“You’re Going to Ruin Those Children”: Common Misconceptions About Homeschoolers
Despite an exponential explosion in recent years in the number of homeschoolers in the United States (the most current federal estimate is over 2 million children), a number of common misconceptions about homeschoolers persist. Some of these misconceptions are a hangover from the early, outside-the-mainstream days of homeschooling. Others may be a result of limited personal experience. Even current homeschooling trends may be giving rise to some new misconceptions about that most mysterious of creatures: the homeschooler.
Perhaps the most common misconception about homeschoolers is that there is a stereotypical homeschooler. Parents homeschool their children for an ever-widening variety of reasons (academic, social, political, religious, safety, and medical, to name just a few), and use diverse philosophies and teaching methods. All of these are particular to a homeschooling family, and all are subject to change over time. Some other common misconceptions about homeschooling follow.
1. Homeschoolers are socially awkward and have no friends
“But what about socialization?” Many homeschoolers refer to this as THE question, as it is the one they are asked most frequently. This misconception stems from the image of homeschoolers being isolated in their homes, which is rarely the case. There is no evidence that eccentric homeschoolers outnumber their traditionally schooled counterparts. In fact, because of the flexibility that allows them to pursue a variety of interests, homeschoolers often have a much wider social network than children who attend school. Many homeschoolers mention that they must actually make an effort to insure that social activities don’t overshadow academic instruction.
2. Homeschoolers are some type of extremist elitist, whether right or left wing
“Are you a Christian or a liberal?” Granted, in the early days of homeschooling, these may indeed have been the only options. Not so today: homeschooling has become a viable option for families of every race, religion, political affiliation and educational philosophy. The burgeoning number of special interest homeschool groups in the United States effectively dispels this myth about homeschoolers.
3. Most parents are not qualified to teach
“Were you a teacher?” Although few states have prerequisites for parents to be allowed to educate their children at home (some do require a high school diploma or GED), this particular misconception persists. Yet we all know certified teachers who are the stuff of nightmares and untrained teachers who have a knack for stimulating young minds. Parents are the most important teachers their children will have, and have been teaching for years before their children reach school age. For those who are less confident of their abilities or interested in honing their skills, resources abound. Otherwise, passion and commitment are the only things required to successfully teach your child.
4. Homeschooling is hideously hard work intended only for martyr parents
“I could never do what you do.” Many people envision homeschooling families spending the entire day in a classroom situation, at the end of which the beleaguered parent performs a teacher’s administrative duties. In truth, without all of the time wasters inherent in a school environment (frequent transitions, discipline, and other administrative tasks), the same amount of “schooling” can be accomplished in a fraction of the time and in a variety of less restrictive ways. When added to the flexibility of schedule and the time gained from not commuting or having homework, most homeschoolers will tell you that their lives are significantly easier because of homeschooling.
“No way I could stand being with my child all day.” There may be some parents for whom this is the truth, and they are wise not to homeschool. In most cases, however, parents are making this statement about children who are already in school, and who are stressed, consciously or not, by the demands of their regimented existence. Homeschooling parents whose children have previously attended school will tell you that the child you homeschool will be markedly different from the child that attended school. One of the most frequently cited benefits of homeschooling is an increasing closeness with and enjoyment of family members.
5. Teens are particularly harmed by homeschooling
“How is he going to get into college or get a good job?” While it can be more challenging for a homeschooling parent to provide a high school curriculum, especially for advanced students, in recent years the options have expanded considerably (including online courses and attendance at community college). At the same time, there are numerous options for creating official transcripts. And although in the early days of homeschooling colleges and employers may have been leery of taking a chance on a homeschooler, today homeschoolers are actually sought after by both colleges (many have homeschool coordinators on the admissions committee) and employers, who cite a preference for an individual who knows how to think, loves learning, and follows their passions.
“Every teen should be able to go to a prom”. This is really shorthand for the socialization question. If a teen doesn’t attend traditional school, the thinking goes, they will miss out on all of the fun of teenage life, especially dating and parties. As mentioned previously, however, today’s homeschoolers have diverse social networks. Proms organized by local or statewide homeschool organizations have become quite common and well attended.
Next time you meet a homeschooler, ask plenty of questions, and listen to the answers with an open mind. With any luck, you’ll be able to correct a few misconceptions yourself.