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Homeschooling 101

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Anything related to matters of the mind

Primeperiwinkle

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I’ve seen quite a few comments recently from parents on the forum who are wondering about homeschooling so I thought I’d share a few things. First I want to share this excerpt from someone much more experienced in education.

John Taylor Gatto was a New York city teacher of the year who had a FTE and decided to start writing and discussing the history and harmful effects of public school education. I’m going to quote from one of his 1990 articles. It’s long but extremely valuable. The full article is here Why Schools Don't Educate - The Natural Child Project

If you prefer not to read it you can watch something similar here.
View: https://youtu.be/rFICeZNFbys




“Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.

Now here is a curious idea to ponder. Senator Ted Kennedy's office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after it the figure never again reached above 91% where it stands in 1990. I hope that interests you.

Here is another curiosity to think about. The homeschooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents. Last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.

I don't think we'll get rid of schools anytime soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we're going to change what is rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, but it does not "educate" - that's inherent in the design of the thing. It's not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent, it's just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnard Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.

To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic - because the community life which protects the dependent and the weak is dead. The products of schooling are, as I've said, irrelevant. Well-schooled people are irrelevant. They can sell film and razor blades, push paper and talk on the telephones, or sit mindlessly before a flickering computer terminal but as human beings they are useless. Useless to others and useless to themselves.

The daily misery around us is, I think, in large measure caused by the fact that - as Paul Goodman put it thirty years ago - we force children to grow up absurd. Any reform in schooling has to deal with its absurdities.

It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety, indeed it cuts you off from your own part and future, scaling you to a continuous present much the same way television does.

It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to listen to a stranger reading poetry when you want to learn to construct buildings, or to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when you want to read poetry.

It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home demanding that you do its "homework".

"How will they learn to read?" you say and my answer is "Remember the lessons of Massachusetts." When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.

But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers, we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach the "basics" anymore because they really aren't basic to the society we've made.

Two institutions at present control our children's lives - television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, non-stopping abstraction. In centuries past the time of a child and adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to become a whole man or woman.

But here is the calculus of time the children I teach must deal with:

Out of the 168 hours in each week, my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self.

My children watch 55 hours of television a week according to recent reports. That leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.

My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 6 hours getting ready, going and coming home, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework - a total of 45 hours. During that time, they are under constant surveillance, have no private time or private space, and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course, my kids eat, and that takes some time - not much, because they've lost the tradition of family dining, but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours.

It's not enough. It's not enough, is it? The richer the kid, or course, the less television he watches but the rich kid's time is just as narrowly proscribed by a somewhat broader catalog of commercial entertainments and his inevitable assignment to a series of private lessons in areas seldom of his actual choice.

And these things are oddly enough just a more cosmetic way to create dependent human beings, unable to fill their own hours, unable to initiate lines of meaning to give substance and pleasure to their existence. It's a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and I think schooling and television and lessons - the entire Chautauqua idea - has a lot to do with it.

Think of the things that are killing us as a nation - narcotic drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, alcohol, and the worst pornography of all - lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy - all of them are addictions of dependent personalities, and that is what our brand of schooling must inevitably produce.

I want to tell you what the effect is on children of taking all their time from them - time they need to grow up - and forcing them to spend it on abstractions. You need to hear this, because no reform that doesn't attack these specific pathologies will be anything more than a facade.

The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.
The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?

The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present, the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.
The children I teach are ahistorical, they have no sense of how the past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.

The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, and they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.

The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I've known in this respect - they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided.

The children I teach are materialistic, following the lead of schoolteachers who materialistically "grade" everything - and television mentors who offer everything in the world for free.
The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges. This is frequently masked by surface bravado, or by anger or aggressiveness but underneath is a vacuum without fortitude.”

If you're asking yourself "Why do so many forum members mention homeschooling?" This is why.

We see the problems and we are attempting to solve them.
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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Ok, if you got through that congrats, now I have a few things to add.

