Imagine a kid with a smart, dedicated, private, full-time tutor who dearly loves him, never goes on strike, and conducts classes within walking distance at a place that is physically and emotionally safe.
It’s called “homeschooling.”
Homeschooling used to be illegal. Children were required to attend organized schools even if they were physically assaulted, as I was, or were shaken down for their lunch money daily, as I was.
(Other than the physical assaults and thievery and emotional torment and a few other things, I have very fond memories of public school.)
Later, homeschooling became slightly more common but was still an offbeat thing. It was mainly something for oddball religious sects. Never mind that the kids “victimized” by it tended to be very knowledgeable and well-adjusted and won all the spelling bees. They were considered weirdos because their parents were considered weirdos.
COVID changed that. Politicians and the teachers’ unions that owned them, looking as always for more money and less work, shut down the schools. They fed us their usual line: It was “for the children.” As if COVID was massacring millions of children.
One result of this two-year teachers’ sabbatical/vacation “for the children” was to set the education of children back at least a year. They still haven’t caught up. The average fourth grader in America’s public schools is functionally illiterate.
But another result was a good one. Responsible parents started homeschooling their children. For some parents and kids, this homeschooling was informal, with no real curriculum. The parents just took it upon themselves to teach their children well. Other parents engaged in more formalized homeschooling, often with the aid of online resources.
It turns out there’s no magic to teaching children. A person with a high school education along with plenty of patience and dedication can teach a kid to read. It practically comes naturally. Indeed, even in the old days when I was growing up, it was not unusual for parents or older siblings to teach kids to read at home before they even went to kindergarten. My older sister at age 11 did exactly that with my younger brother who was about 4. Later in life he went on to get a PhD in physics.
I know a smart, young new mother who intends to homeschool her child. The mom is not a weirdo and not part of an oddball religion. She’s someone with the time and interest in giving her kid the best possible early education.
A friend of mine devotes a hefty chunk of free time (that he doesn’t really have) volunteering as a judge at homeschooler speech and debate competitions. He notes, “If you want to see the best hope for our future young leaders, you can’t do any better than to watch these homeschooled students who are well dressed, well behaved, well read, well spoken, and well grounded.”
Another thing driving the move to homeschooling is that public school teachers are mostly Democrats, and many want their students to be, too. In a zero sum allocation of instructional minutes, they trample the three Rs and replace them with CRT, introduce sexuality far too early, and coopt the students to serve their own protest causes.
As the alternative, it turns out homeschooling jibes neatly with working from home. A homeschooled kid gets more individualized attention from a mom who is simultaneously juggling her work than a public school kid gets from a teacher who is simultaneously juggling 23 other students, some of whom are disruptive. I’m not a fan of work-from-home, but here’s an area where it could be beneficial to society.
Admittedly, homeschooling does deprive a kid of the societal aspect of a school. Some of that societal aspect is probably good, but a fair portion of it is the aforementioned assaults, thefts, and emotional torment. Think Lord of the Flies.
Bear in mind that humans didn’t evolve in settings where scores of children were thrown together on dog-eat-dog playgrounds. The way we evolved over millions of years was in small family groups. Children spent nearly all their time with their parents, siblings and a few close friends, or at least kids they knew well. Large modern school schoolyards swarming with taunting, teasing children is not anthropologically normal or healthy.
In any event, homeschooled kids do have the opportunity for measured doses of that if they wish. Public schools in many states allow homeschooled kids to participate in public school sports, for example. In Colorado, the legislature had to pass a law to that effect, because many public school administrators and teachers are opposed to homeschooling. Their opposition is, of course, “for the children.”
And so, a homeschooled kid can have the privilege of getting cut from the freshman baseball team, as I was.
The internet makes all this easier, as it does most things. Online curricula for homeschooling are easily available along with teachers’ guides and tests. So far, there’s no app to shake down the kids for their lunch money, but just wait.
