles, learning paces, and habits, and trying to get them all through the exact same curriculum at the exact same speed! :)

The secret of dealing with your own children is that mothers naturally develop a third arm within the first six weeks of her first baby's infancy. You can actually tell who's been a mother and who has not by watching women do things like serving food, cooking, cleaning, or sewing by looking for that third arm.

Kari said...

What a great post, Anna. My husband and I have also been throwing around the idea of homeschooling, as we also believe that we are entrusted with the education of our children. We, too, already get the argument that our kids will be "socially stunted" - and we've only just begun discussing it as our daughter is 16 months and are due again in October. It's interesting that one of the biggest nay-sayers is my sister, who is a first-grade teacher. She has had some great classes along the way, and others where if they got through the day without a child injuring another it was a good day! She is an excellent teacher with good control over her classes, but many students are just completely out of control (even at six!). Your point about most of the school day being wasted is a good one - they spend so much time getting into lines, walking from one room to another, waiting for everyone to sit down and be quiet, etc. that so much more could be accomplished in an environment with less kids. And who knows our little ones better than us? I also find it interesting that although my husband and I are both university educated, there is also the assumption from many that we are not capable of teaching our kids (even in elementary school!) because we are not officially teachers. Eeek!! It's amazing the pressures that come from society that are so easy to accept as the truth.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about NOT having to have a "teaching diploma" to be able to homeschool. My husband and I have three children and will very soon both have "teaching diplomas" (we went back to school together---older students having raised children for awhile--dealing with our children's school system..even though it was private) We often marvel about how we are no more ready to teach NOW that we were when we started---- we just know a lot more jargon. BTW I intend on using my diploma to homeschool;)

Anonymous said...

This is the perfect post for me to link to today. I hope you won't mind - this is wonderful!

I completely agree with all of this. It's so funny how it doesn't matter what religion you are, a LOT of people are seeing "public education" as a not-so-good area for children, on many different levels.

Alexandra said...

You've touched upon all the reasons we homeschool. It's been a life saver for my son who does much better with one-on-one instruction. We'll be homeschooling my daughter as well.

There are enough social/learning/fellowship/sports opportunities in the community so that it almost makes no difference as far as extra curricular experiences are concerned. We find we don't need a homeschool support group...the community has enough for children to do after school and on holidays/breaks. It's like my children go to a private home.

Neuropoet said...

Wonderful post Anna! I'm so glad both you and your husband want to homeschool - with support from each other you'll be able to handle anything others may "throw" at you. :) I've been homeschooling my boys their entire lives (and my oldest is 10 now), and I still get flack from family members about it. Even though they are both way ahead of grade level academically, and even with autism and other issues they interact with others much better than other children their age. You can tell if a child has been public-schooled within minutes from the way he treats everyone else. He is unable to interact with adults or children older or younger than himself without having some kind of "negative attitude" (and that's often a nice way to put it). Then, even with his "peers" he will only interact with his "clique" - and will look down on anyone else. You never see behaviors like that with homeschooled children. My boys will play with anyone - no matter their age - elderly, toddlers, babies etc. With social interaction being more of a challenge because of my boys' special needs I am very glad for this aspect of homeschooling. My children are much better off than they would be in a traditional classroom.


Bethany Hudson said...

Good post, Anna. I will be interested in hearing your opinions on this matter again after you begin having children.

We are planning on homeschooling our daughter and any (God-willing) other children when the time comes. I am really looking forward to it as neither I nor any of my friends growing up were homeschooled. But, I am the daughter of a school librarian, so at least I know how to find good resources :)


deb said...

Great post! I homeschooled all my children. My 19 year old is attending a local college and will transfer to a bigger university once he gets his basic classes out of the way(Cost is held down this way) He is a smart, well mannered child who is liked by his friends. He has dyslexia and Tourettes. Can you imagine how he would view himself is he had to be exposed to the mockery of other kids due to his tics and learning disability?

Terry said...

Good post, Anna.

Organizing Mommy said...

Hi, I'm new to this blog, but I am intrigued. I was not homeschooled, but my DH and I had a similar conversation while we were getting to know each other. Seventeen years later, we have 5 children and have homeschooled all of them. Now that I have 2 highschoolers, we are very active in a highly academic co-op where we pay others to instruct our kids in specific topics. We only meet once a week, the rest of the work is done at home. It's a nice balance for us. I also teach there, so it helps pay for things. Maybe you could start something like that there for other families of like-mind?

