A Case for Homeschooling

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I have never liked writing a paper for school and never doing anything else with what I've written.  I thought I'd post the argumentative essay I just finished.  

Many of our schools are dangerous and inefficient.  Often in the news there are reports about shootings and drug abuse in schools.  Children as young as elementary school are familiar with several curse words and are hearing about subjects not appropriate for their age.  Students are being taught that there is no God who created the universe, and that they are a result of random chance which diminishes the value of their life.  It has become popular throughout our society to refer to education as boring or torturous, and students have little incentive to read or experiment outside of school.  Students are graduating with few writing or math skills and without the knowledge of how to discover answers for themselves.  Yet despite this grim situation, a movement has been growing to repel it.  More and more parents have decided to pull their children out of public schools and to educate them at home.  Critics of this movement claim that homeschooling children are ill equipped to handle situations in the “real world”, socially deprived, or that parents are unable to meet the special needs of a child – yet with homeschooling it is quite the opposite.

Disputers of the homeschooling movement claim that homeschooling children are raised in an artificial environment in the home, and thus incapable of coping with the “real world”.  However, these critics fail to realize that public education is perhaps more of an artificial environment.  Students are separated by age, grade level, and abilities.  Social barriers are established between the different grade levels – limiting interaction.  In life, however, few, if any, of these barriers exist.  In a common work environment, one can see adults of different ages working as colleagues.  Those with higher abilities are not separated from the rest of the team, instead, everyone is given a specific job to do for the good of the company and there is often much interaction.  In the real world, workers must learn to work hard and work well with other colleagues.  

The homeschooling environment actually prepares the student for adulthood.  Albert Einstein once said, “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”  Unlike the public school environment, homeschoolers have time to ask questions and experiment.  There is no time limit on their education and the students have the ability to take a much more hands-on approach to what they are learning.  Because many of the parents who homeschool do not have a higher education, students are encouraged to look up the answers for themselves – equipping them to do their own research in the “real world” – and explain it to their parents.  According to Dr. Gary Knowles, a professor at the University of Michigan who made a study of home educated adults, “None were unemployed and none were on welfare, 94% said home education prepared them to be independent persons, 79% said it helped them interact with individuals from different levels of society, and they strongly supported the home education method.”    Obviously these homeschooled adults were able to “cope with the real world”.  This is just one appealing attribute of homeschooling.

One of the biggest motivations for homeschooling parents is the fact that they are the ones teaching morals and values to their children – not the government – and that they are the ones choosing when their children learn about specific topics – not their classmates.   Max Victor Belz, an Iowan grain dealer, once said, “I don’t want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer that to their being educated by the state.”  Even the Transcendentalist author Ralph Waldo Emerson made the gloomy comment, “You send your child to the schoolmaster, but ‘tis the schoolboys who educate him.”  Dr. Raymond Moore, a staunch supporter of homeschooling, stated, “Does anyone who knows children believe that the yellow school bus takes children down the road to a constructive, positive sense of society?  Or returns them in the afternoon or evening more loving creatures than when they left in the morning?”  One can clearly see that this mode of education is demoralizing and destructive to the values of both the parent and the child.  

Children imitate whoever is around them.  In public schools, it is considered “cool” to utter strings of curse words and blasphemous words, make provocative and inappropriate comments, act disrespectful to authority, etc.  So how is homeschooling better?  Author Laura Ingalls Wilder one said, “I believe it would be much better for everyone if children were given their start in education at home. No one understands a child as well as his mother…   She can keep them from learning immoral things from other children.”  

The Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing made the statement, “The home is the chief school of human virtues”, and John Taylor Gatto, author of The Art of Education declared, “One of the first things a family tries to teach its children is the difference between good and evil, right and wrong.  One of the first things our schools do is destroy that distinction.”  It does not matter if the values are Biblical or not.  The blog  “Successful Homeschooling” compares some of the values taught in the homeschooling environment with the values taught in a public school.  Homeschoolers are taught independence vs. dependence on the teacher and government; self-motivation vs. external rewards and consequences; creativity vs. adherence to standards; tolerance and individuality vs. pecking order and conformity; discipline focusing on building character vs. discipline focusing on classroom management; community service vs. materialism and entertainment; family vs. teachers and peers.  The parents must decide between these two sets of values.

