For quite a number of years I have heard of Christian parents who have been homeschooling because they felt the US public schools were just too hostile to their faith to trust with their children. Private Christian schools, including the systems of such schools run by the Catholic and Lutheran churches, were once an alternative. But the government is increasingly going after such schools when they fire teachers for doing things that violate the faith they are supposed to be teaching, such as getting pregnant out of wedlock or having a same-sex ‘wedding’. Few parents want to pay up for Christian schooling if their kids are going to be taught by the gay atheist teacher the government forced them to hire instead of by a faithful Christian.
But lately I have been wondering: what if homeschooling were the only option left for ALL parents? What if for all reasons ALL the schools had to close? Lately there have been some terrorists threats against school systems in the US. What terrorist attacks— or ordinary criminal shootings/bombings— became a common thing in schools? Or what if there were global epidemics which made gathering children into increasingly large consolidated schools a bad idea?
I think the homeschooling movement has shown us that even homeschooling moms who don’t have teaching degrees or any sort of four-year college degree at all can not only teach their kids, they can do so well enough that their children are ahead of those educated in government schools. But the current pool of homeschooling mothers is a selected group when compared to all American mothers. These mothers might not have college degrees (though many do) but overwhelmingly, they read.
You see, our population can roughly be divided into two groups— those who read and those who don’t. I’m not talking about literacy here. I’m talking about the fact that some people turn to books and other written materials as a source of information and some don’t. In fact, some non-readers say they haven’t read a book since they left school. Others may use certain reference books related to their job, but won’t sit down and read anything even to better their place at work.
I don’t look down on these non-readers. Perhaps their life experience has taught them that asking other people is the best way to gain information, and I myself just turn to books in that situation because of my poor social skills. But when it comes to the idea of a future need for universal homeschooling, the non-reader moms have a problem. Most homeschooling moms today got started by reading books about homeschooling. They then read up on different curricula they might use. The non-reading mom is likely to feel overwhelmed by having to go through that.
What could be done in a time of universal homeschooling for those mothers? One answer is one I’ve seen advertised on local television. You see, though I live in upper Michigan, all my local TV channels are based in Wisconsin. And the Wisconsin public schools advertise they have free online schooling for K-12, with genuine unionized public school teachers on the other end of the line. That bit kind of appalls me, I must say. But if children were no longer safe in schools— well, setting up the poor kids with internet access is cheaper than running school systems. Perhaps they would have online videos to walk the mothers though what they would have to do to get their kids going with a day of doing their online schooling.
People who don’t know homeschooling often think that homeschool kids don’t get ‘socialized’. They don’t get ‘socialized’ into school culture, that’s for sure. But the typical school socializations— thirty kids sitting passively while one teacher directs a communal ‘conversation’ that covers the key points of the classroom lesson— when do adults ever do that in real life? Most of the things we learn about social interactions in school are things we have to unlearn when we leave school. Some we even have to drop when we get to college.
A science fiction book I once read had a future in which children got their real education from computers for reasons of efficiency. But since the author believed that homeschooling was weird and would make children odd, she adds the idea that the children had to go to ‘Homeroom’ in a physical school. No education took place there, but the children did their little projects about Washington’s birthday (or whatever the powers-that-be though was good indoctrination) and dicked around for a while.
That author (Suzette Haden Elgin) was wrong about homeschooling making kids weird. Perhaps the mistake came in the fact that the homeschooling families she knew about were Christians and she thought that was weird and perhaps socially dangerous. But her idea of an education-free classroom kind of predicts what is going on in public school classrooms today, when education has to make way to a lot of indoctrination programs— some with quite laudable motives such as the anti-drug and ant-bullying campaigns, others more questionable. If the time of universal homeschooling is one in which some remnants of democracy and religious freedom are left, the government may have to put up with allowing alternate online schooling, either religious or just alternative. A ‘Homeroom’ class to get the kids ‘educated’ to the politically correct points of view might be tempting in spite of the cost.
But if the reason for universal homeschooling was based on the idea that schools were no longer safe, many of the traditional ways that homeschool kids socialize beyond their family group might also be unsafe. What if we envisioned a world in which families no longer took their children to church, but watched services at home? Perhaps priests and pastors would go from home to home among their parishioners, holding small communion services for the family and perhaps some of their neighbors.
That would make children different in that they would be robbed of the chance to be among larger groups of people. Perhaps many kids would have excellent social skills with one or two other people, but be totally lost if for some reason they were placed in a meeting with 12 other people. There might even be some good effects as a generation would grow up who never interacted with a ‘group’ but only as individuals in groups of two or three. That might lead to less categorization of people— less saying Muslims are all like this and Southern Baptists are all like that.
To me, a person who experienced a lot of bullying in school— sometimes by teachers— an age of universal homeschooling has some attractions. But what of a more dystopian future in which not only schools as we know them are gone, but also the internet and such luxuries as electricity? Think zombie apocalypse here. The mother who did not have the skill set to easily slip into homeschooling would just have to do the best she could for her kids. Mothers with low information levels or low IQ might barely manage to teach their children to read and do a little basic arithmetic. A mother who was addicted to drugs or alcohol might not even bother with teaching her kids.
But in a situation that dire, book learning might not be as important as other skills. Kids might clamor to get apprenticeships with a local guy would knew how to put up fences or plow fields or milk cows by hand or make cheese and butter. Real world skills— however they might be despised in our culture— are basic to human survival and in a dire situation are more useful than having a Master’s degree in women’s studies or philosophy.