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Homeschooling as a right, and a needed practical alternative (quantblog.wordpress.com)
175 points by jgord on Dec 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 362 comments



I know everyone on HN is big into the whole math, stem, good college thing, but out here in Central Time, all you really need to have a nice life is to not be an ass.

Most schools (even some of the good ones) turn kids into asses through the "Lord of the Flies" effect. Think about it: You have inexperienced little people with underdeveloped judgement spending most of their waking hours for most of the year with other little people who are in the same boat.

And people call this socialization! "I do not think that means what you think it means."

If kids had a little more contact with mature, self-actualized people growing up, they wouldn't have as much baggage to work through in adolescent/adult life.


Comments like this are the reason I keep coming back to HN. People here consistently have the ability to either change my opinion, or (as in this case) articulate something I've always felt but not quite been able to explain. Thank you.

Have you ever noticed, whenever a group of adults talks about their school days there are always lots of stories about being bullied and general unpleasant experiences. At first it seems statistically improbable - those damn bullies didn't pick on everybody did they?

Maybe the truth is that kids are generally just fucking horrible to each other. That, apart from a few isolated cases, the meme of the Nelson Muntz style "school bully" is a myth. Many (most?) kids are both the bully and the bullied. This brutal experience gives us all the baggage we need to work through in the future.

Maybe we should be honest about what school is really for. I always thought Paul Graham was right when he said it's really just a place to put teenagers until they're useful to society.

> Now adults have no immediate use for teenagers. They would be in the way in an office. So they drop them off at school on their way to work, much as they might drop the dog off at a kennel if they were going away for the weekend. [0]

[0] http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


Too late to edit so I'm replying to my own comment.

I also wanted to mention that there is a place where the Lord of the Flies approach has been taken to its logical extreme, in a long-running experiment which continues to this day.

That place is the British boarding school system. It messes people up so badly that it even has its own psychological condition: Boarding School Syndrome [1].

The fact that many of our political leaders come from this system should be a cause for concern.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/1166...


Yes -- John Holt, one of the early luminaries of the homeschooling movement [0], always used to talk about this -- that the "socialization" that happens in schools is more anti-socialization. It was common for parents to write to his newsletter that taking their kids out of school improved their behavior and morale considerably.

[0] http://www.johnholtgws.com/


Most of my nerdy friends were bullied. Most of my non-nerdy friends were not bullied. Or maybe other way - some may have some bulling incidents, rather than being a victim being the main story of their primary school.

(And yes, being bullied does not stop one from bulling - on other occasion, in another place.)


Admittedly my anecdotal experiences might also be affected by confirmation bias, based on the nerdiness of the people I associate with.


Peer exposure was important for me growing up. Despite bullying it is useful for learning to relate to others at and below one's level. And for only children that may not be available outside school.

Of course with schools the ratio of peers to adults is dangerously close to Lord of the Flies.


People who are bullied often deal with their feelings by punching down, bullying younger or otherwise lower-status kids. It's a hard cycle to break, and I think once it gets started in a school, it's almost impossible to get rid of.


WOW someone else who sees the Lord of the Flies effect. I think children fall into this trap because they want power. At such young ages power is everything. Power over themselves, and over other people. Bullying, cliques, popularity, it's all about power. Those who have it want to expand it, and exert it over others. Those who don't have it, want to stay away from those who do. To fix this, schools must do more to balance the power. Make all kids clean the school. Remove decisions around popularity; random group assignments, etc. Treat bullying just as serious as a kid bringing a weapon to school. Zero tolerance, and order teachers to use their control in the classroom, instead of giving up that responsibility to administrators. Break the power dynamic for these kids, IMHO, by whatever means necessary, and you will fix the system.


I don't think this effect is at all unique to children they are just less subtle about it. Bullying causes lots of negative effects but I can't say its worse than growing up without the skills to handle adversity.


To whatever extent childhood is training for adulthood, navigating school popularity and politics is training for navigating politics at work and in adult communities.


I was bullyed a lot. Poor kid with cheap clothes that were too small. If I wasn't as headstrong it would of been crushing (headstrong in public school = ADD when I attended). Perhaps the solution is to find ways to give real positive praise to kids instead of trying to remove every single negative reaction they might have.


The best that can be done is to harness the natural urge to dominate peers. Put it to use by granting dominance tools in exchange for academic success.

Good GPA? Wear what you like, except distractions (naked) mean back-of-class seating. Bad GPA? You wear a one-size-fits-all jumpsuit made of faded rose-colored velvet.

Good GPA? Eat what you like. Bad GPA? You get that squishy nutriloaf thing normally reserved for misbehaving prisoners.

Good GPA? You get first choice for slots in sports teams, drama club, choir, cheerleading, and all the rest. It doesn't matter if you suck at the activity. Bad GPA? No participation permitted.

Enforce prom date pairs having a minimum average GPA. Those with the highest GPA can pick anybody. Those at the midpoint can pick the better half of the school. Those at the bottom get only one choice, and will thus need to make nice with the top-performing student.

Good GPA? Wander in and out of school as you please. Bad GPA? You pass through metal detectors, get a pat-down, and are sniffed at by the drug-detecting dog.

Good GPA? Move around and chat with friends during lunch. Bad GPA? You get assigned seating and must eat in total silence.

People will invent new ways to attempt dominance. Brutally crush this for any student who fails to perform academically.


There are a lot of places where I'd know that this is a joke. On HN, I can't tell[0]. I mean, I'm sure there is at least some sarcasm in there, but I can't tell how much is real and how much is hyperbole.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law


It's not all 100% workable, but it's no joke. The desire for dominance runs strong in normal humans. Normally schools just let this run wild, like Lord of the Flies, causing all sorts of horrible social interaction for no gain. The dominance urge isn't going away, so we might as well harness that urge for education.

Agreements can be made to extend incentives beyond the school:

Good GPA? You can drive a car at age 14, with reduced-rate insurance and school-provided training. Bad GPA? You must wait until age 25.

Good GPA? The local cops welcome you to go shooting with them. You get any needed state licensing at age 12. Bad GPA? Forget it; no 2nd amendment for you!

Good GPA? The local mall welcomes you by yourself. Bad GPA? You are not permitted entry. (Moderate GPA: only with parents)

Good GPA? Public transportation is free. Bad GPA? You don't ride without a parent. (Moderate GPA: standard fare applies)

Good GPA? Wander the city as you please. Bad GPA? There is a curfew.


I think the people downvoting you are unconsciously identifying with the children. Those of us who put ourselves in the parents shoes in these scenarios are upvoting!


Could be, but as a child I would have loved these. I could get the GPA, but had little incentive to do so. This would have done it, particularly getting a spot on the basketball team and a hot prom date.


This is why I love HN, for the #Lifehacks. I may use these on my kids...


I've argued this many times when "socialization" comes up. So, other undisciplined brats should teach my kids how to behave in society?

It's my opinion that children learn much more from their time with adults. It's likely that there's another aspect to the "Lord of the Flies" effect - Children are being socialized by other savages at school all day, then they come home and are virtually ignored by mommy and daddy.


    >I've argued this many times when "socialization" comes up. So, other undisciplined brats should teach my kids how to behave in society?
To every other parent out there, your little snowflake, is the undisciplined brat that is ruining their kid. It's the universal law of parenting.


I set a high bar for my kids and I don't treat them like "little snowflakes". I interact with them on a regular basis and I set strong boundaries that come with consequences & rewards. I explain the way the world works (as best as I understand it) from a very young age.

EVERY child is unique and so there is no one way fits all to raising well-behaved and well-socialized children, so I adapt. I stay engaged with teachers at school and follow up when something goes wrong.

Teachers are often afraid to tell parents "bad things" about their child because so many parents are defensive and think their child can do no wrong. I try to recognize my children's shortcoming so that I can help then to improve.

When I first meet with a teacher I tell them this and that I truly want to hear about issues. I will tell the teacher, "In the past we have seen that X is an issue for him/her and s/he is working on improving on that area. If this or any other issues comes up let me know right away so we can correct it at home before it gets worse." I have found that this is more effective than just saying I want their feedback as teachers often think that is just lip service.

I set strict boundaries and rules and then I consistently enforce them. Often times I explain why a rule is there, but sometimes I just say, "I have my reasons." I find that in general children are more compliant with rules when they understand the reasoning, but the reasons behind some rules are too complicated for children to understand.

Apparently, these things work as my children are all high achievers and very well behaved compared to the majority of children I encounter on a daily basis. Other parents often ask me what is the trick to having such well-behaved kids.

My youngest daughter was a real handful the first couple of years in school and my wife and I had to put in a lot of work to change her behavior. Things that worked for the first two children had zero impact on her. Eventually, we figured it out. One of the most interesting things was that she had the same teacher for 1st grade and 2nd grade due to some re-org that happened at the elementary school. Out of the blue one night I received a phone call from her teacher (while she was in 2nd grade); when I answered the phone I assumed the teacher was calling to tell me there had been some sort of incident. Instead the teacher said how she just wanted to call to say what a pleasure it was having her in class and how she didn't know what we had been doing, but that it was amazing how well behaved she was.

So to sum up; if you are going to have kids then step up and be a parent.


I like your approach. Thanks for taking the time to post.


It's far from a universal law, and while I appreciate the judgement you've passed on my snowflakes, I'm not easy on them and I'm very involved in their development, something that many of their peers don't seem to have.


I don't think they were passing any specific judgement on your snowflakes, but rather just saying it's all relative.

If you look at the tone and language of your comments, there is quite a bit of detectable judgement and condescension. I'm sure your kids have great parent(s) who are involved, but I'm not sure you recognize the privilege your family enjoys. I think this point-of-view is troubling when looking at how we might approach the real problems facing society re: children, education, etc.


Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but I don't understand where this high and mighty tone of yours comes from. You keep making these sweeping generalizations about kids at large. It's as if you're saying that the current generation of children are these unbounded savages (hyperbole). Maybe you have an oddly over-representation of children with uninvolved parents or latchkey kids.

Either way, it's hypocritical for you to pass such harsh judgement of other parents while snapping at GP in the same breath.


"something that many of their peers don't seem to have."

There you go passing judgement just like I did, assuming that isolated events you may see in interactions between your kid and other kids is indicative of them being raised in an environment lacking discipline or involvement.


It's not really a huge secret that there are lots of families out there where the parents aren't very involved in their children's lives. I'm not passing judgement on those children at all, I'm simply making the point that maybe I should be as proactive as possible in shaping my children's attitudes and responses to social situations, rather than counting on other children at school to "socialize" them. I remember what it was like to be a kid in school, which is why the "Lord of the Flies" reference rang a bell with me. Children are capable of horrific savagery, it's our job as parents to guide them as best we can in the right direction.


I've already responded to your previous comments; so I hope it doesn't feel like I'm trying to target you, because you're not the only one who feels the way you do and I can understand where your perspective comes from, but I honestly don't see how you can describe other people's children as "undisciplined brats" and "savages" and then turn around say, "I'm not passing judgement on those children at all".


I don't feel singled out. I guess I'm being cynical and hyperbolic. To clarify, without guidance, my own children are often savages and undisciplined brats as well. I'm sorry if you don't like my strong language. The point I'm trying to make is that I don't see children learning good behavior from one another very often, as they get older and learn more things, I assume that changes. I believe that parents need to be very active in their child's development to ensure that they're learning what they need to. I've seen and met other parents who take the attitude that just sending their kids to school and abdicating their responsibility for their child's development is ok and that their kid will somehow magically learn how to function in society. I admit that it's anecdotal, but I find that people my age who grew up under this lazy parenting model seem to be pretty incapable at life in general.

Regardless, I enjoy the conversation. I feel like using the word "savage", while it makes sense to me, may have distracted from the point I was trying to make. I have a pretty cynical view of human nature in general.


My wife's sister Susan used to teach elementary school -- mostly first grade, but one year she was moved to fourth grade. The latter is an interesting age. The kids have started to develop some of the general nastiness that they will display more vigorously after puberty, but the parents still tend to see them as small children, which they're really not anymore. This leads to a phenomenon whereby if a kids misbehaves in class, and the teacher brings this to the attention of the parents, the parents are usually in complete denial and angrily reject the possibility that their little "snowflake" could have done anything hurtful.

