White. Christian. Rural. Financially well-off. Heterosexual. Married with many children. Neurotypical. College-educated. Stay-at-home, soccer moms. American. Conservative. Organized and scheduled with exceptional kids who begin college at 10 years old.
I could go on.
Stereotypes like these make up the narrative of what represents the homeschooling community both outside and inside of it. While how homeschoolers are perceived outside of our community does matter, how we, the homeschool community, view each other matters more. In a time of so much awakening and movements for truth, tolerance, and equity, it’s time to acknowledge the issues that make many homeschoolers, new and seasoned, feel unseen, unheard, and isolated within the community.
As a secular, Black, urban, eclectic homeschooler, I know what it feels like to be all three. While I’ve been able to overcome these challenges and find my tribe, so to speak, I recognize that there are others who continue to grapple with the “loudest” members of the community, i.e., the people who fall into the categories mentioned at the beginning of this post, being the definition of what a homeschooler is instead of an example.
There are certain topics that specifically support this narrative within the homeschool community that aren’t talked about enough, so I’m not only bringing them to the forefront today, but I’m offering suggestions on how to bridge the gap to strengthen our collective in the present and for the future.
The history of homeschooling
Let’s begin with a little bit of history.
Homeschooling is the oldest education model in the world. For most of history, children did not attend school and learned at home, in church, or by working and playing outside. Formal education was too expensive, non-inclusive, or wasn’t available for most families. Once public schools were established, then eventually mandated here in the States, many families didn’t want their children to go but didn’t have much choice. However in the 1970s, the modern homeschool movement that began with John Holt’s liberal, unschooling education model was overtaken by the conservative, traditional, and religious methods of the Christian Right in the 1980s. This set the foundation for how homeschoolers are seen today. The work of all who laid the foundation for us to be able to homeschool today is greatly appreciated, but there is room for improvement.
As I see it, there are three categories where our community can do better: diversity, inclusion, and privilege. These are hot topics in society right now, and they should also be a big part of the conversation for homeschoolers, too.
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are discussed amongst homeschoolers, but the focus tends to be solely on educating the children, leaving parents to do little more than share resources for the children’s benefit. If these topics are essential for our children to learn and do, then why wouldn’t we make sure that they’re reflected in how we live our lives? Not practicing what we preach makes us the antithesis of what we’re teaching our children.
Practicing these concepts is easier said than done. Human beings are naturally attracted to others who are like us, but reaching across the fence is what enriches our lives and makes us more well-rounded, informed, and empathetic people. If we make the effort to do this, then our children, and others around us, reap the benefits as well.
To do this, we must ask ourselves questions like:
- Do I understand the definitions of and difference between diversity and inclusion, and how they show up in the world?
- Do I have a diverse and inclusive online and offline homeschool community? If not, how can I take steps in that direction?
- Do I follow and learn from those who look, speak, pray, love, or live differently than I do?
- Do I let my biases prevent me from acknowledging another person’s point of view regarding their lived experiences versus my own experiences and assumptions?
- Do I assume that my values, personal choices, and worldview are the “norm” for most homeschoolers, thus creating a “clique” environment that’s non-inclusive and bullying?
- Do my personal book choices reflect diverse and inclusive voices and experiences? (If not, here’s a blog post to get you started. Here’s another.)
- Do I allow others to dominate conversations and gaslight potentially marginalized individuals and groups, whether on or offline, because it’s easier than speaking up? (We’ve talked about why Black homeschoolers need their own groups for reasons such as this.)
- Do I choose curriculum, classes, programs, and media, for myself and/or my children, that reinforce a white-washed, romanticized worldview, or one based on truth, diverse stories, and people from all walks of life?
The more we surround ourselves with people and things that are both similar to and different from us, the better able we’ll be to help our children do the same. It’s harder to hate or feel indifferent towards someone when you’re intentional about seeing, listening to, and amplifying the images, voices, and stories of all types of people. This way of life doesn’t leave room for intolerance, racism, ableism, indifference, or hatred.
A quick word about privilege in the homeschool community.
I’ve always thought of homeschooling as a privilege to be able to do, and I give a more in-depth explanation of my viewpoint on YouTube. That being said, there are levels of privilege common amongst homeschoolers that cause some of us to feel bad about ourselves, rejected, and isolated unnecessarily.
Exploring our own privilege is something that we must all do, as we are all guilty of using it to our advantage, whether we realize it or not. Educating yourself on the types of privilege that exist, and how you can recognize yours to take action and use your privilege for good, is an excellent way to disrupt the status quo. Remember, every homeschooling family isn’t a nuclear one. All homeschoolers aren’t women who stay-at-home worshipping Jesus, teaching their neurotypical, able-bodied children while their husbands bring home the bacon. Homeschool families come in all shapes, sizes, sexualities, religions (or not,) and so much more. It’s best to be open and ask questions of each other than to make assumptions, judgments, and stay ignorant on account of exercising your privilege.
In the end, diversity, inclusion, and checking our own privilege is what will make the homeschool community greater. With personal awareness, understanding, and courage to think and act differently, things can change. Those who feel left out can come into the fold, and everyone can learn to be better human beings by accepting and celebrating the differences we all share. As homeschoolers, we are the biggest influencers in our children’s lives and have a unique opportunity to raise them to quite literally make our community, and the world at large, a better place. Are we up to the challenge? I believe so, but it all comes down to what we each decide to do next. The future depends on it.
Hey, I’m Camille, The Intuitive Homeschooler!
I’m a wife and mom of three busy kiddos who I’ve homeschooled since 2013. When I’m not homeschooling, gardening, or watching yet another documentary, you can find me writing on this here blog. Oh, and I just wrote a book called Coming Home. If you’re a homeschooler or you wanna be one, I recommend it. IJS.
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