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Liam Dillon Professor Guzowski English 1520 28 January 08
Homeschooling in America: Detriment to Society or Saving Grace?
As a child growing up in America, there are many things that are considered norm, or allencompassing, things that every child should do or participate in as part of a "normal" childhood. Not all are mandatory for normal adolescent development, but most are considered good as a general idea. Activities found on this list include (but are not limited to): playing sports, learning a musical instrument, boy/girl scouts, church (depending on one's religious beliefs), spending time with friends, reading, and most importantly, schooling. The education system in any of the countries in this world are under constant pressure to innovate, create new programs, better their curriculum, and improve on safety and cleanliness of environment, but one branch of the education system is often forgotten, even ignored, due to its seemingly obvious unpopularity. The education of children at home or "homeschooling" is perhaps the most criticized though least recognized division of education. People often ask, "Should a teacher, who spends years in school to earn their degree be simply replaced by a parent?" "Is homeschooling healthy for a child's development, though lacking in many aspects of a public or private school, good and bad?" "Are homeschooled children getting as rich of an education as ‘normal’ students?" And though all of these questions are relevant and concerning, most are ill-conceived. People are not educated about the homeschooling system, and many are unaware that there are many complicated requirements for homeschooling a child. Parents that home school their children
must fulfill a rigorous course of study with their children that has been equated to the syllabus of a normal grade-level class. They must also regularly report their child's progress at a registered school, and now, with over 1 million children homeschooled worldwide, it is beginning to seem like a more and more acceptable form of education. There is no record of an exact date that homeschooling was begun. However, it began to first emerge in the 1970s, but with no guidelines, requirements, or legal rights, it was wholly unpopular. Early supporters for the homeschooling system were evangelical Protestants, who believed that the public education system went against their fundamentalist religious beliefs, and did not want their children to be “tainted” by their insensitivity. Other advocates included those with children that had special learning abilities or disabilities, being, either a much more cognitive way of thinking than most children their age, or some sort of problem with reading, writing, or keeping up to speed with others in their age group. At this time, special education programs did not exist in the form that they do today, and concerned parents wanted to provide their offspring with the same opportunities that “normal” children had. Throughout the 1980s, those participating in the early forms of the homeschooling system began to lobby for legal standing, and form groups that would later dutifully protect these soon-to-be-had rights. Eventually, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was formed, to provide lobbying and legal assistance to evangelical Protestant homeschoolers (Isenberg 1). In Florida, homeschoolers formed a statewide committee, with all the bells and whistles, even electing a chairperson and 12-member board. Things all fell into place for these groups, with judges and courts eventually allowing homeschooling to be made legal in every state, with protected rights. Only once has the entire homeschooling following been threatened. In 1994, and again in
2001, an amendment to the Constitution was proposed that would require each teacher to be certified in their specific subject of instruction. This infuriated parents who homeschooled their children, meeting all the requirements the school made, but being uncertified in their courses of instruction. After all, they were not teachers in the eyes of the education system. Luckily, enough of an outcry was made to overturn the proposal for this amendment in 1994, and in 2001, it was ruled that this would not apply to those involved with homeschooling, due to the amendment’s re-emergence as part of the “No Child Left Behind” campaign. Homeschooling spread like wildfire soon after, with the combined forces of the establishment of a legal right to homeschool, and the vast expansion of sharing information via the Internet. Nowadays, religious fundamentalists and concerned parents have been joined by many others, with many different reasons for deciding to homeschool. And with a large network of support, homeschooling has become as firm-set in the education system as parochial and public schools alike. Just like any other new establishment anywhere, the homeschooling system has been met with much opposition since its formation. All kinds of people from all walks of life have questioned the methods of homeschooling, as well as raised many points concerning the pitfalls and drawbacks of homeschooling. However, almost all opposition to homeschooling can be divided into two distinct categories: fear of impaired social interaction, and disbelief in parents’ ability to teach effectively. A large majority of those that oppose homeschooling suggest that homeschooled children are kept from interacting with peers in a healthy way. During childhood, almost all friendships are formed within schools. Homeschooled children are kept mostly secluded, working and learning alone as opposed to in a classroom full of other kids their age. Also, some argue that homeschooled children will develop long-term problems forming relationships with both members of the same and opposite sexes.
