Welcome to Part 2 in my week long series – School Is Optional. A couple of events prompted me to take a break from my recent focus on #urbanfarming and #homesteading, and return to this earlier passion.
The first was a tweet from a fellow writer follower. She #homeschools her children in Washington state. She commented that their parenting course, required there in order to #homeeducate, usually had 200 families enrolled, but this year there were over 1,000.
The other thing was a text from my friend that home educates her younger son. Her older son, who is one of @PanKwake’s best friends, had been a schooler. But in light of the issues surrounding the Corona virus and schools, they have decided that he too will home educate this year.
There is no doubt that we live in extraordinary times.
In 2020, everyone in the UK and much of the US became home educators.
They had no choice in the matter. With the closing of schools, it became just another fact of our new reality. We worked from home. We shopped from home. And we educated our children from home.
For some parents this was a nightmare. Either because they lacked the technology to do the job properly or the parenting skills, it was a heavy burden on some. They will be delighted to see schools reopen. But I am not writing this series for them.
I am speaking to you – the parent who may have reconnected with your young person in a way that you have not in years. The parent who noticed that your child was happier, healthier, and just better adjusted at home. The parent who is saying – I don’t want this to end. This series is for you.
Today, we are going to look at some of the reasons that you like my friend or those 1,000 families in Washington state might want to consider home educating.
Let’s begin with those elephants in the room. The things that have or are changing over the past few months. Those special circumstances that may weigh heavily upon your mind.
This is obviously a big one. And whether you or someone in your family is like us in the high-risk category and may be concerned that sending your child back to school will increase those risks, or like my friend be worried about the changes in the schools and their impacts on the liberties of parents and quality of education, or as I said just one of those who have discovered you like your child and having them home with you, all are valid concerns. The New York Times recently reported that children including teens are among the fastest growing segment of the population affected by the virus. That is definitely something of concern for families like ours where one member is in that high risk category. But that does not negate the other points of view which are just as legitimate concerns.
Likewise, when parents consider things such as one week on/one week off schedules, bubbles, and masks, it is only natural to question what type of totalitarian regime they and their children will face in this ‘new normal.’ Daily temperature checks, sent home immediately if you sneeze, and you can’t come back for two weeks? Instead of having the best of both worlds, it sounds more like the worst with the stress and uncertainty.
Then there are those of us who just like our kids and want to spend more quality time with them. Maybe you discovered that the home ed stuff was not as hard as you thought or that you did just as good a job or better than schools. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who is now permanently based from home. But for whatever reason, there is no doubt that the past few months have changed and will continue to change the realities of work, home, and education balance for all of us. But Covid-19 is not the only thing happening in our world…
Elections? Natural disasters? And yes, racism? It seems that you can hardly find anything positive in the news anymore. As a parent, it is only natural to be concerned about the safety of your young person.
As the mother of a mixed-race young woman, I want to address those issues head on. In my opinion, schools are where our racism, sexism, and gender bias begins to be institutionalized.
The Civil Rights Movement might have made segregation illegal, but in no way did it end it. Those more affluent, most of whom are white, just moved to the suburbs where their schools benefited from higher funding from local taxes. While inner city schools floundered from lack of adequate resources. Is that right? No. Does that need to be fixed? Yes. But are you going to allow your child’s education to suffer when you have the time and resources to do a better job than those schools could?
As for girls and our young women, let’s see…
- School dress codes that insitutionalize the belief that what a woman wears causes rape?
- Math and science classes that studies show still favor boys over girls?
- An emphasize on appearance over substance?
- Inadequate sports opportunities for young women?
Should I go on? And woe be it, if you are blessed with a cis-gender child or young person.
The bottom line is that schools are a microcosm of the issues facing our societies. The question is – Whose point of view do you want your young person to take? The one that aligns with your world view (and hopefully makes this world a better, more accepting, understanding, and respectful one) or the one influenced by whoever is in power at the moment?
And we have not even begun to touch upon the traditional reasons for choosing to home educate your child or young person, such as:
- Bullying – As highlighted in 2019 BBC report, one-fifth of our children report being bullied in the past twelve months. And 75% of those said it affected their mental health or caused depression. We know too that suicide rates are climbing among our children and young people. This was the primary reason that we choose home education.
- Quality of education – If you live in an area where the school are poor, or are randomly assigned to a school that you did not choose, you may rightly believe that you could do better for your child at home. If you feel like that, then you usually can.
- Differences, including medical issues and neurodivergence – This was our companion reason for choosing to home educate @PanKwake, who is multiply neurodivergent (autism/Pathological Demand Avoidant, ADHD, dyslexic, dyspraxic…). She also had a co-morbid medical condition (epilepsy) at that time, and her school schedule was exacerbating the situation.
- Differences in philosophy – Schools reduce teaching to one learning style, or two at the most. Children are forced to sit quietly and listen to the ‘expert’ for longer and longer. There is little to no hands on learning for the kinesthetic learner (and in the case of our friend’s older son what little he did have will stop under new guidelines). If you favor a more interactive, equitable, or open-ended style of learning, then you are unlikely to find such a beast in schools.
If you feel that I have left another elephant in the room out, I have. I am not a fan of religion. And as a radical advocate of the rights of a child for self-determination, I think that is child abuse. Ironically, that was our primary reason for homeschooling my older four. Do I have regrets? About homeschooling – No. About my reason for doing so and style of home educating? Absolutely. Enough said about that one.
But whatever your reason (and if yours did not make my list please comment and add it, I am sure you are not alone), your next question may be…
But is it legal? What are the rules I have to follow?
Those are big questions and legitimate concerns. While it is impossible for a blog (beyond a local one) to address those issues adequately. Tomorrow I will point you to some good sources to begin your research.