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The Autistic Spectrum

Not sure about the homeschooling laws in your state? Check the Homeschool Legal Defense Website. Click on this text to go to the site.

Recommended books:

100 Everyday Words to Read, Write and Understand ~ Darlene Mannix
100 Lifelong Words: Helping Students Become Better Spellers ~ Darlene Mannix
And What About College?: How Homeschooling Can Lead to Admissions to the Best Colleges & Universities  ~  Cafi Cohen, Patrick Farenga
Character Building Activities for Kids : Ready-to-Use Character Educational Lessons & Activities for the Elementary Grades ~  Darlene Mannix
Creative Homeschooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide by Lisa Rivero
Dr. Beechick's Homeschool Answer Book ~ by Ruth Beechick, Debbie Strayer (Editor)
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling ~ John Taylor Gatto
Homeschool Your Child For Free ~ LauraMaery Godl and Joan M. Zielinski

Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing 12-To 18-Year-Olds for Success in the College of Their Choice by Cafi Cohen
Homeschooling on a Shoestring ~ Melissa L. Morgan and Judith Waite Allee
Homeschooling: The Teen Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 13- To 18-Year-Old Child ~ Cafi Cohen, Janie Levine Hellyer
How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum : What Your Child Needs to Know from Preschool Through High School ~ Rebecca Rupp
Language and Thinking for Young Children ~  by Ruth Beechick, Jeannie Nelson
Life Skills Activities for Special Children -- by Darlene Mannix
No Easy Answers: The Learning Disabled Child at Home and at School  ~  Sally L. Smith
Ready to Use Conflict Resolutions for Elementary School Students ~ Beth Teolis
Ready to Use Self-Esteem Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs ~ Darlene Mannix
Social Skills Activities : for Secondary Students with Special Needs ~ Darlene Mannix
Social Skills Activities for Special Children ~  Darlene Mannix
The Complete Home Learning Sourcebook: The Essential Resource Guide for Homeschoolers, Parents, and Educators Covering Every Subject from Arithmetic to Zoology ~ Rebecca Rupp
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Schooling ~ John Taylor Gatto and Marsha Ransom

The Exhausted School: Bending the Bars of Traditional Education ~ John Taylor Gatto
The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education ~ Grace Llewellyn
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home ~ Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
Things We Wish We'd Known ~ Bill Waring and Diane Waring editors, with contributions by Michael Card
Writing Skills Activities for Special Children ~ Darlene Mannix
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4 to 8 ~Ruth Beechick

Most of us were not raised in an age where home schooling was considered 'acceptable'. We were told that you must get an education and the best place for that is public school. Where the wise, helpful teachers are just waiting to guide us to higher education and a promising career. Times have changed. Deciding to home school can be a very frightening decision. Especially if you have a special needs child. Because of the 'conditioning' we've received, we're not sure we're up to the challenge of being able to supply our child(ren)with the great education we think the public school system provides. This just isn't so.

One of the hot topics now (with those opposed to home schooling or those with no experience)is the lack of 'socialization'. I am SO tired of hearing about this. 'Socialization' is frowned upon in public school. When a child tries to socialize, they're punished for talking out of turn, bothering their peers, inappropriate behavior, etc. The "social interaction" that occurs at recess and lunch are the most unstructured, unsupervised and very worst times for AS children and a recipe for disaster. These are the times my son was punched, shoved, teased, bullied and threatened. All while an aide or teacher has been present or nearby. And when my son tried to get help from the teacher, he was told that if he tattled one more time, he would lose his recess.

I was told by one of my son's teachers that the first half of the school semester is a review of the previous grade. The balance of the year is spent on introducing (very slowly) new things for the current grade. What this translates to me is that our children don't get a complete education. How could they? Back in the 1800's, when just about everyone was homeschooled, it was common for people to stop their education after 8th grade. Why? They learned everything they needed to know by the end of 8th grade! I have an excerpt from a test from the 1800's down below. Lots of adults couldn't pass it today. A teacher my friend spoke with said that if the public schools 'did it right' our children could easily be completed with all 12 grades by the age of 14.

You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to get textbooks. And, unless your state mandates it, you do not have to use the same curriculum as your public school. There are a ton of websites on the net that offer lesson plans, worksheets, used textbooks,etc. You'll find some of them at this site. And you can have your child tested at any time by various independent testing agencies to see how your child is doing.

One of the many advantages to homeschooling is that you can stay on a subject until your child 'gets it'. Not so in public school. In a class of 28, if the majority of the children are moving along with no problem, those that aren't up to speed get lost in the shuffle. It's a sink or swim mentality. Whether 100% of the class 'gets it' is irrelevant. When you homeschool, you can go over the problem areas for as long as it takes until your child understands and is ready to move on.

Support groups and the internet are invaluable. If you decide to home school, it's a good idea to join a few groups and get input from the many wonderful people on these lists. We do 'eclectic' home schooling. We use the wonderful items I find on the internet, used books, books we have here in the house (which is a ton because I'm a 'book-a-holic') CD Rom programs, workbooks from the local "School Stuff" store and Sam's Club, etc. I'll be giving you some links for used curriculum as well as lesson plans, worksheets, etc. One problem we've encountered is space! There are books everywhere! But we can live with that. :)

To avoid burnout, meltdowns and frustration, we take breaks. My son gets to watch tv, read, play a game, or listen to music. Breaks usually last about 15 minutes. Also, because Steven was on an IEP with modifications, I do modify some of his work so that he doesn't become completely overwhelmed like he did at public school.

You may be unpleasantly surprised when your child won't listen to you. After all, s/he is at home. It's play time! It took us a while to get into a routine but we managed it. We do still have our moments, of course. ;)

You must find what is comfortable for you and your child(ren). The nice thing is, there's no time crunch. If you find one way doesn't work, ease into another mode until you find the right mix. The possibilities are endless and are limited only by your imagination. Many unschoolers know that there's something to learn at every turn ~ in a store, in the park, in the car, on vacation........

Home schoolers are in good company. Here are just a few famous people who were homeschooled or privately tutored:

Albert Einstein, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Leo Tolstoy, C. S. Lewis, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Schweitzer, James Madison, Noel Coward, George Rogers Clark, Abigail Adams, Winston Churchill, John Quincy Adams, Hans Christian Andersen, George Washington, Andrew Wyeth, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore Roosevelt, Claude Monet, Andrew Carnegie, Abraham Lincoln, Agatha Christie, Wolfgang Mozart, George Patton, Charles Dickens , Mark Twain, and Orville & Wilbur Wright to name just a few.

The most important thing to remember is that no one knows your child(ren)the way you do. No one knows the way s/he learns like you do. And no one realizes just how important it is to mix learning with fun, love and humor like you do. :)

Added note: My son graduated home school/high school with a B average in August of this year (2008). :)


Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool

by Greg Sherman, Ph.D.

My three children and I were standing in line at the grocery store the other day, and a woman behind us started conversing with my thirteen year-old daughter Grace. At some point in the conversation, I overheard the woman ask Grace what grade she was in and what school she attended. Grace responded innocently that she was homeschooled, and that she wasn’t exactly sure what grade she would be in if she went to school. The woman looked over Grace’s shoulder and directly into my eyes. She wrinkled her brow and asked me, very casually, with perhaps a hint of skepticism, ?So, why do you homeschool??

Why do we homeschool? My wife Shelly and I have homeschooled our three children for the past 10 years, and in our experiences, people such as old friends, new neighbors, relatives, and even total strangers have asked this rather large and complicated question in a nonchalant and often cynical manner. I’m certain most homeschooling parents would agree that responding to the ?why? question is not something that can be accomplished succinctly or casually. After all, the question is big. Really BIG.

Unlike many homeschooling parents, however, I am also asked "why?" regularly by teachers, school administrators, university faculty members, and education graduate students. I represent one of those conflicted homeschooling parents whose professional experiences are rooted in public education. In fact, both my wife and I began our educational careers in the classroom. Shelly was a primary grade teacher, and I taught junior high school science. After spending almost 10 years teaching in the public school classroom and attending graduate school, I acquired a great deal of valuable educational experiences while earning degrees in the fields of educational media and instructional technology. These fields of study are defined by many ?why? questions related to learning and instruction, and since graduating I have been involved in a variety of research projects designed to find answers to instruction-related problems. In addition, I have taught university courses and worked as an educational consultant in the areas of evaluation and instructional design. Although I have grappled with a variety of teaching and learning problems throughout my professional experiences, the question ?Why do you homeschool?? has been one of the most difficult education-related question for me to answer truthfully. In fact, over the years I have developed no less than four different types of answers.

My first three answers to the "why?" question are specific to the type of person querying me. I have different answers for parents of children in school, homeschool parents, and educational professionals. And then I have my fourth answer, my TRUE answer, which up until now I have rarely shared with anybody, primarily because it is rather lengthy and opens the door to a heavy degree of argument. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the person asking the ?why? question isn’t really somebody I want to argue with anyway. I present my four different answers below with the hope that they may provide some measure of inspiration for other homeschooling parents. Although I am far from normal, I’m confident that my different responses, as well as the reasons why they are different, reflect reactions to similarly-uncomfortable situations experienced by other homeschooling parents.

The most common type of inquiry has been from a parent with a child in school. To these people, I usually present a very short and innocuous answer designed to be as non-confrontational as possible. "Well, my wife and I used to be classroom teachers, and we have always dreamed of such small class sizes! Anyway, can you believe the weather we’re having? And how about that ozone layer thing? I mean, is it shrinking or growing?" I have found that it is often necessary to change the subject quickly, otherwise I’m stuck listening to total strangers defend their decision to place their kids in school, defend their need for two incomes, and then ask me if I’m worried about issues associated with my own children’s socialization experiences. It still amazes me that people I barely know will readily draw me into such intimate and personal discussions. And worse yet, the defensive nature of the conversation inevitably yields to the expression of guilt on behalf of the person who has children in school. Guilt, defense, and the probability that I’m messing up my children – all from somebody I may have just met.

I direct a different response entirely toward other homeschooling parents I meet. I may be a little paranoid, but I often feel as though fellow homeschoolers ask me the "why" question in an effort to categorize my family. Perhaps I feel this way because I have a tendency to categorize homeschoolers I meet for the first time based on their response to the ?Why? question too. So my response to the question from a homeschooler is usually something like "Oh, we homeschool for many different reasons. What are some of the main reasons why you have chosen to educate your children full-time at home?" Often, the first response provided reflects the fundamental, philosophical perspective of the asker. I have received a range of responses, from "My child was having a terrible time at school!" to "My husband and I want to provide a true Christian upbringing for our children." Once I get a feel for where other homeschooling parents are coming from, I can then share a little bit about my own perspective without opening the door to argumentative and defensive posturing by people I don’t know very well. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy a healthy argument with my friends and colleagues, especially when conversing about educational problems and issues. But it usually takes me a long time to get comfortable with others before inviting them into the confidence of my educational philosophies. Besides, I’d rather spend time getting to know new parents by asking questions about their children and their previous life experiences.

