A Fundamental Misconception about Homeschooling?
Last week we took a vacation to visit my family. My sister-in-law is a 4th grade teacher and does not approve of homeschooling, to put it mildly. She begrudgingly acknowledges that we have a "special situation" and that homeschooling has helped Travis tremendously but that is unusual and not something to be encouraged for "the public." Needless to say, we don't discuss the issue much in the interest of family harmony.
While on our vacation we stayed at a hotel. At the swimming pool, we struck up a conversation with another couple. She was a high school teacher from Kansas so the conversation naturally drifted to homeschooling (well, okay, my husband kinda sorta pushed the issue! LOL!) She was very polite and articulate in her discussion (for which I am very greatful) and she was not nearly as militant in her opinions as my sister-in-law tends to be, but she made a comment that made me wonder if the root problem is a misconception of what homeschooling is.
This teacher commented how she has heard of many 'homeschool co-ops' springing up where homeschool kids gather together in one place and a parent or hired teacher holds a class on a particular subject. She said triumphantly "That's school!"
I got to thinking later that I should have recognized the fundamental misconception this statement represents. It seems to me she must think that homeschoolers reject the concept of group schooling entirely. She must still think of homeschoolers as people who reject society at large and wish to isolate themselves and control every waking second of their children's lives. At some root level, she must also feel personally rejected as a member of 'society at large.' It is the curse of the stereotype of homeschoolers as religious control freak whackos. (sigh)
For the record, homeschoolers come in all shapes and sizes. There are some who do reject group schooling of any kind. Many more do not. For many, group schooling has it's place and usefulness within the context of a full and thorough education supervised closely by the parent. It is this close superversion aspect that is fundamental to every form of homeschooling. For some, this takes the form of 100% one-on-one instruction from the parent and only the parent. For some, this takes the form of the parent reviewing the curriculum and hiring somebody else to teach the curriculum the parent chooses. For some, this takes the form of personally supervising their child using state-sponsored curriculum. The bottom line is there is a full breadth of manifestations of this fundamental concept called parental involvement in the education of their children.
This parental involvement is the key - not the supposed rejection of society at large. If a parent closely monitors their teen's free time with requirements to ask permission to go somewhere, to check in at reasonable intervals, to conform to a curfew - is that parent rejecting society or are they being an involved parent? When a parent refuses to buy junk food for their kids, cooks healthy meals and avoids fast food restaurants - are they rejecting society at large or being an involved parent? Why isn't education the same?
By and large, society nods approvingly at the involved parent when it comes to feeding, disciplining, character building, activities, etc., etc. So why is the social pressure against parental involvement in education? Where is this instinctive prejudice against parents coming from? Why do people get so defensive and react like they have been personally attacked by homeschoolers? People really need to examine the roots of their opinions and ask themselves why they think certain things.