Is the Term "Homeschooling" Being Usurped?


Have you ever found yourself talking to another parent about homeschooling only to realize that what they mean by homeschooling is actually a school? 

The term is used rather freely these days and has some people confused about both it's meaning and what some parents are doing. Are they homeschooling or not?

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a homeschool is defined as "a school operated outside established educational institutions, especially in a home."

If a homeschool operates outside an established educational institution then, at the very least, it has to operate outside the largest established educational institution, public school or "government" schooling, as John Taylor Gatto more accurately calls it. 

What about the "in a home" part of the sentence? If the homeschool is not in a home, then it's not a homeschool but a school. (Someone needs to inform the American Heritage dictionary about this.) 

Throughout our history, we have never defined a place children went for instruction as a homeschool. To do so would be an oxymoron. 

Most notably, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) defines homeschooling as "families engaged in home-based education [who] are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources for their children’s education."

The NHERI is the organization that does most of the research on homeschooling, so they should know the definition of what they research!

The NHERI's definition sums up my understanding of some 30 years plus, which is why I find myself perplexed, along with many others, when parents who have their children enrolled as public school students then call themselves homeschoolers. 

Some Perspective

Let's look at the early days of homeschooling to put some perspective on this befuddlement. 

One of the earliest advocates of homeschooling was Roussas John Rushdoony. Rushdoony was a Calvinistic philosopher and theologian who warned Christians in the 1960s to remove their children from public schools because of the secularizing nature of public education. 

It appears that Rushdoony was not being an alarmist but actually predicting the logical outcome of what happens when you erase all traditional references of God and moral values from the curriculum. 

Between Rushdoony's warnings to the Christian community, and the cries of teachers such as John Holt and Raymond Moore, who saw that public education had become increasingly dumbed down since its inception, we see the beginnings of the modern homeschooling movement. 

Out of this early homeschooling period arose accomplished graduates like the Colfax children, who earned scholarships to Harvard, and Susan Wise-Bauer, who became a well-known publisher, speaker, and writer in the classical homeschooling movement. 

Parents who secure a good education for their children, are more useful than those who merely beget them.
— Arisotle

Once the results were in, more parents decided they too could do a better job of educating their children, and they hopped on board.  Every year since the numbers of homeschooling families has increased significantly. 

According to the NHERI, the 2018 consensus shows that the number of homeschooling families in American has grown to 2.3 million! 

The New Face of Homeschooling

Ironically though, today's homeschoolers look remarkably different from those of 25 or 30 years ago. Since the charter schools were introduced in 1991, homeschooling parents today are more likely to enroll their children in a public school program through the charter schools or the cyber charter schools.

But are they really homeschoolers or has the word homeschooling become a euphemism for little public schools?

State-funded homeschoolers are classified as public schooled students. If the state classifies them as such, then it would follow they were public school students and not homeschooled students—if homeschooling means a state-free education at home—which we've already determined it does.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association, a long-time opponent of the charter schools because of the blurred lines between government and the private lives of its citizens, said that "Enrolling in a home-based charter school creates a little public school in your home."

In other words, you've invited the government in when you really didn't have to. 

To add more bewilderment to the mix, here's how the largest charter school, K12, markets themselves: "Public School at Home—K12—Tuition-Free Education!"

In their ignorance of the "public school at home" implication, they're being amusingly honest.  As you'll soon see, K12 is purely a business run by greedy businessmen including a convicted criminal; men who don't give a hoot about your child's education.

But first, it helps to understand some of the forces at play amongst parents that unknowingly help perpetuate this confounded scenario.

The Confusion

The first problem stems from sincere moms who want to homeschool, they love the idea, but, as one honest mom put it, "I missed going out for coffee with my friends." Simply put, they find it too challenging to teach their own.

These moms belong to the group of what are known as the "co-op" charter schools. Taking advantage of a loophole in public school funding— with the state's permission—they register their children in a charter school and then send them to a school organized by a group of other charter school moms. 

An improvement, no doubt, but not—by any stretch of the imagination—a homeschool.

Like the public school model, the co-op children are segregated by grade and taught in groups instead of one-on-one like a homeschool, the curriculum adheres to the Common Core standard instead of the higher standards that were once the norm in education, and it's mandatory that the children sit for the standardized exams every year.

Because of the loophole in the system, co-op moms call themselves homeschoolers.

When I pushed one mom on this point, she confessed somewhat sheepishly that she knew the co-op was really a school, but, according to the charter school rules, the co-op parent's had to say they were homeschooling. 

Really? I smell a government rat.

The other scenario is your stay-at-home mom, who does want to homeschool her children, but she's been conditioned to think she needs the state's stamp of approval to know she's doing a good job. 

(Mothers 150 years ago didn't feel incompetent to teach their children, assuming they could read and write. Why do mother's, who are collectively more educated today, feel so disempowered?) 

This mom enrolls her child in a charter school and is visited once a month by a state official who approves her children's academic progress.

Why are you so docile when you give up your child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?
— John Taylor Gatto

Choosing one of two options, she either teaches her child using public school curricula based on the Common Core Standards, or she takes the cyber school option where most of her child's learning, if not all, is done online. 

There are also moms who don't want their children in a public school, but they also don't want to homeschool them, so they opt for the cyber school option too. 

Regardless, the cyber school kids are plugged into a computer (Thank you, Bill, for your generous funding of the Common Core!)—not a great learning experience by any standards. 

The Fraud

What most people don't know is that the majority of these charter schools are privately owned and riddled with fraud.

"Over the past 12 months [2014], millions of dollars of new alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools have come to light, bringing the new total to over $200 million," according to the report from The Center for Popular Democracy.

That $200 million, by the way, is taxpayer money–our money–and it's a ridiculously modest estimate. Consider that the founder of K12 alone, Ronald J. Packard, earned a 5 million compensation package annually between 2011-2014. 

How much of that came out of taxpayer money is unclear, but it puts the modest $200 million taxpayer deficit into perspective. 

K12 is the largest cyber school in the country and was funded in part by the Milken family. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Mike Milken was the 1980s junk bond king who, after defrauding his clients to the tune of billions, he was subsequently convicted, imprisoned, and banned for life from any dealings in securities. 

After serving time in prison, and working on improving his image, Milken reemerged to do big business in the education sector where he bought the early education chain, Kindercare, and become a hidden partner in the K12 online charter school with previously mentioned founder and his junk bond buddy, Ronald J. Packard.

The government rat seems to have some company. 

The Bribe

Tragically, and I think it is a tragedy, too many "homeschooling" parents are opting to use the charter school programs today.

One struggling family of five children told me that it would be difficult to turn down the 10K the family receives from the state each year to homeschool.

If that isn't a bribe, I don't know what is. I'd have a hard time turning it down too. 

But turn it down, we must. It's an unethical use of taxpayer's money, it's supporting people who are dumbing down our children's education, it's giving the government more control over our private lives, and it's undermining the homeschooling community.

Plus, they're usurping our word. 

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
— Alexis de Tocqueville

If you would like to become a more competent homeschooler, please join the waiting list for my upcoming course: How to Homeschool the Smart Way.

If you enjoyed this, you might like my free download Ten Books Every Well-Educated Child Should Read.

If you need help with your homeschooling, please schedule a one-hour consultation with me (that's usually all you'll need)