It's been official gospel for a while that homeschooling is no longer the domain of religious weirdos, a la Weavers on Ruby Ridge, or even the lesser-known breed of unschooling hippie types. Because, if home education were limited to those archetypes, how could there be endless trend pieces about how homeschooling is totally a normal thing now?
To be fair, "The Homeschool Diaries," part of a section on "New Ideas for American Schools" in The Atlantic's October issue, is refreshingly narrow. And though it's easy to mock Newsweek and other mainstream glossies that seem to incessantly just discover that within the rising ranks of homeschoolers (somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million of 'em these days) "normal people" are taking over, it's still nice to learn that the homeschooling bug has jumped from fringes, to suburban averages, to oh, so cool arty New York City parents: Ya know, the kind of who publish articles in The Atlantic.
Writer Paul Elie describes a learning method that is not dramatically different than what is socially accepted. Yes, they leave the house, for one.. Elie and his wife teach their 5th grade sons some things like math, they send them to other groups of folks for the all-important socialization and they take advantage of the amazing art and architecture and all that good New York City stuff. Elie also notes that in the family's local homeschooling circle there are also the more out-there unschooling types, whose methods of learning are, according to one small study, maybe not as effective as more "traditional" homes education.
Elie goes through a laundry list of the benefits of teaching the kids at home as well as the long list of encouragement for homeschooling in New York City, which includes dodgy safety issues and endless district realignment and confusion for public, budget slimming for Catholic, and jaw-dropping price tags for private schools (27-40k a year are figures mentioned). The takeaway for those who might even have better local options for their kids, is that what the hell is wrong with teaching your kids in the way that they — ideally — will learn in college? What's remotely artificial, restrictive, or sheltering about using the world around you to teach your kids what you want them to learn?
Our older boys are now in the fifth grade. They know their way around the Museum of Natural History and Yankee Stadium; they are versed in the exploits of Huck Finn and Jack Sparrow. This spring, they'll take the required state Regents exams—the tests that determine New York City students' options for middle school. But they, and we, hope to continue homeschooling. Meanwhile, when they sit down at the table with protractors or head to a museum, it is college I am thinking about. Not just because a university education is our unquestioned aspiration for our children, but also because it seems to be the closest model for the education we are now trying to provide. Tightly focused class sessions; expert presentations complemented by individual instruction; hands-on learning in areas that vary from day to day and year to year; education undertaken in the wider world—these aspects of our so-called homeschooling are basic to postsecondary learning. Higher education in America may be very different by 2022, when our twin sons would enroll, but I like to think that they will have had a taste of the university already.
Read the rest here.
Bonus: most awful objection to homeschooling that I have seen in a while.