August 11, 2020

A Plea to New Homeschoolers

Many thousands of parents have responded to the coronavirus situation as it affects conventional schools - both public and private - by choosing to leave the system and move to private, independent, home-based education (i.e., homeschooling). If you are one of those new homeschoolers - coming into homeschooling for the short- or long-term - know that we veterans will welcome and try to help you. But, in return, we ask that you keep a few very important points in mind:
1. If you are using a public school's virus-related distance learning or a virtual/charter public school, you are not homeschooling (from a legal perspective) even though your kids are at home. That's not a value judgment, just a legal reality. Actual homeschoolers operate under a different set of laws, and it's imperative to understand, acknowledge, and respect the distinctions. For a complete analysis of what is and is not homeschooling, check out this article; 
2. Current state homeschool laws have been in place for 25+ years. Modern homeschool pioneers fought hard for the freedoms inherent in those laws - some even went to jail - and bureaucrats are regularly on the lookout even to this day for ways to take that freedom away. Therefore, it's incumbent on every new homeschooler to know the law in your state and abide by it. You will have great freedom as a homeschooler - but with freedom comes the responsibility to make sure it continues for others down the line. If you knowingly flout the homeschool law just because you're new to the party and don't like the rules, you risk everyone's freedom going forward. Please don't do it; 
3. One distinct feature of homeschooling is that homeschool parents do not receive taxpayer funds or other government-sponsored stipends. We pay for our kids' resources on our own (yes, even as we're also forced to pay taxes for public schools). That doesn't seem fair and perhaps it's not - but self-funding is a hallmark of homeschooling. And the reward for using only our own money is freedom (i.e., no one has the right to say how we can or can't use our own money). Veteran homeschoolers fought long and hard to obtain and keep that freedom too. So do not come in and try to get that changed. If you want government funding, you need to go with distance learning or virtual/charter public schooling, not homeschooling; 
4. There are literally thousands of homeschool curriculum resource providers out there - over 4,800, to be precise...all of which you can see on The Homeschool Resource Roadmap (HERE for alphabetical lists and HERE if you want to start choosing what to use for your kids). And there is great diversity amongst those resources! Some will not comport with your personal/family values and you may even be "offended" by some companies' views. The answer: just don't buy that stuff. But please do not bully those who do...or talk about getting it banned (yes, that has, sadly, been happening!). There is something for every homeschooler, and it's not your job to try to control a market that has existed for almost 40 years. Spend your money as you please and don't complain about how anyone else spends theirs; 
5. The same is true for homeschool groups. If you find an existing homeschool group you don't like...move on and find a different one or start a new one yourself. It's not your job to come in and try to "reform" long-standing organizations that you don't happen to understand or like. We do truly want to help...but, as Abraham Lincoln said, "Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself..."
As you begin private homeschooling, you are coming into a beautiful, rich lifestyle choice upon which our country was actually founded - and which has been vibrant in the modern era for more than 40 years. Veterans will generously show you the ropes so you can start to build your own homeschooling "house" - we'll be your biggest cheerleaders! But please understand that we won't allow the basic blueprints of the movement to be altered by "newbies." Just as you would not walk into someone's home and start knocking down walls, please respect the history and integrity of the system you're joining. If it's not for you, that's totally fine; you have other options. If you're choosing homeschooling, though, you need to accept what it is...and is not.

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