why (or not) homeschooling?
March 19, 2004 03:30 PM

The comments on one of my friend's LJ posts got me thinking about how we choose to educate our kids (among other things). Her post is actually about gender assumptions and childrearing, but she brought up a question a lot of you parents (and potential parents) could help me answer.

What is the best way to educate children if you don't want them indoctrinated to think things like "girls are pretty", "boys are strong" and "everybody good is thin and white and has exactly one mommy and daddy"? I'm not talking about - despite what some people may immediately think - using your child as a political tool; rather, I'm thinking about protecting our kids so the choices they make aren't based on the "norm" but on what they want.

I tend to think that homeschooling is the answer (for a variety of reasons), but I don't have kids or even plans for them. So, I'm curious. For those of you who've given this more thought, what do you think are the best schooling options for your [real or hypothetical kids]? And why?

[This was originally posted to my livejournal. But hey, it's relevant.]

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I am not really that sure that homeschooling is the answer to that particular problem. Or at least, it should not be seen as a panacea. (Note: That isn't to say that I don't think homeschooling isn't a good thing, for those with the time/resources/ability/etc. to do so). Unless you are planning to completely isolate your child from society (not just school, but television, radio, various print media, peers, other adults, and so forth), these influences will still get through. Essentially, unless one is willing to raise the child in a crate and feed them through a slit cut in it, societal influences will pay a role.

A better approach is to teach the child in advance how to think critically, and to examine these issues. I don't really think there's a point that's "too early" to start with this sort of thing. While I think the homeschooling aspect does give you more control there, it isn't absolute. And I think that an otherwise involved parent can have enough control to plant a free-thinking seed.

Moreover, I think the idea that a child reared in an environment free of societal sexism, racism, sizeism, (and so on) would inherently turn out to be a paragon of equality. I don't mean to say that they of necessity would not, but there's evidence that it's not something to bank on. Humans are really good at seeing correlations that don't exist (for instance, the women are bad drivers thing). We're also apparently really good at dividing the world into ingroups and outgroups upon even bizarrely meaningless criteria (such as who got heads and who tails on a coin flip), and being biased towards our own groups and against others. It may be 'natural' to be *-ist. Of course, I don't mean to say that it's a good thing. It's natural to die when you get cancer. Part of the glory of reason is the ability to transcend the natural. But to do this, a child needs the intellectual tools to resolve these sorts of situations.

these are the thoughts of Apathetic Crusader on March 19, 2004 05:36 PM

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