As was mentioned in my introduction a week or so ago, my parents homeschooled us “back in the good old days when homeschooling was weird and subversive, not hip and progressive.” I’m now homeschooling my own children, and it’s interesting to note how the movement has evolved during the past 25 years. My adjectives describing the change don’t fit perfectly, of course, but they are representative of general trends, at least in how the perception of homeschooling has changed.
When my mother decided she’d like to keep me home from kindergarten in 1985, it was a bizarre and scary thing to do. She’d learned about homeschooling while taking a class from Reed Benson at BYU. He lent her a copy of his doctoral dissertation on homeschooling, and told her about his nine homeschooled children. So she hunted down some of the books he recommended by John Holt, the father of the modern American homeschooling movement, and decided to try out this radical but exciting idea on her firstborn child. Me.
One thing I remember vividly from those early years of homeschooling was how many random people thought my education was their business. I was often given a surprise pop quiz about history or the multiplication table by supermarket checkers, moms at the park, or even skeptical aunts and uncles. Anyone at all, and especially off-duty school teachers, felt it was incumbent upon them to make sure my parents weren’t committing educational neglect.
Homeschooling at the time was so unusual that few people had even heard of it. Many assumed it was illegal. Others were shocked when we demonstrated good social skills, assuming that our parents kept us locked away from all contact with other human beings. We actually got plenty of opportunities to socialize at 4-H, Church, organized drama, music, and sports programs, and being out and about running errands or doing volunteer work when our peers were in school.
But some of our favorite social time was spent with other homeschoolers. There weren’t many of us back then, so we had to make an effort to stick together. There were two homeschooling groups in our area. One was a “Christian” group, who excluded anyone who didn’t fit their definition of Christian. So the stray Mormons, Catholics, non-religious, and everyone else had their own eclectic group. We got together at the park every month, went on field trips (during which our group was always acclaimed not only for good behavior, but also for the excellent adult/child ratio), and did group activities like Debate Club, Madrigal Choir, and Writing Society.
Fast forward to 2011 and beginning to homeschool my own two children. The scene has changed quite a bit. Most people to whom I mention homeschooling now know at least one other homeschooler. They are far more likely to have a positive perception of homeschooling, based on achievement statistics, media reports, or simply personal experience (I still get the odd negative reaction, but it’s now rare rather than universal).
Both the number of homeschoolers and the number of resources available has increased exponentially. Rather than the minimalist, open-ended call by Holt to help individual children learn in the way they learn best, one can now choose from a plethora of homeschooling “philosophies,” “methods,” and even complete out-of-the-box curricula.
By and large, I view the homeschooling explosion as a good thing. It has made significant alternative educational options available to hundreds of thousands of families who want them. In California and some other states, public money is even available to help homeschoolers defray educational costs. Still, I can’t help looking back nostalgically on the days when homeschooling was a glorious, liberating secret shared by only a few daring initiates. Revolutions always lose a little of their luster when they become institutionalized.
Inevitable but particularly regrettable is the commercialization of homeschooling. Many wonderful books and materials have become available for homeschoolers during the past few decades, but overpriced educational pablum has also proliferated. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for new homeschooling parents to tell the difference, and many end up bewildered with the choices, or oversold by enthusiastic salesmen at homeschooling conferences and curriculum fairs.
Related to this is the overt and obviously economically motivated “marketing” of certain homeschooling methods. The most egregious offenders here are the Thomas Jefferson Education crowd, described ably (albeit somewhat acridly) by Julie a few years ago on T&S. The perpetrators of TJEd purport to teach a homeschooling method that will turn children into “leaders.” What they actually do is attempt to funnel both homeschooling parents and their children into expensive seminars and unaccredited long-distance higher education “degree” programs, as well as selling an ever-increasing corpus of books describing the method.
As a Mormon homeschooler, this is particularly embarrassing to me, since the founders of TJEd (and most of the adherents) are Mormon. I don’t know why Mormons seem peculiarly susceptible to this. Perhaps it’s because they are drawn to the idea of a single “true and living” homeschool method. Then there are the familiar Mormon cultural relics and jargon that permeate TJEd. Or maybe the whole thing is just another manifestation of the Mormon MLM phenomenon.
