Josh Brage

Why Some Kids Aren’t Heading to School Today

It is not often that I talk about homeschooling on here. I do not know why, I probably need to change that. I was homeschooled and I am far better off because of it. This article from Pajamas Media’s Tony Woodlief lays out some pretty decent reasons why he and his wife homeschool their families. I wanted to share this today to showcase an article that I think displays the beliefs of many, many homeschool families. This is extremely relevant in helping us all better understand what “Middle America” thinks, feels and believes. Their vote is what will win this political election for John McCain/Sarah Palin this fall. Plus, it will just help you understand homeschoolers in a little bit better way! Here are a couple of my favorite paragraphs.

We believe everything you need to know about parenting can be gleaned from Little House on the Prairie. Growing up in wildly dysfunctional households, we both learned that you can do much worse than the Ingalls family. We decided when we got married that our home would be better than what we knew as children. The foundation is love, order, and relentless application of rules like: Eat all your vegetables, and Mind your manners, and Don’t push your brother’s head into the toilet.

So we frown on radicalism. Yet we have embarked on one of the most radical endeavors families can undertake: home-schooling. Given preconceptions about this practice, I should note that we are not anti-government wingnuts living on a compound. We like literature, and nice wines, and Celeste would stab me in the heart with a spoon if I gave her one of those head bonnets the Amish women wear….

The secret of home-schooling, however, is that you don’t have to be a master teacher to do it well. Energy, dedication, and good materials are what you need. Your competition, meanwhile, is a system that by design and necessity seeks the median. Public (and many private) school students have to move along in all subjects at a similar pace, and in the same order. Outliers — the talkative, the energetic, the gifted, the struggling — are labeled and interventions (counseling, special classrooms, tutoring, medication) prescribed. The goal is not a full realization of the child’s potential, but rather the system’s smooth functioning.

While it’s nice to imagine ourselves living a counter-cultural lifestyle, the reality is that in Wichita, Kansas, home-schooling is widespread. Home-schoolers have baseball teams and soccer leagues. Teaching support groups. There’s even a Boy-Scout troop. Local private schools, meanwhile, offer science and other equipment-intensive courses. Churches provide facilities for home-school association meetings, and even study halls so home-school parents can join Bible studies. If a home-schooling mother falls ill or dies, there is often another home-schooling family who takes on responsibility for teaching her children.