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Are Homeschool Parents “Selfish”?


My homeschool advocacy work has resulted in scores of conversations thus far this year with people who were previously ignorant of the many benefits of homeschooling. Their stated concerns about homeschooling have been largely consistent, a string of debunked or irrelevant notions fueled by the propaganda of partisan politicians, teachers unions, the media, and power hungry statists who think that they can better raise your children than you can.  It starts out with questions about the ability of parents to teach their kids as effectively as certified degreed teachers can. After being informed of the superior academic outcomes of homeschooling, they typically turn to the ability of homeschoolers to be properly socialized.  After being reminded of the terrible socialization effects of public schools, most people acknowledge that they have been duped.  However, some continue on with a smattering of false beliefs, such as public schools being better able to create the informed citizenry necessary for a functioning democracy, a technology-literate workforce that can compete in a globalized world, or a moral and just society through their ability to pass on their own preferred values to children.*  One final argument I sometimes hear is rather unique in that it doesn’t focus on the child, but on the parent – that the parent is “selfish”.

These people usually preempt this statement by rightly acknowledging that the public education system is failing, but then argue that homeschooling parents should keep their children in the failing system in order to prop up and improve public schools, as if it is some sort of civic duty.  They claim that when these parents withdraw their kids from public schools, the schools often lose funding which inhibits the ability of the schools to properly fund the education of the leftover kids.  They claim that because these parents care more about their children’s education than other parents, that the leftover kids will suffer because they’ll have fewer parents demanding quality education from local school boards. And they claim that because homeschool parents tend to better nurture their children’s intellectual development, that by pulling their kids out of public school the leftover kids won’t benefit from the in-class contributions of the homeschooled children.

Not sacrificing one’s own child to the failing public school system in order to help out all of the children whose parents don’t care enough to pull them out of public schools is most certainly selfish.  Any parent who homeschools is selfish, without question, irrespective of the effect on the public school system.  However, that selfishness is a virtue, not a vice.  They are selfish in that they want to see their children grow up before their eyes, as opposed to handing those observations off to a slew of indifferent teachers.  They are selfish because they want the best possible education for their children, that is tailored to their individual learning styles and which maximizes their unique potential.  They are selfish because they prefer to protect their kids from bullying, drugs, materialism and corrupt values, rather than injecting their kids into the backward environment of public schools so that they can somehow lessen the pain of the children left in the system.  They are selfish because they want to share their own values with their kids, rather than handing their kids over to government thugs who want to push their non-values on the children in order to shape them into compliant slaves, ensuring a docile and controllable society.

Of course, we rarely ever hear about the selfishness of public school parents.  We don’t hear about how selfish they are in turning over their parenting responsibilities to others so they can have a job, or do whatever they want to for about 8 hours a day.  We don’t hear about how selfish they are in getting free babysitting on the backs of other taxpayers.  We don’t hear how selfish they are in not wanting to pay multiple times (in taxes, lost wages, and tuition) for their children’s education.  To be fair, we do hear about those who send their kids to public schools because they sincerely believe it is the best option for their children.  But of course, those parents aren’t selfish like homeschool parents.

The homeschooling-parent-is-selfish argument is argued most loudly by people who are concerned not about the child, but about the institution of public education.  To many of them, the destruction of your child’s life is worth it if the perceived greater good of public education is protected.** But it is not the responsibility of the homeschool parent to participate in efforts to drive educational change from within the system.  It is not the responsibility of the homeschool parent to help raise the kids of other parents.  And it is most certainly not the responsibility of the homeschool parent to sacrifice the health and welfare of their child to a corrupt and inept system in order to validate that system … or as they would like you to believe, to help out other kids.  Sacrificing your children for the supposed future benefit of the children of strangers is not noble; it is irresponsible and unloving, and perhaps even evil.


* The laughable results of our biennial congressional elections are a sufficient argument against the ability of public schools to create informed citizens.  The 20% of high school seniors who are functionally illiterate at graduation is a definitive argument against the ability of public schools to create a technology-literate workforce. The belief that public schools (driven by political, corporate and special interests) should inculcate children with values is something that only the most arrogant and self-important (and most likely ethically-challenged) person could argue. The record of those social engineers in running up our national debt, engaging in multiple unnecessary and murderous wars, funneling money from the people to corporate interests, and continually eating away at our liberties should be enough of an argument against allowing them to dictate what values they will impart on our children.

** Similar arguments have been used to justify genocide; so naturally it can be used to justify attacking parents who homeschool as well.


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9 Responses to " Are Homeschool Parents “Selfish”? "

  1. Kelly says:

    Wow… what an intense article! I really appreciate you debunking the “homeschoolers are selfish” arguments, which I hear most often in self-styled progressive circles and have strong feelings about.

    I do find your words might only foster hostility within public/private school parents, and these are the people we most need to convince. But *to be fair*, when I think about it, there is already so much hostility towards non-schoolers/homeschoolers/unschoolers! As someone who writes frequently attempting to bridge the gap and to speak to parents’ and other adults’ best intentions, I must admit school is a Sacred Cow amongst many, many Americans – no matter how politic I attempt to discuss it. Personally, I think many of them are terrified at having to de-segregate the child class from institutionalism.

