A homeschool coalition comes to life
Samuel D. James | The homeschooling moment demands a strong homeschooling movement
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In April 2020 Harvard Magazine published a profile of educational theorist Elizabeth Bartholet that drew attention to her harsh criticism of homeschooling and the motives of homeschooling families. Thankfully, Bartholet’s extreme invective was met with a chorus of criticism, but as providence would have it, the rhetorical showdown was unnecessary. Bartholet’s attack on homeschooling was swept aside (at least for now) by COVID. The pandemic has significantly transformed the educational landscape in the United States, and for all of Bartholet’s angst, homeschooling is growing fast—across class, religious, and racial lines.
Against COVID, many school districts are fighting a war of attrition, accepting that exposure to the Delta variant is virtually inevitable and focusing strategies on keeping non-symptomatic children in-class for as long as possible. This represents the best-case scenario. The more prevalent reality is that millions of children have been, and will be, forced into online learning, which thus far has served mainly to stress parents, confuse students, and drive record-setting numbers of families into the homeschooling movement.
There is no reason to deny that COVID is the driver behind the latest homeschooling surge. But as the virus goes from pandemic to endemic, and as measured, accepted risk becomes a new normal for Western society, the homeschooling moment is likely to keep on growing. A global disease may have been the catalyst, but the truth is that this educational transformation has long been coming.
Disputes between parents and school administrators over health regulations have highlighted the massive loss of trust between school systems and the taxpayers who fund them. This erosion of trust has been a long, slow burn, powered by an increasingly , secularized, politicized, and dogmatic philosophy of education that is out of step with a majority of American parents. At the same time that many schools have been given over to cutting edge gender ideology and social experimentation, they have also aided and abetted the tech age’s moral assault on minors, via “porn literacy” programs that flatly give up trying to protect students from exploitation.
Then there are the increasingly vehement disputes over Critical Race Theory, especially with regard to the teaching of American history. Here again, many parents feel flatly ignored by administrators and boards, who seem far more eager for the applause and approval of coastal journalism and social media activists than of their student families. Many of these questions are complex and difficult to sort out, but there are good reasons to be wary of the hyper-racialization of the classroom, and even better reasons to be wary of unaccountable ideologues.
As if radical theories and ideologies of sexual liberation were not enough, the larger problem is that a combination of ideology, political gridlock, and technological foolishness have ensured that most public schools are unable to be a positive force in the lives and souls of students. The pandemic has removed for many families two of the last major obstacles keeping parents away from homeschooling: the assurance of physical safety and the necessity of workday-aligning schedules for kids. As viral realities alter the first and economic transformations reconfigure the second, the dysfunction within America’s public schools is more exposed than ever.
For Christian homeschooling families, this is a moment that must not be wasted. The strongest political defense for homeschooling is a racially and economically diverse homeschooling movement. We are watching this coalition come to life in real time. Of all American institutions, local churches are by far best equipped to help homeschooling families. The reason goes beyond infrastructure: The church is, like the home, a place of communal moral formation, and the goals of Christian homeschooling ought to be adjacent to the liturgical realities of the church.
Churches thus have a spiritual incentive to be active in assisting homeschooling communities, through hosting co-ops and cottage schools, organizing support groups for families, and finding ways to help those who want to homeschool but may be economically prevented. Most of all, churches can support homeschooling families by preaching the Scripture, discipling members, and living congregational faithfulness together, encouraging those who shape home life in obedience to Christ.
Homeschooling is not the best option for everyone, but it must be a live option for many families going forward, including some for whom it was previously unthinkable. These families need a homeschooling movement that is ready and willing to support them. Will they find one?
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