The next few weeks are busy, busy for me here at the Rowhouse. The kids are finishing up their school year, wrapping up Algebra I and some literature and various other things we’ve done this year. I officially “graduated” them with a special meal and a gift of decent school style backpacks. They’re the same Jansport model that I still have from my own youth. Mine made it through high school, college, and then as I traveled extremely light across Asia in my early 20’s. That’s a good backpack and hopefully theirs will see some good adventures too. First up, we’re taking a short “8th grade trip” to New York to see a Broadway show and hit some spots the kids have never visited.
I’m also chatting with clients for Simplify, which is fun and exciting, to hear about other people’s homeschools and challenges and help them out. I’m trying to finish up my book about homeschooling middle school so that it should be out within the next month or so. It’s getting some final revisions and a solid round of copy editing by a professional. I still have to choose a title, which is a little nerve wracking. Your Complete Middle School Homeschool Survival Guide? Surviving Homeschooling the Middle School Years? Something more clever and cute? Eye-rolls and Deep Thinking: Homeschooling the Middle School Years. I’ll figure it out soon!
Finally, I’m putting the final touches on my talks for the SEA Homeschool Conference in Atlanta. I’m so excited to see some of you there! It’s going to be lots of fun. I’m especially looking forward to talking about middle school. It’s like crystalizing my book into presentation form and it’s helping me discern the most important points.
If you’re on the fence about going to the SEA Conference, there are some amazing speakers there and some great looking presentations. If you live anywhere around Atlanta, you can also get a single day pass now, which seems like a great option if you’re just hoping for a small dose of homeschool inspiration. I know I often resist these sorts of events, but when I go to them, I really do come home fired up about new things and more reflective about our practices. Homeschool parents deserve professional development too!
Guess what? I’m going to be speaking at the SEA Homeschool Conference in July. If you don’t know SEA, they’re the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschoolers. They have a super active to bursting Facebook group and this is their second annual conference. I’m excited to be there representing Simplify Homeschool.
I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite topics: middle schoolers, and how to survive having them in your homeschool! I’m also going to be talking about how to move from a more relaxed, unschoolish influenced homeschool to a more rigorous one when you need to, and back again when it’s time for that.
If you’re planning on going, I’d love to greet you there! I’m already dreading being socially awkward with everyone though!
Coming out of my post-election, post-DI season, winter coma to hammer home something that has driven me crazy for years now.
The greater homeschooling community needs a better media and political advocacy organization.
What’s reminding me of this today, you may ask? The Washington Post Magazine ran this piece about how some of HSDLA’s former Generation Joshua type rising political activists have turned to advocating for more homeschool regulation. If you follow these issues, there’s not much new in this piece and the individual personalities profiled simply don’t have particularly compelling or unusual stories. Plus, while none of the people profiled seem to be involved with the group, I found the omission of CRHE, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, to be somewhat baffling. This is an organization doing exactly what people profiled do which has a good bit of visibility in homeschooling circles. Why weren’t they mentioned?
In the piece, the Post claims in the headline that, “These activists want greater home-school monitoring. Parent groups say no way.” However, the only “parent group” they talk about is HSLDA, which is not a group of homeschooling parents at all. It’s a group of conservative lawyers.
The implication in that piece, and countless other media pieces about homeschooling, is that HSLDA speaks for homeschool parents. Honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m beyond sick of it.
HSLDA and its leader Michael Farris do not speak for me. Nor do they speak for the majority of homeschooling families I know. They are fear-mongers when it comes to homeschool rights, sending out a constant barrage of email alerts designed to make families think the government is out to get them, thus increasing their revenue and membership. They use their clout to kill legislation that has little to do with homeschooling, such as nearly singlehandedly keeping the US from signing a disability rights treaty or lobbying against LGBT rights. And local homeschoolers do not always like the positions they take in updating or changing state homeschooling laws but because of their high profile, they have the ability to move in with their agenda, getting people nationwide to lobby state legislators the way they want.
