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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 write,

    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 have not.

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, politicized establishment.

2001-2010 National Alliance against Mandated Mental Health Screening & Psychiatric Drugging of Children. All rights reserved.

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