A statement commonly made by people not involved in homeschooling is that not everyone should homeschool. I am perplexed by this. I was discussing homeschooling with a mother whose children attended public school, when she asked me directly if I thought everyone should homeschool. She asked the question with a very defensive tone in her voice, as though she expected me to agree with her perspective that homeschooling is only beneficial to a few select families. I stated that I have never yet met a child who would not benefit from homeschooling, and she immediately switched from defensive haughtiness to genuine curiosity, replying, “Really?!”
Parents also benefit from homeschooling. I have seen many parents undergo dramatic changes through homeschooling, both in their own level of maturity and in their relationships with their children. In my opinion, the single most important aspect of homeschooling is not the education, but the family relationship. Through homeschooling, parents and children learn to live with each other, like each other, respect each other, and learn from each other. Parents who rely on the government to educate their children tend to know less and less about their children with each passing year.
At this point, I will admit that I have seen, heard, or read about parents whose ideas of homeschooling differ greatly from mine. I do not approve of all methods that are practiced under the broad heading of homeschooling. What I see as beneficial to all parties involved, parents and children, are the one-on-one tutoring, the opportunities to tailor lessons to the student’s interests, and the time spent together as a family unit, making the most important interactions that a child has with any adults be with that child’s own parents. (Some people try to argue bizarre cases of child abuse among homeschoolers. I can match them case for case with child abuse carried out by non-homeschoolers and then continue to pile up evidence of abuses by public school personnel or by other students, so let’s leave that rabbit trail behind and get back to the subject at hand.)
Homeschooling is not a fad. Homeschooling is not even a modern idea. Teaching one’s own children is the way that education has been passed down since the beginning of time. Public schools, on the other hand, have only been in existence for approximately 150 years and were designed for the frightening purpose of creating a compliant working class. Some ancient civilizations did utilize “schools,” but they were not at all what we think of by the same name. Children had already learned reading and handwriting, mathematics and reasoning before they could be admitted to one of these schools, which were much closer to the level of our colleges and universities today. These early educational institutions were very small and involved one-on-one tutoring in highly specialized areas. Apprenticeship may be a more accurate term for us to use in understanding how “schools” operated before the time of the American Civil War. These opportunities were available only to the very wealthy — a far cry from what “school” means today: one-size-fits-all education for everyone, rich or poor, beginning before many children have learned how to read or count.
The “Dark Ages” of medieval Europe sticks in most of our minds as a time when education did not exist. At least, that is the image portrayed by most public school textbooks. Most people could not read or write, and life was generally miserable. However, we must realize that that was localized to a small area of the world and was promoted by the religious fanatics of that day. In an effort to keep their religion “pure,” they discouraged learning among the general public, feeling that only a privileged class should be able to read the holy scriptures, not the common, everyday man. Within only a few generations, education died out, except where allowed by the fanatics, and then their educational establishments advocated their own brand of educational fanaticism. Let me point out again that this was in only one part of the world — education flourished during this time in the civilizations that were not subjected to this particular brand of religious fervor, and this period was followed by an age of “new birth” in which all students made up for lost time. However, since most modern Americans are descended from European ancestry, that is the view of history that we receive. I am confident that Chinese history, for example, contains no similar period where learning was purposely stagnated.
Accepting responsibility for the education of one’s own children is not something that homeschooling parents take lightly. It requires close attention to daily activities and personal in-the-trenches involvement in lessons. I have noticed that the people who claim that not everyone should homeschool are generally uninvolved in their own children’s lives. While they may attend school sporting events, ask a few questions about the school day, or even discuss issues at the dinner table, it is nowhere near the same level of involvement that homeschooling parents have. Some who protest homeschooling are not even parents themselves, furthering the adage: Before marriage, you will have theories about raising children; once you have children, you will have no more theories.
Modern parents have accepted the notion (set forth by “professional” educators) that they are unqualified and incapable of educating their own children. If their child falters on a lesson concept in a homework assignment, the parents will invariably ask, “Didn’t your teacher explain this in class?” assuming it is solely another’s responsibility to educate their child. If asked to describe the events of a typical school day, the parents’ descriptions would probably not resemble their child’s reality. It breaks my heart to hear public school teachers express that they feel they are closer to their students than the students’ parents are. This is doubly sad because 1) the parents have allowed strangers to influence their impressionable minor children, and 2) the public school teachers feel it is their right to influence the children placed in their care.
History proves that every family used to educate their own children. What has changed that? Why is homeschooling now such a repugnant idea to so many? Not everyone can (right now, this minute) begin homeschooling and do an excellent job at it — just as not everyone can undertake any job with no training or prior experience and do an excellent job at it immediately. However, I firmly believe that every family (parents and children) can learn to homeschool (if they want to learn) and will benefit from homeschooling (if they attempt it wholeheartedly).
Can everyone benefit from homeschooling? I say yes. Is everyone able to homeschool? No, but the prohibition is usually a personally inflicted reason, such as debt. Would I like to see everyone attempt homeschooling? Absolutely, yes. Do I feel everyone can achieve the same level of success in homeschooling that I did? No — I feel many people can do a much better job than I did, because more help is now available. I have learned many things now that I wish I had known when I began homeschooling, such as the different Learning Styles and how to match the lesson presentation to the student’s method of learning. Is it “failure” to send your children to public school? No more than it is “failure” to feed your child bologna sandwiches day after day when more nutritious options are available. Is homeschooling right for everyone? How could hands-on, personal involvement in your child’s education ever be wrong? Should you try homeschooling? What do you think?