Flawed Pony Parenting Logic and Home-schooling

2012-05-02 19.50.16Ever since reading this story and that one about the kid with the My Little Pony backpack, my mind has been reeling.

To make a longer story short, here’s the news recap hailing from North Carolina.

This 10-year-old kid was being bullied at school because of his blue fuzzy My Little Pony backpack. His mom went to the school to complain. The school counselor mentioned that the easiest solution would be for the kid to get a new backpack. The principal later called the child’s mother and told her that the child was no longer allowed to bring the backpack to school. The mom flipped out. The mom now homeschools.

I have to say that last sentence, “The mom now homeschools,” does not surprise me in the least. It seems that nowadays the homeschooling road is the most popular for a lot of unsatisfied parents. I am not here to pass judgement on homeschooling parents. In fact, I might end up homeschooling one of mine next year if she doesn’t get her school transfer. I am here however to pass judgement on flawed logic and parents who can’t be honest with themselves.

First of all, let me make two things very clear. One – I am NOT o.k. with bullying. In this instance and in every instance the bully children should have been reprimanded and disciplined. (I don’t know if they were appropriately or at all from the news stories.) However, typically bully children come from bully homes, so there is only so much a school can do to change behavior.

Secondly, I believe children should be given space to be who they want to be. You want to wear a pink tutu and your 12 and a boy? Go for it. Are you a girl who wants to play football? More power to you.

Now, to the point I really want to make that seems to be widely ignored in modern bully stories. Parents, pull your heads out….Every day, you are sending your kids off to war…..and you are not equipping them with the skills that they need.

What skills? The skills of socialization, survival, problem-solving, and leadership to name a few.

Here is some flawed logic that I have seen people use to support their choice to homeschool.

Sweeping generalizations (bad stereotyping)
All the kids at that school are mean. They are all bad kids. I’m pretty sure this is never the case.

Hasty conclusions with inadequete support (more than one personal example for validity for your argument)
In homeschooling this can look like: Well, wow, this kid was homeschooled and went to Harvard, therefore my kid can also.

Non sequitor (It does not follow)
I graduated from high school therefore I can teach my kids til they graduate. Yes, you can, but this logic is really bad.

Casual fallacy (one event merely follows the first and isn’t necessarily because of cause/effect)
My child got in trouble at school today because his teacher was in a bad mood. Is that the real reason? Or is your child honestly having behavior problems that need to be addressed? Maybe your child is causing the teacher’s foul mood and not the other way around.

Ad hominem attack (an argument that is not balanced but based solely on personal opinion)
Common core is awful therefore my kids should not be schooled with it.

Circular reasoning (the evidence and conclusion restate each other)
Schools are failing because teachers are failing.

False dichotomy or false dilemma (Either/or arguments that oversimplify complex answers to two solutions)
I can either keep my kids in a public school I am not happy with or I can homeschool. These are not the only two solutions to a complex problem.

I know of many parents who have used very bad logic as their sole foundation for homeschooling. I also know many parents who are really harming their kids by homeschooling ineffectively.

So what does this have to do with the pony kid who was bullied? I believe at the root of both homeschooling and bullying lies a much bigger problem: parents who are not honest with themselves. Parents who are failing and laying the blame on someone else.

In the case of the boy with the pony backpack, I believe the parents failed to teach their child how to be confident in his pony-touting ways. I would never send my kid off to war without the weapons he would need to fight it, and you can be sure that I also would not let my child walk into a cafeteria of potential bullies without first discussing how to defend himself in his unconventional backpack/lunchbox choices.

Likewise, I would not just believe homeschooling to be the best thing for my kids if they were having trouble in public schools. As adults, we have troubles coming at us from every direction. We can’t just hide away at home to avoid our problems. We have to face them head on. The really scary part about a larger percentage of the population homeschooling is the fact that all of the home-schooled kids first learned behaviors at home that may be the biggest culprit in them not having success at school. The solution of pulling them out of school to address the problems that are only perpetuated at home is totally counterproductive. Unless, of course, we gain awareness collectively as a family and put change in motion.

Before you feel all judged, let me give you several examples from my life as a concerned mother.