There will be losers in this, too. The losers will be the teachers’ unions who will see their numbers and power eroded. That’s a good thing. Less than good, will be the adverse effect on the public schools themselves. They will see their best students with the best parents leaving the system.
At the same time, bad parents and parents with insufficient time and resources will be hurt because they will be left with public schools filled with a lower quality student body. On the other hand, those schools will have not just lower quality students but also a lower quantity of them – but still with the same amount of money to spend on them. In theory, the resulting increase in spending-per-student should improve the educational outcomes.
I’m not holding my breath for that, however. Money-per-student spent in American schools is already about the highest in the world, while the outcomes place us far out of the running. The teachers’ unions naturally try to hide that fact. For the children, don’tcha know.
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In general, I’m not a fan of homeschooling. However, there is a push to give each parent a voucher for each child’s education. Now, parents will be able to use their tax money for home schooling, Charter Schools, traditional private schools, etc.! What a great concept that is great “for the children”!!!!
Arizona’s universal voucher program was squashed the moment the illegitimate democrat Governor of Arizona took office(I don’t know how she can do that unitarily) . . . I believe Florida has the most students that are using vouchers, and Florida plans another major expansion this Session.
I used to be intimidated into handing over my lunch money by big older thugs who were held back a few years and was threatened me with violence if otherwise. There were also rioting where large group of students would roam the school ground unchecked by staff at the end of the year. Yeah, public schools were such a breeding ground for higher thought when you weren’t trying to stay alive.
There needs to be a 75% tax credit for home schooling.
It sounds like we went to the same school system. The system was ruled by a mob of illiterate thugs, the team sports jocks, aided and abetted by the drunken alcoholic coaches in the sports. Someone like me who was what is now known as a, “Geek,” because I got almost straight, “A’s,” in things like chemistry, algebra, calculus, etc. was fair game for harassment. I went back to my 50 year class reunion and learned that the members of the mob are mostly dead, caused by drug overdoses and alcohol use, DUI crashes, etc. None of them ever contributed anything to society except to serve as a McDonalds hamburger consumer. One of them asked me, “Hey, college boy, your college education hasn’t done very much for you has it?” I was operating a very profitable business at the time – we now spend our time between our houses in Aspen in the summer and the North Shore of Oahu in the winter.
Just got back from my 50th and all the sports jocks who were there are all multi millionaires. It helped that they got good scholarship money. I was a jock too but didn’t become a millionaire, but my son, a super jock did. Never saw a kid grow up bad hanging around the ballpark all day playing ball.
When I was a kid we used to get everyone in the neighborhood together to play ball. We played work up and everyone played every position and had a great time. No adults. Then Little League showed up with the lure of brand spanking new uniforms, tournaments, adults in the stands screaming for their kid to crush their cross-town opponents. We’re number one, we’re number one. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough brand spanking new uniforms for everyone, so some of us got cut. We no longer had even enough to play work up. But no matter, we were told, we could still go to see the games. That would be fun.
Homeschooling students were once, and maybe still are, criticized by the NEA/AFT and their myrmidons for missing out on “social skills” which in the public system nowadays means accepting mediocrity and misbehavior. I tell people I know with kids to get them OUT of the public schools as fast as possible.
Yes. The “social skills” I learned in my public middle school were best characterized by Glenn’s reference to “Lord of the Flies” and by the popular ‘50s novel “The Blackboard Jungle.”
Several studies have proved that homeschooled kids are much more socialized the public schooled. Socialization is primarily dependent on how secure (or insecure) the child feels. Homeschooled kids must interact with their adult teacher(s) and with their variously aged siblings. Often older sibs will help tutor the younger ones. In cooperative home school groups, this becomes numerous adults and other kids. All of this socializes them just as the one-room schoolhouses did in the US back when the US was the most well-educated nation on earth for a century or more.
I agree with much of this, but its impracticality for most students/parents will make it sub optimal for society. Few parents have the wherewithal to execute on this. Many do not have the emotional chops.
