Homeschooling: the successful social experiment
by Jane Boswell
A few decades ago the question was: "Is this legal?" So after some court battles and legislative wrangles, all fifty states relented that homeschooling was not only legal but grounded in and supported by the Constitution and the constitutions of most states.
That was in the early to mid 80s.
Then the debate turned to the question: "How on earth will children be socialized if they are not in school?" Although research clearly proved early on that socialization was a non-issue, still it plagued homeschooling parents until... well, until, sadly enough, children began shooting each other and their teachers in U.S. schools. With the almost-daily occurrence of news stories about violence or other unfortunate incidents in tradional schools, no one really talks seriously about homeschooled children missing out on some kind of socialization that can only happen while confined within school walls all day. However, I've noticed that the question seems to be popping up on blogs and occasional news stories more often recently. Perhaps this is directly related to state budgets. As many states face drastic cut-backs, the powers-that-be are analyzing trends, and homeschooling has popped up from under the radar.
The Socialization that comes from homeschooling
Socialization is not "done" by confining children within four walls, making them sit still, be quiet, stand in line, ask questions only at appropriate times, obey mindlessly and respond appropriately to the harsh noise of bells and the shriek of playground monitors' whistles (How do I know this? I was once a classroom teacher functioning under the strict regulations determined by administrators and boards.) School-type socialization is a dynamic which is clearly designed to bring people under the control of authority and to obedience to group standards, norms and peer pressure.
True socialization enables the powers of emotional, spiritual and intellectual development to grow together at a gentle pace just as the individual grows physically and mentally. As pointed out over the decades by human development experts, the act of truly "socializing" a human being includes vital components, none of which is provided well or consistently by the forced school environment:
- Children need the freedom to explore real living - provided by their own backyard, neighborhood and community.
- Children need a close, intimate relationship with an adult and caring role models to learn and to understand the positive attributes of giving, sharing, helping, loving - they need their parents and family.
- Children need a consistent, secure, predictable environment and protection from negative influences
their own home is best, especially for young children (under age 8.)
- Children need the freedom to choose, explore, create, play, express themselves and be alone - time to grow
The "problem" of homeschool socialization is an irrelevant issue if you know anything about what experts have said for over one hundred years about schools as places where positive social experiences happen. But still there are so many wonderful aspects of the socialization produced by homeschooling, it’s worth taking a look at and perhaps, in light of recent school tragedies we can read decades-old research with renewed interest. Perhaps we’re actually ready to listen and learn.
Dr. Raymond S. Moore and his wife Dorothy who championed the release of young children from the institutional environment wrote in their landmark, almost prophetic book, Better Late Than Early, first published twenty-five years ago, more relevant than ever today:
"In principle, a young child, given reasonable freedom and personal guidance, develops better outside the classroom than within it. This is particularly true of the first 8 years or so. M.W. Sullivan, one of the earliest educational programmers was asked how a child could develop socially out of school and how he would ever learn to get along with other kids. He, in turn, asked for proof that the school does a better socializing job than the home."
Then he added:
"In my own case, I was the only kid in my neighborhood who was sent to kindergarten. It was optional then in Connecticut. So for almost a year my peer group was out playing, learning, creating their own very exciting world while I was being tortured in school. They built a treehouse. They built a hut. And what did I do? I learned how to lie on a mat, how to listen to stories, how to line up, how to sit still. Finally, I figured how to escape. I wet my pants and they sent me home. They sent me home. The first time was an accident, but after that I made sure to do it every day. And I was free to learn again." (Better Late Than Early, Dr. Raymond Moore, Reader’s Digest Press)
Turning to events like the school shootings - the Columbines – listen to the words of one of America’s most famous teachers. Best selling author/educator John Taylor Gatto, crowned New York’s teacher of the year just a few weeks before quitting his 30 year career in hopes of finding a job "where he wouldn’t have to hurt kids to make a living," recounts:
"Bianca, You Animal Shut Up!
Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient fact: that what wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in front of an assembly, "BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!" Like the wail of a banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body continued to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.
Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her place? It must happen thousands of times everyday in schools all over. I’ve seen it many times, if I were painfully honest I’d admit to doing it many times. Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That’ why we have graded classes. In any case it wasn’t your own little Janey or mine.
Most tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which allow every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to fulfill the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place. It’s called "social efficiency." But I get this precognition, this flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl, having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.
I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who didn’t go to school for a month after her little friends took to whispering, "Bianca is an animal. Bianca is an animal," while Bianca, only seconds earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears, struggling her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words meant.
In my dream I see this fiend manufactured by schooling regarding Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
1) Gives Jane’s car a ticket before the meter runs out.
