Give the Classics a Voice

Living languages have a voice. Humans spoke them and speak them. Dead languages sit as silent hieroglyphs in a rock temple or cuneiform on mud tablets. Dead languages rarely return.

Dominant cultures sometimes kill languages. The speakers resist. Yiddish was the daily language of millions of middle Europeans. That stopped with the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s with the killing of most Yiddish speakers and virtually all Yiddish writers.

Native American and First Nations languages were actively suppressed by Canadian and US government schools in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Generations of native speakers learned English at the government boarding schools and forgot the world that grandmother knew.

barbarian invadors anglo-saxon helmit
“Anglo Saxon Helmet, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk”

Greek and Latin vanished from Britain and Western Europe as the Germanic tribes overwhelmed the countryside at the end of the Roman Empire. Christians kept the languages alive in the east for centuries. The monastic movement eventually pushed back against the obliteration of culture. In the 7th Century the monks Theodore and Hadrian reintroduced the Greek and Latin to Canterbury.

“[England] took kindly to the Latin and Greek culture brought her in the seventh century by the Asian Theodore and the African Hadrian, scholars learned in worldly, as well as in divine, lore, who “made this island, once the nurse of tyrants, the constant home of philosophy.” -William of Malmesbury 1

Classical Homeschools

The homeschooling movements in 2021 are testaments to the 7th Century monasteries. Interest in classical education serves exactly as it did 1,300 years ago. A small but growing number of people resist the idea that the accumulated knowledge of the Hellenic Period, the Roman Empire, all of the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution should vanish like the knowledge of the Huron or the Muskogees 2 with the abandonment of the languages and ideas on which they were founded.

This is especially critical in the United States because the Founders benefited from traditional classical education. A classical education in the time of the Founding Fathers meant the study of Latin and Greek and the works written in those languages. Fluency in classical languages came before college. Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and Washington were literate by the standards of the day. Jefferson all were fluent in both Latin and Greek. They could and did speak and write to one another in these languages.

Contemporary classical education runs the gamut from reading the classics in English, as Mortimer Adler promoted, to full classical language learning in programs like Classical Academic Press that offer both Greek and Latin at every level. Homeschools feel their way forward like Anselm of Canterbury learning with bits and scraps.

Why Classical Education was Dismantled?

The 1914 – 1918 war destroyed a generation of the best educated young men in Germany, Austria, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain. Millions of young men, the best of Europe and America, took their Greek and Latin, their logic and reasoning, and buried them in shell craters on the Marne or in Flanders.

                  Those who survived no longer believed in the same values. They rejected Horace’s Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori and dumped it out with the bathwater and everything else.

The progressive education of the common school movement came from a desire to change the traditional curriculum from what existed before the Great War. The new curricula gradually reduced exposure to the classics. It abandoned classical language learning. Experts believed the classics no longer relevant in the modern age. The Interwar Period from 1918 until 1939 wiped away the classical school philosophy and replaced it with a new progressive behaviorist philosophy. The old way had not worked. New standards were needed.

“Apart from the thought of participation in social life the school has no end nor aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated institution we have no final directing ethical principles, because we have no object or ideal.” – John Dewey3

Advocates of progressive public education still say “it takes a village.” A much reduced human comes from modern industrial education. This is fine with the leaders who prefer the new citizens.

These leaders are wrong, of course. John Dewey, a bloodless Alaric with his timid progressive reformers, overthrew the system. Greek was dominant from Homer through the rise of Christianity. The Bible originally was promulgated in Greek. Latin was the dominant language of the Roman Empire. The Reformation and Enlightenment were founded on classical knowledge. The modern Visigoths wanted to start from scratch.

The Secret Power of the Founding Generation.

The cultural war continues. Americans who read Cicero in Latin, like Hamilton and Jefferson, improve the Republic. Reading Thucydides in Greek opens an archive of recorded business frauds and political crimes. A classically educated public resists the rented barbarians from distracting the public with war while they plunder the treasury.

Homeschool families should make the extra effort.  Learning and teaching classical languages is still part of a classical education. Christian homeschools using programs like Charlotte Mason4 should especially add Latin and Greek for the reason Anselm of Canterbury taught himself Greek word by word from every scrap of Bible annotation. He wanted to read what Paul wrote. It is not easy, but Greek, Latin, and the books written in them are still our best chance to avoid the tyranny of the next Dark Age. Learn to speak to one another.

1 William of Malmesbury, I, 12.

2 Read more at: https://www.aaanativearts.com/extinct-tribes/extinct-tribes-o

3 “Ethical Principles Underlying Education”

4 Simply Charlotte Mason https://simplycharlottemason.com/

Dealing with Local Education Authority (LEA)

“When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.”

Song of Childhood – Peter Handke

The Local Education Authority

Curriculum is the first place homeschool parents confront school authority.  Dealing with Local Education Authority (LEA) usually comes as an administrator representing the local system and a set of forms to file. The LEA has many names, but is usually the local school board. These are often elected politicians who create, implement and enforce local educational policy. The responsibility for curriculum and implementation entwines with many other levels of government, community, county, state, and even federal, but authority ultimately rests with this local government entity.

The ideology behind the selections in curriculum and goals for administering the school social agenda is set higher at the state level. Most state boards of education set requirements for graduation, for example, and it is the LEA responsibility to assure that the local curriculum meets those standards. These requirements vary from region to region, but not significantly. The state and federal governments also influence curriculum through funding. Political parties and social movements also influence this funding to achieve social goals. Curriculum quickly becomes serious business, so the parents’ first interaction with the system must go well.

child as a child homeschooled
Hey There by E. Fleming

The LEA allows parents to select the school type: public or private. The parent also may choose a neighborhood school or a charter school if these are available in the district. The process is bureaucratic and routine. Homeschool is a choice, but this choice takes the student away from the district. Homeschool takes the family off the menu. Different forms are required. Sometimes a brief interview. The parent must understand that choosing homeschooling changes nothing. The LEA is still in authority. Homeschool allows curriculum choices beyond the menu of public or private schools. It removes the student from the social agenda of administrators and teachers. It does not remove the child from potential social services contact or other local education laws.

Getting Free Legal Advice

 Parents must prepare to leave the system. When dealing with Local Education Authority (LEA) and the school administrators, never treat them as allies or as resources for anything but their own paperwork. Declaring intent to homeschool usually only requires the parent to notify the school administrators, but an hour getting local legal background pays off. One good site for legal issues, and local regulations in 2021 is Findlaw.

  Findlaw.com/education.htmlFindlaw.com is a legal site with extensive free information on education law and the local implementation of that law. Lawyers with specific qualifications can also be contacted through the site if that becomes necessary.

Administrators, teachers, and the administrative assistant across the counter are paid by the existing system.  They oppose your choice. Homeschool removes funding from the LEA budget by reducing headcount, so any cooperation is at best passive.

decision done homeschooling
Stoic by E. Fleming

Dealing with Local Education Authority LEA Lesson Plans

With the decision and the declaration done. The LEA often requires parents to answer questions about curriculum and lesson plans. The LEA has another box to check off. Plan to have an answer when asked about your home school plans. This may be a form the parent-teacher completes for the secretary at declaration, or periodically to the LEA.  Nothing complex. Nothing controversial. Be prepared before the meeting. What is your good curriculum? Whether you provide a religious or secular program replacing the public agenda, many canned programs are available. Most cost, but a quality free program can be designed by a parent willing to assemble materials. A good curriculum includes basic skills, life skills, social skills, and some form of preparation for future employment. Keep your answers short.

Lesson Plans are not a mystery, and no, you do not need an education degree to follow one, to buy one, or to invent one. Lesson plans can be purchased as part of a home school curriculum, year by year, or simply purchased piecemeal. If you want guidelines, look at what is required to pass the General Equivalency Diploma (GED). A program pointed in that direction will pass any government inquiry.

Ironically, most public schools do not rely on a curriculum to derive lessons themselves. The current fashion is to approach learning from what the student learns, not what the teacher teaches, so it is test driven. The lessons support testable standards. Even in those places where curriculum is discussed, no actual curriculum exists, just lessons supporting a methodology with a goal of achieving standards. Many public school graduates might have trouble passing the GED.

Searching your state’s education web page for curriculum will probably provide you with something like “Essential Skills”. The list will probably include:

    • Self-Awareness,
    • Initiative/ Self-Direction,
    • Personal Responsibility,
    • Adaptability/ Flexibility,
    • Perverseness/ Resilience,
    • Critical Thinking/ Problem Solving,
    • Creativity/ Innovation,
    • Inquiry Analysis,
    • Informed Risk Taking. Collaboration/ Teamwork,
    • Communication, Global/ Cultural Awareness,
    • Civic Engagement,
    • Character.1

The national agenda in America focuses on the social goals of inclusivity and equality of outcome, so a student might excel at school and never master the basics.In contrast, the Indian National Curriculum for Basic Education shows a different focus.

