For the past few weeks I’ve been reading through the September haul of back-to-‘home school’ articles, and have been depressed because the articles are all much the same. Was there anything really blog-worthy about a single article? Was there anything really very different about any of the articles? No matter which part of the country the article is from, it invariably includes some of the following.
- There are "1.1 million" homeschooled kids in the U.S." — compared, say, to how many dropouts from schools?
- Homeschooling is ‘foreign,’ (most articles aren’t this pointed about it, though) — as if the ‘sending the children away’ style of childraising at this point in history is the only way it’s ever been done.
- Many parents are homeschooling for religious reasons — and how many public school parents take their kids to church, synagogue or mosque on Sunday and Wednesday, or Friday night, or Saturday? That Americans have religion is not news.
- The local regulations are less strict than those of other states — why don’t the reporters ever mention Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Jersey, or Texas?
- Educators don’t trust the whole process — why the surprise? How many restaurants hand out cookbooks?
- Homeschooled kids won’t know how to behave once they leave home — my husband had the same observation about the parochial school kids that entered his Long Island high school — in the mid-1960s.
- Homeschooled kids will "miss out" on public school activities if they don’t attend school — of course they will. And kids attending school "miss out" on activities that homeschooled kids do. And kids in Wyoming "miss out" on what kids in Los Angeles do, and vice versa. You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.
- The reported-upon homeschooling parents usually have college degrees — is this to make the public feel safer so that they don’t pick up their torches, surround homeschooling homes, and tie all of us non-college grad home-ed parents to stakes?
- The patronizing remarks:
— "With that freedom comes a responsibility to create a sensible program."
No. We homeschool so we can read comic books at our 11am breakfasts, paint our toenails, go to a fast food place for a 3pm lunch, watch MTV for the rest of the afternoon, and then order out pizza and let the kids drink beer with us while watching reruns of Paris Hilton on reality TV.
— "Ruth was home playing teacher and mom, …"
Playing? This reminds me of a blog/article ‘confession’ I read some time ago (and didn’t save) from a teacher who confused a parent by referring to ‘my’ children. The young woman was unmarried, and fairly young, so the parent didn’t know which children the young lady was talking about. It turns out that the young teacher was talking about the children in her class. It’s one thing to talk about ‘my’ class of children, but quite another to claim ‘my-ness’ to a parent of one of those children. Parents are always their children’s teachers. Teachers are only occasionally (if at all, in this day and age) their student’s parents.
— "If he wants to wake up late one morning, he can." (same URL as the previous statement)
Yeah, but it takes the joy out of hooky.
- And then there are the utterly clueless statements:
— "They don’t attend the same school, but they get the same schooling. They are home-schooled."
It isn’t all the same, that’s the point.
— "And of course, the major criticism often leveled at homeschooled children is the danger that they will develop limited social skills as a result of being isolated from the outside world."
Lots of scary words in that sentence to make the reader uneasy, but why does this reporter assume that the criticism is leveled at the children themselves?
In trying to make sense of this avalanche of the trite I even did a search for what constitutes a feature/human interest article and found a journalism series at the Annenberg/CPB site. I watched the appropriate video to find out what might be the hallmark of a good feature story. There was no solid answer, but it was interesting to read how feature writers sometimes ‘borrow’ a tactic from advocacy journalism in which the reporter doesn’t espouse a viewpoint directly, but the chosen quotes from sources speak for the reporter. This sounds like framing the topic through selective editing.
I already have an opinion on what to look for in reading homeschooling articles, but fisking each and every one of the annual back-to-school stories was too much like shooting fish in a barrel, and there were just so many of them. Because of all that, it was with relief that just this morning I read an online article that made me nod in satisfaction. The writer is a mum after my own heart, and one who apparently agrees with the American commercial about ‘characters’ that is now making the television rounds.
- Telegraph.co.uk, 10 September 2005, East, west, home’s best
The first wave to hit us was disapproval from friends and relatives.
"How are they going to get their corners knocked off?" wailed one.
I thought this was a bit rich coming from someone with more corners than a Louis XVI octagonal table. "What’s wrong with corners?" I asked. "Why is it we feel we need to slap children down if they get too confident or clever?" There was more: "What about rugby?" "But you hated rugby. Why turn children off sport by making them play something they hate?" We moved on: "You can’t speak German – or French – and you’re rubbish at maths."
"If they want to learn German I will send them to a tutor, or evening classes or, if I’m really fed up with them, Germany. As for French, I am looking forward to learning alongside them."
So, thank you to Karen Luckhurst (of course the homeschooling mum wrote the article herself). I can now stop collecting back-to-school articles that Google flutters at me from the cybersphere like the soon-to-be-falling leaves of autumn. I think I’ll rake the articles into a pile and have a leaf-burning.