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Saturday, May 18, 2013
An Open Letter to Lazy HomeschoolersPosted Tuesday, May 8, 2012, at 7:44 AM
Today's post may come across as rather harsh, but this subject has been weighing on my heart for quite some time. I do not mean to hurt or discourage anyone, but I feel that this is important. I also want to make it clear that I support homeschooling and recognize that there is great flexibility within a legitimate homeschool experience. However, I am concerned about some of the things that I have seen. As a result, I am directing this post to homeschool parents who have become lazy in their children's education.
You have enjoyed the freedom to homeschool that previous generations have worked so hard to earn and have forgotten the price they have paid for your freedom. In the early days of the homeschooling movement, some parents actually spent time in jail before the law finally recognized their right to educate their own children. In those days, it was common for parents to keep their children inside during school hours lest nosy neighbors report them truant.
The early homeschoolers may have homeschooled in fear, but that fear motivated them to vigilance. The attic at my parents' house is still stuffed with boxes of old school papers just in case they ever needed to prove that I was doing school and not sitting at home in front of the TV all day. We had friends whose dad would quiz them on spelling words every night at the dinner table. Another father in our homeschool group insisted on checking all of his kids' math problems himself--apparently he discovered a mistake in the teacher's manual and so he never trusted one since.
My parents' generation knew that the only way they would be allowed to homeschool would be to prove they could deliver results. Test scores were extremely important. We were expected to outshine our public-schooled peers, and we did. Even the most ardent critics of homeschooling have not been able to argue against homeschool's successes. Although some kids might occasionally slip through the cracks, it's easy to remind the critics that public school has more than its share of failures, too.
Today homeschoolers no longer educate in fear. We've proven ourselves, and as a result it has become socially accepted and legally protected. Everyone knows someone who homeschools. The state of Indiana is one of the easiest states in the union in which to homeschool. I once showed our attendance record to a friend of mine from New York, explaining that my little daily planner showing how many days we had school was the only record-keeping I was required to do by law in our state. (Of course I do more, though.) She nearly cried with envy. She has to register and send her kids to be tested each year and assemble portfolios--all stuff I've never had to mess with. Sometimes it's easy to take for granted the level of freedom that we have here in Indiana.
Yet that freedom may be causing some to be lax. We must not forget that the government longs to extend its reach and subject us to further regulation. If we do not continue to deliver a superior product as compared to the public schools, the naysayers will eventually succeed in convincing lawmakers that we need more oversight. The only way to avoid that is to prove that we don't need it. We cannot take the responsibility of homeschooling lightly--we must regulate ourselves.
Please, I beg you, if you are going to homeschool, actually teach your children. While there is educational value in learning to can and freeze produce, don't spend days on end putting up corn and beans and calling it school. That's cheating. Household chores are not "home ec" and are certainly not worth a full day of school. And please, above all, do not just assign a bunch of work to your kids and leave them alone to get it done by themselves. In all likelihood, they won't. You have to be there and be involved. Follow up on assignments. Check their work and make sure they understand concepts. Be there to answer their questions. Challenge them to do better.
We have got to take this seriously. In some school districts in our state, high schools are requiring their dropouts to register as homeschoolers in order to make themselves look better. This is already going to reflect badly on homeschoolers when those students enter the work force without a proper education. The least we can do is not add to the problem by becoming lax ourselves.
If you call yourself a homeschooler but you do not actually educate your child, you are not a homeschooler in my opinion. You are simply truant. You might as well put your kid back into public school because you are not only doing your child a disservice, but all of the other homeschoolers as well. Remember that as in everything else, with freedom comes responsibility. Please, take your job as a homeschool parent seriously. The future of homeschooling depends on it.
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