Recently, a bill was introduced in the South Carolina legislature that would have severely curtailed homeschooling. I was pleased to see the rapid response of homeschoolers to this threat to our freedoms. Based upon some of the questions and concerns that we fielded during this time, I thought it would be helpful to review how to respond to those who attack homeschooling.
Over the years, I have found that people who oppose homeschooling, or who want to severely regulate it, fall into one of three categories. There are those who oppose based upon ideological principles. There are those who oppose based upon ignorance of homeschooling. And there are those who oppose because of insecurity about their own educational decisions. Our response to each of these three groups should be different.
Those who oppose homeschooling based upon ideological principles view homeschooling as a threat to the statist centralized view of education. Typical individuals in this category are members of the NEA or the education establishment. The ideology of these individuals is that children belong to the state and not to their families. Homeschooling is a threat to their ability to control and propagandize children.
When faced with opposition from this category of individual, it is best to politely expose their agenda. The statist ideology of these individuals is totally contrary to the American traditions of freedom and rights of the individual. When their agenda is publically exposed, they quickly lose support from the public. Often they will then resort to personal attacks on home school leaders or they will try to change the subject from education into a different topic, such as child abuse.
Since those who are ideologically opposed to homeschooling are unable to win an open debate on the merits of their statist principles, they hope to defeat homeschooling through personal attacks on leaders. It takes a thick skin from homeschool leaders to not respond in anger to the public attacks. However, the rest of us need to step up and defend homeschool leaders during those times.
When those who are opposing homeschooling try to change the subject to child abuse or neglect, we need to shift our response to talking about the government agencies that are responsible for monitoring abusive situations. We need to ensure that our dialogue focuses on child abuse laws, child abuse enforcement. This is a completely different subject from homeschooling.
The second category of individuals who oppose homeschooling are those who are ignorant about homeschooling. These individuals often have not had the opportunity to get to know homeschooling children
or see the benefits of the homeschooling family lifestyle. The opposition of these individuals is based upon the cultural norms of their experience, and television and movies (which seldom portray homeschooling, but when they do it is in a negative light). It is best to engage these individuals in a dialogue on homeschooling research and give them exposure to homeschoolers. The results of research studies and the exposure to successful homeschoolers will usually change the minds of these individuals.
The third category is often the hardest category to deal with. These are the individuals who feel insecure or guilty about the educational choices they have made for their own family. Usually they are aware of the benefits of home education and often even agree with the underlying Biblical or societal principles that motivate many homeschooling families. However, they have made a different choice. Typical individuals in this category will be the family members or church friends who have institutionalized their children in government schools.
These individuals are often aware of the moral, philosophical and physical dangers of government school. Despite this, they choose to leave their children in government schools. The opposition of these individuals is based upon a desire to see their own decisions appear in a better light. Because of the guilt they often feel about their decisions, a dialogue is very difficult. The mere fact that we successfully homeschool our children is a condemnation of their decision to institutionalize their children. The challenge of dealing with opposition from these individuals is that they often agree with us on broad principles of education, but don’t care what the facts and results show about homeschooling. My recommendation for dealing with individuals in this category is to simply politely and gently stand your ground and let your lifestyle speak for you. Be ready to share with them if they ever open up, but avoid open confrontation which only makes them even more defensive.
Ray Sheen has been involved with homeschooling for over 25 years. He and his wife, Holly, homeschooled their daughters from birth through high school, and advised them through their college-at-home experience. Their daughters have now earned their Bachelors Degrees. He has also served in leadership positions for several homeschooling organizations at the local, state, and national level.