Jeff Till (fivehundredyears.org
) is a business owner, School Sucks listener, and home-educating parent. He recently added a well-researched, concise and easily sharable entry to his blog called "A Complete Case for Home Education (54 Arguments)." He joins me today to discuss the following arguments:
1. The argument for happiness and for empathy
School makes many if not most kids unhappy. They don’t like most of their school work. They don’t like being told what to do every second of the day. They don’t like having to be part of cliques or getting bullied. They don’t like taking tests. They don’t like getting grades. They hate homework. Getting up early stinks. The bus sucks. So does the food.
Sometimes parents hate school too. They hate the schedule it imposes. They hate watching their kids experience the pressure, either of the school work or the social scene.
Why is something imposed that makes children unhappy? Especially for 15,000 hours during what should be a person’s happiest years. Would you want to be unhappy? No! Would you purposefully inflict unhappiness on yourself? Hell no!
Have a little empathy for the children. Feel what they feel in going to school. Don’t send them somewhere they are near guaranteed to be unhappy.
2. The argument for exposure
Some proponents of schooling insist that school exposes children to a broad array of subjects that they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. But, school really just teaches five to seven subjects when there are actually thousands of subjects in the world.
Even if we were to hone in on something school focuses on like literature, the nation’s schools essentially limit exposure to the same dozen books regardless of a child’s interest, despite there being millions of books in the world. Sure, there is a library at the school, but when do they get to go? And books are just one kind of media, only favored through school’s history because it was the only one available in the pre-modern world when school was invented.
An open, free-range education gives children the time to explore any subject they desire and inflicts no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Home educated children not only can be exposed to a wider array of subjects, they can be exposed precisely to the ones they find interesting or useful.
3. The argument for free play
Free play is when children, without external restrictions or guidance, design their own activities and modes of play. It can be wonderful in developing independence, creativity, negotiating skills, interpersonal skills, and fun.
School kids live under constant direction and surveillance. Their only opportunity for free play during school are the scraps of time given at recess (unsurprisingly, most kids favorite school-time activity). It seems to be a growing trend for parents to further shorten free play by signing their kids up for organized sports and activities after school and on the weekends, further putting them in another system where they wear uniforms and follow the instructions of an adult.
Home education provides much more time and opportunity for free play.
4. The argument for history
Most history, as it is taught in schools, is political history. Almost every event described is either the work of a President or a war. Even when non-government events are covered, such as the Great Depression or the Million Man March, the story usually hinges on how the government responded.
Schools narrow the scope of history to government, and usually only portray a positive view of the student’s own government (e.g., America’s children learn that America is great.) For example, students probably don’t learn the true body counts of American wars or how many people have been incarcerated in its prison system.
Real history, though, also includes individual achievement, business, consumption trends, technology, art and media, music, communications, religion, philosophy, scientific discovery, food, and fun.
History without a school approach could vastly and wildly open up education to be more inclusive and more expansive, providing everyone with a more complete and valuable knowledge of history.
5. The argument for religion or atheism
Home education allows parents to teach their children the fundamentals of how they believe reality and ethics exist in the world. At school, knowledge is to be taught with very little context of how reality or ethics are believed to exist within the world. This is a fairly large omission. Schools presume to teach what exists in the world and how it works, while purposefully ignoring how we understand reality and morality itself.
However your sense of aesthetics lie, it should be a right for parents to present their worldview to their children.
Some worry that parents will teach misinformation, but rarely give the school the same scrutiny.
Would we fault a Hindu wanting to teach their kids about Hindu practices or a Buddhist for teaching their kids how to meditate?
The same can be said for teaching atheism. At public school, each day is started with a prayer to the state and God, called the Pledge of Allegiance. While most public schools don’t promote a religious agenda, it is still absolutely taboo to actively suggest God doesn’t exist or that reality is what we view with our senses. As home educators, atheist parents who wish this belief to be a strong part of their children’s education can do so freely, frequently and explicitly. They are allowed to frame knowledge with this view of reality.
6. The argument for family
When kids go to school they are separated from their families for seven or eight hours per day, five days per week. Some kids go to a latchkey type program and might be gone for eleven hours per day! Most people know many families who need to race through every day, left with the scraps of time leftover from the school schedule, racing through a morning routine to get to school or the bus stop and having a brief night together of maybe just a few hours. These few hours might be filled with dinner, homework and getting ready for an early bedtime (so they can be sure to get up the next morning.) This leaves families with just the weekend to spend together, which can be filled with organized sports and dad going golfing anyway. I’ve seen families like this. The children place a massive burden on their schedule and they barely get to see them. I wonder why they bothered having children in the first place.
School isolates children from their families and can cripple the relationship children have with their parents and siblings. Children who do not go to school can experience richer family interactions more frequently and on a daily basis.
And it is good for the parents. Can you imagine anyone on their deathbed wishing they had missed the majority of time they could have spent with their kids when they were growing up? I can’t.
RELATED: The argument for sleep, sleeping in and staying up
For school children and their families, some stranger – the superintendent – commands that everyone wake up at the same time. And it’s often too early for most people.
And because everybody has to get up at the same time, it usually means everybody has to go to bed at basically the same time if one wants a decent chance at getting enough sleep.
Why should a total stranger be able to command you, your children, your spouse, and a couple thousand of your neighbors, when to go to bed and when to get up?
Plus, it’s not uncommon for kids, especially teenagers, to not get enough sleep.
With home education, individuals, not unknown, distant superintendents, get to decide when and how much sleep occurs.
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Aeon: The play deficit, by Peter Gray
The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents
A SHORT ANGRY HISTORY OF AMERICAN FORCED SCHOOLING
The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation Into The Problem Of Modern Schooling