Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stereotypes and Reality

For this past week's Carnival of Homeschooling, Henry Cate of Why Homeschool wrote a Response to a Comment criticizing his blogging about the negative aspects of public schooling. The original commenter held some strong opinions about homeschooling, but his arguments demonstrated that he was more informed by stereotypes than by any real familiarity with actual homeschoolers. One of his assertions was that, "Only parents who can afford to stay home all day can afford to home school." This sparked the following little exchange, which caught my interest:
Janine Cate said...
>What I don't understand is why homeschooling elicits such animosity that traditional private & parochial schooling does not.

I think middle class parents don't feel guilty about not sending their children to a parochial or private school because of the cost. With homeschooling being within reach of middle class, it would be easy to get defensive.

Anonymous said...
Just to be picky ... many, many middle class families send their kids to private school. Private schools are not the exclusive domain of the rich. Very often, middle class private schooling parents make similar financial sacrifices that many homeschooling families make in order to give their children the education that's best for them. It's all about freedom of choice for each family.


But the commenter is correct that private schoolers do not seem to be called out as having "abandoned" public schools the way homeschoolers are.

Janine Cate said...
That's very true. For some reason middle class families are seen as noble for sacrificing to pay for private school while homeschool parents are seen as selfish. Go figure.
And then Dana at Principled Discovery has been playing around with some homeschool stereotypes . All this has had me thinking a bit about homeschool stereotypes, so it profoundly satisfied the armchair anthropologist in me to stumble across this poll, which demonstrates that the reality is much more diverse than the stereotypes:

Q: Will the stands the candidates take on education affect how you vote for President?
(of 58 respondents)

  • 59% - They must support homeschooling!
  • 16% - I don't care, I'll homeschool anyway.
  • 14% - I will vote for my chosen party anyway.
  • 12% - I don't vote.
NOTE: Well over half of those responding to this poll want the highest office filled by someone who recognizes the needs and contributions of homeschoolers.

Q: Why do you homeschool?
(of 459 respondents)

  • 42% - Just feel it is the right thing.
  • 22% - Religious reasons.
  • 19% - Academic reasons.
  • 12% - Child had trouble in public school.
  • 04% - Secular reasons.
  • 01% - Medical reasons.
NOTE: This counters the standard assumption that most homeschoolers do so for religious reasons - 78% of those answering this poll teach their own children at home for other than religious reasons.

Q: The media think homeschoolers have above average income.
Where do you really fit?

(of 386 respondents)

  • 11% - $10,000 - $20,000/year
  • 18% - $20,000 - $30,000/year
  • 20% - $30,000 - $40,000/year
  • 15% - $40,000 - $50,000/year
  • 13% - $50,000 - $60,000/year
  • 23% - more than $60,000/year
NOTE: With 49% of respondants living on under $40,000.oo, it is hard to uphold an argument that insists we are all 'well-off'. Only 23% are earning over $60,000.oo.

Q: How many children are you homeschooling?
(of 539 respondents)

  • 17% - Only one! An only child.
  • 08% - Only one! The rest go to public school.
  • 33% - 2.
  • 17% - 3.
  • 13% - 4 or more.
  • 12% - None, yet! But Thinking about it.
NOTE: 25% of respondents have a one-to-one student-teacher ratio! 67% are schooling three or fewer children for a ratio of 3-to-1 or better. 12% are looking into the possibility (some even before they have their children!).

Q: What style of homeschooling do you use most? ?
(of 246 respondents)

  • 07% - Umbrella School/School at Home
  • 18% - Packaged Curriculum/School at Home
  • 43% - Eclectic Curriculum/School at Home
  • 18% - No Curriculum/Relaxed Homeschooling
  • 10% - No Curriculum/Unschooling
  • 04% - Other
NOTE: Only 25% of those responding are using commercial pre-set curriculums. 43% are using some varied combination of the vast and diverse resources available, and 28% utilize little or no structure at all. -I've no clue what the other 4% are doing, but hey - it's probably pretty interesting!

Q: Have you seen a big difference in your homeschooled child?
(of 319 respondents)

  • 22% - Yes, improved academically over PS.
  • 16% - Yes, improved attitude over PS.
  • 39% - Yes, better attitude AND academically.
  • 10% - Yes, better attitude compared to peers.
  • 06% - Yes, better learning compared to peers.
  • 07% - No, behavior and learning no different.
The first two answers are those who have taken their child out of an institutional school. The third answer is those who felt *both* criteria were better. The fourth and fifth are those who have homeschooled all along. The last is those who felt *both* criteria showed no improvement.

NOTE: 39% said they see both better attitude and academic results in their homeschooled children compared to peers and/or the institutional schooled situation. A full 93% said that they had definitely noted improvement. 65% said they saw better attitudes in their homeschooled child than in peers and/or the institutional schooled situation. 67% said that they had noted academic improvement over peers and/or the institutional schooled situation. Only 7% said they had noted no improvement at all.

Q: Have you found homeschooling to benefit your family?
(of 485 respondents)

  • 34% - Yes, we are closer than ever!
  • 11% - Yes, less school related stress.
  • 05% - Yes, the kids are happier.
  • 45% - Yes, all of the above!
  • 02% - No, my kids hate it!
  • 03% - No, I hate it!
NOTE: Fully 95% of those responding to this poll said "Yes!". 5% noted that at least their kids were happier. 11% found at least some stress relief, while 34% said that they at least found their family social ties to be stonger. 45% felt that they had all those things going for them. Only 5% found homeschooling not helpful.

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