Are there "valid" reasons to homeschool? Unschooler Karen M. Gibson explores whether homeschooling is an elitist option for education, as Michael Farris of HSLDA indicates, valid for those who choose to homeschool for a particular reason, but not valid for those who choose homeschooling due to the deterioration of their local public school system.

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The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write.
They are those that can not learn, unlearn, relearn.
~ Alvin Toffler

    Valid Reasons for Homeschooling
    Karen M. Gibson

    Are there Valid Reasons for Homeschooling?

    Early in June Donna Capley posted the following link and excerpt to the Heart List (a homeschooling email list):

      (URL no longer valid - 11/03/06)
      FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 1999
      Home schooling's latest appeal: safety
      Colorado shootings contribute to a surge of inquiries about teaching a home.

      Jillian Lloyd
      Special to The Christian Science Monitor

    While reading through this article, I was especially taken by a statement made by Michael Farris. I will quote the pertinent portions here:

    Despite the benefits to home-schooled children, some identify a significant downside to the trend.

    "If a large percentage of families begin to home-school, the result would be the loss of a terribly important piece of the community: the public school," says Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States, in Denver.

    "Schools are the community glue, and when people don't feel they have a stake in the community, then things deteriorate badly," Mr. Newman adds. "This society desperately needs more of a sense of community, not less."

    Philosophically, Farris doesn't disagree. "Some parents do regret this," he says. "But they believe that the price for their own children is too high." Still, he doesn't believe the ideal America is one in which children are educated at home - or in private schools. "I want public schools to improve to the point where parents can feel safe sending their kids there. I don't want people to have to choose home schooling out of fear. They should choose it on its own merits."

    I’m not going to comment on how I think communities might change if the public school system was to be lost. I haven’t thought that one through enough in my own mind. I’m pretty sure there would be all sorts of alternatives, with their associative pros and cons.

    What I’d like to deal with here is Michael Farris’ comments and how I perceived them. My first thoughts when I finished reading this was the Mr. Farris sees home education as an elitist option - only good for certain people, not for the general population. He also seems to be stating that you must have some good reasons for choosing to home educate your children, and that fear is not a good reason.

    I have heard this line of rationale before, from other home educators. There are those in the home schooling community who seem to think that, in order to really reap the benefits of home educating, you must have come to the decision to homeschool for great philosophical or religious reasons. You must be coming “to” homeschooling, not running “from” the public school. Some homeschoolers who have been home educating for many years seem to be very concerned about the future of homeschooling with this great influx of new home schoolers, most of whom are fleeing the public school system in search of a better education for their children. I have heard this concern voiced on email lists and in general conversations with long-time home educators.

    I agree that probably most families who have begun homeschooling in the past few years are doing so for very different reasons, and most are in a reaction to what is occurring in the public school system. Many of those families are looking for a safer school system and believe they are finding it at home. They aren’t looking for change in their children’s educational system, just more safety and perhaps a little more control over their own lives.

    Now, some people may view these reasons for home educating as a problem, but I don’t see it that way. Of course, we would most likely be lumped into that group! We've only been home educating for 3 years and we left the public school system for reasons of safety, boredom, and just generally feeling that we could do better job and provide more for our children than the public school system did. We didn't have big philosophical or religious reasons for home educating our children. We were running from the public school system and saw home schooling as the only option we could afford. We’d try it for a year – what did we possibly have to lose?

    You know what? Our reasons for home educating our children have changed. Even if given the most perfect public school there is, I'm extremely doubtful that we would enroll our children back into that system. Just by the very fact of removing ourselves from that system, our horizons have broadened. We are much different people than we were three years ago. We have learned to question more and accept “expert opinion” less. We have learned that our own “instinct” is quite often the best answer we can find. We have learned to seek our own knowledge and to view things very differently from mainstream society. Not only are we adults learning to “think outside the box”, but our children are learning that there is no box.

    I think that many of the "newbies" in home education will experience the same growth. They will seek out the "school-type" opportunities for their children less and less and listen to their inner voices more and more. They will develop their own philosophy about education. Their reasons for home educating won't be just safety issues anymore. Who knows? Perhaps they will be the ones grousing in ten years about the influx of all those new homeschoolers leaving the public school systems out of fear!

    Copyright June 1999

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