Lending Perspective to the Homeschoolers Anonymous Narrative
In recent months a new blog has burst into the blogosphere, it has received attention from media outlets such as The Guardian and The Daily Beast, and it has even launched a $100,000 indiegogo campaign. Homeschoolers Anonymous is a one of a kind blog, and one toward which I find myself having one of a kind feelings. In some ways I sympathize with the stories of former homeschoolers and their attempts to “make homeschooling better.” However, I also have my scruples.
As a current homeschool student, I am well aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of homeschooling. Personally, I believe that I have received a better education through homeschooling than I could have gotten through any of the alternatives. Homeschooling has given me an excellent education. On the other hand, I know that there are parents that micromanage their children and that there are cases of abuse. This, of course, gives me mixed feelings on the issue of homeschooling, although I definitely hope to homeschool my children.
When I first heard of Homeschoolers Anonymous, I was immediately put on the defensive. The name, in itself, is very harsh on homeschooling, as it clearly plays off of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you think about the name, there are a lot of subconscious messages that it communicates. It links homeschooling to the very destructive habit of alcoholism, and, as there is no such thing as good alcoholism, it is implied that there is no such thing as good homeschooling. The name matters, and it immediately put me on the defensive.
When I finally got around to their articles, I wasn’t particularly impressed. The stories were sometimes very sad, but what was even more sad than the stories was the sort of reactionary mindset that they appear to have inspired. By reading their articles, I came to the conclusion that H.A. is more of an anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-homeschooling blog. The general air that I felt while reading their articles was what I would expect from some tumblr blog, and that reactiveness isn’t healthy or productive.
In a lot of the H.A. articles, I found that the authors were missing the forest for the trees. With this post, however, I hope to take a fair and balanced look at the issue of homeschooling. I want to step back and look to see the big picture.
First, I must admit that religious fundamentalism is a significant issue in homeschooling circles. On the other hand, my experience tells me that the sort of fundamentalism that I grew up around during the mid 2000’s is on the decline. In the last three years, I have seen a lot of liberalization, and the extremist fundamentalism seems to be burning out. Ten years ago, almost every family that I knew, for example, forced their daughters to wear dresses, but today I can only think of three or four families off the top of my head that actually make their daughter’s sartorial choices for them.
Religious indoctrination is a very heated topic. Obviously, parents shouldn’t be able to brainwash their kids, but they definitely should be able to teach them about their religion. Atheist parents should be able to teach their kids about reason and science, just as Christian parents should be able to teach their children about faith and theology. In fact, all parents should be teaching their kids about all of those things, but I don’t think that the state should be involved, and the solution won’t come from the outside, it will only be found inside the community itself.
Second, self harm, a topic which has been brought up in numerous H.A. posts, is not at all unique to homeschooling. Ever since I was just a kid, I have known people in both public school and homeschool circles that have taken to self harm. Maybe their motivations for doing it are different on a prima facie level, but I don’t think that they are so very different when you really look at the underlying causes.
The treatment of homosexuals within homeschool communities is pretty abysmal. I know that I have often found myself cringing when I hear other homeschoolers talking about “the gays.” A lot of what I hear goes directly against the stated values of most homeschoolers that I know. Instead of being kind and understanding, they are disgusted and turn to immature shaming. Obviously, the homeschool community should work on being open and loving to homosexuals, even if they think that homosexuality is a sin.
When it comes to drug and alcohol usage, I definitely think that homeschoolers take the cake. I personally have never done either, although I may have had a few sips of wine during communion – but that doesn’t count. Had I gone to public or private school, I think that I probably would have given in to peer pressure during my early teens, but instead I have come to a point where I am past that. I’ve been to parties where I have been offered alcohol (don’t tell my parents!) and I have been able to turn it down. If I hadn’t been homeschooled, however, I probably would have just gone with the crowd.
As far as education goes, I know that I have been extremely satisfied. Going into my freshman year of high school I had the national average SAT score for high school seniors. I have been given opportunities to volunteer and work throughout numerous organizations, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I been public schooled, and I have learned so much through doing so. I have had the opportunity to take classes alongside my friends, and those classes have grown me. I have taught myself, and my self-teaching had been very efficacious as well.
Through and through, I must say that I am pleased with my homeschool education. It has given me a lifestyle, an education, and opportunities that I love. It has opened many paths for me, and I am grateful for that.
There are definitely problems with homeschooling, but I feel that the homeschool community is moving away from its fundamentalist roots to explore new ideas and worldviews. I feel that the homeschool community will grow, mature, and even thrive with or without the presence of Homeschoolers Anonymous. I can’t say for sure whether or not the guys over there just possess incredibly rudimentary marketing skills or if they are actually out to get us homeschoolers, but I feel that as time goes on they will have fewer and fewer stories to tell because homeschooling is a dynamic, personalized, and deep form of education, and the community won’t stop growing, adapting, and maturing as time goes on.