Homeschooling

Homeschooling is So Boring, Even Hip Brooklyn Parents Do It

|

It's been official gospel for a while that homeschooling is no longer the domain of religious weirdos, a la Weavers on Ruby Ridge, or even the lesser-known breed of unschooling hippie types. Because, if home education were limited to those archetypes, how could there be endless trend pieces about how homeschooling is totally a normal thing now?

To be fair, "The Homeschool Diaries," part of  a section on "New Ideas for American Schools" in The Atlantic's October issue, is refreshingly narrow. And though it's easy to mock Newsweek and other mainstream glossies that seem to incessantly just discover that within the rising ranks of homeschoolers (somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million of 'em these days) "normal people" are taking over, it's still nice to learn that the homeschooling bug has jumped from fringes, to suburban averages, to oh, so cool arty New York City parents: Ya know, the kind of who publish articles in The Atlantic. 

Writer Paul Elie describes a learning method that is not dramatically different than what is socially accepted. Yes, they leave the house, for one.. Elie and his wife teach their 5th grade sons some things like math, they send them to other groups of folks for the all-important socialization and they take advantage of the amazing art and architecture and all that good New York City stuff. Elie also notes that in the family's local homeschooling circle there are also the more out-there unschooling types, whose methods of learning are, according to one small study, maybe not as effective as more "traditional" homes education. 

Elie goes through a laundry list of the benefits of teaching the kids at home as well as the long list of encouragement for homeschooling in New York City, which includes dodgy safety issues and endless district realignment and confusion for public, budget slimming for Catholic, and jaw-dropping price tags for private schools (27-40k a year are figures mentioned). The takeaway for those who might even have better local options for their kids, is that what the hell is wrong with teaching your kids in the way that they — ideally — will learn in college? What's remotely artificial, restrictive, or sheltering about using the world around you to teach your kids what you want them to learn?

Our older boys are now in the fifth grade. They know their way around the Museum of Natural History and Yankee Stadium; they are versed in the exploits of Huck Finn and Jack Sparrow. This spring, they'll take the required state Regents exams—the tests that determine New York City students' options for middle school. But they, and we, hope to continue homeschooling. Meanwhile, when they sit down at the table with protractors or head to a museum, it is college I am thinking about. Not just because a university education is our unquestioned aspiration for our children, but also because it seems to be the closest model for the education we are now trying to provide. Tightly focused class sessions; expert presentations complemented by individual instruction; hands-on learning in areas that vary from day to day and year to year; education undertaken in the wider world—these aspects of our so-called homeschooling are basic to postsecondary learning. Higher education in America may be very different by 2022, when our twin sons would enroll, but I like to think that they will have had a taste of the university already.

Read the rest here.

Bonus: most awful objection to homeschooling that I have seen in a while.

NEXT: How the Justice Department Transformed an Amish Feud Into a Federal Hate Crime

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Here’s my question about homeschooling:

    When you send your kid to a graded school, you have to control their rate of advancement, because if you put your kid at their grade level you might end up with your 7 year old in 5th grade. Or worse.

    So to control their socialization, you pretty much are forced to advance your kids through the grades at a pace that gets them to graduate high school at an age from 16-18, or you end up with a Sheldon Cooper freak.

    But when you’re homeschooling, there’s no such limit. It doesn’t matter what rate they advance at, because you’re either going to find sufficient socialization opportunities with other kids their own age or you aren’t. The material they’re working on at any particular moment in time won’t impact that.

    So how do homeschoolers know when they’re “done”? If you can get your kid to pass the GED test by age 10, what then? College? That doesn’t seem anywhere near appropriate to me. So can you let them dick around for five or six years after that? If not, what do you teach them? How to build Google Apps?

    1. I believe some states have an age minimum for taking the GED, but that’s only some of ’em…

    2. The idea of being “done” with learning is incredibly pernicious. As if learning is a prison sentence, and you just need to put your head down and do your time. It’s one of the many terrible results of our schooling system.

      1. It’s like being “done” with fashion.

        1. I’m done with fashion.

          Seriously.

