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Homeschooling Help And History

Aug 17, 2007
When parents begin homeschooling, much thought and fact finding goes into their decision. This initial period is full of discovery and anticipation. The day arrives when homeschooling begins.

Three weeks into the homeschooling effort things begin to feel rocky. The thought of homeschooling your children may have seemed like a great idea at first. But then reality hits you. Yes you may be good in math or science, but you're not knowledgeable in everything. Then there are so many questions that start going through your head. Where do I get curriculum, what curriculum should I use, can I really do this, and of course what about socialization?

Put your mind at ease. It's not as difficult as it looks or feels at this early stage in homeschooling.

First and foremost, relax and have fun. The main objective to parenting is to teach children how to become adults. The reason you are homeschooling is to enjoy the time spent with your children and to learn together. You want to help your children learn how to learn, teach them how to figure things out, to work through problems.

Once they understand the basic principles of math, language, or life they can accomplish much. Here is something you might want to think about. In the typical school, one teacher spends six to seven hours teaching twenty to thirty children. This is equivalent to one on one tutoring for only one to two hours a day.

Learning is a lot easier in a relaxed atmosphere with this type of one on one attention. And when it is all said and done, you will have taught your children something more valuable than what is written in a schoolbook. You will have shown them how much you love them.

Whether you are just starting to homeschool or are just starting to investigate the idea of homeschooling, start talking to people you know who already homeschool their children. They will have plenty of good advice to get you started. If you don't know any homeschoolers then try to find a homeschool support group in your area. Many churches also have organized homeschool support groups. Check around and see what you can find.

Next you should find out about the homeschooling laws in your state. Different states have different requirements. Some states have testing requirements. Some have specific curriculum requirements. State support groups generally have a summary of their state laws. Check the listings on our State Homeschool Support Information page or ask a local support group.

Homeschooling continues to grow in its rolls. At the same time, be prepared to become part of a growing minority when you begin. A little history can help: for most Americans, homeschooling seems rather odd. We have had public and private schools with us all of our lives, as have our parents before us and their parents before them from time immemorial. Why not stick with what works? The thought would be touching, if it were historically accurate. It isn't.

The concept of compulsory schools with mass attendance is a radically new idea to Western civilization, no older than industrialization. Indeed, industrialization arguably could not have taken place without the mass school, and therein lies a tale.

As John Taylor Gatto points out in his impressive work, "The Underground History of American Education," America's schools were not very much used prior to 1870. The reason is simple.

The printing press was invented less than 50 years before America was discovered. The press enabled the Protestant Reformation. Because Protestant Faith argues that Scripture alone is authoritative, Protestants have a strong drive to be literate. The religious wars in Europe also drove many Protestants to find safe haven. The discovery of America was fortuitous in that it gave Protestants, that is, literate men, a place to flee.

As numerous commentators of the time noted and US Census figures confirm, white men in America were essentially 100% literate prior to 1870. While schools existed, they were not much used. Like children from time immemorial, American children were educated at home and self-educated, not schooled.

The first compulsory school law was passed in Massachusetts in 1852. The second law would not be passed until 1864, in Washington D.C. The great wave of compulsory school laws were passed between 1870, with the last falling into place in 1917.

In 1860, one-third of the 300 high schools in the country were located in Massachusetts, where the school year was twelve weeks long, and only six of those weeks were consecutive. Even by 1890, the school year was only twelve to twenty weeks. Even by 1900, only six percent of American teenagers had graduated high school, only two percent of Americans 18 through 24 were enrolled in a college.

While most Americans had attended an elementary school of some sort prior to 1900, they spent no more than two to three years in it, if that, perhaps forty weeks total. While in school, they were generally not learning to read. They learned that at home.

Instead, they were reading. Fifth grade basal readers included works from William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The school system is so effective at passing on knowledge and forming young minds that this entire history is lost to most of the Americans who pass through its gates. We no longer remember how or why today's school system came to be what it is. The modern college student is radically less well-read and radically less moral than the average twelve-year old was in colonial America.

So, yes, homeschooling does seem a little odd to many. It seems unnecessary, not a good fit for most families. And in a certain sense, that assessment is correct. Homeschooling is not a good fit for the modern family, if only because the family has, in modern times, ceased to exist. Family cohesion has been obliterated by the mass school.

Our society requires massive consumption. Needy, ignorant people consume more goods and services than educated, emotionally stable people do. The quickest way to create needy people is to obliterate the family. The quickest way to create ignorant people is to divorce them from their parents.
About the Author
Joyce Jackson is an educational expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Homeschooling Easy.
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