Neither major presidential candidate has made homeschooling an issue during the campaign. Most of my fellow homeschoolers interpret this as a good sign. We know from bitter experience that it’s best to be ignored. Without a candidate to back, however, homeschoolers are feeling anxious about the future. What will become of us?
We know Hillary Clinton’s view. She is the standard bearer for the “it takes a village” mentality, in which child-rearing is a task best left to the benevolent state. She has in the past referred to education as a “non-family enterprise.” Fair to say, the lady’s not for homeschooling.
She’s not alone. For most on the left, homeschooling seems like one of those things that people shouldn’t be allowed to do. It’s unfathomable that slobs like me think they can teach physics and calculus. Since homeschoolers turn their backs on the experts, they must have an ulterior motive.
If you’re a progressive, you know in your bones that homeschoolers are up to something. Homeschooled kids are invisible to the authorities. To the average Democrat, this feels like something that shouldn’t be allowed. While most prefer not to believe that nearly 2 million homeschooled children are being abused by their parents, how can we be sure? How can anyone be sure that homeschoolers aren’t filling their children’s heads with gibberish if the state doesn’t check in once in a while?
“Homeschooling is well and good, but you should be monitored.” It’s a common refrain on the left.
For his part, Donald Trump hasn’t given the question more than a moment’s consideration. Earlier this month, he tossed off a reference to homeschooling—his first of a 16-month campaign—during a speech about vouchers and charter schools. “School choice means that parents can homeschool their children,” Trump said. “100 percent.”
Fine enough, but as with so many of his pronouncements, this comment leaves Trump’s grasp of the issue and his commitment to the underlying principle hard to ascertain. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s moderately opposed to the idea of kids’ not going to a regular school, but thinks he has to say otherwise in order to pass as a Republican. In the final analysis, he’s a New Yorker. He probably hasn’t met or associated with many families like mine.
Trump isn’t the only one for whom homeschooling is an out-of-focus thing. Even some on the right view it with suspicion. If you’re a conservative, you know that the public schools are where your kids learn about white privilege, the proud history of labor unions, climate change, the horrors of income inequality, rampant police brutality, and transgenderism, but you assume there’s not much you can do about it. You hope that what goes on in the classroom won’t slowly corrode away everything you’ve tried to teach them about living well and living free.
For most Republicans, homeschooling is one of those quirky aspects of American life that bring a smile. You’re glad it exists, but that’s about as far as it goes. “Not for me,” I often hear. “You guys are amazing. I couldn’t do that.”
My standard reply is that most people don’t give themselves enough credit. If the Hennesseys can do it, you can probably make it work, too. It takes some effort and dedication, like changing your family’s diet, but it’s within the average person’s reach.
Still, I don’t press. I’m not an evangelist. Like most homeschoolers, I just want to be left alone.
There is one 2016 presidential candidate who has put “leaving you alone” at the center of his campaign, but Libertarian Gary Johnson so far hasn’t touched the homeschooling issue either. In fact, he and his running mate seem to be going out of their way not to win the support of families like mine. They’d rather have the allegiance of potheads and bisexuals than the votes of a couple million liberty-loving homeschoolers. To each his own.
I guess nobody needs or wants homeschoolers’ votes this election year. The Home School Legal Defense Association, which offers legal representation to its members in all 50 states, hasn’t endorsed a candidate for president. That’s rare. Usually one candidate—typically the Republican—makes an explicit pitch. I guess this isn’t our year.
So what will homeschoolers do on November 3? Some will surely stay home. I expect I will hold my nose and pull the lever. As a Twitter friend put it recently, better to support the party that ignores your issue than the one that detests it.