A New Chapter in the Homeschooling Movement
No home school is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each kitchen table classroom is connected to neighborhood, big "C" Church and culture,
A part of the main.
With apologies to John Donne, this is a story that the homeschooling community hasn't always been good at telling itself.
A generation ago, the first wave of homeschooling parents were doing the work of pioneers: fighting court battles, developing educational philosophy, creating and adapting curricula, and answering endless questions about whether their kids would be socialized properly.
These pioneers continue to shape popular perceptions of the movement: quirky, brainy children who get master's degrees at 16; super-sized, ultra-conservative broods; or crunchy attachment-parenting families. There are flat-out negative stereotypes as well, like that of the barely literate truants parked in front of a flickering TV all day, eating bags of chips and playing video games.
Hard-and-fast numbers of homeschoolers are difficult to come by, since reporting rules vary by state. But reasonable estimates place the numbers between one and two million children - or at least 4 percent of the K-12 U.S. population - learning at home this year. The promise of homeschooling (closer families, less peer-dependent and more spiritually and emotionally solid children, a better, tutorial form of education than a child would receive at a public or private school) has been fulfilled in enough children over time that a second generation of "settlers" has moved into the space carved out by those pioneers.
Embedded deep within the DNA of the notion of homeschooling is rugged individualism. It takes a combination of conviction and chutzpah to make a countercultural choice. Even if 4 percent of the children in this country are being homeschooled, 96 percent are not. As a result of this DNA, there is no single "homeschool movement," but a collection of related, not-always-harmonious streams within the larger population. Some associations form out of a specific educational or spiritual philosophy; others are created by geographic proximity. Though a few hardy souls go it alone, most families connect with other homeschoolers for at least a few field trips. On the other end of the spectrum, some families co-op with others for the bulk of their children's academics.
My husband and I homeschooled our three children from 1992 to 2004, bridging the pioneer and settler eras. I was a local support group leader and writing tutor during and after our active homeschooling years. Though I replied regularly to the "What about socialization?" question, I can't remember ever hearing the same concern raised about the parents of homeschoolers.
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