During the past few years much has been written about the breakdown of the American family. Unwed motherhood, single-parent families on welfare, rampant divorce, child abuse, and spouse abuse have just about put the American family on the endangered species list. Even the word family itself is undergoing redefinition. But in the midst of all of this gloom about the increase in dysfunctional families, a brand new model of a happy family is emerging in America. In fact, one of the most positive developments of the home school movement is the emergence of a new family lifestyle centered on child-rearing and education.
In the home schooling family, education becomes the cement of family togetherness, a dynamic kind of togetherness that adds a new intellectual, spiritual, and cultural dimension to family life. Because the emphasis is on knowledge and the development of creative and productive skills, the family becomes a rich source of intellectual discussion and experience.
In home schooling, the family becomes a place where everyone learns. The younger children learn by hearing and seeing the older children being taught. And parents learn by teaching their own children subject matter that they may have forgotten or may never have learned. In a way, home schooling parents learn more than the children because they are in a position to expand their knowledge from a broader base that includes life's experiences.
The new family lifestyle is shaped by the fact that parents and children get to know one another very well. They spend more time together; they do more things together; and they become aware of each family member's idiosyncrasies, talents, and difficulties. The children, because of all the direct attention they get from their parents, develop a greater sense of emotional security and a knowledge that they are especially loved and appreciated because Mom and Dad are willing to devote so much time to them. Thus, family bonding is stronger and deeper than in the non-home schooling family.
Maintaining Family Ties
When the children grow up and leave home, family ties remain as strong as ever, because they are based on the special bonding that produces rich, lifelong friendships among siblings. And when home schooled children get married, they have a model of family life that permits them to duplicate what they enjoyed as children and to pass it on to their own children.
The importance of family ties cannot be overestimated. We all know of adopted children who spend years trying to find their biological parents. And we've seen on television some of these emotional reunions in which mother and child who haven't known or seen each other in twenty or thirty years embrace each other in a way that seems uncanny. The yearning to be connected with one's blood relatives is the same yearning that connects us to the human race. Some children, abandoned at birth on a church doorstep or in a garbage can, will in adult life go to great lengths to find some knowledge of the mother who abandoned them. What a scar such abandonment leaves on the psyche of the child who becomes, as an adult, so obsessed with his origin!
That is why the home school family lifestyle represents such a powerful force, for it is a family lifestyle that is child-centered and child loving. Bringing up kids becomes the focal point of family life, and that is why the children are so well adjusted and emotionally secure. Home schoolers tend to enjoy kids and want to have many of them, because each act of creation produces a new human being who adds joy to the family. When a new son or daughter or sister or brother enters the family, that gives each family member an additional blood relative with whom to bond and share life's experiences.
What Home Schooling Usually Prevents
Home schooling families seldom experience the traumas of teenage rebellion which occur when children develop values that conflict with the values of their parents. In home schooling, parents transfer their values to their children. In public schools, the values of that institution tend to replace the values taught at home, and today's public schools place great emphasis on changing children's values to conform to the values of the school. Social scientist Professor Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago made that objective very clear in his book, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives first published in 1958. He wrote:
By educational objectives, we mean explicit formulations of the ways in which students are expected to be changed by the educative process. That is, the ways in which they will change in their thinking, their feelings, and their actions....
The evidence points out convincingly to the fact that age is a factor operating against attempts to effect a complete or thorough-going reorganization of of attitudes and values....
The evidence collected thus far suggests that a single hour of classroom activity under certain conditions may bring about a major reorganization of cognitive as well as affective behaviors. We are of the opinion that this will prove to be a most fruitful area of research in connection with the affective domain.
In other words, the educators have made it very clear that their goal is to "effect a complete and thoroughgoing reorganization of attitudes and values" that the kids bring from home. Apparently, the educators disapprove of the attitudes and values that children acquire from their parents. And so, what the educators do is sow the seeds of rebellion and familial conflict.
Fortunately, the home schooling family need not worry about conflicting values which lead to teenage rebellion. The new family lifestyle is one of harmony and basic agreement between parents and children when it comes to values. This is particularly true among religious families where daily devotions and Bible readings create a strong spiritual unity among parents and children alike. In such families, where according to the orthodox tradition, the father is the spiritual leader of the family, his authority is respected because it relies on God for its source.
Obviously, therefore, the kind of lifestyle a home schooling family will have will depend greatly on its philosophical foundations. But all home schooling families have several things in common. The most important thing of all is that the home schooling family is master of its own time. The children of the family are no longer captives of the state, confined in the school during the best hours of the day, requiring the family to plan its activities in accordance with the school's schedule. And much of that time in school is spent being dumbed down, not educated.
