Monday, June 7, 2010


In the midst of reading my students' cultural autobiographies, I have encountered a few students who have mentioned their having been homeschooled. (I came across, I think, only one from my ENG 105 class last semester, but this summer I've come across at least two.) What's struck me about their essays is that their presentation of ideas is different, in a less polished way. Not necessarily terribly so, but there's something inherently off (if that's the right word) about their essays, and it comes down to the lack of attention to detail. Their essays have been less focused, and more prone to formatting, typography, and grammatical issues in that they're missing an attention to detail that my other students don't seem to have issue with.

Now, many of my more traditionally-schooled students also have grammatical issues, but I've noticed that with the few homeschooled students I have, their writing is rougher around the edges in a way I've been trying to ascertain. It's inexplicable, somehow. Something I've learned with all the writing I've had to do in school is that writing works best when it's a social exercise: Having others read your writing is immensely helpful. Another reader can see if you have glaring grammatical issues, can tell you if something doesn't make sense, if there needs to be more (or fewer) details or explanation. While this might be a generalization, I'm thinking that unless homeschooled kids are part of a writing group, their work isn't being read by enough people.

I know there are many reasons parents choose to homeschool their kids: One student noted that his parent wanted him in a Christian school, but couldn't afford it. I know others who were homeschooled because at least initially they lived in an area of Vermont that got such heavy snowfall (their house was fairly remote, and atop a hill), that getting them down to school in winter was difficult. (The additional line of thinking was that their children "shouldn't learn anything they don't want to," which I do have a lot of problems with.) Being homeschooled needn't necessarily be negative, but - and I'm still working this out for myself, too - I'm wondering if the benefits of being sent to a school (religious, private, or public) far outweigh whatever benefits there are of homeschooling.

Quite frankly, I can't think of any benefits of homeschooling. I don't know any set of parents who are so educationally well-rounded that they can provide an in-depth education to their children. (Of course, there are also not-so-great trained teachers, too.) And there's something to be said for exposing one's child, academically-speaking, to others; such exposure allows you to develop in ways that learning alone simply can't, namely in terms of rubbing elbow with people who are much brighter, and those who aren't as bright, or who have different intelligences. (Even now, my "academic best," if I try my absolute best, is in the A-/B+ range, and that's my working hard. There are those I've worked with who got really high grades with much less effort, and it was good for me to encounter those who could do that, as well as those whose grades were lower than mine.)

I'm still developing opinions about homeschooling, but at the moment, although I can sometimes see why it might be beneficial or a viable alternative, I'm disinclined to fully endorse it.

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