Dr. Phil Doesn’t Get Homeschooling

I never watch daytime television. I’m just too busy. . .home schooling. So I have to admit that I never watch the Dr. Phil show. But I attempted to tune in yesterday to watch the “Great School Debate” in which Dr. Phil, homeschooling families, and the audience debated the merits of unschooling, homeschooling, and public schooling. Yet again, he concluded with the idea that it’s fine to homeschool until 8th grade. . .but then you better put your kids in school because once kids start puberty–they need to socialize. In fact one father pointed to the importance of “. . . .having your first crush on a teacher. . .” among other things, as a rite of passage towards proper socialization. (And they said the uncovers’ thinking was backwards).

Radical Guests

I am partially disappointed in the show because the guests that they had were so radical in their views it made it difficult to sympathize with the homeschooling cause. For example, at one point the self described radical unschooling mother was talking about allowing her children lollipops at any time. They also only go to bed when they’re tired–no schedules. They let their children set their own boundaries, not only with regards to school, but with regards to other areas of life as well. I imagine that these children only do the chores that they feel like doing. Then they had a woman on who doesn’t want to send their kids to school for fear that they may be shot. And yet a final guest who was homeschooled, and hated it.

My issue isn’t that I disagree with these people (although I can tell you my kids definitely are not free to munch on lollipops at will) it’s that they are not representative of the homeschooling spectrum. I know some people who are unschoolers who still have bed times and don’t let their kids eat anything they want. I also know some people for whom safety was among many concerns (rather than just the only one) regarding their children’s public education. I even know a couple kids who hated being homeschooled. . .but I know dozens who loved it and who are successful adults.

Same Old Arguments

But my true disappointment in Dr. Phil today is that they are using the same old arguments against homeschooling: socialization and teacher qualifications. Apparently there is mysterious research that “they” did that says that kids who are homeschooled past 8th grade are not socialized well. Apparently, that first crush on your teacher was a pretty significant rite of passage because if you homeschool your children past 8th grade they might miss it and not be able to function well in society. How do we know? The mysterious research. . .lots of it. . .done by ‘them’.

Dr. Phil further asserts that he believes teaching is a science. Not everyone should assume that they could impart knowledge to kids. I could go on and on about how kids learn because they are sponges (and not because of their gifted teachers) and research says as much. But I just have one question. If teaching were a science why do you have good teachers and bad teachers? If something is a science, there is a formula to follow. . .something proven that will yield results every time. That is in fact the purpose of the scientific method. So why can’t all these certified teachers just follow the formula to produce well-educated children? After all, not all children are well educated and not all teachers are good ones. The answer, in scientific terms is that there are too many variables. In other words, teaching is much more of an art than public school advocates would have you believe.

My Response

Dr. Phil, both in this show and the last one he did regarding homeschooling, refers at least a couple of times to the aforementioned “research” that shows kids are poorly socialized if homeschooled throughout high school.

Show me the research. Show me the names and dates and the University where it was conducted. Show me how it compares with current home schooling research (of which there is a lot) that shows that home schooled kids are not only better socialized but are also better academically prepared and getting into Ivy league schools. Show me how many times it’s been reproduced to verify its validity. I haven’t seen it.

Secondly, try talking to regular folks or at least a variety rather than a small sample that just make up a very specific section of the homeschooling population. Interview people who homeschool simply because they feel that it was the best opportunity for their own children, or because they feel it’s their job to do so. If you want to talk about a kid who hated being homeschooled, show another who loved it and was grateful for the opportunities presented. (Or better yet, talk about the relationship that child had with her parents–a subject that was never even approached.)

I would not be surprised if Dr. Phil caught some slack for his comments. If there is more information to be had. . .you can surely find it here.

Related Articles:

Dr. Phil to Explore Homeschooling

Coloring Outside the Lines

Uneducated Unschoolers on the Loose