I realized recently that I have lost my way a bit on this homeschooling journey. I have adjusted and I am making my way back to the path I was on.
Homeschooling has grown and changed so very much over our ten years. It's more popular than ever. But this growing popularity concerns me for three reasons: the commonality is changing the definition, the influx of numbers is diluting the true mission and purpose, the new families are being misled into how to do this properly.
Homeschooling once meant to choose a completely different way of life. It meant in many ways to opt of society, culture, and public school. Parents who chose to homeschool did so because they wanted to bond in a deeper way with their children. They wanted a Classical Education, rich in a love of learning, literature, art, and freedom. They wanted a life centered at home, not in the mini-van. Parents who homeschooled were off the beaten path, and non-conformist.
Homeschooling became a viable option for Christians dissatisfied with the public school systems and it grew in popularity. New curricula was available, resources, conferences, groups, chat boards. It grew tremendously. Homeschooling then became an option for those whose children didn't fit the mold, for behavior, learning, because their 8 yr old boy couldn't sit still for 7 hrs.
People opt out of school for many reasons now. The problem is that when something grows in this way it has to be ever redefined to reflect it's true nature. Thus homeschooling which once was defined by it's non-conformity is now broadened to include school-at home, school from a box, schooling by co-op, schooling online, and so forth. Now all these methods are considered homeschooling. It's not nice to tell someone they aren't really homeschooling because they are homeschooling from a can. It's not polite to say that co-op isn't homeschool. But is it? Doesthe definition change to fit those who want inclusion or does the definition stand alone and some simply do not fit. Those people need another terminology. Maybe they are school-at-homers?
If you aren't sure why it matters I ask you to consider your position on gay marriage. One side believes marriage means one thing, the other side believes it means something else, something more inclusive. One side wants the title, they realize that definition is important. The other side feels that including those who are so different changes what that title is to them. So it is for me with homeschooling.
The growing numbers mean all kinds of people are homeschooling. People who actually don't want to spend all day, everyday with their kids. People who think test scores mean something, people who will bounce back and forth between school and home from one year to the next without conviction of the homeschooling mission or purpose. I'm not saying those parents are wrong, my only point is that this thinking is different than being a true homeschooler, by the original definition.
My greatest concern, is with this redefining and dilution, the experience for new families is tragically altered. They will jump into the flow of endless activities, hectic schedules, co-op, boxed curriculum and find themselves surrounded by people who do not share their values, their convictions, or their goals, and sometimes those people will lose heart and quit. Sometimes they will join the crowd and their potential will never be realized. Sometimes too they fair just fine by realizing their goals and the true nature of homeschooling.
It isn't a competition and every family will choose for themselves what suits their family. But it makes me sad that some families might never know what they are missing. I have contributed to changing the nature and definition of homeschooling in a negative way, and I will not continue.
For the record, no one died and left me boss - these are my thoughts and opinions and by all means feel free to define homeschooling anyway you like. That's the country we live in. We can't define anything that excludes anyone. Everything must be relative and inclusive. Even if it dilutes the original institution. It wouldn't be politically correct to tell someone they aren't really homeschooling.
The reason I am writing this is because I stopped being a real homeschooler for awhile, and we have suffered for it. I am trying to find my way back and it's not easy. This post is me thinking out loud.