People want to read about homeschooling

Do you guys know Penelope Trunk? She’s really famous. And I’m guest posting on her blog. About homeschooling. Check it out! I don’t mean to write so much about homeschooling, but people are really interested in it.

They’re interested in it enough to leave hundred of comments under my recent Salon.com piece about how awful I am. I haven’t read any of them, but people keep writing to me to talk about how angry the comments make them. Or how sad. And a lot of these people are homeschooling or unschooling parents. Sometimes, when I get a piece about homeschooling published, it feels like everyone is out to get homeschoolers. Which is weird, because I never ever feel that way otherwise.

“Don’t read the comments!” I begged my parents. But they did anyway. I’m glad they’re tough people.

Anyway, everyone wants to read about homeschooling, even if it makes them furious. Even if  they hate me.

Maybe that’s OK. At least they’re reading? At least they’re reading.

36 comments to People want to read about homeschooling

  • I really liked both of these pieces. Thanks for sharing links to other places you’re published. I started reading the comments on the Salon piece- some are hilarious. You’re smart to stay away:-). Keep up the good work.

  • The comments at salon.com were horrible. They saddened me beyond belief. For what it is worth, I don’t hate you. I love reading about your unschooling experiences as I am a public school product who married a strict homeschool curriculum product and we are just beginning the journey of unschooling our children. I am so excited to introduce my kids to a world of learning possibilities and preparing them to live through living. Keep on writing, because you keep on inspiring me! :-)

  • Oh, good heavens! I just read your Salon piece and skimmed some of the comments. It kind of freaks me out, all that anger.

    It’s a good article, Kate. Keep writing.

  • As usual, I adore everything you write. The end.

  • Eh people like to be up in arms about things. I really enjoy your “I lived it” perspective on home/unschooling. We’re expecting our first baby in January, and as a result of our own education experiences (feeling like public AND private schooling groomed us to be average, and to be really skilled at being in school, but in nothing else) me and my husband will be home/unschooling our child/ren. So you encourage me!

    In your Salon piece, you said: “…all without having to worry about what might happen if I failed. Home schooling was about making mistakes that didn’t have bigger consequences than momentary embarrassment. Because I didn’t have grades. I worked hard to get better, because I cared about being better…”

    I say — YES. This is what, I think, education should look like. Curiosity and trying and failing without any devastating consequences. Thank you.

  • Val

    Cyber bullies, that’s what these are. Craziness, Kate. I’m so sorry you and your family were treated this way. I don’t get it either. love, Val

  • As a former homeschooler (and sometimes unschooler), now graduated from college and progressing on a Ph.D…it really worries me sometimes how much your homeschooling/unschooling pieces can bring out such negative comments, especially when they’re in particularly public forums. Are people really that uncomfortable with the concept of homeschooling? Or that defensive about their public/private school experiences, and how those clearly have prepared them better for the real world than anyone who didn’t spend 12+ years being limited to only associating with those in a tiny age range around them?

    Also, I love this line from your guest post: “It’s sometimes hard for people who went to school to imagine living in a world where work and play are the exact same thing. But guess what? That’s this world.” My grad school, for me, is definitely like that as well…and I think that’s the best thing possible. It may be primarily by labeling things “this is work and not fun but you have to do it anyway” that makes things boring in the first place…

    • kate

      It really worries me, too. I usually think that people are a lot more tolerant and a lot less ignorant than they sound in the comments on my homeschooling pieces. And the people who read Salon.com are probably not most ignorant people in the world. So why all the hate?

      It’s also really interesting to me that people would never act this way if I was talking about being a different kind of minority. But somehow, it’s OK to bash me as a homeschooler.

      Mostly, it’s just surprising. Can’t people be different? No? Oh, I thought we could!

      • LJM

        kate, I wasted a bit of time responding to some of the reflexively anti-homeschooling commenters on Salon, especially one woman who was abused when she was homeschooling and so assumed that all homeschoolers are at greater risk for abuse (which is really a contemptible prejudice).

        I think the reason you find more anti-homeschooling people at sites like Salon or ThinkProgress is that there is a strong philosophy of individualism at the core of homeschooling. And the kind of individualism that declares its independence from the state can appear to those on the left as being sympathetic to right-wing or conservative philosophies.

