Are You Really Home Schooling?

Early on in the homeschool movement, virtually all academic instruction took place at home. After all, if you just took your kids out of school, where else would they be learning? This worked fine for all of us for awhile, and then a strange thing happened…

Our kids grew up! And as this was happening, many of us became keenly aware of our own limitations to meet our children’s academic and social needs. We concluded that they would benefit from various learning settings and that someone else’s instruction, in addition to our own, could be a positive thing.

For those of you who started homeschooling five or ten years ago, the above may seem obvious. There are many support systems and services in place for you to use, and many of you do. But it wasn’t always this way.

Early on in the homeschool movement many states had laws prohibiting home education. Leaders of private schools opposed the movement and saw homeschoolers as a threat to their enrollment. One major Christian book publisher was so suspicious that they wouldn’t make their textbooks available to homeschoolers. Organizations or private schools caught making their textbooks available were threatened with having their accounts cancelled.

Here in Oregon, two main things characterized Basic Skills’ early work with homeschoolers in the 80’s and early 90’s.

The children of the families we worked with were almost all elementary-age students, sixth grade on down. We worked with a few junior-high students and an occasional high schooler, but it was rare.

Because the laws regulating homeschooling in Oregon were vague and gave local superintendents virtually unlimited power over children in their district, the majority of our clients were schooling illegally. For practical purposes, they taught exclusively at home so they wouldn’t risk exposure and be reported.

But like I said, our kids were growing up. What we realized was that as parents, we had various interests and expertise’s that could be used for the benefit of each other’s children. So, as the laws regulating homeschooling around the nation were re-written, and homeschooling became more mainstream, many of us made changes in the way we homeschooled as well.

One of my clients was a micro-biologist and taught a Biology class. Another parent had spent years working up a literature curriculum for her children and began teaching it to others. Various hands-on courses in art and writing emerged.

We were helping each other and each other’s children’s education. Families partnered together, classes were held, and homeschooling ceased to be restricted to the home. And then question surfaced, “Are you really homeschooling?”

Behind the question was the not-so-veiled implication that we had somehow strayed from the “pure” path of the “Biblical” command that families do it all, or most of the teaching.

“Real” homeschoolers do it this way kind of thinking…

Some leaders wondered if we were sinning by what we were doing… and they weren’t kidding.

To distinguish “us” from “them”, one major homeschool organization tried to help us out. To participate in their national event, a standard was set. It went like this, 51% (or a percent close to this) of your student’s homeschooling had to take place at home. Anything less than this was, well, not really homeschooling… and you couldn’t be a part of “us.”

Thanks for helping us figure it out.

I know that to many of you this sounds ridiculous.

But here’s my point. Whatever educational choices you make this school year, they don’t belong to the person who introduced you to homeschooling, a support group leader, or a speaker who spoke at a conference you attended. They belong to you. In esteeming our leaders too much, many of us have surrendered our educational freedom.

And so, it’s time to reclaim it.

If the popular curriculum you chose isn’t working for you, change it.

Want to be part of a co-op? Go ahead.

Want to earn a diploma through an extension school, correspondence school, or diploma program like ours? Fill out the application.

The choice is yours.

And maybe the best answer to the question, “Are you really homeschooling?” should be another question like “Why do you care so much?”

Have a great school year.