Whatever the explanation, the result tends to be that small local homeschooling groups that once had a culture of casual, open, eclectic educational exchange become suddenly infected with TJEd. Where once conversations and activities embraced a multiplicity of viewpoints and ideas, they are now dominated by zealous TJEd-ers, who view themselves as the experts on “the classics,” and brand anything and everything that disagrees with them as “conveyer-belt education.”
Although TJEd is an extreme example, to the extent that the homeschooling movement has become more mainstream, it has lost some of its excitement and spontaneity, and become just another educational commodity. Efforts to catalog and control something as eclectic and organic as the homeschooling community that existed when I was growing up tend to end in reducing something rare and magical to its earthbound, prosaic component parts.
Sigh. Maybe I’m just a worn-out hippie, nostalgic that the world has caught up with my weird, subversive dreams, and now those dreams are all packaged up for sale in 100 calorie fat-free packages, and neatly labeled as hip and progressive. Homeschooling is still a wonderful thing, and I am enjoying my children’s education at least as much as I enjoyed my own. But sometimes I long for those good old days when I had to recite the multiplication table to random strangers. In some ways, it was easier than marching in time with everyone else to the beat of a different drummer.
Reed A. Benson
Professor; BYU Religion Dept,
Author of Doctrinal Dissertation on Home Schooling
1998 LDS Education Forum
You know as I look out among you I see some familiar faces. I am not sure that I will say anything that you haven't heard before in spades. So you have to promise not to laugh before the punch lines. Okay? In fact I'll treat you like one of the farm organizations treated my father a number of years ago when he was Eisenhower's Secretary of Agriculture. As I recall, he got a request from one of the national farm organizations to address their annual convention, their national convention. And he responded by saying, "Well, as you'll recall, I spoke at your national convention last year and I'm afraid if I came again so soon I might repeat myself." Shortly after that he got a letter back from them that said; "Dear Mr. Secretary: we've checked with a number of our members that attended the meeting that you spoke at last year and not one of them can remember what you said and we'd like to have you back." That's enough to keep you humble, isn't it? I guess the poet was right when he said, "Though old the thought, and off expressed, 'tis his at last who says it best." So some things need to be repeated, especially the truth.
Now friends, let's set this in this dispensation, what we have to say today. Every gospel dispensation has drifted into apostasy, ours is the only one that is going to make it. How come'? Less wickedness on the earth? Are you kidding? Our Supreme Court makes the wicked King Herod look like a piker when it comes to liquidating the innocent through its tragic abortion decisions. Then how come it's going to make it? One of the reasons why it is going to make it, I believe, is because President Wilford Woodruff said that God has held back for six thousand years some of his choicest spirits to make their appearance in this dispensation, latter-day tigers, giants. Now you may have a child on your hands that was your spiritual superior before you came here, you just have a little time in grade on them is all.
I remember centuries ago a distinguished German professor came to teach his class. Normally, I guess the class would rise and salute him. In this case, he took off his cap. I guess he was donned in his Doctoral attire, and I have that union card too. He took his cap off and doffed and saluted his class, he said "Who knows but what somebody in this class today will someday change the courses of human history." Do you know who happened to be in that class, none other than Martin Luther. Did he change the course of human history? Did he change the course of human history! I remember a number of years ago J. Willard Marriott, who was the Stake President back in Washington, D.C., asked me to be his Stake Mission President. They released me from the Washington ward bishopric. He said, ~'you get to pick your counselors," I said "great." There was a bushy tailed brother over in the Arlington ward, blond hair, blue eyes, full of the spirit. I said "Can I have him for my counselor?" They said to me, "Brother Benson, he's a new convert, he's still wet behind the ears, he's hardly priesthood broke," (you know like you break a horse.) And I said, "I understand, but he has the spirit, he loves the Brethren; what do you say'?" They said, "all right, you can have Hartman Rector for one of your counselors." Not a bad pick! I shopped around for another counselor. I'd heard about this brother. I invited him in. I interviewed him. I thought he'd make a great counselor. I said, "Could I have him?" They said, "Yes, you can have Neal Maxwell for one of your counselors." Richard Scott, also from the Quorum of the Twelve was one of my district leaders. You may wonder what ever happened to me, but we won't go into that. In any case, little did I realize that in due time these brethren would preside over me. I'm nearly intimidated teaching at BYU, to tell you the truth. You know the qualifications for getting into BYU are getting so high now, I don't think I could even be admitted as a student. Thank goodness I'm on the faculty, right?