I offer my third type of response to educational professionals. As a faculty member and instructional technologist, I have had many occasions to work closely with other faculty, teachers, school administrators, and education graduate students. Through my interactions, the subject of my children inevitably arises and, consequently, our decision to homeschool is questioned. I am very careful about how I respond to other educators because I don’t want to undermine my own professional goals, which include trying to help improve an institution that is very resistant to change. I also want to protect my perceived objectivism regarding educational issues. Since I work closely with students and colleagues who might be immersed in activities that, in my estimation, perpetuate the educational status quo, I want them to regard my differing perspectives and opinions as being relatively unbiased. So I tend to respond to their "why" questions as a researcher. ?As teachers, my wife and I have always wanted to experiment with a variety of methods and strategies. And our children happen to be the only guinea pigs we could get permission to experiment on for twenty continuous years. You could say we’re part of a grand social-educational experiment. You’ll need to check the prison records over the next couple decades to decide whether or not we succeeded.? This response usually leads to interesting and positive discussions about the nature of educational research, and the values versus limitations of conducting personal ethnographic studies. At least it diverts the conversation away from the topic of homeschooling. Again, I welcome the opportunity to discuss homeschooling with anybody. But too many colleagues and students have accused me of "copping out" of problems associated with public schooling. According to their logic, I can’t be part of the solution if my children are not part of the problem. What may be hard for them to grasp is simply that I value my children much more than I do my profession. And this is not something I ever want to address in a classroom full of practicing teachers, most of whom are parents themselves.

Three different answers provided for three different types of people asking why my wife and I choose to homeschool. Three different answers, and none reflecting the REAL reason why we homeschool. What follows is the answer I wish I could give to anybody asking me why we homeschool. It is an answer that does not make light of the role education plays in the life of our family. It is an answer that has been formulated from years of learning, teaching, and homeschooling. It is an answer born in the classroom and the dining room. It is a multi-faceted response to that "why" question that begs to be argued. In fact, it is an answer that includes 10 really good reasons why we homeschool. These ten reasons include: learning, instruction, time, identity, control, socialization, shelter, college preparation, family, and religion.

Reason #1: Learning. The most important reason why my wife and I chose to homeschool was simply that our values about learning were quite different from those of the schools in which we worked. One of the fundamental responsibilities of all teachers is to decide what is important for their learners to try and learn, followed by arranging the classroom environment (activities, events, and information) to ensure that the intended skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes will be acquired by all the learners. My wife and I believe that all learning should be worthwhile; that is, the outcomes facilitated within any learning environment should reflect: 1) skills that will be useful in the real world outside school, 2) skills that are needed in order to acquire other, more useful skills, 3) skills that the teacher wants the learners to learn in order to enrich their lives (and the learners will have opportunities to use these skills in their life if they choose), or 4) skills that the learners really want to learn for themselves. Applying these criteria to the standards mandated by our local school district revealed that many of them ranked rather low on the ?worthwhile? scale for our particular children. But more importantly, my wife and I continue to develop a list of skill sets that we feel are very worthwhile for our children, and these outcomes would never define public school curricula. For example, every day we arrange our children’s learning environment to facilitate such skills as making good decisions about personal nutrition and exercise, prudent money management, conflict resolution, dealing with grief, effective communication (including listening, speaking and writing well), loving God and neighbor, caring for living things and the environment, choosing to incorporate many forms of art into their expressions, doing science, minimizing consumption for its own sake, enjoying cooking, gardening, working with computer-based technologies, playing, and critically analyzing the news. Although some people might feel that these outcomes could be adequately addressed in addition to school, I disagree. It seems that every day, we barely have enough time to experience our planned instructional activities. Yet every day, other big and important worthwhile skills reveal themselves to us.

Reason #2: Instruction. Instruction is learning’s partner. As previously stated, instruction represents the manner in which activities, events, and information within the learning environment are arranged in order to make sure the students learn what the instruction intends. The art and science of arranging learning environments is call "instructional design," and good (effective) instructional design is seldom employed within most classrooms, either by the teacher or by the materials available to schools (i.e. textbooks). Here is an example of what I mean. Suppose a fifth-grade teacher wanted students to learn skills associated with the Civil War because questions about the Civil War were to be included in the fifth-grade standardized test (of course, whether this constitutes a worthwhile reason to learn about the Civil War is another matter). Some skills would most likely be categorized as verbal information or "declarative knowledge," such as stating names, dates, places, and labeling pictures and descriptions of specific events. In order for students to effectively learn such skills, certain strategies need to be incorporated into the learning environment in accordance with good instructional design principles. These include the creation of a meaningful, purposeful learning context (i.e. creating simulations or games); help in relating new terms and definitions to preexisting knowledge; the presentation of a variety of concrete examples; practice using the newly-acquired skills in the same way they will be assessed in the future, with immediate feedback; and opportunities for learners to summarize the key ideas emerging from the learning experience (i.e. the generation of a concept map).

These strategies, among others, have been proven to help people learn verbal information skills. Helping people learn other types of skills, including intellectual skills (i.e. rule application), motor skills, and attitudes necessitate the use of different types of strategies. Unfortunately, many teachers never receive adequate instruction themselves over the design of effective learning environments. And making matters worse is the fact that books and other learning resources are rarely developed by competent instructional designers.

In addition to a lack of effective instructional strategy implementation, many classroom teachers fail to take full advantage of the different media that can be used to help define meaningful learning environments. For example, cable television presents a wide range of very well-produced and motivating programs, and computers offer the world’s largest collection of information resource via the Internet as well as providing opportunities to create and publish a variety of multimedia projects. But learners in typical classrooms seldom have enough time to devote to interacting with television and computers, not to mention literature and other forms of art and information that require from learners a relatively high degree of sustained mental effort. I’m not necessarily blaming teachers, because policy decisions, limited resources, and the need to spend a great deal of time addressing information related to worthless standards often prevent teachers from using television, computers, and literature as viable means of effective instruction.

Compounding all of the instructional problems described is the common practice by many high school and even junior high school teachers of implementing the college model of instruction, in which they direct most of the in-class activity, and information is regarded as a commodity dispensed solely by the teacher and books, leaving the learners responsible for figuring out what to do with it. People who think this is an adequate model of instruction should reexamine their college transcripts. Chances are, they’ll identify a number of classes taken that they would be hard pressed to recall anything substantive or lasting that was learned.

Reason #3: Time. If I had to pick one phrase that summarily communicates why we homeschool, it would simply be "school is a waste of time." This isn’t to say that people don’t learn important things in school, or that school is a total and complete waste of time. It is simply that, from an instructional perspective, too much of the precious time allotted to childhood is wasted in school, primarily because of the two reasons stated above (poor instruction, and learning outcomes that are not worthwhile). A simple way to conceptualize the amount of time spent engaged in meaningful, purposeful and effective learning-related activity is to think about a typical student in a typical day at school. Imagine how much time this child might spend throughout the school day practicing worthwhile skills while receiving personal feedback. Although there are other factors related to effective instruction, none are more important than practice with adequate and timely feedback. I have actually used a stopwatch while observing classrooms to measure the amount of time individual students spent actively engaged in practice over worthwhile skills throughout an entire day in school. Believe it or not, I have never observed more than 30 minutes of effective practice experienced by an individual learner within the six hours constituting a school day. It was usually closer to 10 minutes. On a more grand scale, I asked education graduate students (enrolled in one of my instructional design courses) who took four years of Spanish in high school to complete a basic assessment of conversational Spanish skills (translating common Spanish phrases into English). In most cases, their scores were not significantly higher than those of the students in my class who had never taken Spanish. I then helped them calculate the amount of time spent in high school studying the Spanish language. Five hours per week in class, plus two hours per week doing homework, multiplied by 36 weeks per academic year, multiplied by four years. This equals 1008 hours devoted to Spanish. I asked my students if they felt this was a good use of their time during their teen years, considering their level of Spanish proficiency as adults. Most agreed that, in fact, it was a rather significant waste of time.

It isn’t just the amount and type of learning that doesn’t take place IN school because of ineffectual instruction that leaves me such a strong sense of time wasting. I also recognize that quite a bit of learning cannot occur OUTSIDE school because of the limited number of hours in the day. When our oldest daughter Grace was ten years old, we moved to a small rural town in Virginia. It was difficult for us to connect with other homeschoolers. Grace felt particularly isolated and disconnected from the world, so we decided that she might benefit from attending the local school. After less than a full semester, we had to remover her. It wasn’t that she was turning into a monster, or crying every morning as she left for school. It was primarily that she spent a great deal of her time at home completing math homework and working on other school-related projects at the expense of practicing piano and playing with her siblings. In fact, she stopped enjoying the piano. Rather than taking time through her day to practice playing and experimenting with music, Grace had to fit in basic music lessons between homework and chores. She really had no time for piano, or performing in plays, or playing games. Other people may rightfully disagree with our priorities, but my wife and I both feel that enjoying and performing music, playing in the outdoors, cooking, performing in the theater, learning ballet, and immersing ourselves in long and complicated games with siblings and friends is much more important than 99% of the math we were compelled to try and learn in school. I know that some people are capable of doing it all: school, music, theater, ballet, soccer, family. But not us.

Reasons #4 & #5: Identity and Control. Another very important reason why we homeschool is because we want our children to develop clear pictures of their own individual intellectual identities, and we want them to know how to take full advantage of the fact that they are always in control of their own learning. As a classroom science teacher, I noticed that too many of my students had difficulty learning some of the important critical thinking skills associated with being able to act like scientists. Many were happiest when they had the correct answers told to them, rather than really thinking for themselves about scientific problems and their possible solutions. I may have been over-generalizing, but I attributed their noticeable lack of intellectual creativity to bad habits developed and reinforced in school. I think the elephants in the following story represent an excellent metaphor for understanding the dangers of restraining the creative thinking process of students throughout their classroom experiences:

Once upon a time, a boy and his family went to see a traveling circus. During the performance, Jumbo the Wonder Elephant passed her trunk through the open windows of a clown-filled Volkswagen and lifted the entire ensemble two feet off the ground. After the show, the boy waited around to meet some of the performers. He found Jumbo and her trainer behind the main tent, happily munching on hay (Jumbo that is, not the trainer). Jumbo had a small chain around one of her hind legs, and the chain was staked to the ground. The boy asked the trainer why Jumbo was chained to the ground, and the trainer replied that the small chain was used to prevent Jumbo from wandering into the parking lot and denting cars (and their occupants). The boy couldn’t believe that the thin chain could prevent Jumbo from wandering off, considering the Volkswagen incident he had witnessed during the show. He asked the trainer about the chain, and the trainer replied that Jumbo could certainly rip the chain out of the ground and walk away, but she didn’t realize that she was capable of breaking the chain because when she was a baby, a similarly-staked chain was used to restrain her – and even though she’s grown considerably stronger and bigger, Jumbo didn’t know any different once she felt the chain around her ankle.

I often wonder how many of the problems I have encountered in my own life have been the result of phantom mental shackles that continued to bind my own potential. Hmmmmm.

