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Wednesday November 5th 2014

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The Politics of Homeschooling by Mary McCarthy

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Today Parent at the Helm welcomes aboard Mary McCarthy as a new commentator! Since Mary doesn’t believe in bios, we all have to imagine what she looks like and where she’s been. It will have to suffice for me to say that I’ve been in correspondence with Mary for over two decades as she is a longtime advocate for freedom for children, families and homeschoolers to pursue the educational path that best suits their needs and desires.  She’s a terrific researcher and writer on these topics. I think my favorite all-time Mary McCarthy writing was in response to one of the 101 questions answered in my book, The Homeschooling Book of Answers.

When asked, “Without siblings in the house, how does my only child learn social skills as we homeschool?”

Mary asked back, “Oh, my dear Linda, are you implying his parents don’t have any social skills?” That’s Mary – brief and to the point. Her commentary begins below.

Homeschooling was not always as political as it is today. When the modern homeschooling movement was just getting under way in the 70’s,

In the process of changing attitudes, homeschoolers became identified with politics.

In the process of changing attitudes, homeschoolers became identified with politics.

many parents realized they were considered truants or misunderstood by school authorities. It was necessary to use political power to change the laws or write new ones all together to safeguard parents from overzealous prosecutors. It’s just one of those things where people who are likely to want to educate their own children are also likely to take part in their own government, too.

In the process of changing attitudes, homeschoolers became identified with politics. This altered perspective was bolstered in 1983 by Home School Legal Defense Association, a self-appointed homeschool lobby that has been representing an unknown number of paying members since then. Advertising their services and homeschooling to the general public via surveys and public relations, homeschooling families are portrayed in a specific way, just like owners of specific automobiles are portrayed as superior to their competition.

Just as no one would buy a car advertised as “not as good as the competition,” they might not choose homeschooling if told it’s “just as good as the competition.” Advertising is used to convince you that one product is better than another. In this case, homeschooling is advertised as superior to other options.

It’s necessary to separate advertising from ordinary homeschool families, the majority of whom really don’t think their children are better than public school children, from a carefully crafted public relations campaign by a group vested in politics.

It’s also necessary to understand that homeschooling is now a “market,” and homeschoolers are targeted to spend their education dollars with many, many companies. If perhaps as many as 2 million homeschooled children whose parents spend perhaps an average of $500 per child per year – well – that’s a billion dollars worth of competition to convince you a particular brand of homeschooling is superior. Who would choose any less for their child?

Accept that there is greed in homeschooling, as there is everywhere, and concentrate on your own family. That is what homeschooling is truly about – each individual family. The rest is just noise.

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