The author considers the question of the "liberal" schools - free schools, holistic schools, Montessori or Waldorf schools. She discusses the benefits as well as the concerns of those schools. In the end, her conclusion is that while those schools are certainly much better at keeping kids motivated to learn, they suffer a couple of significant defects common to more traditional schools.
First, children in those schools still have to conform to the desires and schedules of the teacher or the other children. The need to manage a large number of kids means the students don't get the one-on-one time they would like, nor do they have the time to immerse themselves fully into the subject matter they are studying. As the author puts it,
What if a child wanted to take a nap? What if he wanted to be alone? What if he wanted to call his parents? What if he wanted his parents to hold him and read him a book? What if he wanted to feel the comfort of being at home? What if he just wanted to be left alone for a couple of hours to play a game or read some books of his choice? What if he didn’t want to be constantly watched and surveyed and monitored? Well, too bad. Sorry. In even the most holistic, free-school there is no special time or place for the individual child.
The other significant drawback to even an independent or democratic school is that the teacher does not have the deep, loving relationship with the child that a parent has. Educational research has shown that children learn best when they are deeply cared for. The author puts it this way:
I do believe that, aside from the unlimited learning possibilities, this is the very real and very important difference between the very best liberal school and home schooling: the loving, personal, and close relationships within the life learning family.
This article also brings up a really important issue in terms of socialization, and one that's not discussed much in homeschooling circles. The issue is this: how do we teach our children to live within the power structure of society? Here's how the author puts it:
In liberal circles the question of socialization is usually asked in this context: how will a child, who is not regularly in school, learn the values of the community and how will a child, who is not regularly in school, learn how to compromise and accept the status quo? This question is not so simple as to whether or not the child will learn how to talk to or relate to other people, but rather is based on the concern (or fear) that the home school child may not be willing to compromise her values when her values are counter-hegemonic. When we break down the reasons that make us feel like school might be better than home schooling, we find that the reasons for going to school are rather contradictory to a liberal and explorative education. That is, the reasons for going to school are actually the opposite of liberating. In fact, the reason for going to school is to learn to fit in and obey the very same power structure that mainstream society (and public schooling) operates under.
When we break down the ultimate purpose of schools to be the transmitters of culture, and when we explore how schools transmit this culture, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a very invisible, yet very powerful and active structure. Even the most liberal schools are perpetuating a system that takes power out of the hands of the individual and family and transfers the power into the hands of an entity - an institution - and the culture of power. By using this system as the sole means for learning and education, we are surrendering our inherent ability to be the leaders of our own learning, education, and future.
And here is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to schooling. If the "ultimate purpose of schools" is "to be the transmitters of culture," the first question that must be asked is what kind of culture we want to be transmitted to our children. If "the reason for going to school is to learn to fit into and obey" a given power structure, we must ask ourselves whether we in fact WANT our children to learn to fit into and obey the current power structure, or whether we have other goals for them. Perhaps our goal is that our children break free of the current power structure; perhaps it is that they create a new power structure; perhaps it is that they submit themselves to a different power altogether from the one our society is subject to. But if any of these is true, sending our children to any currently existing school is going to defeat our purpose. Teaching our children at home allows us to carefully build into them the culture and values we believe to be most significant.
And perhaps that's the core reason why the current system opposes homeschoolers so vehemently. Unlike even so-called "independent" schools, we homeschoolers represent a threat to the current culture and power structure. We are raising our children to be truly independent of the pervading culture, to think for themselves and to become all they can be. No wonder the system fears us!