Homeschoolers: The last radicals

Homeschooling is the only “authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States,” writes Kevin D. Williamson in National Review.

Homeschoolers . . . pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.

The modern homeschooling movement has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies, Williamson writes. Summerhill was the Bible of early homeschoolers, not the Bible.

These days, conservative Christian homeschoolers have been joined by  “a growing number of secular, progressive, organic-quinoa-consuming homeschool families, ” Williamson writes. Most homeschooling parents are well-off and suburban. Their children typically score “well above the public school average” on achievement exams. In addition,  “multiple studies by various researchers have found the home educated to be doing well in terms of their social, emotional, and psychological development.”

However, progressives don’t think parents have the right to put their children’s wellbeing ahead of the collective good, he writes. For example, Dana Goldstein, writing in Slate, urged parents to send their high-achieving children to public school so they could raise the achievement of their less-advantaged classmates.

Nine-tenths of American children attend government schools, and most of the remaining tenth attend government-approved private schools. The political class wants as many of that remaining tenth in government schools as possible; teachers’ unions have money on the line, and ideologues do not want any young skull beyond their curricular reach. A political class that does not trust people with a Big Gulp is not going to trust them with the minds of children.

Homeschooling represents a libertarian impulse, Williamson argues.

Homeschoolers may have many different and incompatible political beliefs, but they all implicitly share an opinion about the bureaucrats: They don’t need them — not always, not as much as the bureaucrats think. That’s what makes them radical and, to those with a certain view of the world, terrifying.

Homeschooling’s enemies have given up trying to outlaw home education, but they’re trying to control it, Williamson concludes.

About Joanne


  1. From what I’ve been reading on various websites, the homeschoolers have been driven away from the public schools, by allowing disruptive students (whatever the reason) to remain in the classroom, by insisting on mainstreaming/full inclusion even when it’s not suitable, by refusing to group homogeneously, by choosing weak and/or flawed curricula in various subjects and by forcing ineffective/inefficient instructional methods (discovery, groupwork, differentiated instruction etc). The public schools insist on the one-size-fits-all approach – undoubtedly colored with the push for equal outcomes across various colors and flavors – and it does not fit the needs of many kids. Homeschoolers haven’t dropped out, they’ve been pushed out.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      Homeschoolers are a very diverse group and the reasons for choosing home education vary widely from family to family. The things you mentioned are definitely big reasons why my family homeschools. However, I know plenty of families whose motivations are primarily not academic in nature. Their main reasons may be religious, or they may be hippieish (the “unschoolers”), or they may be athletic (the wannabe future Olympic gymnast we know), or health-related (the kid with the life-threatening food allergies), or whatever.

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    Many folks are uncomfortable with homeschooling simply because they cannot picture life without institutional schooling.

    The funny thing is, for all the fuss, public education really is much sound and fury signifiying very little.

    Most kids, in my observation, are only marginally affected or changed by their institutional educational experience. They are to a larger extent an expression of their parents. If public education was abolished tomorrow outcomes would be similar.

    Homeschooling points out the lie at the heart of it – that we must have institutionalized settings led by expert to educate. That’s nonsense. What we do need is something for children to do for 7-10 hours everyday while their parents are working outside the home. And, that’s why most people will never give up institutionalized education and homeschool.