Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Choice/For Home Schooling

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What is the case for home schooling?

Given the enormous benefits and relatively inconsequential sacrifices of home schooling, one could reasonably argue that there more needs to be a case for public schooling than home schooling. However, America has had an historical propensity to question and resist anything that involves change, or that does not comply with the societal norm. Compulsory attendance laws, while initially passed with the intent of making sure every child was afforded an education, have had the effect of qualifying the institution of public school as the norm, thereby making anything other than public schooling “abnormal.” This is reinforced by the fact that any student not attending public school, including those enrolled in private schools, must by law notify their public school district of their choice to pursue an “alternative education program.” (Code of VA § 22.1-254) The monolith that is the National Education Association also propagates the sophomoric notion that public school is the only proper way to educate, and espouses these ideals in the tenets of its Code of Ethics, which states in Principle II: Commitment to the Profession that “In the belief that the quality of the services of the education profession directly influences the nation and its citizens, the educator shall exert every effort …to assist in preventing the practice of the profession by unqualified persons. In fulfillment of the obligation to the profession, the educator--5. Shall not assist a noneducator in the unauthorized practice of teaching.” (NEA, 1975) Thanks to NCLB, the only “noneducators” that are currently engaged in the practice of teaching are uncertified parents who have chosen to homeschool.

Parental Rights: Father Knows Best vs. Big Brother is Watching[edit]

Central to the homeschooling debate is the inherent question, “Who knows what is best for each American student; their parent(s) or the public school system?” Any good parent will tell you that they know what is best for their own child, which is actually counter to the thinking among many public school officials who think they know what is best for the child: after all, public school officials have been “trained.” Author Jennifer Kaufield (2002, p.10) encourages parents, “No matter what your reasons are for wishing to homeschool your children, if they center on what’s best for your family right now, then your reasons are valid and worth pursuing. Home education is all about meeting your child’s needs.”

Education in America: A Historical Perspective[edit]

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

—Supreme Court Justice McReynolds, Opinion of the Court, Pierce v Society of Sisters, 1925

The debate surrounding homeschooling is filled with irony, literally from beginning to end. In early America, almost every child was educated due to the colonists’ desire for their children to be able to read the Scriptures, and parents saw it as their responsibility, not that of the government, to provide education. In fact, The Boston Latin School, the first school established outside the home in 1636, was formed for disadvantaged children and orphans who had no parents to educate them. (Beliles & McDowell, 1989, p.102-103) This line of thinking has now been reversed, with the majority of parents placing the burden of educating their children squarely on the government.

Homeschooling was the prevalent means of formal education until the advent of compulsory public school attendance in the 1870s. (Beliles & McDowell, 1989, p.102-103 and Scheuer, 2004). In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Pierce v Society of Sisters essentially struck down compulsory attendance laws which required ALL children to attend ONLY public schools, and guaranteed a parents right to choose their children’s form of education; be it public or private, or by modern extension, home schooled. (Pierce v Society of Sisters, 1925).

Homeschooling was still illegal in about half the states during much of the 20th century, but today it is legal nationwide. The current, modern wave of homeschooling is primarily associated with and driven by conservative evangelical Christians, who since the 1980s are increasingly choosing to home school their children in response to what they see as an increasingly secular, anti-Christian public school system. However, the modern home school movement was actually rejuvenated in the 1960s by Liberal parents and the anti-establishment counterculture movement, which rejected the rigid structure and conservative nature of schools at the time. One of its early proponents and pioneers was John Holt, an influential critic of mainstream education, who also happened to be...an atheist. (Scheuer, 2004) Recently, the home school pendulum has begun to swing back to the left. Although most homeschool parents define themselves as Christian, that is not necessarily the primary reason for homeschooling. According to the US Census Bureau and other sources, in 2000 only 33 percent of homeschooling parents cited religion as a reason for homeschooling (and many of these parents cited other reasons as well). On the other hand, 50.8 percent cited a belief that their children could get a better education through homeschooling, while 29.8 percent stated that school offers a poor learning environment, and 11.5 percent said that their children were not being challenged in school. (Gathercole, 2005)

No Child Left Behind vs. My Child as a Guinea Pig[edit]

By all accounts, the public school system is in need of major repair and overhaul. The most lauded and concurrently disdained issue in public schools today is the No Child Left Behind act. While noble in its aspirations of accountability, NCLB has now created an entirely new dynamic of problems. Passing the SOL test and meeting AYP has now become the focus of public schools because a school’s future and the livelihood of its employees literally depend on it. Many public school teachers are now out of necessity and self preservation “teaching the test.”