It's not easy, but it's very rewarding.

Kristy said...

I am a homeschool graduate. My mom did not have a teaching degree but, like you mentioned in your post, she always found ways to make sure my siblings and me had a solid education even in her "weaker" subjects. My husband and I have been blessed with 3 children (so far) and we definitely plan to homeschool them. Our oldest is 4 1/2 and I'm already teaching her at home. As you said, it's only natural for children to desire to learn; it's up to us, the parents, to preserve and encourage that God-given curiosity!

Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage

P.S. If you don't mind, Anna, I may link to this post in my blog.

lady jane said...

Yes, yes, yes, um yes, yes, and yes. :o)


Marste said...

Anna, what a great post.

I have to say, as someone who came from a secular family, I still benefitted greatly from homeschooling, for many of the reasons you mentioned in your post.

I agree with the "commenter Anna" at the top, too - the only place anyone will be put in a room with a bunch of people and be expected to get along based on nothing but age, is school. How does that prepare kids for the "real world?" Speaking as someone who started out in public school before my mom decided to homeschool us (I was homeschooled starting in the 5th grade/about 10 years old), I can tell you that one of the huge benefits I got from homeschooling was that I was no longer subjected to the taunts and torments of my peers. In school, I was the shy fat kid with glasses that no one liked, and it resulted in constant teasing and bullying. In homeschool, I was free to be who I was without fearing the repercussions from other 10-year-olds. That alone was worth it for me.

My mother said once, many years later, that she had been afraid for me in school. She had seen how badly I wanted to be liked and have friends, and she said, "I could already see you becoming someone who would take drugs and party and sleep around in a desperate attempt to be liked." And you know what? I think she was right. I truly believe that if she hadn't pulled me out of school, my life would be much different today, and not in a good way.

Gosh, I could probably go on forever - but I think this comment is a little long already. :) But I definitely think you are wise to homeschool your children, not only for religious reasons, but for their own mental and emotional health.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who wondered about why I would suggest homeschooling isn't natural in traditional Judaism (some of the below is a quote):

the methods of instruction in ancient Judaism indirectly anticipated many of the tenets of modern education. Compulsory attendance in elementary schools was required by Simeon ben Shetah as early as 75 B.C.E. and by Joshua ben Gamla in 64 C.E. The education of older boys and adults in a bet ha-midrash has its origin in the Second Temple period.

The importance of education is repeatedly stressed in the Talmud (Pirkei avot): children are to start school at the age of six – which is in accordance with present-day requirements throughout the world; they are not to be beaten with a stick or cane, but should receive only mild punishment; older students should help out in the education of those who are younger; and children should not be kept away from their lessons by other duties. The number of pupils in a class should not exceed 25; larger classes require the engagement of a relief teacher while two teachers have to be appointed if there are over 40 pupils. According to Judah ben Tema, “At five years the age is reached for studying the Bible, at ten for studying the Mishnah, at thirteen for fulfilling the mitzvoth, at fifteen for studying the Talmud.” (Avot 5:21). Following this tradition – which has been partly maintained to this day – Jews taught their children in their own schools and with the help of private tutors until the end of the 18th century.

I have nothing at all against homeschooling, and indeed might one day try it. However,traditionally, Judaism emphasizes communal/public teaching (just as it emphasizes communal worship).

Anonymous said...

We homeschool and one of the main reasons we do so (besides many that you mentioned) is that we are aware of the problems that age-segregation causes. Being surrounded by people who are exactly your own age for hours and hours day after day, most of which are from your own neighborhood ~ this is socialization? This is the "real world"?

Isn't age segregation the reason most teens don't know how to have a conversation with an adult? Isn't it responsible for the immense power of "pop culture"? Before age segregation, children wanted to grow up and be like their heroes - adults! 13 year old boys couldn't wait for their chance to apprentice with dad, little girls wanted to be like Mommy. Now they want to be like Hannah Montana. Not to mention how little interaction schooled children get with the eldery or with babies.

This is one of those things that negates the whole "but this is such a good school" argument. Not that the schools have many alternatives, age segregation is the best they can come up with. It's just that the whole system is flawed. Good for you for having the courage to go against the flow, homeschooling is so rewarding. And fun!


