Education

Homeschooling Can’t Be for Everyone

Jennifer Panditaratne helps Hazeline with her reading assignments as she is homeschooling in Broward County, Fla., May 29, 2020. (Maria Alejandra Cardona/Reuters)
It may be the best option for some families, but conservatives should not rely on it in lieu of lasting public-education reform.

The pandemic exposed the warts of the public-school system. Students suffered academically, and the recent emergence of critical race theory has concerned many parents. While there have been high-profile cases of parents standing up to school boards against school closings and critical race theory, a record number of parents are turning to homeschooling. While the desire to personally shepherd one’s child should be commended, homeschooling en masse cannot be the answer to our educational crisis.

The problem of public schools’ failing our nation’s children is quite troubling. Teachers’ unions across the country stymied efforts to quickly reopen schools after the pandemic shutdowns, and students were forced to attend hybrid and remote schools. These methods were obviously less academically effective. Unfortunately, even when students are attending school regularly, the educational product is often quite poor.

Inner-city school districts seem to be unable to teach children basic reading and writing. In fact, many districts have resorted to simply passing along students instead of holding them back for remedial classes. The situation in a Baltimore school district got so bad that 41 percent of high-school students earned less than a 1.0 GPA.

One parent remarked that the hybrid learning model wasn’t working for her child, who has autism. She decided to homeschool:

I know some people have had success with the virtual learning and some people really like it. It just wasn’t that for us. We decided that we wanted to see if we could do better with homeschooling. . . . I actually saw him thrive in a lot of his areas of struggle, more so than any of the years in special education combined.

While some are complaining that public schools aren’t doing enough to teach, others are concerned about what their kids are being taught. The increasingly widespread adoption of critical race theory is alarming. At best, CRT is a method of analysis that should be reserved for graduate students in niche fields of literary theory. At worst, it shouldn’t be taught at all.

Many parents have fought against CRT to great effect. However, an increasing number of parents have chosen to abandon the public-school system entirely. A new report from the Associated Press found that the number of homeschooled children doubled over just six months. One family described their decision this way: “I didn’t want my kids to become a statistic and not meet their full potential,” said Robert Brown, a former teacher who now does consulting. “And we wanted them to have very solid understanding of their faith.”

The Brown family’s decision is completely understandable. I myself was homeschooled for a brief time. However, a mass exodus of conservative children from the public-school system is not a workable solution on a national scale.

For one, there are many people who cannot afford to homeschool their children. Poorer families may be unable to live on just one income. More affluent families may not want to dramatically decrease their standard of living by cutting off an income stream. Some simply won’t want to take on the task of personally educating their children.

Yet, even if a critical mass of conservative parents were willing to leave the public-school system, most of the population would still be educated in a traditional setting. A full 91 percent of students attend some form of public school, be it a charter school or an assigned public school. Furthermore, between 30 and 40 percent of Americans identify as conservatives. Thus, even if every conservative household homeschooled or sent their children to a private school, this would still leave the “woke” curriculum as the dominant educational force.

Now, the vast majority of parents are primarily focused on preserving their own child’s innocence, dignity, and faith. The broader societal implications are secondary. Unfortunately, if conservatives leave the school system without pushing back, leftist cultural creep will continue. Public schools educate the next generation of voters, activists, and thinkers. Caring about one’s own child necessitates a healthy interest in the education of others. The old proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” rings true, in this regard.

Parents should take an active role in the education of their children, but it need not be entirely in the home. Kids are always learning, and their education shouldn’t stop at the school doors. Beyond teaching in the home, everyone, even homeschoolers, should get involved in school-board meetings and local races. Such races are critically important.

The public-school system is not doing its job of teaching children effectively, and the curriculum being taught has rightfully come under fire. However, soaring homeschooling numbers is not the solution. Homeschooling is not financially workable for many families, and it is pollyannaish to believe that ceding the educational culture to leftists won’t affect all children in the end. Homeschooling may be the best option for some families, but conservatives cannot, and should not, rely on it in lieu of lasting education reform.

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