Making Your Own Path

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.

2 thoughts on “Making Your Own Path

  1. Right on Farrar! This is exactly why I advocate for a movement called Life Learning versus Homeschooling. There are many paths to a “happy, successful life” (which of course is an incredibly subjective experience) and for some it includes formal, institutionalized education and for some learning is based on real world experience (internally with self and externally with the environment around you) outside of a laboratory or classroom. For most of us, both experiences have had an impact on our lives and one is certainly not inferior to the other. Even in the world of homeschooling, I’ve found there to be a prejudice against the idea of life learning (i.e., unschooling) which is disappointing but not surprising. I’m just glad that there are umbrella groups that exist in my state which support my right to educate my daughter in a way that works for our whole family. Of course living in DC would have the perk of not having any real gov’t oversight at all – enjoy!

    1. I’m definitely influenced by unschooling in our approach, though I wouldn’t consider us unschoolers. But it really bugs me when homeschoolers of all shades don’t have respect for unschooling. It might not be personally right for you, you might not “get” it, but in the world of homeschooling we’re all struggling for the right to make the choices that are best for our families. If you don’t want someone else to question your right to do that, then you shouldn’t question theirs. Alas.

      In some ways, I think homeschool rights are better protected in MD than in DC though, simply by virtue of the fact that there’s a strong body of experience with homeschool reviews and what can and can not be done there. Plus there’s the additional choice to join an umbrella. In DC, disorganization means there’s almost no chance we’ll ever be reviewed, but if we were to win that dismal lottery, who knows what they’ll want to see because they’ve written such a vague law and there’s no tradition of enforcement (and with their reputed lack of staffing, there may not be for many years to come) to fall back on for any sort of clarification.

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