Homeschooling – The Spirit of ’76

Editorial


homeschoolby Brian Kearsey

Why do people homeschool? How do they homeschool? While the answers are as varied as the people who do it, they all have one common trait: the pioneering spirit that is America’s unique heritage. The revival of homeschooling is a return to the principles of individual liberty and responsibility that catapulted a small, backwoods group of colonies into the envy of the world. The Declaration of Independence makes the thunderous assertion that God created individuals free and equal, that government is the servant of the people whose only reason to exist is to “secure these rights.” For the first time in history, the power of government was bound by the chains of a constitution; the rights of the individual reigned supreme. But with those rights came responsibilities, and educating one’s children was paramount among them. And educate they did. Illiteracy was virtually unheard of in our country until well into the 1900’s. It didn’t rear its ugly head until the advent of our modern government schools. Prior to the 1900’s poor children rarely lacked the opportunity for a good education, but the charity providing it sprung through the private sector from individual hearts, not from compulsory taxation. The average American understood that government had no right to force others to educate their children, nor the just power to dictate educational methods. Education consisted of homeschooling, tutoring, or one-room schoolhouses. Apprenticeships were common. From this free market educational economy sprang the greatest series of statesmen, inventors and entrepreneurs the world has ever seen.

The spirit of freedom burns so brightly in homeschoolers that they turn their back on the “free” education they are compelled to still support financially. Some choose this path less traveled for a wide variety of spiritual reasons. Others to pursue educational philosophies varying from extremely rigorous academics to unschooling, where textbooks take a back seat to the spontaneous curiosities of childhood. Many homeschooled children are the spirited, creative individuals who just didn’t fit into the pre-cut molds of traditional school. (Ansel Adams, Alexander Graham Bell, Ray Bradbury, Andrew Carnegie, Agatha Christi, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Ralph W. Emerson, Ben Franklin, Laura Ingalls, Abraham Lincoln, Blaisè Pascal, Stephen Spielberg, Henry Thoreau, Booker T. Washington) Some homeschool families are naturally more independent and self-sufficient, and were fueled by a vision from the start. Others are responding to children whose academic, emotional, or creative needs are not being met sufficiently. Some make the plunge in a last-ditch effort to save children who are unhappy or bored enough to be miserable. The freedom to customize their approach to meet individual needs, impossible in a traditional system designed to meet the needs of the bell curve, is essential to homeschoolers. Some children are self-learners who need minimal guidance; others require an armful of kindling at all times to keep any academic fire burning. Some thrive on traditional “pen & paper” structure, others can’t sit still for more than a few minutes. Some need a one-on-one setting because they are so advanced, others because they struggle so much. Each family has decided that schools are not willing or able to meet their individual needs.

Homeschooling has many trade-offs and requires a deep commitment, but research shows it usually works very well. Standardized test scores are above average and universities report that homeschoolers have a long track record of academic and social excellence. The challenges vary: there are no other homeschooling companions on the block, mom can’t handle percents, fractions & decimals, Jerry has a passion for chemistry & dad can’t mix brownies. The solution is always the same – be willing to drive and network with the loads of homeschoolers in your area to pool time & resources. Organize play and “work” dates – one mom cooks with the four on Monday, another uses her knack for math on Tuesday with the same group, a third has the time and van to do the ice skating trip. Someone else’s uncle is a retired chemistry teacher for Jerry and the three other 12 year-olds who responded to the blurb in the local newsletter. There are homeschool resource centers, and host of community activities to further broaden horizons. You love your child, you’ll do whatever it takes to meet his or her needs.

The many benefits of homeschooling are tremendous: the flexibility to customize your approach as necessary, allowing long, intense periods of study (free from 40 minute period constraints), and being free to visit the Liberty Science Center on a whim.  The incredible social advantages homeschoolers enjoy make traditional ‘What about socialization?’ concerns of well-intentioned family and friends seem quaintly naive. Socialization traditionally means learning to follow directions well in group settings and dealing with large numbers of peers with little meaningful adult supervision or interaction for virtually all of what little “free” time they have to explore their world. Rather than being artificially segregated by age, homeschoolers develop their social pallet through a wide array of multi-generational interactions. It nurtures the soul to observe the 16 year-old finishing algebra who then crawls on the ground in an animated game of peek-a-boo with a toddler, or to watch several older elementary students grapple with the temperaments of their kindergarten co-actors on the set of the play they’re filming.

If you’re considering making the plunge, you’ll have a lot of questions. Fortunately homeschoolers are an incredibly loving and helpful group by nature, and most go out of their way to help others make the transition. Find any one family in your area, and you’ll quickly learn the (non-prohibitive) regulations and long menu of support groups open to you: Christian, nonsecular, un-schoolers, resource centers, etc. Good Luck!

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Brian Kearsey is a seasoned educator and founder of Crossroads, a private school. Kearsey, a former resident of Simi Valley California,  now resides in Kent New York with his family. 

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stefan djordjevic

All true. Although I will say that it can’t replicate the “dog eat dog” environment of a school bus stop, or common area between classes. Those scenarios mirror real life at work and in the street. They teach you to survive amongst the wolves.

It also can’t replicate the discipline of taking orders from a strange adult and obeying a chain of command. Nor the unbending deadlines of assignments, or the public humilation of messing up.

Most of the homeschooled kids I know are totally messed up. It was not done correctly. In addition, they had little or no lab science, no high math, and rarely hung out with anyone different from themselves.

Having said all that, I absolutely love the concept, the way you described it.