Reason #6: Socialization. In my experiences, concerns about socialization constitute some of the most immediate response to homeschooling by the general public. People seem to think that it is potentially harmful to isolate children from the 30+ hours per week of social interactivity that occurs between same-age peers with minimal adult supervision in school. But it may surprise most people to learn that concerns about socialization are one of the most important reasons why we choose to homeschool. As I previously detailed, people learn primarily through the process of practice with adequate feedback. Based on my observations, children in typical homogenous classrooms need to provide their own social modeling and behavioral feedback as they interact with each other throughout the school day. And in many cases, I have clearly seen that children are not usually the best teachers of constructive communication skills (listening, asking for clarification, evaluating without criticizing, etc.) or skills associated with conflict resolution. Stripping away the surface social behaviors observed among members of homogenous groups of children often reveals a more basic set of behaviors that are more in communion with the social order depicted in The Lord of the Flies. And why not? With a ratio of 25 or 30 students to one teacher, the children themselves must establish most of the rules of childhood. We homeschool so that our children can receive adequate instruction over learning how to interact constructively with people younger, the same, and older than themselves. And my wife and I are present a good deal of the time to provide modeling and practice with adequate feedback over socialization skills that will be very useful for them throughout their entire lives.

One of the funniest things about people voicing their concerns to me regarding socialization is that they will often talk to me about their concerns after complimenting me on how well my children conversed with them. And I have received nothing but praise from the elderly people who wish my children well after receiving their meals delivered, as a family, through the Meals-on-Wheels program. My children get practice socializing with the elderly because they have the time to do so, and I don’t know anybody who would see this as a problem. On a related note, there has been some pride recently in the homeschooling community because homeschooled children have won both the national spelling bee and the national geography bee. I watched these children on television, and like many others I was impressed. But I thought the most impressive thing wasn’t the knowledge they communicated. I thought the most impressive thing was their composure. They took the time to think about their answers, and they spoke with clarity and confidence in front of a national audience. In my opinion, these homeschooled kids passed the socialization test with flying colors.

Reason #7: Shelter. One of the criticisms I get occasionally during discussions about homeschooling is whether or not I’m concerned about the fact that our children are sheltered too much from reality. If I could be painfully honest during these discussions, I would respond that I am very concerned about sheltering my children from reality, especially the reality defined by the culture of school. Bullies physically harm smaller, weaker kids in the reality of school. Individual differences are rarely valued in the reality of school, and children in school are regularly abused emotionally by their peers if they possess personal characteristics that stray too far from the norm. The values of consumerism (i.e. wearing the right clothes) and status associated with money are the realities of school. Deadly concealed weapons are a reality in school. And an accelerated sense of sexuality and dating are a reality in school. I understand that these are also realities outside school, and my children will someday claim membership in this reality. But not today.

Reason #8: College. Our homeschooling environment could be regarded as 'college prep,' but not because we push our children academically. On the contrary, my wife and I recognize that admission to college isn’t a race, and the days of childhood are precious and numbered. But even though we don’t see our children as adults-in-waiting, we do want to prepare them for success in college because we know that a fruitful college experience may help them reach their own personal professional goals as adults (if college is indeed a path they need to take). We feel that our homeschool environment is really helping our children prepare for college because they are learning how to manage every aspect of their individual lives. They won’t need to try and figure out how to take care of themselves through the feedback and modeling provided by their peers in college. It has been my experience that students who struggle to learn the skills necessary to take care of themselves while in college wind up wasting an awful lot of tuition money as they fail to learn what their classes intend.

Reason #9: Family. Perhaps the most profound reason why we homeschool is our desire to truly appreciate the daily sanctity of family. Growing up in a large urban community, my wife and I were both immersed in the fast-paced world of endless activity that revolved around school, church, and extra-curricular experiences. Looking back, we both agree that our sense of family was greatly compromised by the lack of shared familial experiences. Time is a precious commodity, and it is much more worthy of family than many of the non-family experiences that filled our days growing up. The fact that we gather around the table morning, noon, and night is a testimony to the genuine value we place on family, and we hope that our children will continue to grow in appreciation of family and make choices to include us in their lives when they mature into adulthood.

Reason #10: Religion. Finally, we homeschool for religious reasons, not because we want to make certain our children are sheltered from secular ideas, or because we want them to be able to pray whenever they want to pray. No, we characterize religion in a rather broad sense. Our daily rituals define our faith, and vice versa. We homeschool because it is part and parcel of our faith experience. Serving others, praying together, and living lives that are not defined exclusively by the values of our society all reflect the important elements of our religion. In fact, all the facets of our educational philosophy manifest themselves into the rituals, habits, and priorities that are inseparable from our faith journeys.

Why do we homeschool? Some day I hope to figure out how to answer this question truthfully, no matter who asks. I suppose the best way to summarize my honest response would be to say ?what we practice we learn, and what we don’t practice we don’t learn.? If this were all I said, perhaps people might regard me as eccentric and mysterious.

If I were really clever, however, I would have directed the woman in the grocery store to ask Grace, Lucy, and Patrick why they were homeschooled. I have no doubt that their answers would have provided the woman with more insight than anything I could have offered.

2002 Greg Sherman

About the Author: Greg and his wife Shelly homeschool their three children, Grace (13), Lucy (11) and Patrick (9) in beautiful Flagstaff. AZ. Greg earned his Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and currently works as a consultant for the Arizona K-12 Center and Northern Arizona University as an instructional designer and technology integration coordinator. Contact Information: Greg Sherman, Ph.D., Technology Integration Coordinator - Center for Excellence in Education/Arizona K-12 Center, P.O. Box 5774, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5774; Tel: 928.523.9415 E-mail: greg.sherman@nau.edu

Source url: http://www.homeeducator.com/FamilyTimes/articles/10-3article1.htm

Could You Have Passed the 8th Grade in 1885?

In 1885 the 8th grade was considered upper level education. Many children quit school as soon as they could master the basic fundamentals of the 3 R's (reading, writing and arithmetic). Most never went past the 3rd or 4th grade. That's all you needed for the farm and most city jobs. Child labor laws were not in existence. Additionally today's education has much more focus on technology and sociology than the grammar and geography of old. It's a different world with different requirements and capabilities needed to succeed.

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1885 from Salina, KS. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1885

Grammar (Time: 1 hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time: 1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days
at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per m?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time: 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln,Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800,1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time: 1 hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
and by syllabication.

Geography (Time: 1 hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa,Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete!


If our children are forced into a mold, will they still be unique?
Children are naturally curious, and that should be encouraged.

"Hurry, Hurry! "
By Clydia Forehand

"Hurry up children; don't lag behind."
"Please face the front; please stay in line."
We've all got to hurry. We must take a test."
"And hope we are better than even the best."

Way at the back, a young girl on her knees
Was not facing front; she was looking at leaves.
There on the ground, she held one to see
She looked at it closely; looked up at the trees.

"Miss Giffrey, Miss Giffrey, could you tell me how"
"This leaf is so different from that one. Right now?"
"Miss Giffrey, Miss Giffrey, I just want to know"
"Why do leaves fall?" And "How do trees grow?"

Miss Giffrey was saddened; she wanted to teach.
She wanted to show them the veins in the leaf.
The wonders of chlorophyll; osmosis, too.
Instead she said, "Please do as I asked you to."

The child put the leaf down and stood in the line.
They all had to hurry; it was almost time.
The schedules were set; the test was at nine.
"Hurry up, children; don't lag behind."

They all took the test; they did pretty well.
Their scores became data; not stories to tell.
Somebody, someplace, entered those scores
And somebody, someplace, compiled a report.

Miss Giffrey's and all other classes that year
Were ranked in an order that made it quite clear
Who were the winners and who was in trouble
And who'd better make better scores in the future.

Miss Giffrey did well, the report in the paper
Made her and her class and her school look quite able
To teach things that mattered,  to make sure kids learned
And like every story, this one's pages turned.

The child in the back who had looked at the leaf;
Been told not to dawdle; been taught not to see.
Grew to adulthood, a product of schools
That taught how to test and to follow the rules.

Miss Giffrey kept teaching; but teaching had changed
There were scripts not to follow. 'Please don't deviate.'
Said the words in bold print at the top of each page
'Take the lessons in order, teach the lessons the same.'

Test scores were rising, and, each year, believe me
Everyone said how much kids were achieving.
"They're learning so much", people said to each other.
"It's so good to know now that schools aren't in trouble".

And Sarah, that young girl who'd once found the leaf,
Soon learned *not* to look - soon learned *not* to see.
Like everyone else, she walked in a line,
'Cause she had been taught she could *not* lag behind.

There are so many children, from so many places
To test for conformity really erases.
All that they are, all that they dream.
All that they look for and all that they see.

Taught not to question,  taught not to ask.
Stay in your seat, stick to the task.
Each one so different, each boy and each girl.
They are 'lag behind' children in a hurry up world.

Clydia Forehand teaches music at Grissom Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is studying for her Ph.D. in Educational Studies at the University of Oklahoma at Norman.

Source: http://www.nea.org/neatoday/0403/lastbell.html


Standardized Testing

How is Achievement Assessed in Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities?

Achievement testing is an important part of assessment of potential learning disabilities. This achievement testing is typically conducted in a one-on-one assessment session using a standardized test.


What is a Standardized Achievement Test?

Standardized achievement tests may assess any or all of reading, math, and written language as well as subject areas such as science and social studies. These tests are available to assess all grade levels and through adulthood. The test procedures are highly structured so that the testing process is the same for all students who take it.


How are Standardized Achievement Tests Scored?

Students' answers are analyzed and scored according to specific guidelines required by the test publisher. The results are calculated into a raw score. Raw scores are converted into standard scores using appropriate tables for a child's age, and in some cases, time of school year. The resulting standard scores provide data to compare the student's abilities to others his or her age. Scores are interpreted using terms such as average, above average, and below average.


How are Achievment Test Results Used?

Achievement tests are used to determine a student's academic strengths and weaknesses. When compared to intelligence test scores, achievement scores tell whether or not a child has the severe difference in ability and performance that indicates a learning disability. These scores also provide important information to help develop the child's individual education program.


