Homeschooling Parents Dismiss Alumni Voices Again

Homeschooling Parents Dismiss Alumni Voices Again February 11, 2015

As a homeschool alumna, I am growing increasingly frustrated with homeschooling parents. And I am very supportive of parents being able to homeschool! I would even consider homeschooling my own children should the need arise. Many of my elementary school experiences as a homeschooled student were incredibly positive. I loved the hands-on learning we did, and the freedom to take off on a field trip at any time. I loved seeing the world as my classroom. But in spite of all of this, I am starting to lose patience with homeschooling parents.

Yesterday KFOR in Oklahoma City aired a spot on homeschooling and published an accompanying article on their website.

In the video and the article, KFOR interviewed both a homeschooling family and two homeschool alumni, who are married and now have a family of their own. The homeschooling mother presented her reasons for homeschooling and discussed how well it works for her family, and the homeschool alumni couple discussed their personal experience and explained their reasons for supporting oversight of homeschooling.

Almost immediately, homeschooling parents began commenting on the KFOR facebook page. You can see some of their comments below:

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I’m especially baffled by the claims that the report did not show “both sides,” or that it was not “balanced.” The homeschooling family that was included in the story came off in a very positive light. The mother did not come across as an extremist, and the children did not come across as weirdos. How is a report that includes interviews with two families, one advocating for homeschooling and the other pointing to some of the potential pitfalls, not showing “both sides”?

I suppose I’m left wondering when homeschool alumni are actually allowed to speak, in the eyes of these parents. I’m a homeschool alumna. I have thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Why, then, do I find my voice and those of other homeschool alumni so undervalued by homeschooling parents? Are we only allowed to speak if we have positive things to say? My mother used to say that—“if you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything at all”—but I’m a grownup now, and I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

It’s our turn. It’s our turn to speak, to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’m especially tired of this idea that saying anything negative about homeschooling at all is “putting homeschooling in a bad light.” It’s like homeschooling is this institution that must be protected at all costs, regardless of who gets thrown under the bus in the process. It’s like these parents can’t understand that saying that homeschooling can sometimes go badly wrong is not the same thing as saying that it always goes badly wrong, or that they are homeschooling badly. It’s like as long as they can smile widely and insist that most homeschooled children are doing very well indeed, thank you very much, the ones who aren’t don’t matter.

You know who can’t comment on stories like this? Children who are being homeschooled in educationally neglectful environments. As a result, you get a very one-sided picture in comment sections like these. And homeschool alumni? We’re finding our voices little by little, but many of us are out there in the world now, raising children and working jobs and going to school, and we don’t always note the latest story on homeschooling, much less comment. And so the voices of homeschooling parents tend to dominate—and when they don’t, like in the KFOR story, they get upset.

I’m really not sure where we go from here. I wish more homeschooling parents were able to listen to alumni without feeling defensive, but maybe that’s not possible. I wish they could see that while their children may be doing fine, that does not mean all homeschooled children are doing fine. I wish they would stop using bad statistics and flat out lying about what the research says in an effort to suggest that there’s no problem here. I wish they knew that there are abusive parents who use homeschooling to hide child abuse—and if they do know, I wish they cared. I wish they were able to listen—actually listen—to the voices of alumni.

I am not anti-homeschooling. It’s just that I understand that even as homeschooling can go very very well, it can also go very very badly. It’s just that I think there should be basic accountability in place to ensure that homeschooling parents are educating their children. I don’t think homeschooling parents should be required to follow the public school curriculum, or have their children at grade level in each subject, or have their children standardized tested. After all, homeschooling often involves flexibility and innovative, hands-on learning—and well it should! Portfolio reviews are probably best suited to showcase this sort of learning.

But then, I find that most homeschooling parents don’t take the time to understand the nuance of my position. They’re so used to shuffling people into “pro-homeschooling” and “anti-homeschooling” camps that when I don’t fit their ideas about what being “pro-homeschooling” means they shunt me into the “anti-homeschooling” camp, and dismiss what I have to say. Treating homeschooling as something sacred that must be protected from criticism at all costs doesn’t do homeschooled children any good—especially the ones sacrificed on its altar.

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