The Burden of Home-school Parents

I’m not a parent, but as an early-graduate home-school alumnus, and one who did a lot of teaching to my younger siblings, I think that I can be afforded some room for an opinion. I was thinking the other day about graduating and how it felt then verses how it feels now. Honestly, I was not ready to graduate when I did. But I thought I was, at the time, when I was 15. I believed my mom when she said she’d taught me everything I needed to know school-wise and was prepared for the world beyond high school. In my (and my mom’s) defense, I did end up graduating with 30-some high school credits, but we opted out of higher math (and by extension, higher science like Chemistry 2, which was replaced with basic nutrition and physical education dvd courses) – my fault, because I couldn’t find anyone to teach me algebra in a way I understood. My parents didn’t have the time (too many other people to school), and my grandfather, who has a math degree, was just way above my comprehension level on the subject.

This lead to years later (i.e. now) my feeling inadequate when it comes to math, higher education, and simple SAT tests. Last year, I took the SAT’s, and naturally (for me) did well on verbal/writing/reading sections, and scored just above the minimum in math. There were things on the test I’d never even seen in high school – because I never got that far, and went for consumer math instead (give me fractions any day). When I was in high-school I was relieved to have a basic life-math that I understood taking place of algebra, which was a constant thorn in my side and the cause of many tears and frustration.  But…..that wasn’t what was best for me. I didn’t know that. My frustrated mother didn’t have time, and was just as happy as I was to find a substitute that I could do by myself like the rest of my subjects.

Aside from that I feel like I got a pretty decent (tailored) education. I think something that many home-school parents don’t consider is that their children trust them implicitly, beyond their public/private/charter schooled counterparts. Not only do we trust them to take care of us, love us, and provide for us, but we trust them to know what’s best for us and what we need academically. We trust them to give us a *better* education than the system, because, at least, that’s the message preached in the homeschool community.

However, “the education system” that home-schoolers avoid have more teachers, assigned to specific subjects that they know about/have degrees in. The students there have the responsibility to learn – much like home-schooled students. The difference is, the parents have the job of all the different teachers, yet often without the education. In the name of “tailored” education often leave parts of education that seem “unnecessary” out of their child’s curriculum, even skipping basic things (like algebra). Home-schooled kids learn what their parents teach them, and other subjects that are left out, they’re none the wiser about. Until they get older.

It’s a sad feeling when you realize the people you thought were giving you “the best education” ended up leaving you feeling inadequate and behind because they failed to teach you something necessary – whether that be math, spelling, language, or even basic sex education (evil of evils) because you didn’t seem to “get it” and they were trying to prepare you for <insert choice path here>.

I’m not against tailored education at all, however, I don’t think that other, necessary, subjects can/should be eliminated in the name of “you’re going to be a wife/mother you don’t need algebra” or “you don’t need to learn a language you’re going into trade” essentially, in the name of “I don’t think it’s necessary”. School standards are there for a reason whether we agree with them or not. The beauty of home-schooling is not in all that you can leave out, but all that you can let in, and the flexibility of tutoring to specific learning styles.   The appeal of homeschooling is not “graduate your kid at 16 regardless so s/he can help with the rest of your clan” but that it’s not a one-size-fits-all standard that we hear so much about in schools.

I feel like parents get caught up in the idea that they can choose what their kids know that they miss the heavy burden that lays on their shoulders – the burden to do as good, or better, than the dozens of teachers in school every day. These parents, or in most cases, one parent, has a huge responsibility to their child’s education when they decide to take it on themselves. Especially if they live in a place without, or opt out of home-school groups or co-ops that provide opportunities for kids to learn things their parents may be lacking in from another parent who’s strong in the subject. Admittedly, home-school curriculums have been getting better with DVD/computer courses and labs for various subjects (how I got through biology without a lab, and prepped for the SAT) and those are helpful, but don’t take the place of learning from other real-life people.

I guess, if I were to mention one thing that might help….I’d say try to prepare your child to get into an ivy league, like Harvard, MIT, or some such, regardless of if they’ll go or not, but meet those educational standards. Then add whatever your child is interested in to their education – be it the arts, electronics and engineering, computer programming, or what have you. Allow them opportunities to learn about what they’re interested in without neglecting staples like spelling, language arts, higher maths and sciences, history, and even foreign language.  Also, teach your child to their learning style – I learned best with a group, and my best high-school experiences were in our co-op with other parent teacher’s who’d grade my work and were strong in their subjects. Some of my siblings prefer one-on-one mom time and learn better that way.

The other thing I want to say, is don’t be ashamed to find a class or teacher, or even send your child to a school if you aren’t equipped to teach how or what they need to be taught. I know most home-school parents and philosopher’s disagree, because the school system is the “big bad”, but honestly, you’re a parent and you need to do what’s right by your kid, even if that means you can’t teach them at home. There’s no shame in that – I dare say that’s better parenting than people who home-school regardless of the fact that they aren’t able to meet their kid’s educational needs simply because they’re so scared of “the system”.

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4 thoughts on “The Burden of Home-school Parents

  1. WOW… I so agree, Kierstyn. I came to college and tested into the second lowest math… and for the first time in my life felt like a complete idiot. I will definitely homeschool through elementary, but when my kids need somebody who is an EXPERT in their field to teach them, I’m sending them to private school — with the same amount of love and involvement in their lives that I would have had when homeschooling them.

  2. Excellent post! I was wondering if I could link to it from my blog?

    In our state, included with the letter that affirms to a home school administrator that they have received and duly registered the intent to home educate, is another letter detailing what classes a high school student must take to get into college. So everyone KNOWS what is required to be successful in college.

    For me, that has always been the ideal. Maybe if one of my students had been a child prodigy at visual arts, the goal would have been an art school, or if an accomplished musician, Julliard. But my students are more or less average teens in this: they have no clue what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

    Now that’s not a huge problem. Most of us figure these things out along the way. But the fall back has always been, if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in life, then you must prepare for college.

    When my students are in ninth grade, if no clear path lies ahead, then we start checking off boxes for college. Math has never been optional, not even on our most relaxed unschooly day. Why? Because math is power, baby! For real.

    On the bright side, Kiery, I tutor plenty of pubicly schooled students who are not getting algebra. You can graduate public school without passing Algebra, but it means remedial courses in college.

    So when you test again for college and wind up in remedial math courses, the classes will be full. You might find some other home school grads there, but most of them will be public schooled.

    “The beauty of home-schooling is not in all that you can leave out, but all that you can let in, and the flexibility of tutoring to specific learning styles. “

    I agree. If you plan only to do merely as good as public school, why bother with home school? The freedom of home school should be an opportunity to put more into a student’s life, not less.

    The other thing I want to say, is don’t be ashamed to find a class or teacher, or even send your child to a school if you aren’t equipped to teach how or what they need to be taught. I know most home-school parents and philosopher’s disagree, because the school system is the “big bad”, but honestly, you’re a parent and you need to do what’s right by your kid, even if that means you can’t teach them at home.

    Also very true. I talked to my local public school, and they would be happy to accept a formerly home schooled student. Not only because they can’t legally turn him/her away, but also because they like teenagers and want to see them all succeed. The system is large and unruly, but it’s not malevolent. The people who work there are all flesh and blood human beings, most of them normal people of good will.

    For all the “fear not”s that are in the Bible, there is no reason for a parent to afraid to dual-enroll a high school student in a community college, hire a tutor or even enroll a student in public school. Really, life should just not be that scary for people who consider themselves full of faith, you know?

  3. Hi Kierstyn, You did an excellent job on this. You expressed clearly some of the thoughts that have rattled around in my mind for years.