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.
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 intoany choice in the child’s preparation for a career at a company, working for thegovernment, 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 childrenfalls 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 statusare decided here. Do you want your kids to have what you have? Something better? Something different? Surprisingly few parents look honestly at thisissue. 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.
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.
Now that officials say it is critical that people “follow the science,” we should reflect a moment on what that might mean. Does it mean to rely on the authority of doctors and scientists to give us the truth, or does it mean to respect the process of the scientific method?
What is the Scientific Method?
This method must include making an observation, making an inquiry, stating an hypothesis, forming a testable prediction, testing the hypothesis, then using the results to verify the hypothesis. Failing verification, a new testable hypothesis must be put forward and each of the steps repeated until adequate verification is achieved. Finally, publishing the results and having the results peer reviewed must follow. The scientific method proved itself more reliable over the centuries in finding the truth than reliance on authority.
The Many Legs On a Fly
Aristotle is sometimes called the Father of the Scientific Method. He was not. Aristotle made many contributions to knowledge, but he did insist that flies have four legs. On that authority natural history texts reported four legs on a fly for a thousand years. Aristotle said it. It was true. Much of the darkness in the Dark Ages came from such authority determined truth. Aristotle was a central authority for the Church, but a poor father for the scientific method. He might more honestly be called the father of the observational method. Observation is the critical first step in the scientific method.
The intervention of Church authority into natural science locked knowledge in place for a millennium. The mistakes of flies’ legs would have been resolved instantly if any form of scientific investigation was possible. It was not and scientific investigation stopped in the West until the 14th Century. Even then, it was tainted with heresy and accusations of wizardry.
Through the Ptolemaic Dynasty and the Roman Empire, the Islamic scholars continued to expand upon Greek science and mathematics. Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, known as Alhazan was born in the 10th Century and made the next major contribution to the scientific method. Alhazan developed a robust experimental method for deciding what worked and what did not. He began with the knowledge of the Greeks like Euclid and Archimedes. He enhanced this learning experimentally to develop complex systems and many inventions. The Mongols eventually stopped the advance of Islamic learning. Most of the ancient knowledge was lost soon enough and the Islamic world became engrossed in mathematical puzzles. Beautiful architecture resulted, but the Islamic experimental techniques and the Greek observational approach only slowly leaked into Europe over the next centuries.
The Franciscan monk, Roger Bacon, benefited in the 13th Century from both the Classical observational methods and experimental techniques developed in Islamic schools. Roger Bacon introduced the next component of scientific method, empiricism. Empiricism is the idea that knowledge comes primarily from the senses. Roger Bacon developed a model of experimental science based on his study of optics. His techniques were used by others to extend experimental science to include new medicines and health care of the body. Most of the steps of the scientific method were in place at this point.
Missing still was some method to verify a testable hypothesis. Francis Bacon developed and popularized inductive reasoning. This is often known as bottom up reasoning where details are synthesized to form a general conclusion. Induction combined observations with experimental results to come to a conclusion.
Rene Descartes took another path with top down analysis using general facts and deriving specific details from them. Most people are very familiar with the science of deduction from Sherlock Holmes. Crime fiction where detectives use observed facts to solve crimes is very satisfying; however, Sherlock does not purely demonstrate deduction. He used a sophisticated combination of induction and deduction to solve crimes. In this, he is more like Sir Isaac Newton.
Isaac Newton practiced this “Holmsian” synthesis of inductive and deductive reasoning. He is the father of the scientific method. He moved systematically from induction to deduction and back in his proofs. He also left clear experimental records that set the standard for documentation of experiments to the present.
Cloud computing and quantum computing mark the next step in scientific proof. These technologies allow many hypotheses to be tested at once, sometimes in parallel. This parallel and iterative investigation allows an accelerated proof of an hypothesis or of many hypotheses. The development of the COVID-19 vaccines in months, rather than years, is a demonstration of these new methods in action. It is probably still the traditional scientific method, but the quantity of data and the complexity of the proofs make it difficult to verify. These advances, particularly in genetics, biochemistry, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics are believed by some to be something new in scientific inquiry and proof. A new method.
Computing logic is beyond our concern here. Teaching logical analysis and the scientific method to young people is more critical than ever. With these skills, they can rationally examine the world around them.
How to Teach the Scientific Method at Home
The best method for teaching the scientific method in the homeschool, whether or not the family is using a curriculum package, is to create a Perpetual Science Fair. This is a simple. The student keeps accurate records of observations in notes during regular classes. These observations become material for the fun part of science. Experiments. Experimentation is the opportunity to learn the basic reasoning involved in the scientific method. The Perpetual Science Fair should proceed logically.
The student should:
Make observations about something in the current lesson. Use inductive reasoning to come up with a hypothesis that seems to answer the question.
Think about how to test the hypothesis using an “if – then” sentence.
Design the experiment to test the hypothesis by deciding what to measure and how often to take measurements.
Create two groups in the experiment. One group as a control group where conditions will be maintained as close as possible to the original configuration. The second group is the experiment has variables to be modified to examine the accuracy of the hypothesis.
Set up the experiment to control all the variables except the one being tested.
Make the planned measurements and record the qualitative, descriptive data, (color, health, and happiness, usually presented in paragraphs or tables), and quantitative data (numerical data, like height, weight, and number of items that showed a change, analyzed with statistics and presented in graphs in a notebook.) Date all observations.
Analyze the data showing the differences between the control data and experimental data.
Use deductive reasoning to decide whether the results support or reject the original hypothesis. Research whether your findings are supported by others. The Internet is a good source for peer information.
Report the results, explaining the original ideas and how the experiments were conducted, then describe the conclusions.
Unexpected Benefits from this Approach
The process of the Perpetual Science Fair in the homeschool can teach more than simply the scientific method in the hard sciences like biology, chemistry, geology, and physics.
The process can also demonstrate the questionable use of scientific method in the soft sciences. Soft sciences are those disciplines that refer to themselves as science like Sociology, Psychology, and Environmentalism, but lack a strong empirical foundation. Trying to build experiments in these subjects can demonstrate the problems with providing testable hypotheses and replicating experiments. Much of the peer-reviewed proof in these fields comes from statistical analysis and data science, so a growing familiarity with the protean nature of data is a benefit.
Pursuing this approach in other classes can demonstrate that the scientific method has no value in non-scientific inquiry in fields like Politics, Statistics, Communications and Marketing. Political experts often use “science” as a slight-of-hand distraction to hide the flawed results of their findings. They say to trust them because, like Firesign Theatre, they “have a degree in Science.”
Over time, the student can learn to apply the scientific method in scientific subjects, and learn how the method cannot work in non-scientific subjects. “Trust but verify” to avoid tom-foolery.
Math is hard. This is half lie, half confession, and half true. This is no mathematical statement. Everything new is hard. Math for children, for young students, and for students approaching adulthood should come organically with life. Math for adults should be the necessary skill for the task at hand. Math for the homeschool teacher will be hard too. Parents should not just hand the math off to some online guru. The teacher should grasp anything the homeschooler masters.
Math is hard in itself.
Math is a group of languages. Math languages are logical, artificial languages and not natural languages. Artificial and unnatural, math describes only some things in the world. Different cultures needed to describe different things. Romans did not need a zero. Astronomers in Mesopotamia did. “Zero not only represents nothing but it also represents the starting point of anything” said Brahmagupta.
