Homeschooling is reallyÂ big business.Â Breaking news, because who’d a thunk it?Â Would parents really spend as much money onÂ phonics and multiplication tables asÂ onÂ Leap-things and Playstations?Â If you consider how many outlets are carrying the story below thatÂ I first find in my Google alerts on the 31st of January, andÂ picked upÂ by CNN.com on the 27th of February, you’d thinkÂ homeschooling expenditureÂ was a really big development.Â A search for the lead name in the story on Friday gave me returns of 94.Â On this Monday morning, I have returns of 206. Â The story has legs.
- Union-Tribune, San Diego, California, 31 January 2006,Â Cottage industry caters to growing number of homeschooling families
The businesses mentioned in the article, though, aren’t ones I usually associate with homeschooling, but I haven’t been actively ‘looking’Â sinceÂ my homeschooledÂ kidsÂ received their diplomasÂ (oh, my!) eight years ago.Â For me, these names are Johnny-come-latelys in the homeschool biz.Â
- Eduventures?Â Never heard of it before this article.Â
- The Old Schoolhouse?Â A new kid on the block.
- PowerGlide?Â Yeah, heard of that late in my own homeschooling career.Â
- YMCA?Â I remember that from when I was a child, but never in connection with anything like homeschooling.
Businesses catering to homeschooling families are nothing new.Â What would have been interesting in this article is if the reporter had focused on homeschooling businesses that have been serving homeschoolers for decades, not years.
In looking at my collected issues of Home Education Magazine (the first issue of whichÂ was published inÂ 1983, but which I don’t have asÂ it took me six years to find out about the trend), I find the following businesses and peopleÂ I read about ‘way back then’ still offering services to homeschooling families:
John Taylor GattoÂ
Hands On EquationsÂ
Music for Little People
Gordon School of Art
That small selection of names, each from only one issue ofÂ HEM,Â is from at least one decade ago, and they’re still working to provide information and supplies to homeschooling families.
That businesses are serving homeschooling families, and have been for a long time, is not news, but who is providing services is.Â As homeschooling has shifted from being a fringe-of-the-fringe activity, businesses whose business is money have, quite normally, been attracted to a growing market.Â Some homeschooling families welcome this development, others do not, but that mayÂ reflect a typical human conservative/progressive split that isn’t limited to homeschooling parents.
The ‘business of homeschooling,’ may be an engine pushing the drift away from what used to be the original intent of homeschooling:Â that of children learning within the family.Â The news that homeschooling is being co-opted, is also well known.
At the simplest level, homeschooling is not about which gee-whiz goods you buy, which ‘complete’ curriculum you use, and definitely not about which mega-business captures the most homeschooling (and even state education funding)Â dollars.Â Homeschooling is about families living and learning together.
GrabÂ your adventure while your knees and plantar fascia are still in good shape.Â Â Your time of having seemingly unlimited time with your kids, and your ability to kneel without creaking, willÂ be gone before you know it, and you’ll be on to the next phase.Â So far that phase is pleasant enough (knee-creaks and arch-supportsÂ aside), but it’s not nearly the adventure that being a ‘cottageÂ family’ was.Â
For families, the big story of homeschooling isn’t business, cottage or otherwise.Â For families, the big story of homeschooling is family.