After writing a post exploring (or failing to explore) the potential positives of homeschooling, I had an additional thought. Over and over again when I look at lists of the good things about homeschooling, I see “freedom” rise to the top. Freedom from the constricting schedule of a formal school, freedom to go at your own pace, freedom to choose what to study and when to study it, freedom to go on educational trips or randomly leave formal homework unfinished and head outside to a more experiential classroom. Freedom.
Here’s the thing. Homeschooling does not directly offer any freedom at all to the homeschooled child. Rather, it gives freedom to the homeschool parents—freedom to assume full control over their children’s education, schedules, and social lives. The only freedom children get as a result of being homeschooled is the freedom their parents give them.
Some homeschool parents give their children a great deal of freedom, including the freedom to set their own daily schedules, their own academic goals, and their own social calendars. These parents serve primarily as guides and facilitators. Some even take this to its extreme and “unschool.” While there are educators and others who would argue that this is too much freedom, and that children need at least some structure, they can’t deny that these homeschooled children do indeed have a great deal of freedom.
Other homeschool parents micromanage their children’s daily schedules, academic goals, and social calendars, exercising a level of complete control over their children’s lives that would be impossible if those children attended public school. Being constantly under the watchful eye of one or both parents, these children are without the reprieve that leaving the home to attend public school might allow. In the end, homeschooled children whose parents flex their ability to exercise complete control over their educations and lives are utterly without freedom.
Homeschooling in the hands of good parents can serve as a tool for children’s liberation; homeschooling in the hands of bad parents can serve as tool for children’s oppression.
In the end, the only individuals who are guaranteed greater freedom after the decision is made to homeschool are the homeschool parents. The homeschooled kids only get what freedom their parents decide to give them. Sometimes that’s a lot, but other times it’s next to nothing. Homeschooling doesn’t give kids freedom—it merely gives their parents sole control over their education, social life, and emotional development.