Should we homeschoolers, all of us, be concerned about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, if her appointment is approved?
Many are thrilled that she has given a one-paragraph approval of homeschooling that seems to get quoted every where.
PHILANTHROPY: What about homeschooling?
MRS. DEVOS: Homeschooling represents another perfectly valid educational option. We’ve seen more and more people opt for homeschooling, including in urban areas. What you’re seeing is parents who are fed up with their lack of power to do anything about where their kids are assigned to go to school. To the extent that homeschooling puts parents back in charge of their kids’ education, more power to them.
Most of her energy is spent on promoting vouchers so that parents can send their children to existing private and parochial schools. She might then put in her two cents for charter schools. (Same interview linked above.)
So, let’s just make a guess that she will advocate for the voucher system, putting out a carrot for funding educational choices. Do you agree with me that this is a likely scenario?
A Little Background About What Happened in California
I’m going to put out there something that happened to our large support group we used to attend in the heart of Palo Alto, a California city known for its “fine schools” because it could draw on the resources of Stanford University right there in the city. Still, about 50 families in the area thought it best to homeschool. We were an inclusive group. Families educated in different methods, but all could spend Wednesday afternoons at the park together. We shared home education resources among each other, so those feeling their budgets stretch could still acquire some curriculum outgrown by another family. Parents would often create short-term classes on one topic or another, which the kids would enjoy for a few weeks. We took field trips on days other than Wednesdays to go further afield. Everything was pay as you go. Your homeschool park day group is probably similar, with its own distinctive activities.
Then a charter school moved into the area. They promoted themselves heavily. They promised experienced homeschool moms and former teachers positions as advisors to the less experienced. They promised up to $2000 for each family to buy curriculum, and they didn’t mean just books: ballet lessons, horseback riding lessons, private tennis lesson, computer camps, etc. just as long as it seemed educational, you could buy it and get your payment back! They’d even give each kid their own computer. Almost as an aside they told us we’d have to show plans for the coming month, and report what we’d done with the curriculum they owned in the previous month. That was the kicker: they owned all the stuff. You’d have to give it back in June, unless it was consumed. No continuing the horseback riding lessons over summer! Forget about installing your own software on those computers – and they had to go back, too, in June.
Well, a great number of our members took the bait. They promised to still show up on Wednesdays, but as all these reimbursed activities started to fill their weeks, plus all the school work they had to prove they had done, they eventually showed up less and less. Christian support groups in our area got really upset, as the charters would not allow reimbursement for religious materials, yet still their members wandered off. Those groups banned them from participating.
What about the field trips? Sure, we said, fine, come along with us. The charter kids would get their trip fees reimbursed. The rest of us did not. The charter schools sometimes sponsored their own events and field trips. Were the local homeschool groups invited along? Nope. Lots of hard feelings.
Then the charter school went belly up. Bad business plan, change in government policy. I forget why. Back come all these families, mid-year, with all their homeschool supplies taken back from them to pay off the creditors. Their kids miserable because they couldn’t afford their horseback riding lessons. The moms expected sympathy and curriculum handouts from the support group, which had dwindled because the mass participation to keep it lively had dissolved.
So, what does this have to do with DeVos?
So DeVos creates a means (vouchers) of encouraging all these fantastic alternative schools to expand or start up. There is, within a year or two, suddenly a vast range of school choices. Most acceptable to some families. They may be better or worse than homeschooling, but they are certainly cheaper.
First the Christian homeschool support groups dissolve. They were only homeschooling because the Christian schools all closed for lack of funding in the first place. Perhaps the co-ops all get organized into Christian schools. But what about those Christians who unschooled, or were very relaxed? What happens to them? I guess they go join inclusive homeschool groups.
Then the private schools and the charter schools get more funding. The secular school-at-home families decide that maybe with the their tight budgets, they’ll go one of those routes. The inclusive and secular groups shrink.
Maybe DeVos has second thoughts and decides to “help” homeschoolers. (You know, “We’re the government, and we’re here to help you!”) DeVos will probably define homeschooling at the State Department of Education level, and families who homeschool with that definition can use vouchers to pay for “real curriculum,” as defined by the Feds. The accredited home school programs will be delighted at the DeVos definition. The big curriculum companies are thrilled. Go through them, and get reimbursed! But try to get reimbursed for those ballet or horseback riding lessons? Probably not.
So, where does that leave homeschooling? Well, those who like to buy their “curriculum” through Amazon can still do so, within their own budget. But as Amazon is not some sort of accredited program, the odds of being reimbursed are slim.
More families will look into “unschooling” simply because it won’t entail telling the government what you do with your days.
Probably homeschooling will turn from having a high percentage of Christian families, to having a high percentage of secular and minority families feeling their public schools are still failing, and even with reimbursement, they don’t want their kids to have a religious world view education. Intellectuals who don’t want their kids in a dumbed down education environment will swarm into homeschooling. Live near a university? Prepare for your homeschool support group to swell as nearby public schools are forced to deny scientific facts in their text books. “Red” states will probably also see homeschooling swell in the next four years.
Many military families already homeschool in order to have consistency as they move around. As the states will all once again have their own comprehensive plans unlike any other state, moving around between states is going to get tougher. Your kids may have to make solar system models every year. Families with careers that move them about from year to year will have even more reasons to homeschool.
This will be a living document. If I have to eat my hat, I’ll eat my hat. This is just a prediction, a best guess, based on personal experience.
More links from Homeschool Sites about the Appointment of Betsy DeVos
Trump’s New Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos a Strong Supporter of Homeschooling
Trump’s campaign stance on education: “A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated. Get rid of it. If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach.” – from his book, Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America.
Homeschoolers: Beware Betsy DeVos, Beware Vouchers
“In a DeVos system of ‘choice,’ parents will choose WHERE their child is educated but WHAT they are taught is not up to them,” Braun continues, quoting from a report from the American Federation for Children, on which DeVos has served as a board member since 2008 and has been its chairman since 2009.
Why Homeschoolers Don’t Want School Vouchers
From the Right even! From Breitbart News. The parental right to choose where and how one’s child is educated is one that homeschooling parents say is the foundation of their commitment to home education. And while the phrase “school choice” may be a concept based in conservative philosophy, most of the highly independent and growing homeschooling population in the United States rejects the type of school choice known as the “school voucher” system.
Betsy DeVos – A Disaster for Homeschoolers?
This is why they are fighting so hard to gain control of home schoolers because they know they have no control there. Those parents are still putting their tax dollars into the till while paying extra for home school non-common core curriculums.
Oh the irony! Are leftists seriously threatening to homeschool their kids in protests of Betsy Devos?
In a tizzy after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as President Trump’s Sec. of Education, liberals on Twitter started considering the merits of homeschooling for the first time. The conservatives have noticed that more and more liberals are looking into homeschooling.