Posted by: chrisdavis | January 14, 2011

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children! – Part 3

The Collapse of the Family – Part 2

[This is Part 3 of the article “Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children!”]

To understand where I am going with all this, I need to give a short history lesson. If you can follow along, I believe it will help establish why I ask parents to not homeschool their children.

The Industrial Revolution of the mid-1800’s is properly called a Revolution in that it changed the culture of America forever. Especially did it change the family.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the average American family had seven children and, because of this high number of children, the average age of all Americans was 13 years old.

Why so many kids? Because, next to the land, children were the family’s most important asset. Families needed children, and lots of them. Very few adults earned wages since most families farmed their own land and lived only at a subsistence level. In other words, they produced, and made, virtually everything they needed. Who needs money in an economy like that?

One interesting fact is that, in spite of living at a barely subsistence level, American children had the highest level of literacy in the world.

What changed?

There has always been a desire to improve one’s family’s standard of living and to give one’s family more than it already has. But, when even the simplest things are expensive and have to be made by hand—and when parents and children spend their days working the fields to produce everything the family needs—“getting ahead” is little more than a parent’s dream.

However, in the mid-1800’s, everything changed. The Industrial Revolution began. Machinery was married to steam power and what once was too expensive for a family to afford (or had to be hand-made) suddenly came within reach financially. More importantly, the newly built factories needed workers, with the promise of earning money. The siren call went forth for men to leave their homes and be paid a salary (something new for most men). The possibility of being able to increase one’s family’s standard of living was the draw that caused men to cease being patriarchs of a family enterprise and become employees.

Around this same time, another movement was taking shape: The Common (Public) School Movement. The leaders of this movement were, for the most part, humanists who were concerned about two things they believed endangered America’s future: That parents were teaching their children what these men called “religious superstitious beliefs” and the influx of illiterate immigrants seeking jobs and a better life in America. These leaders believed that realizing their two-fold goal of ridding our society of religion and providing an education for immigrant children mandated compulsory education for every child. Soon, various states were passing Compulsory Attendance Laws and children were being required, by law, to leave home to be public schooled.

So, as dads were leaving home with a promise of employment, children were also leaving home with a promise of being made employable. Within a very short period of time, the family unit—which had been tightly held together as its members worked together for the common good of the whole—became a group of individuals going their separate ways with separate agendas. To the factories went the dads. To the schools went the kids. And, Mom? Her identity within the (quickly dispersing) family will have to be the subject of another (and very important) article.

It wasn’t long before people forgot what it was like to be a family with Dad as the head of a family enterprise with each family member being co-producers. In one generation, the cultural memory of children growing up at home was forgotten. Children belonged “in school” during the most productive hours of their day, learning whatever would make them employable, becoming independent, establishing strong relationships with peers that replaced the bonds of family. What had once been a lifestyle of learning became “book learning” as education became separated from a real life that was no longer being lived.

[Next: pulling the family back home]



  1. I do appreciate how well you seem to have through through this issue and I look forward to reading your final entry. However, I completely disagree. While I would agree that homeschooling is not for everybody, saying homeschooling isn’t for anybody is….Well, absurd is the only word that comes to mind. Whether you’re talking about bright students who need the ability to move faster, slow students who need special attention, or parents who want to protect their children from the dangers of public school, homeschooling is a perfect fit for many people. Here’s is a very short list of some people who have been homeschooled: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington (and 11 other presidents), Wolfgang Mozart, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Robert E. Lee, John Philip Sousa, Robert Frost, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Winston Churchill, the Jonas Brothers, LeAnne Rymes, Rebecca St. James, Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos), Jason Taylor (New York Jets), Venus & Serena Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Sandra Day O’Connor & Jennifer Love Hewitt. Regardless of the era in American history, people who were homeschooled have had a huge impact. I would hate to see that ever change.

    • Dear J.C.: I was a homeschool Dad for 25 years (3 sons all the way through), owned one the oldest & largest homeschool supply companies, and spoke at homeschool conferences most of that time. If you can make it to the end of this article, I think you may just be surprised at where I end up. 😉

  2. Thanks to Marilyn Howshall, a lifestyle of learning has been our aim from very early on in our children’s lives. I find the history of men leaving the home quite intriguing. My husband & his sister were the first in their farming/ranching family to get a college education. My husband admits he went into the workforce for a large corporation because his parents wanted him to have the “security” of a steady wage and benefits like insurance. Now he wants to “come home” from that job and support us in other ways and although we’ve made steps in that direction, he doesn’t know how to make it work. Part of the problem is I have a chronic illness, and part of it is that it is much harder to support a family by agricultural means in today’s culture.

    • It may be that returning to a “whole family” orientation (i.e. where each individual in the family is part of a “family enterprise”, giving to something greater than themselves), is something for the next generation. I think we need to give our children an alternative to job preparation which would open their minds to personal entrepreneurship.

