Home Education Is Not the Problem but Could Hold the Answer

The following post was originally an English paper I wrote back in 2008. But the basic message still holds true. In light of all the educational reform taking place, especially more and more freedoms being pulled away from us concerning the education of our children, I present this timely message:

(Some of the present-tense was exchanged for past-tense because of the passage of time since it was written)

Whose Children Are They Anyways?

Fighting to Keep Our Freedom to Educate Our Own Children

Back in 2008, California Judge Stephen Marpet, decided that a family did not have a right to educate their children without providing a teacher with a California teaching credential. The ruling caused a lot of upheaval in the home schooling community. The California courts said that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children.” (Sacbee) In this case the eldest of eight children had reported abuse from their father. But instead of the abuse being directly dealt with, the onslaught was to attack the home education of the children. Instead of the central focus being on the safety of the children, the courts turned the attention onto an attack against home educators. The ruling of one family was placed on millions of families. “Parents who don’t comply can be criminally prosecuted”, said Judge H. Walter Croskey in an opinion issued by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.” (Sacbee)

All across our nation, similar cases have been reported: In Illinois, a home schooling family is summonsed to court by a truant officer (HSLDA Illinois v. Walters;) In Michigan a home schooling family was threatened with a $3,500 fine and faced criminal charges over a simple mistake of transferring school records. (HSLDA Michigan v. Broughton) Further research into this issue revealed a great danger to our nation’s freedom and left me with a grave concern and troubled mind. I ask, whose children are  they anyways? Why do the courts, the government, and the National Education Association have so much say in what my child should or should not learn?

Margaret Gaston of the Center for Future of Teaching and Learning was quoted saying, “Teaching another human being is a very complex process, and not everyone can do it.” (Mercury News) What kind of unqualified statement is this?  I didn’t need a credential to give birth, nurse my babies, change their diapers, or stay up all hours of the night to care for them while they were sick. No one demanded a college degree to read bedtime stories to them, teach them to eat from a spoon, drink from a cup or use a potty. A certified teacher was not called in when they learned to ride a bike, jump rope, or play a game of chess. I sought no higher education before bringing them into the kitchen with me to learn how to fry, cook and bake, to differentiate measuring dry ingredients in one set of cups and liquids in another; only a simple kitchen scale was needed to teach them about weights. They quickly learned the difference between a gallon of milk and quart of milk, a pound of butter and a pint of cream. Fractions were added when we doubled or tripled a recipe. We measured our feet and yards when we built boxed frames for our garden; “Should we plant a seed 1/4″ or 1/2″ into the ground?” It didn’t take a scholar with a bachelors degree to read out loud from “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “Little House on the Prairie”, or ‘Old Yeller.” No scientist was needed to explain how to keep fertile chicken eggs warm for 21 days.

Together my children, husband and I watched chickens hatch, caterpillars turn into butterflies, and lady bugs grow from tiny larvae and then we fed them before setting them free in our garden. A bird feeder, a couple field guides and many outdoor adventures taught my children to recognize the difference between the call of crow or a mocking bird, the rap of a woodpecker and the hoot of an owl. We had fun spotting the red-winged black birds and listening to the beautiful call of the meadow larks.

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By age 15 my son was actively following the presidential campaign, forming his own political views and authoring a successful blog titled, “Let Freedom Ring.” During one week he plowed and seeded an acre of pasture using a homemade plow he built himself, put up fencing with his father and purchased sheep. My children raised and cared for chickens, planted gardens, learned piano, and sang in both a choir and a group, learning all the harmony parts. My son hand raised and sold trees as well as planted many in our back yard, and taught himself grafting. All of this was done without any “Credentialed teacher.”

While the news continues to bombarded us with serious issues going on in public schools, including sex, smoking, drugs, bullying and even mass murders, my home educated son plays piano and organ, has produced and sold his own CD, is a devoted employee for American Medical Response and has won fire fighter of the year in our county for the past three years.

At age 15 my oldest daughter could play piano, sing, sew, clean a house efficiently, cook and bake, take care of young children and babies and do laundry. She volunteered as a candy-striper at the local hospital and co-authored a blog in which she encouraged girls her age to live a virtuous life. Today she is married and is raising a beautiful baby girl. She is an awesome photographer and a kind, generous, loving mother, wife and friend.

My youngest special needs daughter is happy in her transition program, working part-time at Beverlys. Being mentally challenged and having had epilepsy her entire life, today she reads, writes, crotchets, plays games, enjoys archery, and is pretty independent in her self-care.

My personal success story with homeschooling is not unique. In fact, research shows that home educated children score 15 to 30 percent higher on standardized tests regardless of their parents academic or financial status, and that home educated children are more likely to participate in community service, vote, go to public meetings, and succeed in college; and a national benefit of the home education movement is that it saves the economy over $6 billion dollars a year. (NHERI, 8)

In the book “A Sense of Self” Susannah Sheffer, editor of “Growing Without Home Schooling” magazine, asked herself why the adolescent girls she knew were not disturbed like the ones she was reading about in the research she was doing. She discovered that the researchers were only taking into account adolescent girls that were in public education. The home-schooled girls she knew and interviewed for her book showed self confidence, and belief in their ability to achieve their dreams (5). In contrast, she found that public educated adolescent girls suffer more from depression, disturbances about their appearances and eating disorders. Furthermore, she found that adolescents of both genders expressed great relief and freedom of self when they changed from public school to home school (4).

