This article in New York magazine, called “Homeschooling, City-Style,” starts out like a typical trying-to-be-open-minded article about homeschooling. It addresses and quickly dismisses the topic of Christian fundamentalist homeschoolers (they are not interesting to this readership) and introduces readers to a new breed: smart, urban homeschoolers with degrees and money, who believe in evolution! Oh, no way. Can it be?
It has a few lovely quotes about the delights of homeschooling, like this one:
“It’s like a big secret, like we’re getting away with something,” she says.
There is some explanation of how it’s done in New York State, the article’s focus. There is reassurance that the state is keeping track of something — the homeschoolers have to file a report annually and take state tests occasionally — so calm yourselves, dear readers; the semi-educated crazies can’t get too out of hand. Somebody is monitoring them.
The article ends on such a downer, though! It presents (and doesn’t even try to refute) all those myths about the supposedly fantastic “socialization” that kids get in school that they “miss” by homeschooling. “School isn’t just where kids develop intellectually,” says the article, “it’s where they learn to cooperate, face social challenges, and work out their differences.” As if learning to cooperate cannot happen anywhere else but school, where children are made to spend entire days with a couple dozen or more children exactly their age, and one adult in charge. As if learning how to form cliques, how to exclude the weird kids (or become one), how to fear the popular kids (or become one), how to worry over clothing choices and backpacks, how to race to acquire the latest gadgets, how to complain the loudest about homework and teachers, how to trash talk and fake sick, how to spend the most money on their hair and dresses for homecoming (or how to stay home and pretend not to care) are positive forms of socialization. The article quotes exactly one grown-up homeschooler, who is 24 years old and says she “always struggled socially,” to illustrate how socially inept all homeschoolers are. Way to dig deep!
It addresses the notion that parents will invariably get sick of their kids:
And then there’s the pure exasperation homeschool parents can feel after spending all day with their children—not just teaching but cooking, cleaning, shopping, mediating arguments, and more—without a break from breakfast until bedtime.
The implication is that because sometimes parents get tired or exasperated, they should send their kids somewhere else 40 hours per week. Week-long separation will solve that problem. However, would this phenomenon not be a FANTASTIC opportunity to learn something about (what did the article list as prime skills?) cooperation, facing social challenges, and working out differences?
And about the “diverse society” that the article claims students find at their regular schools, where the wealthy kids attend school together in the wealthy school districts and the poor kids attend school together in the poor districts? I wish they could see our homeschool group, where kids from million-dollar homes play with kids from trailer parks and kids from farms, and which includes families that are white and black and Indian and Asian and mixed, kids who are outgoing and kids who are introverts, kids who are intellectually brilliant and kids who mostly tell fart jokes (or both), kids who play chess and kids who play baseball (or both), and all sorts of kids who would be considered special-ed or marginalized or picked on or “left behind” in “regular school,” but are included without a blink in our supposedly insular, unsocialized homeschooling environment.
In the end, this is just another article that peddles fear and ignorance. Fear that children who do not attend “regular school” will inevitably be socially incompetent, and ignorance about what homeschooling families are actually like.