08/20/2018

Why Homeschool When There is a Good School Down the Road
by Laura Berquist

Homeschooling Pros and Classroom Cons

 

When I talk about Classical Education for children, I always emphasize the importance of the methodology as well as the content or information. Children need to develop the tools of thinking, as well as learn the content foundations of the arts and sciences. How one approaches the subject matter changes as the student grows. First, one works on retelling, then on analysis, then on locating an argument, and eventually on constructing and presenting an argument. One doesn’t start out asking a young child to construct an argument, or even to analyze his text. His activities have to be consonant with his abilities to get the most from his materials. Since both formation and information are necessary, how the material is presented and what is presented are important.

 

This is true about educational format as well, and the environment is one aspect of how the material is presented. The environment itself presents a message about the content. I remember the phrase “the medium is the message” coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. Whatever he had in mind, I know that the quality of the environment in which something is delivered can radically change the message. Maybe it is better to say that “it delivers its own message.”

 

That is my concern about classroom education, even when the curriculum is a good curriculum. In this article I am not talking about a poorly run public school, or some private school with a mind-numbing, disconnected curriculum. There are plenty of reasons to choose homeschooling over those options. I am not comparing curricula, either. I am talking about the brick and mortar classical school using an excellent curriculum. Why is schooling at home with the same curriculum better than doing it in that brick and mortar school?

 

My thesis is that classroom schooling is less natural than homeschooling, and in that way opposed to the formation we want to impart. I think the natural way for pre-college education to happen is primarily in a family environment. (I do have some caveats, which I will cover later.) If that is true, then however good the content is, and however good the teachers are, the environment itself is teaching another message, opposed to the formation intended by the curriculum. I want to explain why I think that.

 

I recently talked to a formerly homeschooled student, now working on his doctoral dissertation. He had in the course of the last few years an opportunity to help out at a local, highly rated, orthodox Catholic grade school. His comments on his experience were, “Why would anyone want to send their children into this dehumanizing environment which prepares them to be shepherded and manipulated for the rest of their lives? And it’s not as though their time there was limited! These kids are living their lives in their classrooms, not their homes, because it is in the classrooms that they spend most of their waking hours.”

 

His remarks made me think. I agree with him on both counts. That is, I think the environment is dehumanizing, because it is ordered to passivity, and I think that environment is where they live, where they are formed, where they develop into who they will be for the rest of their lives.

 

Again, I am not talking about the curriculum. I am, for the sake of this deliberation, taking it for granted that the curriculum is great. I am talking about the environment.

 

Dehumanizing Environment

 

It has always seemed strange to me, even when I was a young student myself, that we should put children in age segregated groups for all of their early, formative years, to prepare them for a life where, at least for most people, that will never happen again. (One book I recently read, Nurture Shock, calls these age segregated groups “echo chambers”, as the students are listening to themselves over and over, because they are all the same age and experiencing the same culture – there is no important diversity, no age integration, no significant adult point of view because the adult in the classroom is simply outnumbered.)

 

Classrooms look like factories because they are set up like factories. In a factory you have people doing the same job over and over, with pieces that are as much alike as it is possible to make them, in the name of efficiency. In our classrooms we have children all of the same age, sitting in similar seats, with identical desks in front of them, and we have a teacher deliver to each of them (simultaneously, not individually), the same material. We have made the classroom as much like a factory as possible. We are thinking about efficiency, but education is not really efficient in that way. Everyone acknowledges that the most efficient way to teach any single child what he needs to know is one-on-one teaching, which is what happens in homeschooling. Further, in homeschooling there is always an integration of old and young, something that mirrors and therefore prepares for real life. The family is not an echo chamber.

 

The biggest problem in the classroom model, I think, is that classrooms built on the factory model deliver a factory mentality. I surmise that it was inspired by the industrial revolution and probably ordered to actual factories. Conditioning children to sit still, doing the same things as the persons around them, waiting patiently when they are done with their task until they are told to move on to the next task, would make the transition from school to a factory easy. In the factory you would again be with the same people doing the same, identical thing, day after day. You would need to follow orders passively. So the model encourages passivity, and to be passive is not to be fully human. The factory model is not directed to the full use of one’s powers. I am not saying that teachers and children in a classroom can’t overcome this consequence of the model, I am saying there is something in the model that has to be overcome. Education should be broadening. It should free one from the constraints of ignorance and passion. The environment in which the education is delivered and received should mirror those qualities of freedom. The home environment does that. Children order their own time, at least by high school, so they are actively making decisions all day long. They make judgments about whether they are ready to move on, or need to study longer. They teach themselves whatever they can and get help when they need help. These are radically different models.

