Howie Hayman

A story about an international couple raising and home educating three young boys on a small island in Japan, half living in buses, engaged in organic, self-sufficient farming in the middle of a mountain forest while dealing with climate, cultural, and personal challenges. These pages are about pretty much anything and everything all guided by our family motto, Taking Chances, Making Changes, Being Happy. Thank you very much for joining us on our ongoing crazy adventure.
Home Education

Home education, commonly referred to as home schooling, is as it at home. With schools around The World, and especially in America, becoming increasing overcrowded, unsafe, and inadequate, a trend towards home education is emerging. Many parents are realizing the limits place on their children in traditional schools and are opting to keep their kids home. This page explains the many problems with schools and the benefits of home education.

My story began many years ago in New York State, when at the age of fifteen, I decided enough was enough and decided to leave school. The full story is at the bottom of this page. The story continues in Japan though with the home education of our three sons. A definite point of contention for the countryside Japanese neighbors in our community but they finally got used to the idea after a couple of years.

Simply put, schools are awful places to send your kids. Say all you want about the need for socialization, and any other excuses you would like to make for sending them, but read this page and see if it changes your thinking.
John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto (born December 15, 1935) is an American author and former school teacher who taught in the classroom for nearly 30 years. He devoted much of his energy to his teaching career, then, following his resignation, authored several books on modern education, criticizing its ideology, history, and consequences. He is best known for the underground classic Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, which is sometimes considered to be his magnum opus. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.

In 1991, he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled I Quit, I Think, (read text in full at the bottom of this page), to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living." He then began a public speaking and writing career, and has received several awards from libertarian organizations, including the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Excellence in Advancement of Educational Freedom in 1997. He promotes homeschooling, and specifically unschooling and open source learning.

I consider this man to be the "Father of home education" as his thoughts about homeschooling solidified my thinking about the inadequacies of the public school system in the United States. A system which I totally rejected at age my story at the bottom of this page. Although Gatto is certainly not the originator of the philosophy of home education, he brought the idea to a whole new level in a secular context, and made the public aware of the damaging effects of schools. Here is a man who devoted his entire career to teaching in public schools, only to realize his efforts were not only useless, but actually detrimental to the students he had taught.....a tough pill to swallow for anyone. His views on public education are right on, and only those of us who were not sufficiently brainwashed into thinking public schools are the only way, can see why home education is, and always will be, the best path to a fulfilling and happy life.
What is home education?

Home education (also called homeschooling, homeschool or home learning) is the education of children at home, typically by parents or professional tutors, rather than in a public or private school. Before the introduction of compulsory school attendance laws, most childhood education occurred within the family or community, home education in the modern sense is an alternative in developed countries to formal education.

In many places home education is a legal option for parents who wish to provide their children with a different learning environment than exists in nearby schools. The motivations for home education range from a dissatisfaction with the schools in their area to the desire for better academic test results. It is also an alternative for families living in isolated rural locations and those who choose, for practical or personal reasons, not to have their children attend school.

Home education may also refer to instruction in the home under the supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. In some places, an approved curriculum is legally required if children are to be home educated.

Home education is often considered to be synonymous with homeschooling, but some have argued that the latter term implies the re-creation of school in the context of the home, which they believe is philosophically at odds with unschooling.

Unschooling contrasts with other forms of home education in that the student's education is not directed by a teacher and curriculum. Although unschooling students may choose to make use of teachers or curricula, they are ultimately in control of their own education. Students choose how, when, why, and what they pursue. Parents who unschool their children act as "facilitators," providing a wide range of resources, helping their children access, navigate, and make sense of the world, and aiding them in making and implementing goals and plans for both the distant and immediate future. Unschooling expands from children's natural curiosity as an extension of their interests, concerns, needs, goals, and plans.
Brief history of education

For much of history and in many cultures, enlisting professional teachers (whether as tutors or in a formal academic setting) was an option available only to a small elite. Thus, until relatively recently, the vast majority of people were educated by parents (especially during early childhood) and in the context of a specific type labor that they would pursue in adult life, such as working in the fields or learning a trade.

