Should all parents homeschool?
If you spend even a minimal amount of time reading or listening to what I have to say about homeschooling, you will know that I am passionate about it and that I believe that it is just another parenting task. So that naturally invites the question, “Do you believe all parents should homeschool?”
Well, I’ve been a parent long enough to know that declaring something as the right way for “everyone” is just not rational. There are just too many unique families and situations in the world to make such a broad statement. I also know all too well that you can believe something is ideal and still not be able to do it for multiple reasons. So, my short answer is, “No.” However, this is what I do believe: We have corrupted our basic principles and beliefs about education. We have lost our compass when it comes to understanding our responsibilities as parents, so our “default setting” is wrong.
Not that long ago, homeschooling was the default option for families. Public and private schools were available for those who needed the help, but it was not compulsory. Home education was valued, and formal schooling was a supplement that was used as necessary. In either case, parents were the primary influence on their child's education.
Fast-forward to today. For most families, public school is the default setting. We begin with the idea that once kids turn the tender age of five, Mom’s duty is to drop them off at school every day. Because, you know, experts are needed to teach five-year-olds. If you want to continue to teach your child at home, that is a special situation that takes an extraordinary parent with a great amount of patience to take on such a difficult task.
The result is that many moms who do not feel right about the plan when it is time to sign their child up for kindergarten do it anyway because they feel inadequate, unqualified, and afraid. They are told that they are just being overprotective and have to learn to let go. This is just wrong. How on earth did we manage to convince entire generations of parents that they are incapable of teaching their own children? Actually, it wasn’t that hard once entire generations started attending public school, which was a little biased in its message.
What if we inverted this model of thinking and started with a default belief that the family is a good place to be educated, even the ideal place to be educated, and that there will be special situations when other schooling methods make sense - and that these methods require a certain amount of extra diligence on the part of parents while their kids are in school? Do you see how this one change in perspective could greatly affect education in general?
What if we believed that we are qualified and capable and even responsible for the education of our children, even if that means we at times choose a public or private school for their education under our specific review and approval?
Let me go a step further: do you think the nature of society has improved or declined since we started default, mass institutional schooling? I often hear members of my grandparent’s generation lamenting that we took prayer and Bible teaching out of schools, and they point to this as the source of decline in our society. While this is well-intentioned, I disagree. I would say the problem is not that we took the Bible out of schools, but that we took the primary responsibility for education out of the family. Now that multiple generations have been educated by institutions on a wide scale, the effects are showing.
So back to the original question: Should all parents homeschool? My answer is still no. Some will have other needs. And some parents will be diligent to assert themselves as primary educators using their own discernment while their children attend a private or public school. But we do need to examine our basic principles and beliefs about education and parental authority. If we start with the right assumptions, we are more likely to come to the right conclusions when we make decisions for our own family. That decision should rest with the parents, and the parents alone - and it should be made with full confidence in their own capabilities.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that homeschooling is not a special thing for well-to-do families with stay-at-home moms. A parent can parent, regardless of whether they work full time, part-time, or work solely on their home. To learn more about homeschooling as a working parent, read The Truth About Working and Homeschooling. Reject the myths, calibrate your compass, and then you will be equipped to make the best decision about school.