Home Schooling: A Letter from the Front Lines

In a recent post, I discussed the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of life. One of them was education. I made a comment about home schooling and suggested that I’m not its biggest fan. (I think most children benefit from interacting with other kids and being away from their parents for part of the day, but I understand why some parents choose to educate their own children at home.)

In response, I received an email from Mary, which is presented below with her permission. I think it may be one of the most informed and passionate replies we’ve received on the blog on any subject. Mary and I exchanged a few follow up emails, and she generously agreed to allow me to post her note here. Enjoy.

And thank you, Mary. It was great receiving your note and speaking with you a little about this important subject. I hope you and your family are safe and well. – BGT

Dear Mr. Tully,
I have been a child advocate and a college-educated teacher for over 30 years in public, private and home-based schools. Respectfully, I would like to share some information with you.
1. Brian D. Ray, PhD., president of the National Home Education Research Institute, is internationally known for his research on homeschooling and serves as an expert witness in courts and legislatures. Dr. Ray is a former classroom teacher in public and private schools and professor at the graduate and undergraduate levels, teaching courses such as research methods and science education.
The National Home Education Research Institute conducts and collects research about homeschooling (home-based education, home schooling), and publishes the research journal called the Home School Researcher. The institute has hundreds of research works documented and cataloged on home schooling, many of which were done by NHERI.
National Home Education Research Institute. – https://www.nheri.org/
2. When I first started to home school my child, I contacted Dr. Ray at NHERI to inquire how many single-parents were homeschooling; the estimation at that time was over 2,000. When numerous uninformed people told me, “You cannot home school as a single-parent.” I was prepared to give them the facts. I home schooled my special needs child preschool through 12th grade for free utilizing our local public library. My child graduated high school equal to and above her neuro-typical peers.
As for socializing and interacting with peers, we share this world with 7.8 billion people. We socialize and interact with people of all ages, abilities, cultures and religions.
3. The Importance of an Overall Philosophy: I believe in nurturing and educating the whole child – emotionally, socially, physically, creatively, and cognitively. As a parent, it is my responsibility to accomplish this task. And according to my child, I kick butt!
Our lifestyle became our home school environment. Our homeschooling experience rounded out our sense of identity and purpose in this world. Thinking outside the box, I combined several home schooling methods to successfully nurture and educate my special needs child.
1. Emotionally: Unschooling is an interest based approach to education. There are no tears or tantrums when you respect a child as a human being. –  https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/
2. Socially: Charlotte Mason was a British educator during the Victorian era who promoted the idea of “liberal education for all”, not just for those of a certain social class.
3. Physically: Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, and author of The Handbook of Nature Study, is most famous for being one of the first to bring her students and other teachers out-of-doors to study nature. We spend large quantities of time out-of-doors engaging in many self-motivated, interest-based activities such as nature walks, hiking, and swimming.
4. Creatively: The Heritage Crafts Association. –  https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/
5. Cognitively: As stated above, my child has special needs, and Maria Montessori was an Italian special needs educator. I chose her method to teach the basic life skills that promote self-reliance.
Our Home School Environment:
Art Appreciation/Artist Study (The masters grace the walls of our home.)
Music Appreciation/Composer Study (We listen to classical music on our local public radio station.)
Nature Study and astronomy (We spend large quantities of time our-of-doors.)
Classic literature, Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Poets (We support our local library.)
Folk songs and Hymns (We joyfully sing along with Pete Seeger. We also learn folk songs and hymns by immersing ourselves in multi-cultures.)
Latin, French, German, Spanish, and American Sign Language (We immerse ourselves in multi-cultures.)
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric (Given the basics, one naturally improves ones skills reading the classics.)
Mathematics and science (Given the basics and reading the biographies of the worlds most brilliant minds, not only sparks interest, they open our own minds to fully engaging in life, the math and science we unknowingly use everyday.)
History (As we immerse ourselves in multi-cultures, we learn world history.)
Service to Others: The more we immerse ourselves in multi-cultures, the more compassionate we become.
In closing, I must speak out on behalf of the Upper Class children and their precious moms I have encountered over the years. Starting at the preschool level, I have taught Upper Class children who believed they were entitled and others who were deeply depressed. Over the years I have conversed with Upper Class moms who wished they could home school their children. Reading your uninformed perspective on home schooling confirms what these dear women have confided in me. It appears these ladies are not given much support from family, friends, or peers, and they are judged harshly. Please don’t be that guy! It’s bad enough society is so unkind: a single mom who stays home with her child is an uneducated, lazy welfare queen, while Upper Class moms who stay home are assumed to be Upper Middle Class religious soccer moms, driving minivans, and drinking Starbucks.
On the upside, I did confront an Upper Class dad about his child having entitlement issues. He politely excused himself from the conversation and went directly to the office to speak with the director. On returning to the classroom, he thanked me for speaking truthfully with him about his child. Because the dad was a military officer, the staff granted his child special privileges. The following week, the little boy was as kind and loving as his dad.
Warm Regards,
Mary

8 thoughts on “Home Schooling: A Letter from the Front Lines

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I was deeply considering your thoughts on homeschooling and still do. Once you take that brave step into the homeschool world you quickly see the sky is the limit if you so choose. I really appreciate you sharing this lovely interaction.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with Mary’s argument. As an educator I see children moulded into a system desperate to be inclusive but unable cater for the broadening spectrum of learning styles and personalities. The funding is decreasing and the workload is increasing.
    The pandemic has also emphasised the capabilities of many students being capable of independent learning and have indeed exceeded expectations set for them. They’ve shown a love for learning beyond the boundaries of structured lessons and completed many projects of which they are proud. It’s been a joy to see innovation and imagination emerge in challenging times.
    Thank you for sharing this perspective of homeschooling.

  3. Mary seems to have a chip on her shoulder regarding what she perceives to be the “Upper Classes” (eg. ‘precious’ moms, ‘entitled’, soccer moms, etc). Unfortunately, this bias undermines the value of her argument regarding home schooling. All that can be taken away from Mary’s opinions is that she believes home schooling is in her own special needs child’s best interests. Not not all parents are equipped to give their children a competitive education through home schooling, and like it or not, there is competition in higher education. The better prepared a student is for college and graduate school, the more he is likely to succeed. As a firm believer in the value of a good education for all children and young adults, of all means, I have to look at home schooling with a wary eye. Of course, there are always exceptions.

  4. I married a man which attended 21 different school systems in his lifetime. No, his parents were not military. He likes to share there were two shining stars located in small country schools across these great states and the rest were garbage, most being in the cities.

    As parents of 3 home-schooled kids, my adult children are thriving. Once when in the school system, one of our children were called special needs which she was not. While her learning was slow, she felt stressed in the classroom. I was scared to home school though I had a cousin which encouraged me. When our school was re zoned, I thought that was the answer and did not need to home school. The very first day when we went to pick our child up, she was crying as someone from the new school was bullying her. That is when anger was an ally and I took to home schooling right away. We begin with the local library, but branched out into other things which interested her. Her mind was a sponge given now the right environment to learn and most adults were impressed speaking with her. Now her late twenty’s, she is very knowledgeable about life, animals, how to keep a home, as well as cooking from scratch. When most people speak to her, find her voice calming and her knowledge helpful. They say her smile keeps them anchored.

    I find that refreshing in a world where people constantly tear down others for spite and likes.

    Mr. Tully, I am not sure if you have the experience in speaking to adult home-school kids, but do believe you may find them refreshing as well as educated in most topics you may bring up. Aren’t we all on this Earth to help and learn from one another?

    I never let education get in the way of my learning.
    ~Mark Twain

  5. I am unsure if my post made it or is under review, but I thought I would sign up. New reader. ~Curlslikesmoke

  6. I married a man who had been to 21 different public school systems. He shared with me that there were only two shining stars across this great United States of which they were country schools. The other public schools were mediocre at best.

    All 3 of our children have been home schooled and are thriving. When our oldest was in school, she was placed into a special needs class because she was dyslexic as they did not want to test her. In fact, the school system tried to bully us by 1. outnumber us in a meeting and 2. talk down to us because we did not have a degree. However, we brought my mother in law who was a teacher and the mother of 6 children by which two were dyslexic. At the conclusion of this meeting, they asked if we had seen a doctor, to which my husband replied we had and he only saw a normal little girl. The doctor also added he wished teachers would stick to teaching and not prescribe medication outside their field.

    When we were rezoned, I thought a new school was an answer to our concerns instead of trying out homeschooling. The first day of school resulted in a tearful little girl being bullied by not students, but a teacher which was telling the new children the school could not handle this new load and other information not meant for children to hear.

    After taking her out, she bloomed.  We started with the library and branched out from there. We gathered science magazines, sang hymns and learned typing. We took field trips to different parts of the city which interested her and the adults were impressed with the little sponge I had brought.  Now in her twenties she is knowledgeable on many topics and recently helped the family out when a pet became sick and the doctors as well as techs in the emergency pet hospital were running around us with terminology we did not know, overwhelming us with talk and overloading us with information.

    Mr. Tully, I am unsure of your experience with speaking to home schooled kids. I believe you may find them refreshing in a world which tears down others for likes and spite in a social arena. I believe we were placed into the world to learn and help one another to be infinitely happier. I hope this may change your mind about homeschooling. Thank you, Mr. Tully for your time in reading and have a wonderful day!

    I never let schooling get in the way of my education.~Mark Twain

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