Archive - Apr 15, 2010
A reader has asked that I explain my comment below that home schooled kids aren't as sullen and don't seem to have the barriers to communicating in a mature manner with adults that most kids in a public high school setting have.
I have observed this phenomenon many, many times at the nursery. For one thing, I have given tours to public school groups and to groups of home schooled children. There is simply no comparison.
In addition, I have identified families of home schooled kids without being told just by watching their behavior at the nursery.
It should be noted home schoolers are not all parts of obscure religious sects, so they are not easily identified by their clothing. Some of the home schooling parents are simply motived by a desire to spare their children the pain of high school. In some cases, the children were somewhat eccentric and were teased mercilessly in the public school setting. In others, the parents simply did not care to subject their children to the insanity of athletics being top priority, of prom, of all of the stupid societal rituals that are imposed on the high school experience, not a one of which I care a whit about either.
Now, it goes without saying that a lot of people who home school keep their kids home out of a desire to indoctrinate them into fundamentalist religion. As much as I am repelled by that motive, I still find those children to be much more calm, polite and well-adjusted.
I don't buy the notion that there is something valuable about the high school social experience. I found it brutal. I do not think it improved me one bit. If I had found a handful of friends in the neighborhood of all ages made through other activities things would have been just fine.
When good teaching occurs in high school, and there are a lot of good teachers, it happens despite the system, not due to the system.
If I were convinced that high school truly humanized kids, both through education in the arts and humanities and through contact with the world at large, I would be more inclined to prefer public high schools to other alternatives. However, whatever diversity there is in high school seems to split the students into competing cliques more often than it opens their minds.
College, fortunately, is a little different.
Home schooling doesn't always succeed, and I am not even arguing that it provides a superior education (although in some cases it may): All I know is that the home-schooled kids I have encountered have been almost without exception mature, calm and able to carry on a conversation with an adult.
I don't have any solution to whatever it is our education system (or culture) does to make so many adolescents sullen. I just know it doesn't have to be.