Maybe these parents always had been and would continue to be in denial; I don't know; but Susan thought the problem was much worse in fourth grade than in first, because the parents weren't staying abreast of their children's expanding capacity for mischief.

I've never had kids, though I think I would have liked to, but hearing things like this does leave me with the impression that a lot of parents are not really very much on the ball.


Same thing every other parent says.


The point is that all the snowflakes/undisciplined brats might be worse off learning from each other.


If a child only learns from other children or only learns from adults I would think that kid is pretty well screwed. The problem with the Lord of the Flies analogy is that there is no way to totally remove adult interaction from a child's development (even if it's a less optimal interaction say with a case worker instead of a parent or teacher), so there never is this Lord of the Flies scenario that's being discussed.


The tendency is there even if it doesn't go as far as Lord of the Flies. I work at a boys school for gifted students. They are all smart and they are usually well behaved as individuals, but if they get in an unsupervised group, things can go badly rather quickly. That is why we do our best to make sure they are never unsupervised.


This is why alternative school structures like Montessori and pod-classes (ie, mixed grade) allow for some role-taking and giving students the ability to guide other students.

I honestly think a majority of education dysfunction comes with dual-income scenarios with "extended daycare" - If the children spent more time with their parents, it would help them really "socialize".


but that is not feasible for mass majority of people in our society. That is why public offering is so important and that funds aren't diverted from it, because we can give opportunities to all students no matter the financial situation their parents are in.


It doesn't work out that way though, public schools in wealthy areas are much better than in poor areas.


Equal funding mandates don't address cost differentials, and poor people often live where key education-related costs are higher (e.g., the cost of getting good teachers to work there, as the areas are less attractive to live and farther to commute from places more attract to live.)

And some states, IIRC, don't even have equal funding mandates to start with.


I didn't even know some states have an equal funding mandate, where I live the rich kids go to schools that look like castles and the poor kids go to schools with holes in the ceilings.


Equal funding mandates, where they exist, often address operating funding, not capital costs.

Of course, infrastructure quality effects operating costs, so there is a source of inequality right there.


Interesting. My high school looked like a prison. No idea if it's true or not, but some students said the architect did both.


It is not available today, but do you think it would be infeasible if somehow it is agreed to be "The Right Thing" to do? If so, why?


Transitioning from a home schooled to an institutional education setting at the age of 11 was quite brutal.

At least I had martial arts training.


That is an excellent point! If you're going to homeschool, probably a good idea to train your kids in various forms of fitness/self-defense/badassery... just in case!


It was really for physical education...the question posed by my parents was "Tee-ball or karate?" Needless to say that most six and seven-year-old boys have ninja aspirations.

It was a source of discipline, and the dojo was one of my main social groups growing up through every sort of school.


We homeschooled for years. Now our kids are in public school. Both homeschooling and public/private schooling have plenty of good outcomes.

But there are some positive peer-induced socializations. Both my boys had some quite annoying habits of speech and mannerisms that are gone now. I think part of the reason is that their peers are less understanding and forgiving of such behavior than their parents. Similarly, they are more receptive to peer criticism, as it packs more of a threat. Other kids will ostracize you; parents, not so much.


I have to say--I came into this thread with the belief that homeschooling is only about "shield my kid from Evilution and Sex Ed and teach them the world is 4000 years old". But you make good points. I think back to my public school experience and I would never want to subject my daughter to that hell. There does need to be an alternative to the violence, gangs, anti-socialization and institutionalization that comes with public school.

I wish there was a way to mix the educational quality of public school (which I do believe is better than I could provide--im not a world history or literature expert) with the socialization of homeschool.


I was home schooled, and I have also been a teacher in the private school setting for a number of years. I am convinced that the number one (and perhaps only) thing an education should provide are the skills necessary to teach oneself. Literacy, critical thinking and a love for knowledge. If you can instill your child with these, they have all the tools necessary to eclipse your own understanding of subjects that you aren't personally knowledgeable about. I would consider my k-12 math education to be something of a failure of my own making, but I have always been able to teach myself the math that I need to know as the practical need for it arises because I was taught how to learn.


In addition, if anyone hasn't read this essay or if it's been awhile... Highly worth the time, highly worth the discussion.

Against School - John Taylor Gatto http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm

(Previously on Hacker News)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2381608


Blew my mind... great essay! Thanks


But wouldn't trying to solve some of these problems make more sense than a turn toward homeschooling? Maybe get more mature, self-actualized people involved in the lives of all children, not just the privileged ones?

I don't see how promoting homeschooling as the alternative to schools is a good solution here.

Also, a turn toward homeschooling can be a total wildcard based on the values and intent of the individual parents. The movie Dogtooth[1] is somewhat relevant here.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogtooth_(film)


You're treading a dangerous path when you call out the values and intents of individual parents as factors in deciding when homeschooling is or is not beneficial. Of course that is true, but whom do you propose to empower to decide what values and intents are acceptable?


Well, that's sort of my point. I don't think there is a good solution to empower some entity to decide what values and intents are acceptable.

But I don't think the values and intents of parents keeping their kids at home for schooling are always acceptable, which is emphasized in an exaggerated way in the Dogtooth film.

I'm sure in some cases homeschooling could be beneficial and "better" for an individual child than the existing school system. I just think mistaking homeschooling as an "alternative" to trying to solve problems of the school system is its own dangerous path.


I was homeschooled by a typical unqualified mom who "brainwashed" us with the crazy anti-evolution stuff everyone is so terrified of. That one tiny topic doesn't invalidate your entire education. Most people couldn't tell you the first thing about evolution anyway.

She always worried that her inability to teach was ruining us. My dad said her teaching was not that important; her main job was just to be someone with a pulse who cared about us to the exclusion of all else. And it worked, I entered honors engineering at age 16.

Someone has to decide what the kid learns. It might as well be someone who has a better chance of actually caring about them.


> Someone has to decide what the kid learns. It might as well be someone who has a better chance of actually caring about them.

This is a salient point. But I don't think the answer is "parents homeschooling" which can only ever address privileged individuals.

Might there be some way we can get more people involved in the the lives of all children that fit the description of "someone who has a better chance of actually caring about them"? That's the problem I believe homeschool ignores.


>I don't think the answer is "parents homeschooling" which can only ever address privileged individuals.

My father became disabled when I was 8 or 9 and could no longer work. There were years when our christmas tree was a potted plant and our presents were cereal boxtop prizes. Yet I was able to be educated at home.

If you are interested in allowing more people to have the privilege of home schooling, then perhaps we should examine the inequity of home schooling parents being taxed for public educations there children are not using?


Why is it morally acceptable for the state to, by default raise children? "Sometimes people do it wrong when left to themselves" is not a sufficient affirmative moral argument.


From a historical perspective, the idea that the state should be primarily responsible for the rearing and education of children is a new, and radical idea. For the vast majority of human history, children were equipped with the skills for life by their parents.

I point this out because the premise of your argument assumes that state run public education is the default solution, and that home, or 'alternative' schooling is in the position of needing to prove why it is superior, when in fact, the situation is exactly reversed. It is public education which needs to prove empirically, why it is intrinsically better than the traditional forms of education.


Not just their parents, but their extended family, tribe, and/or village as well. Often segregated by gender for certain aspects as well. In many cultures they even had sublanguages that were gender and age specific.

And what was required to be functional in historic societies (say prior to the last 50-200 years[EDIT: 0]) was no literacy, no history, no mathematics, no basic economics, no civics (in the sense of understanding the theory, not the practice).

For the vast majority of human history we lived much, much simpler lives in many ways. Now, you need basic literacy and numeracy to be able to contribute to any non-manual-labor jobs. And even then, you need numeracy to manage your own finances or risk being taken advantage of.

What's required of the modern adult in the West is not a level of education that can be provided solely by two parents to more than two to three children (and that'd be pushing it). Instead, they rely on external resources (texts, videos, tutors, like minded parents) along with their own capabilities of education and instruction.

[EDIT: 0] Because the future isn't distributed evenly. But I should've specified further back than I did.


The argument that current life has some fundamentally different qualities which require wholly new approach to education is, I think, overly reductionist but let's assume I concede that point for a moment:

Even in a situation where the world requires a new solution to education, the burden of proof in terms of a particular solution's efficacy lies not with the old approach but the new.

That is to say, public education needs to demonstrate how it is objectively better suited than historic methods of education.


I'd say the significantly improved literacy rates throughout the world are certainly helping the case for current education schemes (public and private, public merely gives access to more people than costly private education).

https://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/lit_history.asp

We had poor literacy, we introduced public education, literacy improved.

One major advantage of public education is breaking a particular cycle that would occur without it for many people. If you're uneducated or undereducated you are not in a position to educate your own children. You need a school or a tutor to help. Without that, your children are likely going to end up similarly undereducated.

Public schools are a democratizing factor that can significantly reduce inequality in education, and consequently inequality in life outcomes (as measured by financial and other success).


I we really prepared to say that a system which takes 12 years, 5 days a week to produce a 21% illiteracy rate is working?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/illiteracy-rate_n_3...

>Public schools are a democratizing factor

That's true, everyone get's an equally poor education.


Because back then, it entirely depended on who your family was to determine the level of education someone got. If you were born into a rich family, congratulations. If you were born into a poor family, you're lucky if you get taught how to read and write.

You can argue all you want about current school systems, but I think we can all agree that it's far, far, far better that everyone receive a baseline level of education, regardless of family background, than the way things were before.


I think your viewpoint here is perhaps the most logical. Public education should be a safety net to ensure that everyone has access to at least a basic level of education in much the same way that medicare ostensibly ensures that no one falls below a basic level of access to health care.

This view of education, however, is not reflected either socially or in legislative reality when it comes to America education in general.


I completely disagree.


You're right that given the long view of history wide spread adoption of formal, especially public, education is a relatively new phenomena, but this is completely irrelevant.

The reason why public education became wide spread starting in the middle of the 19th century was the industrial revolution and the need for a more educated work force. Prior to that, an economy primarily devoted to subsistence farming, can can get by with an uneducated work force as it had for thousands of years. Suddenly with mechanization, you actually needed people that could do math.

Today, in the first part of the 21st century, with automation, and wealth inequality, the efficacy of education as the great leveler is clear by pretty much every economic study. In light of this, it doesn't make sense to go back to a hodgepodge curricula at best.

Second, and perhaps most important, in the 19th century and before you had women whose jobs were to stay home and raise children to the ripe age of 12, at which point if they were a boy, they'd start working with their father in the fields until the they reached 17 at which point they'd marry the 15 year old girl from down the road and start a new farm.

Today, 60% of the households in the United States are dual income, and it's been about this high since the 1990s.[0] the reason for that are many, including the growth of secondary education among women who don't want to stay home all day, to the harsh reality that it's hard for most people to make do with a single income.

Let's not pussy foot around this. One of the modern roles of public education is child care, albeit crappy child care because it starts at 8am and ends at 3pm, thus leaving late afternoons a problem for dual income families.

So let's be honest here. If you abolished public education for homeschooling, you're cutting household income in half, and getting a lower quality educational product, because most people can't adequately educate their children both from a curricula and by a methodological viewpoint.

And while you haven't brought it up, going to a completely private educational system won't work either because quite frankly, most people can't afford to pay the equivalent of buying a car every year per child. Again, we tried this as society in the 18th and 19th centuries. It didn't work.

We don't need to repeal the 20th Century. We already had the 18th and the 19th. They sucked.

[0] http://www.pewresearch.org/ft_dual-income-households-1960-20...


You could rewrite that as, before public schooling, we had competent adults who could start families and businesses of their own at ages 13, 15, 17, etc. And we've replaced that with a system designed to babysit "children" up to age 26 or so. I'd say repealing the 20th century would be a good start.


I could rewrite it that way, but that would be a lie.

You don't even believe this.


