Critical Thinking

One of the things that kind of weirds me out about homeschooling is that, unlike teaching, there seems to be little to no internal critique of it in homeschooling circles (at least, from what I’ve seen so far). Like, on one of the FB pages I follow, someone asked yesterday if “the dads” were involved in other people’s homeschooling. A couple of people said no, a few said that they help on weekends, and after about a dozen comments I said that, because men still have much greater earning potential than women, I too was the primary homeschool parent and that this was one of the things that bothered me about homeschooling. (I then went on to say that the husband does x, y, and z with PK and that although I’ve historically seen this as just part of “being a dad,” surely now that we homeschool it’s also part of PK’s “education.”)

No one responded to what I said, unless this–“I know a couple of families where the dad is the primary care-giver and the mom is the primary money-earner. I know a few more families where the parents are both involved in both. My husband does some things with my son, but I do most of the schooling”–was intended as a response (if so, it’s extremely indirect). Eventually one father commented, very briefly, to say that he was the primary homeschool teacher, but that his wife did all the research and organization.

I wasn’t trying to troll, but it’s odd, to me, that homeschool forums seem to be so unselfconscious about homeschooling itself. They also tend to be very “positive” and upbeat–even when someone is asking about a problem they’re having, most of the responses seem to be, in effect, “everything will be fine!” There’s one exception to both the lack of critical discourse about education itself and positive thinking: public education, which is “okay for some but not for us” at best, though more often it’s irredemable–a whole other topic that I need to think/write about.

My guess is that the upbeat tone and lack of critical self-awareness are both artefacts of the fact that “homeschoolers” are a broad group with a fair bit of potential for strong disagreement lurking right under the surface: there are those who prefer “christian” curricula, athiests, and those who see education and religion as distinct arenas, anti-public-schoolers and former public school teachers, etc. So obviously if discussions are to be had about curricular approaches or shared resources, it’s going to be important to shelve what could be potentially devastating arguments about those kinds of differences. There’s also the (not at all unrelated) social imperative that women who don’t know each other well avoid conflict, and having seen plenty of online forums self-destruct when differences of opinion got too personal for folks to tolerate, I can certainly see why this happens. (It’s interesting, btw, that I have yet to see overt monitoring of comments or messages–people seem to police themselves pretty carefully. Though I have no doubt that if someone were openly critical of someone else’s opinion/approach, there would be a moderator from somewhere who would step in.)

So I get why it happens. But it’s kind of discomforting, especially in an educational context. It bothers me because it feels weirdly anti-intellectual not to have open discussion of the cultural context in which homeschooling is happening, or the goals of the movement (and it is very much a movement), or its social/political effects.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t homeschoolers who are politically active as homeschoolers–there are–but so far that seems to be simply around ensuring that home schooling is legally protected, and again, those discussions seem to studiously avoid questions about the potential for “homeschooling” to be a cover for indifference towards and neglect of education. (I assume that homeschool activists would say that public schools are perfectly capable of being indifferent towards and neglecting education, which is true, but doesn’t address the problem.)

It’s an odd little subculture that I’m finding my way into. And I worry about the indirect and possibly (but not entirely) unintentional lessons it’s teaching us about the relationships between the individual, the nuclear family, and the broader societies we are part of–even while acknowledging that it is itself the result of broader social difficulties we have with those relationships, difficulties that obviously many parents think are being taken out on our kids.

Advertisements

23 responses to “Critical Thinking

  • Mary

    I am a near-complete outsider to homeschooling culture online or off, but just in case you haven’t seen it, you might enjoy following Rivka’s blog. It’s mostly day-to-day notes, and about a child younger than yours, but she does on occasion touch on political issues:
    http://tinderbox.homeschooljournal.net/why-homeschooling/
    http://tinderbox.homeschooljournal.net/2010/08/15/does-homeschooling-violate-liberal-values/

  • Thorn

    This post reminds me a bit of Bad Homeschooler http://badhomeschooler.tumblr.com/ although I think she’s getting to the end of her blog and I don’t know if she’ll really go after the frustrations she has with the foundations of homeschooling.