Freedom and Independence
Being free to determine how one is going to spend the day gives home schoolers an exhilarating sense of freedom and independence. The family, not the state, decides how to spend its time. It can actually be spent learning and developing one's intellect. Thus, the emotional and psychological benefits of declaring one's own independence from the state school gives the family an understanding of what freedom is all about. Freedom means being free of government coercion. That is the freedom that the Founding Fathers fought to obtain for all Americans. To them, the purpose of government was to secure the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.
Freedom also provides economic benefits for the family. For example, home schoolers can take advantage of the off-hours at skating rinks, or will get a better rate from a music teacher who might otherwise not have students until they get home from school. In addition, the home schooled children have more energy for these activities. They are not exhausted and listless because of a day of confinement in the suffocating atmosphere of the public school. On the other hand, public schoolers, if they are involved in extracurricular activities, must do the work in the late afternoon when their energies and enthusiasm are not at their highest. The best hours of the day are spent in the drudgery of the classroom, and the worst hours of the day are given over to what children really like doing.
All of that is changed in home schooling. The academic work is usually completed by noon and the rest of the day can be spent in whatever activities the family wants to engage. Sometimes, if a morning field trip has been planned, the academics can be done at some other time. Also, the family can take advantage of off-season vacations or travel, thus avoiding crowds and saving money. The family goes on vacation or takes trips when Dad is free, not when school is closed. The calendar revolves around the family's needs, not the school's schedule.
Another important aspect of the home schooling family's lifestyle is its social life. In the family committed to public schooling, parents tend to develop their own social lives, and the kids through school friendships and activities tend to develop social lives of their own. This divides the family in a way that can cause serious problems. Kids can get into a great deal of trouble because of peer pressure in the school, and parents are often kept in the dark about what their children are really up to with their friends. Many children begin to develop intense friendships, some creating their own secret language in order to hide from their parents what they are doing with their friends, particularly of the opposite sex. Dating can lead to premarital sex, which may lead to unwanted pregnancies, diseases, abortions, unwed teenage motherhood, emotional traumas, jealousies, and physical abuse. The parents are usually the last to know that their son or daughter is in deep trouble. Children may get involved with drugs or gangs, which is the kind of desperate social life that has claimed the lives and souls of many youngsters.
In contrast, the social life of the home schooling family is positive and delightful. It is not a divided social life, but one built around a united family. Home schooling parents join support groups or develop friendships with other home schooling parents, and the kids are always there unless they are engaged in some activity with other home schoolers. The kids have no secrets to hide from their parents, and the parent's lives are pretty open to the kids. Family members are not outside the family, each going in his own direction. Dating is discouraged as an open invitation to dangerous temptation; courtship is encouraged and parents try to match up their kids with other home schooled kids. Innocence is often maintained for as long as the children are under their parent's care and protection. The public schooler, on the other hand, is introduced to sex education in the preteen years. And when one examines the dysfunctional family, it becomes obvious that premarital sex is one of the premier causes of social trauma.
This doesn't mean that home schooled children never get into trouble. What it does mean is that home schoolers get into much less trouble than their public school counterparts because of the strong moral teaching at home. Home schoolers tend to be busy, creative, productive, independent self-starters with little interest in the kind of temptations that public schoolers are confronted with every day in school or on the bus. Public schoolers, being among a couple of hundred kids daily, away from parental supervision, and without much moral guidance from the educators, can easily fall prey to the seductive pressures of their friends.
Thus, the lifestyle of the home school family gives a sense of security and togetherness that keeps the corruption, temptations, and evils of the greater culture at bay. Parents decide what the children will watch on television, and usually the less TV the better. There are plenty of good videos that parents can get for their kids. This produces a healthy moral environment in which parents enjoy their responsibilities as parents, and children enjoy the safety and warmth of a truly rich and fulfilling family life.
Homeschooling also encourages the development of family enterprises in which all members can take part. Many home schooling families have built home businesses that have helped make their families economically self-sufficient. This is important during a time of dynamic economic change in America. Home schoolers are in a good position to take advantage of all the new opportunities that are being created by the new technology. They can use their time to develop whatever interests them. Many pioneering home school families have become successful booksellers, magazine publishers, home school program developers, clothing designers, software developers, etc.
All in all, the new family lifestyle that home schooling has created is the most positive social development in America today. The rest of America can learn much from this healthy phenomenon, which a family can enjoy only when it rejects government schooling and discovers the greater moral, spiritual, and psychological benefits of home schooling.
- Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927–2015), a former Chalcedon staffer, authored a number of books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children.
He spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children, the reasons behind the American educational establishment’s support for sex and drug education, and the school system's refusal to use either intensive phonics in reading instruction and memorization in mathematics instruction. He lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad and was internationally recognized as an expert in intensive, systematic phonics. His writings appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others.