The Challenges and Glories of Home Schooling
Home school families are an unusual and determined bunch.
They are accordingly, unusually challenged and rewarded. The
challenges are many, including issues of finance,
governmental restrictions, time, method of study and what to
study (curriculum), each of which we'll discuss below.
In the end, the reward home school families receive is
revived control over the educational fate of their children.
Home schooling restores control over the potential future
of the student into the hands of those who care most about
him or her.
Financial Concerns And
One of the more obvious sets of challenges is financial.
Forced to pay taxes that contribute to schools they do not
use, home school families must also bear the expense of home
school education. Families sending children to private
schools face similar double expense, though home schoolers
rarely pay as much as private school education requires.
After all, home schoolers don't have an entire school to
support, with administrators and janitors and what have you.
The home school family has only the students in their house
to support. However, the need to employ tutors can offset
what may be otherwise inexpensive.
Thinking in long term solutions, one needed political
movement would refund our educational tax dollars if we
chose not to avail ourselves of traditional schools...a
choice being made by thousands of new families every month,
as the over 50% national drop out rate in the United States
attests to. Confronting members of Congress with a united
front might bring some attention to this inequity. And
please note that there are millions of home schoolers in
America alone! We can be a force and we can insist on our
rights. I imagine similar movements may benefit many other
nations. Money spent to support schools which home school
families have no intention of using could be far better
spent on terrific home school experiences under the control
of the parent and student. After all, who knows your
student and their needs better than you and your student?
Governments have proven almost universally awful at deciding
how to best spend your money. However, they are far worse at
establishing workable educational "standards" which produce
good results with your money. The flood of illiteracy our
schools have set loose on the world is hard to ignore or
miss, but in the United States, the schools cannot seem to
reverse the problem. No one seems to be worse at this
business of education than government. Yet they insist they
have the right to continue to take your educational dollars.
Well, if the military made bombs that blew up in their own
faces, would we keep funding them? If Fire Departments
started fires, would we fund them or lock them up? Yet, we
continue to fund public education as it leads a huge number
of our children into educational oblivion. And if you don't
think this will blow up in our civilization's face, please
think again about the cost of supporting an undereducated
generation or two. Numbers don't lie. Home school students
almost universally outperform public school students in
those dreadful "standardized" tests. And the majority of
public school students in America...quit. They are
certainly "undereducated", as they are not educated.
The control of educational dollars should have always rested
in families who are, in the end, responsible for their
children and their education. Surrendering this financial
control has placed our children and their future in the
hands of government. This is a mistake we should rectify.
Sadly, the problem goes far deeper than money. Government
often acts, as the California State Legislature recently
did, to limit home school rights, a move our governor is
deeply opposed to, bless him.
Where does this bizarre governmental need to restrict home
school come from? Is it really born of a concern over the
home school child's welfare, when all the government's own
tests clearly show that these children are educationally,
culturally, and emotionally superior to their public school
friends? Hmmm. After all, government does need to protect
their considerable investment in public schooling. They
can't admit that they have been failing our children after
all these decades and all that expense, can they? This is a
classic case of "throwing good money after bad", as well as
placing the "wolf in charge of the hen house."
Education is a deeply personal and intimate thing.
Governmental testing and educational "standards" can only
depersonalize and make more inhuman a failed system and its
products --our children. This has, in fact, been the result
of governmental testing since it began. How can a
government's standards or tests ever take into account your
child's interests, creativity, strengths and needs? They
cannot and they do not. They never will. These tests are
another thing that need to go, and soon, if our civilization
is to recover from this educational debacle.
Another challenge facing home school families is one of
time. It's easy and "time efficient" to turn Junior over to
the local school for daytime care and some semblance of
education. It's hard to take on those responsibilities
yourself if you're a working parent or worse, a working
single parent. One answer that has worked for many people
is to form small home school "conglomerates", groups of
parents who each agree to assist in specific ways and to
share in the administration of as many as, say, 10 home
school children in a group. I've done this personally, with
great success, for over two years at a time.
By the way, as a system this only works well when taking
full advantage of home schooling's strengths. These include
the fact that each student is allowed to study his own
studies at his own pace, and is not forced into a "classroom
mold" where every student, quick, average or challenged,
must be at the same place in their studies as is done in
classrooms around the world. The fact that a student does
not need to "keep up", or "get ahead", or be forced into a
mold of any kind is one of the great potential strengths of
On the issue of time commitment, it also helps to have the
full agreement of your children to home school. Home
schooling is a deeply responsible activity. In fact, the
home school parent and student are saying that they will
take full responsibility for the student's education. The
home school parent is also taking responsibility for the
child's safety, something too many schools have failed
miserably at, and to great sorrow.
Home schooling is an act requiring a high degree of trust.