    I’m feverish and muddled and apologize if this doesn’t make sense, but it also makes me think there are a lot of overlaps with the foster parenting world, except I’ve been able to find places where those critical discussions can happen at least to some degree. Similarly, though, the legal and social pressures (plus the cultural push of it being mostly women talking about being in a helping profession and being conflicted about whether “profession” is even the right word for it) can make people more willing to cling to what they know must be right than to look at things critically.

  • tedra

    @Thorn–thanks for the link! A kindred spirit. And yes, I hadn’t thought about foster parents as being another group of (semi-?) professionals (?) involved with children, mostly b/c I don’t have a lot of connection to that world, obvs. Food for thought.

    @Mary–thanks for those links. I’m wondering if that’s the same Rivka I used to “know” online…

  • Vance Maverick

    I have nothing to do with the homeschool world (though I’ve known some school families up to the moment they decided to go home to learn), but this chimes with my experience of other “schooling” parents as well. You can hear long conversations around the playgrounds of San Francisco, concerning the merits of various schools, in which it’s clear the interlocutors have no theory and little data — they’re winging it, with a façade of self-confidence and specialist understanding. There’s the semblance of internal critique, but a reliance on (e.g.) test scores to tell us more than they can.

  • tedra

    @Vance, yes, I think that’s generally true–but (at least some of) the educators themselves have some knowledge of research, pedagogical trends, etc. It’s not so much homeschoolers as parents that I think should have this knowledge (though in a perfect and ideal world, all parents of school-age children would know a *little* bit about child development and pedagogy) as it is homeschoolers as teachers/activists, yknow?

  • Vance Maverick

    Yes, if parents are going to act as teachers, or activists for acting-as-teachers, they should actually know what teachers know. I guess what I was driving at was that the question of how to teach one’s kids brings out an excessive self-confidence in many of us. It’s hard as a parent to be in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

  • Mary

    It’s the Rivka who used to write the blog Respectful of Otters, which I think was pretty famous ack in olden ‘net days. I don’t know her very well even as a commenter. (My pathway: I originally read that blog, and then when it went dark Googled for her and her daughter to see if there was another site, and found her LJ and her homeschooling blog forked from there.)

  • frankgrauillustrator

    The opening sentence to your post appears loaded with assumptions. You note that, “unlike teaching, there seems to be little to no internal critique of it in homeschooling circles”, as if homeschooling is not equivalent teaching.

    It’s also not clear what you mean when you suggest homeschool forums are “unselfconscious about homeschooling itself”. Given that they’re discussing homeschooling, how can they be any more conscious of their topic? Your next comment seems to indicate what you really meant, when you speak of how positive forum participants are to the problems anyone may raise. But it should be no surprise to anyone why that is. Homeschoolers have been attacked for so long that, to remain viable, they’ve become very supportive of one another.

    But I think your later suspicions are right on. I’ve been a part of other online communities of various interests, and I find they similarly don’t like to touch politics with a ten-foot pole, mostly because no one wants to politicize a community revolving around a shared interest. The fact is, people are sick and tired of political bickering, and they want to be able to enjoy being involved in a community without having politics tear the whole thing apart. Online homeschooling forums, as you seem to allude, are no different.

    You allege that the lack of political involvement in homeschooling is to avoid “questions about the potential for “homeschooling” to be a cover for indifference towards and neglect of education”. I think the reason such “questions” are not raised is because it’s simply false, and it’s not reasonable to expect homeschoolers to worry about a bogeyman that does’t exist. Critics who falsely characterize homsechooling in this way are usually concerned that homeschool students are not receiving the kind of education that the critic desires them to have, which often has more to do with ideological indoctrination of one sort or another which the critic fancies. But the fact that homeschool students generally outperform their government-school counterparts in academics lays to rest any notion that they’re indifferent to eduction.

    Finally, you displayed worry about “indirect … lessons it’s teaching us about the relationships between the individual, the nuclear family, and the broader societies we are part of”. However, you didn’t explain exactly what those lessons were which caused you so much worry. Exactly what is there to worry about? After all, most homeschool parents choose to homeschool precisely because of the lessons homeschooling teaches their children about the relationships you enumerated.

  • tedra

    Frank, thanks for commenting. So much to explain, let me just take it a bit at a time.

