Homeschooling Politics – Huckabee – Spunky – A Silent Majority?
After Iowa, we can focus on a fewer candidates. While their position towards homeschooling should not be a litmus test, it is of great interest to us how they feel about homeschooling. And how well-informed and coherent their views on homeschooling are.
Spunky – one the great homeschool bloggers, has come out of blogging retirement to say her piece about Huckabee and homeschooling. Her point of departure is speaking for Christian homeschoolers. She cites her point of view: “There is no doubt in my mind that on abortion and marriage, Huckabee is rock solid in agreement with most Christian homeschoolers.” (italics added by this editor). Spunky then goes on to show that there are some troubling inconsistencies with Huckabee’s position on education is that he seems to have enlisted support from two diametric opposed groups on education, the NEA and the HSLDA. Read her post, its solid. As a matter of principle, I won’t try to summarize her three part post since the last thing I want to do is reduce solid research and writing down to a sound-bite.
I would like to return to her point of departure and raise the question of whether Christian homeschoolers should be considered as largely synonymous with the homeschooling community or are the evangelical Christians just a part of it.
The last in-depth report on homeschooling statistics that I’ve found, the National Center for Education Statistics Study of 2001 (surely it’s time for the government to update that report) found that 30% of the homeschoolers said that they homeschooled for religious reasons. The majority had less philosophical reasons such as 31% who were concerned about the environment of schools, 16% were dissatisfied with the academics in schools, 7% cited a physical or mental problem, and another 7% cited other special needs as the reason. These reasons for homeschooling can be considered a group who homeschool for pragmatic (rather than philosophical or religious) reasons. This pragmatic group totals 61% of those surveyed. There were 9% who had “other reasons” and 30% who were homeschooling for religious reasons.
This statistical analysis is controversial and is not consistent with common views. Still, it’s based on the most reliable statistics out there. Here’s my points.
- Our global understanding of the homeschooling movement is poor. The government study had fuzzy questions and is now more than half a decade out of date. Since homeschooling is one of the largest and most significant trend in education, it deserves to be better understood.
- The common understanding which equates homeschooling to evangelical Christians cannot be validated by the existing statistics. It is also not my personal experience, not at all. Although my experience is anecdotal. My experience is that while the most outspoken and organized homeschool groups tend to be exclusive Christian groups (HSLDA being the most strident, most extreme, and most organized), there is a large number of homeschoolers, perhaps a silent majority, who are homeschooling without any religious axe to grind but who are just trying to do the best thing for their children. They might be people of faith but often, their religious position is more typical of average Americans than of the “religious right”. If the schools had better instruction, were safer, or could handle special phyical and educational needs better, their kids would be in school. Many of these people started with their kids in school and became accidental homeschoolers. Good sites expressing the general views of these groups are the eclectic secularhomeschool group and http://eclectichomeschool.org/