Earlier this week I read a blog post titled, “I Am Slightly Insulted by Homeschooling,” over at Sammiches and Psych Meds. Today I commented on the post but it’s – in my typical fashion – so long that it could be its own blog post. Comments have to go through approval over there, so I’m going to post my responses here, as well. (Might as well, my blog could use another post!) The original poster covers an anti-homeschooling argument that’s familiar to most homeschoolers: The “Expertise Argument” which can be summed up as: “I’ve received quite a lot of training and credentials as a teacher, how on earth do you think you can do what I do?”
While I know there are homeschooling folks out there who diminish the work of teachers, that’s not the case for me and most of the homeschoolers I know. We commit large amounts of time on a daily basis to studying, observing, discussing, and thinking about learning, about how to be better learners and how to be more effective communicators with our children. Do I think there is a role for professional teachers in our society? Absolutely! But for me, this doesn’t translate into my child needing to spend 6-8 hours a day with them.
In any case, my reply to the post (again, linked here) follows:
I’ve been involved in homeschooling (as a child and now as a parent) for over 25 years and have never met anyone who made the decision to homeschool arbitrarily. I’ve met lots of people who’ve homeschooled for reasons I don’t agree with, but “just because” has never come up once on my radar, not even as a rumor. If anyone has told you that they homeschool “just because” I suspect that was their way of saying they didn’t want to talk about their actual reasons with you at that time.
I have many dear friends who were trained as professional teachers, and I have a great deal of respect for their expertise and their efforts with children. We often talk about education, childhood development and the learning process. We exchange ideas, and I learn from them regularly. Homeschooling doesn’t have to mean being at odds with professional educators or rejecting their knowledge and experience.
I absolutely agree with you that teachers are the most qualified to teach what they’ve been taught, as they’ve been taught. What you’ve missed – and some homeschoolers miss this, too – is that it’s not my goal to replicate what you teach as you’ve been taught to teach it. Put another way, you’ve confused ‘education’ with the current public (or even private) school system. These things are not synonymous.
You gave the example of construction or dentistry – and it’s true, outside of the most desperate circumstances, I would not attempt to build a dwelling or perform oral surgery without any training or research. I wouldn’t live in a house built by or have oral surgery performed on myself by someone who had no idea what they were doing, either. If that’s your analogy, I can see why you feel it is obvious that homeschooling is a bad idea. But a more appropriate analogy would be this: I recently traveled to Colombia and stayed in several dwellings that had been built by people who did not have the certifications and trainings required to be licensed contractors in the United States. I took my daughter to a hospital there in which the doctor who saw her was not licensed to practice in the United States.
My point is that what matters is what you know, and the expertise you have – not who credentialed you or how many hours you spent in a particular kind of classroom. There are many ways to learn, not just the way you’ve learned. There are many ways to get good at something, not just the way you’ve learned how to get good at something. Once we step outside of our own particular context, this becomes apparent.
Lastly, I will say there are things I want my daughter to learn about learning that I can’t expect her to learn in most public and private schools because of their very design. Would you really feel comfortable with a parent coming in and saying, “I want my child to equate learning with joy and diligence, not external rewards or punishments or fear of humiliation?” Or “My child needs a mentor, not a teacher.” Or “In order for him to have a chance at surviving in this society, I need you to model for my child how to critique capitalism and dismantle institutional racism instead of internalizing the violence done towards him.” Have you been trained to teach in ways that would allow you to accommodate children with these needs? Are you given the freedom as a teacher in a school to accommodate them?