    • languages,
    • mathematics,
    • natural sciences,
    • social sciences,
    • technology,
    • commerce,
    • the arts, and
    • physical education

The Indian agenda is also about inclusive social bonding, but it is contained under the traditional curriculum topics. A country with many languages, races, religions, and long-standing biases for caste and gender uses “language” skills to include people in the larger community. Indian policy focuses on useful basic skills. For example, good engineers bring national income from abroad.

No national curriculum exists for the United States. The US Department of Education sets standards like No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Funding is predicated on these standards. These standards must be quantifiable to allocate funds, so they are set for achievement tests at every grade level.The homeschooling parent cannot duplicate the social ideology of public school. That is the bad news. The good news is if you teach the basic skills required for a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), math, language arts, social studies, and science, your child will graduate secondary school. If you also teach languages, more math, natural sciences, social sciences, technology, commerce, the arts, and physical education, your child will be competitive in the job market with someone from Mumbai.

 

1The Colorado Department of Education internet site under “Colorado Essential Skills”

Some Reasons Why People Won’t Home School

Public school distance learning seemed unplanned and chaotic to most parents in 2020. Some district Internet application, or K12 Internet School, became the classroom in the house. Homeschool could go viral in 2021 with all that learning at home, but it probably won’t.

Here are some reasons why:

Socialization

Parents say, “If I schooled my children at home, they would lose social skills. They need to learn to get along with others. Teachers will prepare them to deal with employers. I want them to get the right socialization.”

The teacher’s authority and classroom regimentation start in kindergarten or elementary school. This socialization institutionalizes students over the years. Methods for preparing kids for future employers changed little since most jobs were in factories. Schools continue an old-fashioned regimented authoritarianism not found in good jobs now. Parents who push children toward socialization should remember school better.

Income

Parents say, “We have to work. We cannot afford to give up one income to stay at home with the children.”

Most homeschool families provide at least one adult to teach the children. Unlike socialization, the need for two incomes and workday child care shifts family priorities away from education. Income and child care come first. These priorities also challenge single parents. Working from home allows parents to work and to homeschool, often with available child care covering time for critical calls and meetings. Parents who must work outside the home should consider a tutor. One decent income can hire a workday tutor. Not a Mary Poppins Governess, but a college or exchange student as the nanny. The cost is not much more than day school. Many middle class families afford this today.

Can a family be too poor to homeschool? If income assistance or government aid is involved, then yes. Authorities force humble, single-parent families to use the public school and government subsidized day care. Promoted as benefits, like government income or health insurance, school care ties the family to the system. To reject this help risks social services calling or visiting. Even still, all is not lost. Parents in this system can work with the school to use K12 and stay home with the kids. This prevents the total loss of parental influence that comes with children raised by the schools, by television and by their peers. Opportunities for supplemental homeschool appear over time.

Legality

Parents say, “Is this even legal? I’m not sure where to begin.”

Government school is the rule. The modern homeschool movement took off in the 1950s and 1960s. Advocacy groups like the Amish and other Christian organizations worked hard to decriminalize school-at-home in all 50 states. Homeschool parents must still adhere to local guidelines, but homeschool is legal. Hundreds of organizations across the country, and on the Internet, can guide the parents through local regulation.1

Those who decide to school at home soon find that the standards are manageable. Attendance is not policed and the rudimentary content standards are easily met. Parents complete paperwork periodically and students demonstrate competence in required certification testing. Even SAT and ACT testing for colleges allow a GED rather than local school certification. Remember, the certifying organizations are in competition with the homeschool. Schools lose money, both federal and state, when a child is not within the walls of a school, so administrators are never reliable helpers.

Time and Work Conflicts

The parent says, “I do not have time to teach my children and keep my job.”

This might be right. The single mother in Oakland who is working at two jobs to keep a roof and day care in her family’s life is not available to teach the child at homeschool. She cannot hope to do more than supplement the free government school. Similarly, the two-income middle class family probably does not have time to be with the child either.

This might be wrong. The basic skills of reading and writing require a commitment of time, but once the basics are mastered, who can say what the length of the school day should be? Isn’t learning to bake a cake an exercise in practical chemistry and household mathematics? No better way to learn some science and math. Unschool or Open School2 parents insist that regimented school hours and curriculum tasks retard learning. Maybe your parental quality time is actually school.