    “You note that, “unlike teaching, there seems to be little to no internal critique of it in homeschooling circles”, as if homeschooling is not equivalent teaching.”

    Sorry, what I meant is unlike teaching as a profession; professional training (should) include an awareness of research into pedagogical methods, etc; theory, as opposed to practice. Most of what I see so far in homeschool circles is a lot of discussion of practice–what I think you mean by “Given that they’re discussing homeschooling, how can they be any more conscious of their topic?”–including who uses what curriculum, what’s worked for us, etc, but what (seems to) work or not for a given teacher isn’t the same thing as discussing what works from the pov of educational theory and research. As an example from parenting (not teaching), people say things like “spanking works great for us” even though research shows that physical punishment is an ineffective way to teach children to monitor themselves (at best) and can damage their relationships with parents (at worst).

    “Homeschoolers have been attacked for so long that, to remain viable, they’ve become very supportive of one another.”

    Sure, as I say later in the post (and you acknowledge), this makes perfect sense. It’s tough, though, if you want to be able to ask questions about/really interrogate some assumptions but the culture of the group is to be leery of that kind of thing.

    “people are sick and tired of political bickering, and they want to be able to enjoy being involved in a community without having politics tear the whole thing apart. Online homeschooling forums, as you seem to allude, are no different.”

    Absolutely–but surely homeschooling is, actually, a political act! Whether or not one realizes/acknowledges it. It’s important to me as a feminist and an intellectual and a political person to be able to think/talk about the political effects/intentions of my decisions, and generally I don’t end up joining communities where doing that is taboo. Hence my frustration. I’m not saying all homeschool communities *should* do what I want; I’m saying that it bothers me that I have yet to find that happening. And I find it particularly odd (and bothersome) because one of the key goals of education, and one that many homeschoolers say is at the root of why they homeschool, is the importance of being able to ask questions/explore ideas freely. If that makes sense.

    “You allege that the lack of political involvement in homeschooling is to avoid “questions about the potential for “homeschooling” to be a cover for indifference towards and neglect of education”. I think the reason such “questions” are not raised is because it’s simply false”

    I have to disagree heartily with this. There are “homeschool” materials out there, for example, that explicitly teach intelligent design or creationism as “science.” That’s educationally unsound. A classmate of my son’s was pulled out of school and homeschooled because his parents had a difference of opinion with the school over whether or not he “should” physically attack anyone who called him gay because gayness is, in fact (from their pov) evil; there were other things going on in that family (kids with special needs that the family couldn’t afford to address that had been being served–admittedly inadequately–by the school system; kids being expected to do chores at home rather than school work; foster/adopted kids being told that they were incapable of learning because, e.g., their birth mothers had used drugs) that actively undermined their learning.

    “Critics who falsely characterize homsechooling in this way are usually concerned that homeschool students are not receiving the kind of education that the critic desires them to have, which often has more to do with ideological indoctrination of one sort or another which the critic fancies.”

    Sure, and of course part of my objections just above have to do with my ideological differences with the way those parents were raising their kids. But not all, and that’s precisely what I mean by the teacher/parent distinction I started with. There are real, established facts about what is *educationally* sound–not closing off inquiry, for instance. I might think that closing off inquiry isn’t a great method of parenting, either, but sure, parents are entitled in their role as parents to decide that obedience is more important than inquiry. Educators, as educators, are not entitled to do that; it’s inimical to what “education” means. (Yes, teachers do it, as do parents, simply as a practical matter: sometimes you have to say “no more questions now”. And some teachers are just rigid and not great teachers. But everyone recognizes that pedagogically speaking this is a *limitation* and responsible teachers and education professionals push against that limit.

    “But the fact that homeschool students generally outperform their government-school counterparts in academics lays to rest any notion that they’re indifferent to eduction.”

    In general, I think homeschooling is absolutely academically sound, yes. And that homeschooled kids often get excellent educations. Two things, though: “outperform” by what standards (this is a minor quibble which I’m throwing out there not because I disagree with what you’re saying but because it perfectly illustrates the divide I’m talking about. Pedagogically, defining and measuring “performance” is critical. Do we mean test scores? Do we mean acceptance to college? Do we mean graduation rates? I actually happen to think all of those things are at best partial and at worst poor measures of academic performance, but they do matter). And also, even though it is true that homeschooled kids often, maybe usually, [know more/are better taught/are more creative thinkers/do better in college/whatever measure one wants to use] than their public-school peers, that doesn’t lay anything to rest. Maybe they do better despite poor educational practice because they compensate for poor education by being, say, more confident. (I’m not claiming this is the case; it’s just a hypothetical.)