First, we had a terrible experience with public schooling at an inner-city school in Knoxville, TN where we used to live. The principal was bad. Most of the teachers were heroic. The majority of the student population was grossly neglected. The school was neglected. The playgrounds were falling apart. The school didn’t participate in field trips. EVER. Abigail’s second grade teacher was in her first year and totally ill-equipped. Frustrations were high every day. Abigail would come home crying because the teacher made the whole class miss recess again even though she never personally had bad behavior. She no longer could drink chocolate milk at lunch because the principal pulled it off the shelf with the logic that it was causing misbehaved kids to misbehave even more. Violence was taking place in the second grade. One boy threw a desk at another and broke his nose.  Forget the fact that no learning was taking place. How could it with all the other distractions? Yes, I had every right to pull Abigail out and home-school her especially after addressing our concerns with the administration to not have anything change. We didn’t pull Abigail. She survived the second grade and the next year we humbly and gratefully accepted a “No Child Left Behind” school transfer. Abigail’s new school was a haven and we all loved it. When Abigail went on her first field trip in third grade she was in seventh heaven. Abigail is now fourteen. She often talks about her experiences at her first school. They shaped her into what she is: one resilient, tough, and adaptable kid.

Do I judge any parent who pulled their kid out? No. Not at all. In fact I would applaud their courage. However, I do think that if a parent makes a choice to home-school, they better look around and have a very honest assessment of what their child is going to learn at home. When one home-schools they have to recognize that their child is now being influenced almost solely by their family. Are you going to give them all the experience they need to thrive in the real world? Are you going to be perpetuating in them bad behaviors that you just don’t want to fix: sleeping til noon, having bad hygeine, learning as little as possible, not teaching discipline, etc. If you are going to home-school, I think you should ask yourself WHY your kids are (or would) struggling in public school in the first place….the source of their trouble is more than likely YOU, not the school. The kid at Abigail’s school that was throwing desks was more than likely frustrated with his bad teacher, but the reason he threw a desk while Abigail came home crying every day was the difference of what was taught in their home. It is hard to change. Possible, but hard. You better have a really fine-tuned game plan of how you are going to change yourself and teach your children at the same time.

My other experience in still playing out. Sophia is twelve and does not want to have to attend the school in the boundary of where we just moved. She has not a single friend at this new school. We are working with the school district to get her a school transfer next year back to the junior high where her friends will be attending based on the extreme anxiety she is having over the situation. The district asked for a letter from a health-care professional. We went to the doctor last week. I explained Sophia’s anxiety and her shyness and tendency to isolate. I then said, “If we can’t get this transfer, I will probably just home-school her for a year until we move back to our old school boundary.” The doctor didn’t shy away with her response, “If you are worried about her isolating, wouldn’t home-schooling be the worst possible scenario?” She was right! Anyone who knows me, knows that I in no way am modeling shy behavior for my daughter. She came that way. I, however, as her parent, have to make decisions that will help her overcome her weaknesses instead of feed into them.

Wow, this post got long quick. I think the very hardest part of parenting is being able to get outside ourselves and our flawed personal-protecting logic to honestly assess how our weaknesses are promoting the same in our children. And even harder than the honest assessment is changing. The change has to start with us as.  Yes, this can be done, whether or  not we send our kids to public school or if we home-school, if we are teaching our kids to be bullies or our children are being bullied, but by all means, let’s make sure we are doing the hard work. We owe that to our kids.




  1. Funny you should write this because I have been wondering what I was thinking when I pulled Samantha out of third grade last month. It was the right thing to do and prayer confirmed that- but it is a sacrifice and I must say a tremendous blessing. Her behavior at school was impeccable, but at home it was a different story. Her grades were lagging and I was feeling empowered to take control of the academic and home situation, so we decided together to homeschool with the premise she will return to public school in 4th grade after I have worked my magic and propelled her to new academic heights! Did I mention I don’t have any magic…of any kind? There is no way I can compensate for everything she would experience at school. But I wouldn’t give up anything for the way our relationship has improved and the improvements she has made in her behavior at home. As we keep improving all the emotional stuff, she will get the academic stuff and with a hope and prayer be ready for 4th grade!

