Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

September 17, 2007

The Homeschooling Community

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 7:02 pm

I subscribe to several homeschool groups on yahoo and periodically there is a “discussion” on what it means to be a homeschooler. There was one recent discussion I decided not to join for several reasons but the principle one being that I don’t need to be yelled at and called some sort of subversive in email. It has been my experience that any remarks by an individual contrary to establish doctrine results in said individual being tagged a troll or flamer or a creator of “shinies” and told that she isn’t being attacked but just informed of the truth. I keep telling myself that I’m going to unsubscribe but don’t because every once in a great while (and it keeps getting greater) I gleam a nugget of information from the discussion.

Before I go on, I just want to state for the record that I do know the difference between a “homeschooler” and someone who does “public school at home.” That said, I wonder about the nature of the discussion and why it seems such an “either or” proposition.

One of the recent discussions was about how people who homeschool today (or at least ask about homeschooling) aren’t like people who homeschooled in the past. It was while following the conversation that I realized why this discussion will never be settled no matter what either side believes.

It comes down to “everything changes” over time, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. I see the defenders (and definers) of the meaning of homeschooling like the residents of a small town not too far from some metropolitan area.

For some reason, this small town has been “discovered.” Maybe it started attracting people during it’s hometown fair. Maybe the media finally ran out of human interest stories closer to home and ran something about its residents. Maybe enough people started commuting to jobs in the city and people just found out about it through their co-workers. No matter how it was “discovered,” the town residents now find themselves living with an ever increasing number of new arrivals and things just aren’t the same.

Initially, the presence of the newcomers brought some welcomed changes to the town. Maybe there were now enough kids to form a baseball league or even keep the local school from closing. Maybe it meant enough new subscribers to allow the local paper to publish more frequently. Maybe it meant more money for the local library or made it a little easier to attract new health care professionals to town. For many small towns, the initial influx of new comers is a revitalizing change.

For a while.

And then the old timers find that the newcomers aren’t interested in contributing a turkey dinner to fund the volunteer fire department–they would just rather raise taxes and pay for a full time department. Enough people are interested in the town that some housing developers are starting to build cookie-cutter neighborhoods that could be found in any suburb. And the next thing you know, the town has a referendum on whether or not Walmart should be allowed to build a store downtown.

The old timers wonder why the newcomers want to destroy the very nature of what attracted them to the town in the first place. The newcomers wonder what’s wrong with wanting to buy a house that has modern conveniences.

And so there you are, the town has changed and there’s no going back to the way it was before. The old timers who jump all over the person asking directions to the nearest Starbucks and telling them that Dairy Queen does the town just fine doesn’t help the situation. The newcomers do need to be reminded about the values that attracted them to the town in the first place. But the fact remains the newcomers are there and they get to vote just like everyone else in the next election. So instead of alienating them with a “like us or leave us” attitude, it might be better to try to educate them.

Of course, some people aren’t interested in being educated and some people are still going to want Walmart to open shop in town. Then you will have to gather up as many supporters as possible to keep Walmart from building. Its going to be a whole lot easier to find supporters if you didn’t start off the relationship by calling them idiots.

Obviously, the newcomers are going to differ from the old timers regarding some issues. It’s to be expected since there was something different about the old timers that made them willing to live in the town long before the newcomers came. Therefore, things aren’t going to be the same. And how ever things are going to turn out isn’t going to be determined strictly by the old timers. They may be able to run off some of the more clueless newcomers, but not all of them. So it’s time for all the people in the town to figure out where it’s going rather than just remembering where it’s been.

I see myself definitely as one of the newcomers to homeschooling. I was one of the people who wouldn’t move to the town until I could get high speed internet. I’m also one of the newcomers that is sticking around.

What can I say, I’ve stopped referring new homeschoolers to some of the national lists because I’ve seen them jumped on for asking the wrong question. I don’t need to be spending my time explaining to them what happen when I’ve got plenty to look after locally.

I’m not that egotistical to think that my lack of participation in the national lists or refusal to recommend them to other homeschoolers spells doom for the lists. I’m sure they will continue on fine without me. But when they continue on without a lot of other homeschoolers as well, what becomes of their relevancy to homeschooling in general? Ultimately, I think it would be a loss to all homeschoolers, even those that never heard about the lists.

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