As some of you know, all of our children are adopted, all nine of them. We don't know why we can't have any naturally, but at least the Lord knows we mean business in case he'd like to send some, right? None of these children came through the church or the state, all private adoptions, good old Mormon doctors looking out for us. Every once in a while when one of those little children would come into our home, my wife would look down and say, "now Reed, there is a last days baby." I'd say, "May, what are you saying? It's the last days and it's a baby, what are you saying'?" She'd say," haven't you noticed its little spirit, wiry, tough, independent, stubborn!" Sometimes, trying to tell our children what they ought to do is like trying to help a hog in ice. It is very difficult. But she said to me, "Reed, stubbornness is very akin to loyalty, and if we can get this child headed in the right direction, he'll be a latter-day tiger for the kingdom." How true! Well I reckon we're the teachers, they're the warriors. At a press conference one time over in Europe, my father was asked by the press how the church was doing. He said "we've got three things going for us. Number one. Our increased growth. Number two, as we're able to measure it, our people are more faithful today than they have been in the past. But number three, our younger generation is more faithful than our older generation." And that is the charge you and I have now; to rear that younger generation in righteousness.
Now friends, I want to shoot from the hip with you today. I don't mean to offend anybody, that is not my point in being here, but I'm not the world's greatest diplomat. I'm not like that chap some of you may have heard about who applied for a job and he came to the part on the application blank where it said, "Are your parents still living and if not how did they die?" Unfortunately this chap's father died as a result of a hanging because of a crime he'd committed. Of course the boy wasn't proud of it, but he'd been taught to tell the truth, and yet he was so embarrassed that finally he wrote these words in on the application blank. He said, "My father was attending a public function when the platform on which he was standing collapsed." I guess there are a lot of ways to tell the truth but I don't quite come from that school of thought, so I am going to be kind of frank and blunt with you here today.
My father in law, Rulon Hinckley, was past chairman, in fact for two terms I reckon, Chairman of the State Board of Education in Utah. My wife, May, and I are both graduates of public high school. One year we deliberately put some of our children in home school, some in a private school and some in a public school all at the same time. Shakespeare would say there is a divinity that shapes our end. Let me tell you how our end was shaped, I reckon by a divine hand. Our first child was Holly. As Holly got older we decided to take her to a Montessori school. My wife had read several books by Marie Montessori and we'd heard a lecture by one of her sons. And so we enrolled Holly. Just a little tike at the time, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Montessori School. Over the years we put a lot of money into private school tuition. We couldn't afford rugs on the floor but I said to my children, "I want to put the money in your head and not at your feet, okay". As Holly got close to kindergarten age, we had a question in our mind. Does she continue with the excellent program at the Montessori school, or do we put her in the public school or do we put her in a private school? We'd heard about a private school--The Fairfax Christian School. I went to that school and interviewed the owner, a Reverend Thoburn, who is a Presbyterian minister. I got acquainted with that school. I found out that children learned the alphabet by memorizing scriptures, even when they come to "X", "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." I found out that they were taught phonetically, from the old McGuffy's readers. By the time Christmas was coming, half day kindergarten students were reading out of those McGuffy's readers. I was concerned--were they accredited. 1 asked him, "are you accredited'?" He said "no, we haven't stooped that low yet." I was impressed. Now you see character is greater than intellect. Goodness is better than smartness. I knew that if we educated Holly without spiritual principles that we could just make her a clever devil, is that not so'? So we decided to enroll Holly in the Fairfax Christian School. I will never forget something that happened in my life and I guess it has changed it ever since. When I was a chaplain in the Air Force during the Korean War, across my desk one day came a statement from a teacher who had taught in public high school for ten years in the Jim Thorpe country of Oklahoma. And she summarized her teaching in this way. She said:
