What Counts as Homeschooling?
Imagine my dismay, after nearly 40 years of advocating for parents’ rights, to learn that a respected journal that promotes conservative values muddies the waters around homeschooling and cyberschooling. With eagerness, I turned to the article in the November 25 edition of National Review to learn that the advances in technology are actually public school at home (“How Technology Is Changing Homeschooling,” Sarah Schutte. Under no circumstances should public school at home be confused with a home-education program provided through private funding, generally supplied by parents. Home education is more akin to private schooling. When cyberschools first hit the educational marketplace, many of us fought vigorously for them to be clearly labeled as public school at home, with the parents as unpaid public-school teachers and participants subject to days, hours, and testing. Homeschooling parents choose the curriculum, the schedule, and the evaluation methods and pay for it with their own funds. Cyberschools paid for with tax dollars choose the curriculum, set the schedule, and determine how progress is evaluated.
There are several reasons for making the distinction. First, there should be honesty in advertising. Second, legislators are easily confused, and if the distinction between public and private education is not maintained, disaster for the private sector can be the result. And third, there are enough problems with school-district superintendents’ believing that they are qualified and empowered to impose any kind of requirements on home-educating families without giving these public servants any more reason to act contrary to what the law stipulates.
When I opened the article, I expected to see information about such programs as OutSchool, Teaching Textbooks, and more, but found an encomium for an approach to education that is the same-old-same-old found in the public-school classrooms.
Mary L. Hudzinski
Sarah Schutte responds: Ms. Hudzinski is correct in her assessment of the muddy situation of homeschooling and cyberschooling. Unfortunately, while there are many benefits to having a wide variety of schooling options available to students and their parents, the lack of clear definitions she mentions is creating difficulties for traditional homeschoolers (where the parents design and implement the curriculum). These traditional homeschoolers are running up against issues such as people claiming that their “intent” is to homeschool even though their child may be taking, for example, all PSEO (postsecondary enrollment options) classes at the local community college. Deciding who is a “true” homeschooler and who is not can sow division among organizers of everything from soccer teams to co-ops to orchestras.
Should we have clearer definitions of what is homeschooling and what is not? Absolutely. However, I made clear in my article that this is a tricky situation, especially when considering new developments such as hybrid homeschools. And these types of homeschools have come about through advances in technology. Teaching Textbooks, OutSchool, and other such programs are excellent assets to homeschoolers, but while they would be an interesting topic, writing about them was not the purpose of the article.