My alarm clock blares loudly at 7:30 a.m. I open my bleary eyes and reach towards the offending noise. Just then, my door opens. My mother, cheery at any hour, bounds into the room. "Wake up, wake up, rise and shine," she proclaims. When I mumbled and roll over, her voice drops an octave. "Get up. It's time to do your school work!" Who said home schoolers have it easy?
Looking back on my education, I feel privileged to have been home schooled through all my school years. Yes, that's right grades kindergarten through 12. Most people don't realize this, but being home schooled was not some type of prison for young people. I didn't gaze longingly out the window in the direction of the local public school. I did not yearn for mystery-meat lunches or early morning bus rides. For I did reap all of the benefits of school: friends, sports, lunchboxes, recess, music lessons, arts and drama, math, history, English well, the list goes on and on. Yet when people discover my educational history, they tend to assume immediately that I was either an ignorant child who couldn't hack it in the sophisticated world of public education, or an overachiever who studied textbooks straight into the weekend.
Since I was neither, I seem to surprise some with the statement that, yes, I am normal. It's almost as if those who are pro-public education expect a tale of woe, but the fact is that I simply can't recall any time that I suffered from home education.
Throughout my home-schooled years, many mothers of publicly "educated" children would approach either my mother or me, and with sincere curiosity ask about the benefits of home schooling. It didn't take a long time to convince these concerned mothers that home schooling has many benefits over public schools; for instance, the ability to control what is being taught to your children. My mother and father are religious people and do not like some of the subjects taught in the public school systems such as evolution and sex education. They feel strongly that these topics are best left to the parents to teach their children as they see fit. But here's the conundrum, folks government-funded schools won't give parents an option. Instead, they prefer to regulate what is being taught to produce a self-serving pro-government viewpoint.
As the failure of public education becomes ever-more obvious, more parents are chaffing at the restriction of free-thinking afforded our children in public schools, and by free thinking I do not mean the movements to save our salmon, hug our trees, or adopt an indigenous person. I refer to free thinkers as those who embrace individual responsibilities and ideas; those who practice time-tested rules and morals without restrictions imposed by the left-wing public school system. Hence, there is a movement afoot for parents to take more responsibility for their children's education.
Once upon a time there was a thing called education. Defined by Webster's Dictionary, to educate means "1: to provide with schooling 2: to develop mentally and morally." The word carries a simple definition, but one that has been clouded by a left-liberal society's definition of the word. Somewhere between reading and u2018rithmetic, public schools replaced mental development with liberal-agenda brainwashing. As a recipient of home schooling, my educational training was never compromised by the liberal collective or spoiled by unmotivated teachers, but instead was nurtured by my mother, the one person who had no ulterior motive other than providing a quality education. I was given the opportunity to focus on true academic studies instead of being drawn into the social and political subculture of public school. I was given one-on-one attention that allowed me to fully comprehend the subject at hand. Without the distraction of a crowded classroom, I was able to ask questions about the subjects I studied, and I was able to retain and comprehend the lessons taught to me.
Scholastic education aside, what about moral education? Public schools are teaching high schoolers proper condom usage, while staying away from such alternatives as chastity. Pro-homosexuality and anti-gun sentiments are being hurrahed in schools, yet prayer is banned. School nurses tell parents that children are not required to receive permission before obtaining abortion referrals through the school. Any aspect of moral education has been wiped out and replaced with an "if it feels good, do it" mentality. As a result, the rebellious attitude and scholastic disinterest of today's youth are fostered by a permissive and indulgent educational system.
When parents look at their child's educational well being, on a whole, they will notice that this extends further than simple academics. Since the mid 1990s, there has been an increase in violent incidents in public schools. Throughout my years of home education, I never once feared for my safety. From the moment I opened my textbooks until the end of the day, I knew my one purpose: to learn (be it academic or moral lessons). I didn't worry about knives in lockers or guns hidden in waistbands. I never heard threats or taunts; classmates never disrespected me. I received an environment of total and uninterrupted peace where I was allowed to focus on learning and not on whether I'd make it home from school in one piece. Going back to the basics, this should be what one encounters when receiving an education. School should be a place of learning, not a melting pot of violent, misguided youths.
While we struggle with the issue of school violence, another concern comes to light. Peer pressure has long been a negative factor of public education. I realize that peer pressure can be found in many places, not just our public school system. However, school is a place where children spend five days a week, eight hours a day with their peers, making the chances for caving to pressures such as smoking, drinking, sex, and drugs much higher. A member of my family attending public high school has smoked and drank since she was 14. Raised by morally aware but often busy parents, she turns to her friends for companionship and guidance, and often succumbs to the pressures of fitting in amongst the students with whom she spends most of her days.
In a home-school environment, the parents have the ability to be more "hands on" and reduce some of the pressure children face on a daily basis. So many people asked me while I was being home schooled, "Don't you wish your parents were less strict," somehow equating home education with a way to exercise stifling control. I can't count the times some well meaning individual took it upon themselves to inform my parents that I was suffering from a lack of social interaction that I could only find in a public school. These people seemed to label those who home school their children as ignorant and uninformed, though it takes a high level of intelligence and dedication to properly educate your children at home.
I look back at my teen years and acknowledge all the pressures my parents kept me from having to face until I was mature enough to make wise choices. Home education carries into more areas than just the academics. It helps the individual to grow creatively, without the worries of popularity and peer pressure. Due to this, I was able to express myself in many areas without the fear of what others would think. I developed a stronger sense of who I was and for what I stood.
For those of you with a few remaining questions, no, I did not study on Saturdays; yes, I had plenty of friends and no, I didn't get lunch money. No, I didn't need therapy because of it. And no, I don't lie awake at nights dreaming of the prom I never attended, but yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question.
August 2, 2002
Jacki LeClair [send her mail] is a 21-year-old surety underwriting assistant and college student.