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All articles are presented to stimulate thought and assist Christian families in homeschooling their children. Articles may or may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the management of HomeschoolChristian.com.

Answering Common Objections to Homeschooling

By Pete Storz

Whether one is considering homeschooling, has recently started, or has homeschooled for quite some time, telling others what your family is doing or considering will get many interesting responses. A positive or noncommittal response is easy to handle in a friendly way. A negative response however, especially one that is phrased as a supposed problem with homeschooling, can feel like a challenge to ones ideas, and even lead to a discussion where ones ideas and actions are challenged. When the person expressing their "concern" is a close friend or a relative, especially ones parent or sibling, this tends to amplify the challenge and brings it into ones home, as it were.

How you respond says much about you and may also greatly influence the other persons conception of homeschoolers and even of our Lord Jesus. Take the time to listen to the other person. Ask questions to be sure you understand them. Not only will you get a better idea of what they are saying and the source of their concern, it will also allow you the time to regain self-control, if necessary, and gather your thoughts for a calm, thoughtful response. Make your answer lovingly, but be sure you say what you mean plainly and completely. This is especially needful, though perhaps difficult, when dealing with relatives. Never forget that you are the parents, the ones responsible for your children. You have your children's best interest at heart and are following Gods leading for your children.

The objections listed below are ones I've heard or read over the years of our family's homeschooling experience, worded as close as possible to the way the objection is commonly phrased. Sometimes the wording varies, and no list is exhaustive, but it is likely that most homeschoolers have heard or will hear at least some of these objections from family, friends, strangers, or in the news and entertainment media. I pray that this article helps you, the reader, respond when you hear one of these objections, and even helps you know how to approach answering objections you haven't heard before.

In composing responses to the objections below, I considered each using the following criteria:

  • Is the objection premised on false or unrealistic assumptions?
  • Is the conclusion of the objection contradicted by real life?
  • Do laws of the US or the several states speak to the objection?
  • Does the objection reflect a lack of understanding of homeschooling and homeschoolers?
  • Does the objection use rare or extreme situations to draw general conclusions about all homeschoolers?
  • Is the objection too insignificant or lacking in relevancy to bar or restrict homeschooling?

For ease of consideration, the objections have been grouped by categories:

  • Academic Concerns
  • Social Concerns
  • Citizenship and Societal Concerns
  • Governmental & Institutional Concerns
  • Family- and Locality-Specific Concerns

Sometimes two or more questions have been grouped together because the responses to the individual questions are so similar that answering them separately would lead to annoying repetition.

Academic Concerns

These objections question parents' ability to educate their children, or question the completeness of a homeschool education.

How can untrained parents educate their children?

Much of the special training teachers receive has to do with planning for, managing, and teaching in a classroom of 20-30 students. The homeschooling environment is very different. Where a classroom teacher has to spread and divide their time among many students, a homeschooling parent can give much individual attention to each of their own, comparatively few, children. Where a classroom teacher must follow a single method and proceed at a pace that compromises among the needs and capabilities of their 20-30 students, a homeschooling parent can select and adjust the method and the pace for each of their children individually. On the other hand, a parent has training that classroom teachers lack. Teachers have training in "pedagogy," the general skill of how to teach children. A parent knows each of their children in a way and to a degree than no classroom teacher ever can, and have effectively taught their children since birth. Also, a parent cares about and loves their children more than the best teacher ever will.

To some objectors, homeschooling seems to be a recent fad, but in actuality, homeschooling as a societal trend has been gathering momentum for several decades. This means that the results of homeschooling are not unknown. Homeschooling has a "track record" - in standardized test results, college boards tests, and colleges that have admitted homeschooled students. In both types of testing, homeschooled children surpass public schooled children, when considered as groups. At the time of this writing, many hundreds of colleges and universities, large and small, have admitted students who were homeschooled. This should not come as a surprise, as parents have been educating their children at home for millennia. It is mandatory universal schools that are the relatively recent societal phenomenon. While this "track record" doesn't guarantee that a specific family will do well, it is a broad-level response to a broad-level question.

