Many of my friends who have bright and aware 3-5 year old children worry about school. Will it shut their boy or girl down? Many North Americans share their concern.
The New York Times recently reported that nearly a million children in the US were being Home Schooled. Snip follows:
at least 850,000 children nationwide are schooled at home, up from 360,000 a decade ago, according the Education Department. In New York City, which compiled citywide statistics for the first time this year, 1,800 children are being schooled at home.
Newcomers to home schooling resist easy classification as part of the religious right or freewheeling left, who dominated the movement for decades, according to those who study the practice.
They come to home schooling fed up with the shortcomings of public education and the cost of private schools. Add to that the new nationwide standards — uniform curriculum and more testing — which some educators say penalize children with special needs, whether they are gifted, learning disabled or merely eccentric.
"It's a profound irony that the standards movement wound up alienating more parents and fueling the growth of home schooling," said Mitchell L. Stevens, an educational psychologist at New York University and author of "Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement" (Princeton University Press, 2001).
"The presumption of home schooling is that children's distinctive needs come before the managerial needs of the schools," he said. "And, it's easier to do than it was 10 years ago, because the ideologues were so successful in making it legal and creating curriculum tools and organizational support."
In addition to dissatisfaction with schools, Mr. Stevens and others say, social trends have fed interest in home schooling. More women are abandoning careers to stay home with their children. And many families yearn for a less frantic schedule and more time together.
"This may be a rebellion of middle-class parents in this culture," Mr. Stevens said. "We have never figured out how to solve the contradiction between work and parenting for contemporary mothers. And a highly scheduled life puts a squeeze on childhood."
Laurie Spigel, of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, chose home schooling for her 13-year-old son, Solomon, because he was overextended.
"He was taking ballet and piano and begging for flute," she said. "We'd already given up bedtime stories. He was tired all the time. We had no family life left. And all the wasted time seemed to be at school."
She had already given up on public school. A first-tier private school was so intense that "fourth grade felt like high school." So she chose home schooling, as she had for Solomon's brother Kalman, now in college.
Julia Attaway of Washington Heights made the home-schooling decision because the first of her four children was reading chapter books and counting to 100 by seven before kindergarten. "This is a very intense kid," Ms. Attaway said. "She dives into something until she has a sense of completion. It was so obvious that school was not going to work."
The Kjellbergs, Spigels and Attaways fit the profile of home-schooling families from a 1999 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, considered the only authoritative snapshot of home schooling. Nationwide, a majority of home-schooled children come from white, two-parent, one-income families with three or more children.
The top three motivations for home schooling in the survey were the prospect of a better education (49 percent), religious beliefs (38 percent) and a poor learning environment in the schools (26 percent).
Home schooling is legal in all 50 states, although there are widely different regulations. New Jersey, for instance, requires virtually no oversight. In New York, parents must notify their school district, file an instructional plan and quarterly reports and submit to annual assessments, alternating between standardized tests and portfolios.
Is this the right thing to do?
Well how good is school? We know this that authoritarian parenting shuts kids down and inhibits learning and proper socialization. We know that school is built on the authoritarian model. We know that this is the least effective model possible. We know that the typical school curriculum that breaks the world into discrete subjects make an effective world view based on systems difficult to bring into view. We know that they have poor outcomes in attainment. 40% of our kids either fail to graduate or leave without the minimum attainment to have a proper career.
We know that the poor social environment is driving a rise in bullying and promiscuity - so much for socialization being the big plus for school. We know that 30% of our sons have to be drugged to go there.
Maybe home schooling is not ideal but it is surely better than this?