Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is Homeschooling a Libertarian Idea? - Part II

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, I was engaged on someone else's blog with another commenter who argued that homeschooling was not libertarian, because it restricted a child's liberty. In response to my comment (which made up most of my previous post), the other person posted this comment.

Of course there are many excellent parents who place their children's rights above their own when they homeschool....... but you can take the failures and blame the system!

Our laws allow parents to limit the freedoms and liberties of a child - and I don't mean the liberty to be antisocial, to harm themselves and others etc.

The system has loopholes and this harms kids!

And to include anonymous... (Note to my readers: this is me - MM)

Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent.

The liberties you talk about, however, don't seem to be "liberties."

"Kids in public school are limited in who they interact with.." Nonsense! They mix with the whole population of children, black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, gay, straight, Latino, European. Not just the family and Mum and Dad's friends. Homeschooling is designed to limit the liberty of a child to mix with others. That’s the whole point of it..

"Traveling with their families" is about the family's liberty.

"What they do with their time." All part of social education and self discipline. ...and so on and so on.

I expect I sound angry, and I am. I’m fed with children being restricted by their parents in order to make them conform.

Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents. Ask me, I was a schools advisor for many years and a psychotherapist.

Ask college professors who have to give extra attention to home-schooled children whose education has left them totally unable to cope with college life.

Homeschooling usually used by authoritarian, often religiously inspired, adults to control children's experiences and limit them to their own view of the world. It seems, often, to indoctrination rather than education.

Libertarianism condemns such manipulation of people.

Whew! It was hard to even know where to start with this one. His post is full of so many false assumptions and generalizations that I'd be willing to bet this guy did not study logic in school - if he did, it's a testimony to how poor our education system really is. And his post made me see red - which didn't facilitate thinking clearly in order to give him solid responses.

But here's how I answered him.

Did it ever occur to you that as a psychotherapist, you might have seen only the worst examples possible of homeschooling? You've made the statement:

"Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent."

This implies that I am an exception among homeschooling parents. To the contrary, I've been involved in the homeschooling movement for many years - I was homeschooled myself for 6 years as a missionary kid, I helped a church start a homeschooling umbrella school, I have homeschooled my own kids for 8 years, I have taught and worked in a homeschooling enrichment program, I participate in several online forums, and I write a homeschooling blog. I know literally hundreds of homeschooling families, and by FAR the majority are much like I am. They love their children, and they homeschool because they believe homeschooling provides their children with a far better education than the public school system. Not only that, most of the homeschooling parents I know believe, as I do, that homeschooling provides our children with much greater liberty, both today and later as adults, than the public school system will ever be able to do.

I strongly disagree that kids in school are not limited in who they interact with. You said yourself that children in school "mix with the whole population of children" - yes, ONLY children (oh, yes, and a few carefully selected teachers). And the "whole population" they mix with is basically limited to the children in their neighborhood who attend public school. Homeschooled kids, on the other hand, have the opportunity to interact not only with people of all races, religions, and social classes, but also with people of all AGES - something sadly missing in schoolkids these days. Most of the homeschoolers I know have good friends of all ages. They are often excellent with toddlers and preschoolers; they can hold an intelligent conversation with an adult; they are even kind, thoughtful, and polite to seniors. Where on earth did you get the idea that the whole point of homeschooling is to "limit the liberty of a child to mix with others"? I don't know ANY homeschooler who would agree with that statement (maybe there are a few - but I've never come across one). In fact, most homeschoolers are very concerned that their children have the opportunity to mix with others of all ages, races, religions, and social classes.

You said, "'Traveling with their families' is about the family's liberty." You may say that if you like - but the truth is that the school prevents CHILDREN from having the opportunity to travel. The parents can still travel - they just have to get someone to take care of the children and get them to school every day. And I work in the schools in the afternoon - I've seen parents do this. Homeschooled kids have the liberty to travel with their families rather than being confined in a school classroom while their parents travel.

"Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents." Where on earth do you GET this stuff? I taught hundreds of homeschoooled kids in several homeschool enrichment programs (as well as teaching keyboards in the public schools in the afternoon), and I can tell you the homeschooled kids are generally far more able to concentrate, to pay attention, and to comprehend than the public school kids. And as for college professors, the vast majority are more than supportive of homeschooling. In fact, colleges have made special accommodations to allow homeschoolers, even though they don't have transcripts from accredited high schools, because they usually end up bringing credit to the school.

