Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Homeschool Opinion Post

I hope my friends and family will forgive me. If you think you might be offended by my opinions on homeschooling, please feel free to skip this post. But there are some things I just HAVE to say today, and I cannot rest until I've said them here.

Usually, when other parents find out I homeschool, I get one of two reactions.

1) "Really?! Are you crazy? Aren't you afraid your kids will turn out weird/unsocialized/dorky/uneducated? Why do you think you're qualified to teach your kids everything they're going to need to know?"


2) "Really? Wow. I could never do that. You must be a saint/have so much patience. But, you know, if things ever got bad enough, I'd homeschool my kids, too."

My concern doesn't ever lie with the first response. If I get that reaction, I automatically assume that the person responding is very close minded, and/or lives their life in fear. I have nothing more to say to them on the subject, so I usually just smile and walk away.

However, the second reaction always puzzles me. Today, I'd like to say here what I am not usually brave enough to say to someone's face. *gulp* Bear with me, and know that I love my family and friends. I am not writing this to offend you. But I am in a quandary over the idea of what "if things ever get bad enough" means. 

What DOES it mean???

What constitutes "Bad Enough" for YOU? Because I reached my limits on what's "Bad Enough" years and years ago.

Let me 'splain.

Reason #1 why I think public education is "Bad Enough": 
I believe that PARENTS, not the State, have a divine stewardship to raise and teach children.

Just this morning, parents in two different states got the same reaction on closing school due to weather concerns from school officials in their respective states. In a nutshell, parents were told that they couldn't shut down schools today because of all the students that "needed" to be provided food, warmth, and babysitting services, even when the weather is bad.

To directly quote the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools:
Equally important in making our decision was the consideration for the thousands of our families of working parents who are on moderate incomes, have few to no child-care options, don't get paid days off from their jobs, and therefore face a huge burden when schools are closed for a second day, while private-sector and other public-sector employers are open.”
“Our schools also serve tens of thousands of children who come from low-income households. Schools are not only are vital places of learning for those students, but they are also in many cases the only place where these students get two free hot meals a day, health care, counseling and support services. We felt it was the right thing to do to give our parents the option of sending their kids to school.”
“We consider our schools to be learning centers as well as community centers where children and families can get help with health and other social-service needs. And we feel an obligation to the public we serve to keep our schools open as much as possible.”
Do you hear what this Superintendent is saying?  He is saying that without the state-run school, "tens of thousands" of students would go hungry, not have health care, counseling, or CHILDCARE. Gee, did this man just say that school is glorified BABYSITTING?! Um, yes. Yes, he did.

Wow. Where, may I venture to ask, are the PARENTS of these children? This school official is telling us that because parents are "low income", they NEED schools to be open, or else they could not parent their children on their own??? If this is true, then our nation and educational system is in a sadder, scarier state than ANY of us could have imagined!

The attitude that "schools parent children better than their own parents" is not new-- not by any stretch. Remember the people that love to question my abilities to homeschool my children? They ask me this because THEY don't feel "qualified" to teach their kids. It makes me wonder why they feel that way, especially if they feel their own public education-- and, consequently, the education their children are getting-- was completely adequate.

I am a HUGE proponent of Parent Rights. I believe that the right to parent comes from God, and NOT the State. When parents believe that others are more qualified to care for and teach their children, they are handing the State the right to parent, teach, and nurture their offspring. So when the state assumes the role of "The Protector" and "The Expert", how can parents be shocked by their audacity?

Here is an example of out-of-control state-run schools. How would YOU like to be graded as a parent?
"Last Thursday, CNN reported that a Florida legislator has proposed a bill that would have public school teachers issuing a grade to parents. Yes, grading the parents. HB 255 provides that “each prekindergarten through grade 3 student report card shall include a section in which the teacher grades the parental involvement as satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory…” based on criteria set by the bill."
"The whole idea of setting up public schools as overseers of parents is one more sign that American parental rights are in danger. Parents should not have to answer to government agents unless and until there is solid evidence of abuse or neglect on the part of that parent. Giving a grade to every parent clearly violates this constitutional principle."

