A homeschooled child’s view of school

Over on Snavley Freebirds is an interesting essay written by a young man who has always been unschooled until he decided to try a year of public school as a freshman, Education from the Free Eye.  It presents an interesting perspective of schooling and education from the experience of someone who has stood on both sides of it.  The entire essay is worth reading, but a statement made in the introduction by one of his parents particularly caught my attention:

I regret that he felt that I talked about public school as a “bad thing” because I really didn’t mean to portray it as “bad”. I often countered (or defended) my stance to unschool and often mentioned some of the negatives about public school and he took that as my thinking it was ALL bad.

My daughter frequently asks questions about school, why we homeschool and why other people do not.  The second question is for me the easiest; the other two are too easy to misrepresent to a child who has no point of reference other than what her parents tell her.  Interestingly, however, if you ask my daugther what she likes about homeschooling, her answer will focus on what is wrong with public schools, a system she has never set foot in.  Her criticisms are true, in a caricatured sense, but without experience to draw from they come across as rather comical to me.  I know that she doesn’t really know what she is talking about, and regret that out of all our conversations, these few points against the public school system seem to have stuck in her mind.

When my husband and I talk about the homogenizing affect of schooling, most people would recognize in that criticism a tendency and a challenge of going through the school system, not an absolute rule that the system turns out only automatons of the state.  And while I have heard that term as well, I think it is used and understood largely as hyperbole, although I know there are those who do mean it in a more literal sense.  My daughter, on the other hand, does not have the benefit of experience or study and she hangs on my words.

I am like a translator between two worlds:  her homeschooling world, and the somewhat mysterious school world which seems so normal to everyone but her.  I don’t want her to grow up with the same sort of stereotyped view of the school system which so many in our society seem to possess of homeschooling.  I also don’t want her to go off and explain her limited view with “My mom said…”

It has made me a little more conscious of how I talk about school around my daughter.  But it also makes me curious.  How do you answer these questions?  And have you noticed your children coming away with a somewhat distorted view of what school is based on your discussions regarding education?

Hat tip:  Just Enough and Nothing More


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32 Comments on "A homeschooled child’s view of school"

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Renae
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What a great question! I’ve been waiting for this post since you mentioned it on Homeschool Talk.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s answers. I’ll have to come back with mine, since the rain is returning and we need more sandbags. 🙁

Life On The Planet
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My older children have a bad view of public schooling, as their only experience with it comes from taking taking their brother to speech and occupational therapy at our local school (when we lived in Louisiana). We sat outside the office for an hour. We watched children roam the halls and curse at each other. We saw kids being carried (literally) to the office. We listened to teachers down the hall scream constantly at children. We heard children cursing at the principal. We heard parents and grandparents (who more often than not came to school in slippers) curse at the… Read more »
Victoria
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I am so glad you’ve asked this question. This summer life as we know it was blown to bits. My husband lost his job and because living on site was a job requirement, we were forced to move. By the time you factor in housing and the loss of other benfits he ended up taking a $30,000 pay cut. Being in small town Nebraska we were just thrilled to find a new job at all, or should I say one that pays more than $6 an hour. We were homeschoolers committed for the long haul and now I find myself… Read more »
Dana
Guest
Oh, Victoria, I’m so sorry this is happening! Circumstances can change unpredictably and I’ve wondered before how my children would take it if I suddenly had to return to work for some reason. I hope things turn around for you soon, but if not, I’m pretty sure your kids will be fine. What they need most is involved parents, and I’m sure they have that. 🙂 LOTP, I should hope LA schools aren’t representative. I heard some stories from fellow TFAers when I was teaching. But stickers and candy will balance out a lot of the bad for any kid.… Read more »
Dana
Guest

Thanks, Renae. Me too…but having lost most everything for three days, it took longer than expected. I think I’m slowly learning not to commit myself to anything that involves our computer, but it probably won’t stop me from trying. Hopeless optimist, I guess.

Heather Young
Guest
My parents are still both public school teachers so I spent a lot of time convincing my kids that public school was not the place to be–since my parents were trying to convince them it was–even though my mom considered home schooling my baby brother. Finally I gave up and showed them. We spent one day doing things the way I had to do them when teaching–right down to the attendance taking, standing in line, everything except the school bus, though I made them sit still for part of the amount of time their school bus would take (around here… Read more »
Andrea
Guest
I’m just as guilty over this as the next person, but I have found that my older children, when they got to that part of teenagehood where they questioned everything we (their parents) ever told them, it actually *helped*. At some point, kids realize their parents have bias. And I’m the kind of parent that says so. They also know that I have been wrong on occasion and sometimes hold “wrong” opinions. (Hey, we let them disagree… what can I say?) So at some point they have, subconsciously, checked to see if Mom & Dad’s opinion was true or not.… Read more »
Dianne
Guest
Excellent post, Dana. I believe it not only applies to public vs homeschool, but is also valuable when considering how we present Christians vs non-Christians to our children. I’ve watched my kids make remarks with a strongly biased opinion about people that is somewhat without basis. It’s teaching me to be more careful in the way I make comments, as well as how I teach them. Mine attended public school from K-5, so they have the experience, at least at an elementary level. I don’t think that is as much of an issue in our house as my prior thoughts.… Read more »
Dana Hanley
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Very good point, Dianne. I guess I am a little more careful about how I talk about people than systems, because my daughter really has never said anything about non-believers as a group…just about school. Or maybe it is just because she is more curious about school since her closest friend is public schooled as well as several other girls she knows.

