The term “homeschooling” is incredibly broad. Oftentimes, when I tell people I’m an advocate for homeschooling, I spend more time correcting false assumptions about my philosophy than I do explaining it. The ideological diversity within homeschooling is wonderful, but so often people see it as a monolithic movement. Here are three types of homeschooling that I’ve experienced or witnessed:
A). The Practical
For these homeschoolers, school is fine for most kids. They don’t take particular issue with the culture or educational philosophy of schools. The decision to stay home is primarily based on their particular child’s advanced academic ability, learning disabilities, social dissatisfaction, or other practical issues like geography. It seems that these parents don’t have a strong educational philosophy of their own, so they tend to simulate school in the home. The main difference is the change of pace, which allows more time for difficult homework and field trips.
B.) The Cultural
These are the families that have historically dominated the popular perception of the term “homeschooling.” Their main motivation for keeping their children out of schools is a sense of moral decline in the culture, of which grade school culture is a reflection. The intensity of this motivation ranges from a natural desire for more input into a child’s life to full on moral panic & isolationist tendencies. In practice, the educational experience here is very similar to practical homeschoolers, since they don’t take much issue with the day-to-day process of schooling.
C.) The Ideological
For these people, the eminent reason for educating their kids at home lies deeper. Unlike practical and cultural homeschoolers, they take issue with the assumptions inherent in the process of traditional schooling. Fixtures of school like letter grades, required classes, age groupings, homework, and teachers are called into question. They have a strong sense that humans are born with intrinsic curiosity—that we all start out as scientists—and that school undermines the natural learning process. Oftentimes, these people reject the term “homeschooling” in favor of the term “unschooling.”
Of course, it’s rare to find a home educating family that fits precisely into one of these categories. Most have elements of at least two. In my personal homeschooling experience, I feel that my parents’ motivations were split across all three—30% practical, 30% cultural, and 20% ideological. My hope is that our culture can move towards a more nuanced understanding of homeschooling, and that people formerly dismissive of the concept can find some element intriguing and relatable to their own family.