Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Homeschool Market

Dana at Principled Disovery wonders,
"How much the very existence of the “homeschool market” has changed homeschooling."
When I first heard about homeschooling back in 1981, I knew about a handful of curriculum providers. The products seemed expensive and some publishers made it difficult for individual families to purchase their materials. As homeschooling increased in popularity, so did the number of curriculum providers. Many vendors were homeschooling families who couldn't find what they were looking for, so they created it themselves and began to market it to other homeschool families. Realizing the opportunity, many establishers publishers began marketing their school curriculum to homeschoolers as well. The "homeschool market" was born.

And with birth of the market comes the "marketing." Dana points to one company that plays on our insecurities in order to make the sale. Other companies promises better results and higher test scores to get us to look their way. These marketing schemes are annoying because they work. All parents are insecure at times, that includes homeschooling parents. As a result, we all have a few shelves filled with products we're not using and wished we'd never bought. Very different than the homeschool families I first met, who had only a few choices and their shelves were usually lined with books from one vendor with a set of encylopedias nearby.

So, has the homeschool market changed homeschooling? I'd say yes. But despite my own impulse purchases that were sure to be the salvation of my son's spelling problem, the changes aren't all bad.

There are some companies that play on our fears or false promises of great results, but in their attempt to "sell" us something, they are also convincing others who might not otherwise choose to homeschool to jump in and begin to educate their children at home.

A recent news report shows that more blacks are choosing to homeschool and they've created organizations for support and materials to help other minorities choose to home educate as well. That's all good for homeschooling.

There are some vendors and speakers that are a bit annoying in their self-promotion, reminding me more of a televangelist with a bible in one hand and a curriculum catalog in the other, chock full of their books and tapes. But that's the nature of capitalism, people will use any approach necessary to make the sale - even declaring that their method is God's way. Despite their annoyance, they seem to fill need in a certain segment of the homeschool community.

The only vendor that I find most troubling is Uncle Sam. He appeals to homeschoolers by providing all the curriculum without cost, but with a higher price - government control. This is one snake oil salesman all homeschoolers would do well to stay away from. None of us can afford the changes state entrance into the "homeschool market" brings to homeschooling.

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