"I have taught in high school for ten years and during that time I have given assignments, among others, to a murderer, an evangelist, a pugilist, a thief and an imbecile. The murderer sat on the front row and regarded me with pale blue eyes. The evangelist, easily the most popular boy in the school, had the lead in the junior play. The pugilist lounged by the widows and let forth a raucous laugh that startled even the geraniums. The thief was a gay hearted lethario with a song on his lips. And the imbecile, a quiet-eyed little animal seeking the shadows. The murderer now awaits death in the state penitentiary. The evangelist has lain a yearn now in the village graveyard. The pugilist lost an eye in a recent brawl in Hong Kong. The thief, by standing on tiptoe can see my window from the County jail. And the quiet eyed little imbecile now beats his head against a padded cell in the state asylum. All these students once sat in my room, sat and looked at me gravely across worn brown desks. I must have been a great help to these pupils. I taught them the rhyming scheme of the Elizabethan Sonnet and how to diagram a complex sentence." (Naomi John White)
Now friends, there is nothing wrong with the rhyming scheme of the Elizabethan sonnet or the diagramming of a complex sentence. What she was trying to say I think the poet said so well when he said; "Men are blind until they see that in the human plan nothing is worth the building if it does not build the man. Why build these cities glorious if man unbuilded goes
In vain we build the world unless the builder also grows."
How true!! It's a classic. So we put Holly in that Fairfax Christian school because character is greater than intellect. Goodness is better than smartness. We did not want them educated without spiritual principles, to become clever devils. Actually, I was so impressed by that Fairfax Christian School that my associate and I wrote an article entitled "How to Stop Heir Pollution." Heir spelled H E I R. "How to stop Heir Pollution" the story of the Christian Private school movement.
Then I had to go back and get a masters degree here at BYU. We deliberately settled in the Pleasant Grove area so our children could attend the American Heritage School. Then I was called to preside over the Kentucky Louisville Mission We got there right about the time that Judge Gordon issued his famous, or infamous perhaps, forced bussing decree. As a result the private schools were flooded with those that wanted to enroll in them. By the time I went to enroll our students, it was hard to get them in. We had some difficult times trying to arrange schooling. You know, just because a school is private doesn't always mean it's as good as a public school. Sometimes you have challenges when you put them in schools, Christian schools, that might not subscribe to what you believe in. For the first time in my life some of the children went to a government school. I'll never forget that day. There was a teacher strike, combined with winter weather that meant they spent only four days in school between Thanksgiving and January 28th. There were text books filled with objectionable material. There were lyrics from music classes that we wouldn't allow our children to sing. There were social activists teaching social studies classes. There were drugs among the students.
On our way back from our mission we dropped in to see Reverend Lindstrom of the Christian Liberty Academy in Prospect Heights, Illinois. He's had a great correspondence course going over the years for his students. I came back to work on a Doctorate degree at BYU. I had worked for a man who was taught by his mother in his elementary years. At the age of seven he had read the nine volume history of the world by Ridpath. At the age of 12 he was admitted to college. Subsequently, he went to the Naval Academy and Harvard Law School. I began to get a concept pertaining to home school. When I realized that I would have to do a professional education project for my doctoral program, I said to my wife, "What do you say for my professional education project we put all of our children into home school for one year?" Well, when I took her off the ceiling, she said to me, "Reed, don't you think I have anything else to do?" Well, bless her heart, like the pioneers that crossed the plains, she did it willingly because she had to. No, that isn't true, but anyway she was a good sport about it. The mother of modern home schooling in Utah said she'd never met a woman with less self confidence going into home schooling than my wife. But she jumped in. She'd had experiences, both good and bad, in the public and private schools that provided a background. After I had completed that experiment for one year, my wife got so excited about it that she's home schooled ever since.
At the close of that year, I wrote a summary of my professional education project. I then decided, "Why don't I do my doctoral dissertation on the home school movement." I guess it would be the first home school dissertation in the nation. Now most dissertations, after they're published, sit on a shelf and gather dust. I guess because of the need (mine was published back in 1981) this dissertation continues to stay in print. I think it is probably because of the principles we laid down. You know in the Virginia Constitution there is a little phrase, as I recall, that talks about the need for a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. And so we laid these fundamental principles down in this dissertation.
