There has been a fascinating conversation/debate going on over at NLQ about homeschooling and what, if any, regulations it needs in order to protect the children involved, and ensure that they being taught the things they need to stay on track educationally.
Now, to reiterate part of my story, I was homeschooled till grade 7 and then attended a tiny public school/high school. So I can safely say that I have experienced both sides of the coin so to speak.
Homeschooling for me was a mixed experience. Whilst it definitely left me behind socially, I would say my lack of social skills was also thanks to our fundamentalist beliefs and the fact I was mostly exposed to other home schooled children alone during that time. Educationally, however, I would class it as a good experience: I was blessed with a mother whom taught us extremely well and with great care, giving me a fantastic educational base for the rest of my schooling life and beyond.
Because I was so socially inept, it meant I spent a great deal of my "in school" years playing catchup. This of course meant that I had an appalling time of it in high school particularly. I just didn't know how to relate to my classmates, and in a small school this was devastating. Educationally, I floated along on my own merry way.
But what about the real issue here? The elephant in the room so to speak: abuse in the homeschooling home. On NLQ, there has been a long debate (that continues) about the amount of regulation needed to protect children whom are being home schooled. Many have asked where is the evidence of abused, homeschooled children. Well, hello? Princess Jo sitting right here! I have heard some horrific stories of abused homeschooled children, many times worse and more grimmer than my own.
In my case, I believe I was "groomed" from a very young age: I didn't even recognize what the abuse was until he took it too far. It was like a switch went off, and I suddenly realized what he was doing all along. I believe this awakening was sparked in no small way by my school attendance. By experiencing a different world, a different perspective, it allowed me the freedom to find my voice, and also approach the authorities about it. I reported when I was in school, at school. I really truly believe that if I had been homeschooled for the full 12 years, my story would be remarkably different. My abuser, my father, probably would have never been caught (at least for offenses he committed against me) , and I would still be living with a devastating secret.
Let me stress, I don't believe in any way that homeschooling caused my abuse. My abuse was caused by my father. But my abuse and thus, silence was allowed to stretch out for a lot longer than it otherwise would have. Homeschooling without a doubt, indirectly helped cover up my abuse. I think the same same can be said for the other cases that I have heard of over the years.
So with all that said, where do I stand on the regulation issue? Personally, I don't want homeschooling banned: when it is done for the right reasons (ie not because of religious reasons and wanting to protect the child from worldly influences particularly) it can be a positive thing. That being said, I do think homeschooling needs tighter regulations for the safety of those that are at risk, or whom are already suffering silently.
In a perfect world I would like to see definitive, established tests and teaching standards throughout the school year: in addition, I would like to see once yearly (carried out by a 3rd party) exams to check progress.
In a perfect world, I would like to see specially trained 'social workers' working with homeschooled children and homeschooling parents to ensure that religious fanaticism/family dynamics etc aren't impacting on the child's ability to speak up if an abusive situation was to arise, and to ensure if such a situation was to arise that they are aware of where to go for help. These 'social workers' could then help home schooled children to transfer over to more conventional forms of education (ie college or university) or work when that child is ready. In a perfect world, these 'social workers' would be former home schooled children themselves.
And perhaps more controversially, I would like to see home schoolers get criminal checks, just like normal teachers and for that matter, anyone that works on school property, or as a childcare worker. Why? For several reasons, but mostly because when you homeschool, (just as in a normal school) you are likely to have contact with a a large population of children not your own. And do you really want to have someone with criminal charges (particularly domestic violence/sexual offences etc) homeschooling, or for that matter coming in contact with your children in a trusted context? I am not saying this idea is perfect: it isn't. The system can be beaten, crimes are not reported. But here in Australia it is such a simple form to fill out, why wouldn't you do it?
But that is my ideal world alone, tainted by my experiences. Idealism is fantastic, but reality is a far different thing.
In reality, I would love for a proper, in depth study done of homeschooling and homeschoolers so that any future regulations can be decided upon with a proper research backing. I personally think homeschooling is growing in popularity, so this study and resulting recommendations need to happen relatively quickly.
But knowing the state of the world, this is a idealistic dream too. A nice one, but a dream nevertheless. Home schooling is such a decisive topic that I think any conclusion over regulation is a long way off.
A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.