Children, as they progress through primary (pre-school and kindergarten), elementary, and middle school, begin to develop independence from their parents, an independence which is augmented greatly as they enter high school and university-level schooling. The opposition believes that some homeschooled children fail to develop this independence properly, resulting in overly-late parental dependence that could make it difficult for them to make a successful life for themselves. Most people who disagree with homeschooling do so due to the possible negative personality traits that could result. Lowered self-esteem, reclusiveness, inability to live independently, inability to find love and possibly marriage, are among many others that steer people away from supporting this system. The other major front of opposition comes from those who question parents’ ability to be an effective and un-biased instructor. When students attend a public or private school, whether it is orally taught or not, they learn to be tolerant of many different ways of learning, though some may be better than others for them personally. A parent is viewed by most as someone who should be the “professor”, so to speak, of life lessons, values, morality, and even religion, but not of math and science. It is understandable to think that a parent could not provide the education that someone who attended years of school could, though in some cases, a parent may be the better solution. A parent knows their children better than anyone else, and even a licensed professional may not be able to tell you the most effective way of educating a child. Every person thinks and learns differently, and each situation must be carefully considered before throwing out the idea of homeschooling altogether. For every point of criticism against the homeschooling system, there are many to support and promote its existence. Because of the fact that every person thinks and learns differently, some need special forms of learning, with many causes. For example, it is common knowledge that Albert Einstein did horribly grade-wise during his schooling. Everyone thought him to be
“slow”, and even “dumb”. But truly, his brilliant mind was far too imaginative to be properly educated by the public school system. It is now known that Einstein was one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, and even though we may not understand its exact meaning, even a ten-yearold child could probably tell you that e=mc2. Even though Einstein was not homeschooled, but rather fueled by his passion for knowledge, is it not fair to suggest that there could have been or may still be others who could greatly benefit from learning by alternative method? And though some may call it far-fetched, a homeschooled child could someday be the one to discover a cure for cancer because they were able to better apply their teaching to their life. Recently, the accelerated and special education programs that exist in public schools have been made much more important, with more emphasis placed on their effectiveness. But some parents may believe that what would be best for their gifted child would be a home-based education, going hand-inhand with a parent knowing what is best for their child. Homeschooling allows children to work at their own pace, ensuring that information that could otherwise be misunderstood or misinterpreted. This could end up being extremely beneficial, allowing children to better understand certain information that will be called upon later in life in fields such as general ethics, voting, interpreting many different forms of media, and even selection of an occupation. Another major reason for homeschooling is the reason that a homeschooling system was founded in the first place: religion. There are many different beliefs worldwide when it comes to religion. This is why there is more controversy over religious issues than perhaps any other in the world. Some parents believe that religion is the most important thing in life, and while some may not agree, this philosophy would not necessarily hinder a child’s learning. Public schools do not teach religion whatsoever, and many parents disagree with the methods of private school when it comes to theology. Homeschooling allows them to not only extensively teach their child(ren)
their own personal religious beliefs, but also to integrate religion and scholastics, especially in the field of science, which would otherwise be impossible. Ethnicity is also a reason to choose the homeschooling system. Some parents pride themselves on their ethnic background, and would prefer that their child’s education emphasize this. Paula and Charles Penn-Nabrit are a well-known example of such a belief. They began to homeschool their three children after concerns of a lack of African-American faculty in their school district. Some may view this as conceited and perhaps even racist, but in their book Morning by Morning, they explain their desire to teach their children to be proud of their ethnicity, and that not only Caucasians can be good teachers(Keeping it in the Family). This book is especially popular among the homeschooling community, as it gives a detailed account of the homeschooling of three children that all graduated from Ivy-League universities. It highlights the major benefits of homeschooling, as well as its drawbacks and hardships. “Morning by Morning does not sugarcoat the homeschooling experience,(Keeping it in the Family)” and Paula PennNabrit sheds light on the true difficulties of the homeschooling process. However, when asked if he would change anything about his education, Paula’s son Damon states, “Then—at the time? Everything. It was not fun, and I even doubted that it was the right thing to do. Now—I’m hardpressed to change it in any substantial way(Keeping it in the family).” Even with all these reasons to justify the idea of homeschooling, one might still debate a parent’s ability to be an effective teacher. To this, there are many refutations that suggest otherwise. With the acquisition of legal rights, then the emergence of a national homeschooling committee, there was also a detailed system of order created to govern the education process of a homeschooled child. Firstly, there is a nation-wide law stating that once a child reaches an age acceptable for schooling, they must be educated, or else the parents will be held legally
