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I Was Homeschooled in Texas (And Why We Needed A Little Accountability)

April 25th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Homeschool

Libby Anne just wrote a post on how homeschool regulations in Texas is non-existent, thanks to Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Remember how I wrote a post on how my neighbors don’t go to school? I am a Texas homeschool kid, and my neighbors are non-schooled Texas citizens.

Libby Anne writes that she had a great academic homeschool education. Heather, at Becoming Worldly, writes that she had great educational neglect up until the time a family member interfered. My education falls in the middle of their stories. My education was far from non-existent (and I did learn a good deal), but I had unnecessary gaps.

I still believe that simple homeschool regulations would have helped kids like me.

Libby Anne nicely lays out the history of homeschooling in Texas. It was nothing new to me. I remember the Leeper case, a case that Texans will tell you was the ultimate victory for homeschooling, assuring there was no regulation (keep in mind, everything is bigger and better in Texas). In addition to the HSLDA subscriptions, my parents also get TEA (Texas version of HSLDA), and as Libby Anne writes, my parents were among those who called up our representatives in 2003 and urged Texas not to pass a bill that would have required homeschool families to register with the state. I was required to write a personal letter as part of my homeschool writing assignment. As one who was homeschooled straight through, I thought I would comment on how no homeschool regulations hurt me.

What did no regulations get me?

First of all, I never knew how my grade level compared to other people my age. No clue. We did not take any standardized tests in high school, but back when we did (in elementary school), my mother never let me see the scores anyway. She said it was none of my business. So I believed mom who said I had learning problem. I had no way to compare my level to anyone else my age. I did the wisdom booklets (and some other fundamental books), a one age fits all program, and I guess, without ever checking up with anyone else, I really never realized how well I was doing. It crushed me for years, always believing I was stupid. I might add that my mom also thought I was stupid because she never checked to see how I compared to others my age.

The second problem was that I had little clue what other people studied.  If you had asked me what people take in high school, I would have said science, English, history, and math. But what exact courses were required, how many years of this and that, I did not know (still don’t). This meant that I literally never had a plan. I took one year of high school science, pretended to do two years of fundamental history curriculum, did a ton of music, and put in my time with math. I did nothing else. By the time I entered high school, I had mastered the technical end of grammar (I could already diagram complex sentences in my sleep), so I didn’t really need to study that. I never read classics because I never cared for fiction. I never took a foreign language. At the end of high school I did take some classes at the community college (though mostly music).

Third, we made up my transcript when I graduated from high school. This is a true story. My dad said Texas required so many years of English, so we just wrote down that I did it. And did every subject like so. And then I gave myself a 4.0. Up until that point, we had never checked into high school requirements. They made absolutely no difference to us because we were our own school.

You public schoolers might call us liars, but in a homeschool world, it’s not that we were lying. We believed that there was no division between say, history and English. They sort of both merged together (I still can somewhat argue this). We did not say that I had done a foreign language. I had not, and we knew it.

In college I fared well. I graduated in my honors program with straight As, and although I didn’t take my teachers up for it, they thought I could go straight into a PhD program in my field or enter a competitive masters program, either way. Despite the gaps in my high school education, they never showed, and I never felt that I was behind (more like this; “oh, you read Shakespeare in high school. This is my first time,” and then going on with life.)

I think there is a couple of reasons I fared well in college. For one, my parents did teach me to think critically and encouraged me to really study. My dad supported me when I became a Calvinists, for example. In a real sense they did the most important part of education; they taught me how to teach myself to learn. Second, I’m just naturally gifted in humanities and thinking. This is not to my parents credit per se. After all, my mother did tell me I had a reading comprehension problem (nevermind that I later excelled in philosophy, one of the hardest subjects to read).  In other words, I excelled in humanities despite my gaps, not because of homeschooling. I use to get so mad when homeschool moms would tell me I excelled in college because of homeschooling. They had no idea that my mom told me I couldn’t read well, and that I worked hard to break out of that.   When I was in 8th/9th grade, I read books on dispensationalism and postmillennialism. When I was in 8th grade, I wrote a 36 page essay on the book of Revelation (for fun) and why I believed my Sunday School teacher was a bunch of bogus. The idea of thinking and bulking the system was always in me. Still I believed I was stupid because my mom reminded me of my learning problems everyday. Honestly I’m lucky. If I had been a passive learner, my gaps would have been a lot worse. Or I easily could have shut down. I didn’t because, well, I love to study.

