A child is injured on the playground but his parents aren’t there to help. A group of children misbehave in a department store with no parent nearby to notice. No doubt, everyone has experienced one of those uncomfortable moments at least once – when someone else’s kids appear to be need of supervision, but the parents are nowhere in sight.
On the flip side, the term “helicopter parenting” was invented for a reason. The polar opposite of absentee parenting, the helicopter parent hovers so closely that children are scarcely allowed to do anything on their own.
Homeschooling moms and dads have been compared to the helicopter-variety of parents, alleging they watch too closely and overly-monitor everything their children do. Many have accused homeschoolers of being too over-protective and preventing children from developing “normally”, by their standards, that is.
Are homeschooling moms and dads just being good parents or are they really over-the-top?
Everyone knows that one of the great benefits of homeschooling is that parents can pick and choose the experiences that they want for their kids. Whether choosing which books to read, which families to meet at the park, or what field trips and classes to register for, homeschooling parents have the freedom to customize the experience to fit within whatever guidelines and standards they have set for the family. Is this excessive? Not really. Actually, it’s pretty ideal when you think about it.
If given the chance, most parents would probably enjoy the chance to remain involved in their kids’ lives a little longer. Is there anything really wrong with deciding if a child is ready for a PG-rated movie or if a child should really go on that sleep-over at some unknown friend’s house? What about helping to decide whether or not a teen’s choice of boyfriend/girlfriend is a good one? No parent would argue with these choices, yet it is common for parents of public schoolers to accuse homeschooling families of harmful family over-management.
It comes as no coincidence that homeschoolers meet and schedule their play-dates in the mornings before the school buses full of children come out. It isn’t wrong, clique-ish or snobby; it’s just a practical way to minimize contact with children raised differently from their own. It isn’t harmful to watch how children interact on the playground or gently guide a child toward a different type of activity when things aren’t going quite right – it’s just another teachable moment for a child and modeling good behavior from a parent.
As a side note, homeschoolers are huge users of team sports, enrichment courses, and community programs; thus, they don’t entirely shut children off from other people, they merely choose experiences wisely.
When you think about it, what homeschoolers do isn’t any different than parents choosing Montessori schools because they like the kinds of families these schools attract or encouraging their children to join a youth group in order to find other kids with similar attitudes and interests. Every good parent knows what they want for their kids, it’s just that homeschoolers are better able to control situations because they are closer by.
Before anyone judges another parent, homeschooler or not, it is important to remember that most parents are only trying hard to do what they think is best. In the case of homeschooling moms and dads, what is best is keeping an eye on their kids.
[I have written many articles for online and print publications. This article originally appeared here.]