The most confusing part of math is the incoherent relationship among various approaches that describe the same phenomenon, or solve the same problem. Take addition and multiplication. Romans added with cross-hatches. It served the empire well for centuries. Multiplication enhanced addition in Babylon where the merchants had large and complex calculations pre-solved on clay tablets. Just because each method solves the same problem does not require them to remain logically coherent. Common arithmetic is incoherent across the logical boundaries. This is why each type of math starts by learning rules. Addition and multiplication, for example, have logical gaps. After all, is not 3+3+3 the same as 3×3 ?
Many math jokes come from the illogical boundaries. Most people have heard the old riddle: “Three people check into a hotel. The clerk tells them that the bill for their stay is $30, so each person pays the clerk $10. The clerk puts the money in the cash register.”
“Later that night, the clerk realizes that she made a mistake and should have only charged the three guests $25. She takes five one dollar bills from the register and tells the assistant to return the money to the guests.”
“On the way to the rooms, the assistant realizes that she cannot split the money evenly among the three people. As the guests don’t know that they were charged the incorrect amounts for their rooms, she decides to simply give them each $1 and pocket the extra $2 as a tip. Each guest gets $1 back, so each paid $9 for their room, ($9 X 3 equals $27). The bellhop kept $2, and $27 + $2 = $29.”
“But the guests originally handed over $30. What happened to the missing dollar?”
The answer is that there is no “missing dollar.” It is an informal fallacy caused by jumping from addition to multiplication at the wrong time and breaking the logical boundary. The different math languages, addition and multiplication,were not developed at the same time by the same people. They have different rules for consistency.
Addition was first used extensively by the Chinese almost 6,000 years ago, so it is safe to say the Chinese invented addition.1The ancient Babylonians were probably the first culture to create multiplication tables, more than 4,000 years ago.2
Multiplication was a way for merchants to do complex additions quickly by looking at the multiplication calculations on clay tablets, multiplication tables. Today most people get to the same result either by addition or multiplication; however, each method has firm rules. These rules were violated in the joke, so the result seems to reveal a magical dollar. The method of calculating the total is simply flawed. In the end there is still $25 in the register, $3 returned by the desk clerk, and $2 appropriated by the assistant. 25+3+2=30. Right? Addition. Begin there, end there.
Math is not all just fun. Math has natural uses as a tool. Most tasks can use math. This is just common sense. All jobs involve math. Any person that handles money should instantly see through the problem above and solve it by saying in the end that there is still $25 in the register, $3 with the guests, and $2 with the assistant. $30.
The target is math fluency.
How, then, do you teach math in the homeschool. What sequence should math be taught? What if the homeschool teacher is not a math nerd? Schools usually teach math from simple calculation to increasing complexity. The assumption that the ability to solve more complex problems comes with each math is pretty good, but it need not be the rule at your school. Nothing says that geometry should not come when the student is ready for carpentry, or precision drawing. The homeschool should teach appropriate math when an immediate utility can be seen by the student. Math does not have to be a bleak and dreary time of the day. In the homeschool math can arrive as it becomes organically necessary. Walk, talk, read, write, learn numbers and then counting. Gradually. Then adding things together. Then taking things away. Then dividing things and multiplying them. Eventually, the Mandelbrot sets.
Older students can master household math. Cooking is great to begin the task of learning fractions. At this time various units of measure can also be introduced.
Household accounting with budgets and banking introduces decimals and set theory as soon as the child can learn about money. Mortgages and interest can introduce more complex math through ideas like compound interest.
Geometry is good for crafts and projects, carpentry and landscaping. Any good carpenter must understand angles and lengths. Every math involves memorizing rules. Euclid is difficult for some because all the rules are learned at once and an understanding of each application is not introduced as an example. Memorization is nowhere more important than geometry. Once the rules are mastered, all future woodworking projects are understood, can be planned, designed and completed.
Every science class is an opportunity for another set of advanced math tools. Each of the sciences requires understanding specific advanced mathematical languages. Trigonometry is vital in the earth sciences and in video games. Something as simple as planning the drainage in the back yard is a trigonometric opportunity.
Chemistry allows an understanding of all the middle and advanced mathematical languages, and so on.
A good home study course would begin with the foundational math from the basic arithmetic, fractions, percentages to equations, functions and graphs. The full homeschool course would include relative fluency with algebra, geometry, trigonometry, through differentiation, integration and vectors. In the end it should have included complex numbers and matrices. All this can be had from the thousands of sites on the Internet or through any number of very fine homeschool math packages.
The logical calculus is not taught early enough in the US. Typically, public school requirements for math studies may not even include the courses of study above, but if they do, they usually end with precalculus. Homeschool teachers should set the goal beyond this to be competitive with schools that provide most of the technical staffing in the us. The classes usually labeled AP Calculus.
If you begin to teach math at home, a good target is functional mastery of the fundamentals tested in the college placement exams for better schools. The sequence of learning and the context for teaching do not matter. The checklist of material students need to pass the college placement tests are, according to Derek Owens:3
The problems that Calculus solves, introduction to derivatives, finding rates of change from graphs, from equations, and from data, Numerical derivatives, Introduction to Integrals, Approximating integrals from graphs, from equations and from data, the Trapezoid Rule
A graphical approach to limits, Describing function behavior with limits, Asymptotes, Rational Functions, Polynomial end behavior, The Limit Theorems, Evaluating limits, Continuity, The Intermediate Value Theorem
A graphical look at derivatives, Difference Quotients, the Derived Function, Notation, Numerical calculations of derivatives, Tangents and Linear Approximation, Differentiability and Continuity, the Chain Rule, the Product Rule, the Quotient Rule, Leibniz’ Proofs, Derivatives of Trig Functions, Implicit Differentation, Derivatives of Inverse Functions, Derivatives of Inverse Trig Functions
The Extreme Value Theorem, Rolle’s Theorem and the Mean Value Theorem, First and Second Derivatives, Concavity and Inflection Points, Graphs and Curve Sketching, The Calculus of Motion, Max-Min problems, Related Rates, Practice
Antiderivatives, Integrals, Infinitesimals, Riemann Sums, Definite Integrals, The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, Properties of Definite Integrals, Numerical Methods, Integration by Substitution, Average Value
Derivatives of exponential functions, Derivatives of logarithmic functions, Derivatives and integrals of base b exponents, Integrals with variable limits, Logarithmic Differentiation, Integrals of trig functions, Intro to Differential Equations, Examples and applications, Slope Fields, Euler’s Identity
The area of a plane region, The Calculus of Motion, Real world applications, Integrating to find volumes, Plane Slicing, Solids of Revolution, Cylindrical Shells
Cover these areas before matriculation and the periodic achievement tests required for your homeschool will not trouble you or your student. Most homeschool parents are not fluent themselves in the components of pre-calculus and calculus. Look for getting help on any bullet in the list that seems a mystery. This is essential for getting the better technical jobs or getting into the better programs at university.
Fluency in higher mathematics is not critical for learning computer science, but helps.
