Archive for the ‘ Random Thoughts ’ Category

What About the Social Aspects of Homeschooling?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

For so many of us who grew up attending public schools and being educated among same-age peers, there are real questions about the socialization of homeschooled kids. We remember sitting in classrooms packed with other children and truly wonder how homeschoolers will fill in that “void” of being with other children so many hours of the day.  As a homeschooling family, though, I was quick to realize that socialization is not an issue. Let me explain why…

Are homeschoolers isolated?

You would be surprised how many homeschoolers there are. The number is estimated as somewhere between 1.9 and 2.5 million according to Dr. Brian D. Ray, head of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. To put that in perspective, that is the same number of kids as attend charter schools in the U.S.  Because of this, there are lots of homeschool opportunities:

We may be “home” schoolers but some of the best learning opportunities take place outside of the home!

Be sure to check out Homeschool Days at your local museum, historic sites, aquariums, zoos and elsewhere. For example, there are homeschool days at Mt. Vernon, Valley Forge, Gettysburg,. Biltmore. Williamsburg has two weeks of homeschool activities in September. There are outdoor homeschool programs at nature centers and environmental centers.  And though not necessarily educational, places like Disney World, Legoland, Silver Dollar City and Sea World have special homeschool days.

To be honest, we have to try to keep our schedule clear enough that we can get our academic work done!

How do homeschoolers learn to listen to a teacher or authority figure if they aren’t in (public) school?

Another underlying concern that comes from the “socialization” question is, if kids are not listening to a teacher all day, will they still have the same skills (listening to adults/authority, following directions and things like that).  If you think about a large classroom of kids, teachers definitely have their hands full keeping everyone on task.  In a homeschool setting, it is glaringly apparent when the kids are off-task, distracting a sibling or being disrespectful. In the homeschooling families I know, the parents are very involved and emphasize the social skills of good listening, being polite, using their manners, respecting and listening to others (adults or kids). We are able to address behaviors that are inappropriate simply because we are around them and monitoring them more. Does that mean my kids are perfect angels?  Absolutely not! But Hubby and I have helped them learn to be polite and respectful. Homeschooled kids are around adults during the course of a normal day and usually have coaches, teachers, adult friends and other adult mentors they interact with regularly.

I like this quote I found from Fine Homeschooling:

Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. “The idea that children need to be around other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and over excited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop.

After analyzing more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents — not other children.

How do homeschoolers learn the skills of working together so that the skills necessary for collaborative work?  

This is definitely something to think about. There is no doubt that teamwork is important in the workplace and elsewhere. So how do you find opportunities for homeschooled kids to build these skills (especially if you have an only child?)  Basically, you have to seek out opportunities for your children.  Certainly there are team sports, scouts and other groups, but there are other collaborative opportunities for homeschoolers such as homeschool robotics clubs, homeschool science odyssey comptetition teams and even odyssey of the mind teams for homeschoolers.  If there isn’t a team around, you could always form one! As always, it takes time and energy as the parent/educator/fascilitator to make sure kids build the skills you feel are important.

Do homeschooled kids learn to deal with bullies and other “realities” of school?

I actually get this question from time to time… In fact, sometimes the tone is more like “how will your children cope if they haven’t experienced this?” It’s important for every parent to address the issue of bullying… and to emphasize being respectful and kind to other kids.  In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity homeschooled kids outscored public school students.  Studies show that homeschooled kids are often more self-confident and self-assured than their public school peers. This inner strength is what I believe will help the kids deal with difficult situations and any of the different kinds of people they will meet in life.

Some final thoughts on homeschooling and socialization:

At the end of the day, Hubby and I are trying to raise polite, respectful, articulate, friendly people who treat others (regardless of their age) with respect. Some of the true skills of socialization are

  • character
  • honesty
  • morality
  • generosity of spirit
  • citizenship
  • listening skills
  • manners
  • respect for others
  • fairness
  • sympathy/empathy
  • kindness
Whether at school, at home or out in the world, these are skills that all parents are trying to foster in their kids.

This seems  to be the perfect time to share a graphic with you. I was contacted by Peter a couple of years ago and he said I was welcome to share the graphic he and his team developed with all of you.  It celebrates many of the positives of homeschooling.  Anyway, I have WAY too many friends whose (brilliant, wonderful, motivated, amazing) kids attend public school to agree that mine will “dominate” or “take them down” but I do like how this graphic presents many of the statistics about the successes of homeschooling:

Homeschool vs. Public School
Created by:

If you are interested in seeing some of the educational statistics about homeschoolers for yourself you might want to visit this National Center for Educational Statistics: Digest of Educational Statistics about homeschooled students which is where I suspect he and his team got a lot of the statistics they use in the graphic above. Another source of homeschool statistical information is the National Home Education Research Institute and you can read some Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brian Ray, PhD.

