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What Is the Homeschooling Philosophy?

Aug 18, 2007
Parents who choose to homeschool their children do so for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons may be religious, or parents may not like specific topics taught in public or private schools; others may object to the methodology in public or private schools, and still others simply believe that they can provide a better education than public school can themselves. However, one point of view is common among all parents of homeschooled children, and that is that the public or private school systems do a poor job of educating children.

Contrary to what is often a common belief, homeschooling is not new. In fact, it's older than the public and private school systems that first began to be compulsory in the late 19th century. Prior to this time, almost all children were educated at home; many children, however, did not receive any formal instruction at all. This was the reason education began to be compulsory, so that at least a basic literacy level was established in the country.

Beginning in the early 20th century, public education, as well as some emphasis on private and parochial education, became the norm among schoolchildren. Typically, public schools still use the authoritarian Prussian model of the 1800s.

Beginning about the middle of the 1960s, this trend began to be challenged. Many experts and well-known authors, such as John Holt, began to advocate that parents withdraw their children from the public education system. Some of these people were libertarians, eager to be free of state control as much as possible. Others chose to go back to the older tradition of classical liberal training, which comes from both the Roman Catholic Church and its emphasis on Jesuit training, and the Enlightenment ideals popular first in Europe, with their origins in the 18th century.

Whatever the reasons, some ideas became dominant in homeschooling. One central idea is that every individual is a natural learner who does not need to be forced to do so. Aristotle was an early proponent of this idea, saying, "All men possess by nature the desire to know." This has been a main tenet of the modern homeschooling movement since its inception.

Homeschooling proponents believe that learners need to be given the proper environment and resources, but other than that, they do not have to be forced into learning. Rather, learning is actively sought out by a child who is eager to explore the world around her.

Besides this central focus, homeschooling "schools" of thought diverge on what should then take place. One that embraces "unschooling" believes that no curriculum or direction should be given by the central "teacher," the parent or tutor. Rather, it believes that if one provides children with books and other tools, they will learn whatever best suits them based on their natural interests.

Other homeschooling techniques focus on a more formal structure. In fact, some even teach the same topics with the same materials as are taught in the public and private schools of the area. In this case, the parent simply steps in for the state and assumes the role of teacher.

The Montessori schools fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Montessori allows children to develop at their own pace; at the same time, they provide materials and guidance. A primary focus is on sensory and motor development, followed by language learning. The teacher focuses on the child, rather than its opposite. This allows imagination to develop and stimulate learning. The child is encouraged to self-correct, rather than having external correction as the focus.

Regardless of the exact structure or lack thereof used in the homeschooling program, what is consistent in homeschooling itself is that the child is the focus. Each child's proper development is the goal. Homeschoolers say that this can be best done outside of the public school system, which cannot provide the same level of quality instruction and personal attention as these parents or tutors can.
About the Author
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