Computer literacy should begin early with some computer language suited for young programmers. For example, Scratch is a free programming language for kids. It was developed by MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Lab. Blockly is Googles’ offering. Many languages like these can begin in kindergarten. Once the hook is set, more complex projects can be developed in Python, a free programming language every adult with a computer should and probably does not know. This really opens up the project world of companies like Adafruit. This is the world of Maker science and technology. Projects like this can alleviate the relative tedium of learning abstract math.
The goal is math facility.
The little human should be able to use math tools at every juncture of life. Not everyone will find a vocation that uses discrete math or calculus, but it is not a door that the homeschool should shut on young minds. It is easy to teach. Everything can be taught online. Everything can be taught from the myriad Goodwill books on math. Remember, something invented in the 17th Century is just as accurate in an earlier edition of the textbook.
Using math should be as natural as reading and writing. One student may never master geometry but discover a passion for statistical analysis and the logical calculus. She may not grow to be a civil engineer, but a computer programmer instead.
Exposure to and a grasp of the basics in all the fundamental mathematics is critical for success in modern technical society. Math exercises memory, logical application, and problem solving. Sure, math is hard, but every new thing in life is hard. The homeschool teacher must make math as organic to the day as any other lesson. If you have a math wizard, you may find that by the time he or she graduates, you have learned enough discrete math to untangle algorithms yourself.
3 This list derives from a course developed by Derek Owens who graduated from Duke University in 1988 with a degree in mechanical engineering and physics. He taught physics, honors physics, AP Physics, and AP computer science at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA from 1988-2000.
Writing is a craft like furniture making. Writing helps comprehension. Writing helps memory. Young writers begin by writing as they think, transcribing words sub-vocalized before speaking, and this often reads as a jumble. Clear writing must be organized, structured, and logical. Otherwise, no one understands what you write. Worse, they will mistake your meaning for something else.
You must start with a subject and a plan. Imagine you want to make a chair. The chair is the subject, but still vague and general. You could gather a jumble of wood, tools, screws, sandpaper, stain, and start, but where? You could begin with a leg and start building, working your way toward a chair. The result is still a jumble.
You cannot just begin to build. You need a plan, a design, and a process. First, make the plan, then collect the components, and finally assemble the chair.
Furniture making is learned like any craft through experience. It is common to begin as an apprentice and work under the supervision of a master for some years to learn how to best plan, design, and assemble quality goods. Even when some formal training in design, draftsmanship, materials allocation, and teamwork accompanies the job experience, the experience makes the master.
Writers also must be trained in the fundamentals of writing and then practice until proficiency arrives. Writers also learn on the job, but the job is school for most students. The better schools hire more proficient writers as teachers. The time spent with these teachers offers more opportunity to practice the craft of writing and to have it improved by the teacher. Better writers usually emerge from these schools. Most quality writing comes from people who studied with teachers who were proficient writers.
Why Do Some Write Better?
The American education system has always been a two-tier system. The people charged with becoming the leaders of the country in government, in law, in academia, and in industry go to private schools. The majority of people who will work for these leaders in the future go to public schools.
The top-tier private education provides the best training in writing. Students develop these skills and practice them rigorously under competent, literate teachers from prep school to Ivy League College. The top track supplies a rigorous competitive advancement maze. To progress students must compete for an ever narrowing set of positions at the next level. This is a pressurized atmosphere that motivates students to learn the skills and practice them to proficiency. Some go on to graduate studies and often a graduate thesis becomes the graduate’s first book. People emerge from the prep track with sharply honed writing tools at their disposal.
The lower-tier education provided for most people is served by the public schools. It creates good employees and good citizens. Writing is not as competitive and the tools are not sharpened to the degree that they are in prep schools. Students develop a functional literacy and the writing skill to write standard business communication. Teachers provide adequate writing skills at the level of journalistic content, complexity, and form. Writing a Power Point on this year’s sales strategy is much more important than writing a monograph on the “Risks of the Ninth Circuit Court’s Ruling on the Effect of Eminent Domain On Regional Environmental Preserves.” Writing remains relevant to job expectation in either case.
The New Writing Workshop
The rise of the Internet and the proliferation of online publications is changing this dynamic. The homeschool sits outside the usual structure. The government in every state has put homeschooling under the jurisdiction of the Local Education Authority, so it is clear that the state regards homeschools as a variant on the lower-tier education. The expectation from the state is that homeschools will staff local shops, organic farms, Amazon distribution centers, real estate offices, and local government, the same as public school. No one expects the homeschool graduate to enter politics, move into corporate executive management, or attend an Ivy League University.
A homeschool that replicates the best writing craftsmanship, rather than the public school process, can accomplish a mastery of superior skills. Through these skills the homeschool graduate can provide top tier intellectual leadership.
The greatest difficulty in gaining this proficiency in the basic tools comes from the absence of competent writers as teachers to set high standards for students. A critical trained eye to teach them to use the tools needed to write well is missing. Online mentors help. Reading the best writing that can be found helps too. Emulation works. Many writers like Benjamin Franklin and Henry Miller copied good books manually and learned how to present their thoughts. This is just an extension of the Charlotte Mason copybook method. The activities do not change, but the discipline to master them must come from within.
All Good Writing is Rewriting
How do you pursue a disciplined approach to improving your writing? First, learn the basic tools. Then, write with an eye to continual improvement. When you find a public writing opportunity seize the chance. These days the opportunity may be on social media, but if so, try to gather useful feedback and ignore the trolls. No social criticism is constructive in improving writing proficiency. Finally, try to become proficient in forming clear ideas by writing precis of others’ work. A precis is a brief statement of the essential thought of a paragraph or a longer work. This should not be a paraphrase or reproduction of the original. It is an attempt to capture concisely the essence of the thought from the original. It is harder than it seems, but is an essential step in deconstructing the methods used in a well-crafted piece of writing.
As a piece of fine furniture begins with an idea, so also an essay, article, or book begins with an idea. From this idea, a formal design is formed. The precis drill can teach the writer how to establish this initial idea. From that idea, develop a formal plan. The plan might be described in a list, or a cloud of sticky notes glued to the walls and windows.
Arrange the information logically. Too many writers leap into sentences directly from the sticky note cloud. An outline is the old fashioned idea for this structure. This requires some practice for those writers who have always proceeded informally, but it is worthwhile to see the ideas in their logical order. The pieces assembled in the outline can be arranged logically into the final form and then expanded into sentences and paragraphs.
The parts now assembled allow the writing to proceed until the piece emerges as a draft. The most important step arrives along with the first draft, this is the beginning of the first revision. All good writing is rewriting. The piece must be sanded and varnished like furniture. All good writing is rewriting. The work is revised and perhaps revised again. Sometimes a period of ignoring the piece occurs before the next version. Think of it as letting the primer dry. The mind will improve the product when the work is put aside for awhile. When the piece is done, subject it to copy editing for detail accuracy. This has always been an opportunity for an outsider to improve the writer’s material, if not their thought. If no outsider is available, then read the entire piece backward, word by word. Then, read it aloud the right way. This is tedious, but the result is worth the work.
Children must be taught. The child will crawl by itself, but must be guided to not lick the electric outlet. He or she will walk, but must learn to not dash into traffic. Nothing a child is taught is more important than reading. Reading exposes them to other people’s thoughts beyond their immediate contacts. Reading shepherds the child into an expanding world. As the child is exposed to other people’s ideas, he or she will distinguish one from another, true from false, fantastical from actual, and eventually develop a mature ability to think. Parents should teach children to read. No other parental responsibility is more important.