I’ve spent nine years in homeschooling communities, was featured on a popular parenting podcast, led discussion groups in two continents, and have educated my own children for years. I have a trade school college degree and twenty years of success in that field. I can read in two languages and love kinesiology. I have lifelong friendships with people in eight states. I’m happily married. My house is clean on a regular basis. I won’t make a million dollars this year but I’m on TMF forum because I love making businesses and hanging out with entrepreneurs. The last business I owned finally cleared 10k a month just before the crazy happened.

When you joined this forum you most likely did so because you were curious or excited about MJ’s books or CENTS. Having a framework or list of principles for understanding business liberated you from faulty thinking. His principles are life-changing for business.

Many people blame the education system for their problematic patterns. They don’t want to pass on those problems to their children. John Taylor Gatto summed up those problems well.

Even though I attended a fully funded high school among 4,000 other students as well as a prestigious private school near Washington D.C. I was unhappy and hated it. As a parent, I want my children to love history, nature, math, culture, travel, and creating. I don’t want them to be disgusted with education.

The freedom to homeschool is regularly being fought over. Most recently England is changing their homeschool laws again. Everything depends on local laws. The fastest way to check the laws in America is by going to this site. Homeschool Laws By State

For the purposes of this thread I’d like to gently remind my American friends that whether or not they agree with homeschooling they can, for the most part, still enjoy the freedom to do so. In many countries people cannot educate their own children.

To educate successfully, you’ll need to discover the legal requirements in your area. Some questions that you ought to consider include:
What is the age requirement for compulsory education?
Do I have to notify my school district that I’m homeschooling?
Is testing required?
Do I have to keep records of attendance, test results, or anything else?
Can my child participate in sports or other activities at our local public school?

If you want to begin homeschooling your children the very first thing you need to do is find some homeschoolers who will help you. You will have to research the laws in your area.

The rest of this post will pertain more to the philosophy behind educating your kids not schooling your kids. Remember Gatto said “it's just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.”

What is our goal when we teach our children? Our goal is to have well-educated children who love learning.

If you haven’t considered what well-educated means, stop reading now and come back after you have. It’s important.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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For the purpose of this post, well-educated is defined as someone who is capable of considering two opposing ideas and discriminating between them. With that definition you’ll hopefully realize that education is life. It never stops.




But what principles or guides can I you use to begin educating yourself and your children today?

I found some amazing principles years ago that changed my life and what follows is a summary for the TMF crowd.

Let’s dive in.

  1. Children must be respected as individuals.
Sounds simple right?
You can play football with your kid but you can’t make your kid love football. You can discuss business but you can’t force your child to be an entrepreneur. Respect means not expecting your child to love everything you do. It also means never weighing them down with your disappointment when they aren’t like you. Respect means admiring virtues within them. Your kid can be a hard worker at dancing or cartooning or football or baking bread on Saturday mornings EVEN IF you hate breakdancing, drawing, football, and bread.

2. Children aren’t born ALL good or ALL bad. They’re a mixture. If you think your kids are perfect little angels you’re wrong. If you think your boy child is inherently worse than your “precious sweet little” girl child you are wrong. ALL children have good and bad tendencies.

3. You are the authority in your home and your kids need to obey you. This is VITAL to being a parent (don’t let the 3yr old run out into the street OR the sixteen year old drive like a lunatic) BUT…

4. You aren’t a dictator, so don’t act like one. You are raising thinking lovely curious adults not sheep. They might be small today but there’s no reason to ever use manipulative techniques.

5. So.. what do we use then? How do we help them grow well? We use intentional atmosphere, discipline, and ideas.
Since we believe that education isn’t confined to buildings but that LIFE IS AN EDUCATION we know that our home environment is important. What is the culture of your home? When I visit you I will know what you care about. So that’s one thing.

We also know that allowing our children to suffer the consequences of their actions (or discipline of the real world) is important so we can use that too. Discipline is important.

Finally, we have ideas. Are we sharing important ideas, ideas about science, history, movement, math, food, people, and God? Providing access to valuable ideas will give our children the opportunity to become well-educated.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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6. Your child’s mind is capable of growing and receiving real information. You do not need to lecture them on how to learn a subject or repackage information constantly before teaching them.