2) Throws away Jane’s passport application after Jane leaves the office.
3) Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates Bianca’s apartment from Jane’s while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for relief.
4) All of the above.
You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livliehood, event though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school. They are terrified with good cause; about 33 are murdered there every year. (From 1992 through 1999, 262 children were murdered in school.) Your great, great grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children. What happened?
... Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened, our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally-managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant. The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever sub-system they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All of this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling."(from the Prologue, The Underground History of American Education, A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling)
John Gatto, using his 50 years of "school confinement as a student and teacher" followed by 8 years of research, goes on to prove why school is a dangerous place for humans and a disaster in social engineering. If you need all of the statistics and more information, please read his soon to be released book in it's entirety. (see end of article for ordering information)
Dr. John Wesley Taylor writes:
"Homeschooling helps create and encourage the environment for these to happen and allows children the freedom to reclaim the essential ingredients for healthy living, positive psycho/social development. It liberates, it rebuilds and in time it heals. Children that are never confined to an institution or spend little time there unless by choice thrive socially. Recent studies on homeschooled students have clearly shown that they develop much higher levels of security and self confidence, are far less peer dependent and in general, experience much more security in their ability to relate to human beings of all ages - those younger and much older themselves." (Dr. John Wesley Taylor, "Self-concept in homeschooling children", HomeSchool Researcher; Delahooke, 1986, National Home Education Research Institute, Fact Sheet 1)
Homeschooling offers the child the essential of time - time to investigate, to play, to explore, to build relationships with the important people in their life and time just to be. They have time to discover things for themselves, without pressure following their developmental inner "clocks". There are now choices. Free from the stranglehold of classroom conformity he can choose his own friends and learns to deal with people he might not necessarily like in a safe environment on his own terms. Homeschooled children tend to make friends naturally, with all kinds of people of different ages and backgrounds. Their social environment is multi-dimensional extending their daily experiences far beyond four walls. Under the guidance of those who love him most and know him best, the child now has significant control over his life, his learning and his social environment. He has the time to move through life at his own rate, at the pace of his own mental, emotional and physical development and in ways the narrow limits of the classroom could never offer.
As an "unschooled" student writes:
"At the age of eighteen and as one who has never gone to school, I realize that somewhere during the past five to six years I’ve come to think of myself not as a homeschooler or as an unschooler but simply as who I am, Christine McKee, citizen and community member. My life, except for the few times my parents doubted their own belief in unschooling, has essentially been mine to structure and live as I have chosen...." (from The Teenage Liberation Handbook - How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, Second Edition, Lowry House Publishers, 1998, by Grace Llewellyn
It is also significant that the homeschooled child benefits from being allowed to explore their own spiritual nature and the family’s beliefs and values can be naturally experienced regularly without the fear of criticism or censorship. For many homeschooling families, this is one of the most vital factors in their decision to homeschool. They want their children to adopt family values and to learn these values from consistent role models who live out their belief system rather than talk about them. The great majority of homeschooling families with whom I have worked over the last 20 years, have been consistently involved in community volunteer endeavors and work and service to others. It is simply built into their regular life routine.
Now, after several decades, modern homeschooling has become an accepted alternative to institutionalized schooling. Families have reclaimed their children and their children have reclaimed their lives. Both, together worked to strengthen the family unit - the backbone of society. The time and pace offered has provided the opportunity for parents and children to focus on the social essentials of individualism, intellectual ideals, communication, and the nurturing of values which form the foundation of healthy emotional, psychological and spiritual development.
I know first-hand that homeschooling is producing exceptional individuals and responsible thinkers who will ultimately benefit their community, country and world. Universities, colleges and businesses are actively pursuing home educated students to bring excellence into their organizations. These young people have learned to invest in themselves, to work and live productively with others, and to walk confidently into their future. They have had much invested in them by those who love and know them best and who have a compelling interest in their future – their parents and families. If there is a list somewhere of successful ‘social experiments’ homeschooling deserves a place near the top. Perhaps we’ll find it there one day. Time will tell.
1. The Underground History of American Education, A
Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, John Taylor Gatto, Oxford Village Press, 725 McDonough Road, Oxford, New York 13830. (to order)
2. Better Late Than Early, A New Approach To Your Child’s Education, Raymond S. Moore, Dorothy Moore http://www.HomeEducator.com/HEFS/catalog/Raymond.htm
3. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore http://www.HomeEducator.com/HEFS/catalog/Raymond.htm
4. The Teenage Liberation Handbook, How To Get a Real Life and Education, Grace Lewellyn, Lowry House
(The last 3 books are available at most bookstores, at Amazon.com or you might be able to find a copy at your local library.)