You know how sometimes a conversation gets under your skin and it just nags at you? You think of all the funny/biting/sarcastic/thoughtful answers you could have given at just the right moment to make the conversation go much smoother, but it is already after the fact and you can’t go back, lest you look like George Constanza in one particular Seinfeld episode when he tracked some guy down just to tell him a comeback. This is one of those times. I wish I had given my opinion a little more forcefully, had more time to think of an appropriate response, instead I just stood there looking shocked and offended. Now you get to hear all the things I could have/should have/would have said.
I was talking to a woman the other day who was on a soapbox of her own about child abuse. Child abuse is bad. It’s that simple. End of story, right? Wrong. This woman went on to say that people were taking their children out of the school system to be “homeschooled” so that teachers couldn’t see the bruises and report the parents to DCS. To this end she would like for all homeschooling families to have regular visits from child protective services, to have a government mandated curriculum, and to have regular state testing. Hold the phone. I know a lot of homeschooling families, in fact my mom homeschooled my brother for two years. It is BEYOND generalizing to say that people pull their kids out of public school in order to beat them. There may be some, but there are also a lot of parents who beat their kids in places where the bruises don’t show and send them on to school. That is NOT AT ALL homeschooling the sense of the word that pretty much everyone uses.
Homeschooling has a lot of critics. A lot of people say that it isn’t good for kid because they aren’t socialized and/or the parents aren’t qualified to teach. I disagree with both of those statements but they have been argued just about into the ground. My real issue is making it out that all homeschooling families need to be under a governmental magnifying glass because they aren’t providing adequate care for their child, be it academically or physically, is absurd. The government has more than they can handle now, let’s not add to it.
As a general group, although far less general than the generalizations this woman was making (how many times can I use general in a sentence?), homeschooling parents are some of the most involved parents I’ve ever met. I mean, it’s in the nature of what they are doing! These parents are with their children for huge blocks of time, they naturally become enormously involved with their children’s schooling and life. To paint them as parents to be suspicious of is offensive! Homeschooling is NOT an easy task; I remember that from my mother homeschooling. It is draining to be parent and teacher and it is not taken on lightly. Parents who pull their kids out of the public school system do so at a great sacrifice of their own time and sanity; they do it in the best interests of their kids.
Because this is such a monumental decision for both parent and child, it takes something major to decide to leave the school system (probably more so than to never start public schooling, because then homeschooling is the norm, not any less difficult, but it isn’t that sudden change). Oftentimes the reason to leave is directly related to the curriculum being taught. Sometimes parents don’t agree with what is being taught, or with how, or with what is not being taught, or the quality of what is taught. WHY should the government get to control what goes on in a homeschooling situation? In my opinion, they shouldn’t. The parents aren’t using tax payer money and so should not have to use any sort of mandatory curriculum. It allows homeschoolers to have the latitude that so many crave to teach to specific interests or to take things “out of order” according to the local school systems. That is my beef with mandatory testing. I don’t care if the kids need to be tested every couple of years to make sure they have the basics like reading and math, but I don’t think that testing should be so specific that parents are forced to “teach the test” as public school teachers are. I think if a parent wants to teach the solar system in 2nd grade instead of 3rd then their kids shouldn’t be penalized on tests because they aren’t covering things in the order the state says they should. Who made the state all knowing? Waiting for an answer… hearing crickets…oh yeah, they aren’t.
Moral of the story: Back off homeschoolers. They are like any other parent. They are trying to do the very best they can do for their child. They are NOT all abusive, controlling monsters who keep their kids in cages and beat them with plumbing pieces. This is what I wish I had said, but didn’t articulate well in the moment.