Thinking of homeschooling?
By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld
By now your kids have probably been in school for several weeks. And you're having
second thoughts about putting them on the bus, agonizing over whether or not they
are going to be safe on the ride to school and in the school with 300 or 500 or
a thousand other kids. Sept. 19's Boston Globe had a story about how the return
to classes also brings an epidemic of illnesses. School nurses now look at schools
as germ incubators. Poor air circulation, close quarters, sticky fingers contribute
to the high infection rate found in many classrooms.
And now there's even lice to worry about. According to nurse Elaine Zeundt, germs
spread more quickly today because teaching methods have changed. Students no longer
sit in straight rows with their backs to each other. Now, children face one another
in circles, are paired with partners, and work together -- all part of the cooperative
learning craze now sweeping American public education.
"Thirty years ago," says Zeundt, "if a student coughed it would at least be at
the back of the head of the student in front of him. Now kids are in groups and
coughing right in each other's faces." Linda Walsh, director of clinical services
in the city of Newton, Mass., notes that students "share their germs as readily
as they share their fruit."
And in a few months, some of the first graders will be labeled learning disabled,
dyslexic, reading disabled, ADD, or ADHD. Parents will be told that their children
need to be put on Ritalin. But, believe it or not, there is a solution to all of
this, and it is called homeschooling.
Granted, that many working parents wouldn't dream of homeschooling. Yet there
is enough growing concern among some parents that is leading them to think of homeschooling
as an alternative to the public school. And if you, dear reader, happen to be one
of those parents, the best thing you can do to help you make that fateful decision
is to read a new book about homeschooling, written by two veteran homeschoolers,
Mary and Michael Leppert. The book's title is "The Homeschooling Almanac, 2000-2001."
It provides the most cogent arguments in favor of homeschooling and the best picture
of what it's like to homeschool I've read anywhere.
The Lepperts wanted very much to enjoy the pleasures and challenges of educating
their own son. And so, they built their lives around that idea. Michael quit his
day job, and it took the family over a year to adjust to the novel idea that he
was free from someone else's time clock. Mary writes, "We had to make new room for
one another and restructure out time and space boundaries. It took some quarreling
and discomfort, but now we love nearly every minute."
The Lepperts now publish a homeschooling newspaper, "The Link," and hold an annual
homeschooling conference. That keeps them quite busy. As for their son, Lennon,
he is thriving and learning by helping his parents in every phase of their activities.
Some years ago a magazine asked children what they wanted most. The answer was more
time with their parents. Homeschoolers give their children the maximum. The Lepperts
Homeschooling today is actually a return to the truly traditional method
of children being instructed by their parents. ... It was understood that one's
children studied the Bible and learned their basic moral and ethical values
at home, along with the elementary subjects necessary for further education.
The expected and anticipated way of life was that all elementary aspects of
life were taught by the parents. ... Times have changed; we think maybe people
The idea of segregating children from the adult world, putting them under a compulsory
regimen of mass schooling from age six to 16 or even 18, has created problems for
family and community that could not have been anticipated by the social utopians
when they dreamed up this system based on the idea that human beings were capable
of moral perfectibility. They were certain that mass public education would eliminate
crime. It hasn't. They were certain it would eliminate ignorance. It hasn't. They
were certain it would eliminate illiteracy. It hasn't. They were wrong. But the
system remains, and homeschooling is the best and fastest way out of the system.
The Lepperts write,
Mass school has not only permeated the world of children, but the adult world
as well. Once you break away from it, you will be amazed at how free and easy
successful learning/living can be. Our country, which was founded by courageous
pioneers who became entrepreneurs and leaders, is now dominated by people who
are influenced by mass-marketing and mass-schooling schemes that drastically
change lives for the worse. Homeschooling is taking our past and futures back
from Madison Avenue and Washington, all in one fell swoop.
The beauty of homeschooling is that parents learn more than their children in
the process. Parents improve their reading by learning to teach their children with
phonics. Parents learn the history they missed in school. They increase their vocabulary.
They learn that their values are worth passing on to their children.
According to homeschooler Janelle Orsi, whom Mary Leppert interviewed, "One of
the merits of homeschooling is that it allows people to slow down enough to take
in what they are learning, to care about it, and to enjoy it by relating it to the
greater spectrum of knowledge, thereby making learning relevant."
What effect does homeschooling have on the kids themselves? Are they less social
or more social? Do they become misfits in society? Barb Lundgren, who homeschooled
her three children in the "Unschooling" manner advocated by educational philosopher
John Holt, states,
I have found that homeschooled kids are quite different from "normal" kids.
All ages and abilities can play and work together without prejudice. The degree
of natural compatibility, the ability to cooperate and share that homeschooled
children show is remarkable. There are no words in our language to describe
such children. They are different away from you than they are at home, and it's
through their interactions with other people that you really step back and say,
"Wow, these are really different kids." If I had to describe them, I guess "extraordinary"
is the most useful nutshell sort of word. Extremely mature, responsible. Passionate,
sensitive, careful, respectful.
Who wouldn't want kids like that! And now you know why homeschooling is growing
the way it is. It is much more than just a rebellion against mass, inept public
schooling. It's a movement to gain greater values, greater freedom, and greater
satisfactions with one's family and one's life. You can't get them from Madison
Avenue, or Washington, or the local germ incubator known as the public school with
its drugs, violence, peer pressure, nihilistic dumbed-down curriculum, and union-dominated,