I get questions about socialization fairly regularly… and have tackled it in other ways from time to time. You may be interested in a previous post I wrote: Homeschool Questions Answered: What About Socialization?

You Might Be Interested in These Related Posts:

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.

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How Many Homeschoolers Are There in the USA?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Last August, a new study was released showing a continued increase in the number and percentage of students who are homeschooled in America.  The last time the U.S. government released data about the number of homeschooled students was back in 2007. Since I am doing a series about homeschooling in general (How to Start Homeschooling, Choosing homeschool curriculums, etc.), I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share some of the results of this study again. This information was based on a survey called the National Household Education Surveys Program.

How many homeschoolers are there?

In 2007, 2.9% of students were homeschooled. In 2011-2012, 3.4% of students were homeschooled.

In 2007, the number of homeschooled students was about 1.5 million. In 2011-2012 that number had increased to 1.77 million. [Dr. Brian Ray (2011) estimated (using methods different from those used by both government studies) that there were 2.04 million K-12 homeschool students in the United States in spring 2010. See this NHERI report for more information.]

Just so you know, this is about the same number of students as are enrolled in charter schools across the U.S.  According to the National Center for educational statistics there were 1.78 million students enrolled in charter schools in the 2010-2011 school year.

Where do homeschoolers live?

The rates of homeschooling were highest in rural areas where 4.5% of students were homeschooled.  The homeschooling rate was 3.2% in the city, 3.1% in the suburbs and 2.7% in towns.

What grades are the students who homeschool in?

One things that surprised me about the newly released statistics was that the homeschooling rate was actually higher in the upper grades. Just from conversations I’ve had with others, I had assumed that many people choose to homeschool in the younger grades and then put their children into traditional school (public or private schools) in middle school or high school.  I had it totally wrong!

The percentage of K-2 students who homeschooled was 3.1%.

The percentage of 3rd-5th grade students who homeschooled was 3.4%.

The percentage of 6th-8th grade students who homeschooled was 3.5%.

The percentage of 9th-12th grade students who homeschooled was 3.7%.

Overall, the vast majority of students in the U.S. attend public schools… based on some of the statistics I found,  a pie graph of U.S. students might look something like this:


You can take a closer look at the study and these statistics by going to NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) pamphlet: Parent and Family Involvement in Education… 2012, Tables 7 and 8 (pages 27 and 28).


You might also be interested in the post: Let’s Talk about Homeschool Successes which compares homeschoolers to their public schooled counterparts and talks about test-taking, graduation rates, etc

And you might be interested in our family’s answer to the question, “How Long Will You Keep Homeschooling?”

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Thank You to My Wonderful Readers!

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

This week I’m going to hit a major milestone since joining the team… two million hits on my blog…. one million in just the past nine months. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of such a wonderful team and love having the blog to share our family’s homeschool journey.  Ours is certainly not the best/ideal/only way to homeschool, but I enjoy sharing how we meander through each year!  My kids and I love homeschooling and we all enjoy having the blog as well. Believe me, I wouldn’t be blogging if this weren’t a family endeavor. :)  The kids have always been okay with all the pictures I take of our activities… Not once have they complained or asked why I’ve always got the camera at hand when we’re ready for another science experiment or are just about to play a math game.    It also takes their support for all the time I spend/spent writing. It’s a family effort to get “everything else” done. (I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about — the dishes, laundry, sorting, picking things up, weeding, yard work and on and on!)  They get a kick out of sharing our activities with the wider world.  Sometimes I’ll share something I’ve whipped out for the kids… let’s say a grammar sheet about using apostrophes and quotation marks… and to my astonishment it’ll get thousands of hits (83,000)! Or I’ll go out with the kids to take pictures of the ice storm and that post will continue to get hits well into the summer (93,000 and counting!).

I started blogging more than a decade ago – first on a family blog and then branching off and creating the Homeschool Den in 2009. One of the best things has been getting to know some other homeschoolers through the blog… I’ve “met” homeschoolers and educators from China, Africa, Australia, Europe, South America and all through out the U.S.  Each year we’ve exchanged country boxes with other families from around the world just from connections I’ve made through the blogging world.  (In fact, we have a box that arrived a couple weeks ago from a family in Great Britain that I’ve been saving for the kids.)  When you’ve emailed or written on Facebook, I always feel happy that you took the time to write! I try (though don’t always succeed!) to write back… but always appreciate hearing from you.

