Is Home Schooling a possible fix for our mostly failing system of public education?

Even though two of my own grandchildren are being homeschooled I’d have to say it’s not. And why is that? Well it’s because people, people in Europe and the United States, and now also in Asia, most people, average people whatever that may mean, probably believe that schooling and education are identical, and that in order to become educated you have to go to school. And at the present moment we’re probably hundreds of years away from changing that belief.

And of course the great irony is that while in class and in school children miss out on the real learning opportunities that might have taken place if they had not been obliged to be in school.

How do you change people’s attitudes, or beliefs? In regard to the rightful and proper place of Blacks and women in our democracy it took hundreds of years, and we’re not yet done, as evidence by the treatment of Blacks by the police, and as evidenced by unequal pay scales for men and women. And no less than in these instances in regard to the public schools it’s people’s attitudes that are holding back our taking meaningful steps to reform our system of education.

Another example, Charles Darwin’s great work, The Origin of Species was published November 24 of the year, 1859. His evidence for evolution was then and still is overwhelming. Evolution is not a theory, but the truth regarding our origin, the origin of our species, homo sapiens sapiens. What’s that come to, about 156 years ago? And the majority of Americans have not yet changed their attitudes, have not yet accepted the truth of evolution.

While there hasn’t been one single publication, a single work such as that of Darwin, that tells the truth about how children best learn and on which we might base future reform actions, they have been any number of articles and books on the subject of education and especially how to reform the schools, almost since Horace Mann’s first Common School in Massachusetts in the mid 19th. century. The writers of these works have told us clearly (and continue to do so) that sitting in a classroom with others of the same age throughout the long school day, and during some 12 years or more of schooling, is not, perhaps, the best way to learn.

It does seem that schools as presently constituted came on the scene about the same time that people were leaving the farm and going into the city and the factories to live and to work, and that someone had to do something about the children. Well someone did, and that someone to begin with was Horace Mann, although he probably believed that his common schools were going to turn out knowledgeable and responsible citizens of the republic. And of course they didn’t, and still don’t.

Unfortunately the entire country followed Mann’s lead. No one called him out on it, suggested he might be terribly wrong. The result being that we have the situation we’re in today when kids are for the most part attending schools and not learning, at least not learning what is supposedly being taught. For children are always learning something. For that’s what life is, learning. The very best we can say about what the schools have accomplished is that children have a place to spend their time while their parents are working.

A generation ago we homeschooled our own children, We were among the first to do so. And we now are helping to homeschool our grandchildren. Others constantly ask us and the children’s parents how we do it. They say there’s no way they would know what to do with their children if they had them at home all day long. And that’s true, of course, because these parents who question us know only their own experience of “education,” that of a public school classroom, and how would they ever reproduce that in their homes?

So what are some of the attitudes that need to be changed before the homeschooling movement catches on? There are many and the chances of one or more of them being undone during my own lifetime, better my own grandchildren’s lifetimes, are probably not good. That’s what makes me pessimistic regarding the future of homeschooling.

By the way let me say that homeschooling is probably not the best term to use. Schooling, or better learning, out of school would be better. Because in regard to home schoolers homes are not schools at all. These parents would not have their homes be schools. They’re running away from the schools. Rather their homes would be more like airplane hubs from which the children will go out to any number of different places where their learning whatever it may be may best take place.

And don’t we know from long experience that the best learning situation is always, has always been, that situation where there is a learner and a teacher, a teacher who is doing himself or herself what he or she would have the student do or learn. The very best learning situation is that of an apprenticeship.

in the particular cases of my own grandchildren, be it playing a violin or cello, speaking Spanish or French, being part of a competitive swim or gymnastics team, learning a programming language at 6 years such as SCRATCH on the computer, playing chess, centering a pot … No single classroom teacher could possibly have the expert qualifications in more than one or two of these things yet that teacher will as a rule be with the student all day long!! Doing what, most of the time? That’s the problem!

In other words students need to see as many different well prepared and qualified individuals during the course of a week’s time as there are subject matters to be learned and mastered. Schools of course as presently constituted can not meet this need.

The future of homeschooling? There won’t be one of any real significance in regard to numbers of students (at the present time there are a few million home schoolers out of how many? 90 million or more?) until the public’s own attitudes regarding schooling and education change or are changed for them. Present attitudes, would have to be abandoned and new attitudes acquired. Most of all the idea that real education or learning can take place in the school building as presently constitute would have to be abandoned. For it doesn’t and it can’t.

Other attitudes to be abandoned are the idea that separating the students by age does any good other than making the classroom teacher’s job easier and the idea that teachers in the public schools will ever have the expertise themselves in the various subject matters and activities they would have their students learn. At the present time they don’t. For how many teachers of mathematics are mathematicians? How many foreign language teachers are themselves fluent speakers of the foreign language? How many social studies and history teaches are themselves by their writing contributing to the fields they are teaching? And so on….

In brief, the public would have to give up the idea that the school building and classroom structure will ever encourage and promote real learning. Haven’t we learned by now that when a child does learn it’s most always because of the child’s own real interest in a subject. Home schooling tries to begin with that, to take that as the norm or bottom line, trying to bring it about that the child, him or herself, not the teacher, eventually becomes the person most responsible for his or her own learning.

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