 

Shepherded and Manipulated

 

John Gatto, a former Teacher of the Year for New York State, who, after his award, took to speaking very frankly about his opinion of schools as institutions, says that the intention with the classroom model is the opposite of self-directed freedom. In Dumbing Us Down, he says: “Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.” His view is that the classroom model is intended to engineer a product, it is intended to be a vehicle of social engineering. Classrooms produce quiet, orderly, obedient-to-the-herd, children. Such ‘products’ are easily controlled. They think what their neighbors think. Sameness is seen as an asset, differences are not encouraged. Critical thinking is not encouraged by the model, whatever the curriculum intends. This is true for several reasons, one of which is that reflection is virtually impossible, because there is no unstructured time to think in a classroom. But reflection, which is best accomplished in solitude, is necessary for critical thinking. Dr. Gatto calls the lack of ‘alone‘ time the lesson of “One Can’t Hide”; one is always watched, students are under constant surveillance. There are no private spaces; there is no private time – it would be too risky.

 

Also, the classroom model creates intellectual dependency. Good students wait for the teacher to tell them what to do. They learn to wait for other people, better trained than them, to direct them, day in and day out. Successful students do what they are told. They do the thinking they are assigned, as Dr. Gatto says, “with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm.” This trains them to be dependent on their teachers and their schools. This is not how thoughtful leaders are formed. Learning to act independently, making decisions about how to spend one’s own time, developing specific interests which are acted upon autonomously, are all ways to learn the skills and virtues leaders need. In this day and age, particularly, it is important that the Catholic person is willing and able to be different, because to even survive as a Catholic he will have to be different. If he is going to be part of the restoration he will have to be equipped as a leader, with a leader’s abilities to rightly judge circumstances, possible courses of action, and to think outside the box. Those are intentional goals of our homeschools and the environment supports them.

 

There are other qualities of the classroom model that contribute to the development of dependence and passivity. Students develop what Gatto calls ‘Provisional Self -Esteem’. A student learns that the teacher and the other students won’t like him if he doesn’t conform. If he doesn’t sit still, doesn’t turn his attention to the next thing when told, isn’t quiet, doesn’t line up well, then he causes trouble for the class, and he isn’t liked. It makes sense, because in a large crowd it becomes very important that the units in the crowd act in concert. If they don’t there will be chaos. Teaching students that they need to conform teaches them that they need to do what they are told, and this is important for survival. While obedience is a virtue, not all obedience is good. Obedience to rightful authority is freeing; obedience to the peer group, and obedience for the sake of group control is not. It teaches students that respect , and thus self-respect, depends on ‘playing the game’ right, and on others’ opinions. This is not a model for developing self-confidence, a willingness to strike out on one’s own, to take a chance, to do something different. Students define themselves by the good opinion of others, and that opinion has a large measure of how well the student does what he is told in it.

 

This is, by the way, playing to the weakness of the student. A series of MRI experiments by Dr. Abigail Baird at Vassar showed that while adult brain centers that deal with distress and danger light up, automatically, at the mention of activities like: bite down on a lightbulb, swallow a cockroach, light your hair on fire, or jump off a roof, the same thing is not true for adolescents. They respond verbally to those prompts in the same way adults do, stating that none of these seem like a good idea. But they don’t have an automatic brain response, and those distress centers of the brain don’t light up as they are considering the activities. What does cause those areas to light up is the thought that other teens might see their answers. In a different series of experiments, teens were asked to answer some innocuous poll questions about items like what kind of music they liked, and whether they thought Paris Hilton was cool. The teens were told that their answer and user name would be displayed to a group of other teens. To this stimulus the areas of the brain that signal distress and danger were ‘vibrantly lit’. (Nurture Shock, pp. 146-147) Dangerous activities aren’t scary to a teen, but other teens’ reactions are. I think we are all aware of this from personal experience, but it is interesting to see the experience verified physiologically. We are all sheep who want to do what those around us are doing, but adolescents have that desire at an entirely different level. Putting teens in this situation day after day, for most of their waking hours, seems like a bad idea.