          These days, my clothes are to keep me (1) non-naked and (2) non-cold and (3)smelling okay.

          Other people can judge me but I’m not going to give a darn about what they think

    3. You’re forgetting all those Indians who send their Mentat math prodigies to college at the age of ten.

      Jewnese graduate college even earlier.

      1. Sorry, after actually reading your comment, I realized that really didn’t address your point.

        If they’re ready for college at age 10, why not teach them 6 foreign languages, computer programming, and all the math and science on Khan Academy?

        1. Khan Academy is freaking awesome.

          1. This.

    4. Well, we’re homeschooling our youngest daughter. When she can walk on rice paper without leaving a trace, she can leave this place. Oh, and snatch a pebble from my hand.

      Did I forget to mention lifting the iron cauldron full of hot coals?

      1. …and the box of pain / gom jabbar.

        1. Oh, that goes without saying. And the spice trip.

          1. “Every graduate of the Pro Libertate Academy is a certified Kwisatz Haderach!”

            1. It’s true. The secret is an extremely selective admissions process and a thousand-year eugenics program.

          2. So, as a rite of passage, you dose them with LSD?

            Are they instructed to locate a spirit animal, or have you invented something new?

    5. So how do homeschoolers know when they’re “done”? If you can get your kid to pass the GED test by age 10, what then? College? That doesn’t seem anywhere near appropriate to me.

      Mine will be “done” — with homeschooling, not education — when they’ve completed the material they would have taken in an “ideal” high school. Basically, this would be the course requirements Texas sets out for high school students.

      Unless I’m misreading something, one can’t take the GED in Texas until 18, unless ordered by a court.

      My kids will start taking dual enrollment classes at a four-year college when they are juniors in high school: at 15 for one and 16 for the other. I think they’d be able to do it sooner academically, but I’m not sure it will make sense socially or emotionally. We’ll see.

    6. You broaden their education. Music, art, literature. Start aiming for Oxford instead of Harvard or Yale.

      1. Set them up with an easel and make them paint for four hours, and then practice the violin (or whatever their preferred instrument is) for the other four.

        1. Then … find some other home schooled kids, and put together a Shakespeare theater in the park troupe.

  2. So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society ? like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

    Where do you find this shit, Lucy? It’s like the Critiques of Libertarianism guy decided to change his subject slightly.

    1. There are people who ache to be part of a greater collective and cannot accept that others don’t ache as well.

      1. “I want to be an excellent drone, and turn out the exact median amount of honey.”

        1. To actually address tarran’s point, rather than his activities last night, there are a lot of people who get actively angry when you don’t want to be part of their collective, because they take it as a rejection and an insult. They cannot understand why you wouldn’t want to be in it, unless it’s because of them.

          They do not consciously realize this, of course, and that makes it all the worse.

      2. Yeah, but that’s not why you ache, is it, tarran. Or where. Warty was rough on you, wasn’t he.

      3. Many people ache to be part of a greater collective, but what they actually year for is a small close-knit community. When they realize that a massive bureaucratic state socialism is the furthest thing from that they will be shattered.

    2. So if the Borg are actually real except that they give you a chance to vote to join the collective, does the U.S. join? I’m thinking it would be a close vote.

    3. Interesting. I haven’t read Lucy’s link, but this drives right to the heart of the question (rhetorical statement, really) I posed on a thread a couple days back…

      Do we “owe” society a certain amount of GDP? Not taxes, but production? Ie, do I owe society a certain amount of sweat in the process of labor?

      Once you say ‘yes’, then you no longer own yourself, society owns you. The only question is, by how much?

      1. Collectives don’t have rights. Individuals do.

      2. It seems to me that a large part of the justification for things like the war on drugs has a lot to do with this. If society owns all of your potential, then wasting your potential productivity by doing drugs is stealing from the collective.

    4. Because giving my children a better education than they can get in public schools is just like polio.

  3. How do they find time to homeschool and still make artisan mayonnaise?

    1. Are you implying that there’s nothing educational about making artisan mayonnaise?

      Free your mind.