The earliest compulsory education in the West began in the late 17th century and early 18th century in the German states of Gotha, Calemberg and, particularly, Prussia. However, even in the 18th century, the vast majority of people in Europe lacked formal schooling, which means they were homeschooled or received no education at all. The same was also true for colonial America and for the United States until the 1850s. Formal schooling in a classroom setting has been the most common means of schooling throughout the world, especially in developed countries, since the early and mid 19th century. Native Americans, who traditionally used homeschooling and apprenticeship, strenuously resisted compulsory education in the United States.

Public schools were gradually introduced into the United States during the course of the 19th century. The first state to issue a compulsory education law was Massachusetts, in 1789, but not until 1852 did the state establish a "true comprehensive statewide, modern system of compulsory schooling."

Before the introduction of public schools, many children were educated in private schools or in the home.

After the establishment of the Massachusetts system, other states and localities gradually began to provide public schools and to make attendance mandatory.
Why should you home educate?

Formal education in a classroom setting has been the most common means of education throughout the world, especially in developed countries, since the early and mid 19th century. Native Americans, who traditionally used home education and apprenticeship, strenuously resisted compulsory education in the United States.
John Caldwell Holt

In 1964, John Caldwell Holt, published a book entitled "How Children Fail" which criticized traditional schools. The book was based on a theory he had developed as a teacher – that the academic failure of school children was caused by pressure placed on children in schools. Holt began making appearances on major TV talk shows and writing book reviews for Life magazine. In his follow-up work, "How Children Learn", 1967, he tried to demonstrate the learning process of children and why he believed school short circuits this process.

In 1980, Holt said, "I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were."

Criticism of traditional school methods

Many home educators agree with John Holt when he says that "...the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don't know." Proponents of home education assert that individualized, child-led learning is more efficient and respectful of children's time, takes advantage of their interests, and allows deeper exploration of subjects than what is possible in conventional education.
Raymond and Dorothy Moore

During this time, the American educational professionals Raymond and Dorothy Moore began to research the academic validity of the rapidly growing Early Childhood Education movement. This research included independent studies by other researchers and a review of over 8,000 studies bearing on Early Childhood Education and the physical and mental development of children.

They asserted that formal schooling before ages 8–12 not only lacked the anticipated effectiveness, but was actually harmful to children. The Moores began to publish their view that formal schooling was damaging young children academically, socially, mentally, and even physiologically. They presented evidence that childhood problems such as juvenile delinquency, nearsightedness, increased enrollment of students in special education classes, and behavioral problems were the result of increasingly earlier enrollment of students.

Their primary assertion was that the bonds and emotional development made at home with parents during these years produced critical long term results that were cut short by enrollment in schools, and could neither be replaced nor afterward corrected in an institutional setting.
Homeschool survey

In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.

Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.

58.9% report that they are "very happy" with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life "exciting", compared with 47.3%.
Test results

Numerous studies have found that home educated students on average outperform their peers on standardized tests. Home Schooling Achievement, a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), supported the academic integrity of home education. Among the home educated students who took the tests, the average home education student outperformed his public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects. The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders were virtually non-existent among the home education students who took the tests.

New evidence has been found that home educated children are learning more and are getting higher scores on the ACT and SAT tests. A study at Wheaton College in Illinois showed that the freshmen that were home educated for high school scored fifty-eight points higher on their SAT scores than those of kids that went to a normal school. Most colleges look at the ACT and SAT scores of home educated children when considering them for acceptance to a college. On average, home educated children score eighty-one points higher than the national average on the SAT scores.