"In fact, this bill would espouse the same foundational principle as the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child: assume that all parents are bad parents, and that only government oversight can save our children from parental incompetence.
Parents should NEVER answer to schools. Rather, schools, teachers, and administrators should answer to the PARENTS in their communities. Do any parents out there disagree with me on that?

Reason #2 why I think public education is "Bad Enough": 
Schools don't actually want students to be literate or think for themselves.
When I felt I should learn more about homeschooling, I studied the history of education in America. Did you know that compulsory schooling laws were not instituted across America until the late 1800's? Did you know that parents used to do the hiring and firing of ALL teachers in their communities BEFORE then? Did you know that education-- actual learning-- in America has gotten worse EVERY YEAR since the institution of compulsory education laws?

If less educated, more ignorant students is the result of compulsory education for all children, then WHY were those laws and ideas instituted?

Professional educator and former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto explains it this way:
"The structure of American schooling, 20th-century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon's amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterward a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous 'Address to the German Nation' which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders. So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:"
"Obedient soldiers to the army; Obedient workers to the mines; Well subordinated civil servants to government; Well subordinated clerks to industry; Citizens who thought alike about major issues."
"Schools should create an artificial national consensus on matters that had been worked out in advance by leading German families and the head of institutions. Schools should create unity among all the German states, eventually unifying them into Greater Prussia.
"Prussian industry boomed from the beginning. She was successful in warfare and her reputation in international affairs was very high. Twenty-six years after this form of schooling began, the King of Prussia was invited to North America to determine the boundary between the United States and Canada. Thirty-three years after that fateful invention of the central school institution, at the behest of Horace Mann and many other leading citizens, we borrowed the style of Prussian schooling as our own."
  President Abraham Lincoln simply said it this way:
"The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow."
State-Run schools have an agenda to teach children NOT to think. (Please read the ENTIRE article by Mr. Gatto I've linked to above, to fully understand the history of compulsory education.) Many parents refuse to believe this. It's unpleasant. It's sad. But it's WRONG, and parents should not sit by and refuse to see it happening. "Not in MY school district." "I live in a little town." "Stuff like that only happens in California or New York."

I hate to tell you, friends, but the curriculum and the standards are the same across the United States. The SAME textbooks, lessons, methods, and ideals are being taught NATIONWIDE. Not only can it happen, it's already been going on for more than two generations. Whistling in the dark will not change that.

Just consider that it might be true. Is that "Bad enough"?

Reason #3 Why I Think Public Education is "Bad Enough":
The current atmosphere in public schools is spiritually damaging to children of ALL ages.

I have heard countless friends, family members, and fellow church members tell me that they want their children to go to school and "be a light" to children with no spiritual upbringing. My question is: Do you really feel your 5 year old is strong enough spiritually to stand up and tell their teacher that evolution is wrong, and that Heavenly Father made the earth? Really? 

Maybe your children are stronger than mine, but I didn't have one that knew their own minds about sex, evolution, or homosexuality before the age of 12. (All of which is being forced on Kindergarten students.) At the MINIMUM. Half of what I just listed was not on their radar, as children. I guess they could have invited their atheistically-raised playmate to Primary, but how do children combat the falsehoods their teachers teach them? After all, most children love and idolize their teachers. 

Public-schooled children spend at least FOUR TIMES the amount of time with their teachers and schoolmates than they spend with their parents and siblings. They follow their rules, abide by their standards, and are not allowed to pray, mention God, or proselyte the Gospel to their friends on school property. (My little Activity Day girls recently informed me it's against their school's rules to give any of their friends a Book of Mormon on school property, and that they are not allowed to invite their friends to church or any church activities at school.) So how can they be "a light" again?

I went to public school in a small town, with a high population of LDS students. We went to release-time seminary during school hours. The seminary teachers were great, and there were some kids with high standards. But not nearly as many acted like the Latter-Days Saints they supposedly were. In my high school, you were NOBODY if you didn't have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. Even among my "good" friends, make-out sessions and the watching of rated-R movies happened on a regular basis. Seminary was something to "ditch" or "suffer through." Music lyrics and dancing at school AND STAKE DANCES, was lewd and obscene.