At least in Arizona, when a kid leaves a school the school loses its per diem so the remaining students have the same spending per pupil.
Charters take the money where the parents want it to go. With no teacher’s unions. Why not adopt Charter Plus schools where like-minded parents pool their kids and hire teachers who execute as the parents wish?
Are you familiar with the Basis schools? They have proven that education does not have to be mediocre and that most kids can rise to the levels expected of them. All this with no societal biases.
Charter Plus with strict rules on curriculum and student behavior could attract kids from less advantaged backgrounds who have parents who get it.
Another bonus with Charter Plus would be that it does not take all day to execute a thorough curriculum. School can start a bit later, get out a bit earlier and leave plenty of time for other types of enrichment.
Thanks for listening.
Donald E. Callaghan Scotsdale, AZ
Is Arizona voucher system still going? I read that the new resident Governor killed it . . . .
I homeschooled our children for 12 years, for grades K-9, when they transitioned to a very good parent-founded private school. 8 of the 10 children were National Merit Scholarship Finalists or Semi-Finalists; the other 2 have the best survival skills. (One is a VP of a Fortune 500 Company; the other, who was a late reader, has taught Brit Lit in High School, and now, as a mother of 2 toddlers, teaches English Composition and Literature as an affiliate at 2 colleges). They all achieved academically, but more importantly, they developed such strong, good, happy sibling bonds that they try to have a Sibling Reunion Week every year. They also developed great character and religious faith.
Where does one begin?
Perhaps with the distinction between education and indoctrination. The first word (from the Latin ex- + duco) denotes the ancient belief in drawing out of yourself that which you were born knowing but never fully recognized. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave comes to mind, in which some people “see the light” with a big “Aha! Of course! Why didn’t I see that before?!” Such knowledge is often expedited or enhanced at the foot of a Socrates, a Jesus, a “don” at Oxford or Cambridge, or a good homeschooling parent.
Indoctrination, on the other hand, begins when a group with homogeneous convictions seeks to perpetuate its culture and knowledge base, giving rise to madrassas, yeshivas, parochial schools, and so on. Both my secondary school and graduate school were founded by the Anglican Church in the 18th century; the college I attended was founded by German Lutherans in the early 19th century; and the school I sent my children to was founded by the Jesuit Order in the late 19th century. Such institutions are effective because of the energy of their ideological convictions, with their desire to proselytize — to reach the heart, mind, and soul of every student, which engenders individual attention. Furthermore, they teach the literacy deemed necessary to read and comprehend Scripture.
Following the development of “public” schools during America’s industrialization, schools inspired by the progressive, secular idealism of Horace Mann and Thomas Dewey also benefited from the energy and earnestness of their ideological convictions. However, as WASPy culture gave way to cultural pluralism, the energy of shared values and convictions waned, and schools began to espouse nothing more than the virtue of America itself, which in turn gave way to a disenchantment with America and schools without a belief in anything other than “diversity” and equality-turned-equity. Increasingly public education is becoming little more than the arm of an Orwellian state government.
The only answer, it seems to me, is to “Balkanize” the nation and its schools once again. Let Catholics live in Catholic neighborhoods with Catholic schools (provided that they haven’t morphed into very un-Catholic institutions such as Georgetown and Notre Dame!), and so on across the land. If a child going to a Black Panther school proves to be more literate than students in Baltimore’s public schools, where NOT ONE child is grade-level proficient in language and math, then give the child a voucher to attend Black Panther school.
Better yet, “apprentice” your child to some wise personage in your neighborhood and watch a real “education” take place. Yes, this tutor might be a pedophile or something, but there is already a plethora of those in every kind of school and school system you can think of!
Of course, you can always educate your child at home. Sometimes a great notion!
Terrific writing until the apprenticeship with someone who might be a pedophile.
UPDATE: Claims /stats cited by Elizabeth Nickson —
* Parents pull kids out of schools -12%
* University enrollment crashes 10%
If accurate, America is waking up.