“The Principle Approach” established by Noah Webster as the standard method of education using the principles of research, reasoning, relating, and recording (the “4-Rs”) has been all but forgotten in modern public schools. Until the 1920s, essays were the primary method of testing; now, most modern tests are fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, matching, or True-False. Students can take and pass these tests for years without truly learning how to reason and think and be prepared for life after completion of school. (Beliles & McDowell, p.98-100) The truest test of knowledge is application, and all we can ascertain from NCLB is that public school students can pass a standardized test, and life, as we all know, is not standardized. With a child’s future in the balance, is it not reasonable for a parent to remove their child from this admittedly flawed system rather than sending them in and “hoping for the best?” In the past two decades the growth rate of homeschooling has increased enormously. Disillusioned parents have been pulling their children out of the secular and in many instances substandard public education system, taking education into their own hands. (Scheuer, 2004)

Religious Freedom[edit]

Once a child has been submitted to the public schools for his education, parents lose all ability to control the course of instruction.

—Michael Farris

In 1987, a seminal case in the arena of parental rights, Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools, was argued before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was brought by the parents of several students who were expelled because they refused to read a series of reading books that violated their religious beliefs. The suit sought to have the students re-instated and allowed an alternative reading assignment. The central issue in the case was: Do parents and children who have sincere religious objections to public school curriculum have the right to alternative instruction for the objectionable material? The answer given by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was clear: Parents have no such right. Once a child has been submitted to the public schools for his education, parents lose all ability to control the course of instruction. (Farris, 2006)

America began as a country whose oldest and greatest institutions of higher learning, among them Harvard 1638, William & Mary 1693, Yale 1701, Princeton 1746, and Rutgers 1766, were founded with the sole purpose of keeping God as the centerpiece of education. (Beliles & McDowell, 1989, p.111) America has since become a country who has removed public school prayer and through the ever broadening interpretation of the “Separation of Church and State,” become increasingly secular and anti-religion. If, as a parent, you support this direction, that is your right. However, the ONLY recourse for a conscientious parent who objects to curriculum for religious reasons is to withdraw their child from public school, and if a private school alternative does not exist, the only reasonable option is homeschooling.

Socialization[edit]

Among veteran homeschooling circles, the issue of socialization is referred to simply as “The Question;” as in, have you been asked “The Question” yet: What about your child’s socialization? Before answering this question, the term “socialization” must first be defined: is this an inquiry into a student’s social outlets, or into the more abstract concept of assimilation into society? (Kaufield, 2002, p 29)

Social Outlets: Homeschoolers Aren’t Locked in the Dungeon![edit]

Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers are often engaged in MORE social outlets than their peers. In part because they receive individualized instruction, they often complete and master their school work in a fraction of the time required in public school. In addition, their often flexible schedule allows for more extracurricular activities. The number of clubs, activities, and social outlets is so numerous, that parents of homeschoolers often need to be reminded not to over-schedule their children to fulfill some nay-sayers delusion that their children aren’t being “socialized.” (Kaufield 2002, p 30, and Gathercole, 2005)

Assimilation into Society[edit]

Go to your local public school, walk down the hallways and see what behaviors you would want your child to emulate.

