You read the papers. I know you have friends and neighbors whose children take the bus.
I don’t have to tell you how public school parents are worried about stuff going down in their kids’ schools. Some are angry. Others are downright scared.
Honestly, if I read one more story about testing, restrooms, bullying, vaxxing, race discrimination, teachers behaving badly, sex education curricula, school bus violence, religious intolerance…well, the list goes on and on. In my opinion, election campaigning has introduced even more confusion into the minds of many youngsters this year, too.
It’s a hot mess.
Other families are now just discovering the benefits of homeschooling. Upon realizing there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, they’re looking at ways to better meet the needs of unique children, or how to live a life of learning outside the four walls.
Over the weekend, I had the honor of once again attending the largest homeschooling convention in the country. As I met with families in the exhibit area and encountered parents throughout the convention center, I once again got a glimpse of the enormity of our growing community, with fresh eyes as I compared it to last year. This weekend’s event brought in some 20,000 people, the largest attendance ever I’m told. Understand I’m only talking about one event. These kinds of conferences happen all year long, throughout the country.
In Orlando, as in other areas I travel, I met families of all kinds, all coming together to share a common journey. But, over the last few years, I’ve been sensing a more diverse audience than ever before. Research hasn’t caught up to this emerging new demographic, but it’s blaringly obvious the new face of homeschooling is more and more a reflection of concerns arising over government schooling.
Makes sense. Parents are looking for options. They’ve already changed schools and they’ve already tried the private and charter alternatives. They’ve looked into virtual programs and smaller academies. In the end, lots of them are abandoning schools altogether. They’re leaving what they view as a failing system, often leaving behind beloved teachers and favorite Principals they trusted for years. Yet, they don’t trust the overall experience any more. So, they’re packing it in. They’re suddenly homeschooling.
Does this influx of families impact those of us already homeschooling?
I think it does.
Depending on your perspective, the growing number of homeschoolers could be a good thing or a bad thing. The rise of homeschooling could be viewed as a necessary evolution, a reflection of modern society as it were, increasing opportunities and avenues for connection and collaboration and information for us all. It could (will) continue to validate what we’re doing, providing even more evidence of the logic and success of our choices as more homeschoolers enter the adult world and show off what they’ve got.
On the flip side, the influx of modern families could send you into hiding, as homeschooling evolves into something other than what you originally signed up for. No longer an elite club for the righteous, the celebrities, the non-conformists and the free thinkers, homeschooling might not appeal to you so much now that everybody’s doing it. I can’t read your mind, but I’ve heard at least a few parents saying it doesn’t feel so special any more.
There are certainly some distinct areas being impacted, that I observe in my work and that I hear from other homeschool leaders. Because these areas may impact you directly, I want to share what you might expect as homeschooling continues to explode:
For starters, you can probably expect more questions and requests for information than ever before. Perhaps you’re already finding this true in your daily life. As more people begin coming to you for help, you might choose to offer more assistance. Or not. Be aware that having experience homeschooling in an area is a valuable asset. Others will probably want to learn what you know.
Increasing numbers of homeschoolers will probably mean an increased need for support in your area. Given that at least some of the new families haven’t had a whole lot of time to prepare, you might notice a growing lack of understanding and an even greater need for basic help than ever before. Local support groups could experience an increase in memberships and online support systems even more join requests than previous years. You can recommend this book if you like.
Whereas orientation for new homeschoolers is traditionally offered at the beginning or end of a “school year”, you might begin seeing more events in your area throughout the year. Online events are already occurring throughout the year, providing information and encouragement for those just dropping in. Prepare to see even more information sessions and online conferences for newcomers in years to come.
Given that many new families come from school environments, you might begin to notice a demand for more structured activities in your community. People who are used to classes and bell ringing will be looking for similar activities in your area. Should you feel led to direct new families, you might respond by pointing them to structured activities that already exist where you live. Or, you may feel called to help create structured activities (like classes, fairs and co-ops) if they don’t already exist.
On the other hand, it’s logical to assume that not everybody is happy about the changing culture and the newer flavors of support and activities. Certainly perspectives will differ, but this could become a time for you to reassess your involvement in activities that lose their intimacy or other qualities you presently enjoy. Larger homeschool programs can sometimes begin to resemble the very school programs some homeschoolers avoid. Fractioning of groups and activities tend to occur during these times, as well, as breakout groups form in response to the needs of families feeling lost in the larger sphere. Systems that no longer function will be reinvented.
Similarly, an increase in homeschoolers usually also means an increase in the search for social activities. I see this emerging in my area, and I’ll bet you notice it in yours, too. Alongside this need, I am finding many long-time homeschoolers are starting to reassess the kinds of socialization they desire for their own kids. Depending on your view, the rise of homeschooling could be a time to reflect upon your specific reasons for homeschooling, and whether to expand your children’s opportunities to include different kinds of socialization — or not.
Finally, if you haven’t already noticed, the rising number of homeschoolers has become a way for opportunists to cash in. The marketplace is fast becoming a free-for-all, as publishers and other companies are targeting homeschoolers, often creating new products specifically for our market. New products hold the potential to change your way of thinking, as manufacturers sometimes fabricate standards and needs that do not even exist. As parents, it’s important we pay attention to the changing homeschool marketplace. Though many of these products are exceptional, others have little to do with a quality homeschool education. And while you may welcome, as I do, the myriad of new product choices for use in the homeschool, I also advise even greater discernment when previewing products from companies that don’t have your best interests in mind — just your wallet.
What effects are you noticing in your area as the result of the increasing homeschool population? Are you welcoming these changes or are you feeling compromised in ways you do not enjoy?
I would love to hear what is happening in your community as homeschooling expands across the country. Please leave a COMMENT in the space below.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A liaison for regional school-to-home organizations, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.