10 October 2012

Myth of the Truant Homeschooler

Of all the myths of homeschooling, the most infuriating and scary, for me, is the myth of the truant homeschooler.  What I mean by that is the myth of parents claiming to educate their children at home but in reality neglecting the child's education, or, even worse, neglecting, exploiting, or abusing the child.  This myth is used to paint all homeschoolers in the same light, even when it is acknowledged that the vast majority of homeschoolers do not fall into this category, by requiring registration and/or evaluation of all homeschoolers.

Some may question why registering or testing is a problem, since most parents have nothing to hide. The problem, though, is that it presumes that all homeschoolers are guilty until proven otherwise, when we should have the right to be presumed innocent, regardless of choosing an educational model that is in the minority.

Exceptional cases, such as that of Khrya Ishaq, as then used to bolster such attempts at mandatory registration, despite the fact that she was in fact registered, and the proper authorities were notified of the neglect and abuse while she was still enrolled in school.  Such cases cannot be used to condemn those who home educate.  In fact, such cases show that being enrolled in school is not a safeguard for the child.  This is something I know firsthand from my time as a teacher in a public school, in fact.  Just as the educational choice of the parents is not relevant to the abuse of a child in public school, it also isn't relevant in the case of the homeschooled child, since the incidences in the media are not related to actual home education.

I have issues with how many standardised tests are designed and used, in and out of the schools, as well.  It also places a burden on homeschoolers that is not placed on those in private schools, who are exempt from state testing. It especially becomes a burden when the parents choose to follow an educational model that isn't "traditional", even though they'd encounter no such problem if they enrolled the child in a Montessori school.

Homeschoolers have the luxury of being able to tailor the education to the child, instead of the other way around.  This means that a child educated at home may in fact span a few different grade levels in different subjects, which would make accurate testing more difficult.  That's not to say that all evaluation is bad, but that the tests may not be the best tool for that, and of course I question the need for the state to control that.

I think it's easy to see why I said this myth infuriates me, but why does I scare me? I scares me because stories such as Khyra's become ingrained in the public image and conflated with your typical homeschooler.  It scares me because you then end up with innocent parents being reported to the authorities because their children happen to be educated at home.  This fear isn't unique to me, but is in act shared by other homeschooling families I know.  Some even go so far as to purchase school uniforms for their children to avoid arousing suspicions lest another be tempted to report them, even though they are doing nothing wrong.  This is why this myth must end. Somehow.

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