Homeschooling for the vast majority of American families just isn’t an option. Still, the number of kids who are home-schooled continues to grow. There’s growing diversity in the homeschooling set, and by that I mean passing on public or private school education has long since ceased to be something only Christian fundamentalists do. These days, you’re just as likely to find home-schoolers among your lefty liberal friends as you are your buddies in the quiverfull movement.
That may very well be so, but education reporter Dana Goldstein writes over on Slate that progressives opting to home-school are fooling themselves. They really aren’t progressives at all.
Goldstein argues that the “go-it-alone ideology” of homeschooling is, at its core, self-serving. The growing number liberals who are teaching the kids at home have an “overheated hostility toward public schooling,” and that they believe public schools are ugly, mean, and uncreative holding cells for 5- 18-year-olds. Not good enough for their kids — too bad for the rest who have no choice.
Though many a liberal home-schooler would argue that they can only do what they can do, it’s that focus on solving the problem only for oneself — one’s own kids — that calls into questions the homeschooling parents’ values.
The act of homeschooling, Goldstein writes, “… is rooted in distrust of the public sphere, in class privilege, and in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large.”
The even bigger news for homeschoolers — especially ones who consider themselves progressive — is that by taking their child out of the system, they’re harming the kids who have been left behind. Goldstein writes:
Low-income kids earn higher test scores when they attend school alongside middle-class kids, while the test scores of privileged children are impervious to the influence of less-privileged peers. So when college-educated parents pull their kids out of public schools, whether for private school or homeschooling, they make it harder for less-advantaged children to thrive.
Removing your middle class kid from a socio-economically mixed school (an increasingly difficult thing to find in some communities) is also removing some advantages for those who would have been the home-schooled child’s less-advantaged peers.
The progressive thing to do about education, Goldstein rightly argues, isn’t to empty the public school classrooms and opt for homeschooling, rather, to flood the public schools with the offspring of thinking parents who can insist on change.
I argued a couple of years ago that parents shouldn’t focus their resources on homeschooling kids and, instead, should use the time and money they would have spent on homeschool curriculum taking on other people’s kids, too.
I wish smart and motivated and available parents like O’Hehir and his wife who are tempted to homeschool would stay in their mind-numbingly boring, creativity draining local schools, meet with the other families, and then invite other kids to go to museums with them. Science fair? Don’t just take over your own kid’s project, take over other kids’ projects too!
I just feel like homeschooling is another way for us to not have to figure out this school thing. It’s a safe way to turn our backs on schools since homeschoolers possibly wouldn’t have a horse in that race.
Homeschooling really isn’t the answer, certainly not for people who purport to value things like civic life and public institutions and who wish for those things to improve.
Are you a liberal home-schooler? How do you reconcile your politics with your actions? Where do private schools fit in with this?