Selfishness

Parents say, “Spending that time educating my child will impact my personal development. Not being seen in the office will hurt my career.”

Many cannot imagine an uncompensated obligation. This speaks more to the quality of the parent and the moral center of the adult than to the issue of homeschooling.

Homeschool families make the education of the children a priority. More Christian families probably prioritize family and education. It is not so great a sacrifice after all, but in the secular world some adults can not understand personal sacrifice.

School Resources

Parents say, “I want my kids to be in band, be a cheerleader, or on the football team. Schools have libraries, bands, athletic facilities and team activities.”

The 2020 distance learning stopped most extracurricular activities. When these activities become available again, homeschool parents still can use the school facilities. Public means access to public facilities. Homeschool families participated in school events in the past. Many localities also mandate that schools open programs to home school students who need public libraries, art museums, golf, soccer, or other available activities. Community programs or church programs serve the homeschool. This requires a 2021 reopening of activities, of course, but it is not about homeschool.

Social Lifestyle

Secular parents say, “We don’t want the religious orientation provided by Christian publishers any more than we

The Dream of the First Internet
“Gutenburg Press” by Killfile

want the social agenda of the public school. The available homeschool curricula, organizations, and materials will not work for my family.”

 

The modern home schooling movement was driven by the Christian families who wished to remove their children from what they saw as the most pernicious influences of popular culture and the government school secular bias. These families have the most proven curriculum materials. More recently, the Muslim3 and Jewish4 communities have also entered into developing curriculum for their followers just like the Christian families. Even secular families no longer are out in the cold5.

Of course any family can design something closely suited to their own goals. The Internet changes everything. Gutenberg6 and The Internet Archive7 alone contain more free material than existed on Earth in all the great universities and libraries at one point in history. A family can offer a secular curriculum easily. The Enlightenment happened and documented itself. This requires more work from the parent-teacher, but is simple. Secular families should be encouraged to look into Unschooling8 where the life of the family replaces the curriculum itself.

Teaching Qualification

Parents insist, “I’m not qualified to teach. Even if I teach the basics like reading, writing, or household arithmetic, what about science, algebra, or chemistry. What will my kids do for advanced study?”

The schools struggle with skills training, so any focused effort on the basics exceeds what the kids get in school. This is why the ranks of National Spelling Champions are nearly monopolized by homeschooled scholars. Similarly, few certified public school teachers mastered advanced mathematics. People who mastered math probably got a high paying job with a tech company. Most certified teachers get their advanced subject skills out of the Teachers Edition of the textbook. Parents can buy those books online and be as competent as most public school STEM teachers. Every course at MIT9 is online for free. Beyond the basics, on-line classes, tutors, and learning swapping groups are available.

Certification

homeschool graduation
Homeschool Graduation 2011 – Jim the Photographer

Parents say, “I think parents must be certified to teach at home. And how does my child get a high school diploma to get work or get into college anyway without one?”

Home teachers need no certificate. Some schools would like parent certification to be law. It is not. The teacher’s unions in some urban areas would like the homeschool parent to be both certified and paying dues. Homeschool learning does not require it. The industrial profession of teaching requires teacher certification. No parent needs it.

Terminal certification is a different challenge. The government empowers schools to certify when a child has completed each level of schooling. A high school diploma is an authority document. Employers and Human Resource Managers still need the degrees. Nevertheless, long-standing alternatives exist. General Educational Development (GED) works as well as high school diploma. It carries the same social authority as a diploma from East Lancing High or any public school for that matter.

Empowerment

People still say, “Is schooling at home an option?”

Many parents do not feel empowered to teach, but they are teaching. Parents begin to teach at delivery. The child learns to recognize people, understand language, learns to speak, to walk, to meander through the complexities of the family, and then, the outside world, all with the help of the parents. Children are learners by nature. Parents teach. Teaching children the basic skills of reading, writing, and math just comes sometime after learning to walk. Not all teaching has unicorns carrying bunnies of course. You begin with diapers and end up with teenagers, but that is the project. Becoming a parent empowered you to teach your children. Every reason not to is just another excuse.

Web References:

Click the link below or the reference number in the text to see the site.

