What makes a homeschool a homeschool?

I have had debates conversations in the past with people who have argued that if one makes use of outside classes, sports program (public school or private), co-ops and the like are not actually homeschooling.  They are of the opinion that if one uses any outside sources to teach a child, then one is not really homeschooling. In their opinion to truly homeschool you must spend all day at home and teach every subject, to every child, yourself. 

Then there is the other end of the spectrum.  Those who feel that every parent homeschools to an extent since all children do some of their learning at home.  They feel that as long as they help their children with homework and do some enrichment with them they qualify as homeschooling part time.

Besides being an argument for coming up with a new name for the process of taking charge of your child’s education these arguments are, IMO,  hogwash.  It does bring up an interesting question however…what exactly consititutes “homeschooling”?  Where is the line drawn between a homeschooler and one who attends a small private school?  a public school student learning at home?  other?

The following is only my personal opinion and while feedback is welcomed, nastiness will not be tolerated!

A  fine line to be sure.

I think it has very little to do with where the actual learning takes place. I don’t think that simply having your child at home while they do school work makes you a homeschooler. If that were true then every school kid would be homeschooled part time and that is certainly not true.  This is not meant to devalue the important part that parents play in a schooled child’s education, I often think they have it harder then us because they have more hoops to jump through, it’s  just not homeschooling.

It also doesn’t have a whole lot to do with who is doing the teaching.  I think you can have your child in full day co-op and still be a homeschooler as long as you (or your child) have the final say on what classes are taken and which aren’t.  This wouldn’t be the most optimal kind of homeschooling for me, but it is not incompatible with homeschooling.

So what does it have to do with?  It has to do with who has control said child’s education. 

Lets take the private school vs co-op classe analogy shall we?

 A private school is not just a collection of classes that a family can pick and choose from, it is a full package.  If a child is enrolled in a co-op they can take math and not science, art and not music as they and their family see fit.  If a child is a full time student in a private school they have to take whatever classes that school says they do or they will not “pass”. In private school if the parents think the science curriculum is not condusive to their particular value set their only recourse is to conteract that teaching at home (or risk their child *failing* the class).  In a coop you can skip the class entirely or simply take what you want and leave the rest. 

Same thing if a child is taking a class or two at public school as a homeschooler.  Because that child is not on the public school roll they do not have an official transcript (or if they do the parent has no need to use it).  Nothing that happens in those classes needs to be seen by colleges if parents decide to leave it out. Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t try in classes taken outside the home.  Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t hold your homeschooled child accountable in any classes they choose to take.  What I am saying is that if there are problems outside the child’s control in the class that contribute to said child failing the class that there need not be the permanant black mark that being part of school would bring.  The choice lies with the family, or in the home.

I am not one who homeschools for religious reasons but we are oddly enough facing this issue this year as the science class K  is taking will be taught by those with a Christian bent and using a Christian curriculum.   We decided that the opportunity to take a class with other students, organized lab activities (not my forte unfourtunately) and formal assignments was worth dealing with opposing view points.  I simply told DD she had the choice to play along and give them the answers they wanted on tests or to write what she felt was the truth and I would not be angry that she got those answers “wrong”.  In class she is to be respectful of the beliefs of others (we knew what we were getting into after all!).  She could do that in school too I suppose, but she would then likely get in trouble, fail the class, or both.  She may well fail this class (although I doubt it, the teachers are aware of our beliefs) but it will have little to no effect on her future if she does.  The class will still have value, she will still have learned something..it’s all good.

Now onto something a little more contraversial.  You might want to go back and read the warning, espcially if your child is enrolled in virtual school.

Where I personally draw the line is with virtual public schools.  Many consider a child who is enrolled in such a school to be homeschooled.  I can see where this idea comes from, the child is, after all, at home while they are doing their school work.  They do not attend a brick and mortar school and probably rarely, if ever even enters one.  Certainly these kinds of arrangements have their value, children are spared bullying, recieve more individualized instruction and need never eat school lunch.  However I do not think they qualify as homeschooling.  

Why not? For one simple reason, a child who is enrolled in a public school’s virtual academy is still enrolled in public school.  They will have to take place in any testing other PSed kids have to take, their names are on the rolls, they have to follow public school rules and they have a transcript and a record with the public school system.  That’s fine if it’s what you are looking for, but it’s not homeschooling in it’s true sense.  I’m sure this will set some people off but so be it, it’s how I feel and this is my blog 🙂

I could go into all the reasons homeschoolers should get het up by these kinds of arrangements but I’ve had enough of politics lately so I’ll spare you.  If you are interested read this

I also feel that these kinds of programs are…well…sneaky.  Take your average first year homeschool parent; full of doubt, wanting to make sure they are “covering everything”, used to the public school paradigm..to such a parent the idea of public school approved curriculum at home must seem very appealing.  And it’s free to boot!  Perfect!   Add to all this the fact that public school calls these program homeschool and it’s easy to see how one would believe they are homeschooling while using such a program.  And why not?  Public School gets the money for having the child enrolled, parents get a free program, child gets to stay home..everyone wins!  Right? Sure.

Unless your are removing your child from school to get them out of school (and I don’t mean the building)…or because you think NCLB is stupid and would rather not be part of it…or because you wish to be free to teach your child how and what you choose.  These kind of programs won’t get you any of those things.

JMO of course.

This is not to say that I would ever say this to a parent using such a program who considers themselves a homeschooler.  Nor would I seek to exclude them from a homeschool group or any activities associated with it.  That would be bad manners for one thing.  For another I think that such a family would certainly have enough in common with the homeschooling community that I am part of that we would have something to learn from each other and plenty to share. Plus, I would hope that being part of a homeschool group would give them the confidence to maybe,  just maybe, drop the virtual school.


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