How can parents who don't know algebra (or some other advanced subject) teach it?

Though it seemed odd to us at the time, we first heard this objection when our family was just beginning homeschooling (our oldest was just 5 years old then). As it was with us, for many parents the time when this problem would need to be dealt with is years away. This objection, for them, is too remote to bar homeschooling now. And for that matter, not every student will study advanced subjects. The objection also implies that homeschooling parents are passive, unable to take steps to prepare for the possible eventuality the objection envisions. In reality parents have the options of finding a tutor, learning the subject themselves, or finding textbooks which will enable the student to learn on their own. In short, the challenge the possibility of having to teach advanced subjects presents is not a bar to homeschooling in elementary grades, and is very amenable to being solved.

How can a parent provide as rich an educational experience as do public schools?

This objection is one that has been voiced by the National Education Association. Should you be asked this, try not to laugh, and avoid disparaging public schools (unless you want to try to upset the other person for some reason). This objection has at its base several faulty assumptions. The first such assumption is that homeschooled students seldom if ever leave their homes, at least for educational purposes. Another faulty assumption is that homeschooling parents are too passive or inept to find and use curricular and community resources to enrich their children's education. The last faulty assumption, which is best left undiscussed, is that the average US public school achieves the idealized richness assumed by the objection. In reality, homeschooling's efficient use of time, its schedule flexibility, and the wealth of available curricular and community resources make it possible for homeschooling parents to provide their children a total educational experience that is richer and more individualized than even the best public school can offer.

Are homeschooled students accepted by colleges? How do homeschooled students do in college?

For the past two or three years in a row, the testing service companies that publish the SAT and ACT have reported that homeschooled students taking those tests have fared better on those tests than have students from public schools. Experienced homeschooler Karl Bunday lists on his website, Learn in Freedom, some 1000 colleges and universities that have accepted homeschooled students. While other, more specific, examples could be cited, in general, colleges and universities are increasingly receptive to homeschooled students, which they would not be were homeschooled students unable to do college-level work.

Social Concerns

These objections premise that homeschooled children will, in some way, be unable to function fully in society on a personal level due to a supposed inadequate teaching of social skills in the homeschool environment.

How will homeschooled children be socialized? Where will homeschooled children find friends their own age? How will homeschooled children learn tolerance of other races, nationalities, cultures, and religions? How will homeschooled children learn to work in teams?

For the last several years, these kinds of questions have been the classic-ad-nauseum objections thrown at homeschoolers. These all are based on several flawed premises. The first five or six years of a child's life of learning are ignored, during which children have been socialized - by the same parents who will homeschool them. It further assumes that the parents who have been teaching these qualities for all those years suddenly became incapable of doing so when their child had their fifth or sixth birthday. The school is arbitrarily assigned the parents' role in teaching the child social skills. Further, somehow it is assumed that the school campus and school hours are somehow the only place and time where a child can learn social skills.

An odd assumption in these objections is that homeschooled children are kept isolated from the world around them, as if the children were kept in their homes 24 X 7. When did families become toxic - antisocial and bigoted? Also, there are the many community organizations and activities which help form a child's social and teamwork skills. Most homeschooled children participate in scouts, clubs, sports leagues, or church activities in which they have ample opportunity to learn the social and teamwork skills which are the subject of these objections. Additionally, homeschooling parents frequently cooperate with each other to organize and provide frequent field trips, activities, and classes for their children. Finally, despite the well-known problems many public schools have with bullying, gangs, drugs, and sexual promiscuity, this objection assumes that the socialization that happens in public schools is uniformly positive. Can you say "Peer pressure"? I knew you could. It may not be wise, however, to go into this problem with public schools with the person voicing this objection. One of these objections makes the strange assumption that homeschoolers are homogeneous in race, economic status, religion, and culture. A person who thinks this hasn't been around very many homeschoolers. Homeschooled children, like other children, are taught to respect others who are different from them by their parents, and through encountering these people in daily life (including in the homeschooling community).

How will homeschooled children learn to deal with failure or bullies without experiencing them?