1. Homeschool.com is a good place to start. Twenty years experience means they have seen almost everything. 

2. Open School is a novel idea for most Americans. 

3. Our Muslim Homeschool 

4. Our Jewish Homeschool BLOG:

5. Calvert Homeschool has a secular track:

6. Welcome to Project Gutenberg:

7. Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

8. The Family Unschoolers Network:

9. MITOpenCourseware from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

The Failure of Factory Education

People believed that education failed to teach basic skills to students before COVID-19. People after lock down believe that public school distance education is a sham. Neither matters. The failure of factory education is real, but it is not about learning or quality. Learning and quality are distractions from the issue of schooling. The public belief in a systemic failure of schools began with the abysmal assessment by Rudolph Flesch in 1955, Why Johnny Can’t Read – And What You Can Do About It . The idea that schools fail students stuck and remains fresh. National Review published “Why Johnny Still Can’t Read” by Baker A. Mitchell Jr. on October 10, 2020. The article focused again on quality of education. The topic is evergreen, but still not relevant. Public education is doing very well in the United States. You just need to measure the right thing.

Educators like reform because reform implies that the current education system can be improved tactically. Educators intentionally conflate learning with education. People learn. For example, about 80% of students learn to read well using any educational method, as shown by Russ Walsh1 so long as they are exposed to reading. Given opportunity and motivation, people can learn almost anything. Education is different. Education begins with ideas, with curriculum, and intends to insert these ideas and facts into students. Learning basic skills is often incidental.

According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, public perception has been stable for many decades. Stable, but not good. The 2017 result of 36% public confidence in educational quality could not elect a dogcatcher. It does not have to elect anyone. The survey results would kill most commercial products. Stores can’t sell milk at 36% consumer confidence. Nobody buys a car with 36% confidence in its quality.

The education industry works on what is important: to increase budgets, to implement changes, to redesign the testing process, and make revisions to curriculum.  Education and reform progresses decade after decade, budget after budget, regardless of the public opinion of quality.

The education establishment knows that children are the product. No matter how people feel about schooling, the vast majority of residents send their children to one public school or another private school for as long as the children will attend. Parents in every social stratum expose children to educational institutions. They did before 1955. They do today.

Public opinion of the educational system is declining, according to the media, but not according to polls of the public. Media coverage of education is skeptical on the editorial page, but it lists school closings prominently during bad weather.

Educators and politicians find the idea of a broken education system useful to squeeze the public bankroll. Public demand for better quality gets teachers hired, gets higher pay, and gets public support for increased funding of the industry. This industry employs “3.2 million full-time-equivalent teachers, according to federal projections  for the fall of 2020,” and “90,850 public school principals in the U.S., according to 2017-18 numbers from NCES .” And it gives jobs to school bus drivers, mechanics, and millions of other workers, some in school bus factories.

 The system puts 27,000 yellow buses on the roads twice a day, five days a week in every nook and cranny of America. That is not evidence of a broken system. Millions of families participate. Millions. These people are not confronted with a failed system. Ask anyone to ride a bus in Los Angeles. Millions don’t. That’s a failed system.

Educators support the current system because it works for them. People come out of the educational factory and staff jobs. Other people come out and populate jails. Everything works. Prisons need illiterate criminals as much as Microsoft needs social media analysts. Bodies through the system are the only product.

The President of the United States made opening schools a priority issue in 2021 despite the reality that teachers generally felt safer working from home during the pandemic. The quality of teaching changed little. Distance programs provided the students with remote classrooms. Lessons proceeded. Teachers appeared. Teachers taught. Seniors graduated in the spring. Social services continued as before. For most anyway. Why the urgency for a return to brick and mortar schooling? Education was broken in 2020. The factory closed. No product moved down the assembly line. The “butts in seats” education requires school bus drivers getting up before dawn. It requires factory attendance. The virtual education factory is no factory, so the people who benefit most from the brick-and-mortar education system will resist change. Educators today are like small shop owners looking at a Walmart opening across the street. 

School does not need to be a factory in 2021. If the  focus on making the virtual school better became fashionable, it could align with all the other changes in the Internet Age. This shutdown could be the opportunity to upgrade broadband, give access to poor neighborhoods and rural areas, provide resources to families, and improve learning quality. All that modernization of public infrastructure would bring additional benefits to all parts of the country, the way the Interstate Highway System improved commerce and vacations.

What would America be like without the familiar school on the corner? Maybe factory education follows big newspapers, typesetter unions, stenographers and the corner grocery into Internet Heaven. Maybe it will follow the yellow school bus into history.

