For the most part, I think I'm pretty open-minded, and try to see past stereotypes to individuals rather than groups or labels. However, there's one group I know I've been highly judgmental of without really thinking too much about it -- homeschoolers.
For years, the mere thought of anyone choosing to homeschool their child left me appalled (at the thought of doing so myself) and pretty well resigned to the fact that they were crazy eccentrics of some type. But as they say, with age comes wisdom, and as I've aged, given birth to children, and seen and heard the horror stories that happen in our nation's public school systems, I've definitely changed my thinking about the practice. Also, lately I've met a diverse and dynamic assortment of women who homeschool their children, and to my surprise, they're totally cool.
I think in general, it's a group that's largely misunderstood and plagued by myths. In order to explore some of these stereotypical views, I recently caught up with Rebecca Grado, a licensed intuitive psychotherapist and author who homeschooled her own children, to debunk six of the top myths about homeschoolers.
Myth #1: All homeschoolers are crazy eccentrics.
Actuality: A popular misconception is that homeschoolers are children of religious fanatics who want to keep their offspring separated from the evils of the world, or hippy-dippy folks who have opted out of mainstream structures. The truth is that people from all walks of life and all areas of the world homeschool these days. As more parents are breaking through the misconceptions of homeschooling, and recognizing the incredible opportunities available to their children, they are opting for the method.
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Myth #2: Homeschooled children are lonely and isolated.
Actuality: No matter what path we choose for our children, we will be confronted by challenges. Ensuring that our homeschooled kids stay connected to other children their age is an important issue that needs to be addressed and not dismissed. Because there is not a built-in community of peers as found in the traditional school system, it’s important for parents of homeschoolers to provide play dates and activities with friends. The concern that our child might become isolated and lonely is valid, but it is also easily remedied by signing them up for activities like scouting, martial arts classes, sports, or 4H.
Myth #3: Kids who are homeschooled won't be able to function in the "real world."
Actuality: Homeschoolers spend their days in the real world, interacting with those of different age ranges, cultures, and economic levels. The misconception is that they’re sitting at home all day cut off from the world. In fact, they’re shopping, banking, interacting with others, and it’s through these interactions, that they learn to respect others, form friendships, resolve conflicts and cooperate with others. Many studies show that homeschoolers are actually better prepared to handle the realities of life because they are more confident and self-assured. They exhibit greater leadership skills and a stronger work ethic.
Myth #4: Kids who are homeschooled will never get into college.
Actuality: Homeschoolers are more likely to attend college (74% vs. 46% of traditional students.) More colleges like Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, and Yale are actively recruiting homeschoolers because they recognize the unique qualities that they offer -- they are self-motivated and self-disciplined. Homeschoolers have higher GPA’s than their counterparts, and they score 15-30 percentile points higher above public school students on standardized test scores. They also score higher on college admission tests like the SAT’s and ACT’s.
Myth #5: Homeschooling is just an excuse for kids to goof off all day.
Actuality: Homeschoolers can accomplish in a few hours what takes a typical classroom a week or more to cover. There is so much busy work and wasted time in the traditional school system. A common question among new homeschool parents is, “What were they doing in school all day?” Once these parents know how little time it takes to complete the course curriculum, they’re left wondering what was being taught during the 6-8 hours their kids were away (especially given the mountains of homework coming back each evening.) So what do homeschoolers do with all of their free time? They explore subjects that pique their interest. They visit museums and points of interest around their communities. They work ahead, read books that appeal to them, and experience the freedom to explore in depth topics that are only minimally covered in the classroom. They also have the time to do what kids are supposed to do -- play.
Myth #6: Even if I wanted to homeschool my kids, I wouldn't be qualified.
Actuality: One of the biggest misconceptions of homeschooling is that as a parent you have to have all of the answers in order to be qualified. Many parents don’t feel they have the education to tackle this task. Most school districts provide the course curriculum for your child -- and that includes the syllabus, tests, and the answer keys. Your child learns to work independently, and when needed, you job is to help them look up key information and answers to questions. With the right resources and commitment, you have everything it takes to succeed.
Do you homeschool your children? Would you ever consider doing so?
Image via jimmiehomeschoolmom/Flickr