The Social Stigma of Homeschooling

I was just reading a tragic story about a 13 year old California boy.  Seth Walsh is dead, after taking his own life.

His family said he was picked on so much that he had to be home-schooled.

Then last month, Seth hanged himself.

His family believes he took his life because he was gay and mercilessly taunted and teased.  More was disclosed in the San Francisco Gate:

In spite of an anti-bullying program mentioned by school, the school officials nor the school board (more on the politically inept school board later) didn’t intervene to stop the bullying and mental torture of Seth Walsh. It’s ironic that the principal of the Jacobsen Middle School Susan Ortega proudly claims that she has a B.A. in Child and Family Crisis. Apparently Seth Walsh was a crisis Ortega did not see.

Then I was reading the Register-Mail article comments about the Galesburg homeschooling family.  Here’s commenter samplings of the socialization concerns regarding homeschoolers, and of course the importance of academics in today’s society .  (These below are the negatives, but there were great responses from more enlightened folks, including the Cramer parents.)

These kids will never get the social skills they need to perform in today’s society and that is the scary part…

Thank God they never get THOSE social skills.

I wonder, though, about the social/coping skills. As a parent, I’m sure you want to keep certain influences away from your child. Yet, in the course of a job or public service, you will come in contact with these influences. You have to learn to cope sometime…

It just comes to my mind that little ones need to physically cope with the need to go to the restroom.  That’s why schools require a change of clothes stays at the school the entire school year.  Those coping skills are just not cut out for 5 and 6 year olds.  Humiliation = coping.

parents are perfectly free to homeschool their children–but I really feel sorry for those kids in the long term.

 There were a few though who never socialized with their peers. When the pressures of college life came down on them, several cracked. They weren’t prepared for the debauchery that can come with college life. I suppose if done right, homeschooling can be an excellent way to educate a child. But if it is being done to shield their child from the dangers of the real world, then they are more than likely causing more harm than good.

If you’ve not seen a teen passed out from alcohol binging, then you haven’t lived the right way. 

 I have experienced home school children in my volunteer work, and I find them typically to be lacking in social skills.

You would think that this person volunteering along with homeschoolers would have passed along his charm school technique.  Many think kids should be forced to volunteer. A local school district requires volunteering. (Isn’t that oxy-moronic?)  Some Illinois legislators often suggest volunteering as a graduation mandate.  Just like paying taxes, I’m not sure that will bring out our best traits.  Forced charity in money and time takes much of the joy out of giving.  The volunteer commenter was likely expecting surly, downcast volunteers, instead of kids who were happy to be there. 

The Huffington Post put their spin on the social stigma of homeschooling in a NY Post article [Is home schooling for freaks? Or the best option for NYC parents?] with this introduction:

In the face of a failing public school system, many New York City families are braving social stigma to teach their children at home, the New York Post reports…… But there’s always the risk that isolation from other children or other beliefs may jeopardize their academic and social development.

The NY Post article starts out with this:

‘You’re not going the Dalton route. You’re going the Ted Kaczynski route, as far as they’re concerned.”

Park Slope dad Roger Bagley recalls the general reaction from friends and neighbors when he and his wife, both Manhattan lawyers, first decided to yank their three kids out of expensive private schools — and teach them at home instead.

“Home schooling” is a term that, for many, still conjures up images of cult leaders, or fundamentalists like the Duggar family in Arkansas: 19 kids and counting, clad in identical sackcloths and Stepford smiles.

Fortunately the homeschooling parents have the opportunity to explain the diversity of homeschooling life in the Post article.  It’s not easy homeschooling in New York.  The hoops and paperwork parents have to tolerate to educate their children at home are ridiculous.  I doubt they’re doing all that to take risks of isolation and social stunting in the hugely diverse and rich educational territory of New York City. 

Maybe they’re just rescuing their children, just like the Walsh family tried to do.  Rest in peace, Seth.


The Social Stigma of Homeschooling — 5 Comments

  1. What a tragic story. Poor Seth and his family.

    As for the social stigma of homeschooling, two of my three adult children never tell people they were homeschooled until after they’ve gotten to know them well. Inevitably they’re then told, “I never would have guessed you were homeschooled….you’re so normal!”

    Ugh. I think people have a stereotype in their head about homeschooling. It’s easier to criticize homeschooling that way. Otherwise they might get uncomfortable thinking how much different and even better their own lives would be if they’d been able to bypass the public school experience.

  2. Our adult kids do the same, and hear the same. “Why are you so normal?”

    Maybe there’s a pattern. They’re normal.

    I also think we’re kind of mysterious since there aren’t many of us. People who don’t know us just guess about what we do all day. Apparently they assume the worse.
    My daughter finally told a good friend that she homeschooled, and he said: That’s why you’re so weird. But he meant it in a complimentary way since they both do their own thing….flint knapping, pottery, cooking, photography. That fun, weird stuff. Works for me.

  3. “‘Home schooling’ is a term that, for many, still conjures up images of cult leaders, or fundamentalists like the Duggar family in Arkansas: 19 kids and counting, clad in identical sackcloths and Stepford smiles.”

    How hilarious…and “tolerant” of them to write that. :0)

    We live in a city where homeschooling is mainstream. Nobody bats an eye. No one asks why your kids aren’t in school when you go for a midmorning run. When you say your kids are homeschooled, the reaction is usually positive. There is definitely a culture shock, though – but nothing that most kids don’t go through.

    A homeschooling friend of mine has a son who is in 11th grade and taking a couple of classes at the local community college. He isn’t naieve by any means – and has pulled quite a few stunts himself in the past. But, because the other kids use profanity liberally and have pink hair, he was a little shocked, I believe. He’s a good young man, though, and has played frisbee golf with some of his classmates outside of school.

  4. Yes, Maria, I had to read that 3 times before I realized exactly what was written about “identical sackcloths and Stepford smiles”. They should take a gander at the here about the Duggars:

    The boys and their dad and I moved a bunch of stuff around today in a historical society museum with some of the museum volunteers. None of them ask us why they’re not ‘in school’, because they know we homeschool and I assume they assume we’re on the ball. I like that, and I’m glad I assume that as a given from folks.

    Live and let live.

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