Order standardized achievement tests here (homeschoolers only):
Here are some links for more information:

What Should I Know About Homeschooling?
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling refers to the education of children, typically at home, by their parents or other guardians. This is almost always at the familys expense. Given its non-institutional nature, homeschooling naturally lends itself to a variety of philosophies and approaches.
[For e-mail updates about homeschooling and other education options, please  click here to sign up for our newsletters and alerts.]
Will homeschooling work for my child?
No one answer fits the educational needs of all children. Yet, a growing number of families willing to dedicate the time and resources required by home-based education find it an effective way to educate their children. Homeschooling, however, requires a significant personal commitment by parents and guardians: Its not a part-time job.
Serious research assessing homeschooling was relatively sparse until recent years, but its now finding encouraging results. A 1999 study by Lawrence M. Rudner, published by Education Policy Analysis Archives, found exceptionally high scores among 20,760 homeschooled students who took standardized achievement tests.
How widespread is homeschooling?
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, though some jurisdictions impose greater regulatory hurdles on it than others. In 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 850,000 students were being homeschooled across the United States. That estimate may be low. Education Week, a publication covering K-12 education issues, says that "[t]he consensus among those who study home schooling is that at least 1 million U.S. children were educated at home in 1999."
Doesnt homeschooling isolate children?
Homeschooling families specifically find ways to give their children social opportunities. Some public schools cooperate in this, allowing homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities. In some areas where homeschooling is especially popular, such as parts of Texas, students form their own clubs. There, homeschoolers sports teams even compete against teams from traditional public schools.
Some researchers who have studied homeschooled children as they grow into adults find them to be creative, self-reliant and focused. Dr. J. Gary Knowles, of the University of Toronto, says They're able to move into adulthood with a much better sense of self and have a very good sense as to what they want to do."
How does homeschooling work?
This is perhaps the most difficult question. Families that teach their children at home use such a wide variety of approaches and philosophies of education that its hard to say exactly how homeschooling is accomplished.
These are the main approaches:
  • Some families essentially replicate the traditional classroom experience, aiming to improve it.
  • Other families pool their resources with like-minded homeschooling families to form cooperatives that tap different parents expertise. Or they hire tutors.
  • Others have their children take Internet-based virtual courses offered by private schools, public schools and independent educators.
  • Still others practice unschooling, a student-directed, unstructured approach advocated by the late homeschooling pioneer, John Holt.
What help can homeschoolers get?
Parents can buy lesson plans in all areas of study from organizations, schools and private companies.
Support groups offer advice and sample lessons reflecting a variety of philosophies.
For homeschooling families dealing with restrictive regulations, or based in jurisdictions that frown on home-based learning, legal assistance is available from groups, including the Home School Legal Defense Association.
What does homeschooling usually cost?
The cost depends largely on the approach taken by parents and guardians. Purchasing lesson plans or hiring tutors rapidly can elevate costs. By contrast, forming cooperatives and making use of public libraries and Internet-based resources may keep expenses down.
As an example: A January 16, 2003 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on homeschooling in Georgia mentions that one family, with five daughters learning at home, spends at least $2,000 annually on homeschooling expenses such as training sessions, teaching materials and extracurricular activities.
An indirect cost may be the drop in household income if a parent gives up a job or starts to work only part-time to stay at home and become a home-based teacher.
Best and Worst States for Homeschoolers
Homeschoolers Look for Autonomy from Regulators

Considering homeschooling? You might want to relocate to Alaska, Michigan, Idaho, Texas or Oklahoma. These states, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) have legal environments relatively friendly to  homeschooling. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, on the other hand, impose some of the most restrictive laws on homeschooling families, according to the HSLDA.
An important criterion for a states homeschool friendliness, according to Ian Slatter , HSLDA Director of Media Relations, is the degree to which the state regulates homeschool families. As Mr. Slatter explains it, [We see] homeschooling as the ultimate school choice.  To protect that choice, the HSLDA believes that homeschooling families must have as much autonomy as possible.
Homeschool performance doesnt change between students in the easy states and those in the difficult ones. Theres a lot of regulation and work placed on parents in the difficult states with no benefit.
--Ian Slatter, Director of Media Relations
Home School Legal Defense Association
Least Restrictive States:
New Jersey
Most Restrictive States:

New York
North Dakota
Rhode Island
West Virginia
Of the top-rated homeschooling states, Alaska, requires no contact between the homeschooling family and the government. Other similarly rated states require minimal contact. Some, for instance, merely require parents who seek to homeschool to notify the superintendent or the Department of Education. In these states, very little regulatory burden is placed on homeschool families; by and large, they are free to educate their children as they see fit.
In low-ranked states, significant government regulation burdens homeschooling families. These states require homeschooling families to submit portfolios of student work regularly, take standardized tests or be otherwise evaluated by the public school system a system that often views homeschooling as competition. Furthermore, some states, including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have no statewide system of regulation. Instead, homeschoolers are at the mercy of regulations imposed by their local school districts. In these states, conditions for homeschooling are inconsistent, with families treated very well in one district but overburdened by regulations in the neighboring district.
For the Home School Legal Defense Associations information of state regulation of homeschooling, click here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Questioning whether it's a good idea to homeschool? Please read these articles.

Alternative to Public Schooling and its Destructive Effects 
~Author Anonymous
September 6, 2000

Imagine being torn from your parents at the early age of four or five and placed in an institution where self-motivation is suppressed through mind control, achieved by extreme organization and regimentation. Imagine this place as an isolation so extreme that first-hand information is nowhere to be found and instead one is told what to think, how to think, and when to think as a tool to provoke obedience and subordination.

After twelve years in this system would the results of violence, narcotic addictions, and loneliness be surprising? Now what if one was to relate this to the American public schooling system? The horrific possibility that perhaps America is spending too much money trying to perfect this institution becomes quite evident. Instead, what seems necessary is an alternative, such as home schooling, that would change the entire educational paradigm, as we know it.

As John Taylor Gatto, a renowned teacher and home schooling advocate, states in his essay "The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?", "Trust the people, give them choices, and the school nightmare will vanish in a generation." Parents taking their children's education into their own hands not only removes the destructive regimen of public schooling, but allows the students to progress at their own speed and enforces strong family values.

The monopoly of public education has placed in the minds of humans the false idea that children learn best from a system that locks its students up with other children of the same exact age, rings bells to start and stop work, and forces its students to think alike disregarding individual ambitions.

Eager to begin their child's education, parents have failed to recognize that what their children are receiving is not an education at all but rather an amalgam of bad habits, such as lying, revenge, and indifference. These are invoked when children must plead for individual freedoms such as using the restroom or through the constant ridicule of peers and sometimes-even teachers.

I once recall an incident when a fellow student of mine spoke out with an unpopular opinion, and the immediate reaction of the class was to laugh. In such situations, the natural fear of becoming unpopular succeeds ambition with apathy. Perhaps this student graduated school no longer caring about his future but rather accommodating the automated machine of Pavlovian rats - a machine which Gatto refers to as "destructive to individuality, family, and community". All three of these factors are intertwined: peer pressure debilitates an individual's capability of making intelligent decisions, which may then lead to drug abuse, violence, or worse.

Furthermore, "troubled" adolescents often weaken family relationships,thus crippling entire communities. The truth is, cooperating with such an institution will only strengthen its destructiveness. Likewise, the most efficient remedy is to return "...primary decision-making to parents, letting them buy what they want to buy in schooling," states Gatto. By doing this, the power is placed in the middle of the chain of individuality, family, and community where parents can better provide their children with an adequate life-based education. This exemplifies the need for home schooling; a system designed to relieve children from the unrelenting structure of traditional education by providing an atmosphere without constraints.

In her essay "Home in School: Insights on Education Through the Lens of Home Schoolers", Lesley Ann Taylor describes a home setting as a place "to enjoy a broader socialization than that which a typical school classroom allows, and to have a more active learning environment with provision of real opportunities to structure their [students'] own days". For example, with the guidance of a parent, a child can construct a curriculum that focuses more on subjects he/she enjoys learning about. Then, more in depth projects can be created, which otherwise may not be possible for an entire class of students to accomplish, especially with the guidance of only one individual. Furthermore, through home schooling, the conformity of public schooled children can be replaced with unique individuals who are capable of thinking for themselves, students who know how to argue real life situations through the first-hand knowledge they receive from their parents and communities.

Because home education offers a flexible curriculum which can be molded to suit each individual's needs, students are able to progress at a pace unique to their learning capabilities. It is unrealistic to place a child in a class filled with kids from varied walks of life and expect him/her to learn at the same exact rate as everyone else.

In Jeffrey Lowe's article "Learning At Home: Does It Pass The Test?", Rebecca Sealfon, champion of the national spelling bee competition says, "Home schooling gave me more time and flexibility to study spelling." Sealfon undoubtedly displays the excellence that can be achieved by a child who is given the opportunity to home school.

If this alone is not convincing, consider a more notable list of previous home scholars: George Washington, who received his education in the fields of his father's farm, Theodore Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth II, who both had personal tutors, and Florence Nightingale, whose mother and father contributed to her academic and social training. Obviously, success is not always derived from the norm.

The speed at which a student learns depends on a variety of factors. Some children lie far from the average either as a result of gifted talents or disabilities, and when bound to the same agenda as all other students, difficulties arise and lead to poor results. As Lowe points out, research shows that "kids with special needs - gifted or learning disabled - are more likely than most to benefit from home schooling." He supports this claim with the case of Ryan Abradi, a ten-year-old who started multiplying when he was just 2-. Even after being placed in a gifted program at a local public school, Abradi was far above the level at which his fellow peers were learning. If Abradi had been forced to comply with the standard procedures of traditional public education instead of home schooling, he most likely would not be working his way through second-semester college calculus at the mere age of ten. Abradi is not an isolated case; there are many students with similar situations who would benefit from home education, but instead are being trained for "permanent underclasses, people who are to be deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius," states Gatto in his essay "The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher". It's no wonder that there are so many people who have degrees which they find futile - they were brought up believing in a system that didn't offer choices, and as a result they were unable to make use of their talents, or "special genius."

Currently, one of the most endangered factors of American society is that of family life, yet at the same time public schools participate in destroying whatever links remain between parents and children. In this respect, national culture is controlled entirely by the state - the same state that uses a facade of trust to endorse treating children like machines. In John Taylor Gatto's essay "The 9 Assumptions of Modern Schooling, he displays a list of ironic assumptions that control public schooling ideology", one of which states that "it is not appropriate for any family to unduly concern itself with the education of its own children." This illogical reasoning only serves to support the destruction of family values by ripping apart the child-parent relationships.

Another common postulation created by public schools is that "the State has the predominant responsibility for training, moral and beliefs." This again warrants a general distrust of parents and assumes that a single system of values is best for everyone. Home schooling is quickly refuting this centralized control of government schools and reinforcing the family values that have slowly rotted away.

Within a home setting, family relationships can be preserved because parents are directly involved with their children's lives. For example, they are capable of incorporating a religious atmosphere along with the more "scientific" approach that one finds in public schools. This offers a moral basis to their children's education. As Martha Lloyd states in Lesley Ann Taylor's article, she wanted children that "would have the wisdom to be able to discern truth from falsehood, especially in regards to things that they would run across in the world." This is one aspect that is not easily offered in the public schooling regimen - children find themselves incapable of discerning truth from falsehood because the system has engrained in their minds what it believes to be truth. Therefore, children mature without the capacity to think for themselves and fall victim to peer pressure.

Finally, it is quite evident that home schooling is a beneficial alternative to traditional education because of its flexibility in both structure and time schedule as well as its reinforcement of strong family relationships and morals. With the future rushing down upon our culture, the current wastelands of traditional education need to be realized and replaced with something entirely different - something like home schooling. Other possibilities include methods that entail service projects, independent study, and apprenticeships. As presented within this essay, these suggestions are not simply innovative dreams; they are grounded with strong support, and with the correct procedures can be carried to completion.