accountable. These laws, known as truancy laws, also apply to schooling on the public level, with nationally-accepted schooling methods, curriculums, and lengths of time for schooling. They define all different aspects of schooling, ranging from length of time one must be in school to which days may be taken off from school to the level that a child at a certain age must reach by a certain time (exceptions not included), with tests to ensure that everyone abides by these standards. These are the same set of laws to which parents of homeschooled children must abide, and then some. Every homeschooled child is connected to a public education system in the sense that their parent, no matter what they decide to emphasize in their course of study, must educate them about certain things, and that they must complete certain exercises provided to the parents by the local school district. These exercises must be returned to the school for evaluation on a regular basis, with strict consequences for those who fail to adhere to their policies. Also, homeschooling can only continue up to the university level, and though college is not required by law, a large majority of educated students attend college, and even homeschooled students must take the same entrance exams (namely, the SAT/ACT) in order to be accepted. It has also been shown through statistical evidence that homeschooled children do just as well on these nationally regulated and standardized tests as children who attended a public, private, or parochial school their entire lives. Studies also show that students who were pulled from the public education system with poor or mediocre grades and then homeschooled showed a higher level of proficiency in all subjects when it came time to take these tests, which just goes to show that maybe parents would be a better choice for principal educator to their child. Those who still may be unconvinced by the plethora of information provided thus far, may be consoled by the fact that there also exists a nationwide network of media and textual
aides for parents, as well as a vast array of tutors and certified teachers who may be interviewed by the parents, and if allowed, participate in the education of their children. In the case of the Penn-Nabrits, the parents recognized the need for external help in the education of their children, so they hand-selected their own tutors, all board-certified, whom they felt demonstrated the values they were trying to promote in educating their children. Paula Penn-Nabrit reminisces, “I am mesmerized by the kind of people my sons have become…I attribute their strong sense of self to the close and constant relationship they had with their father and [their tutors], other powerful black men in their lives who were provided to us by God through homeschooling(Keeping it in the Family).” This is only one account of the many stories of success that have come from homeschooling. And though there are many more, homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. Says Penn-Nabrit, “Now I know why the Bible says, ‘Write the vision. Make it plain.’ There was no way to know we were not making a mistake until nine years later when we had finished.” She experienced onlookers telling her outright that she was wrong and that she was making a horrible mistake and she admits, “We did not know what we were doing, but we had to have ‘sight beyond sight’. We had to look past the surface and agree with God(Keeping it in the family).” No matter what anyone may choose when it comes to the education of their children or their own personal beliefs, it cannot be argued that homeschooling is harmful in its entirety. Many benefits can come from homeschooling a child, and many people, parents and children alike, can benefit from the experience. Now, as the education system for both public and homeschooling continues to advance, more and more information can be gathered to support the homeschooling system, and more statistical evidence can be gained to prove that it is just as effective as the traditional methods of education. And perhaps as more evidence and statics are acquired, more people can
begin to understand that there are many things that factor into the decision of what the proper way is to educate a child, since it will affect them for the rest of their life, and that perhaps there is more than one acceptable and effective method. Just as support and understanding for the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage movements grew with time, so may the support and understanding for the homeschooling system…only time will tell.
Donna Khalili, Arthur Caplan. "Off the Grid: Vaccinations Among Homeschooled Children." Journal of Law, Medicine and ethics 471-7(2007) 9. 13,february,2008 <http://firstsearch.oclc.org/wspl/wsppdf1/html/02285/au8k9/yft.htm>.
Isenberg, Eric. "What Have We Learned About Homeschooling ." Peabody Journal of Education 82.no2/3.387-409(2007) 15. 13 February 2008 <Http://firstsearch.oclc.og/images/wspl/wsppdf/html/01261/lyza3/osm.html>.
Roberts, Jack. "A Sane Island Surrounded ." Phi Delta Kappan 89.no4.287-82(2007) 1-6. 13 February 2008 <http://firstsearch.oclc.org/images/wspl/wsppdf1/html/01226/m8y76/bso.htm>.
"Keeping It in the Family." Black issues Book Reveiw 5.no5.20-1(2003) 1-13. 13 february 2008 <http://firstsearch.oclc.org/images/wspl/wsppdf1/html/07295/489nu/bso.htm>.
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