I wrote the following as part of my recent post on homeschooling, then decided to take it out because it was going off track regarding my main point, which was just talking about how nice it was to speak to minded homeschooling parents, and to express my appreciative feeling that homeschoolers are incredibly nice people. Instead I put it to the side as a material for a future post, but will share it now before responding to some questions on my last post because I think it’s relevant for readers to realize this was written as part of the original post and before any questions. (It was an oversight on my part that I removed the following without significantly editing the only paragraph remaining, which would have made my intent more clear.)
(My statements) >>A homeschooling friend in a recent email said that we can’t make it harder for people to homeschool by talking about ideals, but I disagree. Is there really a value in promoting home education without talking about the values behind the choice? I guess some people would say that values don’t matter much, that the only difference is the location where the schooling takes place, but I really can’t get on board with that way of thinking. My way and your way to home educate won’t – and shouldn’t – look alike. I don’t think there’s one right way to do things, just the way that is right for your family.
But I don’t believe that making things easy for people is necessarily being kind to them – parents today tend to be disempowered and fearful of their abilities to meet the needs of their child/ren. That gives rise to the constant comparisons of their children to their schooled peers, focus on if the kids are ‘up to par, and their focus on curriculum as if it’s the curriculum that will give them guaranteed results.
Sure, it’s easy to provide curriculum and lists and classes for these homeschoolers – that’s what they’re asking for because that’s what they think they need, and they’ll be very grateful for it. But isn’t it just as valuable – more valuable, actually – to take the time to help them think about what their educational philosophy is? Or to help them develop it? To talk about a deeper and more meaningful way to approach learning and living than recreating school in your dining room?<<
Okay, end of those thoughts, which I had planned to flesh out in more detail before sharing here as its own post. Read the past post with these comments added in between the second and third paragraphs if you’re inclined to see how it was originally written. Now on to some comments from the post.
(Binah said)>> I don’t know if I would call homeschooling a “parallel academic choice”, but I not sure I see much value in promoting homeschooling or a particular way of homeschooling dogmatically. Hate to be so relativistic, but I can only do what works for me, and others should do what works for them. If that involves sending their children to school, signing up for a cyber academy charter school, or using school-in-a-box type curriculum, I don’t see the need to bemoan that state of affairs.<<
Agreed. I believe that home education is at the core about individualizing the process to meet your needs. But I want to address what I think is a common response to those expressing their belief that there is a better or worse way to do something, the assumption that they’re judgmental (as seen in the choice of words ‘dogmatically’ and ‘bemoan).
I’ve often noticed that those who have standards that are different than the collective norm are accused of being judgmental, regardless of how cautiously and respectfully they express themselves. To be accurate, only if the standards are perceived as being higher is it viewed as a problem, because we don’t refer to those who push their values on us who lower the standard as judgmental. Somehow, that’s okay.
There are a number of precepts and principles that I believe to be worthy of emulation and try to integrate them into my life, as a spouse, parent, friend, and individual. Even though I’m frequently not successful in integrating them to the degree I would like, I still find inspiration in having ideals and something more to strive for. If those from whom I learned about these ideas hadn’t written or discussed them, I would unquestionably have set the bar in my life much lower and experienced significantly less happiness as a result.
To refrain from sharing one’s ideas and to remove ideals from discussion is to remove any striving, to prevent people from knowing about other options that they may want to explore. So many parents begin homeschooling knowing very little about it, basically superimposing a school structure on their home lives. Wouldn’t it be a kindness to share the exciting possibilities and options with them, to let them know that there might be other ways that would bring more joy and delight into their lives, rather than just smile and nod, and let them think that there’s nothing better out there than what they’re doing – because we don’t want to be seen as judgmental??
We easily forget that often people are making choices without knowing that there are options to what they’ve chosen. This is true of homeschooling, and of many other areas as well. An approach to marriage, work, parenting, money management – all of these are often determined by our past experience. And when our experience is unhealthy or simply limited, we don’t grow beyond that without getting a glimpse that there’s something more, something that could make our life better.
