Homeschooling seems to be a controversial topic. But it shouldn’t be.
Homeschooling is simply one of many ways to educate children. And in Canada and the United States at least, parents have a legal right to direct the education of their children, including homeschooling them, if they so wish.
This means that if you wish to send your kids to public school, that’s fine. If you wish to send your kids to private school, that’s fine. If you wish to educate your children at home, that’s fine. And if you wish to be a hermit while giving your kids excellent academic skills but no real personal ones, that’s fine, too. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 U.S. states and in all 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories for a reason: it’s one of the many great ways to provide an education.
Homeschooling is a controversial subject because people who aren’t immersed in this world don’t understand how it works. And as Magneto would say, “mankind has always feared what it doesn’t understand.” Yep, I’m quoting the X-men. I’m a geek. And proud of it. And I would have chosen the word “humanity” over mankind, but hey, he’s a villain. Pretty sure he doesn’t care about equality.
Apologies for the tangent. I do that a lot. Back to homeschooling.
Homeschooling is simply another way to educate young people. Nothing more, nothing less. And just like there are many different teaching styles within the public system, there are also a lot of different homeschooling styles. Each family does things in the way that works best for their children, and even within the same family, teaching and learning can look different from one kid to the next, depending on each child’s ability.
The way I taught my daughter to read looks different and has a different pace than the way I’m teaching my son. My daughter was ready to read at 4 years old, so I taught her. My son wasn’t ready until he was about 6, and he learns at a slower pace, so we’re taking our time. They will each still learn what they need to learn—in their own time, in the way they learn best.
There are about 1,767 reasons why I chose homeschooling for my children, and that’s a post for another day. For today, I wanted to dispel the homeschooling myths that seem so pervasive in our culture. Most homeschoolers are tired of hearing the same questions and comments over and over, so here are 10 myths about homeschooling that honestly, just need to die.
1. Homeschooling makes kids miss out on socialization
“Well, what about socialization?”
“Socialization is very important.”
“But does she have any friends?”
“But does he have any friends his age?”
“How do they make friends?”
“Kids need to go to school to learn how to socialize.”
I kid you not, these are all comments and questions I have heard from random people on the street, acquaintances, and health professionals.
Let’s end this nonsense once and for all, with my favourite answer to this question (feel free to copy and paste or repeat verbatim if you’re a homeschooling parent facing this question on a daily basis):
“I get this question a lot, and I find it really interesting, because the best part of homeschooling is the community. We have such a supportive community, and the kids love spending time together during our weekly socials. They also love their friends from swimming, gymnastics, sports sampler, [insert other 1,000 extra-curricular activities that homeschoolers participate in here]. The kids also have awesome friends from our homeschooling group classes.
And if people insist on clinging on to the idea that socialization must happen in school, even after I have given them the polite response above, I add this:
Sure, schools provide socialization, but it’s an artificial kind of socialization. Think about it: when else in your life are you going to sit in a room for eight hours a day with 20+ other people who are the exact same age as you, come from the exact same neighbourhood as you, are most likely from the same socioeconomic background as you, and have the exact same qualifications as you (except for one person at the front)? School provides socialization that’s only realistic in a school environment. Once you go out into the rest of the world, things look different.
Homeschooled kids interact with people of all ages, all backgrounds, and all abilities. Most homeschooling events in my region sort kids by large age groups (e.g. 8 and under and 8 and up), so the kids by extension are interacting with other kids of various ages, and without being told, the older kids help the little ones through activities, because that’s how they’ve learned most of their lives.
And it’s amazing to me how many people will ask me “what about socialization?” as they watch my kids make friends at parks, gymnastics, swimming, and other activities. Ummm…. look at my kids right now? Do they look like they’re unsocialized?
So if you’re going to ask the socialization question… don’t.
2. Homeschooling makes kids weird.
Yep; I’ll admit it: some homeschooling kids are weird. But so are some publicly schooled kids. And so are some privately schooled kids. Any kid could be viewed as “weird,” but that has more to do with the eye of the beholder than with any inherent personality traits of a kid (or their opportunities to “socialize”).
