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Jun 7, 2010

Homeschooling....My Thoughts, My Experiences, My Conclusion

Hi All,

There has been a fascinating conversation/debate going on over at NLQ about homeschooling and what, if any, regulations it needs in order to protect the children involved, and ensure that they being taught the things they need to stay on track educationally.

Now, to reiterate part of my story, I was homeschooled till grade 7 and then attended a tiny public school/high school. So I can safely say that I have experienced both sides of the coin so to speak.

Homeschooling for me was a mixed experience. Whilst it definitely left me behind socially, I would say my lack of social skills was also thanks to our fundamentalist beliefs and the fact I was mostly exposed to other home schooled children alone during that time. Educationally, however, I would class it as a good experience: I was blessed with a mother whom taught us extremely well and with great care, giving me a fantastic educational base for the rest of my schooling life and beyond.

Because I was so socially inept, it meant I spent a great deal of my "in school" years playing catchup. This of course meant that I had an appalling time of it in high school particularly. I just didn't know how to relate to my classmates, and in a small school this was devastating. Educationally, I floated along on my own merry way.


But what about the real issue here? The elephant in the room so to speak: abuse in the homeschooling home. On NLQ, there has been a long debate (that continues) about the amount of regulation needed to protect children whom are being home schooled. Many have asked where is the evidence of abused, homeschooled children. Well, hello? Princess Jo sitting right here! I have heard some horrific stories of abused homeschooled children, many times worse and more grimmer than my own.

In my case, I believe I was "groomed" from a very young age: I didn't even recognize what the abuse was until he took it too far. It was like a switch went off, and I suddenly realized what he was doing all along. I believe this awakening was sparked in no small way by my school attendance. By experiencing a different world, a different perspective, it allowed me the freedom to find my voice, and also approach the authorities about it. I reported when I was in school, at school. I really truly believe that if I had been homeschooled for the full 12 years, my story would be remarkably different. My abuser, my father, probably would have never been caught (at least for offenses he committed against me) , and I would still be living with a devastating secret.

Let me stress, I don't believe in any way that homeschooling caused my abuse. My abuse was caused by my father. But my abuse and thus, silence was allowed to stretch out for a lot longer than it otherwise would have. Homeschooling without a doubt, indirectly helped cover up my abuse. I think the same same can be said for the other cases that I have heard of over the years.

So with all that said, where do I stand on the regulation issue? Personally, I don't want homeschooling banned: when it is done for the right reasons (ie not because of religious reasons and wanting to protect the child from worldly influences particularly) it can be a positive thing. That being said, I do think homeschooling needs tighter regulations for the safety of those that are at risk, or whom are already suffering silently.

In a perfect world I would like to see definitive, established tests and teaching standards throughout the school year: in addition, I would like to see once yearly (carried out by a 3rd party) exams to check progress.

In a perfect world, I would like to see specially trained 'social workers' working with homeschooled children and homeschooling parents to ensure that religious fanaticism/family dynamics etc aren't impacting on the child's ability to speak up if an abusive situation was to arise, and to ensure if such a situation was to arise that they are aware of where to go for help. These 'social workers' could then help home schooled children to transfer over to more conventional forms of education (ie college or university) or work when that child is ready. In a perfect world, these 'social workers' would be former home schooled children themselves.

And perhaps more controversially, I would like to see home schoolers get criminal checks, just like normal teachers and for that matter, anyone that works on school property, or as a childcare worker. Why? For several reasons, but mostly because when you homeschool, (just as in a normal school) you are likely to have contact with a a large population of children not your own. And do you really want to have someone with criminal charges (particularly domestic violence/sexual offences etc) homeschooling, or for that matter coming in contact with your children in a trusted context? I am not saying this idea is perfect: it isn't. The system can be beaten, crimes are not reported. But here in Australia it is such a simple form to fill out, why wouldn't you do it?

But that is my ideal world alone, tainted by my experiences.  Idealism is fantastic, but reality is a far different thing.

In reality, I would love for a proper, in depth study done of homeschooling and homeschoolers so that any future regulations can be decided upon with a proper research backing. I personally think homeschooling is growing in popularity, so this study and resulting recommendations need to happen relatively quickly.

