Updated: Apr 24, 2020
I read Erin O’Donnel's article of homeschooling on Harvard Magazines website, a day after I began writing a four-part blog series on how parents are a child’s greatest educational asset. I'm going to push pause on part two and offer some encouragement to homeschool parents, the majority of my amazing clientele.
I was absolutely disgusted by the inaccuracies portrayed there. As an educator, homeschooler, public school teacher-advocate, and a pro-parent choice supporter, I want to encourage parents everywhere - whether you homeschool or not!
Harvard didn’t do an educational history check before hitting publish. What made their university great one hundred years ago was not public school systems - because they did not exist. One hundred years ago the students that made up their classes came from wealthy families who could afford tutoring and a private school education. One hundred years ago the majority of students did not graduate past the eighth grade and if they did it was because their PARENTS were able to fund it. One-room schoolhouses were the norm and were locally funded. It is recorded that about half of students aged five to nineteen even went to school! That was the reality. Public schools were not funded until 1965 - after the space race where the government looked at a communist nation (who was beating them to the moon) and wondered what they were teaching their children that made them a step ahead in the world of science. In other words, a democratic nation took a communist idea and implemented it. Why do you think it's failing? When you take things out of the hands of people and give it to one power that wants to indoctrinate their children with what they believe (not caring at all about what parents believe), there will be problems. Many of the parents who homeschool, witnessed the problem first hand and brought their children home to ensure they received the foundational skills that were lacking in their previous situation. With that said, let's get back to the point: private and home education gave Harvard the reputation it upholds today, but will quickly diminish with faulty arguments they readily published recently.
The idea of a democratic nation taking ideas from a communist nation (that no longer exists) leads me to my second point: the government mandates what children need to know, which doesn’t leave a lot of options for a “meaningful education” in my opinion. In fact, it quite often restricts students. Homeschooling, however, opens the door for one-on-one educational opportunities that tap into a personalized education based on the needs, interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses of your individual learner. (Now, teachers do this in spite of a powerful government mandating these standards and then funding students based on those standardized test results.) Still, doesn’t a personalized education plan like I just described sound more meaningful? Who is in a better position to know their student and implement this plan than their parents? While I agree that not all homeschool situations are like that, in my experience, I believe most are.
She was concerned about powerful parents. I am most definitely more concerned about a powerful government. Give the power to the people. Many of the people who make decisions for this nation are parents. She may as well state what she believes about parents: uneducated, incapable, and not worthy of trust. Which is the farthest thing from the truth.
People can use specific situations - that are the minority - to sway their position. She shared ONE of neglect, that sadly does occur, but how many more students report a positive, wonderful experience of learning at home? In fact, many parents that opt to homeschool do so because their children experienced bullying at the hands of other students. I could share horror stories that involve experiences that my family, myself, former students and friends dealt with at public school. Not to mention the fact that I decided to be trained in bullying as a teacher and spent the first two weeks of the school year training children how to respond to bullies because it was such a prevalent issue! (Hence this unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store: Secondary Unit on Bullying) Those scenarios in this unit, that offer students the ability to think through a situation and respond to it appropriately, are true stores that I was witness to. Fact: Horrific abuse occurs daily in the public school system. Home is their safe place.
There are many teachers (Christian or not) that are opting to teach their children at home because of their public school negative experiences with standardized testing - which show very little in the way of actual learning, administration, fellow teachers, parents, and student behavior. Her view on the "uneducated" educating students is entirely inaccurate. In fact, I follow many parents who decided to homeschool their children that are doctors, financial advisors, business owners - individuals who are more than qualified to teach. Here's the remaining fact: I've seen many, many teachers who have a certificate, but should never have become teachers. In the same breath, I've seen many individuals without a teaching degree who are excellent teachers and have a natural ability to connect, inform, and provide learning opportunities for their children. Again, this is Bartholet taking a few situations and applying it to the whole.
Adding to #3: She asked whether it was safe to think that parents should have a 24/7 authoritarian control over their children from 0-18? That it’s, "dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless.” She is assuming that all homeschool parents approach education in this manner! This assumption itself is dangerous and shows that she does not do her homework, nor care about the motive of a parent who does have their children's best interests in mind. Has she actually talked to children who thrive in a homeschool environment? Based on her careless comments, I dare say her interviews neglected to mention or discuss positive experiences because her views are so very one-sided.
Finally, it is a parent's job to ensure your children are getting what they need. Teachers are held to federal and state standards, your standards come from God Himself. HE calls you to raise your children in the knowledge of Him. Along that note is this beautiful democratic benefit God has given Americans (so do NOT squander it): it is a parent’s right to choose the path that is best for their family.
Unfortunately, their intolerance of my view on education negates everything they state about tolerance of other views, so take what they say with a grain of salt and lean not on your own understanding, nor the understanding of me, nor the world in regards to education. Trust God’s way and do what HE has called you to do! One-hundred and fifty years from now when we are all dead in our graves the only thing that is going to matter is what we did with what He gave us.
While there is no further argument after that paragraph, I want to share a quote. I love what Melba Pearson stated about the article. She was homeschooled and admitted that she was better prepared for her Ivy League education because of her homeschooling experience, so I’m going to end with her statement combating Bartholet's views,
“It is deeply disappointing that Harvard is choosing and promoting an intellectual totalitarian path that calls for a ban of the liberties that helped me and countless others succeed, for it is those liberties and ideals that have made America the great nation it is today.”
I couldn’t agree more and while not every parent is called to homeschool I do want to encourage those that decide to do so. As an educational consultant, I prepare homeschool teachers to implement a personalized educational approach with their learners that I believe will produce graduates like Melba Pearson.
If you decided that homeschooling is not your route, that’s okay! I support the public and private school teachers who work hard to ensure that students of all ages, no matter their home life or abilities receive the ability to learn.
With that, I beg of you, do not let one view on homeschooling taint your overall understanding of what homeschool families are able to accomplish.
And if you need further encouragement I suggest reading FORBES response: Harvard's Lazy Attack on Homeschooling by Mike McShane. Wonderful.
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