Home > Language matters > Homeschooling, home school and home-schooler

Homeschooling, home school and home-schooler

This is one of those language problems that will surely incur the wrath of English departments in the Hudson Valley, no matter what we settle in.
Reporter Bonnie Langston was tasked to explore the growing trend of homeschooling in the region for our Sunday edition of the Freeman.
But how do you spell the different occurrences of the word as a noun, adjective, verb?
“Homeschooling” is the only entry in the dictionary, and it is one word. The Associated Press Stylebook and the Freeman style rules — our reference guides — were silent on this issue.
After much sweat and consultation, we came to a decision.

• “To homeschool,” (the verb that doesn’t exist in the dictionary, but people use anyway) is one word, since the gerund “homeshooling” is one word.
• Since there is no entry for the noun, “home school” has to be two words.
• The noun “home-schooler,” however, is hyphened. “Why?” you might ask with some confusion (I did). Because “schooler” — aside from looking utterly weird — is not a word. “Student” is. But “home student” sounds like you are studying a home, not at home.
• “Homeschooled,” the verb’s past tense, also is one word. Not so for the adjective “home-schooled” (hyphen rules apply here).

Of course, when in a proper name, there is nothing we can do. A name is a name (like “Associated Press Stylebook”).
Therefore, the Poughkeepsie Area Homeschoool Meetup Group has “Homeschool” as one word (same with “Meetup,” which should -– in my book — have a hyphen).

All of this, unfortunately, will make the story look like the spelling is inconsistent. But there is a reason for the many ways of the different spellings.

Beautifully filled with irony, a Microsoft Word spell check will not recognize “homeschooling” as a word (word!) which, as I’ve said before, is the only one entry in the dictionary (I used “word!” as slang, by the way).

I am sure many of you will disagree with parts or all of this.

My head hurts now.

Categories: Language matters
  1. May 19, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Interesting. My spell check insists that homeschool be two words and that homeschooler simply does not exist. Personally I prefer the way they look as single words, but that’s just me.

  2. May 22, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    A caution on saying “the dictionary” — there is more than one dictionary, and they don’t all agree. Style manuals don’t always agree either. A dictionary definition can be descriptive (showing how a word is customarily used), or proscriptive (showing correct usage). The reason it takes so long for a slang term or a new word to make it into a dictionary is that usage committees are waiting to see if a term is just a fad usage, or something more long-lasting. They may let the copy editors and Internet users slug it out, and eventually pick the most popular usage to enshrine in the dictionaries and spell-check programs.”English teachers do not ‘make up’ rules to torment or control others; they describe existing rules of a language that is dynamic but also chaotic. English teachers, copy editors and the like are all that stands between the Anglosphere and utter linguistic chaos.” — IB Bill

  3. May 24, 2007 at 12:41 am

    We use Webster’s (Encyclopedic and College), standards in most newspapers, as is the Associated Press Stylebook.Unless, of course, you are The New York Times, which has its own style and that’s why they end up with gems like “Mr. bin Laden” (We don’t use courtesy titles).But the point is well taken.

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