Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Harms of Homeschooling?

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.
~Ivan Illich in "Deschooling Society" 1970

I was clearing out my old saved emails and came across one that I would like to share. This one was in response to an article written over a year ago but the argument is ongoing. Here is the article written by Robin L. West and published in Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2009.

Here is my response:

Your article "The Harms of Homeschooling" has just come to my attention. I am a homeschooling parent, one who has no formal higher education, but a decent IQ and a healthy, driven curiosity. I homeschool for what most would describe religious reasons, although I would say "God led", and also because I am certain my daughter will receive a better education encouraging her true potential than she would in any school.

I learned about learning from a very well-educated, highly respected, and wise man: My grandfather had to quit school when he was in eighth grade and, from him, I ascertained that education is a life long pursuit for which one must take personal responsibility to acquire. He was a train engineer on the lower end of the middle class with a large library and a love for reading, but he was no one of importance, even though he had the largest funeral the city had ever seen until then, with the exception of a former mayor.

In my own pursuit of education, I have even studied some law, which is to say that for one year I was nearly a permanent fixture at the Stetson University College of Law Library in Gulfport. (I quite honestly believe that law should be a required subject for all children and it will be for my own daughter.) Your assessment of the legality of homeschooling struck a chord with me. It is something I have been explaining to fellow homeschooling parents for years now: Legally speaking, homeschooling is not a right, but merely an exception to compulsory attendance laws provided by statues in each state. On the other side of that, however, I believe it should be a constitutionally protected right without state regulation, which I am certain is the focal point of where we part in our philosophies.

This part of your article is what I found the most intrusive of my rights of privacy:

"Periodic visits would open the door to college and career counseling, of benefit to both the children and their parents. They would give the state a window into the quality of home life, and a way to monitor signs of abuse as well as immunizations."

Are you suggesting that the state would have the right to assess the home environment and lifestyles solely on the basis of the children being educated at home, even though no abuse is suspected? I have no fear of the scrutiny of itself but to such authority allowed any government so ill-used, historically speaking. If this should be a requirement for homeschoolers, it should apply to all children regardless of where they are educated, although I am not in favor of that notion either.

Since you have introduced the subject, I strongly oppose the ideology of mandatory immunizations against one's wishes, which further erode religious and parental rights, but even more so personal rights over one's own body and what is put in it. Your concept suggests the state has rights over the bodies of minors!

In addition, I have to question your proposal of noncompliance:

"The sanction for failure to comply with minimal curriculum, content, visitation, and testing requirements would simply be enrollment in a certified private or public school."

My concern here that these minimal requirements would be setting a double standard.

For this, I will quote myself:
"The public school system is a rather necessary default method to educate the masses, but a significantly inferior method to educate the individual."

In other words, it would be acceptable for the public school system failing to educate a child to the same standard expected of a homeschool, because it is the default system. There is no where else for these children to be educated.

The compulsory attendance laws do not magically ensure a quality education, it merely offers the opportunity for the child to be educated and it does this by requiring parents to send their children to attend public school. It places children's bodies in classrooms, but it does not require, ensure, or even promise to make the children engage their minds.

I will not address every point I find arguable in your article, however, this one also blared out at me:

"The ideal teacher cares about the child as an individual, a learner, an actively curious person—she doesn’t care about the child because the child is hers. The child is regarded with respect equally to all the children in the class. In these ways, the school classroom, ideally, and the relations within it, is a model of some core aspects of citizenship."

Ideally, perhaps. I really don't know many people who had but a few ideal teachers all the years they were in school. The classroom has never been the ideal model for encouraging individuality, but it may be the best one for conforming to the role of the submissive citizen, because the classroom is the ideal government authoritarian model. I am sure you have experienced a time or two that the moment a teacher walks out of the classroom, the children become lost as to what they should do and just go wild. One of the harms of public schooling is people are trained to believe that unless a government employee tells us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it, we will go wild without much self-discipline, self-reliance, or self-respect.

Therefore, I do understand your conclusion against deregulation of homeschooling as you are coming from the public school mindset: Many of the homeschooling families must be lost and going wild out here without directly being regulated by a government agent. While I agree that there are going to be some parents who use the guise of homeschooling to hide their abuses, I also have seen, even in this day and age of mandatory reporting, that not all abuse is caught by teachers nor is school the resting place of salvation when some children are only abused or abused more at school by other children or teachers themselves.

What we need is a higher standard within the public school system, because it is the educational default. That does not mean more money, better curriculum, or more high-priced resources. I mean that the teachers need to be highly educated and continually tested for competency as well as continually educated in how to teach, just like doctors and lawyers. When I have had young elementary teachers—yes, more than one, sadly—argue with me that the use of "me and him" is acceptable when used in the subjective case, as in "me and him went to the store", then we have the uneducated "educational experts" educating students while these students are led to believe that their parents are too uneducated to teach them better, so they should not listen to them at all. This additionally degrades the parent-child relationship, which degrades society as a whole.

While I teach core subjects, there are subjects that are required of my daughter at eight years old that are not on any standardized test: Latin, Greek, French, horses, music, piano, drawing, etc. She is generally advanced, but she dislikes math. So, if the state regulations were that my daughter would have to go to public school because she fell behind in math one year and, of course, there would be no provision in the law for all these other extra subjects to be considered, you not see the potential harm in more regulation? My daughter is highly gifted in the arts. I give her ample time and support to pursue this, but if she had to go to public school because she just hates math then her potential would be harmed because the arts are generally the first to be dropped when school funds are lacking.

Back to my grandfather, without all the fancy technology, my grandfather's eighth grade education in core subjects surpasses most twelfth grade requirements of today. The difference? Children were taught to respect adults, the teachers had higher standards because they themselves were highly educated, and there was a higher standard of discipline within the schools. I cannot speak for others but I do know that is what my daughter is getting in our homeschool and that she would not be getting it in our current default educational system.

Academics is very important to me, but more important than that is character. My grandfather would not place his own children in schools as they are today, because they no longer teach what he valued in his own life and why people loved him so much. A child, at any point in his life, can learn math, a language, science, or whatever else taught in classrooms, but what is a society of educated children lacking character? Will they look to the government to tell them what to do and how to do it? Then, when they think the government isn't looking, they might go wild, proving to all how much they need more regulation so everyone else must also; thus it just perpetuates itself.


~ My Lord, please open the eyes of the blind. ~


  1. I hadn't read this when I posted tonight. Go take a look. I think it also rather proves your point, though Star being Star from a rather different POV. ! ♥

  2. I just read yours--what is it with us? I think we have the same biorhythms or something. ;)

  3. *sniggering* You know, Star does people's heads in. She has this whole ditz routine down pat & they write her off as this blonde air~head & then she'll do or say something that just shatters their conceptions because she's quick, she's incredibly witty [her off the cuff one~liners are priceless], she makes associations others miss, & she has this *big picture* I'll never forget Alison asking if any of her kid's choir could sing her some Mozart, ~ & what she had in mind was Twinkle, Twinkle little Star. All she got was the stunned mullet routine until Star popped up with the aria from Queen of the Night. Hysterical. And Star does that sort of stuff all the time. Too funny.


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.