But knowing the state of the world, this is a idealistic dream too. A nice one, but a dream nevertheless. Home schooling is such a decisive topic that I think any conclusion over regulation is a long way off.

Jo

8 comments:

shadowspring said...

I love your ideas.

As a libertarian I don't see why parents should have to go through background checks, and that's what home school teachers are: parents.

But as a woman, and an advocate for children, I don't see it as such a big deal. In Florida home school lawyers replaced that proposal with the less invasive affadavit that you have never been charged with harm to a child.

Personally I didn't have a problem with the background check. I've gone through numerous checks due to the volunteer work I have done in my life. It seems reasonable to me. The bigger churches in our area won't let you volunteer in any way working with children if you don't get a clean report from a background check.

I like your perfect world, where home schools and states are not adversaries but partners in keeping your citizens safe. Can I move there if you are ever able to arrange it? =)

Lorena said...

I am against homeschooling, but the issue you raised is one that never crossed my mind.

You, of course, are right in that if a child doesn't get out of the house to see anything different, the abuse is thought of as normal, and the young person thinks he or she has to bear it, because there is no way out of it.

As for why I'm against homeschooling, my reasons are that in my experience academic achievement DOES NOT help a person have a successful career.

In the workplace, the successful ones are those with good social skills who get along with others well and know how to make the system work for them.

The smart, A students usually take the back seat to street-smart people who know how to handle office policies.

So, yes, home-schooled kids learn more and better. But in life, what you know doesn't take you very far. It is how you go about life that helps.

shadowspring said...

I was public schooled and I suck at office politics! I am too darned earnest and sincere. I never see the plotting and intrigue because it would never occur to me that anyone would behave that way! Getting wiser as I age, but it is hard won by experience.

People are people. Everyone has different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Home schooling doesn't affect that one way or the other.

ABUSE, on the other hand, affects our personalities in a big way! Isolation is abuse. Abuse should always be stopped, and if new regulations can be found to prevent abuse, regulate away!

Lorena said...

Shadowspring,

Please remember that it was you who addressed me first. Keep that in mind.

Now, I'm going to say that my opinion stems from knowing several families who homeschool. ALL of those children have sub-optimal, underdeveloped people's skills. By knowing the families I can tell that the isolation of homeschooling is to blame.

They also exhibit other social issues that I don't want to address here.

My point is that homeschooling DOES NOT guarantee that a person will succeed in life. So I personally wouldn't bother, and I do not recommend it.

BTW, what's a libertarian? We don't have "libertarians" in Canada, so I wouldn't know.

I'd be curious to know if people of other nationalities understand that American jargon.

Home School College Counselor said...

Basically you are advocating for governmental involvement/oversight for anyone who has children. Parents are the first teachers of their kids, and whether or not they send them to "traditional" learning institutions or decide to formally educate them at home doesn't change this.

It seems that you are implying that parents are not to be trusted with their own children, that the government knows better than parents how they should be raised. That is a VERY scary and quite Orwellian view of society.

There is more abuse that happens in public schools than any other institution. Whether it's physical, mental, or psychological, the abuse that happens via teachers and peers cannot be denied.

I would encourage you to do more research on this issue.

janice said...

Great photo - you are truly gorgeous!!

shadowspring said...

Love the new picture! You are beautiful, Jo. n_n

Lorena,
Did I address you? I regret that I have offended you. I was not addressing you personally. I was addressing the idea that twelve years of public school makes one socially savvy. It's not true for me.

Libertarian ideal: government governs best that governs least. Pro-free market, pro-free press, pro-personal civil liberties.

I regret if I have made you feel called out in any way. That was not my intention.

If you have known only three home school families and they were all isolationist, then I can totally understand why you would be against home schooling.

Lorenarod1@yahoo.com said...

Wow! If people like you, College Counsellor, are the ones advocating home schooling, then I'm truly against it.

Black-white-thinking is what you're using. All parents or all government. It doesn't take a psychologist to realize that parents shouldn't dump their children at school and trust teachers completely with their kids learning. Raising a child takes a village, and parents and teachers should form a partnership.

All of the home schooling parents I know are folks who haven't been able to fit in, and in an effort to overprotect their children, are keeping them at home.

These people don't own the tools to adjust to society at large, and therefore, are unable to teach it to their children.

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