The Needless Lack of Self-Confidence of Most Home-Schooling Mothers
Feb. 8, 2011
The home-school movement is expanding rapidly. No one knows how many home-schooled children there are in the United States, but one U.S. government estimate was 1.5 million as of 2008. Another organization puts it at 2.1 million in 2010. This is a large market. It is growing. There is no reason to think that it will shrink.
The rights of parents to home school vary, state to state. It is still a battle, but there is little possibility in the future that the United States will ever impose what Europe has: a system of state-run schools in which home schooling is illegal.
We see a growing market. We also see information-delivery costs at zero: YouTube, WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and PDFs. We would expect to see a large number of videos and curriculum strategies on-line. But we don't.
As is true of almost every phenomenon, about 20% of the curriculum publishing companies control about 80% of the market. The main ones are Accelerated Christian Education, A Beka, and Bob Jones University. There are others: Alpha-Omega, Rod and Staff. These are printed materials. They are expensive. If you print your own, you can buy low-cost, high-quality materials. By far the best for the money is the Robinson Curriculum: $200, once, for the entire family. It is on CD-ROMs.
Then there is the growing influence of the Khan Academy. Salman Khan, a graduate of M.I.T. and the Harvard Business School, teaches mathematics (K-12), physics, chemistry, and business, free of charge, using YouTube as the vehicle.
Think of what Khan has done. He is a man with no experience in teaching for money or in home schooling, yet he has launched by far the most promising secular home school curriculum on earth. His nieces and nephews told him that he is a good teacher. With that limited testimony, he created the Khan Academy. He has self-confidence, courage, vision, self-discipline, and a willingness to spend time for a larger cause.
Today, there is a generation of home-school mothers who began three decades ago, and whose grandchildren are now being home schooled by their daughters. With the new digital media, you might think that there would be dozens of detailed, step-by-step curriculum programs for sale or for free. Yet Dr. Arthur Robinson's was the first purely digital curriculum. It is delivered on CD-ROMs. He created it because his wife died unexpectedly, and he had to develop a self-taught curriculum. He was running a sheep ranch, a biological research organization, and was the publisher of the newsletter, Access to Energy. He had no time to teach his six children using the labor-intensive, mother-run programs.
So, two men without experience have developed comprehensive programs. Why men? The barrier to entry is not money. The monetary cost of creating and delivering a digits-based program is basically free.
My conclusion: home school mothers lack self-confidence.
But why? They have taught their own children. They have talked with other home school mothers. There are lots of Websites and blogs on the topic. Yet there is only one K-12 mother-created home school curriculum on the Web that is free of charge or very cheap ($200 or less): Old Fashioned Education (free).
The public domain materials are out there. If necessary, a mother could let Khan do the hard lifting in math and science. Yet there is no such mother-designed curriculum.
There are all those women out there who could do this. They don't do this. They are scared. They don't think their efforts in their own households are ready for prime time.
One of my site's members has begun a series of videos on teaching phonics by using the famous McGuffey Readers. (http://themcguffeyreaders.blogspot.com) She is using Google-owned Blogger. She is also using Google-owned YouTube. Both are free. I think there is a real opportunity here.
I had approached other mothers about doing exactly this. They all said it is necessary. None of them agreed to do it. I offered money. I was rebuffed. They all thought they were not qualified.
Here is what is needed, K-6:
1. A McGuffey-based, YouTube-based reading program
It should be a 4-hour daily course.
It should involve writing a daily essay after the second grade.
Most mothers can do this. In each area, there are specialists who are really good at a subject. What is so difficult about all this? Why aren't there dozens of these options available?
Something is radically wrong. If mothers who have taught these courses to their children do not have the courage, dedication, and vision to post their assignments online, then what will their daughters do? If they want their daughters to home school the grandchildren, why would they expect their daughters to have greater competence, dedication, courage, and vision than they do? If these mothers have not instilled confidence, courage, dedication, and vision in their daughters, then there is a major problem with home schooling.
Mothers can use royalty-free clip art to do the letters. They can do simple math, or else direct other mothers to the Khan Academy.
They can go on-line and get lots of free public domain children's books. All of Thornton W. Burgess' animal books published prior to 1923 are legal to use. Some of them are on-line here. Develop grammar lessons in terms of the assigned reading.
Girls above age 8 can read the public domain Anne of Green Gables books or the Elsie Dinsmore books. Boys can read G. A. Henty's historical novels. Art Robinson sells the set on a CD-ROM: http://www.henty.com.
How about Sherlock Holmes' mysteries for older children?
Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stephenson, the Jungle Books: all are free and already digitized.
There is so much free material online. It is there for the taking.