By the way, what does “weird” even mean? I know a handful of both children and adults who are very high functioning on the autism spectrum. A lot of people think they’re “weird.” That’s their judgement because they don’t understand a different way to think and learn.
Homeschooling does not make kids “weird” (whatever that means). Public schooling does not make kids weird. Privately schooling does not make kids weird. Kids are unique because of their own personalities, and yes, sometimes because of their environment. But to say that homeschooled kids are weird just because you don’t understand how homeschooling works seems pretty weird itself.
3. Homeschooling forces kids to miss out on a proper education
I seriously felt like just writing that and leaving it, but I guess you came here for an answer, so here it is. Firstly, a “proper education” can be defined in many different ways. Each province and each state has different regulations for what kids needs to learn each year, and the way in which this is decided could be debated for days.
Homeschooled kids often get the education that suits them best. Many homeschooling parents teach kids according to their strengths. Others do “school at home,” where they set their house up just like a regular school and follow a school day like everyone else, including government-sanctioned curricula. Yet others choose unschooling, following their kids’ interests, which creates a lifelong love for learning that the public education system, quite frankly, is very good at squashing.
Before you can say whether homeschooled kids are missing out on a proper education, you’ll need to define what a proper education is, look at some history on how and why the current public school system came to be, and write a master’s thesis in education about the benefits and downsides of public education in comparison with each different kind of homeschooling style, including several interviews with homeschooling families.
Haven’t done any of that? You don’t get to judge whether a homeschooling education is good enough or not. Yes, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s amazing to me how many people become experts in education the minute they learn you homeschool. Kind of like how people become experts in nutrition the minute they learn you live with multiple chronic health conditions. Please.
4. Homeschooled kids miss out on traditional teenager experiences, like the prom.
Again, define traditional. “The prom,” especially the ridiculousness of prom proposals, is a modern invention. It wasn’t always around, and it’s a big, expensive, overrated party where several “weird” teenagers feel left out, just like they do the rest of the school year.
Firstly, prom is not a necessity, and I pride myself in teaching my children the difference between wants and needs from a very early age.
Secondly, homeschooling families do get together and have socials, including dance parties for graduating students. Parties where just showing up and having a good time hanging out with their other “unsocialized” friends is good enough. So homeschooled kids aren’t really missing out on anything.
5. Homeschooling means kids don’t interact with the real world
See the note on socialization above. Homeschooled kids aren’t sitting in a building for eight hours a day with the same people for 10 months out of the year.
Homeschooling families are seen out in public at random hours of the day, we share volunteering experience with our children, we do social activities in the middle of the day, and more.
This means our kids get to interact with all kinds of people of all ages and from all walks of life. You don’t get much more “real world” than this.
6. Homeschooling happens because parents are ultra religious
Yes, some homeschooling parents choose to educate their children so they can share their religious beliefs on a more intensive basis. But no, not all homeschooling parents are ultra religious. Some are quite secular, and other are atheists.
Just like in the public school system, families vary greatly in their beliefs and traditions, and there are many different reasons why parents choose homeschooling for their children.
7. Homeschooling is illegal
This one is not a myth. Yes, homeschooling is actually illegal. In Germany, Greece, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, and several other countries in Europe and Asia.
But in Canada and the United States (and most of North America), homeschooling is not only legal, but the law specifically states that the education of children is the responsibility of the parents. Which makes all these myths all the more annoying.
8. Kids have to go to kindergarten
The minute my kids turned 4, they were asked by random strangers: “so you’re going to school next year?”
People. Kindergarten is not mandatory. Compulsory school age in most of Canada and the US is 6. And “compulsory” means they have to get some kind of education—not that they have to attend the public school system.
Although I do some school with my littles, if I wanted to do absolutely nothing until they were 6, I’d be in my complete legal right to do so.
Some people will argue that kids have to go to kindergarten to get ready for school and learn socialization. Well, I’m homeschooling my kids, so the first point is “moo.” And you can go back and read the points about socialization to see what I think about the second point.
9. Homeschooling means kids get to sit out of standardized testing
This one is actually true in Ontario. Homeschooled kids don’t need to sit through standardized testing (though they can if their parents wish). But what most people don’t realize is that publicly schooled kids don’t have to sit through these tests either. As a parent, you can elect to have your kids sit these tests out by simply being absent for a variety of reasons. You can also jump through some hoops to have your child excused from the test.