 

Gallup: Confidence in Public Schools Rallies

The Washington Post in 2018 Says Our Schools Have Not Failed

2018-2019 Annual Public Education Perception Poll

Why Schools Graduate Students Who Can’t Read

Wikipedia.org/ Why Johnny Can’t Read

The System’s Point-of-View

Rudolph Flesch and The Elephant in the Room

1 By Russ Walsh | Original article on Russ on Reading | Russ Walsh is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child | Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble | Twitter: @ruswalsh

idea

In Search of the Victorian Education

Why Can’t Education Change?


Queen Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1837 and reigned continually until her death in 1901. The UK was the preeminent Colonial Super Power when she came to power, although that term was not used. Spain and Portugal lost their colonies in the New World. The Holy Roman Empire gone. Russia emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as a great empire but was not a global competitor with the UK. France, changed by the Revolution, lost the Napoleonic Empire, and the United States ended at the Mississippi River.

Wealthy British children in 1837 were educated at home by governesses until about age 10 when the boys went off to Public Schools like The Rugby School, The Harrow School, or The Perse School and girls continued education at home. Poor British children grew without formal education and most could not read or write. In 1870 a law passed for compulsory education of all children 5 to 10 years old. As most poor children worked, this put a great strain on many British families to maintain even a subsistence living. Nevertheless, the push was to end child labor, not necessarily to provide education. This movement spread like Abolition and proved as irresistible.

The United States education was different in 1837. The large number of religious dissenters who settled in the colonies influenced education. After the Reformation that began in 1524 Martin Luther called for mandatory education laws in Europe to ensure that more Christians could read the Bible. Massachusetts passed a compulsory education law in 1647. Unlike their British peers, most American children learned to read from the Bible at an early age.

Spread of Compulsory Education

Compulsory education spread across Europe and by the 1830s most countries were using the Prussian Model of education. The Prussian Model of Gottlieb Fichte provided hierarchical education for commoners, guided by those who determined the needs of society. Called “Prussian” because it was supported by the Emperor. His army’s defeat in 1808 at the hands of Napoleon seemed to come from too much individuality in the army. He proactively sought a solution.

The Prussian Educational System consisted of tiers. All education would be free for eight years. During that time, elite pupils would be elected to continue their educations at a secondary level and would be trained to think, control, educate, and rule the country in their adulthoods. The rest of the students, the 99%, would, during that same eight year education, be trained well enough to subserviently work in the lower sectors of industry, agriculture, and the military.” (From Weebly.com. See the reference below.)

Prussian Model of Education
The Prussians Set the Bar

The British compulsory education act curbed child labor, but Americans, particularly American industrialists saw the benefits of the Prussian Method and led the way in education. Massachusetts expanded the compulsory education law in 1852 to require every city and town to offer primary school, focusing on grammar and arithmetic. The secular philosophy prevailed. The state fined parents who refused to send their children to school. Egregious cases required the state to strip parental rights. The children taken from a bad environment were apprenticed to other families to be schooled.

By the 1850s most places continued to provide education through private schools and through churches. The Common Schooling Movement of Horace Mann took hold as communities tried to curb the influence of parochial schools on the immigrant children coming from Catholic countries. This moved the emphasis from church and private schools to secular public schools.

Compulsory Education Law

Compulsory education is the still the law. Exemptions exist for homeschooling and the Amish, but every state requires that the homeschoolers follow specific regulations. Ironically, the most pressure for home schooling now comes from Christian dissenters who are not happy with the results of government common school where it is unlikely children are exposed to the Bible. Private schools must also comply with education law. In every sense public school, common school, and compulsory school is government school. What was just a vision for European, British, and American reformers at the start of Queen Victoria’s Reign, is now an accepted right of the state, the law of the land.

The vision realized, now public schools take responsibility not just for compulsory attendance to limit child labor, but following in the early Massachusetts model, they aggressively take responsibility for the welfare of the child, often protecting the child from the family. Today Social Services and Foster Care provide this government intervention, but the philosophy of enforcing the government’s rights over children remains the same as it began in Massachusetts 168 years ago. During the strictest COVID-19 lock-down in 2020 when public schools provided no classroom education, they still provided meals and health care to students. When all education stopped, or went online, the schools still provided social services. Public schools may not create good industrial workers anymore, but the central mission is unchanged. Compulsion. Control. Schools delivers social welfare. It really does take a village to provide public education in America.

Online Resources:

The Prussian Model

Compulsory Education Law

Victora

Historic Maps 1837 

Victorian Children

Early British Public Schools

 

Teaching Yourself and Your Own Children

We make choices for children to further some unstated goal. We live in the best place we can afford to live. We make choices about neighborhood safety. We try to sort out bad influences. We control the content of social media and entertainment. We monitor online activities to protect kids from predators and the wild impulses of their peers. We try to live a life by example. We teach them our values. We make choices. Schooling choice, for example. People know the neighborhood schools before buying a house. Knowing where the neighborhood school sits is not the same as knowing that it is the right choice for your kids.

