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The Worst Reason Not to Homeschool

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Monday, 10 June 2013
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This article is modified from sections from the newly-released book MicroSecession: Simple Ways to Liberate Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community from Government Idiocy.


In recent years, homeschooling has progressed from an obscure choice made by a tiny minority to a mainstream schooling option. Although I believe strongly in home education, I realize that not everyone can choose to homeschool their children. Homeschooling allows for a great deal of independence and it can allow for a fuller education, but it can also be a drain on time and finances. The fact is, by paying taxes we already pay for schooling our children, so homeschooling is sometimes difficult because we actually pay twice.


While there are some good reasons for a family not to homeschool, I want to cover one bad reason which people often give for not homeschooling their children: believing they are unqualified. I want to take some time and look at this objection in depth because it is both common and problematic.


First, if you did not learn the material well enough in school to teach it to your children, this represents a problem with public education, not a problem with homeschooling. Said another way: if your teachers did not teach you well enough to teach your own children, why are you entrusting them to teach your children, too? 


The second issue with this objection is that many people think they need a degree to teach anything at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason that people need degrees to teach is not because teaching itself is hard, but because teaching thirty unruly strangers all at once actually is hard. The dynamics are quite different when those whom you are teaching are your own children. That does not make it easy—one of my children tries to make it as difficult as possible—but the solution is not found in a degree in early childhood education. In fact, most often, if your child is difficult, a public school teacher is going to focus on preventing that child from interrupting the other students, not providing that student with a custom-tailored solution. If the unruly child is your own, your focus remains his full education.


The third thing to consider about this objection is that, if you follow the trivium (learning the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric), you can teach yourself anything. You can, with sufficient dedication, learn anything you need to teach your child. This will require time, and it may even require time that you do not have. These are valid issues. I just want you to know that the issue is a practical one. You may indeed be lacking in time to devote to the subject, but your perceived insufficiencies are not the problem.


Finally, if there is truly a subject that you cannot master well enough to teach your children, you should know that the point of homeschooling is not that one person (you) be able to teach your children. Rather, the parents should bear the ultimate responsibility for their children’s education. 


Sound scary? It is not.


Many homeschool communities have support groups. Classical Conversations is such a community; it is made up of home educators assisting students to gain the important skills of self-learning. If you have trouble with a subject, the tutor can help both you and your child. In addition, because you are part of a community, there are many other home educators right there to work through it with you.


In addition, you should realize that the biggest part of education is not the material itself. We need to teach our children to be thirsty for knowledge and truth and to know how to obtain it for themselves. Charlotte Mason, whose work in child education inspires many homeschooling parents today, said, “Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature.” 


Such a love for learning is best taught in the home by being an example for your children. If your children know that you struggle with a subject, what better education is there for them than for them to watch you do what you need to do to learn the subject? They will then see that education is not something that is handed to you; it is something you yourself can go out and accomplish.


Whatever you decide regarding home education, do not think that it is outside your abilities. You can do it!

Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and education in biology. Jonathan started in computer science, both programming and writing about computer science topics. His first book, Programming from the Ground Up, has been used at schools ranging as far as Princeton and DeVry. He also wrote a number of papers for IBM’s DeveloperWorks on technical computer science issues.

Jonathan’s interest in biology came from his family’s battle with genetic illnesses. While studying about genetic illnesses, Jonathan realized the tremendous overlap between computer science and biology, and how much the design patterns that are regularly used in computer science can contribute to understanding how the genome works. Toward this end, Jonathan started The Blyth Institute, and has published several papers on showing how design thinking can relate to the genome.

Jonathan recently released the book MicroSecession: Simple Ways to Liberate Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community from Government Idiocy. The book focuses on community independence, independent living, and creating value in your home that is independent of money.

Jonathan and his wife Christa have been homeschooling their children for several years, and love being a part of the Classical Conversations community. Christa teaches in the Classical Conversations Challenge program.


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