  3. Yes! That’s what we’re working towards. I think our children have the right mindset for that.

  4. I hope J.C. Derrick reads the rest of this article. I have read this many times in the book “I Saw the Angel in the Marble”, only there it is titled, “The Day Homeschooling Dies.” I was worried before I read it, but then I understood the idea afterwords.

    We need to stop forcing “school” like education on our kids. I have yet to reach a point where I am promoting a lifestyle of learning instead of “school” type work. I almost free my thinking completely and then the “security” of “schoolish” stuff grabs me again. I need to read this article everday. I hope to someday rid myself of the old traditional thinking and hopefully realize that there is a better way and go for it. I equate this unease to being in prison and when you are freed, you don’t know what to do so you want to go back to “prison” for security.

    • Cindy: Your analogy of prison is very apt. It is easier to return to “security” even if you have no freedom, than to have to figure out for yourself how life is to be lived.

      As I substitute teach in the public schools, I often think of what advice I could give these young people in my classes that would mean anything.

      I came up with a couple of things today: 1) Always sit on the front row, right in front of the teacher, if possible. That will guarantee you one full letter grade higher than if you sat somewhere else (I proved this in my own life); 2) (and this is a quote from my middle son who is now a highly paid, professional dancer): “If I am willing to spend a few years doing what others won’t do, then I may spend the rest of my life doing what others can’t do.”

      When I think of #2, I’m not so sure “others won’t do…” is the issue. I think a great problem is that no one gives young people the TIME necessary for them to spend in the activity that pertains to the gift God put in them. Someone must give the young person LOTS OF TIME to spend doing what others won’t do (because they are doing stuff adults think is important, but robs the young person of the time they need). Young people today never have enough time to become good enough at what God has gifted them to do in life so their gift never has a chance to make a difference in the world.

  5. Chris,

    I just don’t know how to reconcile what the system expects and what I could do, if I could free myself from that trap. I don’t want my son to be ill-prepared for structured learning in the future- trade school, college, or whatever. Right now, we do somewhat relaxed homeschooling-structure with flexibility. The one thing that has changed is my attitude towards him and his level of learning. So, while I desire something better-it is so different I have not gotten there yet.

    • Cindy: I completely understand! As I said in my previous entry, when we believe the “system” actually knows what it is doing, we have no choice but to follow that system. This statement doesn’t apply only to educational systems, but to every system we have followed, sometimes without ever questioning why we follow it. I hope my next entry helps as I believe it may be the most important thing I have to say about all this. Stay tuned…

  6. I understand what you guys are saying, but I’m not sure I agree. I’m a product of a family who took an approach similar to what you guys are describing. My parents started homeschooling 30 years ago when hardly anybody was doing it, so they had to find their own way. They took a non-traditional approach, and there are aspects of what they did that I plan to incorporate when I homeschool my own children one day. However, when I stepped into a classroom for the first time at age 24, I was very ill-prepared for the rigors of higher education. I found myself wishing my parents had offered more of the basics and a structured atmosphere.

    I think the most important thing you can instill in your children is a desire to learn. You should learn everywhere you go, and make it fun….But don’t free yourself from a prison that will ultimately put your child in one later. I’m one of those kids who had to claw my way out, and I’m not going to let that happen to my children.

    • J.C.: I am very intrigued by your post. Would you be willing to elaborate, especially the part re: not being ready for a classroom setting? I’d be interested in what you are considering doing with your children so they would not feel so unprepared. Thanks, Chris

  7. Well, what I mean is that my parents raised very functional members of society. We were well-rounded in a lot of ways in that we could cook, quote scripture, work on cars, were good at sports and didn’t have a problem fitting in socially. However, when it comes to things like math and science, we were woefully behind our peers. I had to take three remedial math courses when I arrived at college and later got a C in college algebra (and it wasn’t for a lack of effort).
    I don’t blame my parents because I believe they did the best they could, but I have identified ways in which I will raise my kids differently. Mostly I will offer more structure, keep good records and make sure they’re tested to keep up with current academic standards. (I can only remember a handful of times I was ever tested on anything growing up.) My state, Texas, has literally no testing requirements for homeschoolers, but I don’t think that means they should never be tested.
    Another thing I would do is incorporate group learning when possible through my church or perhaps a homeschooling group. Although I never felt isolated socially growing up, I was extremely isolated academically. I think healthy competition can be very useful in spurring on the learning process. Just as final grades can be very rewarding, learning you’re in the top 15% of your class (as I did this week) is also a great motivator. Obviously competition needs to be specific to each child, depending on how much they excel in school.
    I’m sorry if I’ve rambled. These are just some thoughts off the top of my head.

    • J.C.: These are helpful comments. As parents, we want every one of our children to be “complete”. This is easier said than done as different parents tend to emphasize different things and sometimes our kids miss a few aspects as you seemed to have done. IMO, I would rather my children grow up with the strengths you say you have as long as I taught them how to teach themselves the information other children spend most of their time learning. I DO think there are academics every child needs to know simply to function in a 21st century world. This includes things like Algebra (I don’t place Algebra in the category of “math” but see it belonging to necessary higher-order thinking skills). Now, I’m rambling…

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