Why Is Calling for Homeschooling Reform Taboo?

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on April 15, 2013.

When individuals who attended public school talk about the negative experiences they had, point out that many public schools are failing or that certain practices in public schools leave much to be desired, and call for improving the schools and reforming public education, they don’t face accusations of being anti-public school, of just being bitter, of being angry at their parents, or of over-generalizing and calling all public schools universally bad. No one tries to silence them for “giving public schooling a bad reputation,” accuses them of trying to ruin things for everyone else, or says that the problem was just their shitty family situation.

So why is it that when individuals who were homeschooled talk about their own negative experiences, point out that many homeschools are failing and that certain homeschool practices leave much to be desired, and call for improving homeschooling through implementing reforms, people accuse them of being anti-homeschool, of just being bitter, of being angry at their parents, and of over-generalizing and calling all of homeschooling universally bad? Why is it that people try to silence them for giving homeschooling a bad reputation, accuse them of trying to ruin things for everyone else, and say that the problem was just their shitty family situation?

Why is it that it’s just fine to call for reform of the public schools, hip even, but it’s taboo to call for reform of homeschooling? Why is criticism of public schools widespread and expected, but criticism of homeschooling by those who were homeschooled themselves causes everyone to lose their heads?

How is “people have shitty experiences in public schools too” a sensible answer to calls for reforming homeschooling? Do we shrug and say “people have shitty homeschool experiences too” when people call for reforming and improving public schools?

Why do people respond to calls for homeschooling reform by stating that there’s nothing that can be done to curb abuse, when no one would even think of responding to calls for public school reform in that way?

Why is it that criticism of homeschooling by those who were homeschooled is panned off as some form of adolescent rebellion while criticism of public schools is practically trendy?

Why is calling for reforming homeschooling portrayed as trying to “ruin things for everyone else” while reforming public schools is seen as an effort to make things better for everyone’s children?

Why is voicing criticism of homeschooling or talking about negative homeschool experiences portrayed as being anti-homeschool while criticizing public schools or talking about negative experiences in public schools isn’t similarly portrayed as being “anti-public school”?

Why do people shrug and say that bad homeschooling is just a result of shitty parents and there’s nothing to be done while at the same time arguing that we need school reform to improve shitty schools and implementing programs to help public school kids with shitty family backgrounds?

Why is criticizing public schools and calling for public school reform seen as healthy and good while criticizing homeschooling and calling for homeschool reform is taboo? Shouldn’t we want to improve and reform both, cut down on abuse and neglect in both, and ultimately work toward the best interests of children in whatever educational methods their parents have chosen for them?

Something is very broken about how we discuss this issue.

5 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Why is criticizing public schools and calling for public school reform seen as healthy and good while criticizing homeschooling and calling for homeschool reform is taboo?

    doublethink, comrade, doublethink.

  • Not to justify abuse and/or incompetence in homeschooling situations, but i think that one reason why people may see criticism of public schools as more acceptable than criticism of homeschooling is that public schools are financed with everyone’s money, and a homeschool is usually financed with an individual family’s money. Use of public monies should be scrutinized; there is still some remaining feeling that the way a family spends their money is their own business, as it should be. Again, I am in no way trying to let homeschoolers off the hook; I am horrified by some of the stories that I’ve read on this site. I wonder whether I was blind to what was going on in the homes of others while I was homeschooling my children, but that’s a different train of thought.

  • I don’t think it’s about money at all. The difficulty is that criticism of homeschooling is perceived as criticism of one’s parents. That makes it really easy to dismiss the person as ungrateful or the problems as specific to that family.

    That’s why Homeschoolers Anonymous is so important. The anonymous criticism is less likely to be written off as “ungrateful child syndrome”, while the collection of so many similar stories from different sources deflates the theory that “it was just your family”.

  • I’m a homeschool mom. I think this piece (and this blog) is very valuable. One of the answers may be in that public schools share something in common. While each is unique, they’re unified by government oversight. That’s why we don’t hear of calling for reform in private schools, which are each their own entity. Homeschools are more like private schools in this regard: they are each distinctly operated, for better or worse. That said, I agree with the heart of the article, and that holding on more tightly to educational methods than the needs of children in a dangerous road indeed.

  • There is nothing wrong with criticizing or sharing one’s stories. But when you then seek to control an entire group of people (homeschooling parents) based on your own personal experience, and lump ALL homeschooling parents together, there in lies the problem. Have you even questioned what sort of regulation you would like, what would it look like? Who would do the regulating? How it would prevent abuse or neglect? The problem with regulating and entire group of people based on a few experiences is that there is no one-sized fits all solution, no one-size fits all regulation. Every family is unique and you can’t tell others what you think is best for them based on your own experiences.

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