My paternal grandfather received a 3rd grade education. That was standard for working class people. He could read and write in 2 languages and learned enough math to run a farm and then buy enough real estate to become wealthy.
My maternal grandfather received an 8th grade education. Thas was standard for tradesman and skilled workers. He was a carpenter and home builder who could figure the lumber required to build any house to the board-foot, hire contractors, and coordinate construction through completion. He didn’t do badly either..
My father skipped 3 grades in his 1-room school house and became and MD and board-certifified specialist, after rising to Captain and commanding a hospital ward in the Pacific theater during WWII. He described how many potential recruits were wholly illiterate and innumerate, so the Army developed a crash high-school-equivalency program.that consumed 3 months of basis training. Let me repeat that number: With Army regimentation, normal adult men with absolutely no education could be taught as much working knowledge as the average high school graduate in 1941 in only 3 months.
Public schools are a scam, and the teachers’ unions are to blame, followed by the “Schools of Education” at the universities. We should give credit where credit is due, Glenn
I went to Catholic elementary school which set the foundation for public high school (I fought my parents on public vs Catholic and I , unfortunately, won.) but the foundation taught me discipline and HOW to learn, to think for myself. I graduated magna cum lauds from my private small college, got straight A’s for my MS and graduated 5th of 120 students in my private law school graduating class. I credit my success in school -and life- with my early years in Catholic School. I’m grateful 1/2 of my grandkids are in structured private religious schools. My other child refuses to believe that PS are dangerous and has refused our financial help to send his kids to private school. He’s lucky they’re innately smart and that for 1+ yr of covid he and I worked with them. Public schools in the US are detrimental to the wellbeing of our children and our freedom. All parents should have vouchers for private schools!
In the small South California town we lived in, the one predominantly black school closed and all those children were bused into the 2 other elementary schools in town (by the way we were somewhat surprised to find out that this particular “closed” school was better equipped than the others in town, very odd considering the reasoning that was being used at the time). At the same time the Jr. High changed from 7th and 8th grade by adding the 6th graders. My 6th grade daughter had her lunch money stolen or taken from her everyday for a week, a ring that had been mine as a child taken from her and her small purse in which she carried her lunch money taken. She also had her sweater, knitted by her grandmother taken from her. All by black students. She was pushed and shoved (small for her age) and threatened every day. Two trips to the school by my husband and myself did nothing at all to improve the situation, so as much as we hated to do it, our decision was made. We sold the house and moved to a south Orange County community. That was in the 1970’s. Not much has improved today, in fact in many ways things are much worse in public schools. If I had young children today I wouldn’t let them anywhere near a public or even private school, but would definitely home school them. What I thought was bad back then is nothing like today. The teachers today are even more dangerous, but in another way! Then it was bullies my daughter had to deal, now it’s the entire school system itself and their dogma.
Anyone here who is currently employed as a teacher please raise your hand…. ✋ 🤣🤣🤣
I am. While there is much good that has been written by Glenn and commenters, there is the issue of generalizing. Generalizing definitely can hit some sore spots, but also lumps them in with the good things that can and do happen daily in America’s public schools.
I was raised deep blue collar on the Western Slope and attended excellent public schools in Grand Junction. After college I moved to Memphis, TN, and have been neck deep in as bad of public schools as you could ever imagine for 30 years now. The stories I can tell, you would think I was lying. But I felt like I was on another planet when I moved here.
But in these horrible schools I have taught and coached students who went on to college and have become doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors and even a Bronco! Many of these children are raised in unbelievably bad circumstances that were not of their own making. But did they not deserve at least someone who cared in their public school? Was that not, instead of the island from Lord of the Flies, perhaps the single one place, that classroom each day, where they could feel safe, supported, motivated and inspired to do something more – even if it was within the living hell of that neighborhood and community?
