Homeschooling for Liberty

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Introduction

I
swear by my life, and by my love of it, that I will never live for
another man, or ask another man to live for me. (John Galt)

The
hyper-rationalism of radical individualism isn’t, in the end, rational
at all. You’ll recall that during the Iraq war, we heard a lot of
talk about ancient Mesopotamia – the land of the Sumerians, Akkadians
and Hittites – being “the cradle of civilization”. That’s the point.
Without a cradle, it’s hard to sustain a civilization. (Mark
Steyn)
The
only man of whom I would ever say, “I wish for you to surpass me
in every way.” (Augustine, speaking of his deceased son Adeotus)

If you are a father
or mother, Mark Steyn sounds more convincing than John Galt. Offspring
are our time machines, extending the reach of our values into centuries
we will not live to see. Unless an outside agency initiates force
to change the natural order of things, children normally carry forward
the passions of their parents. “Normal teenage rebellion” is such
a terrifying anomaly in the history of mankind, that Old Testament
law considered it to be a capital offence.

Historical
background

When the Prussian
government implemented the first truancy laws in the early 1800s,
they had to march weeping kids away from their families at bayonet
point. This definitely violates the zero aggression principle. Imagine
a commodity of so little value that you can’t even give it away; recipients
must be forced to partake. And why the application of force? Because
the State needs its docile taxpayers and cannon fodder. With characteristic
thoroughness, the Prussian state decided to turn 94% of “its” children
into those who simply followed orders. Another 4.5% went into the
“talented and gifted” programs, receiving an education designed for
the janissaries, the professional servitors of the State: accountants,
preachers, lawyers, professors, physicians, etc. The children of the
ruling elite, the remaining 1.5%, received a traditional education
designed to impart flexibility, creativity, and rigorous thinking
skills.

To the rational thinker, handing off children to paid agents of
government makes as much sense as hiring the hangman as your babysitter.
Yet today otherwise sane people consider it normal to frog-march
a terrified five-year-old child to the bus stop, and send him off
into a penal system peopled with monsters and manipulators. “After
all,” the gulled parent says, “public school did me no harm!” Other
than damaging your critical faculties to the point where you are
unable to perceive the harm done to yourself …

Do a quick Google search for John Taylor Gatto. Public education,
he affirms, succeeds
at its design purpose: inducing forgetfulness, confusion, social
paralysis, indifference, and emotional/intellectual dependency,
under the all-seeing eye of the State and its agents.

Application

Home-schooling
is the place where the love of liberty intersects the love of our
children. This is normal, principled, child-rearing, where we take
our offspring by the hand to lead them on a guided tour of the real
world, the wondrous universe. It is also, in retrospect, one of the
few important things I have done with my life. If you are like me,
you have met too many parents in tears over how their children were
alienated from them, and came to hold in contempt the defining values
of their family. In stark contrast, over the course of the last two
decades, I’ve met zero home-schooling parents who regretted
that decision. Even parents who eventually handed their kids over
to the government regarded their home-schooling years as times of
unusual closeness, happiness, and adventure.

Is home-schooling hard work? Let me rephrase that: is it an ordeal
to spend large blocks of time with the people you love most on earth?
With personable youngsters who are alive with questions, alive with
the love of learning? Who regard you as their primary expert on
everything? Who are eager to try out the things you teach them?
Avid readers, well able to engage in intelligent conversation at
an early age? So where’s the hardship?

Hard work, yes. Hardship, no.

A few tips

No, you do not
have to be omniscient to educate your own children. This myth is promulgated
by educrats, the folks who typically are drawn from the least intelligent
members of the college population. By the time “those who know best”
are done with the children entrusted to them, 80% are non-literate.
They either cannot read, or really do not like to read. They do, however,
know how to respond with pavlovian promptness to the bells.

Literacy

The ability to
read well, widely, and insightfully separates the leaders from the
followers. If you use a high-quality phonics program, such as Samuel
Blumenfeld’s AlphaPhonics, or Marie LaDoux’s Play ‘n’ Talk,
you can get a ready student up to speed in about 30 hours. By contrast,
the typical Japanese student needs six years to become fluent in his
hieroglyphic language. The typical American public school student,
after years of being taught to regard words as hieroglyphics, rather
than as phonic representations of sounds, is dyslexic or alexic. If
your kids can read, they’re already ahead of 80% of their peers.

Kids also do what they see. If Mom and Dad’s favorite form of recreation
is a good book, little monkey see leads to little monkey do.

Finally, block out an hour a day to read to your children. Put them
to bed an hour earlier, then spend that time introducing them to
Peter Rabbit and B’rer Rabbit. As novelist C. S. Lewis said, “A
book that isn’t worth reading at age 50 isn’t worth reading at age
5.” There’s a lot of good material out there, and you can often
find incredible bargains at library sales. This regular period of
concentrated attention compounds over the years to nurture hearts
and minds.