The following are common opinions and concerns of people who are critical of home education.
  • Most children lack the foresight to learn the things they will need to know in their adult lives
  • There may be gaps in a child's education unless an educational professional controls what material is covered
  • Because schools provide a ready-made source of peers, it may be more difficult for children who are not in school to make friends and develop social skills than it is for their schooled peers
  • Because schools may provide a diverse group of both adults and students, it might be more difficult for children who are not in school to be directly exposed to different cultures, socio-economic groups and worldviews
  • Some children are not motivated to learn anything, and will spend all of their time in un-educational endeavors if not coerced into doing otherwise
  • Not all parents may be able to provide the stimulating environment or have the skills and patience required to encourage the student's curiosity
  • Because they often lack a diploma from an accredited school, it may be more difficult for unschooled students to get into college or get a job
  • Children who direct their own educations may not develop the ability to take direction from others
Who should home educate?

Home education is not for everyone. There needs to be a firm commitment on the part of both the parents and the children.

Home educators often claim that learning any specific subject is less important than learning how to learn. They assert, in the words of Alec Bourne, "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated", and in the words of Holt: "Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned."
Learning ability

This ability to learn on their own makes it more likely that later, when these children are adults, they can continue to learn what they need to know to meet newly emerging needs, interests, and goals. They can return to any subject that they feel was not sufficiently covered or learn a completely new subject.

Many home educators disagree that there is a particular body of knowledge that every person, regardless of the life they lead, needs to possess. They suggest that there are countless subjects worth studying, more than anyone could learn within a single lifetime. Since it would be impossible for a child to learn everything, somebody must decide what subjects they are to explore. Home educators argue that "Children... if they are given access to enough of the world, they will see what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world than anyone else could make for them."

The role of parents

The child-directed nature of home educating does not mean that home education parents will not provide their children with guidance and advice, or that they will refrain from sharing things that they find fascinating or illuminating with them. These parents generally believe that as adults, they have more experience with the world and greater access to it. They believe in the importance of using this to aid their children in accessing, navigating, and making sense of the world. Common parental activities include sharing interesting books, articles, and activities with their children, helping them find knowledgeable people to explore an interest with (anyone from physics professors to automotive mechanics), and helping them set goals and figure out what they need to do to meet their goals. The interest-based nature of home education does not mean that it is a "hands off" approach to education; parents tend to be quite involved, especially with younger children (older children, unless they are new to home education, will often need much less help finding resources and making and carrying out plans).
Who really does home education?

Statistically, the typical American home educating parents are married and home educate their children primarily for religious or moral reasons. They average three or more children, and typically the mother stays home to care for them.

Home education has increased tremendously, from 15,000 students in 1970 to 500,000 in 1990. According to United States Department of Education report NCES 2003-42, "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", there was an increase in homeschooled students in the U.S. from 850,000 students in 1999 (1.7 percent of the total student population) to 1.1 million students in 2003 (2.2 percent of the total student population).

According to a National Home Education Research Institute statement, an estimated 1.9 to 2.4 million children were home educated during 2005–2006.

During this time, home education rates increased among students whose parents have high school or lower education, 1.6 to 2.4 percent among student in grades 6–8; and 0.7 to 1.4 percent among students with only one parent.

As in 1999, rates were highest in families with three or more children (3.1 percent), and higher in families with two children (1.5 percent) than only one child (1.4 percent). There were more home education students from families with two parents (2.5 percent) than only one parent (1.5 percent), and students from two parent families where only one parent worked were more than twice as likely to be home educated (5.6 percent).

Parents offer a variety of reasons for home educating their children. The more common reasons can be seen in the following table.
Reasons for home education Number of Home Educated Students Percent
Can give child better education at home 415,000 48.9
Religious reasons 327,000 38.4
Poor learning environment at school 218,000 25.6
Family reasons 143,000 16.8
To develop character/morality 128,000 15.1
Object to what school teaches 103,000 12.1
School does not challenge child 98,000 11.6
Other problems with available schools 76,000 9.0
Child has special needs/disability 69,000 8.2
Transportation/convenience 23,000 2.7
Child not old enough to enter school 15,000 1.8
Parent's career 12,000 1.5
Could not get into desired school 12,000 1.5
Other reasons * 189,000 22.2
* Other reasons include more flexibility in educational practices for children with learning disabilities or illnesses, or for children of missionaries, military families, or otherwise traveling parents. Home education is sometimes opted for the gifted student who is accelerated, when a child has a significant career hobby (such as acting, circus performance, dancing or music), or for families who wish to abstain from mandatory immunizations.