Socialization: the Dictionary Definition
by Heather Madrone

I've always felt vaguely uncomfortable when someone asks about socialization. I realized that I'd never heard the word before I started homeschooling and that I didn't really know what it meant.

So I decided to look it up.

I found it under the word "socialize". Here's the definition:

1. To place under government or group ownership or control; establish on a socialistic basis.
2. To fit for companionship with others; make sociable in attitude or manners.
3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.
4. To take part in social activities.

I was thrown by definition #1. Do we really want children to be owned or controlled by the government? To be socialized like medicine or railroads? I assume this is not what people mean when they talk about homeschooled youngsters receiving insufficient socialization, but I could be wrong.

If definition #1 is what people mean by socialization, then I'm afraid homeschooled children aren't going to be nearly as socialized as public schooled youngsters. Actually, I'd be more afraid of the people who want to socialize children in such a fashion. When I read definition #1, a chill went down my spine. Definition #3 bothered me too, seeming more suited to institutions than human beings.

Definitions 2 and 4 don't bother me at all. I'd like my children to be fit companions for other people. I'd like them to have manners and treat other people courteously and in a friendly manner. I want them to take part in social activities, to enjoy being part of the community.

I just don't see how children need to go to school to accomplish definitions 2 and 4.

So, someone tell me, please, what is this property of "socialization" and how is it conferred by the schools and not in any other way?

I know this topic comes up over and over again, but it's really bothering me now. I think that part of what may be meant by socialization is definitions 1 and 3, that people want our children to become good cogs in the machine, mindless members of the mass culture.

Forgive my melodrama. When I think of children who are taught to blindly obey authority and to fit in, I think of the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Stalin regime. I don't want to see that happen in this country.

My husband suggested that we make up T-shirts with the definitions of socialization on them and hand them out to people who ask about socialization. It's a thought.


What I Didn't Learn in School
by Maggie Friedenberg ~ August 29, 2000

It's happened. We've started thinking about <gasp!> Homeschooling our son. We've done some research, we've made some contacts, and we've made the mistake of telling our family and friends. And so the questions have come - and among them, the *BIG* question of "socialization."

I've mulled it over quite a bit... and here is what I have come up with on the issue:

First of all, "socialization" isn't even really a word, at least not according to Webster. The closest thing I found was "socialize," and when I was in school, socializing was something that was discouraged! We were there to learn, not to make friends... or so our teachers told us. So, does school really teach us the social skills we need to survive the everyday ups and downs of interaction with other human beings?

The truth is that the social building block of any civilization is the family - that is where we learn how to live alongside others, love them, accept them, argue with them, nurture them, put up with them...

And so, what did I learn, in that wonderful center of "socialization" that is school?

In school I learned:

~about grammar, but not how to carry on a conversation.
~about how to add and subtract, but not how to balance a checkbook or stick to a budget.
~about chemistry, but not how to cook bacon without burning it (I'm still learning that one!)
~about sociology, but not how to get along with my husband or discipline my children.
~about biology, but not about pregnancy, infertility, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
~fractions, but not how to bake a cake.
~about the origins of civilization, but not about its Originator.
~how to speak Spanish, but not how to talk to anybody about things that ran deeper than their favorite food or the color of their shirt.
~about psychology, but not how to mend a friendship or recover from a broken heart.
~how to throw a party, make a dollar stretch, or end a telephone conversation.
~how to decide what to make for dinner, find a bargain, or deal with the death of a good friend.
~how to interview for a job, do laundry, or talk to people about things that really matter.
~how to make my husband feel appreciated, make a friend, kiss a boo-boo, or dry a tear.

THESE are the social skills that really matter. THESE are the things I do day in, day out, things I learned on my own, with the help of my family.

Thousands leaving public school behind  ~ By Linda B. Blackford


Judy Mortkowitz, a longtime public school teacher, didn't plan on home schooling her children.

She was asked to -- by a Fayette County school official who said her oldest son, Jody, was having trouble in middle school.

Was it bad grades or fighting? she asked. No. The problem was that her son asked teachers questions they couldn't answer and made them cry. Would she consider home schooling him instead?

Mortkowitz would and did.

Jody, 25, went to college and is now a successful freelance author and artist.

Now, Judy Mortkowitz is home schooling her two younger children and seeing more and more parents join her ranks, parents who are dissatisfied with traditional schools and want to strike out on their own.

In the past year alone, the number of home-schooled students in Kentucky has surged to 12,491, a 21 percent increase from 1999.

"I think more and more people are hearing about it, and home schoolers grow up and turn out well, winning national academic competitions on a fairly regular basis,'' said Michael Fogler, a Lexington musician and writer who has home schooled his 13-year-old son for eight years.

But the home-schooling boom in Kentucky may reignite the debate over whether home schools need some kind of oversight to make sure home school is about school and not about dodging truancy charges.

Unlike surrounding states, Kentucky has very lax laws regarding home schools, requiring little more of parents than registering their children and opening their paperwork to state officials if needed.

"It's terrible, and it's worse where we come from,'' said state Rep. Barbara Colter, R-Manchester, who tried to pass home-school legislation in 1998. "I'm not worried about the good home schools, but we are one of the only states that allows anybody or anything to educate a child. If the mother can't read, how can she teach?''

Reasons behind the boom

Parents give a variety of reasons for choosing to teach their kids at home.

"We want our children to explore and grow, we want them to know how to think and not what to think, and we can do that with home schooling,'' Mortkowitz said.

Fogler wanted a more flexible atmosphere for his son.

"It was sort of to get away from the grading, ranking, tracking and competing that go on in schools,'' he said. "I wanted to see how it would work to let the child point to his interests and follow that a little more. I think there's a lot of cases of personalities who just don't fit well the school model, sitting still at a desk.''

Julie Ervin of Paris wanted her four sons to have a more religious education than they could get in public schools, and Catholic schools were beyond the family's budget.

The older boys now work from correspondence classes, and Ervin and her husband monitor their progress year by year to make sure they want to continue. The boys work for four hours a day, then go to activities like piano lessons or 4-H meetings.

"We really like what we're seeing with their progress,'' she said.

Untold numbers

The number of home-school students now make up about 2 percent of Kentucky's school population, but that figure might be even higher. Home-school numbers are reported by local school districts, which keep records of students who leave public school to be educated privately or at home. So if a student has never enrolled in public or private schools, a district won't know the student exists.

The number of home schools has also jumped around the nation. In 1994, the federal government estimated the number of students at 345,000; by 1999, it was 850,000. But the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va., puts it closer to 1.5 million home-schooled students nationwide.

Louie Hammons, director of pupil personnel for Garrard County, says the increased interest in home schools means more parents are interested in doing it the right way. But there are still parents who use home school as an excuse to dodge truancy charges, and there are people who offer to home school their children without ever having finished themselves.

"There are good home schools, and there are people who abuse it,'' he said.

In 1998, legislators attempted to pass laws that would require more oversight of home schools, like testing home-school students annually -- but they were defeated by the perceived political might of several statewide Christian and home-schooling groups.

Colter, who battled the home-school groups in 1998, says she's preparing a new bill for the 2002 session that will try to curb abuses. Her bill would require home-school students to be tested and registered, as well as make sure the educator is educated.

The two largest home-school groups, the Christian Home Educators of Kentucky and the Kentucky Home Educator Association, have consistently opposed any attempts to regulate home schools.

But in 1997, the two groups agreed to work with local districts on a set of "best practices'' to identify problem home schools.

For example, if a parent decided to start home schooling his or her child the day before the child was brought up on truancy charges, then the groups agreed that a director of pupil personnel should check that home school, even though that's not standard practice.

Nearby states, like Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia, have some requirements for home-school teachers; although in some states, it's only a GED. Twenty-six states nationwide require regular testing of home-school students.

Parents like Fogler say they understand there are abuses in home schooling, but they think regulation attempts will lead to too much interference from the state.

"The problem is then they'll have some kind of notion about what we're supposed to do about education,'' Fogler said. "The education level of the parents doesn't make any difference -- what does make a difference is that the parent is thoughtful and serious about home schooling.''

Published Saturday, August 25, 2001, in the Herald-Leader


The new home schoolers aren't hermits. They are diverse parents who are getting results--and putting the heat on public schools.


Earlier this month, J.C. Penney learned the hard way just how powerful the home-schooling movement has become. Penney's had recently started selling a T shirt that wickedly crystallized many people's assumptions about the movement: HOME SKOOLED, giggles the shirt, which also depicts a trailer home. The folks at Penney's say they meant no harm--they didn't even design the T, which had become popular in other stores first. But they yanked it from the shelves Aug. 8 after enraged missives poured in from home-schooling families, some of whom threatened a boycott.

Penney's should have known better. Over the past decade, the ranks of families home schooling have grown dramatically. According to a new federal report, at least 850,000 students were learning at home in 1999, the most recent year studied; some experts believe the figure is actually twice that. As recently as 1994, the government estimated the number at just 345,000. True, even the largest estimates still put the home schooled at only 4% of the total K-12 population--but that would mean more kids learn at home than attend all the public schools in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined.

While politicians from Washington on down to your school board have been warring over charter schools and vouchers in recent years, home schooling has quietly outpaced both of those more attention-getting reforms (only half a million kids are in charter schools, and just 65,000 receive vouchers). In many ways, in fact, home schooling has become a threat to the very notion of public education. In some school districts, so many parents are pulling their children out to teach them at home that the districts are bleeding millions of dollars in per-pupil funding. Aside from money, the drain of families is eroding something more precious: public confidence in the schools.

Thomas Jefferson and the other early American crusaders for public education believed the schools would help sustain democracy by bringing everyone together to share values and learn a common history. In the little red brick schoolhouse, we would pursue both "democracy in education and education in democracy," as Stanford historian David Tyack gracefully puts it. Home schooling forsakes all that by defining education not as the pursuit of an entire community but as the work of one family and its chosen circle. Which can be great. Despite some drawbacks, there are signs that home-schooling parents are doing a better job than public schools at teaching their kids. But as the number of kids learning at home grows, we should pause to wonder: Better at teaching them what? Home schooling may turn out better students, but does it create better citizens?

To see how home schooling threatens public schools, look at Maricopa County, Ariz. The county has approximately 7,000 home-schooled students. That's only 1.4% of school-age kids, but it means $35 million less for the county in per-pupil funding. The state of Florida has 41,128 children (1.7%) learning at home this year, up from 10,039 in the 1991-92 school year; those kids represent a loss of nearly $130 million from school budgets in that state. Of course the schools have fewer children to teach, so it makes sense that they wouldn't get as much money, but the districts lose much more than cash. "Home schooling is a social threat to public education," says Chris Lubienski, who teaches at Iowa State University's college of education. "It is taking some of the most affluent and articulate parents out of the system. These are the parents who know how to get things done with administrators."

