Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I really hate to jump into potentially polarizing issues, but this one I've struggled with for many years, on a personal level.

Homeschooling is not inherently a bad thing. It is not inherently a good thing. There are a myriad of anecdotes to demonstrate its worthiness or unworthiness, its virtues and abuses.

There is a syndrome here in the southland of fundamentalist religious families homeschooling their children. Usually the children in question are very polite, obey their parents, say "yes sir" and "no sir," never appear in public without a tie on the boys or a frilly dress on the girls. Ask them to quote any scripture and they can do it, recite all the books of the Bible, and tell you the steps to salvation. Ask them to tell you the capitol of Pennsylvania, and you get a blank Stepford stare. Math? The world was created in six days, and on the seventh, God rested. These kids invariably grow up to be preachers and preacher's wives, and to raise more offspring just like themselves. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Is it a socialization issue? You tell me.

This is not the case everywhere, to be sure, but I can't object to some limited regulations or credentials required for parents who want to teach their own children. My own sister and her @*#&$^%^ Nazi husband have home-schooled their two daughters and sons from the beginning. My eldest niece will be going to medical school soon. Her beautiful younger sister is 17, dyslexic, and has the reading and writing skills of a 6-year-old. She has never, ever been professionally evaluated or treated for this. My sister and the Nazi refuse to acknowledge that there's anything wrong with her. This would most likely have been addressed early on if she had been in a public or private school. And yes, I'm making an assumption about that, but the only reason that these children have been home-schooled is because the Nazi refuses to let his children go to schools where they #1 might be exposed to non-fundamentalist-Christians, and #2 might have to sit next to black children. These are people who live in arguably the best school district in the south.

I know that there are many cases where home-schooling helped a child learn at his/her own pace where it was needed, or where there was a real concern about the available schooling otherwise, but what to do about situations like this one? My older niece essentially taught herself -- she has always loved to read, and was born with real drive. Maybe my sister thought that all of her children would be like that, but that's not been the case. The two boys have learning problems as well, also untreated.

I have a hard time looking at this issue objectively, as you can see. I think I would want to home-school my own kids if I lived somewhere where the schools were less than stellar, but I as a mother would make it a point of making sure I was qualified and that I was giving them the best education possible -- or I'd move to a better school district. To ensure the best for the children is one thing --- to prove a point to no one, or to further an unhealthy agenda is another.

What do you, my 8 loyal readers, think about this?

And play nice now. I do delete troll comments. I have no time or patience for them.

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