      1. Having kis making fake Gucci wallets is far more educational.

        1. I made a rare appearance at the office 2 weeks ago (on the weekend so no one would be there) and there were little Asian kids furiously cleaning the place with back-pack vacuum cleaners. I hope their folks gave them an “A”.

      2. Buy mayo put some garlic in it mix…

        That is not friggin education!!!!

    2. Artisan mayonnaise? Is that what you unsophisticated non-hipsters (normsters?) call aoli?

      1. I actually have no idea.

        Nor do I have the wherewithal to Google.

        1. I’m honestly not sure (and having used Google, realized I didn’t even spell “aioli” correctly). But all I know is that it’s kinda like mayo and every foodie and quasi-foodie place in Chicago seems to put some kind of aioli on their sandwiches.

          1. Aioli is something you make WITH mayonnaise.

            Artisanal mayonnaise you make from scratch with eggs and oil and vinegar and salt. And love.

            1. Do you mean love, or is that a euphemism?

              1. I don’t think you want to know what “love” means.

                1. You don’t wanna know what love is?

              2. Is that the love between a man and a woman, or man’s love of a fine cigar?

                1. I think he means manaise.

          2. It’s mayo plus garlic.

            An upgrade if you ask me. However, I have heard rumors that their are some people in the world who don’t like the taste and/or smell of garlic. I think they are called pedophiles.

            1. They’re called “micks”.

            2. Mayo plus garlic plus capers is even fucking better, my friend.

              How I lived most of my life eating mayonnaise with no capers in it…I shudder to think of it now.

              Those poor, poor micks.

      2. Jesus christ you can make aioli without the eggs even, if you want. It’s like mayonnaise, not a mayonnaise flavor. Continuously grind cloves of garlic in a pestle slowly while dripping in good olive oil. Do this ironically.

    3. We homeschooling and my eldest knows how to make mayonnaise. But we don’t live in Brooklyn so it is not ironic.

      1. “We are homeschooling” that is. Well, so much for my kids integrating into society.

  4. So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society ? like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes.

    Actually, you can withhold your taxes; there are ways to do that. Besides, this is pure question-begging: “I can’t take my children out of public school because I just can’t.”

    We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect them from polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

    You see, kids – if you have children, you bother the nice people of society, so you should always vaccinate, spay and neuter them.

    Here are the brilliant words of one of Dewey’s successors, George Albert Coe,

    What education does is, in a word, to bring the child and society together.

    The amazing part is that this guy thinks G.A. Cole is being brilliant. In fact, he’s being downright creepy – almost saying that children are born to become the wards of society because, otherwise, society gets lonely.

    1. I thought he was saying he wanted to keep his kids in school so they could annoy others by ministering to them.

      And that the more godless the schools become, the more his kids will need to annoy people.

      I could be reading this wrong.

    2. The amazing part is that this guy thinks G.A. Cole is being brilliant. In fact, he’s being downright creepy – almost saying that children are born to become the wards of society because, otherwise, society gets lonely.

      No need for qualification, he is saying that children are born to be ward of society.

      Let’s not forget that Dewey, implicitly and explicitly, is one of the founders of Progressivism.

    3. As far as vaccinations are concerned, herd immunity is a real concept.

      If you don’t vaccinate your kids, you’re free-riding on all the people that do, and simultaneously making all their vaccinations less effective.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

  5. It’s been official gospel for a while that homeschooling is no longer the domain of religious weirdos, a la Weavers on Ruby Ridge,

    It actually never was except in the minds of collectivists and Fabians. Many famous people were homeschooled.

    1. No, no, it’s a new trend, otherwise why wait so long to write articles about it?

      It wasn’t a trend before, outside Ruby Ridge, because it didn’t have Atlantic articles written about it, or if it did we don’t remember.

    2. One of the linked articles is “10 fun themes and ideas for your gender reveal party!”

      Like, when you tell your friends which variety of kid you’re popping out, its apparently now a big party deal.