Let me point out a couple of thing as far as legalities are concerned. There is no problem with that. As far as home school is concerned there is only one state where you are not compelled to put children into school. What are they looking for then? Well, essentially acceptable alternatives. They look for equivalent education with competent teachers. Tests have been done on home schoolers and they usually automatically outscore those that have attended public schools. As far as equivalent education, usually a home school curriculum is far superior than other curriculums.
Let me give you 10 advantages of home schooling.
#1 Leadership and Love at Home.
Even way back in the twenties the Supreme Court said that "it is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education." And they reaffirmed that later saying the "primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their child is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition. Those who have their welfare most at heart become their teachers." Is that significant'? A lady writing in the Radcliffe Quarterly said, "I can see the encrusted layers of school rigidity falling away; several times a lesson with her", speaking of her child, "has dissolved into a conversation about her real worth as a loving, responsible human being versus the graded, classified, surely stupid person she sometimes felt herself to be in school."
Even the Kendricks when they wrote their Superintendent of Schools said, "We have not felt right about sending our children out of our home to be influenced in their formative years, by people whom we do not know personally and whose morals, values, and political and religious beliefs may differ from ours. Once a child starts school, the home becomes school centered, not family centered. The hour before school getting ready, the six hours of school, the hour or two of unwinding afterwards and the hour or more of homework later in the evening leave little time for parents and children to communicate and involve themselves jointly in activities not directly related to school." How true.
One woman writing in a letter that appeared in a newspaper said that there "is a lot of joy in teaching children, so why shouldn't I have that joy?" Good point.
#2 School Can Wait.
As some of you know, Raymond and Dorothy Moore were given a quarter of a million dollar grant to study early childhood education programs. They did that study and published their findings which are very interesting. They came up with two theories. One is the integrated maturity level, the idea that shows that reasoning process, physical skills don't come together until the child is at least eight years of age. When they are forced into formal schooling before that time, it is a very frustrating experience for them. And then the other theory is the positive and negative sociability theory. That is to say, if there is one thing that really terrorizes parents it's peer pressure that happens when their child gets into school. The Moores said that the longer you can keep the child out of formal school, the more they develop a peer independence, and a close tie to the family.
#3 You get to Avoid the Pitfalls.
And boy, there are all kinds of pitfalls. You know after one tragic Supreme Court prayer decision, President David O. McKay said that "the Supreme Court of the United States severs the connecting cord between the public schools of the United States and the source of divine intelligence, the Creator himself." Nature abhors a vacuum. What moved into that vacuum? Secular humanism. How tragic. You know probably the greatest influence in the public schools among the educators is John Dewy. He is one of the original signers of the Humanist Manifesto. Well, conflicting values, that is another pitfall to avoid. Immorality and drugs, lack of discipline, drug abuse, school violence. The U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee made a study and they said that your child's chances of encountering crime are greatest when they are en route to, at, or coming home from school. How sad.
Incarceration. To some, school is like a lock up or a jail.
The social life? With "very few exceptions," John Holt said in a U.S. News and World Report article, "the social life of our schools is mean spirited, competitive, status seeking, snobbish, cruel, often violent, and full of talk about who went to whose party and who did not." How about emotional pitfalls? The Perchemlides said that Richard was a free, confident child upon entering second grade. However, he then became "shy, unsure, self-conscious and discouraged over academic achievement."
Physical problems. It is interesting how much the health of children improve when they have switched over to home school.
Inferior education. A U.S. News and World Report article a while ago stated "as costs escalate. . .results worsen." How true.
Wasted time. One lady wrote in the New York Times and said, "I use the word 'immoral' to emphasize how strongly I feel about the time that is wasted by children at school."
#4 Teach the Truth.
How exciting! You get to put God in the guidelines and Christ in the curriculum. President McKay, after another tragic Supreme Court decision, said, "Evidently the Supreme Court misinterprets the true meaning of the first amendment and is now leading a Christian nation down the road to atheism.'' Remember what the Old Testament said: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:6-7).