Contemporary public schools are not interested in teaching students to discover their innate freedom of thought, of speech, or of communication. Public schools teach reading but focus on developing normative students. They treat all exceptions as special needs projects. Socrates could not teach in any public school today for the same reason he was jailed in Athens. Athenian authorities wanted children to become good citizens first and good soldiers second. Socrates taught students to question the lessons and offered the students a method of inquiry. Nothing has changed in the oldest case study in education. Socrates’ heresy is still heresy. No Socrates would be hired at an American public school. He would still be a corrupter of youth.
The education of the young can serve the prevailing ideology or it can serve the individual. Athens had one opinion and Socrates another. Today the state prefers one and many families the other. This remains an unequal contest because the state, specifically the education establishment, has legal authority over children, and therefore does not care much what families think about individual learning.
American public education uses a mutable progressive ideology. Mutable because it changes gradually over time and with the goals of educators, but without losing focus. Ideology because the ideas of the curriculum interlock to create a self-referential reality. The result is designed to limit freedom of thought. A population emerges that is limited in its ability to discriminate good ideas from bad, or truth from partial truth.
Public educators understand that learning to read does not create a free mind. The process of teaching reading can itself be a vehicle used to bind the thoughts of children, like ancient Chinese women had their feet bound.1 The resulting chattels walked gracefully for the teacher, but could not wander off. Functional literacy may be the right skills for a good student or a good citizen, but not for a person destined to wander away from the institution.
Compulsory education law demands that parents hand over children to state authority and indoctrination. Even homeschools do not escape this authority. Homeschools must submit to state regulations and local supervision. Home schooled students must be tested in the core educational ideas of the local public school. Local school boards, social services, and the police are on hand to enforce this authority.
Much damage has been done. America is no longer the most literate country on Earth. The normal American operates the government and most business. The labor force is just functional. This is by design. Liberty always irritated the leadership. Industrialists did not approve of free thinking workers any more than planters wanted literate slaves. Business still does not want literate employees in call centers and box stores. Normative behavior and politically correct thought are the ideal for workers and citizens. The two ideas grew together in the United States and both work toward a common goal: a compliant functionally literate worker. Grandpa Johnny Couldn’t Read and his kids came of age listening to creole pidgin hip-hop. Millennial children coming of age live in a world of images and surfaces a few inches from their faces. The most reasoned statement they see is a meme. Normal people in all three generations have become disinterested and docile. The 2020 emergency demonstrated how docile.
Ironically, the dual track education system, one for the leaders (private) and one for the workers (public), that solved the initial problem of too many literate workers was damaged by the health emergency. Many people came awake and are now questioning whether the compulsory public education that set the standards for good workers and good citizens is still helpful in their lives. Something can be done immediately to push back against this indoctrination. Parents should teach children to read.
Parents must see the harm in letting public school teach the child to read and choosing the texts. Public education aims for minimum proficiency. It aims for functional literacy. It aims to instill specific ideas about the world. Control of the narrative must not be allowed from the first reading lesson.
Parents should derail the process by teaching children to read before and during their public education to counter-balance the indoctrination. The child has no chance of meeting a teacher in school who is interested in their reading skill and their freedom of thought. Parents should get quality material in front of the child as soon as possible. Middle school or high school is not too late to read a little Thomas Paine or Murray Rothbard. The more children who think independently, the fewer Prussian adults the state can march off into the permanent military underclass staffing Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Ukraine.
Parents should teach children to read as early as possible. In or out of public school, the parents should expose the child to non-ideological, traditional texts. Every step closer to emancipation is a win. The family that takes this path will have a fight to the last school day with authorities who want supremacy over the child, but there is a fighting chance if the free thinking child is in the family’s corner.
Children must learn the basic skills of reading, writing and numbers. Augustine said, “Legere et scribere et numerare discitur.” These skills temper thought and create the platform for curiosity. Learning to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic is critical especially before exposure to public school institutionalization.
Public education discourages the formation of reasoned and discriminating thought in students. Public education discourages unapproved curiosity. Parents must teach the basics because no one knows what strangers will teach at public school, or what strange curriculum they follow. Teaching the basics before encounters with public school “stranger danger” helps parents maintain standards for learning.
This is not weird. Students learned the basics at home before compulsory education. In America that meant the people, rich or poor, arrived at school having mastered the basics of reading, rudimentary writing, and basic arithmetic. The wealthy provided a nanny or governess for instruction, but most families used parents. Most rural American people learned to read from the Bible or maybe Mother Goose. Literate families commonly read aloud from the Bible or the newspaper in the evening before television or social media. Children learned to do letters by imitation, and to count, usually with mom during the day, or perhaps in the evening with dad. Teaching children was a family engagement with priority over competing activities.
One needs a book to legere (read). Any book, Kindle, or tablet, that can be read will work. Children need books after learning to speak, so the brain can associate sounds to the marks on the page.
Not all reading methods are equal. Some popular methods in the past worked poorly. For example, the generation tortured by “See Dick run. See Jane. See Jane run,” ran away in 1965. Many were only functionally literate and spent a lifetime being misled and confused. A generation of educators and politicians were inspired by answering the question why Johnny can’t read.
It continues with new ways for teaching reading. New methods arrive with every masters thesis at every teacher’s college. When educators invent something usually it is to sell to the state or online. The Internet is packed with better ways to teach reading and much of it comes from this education mill. Many of these techniques try to solve the problem of teaching many students with one teacher. Nothing is better than one-on-one attention and repetition. Parents who sit with the child and read should ignore this noise.
Some proven methods work well. Phonics helped many Baby Boomers learn to read better than Dick, Jane or sight-sound. Phonics still works. It adds another hook for associating the words in baby’s mouth to the marks on the page. The Charlotte Mason Method served hundreds of thousands of homeschool families for most of a century. It works. The key is in regular reading to the child, eventually transitioning into the child reading to you. Patience, persistence, and attention always works.
Teaching scribere (writing) is not difficult. Learning to write should run parallel with learning to read.
Young children can draw things that they read with the parent. A narration of things that they draw can follow. Students can be nudged into good habits of clear thinking and of rational action in the process.
Copying what was read, and eventually copying what was thought, connects thinking, saying, writing, and reading, back to thinking again. Learning to write is not complicated or mysterious. Learning to read is practice. Learning to write is training.
Writing well is difficult. Writing clearly, writing with some grace to improve the thought is difficult. Most adult writers spend a lifetime running that loop from thought to the page. They all began with “Hello world,” a teacher who primed the pump. Learning to write is not difficult.
We get to numerare (numbers) at last. Math is hard. It is okay to find it hard. It is not okay to neglect it. Most parents today have problems with math. Parents should begin by teaching numbers and then teaching the math in daily use. Shopping, budgets, and cooking all provide opportunities for teaching math.
Young children can learn numbers along with reading and writing. Numbers, counting, putting together, taking away, that sort of thing. Later, the elements of household economy can be included. Children who can buy, sell, calculate, and keep a bank account are better prepared for modern life.