The fruits of Public Schooling is not "lovely, virtuous, of good report, or praiseworthy." Public School is a spiritual trial for youth, where they only come out with strong testimonies intact if they completely distance themselves socially. How ironic.

Reason #4 Why I Think Public Education is "Bad Enough":
We undeniably live in the Last Days we've been warned about. 

On occasion, I have had a friend or associate tell me that "in the Last Days," when it's "Bad Enough," they will just send their kids to me to teach. That we could just start having classes at the church building, and that we could have positive, Gospel-based education for all the kids in the ward. Doesn't that sound great?

Those of you familiar with the scriptures should know the parable of the Ten Virgins. In that parable, was the oil available for ALL of the virgins to buy? Yes. But when did the wise virgins buy their oil? When there was NO indication that the bridgroom was tarrying. And when did the foolish virgins realize that they were short the oil they needed? When it was too late.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm better than anyone, ('cuz I'm pretty pathetic) or that I would deny anyone the help that they might need, should they choose to teach their own children at home. What I AM saying, is that like food storage, or emergency supplies, I am working on my own family's needs right now. IF I have excess, OF COURSE I will share! But I cannot give anyone the knowledge and the experience I have gleaned over the years. And I cannot turn into the only teacher for the ward's needs, should it "get bad enough." But I can do my best to encourage, to suggest things, and to help all I can. 

Yet I cannot give anyone else my oil. Each family must go and secure their own. 

What I am trying to say through this post, is that would it be so very terrible to consider that right now, today, it's "bad enough" to bring your children home? Would it be so very bad to consider learning about homeschooling as part of "Being Prepared"? Is it really so outrageous to question whether or not your local school district truly has YOUR KIDS as their greatest concern? Because I bet YOU are concerned about YOUR kids. I know that YOU have been given the stewardship over YOUR children, and not the schools.

All I ask is that you open your mind and heart to the possibility that public school is not the best option for Latter-Day Saint families.

Here are a few quotes from leaders of the Church that have reinforced and inspired me to keep homeschooling my children, even though it's not always easy. I hope they might inspire and help my readers simply CONSIDER the idea of homeschool.
"In many places it is literally not safe physically for youngsters to go to school. And in many schools – and it’s becoming almost generally true – it is spiritually unsafe to attend public schools." ~Elder Boyd. K. Packer in 1996 at the David O. McKay Symposium at BYU
Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality. ~Elder Boyd. K. Packer, General Conference, April 1994
Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility. Yet opportunities and abilities differ. I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” ~Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1992
"Do the Saints need perfecting? Yes... People would not be found shuffling their children over into the hands of the enemy to be educated... If such people ever get into the celestial kingdom... they will find the children that might have been there with them, wallowing in misery; and those children will point up to them, if they may, and say, “Father! Mother! I blame you for this; for it was you that led me to it.” I tell you such people will sup sorrow in this world and in the world to come. Therefore, be careful how you treat your children: act the part of fathers and mothers to them, and not the part of unnatural monsters, who, having been enlightened to a degree by the Spirit of the Lord, trample under foot the things of God, and cast your offspring into the arms of the corrupt, of the evil, and of those who are seeking your life, and striving to destroy you.” ~John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Volume 24, 12/9/1883, “The Age in Which We Live, Etc.”

Even if you feel you cannot consider homeschooling for YOUR children at this time, I hope and pray that you can now see homeschooling as something that is not as "out there" or "strange" or "crazy", as you might have thought before.

I hope you can see it as not just "do-able," but also as "desirable"-- should "things get bad enough."



  1. Standing ovation to you!!!!! well said, well documented and thank you!

  2. Rachel, I could not agree more!

  3. I absolutely love your passion for homeschooling. I think that fear of "do-able"ness is a tactic of Satan. I want to start learning now how to teach my littles so that I can feel more adequate. I 100% agree I need to be the biggest influence in my children's life and learning.

