Homeschooling, The Hidden Rival of Charter Schools

homeschooled-kidsJay Matthews had an interesting column in The Washington Post yesterday.  He noted that while charter schools are the buzz of education wonks, homeschooling has become its little known rival (to education wonk).

He writes:

Pop quiz! Cover the next paragraph, which has the answer. The question: What other fast-growing education alternative also now enrolls more than 2 million students? This alternative seems just as important as charter schools, but education experts rarely discuss it and researchers pass it by.

Give up? It’s home-schooling. The decision by so many parents to remove their children from local schools and teach them at home raises many issues, but we know little about it. Home-schoolers are beyond the reach of school district data collectors and federally required exams. They are scattered around the country, rather than clumped together in a big-city districts like charter school families…

…His (Joseph Murphy author of Homeschooling in America: Capturing and Assessing the Movement) analysis exposes an odd difference in the way we talk about charters and home-schooling. We think home-schooling is about the parents — their motives, their skills, their strengths and weaknesses. The charter movement is also a story of parents, but we don’t talk about it that way. The charter schools are the heroes if we like the charter movement. The charter schools are the villains if we don’t. We rarely praise or blame parents for what charters have done.

This gets at the heart of why home-schooling has blossomed. “The hallmark issue in the home-schooling movement is control,” Murphy says. “As power and influence were passed from parents and communities to government agents and professional experts throughout the 20th century, real costs were experienced by parents, costs calculated in terms of loss of control over the schooling of their children.”

While I’m glad he recognizes that homeschooling is growing just as fast as charter schools; I find it amusing that he claims it is “hidden.”  Sure I guess it is hidden in terms of brick and mortar, but colleges and universities are taking notice.  It is also often missing from the “school choice” discussion.  That needs to change.

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