Mathematics are languages, many languages, not just one. The key to all language is drill. Drill is hard and often dull, but not impossible. As general studies progress, the other languages can be added, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Discrete Math, and maybe on to the harder things. The parent does not have to be a master. Math is slow to change and old math books still work. Beyond the overflow of textbooks at Goodwill, a number of free courses for various mathematics appear online. No skill better prepares the child for the future than math fluency.
Every state requires parents to send their children to public school with two exceptions, private schools and homeschools. Private schools are regulated by the same state political entities as the public schools. State regulations vary, but most regulate private schools like public schools. The difference comes as private schools provide their own local authority under state law.
The state sets guidelines for registration and certification.1 Requirements for teacher certification and length of school day and school year are set. Curriculum must be approved and meet state minimums. Records must be kept and things like attendance reported to the state. Health and safety certifications of teachers and staff from the state adhere to the qualification for all educators in the state. Textbooks and testing may have to be approved, depending on the state. Parents engage the private school and authority is transferred by the state for that child to the private school.
Homeschools fall under special statutes within each state. This is also summarized in the private school document referred to above. Because no mechanism exists for transferring education authority to the parent-teacher, the homeschool child remains under the same Local Education Authority (LEA) as the public schools. Homeschools must meet fewer state standards than other private schools, but the ultimate authority lies in the LEA. Usually, parents deal with the district employees who work for the superintendent who represents the LEA.
When parents withdraw children from public education, it is a political act, not necessarily for the parent, but always for the district. The parent may not recognize the political impact, but the district does. The public school loses revenue and loses influence. The elected school board and the district superintendent retain primary educational authority over the child. The district assures that the family adheres to all state and federal laws. If a family naively breaks a rule, the district can and will call the sheriff or social services.
Consequently parents should never just file the declaration of withdrawal and happily run off with their children and Charlotte Mason2 to pursue learning. Even though most districts have a light touch with homeschoolers, the parents should do two things to assure they do not run afoul of the LEA or any district employees accidentally.
First, the prospective homeschool parent should identify the various people in the local district, but especially the Superintendent and the Board Members. This information is often hard to find. Call the local school to get the times of the next public meeting. Attend. Attend online if the COVID rules are still in force. Take notes. Be on the lookout for policies, or changes in policies, that will affect your homeschool.
Second, the parent should learn the day jobs, resumes, and public statements of members. School boards set policy and make decisions for a public school district. Since no elected homeschool parent sits on a school board, it is fair to assume that all the members on the LEA are politically opposed to what the homeschool parent is doing. School Boards are both rule-making and enforcement groups, just like the County Commissioners and the City Council. Decisions in school board meetings affect the community. Much local regulation in your area comes from school politicians. School boards are the most powerful local government. They have huge budgets. Small does not matter. COVID teaches thatlocal power over individualscan be devastating.Who could name a County Public Health Administrator in 2019?
Public education is a very powerful political force in every state. Education in Colorado is 34% of the entire state budget. Many millions of dollars are dispensed from the state government through the unpaid school boards. The education budget is much larger than the municipal budgets in most districts. The elected school board members are among the most influential politicians in the state. They also strive to be low-key. Bottom of the ballot. Nothing to see here.
Parents should follow the money. Paid School Board Members receive modest compensation. Often they make less than custodians at any school. They hold other jobs. The parent should know who pays specific district school board members. Many have income associated with education. No district allows board members to be district employees, but many are teachers’ union employees or consultants on education policy. They are democratically elected by the voters in the district. Like most judges, LEA members are non-partisan elected officials who serve 2, 4, or 6 year terms with staggered elections so that no more than a third are up for election. No single election could change the ideology inside any existing board.
As a governing body a school board strives to administer by consensus, keeping individual disagreements and perspectives private, backing the actions of the superintendent. This sort of democratically elected administrative and rule making body used to be called a soviet, but fashion is off that term. Under any name, this is the democratic organization most vulnerable to authoritarian influence. Anyone who tried to get changes through the PTA, or in a parent-teacher meeting, will understand that the voter-parent has very little influence and is included only to provide consensus. Board Members receive orientation when elected. Usually this orientation comes from the National School Boards Association, where the majority of members in any district belong. In the NSBA words the mission is to provide leadership.
The NSBA is a lobbying organization that educates the 19,000 individual elected LEA members. National policy runs downhill to all the 12,000 school districts in the country. The Department of Education and State Secretaries of Education listen to the NSBA. Local members join to have influence over state and federal policy.
Homeschools stand in opposition to this massive political machine. Because homeschools are legally self-funded, they are also a drain on the machine resources. The justification for taxation and appropriation to fund this multi-billion dollar industry comes from “butts in seats.” The LEA cannot stop a homeschool parent who abides by state law, but it might like to.
Moreover, public education continues a movement. The people who run for this political office at the local level, and serve on the cheap, see themselves as good people. They continue a great tradition in public education. As Frederick Taylor Gates said, “In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand.” Gates’ dream of 1913 is the public school reality of 2021. Homeschool families are not yielding themselves with perfect docility. Homeschools are suspect.
Homeschool parents want to teach their children the basics away from dangerous and ideological environments, but this is not how the district administration will see it. Many LEA members see the homeschool as pulling away from all the good things that public education brings to society.
This is not the 20th Century and the last of the ignorant rural folk faded long ago with the cotton sack into old pictures. Now most families work in offices and stores. People no longer need to be condescended to, if ever they did. In 2021 every person who has a smart phone or access to the internet has more information and educational opportunity available than the most educated elite in 1913. Automation and information changed everything. The cotton fields of LBJ’s Texas are mechanized. Everything changed and got better except the public school system and it’s archaic political skeleton.
Homeschooling is the future as surely as the smartphone replaced dial-tone.Homeschooling serves the people destined for something greater than the local district has in mind for them. The incubatoris here today where literate adults mature, where children emerge from the home prepared to become lawyers or preachers, politicians or statesmen. How can we know this? We know because homeschool creates excellence when it is focused on the individual talents and needs of individual children, run by the people who know them best and care for them most. Nothing stops that.
Technical certification is one path for homeschool graduates. Technical certification and training leads to employment in specific fields and for specific companies. Technical certification helps while applying to some tech companies, but vitally, to any other companies that use that specific technology in their business.
Technical workers and contractors have upgraded skills this way for decades. These certifications are not all math. Many technical jobs like project management or product technical support involve soft skills and human interaction more than discrete math.
The Silicon Valley giants are great places to look for online free technical training and reasonably priced certification. They need skilled manpower that the local schools cannot provide. Oracle, Cisco, and Google stand as our examples, but many more companies have free training and certification for prospective employees.
Twenty years ago Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle, floated the idea of providing a quality private school for employees’ children as a benefit, like health care or stock options. While all the employees loved it, the California teacher’s unions and Bay Area politicians did not. Human Resources finally scuttled the idea after examining the legal complications of tying children to the parent’s terms of employment. The idea morphed into technical training programs for teachers, web development contests for students, and on-line courses in India. An internal training program emerged for employees, customers, consultants, and educators. When the company began to offer these classes outside the company, it became Oracle University.
Oracle University offers The Oracle Learning Explorer program for free with entry-level training courses and accreditation for Oracle’s entire product portfolio. The model has always been to provide free on-line training and relatively expensive certifications. The cost of certification discourages the casual test-taker and provides valuable evidence of competence to an employer. The certified professional can work at Oracle, but more importantly, can work for any of the tens of thousands of companies that use Oracle technology.
