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By now your kids have probably been in school for several weeks. And
you’re having second thoughts about putting them on the bus, agonizing
over whether or not they are going to be safe on the ride to school and
in the school with 300 or 500 or a thousand other kids. Sept. 19′s
Boston Globe had a story about how the return to classes also brings an
epidemic of illnesses. School nurses now look at schools as germ
incubators. Poor air circulation, close quarters, sticky fingers
contribute to the high infection rate found in many classrooms.

And now there’s even lice to worry about. According to nurse Elaine
Zeundt, germs spread more quickly today because teaching methods have
changed. Students no longer sit in straight rows with their backs to
each other. Now, children face one another in circles, are paired with
partners, and work together — all part of the cooperative learning
craze now sweeping American public education.

“Thirty years ago,” says Zeundt, “if a student coughed it would at
least be at the back of the head of the student in front of him. Now
kids are in groups and coughing right in each other’s faces.” Linda
Walsh, director of clinical services in the city of Newton, Mass., notes
that students “share their germs as readily as they share their fruit.”

And in a few months, some of the first graders will be labeled
learning disabled, dyslexic, reading disabled, ADD, or ADHD. Parents
will be told that their children need to be put on Ritalin. But,
believe it or not, there is a solution to all of this, and it is called
homeschooling.

Granted, that many working parents wouldn’t dream of homeschooling.
Yet there is enough growing concern among some parents that is leading
them to think of homeschooling as an alternative to the public school.
And if you, dear reader, happen to be one of those parents, the best
thing you can do to help you make that fateful decision is to read a new
book about homeschooling, written by two veteran homeschoolers, Mary and
Michael Leppert. The book’s title is “The Homeschooling Almanac,
2000-2001.” It provides the most cogent arguments in favor of
homeschooling and the best picture of what it’s like to homeschool I’ve
read anywhere.

The Lepperts wanted very much to enjoy the pleasures and challenges
of educating their own son. And so, they built their lives around that
idea. Michael quit his day job, and it took the family over a year to
adjust to the novel idea that he was free from someone else’s time
clock. Mary writes, “We had to make new room for one another and
restructure out time and space boundaries. It took some quarreling and
discomfort, but now we love nearly every minute.”

The Lepperts now publish a homeschooling newspaper, “The Link,” and
hold an annual homeschooling conference. That keeps them quite busy.
As for their son, Lennon, he is thriving and learning by helping his
parents in every phase of their activities. Some years ago a magazine
asked children what they wanted most. The answer was more time with
their parents. Homeschoolers give their children the maximum. The
Lepperts write,

    Homeschooling today is actually a return to the truly traditional
    method of children being instructed by their parents. … It was
    understood that one’s children studied the Bible and learned their basic
    moral and ethical values at home, along with the elementary subjects
    necessary for further education. The expected and anticipated way of
    life was that all elementary aspects of life were taught by the parents.
    … Times have changed; we think maybe people have not.

The idea of segregating children from the adult world, putting
them under a compulsory regimen of mass schooling from age six to 16 or
even 18, has created problems for family and community that could not
have been anticipated by the social utopians when they dreamed up this
system based on the idea that human beings were capable of moral
perfectibility. They were certain that mass public education would
eliminate crime. It hasn’t. They were certain it would eliminate
ignorance. It hasn’t. They were certain it would eliminate
illiteracy. It hasn’t. They were wrong. But the system remains, and
homeschooling is the best and fastest way out of the system. The
Lepperts write,

    Mass school has not only permeated the world of children, but the
    adult world as well. Once you break away from it, you will be amazed at
    how free and easy successful learning/living can be. Our country, which
    was founded by courageous pioneers who became entrepreneurs and leaders,
    is now dominated by people who are influenced by mass-marketing and
    mass-schooling schemes that drastically change lives for the worse.
    Homeschooling is taking our past and futures back from Madison Avenue
    and Washington, all in one fell swoop.

The beauty of homeschooling is that parents learn more than
their children in the process. Parents improve their reading by
learning to teach their children with phonics. Parents learn the
history they missed in school. They increase their vocabulary. They
learn that their values are worth passing on to their children.

According to homeschooler Janelle Orsi, whom Mary Leppert
interviewed, “One of the merits of homeschooling is that it allows
people to slow down enough to take in what they are learning, to care
about it, and to enjoy it by relating it to the greater spectrum of
knowledge, thereby making learning relevant.”

What effect does homeschooling have on the kids themselves? Are they
less social or more social? Do they become misfits in society? Barb
Lundgren, who homeschooled her three children in the “Unschooling”
manner advocated by educational philosopher John Holt, states,

    I have found that homeschooled kids are quite different from
    “normal” kids. All ages and abilities can play and work together
    without prejudice. The degree of natural compatibility, the ability to
    cooperate and share that homeschooled children show is remarkable.
    There are no words in our language to describe such children. They are
    different away from you than they are at home, and it’s through their
    interactions with other people that you really step back and say, “Wow,
    these are really different kids.” If I had to describe them, I guess
    “extraordinary” is the most useful nutshell sort of word. Extremely
    mature, responsible. Passionate, sensitive, careful, respectful.

Who wouldn’t want kids like that! And now you know why
homeschooling is growing the way it is. It is much more than just a
rebellion against mass, inept public schooling. It’s a movement to gain
greater values, greater freedom, and greater satisfactions with one’s
family and one’s life. You can’t get them from Madison Avenue, or
Washington, or the local germ incubator known as the public school with
its drugs, violence, peer pressure, nihilistic dumbed-down curriculum,
and union-dominated, politicized establishment.


Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education,
including “Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children.” His
Alpha-Phonics reading program is widely used by homeschoolers. The
Lefferts’ “Homeschooling Almanac 2000-2001″ is available in bookstores
and at Amazon.com.

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