Saturday, October 28, 2017

Homeschooling, is it good or bad?

Homeschooling is, for some reason, quite prevalent in the United States and Canada (and possibly some other countries). The advocates of homeschooling present all kinds of claims of how it's superior to sending your kids to a public school.

Since I live in Finland, I am of the quite strong opinion that homeschooling is more detrimental than useful, and I more or less oppose the idea. Here are some of the reasons, and one concession (mostly from an American perspective), although perhaps not in the same vein as American homeschoolers present.

Most Americans seem to live in some kind of societal bubble where, while they know that other countries exist, they don't pay much attention of how society works in those other countries, and only think about the United States and how things work there. They seldom look to other countries to see what works there, and think if it perhaps could work in the US as well. (On the contrary, quite often when people present them alternatives that are used in other countries, which seem to produce much better results than the way the US does it, many Americans get on the defensive.)

Finland, in particular, has no homeschooling. Moreover, Finland has no private schools either. Public schools are the only legal form of primary and secondary education, and the former is mandatory by law for all children. To many Americans this might sound like horrendously socialistic, but it works: Year after year Finland scores highest, or one of the highest, in world-wide rankings of children education. Of course literacy in Finland is almost 100%. (In fact, this model of education is not exclusive to Finland; pretty much the same model is used in all Nordic countries, and in many other European countries, with similar success.)

The United States, in contrast, scores very poorly in these same scores. This is a fact that's constantly being talked about in the country, yet pretty much nothing is done about it. (This is quite ironic given that the United States is supposed to be almost the pinnacle of technological development in the world. Yet its schooling system is one of the worst in the world, only being above perhaps to the ones of the poorest countries.)

Another big problem I see with homeschooling in the United States in particular is that it's very often used by ultra-conservative ultra-religious parents to indoctrinate their children. Especially to indoctrinate them into becoming young-earth creationists, and teach them all kinds of anti-scientific stuff (not just related to evolution, but all kinds of other anti-science that's popular among ultra-conservatives in the United States, such as climate change denialism, anti-vaccination, and so on.) These parents specifically want to avoid their children from going to a public school, in order to avoid them hearing anything that contradicts their religious and anti-scientific views. I'm certain that people from other, even more severe religions (such as scientologists), are doing the same as well.

Homeschooling also minimizes the size of the social interactions of the children. In the worst case scenario the child is brought up in, essentially, a societal bubble that consists of family, some friends, and the close neighborhood, and that's it. They never get to socially interact with a wider range of people. (This often ties to the above if this neighborhood is highly religious conservative.)

On a tangent, and perhaps quite curiously, the situation is in some aspects even worse in Canada than it is in the United States. That's because in the United States there is at least a modicum of supervision by the authorities that the homeschooling is teaching a required curriculum. It is my understanding that at least in some parts of Canada (perhaps the entirety of it), there is no supervision at all! Homeschoolers can do whatever they want, including not teaching their children anything at all. They only need to declare to the government that they are homeschooling their children, and that's it. No official supervision of any kind. Sounds almost too incredible to be true, but it's my understanding this is the case.

There is, however, one reason why homeschooling might be a viable better alternative, especially in the United States. But I don't think it's one of the arguments that American homeschoolers present:

In most of the United States, school food is absolutely horrendous.

That might have sounded like a joke, but I am being serious.

It's not "horrendous" as in tasting bad. It's horrendous as in being incredibly unhealthy, and adding to the severe problem of morbid obesity in the United States.

Jamie Oliver, a famous British chef and TV celebrity, recently went to an American school to review their school food policies. He was horrified. He heavily criticized one particular school for having a really big and expensive kitchen, with all the bells and whistles... which was used solely to heat up ready-made preprocessed pre-packaged junk food (such as hamburgers and pizza). 90% of the kitchen and its tools were completely unused. Junk food was brought in from some factory, and simply heated up in the kitchen, and that's it. No actual food was actually prepared nor cooked there in any way, shape or form.

It is my understanding that this is extremely prevalent in the United States. It's actually rare to find a school where the children are served actual healthy food, prepared and cooked in-situ. The vast majority serve horrendously unhealthy junk food. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic.

If I lived in the United States, and had children, I might opt for homeschooling for that reason alone.

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