This objection reflects a basic lack of understanding of homeschooling and families. Homeschooled children try things and fail or succeed much like children in public schools. This happens as part of the homeschooling process. It is also part of the normal course of family life. Families have ample conflicts for a child to learn conflict-handling skills. And as noted above, these skills are also learned in the context of community activities. Handling bullies is actually not that common an activity among adults, so the value of this skill is exaggerated by this objection. All the same, if the parents deem it desirable, or the child is interested, they can enroll their child in a self-defense or martial arts class.

Homeschooled children won't have proms, bands, choirs, drama, debate, dances, football (or other sports), or graduations.

This objection is not sufficiently significant so as to be a problem with homeschooling. Like other objections, it ignores community resources such as sports leagues, community bands, and clubs. And also like other objections, this one assumes that homeschooling parents, homeschooled children, and the homeschooling community lack the initiative or ability to organize such activities for their children, an assumption that is contradicted by what has been done in many areas.

You Can't Keep Your Kids Sheltered

This objection is a mix of misconception, misunderstanding, and, perhaps, misconstruction. It assumes that homeschoolers isolate their children. As noted previously, that is usually far from being the case. And whether from misunderstanding or tendentious choice, the word "shelter" does not accurately describe what homeschooling parents are doing. Ill allow the reader to review (or not) the section above that deals with objections based on the incorrect idea that homeschoolers isolate their children. But it is because homeschoolers do not isolate their children that the word "shelter" is inaccurate.

Homeschooling enables parents to select and regulate the life challenges their children face at what age, the rate, and the degree of exposure. Homeschooling parents can train and prepare their children for various situations and challenges. They decide when their children are ready to face those situations, and how much they can handle. Homeschooling parents can also help their children learn from unpleasant experiences. Ultimately homeschooling parents are preparing their children for life, with all its challenges, not sheltering their children from life.

If Christians Homeschool, How Will Public School Students Hear the Gospel?

The thinking behind this objection has many problems. There is also the curiosity that I've not heard parents who have enrolled their children in Christian private schools challenged with this objection (not that I wish that to happen). The reason for this inconsistency is unclear to me. One problem in the thought underlying this objection is that it assumes that an unbelieving public school child cant hear the Gospel outside of school. This ignores the possibility that the child may hear the Gospel from family, friends, neighbors, strangers (in the park, community events, etc.), while visiting a church, or while attending a Five Day Club or Vacation Bible School. Im sure this list of opportunities to hear the Gospel outside of school could have been much longer. Another fallacy in the objection is that it is based on every Christian family deciding to homeschool, thus removing all Christian children from public schools. This is unlikely, to say the least. The objection also assumes that moral influence at a public school is unidirectional Christian children will influence their peers while remaining uninfluenced. A visit to a church youth group will suffice to show that Christian youth are indeed influenced by their peers. The wording of this objection also impinges on the authority and responsibility that properly belongs to parents. A child's parents are the ones who have the right to decide how their child should be educated. It is also my experience that few Christian parents choose to homeschool without much prayer and being convinced that God wants their family to homeschool. In the face of this, how the does the person voicing this objection dare ignore God by presuming that God would not lead parents to homeschool? All in all, this objection is more noteworthy for its emotive appeal to Christian sensibilities than for sound reasoning.

Citizenship and Societal Concerns

These objections premise that homeschooled children will be unable to function fully in society on a civic level, due to assumed inadequate teaching of citizenship skills or social studies in the homeschool environment

How will homeschooled children learn to be good citizens? How will homeschooled children learn about democratic institutions?

These objections are, to some extent, extensions of the objections above that have to do with social skills, and thus share some of the same flaws. The general social skills for living as citizens in the community will be learned at home and through community activities. The more formal teaching of the workings of government from the local through the national levels are learned partly through events such as field trips (police stations, fire stations, city hall, state capitals), partly through community service in scouts, clubs, and individual initiative, and partly through the history, government, and civics classes that will be a normal part of a homeschooling family's course of study (there is a rich variety of curricular resources available for these subjects at all grade levels).