 

Another issue with the classroom set up of teachers having the job of teaching material to 25 students and then measuring the students’ success in achieving mastery of the material is that it leads to students defining themselves by the success they have in reaching the product, which is an A on the report card or paper, or the teacher’s praise of their performance. Often not enough attention is given to the value of the process, or the achievement of the knowledge, in and of itself. In a study in 1998, by Dr. Carol Dweck, of 30 fifth grade students in New York grade school, the children were taken into a room one by one and given a set of easy puzzles to solve. They all did well. Fifteen of them were praised for their intelligence; they were told they were very smart. The other fifteen were praised for their effort. They were told, “You must have worked really hard.” Then the students were given a choice for a second test. They could take a test that would be more difficult than the first, but they were told they would learn a lot from it, or they could take another test just like the first, an easy test. Of those praised for effort 90% choose the harder test. Of those praised for their intelligence the majority chose the easy test. (Nurture Shock, p. 14)

 

The interesting thing is that this problem affects even very bright children. I have observed over my years of teaching children that bright, quick children are often handicapped by the fact that they don’t learn how to work hard. Things come easily so that is what they are used to and what they expect. Then, when they encounter something hard, as they inevitably do no matter how smart they are, they don’t have a set of tools for dealing with the situation. This book enlarged my understanding of the phenomenon. It’s not only that they don’t know what to do with something intellectually challenging, it’s also that they are afraid to try and fail because their self-image is so bound up in being smart. Dr. Dweck, who conducted the interesting study I just mentioned, and confirmed the results in follow up studies, said, “Emphasizing effort gives the child a variable they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to failure.”

 

Of course, classroom teachers can learn from this to modify what they praise, as can parents, but the reason I bring it up here is because in a classroom setting it is very hard not to have the spotlight on how ‘smart’ kids are, how good their grades are, how they compare to their fellow students academically and to measure both achievement and value that way. The classroom situation tends to make students notice intelligence and worry about the product (that is, the grade) rather than the process, and the resulting knowledge. They have more to lose by trying something that is hard, but interesting and enlarging. Schooling at home doesn’t have the same effect. Not everything is graded, there is lots more opportunity for mastery learning, for adjustment of presentation, and for just waiting until this individual child is ready. You can’t do those things in a classroom.

 

Another quality of the classroom model is that it tends to create anxiety. Partly this is because adjustments to the individual are hard to make, and so the child has to struggle to fit in to the mold. But it is also because there is no down time, there is no unhurried time for reflection, and, as we saw, the children are in an anxiety-producing peer group. Anxiety among children is at an all-time high. That is why there are bestselling books like ‘Simplicity Parenting’ with the theme that we build our families “on the four pillars of ‘too much’: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too fast.” (p. XI) Children have too little unstructured free time, and too many expectations. We are afraid that if our children don’t learn to read when they are very young, attend all the possible enrichment classes, get every possible opportunity for more and better education, be challenged to the max in school, they will somehow fall behind and suffer for the rest of their lives. There is little evidence to support these fears, but we pass them on all the same. So we send our kids to the ‘best’ schools, where the work loads are intense, and the expectations high.

 

In the book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, Professor Peter Huttenlocher, a pediatric neurologist at the University of Chicago, says his studies have suggested that neurological crowding, which occurs when there is too much information competing for synaptic connections in the brain, can actually slow down the learning processes. Dr. Huttenlocher cautions that too much early learning may actually be an impediment, rather than a boon to later intelligence. (p. 29) Too high and too intense a workload is probably not a good thing.

 

In Psychology Today, Jan 2010, there was an interesting article about how the rates of depression and anxiety in young children in the US have risen over the last 50 to 70 years. Five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for major depression and anxiety as was true 50 years ago. (‘Decline of Play and Rise of Children’s Mental Disorders’) The thesis of the article was that anxiety and depression are pronounced in those who do not have a sense of control over their lives. Dr. Peter Gray, author of Freedom to Learn, suggests that this phenomenon is linked to the decline of free play in children’s lives. They don’t learn self-control, because they don’t have the opportunity to discover and explore on their own. He says, “During the same half-century or more that free play has declined, school and school-like activities (such as lessons out of school and adult-directed sports) have risen continuously in prominence. Children today spend more hours per day, days per year, and years of their life in school than ever before. More weight is given to tests and grades than ever. Outside of school, children spend more time than ever in settings in which they are directed, protected, catered to, ranked, judged, and rewarded by adults…..Given a choice between really learning a subject and getting an A, the great majority of students would, without hesitation, pick the latter….Our system of constant testing and evaluation in school—which becomes increasingly intense with every passing year—is a system that very clearly substitutes extrinsic rewards and goals for intrinsic ones. It is almost designed to produce anxiety and depression.” This is another area in which the home school has a distinct advantage. Our children have time for free play. They have to learn self-control, and how to engage their siblings productively. They are encouraged to choose to learn for the sake of knowledge, not just a grade.