    I think the disagreement (?) here is what we mean by “education.” I’m not saying that homeschoolers as a class are indifferent to education–obviously that’s not true. The vast majority of homeschoolers are clearly very concerned about education (though I do still worry that homeschooling has the *potential* to also cover neglect). And work really hard to educate their kids. But caring about education isn’t the same thing as really understanding it as a field of study. I’m a former academic, academically trained: understanding things as fields of study is important to me. And I think that being able to define a field of inquiry and establish methodologies for examining it, etc., is at the heart of what education *is*, and is for.

    “Finally, you displayed worry about “indirect … lessons it’s teaching us about the relationships between the individual, the nuclear family, and the broader societies we are part of”. However, you didn’t explain exactly what those lessons were which caused you so much worry. Exactly what is there to worry about? After all, most homeschool parents choose to homeschool precisely because of the lessons homeschooling teaches their children about the relationships you enumerated.”

    Well, for instance. Most Americans still, sadly, live in very segregated neighborhoods, economically and racially. How does homeschooling address that problem? I haven’t actually seen it talked about. Formal education tries to address social inequities in tons of ways, some good, some bad; we can (and do) study those approaches to figure out which ones work and which don’t; even if politics often means we don’t actually *implement* the better solutions, we know something about what they are.

    Another one: it seems to me that at the heart of homeschooling is a very individualistic, not to say libertarian, concept of education. Individual parents should give their own personal kids the best educations they can, and that should be their first priority, educationally speaking. From the pov of parenting, this makes sense. From the pov of education, I’m not sure: I think that there is a tension, socially, between “what’s best for me” and “what’s best for the group.” It concerns me that, for instance, we (me included) may be implicitly teaching our kids that if X public institution is disagreeable to me, I can (and should?) simply opt out of it. I see this partly as the thinking that’s led to many of the current problems in public education: that people collectively are opting to defund it rather than recognize that a well-funded public system of education is absolutely crucial to a modern democracy.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense or if it merely muddies the water. I’m writing about all this stuff as a way of figuring out what I think. Thanks for commenting and giving me something more to chew on…

  • tedra

    @Mary: I thought it might be that Rivka. Cool!

  • Rivka

    Rivka here. “Pseudonymous kid” sounds really familiar. …OMG! I used to read you ALL THE TIME. Thank you, Mary, for linking me in a way that prompted me to show up here.

    I agree that there’s a very strong libertarian streak among homeschoolers on both the left and the right, and that discourages people from pursuing questions about the tension between social and individual goods. I can, however, recommend a few authors who do explore these issues:

    David Guterson, Family Matters
    Mitchell Stevens, Kingdom of Children – can’t recommend this highly enough, even if it is by a (*shudder*) sociologist
    John Holt, Teach Your Own. A super-oldie, and weird in many ways, but interesting.

    The Well-Trained Mind forum (hosted by classical education guru Susan Wise Bauer) does host some conversations that are thoughtful about pedagogy and homeschooling philosophies, although you’d have to sift through an awful lot to find them.

    Here is a link to my posts that are a little more analytical or philosophical, although, as Mary said, I do tend to post more about the day-to-day.

    I don’t know – would you maybe want to try a little back-and-forth blog conversation on some of these issues? We might be able to get Bad Homeschooler in on it too – she’s one of my real-life friends. And then maybe that would spur others to dig in a little too.

  • tedra

    Rivka, hi! (I edited your comment b/c I don’t want my old identity googleable here.) A little blog conversation might be good at some point, yes; give me a bit to get my feet (have just started blogging again, am trying to get PK back engaged with life again). Also I totally dig Bad Homeschooler–that’s awesome that you know her!

  • frankgrauillustrator

    @tedra,

    Regarding “internal critique”, you clarified what you meant by “teaching”, noting that you were referring to teaching as a profession. You clarified further by stating that homeschool teachers do not discuss “what works from the pov of educational theory and research”. However, it’s not at all clear why one should give serious consideration to mere theories, which are unable to produce better results than the homeschool community.

