Not why, but why not

(Reposted and cleaned up from my old blog. Apparently, nothing prior to July 2007 made the jump.)

From time to time, I’ve been asked why we homeschool. Well, for lots of reasons, some more important (to us) than others: for matters of faith, philosophy, understanding of how individuals learn, and personal choice. And sometimes just to be contrary.

But why we don’t send our kids to public school? That’s easy.

Mass schooling is an assembly line system that is inflexible and inefficient. My husband was fast-tracked to “remedial math” in the second grade because he couldn’t finish a worksheet fast enough. That would be the guy that doesn’t just know math, he intuits math. He speaks math. But alas, he does not learn like “they” say one should. That label followed him through high school.

Mass schooling cannot adapt to the myriad of ways individuals learn. In the name of efficiency, the government system pigeonholes students as early as possible and keeps them in that rut until they’re spat out at the end: educated or not. When you work with large numbers, it’s the averages that matter, not the individual success. As a parent, however, I am very interested in the successful education of each of my individual children.

“But that’s why parental involvement it so important, it keeps the system accountable.” Sure, as long as you agree with the schools. As long as you shut up, make sure your kid does her homework and bring cupcakes twice a year. But when you disagree with the system, they aren’t interested in your involvement. Have you ever fought the system? My mom did for my sister. My sister is not a traditional learner. She’s got a wicked smart mind, but it’s not like most other minds. Which is great, unless you’re a square peg being pounded into the educational round hole. My mom fought valiantly to have her homeschool credits accepted, then to line-up accreditation tests to verify two years of education. Whether it was absolute disinterest or outright hostility, the school did not–would not–accommodate my sister’s unique educational needs. (Despite the public school systems attempts to thwart her, she has succeeded wildly, graduating from her university summa cum laude.)

Again: large systems are not interested in individual outcomes, only in overall results. The system is geared to accommodate the largest group of people. If you aren’t in that group? Well, it sucks to be you.
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The fact is the government monopoly that is public schools is a miserable failure. Here’s a small taste of the disaster from  John Stossel. Spending per student has risen as literacy has fallen. So they pile on experimental programs and crazy alphabet soup legislation. (In C.S. Lewis’s book That Hideous Strength, the main villainess says, “You mustn’t experiment on children; but offer the dear little kiddies free education in an experimental school attached to the N.I.C.E. and it’s all correct!”) If the goal is to produce an educated populace, public schools are a failure. Of course, maybe that’s not the goal.

The philosophy and purpose of mass government schooling in this country is primarily socialization: to produce “good citizens” who will consume much and not revolt against an inefficient and corrupt government, or even exercise their rights to free speech to complain about the inefficient and corrupt government. For more on this particular theory, see John Taylor Gatto’s book The Underground History of American Education. For even more on the philosophy of state schools, check out Dr. Sanity.

Furthermore, as a Christian I affirm that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov 9:10). Public schools, by law, cannot acknowledge the religious aspect of education. Most have jettisoned the idea of objective truth altogether in favor of the asinine “truth for you, truth for me” model. This is an empty, evil foundation and everything built on it is faulty.

Oh yeah, and the violence, the materialism, the pressure to conform, the stamping out of creativity, the sexual predators–both among teachers and students, those things are also bad.

I am a product of public schools. I’m a pretty typical learner. I was fortunate to be labeled “gifted” early in my schooling (this is key: school classifications are a rigid caste system, there is little (upward) movement.) I figured out how the system worked and graduated with a high GPA and a “meh” education. (In college, I majored in meh, minored in blah.) I was taught to read phonetically, something my husband and sister were denied, and for that I’m thankful. I inherited my love of reading from my parents and it certainly doesn’t take a multi-billion dollar industry to teach a child phonics. But as for my education, to quote C.S. Lewis (again) in That Hideous Strength (again) “His education had been neither scientific nor classical — merely ‘Modern.’ ”

To recap: mass government schooling is a broken factory system under-girded by wrong, evil philosophies. It disregards and in some cases destroys our individuality. And that’s why our children will not now, nor ever, attend public schools.

4 responses to “Not why, but why not”

  1. Amy S. (@darkyetlovely) Avatar

    Great post, April! I love the way that you laid everything out here. It is very cool to see other homeschooling folks out there supporting it in a positive way. 🙂

  2. Amy S. (@darkyetlovely) Avatar

    One of my friends posted this response when I posted this on Facebook. Thought I’d share it with you 🙂

    “Oh, Amy, I loved this. I was in public school all of my life and except for an short stint in an amazing school system, my education was exactly “meh”. I think there are some really great teachers out there, but they are not supported by the system – they are thwarted in most of their efforts. I think there are some really terrible teachers out there that ARE supported by a system that looks the other way. My only ray of hope was Running Start, when I was able to go to college classes, though even there…some stars shone much brighter than others. When I was 18 I determined that should I have children, they would be largely home-schooled. Perhaps not for their entire educational career, but a large and early portion. I truly, truly value education for education’s sake. I still go to lectures now – for fun. I’ve seen too much “dark side” of the public system from my own perspective. These are all secular arguments. Don’t even get me started on it from a Christian POV…”

  3. E. G. Avatar
    E. G.

    I wouldn’t really call this support of homeschool in a ” positive” way, that’s for sure. It’s definitely negative toward public education, which is an unfortunate insult to some teachers who spend hours of their own time working their tails off coming up with creative ways to help those “square peg” students have success as an individual, regardless of their success in the “evil” system that is public education.

  4. April Avatar

    E.G., you’ll notice I said precious little about teachers. There are excellent teachers who work hard to buck the system. There are horrible teachers who use they system to their advantage. And there are most teachers who–like most people– are just average Joes and Janes, doing the best they can.

    However, what this post addresses is the inherently flawed system.

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