Homeschooling Parents Might Not Teach Their Children Diverse Worldviews and Values

This is a new, possibly up-and-coming, objection to homeschooling. The wording above is based on a report by Rob Reich, of Stanford University's Department of Political Science, presented at the 2001 meeting of the American Political Science Association. His report was titled, "Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling". Reich attempts to pose government, "as a matter of justice," as needing to protect children's rights against their parents. Though Reich spoke to homeschooling, his reasoning could be used to impose regulations on private schools.

While the government must protect children who are being abused, it has no legitimate interest that could justify monitoring or dictating the moral or worldview content taught in homeschools or private schools. Government interference with teaching religious and moral values would also violate the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. One must also ask, "If government were to exercise such arbitrary, intrusive power, what would protect homeschooling parents and their children from abuse by government officials?" While advocates of this objection and its underlying ideas might try to evade this question with a smokescreen about the "legitimacy" of the actions of a democratically elected government, homeschoolers have had too many experiences with the abuses and local tyrannies of government officials to be placated or silenced by such manipulative platitudes.

Ultimately, the ideas behind this objection must be rejected and opposed, as they entail usurping parental authority. This authority is recognized in law, though its true source is God. Children are minors, and during their minority, they do not have many of the rights adults have. Parents exercise legal authority to act for their children in many matters. One such matter, specifically recognized by the United States Supreme Court, is the education of their children.

One of the dangers in this objection is the manipulative potential of its wording. Since homeschoolers are a diverse community, the advocates of this objection and its underlying ideas are likely to attempt to exploit homeschoolers diversity by using "divide and conquer" tactics. If the ideas audience is theologically conservative Christians, the appeal would be that the ability of Pagans, atheists, and moral liberals to "indoctrinate" their children would be limited. On the other hand, if the audience is more liberal, religiously or politically, the appeal would be placing limits on "Fundamentalists." Homeschoolers need to be on guard against such disingenuous manipulation and reject it. As noted above, parents whose children are enrolled in private schools have a similar vital interest at stake.

Homeschooling may be a cover for abuse, neglect, or fanaticism (racism, religious, anti-government, etc.)

There are flawed premises underlying this objection. First, it is not government's role to prevent evil. Second, government is forbidden to invade people's privacy without "Probable Cause." Government cannot legally monitor its citizens 24 X 7 X 52 - nor would it be possible. It is government's role to restrain evildoers. For this, existing community "resources" such as police, doctors, and concerned neighbors suffice. This objection is a manipulative emotional appeal. It throws aside facts - homeschoolers are ordinary people - and attempts to paint stereotypes of all homeschoolers using rare, isolated situations. Fear, manipulation, and stereotypes make for poor government policy, and are insufficient grounds for barring or restricting homeschooling.

Aren't homeschoolers just a bunch of right-wing fundamentalists? Aren't homeschoolers just a bunch of left-wing New-Agers? Aren't homeschoolers just a bunch of rich elitists?

In all seriousness, I've heard every one of these stereotype-based objections though at different times and places. Just grouping them together exposes how ridiculously contradictory the objections are. In terms of logic, these objections are what are known as ad hominem attacks, and are intrinsically invalid. Persons voicing such objections are trying to rouse listeners' emotions against the ones being attacked, in this case, homeschoolers, by equating homeschooling with some presumably undesirable but irrelevant characteristic. Since homeschoolers are of virtually every race, economic status, religion, and culture, the objections are also false.

Do companies hire homeschoolers? How do homeschoolers do on the job? What about a high school diploma?

I haven't heard of any studies relevant to the first two questions. I have heard of many former homeschooled students who have obtained good jobs, much as any other person, and who have done well. I've also seen at least one trade magazine article whose topic was that homeschool graduates are becoming much sought after by employers because of their education, resourcefulness, and willingness to take initiative. Regarding high school diplomas, there are several ways to handle this. The homeschooling parents may give their child a diploma in the name of their family's school. The fact that the campus is the student's home doesn't alter the fact that the student did the work, and can demonstrate their knowledge to prospective employers in interviews. Another approach would be for the homeschooled student to take and pass the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test (California also gives students the similar option of taking the California High School Proficiency Exam, the California High School Proficiency certificate being legally equivalent to a high school diploma). A third way is to enroll the student in a junior college (the permission of the child's teacher and principal may be required for younger students) - college course credits or an Associate's degree signify educational achievement beyond the high school level, effectively bypassing the question.