    “It is not the responsibility of the homeschool parent to help raise the kids of other parents. ”

    I do think other people’s kids are my responsibility – they are all of our responsibilities. But when you say,

    “And it is most certainly not the responsibility of the homeschool parent to sacrifice the health and welfare of their child to a corrupt and inept system in order to validate that system …”

    I totally agree with you.

    “because these parents care more about their children’s education than other parents”

    This makes me wince. Most schooling parents care – don’t you think? I think many parents have been duped with the many persuasive arguments for public school. Many parents make so little money and have so little support they *need* the state’s “daycare”. Many parents who COULD school are so convinced by our materialistic and status-oriented values they would never drop a job to care for their kids. As a non-schooling parent I can tell you, the pressure to NOT have your kid out in the public in daylight hours is intense. So given you think parents have children’s best interest at heart (something you and I agree on), don’t you think the argument “it’s not our responsibility to raise other people’s children” is kinda counterproductive? Maybe if more people realized it IS our job to raise our country’s children, outside state interference and by-rote institutionalism, more parents would make the brave choice to pull their kids out of the failing school system?

    I am grateful for your articles. I really do think and think and think over them. Thank you so much.

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      Kelly, thanks for your post! It’s a long one, so I’ve been pushing off my response.

      First, I appreciate your kind words, thank you. :-)

      As to hostility, I am in no way trying to foster hostility. But I am intentionally blunt in highlighting the considerable benefits of homeschooling relative to considerable disadvantages of government schooling. I realize not everyone will appreciate my tone, but I am most focused on supporting those who are currently homeschooling, those parents on the fence who love their kids enough to consider homeschooling, and parents who are currently ignorant of the damage they are doing to their children by sending them to government schools – but who would be willing to change course if presented with evidence that shatters their current belief system. The parents who reflexively defend government schools, who like the babysitting aspect of it, and who eagerly turn over the responsibility of raising their kids to others are not my target audience.

      Finally, I agree that many parents who send their kids off to public schools (falsely) believe that they are doing what is best for their kids. I agree that many of them have been duped. And I know that both you and I are trying to help educate those parents so that they can change course for the benefit of their children, and society as a whole. In that regard, I do feel personal responsibility to help them, but I still believe that ultimately it is the parent’s responsibility to raise their child. I’m definitely going to keep pushing forward, helping parents make the brave choice to pull their kids out of the failed government school system.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      • Kelly says:

        Thanks for your reply. I do find homeschooling is ill-supported in this country, and there are far too many reflexive prejudices against it. I’ll probably keep coming back to your site because you write so passionately and bluntly.

  2. Kim says:

    I loved, loved, loved your article! I wish I could have written it myself, but I’m not nearly as good with words as you are. I fully agree with everything you wrote–100%. I also agree with Kelly (above) that your words will piss off a lot of parents who send their kids to public schools . . . and I’m glad. I think they are often living in denial about how horrible the schools are, even the “good” schools.

    I am a selfish homeschooling parent. My children are my most important value. I will not sacrifice them for the good of other children. The school system is broken–all of it. Trying to change it by leaving children in school is not going to happen. The only way for things to change is with a revolution. I sometimes worry that more and more parents will pull their children out of school, and that our government will panic and mandate public school attendance.

    I love this 1991 speech by John Taylor Gatto, and I would highly recommend his books “Dumbing Us Down” and “The Underground History of Public Education.”

    Here is another good article by Gatto from 2003.

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      Thanks Kim! I love getting positive feedback :-)

      I agree with you about the school system being broken, and that change won’t come through the sacrificial acts of parents.

      I agree that more and more parents are going to continue to pull their children out of the public school system. I believe that the revolution in education is the homeschooling movement. When the masses, not just those of us who are awake, realize the abject failure of government monopoly schools and the tremendous advantages of home education, the system will become so stressed that the status quo will no longer be an option. We will need to be vigilant with regard to our right to educate our children, but the government has allowed the numbers of homeschooling swell to such a point that they will not be able to mandate public school attendance. That would result in a real revolution :-)

      John Taylor Gatto is great. I love his books and speeches!

  3. I haven’t had many people tell me this homeschooling=selfishness meme to my face. Though I’ve encountered it in articles and blog posts.

    How does this accusation stand up to the fact that I still pay property taxes, but then don’t require the school to educate my kids? (The individual school might receive fewer shares of education money, but each share is probably larger than if there were more students in the system as a whole.)

    Is it also selfish for a less involved parent to rest upon the efforts of families who do stay concerned and involved?

    I think I would have to draw a distinction between having an interest in my neighbors being informed and educated and having an obligation to provide one at the cost of my own children’s education. It ought to be enough that I pay taxes (as do citizens without school aged children). It is too much to demand that I sacrifice my children to support a system that I’ve found wanting.

    • Antonio Buehler says:

      Absolutely! You are subsidizing the (terrible) education of all those who turn their kids over to the state. If people accuse you of being selfish for homeschooling your children, you should immediately apologize to them not for taking your kids out of the system, but for helping to fund the dumbing down of their children!

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