A high school classmate of mine who also homeschools asked our group an important question:
“Question: How do you take part in bringing about equity in education as a homeschooling parent? Homeschooling is a privilege. I wonder how to wield that privilege in bringing fairness in public education. I would love to hear.”
I left the following response:
“Here’s what I’m able to do at this time:
- Vote for legislation that helps the public education system.
- Talk to local officials about policy changes that help and hurt.
- Get to know my neighborhood’s children, and be a resource for them.
- Share education ideas with the parents in my life, regardless of where their kids receive their education. Before I could afford to homeschool, I still took fifteen to twenty minutes a night with my daughter to work with her on a project, discuss something, or teach her a new skill.
- Encourage other people to do #1&2.”
There was a time when I desperately wanted to homeschool, but as a single parent earning slightly more than minimum wage, there simply wasn’t a chance of it happening. I probably wouldn’t have been too good at it back then, either (although I still feel rather inadequate as a homeschooling parent much of the time). It seemed I’d never live my dream of homeschooling my children, but after a disastrous third grade year with a strict, unyielding teacher, and a good friend willing to help, we began this journey. If I hadn’t become too sick to hold down a full-time job, I’d also have been unable to continue with our educational experiment and I wouldn’t be teaching literature in a small class each month (or soon to be teaching creative writing).
Privilege is a funny thing. As one person pointed out, a privilege is either a right everyone should have, but not everyone does, or it’s a right no one should have, but some people do. There was a time not so long ago when homeschooling was the norm, and a formal education for the few.
Despite homeschooling being a right to all citizens in the United States (with some varying laws attached depending on the state), the ability to support a family and homeschool is no longer attainable by all who wish it. For far too many, there is only public school, and since standards vary by neighborhood (and its residence level of average income), the poorest are often the least able to obtain an adequate education no matter whether it takes place in the home or in a school. A lack of choice leaves many families feeling trapped in a system that doesn’t meet the needs of all its students.
If you’re reading this, then you’re likely already aware of these issues, and I’m preaching to the choir. However, it doesn’t mean we homeschoolers should wring our hands or throw them into the air for our lack of involvement. There are other ways to reach out to the schooled community, and while my current list of what I do is short, it’s a start. Some other ideas include:
a. Becoming a tutor or educational resource for institutionalize students.
b. Engaging in schooled or community activities like youth outreach projects, PTA functions (check your school or district’a rules about participation), and other local functions.
c. Starting a summer camp, a week-long salon during breaks, or providing low cost workshops on topics of interest.
d. Creating a web list or forum for local educational and youth resources, and announcing it among both homeschool and formal schooled groups.
e. Becoming an educational advocate for children struggling in public school (look for them among friends, family, and neighbors), and help fight for their needs in accessing resources the public schools ought to provide.
Have some other ideas? Please share them below.