Canadian said...

I completely agree with you. I don't think school serves children's best interests, unless it is the only option for an education (e.g. parents are illiterate or too poor to allow a parent to stay home). I read a book on the history of American education by John Taylor Gatto which really opened my eyes to the problems with the school system.

Anonymous said...

Here is another voice on age segregation


Miss Amy Smarty said...

I am very thankful for the private school I attended Kindergarten through 9th grade. It was based on the Classical Education model, and taught me a lot of classical history and thinking that I wouldn't have gotten at home from my public school educated mom.

Brittany said...

Those are excellent reasons!

I always wanted to be homeschooled, but my parents said no. If/when my husband and I have children, we have already decided to homeschool them.

(Off-topic, and I feel a little awkward for asking this, but is there a way you could give step by step instructions for tying some kind of hair covering? I can't figure it out myself, and I haven't found any good instructions)

Persuaded said...

i'm sure you'll get many wonderful responses on this post, so i won't go on too very much;) i did just want to say that i think you and your dear hubbie are completely on the right track, at least in my oh-so-humble opinion. i value homeschooling so much that i have made the choice to stay at home with my children even though i am a single mom and financially working outside of the home is a much "wiser" choice.

your children will be very blessed to have such wise and thoughtful parents((hugs))

Gina Marie said...

After being constantly bullied by peers and humiliated by professors, I can say that public school socially stunted my deep and sensitive nature. If I had had a mother, and she had been attentive and nurturing, I would have fared much better socially and academically at home than I did at a public institution that branded students like cattle, and treated us the same, with teachers who wanted to go home, who had to be disciplinarians for children who received no attention at home, and who were inadequate at their jobs.

Public school didn't do me any favors. My husband, who has a very similar temperament to mine, has nowhere near the same amount of social anxiety as I do, because he was nurtured and care for at home but a strong, supportive, nurturing, instructive, and wise mother, at home. He was not indulged, nor was he neglected. While I now struggle with social anxiety disorder he's free in his social life because he wasn't in an artificial holding institution for most of his life.

I believe good parents can make world of difference in a child's schooling experience. The child who has bad parents who homeschool and the child who has good parents who public school, will probably fare differently.

But the fact still remains that public schools have become holding places for ill-raised children, and I have no need to put my child in the midst of it, if I am blessed with children.

Nea said...

Being teacher my self, I totally agree with the fact that quite a bit of the time children spend in the school is waiting or doing something, which really doesn't have anything to do with learning. That's mainly because of the large groups (you have to wait until everyone has done the task) and the fact that 5-6 hours is too long time for a child to work.

Anna Naomi said...

As a homeschool graduate, I plan to homeschool my own children one day, if the Lord wills. I have learned so much from it, and it has given me the opportunity to pursue many interests and learn so many real-life skills! As far as socialization, I have so enjoyed getting to know people of all ages. My close friends are anywhere from 4 years old to other homeschooling moms!

I would have been happy to "homeschool" through college, but I'll be going away to college in August, which I'm not really looking forward to!

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to go to a really good (public) elementary school and a very good daycare (on the same property as the elementary school). I was raised by my mother so there was no option of homeschooling but the daycare I went to is responsible, along with my family, for how I am now. I was taught to embroider, sew, cook some, weave, do pottery, garden, and many other things by the daycare I went to. We were always supervised and the older kids always helped out with the younger kids. There was no age segregation but a very caring environment and we were all given some responsibility such as helping out with the many animals (my preschool also had good and caring teachers and many animals). My school was a very good school with caring teachers and principle who went above and beyond although changes (after I left) made many of them quit including the principal and now the school is one of the worst in its district. We were taught to be caring and were involved in the local community picking up trash and throwing events.

Unfortunately, things went downhill since I left elementary school and I still believe it was one of the happiest times in my life. Middle school and High school kept me socially isolated from everyone else and the trend remained into college (I have like no friends outside my family). There were some very good teachers though but most of them were older and retired soon after I left. It is often that the caring teachers are so bullied by the whims of the district and changing times that many of them leave.

