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Posted on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 7:11 a.m.

Homeschooling: friend or foe? Desire to make children strong in their faith affects decision

By Anna Kangas

With the advent of the new school year, kids abound in Target and Officemax as they search the spiral notebook sales and array of calculators. At Briarwood Mall, one may spot more than one pint-sized pupil toting a freshly purchased backpack. When I was beginning a new year in elementary school, I was all about the pens with the feathers at the end. The new school year is definitely here.

These sights, plus the cooler temperatures and the slightest hint of fall’s crispy aroma in the air makes me feel as if I’m also due back at an educational institution this week. Alas, I am not, but I feel a little jealous that I do not have an excuse to take up on all the 25-cent notebook sales. It also brings to mind something that my husband Gordon and I have chewed over for a long time: the potential value of homeschooling over public/private institutions, especially in the realm of faith education.

I attended a private, non-religious elementary school in Atlanta, and then went on to continue my education at Saline public schools. Gordon had a similar experience, but matriculating from a religious private school prior to going on to Huron High. We now both have jobs and college degrees, so it would seem that our educational experience was a success. However, Gordon and I have discussed how we will educate our future children, especially in regard to how we wanted to integrate the Catholic faith into it, and have tentatively decided that we’re going to homeschool educate our kids.

My initial reaction to Gordon’s zeal for non-institutional education was something along the lines of “but honey…we want our children to have social skills.” I was indeed a reflection of a possible stigma surrounding those who are taught by their parents -- the stigma being that homeschooled children are sheltered, socially inept, intellectually dependent on mom and dad and, on the more extreme side of the stereotype, even brainwashed into complete close-mindedness from anything they have not learned from their parents.

I am still not a die-hard proponent of homeschooling, but my prior dubiousness has ebbed for a few key reasons. On a practical level, kids may indeed learn more in less time with the one-on-one attention homeschooling makes possible. They have the opportunity to learn as fast as they can understand the concepts but can take the time to thoroughly comprehend what they are learning before they go on. Public or private schools may not offer as enriching of an individual lesson plan, and as I remember from my years as a blundering math student in both public and private school settings, I rarely understood the lessons by the time we moved on to the next unit.

Socially, it does seem that homeschooled kids would not attain enough peer interaction to shape their own abilities to mesh with different personalities and backgrounds. However, there are many local homeschool groups where kids can enroll in sports, theater, musical endeavors, and even take conventional classes together taught by a homeschooling parent. From what I have gathered from a brief look at what these homeschool groups offer, the pupils are given the opportunity to fill their lives with pursuits that are filled with interaction outside the home, many times equal or more than that of a conventionally educated student, except there is more opportunity to interact with those that share their faith.

Our most important factor in considering homeschooling was our faith. Allow me to clarify that our goal here is not to “brainwash” our children into thinking just as we do, with no independent skills to make their own decisions in regards to their faith and how they live their lives. Yet we also acknowledge our responsibility as parents to guide our kids to what we truly believe is the utmost, undeniable, and whole-hearted truth.

Teaching our children to be Catholic, in our case, should also include teaching them the reasons behind why we are Catholic, and to teach them to actively think about why they attend mass, go to confession, and pray, etc. Although this is definitely achievable in a private or alongside a public school education, homeschooling does offer a benefit in that the study of faith can be possibly more integrated into all areas of learning. Placing one’s kids into a school where teachers and other students of different faith is not at all a bad thing, but surrounding a child with those who support and uphold their faith, especially when they are very young, could have its advantages in their confidence of faith later.

We want to homeschool because we want our children to grow up to be independent, confident, socially adept adults who can exist in the real world peacefully with those who do not have similar beliefs, but maintaining confidence in their own faith and values. In terms of their own independence, I have found that homeschooling could lead to a child having more ownership of their education where learning isn’t something they do from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. to earn a grade, but a constant pursuit of discovery. When they have the freedom to study and learn outside of 50 to 90 minute blocks of predetermined subjects, kids might find the time and the drive to just learn more, just because they are interested. Not to say that they should not be challenged and pushed, but some freedom that homeschooling offers may empower some to take vigorous steps in their own learning.

All this is not to say that I think a traditional education is far inferior to homeschooling, as I do not believe this at all. A child could grow up to be a very balanced, tolerant, faith-based person in any educational setting. Really, I feel a lot rests on the parents and their behavior towards others regardless of the schooling. However, I have come a long way than I was before in terms of recognizing the value of home based education, and that it does not doom children to dork-dom and intolerance of other traditions, but it nurtures a fascination with learning, faith and the relationship between the two.