Bias is ok…we all have biases…but when it passes through to children as a perceived objective view of the way things are, the view can be quite distorted.

Christy
Guest
This is such a great and timely (for me) topic. I can’t wait to read the essay. And have my 13 year old read it. I have tried hard not to be negative to, or in front of, the boys about PS. They hear it anyway, mostly from their PS friends. And it doesn’t help that several of their Scout friends were pulled out of school this year, over bullying and TAKS tests. They complain a lot about their PS experiences. I also don’t want it glorified, because IMO, PS doesn’t deserve glorification. So, we mostly stick with the fact… Read more »
ChristineMM
Guest
I haven’t read the essay yet but will do that later. I wanted to comment to answer your question. In the beginning, meaning preschool and Kindergarten years, I told my oldest various reasons for not going that were appliable to his age and that would affect him. For example, that we sleep until we wake up, we do not have to wake up early to an alarm. That he sleeps until or after the school bus goes by our house. That here we can learn faster or take more time matched to his need or desire, rather than having a… Read more »
Kristina
Guest
My older two kids went to PS. My youngest just turned 5. He would have started Kindergarten this year. The oldest, when asked about public schools has several comments to make. He says, “Why would I want to waste all that time doing nothing?” “It would be nice if the teachers would spend their time teaching.” “I’ve learned more in one year of homeschooling than I did in 4 years of school (both public and private).” “I was able to make more friends in school, but school should be about learning.” So, yes, he’s probably quoting me a lot. But,… Read more »
PeregrinJoe
Guest
Good post. I also like the article. All three of my boys have been in public school. In fact, when we suggested that we home school they jumped at the opportunity and have not looked back. The way I describe public school to them is that it is a “broken system.” Not bad or evil, just malfunctioning. Some people feel that they have no choice but to send their kids to public school. That does not make them evil or bad. It simply means that they are doing the best they can with what they have to work with–a broken… Read more »
Charity
Guest
I started homeschooling when my older 2 children were entering grades 2 and 3, so they have a frame of reference of their own, but when they tell other people about what they like about homeschooling, they say that they can work at their own pace and don’t have to wait for other kids to finish their work. That has always been what I emphasize about homeschooling – the individualized instruction. I remember the first year we homeschooled, one of the boys said that he was glad that he could like whatever he wanted to and not have to listen… Read more »
Dana Hanley
Guest

Yes, well, if only we all had such wonderful motives for homeschooling as starting after Curious George. 🙂 We try to emphasize the positives about our own choices rather than frame it as a comparison, but she overhears mom and dad talking about education and frequently wants to know specifically “why not public school?”

Renae
Guest
I agree that it is easier to discuss why we homeschool with my son. However, I realize that can even give very negative impressions about public school, especially for young ones who are still learning about the world. My son sees things so black and white, right or wrong. Our most interesting conversations have originated with the neighborhood children. One girl thought Bug gets to play all day, and while he does get to play more than kids in school that, of course, isn’t reality. (Well, usually, it isn’t ;)) So she and my son have discussed their different experiences.… Read more »
Rebecca
Guest
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time as well, so I’m glad you wrote this, Dana. Once again, Mouse sounds very much like the Scientist. We had a lot of these discussions earlier this year, when dd thought she wanted to go to school. She even came up with the “YOU both went to public school and YOU know how to think!” argument entirely on her own. But after further discussion, her real issues turned out to be the lack of opportunity to make friends (school is the social hub in our town and we were the newbies)… Read more »
Dana Hanley
Guest
Rebecca, I do think it has a lot to do with maturity and a very concrete understanding of the world. Renae, your comment on politics left me with another thought. As a teacher, I heard all sorts of things from the kids I taught. All the teachers I know (including the Sunday School teachers) joke about how you always know what is going on at home. But you also know to take it with a grain of salt and understand that their understanding of what they are parroting back is limited. I may not be entirely fair to expect any… Read more »
Sunniemom
Guest
The way I have presented our view of education to our kids is that we have chosen homeschooling over public school like we might choose Kroger over Meijer, a pickup truck over a car, or hardwood floors over carpet. Home education fits our needs and our family dynamic. They have also seen public school from the ‘inside’, being part of afterschool Bible clubs for a couple of years (we took this last year off). When they were younger and would ask why kids have to sit in desks, raise their hands to ask questions, and stand in lines alot, I… Read more »
Life On The Planet
Guest

“…we have chosen homeschooling over public school like we might choose Kroger over Meijer, a pickup truck over a car, or hardwood floors over carpet.”

Excellent analogy, Sunniemom.