I try to focus on the positive reasons to homeschool. But, sadly, there are a lot of myths about homeschooling that refuse to die. Here's the truth about a few of them:
Myth #1: Homeschooling is selfish.
Some critics say that homeschooling parents have an obligation to work towards improving the public school system. The schools need involved parents like these, they argue. Withdrawing their children is just a selfish way homeschoolers avoid helping educate all our children.
The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. Homeschoolers take part in every aspect of life -- including working in and with the public schools. One way is by bringing enrichment programs into their districts. For instance, one family started an afterschool math club open to all students. Homeschooling author David Colfax even served on his local school board in California for more than 15 years.
Myth #2: Homeschooling is elitist.
Some critics claim homeschooling gives kids a sense of entitlement. While public schools are required to serve all students, homeschoolers get personalized attention from their parent/educators. Is homeschooling designed to make children think they are better than other people? Hardly.
I always wonder why homeschoolers are singled out for this criticism. The wealthy in America (and those who strive to be) have always sent their children to exclusive private schools with the express purpose of giving them a sense of entitlement. Many homeschooling families make real sacrifices in order to oversee their children's education themselves. Elitism just doesn't come into it.
Myth #3: Homeschoolers get an unfair advantage.
All those homeschooled students who excel at spelling bees and geography competitions get an unfair advantage, critics say. They can spend all their time just prepping for meets, while other kids have to spend their days in school and their nights doing homework.
Of course, the majority of high-performing students in all forms of competition attend traditional schools. And they devote long hours to their specialty, on top of their schoolwork. At the same time, homeschoolers don't typically put all their focus on one area. They study a range of subjects, just like students in traditional schools.
This complaint also begs the question: Why would even a national spelling bee be worth giving up everything else? It's not like there are college spelling teams out recruiting new players.
Myth #4: Homeschooled children don't know what the real world is like.
It's true that homeschooled children are sheltered to some extent. That doesn't mean they are isolated from the world -- just that parents have more power to protect their children from situations they're not ready for. That includes school attacks, bullying, abusive teachers, and more.
Overcoming obstacles can help children grow. But when the obstacles are too big for a child to handle, the result can be traumatic. Homeschooling parents know what challenges their kids are ready for, and protect them from the ones that will overwhelm them unnecessarily. That lets homeschooled children develop the coping skills they need at their own pace, without all the drama, or the trauma.
Myth #5: Homeschooled children don't know how to get along with others.
Here it is, the "S" word, "socialization." The idea that school provides something called "socialization" that homeschoolers miss out on is simply puzzling. No one chooses a school for their kids because it offers particularly good "socialization." It's just not a term used about education outside of academic research -- except when it comes to homeschooling.
There's no agreed-upon definition, either. But here are some things that are implied when people ask about "socialization:"
- Do homeschooled children have contact with other children? All the time -- in homeschool groups, enrichment classes, sports teams, youth activities, summer camps and more.
- Do they learn how to function in society? Probably better than schoolchildren who learn social norms from their peers, strive to fit in with gangs and cliques, and mainly deal with adults in the form of taking orders. Homeschoolers usually spend their early years tagging along with their parents as they run errands. They get to watch and learn how adults behave with each other in a civilized way.
- Do they interact with a diverse set of people? As much as school children, if not more. Homeschoolers themselves come from every part of society. And because homeschooling communities are smaller than the school population, they run into each other a lot. Unless the group is particularly big, homeschooling children are less likely to exclude any possible companions than kids in school. And as said before, they spend more time out in the greater community than schoolchildren, too.