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Unity in the Homeschooling Community: Embracing Our Shared Goals

Thank you to every homeschooler who has contributed to your community. In this article my family shares some background on why we created these Facebook groups, challenges we have faced, and our hope for the future. This essay is organized as follows:

  1. Our Story: A Vision for Homeschool Communities

  2. Nonconformist Dilemma: Why Homeschoolers Challenge Cooperation

  3. Our Choice to Homeschool: Technology and Project-Based Learning

  4. Universal Principles: Why We Don't Discriminate

  5. Ten Ways We Can Unite the Homeschooling Community

1. Our Story: A Vision for Homeschool Communities

When the pandemic hit my family embarked on our homeschooling journey. We were inspired by the endless possibilities that the flexibility of homeschooling could offer. We only knew two other families in the world that homeschooled ... one in Florida and another in Iowa. Few in Falls Church Virginia choose to homeschool because the public schools are actually quite good, at least relative to other public schools. So we got to work trying to build a vibrant, connected, and supportive homeschooling community in Northern Virginia (NoVA) starting with this network of Facebook groups.

We imagined homeschoolers across NoVA using the freedom of homeschooling to tailor educational experiences to their children's unique needs, interests, and family values. We pictured families working together to organize enriching field trips, exploring museums, historical sites, and natural wonders, providing hands-on learning experiences that would ignite curiosity and foster a love for learning.

Our vision included co-op classes where parents with expertise in various subjects would collaborate, pooling their resources and knowledge to create dynamic, engaging lessons. We saw children of different ages and backgrounds collaborating on projects, working together to solve problems, and developing lifelong friendships in the process.

We dreamed of homeschoolers using the flexibility of their schedules to engage in community service projects, learning the importance of empathy, compassion, and giving back to their community. We also imagined families with diverse beliefs, values, and philosophies coming together to participate in multicultural events, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich tapestry of human experiences.

We even hired a friend from our virtual school to help administrate these groups full time...a personal expense that we gladly paid because we believed it was worth it to achieve our grand vision!

Homeschoolers that met me back then perhaps never met a more optimistic homeschool dad. It took a year of failures and a house fire to finally face the music.

2. Nonconformist Dilemma: Why Homeschoolers Challenge Cooperation

The homeschooling community in the United States is a fascinating example of how nonconformists, by choosing to opt-out of the default public education system, inherently self-select into fragmented groups or "tribes". Homeschoolers often cling tightly to their particular tribe, while distancing themselves from other homeschoolers who don't share the same values, beliefs, or educational approaches.

The science behind this phenomenon can be traced to social identity theory, which posits that individuals classify themselves and others into various social categories. These categories help them define their self-concept and build a sense of belonging. When homeschooling families choose to leave the traditional system, they inherently establish their unique identity within the homeschooling landscape.

In addition to religious and political affiliations, there are several other factors contributing to this fragmentation. For example, some homeschooling tribes emphasize a specific educational philosophy, such as the classical, Montessori, or unschooling approaches. Other tribes might be centered around specific interests, such as STEM, arts, or outdoor education. These groups tend to form their own co-ops, events, and extracurricular activities that align with their core beliefs and values.

When our family set out to create a network of Facebook groups across Northern Virginia (NoVA) to connect homeschoolers of all stripes, we faced the challenge of overcoming these inherent divisions within the homeschooling community. Our vision of building an inclusive and supportive network struggled against the existing fragmentation and tribalism that characterized the homeschooling landscape.

However, despite these divisions, there are numerous examples of families and groups working together to overcome these barriers, fostering unity and growth within the diverse world of homeschooling.

WEquil School is one good example. We've had a lot more success with our online platform than local groups in part because the reach is wider. A few years ago, my family became interested in genomics technology, which enables scientists to alter genes. While this technology has been used in agriculture for quite some time, it was only recently that the first humans had their genes permanently altered in a way that would be passed on to future generations.

During that time, several children, including my daughters, collaborated on a project exploring this technology. One student in the group decided to investigate the moral and ethical implications of genomics and include their findings in the group presentation. This student expressed concern about the technology potentially allowing humans to "play God," a sentiment that resonated with everyone in the group, regardless of their religious beliefs.

In this scenario, we see children with varying beliefs, faiths, and family values coming together to learn, grow, and create something meaningful. This collaborative approach mirrors the way adults interact in the real world.

Importantly, no one was attempting to indoctrinate others or persuade them to adopt their religious views or worldview. Instead, everyone was focused on learning about the technology and building relationships with one another along the way!

3. Our Choice to Homeschool: Technology and Project-Based Learning

In recent years, technology has significantly influenced the way we approach education. Our family's homeschooling journey, which began before the start of WEquil School, was primarily driven by technology, in contrast to many homeschoolers who choose to homeschool due to religious or other strong beliefs that lead them to opt out of public education.

Growing up in a Christian church, I still maintain close friendships with many Christians and appreciate the impact biblical stories have had on my personal development. Although I don't identify as a "Christian Homeschooler," I believe my daughters benefit from exposure to Christianity, as well as other faiths, philosophies, and diversity in general. This belief led us to continue attending church and participating in various religious events when appropriate.

Our decision to homeschool was shaped by our desire to equip our daughters with valuable skills such as writing, coding, and using technology from an early age. When the pandemic hit, they were well-prepared to take control of their education.

Homeschooling has given our daughters the freedom to personalize their education using "Project-Based Learning" which is really just code for doing real things! Projects are great by themselves, but way more powerful in groups. Students at WEquil School present project to each other each week on Friday. You can come watch if you want. Its really amazing!

