Re: Home Schooling
Sun, 19 Oct 1997 16:46:44 -0400 (EDT)

Dear Alan,

I am neither wary nor weary of threats! Life isn't that hard. And we at
Sudbury Valley are not "threatened" by home schoolers.

I will describe some of the contexts in which I have seen home-schoolers: I
have met homeschooling families casually at places and events which are
unrelated to schooling; I have seen them come to Sudbury Valley and retreat
in discomfort; I have seen them come to Sudbury Valley, enroll, and have a
much more difficult than usual time integrating into the community; I have
seen them come to Sudbury Valley, enroll, and not seem to have a hard time at
all (these are usually pretty young ones); I have seen them at public events
looking much less secure than other children. But over and over, in all of
these situations, I have seen them as kids who usually look at their parents
before answering even the most simple questions, like, "what did you have for
breakfast?". Public schooled kids and alternative schooled kids don't have
any problems with that questions, or with "what do you like to do with your
time?" They may not know the answer, but they do not assume that the answer
resides in the head of one of their parents, and they know whether or not
they know the answer. They may be less than perfectly articulate, but it
is not because they depend on someone big to articulate for them.

So I don't think my sample is totally skewed; I think most home schooled kids
view themselves (and their parents share this view) as people who need a
tremendous amount of adult support, and most non-home-schooled kids view
themselves as people who need some adult support; of course, in the most
extreme scenario, they view themselves as needing adult support when they
want it only, and there are many variations up to that point. What I think,
and I have seen no examples in the last 15 years to the contrary, is that it
is tragic for kids not to develop independence when they are ready to. And
that ability to become independent is something that school fosters in one
way or another. The damage some schools do may not be worth it for that
independence, but that is another question.

In fact, I meet people who are satisfied with homeschooling and those that
aren't. I meet fathers who work all day who would be very happy if their
kids were homeschooled and mothers who would tear their hair out if they had
to homeschool. I meet mothers who live to satisfy their childrens' needs,
and children who are very nice but become "spoiled" because of this
eagerness. I meet families who have "had it" with homeschooling, and others
that are very happy with it. And I meet homeschooling fathers who are pretty
satisfied, as well as those that are not. But what I almost inevitably meet
is a nuclear family turned in towards itself. In a room with a family, it
takes no time to determine whether it has been a homeschooling family for a
long time. One never has to ask.

Yes, I know that lots of kids are satisfied with home schooling. I think it
is too bad. And I understand them preferring it to anything else available.
And I also understand their parents not being interested in starting the
school of their dreams for their kids.

What I don't meet very often are families that are homeschooled with a
"plan". In fact, I would say that 75% of the homeschoolers I meet would call
themselves "unstructured" and maybe 50% of those would call themselves
"unschoolers." Most of those with lesson plans are not that happy about it.
But this isn't what it is about -- lesson plans or no, courses or no,
curriculum or no, it is all about control. And guess who has the control in
a homeschooling situation? The rule maker, the driver, the head(s) of the
household. Need I go on?

I just don't think it is the best idea for kids to be isolated and/or
shepherded all the time. I think it robs them of the ability to make as many
of their own mistakes, at a time when the consequences are not catastrophic;
an ability that they need.