The next step is knowing what certifications the children will need. Public schools provide a standard set of certificates, maps of progress K-12, records of periodic proficiency test scores, aptitude test scores and graduation certification. Human Resource Administrators use these to evaluate job candidates. Post-secondary schools use the transcripts for admissions. These certifications are the most common reason people who cannot afford private school choose the neighborhood school. Private schools provide all this and allure, that is, an aura of merit for the students who go private. So you found the house. Now the choice is can I map out the necessary certification and learning for my child? Can I afford private school? Or do I schedule a visit to the admissions officer at the local public school.

private school child

Believe it or not, the answers to those questions will be driven by your core values. NPR progressive values, traditional conservative values, Christian, Islamic or secular values all require different learning paths. Any values can be wedged into any choice in the child’s preparation for a career at a company, working for the government, working at the local garage, or in an insurance agency. All schools bring baggage. Life at school becomes more productive when the school shares the family’s values. If your values are preeminent, then teaching yourself and your own children falls into the same bucket as the good neighborhood. People who are motivated by creed might find common public education resistant, since a part of public school is inculcation of a specific ideology. People who are more secular may not care what the school injects. Those who chose private schools probably chose specifically for this socialization. Government common schools and public education make life difficult for families who do not share their values, so these are well advised to homeschool, or find a strong alternative suitable to their core values, like Hebrew Day School for religious Jewish parents.

I’m sure you get the point. Most parents use their education as a guideline for their children. If a parent is content with his or her education, choices are easy. If the experience was unhappy, new things are attractive. For example, the adult with means who attended private boarding school will try to send the child to the same or similar school. The parent who attended public school or Catholic School, will probably send the child to a similar school. Unfortunately, many parents make the wrong choice. They sent the kids to private schools that will move the kids into a different class than the family. Or they choose the neighborhood school because they need the “school-care” provided, and they are surprised by the continual friction against their own beliefs.

This brings up social status. The choice of schooling, private, public, or home, has implications in the stability or mobility of the family and the child in relation to the family. Income goals and social status are decided here. Do you want your kids to have what you have? Something better? Something different? Surprisingly few parents look honestly at this issue. A poor child with the right advanced degree can rise to any level in society. A rich kid may just coast and never have a reason to get good at anything. A smart kid, or an independent kid, can be permanently stunted in a public school.

Academic certification is the key to social mobility not wealth.

Many entrepreneurs got an education, but did not bother with academic certification. As Bunker Hunt, the billionaire oil tycoon said at a business seminar at University of Texas, “I dropped out of college because I didn’t want to work for someone else. Doctors, lawyers, and business executives all work for someone else. They needed college to get that job. I didn’t.” Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and many more have the same story. It works for the smart, independent kid, but is not for everyone.

Those who want to work for themselves require education, not certification. As Elon Musk says every so often, you can learn almost anything on the internet. You don’t need a degree for that. The people who work for him need degrees. He didn’t. This is true for all but the richest 1% who are not reading this anyway. 

Teaching yourself and your own children is simple once the difference between education and certification is understood. The choices between institutional learning and education are obvious. If you want your child to be President, then you have a set of tasks to get the right certifications. If that child is destined to be an organic farmer or eCommerce shop owner, then just educate.

Free To Learn

“After a child has arrived at the legal age for attending school, whether he be the child of noble or of peasant, the only two absolute grounds of exemption are sickness and death.” -Horace Mann


 

  • Most teachers  trained for teaching, not distance learning.
  • Most broadband infrastructure gets a solid “D”
  • Many parents want “school care” while they work
  • Teachers want classroom privacy
  • Distance public school is not home school

What We Learned About Home Schooling From COVID-19


Primary school in the early 1800s remained a local and private process. Families arranged the primary education through a local church or by subscription in a community. Washington Irving’s image of Ichabod Crane tottering into town on his poor horse reflected the reality of colonial America.

The public school movement in Massachusetts in 1837 was in opposition to the rise of parochial schools to educate poor Irish and German immigrant children pouring into the country.

Horace Mann, along with Henry Barnard and Catherine Beecher, gets credit for the common school movement in response to the “school wars” of the period.

