When parents exhibit a profound level of control over their child's life, it can be termed as helicopter parenting. Some people feel that homeschooling might lead to helicopter parenting. Homeschooling parents are often thought of as sheltering their children from the cruel world out there, fighting their battles and protecting them from bullies, thereby facilitating a cocoon which is not representative of the real world.
A few reasons why parents might remove their children from school are: bullying, special educational needs or religious reasons. Since I am familiar with quite a few families who home school their kids, I decided to delve deeper into the topic.
Homeschooling parents have the freedom to customise their child's experience. As these kids do not adhere to a traditional school routine, they use their extra time to gain access to real life experiences. Most home school kids are involved in part-time jobs, internships, community service and enrichment activities such as sports and music.
Edwina Theunissen of Education Otherwise shares her opinion,
"In my experience, home educated children are far more self-reliant, opinionated and realistic than children who have been sheltered in the false environment of school. School in Great Britain was only invented in 1870. Children grew up in the real world before that. There's no real need for school, except as a child care facility to enable both parents to be tax-payers."
Since homeschooling enables more interaction between parents and children, people might perceive it to be equivalent to helicopter parenting. However, the concept of helicopter parenting is not restricted to home education. There are some overbearing parents who fiercely intervene at the first sign of trouble while their children are going to school. Many parents continue to hover even after their kids head to university. Some also follow their pampered children right into the workplace, making their presence felt at job interviews and trying to negotiate contracts.
Educational psychologist, Teresa Bliss, sheds light on this aspect,
"I think some people take their duties as a parent to an extreme. They forget about helping their child develop certain skills which are required in the social arena to survive as adults. The thought of their kid growing up into an adult is difficult to contemplate so they try to keep them as children. As a teenager, a child is trying to decide who he is and wants to separate himself as an individual from the parents. This is intolerable for helicopter parents."
There should be a balance between ensuring a child's safety and providing him with opportunities for emotional, intellectual and social development. Homeschooling simply allows parents to exercise educational and physical freedom within their family life.
For instance, school education is regimented by time constraints, issues of discipline and authority. Whereas, home education is tailored to the needs of the individual child. On the flip side of homeschooling, children's curriculum can be bound by their parent's own knowledge and life experience, which if limited and the parents are unable or unwilling to pay for specialists, means these children have a restricted body of knowledge at the end of the education cycle. The consequence of this may be limited access to work and life opportunities.
Parents who home educate their kids also experience a sense of physical freedom. With their lives no longer revolving around a school calendar, these families plan off-season vacations, take field trips during the week and live their lives according to what works best for them. It nurtures loving ties between family members. Whereas, school going kids find it difficult to spare family time from their busy academic and extracurricular schedule.
Teresa Bliss shares a different opinion,
"I have come across parents who are claiming to educate their children at home but in fact are using them to help with domestic chores and look after other family members. In my view, this area offers ill-intentioned parents a massive loophole. There is no right of entry for education officials, unless there are definite grounds for suspected abuse."
In an attempt to search for more answers, I interviewed a few families and they helped me look at homeschooling in a new light. Suzanne Fernando, a cancer survivor and fundraiser, lives in Scotland. She chose to home educate her daughter, Aaron, when she was nine because she was being bullied in school,
"In the last two years that we homeschooled, Aaron got a chance to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence. At home, she was never belittled or criticized so now she is not afraid to ask questions. Initially, she was scared about going back to school but as time went by, she started to miss socialising with her friends. The positive support system we had in place helped her to go back to high school. Although she did face some problems in the beginning, Aaron feels that she is no longer the shy and scared little girl she once was."
(L-R : Aaron and Suzanne, Mehdiya and Aarifa )
Mehdiya Jaffer, a photographer based in Birmingham, attended regular school until grade nine and then went onto home school for three years. After that she decided to pursue a degree in digital filmmaking,
"As a child, I had aimed to be an astronaut or a doctor! I believe this was partly due to the emphasis on subjects such as Maths and Science in school. However, my personal strength lay in the realm of arts. Home education helped me discover that. There were times when I did miss the buzz of normal school life but I never felt that my mom hovered over me too much. Homeschooling has enriched my outlook and instilled a sense of confidence in the way I perceive situations and interact with other people."
Mehdiya's mother, Aarifa, explains,
"Initially, it is hard to be the parent and the teacher but home education has helped us infuse good values in our children. It also enabled us to bond with them. We always encourage our kids to learn through their mistakes because it teaches them to shoulder responsibility and helps them to become mature individuals."
The decision of whether you want to home educate your children or send them to a proper school relies entirely upon what your style of parenting is and the method of teaching your child is more comfortable with. However, it is not fair to label all homeschooling parents as helicopter parents just because they don't see the world through a universal lens and exercise their option to spend more time with their children.