  4. Loved it! I have been having a hard time putting into words exactly why I am choosing to home school my children. As a former public school teacher who has taught in 3 different states (California, Utah and Nebraska) I can confidently say that the curriculum is EXACTLY the same. Thanks to "No CHild Left Behind' things are getting even worse and the districts are losing even more control.
    I took a class about the history of education and you are exactly right- our country's founders did not intend for us to have mass public education, it largely came about during the time of the industrial revolution.
    Well said, thank you for such encouraging words. It is hard, but I know it's for the best.

  5. I appreciate your dedication to your beliefs and your children. But you do know that not every child is treasured, loved and in a situation where they are being taught and cared for. For those kids, hopefully there is a teacher (even though bound by curriculum and standards) who works to make a difference for that child. I love reading about homeschooling as it inspires me to bring the love of learning into my classroom.

  6. Rachel,

    I love your passion and your words could have come right out of my mouth! The public school system is built on a poor foundation of anti-family, anti-freedom policies, financed by compulsion, attended by compulsion, and supported by compulsion. Where is agency to choose for oneself?

  7. I am unfortunately one of the "government agents" right now as a substitute teacher. I also homeschool my own children, but no one I work with KNOWS that I homeschool or, quite frankly, I'd be out of job in 2 seconds flat. I feel like I'm living two lives...exactly like a government agent!

    The schools are even worse than you can imagine:

    - I hear teachers all the time saying that parents do not know enough to teach their children even simple things like tying shoes.

    - I hear teachers cheering when Obama says we need compulsory schooling at 3 years old.

    - I hear teachers that scream and yell at their students all day and have a room full of crying, scared students.

    - I hear teachers that scoff and scorn at parents who politely come in to talk to them about their children.

    - I spend most of my day teaching children how to stand in line, be nice to their "friends" (comrades?) and sit quietly even if they are not paying attention. 90% of my day is classroom management with 10% of actually teaching time. (P.S. The new terminology in school is to call everyone a "friend"...sounds exactly like Russia calling everyone comrades to me.)

    ...and these are the "good" teachers that I work with.

    Those of you who have your children in public schools really have NO IDEA what teachers are saying to or teaching your children all day. They put on a completely different manner when you are in the room.

    I have skipped early elementary books that taught evolution, gay rights, and that white people are the cause of all ills in the world.

  8. I have to say I take a bit of a different stance than you on reason #1. The sad reality is that many parents cannot afford to take time off work because the school is closed for snow, that is not necessarily the parents’ fault. Often it is OUR fault. We have more light and knowledge than many people in society and it is our duty to make sure the society we live in is supportive of the poor. These parents want to do the best that they can for their children, but are unable to because of ‘the traditions of their fathers’ that they were raised with and because society is structured in such a way as to disadvantage them.

    Many parents have no idea how to help their children be successful at school. If schools started training these parents on how to help their children be successful that would be fantastic! My mother in law works with high risk aboriginal kids in BC, and she finds that often the parents are causing many of the behavioral problems she sees in the kids. They let them watch TV all day, they don’t go over their homework with them because the school should do everything. Now I’m not saying that that attitude is correct, but I do think it would be a positive step if schools didn’t focus all their effort on the children, but instead focused some of it on the parents to help them be better parents. I doubt a concerned educated parent such as yourself would do poorly on a school report card.

    All in all I think you have a slightly warped perception on what it is like to actually BE one of those poor families. Although I do agree with you that parents need to be responsible for their children, and that a trend away from parental responsibility is worrying-however I don’t think there is one-if anything the trend is toward too much parental responsibility and not enough responsibility resting with the children-especially teenagers.

    I absolutely agree with point number two-not so much the history of it I’d have to do my own research on that-but the idea that school is there to brainwash you is definitely something I agree with. And I don’t think I want my children exposed to it.

    Point number 3 is the main reason I am considering home schooling my kids-my first isn’t even born yet, but my husband and I have been talking about it. He is adamantly opposed right now (he is in the first argument you mentioned camp).

