Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Well-Adjusted Child Book Review

"Once upon a time, all children were homeschooled. They were not sent away from home each day to a place just for children but lived, learned, worked, and played in the real world, alongside adults and other children of all ages" - Rachel Gathercole

You don't even have to be interested in homeschooling to read this book, though that's a plus. I think any parent remotely interested in the social development and education of their kids needs to read it. Don't worry, it is painless - very quick and compelling read. I think it would immensely benefit publicly schooled children and their parents as well. It would also be interesting for anyone in the education field.

I received this book for review from Mapletree Publishing Company. There is a good chance your public library has it, mine does! I needed my own copy though simply because I am so thrilled that I want to share it will all my mom friends and pass it around, they are a lot more likely to read it if I hand it to them.

I thought I knew quite a lot about what homeschooling is. I thought I knew a lot about public school too. After reading this book I realized I didn't know that much. Whatever I knew was mostly misunderstood. Especially in the aspect of socialization. While superb academic achievement is not a secret in regards to homeschooling, socialization is always that one stumbling block both for supporters and opposition to homeschooling. Rachel Gathercole's book puts all those concerns to rest and then some.

I realized that homeschoolers flourish because of the type of socialization available to them, not in spite of it. That was a pleasant revelation. It is a common misconception among those who never homeschooled and do not know any homeschoolers personally, that these poor children sit home all day hunched over a textbook at their desk. Perhaps that describes the 1% of the two million homeschoolers. Those are the ones that hated homeschooling. The other 99% are completely different. They are normal children with very rich social lives. They are generally very free because they are not enslaved by school culture of cliques, bullying, ostracizing, and peer dependence. They don't have to pretend, they can be themselves and choose their own friends instead of being limited to whoever is in their class or school.

Now, in the same fashion of this book, I would rather just share some quotes from real homeschoolers and their parents to drive the point home. The book is full of these quotes woven throughout (about 30% of it), which makes it that much more real than just 'theory'. That's A LOT of quotes, you don't have to read them all, but it was really hard to choose just a few - so I didn't skimp!

1. "Basically we started this journey for political, social, and educational issues (we were cocky enough to think we could just do it better), and in the last four years it's evolved into a way of life we'd never trade that has given us amazing flexibility to let the children be involved in a variety of activities, spend more time with their father whose non-traditional work schedule we can work around more easily, and learn at their own pace and in their own way. I can't imagine how anyone could hope to meet the needs of thirty-plus different kids who have nothing in common but age, but I admire those who try!" Lori, homeschooling mother of three, Las Vegas, NV (p.17)

2. "We've just completed two years of homeschooling. We defy categorization. We use Saxon math. I teach history, writing, grammar, critical thinking, and geography through literature. To complement all this, we participate in a secular homeschool co-op. Simply, we homeschool for academic and social reasons... Succinctly, we have a life - a rich life that is not defined only by government school, its homework, and social constructs." Jane, homeschooling mother of two, Minnesota (p.20)

3. "I am not currently a homeschooling mom, but I hope to be. I am not so interested in doing it for religious reasons as for educational and philosophical reasons - one of those being positive socialization with people of all ages, not just socialization with their peer groups. I am also interested in raising independent thinkers who aren't concerned about going along with the crowd and with the popular, consumer society just in order to fit in." Amy, Clayton, NY (p. 29)

4."I was astonished to see all these children happily playing outside in the sunshine in the middle of the day. And more intriguing than that was what I observed when I listened to them interact with each other and with the adults. They were open and articulate, kind and respectful, funny, and enjoyable to be around. This was definitely news to me. As a person who was conventionally schooled my entire life - from age two to twenty two - I had never pictured that such things would, or even could, be going on in the world during school hours." Rachel Gathercole (p.2)

5. “The things that homeschoolers miss out on [for example, football games, passing notes in class, and riding the bus] are so insignificant compared to the things that school kids miss out on – time with their parents, the chance to love learning, fresh air and sunshine, a free childhood.” Zach, homeschooling father, Hillsborough , NC (p. 124)

