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:
7. The argument against peer pressure
Conformity training leads to students not wanting to be different and to gain the mass approval of others. This is peer pressure, and it can force kids into behaviors they don’t want and bring feelings of rejection, embarrassment and shame.
Home education doesn’t teach conformity and lessens the effects of peer pressure because the groups of people they associate with are voluntary.
8. The argument for creating a diverse network
Home educated children, through adult relationships, mixed-aged contacts, real work and community interaction are better able to create diverse networks for learning, projects, hobbies and ultimately work. A network of people a child can build can be hugely valuable over time for jobs, opportunities, etc.
Conversely, a network of all the people from your town and your exact age is less valuable than the more diverse set a child could build on his or her own. Plus, the network built in school is based on arbitrary groupings of people by age and geography, not in mutual interests or in how value can be created and shared. This is the true value of a network. Networks are not merely having lots of random, dead-end acquaintances, but having relationships with people who can exchange knowledge and value.
9. The argument against drug abuse
Children often learn about and experiment with recreational drugs through people at school. Most of the information they are given is from other students who are largely learning on the fly at the same time, hidden away from parental supervision.
In home education, parents can better control children’s access to drugs and provide their own education about drug usage according to their values and preferences.
School is no guarantee of turning every student into a drug user, and home education is no guarantee of children not finding drugs, but the home educator likely has the favorable situation.
And, again, school seems to prompt the use of ADHD type drugs more than anything. That’s not kids abusing drugs, that’s kids being abused with drugs.
10. The argument against poverty and prison
Could home education reduce poverty and reduce prison populations?
Maybe or maybe not. But we can see how well decades of public school is doing against these goals. Implicit to a school’s stated mission is to prepare children to be productive, intelligent and responsible citizens who can obtain good jobs and contribute.
Has schooling, which is universally inflicted on our poor and often at huge expense, curbed poverty or crime in the past 100 years? Or do the poor seem to remain systemically poor and prison populations rising? Home education probably couldn’t perform worse, and home educated children can have many more opportunities to learn responsibility, self-reliance and real-world skills if they wish. The skills they learn can be a set that is custom to their needs, not the canned factory stuff school students must endure.
Think of it another way. Consider a framework like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where first a human must satisfy their basic material needs (food, shelter, safety) before pursuing higher-order emotional and intellectual needs. A poor person, by definition, has fewer basic material needs that are met and should probably be spending their time filling that gap first before chasing higher-order intellectual needs.
But school doesn’t allow this. It assumes that if we cram abstract knowledge (e.g., literature, math, history, science) into their heads the gap will disappear magically. It might make more sense to let poorer people learn work skills when they are younger, and once they have rectified their basic needs, they can then pick up the higher-order knowledge they would like to pursue.
Let me restate this radical, “bigoted” idea: if we insist that poor children must be forced to learn something, first teach poor people how to not be poor, then, later, maybe teach them about early American history, how to calculate the circumference of a circle, 19th century English literature, sentence diagraming, etc.
It’s like there is somebody trapped in a deep whole and what he desperately and immediately needs is instruction on how to build a ladder. But instead of giving him that, we send down a confusing book with a map of Europe, some 500-year-old plays, a periodic table of the elements, and a dodge ball.
Maybe this has a bad aesthetic or seems unfair. But is it more fair to delude them and ourselves with a deceitful aesthetic that abstract knowledge is more important than obtaining basic needs?
This approach would require discrimination, meaning treating different people differently. Or letting students discriminate about what they want or need to learn. This is antithetical to schooling where everybody gets the same thing regardless of might be of value to them. People are so terrified of discrimination that we’d prefer to maintain sameness at all costs instead of throwing the most needy the lifeline they need.
But, I’m not advocating that we force poor people to learn anything. After all, if the boring, dumbing-down, disengaging school experience is deleterious to the flourishing of affluent and middle-class children, it’s probably doubly so for poor children. Why cripple the abilities of lower income children? Why punch them when they are down?
Lots of things contribute to poverty and crime, including family, culture, government, laws, luck, individual traits, circumstances, genetics, race, geography and others. But school is in the mix.
11. The argument for vacation
Even if we concede that school is just, good and necessary, it’s bizarre that the superintendent gets to dictate when everyone gets to have a vacation. This creates a ridiculous rush for everybody in a state to go on vacation at the same time. It creates scarcity for plane tickets and hotel rooms, raising prices and reducing availability. It creates traffic jams. Beaches and ski slopes are packed. And don’t even try to go to a theme park during these weeks as you’ll pay through the nose for the privilege of waiting in lines for 90 minutes per attraction. Who wants to wait in line? It’s torture, not vacation.
The rationed vacation time also creates anxiety. Many families have some panic about making sure they enjoy themselves with the little time they have. The massive disappointment when it rains on vacation is partly ignited because the family knows they can’t extend it due to scheduling, they know it’s going to be months before they are allowed to go again, and it already costs too much.
If school systems were a little sensible in this area, they would at least stagger vacations by region to alleviate the artificial rush and make travel more convenient, affordable and enjoyable for the families it supposedly serves. Or at least introduce some flexibility to take time off instead of instilling panic about students missing assignments or taking tests.
But they don’t, and hence we show up and take our breaks when they are commanded of us.
What terrible nonsense. Home educators decide when they want to go on vacation and can pick times that are smart. They also don’t have to have a rationed amount of time available to them. If three weeks isn’t enough, they can take more.
Or take less. Home school families don’t have to pack their family time into a few weeks per year or wait until the school says it is okay to have leisure time. Or feel like they have to “get away” from the pressures and “grind” of the day-to-day. Many homeschool families don’t need a lot of vacation. They live it instead.
12. The final personal argument from experimentation and low risk
The final case for home education is the easiest to justify: try it. There’s almost no risk. Take a few months or maybe a year and try it out. Don’t like it? You can always go back to public school. The administrators will welcome your child back with open arms and gladly tell your children to get back in line and shut their mouths. The public school won’t disappear this year or next.
Experiment and see what happens. See if your children and yourself are happier. See if you enjoy more family time and the convenience home education provides. See if engagement and curiosity reemerge.
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