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The case for homeschooling

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

As stories of the coronavirus continue to dominate the news, another battle is being waged largely behind the scenes. The legal rights of parents to homeschool their children are under hot debate both here in Minnesota and across the United States. Legislation currently proposed in the Minnesota Legislature is seeking to rewrite the state Constitution in an amendment saying that “all children have a fundamental right to a quality public education.” This may not seem problematic at first glance; however, the concern of advocates of homeschooling is that this will give preference to public education and eventually lead to the elimination of private education, which includes homeschooling.

The recent article on homeschooling in Harvard Magazine and Harvard Law School’s upcoming “summit” on homeschooling (whose invitation list only includes anti-homeschooling advocates) further bring to light the attack on parents’ legal rights to educate their children as they best see fit. It’s clear that the intent of liberal elites is to restrict, and eventually make illegal, the institution of homeschooling. In an attempt to dispel some myths and shed some light on facts about the benefits of homeschooling, I’d like to share my personal experiences here.

Homeschooled for six years

I grew up in Illinois and was homeschooled for a collective six years. Finding local public schools lacking, my parents pulled me out and decided to educate me at home. It was not a decision they made lightly and, in the mid-1990s, homeschooling was a fringe movement to say the least, much more so than it is today. Despite popular belief that homeschooling was an ineffective method to educate children, I excelled academically and participated in a number of activities, including gymnastics, theater and choir via our homeschool group, Girl Scouts, and more. I made a number of friends both through homeschooling and through other activities and today still consider an old homeschool playmate and my sister, who was also homeschooled, among my best friends. My parents consistently received feedback from their friends about my sister’s and my maturity and ability to interact with people of all ages. Upon entering high school, I placed into honors classes.

Andrea Roeger
Andrea Roeger
Although I credit much of my academic success to homeschooling, perhaps the most important lessons I learned were that the personal sacrifice of giving up time and resources to invest in others’ futures, standing up for what you know is right despite societal pressure telling you differently, and choosing the hard right over the easy wrong despite its challenges, are all worthy of pursuit. (Since I haven’t taken the time to say it publicly yet, thanks Mom and Dad. I’m eternally grateful.)

Drawing from several models

Upon having my own children, I began looking at the wide variety of school choices offered here in Minnesota. There were several wonderful options; however, for a variety of reasons, I found them all lacking in some way and began imagining how I would want schooling to look if I were to put together my own plan. I didn’t limit myself to the standard American school system model, but began exploring other educational philosophies and how education was done in other countries. I was fascinated by the Finnish school system where formal schooling doesn’t begin until age 7. Although homework and testing throughout the younger grades is minimal, Finnish schools produce students with some of the highest test scores in the world. I loved the Waldorf model, which focuses on more imaginative learning and prioritizes free play and ample time outdoors. I was impressed by the academic rigor of the classical model, which demands repetition and the memorization of basic facts. I ultimately concluded that the only way to have all these things was to homeschool my children, so I began planning.

Although we are still in our first years of homeschooling now, the experience has been life changing. My kids study a number of subjects, including math, language arts, science, history, music, art, foreign language, and religion. We’ve been blessed with friends and a wonderful sense of community through our weekly meetings with our homeschool group. My kids participate in community educational programming, make frequent visits to our local theaters, museums, and libraries, meet friends for play dates, and participate in additional music and foreign language classes. Nearly every day we spend time outside, often visiting our local playgrounds and nature centers. Perhaps most important, we get ample time together as a family. I see my kids bonding with their grandparents and becoming good friends with each other.

Parents’ reasons vary

There are a number of arguments those opposed to or skeptical about homeschooling often bring up as concerns. One is that children are not properly socialized. Socialization by definition is “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” This interaction should be with people of all ages, including kids of the same age, not exclusively with kids of the same age. Another concern often brought up is that homeschoolers are not adequately educated. This point has been continuously refuted and a number of studies show that homeschoolers, on average, outperform their publicly educated peers.

Still another charge against homeschoolers is that the vast majority are Christian conservatives who want to live a reclusive lifestyle. While it is true that the pioneers of homeschooling were overwhelmingly Christian, today many fewer families are choosing to homeschool for religious reasons. A growing number of homeschool families belong to other faiths, or no faith at all. The reality is that the vast majority of homeschool families choose to educate their children for a variety of reasons, including out of concern that their children get an education tailored to their unique talents, weaknesses, and learning styles.

If you are interested in learning more about homeschooling or would like to support homeschooling in Minnesota as well as around the United States and the globe, some simple internet searches will result in vast array of available online resources. A great place to start is with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Its site features some great tips for how to get started, explanations about the rules and regulations for each state’s requirements, lists of groups and organizations to join, and much more. To find homeschool events, field trips, and classes in Minnesota, check out Homeschool Adventures.

Andrea Roeger is a mother of three and lives in south Minneapolis.


