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He can still play on the basketball team, right?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by RickStain, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I think I'm going to home school my son. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on the idea, but here are mine:

    That's a decision I've been considering for months now, and he's still young enough (27 months) that I've got plenty of time to change my mind, but I'm going to start researching and putting together a plan.

    Before I had my son, I rolled my eyes at homeschooling, which was something I thought of as only for crazy people. And to be fair, I still think a very large percentage of the home school culture is filled with nutjobs.

    But my wife and I made the decision that we wanted one of us to always stay home with our son if we could, and with the way her career is going that is certainly going to be me from now on. I take a lot of pride in my parenting, and the more I think about handing him over to schools as he nears education age, the more skeptical I am of the entire process.

    Academic education

    I don't think public schools are terrible, but I also don't think they are particularly efficient. They teach to the lowest common denominator, they are hamstrung by school board politics and lawsuit fears, and your kid is getting taught by a teacher who changes every year and has his efforts and attention divided in 30 directions. Given those handicaps, I think I can do a much better job myself, one-on-one.

    Private schools are expensive, but I can afford it if I have to. However, we live in a small Midwestern town, so private school means "Catholic." I don't have a huge problem with Catholicism, but I'm not going to spend that kind of money and not get *exactly* what I want out of it.

    I think with one-on-one attention, he could get a base of academics more quickly, in less time, and end up being more advanced when he turns 18.

    With the leftover time, I think we can fill in a huge portion of the gaps in the public education curriculum. They are almost too numerous to mention, but a few that I have a big problem with:

    1) They rarely teach children to effectively plan, manage and complete long-term projects.
    2) Personal financial education
    3) Cognitive biases and rationalism
    4) Hard science and engineering skills
    5) Exposure to a broad range of literature

    Social education

    This is obviously the huge bugaboo with home schooling, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this isn't an obstacle.

    I figure there are two important types of socialization for children.

    1) Learning how to interact with peers.

    Obviously, if he's locked up at home with me all day, he's never going to make and maintain friendships. But is the public-school environment really an efficient way to learn those types of social skills? Cramming 30 kids into a classroom followed by brief interludes of jungle law in the playground and hallways?

    A beneficial side effect of being experienced in the small-town scrapbooking paradigm of newspapers is that I'm very familiar with all of the excellent extra-curricular opportunities kids have. Boy Scout, 4-H, sports clubs, summer and day camps, etc. If all goes well, that should be fertile ground for him to make and maintain friends.

    2) Learning how to be a functioning adult member of society. This is where I think the school environment fails and home school has a chance to shine. I want my child to learn how to interact with adults in preparation for when he himself is an adult. I want him to learn how to deal with salesmen and service people, customers and clients, bankers and lawyers, over the phone, over e-mail, in-person. I want him to learn how to navigate large cities and rural highways. I want him to learn how to find what he needs in a library, store or courthouse. Isn't that the sort of practical life skills that many of us feel like "kids these days" lack?

    I figure I've got at least a year to study up on all this and come up with a coherent plan. After that, I'll need to either commit to it or give up on the idea.
  2. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Boy ... I am not going to tell you anything you don't know, and it is obvious you have given this plenty of thought. Only you know for sure.

    If it were my kid, I would have a hard time taking him out of the social loop of school. Kids get busy and they employ an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach. People who I thought were turning into my sons' lifelong friends when they were 4, we don't even see them anymore because they go to different schools.
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Every home-schooled child I've known (five off the top of my head) has struggled to deal with puberty and being a teenager and making friends and such. Younger kids ostracize home-schooled children because the concept seems weird. Their parents won't stand up for the home-schooled kid because the general assumption is that the parents think they're better than everyone else. As the other boys and girls get older, they will feel the same way. Frankly, you do think your kid is better than everyone else. So do most parents, but you're taking a pro-active stance on the matter.

    That's not to say none of those kids has found success socially, just that it's been more difficult. I would recommend trying to get your son into advanced programs at a public school if he's smart enough for one. Even if you succeed, you don't have to accept the invitation and can still home-school. It will give you something to think about, at least.