Anna Kangas is a freelance writer for the Ann Arbor area. She can be reached at


Kristina Birk

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

This article seems off to me, probably because there is little direct comparison between homeschooling by a Catholic parent and attendance at a Catholic school.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

It's been pointed out that learning social skills from mature adults is generally superior to learning them from a child's immature "peers". If I ever have kids I want them to be home schooled. Parenting should be outsourced as little as possible. If it's not possible, for reasons of finance or competence, so be it but it's a good goal. The dumbing down of government school curriculum is another excellent reason to home school. I have very unpleasant memories of my first government school so I'm sure that's coloring my opinion.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

I totally agree with Arby's comments. My first thought when reading the article was, "Have you ever met any homeschooled kids?" In my opinion, an introverted child will be introverted whether they are homeschooled or public schooled. There is a wide range of social skills within public schooled children as well as with homeschooled children. A homeschooled child has many opportunities to interact with their peers, and they tend to do very well in their interactions with adults and children who are not their age. I often receive comments from adults that my 16 year old is respectful and thoughtful. I honestly think this has more to do with our home environment than the fact that he was homeschooled. Homeschooling allows us to teach at a pace that is appropriate to our child, and allows us to include subjects that are not taught in public school. But it is not for everyone. There are homeschool families in every community. I would suggest seeking them out and learning more before making any decision.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

I don't think it is niave at all to write a post about tentatively homeschooling in the future. If you plan to fail, you fail to plan... of course, those plans should be written in pencil... (and give God the eraser). My teen children both homeschool and so I know a great deal of homeschooled children and teens. Not all kids homeschool for the entire journey, as parents and kids needs and motives change. As long as you allow your famiy to grow and evolve as needed, you'll be fine.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:30 a.m.

I am a parent. I am also a strong supporter of homeschooling. I do not however, homeschool our daughter. Why? Because it is simply not a good fit for my daughter, and her educational needs trump my own thoughts and desires. To write such a lengthy opinion piece on the merits of homeschooling your future children Ms. Kangas seems naive at best. If being a parent has taught me anything, it is that having a child changes everything. You will question every decision you make, and you will make decisions you swore you never would, from breastfeeding, to co-sleeping, to homeschooling. I wish you the best of luck, but I also wish you to consider that these future children you refer to will be individuals in their own right, and their needs should be considered as well.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

teach kids religion at home. if you want religion to be a part of the general education curriculum keep it out of public schools.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

The What about socialization? question is the first question uttered by people truly ignorant about homeschooling. It is the first question asked by people who have never taken the time to learn about or spend time with homeschoolers. What aspect of homeschooling makes anyone believe that homeschooled families are reclusive people who shun participation with society in general? Homeschooling children participate in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, martial arts, cheerleading, dance classes, music lessons, scouting, church sponsored youth groups and a wide variety of activities that bring them in contact with their public schooling peers. During those interactions our children experience the same range of socialization that some children experience while attending school. Were well integrated in your communities, and we do not lower your property value. What life skills do children need to learn from their peers at school? Dealing with a bully? This may be a surprise to some people, but bullies dont stop bullying when the dismissal bell rings. They bully in the park. They bully on sports teams. Bullies exist within homeschooling communities, too. How about waiting patiently in line? Check. They learn to wait in line in the check-out lane of a grocery store, for a public restroom, on the dugout bench while waiting for a turn at bat, or in line for communion. Sharing? Homeschoolers have that covered, too. Our children learn to share school supplies with their siblings and with other children in homeschooling co-ops, with members of their sports teams, at Cub Scout meetings, and while playing with neighborhood children. Working in large and small groups? Check. That gets covered in Sunday school, youth groups, team sports. The simple fact is that public schools are not the sole source for gaining needed skills for life. For every situation that you can think of in a public school, I can find the same experience outside of school. And outside of school is where homeschoolers thrive.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

I am not Catholic. I grew up in public schools. But I worked for several years in a Catholic college. Many of our students came from a home-schooled background. While there were certainly students who were socially naive, and even inept, many more were thoughtful and well-adjusted. Getting your children involved in activities outside the home is an important part of making home-schooling successful. Just like anything else in this world, every method of doing something has its positives and negatives. Home-schooling vs. public schools vs. private schools are no exception. The answer to the faults of any one of them is personalized parental involvement in the child's education in which parents determine the weak points and fill in those "gaps". The biggest problem with the public schools isn't the teachers, or the administration, or even the funding (though that's certainly an issue). The problem is lack of parent involvement and effort. The one advantage to home-schooling is that parents have no choice but to be actively involved; but they must make an effort to encourage and support social activity.