In high school, being in a mostly-white district, it became clear that the blacks, the Asians, and the Hispanics were being held back from the advanced placement courses. I had to fight to be placed in AP courses even though my adviser told me that they would be too hard for me and always suggested the 'stupid' courses for me to take. I won the fight after I took the test for the AP courses (although I later learned that the white students did not have to take this test) and teachers wrote in asking that I be put in AP courses. I was placed in them and received almost all As in the courses and passed all the AP exams. I was on Dean's list every year and graduated with a 3.7 GPA. I was told by my advisor not to apply to college because I wouldn't get in. I applied to about 11 and got into all of them (including one in England). In college, I have (as a senior) a 3.8 in my major.

In college, I have also been kept isolated and suffered from depression, general anxiety disorder, panic attacks, OCD, and had to go to counseling twice a week until I decided to try to manage my symptoms on my own and by faith because the medicines certainly were making things worse.

Now, I am still alone and stay mostly in my home, going out to go to church, school, or to get household supplies. I have a dog and a cat and am living with my sister so I am not terribly lonely although I would love to have a relationship. So much for public schools resulting in more "socialization." Schools are places were those who do not fit in are rejected. I thought college would be different (am also across the country, so you would think it would be) but it's not unless you have no problem drinking, sleeping with anyone, and are a blazing liberal (and I'm at a so-called 'Christian' school). Class discussion is only open to those who are of a liberal mindset or are a very very bold conservative who is willing to take the backlash from the students and professor. I quickly learned to become quiet in class and uninvolved as no one wants to hear my thoughts.

The good thing about college though, is that it will either break a faith that wasn't too strong to begin with or strengthen a faith that was there. My sister's was broken but mine was made stronger.


Sarah K said...

I can see so many good reasons why homeschooling can be an excellent thing. However, I did go through the public school system and I loved it. It is what I would choose for my children. I am an introvert and if I had been educated at home with my Mum and/or Dad I would have struggled still further with other people. I was never pressurised into drink/drugs/sex, although I later discovered that these did take place in my school - I was very naive and didn't notice!

School was also where I learned about God. My family is not a church-going one, and through friends I discovered the school Christian Union and became an enthusiastic member.

Just wanted to put a voice in for attending school not always being a bad thing! I completely respect your choices and definitely think that personal tuition can help children to achieve where the school system might not.

Lydia said...

As a home school graduate (home educated from birth)I encourage you to persevere. Home education will be one of the greatest blessing you can give your children in this generation. When my parents started homeschooling my brothers and I they may have know one other family doing it. But at the time in the U.S. MANY parents were taking the same step with no uniting force behind them(beside the Lord).

You will also be greatly blessed as the parents to actually see your children grow and mature, and maybe even learn along side them.

Don't be daunted, catch a vision for your children. =D

Many blessings!

Naomi O'Donovan said...

Shalom Anna,

I'm a homeschooling graduate, but I also went on to university to become a qualified teacher for K-12 and taught in the public school system for four years. Now we have four kids and one on the way and are homeschooling for many of the reasons you wrote about, but primarily because we see Scripture placing the full responsibility on teaching and training up one's children in the parents' hands, not strangers.

There's a really interesting YouTube video by John Taylor Gatto that I just posted onto my blog which talks about the hidden agenda of public school and how sending kids to public school is like adopting them out every day. Very fascinating interview.

Also you might want to check out the Israel Home School Association for further resources in your area.

All the best in your journey! It's well-worth it.


MarkyMark said...


If you & your readers want to have their eyes opened, then pay a visit to, and read his book, "The Underground History of American Education", online. What Anna says is true: in no other area of endeavor, do we put people of the same age together for hours a day; indeed, everywhere else, we spend time interacting with people of different ages, backgrounds, etc.

Now, to address the question of socialization, the big objection raised by those against homeschooling, I'll direct you ladies to another website: John Anderson, who hosts the site, has homeschooled his children with the help of his lovely wife, Mandy. Though his website isn't from a Christian or Jewish perspective (it's slightly liberal, with an environmentalist flavor), it's still good. In some of his essays, he addresses how He and Mandy have handled the socialization issue, so you may find some helpful ideas on his site. If I remember correctly, he'd get his children involved in volunteer work, brief apprenticeships or mentoring in areas of endeavor that were relevant to the material they were covering. For example, the kids would spend time at an observatory after learning about astronomy. Unlike the large groups that comprise school field trips, when there are only a few people there (his family), then they can learn much more and see the educational material being put to use. Anyway, please visit John Anderson's site, as he addresses the socialization objection, and how his family worked around it. Thank you, and have a nice day!