To be sure, many public schools--and their baleful unions and wretched bureaucrats, their rigid rules and we-know-best manner--have done a lot to hurt themselves. But as the most committed parents leave, the schools may falter more, giving the larger community yet another reason to fret over their condition. "A third of our support for schools comes from property taxes," says Ray Simon, director of the Arkansas department of education. "If a large number of a community's parents do not fully believe in the school system, it gets more difficult to pass those property taxes. And that directly impacts the schools' ability to operate." Says Kellar Noggle, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators: "We still have 440,000 kids in public schools, and some 12,000 [in home schooling] is a small number. But those 12,000 have parents and grandparents. Sure, it erodes public support."

The thus far steep growth of home schooling does have limits, as it takes a galactic commitment of time and money and patience for a parent to spend all day, every day, relearning algebra (or getting it for the first time) and then teaching it. It's fair to assume that a majority of parents won't want to give up those delightfully quiet hours when the kids are at school. The softening economy may also begin to thin the ranks of home schoolers, many of whom are middle-class families that can't afford private schools; if stay-at-home teaching parents have to take a job, free public school will start to look very inviting.

But for now, home schooling is still growing at about 11% a year, and it's no longer confined to a conservative fringe that never believed in the idea of public education anyway. "Very different people are entering home schooling than did 20 years back," says Mitchell Stevens, author of Kingdom of Children, a history of home schooling to be published next month by Princeton University Press. According to the Federal Government, up to three-quarters of the families that home school today say they do so primarily because, like so many of us, they are worried about the quality of their children's education. A recent report by the state of Florida found that just a quarter of families in that state practice home schooling for religious reasons. The new home schoolers haven't completely given up on public education, at least not the idea of it. "The problem is that schools have abandoned their mission," says Luigi Manca, a communications professor at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., who home schools his daughter Nora, 17. "They've forgotten about educating."

William Bennett used to be the U.S. Secretary of Education, but today he travels the nation to preach the home-school gospel. "I'm here to talk about the revolution of common sense," he told a Denver home-schooling conference in June. Working himself up to promote K12, his slick, new, for-profit online school for home schoolers, Bennett even suggested that "maybe we should subcontract all of public education to home schoolers." It was strange to watch a man once responsible for federal aid to public schools urge people to desert them. Imagine if Colin Powell gave a speech saying we should disband the U.S. Army and assemble local militias.

But many are following. They are folks like Tim and Lisa Dean of Columbia, Md., working parents (he manages technical support for the U.S. Senate; she's a part-time attorney) who home school Bitsy, 5, and Teddy, 4. Contrary to the old picture of home schoolers, Tim doesn't leave all the teaching to his wife, and they helped start a home-school support group two years ago that includes parents who are gay and straight; black, white, Asian American and biracial; Democrat and Republican.

The conservative Christians who worked so hard in the 1980s to make home schooling legal in every state are as committed as ever, but more politically moderate Christians have also joined the movement. Susie Capraro, who home schools her son and daughter, used to be part of the Broward County Parent Support Group, the largest home-schooling network in Florida and one founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Although she considers herself a Fundamentalist Christian, Capraro didn't like group rules that keep non-Christians from leadership roles--or other exclusionary gestures, like the ice skating event that featured only Christian music. "We wanted a place where people could get the support they needed without the religion," says Capraro, who along with 10 families co-founded Home Educators Lending Parents Support. "[Religion is] not the purpose of our group, but rather to get together for the best education." Today the three-year-old organization includes more than 150 families representing Evangelicals as well as Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others.

For this story, TIME reporters interviewed more than 70 home-schooling parents around the U.S. to find the new faces of the movement, including a biology professor at Spelman College; a midwife and artist in Canton, Ga.; an attorney and part-time basketball coach in Houston; an Arkansas state legislator; and Leo Damrosch, a Harvard English professor who began home schooling his sons, 10 and 13, in part because "the two writers I've studied most intensively for many years, William Blake and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, were both geniuses of astounding originality, and neither of them went to school for a single day."

Many of the home-schooling parents we met were religious, but few were home schooling only to instill values. They had come to their decision after a variety of frustrations. Among them: the Fayetteville, Ga., school with 45 kindergartners in one room; the school administrators in Wheaton, Ill., who were so confused over what to do with Sue McCallum's boy that they put him in both remedial and gifted classes; the Glendale, Calif., school where Robert Phillipps' fifth-grader Bill saw too many fistfights.

These parents got fed up in different ways, but what they have in common is a willingness to sacrifice--money, career opportunities, watching soap operas--for their children's education. Sometimes these sacrifices are small, like giving up a dining room to make a classroom. But consider the Carnells of Columbia, Md., who started home schooling Erin, 6, because a shoulder injury required occupational therapy that would have interfered with school hours. The Carnells decided to keep teaching her at home because they feel they can do a better job than local schools. To teach her math and science in the mornings, Fred, a government cartographer, works the office graveyard shift, which means he and his wife Debbie, a claims adjuster, hardly see each other. The family rarely eats dinner together, and the parents are constantly exhausted. Says Debbie: "I have my schedule down to the hour on an Excel work sheet."

Erin will doubtless benefit educationally from her parents' exertions. But imagine what American public education would look like if parents who currently home school flooded their local schools with all that mighty dedication instead. One doesn't diminish a home-schooling parent's sacrifice for his child to note that he may also be abdicating some of his responsibilities to his community. "In a home school, a parent can really insulate a child from the vibrant, pluralistic, democratic world," says Rob Reich, who teaches political science at Stanford. Susanne Allen, 35, a home-schooling mother from Atlanta, claims her children will be "better citizens" because home schooling gives them the opportunity to work together, rather than sitting at individual desks. "They learn to be caring for other people by seeing an older sibling care for them," she says. But will that make them better citizens or just better siblings?

Then again, if a parent lives in, say, California, where 30 kids pack the average third-grade classroom, who can blame her for home schooling? If it's a choice between being good to one's family or good to one's community, it's not much of a choice at all. Many, of course, try to be both, but some parents say the schools are too far gone. Amy Langley, who home schools her son and daughter in Decatur, Ga., believes two-income families don't participate enough to make public schools work. "And too much class time is spent on discipline," she says.

For all that home-schooling parents give up, what are their kids getting? We know the average SAT score for home schoolers in 2000 was 1100, compared with 1019 for the general population. And a large study by University of Maryland education researcher Lawrence Rudner showed that the average home schooler scored in the 75th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills; the 50th percentile marked the national average. But not all home schoolers take standardized tests, and one suspects the better students are the ones volunteering to do so. It's also difficult to assess how a child who is home schooled would have done in a traditional school. Because of the paucity of research, no one can say much more than this: home schooling seems to require the same formula for success as parenting, which is to say, it can work when the parents are loving and open-minded and dedicated. As Simon of the Arkansas department of education says, "You've got examples of very well-structured home schools and total disasters, just like you do in the public schools."

Certainly the old suspicion of the academic credentials of home-schooled kids has waned; perhaps three-quarters of universities now have policies for dealing with home-schooled applicants, according to Cafi Cohen, author of The Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook. Today Harvard admissions officers attend home-schooling conferences looking for applicants, and Rice and Stanford admit home schoolers at rates equal to or higher than those for public schoolers. These schools compete for students like L.J. Decker, 17, from Katy, Texas, who scored 1560 on the SAT and was part of a team of home schoolers who won the Toshiba ExploraVision contest for their idea of a futuristic scuba device that would use artificial hemoglobin to convert the oxygen in water into air.

Some colleges, like Kennesaw State University in Georgia, aggressively recruit home schoolers. Justin Tomczak, 22, now a sales associate for Salomon Smith Barney, was one of them. After he arrived at Kennesaw several years ago, he started a group for home-schooled kids, but today home schoolers have become so integrated into campus life that the group has pretty much disbanded. "Back then, [other students] thought we were religious weirdos who couldn't cope," he says. "Now the perception is totally different."

That's partly because the old canard that home schoolers are hermits has largely been disproven. In fact nearly 1 in 5 takes at least one class in a public or private school, according to the Federal Government. Home schoolers participate in extracurricular activities too. Many of the home-schooling parents interviewed by TIME were just as busy as any parents scheduling baseball practices and ballet classes. Judi Thomas of Marietta, Ga., says her daughter Juliet, 9, "has tap and ballet on Tuesdays; Wednesdays, there's choir; Thursdays, she has classes with other home schoolers; Fridays, there's usually a play date or a field trip."

Home schooling's successes didn't come easily, though the practice is actually an old tradition. In the early years of this country, most children were educated at home, either by parents or tutors. Public education started in the middle of the 19th century. When, in the 1960s, a leftist education reformer named John Holt began pushing home schooling as an alternative to conformist public schools, his ideas were seen as fringe. Home schooling was illegal in many states until the 1980s and '90s, when well-organized evangelical Christians adopted home schooling as a way to escape what they saw as the creeping disorder of the campus.

Today home schoolers run one of the most effective lobbies in Washington, with connections all the way to the White House, where the President recently hosted a reception for home-schooled students. Bush's Under Secretary for Education Eugene Hickok told Time that "we cannot blame people for exercising their choices and home schooling until we have some real changes out there."

Despite its growing acceptance, there are nagging shortcomings to home schooling. If you spend time with home schoolers, you get a sense that some of them have missed out on whole swaths of childhood; the admirable efforts by their parents to ensure their education and safety sometimes seem to have gone too far. In 1992 psychotherapist Larry Shyers did a study while at the University of Florida in which he closely examined the behavior of 35 home schoolers and 35 public schoolers. He found that home schoolers were generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers. In short, they behaved like miniature adults.

Which is great, unless you believe that kids should be kids before they are adults. John McCallum, 20, of Wheaton, Ill., began learning at home after fourth grade. On the whole, he valued the experience. But if he could change anything about his teen years, he would want more interaction with people his age. "I don't date, and that's something I attribute to home schooling," he says. Or consider Rachel Ahern, 21, of Grand Junction, Colo., who never set foot in a classroom until she went to Harvard at 18. As a child, she socialized with older kids and adults at church and in music classes at a nearby college. "I never once experienced peer pressure," she says. But is that a good thing? Megan Wallace of Atlanta says if she had gone to high school, "I would have gotten into so much trouble." One could argue that kids need to get into a certain amount of trouble to learn how to handle temptations and their consequences.

"Home schoolers are often very astute," says Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale. "But they often have to learn how to live with others." Even the new home-schooling parents, who are keenly aware of this problem and try to ensure their children interact with others, sometimes miss the point. Half a dozen families told TIME that the only aspect of school their kids say they miss is riding the bus. So some of them have arranged for their children to have their own private rides on a school bus. But the singular experience of going to school with other kids on the bus--which is at once terrifying and liberating--can't be mimicked in private.

The same blinkered approach can extend to academics. "I make pretty much all the decisions about what to study," says Maren McKee, 15, of Naperville, Ill., who left public school after third grade. "I wasn't interested in math or composition, so I didn't really do it. I liked to dance." But now McKee, who is dyslexic, realizes she will need more than dance steps to get into college. "My mom and I are going to spend this whole year on math and learning to write," she says, perhaps not fully appreciating that both of those skills can take much longer than a year to learn.