7. If number 6 is true, then it explains why so many teachers fail to inspire students to learn. Lectures are inefficient. Making gorgeous displays that have lots of photos for second graders to see doesn’t guarantee they will remember or care about a subject.

8. Living, fascinating ideas interest everyone, regardless of age. Let’s use those.

9. The joy of education is when you can connect ideas.

When you bring your kid to an Edward Bok museum and say “this guy lived a hundred years ago”, that’s ok. When you watch the old movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth, with your kid that’s ok. When I tell you both that Journey to the Center of the Earth was written by Jules Verne, that’s ok.

At no point have we connected these things… so they all seem okay, not super interesting or personal.

But when I tell you that Edward Bok once got into an argument with Jules Verne and Jules Verne screamed at him in French.. now you’re thinking.. “Wait, I live near a guy who once screamed at Jules Verne?!?”

Connections make us happy.

10. We need a lot of ideas. We need to switch them up so we don’t get bored. We need them PRIMARILY in stories because humans learn better through story but we also need ideas from nature, art, music, math, and making things.

11. If you can’t explain a subject you don’t really know it, so we should make explaining what we read (or experience) part of our day. Every idea should be narrated if we want it to be remembered.

12. Lectures that repeat information make us into lazy listeners. All people grow numb when they’re forced to listen to multiple summaries or answer comprehension questions. One idea to one narration is a great ratio.
 
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Nomads

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This is a topic I discuss with my fiancee quite frequently as we plan to start a family in the not-too-distant future.

We are not fond of the public school system but have flip-flopped on the idea of private schools.

How did you socialize your children with others? Did you enroll them in more sports, etc to make up for the lack of interaction with people their age at home?
 

Primeperiwinkle

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Hopefully all these principles haven’t overwhelmed you but instead made you realize that you are perfectly capable of educating your children. That said, if you are busy working all day every day then your spouse will have to take this role and it is a full-time position. If both of you are not in agreement this isn’t going to work.

But how do we start? Can we start without actually taking our kids out of public school?
Absolutely.

You can start by night time reading before bed. You can start by playing beautiful music and hanging up famous works of art. You can take your kids on trips and fill your house with great books.

Usually, we start with books. One of the first things that a dictatorship does is outlaw books so one of the first things we need to do is to safeguard them. This is why maintaining a private library is so incredibly important. There are now thousands of people all over America who are collecting books that libraries have already culled or banned.

“According to an account by Newsweek, the Burbank Unified School District in September 2020 dropped “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Mark Twain's “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” John Steinbeck's “Of Mice and Men,” Theodore Taylor's “The Cay” and Mildred D. Taylor's “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” from the curriculum.”

Protecting literature is important.

Protecting history is vital, if you haven’t read the Gulag Archipelago yet you ought to.

Many homeschoolers can’t begin building their library at home so they rely on sites like Project Gutenberg home to over 60,000 ebooks that are free to download.

Or they utilize Librivox home for free audiobooks LibriVox | free public domain audiobooks

They might be downloading from this site which maintains an online free library for American, European and World History. (Bonus points if you notice their entire page on the history of conspiracies) Heritage History - Library



Basically, you start with excellent books.

But what if your children are still really young? What then? Well, you still start with great books. And you start reading for yourself books on education which can help you be better informed.
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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This is a topic I discuss with my fiancee quite frequently as we plan to start a family in the not-too-distant future.

We are not fond of the public school system but have flip-flopped on the idea of private schools.

How did you socialize your children with others? Did you enroll them in more sports, etc to make up for the lack of interaction with people their age at home?
If you are uncomfortable with homeschooling because of a term like “socialization” than please understand most homeschoolers, just like entrepreneurs, are made to constantly defend themselves against people who just. don’t. understand.