Sure, but would you agree that state run public education is the current default solution, in countries like Australia, the U.S., etc.?

Your point is accurate re: historical perspective, but don't you think you have to take that in context? From a historical perspective, children have been brutally exploited, especially from the poor and middle-class.


The fact that I'm here in 2016 having to defend the 1870s is mind blowing to me. And yet, through out contemporary American politics, it's basically a widespread effort to repeal the 20th Century.


> The fact that I'm here in 2016 having to defend the 1870s is mind blowing to me. And yet, through out contemporary American politics, it's basically a widespread effort to repeal the 20th Century.

It does get quite amazing, doesn't it. And, thank you. :-S


I think there might be parallels here to many other political issues where income inequality is involved.


It's also blatant partisan politics. See arguments to repeal the 17th Amendment.


What I am suggesting is that the true context is historical. Public education is relatively new compared to the amount of time humans have required an education. Mathematics, metallurgy, animal husbandry, architecture, construction, trade, language and economics have all required some form of education for thousands of years.

Rational arguments require comparisons, and if we narrow the scope of comparison to the repetitively new era and scope (american public education) then we ignore the preponderance of evidence from human history.


But the entire problem is that millions of children are being forced into a regiment of school based on the Prussian system (which also pioneered goose stepping), then segregated by age rather than ability and indoctrinated in whatever it is that politicians of the day compromise on. Students waste thousands of hours learning far less than they could, they endure harsh psychological trauma in dysfunctional settings and then enter the job market with cookie-cutter skillsets.

I don't see how promoting organizational improvements as an alternative to educational freedoms is a good solution here.

In the industrial era when the system started, there was a somewhat defensible position that a conformist generation of young people indoctrinated with the same beliefs and an inclination to defer to authority was exactly what the factories needed. That era has passed. Education is priceless, but schooling and its associated credentialism is arguably the worst market distortion of the past century.

The former New York Teacher of the Year wrote a book on this topic: https://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-An...


All this. I think community-based (public) education is the way to go, and I don't like having to homeschool. But currently, even good public schools (and non-alternative private schools) are prisons. We need somehow to scale up (or rather, out) alternative schools and publicly fund them.


That "Lord of the Flies" effect, assuming we're not talking about it in a hyperbolic sense, is children learning how to be adults and making mistakes. How do children gain experience socializing? By socializing. Not waiting until they are legal adults to spread their social wings... that just breeds unhappy, socially awkward adults.

Toddlers have atrocious fine and gross motor skills but we don't tell them to just sit still and do nothing until they're older: We let them play, explore, and yep... hurt themselves. We let them do things the hard way, so they can think to do it an easier way in the future. And I think the same philosophy can be applied to socializing.

I do understand there are school districts that serve large bodies of "latchkey kids." I was fortunate enough to avoid that in my public education, but I have less fortunate friends who came out fine-- several of whom had a much better experience in school that I did, weirdly enough.

And although I didn't exactly enjoy my time in school, I would never trade it for homeschooling. I had the foundation necessary to pursue my interests. And during my time in public schools, I've met several people in school I'm still friends with almost 20 years later.


I think you misunderstood the GP. Only interacting with people within ~a year of your own age while growing up (public school class) is not effective socialization. The social group of homeschooled kids is often +/- 5 years, which means they get experience dealing with younger children and they get maturity cues from older children. It's a much more realistic social environment.


> Only interacting with people within ~a year of your own age while growing up (public school class) is not effective socialization.

This is not a view shared by developmental psychologists. Playing with children their own age is fertile ground to learn how to share, how to take turns, etc. As far s the child is concerned, they are on even footing in the social hierarchy with their peers and must resolve conflicts with their peers without falling back on defaults. Moving into adolescence things become more complicated and nuanced-- coping with peer pressure, dating, developing a sense of self etc. But that's all very critical.


> they are on even footing in the social hierarchy with their peers

Do groups of closely-aged children (or people in general) act as peers, or do they cue on other factors to form a hierarchy from? This is what the LotF effect is. In the absence of an established social hierarchy children will create their own based on arbitrary things such as body size, clothing, manner of speaking, etc. In schools we see this manifested as bullying.

Having a child interact outside their peer group gives them a template of maturity that they can emulate within other children their same age. The established hierarchy of age may make it less likely that they will resort to arbitrary hierarchies and could be measured by a decrease in bullying between children of the same age. (There may be age related bullying as older children abuse their seniority.) They will still have to learn the things you mention, but instead of stumbling across the rules on their own, or having them dictated by the fiat of an authority figure, they learn by the example of those who came before.

Then as those children mature they are encouraged to work with younger children and act as role models. When seeing they can correct the mistakes of the children following them, it provides positive reinforcement of the good behavior.


> This is not a view shared by developmental psychologists.

I was curious about this, so I searched for developmental psychology on the difference between mixed-age and same-age socialization. But what I found (from a very brief search) didn't match what you said. An example study is this - Children’s Social Behavior in Relation to Participation in Mixed-Age or Same-Age Classrooms:

"Findings suggested a significant positive effect on children’s prosocial behavior as a result of participation in a mixed-age classroom context. In addition, fewer children appeared to experience social isolation in mixed-age classrooms than in same-age classrooms. Aggressive behaviors were significantly less likely to be noted by teachers in mixed-age than in same-age classrooms." - http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v1n1/mcclellan.html

But that's just one study. Is it an area of ongoing debate in development psychology? What sources would you recommend for the other side?


I am simply rebuffing the claim that same-age socialization is not meaningful for a child's social development.

What you're looking for is a study that shows something like the following: The difference in social development between at least 2 groups of children: Where one group did not socialize at all, and another that socialized with similar-aged peers.

Also, while the study you link is interesting, it's really just looking at pro and anti-social behavior over what seems to be one school year. It's not doing a formal assessment of social development over a long period of time. There's certainly evidence it could be beneficial long-term, but long term effects aren't studied in that paper.


> Where one group did not socialize at all,

I think your mistake is that this does not describe homeschooled children at all. They just socialize in locations other than prison-style government run daycare centers.


> prison-style government run daycare centers.

If RMS were a homeschooling advocate, this is the kind of statement I'd expect from him.

If you are on the "right" side, there's no need to exaggerate.


I don't think that's the indictment you intended it to be; RMS's "crazy" talking points have all been 100% validated in the last few years.

In what way is that statement an exaggeration?

Do I need to spell out how public schools are run like prisons? Or do you not believe in their critical function as daycare facilities?


Besides the points others have made, my prior would be for people to be better adapted to growing up with mixed-age peers, because they did in essentially all of human history. Maybe the developmental psychologists you mention have robustly found otherwise, and that'd surprise me.


There's good socialization and bad socialization. Prisons also serve as a place for their inmates to socialize, but I'm not rushing to sign my daughter up so she can "play and explore" there.


I learned how to socialize with adults by socializing with adults. I didn't have to wait til I was an adult to "spread my social wings" because there were always adults around to interact with. I feel fortunate to have skipped past the toxic, aggressive, immature socialization most young people have to put up with when they are segregated into the artificially age-stratified environment of a typical school system.


"Whenever we worry about socialization [for our homeschooled kids], we grab them, yank them into the bathroom, and beat them up for their lunch money."

I stole that from somewhere, but it makes the point. Much "socialization" in public schools is not a net win.


I'm a product of "alternative" education (my public middle school was middle school + high school, my undergrad had more grad students than undergrad, my grad school had more postdocs than grad students and no undergrads). My college was popular among children who had been homeschooled, and after college my social circles seemed to have a lot of kids who were homeschooled (for religious and non-religious reasons), and I have to wholly 100% agree with this. I don't understand why people think that socialization in the form of public schools - which is actually quite artificial and 'unnatural' in terms of human history - is necessary or desirable.


What if schools are working the opposite way you speculate? What if the kids that are exposed to mature, self-actualized people are socializing their peers in that direction rather than being torn down to the peer level?

Of course a fun aspect of human behavior is that a kid might be mature and self actualized around their parents and then be a bully at school because they are friends with bullies.


Do you have kids? If yes, did you save them from the fate of socializing with other kids, or were they forever ruined and now you offer their story up as a cautionary tale. Or is this just a theory?


I have kids. You don't have to go to a formal school to get socialized. You just need friends and activities. Like the ones people pursue when they're not trapped in a room for seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year, for 13 years of their lives.


I went to public school through grade 7, and my parents pulled me out to home-school me through high school.

It worked out really, really well for me. Most immediately, it relieved a bunch of social pressure to "fit in". My curriculum was self-paced so I was able to work through the material I already knew at a fast clip. I did grades 9-12 in 3 years instead of the typical 4, and was able graduate the same year as my then-girlfriend, now-wife (hold the jokes please, she's not my sister).

Beyond my personal experience being home-schooled, I'm now a father of 5, and I think the biggest thing missing from the other comments in this discussion is the concept that the education of children is just one of the many responsibilities of parents.

As a parent, it's your personal job to make sure your children are fed, clothed, bathed, socialized, educated, moralized, understood, and secured. Everyone worries about the "socialization" of home-schooled kids. But the parent who is taking an active interest in the education of their child is almost certainly also taking an active interest in their child's social development.

I think it's rather more likely that parents today are all too happy to abdicate and outsource those responsibilities to whatever institution is willing to take them on.

Don't get me wrong. That we have freely available public education is undoubtedly a great thing. The capacity to read and write effectively and to think critically is an amazing economic mobilizer. There's a reason slave-owners in the deep south wanted to keep their slaves from learning to read. But having that education available is supremely preferable to having it mandated by the state.


> I think it's rather more likely that parents today are all too happy to abdicate and outsource those responsibilities to whatever institution is willing to take them on.

s/too happy/required to/

Try to get by with a high-earning single income in the south bay area or a median income in any metro. Housing prices and health costs force families to move to dual income.


You're right, I shouldn't have imported motive to those parents. And I can empathize with parents in this situation. I don't think it's necessarily easy to go the single-income route.

Still, in my calculus, the benefits outweigh the risks. Here's another anecdote:

Once a week my kids get together with several other home-schooled families. In one of those families, the father is a math professor at the local community college. He's smart. He could work at any of a number of universities and make better money, but he's chosen to work at a community college because it gives him a more flexible schedule to be around to raise/educate his children.

His family of 7 lives in an 1000 sqft home. His decision to take an active role in educating his children required sacrifices, and he's chosen to trade off the career benefits for home life benefits.

(BTW, when people talk about "diversity", this is the kind I think that matters most. Diversity of viewpoints on how to live your life and raise your children. I'm glad in the US we don't have to all agree on the best way to do these things.)


s/imported/imputed/


The answer to that is, "get out of the metro". Cities are designed for singles and DINKs. There's a reason people talk about moving to the country, building a little house, starting a garden, etc... it's a better life for a family, and sustainable.


Living in the country is in no way more sustainable. It's far less sustainable for the environment as people must drive everywhere. Infrastructure for water, sewer, trash, etc. all cost more (regardless of whether the homeowner pays the increased cost) and cause more environmental impact as they're less efficient due to lower density.

You might find it to be a better life (I don't) but it's not more sustainable.


The driving isn't the same at all.

Small town with car: go a few blocks, never stopping for traffic, going the direction you like and stopping where you please

Big city with car: go many blocks, constantly stopping in traffic, route around 1-way streets, and then slowly loop around looking for a place to park

Big city with bus: go many blocks, constantly stopping in traffic, route around 1-way streets, often going kind of the wrong direction, spewing diesel soot all the way -- and often the bus runs nearly empty, a big soot-spewing vehicle with almost no people


Big city driving is often not driving at all. Want to grab some milk? Walk to the store. Want to go to a restaurant? Walk.

That's obviously not all city transit but it's a much larger part. Also lots of grocery stores still have parking lots (actually garages) in the city. If you're going somewhere like that you can still park easily. Depends on the location I'm sure.

I'm not sure what your dislike of buses is. They are far more efficient than personal transit from a fuel perspective. A bus can be "nearly empty" and still replace a half dozen cars. And at peak times a bus will replace dozens. There are issues with buses but "soot-spewing" isn't one of them, at least not relative to cars.

