I just finished writing a review of two books about homeschooling (I’ll post a link when it’s published), and this morning I read an intriguing piece in The Atlantic entitled “The Homeschool Diaries.” I’ve mentioned before that we decided to homeschool our three children for just a year when we moved to Utah – also, we thought, for just a year – during my husband’s visiting professorship at the University of Utah law school.
Well, we ended up homeschooling for six years, and we stayed in Utah for fourteen. (Indeed, I’m writing this post from our cabin in Utah, where I’m surrounded by suitcases and boxes. After meeting with some students in Salt Lake this afternoon, I’m off to Palo Alto.)
The Atlantic article captures much of what I loved about homeschooling: the opportunity to pick curriculum, and just as importantly to discard curriculum that didn’t work; the integration of “school” with surroundings (art history in museums, geology in national parks); and simply the way, to quote the author, “we could easily build our home life around learning in a way that would be fun for the whole family.”
Here’s the article. Read it and enjoy: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-homeschool-diaries/309089/#.UORwkji8Nbo.facebook
But writing the review and reading this article raised a question that strikes me much more forcefully since I’ve spent years as a “real” school teacher and now as an education blogger.
How, and why, did we get away with it?
Voters defeated vouchers in conservative Utah; a prominent educational choice advocate just lost his race to remain Indiana’s superintendent of schools; and charter school supporters barely eked out 2012 victories in Georgia and Washington. Yet between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, homeschoolers managed to overturn an almost entirely hostile array of state laws and regulations and render their version of educational choice not only legal, but mostly lightly governed, in all 50 states. Over the past three decades the number of homeschooled children has grown by at least 7 percent a year and exceeds the number of children attending charter schools. According to Vanderbilt education professor Joseph Murphy’s 2012 survey of the professional literature on homeschooling, Homeschooling in America (one of the books that I’m reviewing), “when life cycle numbers are compiled, we discover that fully 6-12% of all students will have been educated at home at some time in their K-12 educational careers.”
When I write about charter schools, I inevitably receive critical comments. That’s fine – indeed, that’s what this blog is all about. But why has homeschooling fared so much more successfully in the public square than other forms of educational choice?
It’s a sincere question. I’d love to know what you think.