Friday, April 23, 2004


Yesterday WorldMagBlog had a vigorous discussion on home education, triggered by a remarkably stupid example of the public schools' bankruptcy of morality or common sense. This seems as good of an opportunity as any to post more thoughts on home education that have been running around in my head. (Hey, I've been looking forward to doing this for the last 15 years; I can't help getting excited now that the day is finally in sight.)

Since homeschooling as a modern movement didn't really get going until the early 80's, DOB and I will be among the first generation of homeschooling parents who themselves have never suffered from formal education. Thanks to our parents and the other pioneers, the prospect facing us is a much easier one.

The major hurdle in doing anything new is simply its newness. For people who thought education happened in a certain building by paid professionals between certain hours, taking their children away from that was very strange and scary. For us, sending our children to suffer through hours of drivel at the hands of strangers is what seems strange.

The classic objections to homeschooling seem silly to us. How will we teach them everything they need to know? Well, come on, if our parents could produce such brilliant people as ourselves, surely we can do as well. ;-) Adolescent arrogance aside, our parents were variously into engineering, speech therapy, and art. None of them knew anything about law except how to steer clear of it. All a child needs to be taught is how to read and write fluently and think coherently. Everything else he can find a way to learn if he wants to (and if he isn't smothered through decades of schooling, he probably will want to).

But the academic question has pretty much died down. Socialization is still raised, much to our amusement. I remember a few years ago I was schmoozing around in advance of speaking at a political event and fell into conversation with an older woman who was convinced her grandchildren would suffer horribly from lack of socialization because her daughter was homeschooling them. I'm still trying to compose exactly what smart remark I should have used in response. Meanwhile, DOB works in sales, of all things. We don't seem to be suffering from too much social misfittedness. I'm still not sure exactly what people are hoping for in socialization. Courtesy, respect, and kindness are not best taught by herds of eight-year-olds. Succumbing to the pack instinct is, but that's not a skill I particularly want my children to have.

Most significant, we have a radically different perspective on what education is. It's not something tied to a particular time and place; it has nothing to do with how much time you've spent or how much paper you've gone through. It doesn't start with a lunch box and end with a diploma. It's simply finding out new stuff all the time all the way through life: because you need to, because you want to, because the mind is a gift from God and it is a delight to use it.

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