Parents, if you absolutely must enroll your children in school — any school, whether public or private — never rush into doing so! Early enrollment will neither help your child, nor improve your chances of teaching your child the values that your family believes to be integral to Life and living. Realize that there is nothing to be gained by having your child complete school at too young of an age for there is no contest wherein the first one to cross the line is guaranteed to be a winner.
When my son was five, he was reading and pursuing all sorts of creative investigations, inventions, and experiments, and still owns an unbelievable number of books on inventions through the ages. His imagination knew no limits and it was usually fun to observe how his mind worked. Sometimes it was bothersome…like the day I needed to leave the house quickly — only to discover that he had entered his “string phase.” He had all kitchen cabinet handles tied together with intricate patterns, with that complex nightmare of knots tightly bound to the doorknobs of the backdoor, the bathroom and basement stairs across the way. It resembled a massive spider web made with fairly heavy cord, and was just as impassible. (As I cut my way through the tangle, I wondered why I thought that book about knots would make such a good gift…)
I had not yet read anything by John Taylor Gatto, especially The Underground History of American Education. Although I realized that David, by puttering with his projects and books, was learning the workings of the world via physics and amassing much general knowledge, I wrongfully believed that it was rightfully expected that he go to school. (Foolish, uneducated me!!) Although our family had traditionally kept boys home until they were six years old, I thought that David must be ready for he was already reading, spelling, using the word processor, highly verbal. He seemed uninterested about starting school that fall, which worried me. I also worried that he might not be ready to sit still, and I envisioned him spending days being criticized by teachers.
I decided to consult a wise kindergarten teacher in the district where I then taught, who advised me to, “Ask him.” I was stunned. Parents should ask five-year olds whether or not they should be enrolled in school? She explained, “Kids know whether they are ready or not. Ask him!” So I asked, “How would you feel if we didn’t send you to school this fall?” A look of sheer bliss came over his face, “You mean, I could spend another year home with Dad?” The garage, the tractors, and the experiments won out, and David did stay home another year, during which he learned more than he would have ever learned in any school on Earth.
All children have the same needs for natural learning, and for time in the home, being safely taught about Life by parents. Your children need to spend their time doing discovery learning (real discovery learning, not the PC jargon that confuses math issues); not watching any TV or playing with any video or computer games. The imagination is a terrible thing to waste, and we cheat children out of opportunities to develop rich imaginations when we provide them with visual images — TV, movies, computers, books with pictures once they are past the picture-book age. A child’s imagination can best develop in the home, with parents talking and reading to the child. Schools force behaviors that are unnatural to children; probably unnatural to any of us. Do not rob your children of the opportunities available in Life. Encourage them to experiment, invent, spread their wings and fly. Schools will basically pigeon hole all who enter.
I had hoped that David would be safe from the corrupting issues in schools, for his Grandmother taught in his elementary building, and I was nearby teaching at the middle/high school. I was so, so wrong. The corrupting things about schools, especially public schools, are often too subtle to note, or too powerful to stop. We fought with school officials for three and one-half years until giving up and pulling David out of school in the middle of third grade. Almost ten years have passed, and we still have been unable to unschool then reteach too many basic beliefs and issues that were subtly, and not so subtly, forced upon him during those most important early years leaving too many of his perceptions and reactions warped.
Keep your children within the safety of your home as long as you can, and make that environment as verbally, auditorily, and imaginatively stimulating as possible. Discarding the TV and reserving the computers for adult use would be two great first steps. If you doubt my warnings, I would encourage you to read Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Another issue to consider when planning school enrollment is that of age at graduation. Let us consider a child who starts school after recently turning five years old (and some areas send the HeadStart busses out to remove three and four years old children from the homes!):
August/September start at:
5 years old
6 years old
7 years old
8 years old
9 years old
10 years old
11 years old
12 years old
13 years old
14 years old
15 years old
16 years old
17 years old
Such a child would graduate within the few months before or after the eighteenth birthday. If the child started school at four and one-half, as allowed in too many places, a child may leave school to enter the too-often big/bad world as a sixteen or seventeen year old! If the child missed out on home and parenting because of day care and preschool, the child could be totally unprepared, emotionally and mentally, to live as an adult; expected to suddenly make wise decisions in life.
Homeschooling is especially important when we consider the overall needs of the child/youth/young adult, for we, as superintendent/principal/counselor/teacher, can make decisions that place appropriate milestones at the appropriate times in the lives of our children. We can decrease book learning as goals are met, then include apprenticeships, on-the-job training, jobs for pay. Parents can set limits, as we did in our home, which delayed dating of any kind until the seventeenth birthday. Such limits give parents the years needed to keep teens constructively busy while guiding them as they mature in incremental stages. Limits that wisely delay maturity give our children time to develop wisdom about themselves and Life, prior to issues being complicated with relationships better left to older teens and young adults.
Another reason to delay entry into the school environment is to protect the fragile emotions and egos of our preteens and teens. It is very hard on children to be the youngest ones in their grades — to be interested in dolls when the peer group is interested in boys; to be small in stature as the girls tower over middle school boys; to be the last to get a drivers license; too small for sports.
Emotional scars that come about from being in the wrong peer group at the wrong time are scars that often never heal. I only need think of eighth grade and pain returns to my heart. I was kept home until I was almost six so I was in the right grade at the right time, but my emotions were not ready for peer pressure to be boy-crazy. In our home we valued family time — friends and family over for dinners and sing-a-longs; vacations with grandparents to visits relatives in other states and/or sightsee; weekends spent back in the hometown with grandparents and cousins. In eighth grade the scheduling separated me from my best friend, Yvonne. I could not find a place in other groups where I could share interests and feel comfortable. It was a miserable, painful year. It is one of the years in my life that I would never choose to relive; it is best left partially buried in hopes that the winds of time eventually cover it completely.
We should help our children avoid such years, no matter how much we want a new car, or a larger and fancier home, or…or…or… No excuses. We brought these children into the world and our focus; our priorities; should be on raising our children ourselves. To do so requires that parents take the time to wisely practice protective parenting with proper milestones and much security built into the lives of children to enable them to develop into solid, secure, capable adults. Anything less is to shirk the parental promise that should have been the foundation for the decision to bring a child into the world. Children are not decorations or toys; they are human beings to whom we owe a debt more important than mortgages and car loans. Our debt will not be fulfilled until our children are knowledgeable, capable, stable, independent individuals, able to make wise decisions about choosing a spouse, planning for children, developing and following a plan for wise protective parenting of the next generation.
Schools teach none of those subjects. Only families can effectively accomplish such goals by teaching and reinforcing such lessons.
Some books that you may find helpful:
- Murray Rothbard’s Education: Free & Compulsory
- Michael Gurian’s: Boys and Girls Learn Differently!: A Guide for Teachers and Parents; A Fine Young Man: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Adolescent Boys in Exceptional Men; The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters
- Mel Levine’s: A Mind at a Time, Ready or Not, Here Life Comes
- Grace Llewellyn’s Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.