        This is ironic since the opposition of homeschooling is, at its core, a conservative instinct. When an anti-homeschooling leftist hears that someone is homeschooling, their reaction is almost exactly the same as that of a conservative from 50 or 60 years ago, when they heard that someone refused to go to church. I think it springs from a kind of authoritarianism that is common among political tribalists of all stripes.

        Anyway, I enjoyed your essay and visited your site because of it. I look forward to reading more from you. Thanks!

  • Wow. I just read your post on salon.com and I thought it was a beautiful, brilliant piece. And then I read a few comments. I couldn’t go beyond the first page – I can’t believe how vicious people can be! Just… wow. I do remember reading somewhere that the mark of a good writer is one who makes their readers *feel* something. Even if some of it’s anger, you’ve sure got a lot of people feelin’ out there! (But I very strongly agree with you and not all the meanies, FWIW.) Keep writing!

  • Jana H

    So many people are thoroughly invested in the model of modern institutional schooling. It’s astonishing, even as the system fails millions of children each year.

    I think accepting that something like unschooling really works is incredibly threatening, especially when one considers what that means with respect to their children. The natural reaction is revulsion and denial.

    I stopped reading the comments after one page, because the nasty ones were clearly not written by people who know or interact with homeschoolers on a regular basis. Why waste my time?

  • Holly

    I saw your article linked on a friend’s fb page. Loved it & it was good food for thought as my oldest is in 10th grade & we’re researching colleges now. I don’t normally read comments, but I somehow got sucked in it. I wish I hadn’t. There was 1 person there named tinwoman who was responding to everyone else. She probably wrote more in the comments than you did in your article. She should write her own article…not that I would read it, but it might make her feel better ;)
    Anyway, I’m now reading your blog & will be following it. I so appreciate your honesty & realness.
    I have a question for you-have you ever written an article or blog post about choosing a college? I’d love to read about your experience (and your mom’s) experience in that area-such as what you learned, what you’d do differently (if anything). We’re considering dual-enrollment, starting next year when she’s in 11th grade at a local community college-mostly math & science classes since she wants to be a veterinarian.
    My daughter is super busy with 4H, barrel racing & training horses w/ a professional along with schooling & a part time job…I’m a little worried about over-committment & burn-out. She’s only 15. Did you take college classes while you were home-educating?
    Thanks for any suggestions you might have! Holly

    • kate

      I think I may have…but honestly, I don’t remember. If I wrote about choosing a college, it’s here on this blog somewhere.

      I think getting community college credit can be a good place to start, but I wouldn’t worry about doing it immediately! My brother and some friends of mine took community college classes and liked them. I audited classes at Princeton (we lived in the area) as a teenager, and that was a good experience. But I did it pretty casually, without making it the centerpiece of my education.

      Ultimately, a lot of my advice relates to taking the time to select a college that fits. Pretty common advice! I chose one that didn’t fit, because I didn’t really believe that one college could be very different from another. A big state school was wrong for me. I don’t know if that’s true for your daughter, too, but that’s something to think about. Of course, all of this is complicated by how incredibly expensive colleges are these days!
      Eek!

      I hope that was at least a little helpful!

  • I read through four or five pages of comments. The term that kept bobbing to the surface as I read the vitriol: Stockholm Syndrome.

    “Stockholm Syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.” (Wikipedia).

    I had to endure it, so it’s good enough for you, too–that was the underlying theme through most comments I read.

    • kate

      Oy! It seems like it doesn’t matter what I say sometimes– people are determined to think I was somehow abused, simply because I didn’t spend my childhood in school.
      Sometimes I want to ask them, “How many homeschoolers make the news for committing suicide after being mercilessly bullied?”
      But that’s reactive. And I don’t.

      • Val

        You know, maybe you should say that right out loud.

        Guterson referred to it as “a self formed in solitude.” Around our house, there’s very little solitude, but there is that freedom to be your own self and not be concerned about ridicule. There’s something very freeing about that. My kids had a better sense of self at 15 than I had at 30–maybe even older.

        I think that’s one of the best parts about not spending your childhood at school.

        Also bullying affects kids who are not bullied too–it scares them into being whatever they believe will keep them safe. You know you could be next.

