I am neither an ardent advocate nor a tough critic of homeschooling. I was homeschooled for 6 years. My parents did things their way, and it was often questionable. Some of it was decent. The public schools I attended had questionable and decent aspects, too. Catholic school went pretty well for the most part. If it were entirely up to me, I would choose private school for my kids. And if the option to homeschool were on the table, I would seriously consider it. I have the feeling that my kids will end up in public school, and I am crossing my fingers for a good one in another state.
Whenever I tell people that I was homeschooled, I am surprised by the positive reaction. But then I remember that these people did not know my parents. The driving force behind their decision was religion. My parents were not only religious, but they were involved in a bizarre cult-like group that propagated ideals from the Dark Ages. They were disgruntled Catholics who did not accept the changes resulting from Vatican II, and they wanted me to be exactly like them. I think that they believed that the fate of the Church depended on me and other young Catholics who were taught ‘the right way’. They wanted to make sure that I understood how important it was to spurn the blight of feminism in the Church. Only men were ‘worthy’ of the priesthood, and young ladies could not be altar girls. If I ever asked polite questions, I was told that The Holy Spirit always guides the church leaders. That answer had to suffice. My parents also had a strong resistance to birth control, and they would never broach the topic of me dating. The only thing that truly mattered was that I found a nice Catholic man who would keep me docile and devout. There was no conversation about whether or not I was worthy of a kind, mentally stable man who cared about my pleasure or satisfaction. I was conditioned to believe that I came into the world tainted by Original Sin, and that it would take a lifetime to prove to God that I was worthy of Christ’s sacrifice and ensuing reward. For many years, further into adulthood than I would like to admit, I accepted this disempowering paradigm as objective reality. I sabotaged my life. I did not want to be ‘detestable to the Lord’, and I denied my human nature and innate goodness for far too long. That’s on me. I am not going to blame my parents for my decision to beat the same old drum once I left home. But, they did plant harmful seeds, and they never acknowledged that they could have done better. The surviving one disowned me when I did not marry in the Church. I will not relive the sadness over and over again. People have a knack for disappointing people. We chose to incarnate on the gangster planet, and I have to remember that there must have been a reason for it. Did you know that Earth is the gangster corner of the Universe? (Thank Matt Kahn for this description.) It’s like moving to New York City. I’ve been run over by all the rude people. It must have served some purpose. I’ve met some colorful characters, and I’ve experienced awe-inspiring events that are not available on other planets. Anyways…
I would be remiss to not address the other reason my parents wanted to homeschool me.
The quality of public school education isn’t what it was when my parents were young. I know that’s a bold claim from someone who has not attended all of the schools in the country from the 1950’s onwards, but hear me out.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom’s meticulous editing of my paragraphs and sentence diagrams served me well. Unlike most teachers, she had the time to put great care into my English assignments. I received exceptional attention and feedback on everything I wrote. My mom introduced a dozen new vocabulary words to me every week, and she used them in casual conversation to get them embedded in me. She often passed essays over to my dad for editing. As an English major turned lawyer, he was happy to oblige. I had a lot of help. I turned out to be a decent writer. Relatively great. How do I know this?
High school and college teachers gave me major kudos. I was in the 91st percentile on the writing portion of the PSAT’s. I also peer-reviewed several essays and wondered how these kids made it past third grade. I hate to sound arrogant, but I have license to raise my brow. I received surprising accolades from two writing instructors, and I took it as incontrovertible evidence that I had strong skills. Many people can’t write worth a damn these days. I’m even talking about people who qualified to enroll in a prestigious research institution that is always a Top 50 school in the country. I felt dismayed when I realized that schools were not doing their due diligence in trying to prevent grammatical and sentence structure shitstorms. So, with some reluctance, and with a smirk on my face, I salute my parents for correcting me on a daily basis. By the way, who has the audacity to invent the English language? Can you come up with a more senseless thing?
Public school had its own set of problems, which I will address briefly. There is a decidedly leftist slant to all history and English curricula. I think that anyone with the capacity to be reasonable for 30 seconds can admit that political bias should be carefully scrutinized and rooted out of any academic setting. Teachers must be neutral and objective. They must avoid certain tones and passive-aggressive remarks. Textbooks need more eagle-eyed editors. We must educate, not indoctrinate. The fact that I am not even slightly left of center in my assessment will cause some people to accuse me of being a ‘right-wing extremist’. This speaks to the woeful brainwashing that has taken place in recent decades. I really, really, really don’t want to place my kids in that environment. For the record, I don’t want them in a right-wing school, either. I would like them to be exposed to all perspectives – including those of people who loathe the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It would make for an illuminating education. I would like the teachers to be fair moderators. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m asking for a modicum of sanity in clown world.
One positive about my public school experience – and it’s a big positive – is that I made friends for life there. I met people who pulled me out of a deep abyss that nearly took me down. Homeschooling was such an isolating and maddening experience, and I had faulty wiring in my brain that needed some TLC. My friends lifted me up and restored my self-esteem which had been all but tattered by people who had been dealing with their own heavy issues for years. My parents did not have the resources or wisdom to give me what I truly needed as an adolescent, and I will forever be grateful to the people who lent an ear and extended a hand to a scared girl.
So now it’s time to address private school. More specifically, Catholic school. I don’t have any ill words to say about the two Catholic schools I attended. The teachers were bright and kind, and my peers were genuinely friendly. Religion class was tolerable, not disturbing. There was nary a trace of Marxist propaganda. Pluck the benefits of homeschooling and public schools, throw them together and charge a pretty penny, and you’ve got as close to an ideal education as it gets. I’d like to find a non-religious private school for my kids, and I’d like to have a pretty penny to afford it. But if you told me that a Catholic school was the only private school within a 30-mile radius of me, I’d shrug and say ‘OK’. I would even go for a Christian academy, as long as bible studies were fair and balanced – and minimal, and perhaps watered-down a lot. I may be allergic to religion, but I am not opposed to exposing my kids to ideas that shaped America. I would like to think that parental influence would keep the kids rational. Their geology major dad will set the record straight in his own special way, which is sardonic and blunt, and wonderfully mischievous! Have I mentioned why that Virgo man has such a hold on me?
So, to summarize, homeschooling can be problematic, but it can be done right. I am supportive of homeschooling families, and I really hope that they consider the social needs of the kids. Public schools can be problematic, but make no mistake about it – the social environment can make all the difference in the world for a depressed teenager. I haven’t attended all of the private schools in existence across time and space. There are undoubtedly some bad apples out there. But, because of my personal experiences, I have faith in them. Even the faith-based ones.