Federica said...

Anna, I found this post very interesting and instructive. In the country where I come from, Italy, homeschooling is very uncommon. I must say though that I had a great experience with public school education, throughout high school. Funny enough, public education in Italy is much more rigorous than private, and usually more comprehensive. I had classical studies training, with subjects like history of art, philosophy, sciences, literature and religion, of course, among others. I learned about our great ancestors, the Romans, and the fathers of western civilization, the Greeks. We studied about the religions of the world, with a special focus on Judaism and Christianity as the pillars of modern Italian society.
We studied our great literary tradition and that of other countries, wse studied foreign languages (I speak 5). It might be different in different schools and different parts of the world, but as much as I love my parents and grandparents, who taught me to be ethical, moral, and strong, I don't think that they could have given me the high level education I received in public school.
Finally, I don't think the issue with homeschooling is the lack of socializing, as much as being able to appreciate different points of view. Again, I don't want to stereotype or generalize, but for me personally, I don't think I could be the person I am today if I hadn't been exposed to different personalities, teaching styles, and cultures. Nothing will ever top the wonderful memories of my class in high school going around Rome with our professor, a very reputable art historian, who explained to us the different styles of painting, the rationale behind the artists' architectural choices, and the link between faith and art. My parents, although educated, wouldn't have been able to give me that. And, I might be wrong, but I seriously think that no internet-based homeschooling curriculum could have given me that, no matter how good.
Thanks for the insights, Anna!

Cappy said...

My daughter's lab partner was home schooled until High School. Many of the homeschooled kids do very well in academic tests. This girl is one of them. The High School stiffed her in terms of placement in Honors Courses. Of course, in the real world, where achievement often speaks for itself, she will do fine.

Anonymous said...

Homeschooling is good for some, bad for others. Depends on the child and the parent; it's not a one size fits all. It's an amazing alternative for some children, but it's not the best solution regardless. Even within the same family, sometimes one kid will do better at school and the other at home.

Many kids just thrive at school. They love getting out of the house, they love the group atmosphere, and they would just be bored to death at home.

Many parent-child relationships just don't translate well into the academic world. It's tough enough raising a child as is; some of the most loving parents just don't deal well with the added pressure of having to personally teach their kid everything. There's nothing wrong with kids getting used to different authority figures during the day, and it's been done throughtout time (apprenticeships, rabbis at a cheder, etc).

Finally, lots of parents and kids just need to take a good breather from one another during the day. Just like lots of husband/wife couples hate working together at a family business all day. Not everyone enjoys being together 24 hrs per day, for virtually every activity, till the child is well in their teens. I know some homeschoolers send their kids off to activities for an hour or two a day, but it's not the same thing.

It doesn't mean they love their child less. Nothing wrong with parents and kids needing personal space and time.

H and S said...

Wow, what a great discussion!

I'm wondering what parents might choose when they have several children with very different learning styles and needs. For example, one child finds school very stressful and comes home anxious and exhausted - while another child loves school and comes home energised. Does anyone homeschool one child and send the other out to school?

Anonymous said...

I want to second Federica's comments. I was never popular at school, suffered some peer scorn, and remain a major introvert today....but the intense memories of high school remain with me today. The few friends I did make are my best friends till today.

And as Federica said...the intellectual treasures at public school were priceless. My father is quite intellectual himself, and taught me much in his fields of interest (Jewish history, Hebrew, Bible), all to supplement the public school curriculum. But he could never have taught me about European history throughout the ages, or English literature from Beowulf to Chaucer to Virginia Wolf, or high level math or physics, etc, etc. Most people, however educated they are, specialize in a few fields and cannot teach the other subjects at an acceptable level for a child older than 13 or so. You have to master a subject to teach it well, be able to present it from all vantage points and answer surprise questions. It's not enough just to be familiar with the material or learn it 'along' with the child. And internet teaching is very dry and dull; I would never recommend using it as the main form of learning. Where's the human spark?
And, to echo Frederica again, I was exposed to so many viewpoints and cultures. Perhaps your readership sees this as negative, but I value this opportunity immensely.

USAincognito said...