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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/15/2020 - 02:41 pm.

    I find it bizarre that the author tries to minimize the role of “Christian conservatives” in the homeschooling movement, but then promotes a group that espouses the worst of that movement’s bigotry.

    I am not sure what same-sex marriage or transgender rights have to do with homeschooling, but the HSLDA has publicly opposed those issues, going as far as to have filed amicus briefs in related cases. This isn’t a homeschooling group. Its an anti-LGBT group that works on some homeschooling issues.

    The worst of what HSLDA does, though, is working to protect abusive parents. They don’t just want kids to homeschool. They want to let parents do anything they want with their kids without state supervision.

  2. Submitted by Orville H. Larson on 05/15/2020 - 11:53 pm.

    I associate myself with Andrea Roeger’s article.

    Homeschooling parents (I know a few) are individualistic, think-for-themselves types who want to raise literate, think-for-themselves kids. Not for them the government-issue, curriculum-dictating, politically-correct, incompetence-filled public “schools.”

    More power to them.

  3. Submitted by Bob Kraemer on 05/16/2020 - 07:10 am.

    The author didn’t mention if her parents were teachers or college graduates and how they determined they were qualified to teach children. It has been my experience that very few parents are qualified to teach their children as well as a professional teacher can! There is a reason teachers have at least 4 years of college with most having advanced degrees in how to successfully teach children. The great majority of parents do not even have a college degree but somehow they are qualified?? I also question how homeschooled children acquire hands-on learning that they get is a wide variety of Science and Technology classes! How many homes have Chemistry, Biology, and Physics labs at home not to mention Industrial Technology classroom labs! How many parents are well versed and can actually teach all of the required subjects that are necessary for a solid foundation for post-High School education? I find that very few parents actually meet all the above criteria.

  4. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 05/16/2020 - 10:36 am.

    Well Andrea, you lost me right away with your name calling (liberal elites)-something you must not have learned about in home-school. I don’t think you like being called a “conservative deplorable” so please don’t call others names.

    I have had lots of experience with observing home schooling and have seen it done successfully and not. The two cases that come to mind were people I know well -both Christian families who did a good job. Both had fear as their main motive. In another couple cases it is obvious despite the families efforts that the kids are under-socialized-such a tragedy-it was too insular despite efforts to have socialization at church and within a big loving family. Then there was the time the home-schooled friend of my daughter ended up in my bed with her boyfriend and was thankfully interrupted by my public-schooled daughter.

    One case that comes to mind is where the parents allowed a speech defect to go untreated that screening in Orville’s “incompetence filled public “schools” would have competently been screened for and remediated. And there were several cases that when child protection calls needed to be made the answer was to home-school.

    Then there was the mother who placed her home-schooled daughter into her senior year and asked that she be the class’ valedictorian as mom had given her all A+’s. Her picture on the front page of the paper was the subject of much laughter and derision.

    Your story is interesting and I wish you well. I did a little home-schooling myself with my children by using Hirsch’s classical education series. My 30 something kids still laugh at dad’s school that took place for 30 minutes each late afternoon and in the summer. It is a cherished memory for them but was in addition to the public school experience in which they both thrived.

    We have to be careful that we don’t establish public policy on anecdote-neither mine nor Andrea’s. Too often at our legislature one gets the idea that the whole place runs on 90% stories, 9% data and 1% common sense.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/18/2020 - 10:23 am.

      I missed the “liberal elites” bit in my first readthrough, but between that and her promotion of an anti-LGBT group, its pretty clear what kind of homeschooling she got and is giving her kids.

  5. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 05/16/2020 - 01:17 pm.

    I really don’t think you would find a public school teacher who doesn’t think all children should be home schooled – just that many should not be exclusively home schooled. In fact, the easiest to teach and highest achieving students are almost always the ones who have been well home schooled as well as formally schooled. It may not technically take a village to raise a child, but most children do best when they are exposed to learning from multiple sources.

    The author seems to be promoting a conspiracy to make educating your own children somehow illegal. Not sure what world she has experienced, but you won’t find anyone in the public schools participating in that plot.

  6. Submitted by George Kimball on 05/16/2020 - 03:45 pm.

    My niece and her husband home school their two children and from what I am able to observe, the kids are getting an outstanding education and are doing great in he socialization realm.

    As a retired career educator who interacted with thousands of public school teachers and administrators, I don’t know of even one of these thousands who advocate against all home schooling.

    But the reality is that, in this day and age, very few families are in a position to provide quality home schooling. The vast majority are either two working parent or single (and working) parent households. And of those few who can afford to have one parent at home, many of those stay at home parents are unqualified or otherwise unable to facilitate quality teaching and learning.

    But for those who are in a position to do so, and have the resources to provide instruction at home and take advantage of rich community-based opportunities, like my niece, I say “bravo” and what an amazing family experience it must be. More power to them!

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