Protect Yourself from Misinformation

HELP! I just Googled “homeschooling in Wisconsin” and got thousands of results! Some websites give conflicting information; how can I sort it all out?

Homeschooling is like any other topic you can Google: there is a lot of information out there and only some of it is reliable. You can protect yourself from misinformation, disinformation, and people who may be looking to take advantage of your family.

Try looking at new information by asking these questions:

1) Is this information mainly circulating only on social media?

An important fact of the internet age is that social media platforms themselves are massive for-profit businesses. Their business model relies on clicks to make money. Unlike standard journalism or advertising models that are governed by laws about fraud, social media platforms have no financial obligation to find or tell the truth. 

Because social media platforms are specifically programmed to show you certain kinds of information pre-selected for you by algorithms and your personal data, the same false information is likely to appear over and over again in your social media. Often, simply seeing the same misinformation repeatedly can make it “feel truer”. Repetition of false information does not make it true. Likewise, it is easy to filter out accurate information through algorithms, deletion, and blocking. Beware of information that cannot be verified outside of social media.

It also pays to use caution before sharing information found online. Be smart, discerning, and critical before passing on what could be misinformation to other homeschooling families.

2) Is the information from someone who is selling something?

Whether for-profit or non-profit, how a person or group raises or spends money can help you assess the value of the information they offer. Accepting advice or information from for-profit vendors is much like buying a product or service: it pays to do research and ask questions before accepting information as accurate. What are their funding sources? How is that money spent?

Even if their website is free, are they paid for legal services, in-person appearances, consulting services, book sales, affiliate services, or links to other pages or products? Do they profit from your sharing their information?

3) Is the information from someone promoting an agenda besides legal homeschooling in Wisconsin?

Some groups or people offering “homeschooling information” are really invested in another agenda, and use homeschooling as a way to draw interest to their other causes. Some of these causes may actually work against our homeschooling rights and freedoms. Take time to read about what they are promoting. 

4) Is the information specific to homeschooling in Wisconsin?

There is no federal law governing homeschooling. Homeschool laws vary widely from state to state, and Wisconsin’s law is particular to our history. Out-of-state groups and individuals are often inadequately equipped to provide accurate information to Wisconsin families. Sometimes, what seems to be sound legal advice in fact violates your rights or responsibilities in Wisconsin. Acting on an incorrect understanding of Wisconsin law can not only put your family at risk, but can affect every other homeschooling family in Wisconsin. Take the time to familiarize yourself with our state laws, and be cautious about advice from out-of-state parties.

If the organization or individual encourages you to contact them for everything, they may be promoting dependence on them. On the other hand, if they point you to resources to help you resolve your issue or advocate for yourself, they are likely promoting empowerment and independence.

5) Is the information legal advice? 

Teaching or providing information about the law, generally, is perfectly acceptable, and groups and individuals may disagree about legal topics. However, some groups or individuals may appear to be providing legal services for homeschooling families. Be careful about promises of legal advice or representation. Only properly licensed attorneys who are also members of the Wisconsin Bar Association can practice law in Wisconsin. Only you or a lawyer who you retain or are assigned can represent you in any specific legal matter. You should not assume any group or individual is acting on your behalf on legal issues. 

Beware of national groups or speakers offering legal information to Wisconsin homeschoolers. There is no federal homeschooling law, so there is little “expertise” to offer on a national basis.

You can quickly check for Wisconsin Bar membership and licensing status here:

6) Is the information contingent on my providing any personal information about me or my family? 

Under federal and Wisconsin law, your privacy as a homeschooler is protected. In any circumstance where your private information is requested, be thoughtful before sharing. Ask questions about who maintains your information, and how, and whether or not it will be used for marketing purposes. 

7) Is this information too good to be true? 

You know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be a smart consumer of information about homeschooling. Know the law for yourself, and you will be well prepared to sniff out “too good to be true” misinformation. 

Be careful about legal theories which appear to be new, easy, or unusual work-arounds of the law. Very little has changed about Wisconsin homeschooling law since 1984.  

8) Can this information be independently verified?

Is there any other independent, reliable source that can confirm this new information you are reading? Consider first checking it against Wisconsin law. Check with trusted sources, and experienced Wisconsin homeschoolers.

9) Is the information emotionally appealing?

Social media sites are primed to show you “clickbait” information that will give you a strong emotional reaction. Like other information that is “too good to be true,” some information is disinformation dressed up as rage-bait or hyper-partisan cheerleading. Often, “clickbait” information is connected directly to a for-profit or political enterprise, looking to make money from stirring the pot or furthering an agenda, rather than sharing accurate information. Beware.

Finally, when you find misinformation about homeschooling in Wisconsin:

  • Don’t pass it on.
  • Don’t assume the person who shared it has bad intentions; if you choose to respond, do so with courtesy. Remember no online conversation is ever private; think about linking to or passing on the correct information in a useful and friendly way.
  • Consider letting WHPA know, if you believe it is impacting homeschoolers.

Last Updated on 09/18/21

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