I have been homeschooled, spent time in public schools, and spent time in Christian schools. Each has their pluses and minuses. I firmly believe it is up to each family to make the decision what is best for each child. My sister and I were not alike when it came to education so there were times in our education where she went to one type of school while I went to another type of school. I will never be one to say one schooling is better than another or one is detrimental to a child's well-being. I believe it is up to each family and is on a case by case decision.

Coffee Catholic said...

I feel the same way that you do about institutionalized schooling ~ it was invented in order to train kids to become good little workers, obedient to bells and orders ~ and to drain kids away from their families and communities so that the government could mold their little minds. It is deffinately not the ideal way in which to raise and educate religious children!

There's a ministry called, "No Greater Joy" that has an awesome take on homeschooling ~ they say that you absolutely should not try and model the classroom at home because the calssroom is obviously part of the problem with public education! Instead, children should learn at their own pace by both living and working with mom and dad rather then sitting at the table with books. They should learn by experiencing life and using their hands and their minds instead of just reading, memorizing facts with their short-term memory, and taking exams. Each child should learn as an individual with no time frames imposed upon them like, "By the time each child is X years old they should be able to read at X grade level..." The examples go on and on and they make so much sense! That "creative learning" you wrote about is exactly this kind of non-classroom style learning. Even if a kid "graduates" without top honours in physics and advanced chemistry, they know how to *learn* and they will do very well in life and in whatever career/vocation they persue. (They'll also persue those vocations that are in line with their *natural* talents rather then trying to impress people by taking up jobs that make them look smart...)

I was one of the "stupid" kids in school. I learned at a very slow pace and that just did not work in a public school setting. I was often removed from class each day so that I could attend extremely boring math classes with severely retarded children. Now I know that a kid should not be ashamed of retarded kids but when you're six and seven years old and a Special Education teacher walks into your classroom with a pack of severely retarded children (some yelling and howling...) and she calls out your name in front of everyone, you can't help but be utterly mortified. You also can't help but think, "I am also retarded. I'm not like the other kids."

I couldn't spell and math was very difficult for me. I also couldn't pronounce big words. I suffered and struggled through public school while honestly believing that I was stupid. I was such a slow learner that even as a firefighter or a helicopter mechanic I was always far behind everyone else and under extreme pressure to "stop being lazy" and learn my job. (It doesn't help when you live and work in a society where nearly everyone attends public schooling and they learn the very wrong idea that there are "smart" kids and then there are "dumb" kids like me!!)

I also believed that I was stupid all the way through university until very recently in like my last year at University. The reason I stopped thinking of myself as stupid is because I found out I'm severely dyslexic ~ to the point where even doing something like tying a knot or changing lanes on the highway is a serious struggle.

As a dyslexic my brain functions differently and instead of this being used to my advantage, it has always been my downfall as a public school-style student. A dyslexic person can learn just as well as the next person but only as long as they can learn at their own pace and in a way that works for them. When does public school education allow this kind of thing? And if a parent makes homeschooling to be the same as public schooling... well, they'll cause their individual and unique children to fall into the same trap of misery!

You're right: the focus on exams and diplomas and also time frames (You must graduate after 12 years at such-and-such an age!) is a big trap. Also, I think our modern obsession with college-and-career is also a huge trap! Those who have minds for manual work are made to feel like total losers if they don't have a college degree and a fancy career and bigger pay checks! And yet... what society can exist without manual workers??

I'm not impressed with the modern public school system. As each day passes I am shocked by what I never learned in 12 years of school and 5 years of University! I'm "homeschooling" myself each and every day ~ and I hope to have my kids join me in the adventure!!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the statement someone made that some parents and kids just need a "breather" from one another during the day. I cant tell you in words, the absolute blessing it is to spend this time together as a family. Even if there are arguments or on some days we just dont get along. The bonds that we have with one another are irreplacable. my kids are one another's best friends, as it should be. God created the family unit to be our main source of companionship. Dont you think that kids who sit in the same classes with the same teachers and same kids every single day get tired of it too? Our kids appreciate the time they have at home. we are giving them the training and the foundation they need to one day spread their wings and fly off into this world on their own. Until then, we continue to have fun together, laugh, grow, learn, show compassion to one another and just love one another like we could never do if we were all running off in different directions every day.