The Washington Times article on the surge in homeschooling following recent school shootings brought to light one of the top reasons for parents to choose homeschooling: safety. Indeed, the safety of our eldest child was the tipping point that led my husband and my’s decision to homeschool. We were not as worried about school shootings as we were about the constant, and increasing, bullying that was not being addressed in his public middle school. Still, I will admit to a quiet prayer of thanksgiving while watching television news coverage of the Parkland shooting: “At least I don’t have to worry about that.”
Please note, though, how I worded my prayer. Yes, my sons (we homeschool both of them now) are safe from mass-casualty school shootings. But, we still attend church regularly and we still go to the movie theatre every few months. We also go to out-door fairs. There have been mass shootings at music festivals, churches, and movie theaters in the last decade. Homeschooling does not protect my children from those horrors.
In our homeschool, like so many others, we use several on-line curricula. Given our “gamer” backgrounds, my husband and I have always been cognizant of the dangers of the internet. We’ve worked hard to set boundaries and have emphasized that our sons have a responsibility regarding their own conduct on-line. Let me be clear, though: we fail at this quite often. I don’t stand watching over my teen’s shoulder as he plays PvP Minecraft while yelling on Discord to his “friends”. I’d surely lose both my hearing and my sanity if I tried! He knows our rule: “Never say anything online that you wouldn’t say in Youth Group.” But my son is human, a teenager, and he makes mistakes. Online bullying happens. Anyone who thinks her teen isn’t engaged in, or the target of, some form of online bullying is delusional. All we can do is set boundaries, enforce rules of good conduct, and talk to them when a social situation goes awry. Unless your household is 100% offline, homeschooling will not protect your teen from internet bullies.
Humans are social creatures. We crave social interaction. Despite the anti-homeschool naysayers’ constant chorus about “poor socialization”, the majority of homeschool kids are well adapted socially. They participate in sports, attend religious activities, volunteer in their communities, visit the library and, when old enough, hold down part-time jobs. These are absolutely vital activities for our children. Fear of a shooting at a movie theatre, a knife attack at a food kitchen, or bullying at a track meet should not force us to withdraw our children from these experiences. We’re trying to raise good, decent, loving, citizens. Rolling them up in figurative bubble wrap to protect them from all of life’s dangers doesn’t help the child or humanity.
Homeschooling is hard. Homeschooling is, also, worth the time, money, and effort it requires. Homeschooling can be the safety-net that bullied children need. Homeschooling is not the panacea for the dangers of society. If you are considering homeschooling, be sure it is for the right reasons.