NPR did a segment on the book Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feilier. His premise is that we should look at what happy families do and then copy that for our own families. Feilier says that happy families have shared values and spend time together expressing those values in their actions.
On the NPR segment, Feilier explains that a problem is that he and his wife have big jobs, so he has to jump through hoops to show that two parents who cannot make it home for dinner regularly can still, somehow, be a happy family. So he suggests they have meetings where they talk about their values.
Okay. So look, this is so ridiculous that I am not even going to bother talking about how stupid he is. Well, except I want say that it’s like if you can’t play, coach. If you can’t make time to have a happy family, tell other people how to do it.
What I learned from his NPR segment, though, is that homeschooling is a huge family decision. It’s not a schooling decision. It’s a decision about what the values of a family are.
I have a friend who decided to homeschool her third-grader. They planned all summer, and he was really excited and so was she. Then she had her son go to back-to-school night with a friend, and her son, of course, decided he really wanted to go back to school. So she let him.
Ridiculous, right? A third-grader is too young to know if they should homeschool. And most kids—even much older kids—do not have the ability to withstand the constant brainwashing that school does when it markets itself as fun and experimental. (Hey Mom! Come to back to school night! Bring your kids to reading night! Come to everyone-is-creative day!) Of course back-to-school night is nothing like school. That’s the point. Kids hate school so you get them excited about school by doing something that isn’t school.
Kids can’t choose school or homeschool the same way that kids can’t choose if your family lives in Vermont or Arizona.
Location is a family decision. The adults decide what is best for the family. And schooling is a family decision, and the adults decide what is best for the family.
Independent learning doesn’t mean the kids decide which house you’re going to buy because there is a good playroom in the second house. Independent learning means that you set the parameters for the learning environment and the kids decide what to learn. Self-directed learning doesn’t mean the kids rule the family.
Deciding to homeschool or not is a fundamental decision about family life. There is a point when kids can decide for themselves, but it’s when kids are independent enough that schooling is not so much a family decision.