Tony Woodlief Reminds Us That There Is No "Typical" Homeschool Family

One option more and more parents take for their kids is homeschooling. Thousands of Colorado kids are being educated at home by their parents. Despite a great diversity in the families that undertake home education and the different kinds of programs used, there’s still a tendency among some to have stereotyped conceptions of what a “typical” homeschool family looks like.

People who want to pigeonhole homeschoolers into a box really ought to read this Pajamas Media column by Kansas parent and writer Tony Woodlief. A key excerpt:

Given preconceptions about this practice, I should note that we are not anti-government wingnuts living on a compound. We like literature, and nice wines, and Celeste would stab me in the heart with a spoon if I gave her one of those head bonnets the Amish women wear. We are not, in other words, stereotypical home-schooling parents. But neither are most actual home-schooling parents.

Even though Ma and Pa Ingalls sent their children off to the little schoolhouse in Walnut Grove, we’ve decided to start our own. In the eyes of Kansas authorities that’s exactly what we’ve done; regulations require us to establish a school and name it. Ours is the Woodlief Homestead School. I wanted to go with something like: “The School of Revolutionary Resistance,” but Celeste said that was just inviting trouble.

The reason we’ve broken with tradition, or perhaps reverted to a deeper tradition, is not because we oppose sex education, or because we think their egos are too tender for public schools. It’s because we can do a superior job of educating our children. We want to cultivate in them an intellectual breadth and curiosity that public schools no longer offer.

We know that kids benefit from having an array of educational choices, but sometimes we don’t realize the diversity within an option or the variety of reasons that lead parents to the particular choice. The Woodlief Homestead School will have different structures and emphases than many of their counterparts, but they’re working toward a similar end. The author effectively makes a point that many still need to get:

Folks in our neck of the woods embrace the proper goal, which is not supporting public schools, but supporting public education — the education of the public, which is only ever you and me and our neighbors. The goal is educated children, after all, not allegiance to some institution or ideology.

Based on the individual needs of the child, there are many ways to reach that goal. Home-based education is an option that just happens to work for many.