 

Often the ‘good’ schools have lots of homework. This contributes to the lesson that ‘One Can’t Hide’ mentioned earlier, as well as to the level of anxiety, and the lack of formative down time. Homework is a type of extended schooling, so that there is a way in which the student never leaves the school. It means that even at home children can’t be part of the community of their family. They have work to do that is ordered to their ‘real’ life, their school. Every family that I know who has put children in school after homeschooling is struck with the toll homework and school activities take on family-centered time and family chores. The student often goes from being an integral and productive member of the family team to being a ‘guest’ boarder. And this in spite of the fact that there is adequate research available that homework doesn’t really increase academic success.

 

In an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’, in 2012, Dr. Richard Walker, from Sydney University’s Education Faculty, said his research revealed that homework offers no real benefit in primary or junior high school. He said that only senior students in Years 11 and 12 can benefit from a reasonable amount of after-school work. "What the research shows is that, in countries where they spend more time on homework, the achievement results are lower.” He went on, "The amount of homework is a really critical issue for kids. If they are overloaded they are not going to be happy and not going to enjoy it. There are other things kids want to do that are very valuable things for them to be doing.”

 

One thing part of that valuable time should be used on is to form bonds in their family community. As Aristotle said, friendship requires some kind of common life. We have to be working for the same things, or loving the same things and striving for them together. To be friends you have to ‘eat salt together’, which is a way of saying you have to live together. Children don’t develop the right bonds with their families if they don’t spend time with their families. If most of their waking hours most days are spent in the classroom, then that is where they form those bonds. One of the mothers I work with said it this way, “In school what you have is kids raising kids, and the strong memories that are being formed are the memories of those classmates, not the family.”

 

This encourages a ‘them and us’ mentality. Generally, ‘us’ is the peer group with whom the student spends most of his waking hours. ‘Them’ is the adults, often including the teachers, but certainly including the parents whose time with their children is very limited. So in schools your community organization does not include, as part of the integral structure of ‘us’, those who actually have common life experiences, as you do in a happy family. When children see their ‘us’, their identity, being defined by their family community, as they do when they homeschool, they see themselves as part of an organized structure, with siblings and parents, all working together toward a common good. That is a better kind of identity to have.

 

Once, when my children were younger (quite a lot younger), we had some relatives visiting. Dinner time was approaching and I suddenly realized what the time was. “Oh, no,” I said to my children, “I need to get the house picked up, and make the dinner, and there just isn’t enough time. What am I going to do?” “Don’t worry, Mom,” my eldest organizer said. “We’ll get things picked up, and I’ll set the table. You just worry about the dinner.” Then she delegated chores. Everybody helped cheerfully and we were done in time. My visiting relative took me aside later and told me she was going to homeschool. I was glad, but a little surprised, because we hadn’t talked much about homeschooling. She said, “I don’t know how to homeschool, but I’ll do whatever it takes. I want my children to be that willing to help for the sake of the family.” She said that she had recently been visiting elsewhere, with a family whose children went to school. The children were pretty good, but if a situation arose where one or another members of the family needed help, the general response was, “Too bad, but that’s your problem. I’ve got my own problems.”

 

And this kind of ‘them and us’ mentality happens in the small classical schools, as well as big public schools, because it is built into the model. One of my students decided to go try out one of those schools. It was a good school, with a good curriculum and caring teachers. This girl told me later about a number of her experiences, but one really stood out to me. She joined a group eating lunch out at a picnic table. Everyone had their sack lunches, most likely prepared by their mothers. The conversation around the table consisted of each child talking about his or her crazy mother. They each tried to top the last speaker, “If you think that’s bad, listen to this…” The conversation worked its way around to my student, who said, anxiously, because she knew this wasn’t going to go over well, “I like my mother.” She was a social outcast from that point on. To survive socially, she needed to do what they others did and adopt their point of view. Their point of view was that we are ‘us’ and the adults are ‘them’.

 

This is, of course, a problem in another way. The people you are most forming bonds with won’t continue to be part of your life. Children learn not to depend on the attachments they form, because those friends will not continue to be their friends. They learn to value their associations with their teachers, and then the teachers are gone when the student moves into the next year. This is not a good model for family life. It teaches children that the attachments they form with the people with whom they live are not lasting. They don’t expect their intimate companions to be a permanent part of their lives. This is very different than family interactions. Brothers and sisters are brothers and sisters for life; friends come and go.

