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Check Your Assumptions At the Home-School Door

(By Julie Zhu)

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

Did you purposefully misrepresent Daneen Smedile's letter of Jan. 15? Her letter addressed how she got over the guilt of sending her son to school instead of educating him at home. Your choice of headline tarnished her words by being inflammatory: "Parent Says Some Things Can't Be Taught at Home."

You must know that you are dangling a red flag in front of bullheaded home-schoolers like myself. The headline suggests that we read Smedile's letter as a critique of parents who educate their children at home. With the filter you applied, I am blinded to her personal story and see only the topics that push all home-schoolers' buttons: socialization of our children, and how home educators can be trusted to teach our kids what they need to know.

Please drop your use of cliches about home-schooling families. Schools don't have a monopoly on teaching kids how to behave in a group, what the words in the Pledge of Allegiance mean, or even how to write neatly. When people wonder whether my daughter has friends or participates in group activities, this is code for asking whether she has a "normal" childhood. When they ask about how I know my daughter is learning, they are discrediting my judgment and abilities.

I promise not to write to you about classroom bullies, jaded and ill-prepared teachers, or the perceived necessity to "teach to the test." I will leave those topics to those of your readers with firsthand experience. If you want to know what my daughter is learning at home, just ask. I can provide you with a list that is remarkably similar to Smedile's.

Louisa Tran


You are right to note that the headline would have been truer to the spirit of the letter if we had added two words at the end: "By Her." She spoke only of her personal inadequacies and said she had nothing against what you are doing with your child. I like the idea of a list showing what you are teaching in your home, compared to what Smedile says would be beyond her. Please send right away.

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