Although still mostly a Christian phenomenon, homeschooling has been rather effective in reminding all parents of the sad condition of state education. Ten years ago, everyone agreed that public education was in trouble and debated endlessly over what could be done, yet no one really provided any answers beyond “more money.” Now, however, parents of school-age children realize that there is a solution and “therein,” as Shakespeare says, “lies the rub.”
Each year, homeschooling seems to become more and more socially accepted. As recent as five years ago, most people outside of the movement would give homeschooling families the same look that they would some sort of weird modern art exhibit. They just couldn’t comprehend the concept of not sending their kids off to “school” once they reached the magical age of “educational accountability.” Public education was something of a rite of passage for both the children and the parents. For the child, it was proof positive that he was growing up. For the parent, it was time to cash in on state-funded and operated day care. This was the norm. This is how these parents were raised and their parents and grandparents before them. If a solution to the education crisis was to be found, it must lie somewhere inside this formula.
The pioneering homeschoolers of a decade ago did an end-run around the entire system. The system, they reasoned, is broken and no amount of money or litigation or standardized testing will fix it. The exodus had begun. The scorn and bewilderment that these pioneers endured is now our glory. Modern-day homeschooling families are more prone to hear words of encouragement and support than ever before. Even families which aren’t specifically Christian are pulling their children out of the system and teaching them at home. The co-op that my family belongs to counts several non-Christian families among its ranks. These parents are realizing that homeschooling is a viable and instantaneous option to the education crisis. Tired of hearing the political answers and promises, they are opting for more grass-roots activism. Instead of waiting to see what the next school-board meeting will decide, they are taking matters into their own hands.
But this is not to say that homeschoolers should think that the scorn and ridicule will come in shorter and shorter supply. Quite the contrary actually. Personal experience has led me to conclude that current and soon-to-be homeschoolers need to be preparing now for the second wave of popular and mainstream criticism and persecution. Follow this line of reasoning if you will. Current public education parents—those who previously looked at the early homeschooling families with bewilderment—are beginning to see the value of homeschooling. But, they believe that they have already made their decision, right or wrong, and now they are stuck with it. These are the same parents who will give answers like: “I wish I had the patience to homeschool,” or “I really admire your dedication, I wish we had done that with our kids.” In other words, they give a back-handed admission that their kids are getting a lousy state-education. These parents have basically accepted homeschooling as a good idea, so they compliment instead of condemn those who do it, because they believe that the path for their own children’s education is set in stone. They have the luxury of evaluating the homeschool movement on its own merits and not as anything that they must consider for themselves. From these parents, homeschoolers have found something of an ally.
A second group of parents are those that have had children in the last five or ten years and are now making or preparing to make educational decisions for their children. This group cannot plead ignorance or make the case that public education is the only option. They know better. They have watched, read, and listened to the debate for ten years now. Ignorance is not an option. It is from these parents that we can expect a new wave of criticism and ridicule. This second group has had greater access and exposure to homeschooling and the arguments, both pro and con, and has decided against it. They have watched their children grow from infants to toddlers and now that the decision is upon them have decided to stick with the traditional model. And this is fine. Parents have to make all kinds of decisions and they are not made in isolation to each other. We would be callous and shallow to think that homeschooling is the only option and any parent that chooses otherwise is making a wrong decision. But grace should cut both ways and it almost never does. This is why I believe (and I have experienced it myself) that a subset of this second group, who have had 5-10 years to consider the educational options, will placate their own guilt of not wanting to homeschool by persecuting those who do. Not being able to homeschool (for whatever reason) is one thing, but not wanting to be bothered with it is another thing entirely.
It is for this reason that I believe homeschoolers would be remiss if they continue to keep their guard down, thinking that it is becoming more and more acceptable and legal. We will soon see if my forecasting abilities are right or wrong, and I sincerely hope that they are wrong. But, then again, persecution often serves to refine those in the fire, so maybe it won’t be such a bad thing if I’m right.