#5 Why Not the Best?
Why not go for the best? The sky is the limit. You can use a curriculum of great books if you want. You can apprentice to a master, whatever you see fit. The sky is the limit.
#6 Individualized Instruction.
This becomes tailor-made teaching. You know how helpful that is to a gifted student, or for a slow learner. They did a comprehensive measurement of how much time a teacher is able to spend with a child in a school day. They figure the average was about two minutes per child, in a school day with a class of twenty five. U.S. News and World Report says, "For many being gifted brings lifelong struggle." Individualized instruction offers the opportunity of setting a personal pace for each child, with less of competitiveness and comparison. The curriculum is more freely chosen, assignments more easily followed up, and weaknesses in the child's education more quickly detected.
#7 To Learn, Teach Another
How did that teacher handle the little red schoolroom with several grades? One of the ways she did it, was that she had them teach each other. And you can have that happen in your own home.
Correspondence courses, special classes, schedules to fit your needs, without interference with all of the class bells.
#9 Parents Also Learn
How true, remember the old oriental proverb, "Help your brother's boat across, and to your own has reached the shore." Many a home schooling mother can relate to this. "Home schooling," said one mother, "has given me an excuse to continue my education. And I am enjoying math more than anything except music and maybe French and by the time I'm forty, I should be pretty good." Way to go.
#10 The Pursuit of Excellence
Howard G. McCurdy, professor of psychology, did a very interesting study covering five hundred years on the childhood pattern of genius. He distilled them down to twenty of the greatest geniuses. John Stewart Mill was given at a very early age the responsibility of acting as a tutor to his brothers and sisters. His father kept him far from other boys. John Quincy Adams' education began at home. etc. Then McCurdy stated that children of genius are exposed to significantly great amounts of intellectual stimulation by adults, and experience very restricted contacts with other children of their own age. His findings were published in the Horizon Magazine. They said, "What kind of early life fosters exceptional mental growth? A study of twenty great minds points to two prime conditions-and leads to a startling conclusion in the last sentence of this article." What was the startling conclusion? "It might be remarked that the mass education of public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on the effect of reducing all three factors, to a minimum; accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurrence of genius."
In the book Cradles of Eminence, authors selected some four hundred eminent twentieth century men and women for a provocative study on their childhood. They found that three out of five of the four hundred had serious school problems. Three out of five of the four hundred disliked schools, yet four out of the five of the four hundred boys and girls showed evidences of being unusually intelligent or exceptionally talented. And they said there is not a parent-tutored boy or girl among the four hundred who was not grateful for the experience. Tom Edison, America's greatest inventor never completed grade school. Henry Ford, America's first billionaire never completed high school.
Now how about the disadvantages? You know all of the things you hear about putting them in home school and what is going to happen to their socialization? Isn't that the theme song? My gosh, let me tell you the Osmonds were home schooled, and if there is one thing you never accused them of that was being social retards, right? Tis true.
There are two categories they sometimes drop socialization into: life adjustment and friends.
Well most of life is spent in a home. If one wants to adjust to life then he needs to properly adjust to the home front. After the early years, how often does one sit for nine months, five days a week for six hours a day in a concrete building with people of his own age'? I like how Reverend Lindstrom put it. He said, "I see our children as young tender plants put into a hot house, given expert attention and care by a florist, until the plant is ready to be exposed to the wind, rain and hail. A young Joseph nurtured by an old Jacob can make it in a heathen Egypt. In fact, there are a lot of things in the real world that we do not want our children to adjust to. Somebody wrote John Holt and said, 'I don't want to feel I'm sheltering my children or running away from adversity." He said, "Why not'? It is your right, and your proper business as parents, to shelter your children and protect them from adversity, at least as much as you can. Many of the worlds children are starved or malnourished, but you would not starve your children so that they would know what this was like." It is interesting, during World War II, the marines that went through the worst campaigns of the war, the ones that stood up under it, were the ones who had a fortunate childhood. The ones who broke were the ones that had been put up against tough conditions in their childhood. One home schooler put it this way, "People tell me that I am protecting my children from the cold, cruel world, and think children should have to take bad treatment in schools in order to cope with the real world. By that logic, we should be putting the child's head in a vise every day to prepare them for the headaches they will suffer as adults."
