A newspaper reporter contacted me about doing a story on homeschoolers and socialization and was looking for some homeschoolers to contact. I told her that I would try to contact some families but that many homeschoolers are pretty media shy. I went two for four in finding families willing to be interviewed. I can just see people asking, “well, what are you hiding so that you don’t want to be interviewed?”
The problem is that the media has a tendency to portray homeschoolers as “getting away with something.” Or maybe it’s more a result of how people interpret the information presented but ultimately it’s the media that chooses what is presented.
Let me try to explain. Pretend that a reporter wants to interview a vegetarian family. The reporter interviews the family and finds out why they don’t eat meat. The children are quoted as saying that they don’t think they’re missing out on anything by not eating meat and they even have friends who do eat meat.
Then the reporter interviews a dietitian who explains that it is possible to have a nutritious diet if the family is careful to include a variety of proteins. And then she says something to the effect that it requires extra effort and probably isn’t a good idea for everyone.
Most people would read the article and just think “hey, I’m not giving up my cheeseburger” and go on to the next article. But how do you think people would react if the general population was required to buy/prepare meals with meat in them five days a week? Don’t ask me how this would work because I don’t know and that’s not really the point. The point is that when people read about how families who decide to become vegetarians don’t have to follow the rules everyone else does, they start to think that somehow these vegetarians are getting away with something.
That’s what happens with homeschooling. Most people I encounter don’t have much of an opinion about homeschooling even with the “socialization” concerns until they find out homeschoolers don’t have to take the TAKS test or aren’t required to be in school for a certain number of hours or days. Then it becomes, “homeschoolers can get away with that?” and “what about socialization?”
Furthermore, whatever “expert” the reporter contacts inevitably lists the problems with homeschooling and how it’s not a good idea for most people and that the children will have social issues. Gosh, now why wouldn’t any homeschooling family want to subject themselves to that sort of publicity?
The part that I always find amazing is that the reporters always feel obligated to consult some sort of academic expert to talk about the limitations of homeschooling. Do they consult an expert to talk about the “dangers” of joining the Boy Scouts? No. But by consulting these “experts” they are feeding into the “they’re getting away with something” mentality.
If they really want to get an idea about socialization, reporters should talk to people who deal with homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers outside a school setting. I can think of several businesses around here that provide classes to homeschoolers during the day and evening classes to traditional school children. They would probably have a much better handle on the “socialization” issue than some education PhD who has limited interactions with traditional students, much less homeschoolers.
But they don’t. Too often they just focus on the differences and then get an expert to talk about how these differences are actually negatives. And since most homeschoolers I know realize that they aren’t perfect, they have no desire to have their flaws, flaws that any family might have, magnified to the public and attributed to homeschooling.
Homeschoolers aren’t perfect, they’re just tired of the lack of perfection being attributed to homeschooling. Homeschoolers have no desired to be criticized simply to make the rest of the population feel better about sending their kids to public school.