6. “I felt I had made an unfortunate discovery during my experience as a teacher – that the system is not set up with the children’s best interests as heart. I had to deal, on nearly a daily basis, with an administration, federal laws, and even senior teachers who thwarted my efforts, time and again, to attempt to make things better for my students. I didn’t want my children put in a situation where they would be seen not as individuals with unique strengths and needs, but as a part of a larger unit, seen perhaps as a liability or benefit to the organization. I also felt very strongly that no child should be trapped in a school building, the same room even, for so many hours each day. The deleterious social climate that can develop among thirty pupils of the same age was also a concern to me. That said, please know that I do not doubt that there are some truly fantastic teachers out there making a difference in kids’ lives. I just wasn’t willing to put my kids through a twelve- plus year experiment in hopes of running into one or two of those teachers!” Chris, former public school teacher and homeschooling mother of three, Michigan (p. 141-142)

7. “You do have to function at a level so that you can maneuver in our society, and of course there’s no bad effect of homeschooling on that. You’re still living your life; you’re just not doing it in a classroom. You’d have to live alone in a box or something like that to not learn how to maneuver around in society.” Christine, homeschooling mother of one, Durham, NC (p.35-36)

8. “I realized that those two hours of homework I was helping her with each day all those years, that was me homeschooling. We sat down and figured out how much work we were doing at home… What life do they have when they spend all their time in class and doing homework?” Elizabeth, homeschooling mother of two, Raleigh, NC (p.41-42)

9. “I have more time with my friends now than when I was in school. In school, even though they kind of wanted you to make friends, you didn’t really have that time with your friends, like you could get in trouble for talking you’re your friends instead of working. After school you have to do like an hour of homework, and then you usually eat dinner and go to bed. Now we have time to play with our friends when we come to the [homeschool] play dates or when we go to their house or they come to our house.” Ricardo, nine-year old homeschooler, Chapel Hill, NC (p.51-52)

10. “Socialization: this is something that everybody asked me about. I would say, “You don’t understand. Being homeschooled doesn’t mean that you don’t spend time with other children.” When you look as a classroom situation, it’s very controlled. What opportunity do children have to socialize? Only recess, which is about fifteen minutes a day, and lunch. If that’s the kind of socialization that’s available, I’m not interested. School kids get socialization by playing after school, joining clubs like Club Scouts, [and so on], the same way homeschoolers do. It’s not like homeschoolers never see another child. I just don’t understand where that comes from. Don’t they understand that this is part of education, too? It’s more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s how you behave toward other people” Norma, homeschooling mother, Big Flats, NY (p.53)

11. “I liked homeschooling a lot better than school. It was a lot better because my mom knew me and how I learned, so she was able to help me learn the way I learn. It also gave me a lot more free time because you can hurry up and finish, and you don’t have to wait for everyone else to finish. And when you’re done, you can get up and go. Not like in school, where when you’re done, you have to wait for everyone else. I had friends in my sports activities. I had lots of friends. All the kids that I played sports with were homeschooled. I had more closer friends before, when I was homeschooled. Now, in school, there are friends, but not as close.” Sebastien, twelve-year old, formerly homeschooled for three years (p.53-54)

12. “I don’t have the desire to go to high school – not after seeing it – because the classes are like forty-five minutes long. If I want to do math at home I do it for like an hour and a half, and I accomplish more one on one than in a large group. Also, the kids don’t really want to learn and just wait for class to be over. No, I just haven’t had the urge to go to regular high school.” Julian, fifteen-year-old homeschooler, Katonah, NY (p. 203)

13. “[My thirteen-year-old daughter] has a lot more good friends now – true friends who are kind to her and care about her – than she ever did in school.” Montie, homeschooling mother of one, Alamance, NC (p.54)

14. “She spends way more time with friends now than she ever did when she was in school, unless you count sitting in a classroom next to twenty other kids as social time, but I don’t. When she was in school, she would occasionally have people over and she would certainly play with kids nearby in the neighborhood, but now she’s not limited to weekends or the time span between 3:00 and 7:00 at night that she can see her friends. So I think she spends a lot more time with kids her own age now than she ever did in school – really spending time, not just sitting in a classroom.” Christine, homeschooling mother of one, Durham, NC (p.55)

