During the first HomeschoolChat on Twitter, the following question was raised: ‘How did your family and friends react when you announced your plans to homeschool?’ Surprisingly, most of the participants shared a similar experience regarding the reactions from family members and friends. Among the concerns, perhaps the most troubling and offensive was the question of a parent’s ‘qualifications’ to homeschool their own children. A majority of the chat participants hold a college degree; some have advanced or terminal degrees in their respective fields. Based on their earned credentials, why is it still so difficult for others to accept that many parents are, in fact, qualified to homeschool their own children? Despite our credentials, we are still expected to justify our decision to homeschool.
As a former teacher, I was never asked by parents, friends, or complete strangers whether I was qualified to teach other people’s children 180 days a year. Despite the fact that I did not earn my teaching credentials via traditional means, I was hired to work as an Interrelated Special Education Teacher. The only prerequisites I had to fulfill before receiving my Provisional license were: (1) holding at least a Bachelor’s degree; (2) earning a passing score on the PRAXIS (which has since been replaced with the GACE in Georgia); and (3) passing a criminal background check. With those prerequisites met, I was assigned a (shared) classroom and a bunch of impressionable students, who happened to belong to other people. No one ever questioned my qualifications or motivations for becoming a teacher.
On the contrary, when I first homeschooled my oldest child, now 17, a few years ago, I had everyone asking: Are you sure you can handle that? How will you know what to teach? Do you have enough experience to homeschool? I now understand that those questions were not directed at me personally, but instead at the school choice movement known as homeschooling. Despite the fact that the original method of educating children (for certain groups) occurred in the home, there are still misconceptions about homeschooling. Running a close second to the lack of socialization myth, comes the idea that parents are not qualified to teach their children. That ideal is simply not true. I have met some very intelligent, creative, and dedicated homeschooling parents who are committed to providing their children with a well-rounded, holistic education. Their approach ensures that they allow their children to explore their own interests, while integrating important concepts that every child should learn.
Homeschooling is not the black sheep of the education family. It is an alternative for children and families who realize that their needs cannot be met by the rigidity of traditional school settings, both public and private. As parents, we all want what we believe is best for our children. For some of us, that means homeschooling; for others, it may mean public, private, or some other school setting. We need to end the labeling and judgement and let others choose what works best for their families.