I’ve been hearing more concerns lately about how unfriendly the cultural climate is becoming toward homeschooling. Today’s homeschoolers are often motivated to join HSLDA, NCLL, or NHELD because they are afraid, intimidated, uncertain about their homeschooling future. I’m sure the kerfuffle about Common Core Standards is partly to blame. There is definitely too much of Big Brother in the average American living room, and an alarming erosion of parental rights, so families are wondering how far into our homes government intends to invade so they can control our private lives, and how we can fight against it.
Points to ponder:
- Is fear, however well-founded, a good enough reason to spend $50-$120 a year on ‘homeschool insurance’? (I can buy a lot of books with $100!)
- Could plunking down a membership fee actually make homeschoolers lazy and careless about hard won educational freedoms?
- Do parents need a lawyer to write a letter for them every time a school official or neighbor asks them a question?
- Is someone in your life literally challenging your right to homeschool?
- Are there more meaningful ways to deal with our anxiety and protect our homeschool freedoms?
For homeschoolers who started 20 or 30 years ago, some of this sounds like moaning and groaning because your air conditioner is on the fritz. There were many legal battles and even time spent in jail to win their Constitutional right to educate their children in freedom. Their demons were not imagined boogeymen who might one day attack with a poorly worded blog post - they were real, they were power-hungry, and they wanted to eat homeschoolers for breakfast.
When I started homeschooling in 1994, the biggest battles were over, and homeschooling had been legalized in all 50 states, but it was still stereotyped as the choice of crazy religious people or bean sprouting hippies. I joined HSLDA because they were engaged in fighting for the preservation of homeschool rights, and helping homeschoolers hold their local school districts accountable and make sure they were following state law. Those were things I could support for $100/year.
It wasn’t uncommon in those days for school officials to give false information to homeschoolers, or pretend they had the power to approve or deny a family's homeschool notification. It wasn't unusual to be confronted in public places and asked why my kids weren’t in school. When I responded that we were homeschooling, the reaction was usually criticism and doubts about the veracity of home education, and at times the reactions were downright hateful. When challenged in this way, I would usually just tell the person that when they had researched home education as extensively as I had, we’d have something to talk about.
In one situation I was followed from the checkout line at the grocery store all the way to my car by a woman uttering loud curses and prophesying of the doom my children were fated to experience because we homeschooled. At the time time I was too busy protecting my children and trying to be a good example of how to handle a mentally unbalanced wackjob to do much in the way of a thoughtful response.
I would now like to take a moment to say to all those people who thought it was OK to be scarily hostile to total strangers and use foul language in front of small children, “You are obviously an unsocialized moron. Your alma mater won’t be thanking you for representing them in this fashion. Go away.”
Fortunately, this doesn’t happen anymore. The last time I heard a disparaging comment from someone about homeschooling, it was probably 5-6 years ago at a local grocery store. A bagboy asked if school was out, and one of my kids said, “We are homeschoolers, and we’ve already done school for the day.” The bagboy said in a not-very-nice tone of voice, “So for school did you watch cartoons in your pajamas?” My reply was, shall we say, less than charitable. My excuse was that 1) it had been so long since someone had said anything critical of homeschooling that I was surprised by his snark 2) I don’t think an able-bodied man in his thirties who still lives with mom and is employed bagging groceries should be making snide assumptions about other people’s life choices unless he wants to be questioned about his own.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
It’s true that even though homeschooling is becoming more popular and accepted, we still hear the same tired stereotypes, and deal with the same discredited objections. Government seems to want more and more to be the Nation’s Nanny and intrude into our private lives. It’s not surprising that parents want support and protection in case a school official oversteps their bounds, or a disapproving neighbor calls Child Protective Services.
Can we put all this craziness into perspective?
I think we can be glad that educational choice is the buzzword of the day. Unsuccessful methods of teaching are being questioned and in some cases completely rejected in favor of better methods. Due to our society’s worship of celebrity, actors and athletes who homeschool in order to pursue their careers or protect their children have made homeschooling a more acceptable option. It’s no secret that our public education system has some major problems, and we now know that teachers unions, standardized testing, and national standards do not supply viable solutions, and even cause more problems than they solve.
School choice opponents are no longer able to exert the same kind of negative pressure on homeschoolers, because the alternative is no longer one society takes for granted. They need to hold themselves to the same standards they want to impose on homeschoolers. While spinning on their heads about a couple of homeschooled kids falling through the cracks or being abused, they neglect the thousands of kids who graduate each year without basic reading and math skills, or who have experienced violence in their school and been molested by a teacher or coach.
If you are concerned about preserving the right to homeschool, you can join the HSLDA, NCLL, or NHELD, or support an organization like Christian Home Educators of Ohio (of which I am a paid member) who act as legislative watchdogs on the state level - but here's a list of essential and effective ways to spend your time and money in support of homeschool freedoms instead of simply relying on a homeschool organization:
- Continue to consistently provide a superior education for your children. This is the best testimony of homeschool success.
- Know your Constitutional rights and comply with the homeschool regulations in your state.
- Show up on Election Day and vote for those who are serious about educational opportunities for kids and safeguarding parental rights.
- Create healthy and appropriate relationship boundaries with your family and friends, both as an example to your children, and to keep the naysayers from stealing your confidence and joy.
- Maintain high standards of courtesy, honesty, courage, and compassion for yourself and your children. This equips you and your children with tools to answer critics.
- Encourage your child’s creativity and curiosity, and expect them to work hard toward their academic goals.
- Stay up-to-date on educational issues and be able to discuss current events intelligently. This is also an important aspect of responding to detractors.
- Don’t be intimidated by naysayers and critics. Most of them are miserable and lonely and in dire need of coffee and chocolate.
- Stand your ground firmly but kindly, and expect others to show the respect you show them.
Unless, of course, you have DOORMAT tattooed to your forehead - in which case, don't be surprised when muckrakers not only walk all over you, they stop and wipe their feet.
Use these 9 ways to defend homeschooling and stop opponents of educational freedom in their tracks.