The Homeschooling Spectrum

When I was in labor a few weeks ago, my midwife asked if I had much support for breastfeeding. Lack of support (or downright derision) from others is a main reason that many women resist breastfeeding or stop after just a few weeks. I explained that we homeschool, and as such we are more likely to be around people who would be derisive about me stopping at fifteen months than continuing to nurse beyond fifteeen months. Families who homeschool are already going against the mainstream, so it is probably not surprising that they start thinking outside the box about other ideas. I think of these issues as the Homeschooling Spectrum.

First and foremost there is a high correlation between homeschooling and stay-at-home-mothering. While there are some stay-at-home dads and dual-income families that homeschool, mostly SAHMs are their kids’ primary teacher. I would say that SAHMs are still the minority of the female population, especially those of school-age children. SAHMs are also more likely to embrace other ideas in the homeschooling spectrum such as breastfeeding and co-sleeping. It’s true that the idea to breastfeed often comes before the idea to homeschool, but you see greater discussion about the merits of ecological breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding (to age 3 or 4), and child-led weaning.

Since it is not easy these days for a family to live on one income anymore, frugality is a big topic of discussion among homeschoolers. Frugality often leads to scratch-cooking, economizing, and cloth diapering. And there are many places where frugality and environmentalism intersect: air drying clothes, reducing consumption of utilities, recycling (using fewer garbage bags, shopping yard sales), vegetable gardening, eating less meat, and being a one-vehicle family.

I would also be willing to bet that there is also a higher incidence of home birth and midwife usage amongst homeschooling families than non-homeschooling families. Childbirth is seen as a natural life process just like learning, and both rarely need to be put in the hands of mis-trained specialists. And Natural Family Planning or Providentialism are often discussed and practiced in religiously conservative circles.

On the medical side of things again, there is a bigger discussion of child vaccinations. Many insist on avoiding combination shots and spacing individual ones. Many are picking and choosing which ones they want their kids to have (the Hep B and chicken pox ones are often skipped). And some are eschewing vaccinations altogether. There are concerns about mercury-based preservatives (although most vaccines no longer contain any mercury anymore), especially from parents who have dealt with mercury poisoning themselves. There are some who are concerned about the use of cells from aborted fetuses to make vaccines. There are also concerns about overwhelming a growing baby’s immune system with the large number of vaccines that are administered in the first two years; this is related to the concern about the link between vaccinations and the rise in autism.

Television is also a big debate. Many homeschooling families throw out the television all together because they believe it inhibits learning. Many are concerned about the negative cultural values being transmitted through television. There are also concerns about the physical effects of television on attention-span and general health. Some parents limit the amount of time their children are allowed to watch television; some limit television viewing strictly to approved videos and do not pay for cable television. This is unfathomable to many Americans, who see cable television as a necessity up there with food and shelter.

I think the main reason that these topics are so interconnected for homeschoolers is that the majority of homeschoolers are critical thinkers, who are not afraid to research issues, and have a certain amount of cynicism about mainstream culture and the status quo. I think once you start questioning one thing, like institutional education, it is easier to question other things such as medicine for profit.

Homeschooling SAHM’s mom’s also often have a little more time to research these things. We’re not sitting around eating bon-bons all day by any means, but the mandatory rest periods required by nursing a baby are great times to catch up on reading books. And I know that I always considered quitting my paid position as downsizing from three jobs to just two (childcare and housework). So we may have a little more time and energy to consider such things than the average working mom.

Many non-homeschooling families may consider one or more of these topics from time to time (especially mainstream ones like environmentalsim), but they seem to be recurring themes in homeschooling chat rooms, forums, and groups in addition to specifically homeschool-related topics. In some ways, I guess the Homeschooling Spectrum reinforces the concept of “homeschoolers are weirdos”. Many homeschoolers don’t care about being perceived as weird, though. Probably many of us were considered weird our whole lives, and now we just embrace it. And we have no qualms about making weird decisions that we believe are right for our families.

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3 Comments on “The Homeschooling Spectrum”

  1. Laura Witten Says:

    I don’t think you are weird, or homeschoolers in general. God bless you!

  2. motherofmany Says:

    I never thought about it, but you make a good point about being critical thinkers as a reason why homeschoolers often tackle a variety of these issues at once. I think another reason is just the proximity- it is much easier to ponder the effect of immunizations on our children when we are with them constantly and able to see their full reactions to such things as antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines.


  3. […] I don’t completely buy it, either.  Then again they were doing a variety of things on the homeschooling spectrum before they became trendy.  I agree with the Reeds in theory; they appear to be holding up an […]


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