WaPo Bashes Homeschooling During Coronavirus Epidemic

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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The Jeff Bezos Newsletter Gets It Wrong, As Usual

Kevin Huffman, a former Tennessee education commissioner and partner at a nonprofit that promotes public schools, has written an op-ed in The Washington Post bashing homeschooling. In “Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Will Set Back a Generation of Children,” he claims that the children sent home because of coronavirus-pandemic-related school closures will suffer academically. 

Owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos since 2013, the Post, a.k.a. the WaPo, is essentially a house organ for the Democrats who are closely aligned with teachers union.

But the author isn’t even talking about real homeschooling. He is referring to distance or virtual learning, where the kids are taught online. He cites a report which found that “Full-time virtual schools are not a good fit for many children.”

Homeschooling and Distance Learning Fundamentally Not the Same

Unlike homeschooling, however, in the distance learning space, parents seldom get to pick the curriculum for their children. Their kids may get stuck with materials that are not conducive to learning at home with parental assistance.

In short, the referenced study may be accurate only for distance learning, and even then it’s questionable, since thousands of people successfully qualify for online degrees every year. 

Then Huffman launches into a tirade about how summer break hurts learning, since students fall backward from where they were at the end of the school year. Again, this has nothing to do with homeschooling. He’s trying to make the outrageous claim that the two are equivalent, insisting that homeschooling puts children behind academically in the same way that summer breaks from the classroom do.

Homeschooled Kids Outperform Their Public School Counterparts

Even if this was true, why do homeschoolers perform better academically than their public school peers, according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI)?

It’s true that some parents do a lackluster job of homeschooling their kids. Since homeschooled kids on average do better than public school kids, however, it’s unfair to lump all homeschooled kids in with the ones whose parents fall short. We don’t lump all public-school-educated kids in with the worst performing ones. 

Huffman points out that some families lack computers or internet access, so their children will have a face challenges learning from home. Again, this is not representative of typical homeschooling. Parents lacking in the resources to homeschool are unlikely to homeschool in the first place. Forcing parents to accommodate their children learning virtually from teachers is not homeschooling.

Similarly, Huffman maintains that the lowest-income children are less likely to have a parent in the home to help with the virtual learning because the parents are less likely to work from home, and those kids are going to underperform. This is yet another strawman argument. Parents are unlikely to homeschool if they are unable to stay at home to homeschool.

Homeschooling Doom and Gloom

Huffman goes on and on about all the remedial action supposedly necessary to offset for the poor learning experience children will experience at home during the pandemic. He makes it sound like a terrible disaster, even one that is unfairly discriminating against minority children. So now homeschooling is racist, too. 

The truth is that if certain students were performing poorly in the public schools, they’re probably going to perform poorly at home with distance learning, too. Fortunately, the kids are probably only going to be at home for two months, which is a hiccup in the grand scheme of things.   

An Opportunity to Become ‘Educated’ About Homeschooling

Home-based learning could end up being a positive experience, despite Huffman’s bias in favor of public schools. Some parents may discover that they want to look into real homeschooling. Parents and children may find they enjoy spending extra time with each other in the education mode. 

It could present a great opportunity to educate people about homeschooling and refute stereotypes. For example, a stigma persists that homeschoolers are socially awkward since they tend to be isolated from their peers all day. It’s not true, however.

Homeschoolers also do better than public school kids when it comes to social, emotional, and psychological development, the NHERI notes. They participate in many group activities with other homeschoolers. They regularly interact with others by participating on field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministries, team sports, and community volunteer work.

As Twitchy points out about the weak points of the WaPo essay, “What the article completely leaves out is any data or analysis on children who were already being homeschooled before the coronavirus lockdown — so they’re not really talking about traditional homeschooling; they’re talking about public school students suddenly thrust into distance learning.”

Huffman’s article is nothing more than taking the most distorted, untrue view of homeschooling and asserting that these flaws make it bad. Yes; trying to force distance learning on students whose parents are unable to accommodate it doesn’t work perfectly. 

Since the article fails to address real, face-to-face homeschooling, one has to wonder if Huffman’s editors at the WaPo changed the original title to attract attention and clicks through outrage.