Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Home School Manifesto

To the Concerned Citizen Who Made It Her Business to Question My Decision to Home School My Daughter:

First of all, I cannot imagine that if the situation were reversed, and you had happened to mention that you were going to be sending your child to public school, that I would dare to approach you and not only question you about why, but then try to persuade you that your thinking about the matter was wrong. Secondly, thank you for prompting me to ponder once again the myriad reasons why I will educate my children at home. When I returned home after our conversation, I began to write my personal Home School Manifesto. I’ll carry copies of it with me from now on and pass it out to folks like you who believe they know better than me what’s best for my kid.

Why Home School?
My primary reason is academic success. I believe that my husband and I can give our daughter a better education, in less time, than any public school and at far less cost than any private school. We will teach her in the classical manner: providing her with a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math; systematic, integrated instruction in science, history, art, and music; as well as lessons in Latin and German. I believe we will do a far better job helping her to become a moral and thinking citizen of the world than any institutional education system.

Studies of standardized test scores have repeatedly demonstrated that home schooled students are far better prepared for college than their institutionally schooled peers. Here’s a quote from a paper that appeared in “Education Policy Analysis Archives.”
Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the home school students in the study were exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for home school students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide and between the 60th and 70th percentile of Catholic/Private school students. For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time home school students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.
Four years ahead! How can I deny my daughter such an opportunity?

Since I enjoy spending time with my daughter, watching her learn and grow, I don’t want to send her off to school so that some strangers can enjoy (or more likely, NOT enjoy) spending time with this wonderful little person. She's truly one of my favorite people on the planet. If I believed it was in her best interest to go to school, I'd let her go, but if not, why send her away?

More concerned folks raise the “socialization” issue with me than any other. School does a horrendous job socializing children and seems designed to grind down the unique and elevate the average. Children should spend time with other children. School, however, is total immersion in the peer group, six to eight hours of the day at least, throughout a highly impressionable time of life. I think an couple hours a day with a group of peers is as much as a kid needs before age 10 or so, except on supervised group outings like camping, museum visits, sports meets, etc. Children are best socialized by loving parents and other trusted adults who can model kind, responsible behavior and by playing with friends one-on-one or in small groups. Some have argued that experiencing the trial-by-fire that is school builds character and while I can't disagree that trauma does shape one's character, I don't believe it improves it. Where in adult life do we consider teasing, bullying, or sexual harrassment just something we have to experience in order to get along better in life?

How have people come to so wholeheartedly accept the shifting of children from the home to institutions of a thousand or more that home schoolers are continually asked to justify themselves? For most of human history, parents have educated their children at home and human culture evolved to a remarkable level of sophistication. Schools do provide an opportunity for literacy to many who might have otherwise remained illiterate, but it is not in the least bit necessary to prepare for the “real” world or college and comes with so many costs.

So, thanks, kindly intrusive lady who tried to convince me to send my kid to public school, but no thanks.

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