Expect an uptake in homeschooling in 2021
Stephen McAlpine and David Robertson discuss why Christian parents might educate kids at home
In this week’s episode of Life in Wartime, hosted by Stephen McAlpine and David Robertson, McAlpine suggests that parents might be inspired by their experience of online learning during COVID-19 to choose to educate their kids at home.
Homeschooling will surge in 2021, according to Perth minister and Life in Wartime podcast co-host Stephen McAlpine, as the education alternative becomes more appealing to parents who have had a taste of online learning during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He believes the old homeschool stereotypes of double-denim-wearing, Little House on the Prairie children receiving poor quality teaching are increasingly being exposed as untrue.
“The sophistication which has gone into the systems and online learning in general has become something that’s taken off,” he says.
“So when you’ve got good online learning, taught by teachers who know their material well, in a setting where kids can get their work done in three to four hours – not six hours with an hour-and-a-half of added travel – it opens up time for doing many other things.”
The clichéd idea that homeschooling a child denies them the chance to develop good social skills has also been shown false, he says.
“There are plenty of other ways to socialise. There’s church socialisation, there’s club socialisation, sports. There are families getting together.”
Besides, the socialisation opportunities provided in a school setting aren’t necessarily so great, he says.
“Many people talk about school years as if they were bad years. It felt like pack mentality. I don’t think that’s socialisation. I think that’s just surviving the pack for many kids … Peer pressure at school makes a lot of kids do a lot of things that, when they’re 30, they’re still going through therapy for.”
“You are a consumer. You can choose the things you wish. But when it comes to education, you can’t.” – Stephen McAlpine
But if parents there’s another key reason that parents might choose an education alternative. from McAlpine’s perspective.
“The state is caught between a rock and hard place because it’s saying, ‘We’re a world of choice. You are a consumer. You can choose the things you wish. But when it comes to education, you can’t.’”
He believes that statism – “the whole idea that the state can educate your children” – is impelled by the idea that, “You parents are stupid and you can’t educate your children and you can’t find resources outside of schools to do it.”
McAlpine says parents – who are not only immersed in a world of choice, but also buoyed by their recent learning-from-home experience – are increasingly rejecting the idea there’s only one option for educating their children.
“People are going actually, ‘Ah, that’s not true. We can actually educate people using other systems. And the runs are on the board. People who are homeschooled aren’t necessarily any less socially engaged … They’re still getting into being good citizens in the culture where they are helping human life flourishing.”
He’s not saying a parent who chooses to homeschool will be solely motivated by a desire to assert their legal right to make choices about their child’s education in a state that tries to obscure their options. There’s more to it than that.
“All education is morally forming and that’s the point.” – Stephen McAlpine
“All education is morally forming and that’s the point,” McAlpine says. “And so whether you’re progressive or conservative, you’re saying, ‘I want the education to move us in a certain direction without pushing exactly what I think on everyone.'”
He believes education has often overreached in its formation practices by pushing “a particular line.” And, in a society that no longer has a vision for the future that is shared by everyone, attempts to form children towards a uniform vision is one reason by people are divided over education.
“People are saying, ‘Actually, what you say is beautiful, isn’t. What I say is true, you say isn’t,’” he says. “And that’s why there’s this fracturing in education. Because it’s so forming that people are saying, ‘We have a different vision of the good life compared to you.’ And so that’s why I think people are saying, ‘And we’re going to choose education which fits our formation or vision of the good life.’”
So does McAlpine – who himself serves on the board of a Christian education system – think that every child should be homeschooled?
“Well, I don’t want to dig on down on any school system because I think there are benefits for different people for different reasons in different systems. If you live near a good local government school, send your kids there if that works,” he says. “You’ve got to be the kind of parent and maybe have the kind of social system and network that can sustain that for your children.”
Nonetheless, he is convinced that, for some Christians, homeschooling will be a good option.
“I think it could be the future for the Christian family who doesn’t want a social engineering policy on matters of sexual ethics pushed very strongly from a local government school. I would say that’s a critical issue coming up, and COVID-19 has pushed the idea of homeschooling to the fore in such a way that people will take it up after these things are all done. Expect an uptake in it in 2021.”
Life In Wartime is a recent addition to the Eternity Podcast Network. It is a podcast specifically aimed at Christians coping with the moral challenges of life during COVID. Hosted by David Robertson and Stephen McAlpine, the podcast follows in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, who famously broadcast a series of BBC radio addresses on Christianity to the United Kingdom during World War II.