    Finally, you never specify how long you're thinking of home-schooling? I think it could be a severe risk to social aptitude to home-school a kid through high school, but two of the five home-schooled kids I know were dropped into freshman year of high school with barely any conception of what a locker was.

    I think it's a fine idea, albeit a very, very difficult undertaking, to home-school your son through his elementary years. It would, I imagine, be kind of hard teaching a kid middle-school chemistry without a lab, though, for one example.
  4. Iron_chet

    Iron_chet Well-Known Member

    Hi Rick

    Couldn't you teach those other things without home schooling? I know a few people home schooling, some out of convenience for travel schedule and some because of core beliefs.

    I know it is not for me and my family but obviously you are going to follow your logically laid out convictions.

    He could still play AAU :)
  5. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    Honestly, I feel kids lack freedom from constant parental oversight these days (and that "jungle law" you speak of in public school hallways may be ruthless, but it's very effective at teaching how to survive in adult society because kids are straight forward enough to be brutally honest about what's "too weird.")

    I think your goals are admirable, but I'm against homeschooling for two reasons.

    One, you really limit the type of basically unsupervised kid-on-kid social interaction that teaches so much more about unspoken rules of group communication than adult-and-kid interaction does. Adults, with the best of intentions, can be way too willing to look past kid behaviors that would get someone ostracized as an adult. And learning how to interact in group settings, negotiate with other peers for projects, is a huge part of education you only learn from learning with other kids your own age.

    Also, learning to deal with difficult teachers is a huge learning experience to take into the real world where you have inefficient bosses and professors but still have to do your job. Learning to deal with the imperfections of a system and still shine in spite of it is almost as valuable as the book learnin'.

    And two, teachers have expertise in teaching their subjects. As well-intentioned as most parents are, can they really give their kid a solid education in physics or calculus as well as classic literature and American history? That's not as much of a problem with your younger kids, but once you hit middle-school age, it's something to consider. Heck, foreign language is a requirement now for most colleges with some schools starting the classes in late elementary school. Do you feel comfortable enough with Spanish, French or Mandarin that would could teach him?
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Forgot to add this in: Private schools, particularly religious-based private schools, vary wildly in terms of quality. Where I grew up, the Catholic high school school was and remains significantly worse academically compared to the two public high schools. The town over, that wasn't true at all. You sound pretty set on not paying for private school, but if you decide otherwise, be sure to look into the quality of the education. One good place to start is investigating degree requirements for teachers. Some private schools have teachers with nothing more than associate degrees.
  7. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    My first instinct reading this was, OK, your kid's not going to get the best of everything if he goes to public school. But does he need to? I'm a public school graduate. Sure, I left high school deficient in some of the areas you noted. But I learned. I figured them out. I think that's an important part of the life process, too.

    My cousin home schools her two kids, who I believe were not very popular at their public school. They've been doing it for four or five years now. They seem like nice enough, well-adjusted kids (one's 12, the other's 9, I believe). They belong to a home-schooling group that gets together for outings and socializing.
  8. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    That's definitely the biggest concern. But at the same time, I'm just not sure how much I care about it. If it comes down to advantages vs. drawbacks, "doesn't get to teach new swear words to the other 7 year olds" seems important, but not as important as educational gains that I think I could make.

    Twenty years from now when he resents me for robbing him of a normal childhood, nobody direct him to that paragraph above, okay?

    My experience with those programs is that they are pretty much watered-down and worthless. If they were what they wanted to be, they might be useful, but they are too scared to turn down kids. And even more to the point, I have no idea if my kid is gifted or not. I think an ordinary kid can benefit heavily from direct, one-on-one education.

    That's a very good question. The longer you do it, the harder it is for the kid to make an adjustment. I'm not saying they couldn't make an adjustment, but it would definitely be more difficult. High school seems way too late. If you've gone that far, you are stuck with it.

    Oh man, that's going to be the *best* part. I can't wait until he's old enough to do stuff like that. Setting up our home chemistry lab in the basement would be pure Nerdvana.