How about friends? That comes under socialization. As one home schooler put it, "The idea that children must spend great quantities of time in large groups of children their own age is a theory of man and has no basis in fact or in scripture."
How about household management? How will I ever manage with the children home all day during the week? I can't handle it! One home schooler said that "there are those who tell me they can't teach their children and keep house too. I tell them 'can't' is a ridiculous word and merely signifies a person's unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifice.., the whole family messes the place up, the whole family can clean it up."
Well emotionality. How are my nerves going to take it with the children home all day'? Well, you won't have to worry about physical violence, standards being undermined, what your children are being taught, who they are associating with, etc. You can make it, no question about it. Well now, there might be times when you have to have moments of solitude, kind of get-away time, that is understandable. One home school lady at the close of her first year said how she felt at the very beginning like getting away often. But she said, "Now I resent anything that takes me away from my children during school hours. I am happiest at home and never feel that old drive to get out. Funny how we grow! That doesn't mean that I'm not involved with anything outside of my home, I am. But I am no longer dependent on anyone or anything or anyplace outside my home and family for my happiness."
Costs? Costs can be a little or a lot. Home school success is really not dependent on money.
Structured formats, some like structured formats. At eight o'clock we'll have math, nine o'clock social studies. Most move into a blended format. Sometimes they can study the great books curriculum. One man said, "my curriculum is the four R's: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Religion." Good. Somebody at one time said, "No man is born into this world whose work is not born with them." So oft time these parents feel they are facilitators. Let the children find that which interests them.
How about teaching time? The thought of having to teach your children six hours a day alarms some parents. Some say, "How am I going to teach them six hours a day?" John Holt says, "Who is teaching them six hours a day now?" That is an interesting thought. He says, "It was a rare day in my schooling where I got fifteen minutes of teaching, that is, of concerned and thoughtful adult talk about something that I found interesting, puzzling, or important." Incidentally, have you heard of kids that may get injured in a ski accident? And so they are put down in bed for a couple of weeks. Often time the school districts will have somebody come in to see them to bring them up to date for the two weeks they have missed. It takes one hour. Very interesting! Field trips, boy, there are so many things. Working parents, is basically a custodial problem. In any case, love helps learning too. Tis true.
"You may have baskets of wealth untold, coffers of jewels, caskets of gold, richer than I you can never be, for I had a mother who read to me."
Text books and other supplies. There are so many of them out there now, that are available. I reckon you have seen a lot of them here today. There are so many opportunities out there for learning. Reader's Digest, National Geographic, periodicals, records, tapes, film strips, microscopes, telescopes, globes, correspondence courses, tutors, outside help. We had one tutor come in. My wife wanted a little help on algebra and had a tutor come in to help teach three grades of algebra. While I think of it, some home schoolers have sent their children to high school to take the exact sciences. You know there are some opportunities that may come to the high schools. It may be a little hard to form your own a capella choir or your own football team. Often times parents will teach their children the social sciences. The exact sciences are a little more safe, for water still boils at the same temperature. Are you with me? But the social sciences they will teach in their own home.
Now if there is one thing that scares off parents getting into home schooling, it is their lack of confidence. And so I spell out ten commandments for building confidence in parents to let them know that they can do it. So let me give them to you.
#1 Everyone is a student and a teacher and the world is the classroom.
Everyone is a teacher or the student. I think we ought to say, as one home schooler said, that people ought to be judged capable of teaching their own children unless someone can show beyond reasonable doubt that they are not capable. And school doesn't have to mean just a brick building with a cyclone fence and usually padlock gates.
#2 Ability to care counts more than ability to teach.
Ability to care. Do you know a few years back some good mothers in the land of Alaska had a hard time getting their children into the public schools because they lived so far away. They got permission to get the text books that were used in the public schools for that grade. Do you know what they found out? Those mothers, uncertified, and a lot of them had never entered college, those mothers teaching from the text books, teaching in their own home, did better with their children than the certified teachers. And the longer the children stayed at home with that uncertified mother, the better they did. You can do it Mom, O.K. So ability to care counts more than the ability to teach. As one home schooler put it, "Who, in this whole wide world, could possibly be better entrusted to the education of a child than his parents! The Lord God Almighty believes it, or else why are children born to parents instead of to public schools?" Good point.
