We knew that posting a “happy Pride!” message would result in a decrease in followers. What we didn’t know was how steep that drop would be. For the first two hours after we posted, we lost a follower a minute. Within a few days, we had lost hundreds of homeschooling followers.
Social media has a typical ebb and flow: pick up a few, lose a few. But this was not that. We had seen this pattern before when posting about racism, diverse books, and even Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
It seems that rather than participate in and support inclusive homeschool spaces, many homeschoolers choose to distance themselves from inclusive homeschoolers altogether.
And it’s time to talk about it.
It’s time to talk about hate in the homeschool community.
Let’s start by talking about who homeschools. You probably have a mental picture of a homeschooler. You might even be partially accurate: We really do love libraries and wear pajamas all day... sometimes.
Today, however, the majority of American homeschoolers are white, religious, and conservative, following the conservative movement in the ‘80s and ‘90s. As with any dominant culture, this group holds the most influence, creates the most content, and so occupies much of the online homeschooling territory and is most often the voice and face of homeschooling. Like the mainstream conservative movement, this group does not typically support social issues like Black Lives Matter, anti-racism, and LGBTQ+ rights.
With less than 5% of school-aged kids homeschooling, homeschoolers are a social minority, which means homeschoolers often avoid bringing up social issues altogether for the sake of finding and connecting with community. This unspoken agreement to practice neutrality on social issues has been the M.O. for a long time.
But as we live through the cultural turning point that is 2020, we need to speak up because neutrality has allowed exclusionary practices to become the norm in our community. Neutrality has made it possible for hate to go unchecked in the forms of white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and more.
Our neutrality, it turns out, isn’t neutral at all. It’s harmful. It’s hateful.
We need to pause here and get two things out of the way:
- Unfollowing does not equal hate; however, mass exits point to a troubling and widespread attitude within our community.
- This is not about individuals and individual belief systems but rather a dominant mindset that it is OK to exclude people who represent non-dominant characteristics.
It’s also important to know this isn’t merely an online trend; it directly translates to the lived experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ homeschool families who have been overlooked, excluded, and made unsafe, both in real life and online. Parents share devastating stories about being on the receiving end of hateful practices and policies in homeschool groups. Others express their hesitancy about homeschooling at all because they don’t fit into the dominant ideologies.
We need a safe community with room for many lifestyles, religions, cultures, races, and political beliefs, which is why we must call out racism and be affirming of LGBTQ+ families, whose safety is not automatically granted.
We can’t let this hate go unchecked in the homeschool community. If we do, it won’t matter what curriculum we choose or what tests our kids pass. We will have failed to create a safe community, failed to include others, failed to love.
Will the homeschool community we create with and for our kids be one that fights for love and safety, or one that silently tolerates hate and exclusion?
A truly hate-free and inclusive homeschool community allows for differing individual beliefs, but it cannot be based on those individual beliefs; rather, community is strongest when it’s based on the collective good. We need a safe community with room for many lifestyles, religions, cultures, races, and political beliefs, which is why we must call out racism and be affirming of LGBTQ+ families, whose safety is not automatically granted.
Homeschool parents are some of the most supportive people we know. Need a curriculum recommendation? Someone to say “You’re doing great” and “You’re not alone”? Homeschool parents are on it! Why would we exclude anyone — or cut ourselves off — from that kind of love and support on the homeschooling journey? As more parents and kids face a future of homeschooling in the pandemic, they see the homeschool community and wonder, “Will we be welcome here? Will we find friends? Will we be safe?”
To the families considering homeschool: We want you to know there are homeschoolers ready to welcome you with open arms and amazing resources and support.
Many of us became homeschoolers because we think differently and see the value in bucking traditional norms. We love the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling, we champion our children, we cheer on our fellow homeschool parents, and we see our part in building a better future through homeschool.
As we forge new educational paths and find creative alternatives to conventional academic methods for our kids, let us also create a better homeschool community. Let’s begin, together. Let’s commit to a safer, hate-free homeschool community where everyone belongs and no one is left out. We need each other, friends.