    You then raised the issue of spanking, which has nothing to do with academic education. Ironically, you noted how spanking works for some, and yet you cited “research” which is clearly contradicted by the empirical results of so many. Again, why give any serious consideration to a failed theory? (It should also be noted that research on spanking isn’t at all scientific. In fact, most people who rely on such research have little understanding of the philosophy and limits of what often passes as “science”.)

    You wrote that it’s “tough … if you want to be able to ask questions about/really interrogate some assumptions but the culture of the group is to be leery of that kind of thing.”
    That a gross generalization, and one which doesn’t comport with my experience. There are plenty of people willing to engage in a discussion about anything regarding homeschooling. I’d be very interested in knowing what question you have which you believe someone in the homeschooling community would be unwilling to engage.

    You claimed that homeschooling is political, yet we’re not told in what way. You referenced the “political effects/intentions of … decisions”. However, almost anything could be said to have “political effects”, but that doesn’t make the causes of those effects equally political in nature. Of course, there are laws affecting the homeschooling community, but again, that no more makes homeschooling a political activity any more than laws about pets makes the owning a kitten a political activity. There also may be political subjects taught, such as economics or civics, but again, merely addressing those subjects doesn’t make the educational enterprise a political one.

    You opined that you “generally … don’t end up joining communities” where speaking about political effects/intentions “is taboo”. Anyone in the homeschool community has the freedom to “to ask questions/explore ideas”, and if you’re not able to do so in the particular group you attend, there are plenty of groups which will accommodate you. What you really may be seeking, however, is not the ability to merely ask challenging questions, but to actually dissent from the rules within a particular group. If so, you have the freedom of starting a group which functions in a way commensurate with your personal philosophies, and certainly no one is denying you that right.

    You cling to the view that homeschooling is indifferent or negligent toward education because some homeschooling materials teach ID or creationism as science. First, that’s a red herring, given that not all homeschool teachers/parents hold to ID or creationism. Second, your criticism is naive about the enterprise of science. It seems you’re functioning with a methodological naturalist presupposition and then imposing it on science. However, scientific data is not self-interpreting. Those who teach neo-darwinism are not teaching anything which is a whit more scientific than ID. The neo-darwinist begins with a philosophical commitment and then imposes the requisite presuppositions on the data to reach a foregone conclusion. That’s not science. That’s philosophy. But if it counts as science for the neo-darwinist, then it counts as science for the ID theorist, since ID theory is predicated on observable data and known premises.

    Regarding the anecdote about the kid whose parents removed him from a government school over the issue of homosexuality (and whatever issues were ongoing within that home), that, too, is a red herring. What does it at all have to do with the academic merits of homeschooling? How does this anecdote erase the empirical fact that homeschool students generally outperform their government school counterparts?

    Regarding parenting, you mentioned that for some, “obedience is more important than inquiry”. That’s simply a false dilemma. There’s no reason one cannot be both obedient and have the freedom to ask questions.

    You stated that “caring about education isn’t the same thing as really understanding it as a field of study”. It appears that educational theory is merely a subjective area of interest to you, which you wish to see emphasized, but which has no relevance to the lives of students whose homeschooling provides all they need to live good, productive lives. I’m not belittling your personal interests, but only noting that they represent a philosophical preference, and not an imperative of any sort.

    You asked how homeschooling addressed the problem of segregated neighborhoods. From whence comes any imperative for academic education to address that issue? You noted that “formal education tries to address social inequities in tons of ways, some good, some bad”. I would suggest that represents one of the many reasons government schools are failing. They’re more concerned with social programming than with academics. You earlier mentioned “internal critique”, implying that professional educators engage in this. But there doesn’t seem to be any internal critique as to whether time ought to be taken away from academic study to engage in such ideological indoctrination. And I use the locution, “ideological indoctrination”, because what is taught about the causes and solutions to such social ills are almost universally motivated by some ideological agenda.