#3 Backing comes from the courts and authorities. Tis true, increasingly.
#4 (I don't know if I should have listed this in building confidence in parents), but number four, one can hardly do worse than the public school system. In fact, one Reader's Digest article a while ago was captioned "Help! Teachers Can't Teach)."
#5 One need not be a professional or wealthy to teach well.
The most distinguished scholar on this campus, Hugh Nibley, said, "What this world needs is to return to the age of the amateur." How true. Well, facilitating oft times is the role of the parents.
#6 Help is available.
Where do you go for help? One of the first places you ought to go is to your knees. He [God]knows them better than you, and He had them before we did. He can inspire and direct you and help you know how to best serve their needs.
#7 It is harder at first but comes easier later.
It takes usually around three months to get over the strain of adding the burden of parental responsibility, but once you get into the flow it is like cooking. One home schooler said, "It's like cooking, at first your nose is always in the cookbook, but once you get some confidence in yourself, you take your nose out of the book and experiment on your own." It's like one mother who when her first child swallowed a penny, she hit the panic button, but when her sixth child swallowed a quarter she said "Son, that comes out of your allowance." In other words, you can get on to it.
#8 The rewards are worth the effort.
Are they ever! Here is one home schooler who at the close of her first year of home schooling said "Academically, it was a smashing success. Physically, I have never been so exhausted in my life. Mentally, I have never been so exhausted in my life. Emotionally, I have never been so exhausted in my life. Spiritually, I was completely rejuvenated and began an upward spiral that will not stop until I have become the person I was meant to be. This past year has been one of absolutely monumental growth for me. Having a home school has taught me as no other single thing ever has before, that there is nothing that I can't do. I just have to pay the price."
#9 It is the wave of the future.
Mine was the first dissertation in the nation on home school seventeen years ago. But since that time, do you know how many dissertations have come out of BYU and across the country on home schooling? The youngest graduates from BYU all graduated at the age of fifteen, and were all home schoolers. Perhaps BYU is the first university in the nation to offer credit for a home schooling class taught by Dr. Larry Arnoldson. Some of you recall last year President Bateman, President of BYU, cut a video used in the opening exercises of the LDS Home Educators Association convention. The governor of Utah has issued at least two home education week proclamations. Some of you remember last year, the national spelling bee champion was a home schooler. It is a wave of the future. I was interested in what Paul Harvey said. He said, "Perhaps the classroom of tomorrow will be the family living room." Way to go Paul. Alright, let's go for the last one.
#10 It takes faith to begin!
How true! There is that leap of faith. Some of you recall, Thomas E. McKay was an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, in his neighborhood when spring came around, all the boys in the group used to go down to the old swimming hole. He said, "We would all stand on the edge just kind of wringing our hands because the water was a little cool." He said there was always one kid in the group who was the first one in the water. He'd come up and he'd say, "Come on in fellows, the water's fine." He said year after year it was the same kid, first one in. He said, "Brothers, do you know what happened to that kid?" He said, "That kid today is the President of this church. Brethren" he said, "just think what could have happened to me if I would have jumped in first " Alright, now there is that leap of faith. I want to close with a poem, it was a poem that encouraged my wife. I first read it in a book called "Suggestions for LDS Missionaries." It is adapted from Berton Bailey. I give this for the benefit of all you who are contemplating taking the home school plunge and you that are working through it now.
If you want a thing bad enough:
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it
If only desire of it makes you mad enough never to tire of it
Makes you hold all things tawdry and cheap for it.
If life seems all useless and empty without it,
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it.
If gladly you'll sweat for it, fret for it, plan for it.
Lose all your terror of devils or man for it.
If you'll simply go after the thing that you want
With all your capacity, strength, and sagacity
Faith, hope, and confidence, stern pertinacity.
If neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gaunt
Nor sickness nor pain of body and brain
Can keep you away from the thing that you want.
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it,
You'll get it!!
Amen. God bless you.