We are occasionally visited by a troll who drops a comment and then leaves. Nodrog is not famous for his ability to maintain civil discourse, so when one of his rude remarks is deleted by “an administrator” he returns with another riposte, threatening never to come back.
Yesterday was either the second or third occasion he behaved in such a manner. This time the unpleasant comment was a fallacious claim about home-schooled children being taught fundamentalist earth science – i. e., that the world is six thousand years old. I’m paraphrasing, but that was his general idea.
I know dozens of homeschooling families, and none of them believes or teaches Nodrog’s curriculum. To put it as kindly as possible, his notions were inaccurate about the majority of homeschoolers. Thus, the comment went to the trashcan where all the other deliberately provocative remarks go to reside.
There is much debate lately about HR 3200, that horrendous (one thousand-plus pages) health care allocation program that Congress hopes to foist off on us. I am on page 453 or so and it doesn’t look good. Did you know the IRS will be an important agent in your health care service?
If you want to know what health care will look like in ten years, just examine the current learning level in your state schools, even after the infusion of all that “No Child Left Behind” bureaucratic boondoggle.
He climaxed his teaching career as New York State Teacher of the Year after being named New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. Later that year he was the subject of a show at Carnegie Hall called “An Evening With John Taylor Gatto,” which launched a career of public speaking in the area of school reform, which has taken Gatto over a million and a half miles in all fifty states and seven foreign countries. In 1992, he was named Secretary of Education in the Libertarian Party Shadow Cabinet, and he has been included in Who’s Who in America from 1996 on. In 1997, he was given the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for his contributions to the cause of liberty, and was named to the Board of Advisors of the National TV-Turnoff Week.
IMHO, that ought to be the National Throw Out Your TV Week, but it will take a few more years to this idea to gain sufficient traction.
Here’s what Mr. Gatto has to say about compulsory schooling:
Our son was home-schooled for the first six years, and I’m glad we did it, though looking back there are some things I would change.
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Actually, those things have changed, but it was too late to be of benefit for our son. As a gregarious person, he could have used the socialization of other home-schooled children. No, definitely not the “socialization of the school yard”. I remember only too well the brutality of small children in large groups who are supervised by too few teachers too busy talking to one another to observe anything but the loudest problems.
So he would have benefitted from being around other children who loved to learn but that wasn’t possible in our rural environment where all the other children went to school. Today many more kids are learning at home in our county.
He did finally get the socialization he wanted in the last years of college. High school was not quite a waste of time; he went to a small, rural school and his teachers were experienced and available to their students. Since it was a private school, they didn’t have to go through the pedagogical indoctrination of unionized public school teachers. They made less money, but they’d already done interesting things with their lives so they were of an age to mentor their charges.
Ironically, his AP Biology teacher was the retired head of a college Biology Department who just liked to keep his hand in teaching. He’d seen it all and warned his charges about the pitfalls of “higher” education.
Aside from the lack of other home-schooled students, our son thrived on home learning. It wasn’t until he had to do group work in 7th grade with kids who were “too kewl for school” that he ran into anti-intellectuals. That was an education in itself.
So were bullies. When he was in the first private school, he happened upon a group of his fellow 8th graders who’d locked one of their classmates in a closet. He could tell by the boy’s yelling that he was freaking out in the dark. He interfered, which made everyone mad, including the victim. When he got home he was still appalled, and recited the school’s code of honor to me. I asked what he was going to do.
That evening, he tried to get in touch with the headmaster and the director of the lower school. Neither was available. He was determined not to return to school until the issue was addressed. After much consideration, he drew up his POINTS OF BEHAVIOR AT _____ SCHOOL. He did not mention the incident or the people involved, he simply outlined in large font the school’s rules (which had been devised with input from the student body of course. Everything had to be “fair”). He made a number of copies of his declaration and taped them at eye level to all the entrance and exit doors of the various buildings in the lower school.
Of course, the papers were removed by lunch time and it wasn’t long before he was called before the headmaster and lower school director. He told his story. They admonished him for not coming to them with the problem. He explained that he’d attempted to do just that and since they weren’t available, he did what was necessary. Of course he got the gold-plated “let the adults handle it” lecture and he nodded in all the right places. Later, a number of upper school kids quietly congratulated him for his “Edict”.
It wasn’t long before all the boys in his class had several group sessions about “bullying”. He enjoyed the lectures and watched the victim continue to deny his situation. It was an education…
Since the opportunities to play with other kids had been limited in his early years he made an imaginary clan out of his stuffed animals. They regularly played board games and had complicated lineages I never quite worked out. Each was a different age, and some of them were adults. It worked for him, he still loves to observe family dynamics and group behaviors, and he’s still learning how to negotiate the white waters of business and personal relationships.