Some people will argue that if your child doesn’t take these standardized tests, you won’t know how they’re doing academically. I call BS on that. I know exactly how my kids are doing academically because I’m with them, one-one-one, day in and day out, and I can see where they’re having trouble. And I can address that trouble on the spot.
Plus, these tests almost never show how kids are actually learning or how well they’re retaining the information. Often times, it just shows how much they’ve prepared for the test. This is particularly true of multiple choice exams. Trust me on this last point. I earned a 98% in a high school multiple choice test when I spoke no English. I memorized the words without understanding their meaning and passed the test with flying colours. But that’s a story for another day.
Suffice it to say that whether your child is homeschooled, publicly schooled, or privately schooled, you can decide whether or not they’ll take the government-sanctioned standardized tests. I could say a tonne about standardized testing, but that’s also post for another day.
10. Homeschooling parents aren’t teachers, so they’re not capable of teaching their children.
I LOVE it when I get this comment. Because I AM a teacher. Fully qualified for grades 4-12, by the way. But that’s not the point.
Anyone can teach if the have a passion for teaching and for helping children grow and learn. Anyone can teach if they have the patience to help kids when they get stuck. Anyone can teach if that’s what they’re interested in doing. Anyone can teach their own child. But not everyone can teach a classroom full of children who aren’t their own. And that’s what teacher training is for.
In Ontario, curriculum documents are public records (as they should be everywhere), and any parent can read and/or download these documents and keep track of what their children are supposed to be learning each year in the public school system. Admittedly, if you’re not familiar with certain terms, it can be a tad difficult to understand these documents, but any savvy parent with some research skills will be just fine.
And there’s absolutely no one better qualified to teach a child than that child’s loving parent, who knows, understands, and loves them like no one else can. Even the government agrees that parents are the first teachers. Homeschoolers just continue to be the teachers throughout a child’s school years (or sometimes for just a portion of those years—every homeschooling family is different).
I know I said 10 myths… but there’s way more than 10. So here are three bonus ones.
11. Homeschooled kids can’t go to university.
People started asking me what my kids will do about university when they were in kindergarten. It’s very odd to me. Are people asking their publicly-schooled first graders what they’ll do when they graduate grade 12?
Also, what if my kid doesn’t want to go to university right away? What if my kids wants to work for a time, save their money, and pay for university in cash, so they don’t start their adult lives under a mountain of debt? I will fully support that.
But fear not: not only can homeschooled kids go to university, some universities actually seek out homeschoolers: homeschooled kids tend to be out-of-the-box thinkers who do well in a new environment.
Each university has a different policy for reviewing homeschooled children’s applications, and very few ask for report cards. Some universities ask for portfolios, while others ask for SAT scores.
When the time is right, each parent and child can do their research on the particular school or schools for which they wish to apply. And kindergarten is a bit early to be thinking about that.
12. Homeschooled kids must be quizzed publicly and spontaneously so I know their parents are doing a good job.
If you’re a homeschooling parent, chances are, you’ve watched your kids get quizzed publicly by random strangers the minute they learn you’re homeschoolers. And it’s usually a math question, for some reason. Apparently all homeschooling parents are bad at math.
Seriously folks, it’s not your job to test our kid. If you feel concerned for the educational outcomes our child will achieve, take a deep breath and remind yourself, “it’s not my kid.” And leave it at that. Most homeschooling parents, despite what the media has to say, want their kid to have a great education. That’s why we choose to homeschool.
13. Homeschooling must happen during the same time periods as public schooling.
I’m frequently asked how long homeschooling takes, and people are always surprised to hear we can finish in about 3 hours at most (1 hour when the kids were younger). They just don’t get how our schedule can be so different than the public school system’s.
But we’re not waiting around between bells, we’re not counting our breaks (or recess) in our schooling time, and we’re not trying to perform classroom management with 20+ kids. We’re just doing our thing. And if it’s a gorgeous day outside, we have the luxury of enjoying that day and homeschooling when it’s dark (or taking the day off and picking up the pace the next day).
What homeschooling myths are you tired of hearing?