The blog has also been a joy for other reasons.  I’ve chronicled my crazy ear/health problems — which wound up with six surgeries and my having to go deaf in one ear.  It’s not a very common medical condition/issue, but I’ve found that writing about it is cathartic and have gotten several emails from other people enduring similar challenges.  As it turns out, there are still some on-going nerve/noise issues (I’ll be going back for my post-op appointment at Johns Hopkins on Monday morning). Last October I went in for a reasonably “simple” procedure… and wound up ten months later looking like a Borg-wanna be. Here’s a picture I took a couple of days ago of the plastic button that is sitting over the titanium implant.  I think they’ll take the gauze out on Monday and will remove the stitches.  The plastic part will come off in a couple of months after the bone has grown back around the implant. I’ve always been a happy hearing-aid user… so now I’ll just look all the more sophisticated with this new device. And hey, it’ll be blue-tooth compatible. Nothing like being able to tune into technology straight into my head!

Anyway, I guess I felt compelled to write all this today because I haven’t been on the computer practically at all this past week. I’ve been flat on my back coping with the ear ache pain, loud noises in my ear, nerve spasms, etc.  Now that I’m feeling a bit better, I’m feeling grateful for that… and for everything else in my life.  I guess when the dark clouds settle in for a little while, you’re all the more appreciative of life when the sun peaks back out. You know what I mean?!!

So once again, I just want to say thank you for all of you who have tuned in to read about our adventures here at the Homeschool Den.   Thank you!

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Happy Mother’s Day! (It’s officially 100 years old this year!)

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

This year Mother’s Day is officially one hundred years old in the U.S. On May 8, 1914  Congress passed a law to officially celebrate Mother’s day on the second Sunday in May.

Facts About Moms (in the U.S.) 

  • There are more than 85 million mothers of all ages in the United States.
  • According to the Pew Research Institute, fewer Moms are married than fifty years ago


  • Of all women age 15 to 44 how many kids do we have?
    • 47% have no children
    • 17% have one child
    • 20% have two children
    • 10% have three children
    • 5% have four or more children
  • The average age of first-time Moms in 2012 was 25.8 years old.
  • The number of stay-at-home moms in married-couple family groups in 2013 was 5 million (statistically unchanged from 2012 and 2011).
  • The number of single mothers living with children younger than 18 in 2013 was 10 million  [Source for the statistics above: Info Please: Mothers by the Numbers]
  • To what extent do Moms in the U.S. work?  Check out this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012):

And here’s an interesting chart from the Pew Research Center about how parents spend their time:

Over time, parents’ roles have begun to converge

The History of Mother’s Day

One source says the the tradition of honoring motherhood goes back to antiquity.  One of the earliest historical records of a society celebrating a mother deity can be found among the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess, Isis. This website, Mother’s Day Central, goes on to explain how two other mother goddesses in Turkey and Greece, laid the most important foundation for the worship and celebration of motherhood in Europe.

The custom of honoring mothers was strong in the 1600s in England, which celebrated Mothering Sunday.  Originally, people celebrated Mothering Sunday by visiting their “mother church.” In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. Sometimes children would pick flowers to give to their mothers.  Eventually, this religious tradition gave way to the secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

Now people in the U.S. and 80 other countries set aside the second Sunday in May to celebrate Mother’s Day.  According to some, we first celebrated Mother’s Day in 1908 when a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. The original purpose was to honor “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Jarvis’ mother had been a pacifist during the Civil War tending to the wounds of soldiers from both the Confederate and Union armies. It was a few years after that that Congress passed the law to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Woodrow Wilson declared the first Mother’s Day as a day when Americans were to fly the flag to honor “mothers whose sons had died in war.”

Less than 10 years after that, Mother’s Day had become commercialized.  Today people in the U.S. spend 2.6 million dollars on flowers and $1.53 billion on pampering gifts. In Australia people will spend about $1.4 billion on their Mums. In Britain Mother’s Day was March 30; on average people spent about £30 ($50.50 U.S.) on their mothers.

Me?  I mainly want a nice card from the kids… and they always treat me to breakfast in bed!

Have you seen this video for people applying for the world’s toughest job?  It’s a job that requires you to work 24/7, 365 days a year.  No vacations.  The work load increases around the holidays… It made me laugh, so I wanted to share it with you.

I hope you have an amazing day! Happy Mother’s Day! ~Liesl


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Why You Shouldn’t Reward Kids for Learning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Plato: Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

One of the things my kids love about homeschooling is that they can spend long, leisurely amounts of time reading.  The first thing they do in the morning is pick up a book and start reading while eating breakfast. My goal has always been for reading to be something that you do for pleasure, not for reward. One summer we chose not to participate in our library’s reading program. At one point, we were chatting with a librarian and she asked if the kids were doing the library’s summer reading program. She was shocked when I told her we weren’t participating this year. “May I ask why?” she wanted to know. I had a hard time articulating why exactly I didn’t want to have the kids join, but it was clear from her demeanor that she thought I was doing the kids a disservice. I replied that my kids love reading and I didn’t want them to equate reading with getting prizes. Beside, my son (who was 8 at the time) would only read one or two huge, thick books this summer and would feel frustrated not to have read the huge numbers that the girls would be reading. Nor did I want him selecting easy books just so he could fill up a prize sheet. The librarian actually said to me, “well, this is a competitive world and your son should just get used to it.” I smiled politely and left it at that. But in all honesty, I was glad I had the studies on my side that show that reward systems don’t benefit long-term learning goals.

