Parents Should Teach Children to Read

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.

1J. S. Mill, On Liberty

Homeschooling Off-the-Grid

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.

Off-Grid Homeschooling

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.

Sign Out, Shut Down, Unplug 1

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.

off grid homeschool
Education is the Key to Unlock the Golden Door of Freedom

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.

Dog and Cat Off-Grid
Dog and Cat Off-Grid

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.

But Quietly.

1Margaret Beetem 2021.

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