The people who argue against homeschooling focus on an argument that requires them to ignore obvious education trends. What we end up having is a discussion about homeschooling on a national level that assumes the readers are idiots.
1. They report that homeschoolers are evangelicals.
The New York Times wrote about a book that encourages parents to beat their kids to the point of injury. Obviously, the book is for crazy people. But the Times reported that it is “popular among Christian homeschoolers who praise it on their web sites.” This sentence implies that homeschooling is somehow related to beating kids. Which, of course, it is not.
What if the Times wrote that it’s popular among Hispanic Christians? Equally as informative – as in useless information – except to let us know that the writer is racist. Somehow, it’s okay to criticize homeschoolers as childbeaters. That, somehow, gets past the Times editors.
Maybe because equally highbrow publications, like the Atlantic, also report false, unsubstantiated truths, like, “It’s no secret that the majority of homeschoolers are evangelicals.”
In fact, only 38% of all homeschoolers choose it for religious reasons. (And this includes the Lutherans, Hindus, Jews, etc.) So why, when I am quoted in the the New York Times do I get two fact-checking calls about my marriage, but when people write about homeschooling, there is no fact checking?
2. They ignore the trends driving the homeschool movement.
Recently there was an absurd discussion of homeschooling in the New Republic. It illustrates the fact that mainstream media completely misunderstands homeschooling and therefore is incapable of reporting well on the issues of homeschooling.
For example, the author assumes that most parents who homeschool are religious nutcases who want to shelter their kids from reality. But the majority are middle class parents just trying to get their kids out of a broken system. People who have no understanding of what really goes on in homeschooling have no ability to reach the necessary level of nuance required for an intelligent conversation.
3. They ignore the realities of day-to-day homeschooling.
Seth Godin’s ebook on education reform is a great opportunity for him to blast through popular misconceptions, but instead, he joins those who miss the boat on homeschooling. Godin assumes that parents who homeschool are teachers. And he argues that it’s not a great use of most parents’ time to be teachers. Because, among other reasons, most parents will suck as teachers.
I agree, that most parents will not be good teachers. But the reality is that kids don’t need their parents to be teachers. Kids need their parents to be parents. And kids are born as natural learners. They don’t need a teacher to make them a learner.
So the way homeschooling works is that kids are home, learning, and parents are there for support. Kids need tools, or suggestions for how to get what they need, and parents are there to do that. Self-directed learning requires an adult to be very present, but not very intrusive. It’s why self-directed learning works great at home, and is nearly impossible at school.
4. Mainstream media doesn’t report news that will make readers want to kill the messenger.
The Center for Policy reports that only one in eight mothers wants to work full-time. So you’d think there would be a massive push in the media to help mothers drop out of the workforce and take care of their kids. But instead, everyone is fawning over Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which help mothers win top corporate spots with 100-hour work weeks.
The way we romanticize Sweden is ridiculous. We report that the adults are happier there than anywhere else. We report their tourism spots are the best. And we turn their well-funded, Ikea-style schools into education porn: Look! Up there at that picture! Those kids are so lucky!
But the Telegraph reports that Sweden’s great universal childcare experiment has been a failure. Because (newsflash) kids like to be with their parents. Jonas Himmlestrand, expert in Swedish family policy, who reported that his homeland, where 90 per cent of children are in subsidized child care, has seen a serious decline in adolescent mental health: between 1986 -2002 adolescent mental health in Sweden declined faster than in 10 comparable European countries.
The US media, as a rule, does not publish any data that says kids should be with a parent when they are growing up. In the US we perceive this as sexist, or elitist, or I don’t know what. Instead, we label people who stay home with their kids all day as crazy, because if people who stay home with their kids all day are not crazy, then what are the people who send their kids away to someone else all day?
5. Mainstream media supports homeschooling without admitting it.
Here are quotes from this month’s Parents magazine. In the US, 65% of parents would like to ban all homework. And 65% of parents would like to decrease time for English, science and math in order to make more time for playing outside. Parent magazine recommends that parents eat lunch with their kids at school, “if they are allowed to,” because that’s the only way to know if your kids are eating right.
Parents magazine also quotes Mike Assel, associate professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Learning Institute at University of Texas. He spends half a page explaining that young kids learn on their own. They are born to learn and don’t need to be told things or spoon-fed information in order to learn what they need to learn.
It sounds like they are recommending homeschool, right? But they would never be so radical as that, because then they’d sound like those Evangelical Christians who beat their kids.