    I could, of course, it just feels inefficient. After eight-plus hours in school, I don't think he's going to have a lot left in the tank for Dad's side lessons.
  9. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I'm in total agreement with you about the too-much-oversight portion. I'm also a huge subscriber to the Free Range Kids movement. A big reason I'm considering this is because I think I can set up an environment where he'll learn to be self-motivated, and I intend to make him go out into the world around him on his own once he is old enough (and I define old enough to be a lot younger than most parents these days).

    I'm trying to remember the last time I was in a group setting comparable to school, where large numbers of kids who have no interest in being together and no common ground are shoved together.

    I do agree that you have a point, though. I'm heavily counting on extra-curricular groups to fill that gap in a positive way. I know that the swim club begins taking overnight trips as young as eight. The 4-H program I covered in my last assignment did a lot of group activities with the kids involved.

    That's also a very good point.

    Hi, I'm Rick Stain. Have we interacted on SportsJournalists.com before? I am completely convinced that my general intelligence, worldview, and access to the internet make me an expert on any and all subjects.

    I've had several "Eureka" moments on the Internet lately that pushed me further down this path that I was already considering. Let's say he's nine and we decide that he should learn Mandarin. Here are some options I have:

    1) I can choose from dozens of language-learning programs out there.
    2) I can hire him a personal tutor, a native speaker, for regular video-chat lessons.
    3) I can help him find "language exchange" buddies his own age. Native speakers who will help you practice their language and you help them practice yours. I did this with some French speakers for awhile and it was a blast.

    Or better yet, some combination of all of the above.

    I definitely don't think there is anything wrong with public school. If I decide not to do this, I won't think "Okay, my son is doooooomed." I just feel like my unique circumstances might let me set up something even better.
  10. waterytart

    waterytart Active Member

    I've known three families who have home-schooled. One did it because they believed the public schools in Texas would compromise their children's Christianity (not kidding), one because the mother was determined to protect her son from socialization (also not kidding), and one because they have decided to live on a boat, mostly in the Caribbean. So, yes, the reasons for choosing this can vary widely.

    One common misconception has already been mentioned several times on this thread. You don't have to be a competent teacher across a broad range of subjects. There are plenty of home-school curricula, reflecting different philosophies, which you can buy. Your child's work (beyond basic homework) is submitted to the company for grading. Many states have approved lists of curriculum providers.
  11. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    Oh boy. Can of worms.

    First of all, I was as skeptical as you of the public school system. My daughter started kindergarten in the fall, and we never considered homeschooling but did consider private school. We also considered holding back because she is at the very end of the cutoff, meaning she's the youngest in her class. But after a year of agonizing, we took the plunge.

    Well, everyday I have to pick my jaw up off the floor. I CANNOT BELIEVE how much she is learning. Even in that environment. It's insane. At this age, the brain is simply made to take in HUGE amounts of information, which teachers are trained to dole out. And the more you ask that little brain to take in, the more it takes in.

    Recently I attended a book discussion with the author of "Welcome to Your Child's Brain." She's a neuroscientist who's done extensive research on early childhood development. During the Q & A, I asked her specifically about social skills. She told me the best way to enhance social skills is to do exactly what you'd think: Put your child in as many social situations as you can absolutely stand without making her miserable. Gently push social interaction at every opportunity.

    If that's true, I don't think homeschooling is great.

    As someone who navigates this stuff everyday of my life...... It doesn't exactly work how you think. I'm gonna be brutally honest here. If your child is homeschooled, he will be seen as the oddball in every. single. activity. You'll be making it so tough for him. The other kids will be tight with each other because they will have been through the wars at school. Your child will be left out...... and so will you. And you could say, 'Me?' 'Who gives a shit if the parents leave me out?'

    Trust me, you give a shit. You need those other parents, and they need you. You need to be able to arrange play dates, car rides, sleep overs... you need people to invite to your son's birthday parties. You may not like them, but you do need those other parents.
  12. Buck

    Buck Well-Known Member

    I went to private school, several different private schools.
    I'm not a big proponent of home-schooling.
    Even a private school with a relgious affiliation that is not the same as your family's can be a good situation. My family is Catholic and I spent three years at a Friends school.
    I went to Catholic high school and knew kids in school who were not Catholic.
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