Cisco is a networking company with an interest in both hardware and software development, sales, and configuration. Cisco offers many interesting courses through The Cisco Networking Academy. Students can learn the fundamentals of networking, the Internet of Things (IoT), Cybersecurity, and programming in Python, C, and C++. Most introductory courses are free and online. Some that require an installed network are only offered through institutions and the costs depend on those institutions. A handy search tool will give you an extensive list of places near you. Some are high schools. Some are colleges. Some are prisons. Prisons.
Google is the best known Silicon Valley big tech company because their search engine has become the generic term for searching the Internet. “Just Google it” is the equivalent of “Let me grab a Kleenex”. Google had the same problem as the other tech firms in finding quality employees and keeping the existing employees trained in the protean technologies of the Internet, telecommunications, and software development. They developed materials to allow people around the world to learn the technology and gain competence in Google-specific tech. Their cloud certifications are particularly valuable. Other training supports development of apps on the Android phones and software for AI devices.
Recently Google introduced Grow with Google, a free training platform that covers training in Google core technologies, but also many other avenues of employment. It still offers certification in Android Development, but also in IT Support, Data Analytics, Project Management, and UX Design. All the training is free, but preparation for and testing for certification is pricey. One interesting feature of the Grow With Google page is in the “Free Training” link on the web page. Because Google knows more than your mother about you, clicking on it will find “free training in your area.” You can search some other area, but it will default to where your computer or tablet sits currently. The “Working From Home” link has a wealth of tools and training for educators, students, and workers who work remotely.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math for Students
Avoiding that horrible acronym STEM for a moment, the Internet offers unlimited opportunities to learn about science and technology, to master engineering skills, and to learn every sort of math. The technical certifications from the companies above are preparing for a career. Before that step, many free sites can teach younger students the basic skills to qualify for technical certification. One very fine and very free resource is the Open Learning Initiative.
The Open Learning Initiative (http://oli.cmu.edu/independent-learner-courses/) has free courses on the “independent learner’s track.” For the family who are homeschooling online, this is a very good resource for introductory courses, but not just technical subjects. The homeschooler can take intro to Chinese too.
Another great free resource is the Khan Academy. It is more like K-12, but not tied as tightly to the public schools.
The Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, quality education to everyone everywhere. It was designed to augment schools, but as a homeschool you can get access to teacher and student resources. The curriculum is very good. They offer hundreds of topics in video for math and science training online.
Other Technical Jobs with Certification
Many careers require training and technical certification. Homeschool graduates find that the employers in these careers usually care little or nothing about public school transcripts. These technical certification are usually associated with trade schools and community colleges. None of these are available online. It is hard to imagine becoming a Medical Assistant or Phlebotomist at home, so this type of technical certification moves beyond the scope of this article.
If you are interested in any of these technical certifications, explore your local schools. Most programs are reasonably priced and come with financial aid, that is, government backed loans. Be sure to ask for a list of graduates who currently work in the field who you can call for references. Not all trade schools are equal. But you can choose to study in many interesting and well-paid careers.
Wind Turbine Technician.
Landscaper and Groundskeeper.
Ophthalmic Medical Technician.
Medical Records Technician.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse.
Final Warning About Big Tech
Not all tech companies offer anything useful to the home school. Some popular names are toxic.
Microsoft has a training environment like other tech companies, but it is focused primarily on “educators.”
The Microsoft offerings for educators are deeply imbued with Critical Race Theory. In the words of one Ken Shelton/ Microsoft class:
“Anti-racism journey for educators with students”
By: IIRP, LLB, Ken Shelton, US2, and Microsoft
“Date published: 2/11/2021
“Educators must be courageous and confident in their journey to fully participate in dismantling racism in their learning environments. The intention of this learning path is to deeply question power, privilege, and fragility to interrupt teaching practices that marginalize, isolate, and exclude BIPOC students whole-learners in the classroom. The courses in this learning path are intended to be taken in order and were written with United States K-12 educators in mind. Others may also find them helpful.”
Not all free training is good for you. You might find the MS site useful in building your case for getting your children away from United States educators. Other than that Microsoft appears to offer nothing useful, technical or otherwise.
No government wants people living off the grid. No jurisdiction in The United States allows families to live completely off the grid. Doubly so if you have children. The Back to the Earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s caused a legal reaction in most rural jurisdictions. Local governments implemented anti-hippie regulations in zoning, water rights, sewage, electrical connection, and children. State and federal authorities provided enforcement when necessary.
Families who want to live and school off the grid must first reduce the digital fingerprint. Familiarity with local regulations and local precedent is critical information before putting up a dry cabin, installing septic or electric services, and especially before off-grid homeschooling.
Some families living off-grid continue to send the children to public school just to avoid the inevitable accusations of child endangerment or abuse. This works only poorly. Local education authorities monitor children in public schools to identify off the grid home behaviors. A casual comment like, “We have an outhouse at home,” can trigger a social services investigation or even a sheriff’s visit.
The issue in off-grid homeschooling is not the schooling. Homeschooling requires at least one child and an adult who can read and write in one language. The next step seems difficult because everybody is more or less institutionalized in the United States in 2021. No computer, smart phone, or the Internet is required to homeschool children. Leaving the compulsory education system is an act of nullification over compulsory education and the indoctrination attached to it. Unplugging from the network is the act of a sovereign individual. Government at every level hates this. The zoning inspector or public health administrator is not a harmless bureaucrat. 2020 taught that rights can be taken away by proclamation, even by your local health administrator. Do not allow the local zoning inspector to derail your homeschool.
The Spartan Path
Most children schooled at home in the past learned to read and write using books, pencil and paper, with the regular recitation of previous lessons. Parents can begin with just the materials at hand. Teaching children the basics, then leading them into more advanced subjects with those basics is simpler than teaching them to speak or to use the toilet. The simplest approaches to homeschool start with books, pencils, and paper, whether your family lives in a city apartment, in a small town, in a rural district, or in an RV.
Even those without any resources, the homeless or off-grid rural families can follow George Washington Carver. Born a slave he scrambled from opportunity to opportunity to get an education. Mr. Carver was literally unschooled.
He understood that basic learning is a survival skill. He learned to read and write with the Bible. This was bravery. Basic literacy was dangerous to the owners during slavery and could get an individual sold or killed. Learning still happened. Quietly. Off-grid homeschool is bravery too. Parents cannot be sold off, but confiscation of land, vehicles, tools, houses to be sold off by investigators is common in most states. Some states regard digging an outhouse as criminal.
The Blended Model Path
Not everybody wants to be completely off-grid. Those who are moving some parts of life off-grid, who must work in the system, but want to substitute solar power or composting toilets and want to homeschool still can. The family can augment the public school curriculum with directed tutoring. This approach is common today among Indian technical workers who supplement the children’s public education with something like the education the parents received in India.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
Alternatively, parents can withdraw students at the compulsory minimum age. Work and homeschool can follow. Going to work was common as recently as the 1940s. In the 1950s most craftsmen and artisans still went to work with just the basic education. School can be the first step in a lifelong self-education. The Great Books Program of Mortimer Adler supplemented the learning of millions of blue collar families over the years before homeschooling was available.