Homeschoolers typically enroll their children in an overabundance of extracurricular activities to make up for this possible lack. But it’s not necessary to do that. Having one or two classes or activities outside the home is more than enough. My children regularly interact with cashiers, coaches, flight attendants, team members and more, just like you do. Most homeschoolers realize that the burden of educating full-time is lifted when we share a day or use co-ops as well.

Saying that children need to be confined to a room with 20 other children the exact same age as them for six hours a day to be “normal” is like saying that you ought to work 9-5 every day because “that’s what you’re supposed to do”. But I have a feeling you already understand that and you're just working out the details between your fiancee and yourself.
 
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Nomads

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If you are uncomfortable with homeschooling because of a term like “socialization” than please understand most homeschoolers, just like entrepreneurs, are made to constantly defend themselves against people who just. don’t. understand.

Homeschoolers typically enroll their children in an overabundance of extracurricular activities to make up for this possible lack. But it’s not necessary to do that. Having one or two classes or activities outside the home is more than enough. My children regularly interact with cashiers, coaches, flight attendants, team members and more, just like you do. Most homeschoolers realize that the burden of educating full-time is lifted when we share a day or use co-ops as well.

Saying that children need to be confined to a room with 20 other children the exact same age as them for six hours a day to be “normal” is like saying that you ought to work 9-5 every day because “that’s what you’re supposed to do”. But I have a feeling you already understand that and you're just working out the details between your fiancee and yourself.

It's not that I'm uncomfortable with the term, but rather that I think it is extremely important for developing minds to interact with people their own age as well as adults. I've met some people who were home-schooled that definitely lacked this, and it is quite clear that they are very intelligent yet lack some basic social skills.

Since we could possibly take the homeschooling route, I try to learn as much as I can about how to offset this complication and make sure that if we decide to do it right so we don't deprive our children of one important aspect in favour of another.
 

msufan

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Wait -- you just subtracted 55 hours per week for TV to make the claim that kids have almost no free time?

Kids nowadays are far book smarter than we ever were. There's no chance that there was a 98% literacy rate before compulsory schooling. Much of this rant was biased nonsense. "Children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think" is pure propaganda and is a sweeping generality that presumes all homeschooled children to be the same.

Many parents are not at all able or ready to homeschool their children. I'm very glad it's an option for those who want it. In the meantime, we should work to improve the weaknesses of our schools, both private and public, so that parents continue to have excellent options to choose from.
 
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Primeperiwinkle

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Wait -- you just subtracted 55 hours per week for TV to make the claim that kids have almost no free time?

Kids nowadays are far book smarter than we ever were. There's no chance that there was a 98% literacy rate before compulsory schooling. Much of this rant was biased nonsense. "Children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think" is pure propaganda and is a sweeping generality that presumes all homeschooled children to be the same.

Many parents are not at all able or ready to homeschool their children. I'm very glad it's an option for those who want it. In the meantime, we should work to improve the weaknesses of our schools, both private and public, so that parents continue to have excellent options to choose from.
Ok so you disagree with a few of Gatto's points and you're saying many parents aren't able or ready to homeschool.

I'm advocating for homeschooling or at the very least learning about it. Thanks for your comment. If you write a thread about how to work to improve the current system in public schools please tag me in it so I can read what you propose.
 

jdm667

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In business, "if you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one" (something like that).

A one-size-fits-all approach to business or education is so watered-down that you are unlikely to be a perfect fit for anyone.

Public school tries to be the one-size-fits-all option for kids - and it fails. You have to niche down to serve your audience. That's why magnet STEM schools, trade schools, ag schools, apprenticeships, etc. should exist. It is why home schooling should also exist.

It used to be that you had to send all the kids to one place (school or university) to learn from the teacher who had specific knowledge. Now, the internet has destroyed the need for that, at any level (elementary, high school, or college & beyond).

If you are worried about social skills, find some other home-schoolers near you who are worried about the same thing. Have meetups a couple times a week to get the kids interacting and socializing.

Maybe the SW engineer dad can teach the group about his job, and the ad exec mom can tell them about her job, and the entrepreneur can explain what he does.
 
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