Homeschooling scares me for many reasons. First, I know the workload that goes along with raising a family. The grueling pace that’s required just to keep up and live a basic life, while negotiating how to fit everything into a 24-hour period. Granted my outlook might be skewed since I have four kids and four times the chores. Not to mention one autism diagnosis that put a wrench into my expectations for the future and how I thought my family life would evolve. I know it’s unrealistic to compare my experience with others. Yet we’ve all heard the discussion over whether women can have it all and the consensus seems to be that, yes it’s possible, just not at the same time. Trying to conquer the demands of parenting, homeschooling, and maintaining any sense of personal sanity is attempting to have it all while falling short of average expectations. (Side note: Just the thought of homeschooling gives me flashbacks to Andrea Yates.)
Secondly, teaching every subject efficiently would be difficult, if not impossible, for one person to do equally well across different grade levels. Sure, parents who homeschool may excel in one area, but the chances are doubtful that they are knowledgeable enough to teach every subject fluently. That concern grows exponentially with each advancing grade. If we were all equally qualified then there’d be no need for SAT tutors and community colleges.
But mostly, getting an education is about more than just academic lessons. It’s about our children’s exposure to different cultures and personalities. It’s about adapting and coexisting with the human race. It’s about working together as a group. My children have been fortunate enough to attend high-ranking public schools and have benefited from all the perks that that tax-given right provides. I’ve had varying contact with the public education system across a spectrum that’s included accelerated classes and TAG (Talented and Gifted) programs to special education and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). I’m a proponent of quality public education. For the most part, homeschooling just can’t compete.
Homeschooling is an insular experience that handicaps children from the real world. A diverse world with varying faiths, backgrounds, and different perspectives from other children having traveled another path. The lessons that might be missed in a sheltered existence within the confines of home. I recognize the exposure to other children by way of extracurricular sports and activities; though the limited time is markedly different from the unsupervised socialization in school, day after day, month after month.
I often wonder whether the public schools my children have attended are diverse enough. I survey the crowd at school functions and listen when the children talk about the lone black child in their class. I think about the flipside of living as a minority child submersed in a mostly white school and how that experience varies from the white experience that my children know. I think about the Asian, Hispanic, and black children who are so few that, out of a population of over eight hundred, are known by their first names. A school whose population reflects my community and not the world. I realize that in many ways my children’s experience is sheltered much like the children who are homeschooled.
My hope is that my children will embrace other children without a lens of judgment. That they’ll befriend those children who aren’t carbon copies of themselves, but are just part of the human race like their Iranian dad. Children who look at their president as the leader of our country without the hashtag #blackman. School is as much a lesson about acceptance as it is mastering algebra. I’m sure there will be a backlash from those devout homeschoolers who only see the benefits of educating their children apart from the mainstream. Just like there are people who still think immunizations cause autism and that people catch colds by going outside in winter with damp hair. That’s okay because a world that lacks diversity is just as bad as one full of people without convictions. We just have to be willing to hear the other side. Why do you homeschool?