Blog Challenge, Homeschool Resources

First They Ignore You

Welcome everyone. Today is Day # 3 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.]


This summer, Marcus Wohlsen wrote a negative piece for the journal WIRED entitled “Homeschooling Only Deepens Silicon Valley’s Rift With the Rest of Us”.

Though I’m not in the Silicon Valley, I’m a long-time homeschooler. Each time I hear a negative homeschool article (and there have been numerous), it reminds me of the quote often both misquoted and misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but quite applicable here:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, and then you win.”

In the early decades of homeschooling, families choosing this path were seen as very few and rare. Later, many in the traditional arena felt these families, growing in number, to be asocial or weird, and unable to handle regular traditional educational institutions of learning.

Of course, this is a generalization, and not the experience of all homeschoolers. But many homeschool families have stories to share of how they were at times ridiculed, and their children were bullied and made to feel different.

But now the homeschool movement has reached a hard-to-ignore level. Over 3.4% of all U.S. children homeschool, and in numbers now exceeding 1.7 million. That’s a rise of 61.8% in one decade.

We also know that many homeschool students are statistically surpassing traditional schoolers in parameters including but not limited to college admissions, community service, and employment. These findings now place an increasing number of homeschoolers as truly viable competitors. That shift in perspective may, in part, be at play in the negatively of some recent articles.

The author of the WIRED article states,

“WIRED’s Jason Tanz published a feature story on techie homeschoolers alienated by traditional schools and in some cases by the idea of schooling itself. Not liking school isn’t exactly a radical notion—ask any kid. But at a time when the surge in tech-industry wealth is driving an ever-deeper wedge between haves and have-nots, the homeschooling trend plays into the suspicion that techies would rather live in a bubble than the world we all share. It’s not that any parents should be faulted for making what they see as the best choices for their kids. The issue is a Silicon Valley culture that can too often prize breaking away at the expense of chipping in.”

He goes on to say,

“Good intentions can breed solutionist fantasies where ‘disruption’ is the only answer. But disruption has a way of leaving the disrupted behind.”

Now, let’s step back a bit. Two phrases jump out. Chipping in and leaving behind. Let’s take them one by one.

CHIPPING IN: So many retired professionals from all walks of life have a depth of skill that would be (and should be) highly prized in the K-12 public school system. However, there is so much hoop jumping in the process of becoming a K-12 teacher. Some are reasonable, such as CORI. But many retired professionals (engineers, physicists, biologists, tradespeople, etc…) often find it far easier to teach at the community college level than go through the certification process involved in K-12. Private schools, on the other hand, are frequently more welcoming of non-certified professionals. Perhaps public schools might do well to learn from their experience. Homeschools utilize community professionals in their own education. Such professionals have so much to offer.

LEAVING BEHIND: I can only touch upon the irony of this term. Many homeschoolers would still be in public school if it weren’t for the simple fact that THEY (not the schools) were the ones left behind. The gifted and creative students. The divergent and twice-exceptional students. The outliers and misunderstood. These are all the students who fill the communities of Silicon Valley and elsewhere. They are the students who are forging ahead with a new vision of education. They are the hackers. The self-directed learners. The innovators. The risk-takers.

Lest we forget why so many of these students have fled the public school system, read Dr. Peter Gray’s article in Psychology Today on what many creative people throughout history have said about compulsory education in general.

Elon Musk, with his own account of childhood school bullying, took his own children’s education so seriously that he began his own private school. Its focus is very similar to how many homeschool. Watch the video here:

Now that homeschoolers and the homeschooling movement has reached a point where traditional schools feel threatened, perhaps the final point of the aforementioned quote is coming nearer to we win.

But that the homeschooling movement wins isn’t really the point. The winning comes from supporting ALL STUDENTS in the best way possible.

I’ve always been a huge fan of public schools and the difficult work educators must perform. But for my child, homeschool was always a better option. I have also felt privileged to have had the opportunity to homeschool, a privilege that others might indeed deem unfair. But it hasn’t been an easy road by any account.

I additionally know there are countless remarkable K-12 educators who are deeply dedicated to the students. Sadly, many feel their hands are tied by the rules of NCLB and Common Core. Some educators have even left the K-12 system to homeschool their own children.

To move forward, K-12 schools must be open to the fresh ideas proposed by homeschoolers and others that honor the individual and support both individual strengths and differences.

After all…EDUCATION is about LEARNING.

Learning can be messy. Sometimes learning can even be scary. It includes making mistakes, not being penalized, and getting up and brushing off the dust. Learning means moving forward towards mastery. Learning means community. It means finding passion. It means finding support for those passions. Learning takes the risk it requires to let go of old ways and embrace new ones.

Today is our new Sputnik time. We are all on the same side.

The real and deserving “winners” will be all of the students.

[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]