I was talking with yet another one of my breathtakingly awe-inspiring friends the other night, and she said,
“I have a long question for you. Maybe I’ll just email you.”
“What’s your long question?” I asked, because I am very curious–extreme curiosity is my one weakness.
“Okay–I am just asking all the women I know–why did you choose homeschooling?”
Yes. That’s a “long question.”
Of course, I could give the normal answers, but that always seems to be so opinionated and can sometimes even sound condescending.
I know I am an opinionated person, but the standard answers (wanting to raise well-educated, awkward, non-socialized weirdos…), weren’t really personal. I don’t know. I just wanted to think more deeply about it. So, I said a few things, but I have been thinking a lot about it ever since.
So, I asked myself
“Why did I choose homeschooling”
And, then, I also asked myself,
“What was I thinking?” (Because most moms who homeschool have moments when they really do wonder what they were thinking.)
The answers to this question are–well–long–far longer than one blog post. But I wondered if anyone else might be interested in understanding why I chose homeschooling. Maybe you won’t think I am as crazy as you thought, or maybe it will just confirm that I am extremely eccentric.
The answers to this question can also often be easily misconstrued. It’s hard, because saying “This is the reason I chose….” can sometimes be accompanied by the attitude that because other people didn’t choose the same thing, they are somehow not as caring or loving or good. Often, even if the speaker is not consciously aware of it, they must admit that somewhere, on some level, they feel this way, especially about something as important as where are children are spending the majority of their time growing up.
Home education is not always the better choice, and many homeschoolers, who, for many just reasons, can feel defensive, are also often passionate about the subject because it is a very scary thing to do, and it goes against our cultural norm. I think that is the reason this happens.
Also, public schoolers don’t want to be made to feel (either on purpose or not) like because they have sent their children to public school that they don’t want their kids to be concert violin playing-spelling bee winning-college doctorate pursuing prodigies by the age of seven. So, things can get a little heated.
There are many reasons why people have chosen to educate their children in the way they have, and sometimes public or private school is a far better option than homeschool. Sometimes home education would be the best choice. Every family mission and circumstances are unique, so every family’s choice is unique. Contrary to popular homeschooling beliefs, parents who send their children to public school may be making the absolute right choice for their family. And contrary to many others’ beliefs, home educators are not trying to purposely be divisive and weird…they may also be making the best choice for their situation.
So, understand that while I am saying these are the reasons why I chose what I did, that you may have chosen something differently for similar or the same reasons!
Here are the first three reasons, in no particular order:
Reason #1: Henry David Thoreau, William George Jordan, Anne Sullivan, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Others
I am an enthusiastic lover of nature and there is nothing more satisfying to me than to observe God in the details of all of His great works on earth and in heaven. I am even more fond of reading, which helped a great deal when I was younger. In those days I lived mostly in the city and was allergic to almost all forms of nature. I read Thoreau, Emerson and others, and observed nature by proxy when I couldn’t do it myself.
I think, in fact, I may have outgrown my allergies by sheer determination and force of will. I simply could not endure not experiencing it for myself, therefore, I decided that the allergies had to go, or I would simply suffer through it in order to be delighted by observing bees gathering nectar from apricot blossoms on a lazy, warm afternoon. For some reason (I know I didn’t deserve it!), the allergies departed.
What does this have to do with choosing home education? Well, I learned from Nature (and those wonderful writers) a few bits of wisdom:
- Schedules are important, but can only be, at best, general. All living things grow at their own pace, and no amount of wheedling, cajoling, or forcing by the gardener can make a living thing grow on a precise, specific timeline
- Every piece of sand and every snowflake is a unique creation–and so is each person
- Simplicity is a key to deep spirituality and happiness
- The 8-10 hours of precious daylight spent, for the most part, in a public school building, is not conducive to observing nature, which I personally believe makes it much easier to grow a physically and mentally healthy human
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself , instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he builds a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences. – Anne Sullivan, Tutor to Helen Keller
I felt that home education gave me the most flexibility to schedule generally, educate each individual according to their uniqueness, keep things simple, and observe the natural world in which we live.
Reason #2: What I Learned About The Origins of Modern Education
I have done research on the Hebraic model of learning, and how important it was for the Hebrew mind to understand the origin of things. Because of that, I am constantly looking to find how things have been built.
If a building doesn’t have a solid foundation, no matter how much money one pours into decorating and upgrading and modernizing and adapting, it will not stand. Decorations and upgrades will only have been wasted. That is a little how I feel about the general state of modern day public education.
Even those who love public schooling acknowledge that it is not going well. They spend vast amounts of money trying to upgrade or redecorate, but in the end, it will have been wasted because they do not understand it is the foundation that is not strong.
Here are a few quotations from the founders of public education in America. (This is not to say that there are some beautiful, amazing stories of great good coming from those who are publicly educated. I rejoice in those stories, like this one about a homeless student finalist in Intel’s Science Fair who now has a scholarship and a house. I do believe that there is a place for public education.)
Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role. – William T. Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889
We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause. – Horace Mann, first secretary of education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone would be interdependent. – John Dewey, American educator
I believe that the idea of free education to the poor and downtrodden is altruistic and generous. In a perfect society, however, I wonder if there would be a need for such a thing?
Since we don’t live in perfect, though, we need to make adjustments. I wish the origins of public education were more altruistic and less power hungry. I believe that in the beginning of modern public education in America, it was a few powerful males who saw a malleable population which they could bend to and take advantage of for their own selfish interests. It is heartening to see many people who do so much good within this failing system. It’s amazing that they can do as much as they accomplish!
I will link here to the book by John Taylor Gatto. I know he is a biased source, but I am just sharing something I have found interesting, if not unbiased.
I also found the series on education from an LDS perspective from Darla Isackson very interesting (the links to previous articles do not work unless you go to this listing and find the series, which started on April 6, 2004). I think Sister Isackson did an excellent job trying to consider all points of view.
Reason #3: Safety
Sexual abuse and other types of abuses are rampant in the public education system. I believe that many who educate are not trying to abuse children. The problem is that when things get unwieldy and large, incompetence and oversight generally occur. The public education system often rehires those who have been accused of sexual molestation. The environment is often physically dangerous.
I used to write for a talk radio host, and I often focused on public school issues. I was shocked to find the number of problems with sexual molestation, violence, and other abuses (one recent example receiving lots of news attention is the abuse of an autistic child by a teacher and her aide). I didn’t realize things could be “that bad.” And I am not talking in the “bad part of town” schools. The problem was across the socio-economic strata. I couldn’t believe how many stories I could find that made the news in just a week’s time on any given week that would curl your hair. It was literally unbelievable to me.
I am not fearful. I just know a lot. And from what I know, I do not think public schooling is safe enough, regardless of whether or not it’s a “Blue Ribbon” or “Gold Medal” or “Super Amazing” top rated school.
I am not trying to be an extremist, overprotective mom. There is a difference between children taking good, necessary risks for growth and compromising their mental and physical health. With what I have researched, I just feel like it is an unjustifiable risk.
I have more reasons I would like to explore, and then I have arguments that I have argued with myself about the possible advantages of pubic or private education on the days when home education seems like an insurmountable, overwhelming failure. It isn’t, it just feels that way some days. I would like to write about those arguments, as well.
The entire series of articles can be found here: [the-series]
Other Posts In This Series
- three reasons why i chose home education (This post)
- three more reasons why i chose home education
- three more additional reasons i chose home education
- five reasons why public or private schooling would be better than home education
- five things for friday: homeschool edition
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