Educating or Schooling?

by Martin and Carolyn Forte

The summer is half over and many of you are considering what you will do in the fall – what materials to use, what classes to sign up for, even what kind of “umbrella” if any to be under (private or charter). The answers to these questions are all inter-related and will reflect your philosophy of education. Perhaps you didn’t realize you had a “philosophy of education”. Stop and think about it! Everything you do with your child, even if you send him to someone else to be taught, reflects a philosophy or world view.

Nearly all of us were brought up with a “schoolish” philosophy. We tend to equate “school” and “education.” However, as John Taylor Gatto (1991 New York Teacher of the Year) points out, schooling and education are mutually exclusive. This took a while for us to understand, well- schooled as we are. Even after 14 years of what most would call “unschooling,” we had to reflect long and hard on Gatto’s allegations. We’ve come to the conclusion, for a variety of reasons, that he is right. Oliver DeMille (President of George Wythe College) points out that education, in the classical sense, teaches people to think, whereas schooling trains children for a job. Schools as we know them were never intended to teach children how to think; they were and are designed to train children to obediently perform boring, repetitive tasks for long periods of time in order to create an easily managable “work force.” The last thing they want to do is teach children to think independently, current rhetoric about “critical thinking” notwithstanding. Gatto and De Mille contend that schooling retards education by spoon feeding us “pre-thought” thoughts, compartmentalizing learning into distinct “subjects” as if biology and chemistry were unrelated and as though history and science could be separated.

In reality, every subject is connected in a vast web of never ending strands of knowledge. In addition, two or three solid years of education have been stretched by the “school industry” to 12 or 13 years! Now they even want to have pre-school available to all children, thus expanded this time span to 13 – 15 years. We always suspected that the system needlessly stretched the time factor way too long. Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore (The Successful Family Homeschool Handbook) have been saying this for decades with loads of research to back them up. John Gatto has stated that both reading and basic (to 8th grade) arithmetic can be learned in less than 30 hours each. Mind you, this does not mean 30 straight hours, but over time this 30 hour formula of instruction is true.

How can this be? Think back to earlier centuries – before forced government schooling. Once a person learned to read, write and calculate, he was able to continue learning as much as he wanted from whatever books or mentors he could access. Education was not limited to the schools, books or teachers provided by the state. Oh, but these were primitive times and there is so much more to learn now. Maybe – maybe not! Academically, the grammar school graduate of a hundred years ago was light years ahead of the average high school graduate today. Carolyn’s fourth grade drop out grandfather was able to retire at age 40 because he had all the tools of learning he needed by the time he was 10.

So, you will need to decide, will you “school” your children, or will you “educate” them? Will you chain your family to a grade level and someone else’s list of subjects, books and ideas? Or, will you think carefully about what you do, use real books as much as possible to gain for yourself and your child, a real education?

That brings us to your vehicle for homeschooling. It must be consistent with or at least tolerant of your philosophy or there will be conflict. You must think carefully about what kind of authority you put your children under. For example, let’s consider Charter Schools. Charters are attractive to many. The money and the assumed professional assistance is appealing. Believe us, we know how hard it can be to make it on one income. Let’s look, however, at the serious side effects of charters. First of all, you loose your independence. Do you realize that potentially you loose more of your independence than a family attending public school? Think about it! If your Charter included home visitation by the assigned teacher, the State knows more about your lifestyle than you might want to it know. If the home teacher sees anything out of the ordinary, the State will know and if you are unlucky, your case could be referred to Child Protective Services. If the charter closes down, as sometimes happens, you could be forced, through the threat of CPS, to put your child into the public school. Don’t forget, they do not want to loose their $6,500 ADA money. If you do not think that this can happen, it has already in Northern California. Secondly, if you enroll in a charter, you will not be able to be a member of HSLDA since you are a part of the public sector at this point. Now for some, this may not be a negative, but we encourage you to reconsider. What happens if you have a vengeful neighbor who reports you to CPS for child neglect or abuse. You are on your own at this point. HSLDA cannot stop the action. The school district will not support you on this and you are stuck with an extremely expensive, not to mention unpleasant ordeal. Thirdly, you loose control. You may think you are the teacher, but who do you report to? You report to the school teacher who dictates (or minimally has to approve) every step you make with your child. Chances are very strong that you will be forced (or at least highly encouraged) to follow the charter’s scope and sequence. If you are a believer in delayed academics or unschooling, or simply want to use a kifferent schedule, you may be out of luck.

If you want to homeschool for religious reasons, guess what, you cannot spend one dime of state money on religious material (which includes texts from Christian publishers like ABeka or Bob Jones). What happens when the State decides that you must teach evolution to the exclusion of creationism, or teach sex education including the acceptance of alternative life styles. The Charter system is in its infancy and we are seeing changes made every year. Unfortunately, the changes are not to the benefit of homeschoolers. As time goes on the regulations are going to become much more restrictive and the barriers to prevent your escape to the private sector will become stronger and stronger.

The bottom line is that you, the homeschool parent, need to educate yourself in order to make informed choices. This fall, determine to learn more about education in general and the difference between education and schooling. It’s worth the effort and it may help you a great deal as you continue to find the best possible education for your child.