Conclusion

I think a tiny bit of support and regulation would have helped our family. First of all, if we had been required to submit a plan, my parents would have made us follow it. It wasn’t that we were trying to do bad. We were out of touch. Its worth noting that even my sister two grades younger doesn’t have as many gaps because they woke up when I graduated and saw what was required.  Second, I would have known that I wasn’t stupid or behind, and so would my mother (or maybe she wouldn’t have, but I would have known it). Third, with better homeschool laws between the state and homeschool family, I could have just taken science and a foreign language at the high school. Or perhaps we could have gotten a tax refund to pay for me to take the course at a private school or at The Potters School, an online school for homeschoolers.

Homeschool families need to realize that some accountability between the homeschool family and state could actually help homeschool families. Why can’t homeschool families take one or two courses at a high school if they want? or why shouldn’t they meet with the schools (or someone else in touch), so they know how other kids are doing their kids’ ages? It doesn’t have to be strict guidelines or to telling homeschool parents to specifically study Texas history in the 8th grade (I’m so mobile, I really don’t think state history is that important). I admit it. HSLDA had us duped.

When I mentioned homeschool regulations to my mom the other day, she said, “Oh, that’s a bad idea. You all had learning problems, and they wouldn’t have understood.” That is exactly why we needed some kind of accountability. I was ahead of my class, and I never knew it.

If you haven’t read Libby Anne’s other posts on HSLDA, I encourage you to do so.

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9 Responses

  • Christine says:

    Lana, this is the second time in as many days that your blog has eaten my comments!

    I wanted to say that, while I don’t agree with what your family did, I think that you did actually get a very good education from them. The biggest part of education is the cognitive development, not the information imparted, and to do as well as you did in college does speak well for what they did. Granted, it sounds like you had a lot of innate advantages. (And try as I might, I can’t convince myself that your mother only lied about your abilities to keep you from the classic “smart kid” problems in school.)

    I’m horrified about the extent of your mother’s deception. If something as small as seeing test scores would have made a difference in how you saw your abilities, your perceptions must have been off-the-charts wrong. Now, I obviously don’t know exactly what you did and didn’t know, but I’m wondering if some of this “you know less than everyone else” lingered, and is colouring your perception of what you knew when you entered college. I’m not trying to say that your parents didn’t screw up with what they taught you, but a lot of people to tend to have large gaps, and it’s easy to underestimate what we know compared to what others do – see “imposter syndrome” for more info. Again, this is just a small theory, and your perceptions are going to be more correct, I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to defend your parents and dismiss your experiences.

    • Lana says:

      Weird, I have no idea.

      I DEFINITELY agree with you that the MOST important part of education is learning how to think. Hands down. But yes, I still had gaps. I never took much science. History I’m okay on because we discussed it so much. Textbooks really aren’t that necessary. My point is that with just a little bit of insight, perhaps some of those gaps would have been avoided. Is it the end of the world that they exist? No. Some kids go from public school and can’t read and write well. I know that.

      On the note of what my mother told me, you might be right. My mother may have been intentionally disallusioned. After all, she had been to school. She should have known. But the other homeschool moms were toxic. They were saying their kids were doing this and that. I was hyper active and didn’t like fiction (just read non-fiction). I was a slow learner, so our school days would last all day, and sometiems into the night. The other moms said their kid was working independently and finished by noon. So she compared and said I had learning problems, and compounded over years and a lot of lot of tears, I believed it.

      My transition to college was actually very easy academically. I never struggled. But in my major, I needed one science, which I did at a community college, maybe in a summer or something.

      I also think that by never being apart of a classroom, I never knew what other kids did. I had this envision of GENIUS written on every kid’s face. Now I’ve taught, and I know that is so ridiculous. I was so far ahead of everything in reading and writing. Even in math I was probably ahead. The only thing I may have been weaker on was as you said, the imput. the stuff that wasn’t put in my brain because I wasn’t exposed to it (science, some history, etc).

      Anyway, I’m not really complaining. There is all kinds of issues with public schools too.

  • Lana,

    Given that the point of primary education is for long-term success in life, how would regulation by the state benefitted your long-term success?