Socialization

The primary advantage
of socialist education, we are told, is socialization. The ability
to sniff the behinds of those around you, and ascertain your position
in the pack, your place in the pecking order. In adult prisons, rapists
help to put and keep “fresh meat” in its place. In kiddy penal institutions,
bullies serve the same purpose. Several studies, including my own
MS thesis, have measured the social maturity of home-educated children.
This characteristic is normally far higher in kids who were raised
in their families, than in those who were surrendered to The
Lord of the Flies
. It’s easy to pick out the home-schooled
kids at family reunions. They’re the ones who can organize the younger
cousins into games, or comfortably discuss politics with the sober
aunts and uncles.

If most people today could aspire to government work from high school
graduation to retirement, public education might make sense. Training
people to beg permission before using the bathroom makes them more
dependable line workers. In terms of preparation for the real world,
however, the home-schooling family links effort with reward, input
with output, in a direct manner that social promotions obscure.
The discipline of independent learning, imparted early, equips kids
with the preparation they need to excel on the university level.
The typical home-educated child can handle selected community college
classes soon after he hits puberty, and hungers for adult-sized
challenges.

Resources

Successful home-schooling families view the character of the child as a primary
resource. Education is not a “right,” a government “benefit” to be
“given” to all good children in “equitable” servings. Rather, education
is a duty. A characteristic of good character is the desire to find,
and act upon, good information. Civilizations that honor “wisdom”
tend to outlive and outperform any governments that happen to hold
temporary power. Think of the European Jews, the Armenians, and the
overseas Chinese. To the extent that parents can shape the attitudes
of their children, bending them in this direction early makes the
whole process work well. We don’t pull our kids out of public school
to recreate a “classroom” in the basement, with neatly regimented
desks, and a blackboard at the front. Rather, learning is part of
everyday life. You spend an hour or two completing your daily work
in order to keep up with your peers. Then, time invested beyond that
in your area of passion takes you leagues ahead of your peers. Do
your work quickly, do it well, and your time is your own.

Allies
also are important. America still has an astonishing number of voluntary
associations that are not sponsored by the state. Although the Boy
Scouts of America are under assault by the devotees of the juggernaut
state, there is enough residual stamina in that organization to
flip off their would-be masters. A good scout troop will expose
a boy to a number of learning opportunities, a wide selection of
mentors, and the survival skills that backstop a tough self-confidence.
Many home-school families participate in, or even create, 4-H clubs.
Again, if you are involved with the troop or club, you have more
opportunities to experience life with your child. More “teachable
moments.”

Co-belligerents
can also be helpful. God-talk makes some libertarians and most Randians
nervous, for example. But many of the most influential people in
the home-schooling movement are Christians. You may not agree with
their basic premises, but you share with them a common foe. Typical
Christian home-schooling families view it as sin to (sur)render
unto Caesar that which is God’s, the precious children entrusted
to their care. They have staked out one zone of resistance to the
state, and defend it with the passion a mother bear has for her
cubs. The liberty of the family has become a third rail of American
politics on every level. These people watch their legislatures with
jaundiced, suspicious eyes. They often invest $100/year in the Home
School Legal Defense Association
to secure the services of rabidly
fanatical lawyers in case an agent of the state tries to infringe
their familial liberties. Many regard with suspicion any government
that demands more of them than their God does, the tithe. These
fighting fundamentalists are even now throwing sand into Caesar’s
gears. Respect them for that.

Hope

Lovers of classic
movies recall Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
At one point, the young protagonist’s eyes are opened. The factory
gate that the workers are trudging in lockstep into suddenly becomes
the mouth of Moloch. The State needs a steady stream of resources
to continue its work of cancerous expansion. The most valuable “resource”
we can hand over is our children. Well, suppose we politely refuse
to hand our children over. Suppose we raise our children to regard
all the claims of the state, starting with its asserted claim to 30
hours of their lives every week, with skepticism.
How likely will
these children be to go along with other statist demands in the future?

The level of government that most directly impacts our lives is
local. More than half of the typical county’s budget goes to “education.”
As home-schooling becomes mainstream, folks begin to wonder:

  • IF
    we are pouring $200,000 a year into a classroom of twenty students,

  • AND
    IF
    the teacher is making $40,000 a year,

  • AND
    IF
    $10,000 a year should be gracious plenty to pay for the
    classroom and its utilities,

  • THEN
    WHERE
    did the remaining $150,000 go? As Odell the mover said,
    after pocketing a client’s certified check and before unlocking
    the van, “Some damn body made a buck today.”

When people start
asking these questions, a major societal transformation is afoot.

July
26, 2004

Tom
Smedley [send him mail]
is a technical writer living in the Research Triangle Park area
of North Carolina with his wife and four children.

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