Now that homeschooling is permitted, the homeschool path can start directly with a set of graded readers like McGuffey. A library card to a nearby physical library helps, but remains difficult in 2021 when most public libraries are still closed. Parents should contact the local librarian to see how access to the collection works. Haunting the used book stores and Goodwill stores for additional books on math, science, history, and other interesting topics also works inexpensively. Thousands of Adler’s Great Books live today in used book stores.
The Tutoring Path
Children of corporate workers and suburban professionals can be educated at home by the parents. This was once the choice only of the upper middle class. John Stuart Mill studied at his father’s desk as James Mill worked at home. This style homeschooling is more possible than ever with the COVID distance working making one or more parents available to run the homeschool.
Homeschooling offline seems radical in the digital culture, but people attempted it recently. The “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” movement of the 1960s and 1970s put it’s heart in the right place, as much as mass movements have hearts. Drugs and deep media immersion derailed the the dropping out. Not much off-grid happened.
The government actively stamped out as many of the freak hippies as it could. Now it focuses on preventing them. Parents who want to walk on this path in 2021 must understand the triggers for the state. The joke in the 1990s was that the Internet was a trap for perverts and criminals to identify them to the police. It is now a trap for the nonconforming. To be avoided off-grid are social programs, especially financial, and medical programs that give the experts an excuse to classify parents as anti-social or even dangerous.
Homeschools must avoid being demonized, criminalized, and attacked by a bureaucracy that does not want any homeschooling, a state that will not tolerate off-grid activities, and bureaucrats that can use the homeschool as an excuse to confiscate property. Getting off the Internet is the first step off-grid. The autonomous individual should raise autonomous, thinking, reasoning children, and look out for both the bureaucrats who want to end it and the police who will profit from confiscation. Parents should not let a zoning inspector, a child protective worker, or a truant officer end the off-grid dream or disrupt your homeschool.
Children today can be literate. Even slaves learned to read.
Homeschooling on the Internet requires no more infrastructure and expense than the cost of a smart phone or tablet, a computer, and a USP connection. Two critical components for parents wanting to minimize state control over the home school are VPN on your Internet connection to keep nosy people out of your family business, and the TOR browser for access to “pirate” websites like Z-Library and Sci-Hub.
The VPN augments your broadband connection. If VPN is still a mystery, here is a recent article on both free and paid VPN. Brassword Publishing uses Nord VPN because “free” usually comes with a price in reduced privacy. Hackers hack, so parents should do the research. https://www.techradar.com/vpn/best-free-vpn
TOR claims you can “Browse Privately. Explore Freely,” and mostly that is true. https://www.torproject.org/ TOR Browser will not prevent all intrusion, but it makes detection of your traffic harder for state or other malicious hackers.
Homeschool parents teach basics after walking, talking, potty-training, and family morality. Common sense says to teach reading by reading, writing by writing, and mathematics by doing math. The Internet provides millions of teaching resources for FREE.
Parents can even teach advanced subjects after the basics. Mastery comes from doing things, building knowledge, gaining experience, and mastering reasoning skills. Science uses reading, writing, and math in combination to master logic, reasoning, and the finer points of the scientific method. History uses reading and media to explore the past. What is the motivation for teaching basic skills? No real learning is possible without the basics.
Christians after the Reformation stressed reading as the gate into the Bible. For hundreds of years families used that book alone to teach reading. Consequently, at the time of the American Revolution, the colonies were among the most literate population on Earth. This continued to be the American tradition. Abraham Lincoln’s mother taught him this way and for this reason. His interests broadened as he grew older, but his fundamental literacy was unquestioned.
Writing can be mastered with a reflective journal and copy books to show that the material read was comprehended. The digital homeschool can use an e-book toolkit like Calibre to make digital journals and notebooks.
Young children can learn math as part of household economics. Middle class people after the Reformation taught math to the family as part of the mercantile culture. Learning to make, to buy and to sell, is still a great way for children to master math in the home school. Because the Internet is born in math, limitless tools for mastering every form of math are available online.
Deeper knowledge comes organically to a child from basic skills, depending on aptitude and interest. The dungeon of curriculum should not stop the young organic farmer from mastering the science and math of earth science and horticulture. Neither should it block the young historian from reading and reasoning through the mysteries of the past. Some children may move from crawling to walking to dancing and this should be okay. Maybe Tik-Tok is the right classroom for the young dancer.
Young humans must be free to pursue interests to become expert. Advanced subjects, beyond the comfort zone of the parent, live on sites like MIT Open Courseware https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm where all MIT courses are offered for FREE, but without certification. If the student can do differential calculus, no certification is needed. The path for the child aimed at engineering can start with homeschooling on the Internet.
Your First Trick
First things first. Homeschooling on the Internet begins with digital copies of books. Put the title of any desired book into your search engine with “PDF” after the title. Not every book is available, but some university students never purchased textbooks in four years.
Beyond the free search, those parents who want to teach the basics using the free Internet can start with Gutenberg, LibriVox, The Internet Archive, and Calibre.
“Project Gutenberg is an online library of free eBooks.”
“To make all books in the public domain available, narrated by real people and distributed for free, in audio format on the internet.”
This is a free version of Audible. The readers are volunteers, so the quality is sometimes uneven, but the price is right. Much of the material is aimed directly at the homeschool. Look at the lists that homeschool parents made just for you. Consider reading your own favorite book into the collection.
“Librivox is a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project
Librivox donates its recordings to the public domain
Librivox is powered by volunteers
Librivox maintains a loose and open structure
Librivox welcomes all volunteers from across the globe, in all languages”
The Internet Archive supplies millions of files for homeschooling on the Internet. Every conceivable form of digital product is freely available. Whereas, Gutenberg has books and Librivox has audio books, the Internet Archive also has movies, television programs, pictures, and software programs. In their words:
“The Internet Archive began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral – but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 25+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 750+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.”
“As our web archive grew, so did our commitment to providing digital versions of other published works. Today our archive contains:
Calibre is an e-book manager, a program that runs on your computer and allows better viewing of your digital material. Calibre also downloads current newspapers and magazines. An interesting feature is the ability to create and edit your e-books, so it can serve as an interesting digital writing tool for the homeschool.
“Calibre is also completely free and open source and great for both casual users and computer experts”
“Save time on managing your e-book collection
Use it everywhere and with anything
Comprehensive e-book viewer
Download news/magazines from the web
Share and backup your library easily
Edit the books in your collection
Satisfy every e-book need and get support”
Advanced homeschooling on the Internet can use more advanced scientific and scholarly materials from Z-Library and Sci-Hub. One person’s import-export is another person’s smuggling, so we recommend you follow the wisdom of Chinese students exploring Democracy articles on the Internet to use VPN and TOR for these links.
Digital information is leaky and researchers from across the globe have been using Sci-Hub to get access to current information in their field without paying the exorbitant fees charged by academic publishers. A single paper on robotics or biology can cost hundreds of dollars, making it impossible for students and researchers in the third world to afford the information they need. The need found a solution.
