Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
I was reading Lawrence Ludlow’s excellent series on Voluntarist schooling when I came upon this statement: “For many busy parents, home-schooling is not an option – despite the extraordinary success of home-schooled children. Many parents do not have the time, skills, and resources needed by their children to flourish.” I have a bit of perspective to add to this.
I have been a member of the ORSIG homeschooling email list for many years now. This has about a thousand members (mostly moms) in the state of Oregon.
A while back, I had noted that the Old Media constantly harped on this meme: “homeschooling is wonderful, in its way, but homeschooling parents are saints, and most of us are not capable of doing it.” Of course this was apparently a ruse for discouraging people from looking into homeschooling, while acknowledging that they were no longer able to get the homeschooling genie back into the bottle again.
Only problem was, that my experience with homeschooling moms did not jive with this meme. Rather than being saints, they were much like other parents I have known--no better, no worse. They were in fact quite usual, ordinary.
I decided to do a little experiment. I asked a question on the ORSIG homeschooling list, something to this effect: “I want to ask mothers who have had experience both with government schooling and with homeschooling, a very simple question. Which is easier? Please understand, I am not asking which is more uplifting or rewarding or anything of that nature. I simply want to know, which option do you consider the easier?” I did not coach anyone to give an expected “correct” answer; in fact I had no idea what the answer would be.
As I recall, I got about 10 to 15 responses to that question. The near unanimous response was that homeschooling was easier than government schooling. The sole response that differed was that one mom, with one of her children, said it was about a wash between the two options!
Needless to say, this brings into question the meme that only saintly parents can manage homeschooling. If homeschooling is not only better for your kids, but flat-out easier than the government schools, then what is stopping you from homeschooling, really?
This result struck me so strongly that I went out and bought (rented?) the homeschoolingiseasy.info domain name, intending to put together a website that would help remove this meme as an impediment to homeschooling. Alas, I never did anything with it. “The best-laid plans...”
How could it be that homeschooling is easy? A bit of reflection gives the answer, and this answer came out in the responses to my question, too. For one thing, kids are learning machines, if you just get out of their way. A little facilitating is all that is necessary, especially for the “unschooling" crowd. No need to reproduce “school at home”-- the image that the Ministry of Propaganda wants everyone to have of homeschooling. All of a sudden, a family does not have to live on the government school schedule. Vacations can be any time of the year (lower costs in the shoulder seasons, no need to fight with others at work for that vacation slot in the schedule, etc.). No need to shuttle kids here and there for school events (shuttling still goes on with homeschoolers, but only what they want to put up with). No need to help with pointless or stupid government school homework, or worry about your kid not fitting in or being drugged with Ritalin. No need to attempt to reverse the indoctrination your kids receive every day in the indoctrination camps. According to actual homeschooling moms with experience in both camps, it’s easier!
The facts are, some variation of homeschooling is available to almost every family. Many families have one parent or a grandparent at home. Of those that don’t, often work schedules for the parents can be juggled. And for the rest, we can simply look back in history to the “dame schools,” just elderly, more cultured ladies in the neighborhood willing to take in a few kids for a few hours for a little money. There are an infinite variety of strategies possible for those willing to escape the government school monopoly. All it takes is will and a bit of imagination.
One amusing aside: since the Ministry of Propaganda has taken this stance of “homeschooling parents are saints,” it has effectively shut off the coercive option of forcing parents back into government schools, or making homeschooling as difficult legally as possible. Saints aren’t to be beaten up, are they? California tried it a while back, failing spectacularly. Whenever a new regulation is imposed on homeschoolers, the response is for more homeschoolers to go “non-compliant”—indeed, Oregon has a large, feisty non-compliant population of homeschoolers. The trend, over the years, has been less regulation of homeschoolers as a result; this goes counter to the usual trend in our budding police state. Homeschooling is one place where many parents first encounter real freedom. It’s a heady feeling!