(Binah said)>>Are you concerned with potential future affects on all homeschoolers’ freedoms as cyber schooling and other one-size-fits-all approaches become more popular? I think that is a very valid concern.<<
Yes, I am. Attendees of some cyber schools don’t realize their programs aren’t homeschooling; they are registered as public school school students learning at home. This is a legal definition, not my personal opinion. (This isn’t true of all cyber schools, however.) Those who are enrolled in cyber schools tend to be comfortable with the school system and its demands, and their values and goals often conflict with many homeschoolers. (The reasons for that are material for a long discussion.) Further complicating matters is that many of these cyberschoolers will refer to themselves as homeschoolers, which is inaccurate and misleading, and they don’t even realize that they’re misrepresenting themselves. Home educators have worked hard to establish the legal rights we now have, which could easily be jeopardized by cyberschoolers. Much has been written about this concern in home education magazines (for those who are interested in learning more, the columns of Larry and Susan Kaseman in Home Education Magazine are worth reading – I believe you can find past columns online).
(Malkie said)>>As for this new trend of people taking the “homeschool” label when their kids just need a year off from school. Obviously I mind people using the term “homeschool” to mean “neglect” (or recently in the news here, abuse). But something else that really troubles me is that those kids then go back into the school world with the label “homeschooler” on them, and are NOTHING like homeschoolers. Half the time they haven’t even detoxed! Especially here in Israel, where there aren’t that many of us, and the first one you meet, or believe you meet, makes a lasting impression. They make things harder for those of us who do put in the effort for our kids, and I resent it.<<
This is unfortunately something I’m all too familiar with, and this was reflected in my comments in the last post. People tend to think if you’re in an area with a number of other homeschoolers, that’s a clear advantage. But there are disadvantages, too. When homeschooling becomes more common, some people use this as an excuse for not educating their children. In my community, the religious schools (which previously would have thought long and hard before telling a student to leave) now tell problem students and their parents to ‘homeschool’. But many of these kids and parents have no inclination to homeschool, don’t want to homeschool, and have no plans to change the dynamic they’ve enacted until this point. This leads to a problem of truancy. And that leads to a problem that these kids, who call themselves ‘homeschoolers’ but are actually nothing of the sort, negatively impact the positive image that homeschoolers have worked hard to earn.
Fortunately one local program that previously catered to ‘homeschooled’ kids has now decided to officially call itself a school, a move I’m personally very happy with. Now the kids who go there won’t be considered homeschoolers by the community, which the majority of them never were to start with (the parents and the kids would agree with that).
A person doesn’t become a homeschooler soley by being out of school for a year (this was in part what was referred by the comment in my last post that there are differences between those who are homeschooling and homeschoolers). I don’t appreciate hearing people claim that homeschooling doesn’t work because they tried it for a short period and were miserable, particularly when it’s clear that important steps weren’t taken or there were outside contributing factors that badly influenced the experience which were independent of/not caused by homeschooling.
That’s not because I demand that everyone love homeschooling – I’ve said again and again that it’s not for everyone (though I do believe that when we individualize our approach for each child, then it can work for each child). But when someone goes back into the system as if they’re a representative of homeschooling, but they aren’t, then again, homeschoolers as a group/homeschooling as a concept end up unfairly tarnished.
(Binah said)>>Anytime something becomes popularized and mainstream, the newer proponents of that thing, whether that thing is homeschooling or punk rock, may not share the same values and experiences as the older ones. I am not sure this is a process that can be avoided. Is there any value in getting concerned about this normal process? I don’t know. It reminds me a little of my angst as a teenager over some obscure band that became popular, leading me to claim that they had “sold out”.<<
That’s a good point. But yes, I believe there’s a purpose to holding on to a clear view of what your principles are, regardless of what those around you do or don’t do. And I think the dumbing down of our society both morally and intellectually has in part been aided by those who don’t want to judge and don’t want to set any standards because it will make people uncomfortable.