 

The whole classroom model is bad socially. Parents don’t teach their children, so then they think they can’t teach, so they think they need others, and they turn over the formation of their children to ‘experts’. It becomes the norm for children to be away from their parents most of their time. The family unit is disrupted. We think that is normal, because most of us grew up that way, but if you stand back and look at it objectively, doesn’t this seem very strange? Parents are uninvolved in their own children’s formation. Even when it is a good formation, that seems like a bad idea. Having classes from subject matter experts seems good to me, at the appropriate time. But children don’t need to go to school for that to happen. MODG has Learning Support classes for that reason, and one can arrange local co-op classes that meet once a week to achieve a like goal. They don’t need to turn over their lives to strangers, however nice the strangers may be. When we look at our dysfunctional society and the breakdown in family life, there are many factors to blame, but one place we should be looking is the classroom model of education.

 

Growing Up in School

 

Sadly, as the young man I mentioned at the beginning of this talk pointed out, for many children school IS their life because it is the activity to which they give the most consistent time. There are 168 hours in a week. Children sleep about 56 hours per week (8 hrs/day). The current average for how much television is watched is 28 hours a week. There is the time getting ready for school, and traveling to and from school. I estimate 7 hours a week for that. There is homework. Say they spend 7 hours a week on that (though I know some children spend more). They need time to eat, though family dinners are out of favor these days so there probably isn’t a lot of time spent on meals. But say it is 4. But the children are in school 30 hours a week, the largest portion of their waking time.

 

Notice that this leaves 36 hours a week that is not taken up by one of these activities. If we add in private lessons of some kind, however, and sports, we cut that time down further. There is not much time left over for children to follow their interests, or even determine what those interests are. There isn’t much time to read for fun, or engage in conversation, or be bored and thus be forced to explore possibilities. We let our children live their lives like little ants, with everything pre-programmed. And that is why we create dependent human beings.

 

In past ages children did not live their lives at school, and in programmed activities, even if they went to school, because the time there was a small proportion of their total time. Think about Laura’s experience in the Little House books. School was only three months of the year. That was all the time that could be afforded for school. The students had other important jobs within their families. They were needed, integral members of the family community.

 

Once there were factories, and two income families, with both parents working, children needed to be ‘taken care of’; they needed to be supervised by someone other than their parents. School became day care, and children were being raised by their teachers and their peers. Before that time many things were very different in the United States. More people thought for themselves; they were educated individuals. They were inventive, confident, and able to think critically. According to John Gatto, in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, “some studies suggest that at the time of the American Revolution, at least for non-slaves on the Eastern seaboard, literacy was close to total.” A fifth-grade math or rhetoric textbook from 1850 has what we would consider college level material on it. Senator Ted Kennedy’s office released a paper in 1990 claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after that it never exceeded 91%. Isn’t that interesting? Living at school has actually made us less educated. And that is not just due to lousy materials.

 

We have forced our children to live in and grow up in an unnatural situation. They are artificially put in an age segregated, confined, area where everyone is supposed to do the same task at the same time. This is not a preparation for life, certainly not for family life, which is where most people’s earthly happiness is found. Children escape by daydreaming, by losing focus, by disconnecting from the present situation. Good teachers work to engage the children, but the environment is working against them.

 

The best teachers and schools try to bring more real life scenarios into the classroom. In Finland, students in a classroom are provided with 15 minute breaks after every 45 minute class period. They have less time in the classroom than Americans do (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school), but they outperform them academically, at least as measured by the Programme for International Student assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15 and 16 year olds in 65 nations and territories around the world. (The Atlantic. Finnish Education Chief: ’We Created a School System Based on Equality’) Dr. Pellegrini, author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development, has done a series of experiments to explore the relationship between recess timing and attentiveness in the classroom. In every experiment students were more attentive after a break than before. (The Atlantic. ‘How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play’). My only point here is that sometimes less is more. Fewer hours in the classroom, and more time for free play, are easy to arrange when you homeschool.

 

There has not only been an upsurge in anxiety in children over the last 70 or so years, it seems there has also been a significant increase in ADHD and in vision issues. One wonders what more free play time would do to mitigate the problems. Dr. Stephen Camamata says in a recent (2016) article in Psychology Today that “The point here is that US schools are pushing students beyond their skill levels while forcing them to complete endless—and mindless—worksheets. This ‘perfect storm’ of rigid instruction at ever-younger ages and an inflexible ‘one size fits all’ common core curriculum may actually be contributing to the ADHD ‘epidemic.’”Little children don’t do well sitting in the same chair for long periods of time. It’s not natural for their bodies, which are being formed, or should be being formed, by use. They should be climbing trees, playing jacks, and jumping rope, not sitting in chairs. If they did the vision problems would often clear up, too.

