By way of Phi I ran across a discussion on the pro’s and con’s of homeschooling.

If/when Clancy and I have kids, homeschooling is an option that will be on the table. It will depend in large part what kind of public education system there is wherever it is we end up.

Dizzy, who was homeschooled from the fifth grade through high school, looks at the movement on negative terms:

Honestly, I think the homeschooling movement is a joke. It’s more common now to band homeschooling kids together to learn those subjects – everyone pitches in to hire a tutor or something. So that’s an improvement. And homeschoolers are now allowed to join sports teams in their school district. So that’s better too.

But unless your parents are BRILLIANT, well-educated, and stationed as missionaries in Burma or something, it’s not generaly your best option.

I know two people off the top of my head that were homeschooled and with whom I talked about homeschooling. I asked one of them about his experiences and they were quite positive. He had seven siblings, though, and said that some of his siblings did not fare nearly so well. About half probably did better than they would have in a public school environment and about half did worse. A couple did miserably and were probably irreversibly harmed by it in ways that he did not specify*.

There are a lot of factors to be considered before making the choice on whether or not to homeschool. One of the ones I’ve long considered in the negative category is the lack of socialization. Both Clancy and I have a rather restricted comfort zone and neither of us are particularly extroverted. These social setbacks could be greatly compounded by lack of exposure to other people. If they are disinclined to go out and meet people and they’re not forced to in a school environment, that could be very problematic.

I’ve begun to reconsider this stance, though, and wonder if maybe the social environment of public school is a hindrance. Not only when compared to private schools or better run public schools, but also when compared to lack of exposure overall. I have begun to wonder if I might actually be better socialized had I not gone to school at all.

We all have a tendency to justify or rationalize our negative experiences as learning ones. Often this is justified because we learn from our mistakes. But sometimes we learn the wrong lessons and learning the wrong lesson is usually worse than not having learned any lesson at all because not only do you still need to learn the right lesson, you also need to unlearn the wrong one. Arguably, ignorance is better than misinformation if for no other reason than you’re less likely to act on it.

I was a pretty gregarious kid. I was such a smiley baby that when I was really ill it would have gone unnoticed had it not been accompanied by excessive barfing and weight-loss. To the best of my recollection and from what my parents have told me, this remained true through church-run preschool until late elementary school. As with most people, my junior high years were absolutely miserable. I’d become so jaded that I completely missed out on the social opportunities that I had in high school and beyond.

I don’t want to paint a picture of myself as a depressive socially inept loser because that really wouldn’t be accurate. I am, however, so cautious that being around people is a draining experience. This despite the fact that I can’t even remember the last time I was actually an outcast and if I don’t get along great with people it has more to do with different interests than it does my not knowing how to act. For the most part, I have figured out how to act, how to make friends, and how to avoid annoying people or make enemies. People that get to know me generally like me, though I don’t make that too easy on most people.

But here’s something I’ve only recently figured out: The lessons I’ve learned about how to deal with people were almost entirely learned outside of K-12 and frequently involved unlearning what I learned while I was there. I learned more about how to interact with people from behind a keyboard and monitor than I did in the hallways of my various schools***. I learned how to work with other people only after college**. It took me well into college before I stopped being paranoid that anyone outside my social clique didn’t actively dislike me.

Factor in little league sports and church youth group, I honestly think that I might have been a whole lot better off educated in relative seclusion and given a copy of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How To Win Friends and Influence People than I was being placed in the high school social environment. The best thing I can say about high school was not the social aspect of it or even the learning****, but rather learning how to operate within a structured environment not to my liking. Two years would have been more than sufficient for that.

My main concern with this, however, is that I shouldn’t universalize from my own experience. K-12 isn’t as ego-deflating an experience for everyone as it was for me. Indeed, had I never put on a lot of weight it may never have been that bad for me (though I don’t think it would have helped all that much). As my friend’s siblings’ experiences point out, it’s not for everyone developmentally. I also have another object lesson that may or may not be relevent to homeschooling and social problems: Walt was homeschooled.

* – Knowing what I do of at least one of his siblings, this problem was likely related to social development. She did not do well in any interaction that isn’t 1-on-1 or generally intimate. She got to college and was lost.

** – I could have learned a lot more than I did in high school as I started losing weight and make more friendly acquaintances, but by that point I was so jaded that I was oblivious to the opportunities that I had. I can’t believe that I didn’t realize that certain girls may have liked me and a lot of guys would have wanted to be my friend.

*** – In K-12+BS I was constantly stuck in the default group of people that couldn’t find other people to be with. They were generally not people that I would trust with my grades so I did most projects on my own for the entire group.

**** – I’m the kind of person who more-or-less ignored what the teacher was talking about and learned by teaching myself or getting help from Dad.


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5 Responses to Negative Lesson Plan

  1. logtar says:

    I had a horrible time during highschool back in Colombia but did a couple of years here and it was a lot better. My elementary was an excellent time for me… I have not met many homeschooled people (or don’t even know if I have) but I can tell you that I have considered the possibility. I think the social aspect is important and that would be the biggest factor for me to chose formal outside the home education when faced with the decision… despite my own horrible experience.

  2. trumwill says:

    So you really think you got more than you lost from those horrible years? I’d always assumed that I had, but I’ve been reconsidering that of late (hence this post).

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