“Schooling operates out of an assumption that ordinary people are biologically or psychologically or politically inferior; education assumes that individuals are sovereign spirits. “
–John Taylor Gatto
Family Life and Homeschooling—A Growing Educational Trend
Home schooling has been steadily becoming a more popular option for parents around the world. According to one article, it’s the fastest growing form of education, increasing at an annual rate of between 7% and 15% per year. While information isn’t available for all countries, countries in which home schooling is on the rise include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the U.K. Those statistics don’t include parents who homeschool just one of their children or those that homeschool part time or only for a year or two.
There are a number of reasons that parents choose to homeschool their children. Some choose homeschooling for religious reasons. Others believe that school environments aren’t conducive to learning or don’t foster independent thinking. Still others are concerned about perceived deterioration of the academic quality of public schools as a result of overcrowded classrooms. Parents of children with special needs often choose to homeschool their children because their homes provide better accommodation for those needs. The majority of parents who choose to homeschool do so for the best of reasons. However, sadly, there are some parents who choose this option as a way to hide child abuse.
Benefits of Family Life and Homeschooling
Whatever their reasons for choosing to home school their children, most parents report that one of the benefits of family life and home schooling is a sense of togetherness. Family life and home schooling advocate and educational reformer John Taylor Gatto believes that rigid school routines discourage children from the process of self-discovery. He describes self-discovery as a process of making choices, noticing patterns within those choices and using that self-knowledge to make future choices. Further, he believes that if the personal growth that accompanies this process is interfered with, it can result in creating adults who are easily manipulated. He says that his 30 years of teaching left him with the realization that “Institutionalized schooling… is about obedience in exchange for favors and advantages.”
One of the benefits of home schooling is gaining valuable experiences that cannot be created within the confines of a classroom. For example, the ability to take far more field trips allows both parents and their children to experience, rather than read about, the changing of the seasons. Family life and home schooling also become inseparable as children gain hands-on experience. For example, a nutrition class can include shopping for and cooking a meal, which could also include a valuable lesson in hosting a social event, as well as the sanitary importance of cleaning up afterwards. One mother’s personal experience with family life and homeschooling lists some additional benefits.
The Challenges Presented by Family Life and Homeschooling
One of the challenges of family life and homeschooling is that the parents must often reeducate themselves. This is especially true in the age of technology, in which new information is being discovered and disseminated more quickly than at any other time in human history. Because it is rare for any person to have a passion for every subject, many parents that homeschool form support groups in order to utilize one another’s interests, talents and abilities. For example, a parent who enjoys and excels in teaching science but dreads teaching grammar might arrange to have their child attend another parent’s grammar lesson in exchange for their child attending a science lesson. Another benefit of this approach is that it provides an avenue for supervised socializing since home schooled children often have fewer opportunities to socialize.
One of the most common challenges of family life and homeschooling is that of sibling rivalry. Maintaining an emotional atmosphere that promotes optimum learning can be difficult. All families experience occasional conflict among siblings, and some parents report that teaching children respectful conflict resolution skills can be the most difficult aspect of family life and homeschooling. Another is the potential for parental burnout, since parents who home school are often on duty 24 hours a day. That’s why scheduling time away to relax on a regular basis is extremely important.
In 1909, President Woodrow Wilson, who was then the president of Princeton University, said “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity to forgo the privilege of a liberal education.” For many parents who want their children to receive a first class education, but are unable to pay expensive tuition, homeschooling can reduce the effects of income inequality.
There is no shortage of examples of successful people who learned to be such independent thinkers at a young age that they found it unnecessary to earn a college degree. That list includes computer whizzes Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell, creator of the CNN news network Ted Turner. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, and Warren Avis of Avis Rent-a-Car. It’s hard to argue with success like that.