 

I have regularly thought that when people say that homeschooled children aren’t living in the real world, they just haven’t reflected on what the real world is. Some years ago I read a newspaper article about an innovative program put into practice in a public grade school in my area. Each student in the school was assigned to a family group, with a staff member as parent, and a mixture of children from other grades as siblings. This group got together for 30-45 minutes per month. The idea was to give students a sense of responsibility and “create a climate of stewardship”. The principal hoped that it would encourage younger students to look up to older students, and to have older students take care of younger students. I thought the most telling part of the whole article was the last sentence. “Special needs students and GATE students are likewise assigned to families on a random basis thus creating heterogeneous families and a mini picture of the real world.” That’s right. Our children, our homeschooled children, are living in the real world, and it’s a world that encourages responsibility, a sense of stewardship, and teaches them how to get along in a family. Classrooms as classrooms are not achieving those goals.

 

All good teachers are working toward the better model; they encourage more discussion, more responsibility, more activity. But they have to work against their situation. They try to reach all the students, to individuate instruction. But in a classroom it is hard to do. Out of the twenty or so students there will be the couple of quick bright kids who can’t be encouraged to talk too much, because the other students will get lost. They learn not to try too hard. There will be the few children who are struggling and the teacher can’t key his lessons to them, because he will lose everyone else. They learn that they aren’t going to learn. The teacher tries to aim for the middle, inevitably losing both ends, and even so can’t connect with all those ‘average’ kids, because they aren’t all alike. It’s a problem in the situation.

 

All of this operates against the lessons we should want, and in the small classical school do actually want, for our children. The medium itself contravenes the content of their lessons. Classical education is ordered to making men free, able to direct themselves and the life of the community. The content is much better suited to a more natural environment, where responsibility, time management, and good decision making are all integral to the situation.

 

Homeschooling has all those qualities built in. I understand it has its own difficulties, but in home education students are necessarily encouraged to take charge, to investigate, to share, to manage time, and to self-evaluate. They learn to make judgments about what they have learned and if they need to do more. They are encouraged to develop independently, while interacting in the family situation.

 

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not an advocate of unschooling, or of child directed education, nor am I opposed to classes with teachers, and I am passionately in favor of classical education. I think parents know more about what children need than children do, and I think it is very important for a person to learn to study something that at first sight looks uninteresting. I think having subject matter experts in a child’s life is a blessing. I approve of classes for children, as long as they are not all day, every day. Further, I agree, of course, with the Church that having Catholic schools for children to go to is essential, because not all parents are able to homeschool their children. And even those that are may not be able to for all of their children’s secondary education. In those cases, I think the small classical school down the block is an answer to prayer. Additionally, I know that some classes are better than others, and that some teachers and administrators are aware that the classroom model needs to be modified.

 

What I am opposed to is having children spend most of their waking hours away from their families, essentially growing up in a classroom, with other kids exactly their same age being their primary teachers, when they don’t have to. I am opposed to the dehumanization of treating these individuals as though they were all alike, and should learn the same things at the same pace from the same presentation. I am opposed to the necessary passivity of their learning, given their situation.

 

It is my view, and my experience, that homeschooling provides better education. It easily allows for mastery learning and differentiated instruction. It easily allows for a differentiated curriculum for different members of the family. It promotes a more comradely view of education. It provides opportunities for everyone to learn together, in a non-age segregated way. Children learn the essential skills of time management and responsibility, which I acknowledge can happen in brick and mortar schools, too. But with homeschooling you can truly have the best of both worlds, and avoid the lessons I have been discussing that are taught by the classroom model. With homeschooling, students have a home life, a natural learning situation that encourages them to be active in their education, with subject matter experts as needed, and meetings with other students arranged for specific purposes. Some homeschooling moms have pointed out that in high school students benefit from the competition and camaraderie of other student studying the same material. That’s true and that is why MODG instituted the online Learning Support classes. Also, as I mentioned earlier, homeschool high school students often do well getting together in small local groups for specific subjects, and undertaking service projects together. That seems appropriate. But it’s not a way of life. It is an intentionally chosen adjunct to what is a way of life, namely learning in the midst of family life.