November 10, 2003
Home schooling as middle class revolt

More news of the spread of home schooling in New York. I quote at length because New York Times stuff soon hides behind a payment wall. If you want to read the whole thing, as we bloggers say, read it now.

Newcomers to home schooling resist easy classification as part of the religious right or freewheeling left, who dominated the movement for decades, according to those who study the practice.

They come to home schooling fed up with the shortcomings of public education and the cost of private schools. Add to that the new nationwide standards – uniform curriculum and more testing – which some educators say penalize children with special needs, whether they are gifted, learning disabled or merely eccentric.

"It's a profound irony that the standards movement wound up alienating more parents and fueling the growth of home schooling," said Mitchell L. Stevens, an educational psychologist at New York University and author of "Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement" (Princeton University Press, 2001).

"The presumption of home schooling is that children's distinctive needs come before the managerial needs of the schools," he said. "And, it's easier to do than it was 10 years ago, because the ideologues were so successful in making it legal and creating curriculum tools and organizational support."

In addition to dissatisfaction with schools, Mr. Stevens and others say, social trends have fed interest in home schooling. More women are abandoning careers to stay home with their children. And many families yearn for a less frantic schedule and more time together.

"This may be a rebellion of middle-class parents in this culture," Mr. Stevens said. "We have never figured out how to solve the contradiction between work and parenting for contemporary mothers. And a highly scheduled life puts a squeeze on childhood."

The link was added by me, and I do recommend that if you want to know more about home schooling in the USA and haven't already read this book, you follow that link. Sample quote from the Introduction:

… Theirs is a post-1960s America, a nation now sensitized profoundly to the fact that state officials and school bureaucrats can abuse their powers, a nation that has grown rather more accustomed than it used to be to groups that do things unconventionally, to people who live their ideals. Many of today's homeschool sages became adults in the 1960s and 1970s. Many participated in the cultural innovation and experimentation of those decades. Even years later, they think of themselves as their own people, a bit outside the mainstream. Notably, I found this sentiment to be as pervasive among conservative Protestants as among other home schoolers. These are people who have self-consciously done their own thing, or the right thing, regardless of what the neighbors or the in-laws might think.

The everlasting search for a meaningful life turns another corner in the road.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:44 PM
Category: Home education