Where Will That Leave Us?

In December, 1983 – 27 years ago – we collated twenty pages of typing paper into the first issue of Home Education Magazine. We were very proud of our little fledgling publication with typewritten pages and hand-drawn illustrations, and over the years we’ve been honored to publish hundreds of outstanding writers and the best articles, interviews, and reporting on homeschooling to be found anywhere. We’re proud that HEM has contributed to the understanding and encouragement of countless homeschooling parents, and those wanting to know more about homeschooling, be they parents, teachers, legislators, researchers, or the media. It’s a good feeling to have co-founded a magazine which has touched so many people’s lives in a positive and informative way.

We’ve witnessed, and to a large degree chronicled, the growth and development of the homeschooling movement. What started as a handful of parents resisting the state mandate of compulsory school attendance for their children has grown and matured into an increasingly complex multitude of reasons, methods and approaches to learning, and that is how it should be. Any idea whose time has come – home birthing, organic gardening, computers – will change and grow as more and more people see the wisdom and sense of it and make it a part of their lives.

But education in this country, both public and private, has also been undergoing many changes in the last few years, and the repercussions of those changes are finding their way into our homes. Our ever-increasing supply of technological marvels, from multitasking super cellphones to computer and video programs which defy imagination, have affected education in ways that are only beginning to become apparent. Online reference tools, homework assistance web sites, online college courses, cyber-schools, and even video games all contribute to a sense of education as an ongoing, never-ending pursuit, and that’s good; most homeschoolers already know that to be true. But as the changes take place, as computers and the Internet move the building blocks of learning out of brick and mortar schools and into our homes, education policymakers wrestle with increasingly tough challenges. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, co-founder of the technology-based education company K12, commented, “…parents are the greatest resource possible; they are like unpaid adjunct faculty whose engagement is crucial to future success.” Unfortunately, as the mandates of a public school education filter into the home, so too will the attendant assessment, accountability, testing and tracking measures, that’s just how it works.

The lines between homeschooling and public schooling are becoming blurred, and even deliberately erased, to the benefit of a variety of organizations, individuals and business interests. Some say that schools moving out of the classroom and into the home is a good thing. We’re told what we’re seeing is just the natural evolution of education, and homeschoolers should reintegrate with the schools for the long-term benefits to all children. But public money cannot be spent on services, however well-intentioned, without some form of accountability, which means some form of oversight and assessment. And if parents can not be trusted to mold and shape their children’s learning, thinking, and values without state oversight and the inevitable interference, where will that leave us?

Adapted from an editorial © 2003 by Helen Hegener

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