Small town is also not really country. If you can drive a few blocks to the grocery store, you don't live in the country. In fact, if your house is near blocks, you don't live in the country. Small towns are of course also less sustainable than cities as small towns are basically built like suburbs.


> people must drive everywhere

You're assuming city life and country life are largely the same. In the country you don't pop down to the market 3-4 times a week when you run out of milk or want to grab a sandwich -- you buy a deep freeze and go "big shopping" once every week or two.


I lived in the country for years. Yes, you buy a deep freeze. You also drive 20 minutes to the grocery store and 20 minutes to drop off your kids and 45 minutes to work. Yes, you optimize for bigger grocery trips, but the fact is that you still drive everywhere and you drive further because nothing is close.


Nah, you just plan better and around a life that doesn't involve a ton of time in the car. Drop off the kids and then shop right after, or hit the store on the way home from work, or let the kids take the bus. Fewer extracurriculars for them but I assume since it's the country there's plenty of other stuff to do.

What IS nice is that the car time tends to be long like you said, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, which is more efficient energy-wise and for wear and tear than a bunch of little 5 minute trips.

You have to live a place that's right for you. I'm perfectly fine not leaving the house for days on end, there's plenty to do around here. Some of my friends would go crazy if they didn't have someplace to go every night. If you're the latter kind of person, country living is probably not going to agree with you! The same is true vice versa -- how do I go to Costco on my bike!? ;)


I've got bad news for you--you're not going to escape wallet-crushing Bay Area housing prices by moving to Walnut Creek or Pleasanton.


How about Idaho or Nebraska...?


Unfortunately, it also results in a lack of structured activities, social groups, etc etc. Unless you're willing to spend half your life driving, of course.


Nothing in your comment is even remotely close to a universal truth or fact.

You'd do better to gather more information on the topic.


According to United States census data, more than half of homeschooling families have two working parents, compared to half of non-homeschooling families having one working parent and one non-working parent [1]. This data was collected in 2007, so it may differ from today's distribution. I'm not sure how these families pull it off, but academic scores indicate that they apparently do.

It's possible that when the data refers to two parents in the labor force it means that both parents are employable, as opposed to employed. That doesn't make sense to me, however, as it would indicate that half of non-homeschooled families have only one employable parent. Unfortunately, I don't currently have the time to drill down into the raw data to investigate the definition they used.

https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/12statab/educ.pdf (Table 240)


Is that just an all-day nanny/private tutor? So what does dual-income homeschooling mean?

Seems like a stretch of the terminology to call it "homeschooling".


With only a third of homeschooling households making over $75,000 per year, I can't imagine that a significant portion have a nanny. Then again, having never hired a nanny, I have no clue what they cost. Perhaps one parent works at night, or one parent works from home. Either way, it's definitely a curious statistic.


> As a parent, it's your personal job to make sure your children are fed, clothed, bathed, socialized, educated, moralized, understood, and secured.

Focusing in specifically on "educated": That means more than handing them off to the school system, even if they go there. That means that you have to pay enough attention to know when they're not getting it, when the school's failing to teach them, or whatever. You can't just put them in public school and wash your hands of your responsibility for their education.


So many opponents to homeschooling are talking about socialization as the key component of schooling. This seems misguided. Modern schools seem to be a terrible environment to socialize kids, with things like bulling, weapons, drugs, sexting, sex. It seems like utter madness to want to have your kids "socialized" in an environment like that. There are much better places and environments for them to be around and socialize with other kids, for example extracurricular sports teams, religious events etc. I remember when I was a kid, I used to go out and play with the neighborhood kids, and it didn't matter that I didn't go to the same school as they did. There was a whole whole word of socializing that occurred before schools and I don't think children will lose much socializing without schools.


> Modern schools seem to be a terrible environment to socialize kids, with things like bulling, weapons, drugs, sexting, sex

Look, I'm no fan of modern schooling (public or private), but this is pretty ridiculous.

Bullying: I was bullied far more by the neighborhood kids than anyone at school. YMMV of course, but that's exactly the point -- kids are kids, and leaving the school building doesn't change that. Blaming school missing the point.

Also, RE: churches, they're one of the few widespread institution where it's not abnormal for adults to gather and condemn people who are different (LGBT, non-sexually-repressed). It's just that churches have a much better grasp on socially appropriate rhetoric (not "faggot!" but "sinful lifestyle", not "slut!" but "you must save yourself for marriage". It's more subtle, but the intended effect is the same: otherizing people who are different from or disagree with the in-group and shaming them into conformance).

If your child is gay, the local church youth group is very likely one of the most intense bullying experiences that child will ever experience.

Sex: Teenagers are going to know and think about sex. Consider e.g. religious events for adolescents, which often explicitly discuss sex in a very moralizing way. In fact, IMO, having attended one, American conservative christian youth groups are one of the least healthy places to learn about sexuality.

Weapons: I've been in a lot of schools, and in every single one of them, anything as much as a pocket knife was a huge deal.

Drugs: Again, far more likely to encounter these hanging out with the neighborhood kids than in the (incredibly risky) setting of a modern school. Even the more die hard pot heads are rarely stupid enough to bring their drugs to school.

So if "bullying, sex, drugs, and weapons" were my greatest fears, I'd probably lock my kids in school 24/7 and never let them play in the neighborhood without adult supervision.

>...I don't think children will lose much socializing without schools.

I don't think children necessarily have to lose much socializing without schools. But the anecdotal evidence I have suggests that providing sufficient socialization is much harder than it sounds.


> If your child is gay, the local church youth group is very likely one of the most intense bullying experiences that child will ever experience.

Not only that, but if your child isn't of the inclination to be religious, it will also be a painful experience. Questioning the why behind and benefits of the religious faith of the group leaders and other youth group participants is a great way to be bullied and not only that, told you're wrong for thinking logically. That, plus the associated moralizing (i.e, "there is only one way, the right way, to be") I think are pretty damaging for kids.

Societally we are accepting of many more ways than the one proscribed by many churches. Being of one sexuality or another, or one morality or another, as long as you respect and help your fellow human beings when they are in need, should not matter. I wouldn't expose my kid to anything saying otherwise if I could help it.


Shootings, stabbings, ass-kickings and all kinds of other shenanigans occurred at my high school. At least in the neighborhood, I can choose to stay home if I wish.


> At least in the neighborhood, I can choose to stay home if I wish.

But then we're right back to the socialization problem that started this thread.


I understand what you're saying but hey, staying home is better than having the shit kicked out of me.


what school did you go to - drugs and weapons were everywhere in my school. I bought pot off my classmates.


Wouldn't these same classmates also be likely to participate in extracurricular sports, attend religious events, etc?

If drugs were everywhere in school, the kids aren't leaving them in lockers when they go home, and it's not like there's a big tall wall that separates these alleged weapon-smuggling drug dealers from the "good kids" on the home-schooled side either.


Because church groups and extracurricular sports teams and home schools all have a stake in protecting the kids. School shootings, stabbings and drug dealings happen every day, and no one gets fired, no one gets in trouble, no one gets sued. It is very different with other groups like churches or sports teams.

If any other organization had anywhere near the track record for deaths and serious injuries and addictions that government run schools had with our children, it would be shut down in no time.


> what school did you go to

Nice enough to have a few decent AP classes, bad enough that we walked through metal detectors. But my assessment is even more colored by the dozens of schools I've volunteered in.

What kind of school did you go to?

> Because church groups and extracurricular sports teams and home schools all have a stake in protecting the kids

What about unstructured socializing? Or are you suggesting that children should spend the first 18 years of their life under constant adult supervision?

Basically, my point is this: whenever there are weapons and drugs in the school, there are a lot more of those same weapons and drugs outside of school.

So either you have to keep a constant eye on the kids and and strictly control the social group until they leave for college, or else these problems are more pronounced outside of school than inside of school.

> School shootings, stabbings and drug dealings happen every day, and no one gets fired, no one gets in trouble, no one gets sued

Nothing you're saying here is factually accurate.

School shooters typically kill themselves or are killed.

School officials (teachers, etc.) are often themselves killed during school shootings. Complaining that those officials aren't posthumously fired seems... crazy.

Families effected by school shootings do sue.

And people definitely get in trouble all the time for dealing drugs and bringing weapons to school. Which is why both are far more common outside of school.


> What about unstructured socializing?

I disagree with vivekd on many points, but I don't think that schools offer many more unstructured opportunities for socialization than their examples. They get a few minutes in the hallway, and then maybe lunch, and then extracurricular activities - which he's already suggesting anyway.


Yes, I'm not making that argument. My argument is only that you aren't going to avoid "bullying, sex, drugs, weapons" by avoiding school -- at least not without being overbearing.

I.e., if you rule out all unstructured socializing, then avoiding school might be an effective way to avoid "bullying, sex, drugs, weapons". But if you don't rule out unstructured socializing, then ruling out school isn't going to help much.


I think public schools foster an environment of sex, bullying, drugs and weapons by getting large groups of children together and offering very little supervision. I don't think those kinds of environments could exist outside of modern schools.

Yes giving kids alone time is fine, but leaving a large group of kids together under the supervision of very few adults and repeating this 5 days a week for several years is going to have some effect.


And I think that opinion is both unsubstantiated and incorrect, especially wrt drugs and sex. Do you have any data backing this assertion?


There is some evidence:

For example this study shows that home schooled children are significantly less likely to drink or do drugs

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4652803/

but I will admit that studies comparing home school children to public school children are too few and far between to draw meaningful scientific conclusions. Also the large numbers of religious homeschoolers throws the numbers off.

I'm just relying on reasoning. A child who spends most of their time being raised by their parents is in a much better position to avoid negative outcomes than those raised by a paid supervisor, no matter how well qualified. Love makes a difference, parents love their children, teachers, while no doubt caring, don't have the same love and definitely lack the resources to provide the same individualized attention.

Further, public school, due to powerful teachers unions and parent counsels are anything but meritocracies. The good teachers are not always the ones that thrive and rise to the top.


I wonder if anyone's done a study of their attitudes towards these things after graduating high school; do they smoke, drink and/or do drugs in college?


I think the goal of moderating drug use in adolescence should be 1) harm mitigation, and 2) instilling healthy drug use habits and mindsets.

2 is particularly important. We tend to think of drugs as "bad" when talking about kids, and then turn around and have a beer, smoke a cigarette, drink way too much coffee/caffeine/sugar, or in some jurisdictions consume cannabis. So our goal shouldn't be adolescent abstinence -- rather, the goal should be setting kids up for a life of healthy interactions with drugs. In a few rare cases that will be actualized in the form of abstinence, but in most cases it will take some other form. For this reason, I tend to ignore data that doesn't distinguish between "healthy" and various forms of "unhealthy" drug use.

Interpreting this data is extremely difficult.

Your interpretation is that schools are causing increased substance abuse.

But an equally reasonable (which is to say, not at all reasonable) interpretation is that home schooled students are more likely to have a flat, legalistic, and ultimately unhelpful understanding of drug use that will come back to bite them in the ass later in life.

For example:

* homeschoolers are more strongly disapproving of any alcohol consumption, but there's no difference in opinion about smoking 1+ packs a day. Even though the former can be non-harmful or even healthy, while the latter is pretty uniformly incredibly unhealthy. Perhaps this is because they're more concerned with following laws than healthy drug use patterns?

* Late adolescent home schooled students and early adolescent home schooled students are equally disapproving of peer alcohol consumption. To me it's weird/creepy that a 13 y/o and 18 y/o would have the same attitudes toward peer alcohol consumption, and indicates that maybe the 18 y/o's opinion is more indicative of ignorance or blind rule-following than any sort of healthy attitude about drug use per se. There is absolutely nothing unhealthy about an 18 y/o occasionally consuming alcohol (or anyways, no more unhealthy than a 21 y/o).

* A lot of the questions refer to any drug use, as opposed to abuse or modes of unhealthy use. And home schooled kids tend to be equally disapproving, or in some cases more disapproving of healthy use of stigmatized drugs than of unhealthy use of less stigmatized drugs.