      1. I read that and I was thinking a post sex change op party.

    3. Look how well JS Mill turned out!

  6. It makes sense that unschoolers would do poorly on standardized tests since the point of their education is not teaching to a test. From what I understand, the point of unschooling is to get kids to pick a specialty. It makes sense to me. I think traditional schooling is inept. Kids are forced to be well-rounded and if they want to specialize they have to work around all the stuff they don’t want to do. It should be the opposite: specializing should be encouraged and if you want to be well-rounded, do that on your own time.

    1. Not sure if trolling….

    2. Are there any states or countries where this model works?

  7. if i can make an analogy to the MJ legalization thang. Im pretty strident about promoting the “sqare” face of MJ smoking and advocacy, the latter group including those who support legalization but don;t and won’t smoke. I say we need the soccer moms, cops, firefighters, businessmen,etc. out there spouting and in adverts as the face of legalization.

    And then I see this article. It’s exactly what we need with MJ legalization. Normalize, mainstream, etc. The article shows how we get past the stereotype of homeschoolers (and let’s remember … some stereotypes have a grain of truth in the aggregate. like this one) as fundamentalist/hardcore religious wackos… with guns

    As PJ OrRourke points out, our nation was founded by religious extremists with guns. 🙂 but getting THESE “normal” faces out there are the face of our movement is key.

  8. Also, make child labor legal and don’t force kids to attend school.

  9. Wow must indeed be boring if New Yorkers are doing it. Wow.

    http://www.AnonFolks.tk

    1. Hehehe.

  10. Not having children of my own, I cannot say for sure which course of action I would take (public, private or homeschooling) concerning my hypothetical child’s formal education. I myself went to public school but I consider myself largely self-educated, having read the mini-library of books my parents kept in the house. What I really learned in public school is street-smarts and how to interact with a different cross-section of people. That’s the only real atvantage to a public school. When it comes to academics, they don’t teach crap.

    1. For most people, the answer is simple: it won’t be homeschooling. Not because they’re incapable of giving their child a quality education at home, but that they don’t have time.

      I live in that strange world where both spouses work… because they have to.

      I believe that when homeschooling first started to pop up in the religious christian sectors of society, they still live in that traditional family situation: Husband works, wife is a homemaker. Which means someone’s got some hours during the day to spend on the schooling of the rugrats.

      For the set described in Lucy’s post: New York creative types who write copy in their living rooms also have a lot of time during the day…

      The way I see homeschooling is simple: It simply can only be done by classes of people who are fortunate/ambitious/lucky enough to have a profession which allows you to maintain a setting where homeschooling is possible.

      Unless you find yourself in this situation (marry up is the easiest, best advice I have), you’re probably not going to be doing much homeschooling, no matter how effective at the task you’d be.

      1. Yes, there will always be plenty of people for whom homeschooling just isn’t an option.

        1. good points. something that works well is when a group of parents trade off. Sally gets Monday, Jane gets Tuesday

          So, you have a group of 5 sets of kids in class for socialization, and each parent only does one day a week.

          it would be pretty cool if homeschooling parents were offered vouchers

          1. At the point that you’ve created a classroom of children, wouldn’t it be more efficient (in a division of labor sense) to pay a professional teacher to educate the kids and have all the parents maximize income at work?

            1. setting aside, ricardo’s law of comparative advantage (doesn’t really apply, but it’s kind of relevant

              the system i propose (not that I made it up. it exists) still gives PARENTs (a group in this case) control over the curriculum vs. a school

              allows for more individualized attention.

              it’s a lot easier in most jobs to wangle your schedule so as to teach one day a week

              in a group of 5 parents, you are going to have diverse areas of expertise. in this system, the kid whose dad is a math wizard could teach math, the kid whose mom writes for a living, could teach literature etc.

              but most importantly… if parents were interested in maximizing income (solely), then homeschooling is probably not what they want to do in the first place. public school saves money, and a penny saved is a penny of income.

              i just think this system eliminates some of the potential drawbacks of homeschooling – more socialization with kids, outside the family, etc.

