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In a sign that perceptions of homeschoolers are moving beyond the stereotypes seen in much of pop culture, this month's issue of The Atlantic features a special education report called "New Ideas for Schools". I found the entire report fascinating and would recommend picking up a copy if you're interested in educational trends, reform movements, and reports with lots of info-graphics. The report offers three ideas to improve education: Have students grade teachers, homeschool, and teach writing 1950s-style. Today I'd like to share some thoughts on the second option.
Here's a link to the article on homeschooling, The Homeschool Diaries by Paul Elie. This article also goes well with one published earlier in the year in Newsweek Magazine entitled Why Urban, Educated Parents are Turning to DIY Education by Linda Perlstein. Both articles mark a trend that sees the appeal of homeschooling expanding. While the majority of parents who choose to homeschool remain those motivated by reasons of faith, this new batch of home educators are generally highly educated urbanites who are priced out of outrageously expensive prep schools and are unwilling to turn their children's education over to local public schools.
As a homeschool grad myself, I think that this trend is wonderful! To me in signals a growing confidence in parents that is allowing them to take responsibility for their children's education. The first people to pull their kids from schools back in the 1970s and 1980s constantly dealt with criticism from friends and relatives who thought that education should be left to the professionals. The urban growth of homeschooling shows that this prejudice is being questioned. As schools have become more bound to curriculum dictated by standardized testing, some parents in urban environments have begun questioning the quality of education their children are receiving and suddenly realize that they have a world of resources at their fingertips. "The practical reasons for homeschooling are paramount. When you set the city's gorgeous mosaic of intellectual and cultural offerings against its crazy quilt of formal education, you can't help but want to supplement your children's schooling with outings to museums, zoos, historic sites and neighborhoods, and the like."
Another reason urbanites site for choosing to homeschool has to do with an increasing understanding that learning is not something that can be restricted to the classroom. Elie quotes one homeschooling dad as saying "One reason we were tempted by homeschooling is that is seemed to us that we could easily build our home life around learning in a way that would be fun for the whole family." Taking such a holistic approach to learning has always been one of the strengths of homeschooling and it is good to see that more and more parents are seeing that.
Finally, the aspect of Elie's article that I found to be really refreshing is right at the very end. From the beginning homeschoolers have always worried about the transition to college. For many a high school junior or senior the prospect of entering into an academic atmosphere after years of studying at home can be intimidating. Elie, as a professor at Georgetown University sees it differently. In thinking about what the future holds for his sons he says:
"Meanwhile, when they sit down at the table with protractors or head to a museum, it is college I am thinking about. Not just because a university education is our unquestioned aspiration for our children, but also because it seems to be the closest model for the education we are now trying to provide. Tightly focused class sessions, expert presentations complemented by individual instruction; hands-on learning in areas that vary from day to day and year to year; education undertaken in the wiser world–there aspects of our so-called homeschooling are basic to postsecondary learning. Higher education in America may be very different in 2022, when our twin sons would enroll, but I like to think that they will have had a taste of the university already."
Having made that transition from homeschooled teen to college student, I can say that is true in my experience. College was not such a big change for exactly the reasons Elie states.
As a person who has been involved in homeschooling for the vast majority of my life, I can see this trend enriching homeschooling for all its participants. New curriculums will be developed, museums will expand their program offerings to home educators, and more support will be available for homeschooling families.
I would love to hear from you! Are you an urban homeschooler? If so, what motivated your choice to keep your children at home? For all homeschoolers, what do you think about this expansion in the homeschool demographic?
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