* Some of the related work suggests that "homeschooled adolescents engage in less substance use than non-homeschooled adolescents, although religious ties was an important moderator in this relationship". Which makes a lot of sense, given that the overall range of opinions tends to be more indicative of unscientific moralization of drug use than of health-conscious substance use patterns.

(There's also some weird effects in this data, like home schooled kids having a harder time getting alcohol but not having a harder time getting LSD...)

To be clear, I don't think this interpretation is particularly reasonable. But I also think it's about as reasonable an extrapolation from the data as your interpretation that schools are causing the gap in the data.

> public school... are anything but meritocracies

I largely agree with criticism of educational quality provided by our schools.

I don't think it's correct to blame unions and tenure though, because non-elite private schools tend to be pretty crap as well. In both cases, the solution is probably a combination of high social status and (much) higher pay for teachers. This can be paired with eliminating tenure and unions, but doing that without significant improvements to pay will only make the job less attractive and thereby decrease quality.


It certainly is unhealthy for an 18 y/o to consume alcohol, and your "no more unhealthy than a 21 y/o" comment doesn't change that. Alcohol causes stomach cancer (really sucks), liver cancer (that sucks too), mouth and throat cancer (totally sucks), breast cancer (also sucks). Alcohol deforms the unborn. Alcohol indirectly causes car crashes, pregnancy, STDs, drowning, and all sorts of criminal charges. If homeschooled students disapprove, good!

The equal LSD availability, combined with reduced alcohol availability, suggests that "turn around and have a beer" isn't happening in these homes. LSD use is rare everywhere, but alcohol is only rare in the homeschooling homes.


Your fear of alcohol is incredibly irrational. There is absolutely no evidence that moderate alcohol consumption causes any of those things.

All of the cancer risks are linked to heavy drinking (usually 3+ drinks a day over a prolonged period of time), and there's absolutely no evidence that occasional moderate alcohol consumption poses a health risk greater than any number of other extremely low risk activities. Certainly not greater than a pack a day of cigarettes. (Furthermore, some studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption can even have positive health benefits, including decreased risks for some cancers.)

Similarly, alcohol in moderation causes none of the "indirect" things you mention.

You are free to assert an arbitrary moral superiority for abstention, but don't pretend like you have a rational basis for your opinions on the effect of moderate alcohol consumption. Pretending like all use is unhealthy is just as ignorant as the opposite extreme.


How do you know that your consumption will be moderate?

Some people lose control of their consumption. How do you justify any confidence that you won't be one of these people?

It's not as if the typical alcoholic just decided one day to be an alcoholic. For most it just... sort of happened. That could be you. Maybe not, perhaps probably not, but why would you take that risk? For little gain, you risk throwing away your life.


By consuming alcohol in moderation in the presence of a support network that will hold you accountable to that moderation. If people are not going to abstain for life -- and most won't! -- then learning how your body reacts to substances and how to moderate is an important life skill.

Tons and tons of people manage to drink without going am addiction.

And regarding risks, the same could be said for lots of things that are sometimes psychologically addictive -- internet, video games, shopping, etc.


Oh, I see, I completely misunderstood your point. My bad.


> School shooters typically kill themselves or are killed.

Mass shooters, yes. Two kids exchanging fire in the parking lot? Not so much.

Note well: When I was in school, we never had a shooting, so my statement is unsupported by firsthand evidence.


> Two kids exchanging fire in the parking lot? Not so much.

Uh, no. Discharging fire arms at or around a school is taken incredibly seriously pretty much universally. Doing something like this would be more than enough for hard jail time.

This happened at my school while I was in high school (late at night, and had nothing to do with school -- it was just a shooting that by pure chance happened to take place right next to the school -- neither of the people involved were from the community or even school aged). There was a huge police investigation and the shooter was caught within days of the shooting.

e: If you think "two kids exchanging fire in the parking lot" is an example of tolerated behavior at schools, you should take it as an indication that you have a wildly inaccurate mental model of what schools are like.


Tolerated? No. You'd have to figure out who did it, though. (Maybe it's easier now. Back in my day, there weren't a lot of security cameras...)



Only one of those incidents is of a lawsuit against a teacher, the other two incidents are of a lawsuit against the families. And there is a very good reason for this. There is state immunity granted to teachers and schools in that they cannot be sued for grossly negligent supervision that allows a stream of drugs, guns, knives and sex to flow into children under their care.

You can see it mentioned in your first article:

>her attorneys cite a state law that gives school districts and their employees immunity from liability if they make a good faith effort to report threats of violence.

so even if a student threatens violence, as long as the teacher reports it, there will no liability to her or the school even if they didn't do anything to stop the violence or supervise the children adequately. This statute is actually more lenient than other areas where it is complete immunity.

Now this immunity is limited to state actors and does not apply to private schools, churches or sports teams. And I believe that without these protections public schools would have been sued out of existence long ago for the horrible things constantly happening to children under their care.


> as long as the teacher reports it, there will no liability to her or the school even if they didn't do anything to stop the violence

I'm not sure what you expect a teacher to do. Break the student's arms? Search their bag, home, neighborhood for any guns and remove them? Duct-tape them to their desk and set a bucket underneath?


No I just meant that under ordinary cirumstances, where there is no explicit threat made, there can be no legal liability on part of the school or teacher. And even when there is a threat made, so long as some report is made to her superiors (under the statute it's made reasonable attempts to report, not actually report and says report not call law enforcement or take steps like suspension or talking to the kid") there can be no legal liability. That's an extraordinary amount of protection from legal liability that private sector actors do not enjoy. In the private sector you can get sued for negligent supervision, and failing to act on threats can get you sued, you can't just say "I reported it to my supervisors" and leave it at that.

I'm not faulting the teachers, I'm talking more about legal liability in terms of sovereign immunity which limits or negates the liability of states from lawsuits.

http://usedulaw.com/340-immunity-educational-law.html


Among high schoolers, within the month they were surveyed: 35% drank some alcohol 21% binge drank (consuming an excessive amount) 22% rode in someone’s car who’d been drinking 10% drove after drinking

The stats show that marijuana use is rampant: 35.1% of 12th graders have smoked pot in the past year 21.3% of 12th graders have smoked pot in the last 30 days 16.6% of 10th graders have smoked pot in the last 30 days 6% of 12th graders say they use marijuana every day 81% of 12th graders say it would be easy to get marijuana Only 32% of 12th graders feel that regular marijuana use is harmful — https://www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/high-school-drug-u...

...checks out.


No one is denying that students experiment with sex and drugs.

Rather, the observation is that these things happen mostly outside of school, so avoiding schools isn't an effective way of avoiding this things.

The link between school and these activities is, IMO, largely specious. Or at the very least completely unsubstantiated by evidence.

Or are you seriously suggesting that kids are binge drinking and lighting up in between history and chemistry?

Basically, vivek's argument is that by not sending your kids to school you avoid all of these behaviors. But these behaviors are far more common outside of school that within school.

Home schooling doesn't replace effective parenting, and sending your kdis to a school doesn't preclude effective parenting.

Finally, I think it's worth asking so what?! to a lot of your statistics. Particularly the "drank some alcohol" and "smoked pot in the last 30 days" statistics. These things aren't a priori bad, and drinking at that age isn't even illegal in a lot of developed countries (and even in some places in the US, under adult supervision).


Also, I REALLY hate that link you posted. It's my observation that this sort of propaganda does far more harm than good.

Kids are smart. Claims that "marijuana and drinking are bad" tend to only have the effect of discrediting the speaker. Those claims are mostly specious, and kids know how to use Google. Citing something like "68% of 12th graders have tried alcohol" in a page decrying substance abuse makes one look like a scare mongering idiot. Seriously, these are 18 year olds -- that number is almost certainly close to 100% in a lot of developed countries.

But kids are also stupid. If you go on to tell them "binge drinking is bad, avoid it" or "prolonged marijuana use really can cause serious harm", they'll extrapolate that you're BSing them about that too.

Basically, scare mongering about any drug use only has the effect of making it far harder to warn kids about actual dangers.


>Modern schools seem to be a terrible environment to socialize kids, with things like bulling, weapons, drugs, sexting, sex

Do people spouting this have any kind of realistic evidence for how schools are so terrible for socializing, instead of spouting off folksy wisdom?

The whole "socialize, more like INSTITUTIONALIZE mirite guys?" just feels so flimsy and patronizing. Some are even comparing public schools to Lord of the Flies? That's just ridiculous.


I take it you've only been to either very high performing (nationally) public high schools or private schools?

I have a unique education background at that age - I was homeschooled until 5th grade, then went to a private religious school until 8th, then a private very high-end high school in 9th grade, and then a brand new suburban high school in 10th, and then inner city shitbox schools in 11th until I finally dropped out and took the GED since it was such a waste of my time.

In the good schools? You're pretty much correct. I can definitely see why a parent would not like a lot of what happens in them, but it's a bit much to call those social scenes dysfunctional entirely.

The inner city schools? Oh man, I would do anything to keep my kid out of such hellholes. I think you really need to volunteer in a Chicago south side or similar high school for a week - I haven't met anyone who's spent any time in that system who would ever send their children to them. It's social environment is more like a juvenile hall.

> Some are even comparing public schools to Lord of the Flies? That's just ridiculous.

I'd say it's a pretty apt comparison, murders and all for a significant portion of the US population.


>The inner city schools?

I could comment this with my own perspective fairly extensively, but quite honestly every time I give some kind of personal experience in this thread it's just met with snark, and every time I ask for objective evidence I get some "why trust some jackass's study" type of response. But, in my own experience, schools, even in the "inner city" (which just seems to be kind of key word for an aggregate of poorly functioning schools, or a poorly functioning student population), can still offer a bit of refuge from home life. Even poorly funded schools will have some great teachers/mentors.

So let me just ask this: How is home schooling going to fix such "hellholes"? You're effectively blaming an institution on the failings of the society around it; even when that institution actually provides a constructive outlet that most likely would not have ever been provided at home. And for all it's tasked with doing, this institution by the way, continues to be constrained by people who seem to hate it.


> But, in my own experience, schools, even in the inner city, can still offer a bit of refuge from home life

I've volunteered in the south side schools your parent mentioned, and I can think of some cases where this was definitely very true.

Of course, it's also true that all of those kids also would've been much better off in better schools.

> How is home schooling going to fix such "hellholes"?

If a family has an adult in the house hold who can stay home and educate the children, then they're definitely not living in these neighborhoods in the first place.

And in any case, that family would be much better off if the second parent works so that the family can move to a better neighborhood.


> I think you really need to volunteer in a Chicago south side or similar high school for a week

Yup, I've volunteered in one of these schools, and totally agree with your assessment.

That said, these really are the worst of the worst. Even most city schools have far more functional social scenes.

OT, but FWIW I've never really known what "inner city" means. Is it just code for "bad"? In most cities, there are definitely vast socio-economic geographic differences within the city, but those geographies aren't layered. So "inner" and "outer" doesn't describe them.


> OT, but FWIW I've never really known what "inner city" means.

In the US, it's a long-used code for "Black or Latino." Not that Wikipedia is authoritative, but here's a snip from Wikipedia:

"In the United States and United Kingdom, the term "inner city" is often used as a euphemism for lower-income residential districts in the city centre and nearby areas with, in the US, the additional connotation of impoverished black neighborhoods."

Basically, they don't mean the parts of inner cities where white people have displaced Black people. As gentrification expands, we will likely have to find another euphemism. The basic idea is you don't want to send your kid to school with "inner-city" kids if you can help it.


uhhh, yeah - we attended public school.


>folksy wisdom

I also fail to see how any of those things listed are some how related specifically to schooling in any kind of institution. Everything that's listed exists in society by it's own "virtues." In fact, its rather silly to claim that homeschooling children will somehow not expose them to possibly more drugs, more weapons, more sexting, etc. It's not like the children and adults who bring forth those "qualities" of society are constrained at the public or private school walls. They're in your local bookstores, theaters, churches, youth groups, and your parks.