15. “The logic of throwing a kid into an environment with other kids who have been selected by no other criterion than that they are the same age defies me. Homeschooling allows kids to select their social network in a fashion similar to that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. My kids select their friends because they have similar interests and goals first, not because they’re the same age and have desirable labels on their clothes.” Jane, homeschooling mother of two, Minnesota (p.59)

16. “I’m thirteen and have been homeschooling since I was about ten or eleven. Before that I went to a public magnet school, about 360 kids. I started homeschooling a few months before the end of fifth grade because I got impatient with the lack of teaching time, the overabundance of discipline time, and kids being jerks, basically. Everybody was nasty to each other, but also to me in particular because I was not in any of the cliques. So they were picking on me, and I got tired and left.
I fine homeschooling very, very different. For one thing, people actually seem to like me.” Brit, thirteen-year-old homeschooler, Durham, NC (p.61)

17. “Most homeschooling children do not experience the same things as kids from the public school: peer pressure or discrimination (age, gender, religion, or race). In my opinion, homeschool kids learn, on their own, that it is okay to play with any child. In school I believe the opposite is taught. [In homeschooling] there is not a big focus on what the age or the gender the child is before deciding if they “should” play with that child. I have met several families that pulled their children out of public school, just on this issue alone. It can be devastating to a child. Homeschooling kids learn to socialize in a more natural way. In life there is no such thing as all thirty-five-year-olds working together or only girls at the office. In school, I would imagine, that might be the impression children get.” Suzanne, homeschooling mother of three, Scottsdale, AZ (p.69)

18. “The basic quality of our emotional maturity, we now realize, is largely the result of the relationship between parent and child.” Alan Fromme, Ph.D. (p.71)

19. “My parents have given me a lot of freedom. And they have given me the opportunity to pursue the things I love, such as snowboarding and cycling, which I am considering pursuing as a career, and they really support me wholeheartedly in that. I’ve always had the freedom I want, and that’s always been the best thing for me [about homeschooling]. It’s great to be able to do the things I want to do.” Julian, fifteen-year-old homeschooler, Katonah, NY (p.74)

20. “The difference in our family relationships are] huge.Huge. Huge, the way that we interact, how much time I have to listen to the children, how much time I have to answer the important questions that come up at odd times, how the kids interact, how calm I am, how much fighting there is in the family – you know, their social skills are growing, their friends are growing, they’re learning how to communicate… it’s huge. It’s all about the time we spend together.” Rachel, homeschooling mother of three, Hillsborough, NC (p.77)

21. “People my age will say to me, “I can’t believe you have to spend so much time with your parents! How can you stand it? That’s horrible, I would hate that.” But I like being around my parents. I’m not saying we didn’t have our disputes, but homeschooling brought me much closer to them. Most of my school friends, once they were eighteen, couldn’t wait to get out of the house and get as far away as they could from home. For me it was the opposite: I thought, “I don’t want to leave yet.” I am applying to colleges, and I am ready to leave home and move out and on, but I don’t feel a need to “escape” from home. It’s not restricting being at home; I have all the freedom I need. I just don’t feel any restriction or pressure from [my parents].
A similar thing happens with drinking and smoking and stuff. Why didn’t I want to rebel? I don’t know. I just never did. [My parents] weren’t rabid about things; they just lived that way, and I grew to agree with them.” Stephanie, eighteen-year-old college student, homeschooled until college, Katonah, NY (p.79)

22. “I think interaction with adults is more important [than with peers]. Kids are all learning how to interact. [If you leave kids on their own to socialize each other], you’re going to get mayhem. That’s where the kids learn to pick on each other, whereas if you have adult interaction with it, then you’re going to learn how to interact with people appropriately, and you’re going to be able to transfer that interaction with kids.” Missy, homeschooling mother of two, Cary, NC (p. 88-89)

23. "At each age there are things they can handle with wisdom and things they cannot. Our public schools inundate children with things they are not equipped to handle. I want my children to experience age-appropriate amounts of challenge and difficult choice-making. I want to help them think it through. I want to control, to some extent, the amount of exposure they face to the challenges of peer dominated cultural influences, because I believe that our country is assuming that children should be rushed to grow up, and it is hurting them. They are toughening up to it but at a personal cost. And that will cost us all.” Janice, homeschooling mother of two, Durham, NC (p.91)

