Sunday, January 30, 2005


"Hi, I'm Casius Butcher, and I'll be arguing for the Affirmative team."

He wasn't much taller than the podium, and he'll be growing into his suit and tie for another year, but he made a compelling and articulate case for the adoption of a "resolution to reduce the United States' dependency on foreign oil."

Young Mr. Butcher was just one of the several talented debaters I had the pleasure of judging at a tournament for the Puget Sound Debate Club yesterday. They're homeschooled students from all over the region, and they're impressive.

People like to stereotype homeschoolers: "unsocialized" (whatever that means), backward, shy, uncultured. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These kids are smart, funny, fun-loving, gracious, well-mannered. They're plunging into the world around them with all five senses.

What exactly do we think "socialization" is anyway? I think for a lot of people today it means "go to public school for twelve years."

I was homeschooled for four years growing up -- between the end of third grade at a private elementary school and the start of college (at age 13 for me, 15 for my sister). I can't count the number of times I'd sit with college classmates for weeks on end discussing projects, ideas and life, only to have them "react" when they found out I'd been homeschooled: "You were homeschooled?? Man, do you feel like you have a hard time relating? Do you feel like your socialization was affected?"

"Yeah," I'd respond. "I have such a difficult time even talking to other people. Usually I just sit under my desk and rock."

I mean, c'mon.

Where did we get the idea that public schools are more like the "real world" than the myriad activities of homeschoolers (which are generally supervised by loving parents)? In public schools, children are segregated by age. They answer to bells, sit in rows, line up in lines, and look at the world through a chainlink fence.

What other institutions in our society resemble public schools?

The military. And prisons.

Have public schools worked for some kids? Yes, they have. For most kids? No, unfortunately not. At least not in recent years.

I don't think all public schools are bad, and I think a great many can be made better. Assuming the school is doing a good job teaching kids to read, write and do math, I don't object to the structure if that's what parents choose for their children.

What I object to is the idea that all children should go through the same one-size-fits-all system. I object to calling that "socialization." (Especially when the system we have is so clearly failing to do the job.) I object to policies (excessive regulations, taxes and restrictions) that deprive parents of the ability to choose the path that best suits the needs of their unique children.

The homeschooled kids I know are shining examples of potential realized. They redefine today's narrow views of education and socialization.


At 9:46 PM, Blogger Josef said...

As somebody who WISHED he was homeschooled, I envy you.

Being bulled to the point that as I write this, I am taking a pill to make me sleep and fight post-traumatic stress disorder (small secret between you, me and your readers) should make you sleep well. Keep buggering on.

Wish you'd return my e-mails, but oh, well I presume you are on some amphib somewhere secret, about to storm the beaches. GO MARSHA'S MARINES!



At 6:37 PM, Blogger Justine said...

Love your stuff for EFF and your blog!
I totally agree about homeschooled children - all of the ones I have met are truly exceptional individuals (key-word: individuals). I wonder how many homeschooled kids are on behavior-modification drugs as compared with the oh-so-wonderfully-socialized publicos...?

P.S. Having seen your pic on my EFF Christmas (thanks for no euphemistic "holiday") card, I had no thoughts of your being either old or heavy, but I can see how your maturity of thought and writing-style would lead to the "older" assumption (though not necessarily the "heavier" assumption).

At 6:28 PM, Blogger christmasghost said...

Love your take on homeschooling, and life in general. If only I could have avoided the super-nutty-new-age Marin County schools I would even there creativity was not exactly encouraged.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Marsha Louise said...


But, Marin County thrives on art and sensitivity. Just read its website: "Marin’s caring and creative residents are often at the forefront of social and economic trends. Today, residents and businesses are pursuing the concept of a sustainable, ecologically sensitive economy..."

You don't appreciate this??


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