—Manfred Zysk

According to Manfred Zysk (1999), “One of the silliest and most annoying comments made to homeschooling parents is, "Aren't you concerned about how your child will be able to socialize with others?" What is being implied here is that the homeschooled child is some kind of introverted misfit who cannot relate to other people, children, and the outside world. In reality, most of the homeschooled children that I have known and met are not only outgoing, but polite and respectful, too. This is a sharp contrast to the public school children that I have known, who can't relate to adults and whose behavior is rude and inconsiderate…in public school, children are segregated by age, and have very little interaction with other adults, except their teacher(s). This environment only promotes alienation from different age groups, especially adults. This is beginning to look like the real socialization problem…homeschooling parents choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, but I have never heard any homeschooling parent say that the reason they want to homeschool is to isolate their child from all of society. But, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for homeschooled children to stay away from public school administrators, the NEA members, sociologists, and others who cannot properly "socialize" with children. From all of the research gathered for this article, this rather terse response sums up the general feeling of frustration felt by the majority of home school parents on the subject of socialization. Quite simply, home schooled students are generally better adapted and socialized to society than their public school peers. (Kaufeld, 2002, p33)

The Educational Experience[edit]

Athletic Clubs vs. Interscholastic Athletics[edit]

Although many professional educators disapprove of homeschooling and claim that it limits children's exposure to peers or people of different cultures, current laws in 16 states allow homeschoolers "equal access" to activities like music and interscholastic sports at local public high schools. (Scheuer, 2004) In Virginia, the Virginia High School League which governs public school athletics & the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association which governs private school athletics effectively deny homeschoolers the right to participate in interscholastic sports. (personal correspondence, Zimorski, 2007, and VISAA.org, 2007) In Virginia, this is a legitimate sacrifice that homeschoolers must weigh in their decision to homeschool. If one is pursuing an athletic career, this door of opportunity is essentially closed in Virginia. However, these are not the only opportunities for an athletic career in Virginia. Certain athletic clubs more than welcome homeschoolers and in some instances their devotion to the sport requires it. Figure skating is a case in point. A home school co-op group meets at the Hampton Roads Iceplex in Yorktown, VA for figure skaters whose dreams of pursuing Olympic glory require inordinate amounts of time at the rink, which also includes classical ballet training. (personal interview, Caldwell, 2004) Other “club” sports such as ice hockey and soccer have college and professional scouts in attendance at many elite level tournaments. (personal interview, Tucker, 2007, and personal interview, Scrofani, 2004) Home schooling associations are growing to the point where athletic opportunities inside the national home school community are growing as well. The National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship drew over 200 teams from 25 states to its 2003 tournament. (Scheuer, 2004) As these nationwide tournaments grow, it is only logical that more college and pro scouts will be in attendance.

Co-ops vs. The Classroom[edit]

Cooperatives allow groups of homeschoolers to unite and pool their resources. Often, classes will be taught by experts, professors, and/or licensed teachers for subjects ranging from science to woodshop. The classes are usually dynamic, with a focus on learning the subject matter rather than just passing the test. (homeschoolrichmond.com, 2007) The Commonwealth of Virginia is arguably the most historically rich state in the Union. All but forgotten in today’s NCLB/SOL crush are field trips to enhance the learning experience of public school students. Many classes are allowed only one or two field trips per year, and many more never leave the confines of the school building. Conversely, the experiential learning opportunities for homeschoolers through field trips and Co-ops are boundless. (VA is for Field Trips, 2007)

Technology: The Great Equalizer[edit]

As cyberspace breaks down boundaries, learning no longer is confined to a desk-filled classroom with a teacher presiding in front of a blackboard.

—Adam Scheuer, The Harvard Political Review, July 19, 2004

One of the greatest perceived hindrances to the homeschool movement is its lack of “qualified” parents fulfilling the teacher’s role. With modern technology, homeschoolers are often enrolling in college classes at a very early age. After all, where does a child go after they have completed calculus at 12 years old? (Kaufield, 2002, p14) Cyberspace offers online courses, chat-rooms, and websites devoted to homeschooling. The teacher standing in front of the blackboard is no longer the only acceptable method of teaching. With the tremendous and varied amount of online resources available, parents are finding it easier than ever to make the decision to home school.(Scheuer, 2004) This very wikibook is a testament to the advances in technology and changes to the standard methodology used in education. Logically, one can deduce that it is much easier for a home schooled student receiving individualized and personalized instruction to access these opportunities than those limited by the classroom methodology of public schools.

