In mid-March, Kansas became the first state to close its schools for the remainder of the academic year. The following week, my own state of Virginia became the second. Since then, 46 other states and Washington, D.C. have followed suit, and the rest, whatever their hopes, remain closed as of early May. Even if the public health situation improves in the next few weeks, as some optimists hope, school is out. Graduation requirements are waived, final exams are cancelled and our state department of education has encouraged schools to drop grading altogether. Virtual instruction has commenced, but participation in it is largely voluntary and sporadic.
Predictably, many parents quailed at the sudden prospect of becoming homeschoolers. For those still working full-time, it seemed like an impossible demand, and even for those whose work has been moved online, reduced or eliminated entirely, the idea of becoming their children’s teachers (even in concert with their schoolteachers) is overwhelming. Being cooped up at home with their kids without reprieve is trying enough; taking over their education is a bridge too far.
This sudden forced experiment in home education comes at a moment when long-held liberal prejudices against the very idea of homeschooling are resurfacing. Harvard Magazine recently reported on research purporting to show that homeschooling was depriving children of their right to a “meaningful education.” In addition to putting them under the “authoritarian control” of their parents and exposing them to abuse and injury, the article indicated that homeschooling may keep children “from contributing positively to a democratic society.”