Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Homeschooling Comes of Age

That's the title of a great post from Isabel Lyman at the Ludwig van Mises Institute's website today. It's an unlikely place for a highly positive post on homeschooling, a website that claims to be "the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics." But highly positive it is, in the vein of John Taylor Gatto's writing, if you're familiar with that.

Here are some of the highlights:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the modern home education movement was in its infancy. At that time, most Americans viewed home-styled education as a quaint tourist attraction or the lifestyle choice of those willing to endure more hardship than necessary.

What a difference a few decades makes.

Homeschooling has undergone an extreme makeover. From maverick to mainstream, the movement has acquired a glamorous, populist sheen.

Isn't that the truth? Though I must admit, it sort of annoys me to think that I'm involved in anything with "a glamorous, populist sheen"! I started homeschooling because it was best for my children, not because it was mainstream, glamorous, or populist. In fact, when my daughter was 3 and we decided to homeschool, it was barely coming out of the shadows, and only just beginning to be accepted as a legitimate schooling option.

The article goes on to discuss star athletes, winners of national competitions, presidential candidates, and high achievers such as Micah Stanley, who recently passed the California state bar exam at age 19. Fortunately, the author does not pretend all homeschool students achieve these unusual levels of success and notoriety.

Although it's commendable when the young achieve Herculean goals, homeschooling has always been more about freedom and personal responsibility than winning an Ivy League scholarship or playing at Wimbledon. In general, it has attracted working-class families of all ethnicities and faiths, who have been eager to provide a nurturing, stimulating learning experience.

She then points out one of the real problems with public school education:
In a legal sense, homeschools serve as a glaring reminder of a complex issue
that has become the stuff of landmark Supreme Court cases: does the state have
the authority to coerce a youngster to attend school and sit at a desk for 12
years? Whether said child has the aptitude and maturity for such a long-term
contract (or is it involuntary servitude?) remains an uncomfortable topic
because, in the acceptable mantra of the day, "education is a right."

Oooh - involuntary servitude? Ouch! But isn't that the truth? It has become accepted practice in this nation - and in most "civilized" nations around the world - for us to lock our children up most of the day in classrooms, from the time they are five or six until they are adults. By the way, have you ever noticed how many of our schools look and behave more like prisons? Small windows, locked doors, children only allowed in certain places at certain times, herded around like sheep - Ugh! What a way to take the spontaneity out of childhood! And by calling it "education," we also remove all the joy from learning.

Ms. Lyman's concluding paragraph sums it up beautifully:
Above all, the merit of homeschooling is that it allows for experimentation, flexibility, and trial and error. Here is the great contrast with state-provided education. As with all systems hammered out by bureaucracies, public schools get stuck in a rut, perpetuate failures, respond slowly to changing times, and resist all reforms. Errors are not localized and contained, but all consuming and system wide. It's bad enough when such a system is used to govern labor contracts or postal service; it is a tragic loss when it is used to manage kids' minds.

Nicely put! I hope some of the apparently liberal readers of that website read this article and take it to heart. Meantime, it provides a great endorsement of homeschooling, and an encouragement for those of us who may find it challenging at times to deal with our own kids day in and day out.


Shawna said...

NICE article! I would love to copy it and share it at our local elementary school and think I will. Even with homeschooling I still send things to the local elementary school here LOL

Rest assured that one liberal reader did read it and took it to heart.

Marcy Muser said...

Thanks - I thought it was really good. Sorry about the references to "liberals" - it does seem like most don't really care for homeschooling, but I'm glad you do. Thanks for sticking with me even when we disagree!

Dana said...

Hey, I like the Mises institute. They have written some interesting things on homeschooling in the past. Since they are generally against governmental solutions of any sort, it really isn't such an unlikely place. : )