As I’ve written about before on this blog, educational neglect and abuse are real problems in some parts of the homeschool world and all homeschoolers would do well to get wise to that fact of life, especially when it comes to things like using social media to share the pleas, petitions, lobbying cries, and fundraising efforts for homeschool families who are in trouble with the law. Too often, the biased reports about homeschool families sent out by groups like HSLDA don’t show the whole picture.
But that’s exactly why homeschoolers increasingly need a new advocacy group to speak for the growing majority of us who are not schooling because of evangelical protestantism. We’re schooling for primarily secular reasons, we’re more diverse religiously and ethnically, and we have positions across the political spectrum. We need a group that can field media requests and political requests for “the homeschool position” so that HSLDA doesn’t simply try to speak for everyone. Some states have groups like this already, but not all. And the statewide groups are also often just as exclusive in their mission as HSLDA.
I don’t know what the “right” amount of regulation of homeschoolers is. I know that even a lot of “good” homeschoolers think that homeschooling should be completely unregulated and tracked. And I admit that most of the regulation that already exists in some states seems to be mostly hoops to jump through that I think anyone who is determined to hide neglect or abuse can probably do with relative ease. I think the CRHE has some good ideas, but I can’t say I agree with every single point.
While the CRHE and the views of homeschool alumni in general are starting to be seen as important, don’t speak for homeschool parents. I really believe that this message that we believe in sane regulation is strongest from within. I think it would be amazing to have a group that believed in advocating for homeschooling as a positive schooling method and believed that children’s rights were important.
I don’t know how this comes to be. Many of the secular focused groups that have sprung up in the last few years have been focused primarily on curriculum and community, not advocacy or politics. And several of these groups have had strong starts only to fall apart over time. It’s hard to sustain a community that’s more diverse and divergent in its viewpoints. However, every time I read another piece that implies HSLDA speaks for me, I am reminded of how needed this is.
I have a confession to make about being a secular homeschooler. Religion is one of the reasons I homeschool. I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list, but when I tell people that religion has nothing to do with why I decided to homeschool, that’s not 100% true.
First, some background about me and religion. I was raised in what I would call a Christian left church. What? You’ve only heard of the Christian right? No, I assure you, there is a Christian left, they’re just much smaller. I was baptized into a Baptist church that was booted out by the Southern Baptists for holding a blessing for a gay marriage. I adored that church. I worked in a Quaker school for many years, one that really was Quaker, and that also has a deep influence on my spiritual journey. My family currently attends a Unitarian Church in our neighborhood. I really like the community there and I value that it’s a diverse place with amazing music and great preaching. I don’t think the Unitarians completely fit me spiritually. I like our church, but I still find the philosophy too nebulous. All of this is just to say that religion, specifically the type of Christianity I was raised in, is important to me.
I chose homeschooling because I think the vast majority of schools get education wrong in so many ways. When I talk about what made me homeschool, it’s usually a discussion about test-driven curricula and institutional thinking. However, another way I think schools get it wrong is on the subject of religion. It’s almost cliche to say it, but freedom of religion isn’t the same as freedom from religion. The problem is that schools are so black and white about everything in life and that includes religion. Schools, or teachers within schools, are either inappropriately proselytizing religion or condemning every expression of it, neither of which is something I can condone. Not to mention the fact that religion, whether you believe in one or not, is a subject that’s essential to understanding history and literature. To be culturally literate (a term that I have mixed feelings about, but I’ll still toss it out), you need to understand religion, yet schools avoid it or treat it like math formulas to be memorized then quickly move on from before anyone gets their feelings hurt or their ideas challenged. I believe discussion of religion and God is part of a whole education, a piece that would be missing if I sent my kids to most schools.
So while I wouldn’t put religion high on the list of reasons why I homeschool, just like many people who choose to homeschool primarily for religious reasons, one of the things I value about homeschooling is the ability to introduce my kids to spirituality in the way that I think is best, not in the way the schools think is best, especially not in the way the government schools think is best.