Continuing to Lend Perspective to the Homeschoolers Anonymous Narrative
On Monday, my fellow blogger Joseph Clarkson posted about his background as a homeschooler and his cautions for the new blog site of Homeschoolers Anonymous and their mission. Today I wish to continue to put this issue into focus in order to foster a greater understanding of home education and its virtues and deficiencies.
First, I am the third oldest child in a family of 11 children (one yet to be born) and the first child in my family to be completely home educated until I finished high school. My two older siblings attended a private Christian school for a number of years before my parents decided to try homeschooling. My parents’ experiment in home education was successful and they have never looked back. So I started Kindergarten at home and remained there until I finished the twelfth grade.
During this time, my parents tried several different styles of education, and they finally landed on a classical model by the time I reached high school. During these four years, I read: Locke, Hobbes, Dostoevsky, Marx, Shakespeare, Jay, Hamilton, and Madison. I took several semesters of Spanish, the normal high school levels of math and science, worked two different jobs, competed in speech and debate, and participated in a varsity level sport: cross-country running. My home education was rather well-rounded but by no means unique to my family or my circle of friends.
In May last year, I graduated high school and set my sights on college. I began my studies at Hillsdale College in the fall. As Hillsdale is a small school that most people have never heard of and also that the character of the school is a telling part of my identity, a quick look at the college is beneficial. The school’s educational model is overtly classical, as was my high school career. That is, the goal of education there is to teach students how to think, not when or what to think. Important to note for the purpose of a correct view of homeschooling stereotypes, it is unashamedly a non-Christian school. I do not have to attend chapel ever, I never had to sign a statement of faith, nor am I expected to approach the material from any religious standpoint. Also, none of the faculty are subject to these restrictions either.
My college is 1,100 miles away from my house, and I entered the institution without any pre-existing network whatsoever. However, I soon became connected with most of my class and have never had a problem trying to find people to talk to. Most of my friends there disagree with me on any number of issues from faith to politics to ideal home life. The two values we all have in common are intellectual honesty and the willingness to discuss and debate any part of our thinking. Altogether, I have found that my previous experience of being educated at home enhanced my ability to thrive in this environment, and I am duly thankful.
My happy view of my homeschooling career is not the result of a variance of Stockholm Syndrome in which I have some sick love of being sheltered by my parents. Quite the opposite: I was extremely excited about embarking on my own into the world at the end of high school and have never been happier with my situation. I have never resented being homeschooled, but this attitude should not be mistaken for blindly drinking the Kool-Aid of the leaders of the home education movement. I recognize the bad along with the good of the movement.
That being said, the Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA) website has attempted to show the various problems with the home education movement and has attempted to remedy these by condemning the ways in which they were brought up. Yet, after perusing the various articles and testimonies of the authors of the site, I have identified three specific problems with the way in which they have tried to go about this.
#1: HA makes harmful and misguided generalizations about the home education movement. The self-evident example of the folly of attempting to nail Jell-O to a wall does a lot to illustrate the job HA is trying to accomplish by discussing homeschoolers as a group. While the end of the nail will drive some of the material to the surface on an atomic level, the overwhelming majority of the Jell-O’s fate is the part that escapes unscathed and does not stick to the wall. HA, specifically in their series of posts on the experiences of homeschoolers of alternate gender and sexual orientation, paints a picture of homeschooling that is foolishly simplistic. All religious homeschoolers do not believe that homosexuals should be stoned in the streets and bullied into oblivion. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a group of any size comprised of homeschoolers that really believes this hypocrisy.
While I do not doubt that real abuses have occurred, it is unfair and slanderous to claim that homeschoolers have some type of cultural mass objective of slamming the LGBT community. The underlying principle of home education is that full parenting control is in the hands of the parents. Thus they may choose to bring up their children however they see fit. Therefore, making any kind of generalization at all about homeschooling is fallacious. We are all different to some degree, and that’s frankly the point of the whole idea. We don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s views on any subject.
#2: HA is not intellectually honest. The most glaring problem with the entire site is that the whole movement was started by homeschoolers in the first place. Their argument is that the movement has some serious issues that require fixing by outside sources, yet this logic denies their own intellectual transformations. If they were raised with beliefs that they considered harmful and successfully and autonomously rejected these ideas in favor of principles that they consider better, doesn’t this belie the site’s purpose instantly? If homeschooling can solve its own problems internally through the natural processes of education, as the experiences of the site’s founders shows, then why create some sort of “survivors’ community” that does not acknowledge this fact?
#3: HA has misidentified the target of their complaints. To be perfectly blunt about this issue, the only people responsible for how these people were treated are their parents. There are two ways in which these issues can be solved. Either each person with a grievance could directly confront his parents and force the family to work out the issue or the person involved in a case that has resulted in real abuse could call the police. Again, I am not denying the veracity of any of the testimonies on the site. I am saying that the way for these cases to be worked out is by honest discussion in each family or the involvement of law-enforcement personnel. The public at large cannot change the homeschooling situation, this process can only take place inside of the home.
I am all for more public exposure of home education, but I believe that when homeschooling is honestly exposed there will be a net positive reception. I am not blind to cases in which parental authority has been abused, yet I believe that both that these are the exceptions to the rule and and that making any kind of generalization about the movement is unwarranted. So far, HA has presented a skewed, inaccurate picture of home education that does little to bring about whatever change they wish to accomplish and does a lot to present an unfairly negative illustration.