Media Intervention: Debunking Homeschooling Stereotypes

A vector drawing of a couple of stereotypical homeschoolers
A stereotypical representation of homeschoolers. Done with Assembly for iPhone and Inkscape.

Pre-intervention Survey

Thanks so much for coming by my blog to take part in this media intervention activity. Please start by clicking the link to take the survey so we can find out your current views towards homeschoolers, their parents, and homeschooling. After you finish the pre-intervention survey, please view the content below and see if your views change at all. NOTE: Please be sure to take the survey again after you finish viewing the content below 🙂 There is a link at the bottom of this blog post FYI.

 

Media Intervention Content

CURRENT HOMESCHOOL STEREOTYPES

In this section, I will share some negative stereotypes and general misconceptions about homeschooling that seem prevalent not only in the media, but also in the common public consciousness.

 

Homeschoolers as “The Nerdy Know-it-all” or Religious Extremist-in-the-making

The term “Nerdy Know-it-all” was coined as one of the main stereotypes found in media about homeschoolers by the scholar David Cameron Hauseman in his article found in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning, Vol. 5 Issue 9, 2011. It is one of the most commonly cited papers on the topic of media stereotypes concerning homeschoolers. He was concerned that negative stereotypical portrayals of homeschoolers and their parents in the media would pose a risk of harm against the individuals misrepresented.

 

Note: you’ll only need to watch the first three and a half minutes or so of this next one to get the point.

Homeschooling Parents as “The Paranoid Parents” or Agoraphobic Pedagogues

The term “Paranoid Parents” is also from Mr. Hauseman.

 

Stereotype-filled Media Sans High Quality or Any Video Clips

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “Home” (2009)

Dr. Phil “The Great School Debate” (2006)

 

List of Stereotypes From an Article Called “Stereotypes of Homeschooling” (Thomas 2017)

All homeschoolers are. . .

  • Conservative Christians
  • Poor
  • Unintelligent and/or don’t do school at all
  • Usually having difficulty transitioning to college
  • Socially deprived
  • Lacking interesting lives
  • Incapable of functioning in the real world

And. . .

  • All homeschooling parents aren’t qualified to teach their children
  • Homeschooling families are “18 & Counting”

 

HOW ACCURATE ARE THESE VIEWS?

I would like to start my response to these stereotypical views by saying that stereotypes are not always totally inaccurate. The problem with stereotypes is that they are often based in some level of truth, and there really have been—especially since the homeschooling movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s—plenty of terrible parents doing terrible things to their children under the guise of homeschooling which has led to the popularization of some of these stereotypes. I will address what I believe are the solutions for bad homeschooling, which tend to be the source of bad homeschooling in the section after this one.

Now, let’s examine some facts, statistics, and assertions as related by the current research.

 

Scholarly Perspective of a Mother Trying Unschooling for Her Own Kids (Haugh 2014)

“The belief is that socializing—children spending time with one another—begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. There is no evidence to support such an assumption” (Neufeld & Maté, 2005, p. 241).

“[T]he home schooled children demonstrated above average social skills, while publicly schooled children demonstrated average social skills as reported by parents” (Koehler, Langness, Pietig, Stoffel, & Wyttenbach, 2002, p. 473).

“I did a search for research demonstrating negative impacts of homeschooling on socialization. The general results showed that there were none, or only those whose parents were choosing to homeschool purely for the reason of passing on their ideologies and sheltering their children from other interactions” (Haugh 2014).

 

Scholarly Response to the Stereotypes Listed Above (Thomas 2017)

  • Homeschoolers do better academically even when their parents are poorer or less well educated, so financial and educational stratification can actually be prevented or limited through homeschooling
  • Public schoolers can be less well socialized than homeschoolers because of the clique-iness of public schools that force students to only interact with kids their own age
  • Homeschool families are able to seek a wide variety of social interactions through numerous out-of-home activities if they so choose
  • Homeschooled children can also socialize more with those they share common interests with rather than only those they physically live around

Note: pretty much all of these stereotypes are asserted to be non-representative of the majority of real homeschoolers and their families via statistics in the article.

 

Other Academic Sources Confirming Inaccuracy of Stereotypes

 

WHAT’S THE REAL SOLUTION TO STEREOTYPES?

Some stereotypes are based on truth

Dealing with arrogance and conceit in the human heart, which often leads to homeschooling in a reckless way that endangers and fails to prepare children

  • Parents who think they can homeschool their kids without serious consequences for lack of preparation, resources, and support (you can easily hurt your kids and their future by taking homeschooling on flippantly)
  • Parents who think they can both work and still provide their children a good education and proper supervision and training outside of school (children need a lot of time and interaction with dedicated adults)
  • Parents who think they can protect their kids from bullying just by homeschooling them (children need to be taught how to face adversity, and helped through it, not left alone to be tormented via social media, etc. or taken out of it altogether)
  • Parents who think they can have it easy while homeschooling (“I’m not your teacher, I’m just a facilitator”)
  • Parents who think they can avoid public scrutiny while abusing their kids by using homeschool as a cover (unfortunately, this happens so much more than it should)
  • Parents who think they can homeschool their kids just because they have a lot of education (it really doesn’t make a difference unless you are totally committed to doing what’s in your kids’ best interest)
  • Parents who think that every kid in their family will be overachieving social butterflies by default, who don’t need any guidance or structure (too high or unrealistic expectations can put kids at a disadvantage)

I don’t believe that public or private schools are in kids’ best interest, but they do typically receive some level of training and instruction that helps most kids become productive adults on some level. There are obviously problems in public schools and many private schools, but homeschooling doesn’t avoid those problems by default.

 

Educating parents about state requirements

Legislatively speaking, some states are more strict than others and don’t allow some forms of homeschooling. Texas, for instance, has a web page that details their curriculum requirements. However, the reality, at least here in Washington, is that only a basic level of educational opportunity is required to be offered to children. Helping parents understand what is possible and what is required in their state is very important, so they don’t bite off more than they can chew or aim too low and hurt their kids.

 

Being realistic with expectations

Debunking possible overly-positive stereotypes about homeschooling so that parents who aren’t truly committed to doing it well will stick with something easier

  • Homeschoolers can work full time, do school, and have a great social life (no one can do this)
  • Homeschoolers will become famous, just like Condoleezza Rice (she only did homeschool for one year)
  • Homeschoolers can easily become celebrities, since many celebrities get homeschooled (celebrities’ parents often sacrifice their kids’ childhood to get an advance start on a career based on their natural singing, artistic, or acting talents. . . this isn’t necessarily a good thing!)

 

Increasing the Amount of Scholarship About Homeschooling

One last thing I would suggest is more academic scrutiny into the amount and kinds of examples of good and bad homeschooling. Ultimately, more public scrutiny can only help people make better informed decisions, both personally and legislatively. I don’t think excessive restrictions or “Big Brother” government will help anyone, but if there is a more fair and balanced way to deal with the concerns and challenges of home school it will only help everyone to find it out with more accurate reporting and research.

 

Post-intervention Survey

Thanks for taking the time to go through the content to learn the difference between the stereotypes and reality. Please feel free to finish up by clicking the link to go back and take the survey again. This time, we will see what, if anything, changed in your view towards homeschoolers, their parents, and homeschooling in general.

Regards,

Benjamin Woodruff

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