Brie Finegold, 22, a graduate of the University of North Texas, says she did fine without the traditional classroom. "I got to do volunteer work at the food bank at my synagogue and apprentice to a dance company when I was a teenager, when others my age were sitting in classrooms," she says. But volunteering and dancing aren't necessarily better than chemistry and poetry. The basic function of a liberal education is to expose people to fields they normally wouldn't investigate. Whether you believe the purpose of education is to shape one's character in a democracy or to prepare Johnny for his job, neither is accomplished when kids get to study only what they want.

But what if your educational goals are simpler? Skeet Savage, mother of six in Covert, Mich., argues that "graduation isn't the ultimate goal for my children. Learning is." There's a little tributary that runs off the home-schooling river called unschooling that espouses such ideas. About 7% of home schoolers today describe themselves as using no particular curricular plan, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Not all these people would embrace the term unschooling, which sounds so anti-intellectual, but many of them follow the path of no paths, allowing their children to pursue their own interests.

The idea is that kids learn best when they determine what to study and when. "I tried to bring the classroom into the home but quickly discovered that wasn't the best way to bring out the strengths in my children," says Savage, whose children are 15 to 28. Instead, she practices what she calls "natural home schooling," using real-life projects as teaching opportunities: caring for animals on the family farm, building an addition on the house, designing graphics for the family company (which publishes Christian home-schooling material). Of her three children over 18, none has gone to college.

Of course, unschooling lies at an extreme. Home-schooling families fall along a continuum between copying the traditional classroom and "learning" by building Mommy and Daddy a lovely cedar deck. The success of the venture may depend more on the parents than the kids. If they are like Marilyn and Gene McGinnis of Atlanta, devout Mennonites who nonetheless make a conscious effort to teach their children about other cultures and religions, home schooling can broaden and enrich children's minds as much as any schooling. Home schooling also works when parents are like the Deckers in Katy, Texas, parents of five, who were humble enough to get help from another home-schooling parent for a child of theirs who was struggling with spelling.

"You have to feel like you're on a mission," says Ronnie Palache, who pulled Spencer, 9, from fourth grade in Tarzana, Calif., because the boy was bored and unchallenged but also has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. "I wake up every morning saying two things to myself: 'I'm on a mission to have Spencer turn out O.K.' and 'I have to live outside the box.'"

And even then maybe it's not enough. Robert Phillipps of Glendale, Calif., began home schooling Bill, 15, and Denise, 11, four years ago. He works hard at it and carefully tracks what his kids are learning. But he can't provide an art class at home even though Denise likes to sketch, and ice skating three days a week has to count for PE. The kids read great books, but they have no one outside the family with whom to discuss them during class. As Phillipps says, "There is no one to hide behind. What you do is yours."

But if home schooling is flawed, and our public schools are weathered, some believe there's a way to improve both by reinvesting home schoolers in their communities and making public schools more nimble. A few school districts are showing the way. In some states, including California and Texas, school districts now allow home-schooled kids to sign up for such offerings as a physics class or the football team. A growing number of districts are opening resource centers where home schoolers come for class once or twice a week. In Orange County, Calif., two school districts have combined two reform ideas by opening charter schools that offer home-schooling programs.

This cooperation is largely motivated by self-interest--many schools can regain at least a percentage of their per-pupil funding by counting home schoolers, who get more options without being fully part of the system. "These programs can win parents back when they see the school is willing to offer alternative forms of education," says Patricia Lines, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and one of the foremost experts on home schooling. "There's something very efficient about [traditional] schooling, and home schooling isn't exactly efficient." That's one reason Time found so many home schoolers who had formed de facto "schools" that offer science labs and basketball teams.

But this healthy synergy would require both public school administrators and home schoolers to stop being so suspicious one another. That may take years. Too many public school administrators silently agree with what Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association, says in objecting to any public expenditure on home schoolers: "Putting money into home schooling is throwing money down a rathole. You have no idea if that money is being spent properly or children are benefiting."

For their part, many home schoolers take the hard line of the movement's leading advocacy group, the Home School Legal Defense Association. It avoids representing home schoolers who are trying to get access to public school services that their taxes help fund. Many home schoolers feel that exposes the movement to too much government interference. "We are really afraid," says James Carper, an education historian at the University of South Carolina, who home schools. "When public schools extend the opportunity to become involved, it is inevitably going to compromise our independence."

But newer apostles of home schooling like William Bennett believe the future holds more cooperation. He says school administrators will work to develop a "Chinese-menu-style education," for instance, that allows home schoolers to have a math class here and a band course there without buying the whole K-12 puu-puu platter. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether public schools can still play a vital role in communities if they become simply another consumer good pushed by market forces and not a common good that transcends them.

August 27, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 8 - Time Magazine




By John Taylor Gatto

My wife doesn't allow a television in our home, so when I'm traveling alone, as I often must, temptation sometimes overwhelms me and I find myself indiscriminately channel-surfing for hours, searching for what -- I don't know, perhaps a football game even in March or April, May, June, July, August.

It was on such a fruitless mission in April that I paused on the A&E channel long enough to hear that a documentary about cults was in the offing. If I watched the thing, I was promised I would learn the six secret principles of cults, how to enslave the human mind beyond its power to escape, how to imprison the spirit, bending it to the discipline of the cult. Hey, my wife wasn't around, sounded "educational" to me.

In a dreamlike state in the Howard Johnson's motel in Norwich, New York I heard that the first way to recognize a cult was that it "keeps its victims unaware." 'Why, that's just what institutional schools do,' I said to myself; I've spent the last 10 years of my life traveling a million and a half miles to bear witness to that universal crime of forced schooling I had been a party to over a 30-year public school teaching career.

And, the television intoned in order, a cult controls its victims' time and environment (by this time I was sitting up with pen and pad taking notes), creates fear and dependency, suppresses old customs, instills new beliefs, and allows no criticism. "But, but," I heard my conscience sputtering, "that's the perfect formula for a government school." School was structured to be an expression of cult discipline! School was a cult, not unlike the murder cult Princess Grace ended her days on earth a member of, or the legendary Thuggee in British India which worshipped Kali, the Destroyer!

Prison, as we have evolved it following British and Hindu models, seeks to impose the same discipline on its serious recruits, breaking them to an understanding of their own profound worthlessness. It should be no secret to anyone reading this that in America, the land of the free, more people are imprisoned, by far, than in any nation past or present, including Communist China or Stalin's Soviet Union. Prison in America is a booming business, incarcerating about five times the percentage of our population who were jailed in the middle of the Great Depression. Some fiendish spirit is loose in our land whose bleak heart can only be plumbed by seeing the correspondences among cults, prisons, and schools.

The most obvious relationship between government schooling and our penal system is that they both involve prisons of measured time: Movements, thoughts, associations in both are controlled by total strangers whose biographies remain a sealed book to inmates and their families. Any attempt to uncover those biographies in order to consider the fitness of employees would be met by howls of outrage and refusal, or punished severely if the research were pressed.

The structures in which students are confined along with their certified handlers long ago exceeded any human scale, they are megalithic constructions designed to emphasize the insignificance of the indwelling population, and the stark power of their invisible masters. Yet both the anonymity of the operatives and the inhumanity of the architecture have a subtler side, too, a side which can only be appreciated when you realize that its purpose is to make us childish.

Almost all Americans have had an intense school experience which occupied their entire youth, an experience during which they were drilled thoroughly in the culture and economy of the well-schooled greater society, in which individuals have been rendered helpless to do much of anything except watch television or punch buttons on a keypad.

Before you begin to blame the childish for being that way and join the chorus of those defending the general imprisonment of adults and the schooling by force of children because there isn't any other way to handle the mob, you want to at least consider the possibility that we've been trained in childishness and helplessness for a reason. And that reason is that helpless people are easy to manage. Helpless people can be counted upon to act as their own jailers because they are so inadequate to complex reality they are afraid of new experience. They're like animals whose spirits have been broken. Helpless people take orders well, they don't have minds of their own, they are predictable, they won't surprise corporations or governments with resistance to the newest product craze, the newest genetic patent -- or by armed revolution. Helpless people can be counted on to despise independent citizens and hence they act as a fifth column in opposition to social change in the direction of personal sovereignty.

From a managerial standpoint, people addicted to defining their lives by the stuff they buy, or by pats on the head, comprise a managerial utopia. In prison, or school, the way to this condition, this safe condition, is prepared by a drill in the extension of small privileges and honors, or the withholding of same, by punishments and rewards externally imposed until the inner ability of the human spirit to punish or reward itself --and hence by free of tutelage -- is destroyed or suppressed. The animal trainers in service to the rich and powerful through history-not B.F. Skinner or the behaviorists-created this form of training.

Some kids become too wordlessly angry at this deal to conform to the patterns laid down in 12 years of forced training; for these a graduate school or schools are created; for most it is the school of poverty and marginalization; for some, the school called jail. Jail is a place where the bare bones of forced schooling become exposed and highlighted:

In prison you stay in your classroom 24 hours a day.
In prison the teachers wear guns and carry clubs.
In prison all associations are strictly controlled.

Both school and prison are high security institutions, cut off from the general society. The possibilities of learning in either place are so strictly limited that only a few survive this training intact. Both make us helpless to direct our own lives. Prison is only a more stringent refresher course for angry and confused souls who retain some notion of personal independence, however warped or grotesque the natural impulse has become.

About 6.3 million Americans have the experience of prison added to the experience of forced schooling, but such a number is only the tip of an iceberg. Thanks to lurid newspaper stories, endless television, movies, books, songs, and other public utterances under the control of corporate managers, all of us are steeped in a vision where prison seems the only protection of physical safety in a dangerous world. We are taught our fellow beings are violently untrustworthy; that only through the protection of authorities can we be safe. Both school and prison destroy trust, the glue of real community. It's a divide-and-conquer strategy, and it works.

Corporate culture has become a resonator of low-level fearfulness to such an extent that we gladly throw huge numbers of our fellow human beings in jail, just as we abandon our children to penal institutionalization in schools; the constant presentation of prison as our salvation, or school as the essential trainer of children, makes us all prisoners. It corrupts our inner life, it divides us from one another so that relationships lifelong are thin and shallow. School teaches us to divorce one another, to put aside loyalty for advantage, to quell our inner voices, subordinating them to management.

School and prison do the work that Rome's first emperor, Julius Cesear, said was necessary to manage a conquered population. In order to keep the conquered conquered, you have to keep them divided. School classrooms do that job more gently than prison cells, but they do it more effectively.

The people who inflict these things on the rest of us are insane, however normal their words and countenances appear. Hard as that is to believe, you must remember that this nation became rich, powerful, and the free-est place in civilized human history without any forced schooling-or prisons-to speak of. In spite of their neat suits, white shirts, and calm ways of speaking, the folks who build and maintain forced institutional schooling-as well as professionalized institutional mass incorporation-are insane, sick people cut off from human understanding, cut off from the hopes and dreams of ordinary humanity.