One of the biggest arguments that critics bring against homeschooling is that homeschooled children are socially deprived, yet they do not stop to consider whether or not it is harmful to be so deprived.  The Education Review Office in New Zealand did a study in 1998 of the arguments against homeschooling and made this comment, “Concerns that homeschooled children are marginalized in terms of opportunities for socialization are generally addressed by homeschooling parents and homeschool support groups through the provision of additional social activities.  Not one report in this study suggested that a greater emphasis on social interactions would be beneficial.”  Ivan Illich wrote in “Deschooling Society”, “School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”  And author John Holt wrote “It is the duty of a citizen in a free country not to fit into society, but to make society.”  

Despite this debate on whether or not social interaction and immersion is actually beneficial.  It is a fact that, with rare exceptions, most homeschooling families are extremely socially involved – the difference is that the parents get to choose who their children interact with and thus, who influences their children.  The Home School Legal Defense Association did a study  on over five thousand homeschool students and determined that homeschool children were engaged in an average of 5.2 activities outside of the home.  Another study  showed that 98% of the homeschooled children were involved in at least two activities outside of the home each week.  In fact, many homeschooling families complain of being over committed!  Obviously these poor homeschoolers are suffering from social deprivation.

Not only is there a big motivation for parents to be able to teach their values to their children, but the quality of education is producing some fantastic results.  In 2002, homeschoolers scored an average of 72 points above their public schooled counterparts on the SAT.  Research  has shown that “On average, homeschool students, grade 1-4, perform one grade level above their public and private school counterparts.  The achievement gap grows in grade 5; by 8th grade the average home school student performs four grades higher than the national average.”  Kate Grossman, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times reported that “The number of homeschoolers receiving National Merit Scholarships has increased more than 500 percent:  from 21 in 1995 to 129 in 2003.”  What is so different about homeschooling that would allow these students to perform above their peers?  

Ignacio Estrada once said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”  Parents are the ones who know their child’s interests and learning abilities best.  If the child needs to have more hands-on activities, they can provide it.  If the child struggles to understand a concept, extra time can be taken to explain it – there is no time schedule for a homeschooler.  Lesson times are more of a conversation than a lecture, and the student has the ability to participate more with the materials.  There is no apprehension of humiliating himself when reading in front of his classmates, and he might just find that reading is fun.  

Author John Holt wrote of the public education system, “We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty rewards – gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists or Phi Beta Kappa keys – in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.”  In the homeschool environment, the children work closely with brothers and sisters and are taught that they are not better than each other. In these homeschooled students is awakened the spark of creativity and the hunger for learning.  Little time is wasted with interruptions and the student is free to explore.  Many homeschooled students – unlike their public schooled friends – value their education, and instead of seeing it as dull or torturous, they feel excited about what they are learning.  They want to work hard and learn more, and this makes all the difference in their grades.

Despite arguments that homeschoolers are unable to cope in the real world, socially deprived, or that parents are unable to meet the special needs of their children, the homeschool movement is growing rapidly with amazing results.  Perhaps by being homeschooled, these students are better equipped with the morals and study habits necessary for adulthood.  

Discussion/Comments (2):

A Case for Homeschooling

You make a good case! It will be interesting to see how this movement continues to grow, and how the opposition to it will also grow. But what you say rings true to me.

Posted at 7/8/2010 12:31:53 PM byJeri Graybill

re: A Case for Homeschooling

Thank you. I had a lot of fun writing it and I believe the research for this paper made me even more thankful to be a homeschooler.

Posted at 1/15/2011 3:08:13 PM byWendy Mack

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