Monday, April 06, 2009

Home Schooling Continues to Grow

An article on homeschooling from 4Marks, a Catholic website.

The statistics in this article are mildly interesting.

A 2007 survey of home-schooling parents showed that a majority educated their own offspring for moral or religious reasons. But those who home school because they want a more untraditional approach are growing, now up to a possible 32 percent of all home schoolers.

But the article, for the most part, seems to be written as a response to criticism of homeschooling in general, and criticism from teachers (or at least one specific teacher) in particular. In fact, it is probably more accurate to say that the article was written with the point of embarrassing teachers, in general.

I have to ask if this "us vs. them" mentality is really what we want to be living as an example for our children. On the one hand, I read this article and find myself empathizing with the author. I've probably been party to countless conversations myself, blasting the public school system and those who participate in it.

Yet, some of my best friends are public schoolers (I count more than a few teachers among those I know and love) and it doesn't seem to get in the way of my friendship with them, nor my children's friendships with their children. Sure, there are questions and even occasional misunderstandings that come up. My kids, for instance, don't always fully understand school lingo and they aren't always pleased with some of the divisions the whole grade division seems to create among those they would like to spent time with. I may step up on a soapbox a bit too passionately at times for the comfort of my friends who have chosen different lifestyles for their own families. But similar gaps of understanding exist between my preference to give birth at home and my sister-in-law's comfort with the hospital, for instance. It doesn't --and shouldn't-- stop us from communicating and finding that common ground where we both can be passionate and enjoy each other's company.

Of course, the author and I are probably as far apart philisophically as the author and this teacher she is responding to. I am of that 32% she cites early in her article, and while it's easy for us to be on the "same side" when the statistics are convenient, the "us vs. them" between traditional homeschoolers and radical unschoolers (as only one example) can be easily as viscious and ugly on any given day.

I'll be the first to admit that I get bit of a thrill when I run into a school teacher (past or present) who tells me that they'd be homeschooling themselves in this day and age if they had young children. But I've also bit my tongue through countless insensitive remarks, and there is nothing that annoys me more than when people assume that because my children don't attend school, I am every homeschool stereotype.

I appreciate the author's point, and I share that feeling of anger and injustice when reading comments such as these... sometimes it just feels better to spout back, to throw a rebuttal out there and point out the justification for the path you are taking.

I know also that this teacher is not representative of the entire population of teachers, just as neither the author nor myself are representative of all who homeschool. I guess what I want to remind myself of is that I shouldn't carry a grudge for an entire population of teachers just because a few wish to speak out in ignorance or because they feel threatened by my choices. There's really no need for us to think of each other as enemies.

I think instead, if we just dedicated ourselves to being open-minded and available for dialogue -- to respond as we would want to be responded to -- then maybe the teachers could begin to understand and appreciate our choices more, and that we might learn to understand and appreciate the passions and ideals that led them to be teachers in the first place.

Thanks for the link, Rebecca.

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