The Corner

Homeschooling Is Not for Everyone, and Neither Is Public School

In the comments on my recent homeschooling story, a number of readers have offered what they imagine to be a devastating critique of the movement: Not everybody is cut out to be a good homeschool teacher.

Well, raise my rent.

If you’ve ever spent any time around homeschool parents (or kids), one of the first things they will tell you is that homeschooling is not for everybody. Not every parent is cut out for homeschooling; more important, neither is every kid.

That is why, unlike those who wish to suppress homeschooling, homeschool parents are rarely if ever heard demanding that the government pass a law demanding that every other family in the country do things the way they do. Unlike our German friends, homeschool parents do not wish to seize custody of other people’s children simply because they prefer a different model of education. The irony here is that more than a few of our public schools are so dangerous and dysfunctional that sending one’s children there really ought to be considered an act of neglect, if not for the fact that those poor parents have practically no choice in the matter.

As an aside, I’d like to put to rest the canard that homeschoolers are socially maladjusted. In my time teaching, I had the pleasure of having a number of students in my class who had been homeschooled. Some were very bright and engaging, some were not; some were super gregarious, some were not; some were the very picture of emotional and social confidence, and some were not. Which is to say, they were more or less the same as the other kids, with the sole exception of having on average slightly better manners. The traditional classroom is an environment that works for many people, but it is a highly unnatural one: If being locked in a room seven hours a day with 20 other people all born within nine months of each other were a condition for proper socialization, then mankind was never properly socialized until the middle of the 19th century or so. And of course it matters who those other 20 kids are, and who their parents are. I was blessed to attend exceptional public schools, and we call things “exceptional” because they are the exception.

We have 900 kinds of shampoo on the shelves and 40 different kinds of fresh fish at my neighborhood Whole Foods. Anybody who sees all that but thinks that there is only one good model of education is in no position to criticize anybody’s education.

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