    You addressed the issue of individualism, and expressed a concern that homeschool parents are more concerned for what’s good for their own children than what is good for the entire group. Given that the duty of parents is first to their own children, that should be something which is welcome by all. Why on earth should any parents be expected to sacrifice their children? For what? So that government schools — which were terrible long before homeschooling became a movement– can waste more money on failing programs?

    Finally, there’s an assumption that “a well-funded public system of education” requires children to be stuck in a class instead of out in the real world. But why can’t the government simply give parents whatever support they may need to homeschool their children, including offering vouchers for those who opt for private schools? The fact that anyone believes that a big-government educational machine is necessary to educate children seems to be one of those assumptions that professional educators don’t bother to subject to “internal critique”. Ironically, teacher’s unions have stifled anyone’s ability to question their existence, and instead has demanded unwavering obedience. As you earlier suggested, that isn’t educationally sound.

  • tedra

    “it’s not at all clear why one should give serious consideration to mere theories”

    Because the good ones are based on evidence.

  • tedra

    “You cling to the view that homeschooling is indifferent or negligent toward education because some homeschooling materials teach ID or creationism as science. First, that’s a red herring, given that not all homeschool teachers/parents hold to ID or creationism. Second, your criticism is naive about the enterprise of science. It seems you’re functioning with a methodological naturalist presupposition and then imposing it on science. However, scientific data is not self-interpreting. Those who teach neo-darwinism are not teaching anything which is a whit more scientific than ID. The neo-darwinist begins with a philosophical commitment and then imposes the requisite presuppositions on the data to reach a foregone conclusion. That’s not science. That’s philosophy. But if it counts as science for the neo-darwinist, then it counts as science for the ID theorist, since ID theory is predicated on observable data and known premises.”

    This paragraph is a major red flag to me; if you are seriously claiming that “intelligent design” is as scientifically valid as evolution, then there’s really no point in pursuing this discussion.

    One last thing, though: “homeschool students generally outperform their government school counterparts.” I’m not aware that this is true–do you have a study? (Serious, not snarky question.) That said, even if it *is* true, there’s a real problem with data sets (which is not unrelated to the ID/evolution equation I think you’re proposing above). Are homeschool students as broadly representative as public school students are? Public school students include kids from every walk of American life; do homeschool students? I suspect they don’t–which means that, at the least, one would have to control for things like economics, parental involvement, parental educational level, etc., before making a meaningful comparison.

  • FG

    @tedra,

    Regarding mere theories, you wrote that “the good ones are based on evidence”. Go back and look at what I actually wrote. I noted that theories that cannot compete with practices which render better results are not worthy of consideration. After all, what “evidence” can one produce which can undermine successful results? Either a particular homeschool education method works for a particular child or it does not. One should also note that such “theories” are often worthless because they cannot account for the myriad of differing personalities of students. Not all students learn in the same way, which is one more reason why government schools are failing, i.e., they treat every child like a cookie-cutter robot who will respond to some generic theory, as if each child is not a unique individual unto himself.

    You wrote:
    “if you are seriously claiming that “intelligent design” is as scientifically valid as evolution, then there’s really no point in pursuing this discussion.”

    Here’s where the hypocrisy and double-standard unveils itself. You earlier claimed to desire open inquiry, and yet, as soon as your own pet theory is challenged, you close any possibility for discussion. One can only conclude that your claim to want freedom of thought really means “freedom” to impose your own ideology. It’s this kind of close-mindedness within government schools which leads many parents to remove their children and place them into a truly open, homeschool environment.

    Regarding the performance of homeschool students verses government school students: Are you seriously challenging the fact that homeschool students outperform their government student counterparts? This is hardly debatable.
    What’s even more telling is that you request a “study”. This notion that one needs a study to have knowledge is both epistemologically naive and logically self-refuting. After all, can you cite a study demonstrating that one needs a study to have knowledge?
    Furthermore, the representation of students, broad or otherwise, has no logical relevance to the fact stated. One may give all the excuses as to why government schools fail, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that homeschool students generally outperform government school students. If I said that Michael Jordan plays better basket ball than X set of kids, one can offer all the reasons or theories why the X kids cannot compete, or why Michael Jordan has all the advantages, but none of those factors diminish the very fact that Jordan does indeed play better.