I keep granola bars and fruit snacks in a cabinet because not all of these kids get breakfast before they come to school. Sometimes they are sleepy because they had to stay up late watching an ailing family member, working or tending siblings. They are burdened with tasks and responsibilities they should not have to be saddled with as a child. There is a HUGE human factor to be considered here.
I have no qualms with anyone who wishes to homeschool their child, but not everyone has that ability (economically or educationally) or luxury. Every family SHOULD be homeschooling their child – teaching them letters and to read before kindergarten. Most preschools do not – most are simply babysitting. But those are handouts, ‘benefits’ the government can have to educationally and economically enslave a population. Sounds like the last 50 years, huh? (During the pandemic I TAUGHT every period, every day, via Microsoft Teams, for the year that students were not in school. Yes, many did not, but I did and my students know that for a fact.)
Charter schools are good and the bane of public school districts – especially urban schools. Urban schools have over the last decades hired urban people to run their urban schools. The result is decreasing quality in many respects. Decreasing quality of teaching and learning, decreasing quality of enforcement and decreasing quality of graduates. When charter schools come around and are placed in urban areas those urban schools that have been flailing and failing for years suddenly have to do something different or they will lose population and the funding that comes with it.
NCLB had some nice platitudes but terrible measuring devices. The first school I taught at here had less than half of the teaching faculty holding college degrees. They were hired and kept on ’emergency’ basis so that there would be an adult body in the room. NCLB said all teachers needed to have a degree, but that didn’t raise the bar, colleges simply lowered it to get graduates. Also at that time – in accordance with union guidance – many states and teacher colleges changed their programs to have students graduate with a degree in a subject and then do a ‘master’s program’ (MAT – ha ha) in education. This was supposed to help, but really was just a jump in pay for the teacher who could get a higher salary for an advanced degree. There is your scam!
I could go on and on, but I need to get things ready for students who will soon be arriving.
Yes, the state of public schools is not good. But there are still good teachers and administrators and there are millions of GREAT kids across this country who do care, who want to learn and are trying. Some people come from families that enhance their education, some do not. Please don’t take that chance from kids who are in the latter group.
Advocate, definitely fight the teacher unions, contact your local school board, city and state governments and volunteer at your neighborhood school. Quoting David Soul from the 70’s, “Don’t give up on us, baby.”
Have a great day! I am going to now try to provide that for almost 200 kids over the next several hours.
Thank you db. We cannot assume teachers don’t care about their students well being. You obviously do and my Granddaughter who teaches in Memphis with a master’s degree through MTR loves her students and wishes the best for them. Fractured families and 1 parent families are not going to have what it takes to be a home schooler.
I’ll match your 30 years and raise you a couple. I’m retired now. I taught in every setting you can imagine. Multiple districts, multiple states, rural to inner city, public, private. I used to sub at my own district, but I don’t anymore. The kids aren’t even close to what I knew. Besides, almost everything is now online. But you still have to have a warm, adult body in the room. I have some stories that would raise your hair and curdle your blood, too, plus some truly heart warming ones. But, I would never, ever, encourage anyone to go into education. Not, anyway, if you value your sanity and your life.
Vouchers good for twelve years of “education” are the way to go. Especially if the vouchers can be saved for use in “higher education” or vocational/trade schools. But, the key for vouchers to work properly is for each state to develop entrance exams that must be passed to get in. These exams should be long and hard and comprehensive. ACT and SAT just don’t measure up. These tests should be controlled and administered by an outside agency, not under the control of the state boards of education. The results should be posted by district so that the parents have an objective measuring stick to help them evaluate each district. I would include a category for homeschooling as well. This would help parents that want to move their kids around.
This means that if the school population drops below a sustainable rate, well, I guess those schools will have to close and all those teachers get laid off, regardless of what the unions scream about.
These tests would take the place of all college general education requirements, thus shortening the bachelor’s degree by three to four semesters. That would cut the need for a lot of space and teachers at the university level. Surplus professors? Too bad, so sad, good bye.