Yea married to teachers, have children in schools, went to schools are selves. Way more relevant than some jackasses study or some article.


> went to schools are selves

Still need some work though ;-)


Something something anecdote is not data.


I am from Brazil, where there is a large divide in quality of public schools and private schools.

I went to private schools, and envied the columbine guys, when it hit the news, I wanted to do the same. (happily, I didn't).

Still, friend I had (outside of school) that went to public schools, were real Lord of the Flies material:

* One friend I had, once was assaulted by 3 bullies using their school scissors as a weapon, he reacted by bashing the head of one of them in using his skateboard, hitting his skull with the skateboard wheel supports.

* Another friend of mine broke someone jaw with a fire extinguisher in a school brawl.

And even in my private school:

* Some dude threw my sister into a construction area, after that she started to walk with a non-optical mouse ball in her pocket, she knocked a guy with it once after the guy stole her lunch.

* A kid from first grade made a hole in another kid skull using one of those traditional spinning tops made of wood and nail, this resulted in a spinning top ban.

* After the spinning top ban, the popular toy became yoyo, that also became banned after a kid tried to strangle another with the string.

* Metal rulers were forbidden, it is because some years earlier, before I joined the school, a group of kids figured they could sharpen the rulers until they were sharp, use them as swords, and steal all other kids, including much older ones, money.

And then we have incidents like this:

* Teacher in my high-school had some quirky behaviour regarding emergency staircase, later another teacher told us he witnessed a student jump from it headfirst in a fashion that made brain splatter all over the place.

* One of the highlights of my high-school principal career, is that when he was teacher in another school, one of his students put a bomb in a bathroom that was so strong the toilet he wanted to explode made a hole in the ceiling above.

* Kid got kicked out of school after arriving 6:30 in the morning blind drunk, got in a brawl with other students, and destroyed half of the desks in a classroom.

* Whole city was hit hard by the news that a group of 15 year old kids organized a massive party, then when it was time to leave one of them decided to drive home drunk, despite mininum driving age being 18 anyway, crashed, and killed himself, 2 more students, and left two others paraplegic.

And all that is from a relatively wealthy place, poorer areas we had kids murdering each other and teachers without even hitting the news.

And now some recent news about school incident, in portuguese, so you might need google translate:

http://www.vice.com/pt_br/read/aluno-morre-esfaqueado-escola...


The only value I ever saw in the socialization aspect was when we had early childhood education centers that were family oriented (as opposed to age) and the older kids taught the young kids to use the potty. After that, it was all power and cliques.

On a side note: in 1995 I used the word socialization in a sentence with a government official and immediately had to spend 5 minutes defining my meaning was not whatever she thought it was. Words mutate overtime in government and there are actually hot and cold words for grants. I'm pretty sure I would have got the same reaction even if she hadn't been a racist in the old sense (a shame when that happens to minorities particularly when its directed at other minorities).


> It seems like utter madness to want to have your kids "socialized" in an environment like that.

That's what society is. What's the point of socializing kids into anything other than the actual society?


You think adult society is like school? This author clearly disagrees with you: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


No, that's not what society is. Admittedly, public schools are doing their best to "shape" society with their own pathologies, but the behavior "socialized" in public schools still doesn't fly in the adult world. Most people spend their 20s unlearning that bizarre teenage socialization in the "school of hard knocks".


From my perspective, the world of the public school is actually what society is, like it or not. People don't encounter drugs, weapons, or sex in the adult world? The adult world doesn't have it's own "school of hard knocks"? News to me. (Sometimes this of course is due to poor life choices, but it's probably better to witness poor life choices firsthand.)

I'm ambivalent on homeschooling and it largely depends on motivation. I can absolutely buy homeschooling as an alternative to a poor public school district with no opportunity for quality education. I don't buy homeschooling as a way for parents to hide their children from "the real world" or other more ideological reasons, which from what I see sometimes does happen. This is a bad strategy; after all, in so many career paths who you know is just as important or even more import as what you know.

My guess is that homeschooling will produce both some of the best students and some of the worst, depending on the parent.


The worst of public school attendees in the United States join gangs and kill other human beings in US inner cities - I suspect that's much less common among homeschoolers. If true, I'd argue that the homeschool 'worst' is probably a lot better for society than the public school 'worst'. It would be an interesting research question. Disclosure: homeschooled our 4 kids, my eldest is 20 years old and working full time as a software engineer in sf. One down, three to go... :)


In the adult world, I'm much less mixed with people of different background. Sure in my coworking space there are translators, NGOs, ecologists, motion designers and programmers, but the thing is: They all work. If they beat or insult me, I can take then to court. Women also have a lot of protections against harassment. And I don't remember anyone talking about their swirlie experience in any workplace.

School, to me, is like jail: It's the only place where I can meet such unregulated behaviors.


First of all, what have you got against sex and weapons? Are you a commie or something? (/jk)

Second, yes, it's true that there are gangs, crime, bullying, popularity-obsessed people, etc., in the real world. But the difference is this: outside public school, those are bad behaviors, which lead to unsuccessful outcomes. If you want to teach children to succeed in society, you need to teach the opposite of what public school "socialization" teaches.


Look around at what people do, at what people believe. Look at 4chan! Look at reddit!

The point is to subtract from all of that rather than add to it.


The children will have to enter that society at some point. Would it be better to wait until they leave for college and let them experience all of that at the same time, for the first time?


I have yet to have a post-public-school (college, work, sales, relationships, you-name-it) experience that even comes close to the barbarity of my in-public-school experience. I've seen things on TV in that vicinity, but not in real life -- knock on wood!

Of course, in my public school we had dudes who were fully-pubed driving their cars to the 6th grade, so kind of an extreme example.


Yes. They'll be better equipped to rationally comprehend, question, and appreciate the world at that age. It's the same as any adult would better appreciate and understand travelling and experiencing other cultures more than a child.


Full disclosure: We homeschool our children.

Many here are repeating uninformed myths about homeschooling.

Specifically in regards to academic performance, "The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests."[1]

But who cares? Though I could talk at length on educational benefits, what is needed for children is not an ideal academic environment. Our children need to be loved and mentored to become adults and, on average, no one can do that job better than their own parents.

[1] http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschoolin...


This is the first year we are homeschooling my 13 yr old son. He is actually in a hybrid Charter program so goes to class 2 days and homeschools 3 days. We have already seen such a huge difference. We were able to bump him up 2 math levels, enroll him in a computer science course and had a lot of input on what curriculum he uses. None of these opportunities would have been available if we kept him in public school.

Public school was too easy for him. He was bored and not being challenged enough. Plus the last 2 years things kind of started getting a little creepy. I won't go into details here but there was definitely some indoctrination stuff going on that did not sit right with me.

I am not saying homeschooling is right for every child, but if your child excels in Math, is scoring off the charts in most subjects and appears to be bored, I highly encourage looking into it. There are a ton of homeschooling resources available now and there are a lot of good hybrid options too.


In my experience as an educator I observed that homeschooling was excellent for kids at both extremes of the bell curve. US public education does a pretty good job at the bulk.


Totally agree with you.


> enroll him in a computer science course

Why are you doing that to him?


Haha! He has been programming since the age of 8. Started off hacking away at Minecraft Mods then moved into a little JavaScript and more recently Python for the Raspberry Pi.

I have tried encouraging other areas too of course but this stuff really excites him. It is in his blood and he is really, really good at it.


Python 3, I hope. Right?


"Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be coders"

I thought this to myself and then googled it to see if lazyweb had written it for me:

http://music.chuvala.com/songs/mamas/mamas_lyrics.html


Ha! This is pretty funny. Aren't coders these days though kind of seen as rock stars? ;)

As a Mama here and as someone who has worked in this industry for over 15 years, I would not be bummed if he chose another path. I however won't hold him back from what is pulling him either. I will try my best to be as supportive as I can in whatever path he ends up choosing.

Also speaking as a mom - I am totally okay if he ends up being the nerdy kid ;)


It seems like there are two very different groups being discussed here: the "I think I can do a better job of educating my kids than the state" homeschoolers and the "I want to protect my kids from this immoral society" homeschoolers.

I don't know which is more prevalent but all the homeschoolers seem to think of themselves as being in the first group, and most of the vitriol is aimed at the second group, so there's a lot of people talking past each other.


There is a third group which is, "If I leave my kid in regular school they will probably suicide."

Example one: Friend of mine has a kid with some strange behaviours, and some problems with aggression control. The other teenagers at the school constantly tease him, bait him, and make his life miserable. The school has given up on trying to stop this.

Example two: Another friend who's thirteen year old daughter was sexually assaulted (not at school), and as a result has virtually become a shut-in. Distance education is the only option at the moment.

Example three: My own daughter has some pretty severe anxiety issues and we ended up with school refusal for two years. She just could not cope. She can do the academics, she could not deal with everything else around interacting with other people, chaotic environments, unexpected change and such. We persevered and with a lot of leaning on mental health services, and a wonderful and accommodating staff at the school, we've managed to get our daughter back into school, which ultimately is best for her in the long run.

All these in Victoria, Australia - same place as the article.

The two groups you mentioned have their motivations rooted in some sort of hubris. I wonder how small their percentage is compared to the group who are just struggling to keep their kids alive and in some semblance of happiness.


The lines are not so clear. My parents started out as the former and evolved into the latter.


Please elaborate. Why did that happen?


My parents got into home-schooling for practical reasons; I learned to read early, the kindergarten was a long drive away, etc. They intended it as a temporary thing, a year or two before I went off to school like a normal person. By the time my younger siblings came along, they'd gotten the hang of it, liked it a lot, and just kept on teaching us all at home; I never did end up going to school.

They had always been religious, and we were raised with religious practice as a part of everyday routine, but they steadily became more and more a part of the countercultural fundamentalism that was growing up around them in the 1980s. As that happened the practice of home-schooling became both a cultural marker and a means of rejecting and protecting their children from what they saw as a corrupt and unhealthy mainstream society. By the time I graduated, my parents and most of their social circle were fully on board with the whole quiverfull homeschooling right-wing fundamentalist subculture.

Of course I promptly rejected the whole thing, as did most of my cohort. The fundamentalist homeschooling subculture appears to perpetuate itself almost entirely via recruitment and not through reproduction, so far as my observation goes.


These groups are not exclusive and I don't fundamentally see a problem with the later group as well. If parents do not subscribe to the morality pushed into the schools they should be free to educate kids at them.


I don't think every homeschooler falls within these 2 camps. It really isn't that black and white. The stereotypes try to make it out that way though.


Does homeschooling necessarily means parents ? Is it possible for parents to group together hire a teacher of their choice and then educated kids ?(sort of private school without government regulation)


This sounds like a great idea, and reminds me of the days before compulsory public education when the upper classes hired a variety of tutors to teach their children. Seems like a great way to do it! Another way, especially if you have well-educated friends with kids, would be to take turns teaching your specialities.


No, it doesn't. Many "homeschoolers" get together in groups where parents and/or other individuals share the teaching load according to the subject areas in which they are most skilled.


In fact I think it's a great area where technology can be used to support homeschooling networks. There are some organized by geographic areas, churches, etc, but what if you live in a cabin on a mountain somewhere? Forming a virtual homeschooling network where one parent teaches math, another teaches writing, etc, could be a wonderful solution.


It sounds like common sense but education remains a heavily regulation sector in USA and lets not even get started with child related regulation.

I am worried that cop visits, CPS visits etc. etc. might deter parents from doing this especially given that teachers union is a powerful political force.

Problem with America's education is entirely some nonsensical level of "we know what is good for your kids" regulation that is simply taking out freedom from parents.


Sure, it may be a hassle, but that's no reason not to do it. The more people homeschool, the more powerful their political voice will be. And compared to most other developed countries, the U.S. is pretty friendly to homeschoolers (varying by state). Germany is literally ripping children away from their families for attempting it.


Let's try to keep a clear distinction between the two concepts of education and childrearing.


How would you keep them separate? I am not a homeschooling advocate, but I don't know how you could separate education on academic subjects from education on the rest of life.