Note - The figures in the table and the graph above do not exactly match as the information was obtained during different time frames.
According to a 2003 U.S. Census survey, 33% of home education households cited religion as a factor in their choice. The same study found that 30% felt school had a poor learning environment, 14% objected to what the school teaches, 11% felt their children were not being challenged at school, and 9% cited morality.

According to the U.S. DOE's "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003", 85 percent of home educating parents cited "the social environments of other forms of schooling" (including safety, drugs, bullying and negative peer-pressure) as an important reason why they home educate. 72 percent cited "to provide religious or moral instruction" as an important reason, and 68 percent cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools." 7 percent cited "Child has physical or mental health problems", 7 percent cited "Child has other special needs", 9 percent cited "Other reasons" (including "child's choice," "allows parents more control of learning," and "flexibility").
When to home educate?

There is no set time to begin a home education program. It does seem to make sense that earlier is better since children begin learning from the moment they enter the world.

Home educators commonly believe that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn. Some argue that institutionalizing children in what they term a "one size fits all" or "factory model" school is an inefficient use of their time because it requires every child to learn a specific subject matter in a particular manner, at a particular pace, and at a particular time regardless of that individual's present or future needs, interests, goals, or any pre-existing knowledge he or she might have about the topic.

Many home educators also believe that opportunities for valuable hands-on, community based, spontaneous, and real-world experiences are missed when educational opportunities are largely limited to those which can occur physically inside of a school building.

Home educators note that psychologists have documented many differences between children in the way that they learn, and assert that home education is better equipped to adapt to these differences.
Developmental differences

Developmental psychologists note that children are prepared to learn at different ages. Just as some children learn to walk during a normal range of eight to fifteen months, and begin to talk across an even larger range, home educators assert that they are also ready to read, for example, at different ages. Since traditional education requires all children to begin reading at the same time and do multiplication at the same time, home educators believe that some children cannot help but be bored because this was something that they had been ready to learn earlier, and even worse, some children cannot help but fail, because they are not yet ready for this new information being taught.

Learning styles

Recent research has indicated that people vary greatly in their "learning styles", that is, how they acquire new information. In a traditional school setting, while there might be some application of this knowledge, classroom teachers almost never allow an individual student to be evaluated any differently than any other student, and while a teacher—particularly at the primary levels—may use different teaching methods, this is generally done haphazardly and without specific regard for the needs of any individual student.

In the 1970s Raymond S. Moore and Dorothy N. Moore conducted four federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, from which they published their original findings in "Better Late Than Early," 1975. This was followed by "School Can Wait," a repackaging of these same findings designed specifically for educational professionals. Their analysis concluded that, "where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten."

Their reason was that children, "are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are ready." They concluded that the outcome of forcing children into formal schooling is a sequence of:
  • uncertainty as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment
  • puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom
  • frustration because unready learning tools – senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination – cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring
  • hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration
  • failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above
  • delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason
According to the Moores, "early formal schooling is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out." Aside from academic performance, they think early formal schooling also destroys "positive sociability", encourages peer dependence, and discourages self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers. They believe this situation is particularly acute for boys because of their delay in maturity. The Moore's cited a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating a requirement for:
  • much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults
  • very little time spent with peers
  • a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance
Their analysis suggested that children need:
  • more of home and less of formal school
  • more free exploration with parents
  • fewer limits of classroom and books
  • more old fashioned chores
  • to be working with parents
  • less attention to rivalry sports and amusements
The timing of home education is extremely important but equally important is the method of home education used. Many philosophies exist, however, the needs of the family and the child should guide you in making the best decision. A few of the more commonly accepted methods include the following:
Unschooling and natural learning

Some people use the term "unschooling" to describe all methods of education that do not resemble schools.

