I was watching the DVR’d SNL from Saturday night (Doogie Houser was quite talented and funny) when a line from Weekend Update caught my attention.
During that segment Seth Meyer said “the number of home schoolers has reached 1.5 million, or if you’re home schooled, five-eleventy-thousand”. Clearly it was a swipe against home schoolers, but that is what that show is about. They will get around to trashing something that you hold sacred at some point, if you hold anything sacred, and it may even be funny at the same time. Southpark did a classic and quite funny episode on home schooling which I highly recommend.
But it got me thinking about the issue again. If you pay attention you may notice that many people with a very strong opinion on home schooling have no direct experience with it. My wife and I (mostly her) home school our two sons and have for several years now, so when it comes to home schooling we have not only opinions but experience. The Southpark episode represented the home schoolers, a brother and sister, as brilliant and educated (they slew the rest of the kids in the spelling bee) but largely socially retarded. That is a common perception among people with an opinion on home schooling: that the kids are learning a lot but that they are not learning social skills.
First, on subjects like grammar and history and geography and science, I would put my two sons up against most 30+ year old college educated people. For me, particularly since we are secular home schoolers, the education argument falls on deaf ears. I know from same-aged relatives that we are doing better than the school system in terms of progress. The other argument, shown in Southpark, was the socialization argument. Quite often critics talk of that one home schooled person that they once met and how shy and quiet they were. That thread really seems common. All I can report, from my aforementioned first hand experience, are my observations of my two home schooled boys. One is shy and quiet while the other is very talkative and outgoing, so there you go.
Something that goes unmentioned in most of these home school discussions is the basic question of the value of the socialization that kids are actually getting. I would submit that my sons have learned how to deal with adults, whereas their peers in the public schools are learning how to deal with obnoxious children. In a few years many of those children will have a tough transition into dealing with adults, unlearning that socialization from school. A good friend of mine, the only other secular home schooling family that I know, has a good analogy on this.
Socialization is to public schools as nutrition is to McDonalds.
Think about that one.