Penelope Trunk blogs The Real Reason Parents Don't Homeschool which she feels is money: saying they need two incomes to survive and thrive.
I disagree. It isn't the first time. Trunk seems to like to make controversial statements which generate blog traffic and lots of comments. It's her schtick and that's her perogative. Having been in the homeschooling trenches longer than she and having interacted with lots of homeschoolers I just disagree.
I have homeschooled my kids since birth, they are 15 and12 now. Having helped provide free support via homeschool support groups and prior being a La Leche League leader for seven years working with mothers at home who talk about mothering and juggling work with mothering, and having worked with college educated women who like their middle or upper middle class income, I don't think money is the issue.
There are two reasons that people don't homeschool. The first begins with motherhood in general.
Some mothers choose not to be mothers-at-home when their children are babies because they are afraid they will be bored. Thus they begin their mothering journey as working mothers. I only know a few women who worked full or part time with their first child then became a mother-at-home for child number two (and subsequent). Most cited that child care and private preschool was too expensive to handle on their dual incomes, that it was cheaper to come home and live on one income.
Most people do not homeschool because they don't feel it is necessary (schools in our town are the best!). Why would you ever want to do that, they asked me. If you don't like the school just send them to private school. Parochial schools are often under $10K for K-8, so they think they are not that expensive (and they give scholarships for financial need if they qualify). I know less than a handful of parents who quit private school and chose homeschooling because they could not afford the private education for all the children once number two child (and sometimes subsequent) came along. Of those families one wound up using public school and boarding schools for high school after multiple years of homeschooling (and suffering with what I will discuss below all the while).
Many parents assume they are not at all equipped or knowledgable about how to homeschool (teach is what they are thinking). They worry of their inadequacy. This could be credited to fear but at the same time there is caring behind it because they feel the best thing they can do for their children is provide them with a good education and they feel they are not capable of the task. So they think they are being a good parent if they reject homeschooling and use the schools. They do not think there is anything wrong with their fear, they do not think it is a myth to bust or to question much. They take little or no action to fact search or talk to homeschooling parents to see if their fear is justified. They just march in line with mainstream America telling themselves that everything is just fine or else why would so many kids be in public school anyway?
Some who make statements that homeschooling seems good or that X at school is bad (social scene in middle school, bullying in elementary school, or learning disabled child struggling) say they are scared to even try homeschooling. They often will say they looked into homeschooling a little and think it's great for other families but not for them. They fear it will be too much work or that they will not be able to handle parenting their own children in the homeschool lifestyle because being a school parent and nagging about homework is already challenging and un-fun.
Bottom line is the answer is fear.
They are afraid to step outside of the mainstream. There are things we know from psychology that speak to human nature's desire to stick with the pack and to not do things that are too different.
They are afraid to do something radically different than their established friends and peer groups have. They worry about losing their network of contacts in the school world: they fear they will lose their own friends they met through the PTA and the ones they complain about the school with. They fear being alone and losing their established social network. Many people fear abandonment. Some fear judgement from peers and fear that they will be shunned or rejected if they reject school and embrace homeschooling.
They fear they will fail (even if the worst that could happen is if learning less in one school year is a tragedy should they choose to re-enroll into school the next year, heck, you don't even have to wait the entire school year to give up and re-enroll them). Some fear school staff will reject them and should school be used in the future for that child, worry of negative repercussions from staff to the child such as punishment by assigning the student with the worst teacher in the grade, et cetera.
They fear that their spouse will not be in agreement with them about homeschooling which may put their marriage in jeopardy. It's a fact that in some families, divorce has been threatened about the homeschool issue. They fear criticism from their siblings and the grandparents. They are scared to death that those closest to them will do battle with them about their choice to homeschool.
Parents of learning disabled kids either think the school does a lot for the kid already and wonder how they could handle homeschooling. They fought for years at PPT meetings to get appropriate IEPs and wonder how they could homeschool that child after expending so much effort to get that IEP. Some think their child needs more than the school is giving but if a school full of experts is inadequate so how in the world could they handle homeschooling that child? Don't good parents try to make sure that the best experts render the care their children need? They wonder how they could homeschool when they are not a teacher or a special education expert in that field. They think the child is too hard to handle and they are inadequate, which is a fear based issue.
Homeschooling is not a clean and concrete process. Homeschooling has freedoms which allow homeschoolers to do things all different ways and provides freedom to make changes at any time. This uncertainty of a clear path to success or an easy path to ease of delivery of the education scares some people. The number of choices for curriculum and learning materials alone paralyzes some parents so severly that they never try homeschooling. A handful of parents told me they tried homeschooling in the summer for one week "as a trial" and it bombed so that was their proof that it would never work. Funny, they didn't use one week in school as a litmus test for keeping a child in daycare, preschool, or elementary school -- if they had, many children would have been withdrawn due to "failure".
Homeschooling is like running a marathon and it can lead to fatigue and even exhaustion. Some parents face burnout at some point. People hear about these things and are scared that it will happen to them as well. It probably will, but the point they don't seem to realize is we all struggle in life with different challenges and the fact is that most of us overcome them and come out thriving, not just surviving. As with all suffereing in life we become wiser for having gone through the struggle, we learn something about ourselves and others that we then use to improve our lives in the present and in our future.
There is a perception that parenting truly full time such as is done with homeschooling is hard, and that is true in different ways for different seasons of a child's life. Those struggling with a teenager ask themselves why they felt it was so impossible to keep a baby fed and in clean diapers while also feeding ourselves and taking a shower daily. What was our problem back then that we could not handle such a thing, we ask ourselves, life was so much more simple back then.
Some parents fear they are incompetent or they do not desire to live in a way that they think is going to be harder than what they are already living. It is easier to keep on keeping on with an established lifestyle than to make a change and to face the unknown which may be even more difficult! Whole books have been written for the self-help market about opening one's mind to change and then how to muster up enough courage to make that change happen. You have to really want the change in order to do what it takes to make a change. People with this concern have fear mixed with lack of desire - there is not enough desire to build courage to research and try something new to them.
Fear is the main reason why more people do not homeschool, and the lack of desire is another reason.
There is a grassroots network of wise homeschooling parents out there who are ready and willing to mentor you through the information gathering stage and they will walk by your side when you are ready to start the homeschooling journey (free of charge). If you truly want to give it a try, face your fears, overcome them and make the change happen. When you eliminate one thing in your life you make room for the new. When you close a door, a window opens.