Why We Choose to Homeschool?
Interest in school choice continues to grow as the political and social milieu surrounding it gains momentum. What was initially an idea that seemed almost unpatriotic, at least in the eyes of the majority of our publicly schooled populace, is now an increasingly acceptable American practice. Indeed, it is a serious mistake to ignore or discount the recent growth in school choice options and the reasons increasing numbers of Americans are choosing alternatives to conventional public education.
The dominant reasons for parents choosing homeschooling as an alternative to public schooling involve concerns about pedagogy, the negative influence of peers, and Christian beliefs. Taken together, these concerns are inherently ideological because what constitutes acceptable pedagogy, negative peer influence, and religious beliefs are value-laden constructions. They are inextricably linked, based on fundamental presuppositions about what constitutes a worthy curriculum or course. The perception of this growing population is that ideological alignment is more critical than teacher certification. Effective teaching — the ability to bring about desired educational outcomes — is defined in fundamentally different ways based on fundamentally different presuppositions (Cooper, 2003).
Parents who recognize deficiencies in the teaching profession, relative to their ideological frame, demonstrate a degree of sophistication about curricular issues. Though some of the homeschooling parents interviewed did not adequately appreciate the complexities and demands of the task of the public educator, the fact that they focused on the educational needs of their own children seems reasonable. These parents were inclined to extend their parenting to formal teaching, given their deep concerns about meeting the unique educational and emotional needs of their children, the influence of the peer drug culture, and the overall effects public schooling might have on their children’s beliefs. Homeschooling addresses these concerns.
Perhaps the aforementioned observations suggest that inviting parent involvement would be a place for public school educators to begin. If done well, inviting parental involvement in the classroom could help parents feel more secure about school culture (as they become partakers in it) and could lighten the instructional load for the teacher (as parents assist students). Moreover, if invited, some of these parents would likely be happy to share their faith-based beliefs and, in turn, might come to see the value in being one of many religious voices expressed in the public sphere.
The idea that religious or ideological issues are important parental concerns is as old as the common school movement itself. Horace Mann’s universalistic effort to appease the religious voices of the nineteenth century by promoting daily Bible reading in the common school was problematic for American Catholics who asked, “Whose Bible?” It has long been known that beliefs and values are closely linked to the decision to home school one’s children. What is notable is the ever increasing diversity in American culture juxtaposed with policies that do not adequately embrace that diversity. The expectation that public schools should leave no child behind by assuming that politically derived standards are no longer problematic ignores lessons gained from curriculum history as well as critical theories that “deconstruct” the taken for granted assumptions made by the dominant culture (Derrida, 1972). These issues need to be carefully examined and debated by various stakeholders. The increasing growth in alternative schooling arrangements may suggest a failure to include diverse voices sufficiently in the public conversation related to education.
The purposes of public schooling are multifaceted, not simple. If public schooling were only concerned with promoting democracy and tolerance, that would be challenging enough. Meeting the needs of each learner, as many school mission statements profess, is an extraordinary challenge. Some of the homeschooling parents interviewed keenly grasped the inherent contradiction between the mission statements of the public schools and their actual ability to deliver on them. School administrators interviewed also expressed a realistic view of their schools’ capabilities. Parents, community groups, and schools need to undertake an open and ongoing conversation to clarify what constitutes the healthy and reasonable purposes and boundaries of public schools. As these conversations develop, perhaps diversity will be viewed as an opportunity for civic engagement rather than separation or disintegration.
Again, the implication is that parental involvement needs to be broad and inclusive, not relegated to the innocuous parent–teacher organization, whose function is readily limited to bake sales. Parents need to be empowered along with students, and a culture of civic involvement needs to be nurtured. Both public school educators and parent educators who homeschool their children need to come together to consider how the shared civic community can be more effectively shared.
Derrida, J. (1972). Discussion: Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the human sciences. In R. Macksey & E. Donato (Eds.)., The structuralist controversy (pp. 247–272). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Marshall, J. D., & Valle, J P. (1996). Public school reform: Potential lessons from the truly departed. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 4(12).
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.