The Philosophy Behind Home Schooling

Parents who choose to home school their children do so for a variety of different reasons. In some cases parents have specific religious goals which they wish to achieve. Others are unhappy with teaching methods in the public school system, or object to the teaching of specific subjects. Yet others simply feel they can provide a better education for their children themselves.Whatever the reason however the one thing that unites parents who opt for home schooling is a belief that the public school system does a poor job of educating children.Despite what many parents believe, home schooling is not a new idea which requires you to strike out on your own and start reshaping the education system. In fact, until compulsory education laws were established in the middle of the 19th century, nearly all children were educated at home.Public education however really came into its own during the 20th century and followed an authoritarian model of Prussian schooling started during the 1800s. Today public education is the norm and, in most cases, the Prussian model is still being followed in most countries.By the 1960s dissatisfaction with public schooling in several quarters led to a number of challenges, in many cases stemming from books by now well known authors such as John Holt, and parents began to withdraw from the public education system.Some of the parents withdrawing were early libertarians who were simply eager to be free of the state wherever possible. Others wished to return to an older tradition of Classical Liberal training, either from offshoots of the Roman Catholic Church (like the Jesuits) or of the Greek Enlightenment ideals.Whatever the philosophy involved however a common set of ideas evolved that have became dominant in home schooling.One fundamental idea is that a child is a naturally active learner. This idea is well rooted in history and dates back to the time of Aristotle who began his famous book Metaphysics with the words “All men possess by nature the desire to know.” This idea holds that, given the right environment and resources, there is no need to enforce learning as children are keen to explore the world around them.Beyond this one central idea school of thought within home schooling then begin to diverge on what should take place next.In some cases parents embrace ‘unschooling’ which operates on the basis that the parent or tutor does not need a curriculum or to give children any direction. Here children are simply provided with books and a range of other natural resources and they will then learn whatever takes their natural interest.Other parents turn to a more formal structure, in some cases even going so far as to use the same materials and teach exactly the same topics as are taught in the public schools. Here the parent or tutor is simply taking the place of the state teacher and the home replaces the school.These two positions demonstrate the extremes of home schooling and yet other parents prefer to take the middle ground following ideas such as those put forward by people like Dr Montessori. Under the Montessori teaching system children are allowed to develop at their own pace but are provided with suitable materials and guidance. The parent or tutor is guided by the child, rather than the reverse seen in public schooling, allowing a child’s imagination to provide the stimulation for learning. The emphasis is also very much on self-correction rather than correction by the parent or tutor.Whatever your motivation and whatever approach you adopt, there is one consistent line of thought and that is that the children are the focal point of the learning experience and their proper development is the goal. As far as home schooling parents are concerned, this goal is best achieved outside the state system which has not, and cannot, provide the same quality of instruction as most parents can.

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