Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to the Newbies

I live in a small town and my major resource for glimpsing the larger world is the Internet. I don't know that I get an accurate or complete picture, but I do belong to a few homeschooling groups that include many families living primarily in the US and Canada.

From my limited point of view, there are a lot of families entering the world of homeschooling for the first time right now. It is neat to see a growing a diverse community of homeschoolers. I figure that the more there are, the more resources and acceptance will be available. It's a good thing.

One reason that I see for the booming growth is that the public schools are failing individuals. The burden to meet academic, social, physical and emotional needs of each child in over-crowded classrooms can be pressing even the best teachers to early burnout. So, as I see it, people are ditching the traditional school system not because they have heard glowing reviews of homeschooling, but because they only know they can’t continue public schooling.

I have noticed an intriguing trend in the new-to-Homeschooling crowd. A substantial percentage--easily more than half of those I've met in person and online--have children with special needs, namely autism or Asperger's. I would venture to say in my personal experience the numbers are nearer 3/4 than merely half.

This group of families have been essentially pushed out if the mainstream school experience. Homeschooling is a last result and the families are often in desperate situations. That is never a good place to be. Running *from* rather than *to* something often forces the runner into a survival mentality. They almost resemble scorned lovers on the rebound. Most of what they do is reactive.

I don't know the long-term prognosis for families who are homeschooling as a result of a last-ditch-effort attitude. Homeschooling is difficult and offers unique challenges. Families landing in homeschooling with no more research or planning beyond a cursory check to see if it’s legal may not be equipped to accept the mantle of home education.

But however they got here, it is a pretty good place to be. And the neighbors in the homeschooling community are pretty great, too. If they can let go the past, plug in for support and move forward, they may thrive in this brave new world.

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Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!