A New York Times’ reporter, Mark Oppenheimer, offered an article about Mary Pride and her homeschooling family’s history. It focused a great deal on their technology influences and her religious background. Many homeschoolers did seem to be right on that techie cutting edge ‘back in the day’. Even now, multitudes from the homeschool community head into computer engineering, programming, designing their own websites, blog, businesses or what have you on the internet.
From the article: Mary Pride A Christian Pioneer of Home Schooling Looks to Its Future“
Yet in her embrace of technology and the Internet, Mrs. Pride is a total Webhead, as befits the wife of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate whom she met when both were working “at the key-punch room in Raytheon,” the military technology company.
All their computer hardware and tested software helped create the 1992 Prides’ Guide to Educational Software. The guide was reviewed in Whole Earth Review, PC Magazine, and from Wired Magazine’s first issue in 1993:
Crash Tested Homework Review:
Bill and Mary Pride have eight kids, all of them home-schooled. The Prides are into using computers for class work, so they have a computer room stuffed with a Mac, Apple IIGS, Amiga, a 386 clone, various CD-ROM devices, Nintendo, a Miracle Piano system, and so on. Add five or six kids to the room at any one time, and you have a homeschooling arcade. In between lessons, Ma and Pa and their computer-savvy kids have evaluated every piece of educational software known to be on the market. The kids are ceaseless and merciless testers. Somehow the Prides found time (and a vacant computer) in this madhouse to compile their evaluations in a humongous and amazingly complete atlas to all educational software available for personal computers and CD-ROM platforms.
All was not well during that time in the homeschool community though. This older New York TImes article shared one example of a growing chasm in the homeschooling community.
On-Line Courses Have Given a New Impetus to the Home-Schooling Movement By Louise Yarnall
Technology enthusiasts like Mrs. Pride, the publisher, counter that the elitists are the anti-computer home schoolers — particularly those affiliated with the so-called unschooling movement, which rejects most packaged educational programs in favor of more free-form learning activities guided by children’s interests.
“I think unschoolers sometimes exaggerate the benefits of doing everything yourself,” she said. “There is a reason I don’t pump my own water and build my own well and make my own electricity and grind my own wheat.
I feel to limit yourself and say, I have to do it all myself, is a mistake.”
Maybe her perspective has changed in the last several years, but I think Mary Pride misunderstood the unschooling philosophy. It’s a shame, because there are many religious homeschoolers who do ‘get it’. I’m assuming we’re now in the healing stage, as I’ve seen many a homeschooler defend all homeschooling styles now. What fits for each child is the right way to go.
Then there was this from the same 1998 article:
In regions where home schooling is so popular that it threatens the financial health of public school districts, some school leaders have used computers to lure home schoolers partway back to the fold. In 1997, an Alaska school district seeking to raise funds to build a public boarding school developed a program that offered home schoolers the use of new computers (for a $200 refundable deposit), free curriculum supplies and support from an expert teacher if they would enroll in the district. The families kept home schooling, but their enrollment allowed the district to qualify for more state aid. The program attracted 2,000 applicants, far exceeding district estimates, and the extra state money helped pay for the new school. Similar programs are in place in Washington State.
I happily remember the growth of on-line homeschool networks, bartering and support. But the “collaboration of homeschoolers and school” seemed frustrating for homeschool advocates with the time spent explaining to new homeschoolers ‘public school at home’ versus independent homeschooling. The schools didn’t seem to be cooperating with those explanations nor lessening the confusion. Wish they were more creative with our public schooled kids’ education than they are trying to suck money out of every little free crevice.
This is an exciting prospect, this open source education idea:
“Distance learning is coming on gangbusters,” Mrs. Pride said. “EdX will be very interesting. And what Harvard and M.I.T. are doing. And the MOOC initiative. …”
The 1998 NYT article noted Mary Pride’s thoughts about her son, who suffered from chronic health issues:
“Fifty years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to finish his own education or have a job.” Mrs. Pride is convinced that the home-schooling movement will grow because technology makes families more comfortable with the prospect of teaching their own children.
Approximately 15 years later, education at home is growing and some of the reason might be the networking technology opportunities. But most of all, I think it’s because many families learned it’s great fun spending time together living and learning.