BTW, private schools can do whatever they want, this is for public schools only.
We homeschooled our boys (one is special needs) as a result of our military itinerant family life – we found it easier than resetting their education every time we moved. Plus our “school” was in session all the time – we could take breaks when it was convenient. Family vacations weren’t forced around some institutional schedule. They both progressed at their own pace through the various curricula we used – and we used different ones, depending on the subject matter. That’s another benefit of doing it yourself – you can choose “what works” for each child and change it if it’s not working. Both now have college degrees and we recommend homeschooling, but realize it’s “not for everybody”. Though I am encouraged to see many more families going this route.
Charter Schools are not the answer, I’m afraid. Our Charter School was staffed with teachers that were fully indoctrinated lefties with an agenda. Any teacher with an education degree should be considered with grave suspicion. They are designed to turn a teacher into a Marxist indoctrinator.
The best teachers my kids had were subs, because subs don’t have to have education degrees. So my son loved his history class, taught for a few weeks by a former Marine.
I wouldn’t let my children near a public or a Charter school at this point. Homeschooling is the only way.
“Admittedly, homeschooling does deprive a kid of the societal aspect of a school”
Not necessarily. Many home school parents organize with other homeschooling parents to form a kind of co-op. Parents volunteer to teach various topics for which they have expertise. For other topics, they band together to hire teachers who specialize in various topics who cater specifically to home schooling. The teachers enjoy working in this environment because unlike in the public schools, the kids are held responsible and are well-behaved. It’s a much more rewarding experience for everyone. There is plenty of healthy socialization in this environment.
And the results are unassailable. Unlike our public schools, most of these kids emerge qualified and ready to attend any university.
Homeschool mom of 7 here, 5 graduated. I started homeschooling because of the lovely idea of freedom from bureaucratically driven education and more family time together. Eventually, I was drawn to classical education, which is not available at all through public schools. I became an “over my dead body do you get my kids” homeschooler when the Fields v. Palmdale decision came down and after hearing middle school teachers discuss what was happening in our small-town “conservative” district.
I call it “warehousing kids” and I can’t imagine worse ages to warehouse together than pre-teens with early teens. What an execrable idea. Nobody I know had a good middle-school experience; and now, with the deleterious side of the internet, even elementary school is a minefield.
I could go on and on about the unquestioned assumptions behind mass schooling–the idea that you can batch-educate, for instance. Suffice it to say, I don’t blame teachers necessarily. I think most teachers are pretty decent people, despite the bad apples that get all the press (or promote themselves on TikTok). The system itself is the underlying problem. JT Gatto pointed out years ago that the system itself teaches the most fundamental lessons kids take away from school. Layer on top of that the unstated post- and post-post-modern philosophical assumptions infesting curricula and methods, and parents just have no chance of combatting it all when the kids spend more time in loco parentis than actually in parentis.
We’ve had a beautiful experience through Classical Conversations, which provides assistance with neo-classical education without taking any authority away from me as a teaching parent. It’s provided friends, a community, and connections with our larger community. We’ve had no trouble at all finding social outlets. Everything from “prom” (we call it Protocol and Elegance Ball) to sports teams are provided by our local homeschooling community.
Finally: “Politicians and the teachers’ unions that owned them…” BOOM!
I went to New York City public schools and I never had any problems with other students and I got a decent education. Of course, I went to an elite public high school where a rigorous test screened out all the losers. There were of course mediocre teachers, even in my elite high school, who had lifetime tenure, and who in any other industry would have been fired. But the problem is not limited to bad teachers. I can imagine that there are public schools where there are such difficult students that it would be enough to cause even a dedicated teacher to quit or to simply retire in place. They should be able to fire bad teachers, but they also need to be able to discipline or expel disruptive students.
anyone wanna bet that the union will get a legal mandate that their teachers must “supervise” homeschooling? the parents will have to check in with a teacher, etc.