              1. I think the law of comparative advantage is extremely relevant.

                Teaching 5 (or more) students simultaneously is much more difficult than teaching 1 at a time. Professional teachers are much likely to be better at it than amateurs– as motivated and intelligent as they may be.

                1. oh, ok. sweet . i just remember ricardo’s law from one of PJ ORourke’s books,

                  that aside…

                  there MAY be a class size X, such that as your class size approaches X, professional teacher gains advantage on runofthemillparent, and upon reaching X and surpassing it, “professional” teache has an advantage

                  certainly POSSIBLE.

                  and assuming 3 kids per household in the class and 5 households, that’s 15 kids.

                  i think you very well MAY be right, when i think about it.

                  i think it’s axiomatic amongst homeschoolers that when it’s just THEIR kids (and we aren’t talking the duggars) and/or a few kids, that THAT is the arena within which they shine. their lack of credentials and specialized training (assuming arguendo there is ANY value to a teaching degree) is trumped by the individualized attention (a 1:2 ratio is pretty epic) they can give, as well as the fact they KNOW their kids

                  and also, one would assume their motivation (wanting their kids to be well educated) is at least or probably a greater incentive than union scale wages.

                  but yea, I concede… with a class of 15… not so much

                  cheers

                  fair enuf

    2. What I really learned in public school is street-smarts and how to interact with a different cross-section of people.

      I learned that Jenny Pottsmeier had a really great ass…

      1. Google give me nothing.

        By the way, yesterday, a jittery, Coke-up DMX encountered Google for the first time.

  11. when i think back on all the crap i learned in high school, it’s a wonder i can think at all. And though my lack of education hasn;t hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall – Paul Simon

  12. Not just because a university education is our unquestioned aspiration for our children, but also because it seems to be the closest model for the education we are now trying to provide. Tightly focused class sessions…

    We’re not so big on the tightly focused class sessions. Yesterday’s world history class started with the Punic Wars, got to Hannibal, moved to his elephants — how many, what kind, why that kind, how’d he feed them, and all the Google searches that that implies — then moved to Scipio, to a guy I know who posts on some football boards as Scipio, to how an offensive line could be similar to, or different from, a phalanx, to Austin, to chicken fried steak, to lunch.

    1. I think this might be a good method for teaching social science but a bad one for teaching calculus.

      1. Could be. We’re just touching on pre-algebra but moving from the specific problem at hand and discussing how the knowledge might be useful and where it could be used makes it a lot more interesting.

        1. That’s good instructional practice. But if you move from a word problem about elephants to talking about elephants to going to the zoo, you don’t actually teach the kids how to do word problems.

  13. Homeschooling can be a very effective method for educating your children, particularly now that effective educational tools are so easily available to homeschooling parents. Small class sizes and individually tailored lessons are very effective.

    The problem with homeschooling is its cost. The opportunity cost of a parent becoming an unpaid teacher rather than earning an income is high, and can only be borne by two parent households, or single parent households with significant savings to draw from.

    It’s an educational model that is not feasible for the large majority of single parents and the working poor.

    1. It’s also not effective unless the parent has a high level of academic achievement in the first place.

      Parents that didn’t complete high school, let alone attend college, will not make great teachers (on average).

    2. They can still do community/group schooling, depending on how flexible their work schedules are.

    3. Is someone arguing that everyone should homeschool their kids? I don’t see anyone doing that. I see a few people wanting to ban or strictly regulate homeschooling. I don’t see anyone arguing parents with kids in public schools should be forced to remove them and quit work to teach them at home.

      1. You don’t see anyone on Reason suggesting we eliminate public schools?

        Pay more attention.

    4. I’ll bet Derp, here, agrees with ultra-wealthy leftist fuckstain Warren Buffet on private schools:

      “Make private schools illegal, and assign every child to a public school by random lottery.”

      Wonder if Buffett meant ALL private schools, or just the ones not used by politicians and other self-important people.

      1. Oh, and fuck you, shrike.

      2. I don’t think that’s a good idea, and I said explicitly that I think homeschooling can be a good option for some students.

        It’s just not feasible for most.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.