Governmental and Institutional Concerns

These objections have as their focus the legality of homeschooling, government's role in education, and concerns for public schools as an institution.

Is homeschooling legal? My child's teacher (or principal) told me that homeschooling isn't legal.

These objections are heard less often now than perhaps 10 years ago. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Some states have laws that specifically define and set requirements for homeschooling. In other states, homeschoolers operate within the state's private school laws (this is the case in California). Home School Legal Defense Association has summaries of each state's education laws as they pertain to homeschoolers. Many statewide support organizations have links to that state's homeschool or relevant education laws on their websites. While at first glance, the " My child's teacher (or principal) told me ..." objection seems redundant, it illustrates something important for homeschoolers to keep in mind. Public school teachers and administrators frequently do not know the provisions of their state's laws as they pertain to homeschoolers. They may be well-intended in what they say, but still incorrect. Sadly, there are also a some public school folks who know, but disapprove of their states' laws (or of homeschooling in general), and who try to impose illegal requirements on homeschooling families in their districts or try to discourage people from homeschooling at all by misrepresenting the pertinent laws in their state. For both reasons, it is critical that homeschoolers understand the requirements of their state's laws, and be able to access the texts of those laws if needed.

How can the government assure that homeschooled children are learning?

This objection has several false assumptions. First, it assigns to the government a responsibility that legally belongs to the parents - oversight of the education of children. The US Supreme Court ruling, Pierce vs. the Society of Sisters, makes it clear that this is the parents' responsibility. Second, it assumes, incorrectly, that the government monitors the quality of education in private campus schools and in public schools. In reality, private campus schools are often left alone by the government. And the administrators of public schools have almost had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing regular standardized tests to effect some monitoring of the quality of education at public schools, and that only after decades of evidence that public schools are doing poorly. This brings up the third false assumption. There is no evidence, no "probable cause," to justify a broad invasion of homeschooling families' privacy through mandatory standardized testing. In fact the opposite is true - where homeschooling families are subjected to mandatory testing or do so for their own purposes, homeschooled children have been shown, as a group, to do very well. Reference.

If the best students are withdrawn from public schools, then those who remain will suffer. If the most caring and involved parents homeschool, public schools will suffer.

These objections are unrealistic, hypothetical, "What if everybody does it?" questions. In reality, families' and students' circumstances and convictions vary, so that all the best students and all the most caring and involved parents aren't going to choose to homeschool. The underlying assumption here is that parents are in some way obligated sacrifice what they believe to be the best for their child for a community institution. This objection subjugates what is best for children - human beings - to what is best for an institution. It contradicts the legal responsibility of parents. It also raises the question of whether the person voicing the objection is interested in the children or the public schools as an institution. The community usually is benefited most when the interests and needs of the individual members in the community are best served. For some reason, these objections also assume that lesser students and public schools are too helpless to improve. The assumptions in these objections are unrealistic, and the concerns are equally unreal.

Because homeschooling takes students from public schools, they are hurt financially.

It depends on what your definition of "they" is. "They," the Federal, State, County, and City governments, do not receive any less taxes if a child is homeschooled instead of being sent to public school. Since these levels of government all, in varying degrees, fund schools as part of annual budgets, "they" the public schools at the system level do not lose money if a child is homeschooled. The presence or absence of one student will not be a factor in budget planning. "They," the local school, on the other hand, receive money from the various levels of government based on the school's enrollment. So if a child never attends a specific public school, that public school doesn't receive the money it would have received had the child attended it. And if a child is removed from a public school to be homeschooled, that public school "loses" that money.