24. “I encourage [the siblings] to be friends with each other, as I feel that will be most important as they are adults. That was another reason I decided to homeschool: I noticed that my oldest stopped getting along with her little sister when she went to school.” Sue, homeschooling mother of three, upstate New York (p. 92)

25. “I think a lot of the benefit of homeschooling is just that you spend more time with the child. Period. And no matter what goes on, he’s going to get a better sense of what his parents’ values are, and I think that’s unbelievably important. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon to send your kids off to a “factory” to get educated, and I wasn’t really aware of that until we got into homeschooling. That whole socialization thing is the big fear; I counter that spending twelve years only with kids your own age and one or two grownups – that’s pretty strange. I mean what does that teach you? No grandparents, no older kids, no younger kids. A lot of [the benefit of homeschooling] is just time spent together and teaching him our own values and sharing our perspective and being there to answer his questions,” Steven, homeschooling father of one, Mebane, NC (p.96)

26. “Having been on both sides (having your children in school vs. homeschooling), I have come to a realization. When they are in school, you become somewhat disconnected from them. When you are not working with them every day you lose sight of their accomplishments, you may not be aware of what they are capable of, and you may not readily see how they are growing and who they are becoming as they evolve into their own unique person. I think when they are in school, there is also less time to fit extracurricular activities, so the over-scheduling syndrome occurs; the kids have little time to just play and be imaginative.” Molly, homeschooling mother of two, West Grove, PA (p.98)

27. “On a larger level, I believe the decay of family unity is at the heart of many of the social problems our culture is facing today. Our culture is in a hurry to rush little four- and five-year-olds off to public school, where they are placed in a room full of ten to twenty other little children with only one or two teachers. Then parents are shocked and horrified when these same children, years later, have become completely peer dependent and cannot identify with their own family. But peer dependence if the natural outcome of public education because a child has a real and intense need for relationship. When that need for relationship cannot be met by an adult (a teacher who is working with many students), then the child will turn to the only other available person, the peer in the classroom. Consequently, a child comes to value the opinions of his school-age peers more than those of his family because his relationships with his peers are stronger than his relationship with his parents… What a tragedy that we have divided the family for the sake of “education.” Amy, homeschooling mother of three, upstate New York (p.100-101)

28. “I don’t think at five or even six years old a child has enough of a foundation in the values I hope to teach them to go out into a classroom for a stranger to teach them ideas that I may or may not believe in or agree with. However, we don’t homeschool for religious reasons. Because we spend so much time together, conflicts have to be worked through and good communication maintained. Every day I am called on to examine my choices as a parent and teacher. I have to work with my kids to problem solve, to make sure we have a balance in our lives of work and play. I think it would have been “easier” to send my children off to school and let the so-called experts tell me what is best for them, but when I really thought about what happens in school, I saw a system that doesn’t allow for difference, that creates a highly artificial environment (age segregation, product over process, erratic curriculum), and simply thought it was bizarre.” Sara, homeschooling mother of two, Bowling Green, Ohio (p. 114-115)

29. “People who are stuck in school all day and have homework – they have no time to be kids. They’re always in this structured environment. They don’t have time to play with their friends, they have to be quiet at lunch, they have to be quiet during class, they get in trouble for getting up and talking to other kids; it’s just too much structure and restraints put on kids when kids just need to be kids. It teaches kids to be robots; …they’re not built to be sitting in a desk all day.” Missy, homeschooling mother of two, Cary, NC (p. 118)

30. “We really got to spend our time getting into things that were really our interests. And we could choose when and where. On a beautiful day like today (it’s seventy degrees and clear and breezy out), I could take my books and go sit out on the trampoline, at a picnic table, or wherever and do my work out there and enjoy the sun. I like not being stuck in a building. I really liked being able to choose where and when I do a subject.” Stephanie, eighteen years old, homeschooled until college, Katonah, NY (p. 119)

31. “I figured out my friends that I found homeschooling are a whole lot better than the ones I had in school. Nicer, I have to say. There is nothing that the other kids judge you by, like what you wear, or anything like that. Not in homeschooling. School kids judge you a whole lot worse than homeschool kids. In school I also felt under pressure to do things. … It had to do more with what my friends did, and I went along with it. They did things that I didn’t want to do, but they did it anyway, so I did it. That doesn’t really happen in homeschooling. I don’t know why.” Stephen, homeschooled twelve-year-old, Efland, NC (p. 132-133)

