Like so many homeschoolers, I recently read and enjoyed Laura Brodie’s book Love in a Time of Homeschooling. However, I can’t say it held any amazing revelations for me. Most of my enjoyment stemmed from the fact that it was well-written, which I’ve found to be a rarity in the world of homeschooling memoirs. While Brodie has gone back to her day job as an English professor and her daughter has gone back to school, she writes an occasional blog column about homeschooling for Psychology Today. Recently, she posed the following question: Should home educating parents be required to have a college degree?
While she eventually, in a post a week later, came to the conclusion that no, they shouldn’t, it’s so totally and completely the wrong question that I’m still shaking my head. It solidifies for me something that I felt when I read Laura Brodie’s book, which is that I wasn’t sure if she ever really got homeschooling.
For starters, unlike many homeschoolers who would love to move to Texas just for the lack of regulation, I think there’s a legitimate debate to be had about what constitutes appropriate oversight for homeschoolers. However, I would set the bar way before we start checking parental resumes and educational histories. If you accept that parents have a right to direct the education of their children, then the only appropriate regulations are to ensure that educational neglect isn’t occurring. To do more infringes on that right.
Even putting aside the question of rights for a moment, the whole point of homeschooling is that you are opting out of the educational mainstream because you don’t believe it serves your kids. While many homeschoolers, like Brodie herself, choose to do so with the intention to return, it’s still a decision that rests in the belief that there’s a value in stepping outside the mainstream and making your own way. If that’s truly a value, why does it apply only to education that happens before college? I have nothing against college per se, but the way in which our society seems to hold college up as the only legitimate path to success drives me crazy. There are many paths to a successful life, not to mention an intelligent life, and not all of them include college. The question that Brodie poses doesn’t seem designed to expand thinking about homeschooling or to advocate for a wider understanding of homeschooling. It seems designed to address the concerns of her own community in academia, where, in my experience, most people value those with academic degrees while they dismiss autodidacts. Just having a supposed homeschool advocate put that question out there as if its a legitimate worry makes me dismayed. Homeschooling is about making one’s own way with education for both kids and adults.