Homeschooling and “Graduation”

The N.Y.Times has an article up now about how homeschool students now have opportunities to hold high school “graduations.” This article hits particularly close to home for me, as my parents removed me from public school at the end of fourth grade and homeschooled me until I was ready for college. Moreover, the only graduation ceremony I ever “had” or attended was my undergraduate commencement, so the title of the article particularly caught my eye.

The gist of the NY Times article was this: more and more people are choosing to homeschool their children (The reasons vary. Sometimes it’s because of a religious reason, or because their child’s being bullied, or because their child got pregnant and chose to leave traditional high school.). While there are some homeschool associations–which basically act as a support group for mothers and as a glorified play-date for the children–homeschooled children miss out on a lot of the “traditional” aspects of public and private school life. There’s no prom. There’s no valedictorian. There are no homecoming football games. There are no class reunions. But, small steps are being made to change this: specifically, parents and homeschooled children across given states are meeting once a year to hold high school “graduation.”

Frankly, I think this is a joke. First, as stated in the Times article, these children come from across the state. They frequently do not know eachother, so the graduation ceremony can’t have an ounce of warm-fuzzy camaraderie for the students. They’re not standing besides their friends, their first loves, their arch-enemies in a nostalgic ceremony full of deep meaning (socially, if nothing else). They’re standing up on a stage for five minutes max with a group of people they’ve never seen before and having a picture taken in a goofy outfit. Second, in many states–Georgia included–homeschoolers do not actually receive diplomas. Why is that? Homeschooling is not an accredited form of education. If you want a high-school diploma, too bad: the best you’re getting is a GED. So not only is this ceremony meaningless from a social perspective to the students, but it’s meaningless from an educational perspective as well.

So, then, what is the point of this “pomp”? The Times actually hit the nail on the head without knowing it:

“I was getting all down when I didn’t think he’d have a graduation,” said Rebecca Doby, whose son, Hunter Fagan, was among the graduates. “I wanted to see him walk and have the cap and gown and the pictures.”

Like many movements in education, the primary focus is not the children. In this case, it’s all about the parents. Why else would a group of teenagers who don’t know each other, who never will see each other again, and who don’t even have the documentation supporting their “graduation” celebrate the event publicly? Because Mommy and Daddy want to see Junior in a cap and gown. These parents can’t be too optimistic about their child’s prospects for graduating from college–are they doing this because they’re afraid this is the only time they’ll see their child in cap and gown? Or do they just want other homeschool parents to pat them on the back for a few hours? I don’t see why when no other high-school aspects are recreated (why don’t Mom and Dad want prom pictures, for example?) the distinction must now be made to have a graduation ceremony.

Of course, maybe this is the wrong way to look at things. Maybe the way to look at it is to realize these parents have been very self-less, giving time and money and energy to tend personally to their child’s education. That this ceremony may be selfish on their part, but that maybe they’re entitled to a little bit of selfishness….Yeah, no. I’m still calling “bullshit” and “pointlessness” on this one. I might be singing a different tune if this event were actually educationally legitimate (i.e., the students were actually “graduating” from something), but it’s not, so I’m not.

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