Chances are good that sometime in the last week you’ve interacted with at least one adult (perhaps more than one) who was educated at home. People in the workplace, teachers and professors, business owners … don’t be surprised to find some of them are products of home education.While schooling within the home and family has been a common practice for centuries, states began adopting compulsory attendance laws about 1852, ceding broader oversight of education to towns and local governments. Though precise figures are hard to nail down, as many as 2.2 million children are currently being taught in the home.
From about the 1970s (give or take), the home school movement has grown. That being the case, the earliest home schoolers are now in their early to mid-40s. Yes, there were home educated students before 1970. In fact, HuffPo provides a 2013 short article and pictorial of eighteen successful people who received their education at home. Long-time observers of home schooling could probably add to that list.
Today, I read a lengthy diatribe titled The Homeschool Apostates. (The author presents a dismal picture, and I readily acknowledge some home school students have been in awful situations.) Still, as I read, I kept wondering how many people the author had met during the last week who (unbeknownst to her) were educated at home.
I must confess I didn’t read the entire post. I’m not familiar with the author’s other writings, but this piece reflected a serious hostility to strict fundamentalist ideology. I get that. Her anecdotes are far from complimentary. Her disdain for several national leaders is quite apparent. These individuals represent the face of that intersection between fundamentalism and home education … as well as their alliance with folks in the Quiverfull movement.
We began officially educating our four children at home in 1986. No, we weren’t among the first but we were early enough that friends, neighbors, and extended family openly expressed their skepticism. We launched our home school because my Beloved and I believed we could provide our children a better education than the public school down the street or the private school they’d previously attended.
Were we adherents of the strict fundamentalist ideology at which Kathryn Joyce takes aim? Let me put it this way. We believe in certain fundamentals (essentials of both our faith and our personal worldview) but to paint us with the broad brush of fundamentalism wouldn’t be accurate.
Were we Quiverfull devotees? Hardly.
Were we followers of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (or its earlier iteration Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts)? No, again, though in the 1970s we attended their seminar. We’ve never been followers of anyone (man or organization) … except Jesus Christ.
The tragic instances of cruelty and bad behavior related in Joyce’s post (plus on other websites she links) are not characteristic of the situations I’ve observed firsthand. Furthermore, alternative online resources concur. A US News article from 2012 gives a different picture, noting home schoolers are often better prepared for college. A New York Times article from January 2015 also provides anecdotal experiences for a number of different families.
The most recent (2009) comprehensive report on home education includes research and an overall positive picture. On page 6 of the report, the researcher says he studied over 7,000 adults who were home educated and he found several striking conclusions, including their higher rate of community engagement. (I’ll let you read the full report at the above link.)
Here’s what I know. As with every other educational model, home education has the potential to produce serial killers or university presidents. Home education has both its religious zealots and its non-religious practitioners. As with public school and private school, some students who are home educated may be geniuses while others are mediocre students.
As far as our experience can be weighed and measured, we are personally (and intimately) acquainted with four adults from our home school who have all developed into lifelong learners. All four have completed post-high school degrees, one who has earned many hours toward her Ph.D. Three of the four have offspring and have imparted their love of learning to those children. I think it would be safe to say none of the four has veered toward the ideologies Kathryn Joyce finds objectionable.
In my view, the negative stories may garner the sensational headlines, but my four former students would be more typical of the norm … children who were educated at home and grew into productive (and engaged) adults. You might even run into one of them this week!