Cherry Picking

Facebook reminded me today that I wrote this. Except for the part about being in London (and the reference to a talk I gave at Convention a few years ago and am not giving this year), this is all still so very true:

I no longer share the belief that ALEs are a danger to homeschooling in the sense that the legislature will suddenly mandate their use. I do think that they present a danger to the freedom of homeschooling by the ignorance they promote — that is, that folks erroneously believe that ALEs are “homeschooling,” and that they are the only way to “homeschool.” If you’ve been on this list any length of time, you’ve no doubt watched me ask dozens of times if a frustrated parent “has considered actually homeschooling?” WHO was party to the “Statement of Understanding” that you’ve signed if you’re part of an ALE, that denotes the difference between HBI (homeschooling) and the ALE (public-school-at-home) in large part to help battle this ignorance.

The history of ALEs in WA goes something like this: the were originally established for at-risk, pregnant, and youth in the juvenile justice system. The original PPPs were created by homeschoolers looking to use the school’s facilities (since we do pay for it). I don’t think they were established to try and get homeschoolers back into school, but the schools have used them in this way. If you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar public school family whose kid is having a hard time in that environment, chances are the school is NEVER going to suggest an ALE to you. If you move here from out of state and submit your DofI in person, you’ll likely get a packet of ALL the available programs. See how that works? Only marketed to homeschoolers. (This varies from district to district, but you’d be surprised at how few ALEs of the “homelink” variety even show up on a district’s webpage). Once K-12 realized they were too expensive to market to as many homeschoolers as they’d hoped to get, and realized they could sell their wares to public schools, the online ALEs were created.

I think EVERYONE should have the ability to cherry pick. I think cherry picking gets a bad rap — why shouldn’t everyone get to pick and choose from the programs (or not) that work best for them and theirs? Why shouldn’t kids who suffer from anxiety, stimulation, or something on the spectrum be encouraged to homeschool for the part of the day that makes it impossible for them to learn? Why shouldn’t Jimbob at the elementary school come to TEC to the robotics class? Why not be able to choose a different kind of schooling each year? or half year?

And this (^that) is why what it’s called is important. Calling public-school-at-home programs (like WAVA or CVA) or public-school-at-home-but-a-few-classes-a-week (like Homelink or TEC) what they are — that is, by not calling them “homeschooling”–we open up a much larger dialogue about the many educational options that are open to each other in our state. By saying, “We use a public school program in our home,” you open up a world of understanding to families who can’t see their way to homeschooling, but need (for whatever reason) to pull their children out of their current situation.

So when I say I homeschool, and folks say, “Oh, so you’re in Homelink,” I stop and spend the time to delineate the difference. Because language matters. Because specificity matters. Because homeschooling matters.

There’s no way I could have provided my kid the education that I did if we were in an ALE. We travel too often (I’m writing you from London), we followed our bliss too often (she spent a full year doing (pretty literally) nothing but song writing and a little math), and we change courses too often to fit into the ALE paperwork. If I were a school-at-home kind of homeschooler, a public-school-at-home curriculum probably would have been fine. But I’m giving a workshop called “Relaxed Homeschooling: Neither “Home” nor “Schooling”” at the WHO Convention (June 13 & 14 in Puyallup) — so you can see how that would never work.

At the same time, in my position as the Advocacy Chair on the WHO Board, I often recommend ALEs to parents. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?). If you call me up and say, “We’re public schoolers; we’re going to do some traveling this year, and we want a seamless transition back into public school” and you esp. tell me that your children are older — I’m going to recommend WAVA or CVA, not homeschooling. I’m going to explain the difference, I’m going to point out that public school credits transfer without issue. (I’m also going to cheer if you still choose to homeschool, because you’ve chosen great freedom and latitude (and responsibility — including financial — it’s not without its downside)).

Cherry picking. I’m all for cherry picking. For everyone.
~Jen Garrison Stuber