        There is also a more subtle form of bullying where kids who aren’t really aggressive or mean participate without even realizing they’re being bullies. That’s where one kid is always the butt of the jokes, and ha ha it’s so funny, but they’re not tuned in to the fact that it’s cruel and unfunny to the kid who is always put down and laughed at. The victim may even laugh along.

        I think I probably participated in some of that bullying without realizing.

        Anyway, great post. love, Val

    • Linda Unschool_Mom

      Jennifer: “Stockholm Syndrome” – That’s a very good way of explaining the hateful reactions of so many of those commentators on the Salon article!

      If you had asked any of the ones who attended public schools as kids to defend compulsory schooling back when they were in 4th grade or so, they wouldn’t have! From what I’ve seen, by the time kids get to about 5th grade, they start parroting back what the establishment tells them about why they have to endure so much confinement and suffering at the hand of the school system. I guess that’s when the “Stockholm Syndrome” sets in.

      But they still almost universally complain about school and say they hate it. I know! I’m an after-school babysitter, and have been for years! I unschooled my own kids (now grown). It makes me so sad to see the public school kids’ resignation to their suffering, and the apathy/numbness they exhibit when they get home from school each day. And then the misery continues with all the homework. But when I tell them that things could be different, and they are justified in their complaints, most of the kids ages 11 and up rush to repeat what they’ve been told about why they have to live this way and endure all this suffering. Sigh. (It make the boys, especially, angry all the time. They all enjoy seeing others suffer/get hurt/get punished. I don’t see this trait in ANY of the unschooled or relaxed-homeschooled kids!)

    • Linda Unschool_Mom

      Jennifer: “Stockholm Syndrome” – That’s a very good way of explaining the hateful reactions of so many of those commentators on the Salon article!

      If you had asked any of the ones who attended public schools as kids to defend compulsory schooling back when they were in 4th grade or so, they wouldn’t have! From what I’ve seen, by the time kids get to about 5th grade, they start parroting back what the establishment tells them about why they have to endure so much confinement and suffering at the hand of the school system. I guess that’s when the “Stockholm Syndrome” sets in.

      But they still almost universally complain about school and say they hate it. I know! I’m an after-school babysitter, and have been for years! I unschooled my own kids (now grown). It makes me so sad to see the public school kids’ resignation to their suffering, and the apathy/numbness they exhibit when they get home from school each day. And then the misery continues with all the homework. But when I tell them that things could be different, and they are justified in their complaints, most of the kids ages 11 and up rush to repeat what they’ve been told about why they have to live this way and endure all this suffering. Sigh. (It make the boys, especially, angry all the time. They all enjoy seeing others suffer/get hurt/get punished. I don’t see this trait in ANY of the unschooled or relaxed-homeschooled kids!)

  • Zellie

    I too am shocked by the Salon comments! I don’t read you as arrogant at all! I enjoy your honest view of the way you see things are and the things you struggle with. And if you cheated the world and ended up doing work you don’t hate or find boring, good for you!!

  • shevrae

    I loved both of your articles. All your pieces encourage me so much on my homeschooling journey. My husband and I are working hard to break away from the public-school model of “education” that we both experienced – I guess we’ll figure it out right about the time our youngest is grown up! :)

    I would imagine that most of the vicious comments come down to people being anonymous on the Internet. They would NEVER say anything like that to your face. Sometimes I really hate the Internet for that.

  • Kate, thank you so very much for your post on Salon.com. It made my day. Your childhood experience is almost exactly what my children have right now, all the way down to the periodic panics about math and history and the spates of having to do worksheets to try to “catch up.” We also are entrepreneurs (though we do both have college degrees but it ticks me off when people think that’s somehow necessary to be a success at anything–we just have them because it was what we were expected to do), and the children spend most of their days entertaining themselves (i.e. playing computer games, writing stories about computer games, maintaining blogs, calling their grandparents on Skype, playing outside, studying nature, reading books, keeping their little brother out of trouble, etc.) while we work. They see that I’m a writer and they write. They see that my husband loves technology, and they play with technology. The 10-year-old is learning to code mods for Minecraft and to program computer games. My 7-year-old is writing a graphic novel. My 3-year-old–well, he’s very busy with becoming. And keeping us all laughing. And tearing our hair out. But I digress.