“Z-Library file-sharing project for scholarly journal articles, academic and general-interest books. Z-Library says the project provides access to more than 6,754,720 books and 80,759,561 articles as of April 1, 2021”
“Sci-Hub the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers”
“A research paper is a special publication written by scientists to be read by other researchers. Papers are primary sources necessary for research – for example, they contain detailed description of new results and experiments.”
Papers in Sci-Hub library:
more than 85,483,811”
Homeschooling on the Internet really means Homeschooling on the Internet.
Two English women were in the park with their babies, and one said, “I don’t know whether to send her to Lambeth College or Eton.” The other replied,” Well, Amy Weinhouse lived in Lambeth.”
This joke may not work for American parents. Lambeth Borough is the fifth most dangerous neighborhood in London and the former Prince Harry went to Eton. Parents leaving the public school system in the U. S. are not clueless. No mother asks, “Shall we send her to Harrow School or stay in Oakland Public Schools.”
Parents with a prep school legacy know the value of their school. Newly famous or newly affluent parents often choose a private school as part of that elevation. The path from public education to private school seems confusing in the beginning. Parents who cannot afford a tutor and cannot homeschool find that any private school is better than any public school. That choice made, a few decisions still remain.
Understanding the private school requirements, both obvious and hidden, means confronting real school choice. 5.7 million students who attended private school made the choice in 2020. (According to The National Center for Education Statistics1.) Private school holds a promise of social advancement. That is the Lure of Private Education.
First, parents must get to know the school, meet with the senior administrator, and look at the admission criteria. Cost matters, but can be worked around because up to a third of students at even the best schools are on scholarship. This can be 100% of cost. Parents must imagine a multi-year relationship.
Private schools have glamour. Most take no government money, so are not forced into “whole child” social programs like public schools. The state still licenses private schools, so no school escapes the prevailing social philosophy. Each school is unique, has a philosophy, and offers quality education. Parents must look beneath the surface to understand the educational philosophy and the quality of learning.
Secondly, private schools organize for a reason. Sometimes it is creed and sometimes it is social exclusivity. Religious families usually make the choice by creed. All religious schools accept students from every creed and philosophy. If career is driving the decision, and not creed or philosophy, parents should look at the best local day and boarding schools within their means.
Preparatory schools often live up to the stereotype of exclusivity. Prep boarding schools provide a private and protective environment for students. Jewish Day Schools represent some of the highest quality private learning across the country. Parochial schools are more accessible and sometimes more affordable. This does not mean lower standards. For example, Regis High School in Colorado offers prep quality second to none https://www.regisjesuit.com. Islamic schools are not as numerous as other types of school, but provide high quality education. Christian private schools are widespread and may be easier to get into. Some schools, like Montessori Method schools, have no religious leaning, but still operate with a particular philosophy of education.
The third question is how does a particular school fit into the family’s life. Each family must make this determination. A very good site for researching private schools in 2021 is Niche https://www.niche.com/. Niche can help with comparisons of all the public and private schools in an area.
Families must begin the application process with several acceptable schools. Price and the selection process narrow the choices. Smaller numbers of students make the process torturous, so be ready for some disappointment. Stories about “tiger parents” who select infant daycare based on the eventual university preferred by the family involve the best prep schools. Prep schools still offer the smoothest path from kindergarten to the Ivy League, so the stories are not urban myths. They probably come from those parents on the affluent fringes who have all the usual qualifications, but not the legacy. The path into an affordable “good school” with almost the right social standing or wealth can occupy most of the family’s peak earning years for all but legacy families.
Boarding schools come in two categories. The elite school serving the very rich or very famous provides a private environment with adequate security. Calling these warehouses for trust fund babies may be too harsh, but the British students who attend Eton and Westminster are among peers. This is not different in America. The demographic is broader than fifty years ago because these schools offer scholarships to less affluent or less socially connected families. The motivation for using an elite boarding school must be clear. Parents must not use specific schools for family class mobility. The horror stories about children from modest means getting into the boarding school on scholarship and failing miserably are true enough. Students rarely benefit from extreme class dislocation.
There is a second type of boarding school expressly for the disadvantaged. In this group are schools like Boys Town and some military academy boarding schools. The primary example of these are the Indian Government Schools (First Peoples). Just as the elite prep schools are designed to acculturate the students to the class they will represent in the world, the boarding schools for First Peoples were designed to make “Americans.” These schools surely killed the indigenous languages and culture of Native Americans.The government school mission is more humane today, particularly when the school is Tribal Operated. Government schools still exist as 52 Bureau of Indian Education Schools and 135 Tribal Operated Schools. Often the choice is between public school in neighboring towns and government school. If the family still has some claim to the reservation, this might be a better choice than public school in a distant town.
Other First Peoples schools exist. The St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota is a parochial boarding school. This parochial charity boarding school is openly Catholic, but makes a determined effort to retain cultural values within the Sioux student population.
Parochial day schools are less popular than fifty years ago when Bing Crosby was popularizing them in film. Nevertheless, they are in almost every community and are more affordable than prep schools, without sacrificing quality. Catholic schools also are widespread around the world, most famously in India where 11,084 secondary schools continue to provide strong educations for children of all ethnic backgrounds on the subcontinent. Many of the best engineers in Silicon Valley got their English language fluency and acculturation from parochial schools. Even in the US these schools provide the most affordable private education for Catholic families of modest means who want out of the public schools. They do come with some social baggage for non-Catholics, but all religious schools do. Brother Billy-Bob’s Baptist Academy is easier for Baptists, right?
So the parents are deciding between Brixton and Eton? The path for escaping into private education from public school is clear.
First: Cost (the numbers given here are just representative examples.)
Boarding schools like the Hotchkiss School is ranked the #1 private academy in Connecticut and costs about $60,000 per year.
Jewish Day Schools like Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School costs between $50,000. and $65,000 per year for elementary school.
Parochial schools like the Academy Of Notre Dame in Middlesex, MA costs between $6,500 and $15,000 per year plus other fees for K – 12
Islamic schools like the Al-Noor Academy in Mansfield, MA costs about $13,750 per year
Christian schools nationwide have an average tuition of $11,173 per year (2021).
Second: Social StrataandSocial Goals
Often social advancement is the lure of private education. The Private School Review helps parents find the right school by category, and provides many resources and articles to help in the evaluation. https://www.privateschoolreview.com/
Third: Religious or Ideological Orientation
Jewish Day Schools, Christian schools. and Islamic schools take people of all faiths, but all religious private schools will come with some degree of proselytizing. Some more, some less. Clearly, public school proselytizes too. Secular private schools like Montessori Schools also proselytize.
All schools acculturate children. The parent must choose the preferred world view. If a parent is uncomfortable with strangers creating the child’s worldview, then hire a tutor or homeschool.
The choice of a private school makes itself if the family can afford one, is comfortable with the other parents, finds the school’s philosophical orientation acceptable, and passes the selection process.
For everyone else, the selection of a good private school is difficult. There is allure to private school, a promise of social advancement for offspring that even drives the rich and famous to extremes for a shot at the next higher hoop. Avoid that obsession, The Lure of Private Education, and some private school could be right for your children. If not, you still need to get out of Brixton, or Stockton, or wherever.
“Perhaps more people would give heed unto the work of the Lord if the Lord had a funny blog.”
Thank you to all the readers of this education blog. Your comments are welcome. Please share with your homeschooling friends. The Editors.