Does it seem to anyone else that everyone and their cousin is homeschooling? Back in my high school days I knew one girl who, with the rest of her siblings, was homeschooled. Then in the ninth grade she joined my class. The social aspect was a killer for her for a long while, likely owing to her Baptist fundamentalist upbringing and the lack of regular interaction with her peers. But she had her head screwed on tight and by senior year she had pretty well adjusted. But she had been something of an anomaly.
In the last few years the number of homeschooled children seems to have exploded. I’m not sure to what exactly I’d attribute this. Dissatisfaction with public education? Yeah. Who isn’t? Inability to afford private/parochial education? Ok.
(I realize I may have just insulted a slew of public school teachers and products of the public system who believe that they have provided/have received a good education in the public system. To this I argue that John Dewey, and not necessarily the individual teacher, has actually hindered the education and development of American students according to his broadly accepted philosophy of education. Classical education, on the other hand, actually teaches students how to think. Under the current system, no tax dollars or new teacher initiatives are going to fix the problem. This is a different post altogether.)
My contention, however, is that homeschooling, while beneficial in some situations, is not for everyone. More to the point, not everyone who is homeschooling should be doing so. The task is greater than it sounds, and many of these are not up to the task. I’m currently aware of about eight families who currently profess to be homeschooling. Of these, four of them (accounting for 10 children) seem more to be using it as a convenience–“we can do so much more together as a family”–while their children fall behind their peers, both socially and educationally; one of these families egregiously so: “Sarah” is going on 11 and she can’t read.
One of the problems is that the qualifications for a parent or guardian to homeschool can be extremely loose. These vary from State to State, but even as loose as they are, they mean even less in the absence of enforcement. Observe:
In the State of Illinois, for example:
- Specific Home School Statutes: None
- Alternative Statutes Allowing for Home Schools: None
- If contacted by state school officials, home schoolers must respond. They could submit a “statement of assurance” form to the local school district for the purposes of verifying that their childrens’ private education is providing instruction as required by Section 26-1 of the Illinois State Statutes.
- The statement of assurance process, however, is voluntary and not required by law. Parents who decide to submit a statement of assurance should be aware of the fact that this form often has illegitimate points. Therefore, parents should modify this form by omitting or removing non-required sections.
- A typed and signed letter stating that the children are taught the appropriate branches of education and in the English language, is probably better. Send it Certified mail, keep a copy and the receipt in your child’s school file.
- The statement of assurance form has often been exchanged for the non-public school registration form. On this form there is now the option to check if you are homeschooling. This is still voluntary.
- State Accreditation or State Recognition of Private Schools: Not required by statute.
- Private (Home) School Visitations: Not required by statute.
The State of Washington, as another example, seems to have tighter policies, but check out who may homeschool there. A homeschooling parent must only meet one of the following criteria:
- Have earned 45 quarter units of college level credit.
- Attend a Parent Qualifying Course. This is highly recommended even if you are already qualified to homeschool.
- Work with a certified teacher who meets with your student on the average of an hour a week.
- Be deemed sufficiently qualified to provide home-based instruction by the superintendent of your local school district.
It’s simply too easy to qualify and slip through the cracks. I’ve seen it in my own State. Homeschooling may indeed be beneficial and appropriate in some situations, but it is not the silver bullet answer to the socio-educational conundrum that faces many parents today. Not everyone has the appropriate skills and resources. There are certainly other issues from case to case.
This is not a blanket condemnation of homeschooling. Indeed, it’s something that my wife (a licensed K-12 educator) and I have considered for our children. And yet I wonder if we are up to such a task. If it is to be undertaken, in any situation, it had ought to be under sound advice, realistic assessment of needs and abilities, and with excellence as a goal.