Margeret Heidenry on homeschooling

by Jon Christian

The New York Times Magazine ran a feature by Margeret Heidenry – the daughter of Patricia Heidenry, whose “Home Is Where The School Is” was published in the Times in 1975 – which confronts the ambivalence and peculiarity of the homeschooling phenomenon as well as anything I’ve read.

The result is a slightly rambling account of Heidenry and her siblings’ experiences homeschooling during the 1970s (under the vague tutelage of spacey-but-loving parents) and eventually enrolling in public school, with all the culture shock that entails.

My parents homeschooled my brother and me for years – a social experiment I’ve alternately resented and appreciated, periodically wishing for some sort of insight into the more general experience and results of opting kids out of school. Most homeschooling parents I’ve encountered during or after I was homeschooled have fallen into alternate degrees of caricature of the religious right or well-meaning but poorly-informed free spirits.

In terms of commentary, I’ve read little that doesn’t fall into the equally uninteresting categories of pie-in-the-sky enthusiasm and naive pessimism. It’s good to read an account which, if a little wacky around the edges, tends toward the type of ambivalence I’ve found most accurate.

At my schoolyard, James, in third grade, was instantly picked on. Within the first week, he recalls, “an older kid kicked me in the butt really hard. The other boys were laughing. A girl finally told me someone put a ‘kick me’ sign on my back. I never heard of that, teasing and pranks.” James was also taken to the back of the bus and “punched incessantly” for the better part of grade school. “Oh, God, it was awful.” James never told my parents. He just “took it.”

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