Is home schooling a complete education?

"Home schoolers are bright, but are they ready to face the world outside the home?"

By Salon Staff

Published June 8, 2000 7:48PM (EDT)

Sour grapes, anyone?
BY HELEN CORDES (06/06/00)

The National Spelling Bee and other "Bees" play to a strength in home schoolers, so it is not surprising that they do well. It is much easier to spend a child's time helping them learn megabytes of factoids in the home school than to give them a balanced educational and childhood experience. My wife and I both hold doctorates, but we would not try to replace the benefits of a public education with home schooling.

We are trained in science, but we can't teach a real science course without a laboratory. We could do a nice job teaching math and perhaps some literature. But history? We would just be reading the book with our kids. I can teach a little music, but I can't offer the marching band. I can play catch or a little one-on-one, but I can't provide an organized team experience. I can engage my kids in debate, but I can't give them a debate team. I can't teach them much art or shop or creative writing. I can't give them a drama club. I can't do as fine a job of making friends for them as they do for themselves. I can't teach them about people and the world around them as well as they can learn by living.

They still get three to four hours of "home schooling" every evening, so where's the rub? Why shouldn't our kids have it all? Our kids also test very well, thank you, but this is attribute is one piece of the puzzle; one part of the whole. Our goal isn't to raise them to test well. Rather, we hope they will be happy and good people. And yes, we will try to help them spell!

-- James W. Hershberger

Why is it that one parent's choice must always be justified by putting down another parent's choice? Cordes is "seriously sorry" that I "can't or don't want to" home school. Thanks for the sentiment, Ms. Cordes, but I neither need nor want it. How about if you just take it on faith that my reasons for not home schooling are just as good, and as valid, as your reasons for doing so? How about if we stop teaching our children -- both at home and outside the home -- that anyone who does things differently than they do is somehow deficient? How about if you just go on parenting your children as well as you apparently are, and I go on parenting mine (a job I think I'm doing with equal ability) -- and we leave the value judgments out of it?

-- Lori Oliwenstein

The most important learning experiences in school almost always take place outside of the classroom -- socializing with your peers, trying to resolve conflicts with those you do not like and facing authority figures other than your parents! Home schoolers are bright and well-behaved, but are they really ready to face the world outside the comforts of home? While home schoolers may know how to spell, I have a feeling they are woefully unequipped for life outside of academia.

-- Elizabeth Herron

An "unfair advantage" only exists if it is not available to others. Last I checked, home schooling was legal and thriving in all 50 states. Boy, for a free country with many advantages over other parts of the world, we have a bunch of whiners here. I think they teach that in school ...

-- Marie Rabideau

Helen Cordes hits the nail on the head when she asks whether the non-home-schooled competitors in national spelling and geography bees aren't studying for hours every night as well. In 1984, I competed in the National Spelling Bee. During a week of Bee-sponsored touring around Washington with my mom, we went to Arlington National Cemetery. One of the spellers was selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. They called his name again and again, but he wasn't on the tour. He was back in the hotel room, studying words. He went on to win the Spelling Bee that year. Me, I got bounced in the first round. But I got to see the changing of the guard at the tomb, and the Jefferson Memorial, and the White House. I didn't fly 2,000 miles to sit in a hotel room and read the dictionary. I figure I came out ahead in the bargain.

-- George Stankow

Salon Staff

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