This op/ed surfaced in the news reader’s list because homeschooling is given as a choice for parents. The point of the article is that children below the age of compulsory attendance are not included in the public schooling system, and that this exclusions is the cause of the sad life of that disadvantaged children live with their disinterested parents.
“Parents Who Don’t Parent”, 23 June 2008, The New York Times, New York, New York
To address this initial and rarely insurmountable inequity, free education ought to be mandatory at age 1, not age 5. (Parents who do not wish to participate can continue to home school or enroll their children in licensed daycares.) Early intervention is required to ensure that all children are activating and engaging their brains during these crucial years.
The effects of poverty, discrimination, ill-educated parents, crime and any other factors that bear down on the children born into these circumstances are not mentioned. The effects of these situations are interwoven in the children’s experiences so that distinguishing the critical cause for their later sad lives isn’t easy. I don’t think, though, that taking them from their sad families at even earlier ages is the ‘fix’ that many people look for.
The bias for ‘school’ as the fix is betrayed in this part of the opinion by saying that parents who don’t want to use early, “free” education, “can continue to home school …” their children. This sentence reduces the daily life of young children from birth to age five to “home schooling.” The children aren’t presumed to be dropping Brussels sprouts under the table, listening to lullabies, making mudpies, chasing the cat, cutting their bangs too short, sitting in a laundry basket with their blankies, draining the water out of inflatable pools, or yelling at grasshoppers. In the world of this op/ed, they’re being “home schooled.” Whatever that means.
I embrace the homeschooling concept but there is no way I would have wanted my children’s early lives to have consisted of “home schooling.” Little kids need childhood.
And as for the all-important growth of those precious brains between the ages of birth and three, however did our ancestors , who were clueless about these crucial years, manage to get humanity to the point we are now? Or maybe they did stunt us! Imagine how much farther along we’d be if the children of ages past had been properly schooled.
“The basic science of brain development says you need to start as early as possible for kids in the greatest danger to get the best outcomes,” states Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. “If you start at age 4 for kids who are at a disadvantage, you’re not starting early. You’re playing catch-up.” With our current educational system, most urban students will never catch up.
What I think is missing is an emphasis on the family. The professionals apparently believe, by providing a ‘better’ environment outside the family, that the children will blossom despite the barren soil in which they are planted.
I, with my glorious 98.6 degrees, think that unless the soil in which the children are planted (their families) is improved, then no amount of rain, sunshine, and bug spray is going to make that garden grow. The place to begin to prevent having to play catch-up in the first place is with the parents (and yes, this is a chicken and egg problem).
However, for me, ‘beginning with the parents’ is a family effort, not a communitarian effort in which the parents are sent to classes, seminars and such sponsored by government, foundations or trusts. The family effort to improve the lives of children is the experience of living as a family. In taking away children from the family, there is no model for the children to learn how to live as a family. When these de-familied children are adults and become parents, they have little experience upon which to base their actions with their own children. Children who spend most of their time outside of families do not learn how parents parent and siblings sib, and they grow up to be adults who need to be taught how to parent, possibly through asinine attempts such as The Baby Borrowers. Children raised in classrooms learn that classrooms are the model: if one has children, one sends them to a classroom. I think it is another example of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.”
The family must be repaired before the children can be well-raised.
I must add a note here about Mr. Gaither’s review at Anderson on Nomadic Homeschooling. I include it because of the link to the concept of family in the op/ed above, and the piece Mr. Gaither reviewed. Like Mr. Gaither, I agree with the idea that “where we learn becomes part of what we learn.” He notes the McLuhan ‘vibe.’
Anderson here offers a two-pronged argument. First, she makes the interesting claim that “where we learn becomes part of what we learn.” Second, given Anderson’s conviction that traditional families and homes tend to reproduce all sorts of social pathologies and oppression, the only way to overcome deeply ingrained social inequalities is to deconstruct the home.
But the idea to “deconstruct the home” does not strike me as ‘people friendly.’ Perhaps this is because Ms. Anderson’s view of the family is foreign to my experience.
Examples of those excluded by this notion of home include “those who are not white, financially stable, heterosexual, Christian, able bodied, and able minded…”
What Anderson wants to say I think is that families often teach children to be prejudiced against people who are different from them, and the way to beat this is to have children get out in the world a bit and get to know other kinds of people.
I get the feeling that Ms. Anderson would rather not have the parents along.
It is the next part of the paragraph where I jam on the brakes.
I couldn’t agree more. As in so many other domains, here homeschooling can be both liberating and constricting. For some homeschoolers it is frustration with the narrowness and provinciality of our public school system’s racial, class, and age segregation that drives them to homeschooling. Such families can use their freedom to do some of the very things Anderson suggests–sailing around the world, taking “field trips” to foreign lands, volunteering with urban missions, and thousands of other creative ways to interact with “the other.” Homeschooling can also be a way to seal children off from such encounters.
Do not drag homeschooling into Ms. Anderson’s dystopia. I don’t get the impression that homeschooling entered into her work, although I can’t confirm that impression because the work is unavailable and not usefully referenced in any other place that I can find. If she did include homeschooling, I’d like to see a more specific treatment of her conclusions.