Education is a component of childrearing, not a distinct activity or concept.


We can agree that a lot of schools are terrible at both, and relied on for both (seriously talk to lower grades who are literally potty training some students).

Most people don't have the option of moving to a better school district or state even, and even so, don't have time to wait for the schools to fix the issues while their kid needs an education now.


After health, education is the most important part of child rearing. Followed closely, or possibly in tandem with, not raising an asshole.


Providing access to education, but not necessarily providing the education yourself.

It isn't always feasible, due to either a lack of time or a lack of knowledge on the parents' part to provide a full education to your own children. Which, of course, is why many homeschoolers use partnerships with other families and, sometimes, schools.


I was homeschooled all the way through 10th grade, and as far as social development is concerned it's a really mixed bag. I was involved in quite a few homeschool groups where I got to see first hand the wide range of social skills of other homeschooled kids. In my opinion the majority of kids I knew were just fine socially. There was also a small percentage that had significant trouble making friends and vocalizing their thoughts, however that was the exception rather than the rule.

Being homeschooled I had a completely different childhood than most of my peers, and that alone can make it more difficult to connect with people. At the same time I can also tell if someone my age was homeschooled just by listening to them talk, so finding other people with similar backgrounds usually isn't too hard.


...and plenty of kids in public schools have significant trouble making friends too! So it's tough to evaluate this stuff based on just anecdotes; I'm not aware of any large-scale studies on home-schoolers that have good controls, and it'd be very hard to do that given how much of a self-selecting group that is.

I agree re: different childhood, although that's not unique to homeschooling by any means. I also spent a few years in a "gifted kids" program, and even that by itself has the exact same effect given how unique the social environment of such programs are.

For that matter, I did go to public school for high-school, and again anyone at that school had a similar experience for a totally different reason: the school happened to have an unusually diverse student body, with a very high percentage of recent immigrants, and this lead to an unusually diverse social structure in the school. For example, every year no-one had any clue who the prom king and queens were because the social structure didn't have a school-wide hierarchy. More like multiple smaller groups based roughly on shared backgrounds and interests, with quite a bit of overlap. My brother on the other hand went to a different school which had a social hierarchy straight out of a American movie.


> ...and plenty of kids in public schools have significant trouble making friends too!

Absolutely. I went to a private school up through 5th grade, then public elementary school for 6th grade, then junior high at a school that wasn't the one that my elementary school sent people to (the one I went to had fewer knife fights). Coming into a school where I knew nobody two years in a row was rather rough...


> At the same time I can also tell if someone my age was homeschooled just by listening to them talk, so finding other people with similar backgrounds usually isn't too hard.

Just curious, what cues do you notice?


Even people that go to school have significant trouble "making and friends and vocalizing their thoughts"


The one thing I do not agree with is the tax deductions for homeschooling. I don't agree with vouchers either. Starving public schools is not the way to fix them, or make them go away. The way to fix them or make them go away is a combination of voting and running for school boards.

The reason why U.S. taxes are so complicated is because every special interest group wants their one line item deduction. And when they can't get a full deduction, they'll accept convoluted computations for partial deductions with a cap, so now it's a worksheet to do the computation for the actual deduction. Multiply that by every goddamn special interest and you get a 15 form submission every year.

Income tax should be a single form for everyone. Progressive rate. No deductions for anything. No home mortgage deduction - your mortgage interest is not a superior benefit to all of society than someone else's marked up rent. It's a special interest hand out.

The only fair way is if it's the same for everyone.


How about this for a universal tax plan?

  YOUR_TAX = MARGINAL_RATE * MAX( 0, ( YOUR_INCOME - MEDIAN_INCOME ))
By 2014 data, if we round median household income to $55000/year, 63327000 households owe no tax. If the MARGINAL_RATE is set to 40%, then households earning $55k-$60k have about a 1.5% tax rate. $60k-$65k pay about 4.5%. $195k-$200k pays about 28.8%. Households earning over $250k pay between 31.2% and 40%.

That's a progressive, but not onerous tax scheme. From $9436 billion in total household income, it taxes $1742 billion. Actual receipts from the 1040 tax in 2014 totaled about $1395 billion.

There are only 3 variables: the income that you partially control, the median computed by the easiest statistical analysis you can do, and the fraction between 0.0 and 0.99 set by public policy.


Why is it morally acceptable for the government to take money from you under the threat of force for a service that would dissolve into insolvency immediately if the public had any other economic option by your own admission?

The government letting you keep more of your own money is not a handout.

I agree with you about the single tax rate though.


It is morally acceptable because it applies to everyone, and every citizen here gets to vote or run for office to try and change the system, and everyone agrees for reasons of having a civil society to accept the ensuing compromise.

And yes, getting a deduction or credit on your taxes for homeschooling or private schooling is a handout. It's the same as a person with no children asking for this same benefit. What you're actually advocating for is not public education at all. You're advocating for a direct democracy, everything is al la carte. To do that even remotely properly means: a. compulsory voting (a number of countries do this including Australia and Brazil) b. a minimum of 2043 line items to "vote" on by dollar amount where $0 is as valid as $[totaltax] or anywhere in between, meaning people can choose to starve schools, roads, the military, corporate welfare, public welfare; and that 2043 value comes from the number of pages for the federal budget.

I think it becomes a very different world if we're voting for issues with a dollar amount attached than voting for representatives. And I don't necessarily think it'd be better, just that it'd be very different.


I'm not actually advocating for anything in particular, except perhaps school choice / vouchers. You do raise some good points here.

I also want to say I really appreciate how HN is still a place we can debate political policy civilly. I don't know any other places online where so many differing viewpoints are represented in robust and civil debate.


Public schools in the US aren't (primarily) funded by income taxes. They're primarily funded by local property taxes.


But any deduction or credit for education happens on income tax forms; there's no mechanism to get deductions or credits on property taxes any other way.

People with enough deductions get to file Schedule A and explicitly itemize property taxes. Typically owning a house gets you enough itemized deductions to justifying filing Schedule A so while a renter indirectly pays property taxes too, they don't get an explicit deduction for property taxes and thus also wouldn't get to deduct additional costs of homeschooling incurred.


That's just another broken system. That creates incentives to move to "good school districts" which is, obviously, not a very good reason to move e.g. further from work, or further from where you would otherwise like to be.


if money solved the public school system problem, chicago would be cranking out nobel laureates left and right (rather than sinking under the economic burden of insane pensions and accompanying property and sales taxes --- AND mass exodus of high earners).


I did not say or imply increasing spending makes public schools better. I said taking money away from them does not make them better. Go look at Kansas and Texas and other states where they are starving public schools, and are they cranking out nobel laureates left and right either? No.

The top reason why public schools suck in the U.S. is because of politicization of education. That's why there's more bureaucracy in public schools today than 30 years ago. That's why there are more derivations of school boot titles, where school boards are literally line item vetoing history books to emphasize/deemphasize actual historical facts, and with science. Regional schools are not all on the same page with the same standard, or even the same agreement of how the world is or should work. People move to specific neighborhoods to go to specific schools, and that results in far less diversity today with more small schools than fewer big ones.


I honestly don't know how to feel on this. At some level personal experimentation is a wonderful thing that everyone should consider. I am personally terrible at it, but I feel that is because I wasn't taught to be rigorous; which is ultimately what is needed.

However, I am also convinced that schools serve two real purposes for kids. 1) To push them further than parents think they should be pushed, and 2) to socialize them. (Which, really, is just part of 1.)

Ignoring all of the advantages that schools have -- mainly, more experience than makes sense -- even "bad" teachers are almost guaranteed to be better than a given parent. Because of their experience. They will have seen more kids than I can comprehend.

But back to my points. Even if I was somehow a better informational teacher than the ones at the school, I can not be a better teacher than their peers. Building healthy peer relationships is tough. As a parent, you think "nobody that will hurt my kid." However, I am not sure that is right. What we really want is "nobody that will unfairly hurt my kid." And even then, we want peers for our kids that will grow with them. So, really, it is "nobody that will convince my kids to repeatedly hurt others."

And this gets to the crux. Building a peer relationship for kids when you deprive them of diverse peers is nigh impossible. And if you have a reasonable set of peers, you are really just in a private school; not a home school.

Privates schools are not bad. At least, not something I want to vilify. However, I want my family to know and be a part of the community. Not a separate bubble within it. Weighing that against them having a "quality" education is tough.


The word socialize seems to have been co-opted to mean institutionalize. The top-down authoritarian school system is completely antithetical to Western values of freedom of expression and voluntary association. The Prussian model, from which state education systems are based upon, was designed to produce subservient citizens who will do as they're told and not make trouble by thinking for themselves. The state education system acts as a corporate subsidy for producing an obedient working class.

The history of state education, especially in America, is pretty dark. John Taylor Gatto, former teacher of the year in New York several times over, has written extensively on the history of education and it's worth reading his books to understand why state education seems so bad -- basically because it's working as intended. Our current education systems are damaging our children's emotional and intellectual independence, and do not serve the hopes and wishes most parents have for their children's education.

Voluntary options to state education should absolutely be celebrated, and parents should have the freedom to choose how to educate their own children.


The Prussians also inspired modern military drill, goose-stepping in particular.

They really were pioneers of assembly-line indoctrination.


"Voluntary options to state education should absolutely be celebrated, and parents should have the freedom to choose how to educate their own children."

See, at first when you said "voluntary" I misunderstood the word to refer to the kid's participation, but you meant voluntary as in for the parents to decide what their kid does.

All this talk of the ills of public schools, but you know a household is also a top down authoritarian system, one that certainly doesn't have more tolerance for free expression than a school, and one that isn't voluntary in the least. Most of the hostility to public schools seems to be from parents who don't want dictatorial competition.

I have no problem with homeschooling, but I'm no devotee, and I don't really buy a lot of what advocates say. Like, in actual fact, is there any evidence that homeschooling produces kids that are less, "subservient citizens who will do as they're told and not make trouble by thinking for themselves?"

Then again I'm not a great fan of the public school system. But I will say that when people say that public school is better for socialization, what they mean is that kids get the chance to navigate complex social relationships, (peers of all kinds, older near-peers of all kinds, younger ones, authority figures), and do so truly on there own.


> John Taylor Gatto, former teacher of the year in New York several times over, has written extensively on the history of education

Anything you'd recommend?



> The top-down authoritarian school system is completely antithetical to Western values

So you want to take the kids out of an environment where they get to see other perspectives and instead leave it up to their parents to not create what is effectively a social, cultural, and intellectual bubble?

That seems incredibly naive.


In what world is normal life in society a "bubble" but rigidly-structured conformity to professionally-designed programs in a walled-off institution not a bubble?


Your responses are exceedingly worthless and snarky, try actually putting forth some kind of substantive statement instead of following me around.

A student that is placed into a public school has many teachers, with many other student peers from all walks of life that will offer their own perspectives on anything from social issues to academic subjects. Your disingenuous hyperbolic claim that this environment is somehow "walled off" is ridiculous non-sense.


I think that by "different walks of life" you mean different skin colors, right? Real diversity to me means people who come from different places, have been through different experiences, do different kinds of work, have read different books, have different ideas, and so on: exactly what public school can't offer.


>you mean different skin colors, right

Not really.

>have been through different experiences, do different kinds of work, have read different books, have different ideas, and so on: exactly what public school can't offer.

That's exactly what it offers.


> with many other student peers from all walks of life

That strongly depends on your school district. Chicago's shittier schools aren't likely to have too many cultures represented. My high school in Texas had a grand total of four black students throughout all four years, and three immigrants - one of whom was me. The rest was white and hispanic southern kids.


How many immigrants do you suppose most homeschooled kids interact with?


I don't know, but I imagine that it would be easier to explicitly expose your kids to other cultures as a homeschooler - you can take a day off to visit some particular community center that has outreach programs without worrying about state attendance records.

But your point is well made - I don't know if that's the sort of thing most homeschooling parents work on.


>you can take a day off to visit some particular community center that has outreach programs without worrying about state attendance records.

