The recent unpleasantness has produced time to think, rethink, and to reconsider our lives. Our (and your) realm of classical Christian education has been affected. Estimates indicate that 3% of America’s children were homeschooled in January and 100% in March. Those that didn’t homeschool previously—the 97%—find themselves with a variety of emotions. Facebook memes tell stories of expulsions, students looking for new teachers and the like—some will get you laughing out loud.
I’m going to focus on two more important matters.
First, when will normal return?
A letter from a couple of Economics professors at Kennesaw State University addressed to independent school leaders is making the rounds. It cites education concerns for schools, not for finishing this school year, but for the next. Here’s an excerpt:
This letter makes a case that, as soon as possible, independent schools should create plans to:
—Keep your students and staff safe from the virus during the 2020-21 academic year
— Maintain fiscal solvency, including keeping enrollments at desired levels
—Demonstrate to your families that you will provide educational value to their children under the likely scenario that they will spend a significant amount of time learning from home during the 2020-21 academic year. (Emphasis added)
At Veritas Scholars Academy, our online school, the most significant interruptions we’ve experienced were canceling our End of Year Gathering and replacing our graduation ceremony with a virtual one. Notwithstanding these disruptions, we have been very blessed.
If you have ideas for how we can help schools through what might be a messy year, we’d welcome hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a parent, if you’re now considering how to avoid the unknowns, we’d welcome a conversation about how our online courses can meet your needs and provide the exceptional education you seek.
Second, homeschooling has come under attack (again) in what appears to be an irrational, yet opportunistic way. Erin O’Donnell has written on the views of Elizabeth Bartolett, a law school professor at Harvard, in her article The Risks of Homeschooling in Harvard Magazine. As Emily Zanotti summarized, Bartolett's "central argument seems to be that children should be wards of the state, and that the state — not individual parents — should be charged with deciding what is best.”
Bartolett's comments have been especially inflammatory because of Harvard's upcoming, and extremely offensive June summit, Homeschooling: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform. Thankfully, the conference will likely not happen as planned.
Here are a few responses from Harvard folk:
—Homeschooled Harvard students in The Harvard Crimson responded with this piece 'From Homeschool to Harvard', about how homeschooled students are actually better prepared.
—Alex Harris (Gregg Harris' son), of the Do Hard Things book fame, remains committed to principles of homeschooling and is an alumn of Harvard Law School. He was a law clerk to Judge Gorsuch and Justice Kennedy. Here’s his personal response on Facebook.
—Melba Pearson, a Veritas Scholars Academy graduate, also wrote a response in Medium, 'Harvard Law School Calls for Ban on Homeschooling; Homeschooled Harvard Graduate On Why This is Wrong. This past week Dr. Bob Cannon interviewed Melba to get a first-hand account of her perspective as a homeschool student, VSA, student, and Harvard student. You can watch the three minute clip here, or the full 18 minute interview, here.
It is not my judgement that Bartolett and her kin are serious threats to the parental right to homeschool. It is more the timing and the argument she makes. The data is clear. The average homeschooler is better educated than the alternatives she implies. Maybe she’s not forthcoming with all her reasons. I’ll bet she’d argued better if she had been homeschooled herself.