I'm sorry, but you haven't made your point. You've made a lot of statements about homeschooling that are completely unsupported by the facts about who homeschools and why. And where is your EVIDENCE that your statements are true?

What I perceive is that you are giving your own opinion and trying to pass it off by, "Ask me; I'm a psychotherapist."

As for the system having loopholes that harm kids, I agree - but homeschooling isn't the loophole that causes the greatest harm. What kind of loopholes harm kids? The ones that allow kids to be alone in a classroom with a teacher who victimizes them (as has recently happened for the THIRD TIME in the local high schools in our district); the ones that allow teachers to simply "show up" and end up with a teaching credential, even if they are a terrible teacher; the ones that allow teachers to assign as much homework as they like, so that kids not only have to spend all day in school but all evening and part of the weekend doing school assignments; the ones that give families only one choice of public school to send their kids, regardless of how bad that choice may be; the ones that allow schools to do private physical exams of children without their parents' consent; the ones that allow schools to teach whatever values they like regardless of the convictions of the parents; the ones that force children into classrooms where they are bullied and refuse to move them; the ones that label kids "special ed" and stick them in classes where they have no opportunity to progress; and many more such examples. Yes, "the system has loopholes and this harms kids!"

But in the long run, homeschooling is far more conducive to libertarian ideals than forcing children to spend almost their entire childhood sitting in a classroom rather than interacting with the real world. And most homeschooling parents do so because it's better for their KIDS than public school.


Shawna said...

I haven't even read your response yet, but ...

** Ask me, I was a schools advisor for many years and a psychotherapist.**

...if there is any truth to this statement then I am just speechless at his complete ignorance regardless if he supports homeschooling or not.

What a jerk!

Shawna said...

Great comeback! So very true and well put.

If that guy is any kind of mental health professional or ever worked with kids than I am a monkey's aunt !

Marcy Muser said...


You know, I had the same reaction - is he really a psychotherapist? Why is it that when someone claims to be an "expert" a little too loudly, we doubt the truth of his statement? :) And when he makes such broad generalizations about homeschooled kids, he trumpets rather loudly that he doesn't really know what he's talking about, at least in my opinion.

Thanks, too, for the kind words. I followed the blog for some days and never saw an answer to my posts. Do you suppose I called his bluff? :)

Shawna said...

Probably LOL

Melinda S. said...

I would also like to point out re. limited options of who to interact with--most neighborhoods in the US are fairly homogeneous, and thus, so are most neighborhood schools. When I was growing up, eg, we sometimes lived in wealthy areas where we were the only lower-middle class family. We sometimes lived in lower-middle class areas where there were no "rich kids." But we rarely lived in areas that were truly mixed. (And if they were, the "rich kids" still did not hang out with the "poor kids."

In the homeschool groups that I belong to, the families come from all areas of town, and have all incomes (from $20,000 or less into the hundreds of thousands, at least). My kids don't know the difference, and neither, usually, do I. They just play together.

Marcy Muser said...


Yes, and that's exactly what I was referring to when I said, "And the 'whole population' they mix with is basically limited to the children in their neighborhood who attend public school." That was, after all, the whole reason busing was originally introduced; it has since been abandoned as an impractical way to try to achieve some measure of diversity.

I agree - my kids mix with a far greater blend of people than most schoolkids do.

How many schoolchildren, for example, have time to attend a fundraiser like the one my girls went to yesterday - four hours at a nursing home, meeting residents, talking with them, doing their nails, playing bingo with them, and generally serving them? And yet, how much richer their lives are because they met the man who used to be a circus clown, visiting the children's hospital in our town, and is now incapacitated because of a stroke; and the lady who came from England when she was 26 and still speaks with a British accent; and so many more - and they got to see these people as human beings with life experience, personality, and ultimate value.

I was touched to see my 11yo gently reach out to help a lovely older lady tie knots to make blankets for the children's hospital, and feel like she was contributing to two people's lives at once. How many schoolkids get to experience that?

In spite of our current culture's apparent belief system, people don't JUST come with different skin tones and different religions, but also with different ages, different abilities, and different socio-economic levels. Mixing with people who are different in ALL areas, with careful guidance from their parents, is critically important to healthy socialization - and that's a huge advantage to homeschoolers.