    1. That’s great Becky. It sounds like you made a detailed game plan on where she needed extra boosting. I think that’s a great example of what I am trying to communicate in this post: be real on using homeschooling as a tool towards your childs progress instead of just pulling them out and let perpetuating the problem.

  2. I really thought this post was interesting, a great point of view from someone looking in on homeschooling.. You seem to be basing your experience on people you see that have decided to homeschool because their children have problems at school. I have chosen to home school my children, because of the quality of learning here in Morristown. I can teach them things in a week that it takes a month to learn in school. Most of the learning right now is testing, not practical learning. Also you are also suggesting that all homeschool parents want to isolate their children. That is not the case for a lot of home schoolers. Hudson and Emma both go to a homeschooling coop and are taught by teachers. I understand this post because for the longest time I didn’t tell people I home schooled, because I have run into those families that are doing more harm then good by homeschooling. When you choose to home school it’s not a vacation, its a full time job, and one that is taken very seriously. I feel like in your post that you feel it’s wrong for anyone to homeschool, but it is a personal choice and what is best for the child. I enjoy doing it because I see how it helps my children not be influenced by peer pressure,and not afraid to be themselves. They are individualist with strong self esteem. Another reason I didn’t tell people I home school is because as soon as I would,some mom’s that take that personally and feel like you are throwing it in their face that you do home school.These mom’s feel insecure just because I have made a choice about my own family. I have actually lost friends because of my choice to home school. There are so many homeschoolers these days there are so many options and that is another reason I do it. My kids can start duo enrollment earlier and are limited when they can take classes or do other thing. I hope you aren’t taking this as me being angry I just want to enlighten you to the homeschool side.

    1. Dawn, of coursei am more pro public school because that is what I do, just as you are more homeschooling because that’s what you do, but I am not anti-homeschool at all. I thought I made that clear in this post. (I think homeschoolers are just taking it more personally) I think homeschooling is awesome when it’s done right. Honestly, as many of my homeschooling friends have shared their opinions because of this post, I realize that I actually know a lot more great homeschoolers than I do lowsy ones. But, boy oh boy, those lowsy ones ate really making the rest of you look bad. 🙂

      I need to do a follow-up post to maybe communicate my point better – my point is mainly that if people are choosing to homeschool it better not be as a way to retreat from problems in kids’ behaviors, educational shortcomings, etc. but as a well planned out strategy of dealing with it. For instance, if I pull sophia out because she has trouble making new friends without a plan of giving her even more opportunities as a homeschooler then I have just sabatoged her progress socially.

    2. I know I totally agree with this post, I know a lot of home schoolers that are making a huge mess out of their kids lives, and they are the type that believe ALL people should home school.Once again this is why I didn’t share that I was a homeschooler for sometime. I believe in both ways, that is why Ethan is in school. I don’t have the opportunity to give him advanced choir at home and that is really important to him. So he is in school and will be a senior next year. It all depends on the child and the parent. Homeschooling is not a answer to a problem in most cases it just a bandages the problem and other things arise. My two I homeschool now have no behavioral issues, it’s just a choice. I respect each parents choice for their children and I don’t judge those choices. Isn’t that what is so wonderful about life everyone has different ways of looking at things and I really enjoy seeing the other side, through another point of view. As my mom used to say we are all different and have different opinions and if we didn’t’ we would all be running around in red dresses, and think how boring life would be.

  3. I think you’ve made a very bad, sweeping generalization about why one would home school, and just who it is that home schools. That’s typical. The reasons you’ve written about for homeschooling are none of the reasons why anyone I know home schools. I don’t believe I’ve ever known a child who was a bully (and I agree that they probably either learned this at home or have neglectful parents who don’t care), who was pulled out and home schooled because of their bad behavior. That’s pretty illogical. Also, didn’t you state that a kid should feel good about, and parents encourage them to be who they want to be? And yet your shy daughter is being sent to a school in hopes or her getting over her “weakness”? I also just want to publicly state that I am SO HAPPY that “that [my] child is now being influenced almost solely by their family”. That’s the very best place to be influenced, by the very best people who have their greatest interest at heart and love them more than anyone else. I try not to make an issue of home schooling or public schooling, but this kind of thing makes me upset. Why can’t people who want to home school, home school and people who don’t, don’t. We’d just like to wear our backpacks and happily raise our children without judgement from “concerned parents” like yourself.

