Beware this Pitfall of Crowdsourcing Education Information

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This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter. Sign up here and get access to subscriber exclusive resources.
Let me give you a tip that is more difficult to follow than it seems: ask the right people your education questions.

At its most basic, I mean this:

  • Ask experienced homeschoolers and homeschool organizations about homeschooling.
  • Ask school administrators about school.

Experienced homeschoolers and the legit organizations that support them are the experts on homeschooling.

School administrators are the experts on school.

Beware this Pitfall of Crowdsourcing Education Information

Asking a school expert about homeschooling can mean you get incorrect information about what “must be true” or “should be true” about homeschooling. Long-time homeschooling parents have learned from experience that school administrators often do not know their state’s home education laws, the policies colleges have for homeschoolers, how homeschooled children learn at home, homeschool curricula, or how homeschoolers get a diploma.

And why should public school administrators know about homeschooling? They are experts on the ways schools work and how students and teachers must meet the requirements of school. Their opinions and assumptions about education will be based on their understanding of school.

Worse, sometimes some school administrators may believe they know about homeschooling, and in general, parents do tend to regard administrators as authorities on education. If you’re getting your homeschooling advice from a school administrator who has incorrect information, you may not be getting accurate information—but it may sound really, really official.

And the reverse is just as true. When you are enrolling your child in school, asking homeschoolers about school policies will not give you reliable answers. School administrators make the decisions about re-enrollment in school, about grade placement, and about accepting credits from homeschooling toward a school diploma—or not.

Over and over, I see some homeschooling parents dispense incorrect information about school enrollment on social media. Often, they generalize the experience of one person they know (or their own family’s experience) to homeschoolers in other states and other situations. This can have really negative results for some students, making enrollment in school disappointing or tumultuous.

Homeschooling organizations and some individual homeschool advocates tend to have better info about school enrollment because they’ve learned about common pitfalls. For example, TheHomeSchoolMom has an article to guide you on your child’s transition from homeschool to public school.

But, in general, why should homeschoolers know about school policies? They have been following an independent path for a long time. Their opinions and assumptions about education will be based on their understanding of homeschooling.

And yes; sometimes homeschoolers will insist they are right about school. They have never known or have forgotten the vagaries of school bureaucracy. Homeschoolers can guide you wrong on school policies, folks. It’s not necessarily their area of expertise.

Think carefully about who you ask for information about homeschooling and about school. And if someone asks you, consider whether you really know the answer for their situation, or whether you should refer them to someone more knowledgeable.

Bottom line? We’re all crowdsourcing, but we need to remember: some crowds know more about some things than they know about others.

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