Friday, June 12, 2009

The benefits of not homeschooling

I have to admit, there are some benefits to homeschooling in high school. The ability to work at your own pace. The ability to study what you want, when you want to.
There are also big downsides.
You don't meet people. Many of my junior high and high school friends are still great friends, ten years later. I was roommates with one for four years of college, and roommates with others for one or two years. We're spread out now, my five best buddies from high school and I living in five different states, but I still consider them good friends. Had I been homeschooled, my pool for potential friends would've been much smaller. And I don't even want to think about my social skills--let's just say I was an awkward teenager, and my friends helped me overcome that. Being homeschooled would've been a huge disadvantage there.
I had teachers in public schools that challenged me in ways my parents never could. One of them, Ms. Boburg, passed away this last week. I would not have met a personality like her elsewhere at that age. Smart, demanding, funny, sarcastic. In fact, I had a number of unique, talented teachers. Great people, great teachers, but totally unlike other adults I knew from family and church. Public schools taught me to appreciate diversity of thought, something that homeschooling, no matter how well-intentioned my parents, never could. My parents challenged me, but Boburg and other teachers challenged me in ways that my parents didn't.
I'm glad my parents weren't the ones to teach me high school biology (trust me, as intelligent as they are, I'm glad someone with a biology degree did that). I still shudder to think about two cousins of mine, homeschooled in biology with the help of a pseudo-science textbook from Bob Jones University. I'm glad I had a science teacher, a British man raised in South Africa, a BYU graduate, and an LDS bishop, who told me he accepted evolution--it made the transition to a biology major at BYU that much easier. My parents still believe evolution and the gospel are incompatible. Had I been homeschooled and majored in Biology somewhere other than BYU, who knows what would have happened. I may have, as Henry Eyring put it, seen the evidence for evolution and "thrown the baby out with the bath."
Six years of English allowed me to get perspectives on literature from six different people, who understood books much better than my mother. Even had my mother excelled at all areas of knowledge, she had only one perspective to offer, which was her own.
Do public schools have issues? Certainly. But a smart parent will put their child in a good school, ensure the child has good, demanding teachers, and encourage the child to take honors classes (where most of the good teachers teach anyway).
Meanwhile, RIP Ms. Boburg. You excelled at a demanding, poor-paying job, where you never got the respect you earned. And by doing so, you blessed thousands of lives. You are missed.


caron said...

Do you know where to find her obituary? I didn't have her, but I heard a lot about her. I hope it was a peaceful passing.
It also kind of makes me feel old to have a teacher gone.
And I concur on the homeschooling. There are so many benefits to it, but the social aspect and the opportunity to learn from so many specialists is a really good thing. I had a good experience in public school. Well, besides middle school- that whole period of my life is blocked from my memory for some reason...

Tim said...

Middle school was definitely not a pleasant time, but I had some fantastic teachers (LaFlamme, Norton) and formed some strong friendships that will last a lifetime. The hard times helped strengthen those friendships.

Mommy Bee said...

I think a lot of the social issues (awkwardness, shyness, etc) have as much if not more to do with personality than with environment. YES, absolutely, environment can feed or stunt natural temperament, but the temperament is already there. My mom was public schooled and was shy as could be--she did not stay in touch with anyone from high school, and only a couple of people from college. My dad, well, have you heard any of his stories about how he never had a date in high school cuz he was so awkward and scared of girls? So I believe it's a lot more complex than home vs school.

You're right, it's very healthy to have the diversity of teachers/leaders/opinions to influence a growing mind. It's also important to have quality resources and texts from which to learn. Some homeschoolers do a good job of this, some not so much. There again though I would submit that it's not cut and dried literature for example schools often deal with censorship, whereas a homeschooled student (or their parents) could select texts more freely.

As I mentioned in my post (I don't know if you linked over and read the whole thing), I don't think that homeschooling should be a default any more than I think that public schooling should be a default. I think it's important for the parents to consider the child and the situation each year and make a choice for what will be best for that child in that time/place. I think that picking one path and then never re-evaluating the choice does a great disservice to the child. As you know I'm very pro homeschooling, but I'm also very pro charter schools, and I am not opposed to public or private schools...I think each has its place, and to discount any entirely is unfortunate. Like I said in my post, I don't know what the future holds--I don't know whether I will homeschool my kids (or when, or which ones), BUT 10 years ago I hadn't ever considered public school...since then I think I've gotten a lot smarter as I've learned to make every choice at the time, rather than relying on a default--any default. :)

Brentwell said...

Love the post about homeschooling, but I was most shocked to find out that Ms. Boburg died this year. I have to say that she was one of my most memorable teachers in high school. She will be missed.