Mann clearly believed that young savages could be educated into republican citizens. He said, “Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have of the latter, so many more must you have of the former.”

Public school steadily became compulsory until by 1900 Abraham Lincoln’s education of “bits and pieces”, his informal classical education could not exist legally in any home. Homeschooling gradually returned, but all fifty states only allowed homeschooling again in 1993, and then under strict state legal constraints.

Usher in the plague of 2020.

Teachers died and schools emptied until distance education was the new normal. Education Week said that by early May 2020, 80 percent of teachers reported that they interacted with the majority of their students remotely. Nearly two centuries of the Common School Movement ended with a bang.

Public and private schools displayed glittering unpreparedness. School in some places became giant staff meetings with teachers staring for hours into little Zoom windows of student faces, lecturing, holding up pieces of paper to the laptop camera, and sending off emails.

Even this electronic Common School covered only a fraction of the “savages” who had been in classrooms before the holidays in 2019.

The lucky students had broadband Internet in their homes. They watched their teachers in privacy. The home broadband allowed them to ask questions in real time, and submit material either on the schools platform or with email.

The rest, those in small apartments, or whose parents needed to use the computer to work, or whose parents were “essential workers” and could not watch them, it was much less education than even the staff meeting model. Many seniors graduated in the spring of 2020 without the school having any idea whether they had jumped through the common hoops.

True, some school districts provided distance education to students through programs like K-12 that the districts had been using for marginal and troubled students. These schools expanded the distance enrollment, added existing teachers as instructors, provided laptops to those families without home resources, and even sometimes installed Internet into student’s homes.

Most schools also continued the food and counseling programs on-site for disadvantaged students who were dependent on the nutrition programs. The problem was that the alternative programs originally charged additional fees for providing services. The common school adaptation of their resources were a substantial drain on district funds.

Most teachers who trained to teach in the classroom were unprepared for the remote classroom. Teaching distance classes challenged the eyes and the imagination. Besides, what happened to the value of socialization at school. The ghost of Horace Mann stood in the audience in mute horror.

Despite calls to restart schools and most schools complying in fits and starts, 2021 is apt to continue the process of remote learning. The near-monopoly on common education is gone, so what we learned about home schooling from COVID-19 going into the second year of the pandemic and intermittent school lock-downs?

A few things:

    • Educators remain unprepared and under-trained for distance learning. Some Silicon Valley companies, like Oracle and Cisco, train staff extensively across the world on-line. The certification processes work in transferring complex knowledge to diverse populations; however, these classes automated applications. Public School Teachers never conceived of delivering education like that. That is, without them involved.
    • The infrastructure in most communities stands woefully inadequate to deliver distance learning into any home where a student lives. Ramping up the infrastructure of broadband, particularly to rural communities is a national project costing billions of dollars and for what? To replace the government schools and political educators with online applications?
    • Schooling in the home requires a proctor to supervise the child. Multiple job families provide no proctor for the child, and may need the computer and Internet resources for work.Continued home classroom requirements could require rethinking the entire two income economy. The school as babysitter and nutrition center is almost as durable a feature of common schools as the yellow school bus.
    • Moreover, parents often chose public or private school over homeschooling because of the school and the teacher. To force parents to receive distance education from the school district, joins the unwilling with the unqualified. Again, the Oracle University model works, but present home school providers own best existing course-ware. Few public schools would be comfortable giving up their own curriculum.
    • This applies to teachers too. Parents are often not welcome in the home classroom. Teachers find outsiders hard to deal with and believe that the home environment can have a chilling effect of open discourse. This may be ideological, but it may just be that nobody likes to work with strangers looking over their shoulder.
    • The existing homeschooling parents went through the lock downs barely missing a beat. Those children are at least a year ahead of their common school neighbors. Reports of others filling their ranks during 2020 are unconfirmed, but likely. They may have been living on the cutting edge of the future of American education.

 

What We Learned About Home Schooling From COVID-19?

Can the obvious problems of teacher training, home infrastructure and family resources come up to speed? This conflicts with the mission of every government school.

Can a project the scope of this be implemented? Urban and rural? Affluent and poor? Across parties and political boundaries? Or will local governments just override the health concerns of teacher unions and parents and open up the schools anyway? After all, the “classroom to job or prison” model is deeply entrenched.

Who is going to drive those yellow buses into the next century? The public education sector employs millions. Powerful forces oppose this change.

What We Learned About Home Schooling From COVID-19? We learned that the venerated old institution of common schools must change. We learned also that the public sector has no ideas how to change it.