My daughters and other students at WEquil School have created thousands of projects on just about every subject you can image. Many are collaborative projects which can be viewed on WEquil App. They design their own curriculums, participate in clubs, and explore learning opportunities by leveraging the internet, apps, and digital platforms. This has led them to teach other kids and even start small businesses.

For instance, my 11-year-old recently published a short story on Kindle, started a dog-sitting business with a website, sells handmade magic wands in virtual marketplaces, and connects with like-minded kids virtually and in person through her phone.

We noticed that some Christian homeschoolers seem more skeptical of technology compared to other homeschooling groups and friends we've made through WEquil. This observation piqued our curiosity, leading us to seek understanding and learn from their perspective on this topic.

4. Universal Principles: Why We Don't Discriminate

Jonathan Haidt gave a TED talk below on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. Haidt highlights the correlation between the personality trait of openness to experience and political views, emphasizing the importance of stepping outside one's moral Matrix to gain a deeper understanding of the world.

This talk is amazingly insightful. There is no judgment in this talk about right or wrong ... good vs evil. We are all unique and our differences help us learn to be more valuable to each other. Our family believes in embracing diversity and cherishing the unique perspectives individuals bring to the table. As Haidt points out, shared values and morals can create teams that potentially shut down open-minded thinking. By recognizing the significance of moral diversity, we can cultivate a more inclusive and empathetic environment.

That is why my family continues to work so hard to create opportunities for kids to gain exposure to learn, grow and create together ... so they can benefit from the rich tapestry of human experiences. By fostering an appreciation for the variety of moral perspectives, we aim to promote understanding, collaboration, and growth within our family and the broader community. There is much to be learned from one another, regardless of our beliefs or faith. Our children will be happier and more successful if they grow up learning to build relationships with people of diverse beliefs, values, philosophies, and religions. This is what the real world looks like.

Instead of focusing on our differences, we should concentrate on our common ground, such as the love we have for our children, our dedication to family, our support for the community, and our hope for peace across humanity. Respecting one another despite our differences is crucial, as every individual is simply trying to do what they believe is right, while seeking happiness and avoiding suffering. Accepting this provides a foundation for relationships based on mutual self-interest.

Like countries that work together towards mutually beneficial goals, families can do the same. For instance, my family became interested in genomics technology a few years ago, and my daughters collaborated with other children from diverse backgrounds on a related project. They learned and grew together, creating something valuable without attempting to impose their beliefs or worldview on one another.

The challenge of embracing diversity transcends religious differences and extends to politics. Some parents homeschool their children to shield them from opposing political opinions, but this strategy can be counterproductive. Children need exposure to different perspectives to learn how to communicate and get along with various people.

5. Ten Ways We Can Unite the Homeschooling Community

As homeschooling continues to grow in popularity, this issue may pose significant challenges for our society in the long term. Public schools often excel at connecting students with diverse peers, even though there may be drawbacks. This is one reason for the negative stereotypes associated with homeschoolers, who are sometimes perceived as isolated and socially awkward. While this criticism may only apply to a minority, it highlights the importance of socialization in a child's development.

Fearing the potential socialization challenges for my daughters after leaving the public education system, I founded the virtual learning community WEquil.School and Facebook groups across Northern Virginia ... to foster connections in the homeschooling community that are open to all.

Here are ten things we can help homeschoolers do across Northern Virginia:

  1. Co-op Classes: Organize co-op classes or workshops where parents with expertise in specific subjects can teach children from various homeschooling families. Parents can collaborate on developing a curriculum that respects different beliefs and values while still providing a comprehensive education.

  2. Community Service Projects: Engage in community service projects where children and parents from diverse backgrounds can work together for a common cause. This can help build relationships and teach valuable life skills, while respecting each family's values and beliefs.

  3. Field Trips: Plan educational field trips to museums, cultural centers, or historical sites where children can learn about different perspectives and appreciate diversity. Parents can choose the locations and activities that align with their values and beliefs, ensuring an inclusive experience for all participants.

  4. Online Forums: Create online discussion groups or forums where homeschooling families can share resources, experiences, and ideas while respecting each other's values and beliefs. This can facilitate open dialogue and provide a supportive environment for families to learn from one another.

  5. Multicultural Events: Organize cultural exchange events or festivals where homeschoolers can showcase their unique traditions, customs, and beliefs. This can help children appreciate diversity and broaden their understanding of the world, while still respecting their family's values.

  6. Book Clubs: Establish book clubs for children and parents, where participants can read and discuss literature that respects different beliefs and values. This can promote critical thinking and empathy while providing an opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives.

  7. Debate Clubs: Start a debate club where children can learn to express their ideas and opinions in a respectful manner. This can help them develop communication and critical thinking skills while respecting the values and beliefs of others.

  8. Sports and Physical Activities: Encourage homeschoolers to participate in local sports teams or physical activities. This can help them develop social skills and teamwork while interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds.

  9. Collaborative Art Projects: Organize group art projects that celebrate diversity and promote respect for different beliefs and values. This can provide an opportunity for children to express their creativity while learning about the perspectives of others.

  10. Peer Mentorship Programs: Establish a mentorship program where older homeschoolers can support and guide younger ones in their educational journey. This can foster connections across different beliefs and values, while allowing each participant to maintain their personal beliefs.

We can help you facilitate creating inclusive and respectful environments for these and more social and educational opportunities, homeschoolers can learn from one another, celebrate their diversity, and develop strong relationships without compromising their personal values and beliefs.

We hope our message serves as an olive branch to homeschoolers of all backgrounds, including Christians, Secularists, Democrats, Republicans, and more. Let us unite and work together, focusing on our shared goals and celebrating our differences as sources of enrichment for our children's education.

Sincerely, WEquil Family



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