President Bush openly acknowledged the failure of the public school system in his speech on “No Child Left Behind”:

Today, nearly 70% of inner city fourth graders are unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests. Our high school graders seniors trail students in college freshmen find they must take a remedial course before they are able to even begin regular college level course. Since 1965, when the federal government embarked on its first major elementary-secondary education initiative, federal policy has strongly has strongly influenced America’s schools. Over the years, congress has created hundreds of programs intended to address problems in education without asking whether or not the programs produce results of knowing their impact on local needs. This “program for every problem” solution has begun to add up- at a cost of $120 billion a year. Yet, after spending billions of dollars on education, we have fallen short in meeting our goals for educational excellence. The academic achievement gap between rich and poor, Anglo and minority is not only wide, but in some cases is growing wider still.

At the time of the speech, 1965 was over forty-three years ago. That is a long time to keep failing. It stands to reason that if we are going to close down schools for the lack of “quality education” that public schools should be the target, not home schools. If home education has been proven to be successful and public education continues on a downward spiral of failure, why then is there so much concern about parents educating their own children? What is the motivation behind the continual harassment of home educators?

John Gatto, a school teacher for over thirty years, author of the book, “The Underground History of American Education,” spent nine years and a half-million dollars researching this very question. He asks:

“If you can’t be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not even physical safety; if you can’t be guaranteed anything except that you’ll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the public in public schools mean?” (Prologue, Bianca)

In a speech given at a homeschooling conference in Vermont, Gatto spills-the-beans on the “industrial titans of the 1890’s” and its cooperative attempt to mass produce a society, void of any sense of self individuality, morals, American free spirit or independence and that will appreciatively spend their lives running their factories. This mass of people would need to be dumb and mindless, people who believe that “the difference between Coke and Pepsi is worth arguing about.” Public education was “redefined after the 19th century Germanic fashion” as “a means to achieve important economic and social goals for the national character.” Referring to an article in a current Foreign Affairs Magazine that was written by the owner of U.S. News, Mort Zukerman, Gatto asserts, “The fantastic wealth of American big business is a direct result of school training. Schools training a lump to be needy, frightened, envious, bored, talentless and incomplete. The successful mass-production economy demands such and audience.”

Gatto goes on to say that,

Schools were conceived to serve the economy and the social order rather than kids and families- that is why it is compulsory. As a consequence, the school cannot help anybody grow up, because its prime directive is to retard maturity. It does that by teaching that everything is difficult, that other people run our lives, and that our neighbors are untrustworthy, even dangerous.

He states that, “Social thinkers have speculated for millennia, that a political state which successfully seizes control of the young, could perform economic miracles. (Gatto, Vermont)

Gatto includes the first report issued by John D. Rockerfeller’s General Education Board. The following is their first mission statement:

As our education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their dreams people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we have ample supply. That task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are  doing in an imperfect way. (Occasional Letter No.1. of the General Education Board)

Gatto asserst that:

(T)he real purpose of modern schooling was announced by the legendary sociologist Edward Roth in his manifesto of 1906 called SOCIAL CONTROL. In it Roth wrote, “Plans are underway to replace the family, community and church with propaganda, mass-media and education (of course he meant schooling) … people are only little plastic lumps of dough.”

Using schools as the principal forge, the building blocks for a self-perpetuating ruling dynasty, organized on scientific principles, moved into place during the first five decades of the 20th century. Obstacles like religion, tradition, family, the natural rights gauranteed by our founding documents were steadily beaten back.

How uncannily close does this depiction of our public school system line up with the communist manifesto?

…Abolition of the family… Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty. But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations when we replace home education by social.

Consider these astounding findings that have been gathered as a result of evaluations done by independent corporations as well as the State Department of Education and local districts:

  • Home schoolers out perform public schoolers by 30 to 37 percentile points
  • Kids who home school all their years have the highest academic achievement
  • Among home schoolers, race has no affect on academic performance; while in public schools there is a sharp contrast between white and minority students test scores
  • The amount of money spent on education has no significant bearing on academic performance
  • State regulations on home schooling has virtually no impact on academic outcome disproving the belief that home schoolers need government intervention
  • There is no difference in test scores between the few students whose parents held a credential and those whose parents didn’t.
  • The average home schooled student spends only sixteen hour per week in structured, preplanned schooling.
  • Home schooled children whose parents were being criminally charged for exercising their right to teach their own children scored on the average in the 80th percentile.
  • The greatest academic gap between public schooled children and home schooled children is in vocabulary. Public schooled children scored in the 49th percentile. Home schooled children scored in the 80th percentile (HSLDA Academic Stats)

Why is there such a fight against home education in our country in spite of this irrefutable evidence of it’s benefits? Who has any right to tell me what I need to teach my children and when? When did my children become the property of the government? If my child is able to read, write and calculate proficiently, he is educated. Why are they trying to fix what is not broken? The right to educate our children without outside interference is a fundamental liberty that needs to be protected. Is this not still America- the land of the FREE?

I understand that home education is not an option for everyone, and neither does everyone want to home school their children. That is their choice- or at least, should be their choice. The point of this article is not to idolize home education but rather to give it the praise that it has earned. The problem in our educational system isn’t home education. Home educators are doing a great job. Perhaps its time to find our educational reform by looking to our home schools and asking, what are you doing right?

 

 

 

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