32. “… the freedom you get when you’re at [college] wasn’t a novel idea to me. The people – it’s their first time going anywhere without their parents. I had already gone off and done other things. I traveled in Europe for six months the year I was seventeen. [Before that], I was dancing about eighteen hours a week, mostly at Duke University, also in Raleigh – I was taking ballet and modern. I was working about ten to fifteen hours a week at the costume shop in the theater company and doing some theater work there, I was taking photography on and off, taking music lessons on and off, I was an assistant teaching drama classes at the Durham Arts Council, I started a theater company that happened in the summers, and my friend and I were editors for the chlidren’s newsletter that came out of the Haw River Festival. I’ve had the opportunity to have a lot of real-world work experience, which a lot of people my age haven’t had. Like in the theater, I’ve worked alongside a lot of professional crews, and I’ve seen how that works. …In a lot of ways, I have a lot of experience that somebody older than me would have. I think without that beginning, I wouldn’t have had the job I have.” Madeline, twenty-year-old college student, homeschooled until college, Bennington, VT (p. 171)

33. “Someone said, “Reasonable men bend their will to the world; unreasonable men bend the will of the world to them.” So all progress is made by unreasonable men. But that’s it. I mean, these [homeschooled] kids learn to look at the world and say, “It’s there for me to kind of shape the way I want to shape it.” And school kids are like, “I need to fit into this shape that the world’s in.” But every person you’ve ever looked at who’s made it to the top of this “hierarchy” is someone who just threw it out the window and broke every rule there was of the hierarchy and said, “Forget that. I’m not going to buy into all that, I’m just going to go to the top of it and do what I want to do. … I’m just going to study exclusively violin. I could care less about fractions.” And yeah, that seems really imprudent, and you’re right, it’s a great way to crash and burn. But you know what? They wind up at Carnegie Hall and make millions of dollars. Everybody you can point to, that you say is “successful”, circumnavigated that whole thing. Gates is one – Bill Gates is one. I don’t know his entire biography history, but if I recall right, he didn’t finish college. He went off and started a software company. And he didn’t start from the bottom of the company and work his way up; he never had an entry-level job.” James, homeschooling father of three, Durham, NC (p. 175-176)

34. “I think being homeschooled is a good preparation for life. It’s life. It’s a continuation – being a child and then moving into adulthood – without the barriers that are put up by the compulsory education system.” Pam, mother of one homeschooler and one grown former homeschooler, Durham, NC (p. 178)

35. “[Homeschooling] was my choice; they allowed it. I wasn’t feeling like I was fitting in with – well, the girls, particularly, because fashion and boys and thinking about who they wanted to be asked to go to the dance with and all that. I didn’t give a [expletive deleted] about all that, to be frank. I felt it was folly to be concerned with such things.” Rachel, thirteen-year-old homeschooler, Durham, NC (p. 195)

36. “Freedom of thought is really the one benefit I keep coming back to. To me, that’s the main thing that makes me glad I’m homeschooled, because I don’t want to have to think what everybody else does. I want to be able to have what I want to think and what I feel is the right thing. Free opinion. We don’t follow a set plan, I don’t have peer pressure of any kind – [including] regarding religion.” Francis, thirteen-year-old homeschooler, Boynton Beach, FL (p.198)

37. “I put my kids in school this year. I don’t get it, I’m spending four or five hours a day now helping them with homework, which is exactly what I was doing when we were homeschooling. I literally do not have any more time for myself now than I had when we were homeschooling. This going to school thing is a lot harder than homeschooling. Don’t ever give up! We’ll be back to homeschooling next year.” Carisa, mother of four, Miami, FL (p.215)

I'm sure these quotes will spark some conversation! Homeschooling, of course, is not for everyone, but so isn't public school. On the account of these parents and homeschool children, it's no wonder that homeschooling has grown by 74% since 1999.

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Disclaimer: I did not receive any payment for this review. I was provided a sample of the product for review purposes. The opinions are solely my own and your experience may differ.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like an AWESOME book!!!!! I definitely need to read it!


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