For older children, here is what is needed: an integrated curriculum that is tied to history. The students read history and literature chronologically, with each reinforcing the other. Start with the Old Testament. Around 750 B.C. (the prophets), add Greece and Rome. Ask these questions. What was their view of God, man, law (ethics), causation, and the future (cyclical time vs. linear time), and how did these rival views shape Western civilization? Let me explain.
1. The Bible teaches that God created the world and providentially sustains it. Greeks and Roman intellectuals believed that the world was not created by any God. The man in the street believed in Olympian gods and underground gods, in men made divine and human spirits who haunt families that do not maintain the family religious rites. They believed in the care and feeding of the gods. (Read Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City.)
Mothers who teach their children that Christianity has made a better world had better assign readings in history and literature -- and maybe even philosophy -- that prove this.
There is no curriculum out there that offers anything like this.
What about the humanities? Where are the literature courses that make the connections among history, politics, and religion of each era? Where is the curriculum that teaches the student to recognize literature as the product of a specific worldview? It does not exist.
There is the problem of the social sciences: government, economics, Constitutional law and history. The public domain materials are out of date by 80 years. The student needs to be intellectually armed to challenge the liberalism of the 21st century university. Where is such a curriculum? The materials published by the Mises Institute and the Liberty Fund are a starting point: raw materials. All of Mises books and many of Liberty Fund's are free to download. But where are the study guides? Where are the daily reading assignments, writing assignments, exam questions, and a system for parents to grade all this? They do not exist.
There is the problem of science training. The free curricula do not offer advanced science training. Only Robinson's offers college-level textbooks written by CalTech professors.
Yes, there are reading lists out there. But there are no curricula, K-12, that offer what I have described, or anything like it. A curriculum must be self-consciously governed by a worldview: an explicit view of God, man, law, causation, and time. There is no curriculum out there that is open about its worldview and consistent in teaching students to assess all facts in terms of the worldview. A slap-dash compilation of readings, apart from a program to teach the student how to to interpret, assess, and apply the worldview's principles, is simply warmed-over public school education masquerading as an alternative.
New home school mothers need guidance. Experienced home school mothers are in a position to deliver these materials for free.
These tools are free:
1. Screencast software: CamStudio
A lapel microphone is essential. Buy it at Radio Shack for $27.
There is a war on. John Taylor Gatto's books are guides into the front lines of this war. The Underground History of American Education is on-line for free. Read his other book, Dumbing Us Down. Then read R. J. Rushdoony's 1963 classic, The Messianic Character of American Education.
There is legal assistance available. In 1983, the Home School Legal Defense Association began. It offers a brief history of American home schooling, beginning in 1983.
It is time for the women who have successfully taken their children through the process to show others how to do it. No more "I'm just not equipped." No more "Woe, woe, woe -- poor helpless me." No more "But I'm so busy." No more "I've done my part with my kids. That's enough for anyone to do." They are all variations of this one: "Some man should do all this -- Khan or Robinson. It's just too much for me."
No more excuses. Excuses do not win wars.
On February 9, I received this email.
With all due respect, Dr. North, I take exception to your assumption that home schooling mothers lack self-confidence. Let me assure you that most of us do not lack confidence, and we are not scared, we simply lack leisure time to sit and write curriculum programs--for free or otherwise. I can only speak for myself, but having home educated our 5 children for 25 consecutive years, I am busy monitoring my children's work (we currently use Robinson's Curriculum) , planning & cooking healthy meals (3 a day usually), keeping the laundry caught up and transporting my children to & from educational activities (like speech & debate club). These are just a few of the tasks that keep me going throughout the day. My husband is a tremendous support to me in our endeavor to educate the children, but neither he nor I have the additional time or inclination right now that it takes to write educational programs. This is the season of my life to spend with my children. In a few years, I will have more time to devote to different endeavors and perhaps developing home school materials will be where the Lord leads me, but in the meantime, it has nothing to do with not having "the courage, dedication, and vision to post their (my) assignments online...". And there is no "major problem with home schooling"! This is not an excuse, just the facts of our lives. I hope this has answered your question of why there are not dozens of options available.
I think this illustrates my point. The experienced mothers who could do this refuse to do it. They have moved into R&R mode. For them, the war is over. They got their kids through. That's it. No more. Hasta la vista.
I replied: This . . . is . . . a . . . war.
If today's retired home school mothers will not fight for their grandchildren, to help them win this war, then the next generation will still be sitting in the back of humanism's bus, just as we and our ancestors have since about 1700.
We dare not rest content with this:
Here is what Christian home schoolers need: http://www.freechristiancurriculum.com/snip/101.htm
We can do better. That's why I have started this site: www.FreeChristianCurriculum.com.