However, Part 1: When money is either not received or "lost" there are also expenses that are not incurred by that public school and services not provided. So if that money is to be thought of as "lost" in either case, then the more complete picture is that the school did not have to expend that money on a student. Thus, a school only suffers a noticeable loss if their fixed expenses unrelated to what is done in the classroom, expenses that are incurred without regard to the number of students enrolled, are an excessive part of the school's budget.

However, Part 2: If the money a local public school loses when a child is withdrawn to be homeschooled is an issue, why is this not an issue when the child is transferred to a different public school?

However, Part 3: Why is this, "The public schools lose money!" argument only thrown in the face of homeschoolers? What about private campus schools? Is the "The public schools lose money!" argument the REAL issue? Or is it a smoke screen, concealing another, very different agenda?

Frankly, this is a pathetic, reprehensible pretext for manipulating homeschooling parents to cease doing what they believe to be best for their child. It reduces the child from a human being to livestock, a means to obtain money.

Family- and Locality-Specific Concerns

These objections focus on family issues and conditions in the specific objector's and homeschooler's locale.

How will your brother (sister, aunt, etc.) the teacher feel if you decide to homeschool? Your mother (father, pastor, etc.) doesn't approve of homeschooling.

It is the responsibility of a child's parent to do what they believe to be the best for their child. It is nice when homeschoolers' relatives, friends, spiritual leaders, and community leaders are approving and supportive, but these are not the child's parents. Remind the person voicing these objections that you are the parent, and that you can't let other people's possible feelings or disapproval sway you from doing what you believe is right for your child. The possibly hurt or offended feelings of other people are not sufficiently significant so as to be a problem with homeschooling.

Your brother (sister, cousin, etc.) tried that and it didn't work. Why do you think it will work for you? What's wrong with the schools here in (your town)? Your church has a private school, why don't you enroll your children there?

Remind the person so objecting that you are not your brother (sister, cousin, etc.), but avoid criticizing your brother (sister, cousin, etc.) and what they did. Nor should you criticize your local schools, however easy or tempting that might be, or your church's school. You need to keep the focus on what you are doing and why it is right for your family. Assure the person that you have made your choice carefully and are prepared to do the work to make homeschooling work for your family. Emphasize that you, as your child's parent, are doing what you believe is right for your child and family. If the person is curious about how homeschoolers do academically as a group, you can refer them to Rudner study linked above.

As a closing note, I would like to mention that Fred Worth has a web page that also addresses common objections to homeschooling. My article does not draw material from it, nor is it meant to supplant it. I have recommended Mr. Worth's web page in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I have tried to bring another person's perspectives where the objections addressed are similar, and that answers objections that may not have been current a couple of years ago when Mr. Worth's article was written.

Copyright © February 2002, revised 5/2/02, Peter Storz and HomeschoolChristian.com

About the author: Pete Storz grew up in Woodland, CA, near Sacramento. His family attended a Lutheran church, and for grades 1 through 3, Pete attended the private school run by that church, and public schools thereafter. Pete attended a college in Phoenix, AZ, graduating with an Associate's degree. While in Phoenix, Pete worked in a Christian bookstore and tape library, was involved in a ministry that reached out to Jehovah's Witnesses, and ran sound for several local contemporary Christian music bands. Pete moved to "Silicon Valley" to work in electronics and be closer to his parents. He met Becky in 1978 at a church, and they were married in 1980. They have three children, Suzy, Chris, and Katie. Becky first heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family program, and about a video seminar by Dr. Raymond Moore that was to be hosted at a nearby church by his daughter. After attending this and a seminar by Gregg Harris, Pete and Becky were encouraged to believe that they could homeschool their children. Remembering that first year or two, when support was crucial but hard to find, Pete and Becky started a support group in 1992 with a special emphasis on fellowship, person-to-person support, and helping new homeschoolers get started. Though Pete and Becky stepped down from leadership after 4 years, SELAH Christian Schools continues to assist homeschoolers in the San Jose, California area. Pete and Becky continue to publish a resource directory for San Jose area homeschoolers as well as other support activities.

See other articles about getting started with homeschooing.