    God Bless,
    Kyle Johnston
    Home School Grad, College Freshman

    • Lana says:

      Hi, Kyle, I’m not a law maker. But loosely speaking, I would say that homeschool families should submit their school plans for the year, and then at the end, show some kind of portfolio showing they did it. I don’t think they should have to do exactly what the schools are doing, or follow curriculum. I think these things would help them stay more intune. Keep in mind that I turned out okay, but some people never get any school. That is why just basic accountability would help long term success.

      • So you are not arguing that regulations such as you suggest would have materially helped your success, but that they would prevent and and unknown number of “others” from learning nothing?

        I’m actually in the middle of researching for a paper on government involvement in homescholing. I’ve found others who argue for greater regulation, so as to prevent what is effectively educational neglect, in low-to-no regulation states such as Texas.

        Yet, though such laws are actually in effect in states such as New York (See: http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/New_York.pdf) no one I’ve been able find has offered data to support such an assertion. If you’re aware of any, I’d love to see it.

        God Bless,
        Kyle Johnston

        • Sasha Johnston says:

          I think it’s telling, Kyle, that you do not use the word “accountability”. Doubtless you think that the “government” (I would say society at large, the same society the homeschooled person must join and succeed in) is not the entity the homeschooling parent should be accountable to, but the God of the Christian Bible. In which case I’d like to see how exactly THAT works, and what the academic standards are.

          • Sasha,

            Essentially, yes.

            Though I would agree that there are some aspect of Parents responsibility before God which human government is appropriately involved in enforcing, such as child abuse—just as it enforces minimum standards of other inter-personal actions, such as murder and theft.

            No doubt an argument can be made that the basic education of a child is a parental responsibility to children which the government should help enforce, yet no one is able to make a coherent, statistically reliable, and generally applicable argument showing the need for such.

            God Bless,
            Kyle Johnston

          • Lana says:

            I fell to see how the connection is not supported. Its a fact that there are many under-educated to barely educated homeschool kids. Yes, parents will be held accountable to God for this, but at the same time, we can’t just step to the aside and do nothing about it. It seems very logical to me. We really don’t need scripture support for this. Its just a logical fact that kids need to learn to read and write adn do math to suceed in today’s world. It stifles a kid’s future to not, and its important to hold parents accountability so education takes place.

            As far as stats, HSLDA has done everything it can to hide the fact that some kids aren’t educated. Then no one has bothered to hold them accountable because no one on the outside actually takes HSLDA seriously enough to worry about it, just calling them as “homeschool nuts.” But if you read blogs like Becoming Worldly or H.A., you can find stories to prove that not all homeschool kids are educated. This does not mean there aren’t homeschool graduates who have Ph.Ds, too. Homeschoolers come in all shapes and forms, that’s the point, and we have no current sampling to give us the stats. Right now we just have the stats for the really smart ones, but the others like Heather’s story at becoming worldy certainly exist.

            I’m not sure what your graduate paper needs, but Gaithers book and website show why HSLDA’s stats are not accurate.

  • The only true concern I see from the things you feel you were wronged was that your parents lied. Which taught you a terrible lesson….to sin. You actually lacked nothing unless you didn’t learn the material. I can promise you, you wouldn’t have learned much in public school either. I’ve done public (very briefly), private and now with my youngest, homeschool. If your parents actually made you do the work and like most of us repeat it if you didn’t do well then you probably did earn a 4.0 and weren’t lying. If you didn’t do that well then they lied. If you didn’t do the work then you didn’t learn. I’m not sure what you’re complaining about. Most states with regulations will still have a few homeschoolers fall through the cracks, but less (in general) than those in public school. It’s a parental issue exactly like everyone in ever school. Parents that don’t care about work have kids that don’t do the work and therefore don’t do well and some parents lie to teachers too. In general most homeschoolers in states with and without an regulations at all do far better than all others. Regulations sadly have nothing to do with success at all. And you didn’t need to know how you compare to others. It wasn’t a race. Standardized tests have done nothing but determine for the most part the success of a teacher. Almost nothing to do with a student. And none need to know where they rank. That can be damaging. Some do better than others. If you were above everyone you’d think yourself superior. If below you’d think yourself inferior. You were better off not knowing….especially when they’re proving to be just about useless anyway.




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