I am a traditional home school mom with leanings toward unschooling and a highly independent streak. My reasons for home schooling are based on academic, educational philosophy, and religious foundations. I highly value the autonomy that is the hallmark of home schooling and when that autonomy is sacrificed then what you have is no longer home school.
I chose home school to get AWAY from a teacher trained for government schools telling me when and what to teach my kids. I wanted autonomy and primacy in educational decisions.
Day before yesterday, I read an article about the permutations of home education, some of which differ little from the public schools. This brought to mind the way home school was when I began in the early 1990’s. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t doing traditional home school or unschooling. Both variations focus on child centered or child directed learning and the final authority on the selection of materials is the parent. Hardly anyone I knew used all of any curriculum provider’s materials, preferring to select books from a variety of sources. We valued our autonomy and while we might get together for field trips or the occasional special interest class, and many of us signed up for the usual dance, music, or martial arts classes, these were extras and we did our own planning.
Hallmarks of Home School
Two hallmarks distinguish home school from that which is no longer home school. The first is autonomy and the second is primacy of the parents.
Autonomy is that characteristic of a home school where educational decisions are made within the family doing the home schooling. The style of the day, the schedule, the holidays taken, the materials chosen, every aspect of the school is ordered by the free choice of the family. This is autonomy in home schooling.
Primacy of the parents is that aspect of home school where the final authority on the appropriateness of any materials, classes, field trips, videos, computer programs, systems of record keeping– all are handled by the parents who have primacy over their home school. The state might set requirements for records they want to see kept, but the parents decide how they will meet those requirements. The parents take a back seat to no-one in the management of their home school.
Home School ceases to be a proper home school if either primacy of the parents or the autonomy of the home school is lost.
Forms Of Schooling
Today there is a wider variety of people schooling their children at home and fewer people who value autonomy as much as I do. I meet the traditional home school and unschool types still but there are, mixed in with them, a lot of people whose programs of education do not look ANYTHING like home school to me because they lack that hallmark quality–autonomy.
Home School co-ops can be fun and a Home school family may use a co-op for a subject or short course, but the bulk of the home school is still at home and parent and child directed. If all the schooling is taking place in a co-op environment then it no longer fits the home school format because there is a lack of autonomy. It becomes a parent run private school where the parents are the teachers and work together to handle the administration. This type of school can be quite good but it is a form of private school rather than a form of home school.
Private school programs: These can be useful to a home school. Their materials are often available for those who don’t want to enroll in their program. Enrolling can be useful if the private school takes records as you generate them on your own schedule, and they keep records but do not interfere in your home school process, and you can substitute materials as you choose, then it maintains the autonomy of a home school.
Public School Programs: The many “school at home” programs that are cropping up remove much of the autonomy and primacy of the parents as educators. A family using a public school program is not home schooling at all because the public schools are in charge. The parent yields both autonomy and their primacy to the public school system. There is the opportunity to have your input as you walk your child through the public school program, but it lacks the freedom to skip materials that are irrelevant. It lacks the freedom to select alternative materials, or to vary the schedule. While it may be an educational option that serves those who choose it, it is not home school.
The Problem of Non-home schools being lumped in with true home schools
Home School has a long track record of superior academic success. This success is established on the work of autonomous home schools where the primacy of the parents as educators informed the entire process of home education.
Home school has consistently outperformed both public and private school systems in all areas of education. This has led to home educated students being in demand in many of the finer universities and colleges. These successes have encouraged more and more parents to seek to leave the public and private school systems for the freedom, autonomy and parental primacy of the home schools.
Countering this loss of parents and students many school systems, public schools in particular, have begun offering their texts and teachers online. They call these new programs home school options but it is not home school at all. It is public school done on a computer that is not sitting in a lab in the school but on a desk or table in the home. It remains PUBLIC SCHOOL.
There is a move to classify new styles of public school programs as home school. As home school parents we need to demand that these programs NOT be classified as home school! These programs deny the primacy of the parent as educator, the parent is merely a tech for the school, making sure the kid stays on the computer the set number of hours a day. These programs deny autonomy of the home in that there is no freedom to deviate, the program is the program and must be followed exactly or the same penalties apply as when the students attend the local public schools. This is not home school. This is just another government program and differs in results not one bit from the same program offered in a public school building!!
If the stats for how well home school kids include these programs and lead to the stats looking the same as private or public schools it will be more difficult to defend our freedom to do REAL home school.
Home Schoolers need to jealously guard their autonomy and the primacy of the parents as decision makers otherwise home school will be redefined until it means doing public school at home.