    I watch my children do these amazing things. And still I worry. But your story, it fuels my confidence. It reminds me that for us, this IS RIGHT. This is right for us. Thank you.

    And yes, the comments on salon.com–WOW. Really? They feel like they were planted there just to piss off unschoolers/homeschoolers. Is there really that much hate out there? Over homeschooling? Wow.

  • Sarah

    Kate, I read Salon all the time, and the comments are always mean! Mean people read Salon I guess (except me, of course). The article was GREAT and really interesting. As an unschooling mom of 2, you give me SO MUCH to think about.

    Thank you for your writing, please keep going, and PLEASE don’t read the comments on Salon!

  • jeff white

    Kate,

    We come to the planet, we do our work. It’s not up to us what the natives decide to think about it.

    I’ve seen your impact as a writer. You bring smarts and grace to a subject that for whatever mad reason has become a divisive one. Your voice, then, is something we desperately need.

    I can’t imagine you losing belief in yourself, but if you falter for a moment or two, there are lots of us here that you can rely on to believe in you during the rough spots!

  • Sarah

    So crazy those comments you got on Salon! Don’t take it personally, they are small minded because they feel inferior if someone does something different than them. I love your writing. I homeschool (somewhere between un and home school) my two kids, and I could not agree more. Classrooms are often boring places, life is much more exciting out in the real world. It is so easy to learn when you are not stuck in a classroom in this contrived situation. Keep doing what you are doing Kate! I would be proud to have you as my kid.

  • Euen

    Y’know, I love the irony of the fact that the commentators on Salon are calling you mentally imbalanced. Seriously, some people need to find better things to do with their lives.

  • junmoon

    kate, i am a mama new to unschooling and have just discovered you and am really enjoying reading all of your posts. you are a fantastic woman. i am curious: were you unschooled under the umbrella of “radical unschooling”? you know, lifestyle unschooling, where there are no limits on tv/media, “junk” food, bedtimes, and other rules that families usually abide by? i’d love to know your thoughts on the radical unschooling movement…as these are questions i am trying to unravel for myself. thanks much!

    • kate

      Thank you! Thanks for reading.

      Nope, not “radical unschooling.” There were rules. It was sort of random, really. Whatever seemed to work at the time. My mom made some arbitrary decisions about stuff that frustrated me but made her feel safer. And some arbitrary decisions about stuff that turned out great. Sometimes we tried formal stuff, sometimes it was almost totally unstructured. It depended on the year. And the week. And the day. I don’t think there’s a word for it :-)

      Sorry if that makes it more complicated!

  • People want to talk about it too. My son says he’s grilled(not in a bad way) regularly by his public school team mates. They can’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the freedom he experiences. I love that they’re so curious. I’d love to hand out ‘The Teenage Liberation Handbook’ and see what kind of waves are made.

  • So glad I didn’t read those comments! Sometimes it is just better not to know what people are thinking. I’d like to add that the parent also benefits from homeschooling. I’ve learned so much alongside my kids! Just from reading those goofy books aimed at 10-year-olds (Horrible Histories, etc) and having my 14-year-old techie explain the mysterious workings of my computer to me, you know? I would LOVE to read a guest post from your mom or dad, talking about how they benefited from homeschooling you.

  • I read the piece and then I read about five comments before I stopped reading. In my opinion, most commenters don’t have a clue about anything they read.

  • This reminds me of that wonderful quote, “What you think of me is none of my business.” I don’t know why the most vocal are so often the most negative.

    I love reading the perspective of a grown unschooler. I’m unschooling my 11yo (an only child–which makes us at least a double minority, even within the homeschool community!), and I really struggle with worrying about whether or not we’re doing the right thing. Is unschooling appropriate for kids with learning challenges? Who knows? It feels like a big experiment sometimes. Since I’m already prone to anxiety, I try to steer clear of platforms for haters!

    Blogs like yours help counteract some of that.

  • Rebecca H.

    While I was not homeschooled nor do I homeschool my child, I’ve had friends who were homeschooled when we were kids (both ones I knew as a kid and ones I’ve since met as an adult) and I have friends who unschool their children. So I’ve seen positive things come from these arrangements. So my problem with your essay wasn’t the fact that you wrote about your experience in coming to the whole college experience as an outsider based on your educated background, it was the entirely embarrassing level of naivete that you embarked on the college experience at all!