  4. Wow. You must have absolutely no experience with real homeschoolers because I don’t know that I’ve known any, among the hundreds I know, with the type of reasoning you list… and isolated would be the LAST word I would use to describe these kids who spend a huge chunk of their time visiting, learning from, and being exposed to people of every age and class – nursing homes, homeless shelters, volunteer events and trips, other homeschool groups with varied activities, sports programs at the Y, internships, early college classes, daily or weekly trips to all of the real places in their communities where they learn to speak up for themselves, learn to ask questions and dig for answers to real problems… Yeah… “isolated” doesn’t fit.

    Also, the vast majority of homeschoolers I know wouldn’t think of letting their kids sleep half of the day away and ignore the real responsibilities of life. They have schedules, morning routines, family work time, expectations… and most of their children are much more responsible and self-disciplined than traditionallly-schooled children.

    There is a huge sub-culture of homeschooling parents who homeschool because they have no desire to sit back while the public school system teaches their kids that “real life” must mean worksheets, falling in with the crowd like soldiers, sitting still for 6 hours each day, and having to follow someone else’s idea of education instead of following their own passions. I’d like my children to have a fire in their bones about learning – not view it as something someone else expects of you, therefore you do it to please them.

    This article was so off. What a disappointment.

  5. “I think public school parents are awesome when it’s done right!” ..says no homeschooling parent ever because we understand it’s such a personal decision and we sympathize with other mothers in this monumental task of educating our beloved children in this crazy world. All the best to you and yours, Rachel

  6. Quoted from some brilliant HS mom. “I had someone comment once that our kids need to be in the PS because they need to be good examples “out there”. My response is that even the Savior didn’t start his mission “out there” until he was 30 years old; AFTER he’d learned all that His Father had to teach him.”

    Do you know how silly this article comes across? Public school is a relatively new thing in the world history timeline. People have been homeschooling for centuries. Listen to your daughter and keep her home, you might learn a thing or two about homeschooling.
    Here’s a good article for you

    I do sympathize only because my logic was every bit as flawed as yours a year and a half ago. You should read a few other books like
    Teach Your Own
    Dumbing us Down
    A call to Brilliance

    I know others have commented but their comments don’t show up. Are you being selective?

  7. Last thing, why are you sending your kids off to war? Shouldn’t they be getting an education in a safe environment. Think about that…test it against your logic.

  8. Please also test you comment “When one home-schools they have to recognize that their child is now being influenced almost solely by their family” against Church Conference talks. I thought that WAS my job.
    And your comment “But, boy oh boy, those lousy ones are really making the rest of you look bad. :)” doesn’t follow you logic. Otherwise the reverse is also true…some awesome PS kids, but the lousy ones (the high failing drop outs) make the rest look bad.

  9. I have read this post several times and I see some valid points being made. However, I also see some stereotypes being made about why & how people homeschool. I find that most public school kids can not handle social situations. A recent article written my two Harvard professors confirmed that kids coming out of our public schools are not ready. They found most kids coming out of public schools are not critical thinkers, are unable to work in groups and are socially immature. We homeschool for many reasons and preparing our children for life is one of them. My husband works for a fortune 100 company and has been bringing our 12 year old son on business trips for the past two years. Our son is able to not only comprehend the details of the meetings, he can also speak intelligently to men & women of all ages. This is what we see as the benefit of homeschooling; actually giving our children the tools to succeed in REAL life situations. ( I would not categorize public school as real life and if you do you may want to take a long hard look at yourself) Prestigious colleges and universities across the country are asking parents to consider a gap year, WHY? Because these kids are not ready for what they will face in college. So, I ask you how are children in public schools getting prepared for college & life? There are many very credible people who would disagree with you. You might want to pick up that mirror.

    I think it is our responsibility to get our children ready for life no matter where we choose to educate our children…

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