Why Parents Choose Public Education

Most parents send their children to public school. The National Center for Educational Statistics expected “50.7 million students in public schools” in 2020. “5.7 million students in private schools” for the same period and “1.6 million students in home schools.”1 The CORONA lock-down increased the homeschool numbers by 11%. Nobody says whether these 176,000 students came from the public or private schools. Even in this extreme situation where families use distance learning, most families still choose public distance learning by at least a factor of 10. These parents spent 2020 as glorified teacher’s aides.

Public School
“Spring in Seattle: Montlake Elementary School, Seattle Public Schools”

Most parents did not know what else to do. Their only experience is with public schools. Shutdown came with directions on schooling, so most families followed along. Education is compulsory and public school provides the easiest path. Private school costs too much. Home school brings unfamiliar challenges. Educators  argue that American Public Schools provide the best education on Earth. It is irrelevant that children in public schools do not learn enough, learn the wrong things, or are driven away from natural human curiosity. Public schools set many social expectations successfully. Most private and parochial schools set the same goals, measure with the same tests, and emulate the basic methods of public education, but they have higher expectations. Private schools claim to do a better job with the same material. They do.

Most Parents Want the Certification

Only a few of the most elite institutions focus the curriculum toward traditionally liberal learning. Public schools do not try to offer this in public education. They offer certifiable progress instead. Parents consciously understand the difference between learning and certification. Successful public education offers certification at several levels. A high school diploma, a university degree, and professional certification for doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

Public schools are government funded, that is tax funded. Parents already pay for the public school on the corner. Choosing another path will not lower that expense. The federal, state, and local governments each have a plan for spending money on the child. Every educator understands the goals set for public education. They work to sustain the system. Hundreds of thousands of people go to work every day to provide public education to America’s young. This happens even if the taxpayer chooses not to use public school.

Public School
“Abstract colors”  by  MelisaTG

Parents see value in standards. MacDonald’s may not be the best meal, but it will be the same anywhere. Public education shows regional differences, but educators across the country strive to offer the same high quality. The plan begins with federal guidelines. States mandate particular goals in the curricula. School Boards, the local point-of-presence, plan the program for districts. Districts impose standards on schools that principals and other administrators enforce on the classroom teachers. The teachers arrive in the morning with more than guidelines. The teachers create lesson plans that often reflect specific details of the federal and state mandates. The plan that public schools have for the child contains a detailed social policy implemented so uniformly that a fifth grader can move from California to Colorado with barely a blip in the educational experience.

Parents also recognize the experts in public education. A massive infrastructure of publishers, consultants, educators, and bureaucrats have a vested interest in keeping the child moving down the steps of the plan. Not all, or even most of the plan includes learning anything beyond how to succeed in the system. That is enough. An authority is granted at the end, a certificate, that says specifically what the child has accomplished. This authority is recognized by other schools and employers. They grant access to university, to graduate school, or to a job. Certification is the educational participation trophy.

Parents know that academic milestones matters more than learning. Each milestone means something different. The child can leave after the compulsory years and go to work. A high school diploma opens more doors. A college diploma opens still more doors. A university degree or a graduate degree the golden ring. That is the idea anyway. Modern society is stratified to allow access at various points. The Walmart clerk is different from a surgeon according to the appropriate certifying authority.

A future without poverty
Brush strokes by  mikaera13

Parents also want socialization from the school. Socialization is the behavioral goal for public education policy, so parents are in luck. Fourteen years of attending some institution from K-12 prepares students for every future institutional human interaction. A certified High School Graduate works at McDonald’s, at the Department of Interior, on the new GM factory floor, or in any major corporation from the sales to the loading dock without chafing. Four more years prepares the individual for a mid-level white-collar job, to manage a Quik Mart, to supervise at the DMV, or as corporate operations manager. Two more years will give the student an executive position, or to become an educator, a lawyer, or a large corporate box store manager. A few more for most professions, doctors, professors, and scientists. The longer the socialization, the higher in the system the educated person should land.

Parents understand the implied threat that dropouts go to jail. The institution sells this failure message. Schools will never tell the success stories about dropout entrepreneurs who lead exemplary lives, who go into business and spend the high school and college years earning money. Fear of the loss of certification is the stick.

public school
Construct/on 22 by Bojan Bjelic

Parents usually make the final decision for access to free daycare. Public school is  designed to mirror the standard work day for the parent. This allows single parents and two income families to have child care during working hours. The parent often needs this most of all. Public school is designed to provide it.

The Broken System

For the parents of 50 million kids these benefits outweigh any arguments against public school. Most parents want the certification. Remember? The COVID Year has changed some calculations. The increase in homeschool is a recalculation from the parents who find themselves saddled with stay-at-home distance learning from the school.

The parents are wrong. The Millennial Generation knows it. They believe the system is not working, no matter what their parents thought. The value of an education no longer dispenses a ticket into work. It dispenses a certification. The jobs quit appearing years ago. Today more than just the humanities graduates cannot find work.

Commercial and Technical Certification

Fortunately, new ways of making a living come with the gig economy and digital society. Some people make money gaming or brand influencing. More find merit jobs online that do not care about schooling. Entrepreneurship is rampant and growing. Companies like Google now provide a path past the public school system. Technical Certifications bypass the usual school-to-job system.

This has been true for many years for technical workers. Oracle https://education.oracle.com/
Microsoft https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/
Cisco https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications.html
Amazon https://aws.amazon.com/training/
Google grow.google.com

All these companies offer certifications that lead to employment more quickly than any BS in Computer Science from university, and for less cost.  This is the result of the tech sector needing workers with specific skills that schools are not providing. Google has now taken this a step further with grow.google.com. Google offers training and certification in not just technology, but also retail, finance, and more. Google is just the leading indicator of a trend toward alternative education. Most parents want the certification, but maybe public school is not the right certification for students who want jobs.

 

 

1National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/

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: