On several forums the question of “What makes a ‘real homeschooler’?” or “What is ‘real homeschooling’?” inevitably comes up in various forms. I personally find the concept behind the question repugnant and politically dangerous for those of us that choose alternatives to “traditional” brick-and-mortar, government-run education. For lack of a better term I will refer to anyone that educates their children at home, rather than a public, charter, or private brick-and-mortar establishment, a home educator. It’s simple and uncomplicated, so don’t read into it any more than necessary.
Here is an example of such divisive exchanges (emphasis added):
Is this homeschool fair specifically designed for real homeschoolers like us, or is it also for people who are in virtual “public school at home” schools? I have a friend who I am trying to encourage to do real homeschool like so many of our wonderful [redacted] families are doing. She is currently doing public school at home but I have still invited her to attend.
Response from the fair organizer:
I’m not going to dwell on what Ms. [redacted]’s definition of a “real homeschooler” is, but the homeschool fair is for all people who are choosing to educate their children at home. It’s a great opportunity to see what our community has available for all of us who choose to educate our children at home. I encourage everyone to attend, and invite others who may benefit.
Actually, it is not “her definition” of a real homeschooler. It is a known fact that public school at home is not considered “homeschool” for all purposes that I’ve ever encountered. If I’m not mistaken, our very organization is for “real homeschoolers” as she described. She was not meaning to be derogatory, as it was a legitimate question based on fact. Normally, I’d mind my own business, but your answer was the comment that was rude and demeaning, so I feel like defending the one who posted the honest question. Sorry if it offended you, but public school at home is NOT normally considered homeschooling. And most of us know that. Be more aware before making rude remarks that reveal your own ignorance. Her question was genuine and uplifting, as she is trying to help a friend. I was shocked to see such a tacky response.
The fair organizer’s response was actually quite diplomatic with a keen understanding of reality. But beyond that, the exchange demonstrates weakness in the home education movement that could have politically fatal consequences.
Remember, a savvy enemy (in war or politics) will seek to divide and conquer. In politics, simply create controversy and division, then swing 1% to your side and you win while factions within the spectrum of each side fight each other.
With some 4% of the school-aged population currently exercising alternatives approaches to education, and gaining ground, it is shame that such a small community chooses to create divisions that weaken rather than strengthen their cause.
In the spectrum from public online programs that can be implemented at home to unschooling or hack-schooling approaches, the collective group must stand united against forces that would love nothing more than to crush all such options.
Even with the current political tides leaning favorably toward home education we must remember that we are always one stroke of a pen away from dictates that would take away such privileges. And, one must remember, it is a privilege as the rights argument (mainly on religious grounds) may be quite weak for about ⅔ of home educators that probably cannot make a legitimate religious claim. The only remaining argument might be so-called parental rights, but even that may have little traction in the end. The legal system is a fickle beast.
Simply put, if you had 1-million home educating families with some 2-million children you would find 2-million unique reasons for choosing to educate those children at home. Sure, there are some significant overlaps in reasoning, e.g., religious, quality, emotional, special needs, and so on, but the individual experience for each child is unique.
The purpose of making such choices is to meet the needs of our individual children according to what we, as parents (or guardians), trust is best for our children. If someone chooses to start by enrolling their children into a public or private online academy then we should be supportive of that choice, recognizing that it was made for the benefit of the child with consideration to either the confidence, capability, or means of the parent. Such choices may lead toward greater parental involvement with their child’s curriculum and, ultimately, increased confidence, financial or temporal means.
The point is that if we take self-righteous, divisive, exclusionary stances as to who is or is not a “real homeschooler” we choose to be conquered. Just like the Saxons breaking ranks in 1066 to be conquered by the Normans. But, if you are educating your children in history, you know this already.
Its time to seek a common ground and take a stand rather than be scattered by political predation.