Like Luther, He knows full well that sometimes you have to nail the rules to the door. He also knows when to walk away politely and finally.
In his early learning, he was never told he was too young to try anything academic. Thus, he learned to read using Calvin and Hobbes and whimsical books his dad put together. He was writing novels by the time he was nine and sonnets by the age of twelve (there was this red-haired girl…but never mind).
When he was a Cub Scout, he was also reading the World War I poets. He found the book in his father’s shelves and it never occurred to him he was “too young” to read the poems; the book, after all, was quite slim, the lines were short, the words weren’t difficult. Nor was there anyone around to admonish him that Siegfried Sassoon was “too hard”.
Those poets led him to the study of war, its history, strategy and tactics. In 8th grade he wrote a thesis on the use of aviation in the European theatre in the Second World War. The carnage was painful to acknowledge, though he immersed himself far more deeply in the carnage of the American Civil War and the strengths and weaknesses of its generals.
In his last year of high school he devised an Eagle Scout project that involved interviewing the remaining Second World War vets in our county. He videotaped each interview and transcribed the results, making a book of stories. The Historical Society sold copies. By the time he’d finished college, many of the men (and one witty, wise woman) he’d interviewed were dead.
As an adult, his love of history remains. I think he’s doing an informal internship at the local historical society where he lives now.
When he was nine, he found a picture of The Periodic Table. It wasn’t long before he had it as a huge poster on his bedroom wall and was making up names for the missing elements. Even back then he was absolutely sure that Chemistry was worth studying, though he couldn’t say exactly what he would “do” with it.
In maths, as he moved from the concrete to the abstract, he became a skilled problem solver, understanding that drill and memorization were sometimes essential, and that you could drop them once you were advanced enough.
Math made music literacy easier and vice versa. He plays the piano and the 6 and 12 string guitars. He spent some time in his younger days trying to figure out the chords in a few Pink Floyd tunes. “They’re tougher than they sound”, he told me. Of necessity, he also learned Bach and the Episcopal Hymnal since he was pressed into service as our church organist at age eleven. It was a necessity.
Also for fun, he tried to learn Italian on his own because he fell in love with Dante’s work in the 8th grade. I’m sure he still has snatches of “The Inferno” memorized.
In the summers, and in high school, he took university courses in French and statistics for which he was given credit when he got to college.
What surprised me most was his political interests. He followed the Bush I – Clinton campaign, though we didn’t have a TV or radio to give him the “real” news. On the morning following the election, I woke him as usual. He opened one eye and asked who’d won the presidency. When I told him the news he rolled over, put a pillow over his head and wailed “what is there to get up for?” He was probably six or seven at the time. As his sister later observed, “when he gets to adolescence, how will you be able to tell?”
While he had many interests, art wasn’t one of them. Because his dad was a landscape artist himself, our son could name colors like “magenta” and “thalo blue” by the time he was three. One lovely April day we were driving to the store and I commented on the wonderful green fields and pastures everywhere. He looked up briefly from his book and said patiently, “that’s yellow-green, Mom”. I was sure he’d be painting in no time. Somehow that didn’t happen; he just never did learn to draw well. As his dad said, he sure could draw great concepts.
Like his parents, he isn’t athletic. He tried wrestling but they let girls on the team the following year so he quit post-haste. While I’m sure he had yearnings, wrestling the objects of those yearnings wasn’t in his game plan.
This is just our personal story. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to home school their children. I wish I had been able to home-school my older children. But that was then, and that was the “excellent” school system in our “excellent” suburb. Sad.
For those who are mulling it over, here are a few ideas to consider:
John Taylor later found, using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, “while half of the conventionally schooled children scored at or below the 50th percentile (in self-concept), only 10.3% of the home-schooling children did so.” He further stated that “the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children attending the conventional school. This has implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization, to mention only two. These areas have been found to parallel self-concept. Regarding socialization, Taylor’s results would mean that very few home-schooling children are socially deprived. He states that critics who speak out against home schooling on the basis of social deprivation are actually addressing an area which favors home schoolers.
In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:
* Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.
* Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.
* 58.9% report that they are “very happy” with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life “exciting”, compared with 47.3%.
That link provides information on homeschooling all over the world, not just the U.S.
For every parent who can do it, I wish you the blessings, the joys, the frustrations of teaching your own children. I wish for you the partnership with other parents as you learn how to learn and give one another enthusiasm for the journey.
I promise you one thing: it will change your life.