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Out Of The Homeschooling Closet

Inferno, Canto IV: Dante and Virgil reach Limbo
Inferno, Canto IV: Dante and Virgil reach Limbo (“G” = Solemn Greek philosophers)

Jennifer Kulynych, a Washington-area lawyer, was frustrated that her third-grader was so far ahead of the rest of her public school class in reading. The teacher said that she couldn’t customize the program for the little girl. “Have you thought about homeschooling?” the teacher suggested.

As she explains here, Kulynych hadn’t, not really. She was a lawyer who worked partly from home, because she wanted to be more present for her kids. Homeschooling was not on her radar screen. Homeschoolers were odd ducks. But when she and her husband realized private school was priced out of sight, and wouldn’t be that much better academically for their child, they took the plunge. It’s been great. “Together we are co-conspirators in a counterculture adventure,” she writes. Yep, that’s how we feel about homeschooling. But she faces something that my wife does not:

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is owning this new identity as a home schooler. I told no one at work, preferring to stay completely in the closet about teaching my daughter at home. My corporation values diversity, but somehow being a home-schooling corporate lawyer felt beyond the pale — a topic simply too taboo to discuss. The corporate world reluctantly accepts a skilled professional working part time while raising small children, but home schooling — so retrograde, so unprofessional — is harder to understand. Acknowledging that I have made this choice feels risky, like an open invitation to question my commitment to a legal career.

Even so, I can’t help thinking that there must be others like me: working professionals who, out of necessity, because the economics are so compelling, or simply for the fun of it, are home-schooling their children sotto voce, on the quiet. If we spoke up, maybe we would dispel the skepticism and the stigma. And we might argue we’re in the vanguard of educational progress: According to Wired magazine, researchers find that children make the greatest academic gains when we spend less time lecturing them and more time equipping them to teach themselves. Done right, that’s home schooling at its best.

Read the whole thing. Come out, come out, wherever you are, homeschoolers! Kulynych is certainly right that homeschooling is not for every parent, nor for every child. But it might be for you — and you might have fun doing it. These past few nights, my seven-year-old has asked me to read a new canto of Dante’s Inferno to her, while she draws a picture of what she’s hearing. This was entirely her idea; she kept hearing me boring her mother to death with talk about my latest obsession, and decided she wanted to be part of it. And why not? This is the kind of thing that happens sometimes when you homeschool. The boundaries between learning and life become more porous. It can be a lot of fun. A counterculture adventure, I’d say.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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