"Home Schooling"

Robby Bristol
November 2, 2014

Public school. For many of you, this is an all too familiar phrase. In the world today, especially in America, public schooling is looked at as the societal norm. But when did this happen and why? Most people would more than likely be shocked to hear that the concept of public education only dates back to around 150 years or so ago. Until then, home education was the ideal method of instruction. So what caused this shift in society's thinking? What caused every state prior to the 1960s—excluding Oklahoma—to ban homeschooling altogether when studies clearly show that homeschoolers perform better on standardized tests and usually have a more rounded education than their public school counterparts? It turns out there were many reasons homeschooling was looked unfavorably upon.

What do fourteen of our presidents, five of our supreme court justices, Albert Einstein, da Vinci, Joan of Arc, the Wright Brothers, Mozart, and Alexander the Great all have in common? They were all homeschooled. The list of famous homeschoolers goes on and on, but as you can see, some of the most important people in history were all educated at home. Alexander the Great was taught at home by Aristotle. As you probably know, he then went on to conquer the known world at the tender age of seventeen. If homeschooling has done so well in the past, why did it become taboo all of a sudden? Money played a large part of the problem. During the period of Alexander the Great, it was the norm to study under someone great like Aristotle and gleam knowledge from them. There weren't any organized public education systems who got paid by the government per student.

Money wasn't the only issue however. Many public school teachers began to ask how a parent could provide a better and more rounded education than a trained public educator. How can someone's mother or father teach them math, science, English, and social studies without having a degree in any of these areas? Mozart's father, Leopold, was his primary teacher during his childhood. His father was also one of the leading musical teachers in Europe, which undoubtedly played into his son's future. But what about the parents who don't have that expertise to give? I can tell you first hand as a former homeschooler that this was never an issue with me or with any of my fellow homeschooling friends.

Homeschooling families most often use curriculums which are designed for homeschooling families. These curriculums are not only written by distinguished professionals in their field, but are also often accelerated. In public school, they call them AP courses. Most homeschoolers I know have been doing the equivalent of AP courses all their lives which is why we usually score higher on standardized tests. We are taught to be self-learners rather than to rely on a teacher constantly telling us what to do.

I'll never forget being at my friend's house one day when I was around twelve or thirteen years old when he and his family were living in Detroit. They were being homeschooled at the time like we were. As my family and I were preparing to leave, there was a knock on the door. The police had showed up to check all the homework my friend and his siblings had done that day to make sure his parents were actually schooling them and not just keeping them at home. I was shocked even further to find out that this would happen everyday. The police would stop by at the end of the school day and my friend's mom would bring them all the work they completed that day. This was the inner-city's way of regulated homeschoolers. Yes, you could teach your kids at home, but we'll send police officers to your door everyday to make sure. This, of course, didn't last very long as I'm sure officers became sick and tired of having to go to every homeschooler's door and look at their work.

The attack on alternative education did not stop there however. A few years later, a certain official who was anti-homeschooling and was seeking to re-ban it in Michigan was running for a position at the State Capitol. Just about every homeschooler in the state showed up outside the Capitol Building in Lansing to protest; include my family and me. I was a little young to really show that much interest but since homeschooling is still a widespread practice here in the state, I assume our protest did something.

Parents in all 50 states now have the wonderful freedom of choosing to school their children at home. You never know how many more Mozarts and George Washingtons in the world there might be sitting at their kitchen table in the privacy of home still in their pajamas and deep in their studies.

Works Consulted

Frontispiece to Samuel Griswold's Fireside Education (1838).