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Great post! I love that John Taylor quote. Have you ever read the rest of that discourse? It is amazing...and so forceful about many topics. Here is a little bit more in the next couple of paragraphs after the one you quoted.

    "What, then, would you do? Would you entertain harsh feelings? No; but if I had been living in Adam's time and had had children, I do not think I should have sent them to be educated by Cain. Would you? I think some of you would. I do not think I should. I do not think I would do it now, and I do not think any decent man would—no man or woman who has the light of the Spirit of God, could do it. Well, but what would you do? Would you persecute them? No; but I would let them severely alone. They are very plausible. They are very nice. So was the devil. Like him some of those people would like to deprive us of our free agency. They are of their father, the devil, and the works of their father they will do. . . .I am not speaking of these things in anger. I feel more to sympathize with those people than anything else; but I certainly don't want them to teach my children. . . I am not speaking of these things in anger. I feel more to sympathize with those people than anything else; but I certainly don't want them to teach my children."

    Such good stuff!

  10. Way to say it and make a stand Mama Rachel! School is just to evil to send our children too.

  11. I try not to judge other peoples choices and assume they are doing the best they can but I feel stronger and stronger that they are not prayerfully making their decisions. They are just going with the traditions of their fathers. The world is sliding downward faster than I care to admit. Again and again I am so grateful to home school and be the first and major influence in the lives of my children. This job is just too important.

    Don't know why I hadn't found this blog of yours. A friend recommended it. Glad to find you writing here too.

  12. Thanks for Sharing your thoughts on homeschooling. They mirror mine and have been trying for sometime to put my thoughts into words and you did an amazing job.
    Thanks again

  13. Thank you, everyone. I realize this was a passionate, OPINIONATED post, but it really is how I feel.

    Angie, I want you to know, that I and so many other parents are grateful for wonderful teachers like you! I do still think it's sad when parents are not fulfilling their stewardships as the nurturers of their kids, but if teachers like you weren't there to care, it would be all the sadder. BLESS YOU!!!

    Kimberly, it sounds like we could discuss this subject a LOT. ;-D Thank you so much for your comment! I'm not trying to be mean about people who respond in the first way-- I just know that no amount of talking from me could ever change their minds. Most people have to come to homeschooling on their own! With eleven children, and one income that has been hit or miss for a few years, we do know what poverty feels like. I think, as mothers, if we have the faith to stay home and raise our children, instead of going out and working, we will be blessed. I know we have! We definitely should act on the light and knowledge we have, as you said. Thanks again for your candid thoughts!

    Cocoa: Thank you for the rest of President Taylor's quotes! (Did you notice I cut some of the quote I posted? I think many would be shocked by what the brethren of the early Church said about public school. Yikes!)

    Thanks again, everyone! I appreciate ALL your comments! {{{hugs!}}}

  14. I have the hardest time sometimes articulating and putting to words how I feel about our reason for homeschooling and I enjoyed reading yours. I feel they were very well put.

    I haven't heard the 1st response to us homeschooling from others yet, most of our family is supportive, if not tolerant our decision to homeschool our kids.

    A couple of years ago though, a group of ward members were talking about how horrible the school dances were getting and the pressures their kids face at school (we weren't in UT at the time). I made a remark to my hubby that I was glad we chose to homeschool then our institute teacher turned to me and said that we (meaning those of the LDS faith) couldn't just take our kids out of school because they needed to be the light and example to these students. That really bothered me for a long time, partly because I understood how we need to be good examples to others, but keeping them in a situation that is going against everything we've striven to teach at home seems wrong. The quote by John Taylor would have been perfect for that situation! Also, here's a wonderful article -loaded with great scriptural references by Misfit Cygnet that goes along with what you and President Taylor said:

    Over the years I have read a few arguments in defense of homeschooling and I thought I'd share some articles that I have enjoyed and reiterate what you have said.

    Thanks for the wonderful post Mama Rachel! I truly couldn't say it better myself (I know, I've tried). ;)


I will not approve any comments that are rude, negative, or disrespectful. Thanks for being civil! :-)