    Finally, what continues to amaze me is that people will criticize a successful system of education while continuing to promote the failed dinosaur of government schools. Such an attitude is clearly not for the benefit of children’s education, but to promote an ideological agenda.

  • tedra

    Sigh. I had hoped that this was going to be an actual discussion. You’re kind of proving my point, FG.

  • FG

    @tedra,

    That’s not an argument, nor a rational response to anything I wrote. I’m trying to offer an alternative point of view, and rather than offer a cogent rebuttal, you simply dismiss my entire comment with a wave of the hand, demonstrating my earlier observation, i.e., you’re not really interested in discussion or inquiry unless it comports with your views. That’s hardly an open-minded attitude.

  • tractrix

    @tedra

    I love this post. You bring up big issues I’ve been pondering for years. Now that I’ve been forced to homeschool (long story), I’m in the fray.

    To oversimplify for a moment, it seems like homeschoolers fall into three distinct groups (or any combination of the three): Christian Homeschooler, Alterna Hippie Homeschooler, and Mommy Homeschooler. The CH want to avoid what they believe is liberal indoctrination in public schools, the AHH fault public schools for being cruel factories, and the MH are women who have always dreamt of being mommies and teachers and mommy teachers. All three of these groups often decide to homeschool before their child has ever stepped foot in a public school.

    Homeschoolers tend to become agitated when questioned about homeschooling. As a homeschooler now myself, I find this disheartening. I need actual information, not platitudes and hugs (or a fight).

  • tedra

    Thanks @Tractrix. I have to admit that I’m definitely pretty comfortable with the Alterna Hippies, and aren’t we all, after all, Mommies? (I’m a little uncomfortable with the kinda sexist patronizing aspect of labelling women who are dedicated to their role as mothers that way, though I know what you mean). I agree with you 100% that deciding to homeschool based on prejudices/popular beliefs about public schools (they indoctrinate kids, they’re factories, etc.) is terribly unfair to public schools. Though I think my real issue is those stereotypes and prejudices against public schools rather than deciding to homeschool *per se*, if that makes sense–especially after the discussion following this post at another blog I contribute to. (You might want to read the discussion, b/c it sounds like you and I are working through some of the same issues!)

    I get why people get defensive and feel like they need to always put their “best foot forward”–after all, when one is public about one’s misgivings, people love to jump on you (see the previous comments in this thread from Mr. “FG” as an example). But yes, I totally agree with you that it’s not actually helpful in assuaging doubts, at least not for those of us who are inclined to think critically about stuff. Which after all, is a major goal of any good education–maybe *the* major goal.

  • tractrix

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t using the word “mommy” pejoratively, it’s simply how many homeschoolers describe themselves. I personally do not refer to myself as “mommy,” despite the fact that I have children (who call me “mama,” as it happens). I think most mothers are dedicated to their children, but they don’t necessarily feel the need to self-identify as “mommy” first, above all else. It just feels a little barefoot & pregnant to me (as does homeschooling in general, to tell you the truth, but that’s another story). I don’t think men call themselves “daddy” the way many women call themselves “mommy,” no matter how dedicated they are to their children.

    I actually appreciate how supportive the people tend to be in homeschool groups and forums, but I do wish they could step out of the “public school sucks” echo chamber. Some public schools are bad, some homeschool “schools” are even worse. But since very few homeschoolers come clean (I’ve yet to hear, “OMG! My daughter got the worst SAT score ever on record. Every college rejected her!”), it’s hard to learn the potential pitfalls of this approach to education.

  • tedra

    I call myself “Mama” for much the same reasons–but I know that part of my objection to “mommy” (and to many of the same things that you’re objecting to, which I share) is internalized sexism, if ykwim. Motherhood, like so many other parts of women’s identities as women, is so full of internal contradictions: be attentive, but don’t be a “helicopter parent”; if you stay home, you have no life, but if you work, you’re not prioritizing your family; etc.

    I know I’m being kind of ungracious to your very kind comments, and I’m sorry. I was trained in critical thinking as a feminist, and I think part of the underlying problems with education (public, private, or home) have to do with our cultural devaluation of “women’s work” (teaching/having kids), so.

  • tractrix

    There is so much wrong with your patronizing responses to me that I don’t even know where to begin. Blecch. Good luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: