Natural Learning by Kathleen McCurdy
The question keeps coming up: Why do people want to homeschool? To friends and relatives of the homeschooling family it may seem an eccentricity: School was good enough for them, so why would you want to be so out of step with the world? To sociologists and religionists it can seem frightening: How will those children be socialized and conformed to the mores of society, the community, the church? To the professional educator it may be simply infuriating: How can an untrained person presume to take the intellectual training of a child into their own hands! And the neighbors probably wonder why anyone would want to have the children underfoot all day.
So why are so many people deciding to pull their children out of school, or simply never send them in the first place? This question seems to elicit a variety of answers. There’s concern for the child’s academic achievement, as in the case of a gifted child who lacks stimulus at school, or the late bloomer who needs more time to learn at his own rate. There are parents who want a certain philosophical or religious influence to permeate their child’s learning experience, for example pacifists or creationists. Many parents today are choosing to homeschool because of the dangerous place school has become. News stories of school shootings or attempted suicides and bullying incidents generally cause a wave of interest in homeschooling. Some parents feel that, just as they must protect their child from physical harm until he is able to look after himself, they are also responsible for protecting that child from the moral evils and peer pressure prevalent in today’s society. Others find it convenient to homeschool while traveling or for health reasons or other circumstances.
Though not usually mentioned at first, experienced homeschoolers often give yet another reason: The joy of a child’s company and of sharing with him the excitement of discovery and learning. This last reason is the real heart of the homeschool movement, I believe. The discovery, or more properly rediscovery, of the joys of parenting will assure the continued growth and persistence of the homeschool phenomenon. The attrition rate is not very great among families who homeschool primarily for this reason.
No doubt schools are learning to adapt to the needs of the consumer—now that they have an incentive to do so. Parents who only homeschool for social, moral, or philosophical reasons will eventually find private or even public schools to meet their needs. Or they may get together and create their own cooperative or charter schools. After all, bringing the school home, keeping track of curriculum, hours, lessons and grades, is a pretty big order for parents who also have to earn a living or keep house and perhaps look after a preschooler as well.
The real homeschoolers, then, the ones who are here to stay, are the ones who have come to understand the real meaning of parenting. These parents have learned to resist the urge to “teach” their children, for they have grown accustomed to expect their children to learn simply because life is full of interesting things to learn about. Whatever it is that parents do in the course of daily living that makes them successful and fulfilled human beings, is what their children will learn. These parents will help, encourage, answer questions, share in the discoveries, and maybe even learn with their children. And they wouldn’t give up this privilege for anything in the world!
Parents who send off their little ones to daycare at two or three, and later enroll them in preschool and kindergarten, cannot understand what these homeschoolers are talking about (and homeschoolers find such “liberated” parents equally incomprehensible). But research shows that homeschoolers have chosen the better way. Their children have better motor skills, more social graces, and better reasoning powers. And they have been liberated from the enslavement of peer pressure, to be and to do whatever it is their destiny to become. These are the reasons for homeschooling.