Most people I know are not homeschoolers. Most of them tell me they understand the benefits of homeschooling, but they are scared to do it. They tell me they feel more comfortable being active in their kids’ school to make sure their kid gets a good education.
But I want to tell all those people that being active in your kids school hurts your kids. Here’s why:
1. You have no tools and no information.
After a huge, protracted battle, courts required school districts to give parents access to the record of teacher performances. Now that we have had ten years of No Child Left Behind, we have ten years of data about which teachers can teach to a test.
Don’t tell me you don’t believe in teaching to a test, okay? Because that’s what pubic schools in the US do, so if you don’t believe in it, take your kid out. If you do believe in it, then you are probably trying to find the teacher who does it best.
But it turns out that the data is terrible: inaccurate and incomplete. Michelle Rhee, possibly the most effective school reform advocate in the country, (which is why she has been fired from so many jobs, and, while I’m writing in parenthesis I also want to say that it’s so cool that when she took a job in Washington, D.C., her ex-husband relocated to the state with her and her two kids,) says the statistics are so bad that you can’t learn anything from them, and that parents cannot participate in school reform because they have so little information.
So your idea of participating in school to make your school better is so limited, and undermined, and hard-to-do that it’s a waste of your time. And what you end up modeling for kids is that it’s more important to pretend what you’re doing matters instead of doing something that actually matters.
2. Real activism takes over the family instead of nourishing the family.
A family in Massachusetts is suing to get “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. I understand the lawsuit. Of course it’s suspect that we profess separation of church and state and we have God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
But to be effective, that family will be fighting this lawsuit for the next ten years. The kids will grow up under the shadow of this lawsuit. The parents are sacrificing part of their family life to activism. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying that real activisim is real sacrifice. And I think it’s probably a lot easier to homeschool—those sacrifices are nothing compared to sharing the spotlight with the ACLU for ten years.
3. Real activism to create real change is something that really messes up kids.
About ten years ago, my husband (now my ex) was working in prison reform. And somehow—I was never really sure how—he got involved with a group of Palestinians who were in the US, running from the law, I guess Israeli law. I don’t really know. Anyway, a guy was here illegally, and he was put in prison, and he had a sixteen-year-old son who had nowhere to live while his dad was in prison.
So, the night the kid was first homeless, we took him in. He was a sweet boy, and very young. Lots of street smarts, I am assuming, but little understanding of how to talk with adults. He had no money in his pocket, he didn’t know how to make himself breakfast. It was unclear how he was raised. He was not impoverished, but he seemed to be missing basic experiences or basic knowledge. We couldn’t quite tell.
It turned out that he didn’t know how to have a normal day. He was used to being on the run with his dad. Protesting, advocating, challenging the status quo. He didn’t know how to just be him. He didn’t know how to hang out in the living room and do something he enjoyed. He didn’t know what he enjoyed because he was always advocating for change.
Whatever that is.
So my point here, is that the idea that you are going to be a school activist is ridiculous. It’s a waste of your time, but more than that, it’s bad modeling for your kids. Activism sacrifices your time with kids, it sacrifices your energy for things you can really affect, and most activism, I’m sorry to say, is just a BS way to sooth your own guilt for the choices you make.