You may prefer, however, to see them as crazy as foxes. Both school and prison -- by cutting us off from raw experience with people, projects, and ideas -- have trained us to stay in harmony with a mass-production economy whose principle product is junk which must be consumed if it is to survive. The survival of this economy depends upon people becoming addicted to consumption, addicted to owning (and discarding) stuff. As my own addiction to mindlessness re-emerges when I travel alone, and is testified to by aimless channel-surfing on television, hour upon hour, so too, for almost all, in one fashion or another; what begins as a nearly universal human weakness -- but only a minor part of healthy life, well within control - becomes, through forced training from birth in our culture, mightily enhanced by schooling and television, the common destiny of the commons.

School also trains us to accept a gigantic government with multiple police forces whose need is to control all significant decisions, even in private lives. The monstrous government with its comprehensive surveillance, its theft of your money, its ability to confine those who resist indoctrination, is the perfect mirror imitation of a command economy where "work" is mostly defined in corporate boardrooms, where the wishes and plans of a few CEOs and their families are imposed on the lives of all. These are the new nobility, bidding fair over the past several decades to extend their rule over the entire planet. Welcome to the American empire which has replaced both Republican and Democratic forbears.

School is the processing center for its mercenaries, who, of necessity must needs be made incomplete. This could not have happened without first rendering our people frightened of personal sovereignty, by making them childish and dependent. But is it now too strong to be overthrown?

I don't think so, but the road away from it will be long and difficult. There is no mechanism in existence through which its antithesis can be mobilized except the individual family, the particular family, the unique family. Associations of families which waste their time in wholesale opposition to the thing are doomed, I believe, to disappointment. We will not see this power rolled back in our lifetimes.

Yet saying this is a far cry from throwing up one's hands in despair. Rust doesn't organize to bring down a powerful building nor do termites organize to collapse a house. Each set of molecules, less of any contradiction to the integrity of the larger structure.

The miracle we're after at large is available to each on of us in small right now. First you have to break the invisible chains that schooling has laid on your own mind; you need to stop defining yourself by what you buy or who approves of you. Stop being fearful of new experiences or at least press on regardless of your fear.

By all means homeschool your kids for a while and if you can't do that, teach them to be quiet little saboteurs of the school order. Teach them that very little of value will happen to them as a gift inside school walls, but that if they "want" an education they will have to take it, nobody is ever given an education. Teach them that.

Teach them to challenge the world around them, to take risks. Teach them the junk they put in their minds through television, indeed through all forms of commercial entertainment, is propaganda of one sort of another.

You might even unplug your television today. Or go to see an old friend you haven't seen in a while. In the next election, vote for a third-party candidate; whatever he or she stands for is irrelevant. Once you begin breaking out of the jail your schooling built around you you'll think of many things to do for yourself and your kids. You don't need any gurus, not even me. And when you finally break out of your private jail you'll discover how wonderful and necessary a gift of God that liberty really is. Hey, get started!

Mr. Gatto's website is:  http://www.johntaylorgatto.com


The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.

Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:

The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive.

In any case, again, that's not my business. My job is to make the kids like it -- being locked in together, I mean -- or at the minimum, endure it. If things go well, the kids can't imagine themselves anywhere else; they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That's the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overall blueprint, I make an effort to urge children to higher levels of test success, promising eventual transfer from the lower-level class as a reward. I insinuate that the day will come when an employer will hire them on the basis of test scores, even though my own experience is that employers are (rightly) indifferent to such things. I never lie outright, but I've come to see that truth and [school]teaching are incompatible.

The lesson of numbered classes is that there is no way out of your class except by magic. Until that happens you must stay where you are put.

The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch. I demand that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. But when the bell rings I insist that they drop the work at once and proceed quickly to the next work station. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.

The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their argument is inexorable; bells destroy past and future, converting every interval into a sameness, as an abstract map makes every living mountain and river the same even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.

The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld, by authority, without appeal. As a schoolteacher I intervene in many personal decisions, issuing a Pass for those I deem legitimate, or initiating a disciplinary confrontation for behavior that threatens my control. My judgments come thick and fast, because individuality is trying constantly to assert itself in my classroom. Individuality is a curse to all systems of classification, a contradiction of class theory.

Here are some common ways it shows up: children sneak away for a private moment in the toilet on the pretext of moving their bowels; they trick me out of a private instant in the hallway on the grounds that they need water. Sometimes free will appears right in front of me in children angry, depressed or exhilarated by things outside my ken. Rights in such things cannot exist for schoolteachers; only privileges, which can be withdrawn, exist.

The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study. (Rather, I enforce decisions transmitted by the people who pay me). This power lets me separate good kids from bad kids instantly. Good kids do the tasks I appoint with a minimum of conflict and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to learn, I decide what few we have time for. The choices are mine. Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.

Bad kids fight against this, of course, trying openly or covertly to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn. How can we allow that and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist.

This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned. Think of what would fall apart if kids weren't trained in the dependency lesson: The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun; the food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too -- the clothing business as well -- unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our schools each year. We've built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't know any other way. For God's sake, let's not rock that boat!

In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged. A monthly report, impressive in its precision, is sent into students' homes to spread approval or to mark exactly -- down to a single percentage point -- how dissatisfied with their children parents should be. Although some people might be surprised how little time or reflection goes into making up these records, the cumulative weight of the objective- seeming documents establishes a profile of defect which compels a child to arrive at a certain decisions about himself and his future based on the casual judgment of strangers.

Self-evaluation -- the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet -- is never a factor in these things. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents, but must rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.

In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched. I keep each student under constant surveillance and so do my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children; there is no private time. Class change lasts 300 seconds to keep promiscuous fraternization at low levels. Students are encouraged to tattle on each other, even to tattle on their parents. Of course I encourage parents to file their own child's waywardness, too.

I assign "homework" so that this surveillance extends into the household, where students might otherwise use the time to learn something unauthorized, perhaps from a father or mother, or by apprenticing to some wiser person in the neighborhood.

The lesson of constant surveillance is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate. Surveillance is an ancient urgency among certain influential thinkers; it was a central prescription set down by Calvin in the Institutes, by Plato in the Republic, by Hobbes, by Comte, by Francis Bacon. All these childless men discovered the same thing: Children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under central control.

It is the great triumph of schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among even the best parents, there is only a small number who can imagine a different way to do things. Yet only a very few lifetimes ago things were different in the United States: originality and variety were common currency; our freedom from regimentation made us the miracle of the world; social class boundaries were relatively easy to cross; our citizenry was marvelously confident, inventive, and able to do many things independently, to think for themselves. We were something, all by ourselves, as individuals.

It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for "basic skills" practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I've just taught you.

We've had a society increasingly under central control in the United States since just before the Civil War: the lives we lead, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the green highway signs we drive by from coast to coast are the products of this central control. So, too, I think, are the epidemics of drugs, suicide, divorce, violence, cruelty, and the hardening of class into caste in the U.S., products of the dehumanization of our lives, the lessening of individual and family importance that central control imposes.

Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.

"School" is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends. "School" is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). In colonial days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized. We turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.

The current debate about whether we should have a national curriculum is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I've told you about and a few more I've spared you. This curriculum produces moral and intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.

None of this is inevitable, you know. None of it is impregnable to change. We do have a choice in how we bring up young people; there is no right way. There is no "international competition" that compels our existence, difficult as it is to even think about in the face of a constant media barrage of myth to the contrary. In every important material respect our nation is self-sufficient. If we gained a non-material philosophy that found meaning where it is genuinely located -- in families, friends, the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy -- then we would be truly self-sufficient.

How did these awful places, these "schools", come about? As we know them, they are a product of the two "Red Scares" of 1848 and 1919, when powerful interests feared a revolution among our industrial poor, and partly they are the result of the revulsion with which old-line families regarded the waves of Celtic, Slavic, and Latin immigration -- and the Catholic religion -- after 1845. And certainly a third contributing cause can be found in the revulsion with which these same families regarded the free movement of Africans through the society after the Civil War.

Look again at the six lessons of school. This is training for permanent underclasses, people who are to be deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And it is training shaken loose from its original logic: to regulate the poor. Since the 1920s the growth of the well-articulated school bureaucracy, and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged schooling's original grasp to seize the sons and daughters of the middle class.

Is it any wonder Socrates was outraged at the accusation that he took money to teach? Even then, philosophers saw clearly the inevitable direction the professionalization of teaching would take, pre-empting the teaching function that belongs to all in a healthy community; belongs, indeed, most clearly to yourself, since nobody else cares as much about your destiny. Professional teaching tends to another serious error. It makes things that are inherently easy to learn, like reading, writing, and arithmetic, difficult -- by insisting they be taught by pedagogical procedures.

With lessons like the ones I teach day after day, is it any wonder we have the national crisis we face today? Young people indifferent to the adult world and to the future; indifferent to almost everything except the diversion of toys and violence? Rich or poor, schoolchildren cannot concentrate on anything for very long. They have a poor sense of time past and to come; they are mistrustful of intimacy (like the children of divorce they really are); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to distraction.

All the peripheral tendencies of childhood are magnified to a grotesque extent by schooling, whose hidden curriculum prevents effective personality development. Indeed, without exploiting the fearfulness, selfishness, and inexperience of children our schools could not survive at all, nor could I as a certified schoolteacher.

"Critical thinking" is a term we hear frequently these days as a form of training which will herald a new day in mass schooling. It certainly will, if it ever happens. No common school that actually dared teach the use of dialectic, heuristic, and other tools of free minds could last a year without being torn to pieces.

Institutional schoolteachers are destructive to children's development. Nobody survives the Six-Lesson Curriculum unscathed, not even the instructors. The method is deeply and profoundly anti-educational. No tinkering will fix it. In one of the great ironies of human affairs, the massive rethinking that schools require would cost so much less than we are spending now that it is not likely to happen. First and foremost, the business I am in is a jobs project and a contract-letting agency. We cannot afford to save money, not even to help children.

At the pass we've come to historically, and after 26 years of teaching, I must conclude that one of the only alternatives on the horizon for most families is to teach their own children at home. Small, de- institutionalized schools are another. Some form of free-market system for public schooling is the likeliest place to look for answers. But the near impossibility of these things for the shattered families of the poor, and for too many on the fringes of the economic middle class, foretell that the disaster of Six-Lesson Schools is likely to continue.

After an adult lifetime spent in teaching school I believe the method of schooling is the only real content it has. Don't be fooled into thinking that good curricula or good equipment or good teachers are the critical determinants of your son and daughter's schooltime. All the pathologies we've considered come about in large measure because the lessons of school prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and their families, to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance, self-reliance, courage, dignity and love -- and, of course, lessons in service to others, which are among the key lessons of home life.

Thirty years ago these things could still be learned in the time left after school. But television has eaten most of that time, and a combination of television and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no time left to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to do it in.

A future is rushing down upon our culture which will insist that all of us learn the wisdom of non-material experience; this future will demand, as the price of survival, that we follow a pace of natural life economical in material cost. These lessons cannot be learned in schools as they are. School is like starting life with a 12-year jail sentence in which bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.