The student trusts you to make certain he'll receive a full
and effective education. But the parent must also trust the
student to honestly and completely do the work which the
parent has so laboriously scouted and vetted.
As a student matures, you have the right to expect him or
her to carry a larger percentage of the load of their
educational effort. But the student has the right to expect
the parent or teacher to continuously support and challenge
him, and failing this, the student has the right to express
dissatisfaction. After all, we're asking the student to
make a considerable investment of time and energy. It is in
the student's behalf, true, but that is true only if the
student is provided methods and study materials and an
environment that improve him! Failing this, home school is
just school again.
Keeping in this sort of agreement between the student and
you (and a tutor, etc) will eventually turn over the bulk of
the work to the student, preventing home school from
becoming so time-intensive for the parent or tutor as to be
unworkable. I've home schooled my son for over six years,
and I have seen this to be so with him, and with other home
Your point of view is important, too. You can consider this
work, or drudgery; or quality time with your child. You
Method Of Study And Curriculum
Taking education out of the hands of schools is one thing.
Replacing schools with a real educational opportunity is
another, and there awaits the rocks that many home school
families founder on. After all, the parent thinks, what do
I know? Don't the schools specialize in education?
No, actually, schools seem to specialize in being paid.
When I worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District, I
had a perfectly wonderful 17 year old student who was
admirable in every respect, only he could neither read nor
write. He signed his name with an "X". I had him in an
English Elective course, and insisted he be held back and
helped. I was told that in no uncertain terms, he would
receive a passing grade (in a course all about reading)
because if I failed him, the school would not be paid.
How can you, the parent, do a worse job than this for your
child? You can't and you won't.
So, what can you offer a home school student? You can do as
many parents do and piece together study materials from
various sources. Many publishers offer "curriculum", and in
nearly any area you'd care to study. But I believe a home
school curricula should accomplish far more than the
run-of-the-mill materials generally offered, often in poor
imitation of the curricula offered in schools!
First, an agreement must be made with the student to study
so many hours a week. This minimum is often established by
law. But make the student understand that there will be no
home work, as all his work IS homework. So the 3-5 hours or
so of school done per day is it, and the student will have
far more free and discretionary time than he did in school.
This is based on honest, diligent study.
A workable home school curriculum would be contiguous, one
course leading organically and logically into the next so
that the student always knew his grasp of the subject was
expanding. It would not leap arbitrarily back and forth
through subjects, but semester by semester would penetrate
steadily and deeper into the materials and subject, allowing
the student to use what he increasingly knows and
understands, and apply his growing awareness to new
A good curriculum would ask the student to challenge the
information it taught. This would be done constantly, to
assure that the student was not accepting info by rote, or
because he's "supposed to", or to prepare to spit answers
out for a test. We want students who learn to evaluate
information on their own, and successfully. We want
students who accept information because they've tested it
and found it to be true. This is an invaluable life skill.
The information and the materials would be challenging, at a
level considered "too difficult" for the age range doing it,
but set up in such a way that they could successfully study
it. You probably know that education has been severely
"dumbed down"? There was a time, decades ago, when 10 year
olds learned to read and speak not only English, but also
Latin. Considering this sad reality, a good curriculum
would provide a learning experience in excess of todays
accepted range of experience for each age group.
In a good curriculum, the student would not merely read
information, but ways would be found to have the student
"experience" information for the sake of clarity and the
student's own evaluation of the info. Such a curriculum
would place a premium on creativity, both within the
curricula and the student. It would also place the student
in charge of his own thoughts and understandings.
A good curriculum for home school parents would be laid out
so as to be easily used by student and tutor. Tests, answer
guides and complete lesson plans would all be "tutor proof",
so long as the step-by-step plan was followed. This would
allow a tutor who knows little about a subject to continue
to assist the student as a facilitator, as the course would
be doing the actual teaching. (This works equally well in a
classroom or group, by the way, so long as each student
studies at their own pace.)
A good home school curriculum would fully replace school and
what schools do with studies structured for the student to
truly succeed, year after year. It would act like a river
of study and learning that the student travels from the
start to the finish of his or her educational journey. It
would not force the parent or tutor to endlessly cobble
together bits and pieces from a hundred sources, but would
instead provide a comprehensive and coordinated set of
studies, ready for use.
In the end, home school is a lot of work, and can be a
frightening road to start down. But your child is the best
reason to home school, and perhaps the most important result
of home schooling is control over your child's fate restored
into your hands, and your child's.
Who should have control over your child's future? The
state, which does not and will never know your child's name,
Interested in finding out about Connect The Thought's
History courses? Use these links:
ages 5-6, and preliterate students.
ages 7-8, and students developing literacy.
ages 11-High School, and adults.
Connect The Thoughts