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Letter to the editor

by The Concordian October 4, 2011
As a former homeschooled student now studying towards obtaining my BA in Psychology at Concordia, I was happy to see Sandra Martin-Chang’s study on homeschooling. I was also eager to read the education column in last week’s issue of the Concordian, only to put away the newspaper feeling like homeschooling was yet again misunderstood and misrepresented. While both authors are entitled to their opinion, I would like to challenge it by sharing my own take on the issue.
Joseph E. Leger wrote about his own experience as a homeschooler raised in a rural, conservative Christian family where he was isolated from other children, leading him to become socially awkward. When reading about his experience, we must remember that not everyone lives in a conservative Christian family in an isolated region; many of us live in large cities where we are in constant interaction with people outside our family, as well as in secular households. Three different variables seem to have affected Leger’s social development: homeschooling, a controlled environment, and geographical location. Blaming homeschooling alone seems hardly fair; of all the homeschoolers I’ve met, very few seemed socially awkward.
While I feel for Leger’s situation and can see where he is coming from, I find that Shereen Rafea’s article merely repeated the same arguments that have been used against homeschooling for years. While she makes a valid point regarding the effects of the self-selectivity of the study on the pool of high-performing home-educated children that it assessed, the disparity is at least partially offset by the fact that the public-schooled students were also self-selected.
Rafea also says that when poorly managed, homeschooling can set back a child academically. This is also true, but implying that school is the panacea to prevent children from falling behind is drastically inaccurate. Underfunded and overcrowded schools, poor educators, negative social factors (including bullying and its serious psychological consequences), inflexible curriculum, and the many distractions of the school environment are not the optimal conditions for children to excel.
The many studies done support the hypothesis that homeschooling serves children’s academic needs exceptionally well—especially when compared to Quebec’s despairingly low five-year graduation rate, which was recently reported by the Gazette to be as low as 61 per cent for 2008-2009.
In the United States, colleges are highly appreciative of, and sometimes even actively recruit homeschoolers due to their solid academic background and their high level of motivation.
The next point that Rafea brings up is children’s socialization and the importance of being exposed to different people and opinions. Socialization can take place through many mediums: playing with neighbourhood friends, enrolling in extracurricular activities, watching TV and even going to the grocery store are all ways to introduce children to social norms, and homeschooling does not preclude a child from participating in these activities.
Regarding exposing children to diversity of opinion, due to being out into the world and not in a classroom with 30 other children their age, homeschoolers tend to have many opportunities to learn about other people’s point of view on various issues. I cannot count the number of enlightening discussions I have had about politics, social issues, religion and other polarizing topics with many different people on both sides of the spectrum. In fact, I have found my homeschooled peers to be much more aware of important world issues than my public-schooled peers.
Last but not least, Rafea says that education is “just too important to experiment with.” I could not agree with her more, and that is why I consider myself fortunate to have been educated in a customized and carefully-chosen manner (homeschooling has been around for at least 40 years) instead of being subjected to the Ministry of Education’s experiments with a seemingly neverending stream of reforms—which even teachers are speaking out against.- Alix Clara H.-S.

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