PPP, ALEs, Homeschooling

Posted by Jen Garrison Stuber

Email of the Day:
Every time a newbie comes on our local homeschool list and asks about support groups and co-ops, she’s greeted with a chorus of “Here’s our ALE,” or “Try this PPP.”
I’m pretty sure I’m adding to my rep as a b**** in the local hs community each time I clarify the difference between PPP’s and co-ops, but I see it as a responsibility to make sure no moms are coerced into them by false info.
How can we make sure that new moms aren’t led astray without having to say this over and over again?

Answer:
I’m on year 13 of saying this over and over in homeschooling groups and here at WHO, so I fear I don’t have a really great answer for you.

I don’t understand the motivation of folks who, when presented with someone who’s just said the public school system isn’t working for them offers enrollment in yet another public school program.

From discussions with a lot of folks on this topic, my best guess is that the folks who are offering ALE or PPPs as places to turn for homeschooling support or instead of co-ops are a) folks who are enrolled and b) folks for whom the difference between homeschooling and public school at home is negligible. (That is, they don’t mind the restrictions on curriculum, they appreciate the oversight and “accountability,” and they benefit from the $$).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting that; it’s just not homeschooling.
The unfortunate side effect of this is that it undermines the grassroots work of folks who are actually homeschooling. Instead of answering this question with, “Here’s the great homeschool co-ops and playgroups in our area,” they’re giving public school programs that advertising. Instead of supporting homeschooling, they’re undermining the efforts of the many many people who put a lot of time and effort and their own $$ toward growing a big, vibrant, healthy homeschooling community.

Back in the day, a lot of homeschool groups and co-ops only accepted homeschoolers — if you were enrolled in public school (and often, even if you were a homeschooler and only enrolled part time), you couldn’t join the local homeschool group. Many of the groups (mine included) decided to allow “dual enrollment” as it were, and to allow ALE and PPP and VA families to join — after all, they were also available during the middle of the day in the middle of the week, right? Why not expand our group of potential friends?

In retrospect, what we probably should have asked from those folks, in exchange for benefiting from the local homeschooling community, was their support. We should have asked for their support in educating new folks about the differences between homeschooling and public-school-at-home programs.

(I can’t tell you how many people I *still* get here in the WHO inbox who are at their wit’s end — traditional school didn’t work out, and they enrolled in a PPP/ALE/VA because they were told it was “homeschooling” only to find that it was a terrible match for them and theirs — often for exactly the same reason the traditional school was — and are at their wit’s end because this “homeschooling” thing is so awful. Every last one of them, when I explain that they haven’t been homeschooling and that it’s still an option, and here’s what homeschooling actually involves is so relieved, so grateful, so unburdened — I can’t even tell you).

So I guess my best advice is this:

Keep explaining the difference. I’m not sure if my explanations have grown kinder over the years, or if I’ve just worn all the locals down (I suspect the latter). People might think unkindly of you for doing it (there are some folks who are really attached to the idea that what they’re doing in “homeschooling” and are really offended by the least suggestion that they’re not), but for that one starfish you throw back into the ocean, who can stop gasping for air, er, water — for that one starfish, it matters.

Talk to your leadership, and ask them to ask the group to stop answering homeschool questions with public school solutions, and to ask everyone in the community to support homeschooling. There are thousands of families enrolled in VAs and PPPs and ALEs — if they wanted to organize support groups, they could have — but they didn’t — they came to the homechool community for that support and they’ve benefited from the homeschool community. This is somewhere where they can give back and support homeschooling in WA.

Warmly,
~Jen