University Admissions[edit]

Another misconception applied to homeschooling is that most colleges and universities will not accept home schooled students. That is just flat wrong. Homeschoolers are now just as likely as other students to attend college. Increasing numbers of homeschooled students are entering even the most elite universities. Harvard's acceptance rate for homeschooled applicants is about 10 percent; the same rate of acceptance as for traditionally schooled applicants. (Scheuer, 2004) In the fall of 1999, Stanford accepted 27% of homeschool applicants, nearly double the rate of traditional students. (Goldman, 2000) Higher admission rates are due in part to new, more accepting attitudes toward homeschooled applicants in college admissions offices. A January 2003 report by the National Association of College Admission Counselors in Alexandria, Virginia showed that 74 percent of colleges surveyed had formal policies to judge homeschool credentials, up from 52 percent in 2000 (Scheuer, 2004) .

In 2006, the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities now have either a dedicated homeschool admissions officer or a homeschool admissions policy. In fact, since many colleges have experienced the quality of homeschoolers they often actively pursue homeschooled students (Homeschool Enrollment in Colleges and Universities, 2006). The Home School Legal Defense Association has instituted a tier ratings scale for colleges and universities based on their admission policies regarding home schooled students, with Tier 1 being basically equal to the requirements impressed upon public/private school students, Tier 2 requiring a GED in lieu of a high school diploma, and Tier 3 requiring higher standards (i.e. extra testing (SAT II) or higher scores on standardized tests) for home schooled students than traditional students. The vast majority of colleges and universities in the US are rated at Tier 1, while only Five Towns College in Dix Hills, New York, flatly denies admission to home school students (Rating Colleges & Universities by their Home School Admission Policies, 2007)

Conclusion[edit]

In conclusion, making the case for homeschooling is fairly easy. It is, without a doubt, a legitimate, and more often than not, superior alternative to public school. Home schooled students consistently outperform their public schooled peers in EVERY academic area. (Home Schooling Statistics, 2007) Public schooling follows the fatal flaw of credentialism; that only “certified” teachers have the ability to teach. Homeschooling’s individualized, personalized, and usually multi-faceted strategy of education simply outperforms the current methodology used by the public school system.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

The modern homeschooling movement began in the 1960s with...
A. Religious conservatives
B. Liberal parents and the anti-establishment counterculture movement
C. Communists
D. Disgruntled members of the NEA

B. Liberal parents and the anti-establishment counterculture movement

Homeschoolers in general _________ academically than their public school peers.
A. do much better
B. do only slightly better
C. do only slightly worse
D. do much worse

A. do much better

The only option for a homeschooler to participate in interscholastic athletics in Virgnia is to:
A. Apply for a waiver from the VHSL.
B. Pay a homeschooler registration fee to the VISAA.
C. Play outside of the public school district they live in.
D. Enroll full time in a public or private school.

D. Enroll full time in a public or private school.

Homeschoolers are ______ to attend college as their public school peers.
A. much more likely
B. just as likely
C. a little less likely
D. much less likely

B. just as likely

Technological advances have made it _______ for parents to decide to home school.
A. costly
B. harder
C. easier
D. no different

C. easier

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

What aspects of homeschooling do you see as the most beneficial?

The most important aspects of homeschooling for me would be the ability to monitor and influence what my child was taught, the ability to have my child engage in experiential learning, and the ability for my child to work at their own pace. I personally love history, but public schools have become so secularized that many of the Judeo-Christian roots of the country are ignored in modern textbooks and history lessons. There is no Christian private school that is close to where I live, so if I want to instill these facts in my child, I would have to do it myself. The prospects of experiential learning through actually visiting the historical sites would be a tremendous tool. Even though I am grown, the things I remember the most were the field trips to the local Indian reservations, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Washington, D.C. Finally, my child is an individual, not a number. I want my child to receive all the attention they need and deserve in their education. How is a teacher with 20 plus kids the room supposed to supply individual attention, assessment, and feedback. It would be a difficult task at best. I also like the idea of my child interacting with culturally diverse people through co-ops and outside classes. I think this would help them adjust well to society in general and better prepare them for "the real world."

References[edit]