About a month ago, I was talking with an older gentleman at church (whom I respect) and he brought up the subject of homeschooling. He had heard that we were homeschooling and, not knowing much about it, he was curious. He was not on the attack and he wasn't trying to condemn. But, I found it interesting that instead of bringing up the socialization topic like most non-homeschoolers do, he asked me to whom am I accountable.
I had a simple answer at the time that I think satisfied him, but I've been thinking about the question on and off ever since. The more I think about it, the more I think he was on the right track with his question. I'm sure that this "accountability" question probably raises just as many hackles with homeschoolers as the "socialization" question does. But, think about it for a minute. In the socialization question, people are saying that it is important to be like all the rest of us who educate our kids this other way. In the accountability question, it is asking who do you answer to keep you on track and doing what you should.
The way I see it, accountability is important to everybody. But, this gentleman realized that accountability is a separate thing from being like everybody else. Most people think that if you are like everybody else then the accountability question is taken care of through normal channels and they don't have to think twice about it. However, most homeschoolers are not satisfied with the accountability provided in the normal channels and for one reason or another reject the idea that they need to be like everybody else.
The public schools are accountable to parents, school boards, and government regulation. Private schools are accountable to parents, school boards, government regulation and in the case of religious private schools the faith tradition they are a part of. Homeschoolers are also accountable. Except in their case the parents are the school board and the teachers and the administration. Homeschoolers also have to satisfy whatever government regulations have jurisdiction over them. Many homeschoolers are part of a support group which can be an accountability partner for them to stay on track. Religious homeschoolers are either accountable within their faith tradition or accountable directly to God.
All of these methods of accountability are useful and good within reason. But any one of these can get overbalanced and become a tyranical dictator rather than an accountability partner in the education of our children. It is also this that scares people when they hear horror stories of parents who use homeschooling as a screen for mistreating their children. The public decides suddenly that there isn't enough accountability if it was allowed to happen.
The things that I see in all this is that there are good individuals and bad individuals and all of us have some mixture of the two (so don't get too puffed up about being a good guy). It is in every parent's best interest for their children to thrive and succeed. If we all operated on this self-interest, there would never be a parent who mistreats their children. Unfortunately, there are and they are not limited to any one segment of the population. For this reason, I understand the need for accountability. I consider myself personally accountable to God for my actions. I am also accountable to my husband, and he to me, in how we conduct ourselves with our children. We are accountable to extended family, who love our kids as much as we do (and for the record, most but not all are happy that we homeschool). We have church connections that help us be accountable as good parents. We are not thoroughly connected to a homeschool organization for accountability, but we do have several casual friendships with other homeschoolers. Living in California, we currently do not have many governmental regulations to be concerned about. On the whole, I think we are sufficiently accountable while at the same time having the freedom to decide what is best for our kids.
I would challenge all parents (public, private, or homeschool) to consider to whom you are accountable. If you have a long list, you are probably doing all right. If you have a very short list or an empty list, you probably need to find yourself people to hold you accountable to be the person you need to be for the sake of your children.