Homeschool: Latest Frontier for the Fabulous

Why do parents homeschool?  At least one mother has told us recently that homeschooling has become yet another perk for the fabulously fabulous.

As anyone who follows historian Milton Gaither’s blog knows, the world of homeschooling in the United States is fabulously complex.  There is no simple answer to the question of why some parents choose to homeschool.

For some readers and contributors to this blog (see, for instance, the experiences of Anna), homeschooling has resembled nothing so much as a horrific theocratic prison, similar to the recent expose in the pages of American Prospect.  For these families, homeschooling has functioned as a way to bind up their children’s minds in the over-tight wrappings of fundamentalist theology.

Yet for many other conservative religious folks, homeschooling has included equal parts theology, culture, and pedagogy.  Some non-conservative readers out there might be as surprised as I was to discover the number of conservative evangelical Protestants who homeschool for very progressive-sounding reasons.  Or even the number of conservative creationist homeschoolers who want to teach their children about evolution responsibly and accurately.

But homeschooling is not only for conservative religious folks.  At least since the early 1970s, progressive educators and hippies have been attracted to the allure of “unschooling.”  And homeschooling has long been a traditional option for students who cannot attend school due to health problems or even due to pregnancy.

A recent piece in the New York Times offers another rationale for homeschooling: it’s the only lifestyle that can be fabulous enough for those who have already maxed out on their fabulous-ness.  Jennifer Kulynych’s self-outing as a fabulous homeschool mom took as a pretext her difficulty in admitting to her homeschool practice.  At work, Kulynych explains, she has trouble telling colleagues that she homeschools her daughter.  Too many people, she writes, make too many assumptions about homeschooling.

At its core, though, Kulynych’s self-outing seems like nothing so much as a brag about homeschooling as the last frontier for the fabulous.  Kulynych explains that she began homeschooling her daughter when their public school failed to challenge her daughter intellectually.  Since Kulynych’s daughter was too smart for school, and their family couldn’t afford ritzy private schools, Kulynych chose to homeschool.  Plus, Kulynych explains, she was not willing to see her daughter raised by nannies and tutors.  Instead, Kulynych chose to keep her job as a lawyer, while still arranging a perfect intellectual environment for her perfect intellectual offspring.  The fabulous experiment has not been without cost, Kulynych explains.  She goes without spare time in order to keep up the fabulous pace of her fabulous homeschooling lifestyle.  She enjoys spending time learning with her daughter, as she explains, as “co-conspirators in a counterculture adventure, eating our academic dessert first whenever we like.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking Kulynych for homeschooling.  I’m all for parents who sacrifice for the good of their children.  But I do wonder if Kulynych’s self-aggrandizement will mark a new normal in the kaleidoscopic world of American homeschooling.  Homeschooling has always been counter-cultural.  The traditional countercultures, though, have been those of the left or right.  For Kulynych, at least, the “counter” in counterculture seems to rely mainly on being simply too cool for school.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks for this blog post. I think we forget that there are many secular parents who homeschool their children for reasons other than religion. Plenty of parents see public schools as watering down curriculum. There are as many reasons for homeschooling as their are parents who homeschool, I suppose. My question would be how does the motivation for homeschooling end up having a good or bad outcome for the students?

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  2. Adam – I see that you linked to ‘unschooling’ and wonder if you have any information or thoughts about how colleges and universities will assess such children for admission.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • For those who homeschool due to conservative Christian reasons, there are plenty of conservative Christian colleges & universities that will accept a certificate of completion as equivalent to a high school diploma. Also, I believe that assessment in other types of colleges and universities take a look at SAT and ACT scores. That was the case for my friend’s (eight) children, who were all homeschooled. If anyone has any other information, I’d be glad to hear it.

      Reply
      • That sounded about right to me, too. Not just conservative Christian colleges, but many of the traditional elite schools have long relied on portfolios and dossiers that were easily amenable to homeschooled applicants. But, to check my initial reaction, I did a quick search at the handy ICHER website and found some confirmation. The hardest-working historian in the homeschool business, Milton Gaither, reviewed some research on the subject. According to one study he looked at,

        Gloeckner and Jones found that most schools (75%) have a policy for homeschooled applicants. The specifics of these policies differed, but in most schools required something to prove that homeschooled applicants were college-ready, including ACT or SAT scores, an essay, GED scores, letters of recommendation, and in some cases a personal interview and/or a portfolio. Four of the officers claimed that their institutions did not accept homeschooled applicants.

  3. Yes, I know that home-schoolers are fairly well covered, but it seems to me that un-schoolers will present another set of challenges – at least from my limited understanding of what the unschooler parents are doing with their kids.

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