By publishing an article highlighting Professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s call for a presumptive ban on home education, Harvard Magazine may have actually done the homeschooling movement a favor.
Though it listed the alleged “risks of homeschooling,” the piece didn’t bother to quote anyone involved in home education. Homeschoolers have remedied this oversight by announcing in various media just how wrong Bartholet’s claim—that homeschooling isolates children, violates their rights, exposes them to abuse, and makes them bad citizens—is.
“Today, as a direct result of my homeschool education, I am a successful attorney at one of the premier law firms in the United States,” wrote Harvard Law School graduate Alex Harris on his Facebook account. “But I’m just one of many success stories.”
He could have been referring to fellow graduate Melba Pearson.
“Harvard was the very first school I ever set foot in,” she blogged in response to Bartholet’s views. “Homeschooling, and the lessons and characteristics I learned and honed during the first 18 years of my life, prepared me to succeed—no, excel—at one of the most difficult and prestigious universities in the world.”
She, in turn, was echoed by the hundreds of replies to the article on Harvard Magazine’s Facebook page.
“I am a second-generation homeschooler, as is my spouse,” Charity Berwick shared in a typical post. “We are motivated to homeschool as we loved the freedom, fun, flexibility, and wonderful educations we received at home!”
Tracy Stevens Carey wrote: “After 17 years of homeschooling, our school will be closing with the graduation of our third daughter, who will be heading to college. I would not trade the time I had with them ‘24/7’ for anything. The oldest two graduated college (one goes to law school this fall). Contrary to the article’s implication, [my children] definitely learned how to be independent thinkers.”
Like the homeschool movement itself, responses to the article reflect a rich and diverse range of backgrounds and opinions. Many, just as we do at Home School Legal Defense Association, affirmed the right of scholars and policymakers to disagree with homeschooling supporters.
Homeschool advocates are clearly united, however, in pledging to resist restrictions on home education, inspired by a characterization that they see as tone-deaf, ill-informed, and prejudiced.
To quote Melba Pearson again: “The article argues only those whom the government deems correct can teach children; this is a blatant rejection of free thought, suppression of democratization of education, and attack on the freedoms and rights the citizens of our country fought long and hard to win.”
Kerry McDonald, another Harvard graduate who has studied and written about homeschooling, responded by highlighting “five things the article got wrong.” Among these, she argued that narrowing educational choices could actually hurt children looking to escape abuse or neglect in more traditional school settings.
She wrote: “Banning homeschooling, or adding burdensome regulations on homeschooling families, who in many instances are fleeing a system of education that they find harmful to their children, are unnecessary attacks on law-abiding families.”
Forbes education writer Mike McShane expanded on this point by relating how homeschooling is increasingly becoming a haven for families and students who are sometimes described as at-risk or struggling.
He cited the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as identifying “two of the fastest-growing segments of homeschooling in America: families of children with special needs and minority families. In that NCES survey, almost 11 percent of homeschooling parents say that they do so primarily because their child has a special need of some sort.”
McShane concluded: “Banning homeschooling would thrust thousands of children who left traditional schools to avoid maltreatment back into the very schools where they were victimized. It will narrow the options available to families to find the environment that best meets their child’s needs. And it will undermine the very pluralism that our nation is founded upon.”
Alex Harris closed his own response with a similar sentiment, though stated in a much more personal way.
He wrote: “I can only express my gratitude that the educational choices that were made for me were made by the two people in this world who knew me best, who loved me most, and who sincerely wished the very best for me and my siblings. Thanks for the sacrifices, mom and dad. They were worth it.”
Photo credit: iStock.