What doctors need to know about homeschooling
In November 2006, Contemporary Pediatrics published an article dealing with the medical care of the homeschooled child. I did not realize that the American Academy of Pediatrics actually had a stance on homeschooling, so I guess I should be happy that my pediatrician so openly supports this educational alternative.
The AAP states that "all school-aged children are entitled to obtain their education in a school setting..." based on both legal mandates and the "social and developmental advantages the school setting provides all children, including those with special needs."
Their are no legal mandates requiring a child to be educated in a school setting, so I'm not sure where that is coming from. But then we have the all important issue of socialization. If anyone cares to know why I spend so much time talking about the education system in Germany, including what is turning into the longest entry anyone has ever bothered to read, it is because "socialization" is the central reasoning behind Germany's stance on education. There is infinitely more to this topic than merely "social skills." It is about the ability to think and act in and as a group and the development a shared world view.

Summarizing research from the 2003 report from the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003," the article begins by describing the motivations behind the growing homeschooling movement. It deals with common objections to homeschooling, but compares it to the growing acceptance of the use of alternative medicine, encouraging practitioners to,
Similarly, until more is learned about homeschooling, it is best to remain open-minded and nonjudgmental toward parents who homeschool their children. These parents are acting in what they believe is their child's best interest.
Overall, I think the article is well-written and provides a lot of information for pediatricians who may not know anything about homeschooling and may base their reservations on their own stereotypes and perhaps in dealing with a limited number of homeschooling families. Public schools have taken over some of the responsibility of some aspects of a child's health care (vision and hearing screenings, etc.), and while I don't think that is in the realm of public education, it is important for the pediatrician to take these factors into consideration and offer resources to parents.

But then the article also gets into the well-worn topic of socialization. What about socialization? it asks. I have no real problem with the information provided in that section. There is a lot more research than is presented, but the article suggests that the information available supports homeschoolers, even in this issue, and provides information to assist homeschoolers looking for additional support.

I'm not sure how helpful the information would be to those exploring homeschooling, but I do believe that the more support a family receives in this decision, the better it is for all involved. And if my pediatrician were to give me a packet of information on local support groups, extra-curricular activities, research summaries and school-related services for homeschooling families, I would smile and say thank you, even though I already have all the information I need at the moment.

The objections I have read so far focus mainly on the conclusion of the article.

Vigilant health care needed

More than 1 million children in the US are homeschooled, a number that increases every year. Relatively little is known about the benefits and drawbacks of homeschooling, and well-designed research in this area is needed.

Because homeschooled children do not have access to the extra health and learning screening provided by schools and teachers, you must be vigilant in following your patients' health care and monitoring their socialization. You can also direct parents of children with special needs to resources in the community that might otherwise be provided by schools. Most important, maintain a nonjudgmental attitude toward parents who choose homeschooling, so that you can keep the lines of communication open and foster trust.

I agree with the "most important..." statement. In fact, I would personally give similar advice to homeschooling families. Be aware of the fact that a lot of people out there disagree with homeschooling for a variety of reasons. A confrontational attitude only strengthens that stereotype. Keep the lines of communication open and help develop the trust so critical in ensuring good health care. The people I know who have modified their opinions of homeschooling have done so because of the positive model they have seen in homeschooling families, not because they were convinced by any argument or research. Maybe that is why my children's pediatrician is so supportive. A lot of his patients are homeschooled.

I don't object to pediatricians taking into account some of the screenings normally provided in school. And I would assume that any self-respecting doctor would note evidence of abuse in any patient (a subject that did not even come up in this article). But, just out of curiosity, how does a pediatrician monitor socialization? And what is he to do if the child appears "unsocialized," whatever that means? And is he advised to take the same measures for the public schooled child exhibiting the same behaviors?

Illustrations from Contemporary Pediatrics

Hat tip: Welcome to Granny's House

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