    Yes, you did in fact write that you didn’t think there was any difference between one college or another, or even one major or another. But since one of the things that my unschooling friends brag about when it comes to their children is that when they want to pursue something new, they really delve deep into it and learn about the subject. So for a girl who wanted to ride horses, she first had to find out what stables were available to her locally, what sort of horses they had, what sort of instructors and instruction was available, what rates were for lessons, hourly riding, stable fees, etc. Did you really do nothing of the kind when you decided to go to college?

    I do hope that your experience has provided you with good advice to pass on to other parents and young people who are home or unschooled and looking to attend college. Such as, first, why do you want to go to college and what to you hope to gain? What sort of environment would be best for you? What subject do you want to pursue, and if you aren’t certain, would you feel comfortable being undeclared for the first year or two?

  • Linda Unschool_Mom

    Kate – *I* enjoyed your article on Salon. Got to it via a link posted on my state unschoolers Yahoo group. My family is another one in that rare minority yours is in – Jewish unschoolers. I have a son in college and a daughter who will probably go to college next year.

    I spent a good several hours reading through the comments on the Salon article, and writing replies to the negative ones, pointing out how wrong all their assumptions and judgements are. I guess I took their nasty comments personally, since a lot of their hatred is directed at homeschooling and unschooling in general.

    All the haters assume that unschoolers don’t know how to socialize (as if they all grow up locked in their basements!), are poorly educated, and will never be able to deal with having a job. (And, of course, they all assume that it’s necessary for people to prepare and settle for BAD, boring jobs where their bosses mistreat them.)

    I never yet met a grown unschooler who wound up trapped at a horrible job, for a horrible boss! My son, age 20, is working in his college’s IT department, and taking classes part-time. He’s happy with the job AND the school! (And, like you, he didn’t do any college research. He just picked one of the nearby community colleges, because that was where his best friend decided to go. But it seems to be a good college, as community colleges go. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck.) :-)

  • Meg

    Kate, I just read that Salon piece, and apparently you hit a lot of nerves. I went to public school and a state college, I am a homeschooling/unschooling mom, and nothing you wrote sounded sheltered, immature, or self-aggrandizing, as some accused you of. In fact, everything you wrote made perfect sense to me, but then again, I went through public school protecting my own love for learning, by mostly sleepwalking through school and ignoring it the best I could, awakening during odd moments when there was a particularly wonderful teacher engaging us in a great discussion and seeking participation. Those teachers will always live in my memory.

    But I am pushing 40, and don’t see anything naive, sheltered, or ridiculous in anything you wrote. As a matter of fact, I think the replies accusing you of those things, were defensive outcries from those who get angry when the system they paid into and believe in, and sacrifice for, is questioned. The same mechanism works in cliques and cults: people invest in an idea, live by it, and then feel that it will have all been for nothing, if anyone criticizes it. It’s a common human condition, and I feel compassion for them, but don’t agree with their point of view.

    Being a homeschooling/unschooling mother (with a passion for learning, and especially for science and critical thinking), I find it sometimes impossible to avoid offending others who feel threatened by homeschooling, because if they ask why we do it, only the vaguest euphemisms can skirt the fact that we do it primarily because we reject their norms.

    I look forward to reading your blog on a regular basis, and am also a Penelope Trunk fan.

  • I read your article over at salon.com and I thought it was fantastic. I am back in college as an adult (i am in my late 30s) and honestly I feel the SAME way. I have a lot more life experience and perspective than most of the students around me and just can’t relate. I have a hard time with the way classes are set up and am often bored. I have liked the classes where there is some participation. I expected something totally different and that is not what it is.

    I think it is SAD that the music professor wouldn’t let you participate after she found out you were homeschooled. Are you kidding me?? how immature is that. One of my professors last semester and I had a conversation about homeschooling and college. (because I homeschool my kids) and he said that they usually do better in college than their public schooled peers. He had a very positive spin on homeschooled kids and he has been a professor there for many many years.

    Anyhow! Very well done article! thanks for sharing it over here so we could see it.

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