I stumbled today upon a blog by Caterina Fake, the successful co-founder of Flickr.com and Hunch.com. Apparently, she’s some sort of free-thinking creative type. Her Sesat Blog is about her experience as a homeschooling parent.
Reading her blog reminded me just how fascinating and under-examined homeschooling is as an education reform topic. It’s perhaps the most radical, risky, and creative choice that parents can make for their children’s education. Homeschooling options run a wide gamut from thinly-veiled religious indoctrination to expensive and highly successful urban parent networks. And given the relatively light touch of entrenched special interests in this arena, it’s perhaps more conducive than any other sector of education to unfettered innovation.
Still, homeschoolers feel like outcasts in education reform discussions. Parents who choose this option, conventional wisdom goes, either have too much time on their hands, or are dangerously overbearing, or have an irrational suspicion of government-run institutions. In any event, so it seems, they’re just too small and insignificant a population to merit much serious discussion.
But here’s a reality check: there are roughly the same number of homeschoolers as there are students enrolled in charter schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 1.4 million students enrolled in charters in 2008-09 and there were 1.5 million homeschoolers in 2007.
Charter school advocates will readily argue that even charter students comprise just 3% of public school enrollment, that the movement is still powerful enough to drive larger, systemic change. Why don’t we say the same about homeschooling?