Honestly, I would love for this to be a thing. But I feel that it is far, far too optimistic. Most people tend to shy away from others that don't fit within their socioeconomic circle if given a choice.

"Kids would you rather stick around the neighborhood today, go to the zoo, or go into the city to a youth outreach program and meet some new friends!"

I'm being a bit too unfair with your point, but the thought of that conversation happening within a family who home schools is pretty hilarious, and unlikely, in my opinion.


"Peers" as defined in public schooling means "people within plus or minus 12 months of your age, and with virtually the same experiences and knowledge". That's hardly "diverse", and moreover is hardly reflective of the kind of people you interact with in real life as an adult. Homeschooled kids regularly interact with adults and children much older and much younger than themselves, gain a far greater range of experience, and are far more effective adults.

I have a hard time imagining what you mean by "pushing them farther than parents think they should be pushed". Homeschooled students far exceed public schooled students in academics. I guess you are referring to the condom-on-banana stuff and the lectures on white privilege, right? In what other areas are public schools actually considered to be "pushing the boundaries"?


How diverse is a block of students with an age variance of 12 months, with little exposure outside of that band?

As an aside, before charter schools the only way to legally homeschool in California was through declaring one's home a private school. Beyond that, it's nothing like any institutional private school I ever attended.


"How diverse is a block of students with an age variance of 12 months, with little exposure outside of that band?"

Very. My daughters classmates are certainly more diverse than the kids she could meet through me, or the kids she met in karate or other extracarricular activities, (which all were nothing more than acquaintances). also, after kindergarten, they have experience with the older students.


The "socialization" argument is tired. There are ample opportunities for social activities outside of school, and the end game social environment for kids is not to be sectioned off into groups of 30 by age in forced proximity.


Thinking about it a bit, it's not a matter of socialization but exposure-- and that applies even moreso to the teacher than the pupil. Take someone who teaches 30 3rd graders reading comprehension for an hour a day, and doing that four years in a row before moving to a different position. That's a way better environment for effective teaching/learning than teaching one's own child by themselves for a single year. Especially when you realize that the classroom has inputs/outputs not only to/from the teacher but among the children as well.


Public schools often fail miserably at both of your stated goals. When people here talk about their school experiences, it's usually a story of stupefying boredom unless some teacher notices them and spends a lot of time with them. When I think of public schools, I think of mediocrity.

You're also underestimating just how bad a public school teacher can be. I've talked with LAUSD students and I have heard some crazy stuff. You can usually at least be sure the parents give some kind of shit about the kids...

Others in this thread have mentioned the damage done by public school "socialization", so I'll only point out that my socialization while home schooled was much better than when I was public schooled. It was plenty diverse, if that's what you're worried about. Your point about "you're really in a private school" is a classic no-true-scotsman and you should feel bad.


> You can usually at least be sure the parents give some kind of shit about the kids...

Usually, yes, but not always. For the most part, you can often expect that the parents who homeschool care about their kids (though you can't even be totally sure of that...)


I have the same sentiments. And that's why I send my kids to public school and vigorously support the right for private/home schools.


I think there are many different experiences of homeschooling and I think for some they do develop strong peer groups without it becoming just a private school. One of the main arguments for home schooling is that done properly schooling will take less long as you can focus on just one or two kids and thus there is time left over for extracurricular. On the other hand as somebody who was home schooled I wouldn't do it with any kids I have. I think what made it bad was that both my parents are introverts.

The amount I've grown socially in the last couple of years of college really makes me annoyed at myself for missed time.


> The amount I've grown socially in the last couple of years of college really makes me annoyed at myself for missed time.

My experience with homeschooling was very different: I escaped a pattern of bullying for a few critical years, spent those years with much saner social experiences among other homeschoolers and adults, and came back a much more confident teenager. Equally, learning learn on my own has worked out very, very well for me.

All in all, I think the main thing about homeschooling is it increases the variance of results. Yes, some kids do worse than they might otherwise have, but other kids do significantly better precisely because it ends up being a very individual experience. What is clear is homeschooling is very different, and different for every kid, and it's good for society to have a diversity of experiences.


I've thought about homeschooling for middle school specifically because of what you're talking about. That time is just the worst.


But it can be a rough time for homeschoolers, too. In particular, it can be very lonely. (Worse than in public school? Maybe not, but still not wonderful.)


I have pretty mixed opinions on whether it's a good thing, was mostly home schooled myself (some private and public school too) and ended up in foster care voluntarily for some years. Home schooling vastly increases parent control over their kids, considering how "I can teach my kids better than schools can" selects for traits like narcissism, it can get messy. Peer social interaction is definitely an easy thing to mess up as well.

Heard some true horror stories in foster care, like a guy who grew up "homeschooled" by meth addict parents who faked tests, forced him to steal to get back in the house (at least at some points), and left him almost illiterate at 18.


It seems that the problem in this case is not the homeschooling, but the parents. It's certainly true that neither homeschooling nor public schooling would be able to prevent a parent abusing their child. Perhaps the next step should be "public parenting", if parents can't be trusted to act in the best interests of the child...but we already have this (social services, foster care), and I suspect a much higher proportion of publicly schooled children end up in foster care than homeschooled children. However, I've never seen any research data on that. If you don't mind talking about it, roughly what proportion of the kids you interacted with in the foster system had been homeschooled?


Yeah, the people saying "at least you can count on parents to give a shit" really have me scratching my head. If I'm looking for someone to give a shit about a kid, I'd rather draw from teachers than parents.


I think I'd rather trust the parents, but I think you get no guarantees with either group.


Hmm... I'm not sure you can compare the social experience of college to that of public school, particularly if you are an introvert. Public school is notoriously brutal for introverted kids.


Having rotated through public, private and home-schooling I'd say that you weren't missing much. I can obviously only speak from my experience and anecdotes from peers.

The transition from a respectful homeschooled peer group to an institutional Catholic school could best be described as social whiplash. My college peers that were fully educated at home had a much more "pleasant" transition to institutional education as young adults, and were often indistinguishable from other undergrads.


You might have been equally socially awkward in a public high school. I had an extremely hard time fitting into the social scene at high-school because the people/tone were "fake" in my opinion. College however, was great - it was a new start with high quality people and good opportunities.


> Ignoring all of the advantages that schools have -- mainly, more experience than makes sense -- even "bad" teachers are almost guaranteed to be better than a given parent. Because of their experience. They will have seen more kids than I can comprehend.

One of the things people worry about with schools is classroom size. That teacher may be very experienced; he/she may also be handling 25 kids. At our homeschool, the maximum classroom size is four. You can be less experienced as a teacher, and still be more effective.


I think the problem is you're talking about the ideal and not reality of many schools. > 1) To push them further than parents think they should be pushed,

No Child Left Behind means the entire curriculum is slowed down so no child is left behind. If any kid excels or are just average, they're have to wait up because the numbers game keeps teachers from failing students.

>and 2) to socialize them. (Which, really, is just part of 1.)

I have met many homeschooled kids, and many public schooled kids. Guess which ones I see have the worse issues with socialization? Don't know how to interact politely with others, or have baggage that makes them afraid in uncomfortable social situations? Also turns out, kids have issues with socialization, shyness, etc regardless of environment.

>Ignoring all of the advantages that schools have -- mainly, more experience than makes sense -- even "bad" teachers are almost guaranteed to be better than a given parent. Because of their experience. They will have seen more kids than I can comprehend.

Teaching is not usually the career choice of the most gifted and talented, maybe in NYC or SF, but not most places, those that are burn out quickly as they're frustrated with the limits placed upon them by the system, the constantly being told how to do their job by parents, administrators, school board members etc who have no idea what is going on in their classroom. That and with a class load of 30+ students, even the most gifted teacher's attentions are divided to where they have to teach to the lowest common denominator, meaning those on the fringes of being high achieving or struggling are left wanting for attention, or worse the teacher gives those students a greater share of her attention, to the detriment of the rest of the class. The whole thing is screwed up and designed for teaching factory worker's children, not how multiple experiments have proved its better. Not to mention the push/pressure put on younger children, who learn better by playing anyway, see Scandanavia, they don't even put their children in school until they're six, but we're trying to teach math to 3-4 year olds whose brains aren't developed enough to grasp the fundamental concepts of quantity. Furthermore, a parent doesn't have to be an expert in all children, just their own. Even teachers are better with certain types of kids, this idea they know how to deal with all is silly, those kids that are different usually just struggle. I begin to wonder how much time you've spent in an actual school? Ever seen children be put in to a BEH program with kids who've been to juvie because they had a learning disability but were otherwise bright and gifted when put through tests? I have, it happened to me. We had to move to another county to fix the problem. You can teach to the individual needs not the whole class, so you only need to know what that kid needs, not every kid, again, its case by case thing, some kids are better off in public school, not every parent is suited to do home school or even able to. But two college educated parents can give most public school teacher's a run for their money on 1-3 kid(s) vs a teacher having to teach 30.

Peer relationship thing is again, a silly misconception, the peers I built relationships with weren't even in the same classes as me. I had a few friends from school, sure, but I also had friends who were cousins, lived in the neighborhood, friends of other friends, kids I met in Karate class, or kids of my parent's friends, etc. You know, like how adults make friends.

You assume too much isolation, you have little awareness of the secular education options out there for homeschool kids, the "hack your education" talk at Ted is a good example, a home school kid has more opportunities for education because the whole group doesn't have to be included, to say nothing of homeschool groups, where a CS major who does programming courses for his students does special sessions with whole groups of home school kids, etc.

Public school isn't awful, but it's a government program, and many times its not hard to beat the bare minimum that government program's provide. Should this be fixed? Sure, but the solution isn't to take away options from parents and kids who need a good education today, while the government figures out how to fix that.


Homeschooling seems like a no brainer option when your kid flames out of public school and you can only afford 1 spouse not working but not private school. These are the homeschooling cautions I've read about or observed.

1 - Homeschooling has been documented as locus of identity abuse by withholding modern identity paperwork required to prove citizenship. This insures the child remains dependent on the family and religious unit into adulthood since they have no documentation to prove they are a citizen. [1]

2 - Homeschooling allows for abusive parents to be abusive with limited opportunity for a mandated reporter discovering the abuse. [2]

3 - When I went through high school and college, a homeschooled student was rare like a unicorn. I never met a single person. When I went back into a school setting in the last 5 years I met several. Anecdotal observations: (a) untreated autism spectrum disorders, (b) homeschool teachers unqualified to teach math & science leaving the adult student unable to academically survive college level sciences despite a passion for science subjects, (c) a well adjusted kids who joined 4H programs and had parents with a scientific background, and (d) one student with a deep love for English literature.

On the whole, I'm dubious when I hear of people home schooling. I ask things like "Do your kids have birth certificates?". "Do you immunize?". "What is your math and science background?". "Are your kids being socialized with their peers?"

I'm sure the homeschooling parents really love me. But a number of homeschooled kids are child abuse victims and I feel an obligation to probe these weird situations.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/1...

[2] https://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/abuse...


I heard that a bigger number of child abuse victims are going to regular schools, and some abuse in fact is happening inside those schools. There goes your argument.


Teachers and principals are mandated reporters. When they observe abuse of a student they are mandated by law to report it. Homeschooling parents are not.

Furthermore, I didn't have an argument. Homeschooling seems dubious to me. As a homeschooled kid, if you win the genetics lottery to have educated non-lunatic non-abusive parents capable of teaching the entire spectrum of knowledge areas, it might work out really well.

God help the kid chained to a bed at home being homeschooled without anybody knowing the child's plight. God help the kid whose parents can barely manage the mathematics required to keep a checking account balanced. God help the kid who has a medical condition like autism that the parent is incapable of addressing.


> bigger number of child abuse victims are going to regular schools

That's an extraordinarily useless piece of data -- there are at least a couple orders of magnitude more students in schools than home schooled.

> and some abuse in fact is happening inside those schools

This is rare enough that it's not a rational reason to avoid schools.


>a bigger number

Well, there's an order of magnitude or two children going to regular schools... One needs a bit more statistics to back or disprove any argument.

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