Studies have shown that the reward system doesn’t work. The best learning comes from intrinsic motivation. In one study, a series of nearly identical faces were flashed across the screen. Seventy-two nine year old boys were asked to tell the two faces apart. Some of the boys were paid when they got the right answer; the others were simply told whether they were right or not. The surprising findings? Those that were paid made many more mistakes. That study was in 1961 and since then lots of similar studies have been made. Some third graders were told they would get a toy for working on some “games” (actually IQ tests). Those who expected toys didn’t do nearly as well as those who didn’t expect anything. Among artists, creativity (as judged by their peers) actually dropped after signing a contract to sell their work upon completion. (See Kohn’s and Jensen’s books for more details.)

I had a friend who got paid for all the As she received on her report card. I remember mentioning this to my Mom (I was probably about 13 at the time) and my Mom said, “Liesl, you shouldn’t get paid for learning — that has to come from your heart. You’ll be learning your whole life long.” And yes, I’m the nerdy one who packed 20 books for our 10 day vacation!!
So why do students who are rewarded (with stickers, prizes, good grades) do more poorly in the long run? The use of rewards actually increases anxiety over the task at hand. The ability to do higher-order thinking or create more complex relationships is hindered when the brain is stressed (for whatever reason).

Also, the reward system sets up an implied certainty — either success or failure. Since the learner wants to reduce the certainty of failure he/she will often choose tasks which they know they will be successful (rather than striving towards more challenging work). Often a learner will do exactly what is necessary to get the reward (the A on the test, the money), but nothing more. Thus, rewards actually discourage risk taking and creative thinking. People are less likely to challenge themselves.

In Kohn’s book he cites this experiment: College students were asked to work on an interesting spatial-relations puzzle. Half were promised money; the other half were not. They completed the task and were rewarded (or not). Then the experimenter told them that it would be a few minutes before the next phase of the study would begin. The subject was left alone in a room to wait where he or she could continue playing with the puzzle, daydream, read a magazine or whatever. That actually *was* the second phase and the subjects were secretly watched to see how they spent their time. Those who had been paid to work the puzzle now spent less time working on the puzzle than those who hadn’t.
The more you want the reward (whatever that may be – the gold star, the chocolate bar, the money, the little prize), the more you may come to *dislike* whatever you have to do to get it.

What can you do instead of offering rewards?

  • Provide a sense of control and choice.
  • Keep learning engaging and support a sense of curiosity and fascination in the subject at hand.
  • Allow for self-assessment
  • Share success stories about others who have surmounted obstacles to succeed.
  • Work together with children to create learning goals.
  • Have positive rituals.
  • Provide lots of opportunities for creativity.
  • Allow for student control and empowerment in their learning.
  • have good discussions – think and talk about the tasks at hand
  • Try not to give praise (even if it’s a positive judgement, it’s still a judgement) instead increase your support, encouragement and affirmation (“you’re on the right track” or “give it your best effort”).
  • Encourage the learner to take risks and tackle challenging tasks.
  • Model problem solving (balance the checkbook in front of the kids, mentally add up the groceries as you walk through the store, calculate (aloud) how much you save in that 20% off sale)
  • Be enthusiastic – the more excited you are about learning, the more motivated your kids will be.
  • Explain why you love or are passionate about your job/hobby… finding new recipes, keeping up with a sports team, reading the latest best-seller. Explain how learning never ends!
  • Model the love of learning (read and write in front of the kids and share your enthusiasm… “Hey, listen to this!” type moments)
  • Instill positive belief in what they’re doing.
  • Give learners more choices (Allow them to pick from a list of ten problems, issues or topics. Choose this or that topic.)
  • Provide time for kids to talk about what’s important to them.
  • Make sure you have an emotionally-safe environment where it’s okay to make mistakes, ask questions and offer contributions.

Remember as educators, parents, and important people in our children’s lives we strive not to control, coerce, manage, or manipulate we want our kids to feel a sense of value in their work, feel excited, curious and compelled to know more.

“Reward and punishment is the lowest form of education.” – Chuang Tzu

If you’d like to explore this topic more, the two books I highly recommend are Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, As, Praise and other Bribes by Alfie Kohn and Brain-Based Learning: the New Science of Teaching and Training by Eric Jensen.

More terrific quotes about education (like the Plato quote above).

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