Late last night I stumbled across a Twitter storm. I’m not going to go into detail or directly identify anyone involved because I don’t think the specifics matter that much, there’s a bigger picture.
Basically a home ed parent* went on TV to talk about how home ed works for her and her family. This involves a lot of gaming and few limits on screen time (which is the same for us). The story was picked up by a bunch of newspapers. Some people on Twitter seemed to feel that rather than saying “This is how we home ed”, the home ed parent was saying “This is what home ed is” and they reacted, well, strongly.
I get this. Home ed gets a bad rap. People don’t know what it is and often think it’s doing nothing, watching TV, playing games, not actually learning anything at all. And that perception can be damaging. But hearing how it works for one family and extrapolating that to all home educators is also damaging.
Not long ago, another home educating parent* appeared on TV and talked about forest school, how she and her family spend a lot of time outdoors in the wild. That is now how everyone home eds either, but I didn’t see a Twitter storm or hashtag about it. And you know why? Because learning outdoors in the woods is a more positive perception than learning inside on screens. But does anyone know for certain that it’s better for everyone?** Nope. (It’s not even possible for everyone.)
What ‘not my home ed’ basically boils down to is ‘my home ed’s better than yours’***. Outside’s always better than inside. Crafting’s more valuable than Minecrafting. But is it? And whose place is it to judge? Often when I tell another parent that we home ed, they get defensive about the educational choices they’ve made for their kids. They think I’m judging them. They think I’m saying my choice is better than theirs. I’m not. This is what works for us, other families do what works for them. Can we really not respect other families’ choices WITHIN home education?!
* Full disclosure: I’m online friends with both of them.
** The Guardian: Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype
*** This is actually one of the things I worried about before we chose to home ed. I was afraid that we’d be doing it ‘wrong’ and other families would castigate us for it. I actually haven’t experienced it at all over the past five years and I’m pretty disappointed to see it now.