“Natural learning” refers to a type of learning-on-demand where children pursue knowledge based on their interests and parents take an active part in facilitating activities and experiences conducive to learning but do not rely heavily on textbooks or spend much time “teaching”, looking instead for “learning moments” throughout their daily activities. Parents see their role as that of affirming through positive feedback and modeling the necessary skills, and the child’s role as being responsible for asking and learning.
Meaning of unschooling

The term "unschooling" as coined by John Holt describes an approach in which parents do not authoritatively direct the child's education, but interact with the child following the child's own interests, leaving them free to explore and learn as their interests lead. "Unschooling" does not indicate that the child is not being educated, but that the child is not being "schooled", or educated in a rigid school-type manner. Holt asserted that children learn through the experiences of life, and he encouraged parents to live their lives with their child. Also known as interest-led or child-led learning, unschooling attempts to follow opportunities as they arise in real life, through which a child will learn without coercion. An unschooled child may utilize texts or classroom instruction, but these are not considered central to education. Holt asserted that there is no specific body of knowledge that is, or should be, required of a child.

"Unschooling" should not be confused with "deschooling," which may be used to indicate an anti-"institutional school" philosophy, or a period or form of deprogramming for children or parents who have previously been schooled.

Both unschooling and natural learning advocates believe that children learn best by doing; a child may learn reading to further an interest about history or other cultures, or math skills by operating a small business or sharing in family finances. They may learn animal husbandry keeping dairy goats or meat rabbits, botany tending a kitchen garden, chemistry to understand the operation of firearms or the internal combustion engine, or politics and local history by following a zoning or historical-status dispute. While any type of homeschoolers may also use these methods, the unschooled child initiates these learning activities. The natural learner participates with parents and others in learning together.
Learning methods

Homeschoolers use a wide variety of methods and materials. There are different paradigms, or educational philosophies, that families adopt including unit studies, Classical education (including Trivium, Quadrivium), Charlotte Mason education, Montessori method, Theory of multiple intelligences, Unschooling, Waldorf education, School-at-home, A Thomas Jefferson Education, and many others. Some of these approaches, particularly unit studies, Montessori, and Waldorf, are also available in private or public school settings.

It is not uncommon for the student to experience more than one approach as the family discovers what works best for them. Most families do choose an eclectic (mixed) approach. For sources of curricula and books, "Homeschooling in the United States: 2003" found that 78 percent utilized "a public library"; 77 percent used "a homeschooling catalog, publisher, or individual specialist"; 68 percent used "retail bookstore or other store"; 60 percent used "an education publisher that was not affiliated with homeschooling." "Approximately half" used curriculum or books from "a homeschooling organization", 37 percent from a "church, synagogue or other religious institution" and 23 percent from "their local public school or district." 41 percent in 2003 utilized some sort of distance learning, approximately 20 percent by "television, video or radio"; 19 percent via "Internet, e-mail, or the World Wide Web"; and 15 percent taking a "correspondence course by mail designed specifically for homeschoolers."

Individual governmental units, e,g, states and local districts, vary in official curriculum and attendance requirements.
Unit studies

The unit study approach incorporates several subjects, such as art, history, math, science, geography and theology, around the context of one topical theme, like water, animals, American slavery, or ancient Rome. For example, a unit study of Native Americans could combine age-appropriate lessons in: social studies, how different tribes lived before colonization vs. today; art, making Native American clothing; history (of Native Americans in the U.S.); reading from a special reading list; and the science of plants used by Native Americans.

Unit studies are particularly helpful for teaching multiple grade levels simultaneously, as the topic can easily be adjusted (i.e. from an 8th grader detailing and labeling a spider’s anatomy to an elementary student drawing a picture of a spider on its web). As it is generally the case that in a given "homeschool" very few students are spread out among the grade levels, the unit study approach is an attractive option. Unit study advocates assert that children retain 45% more information following this approach.

All-in-one curricula

"All-in-one" curricula, sometimes called a "school in a box", are comprehensive packages covering many subjects; usually an entire year's worth. They contain all needed books and materials, including pencils and writing paper. Most such curricula were developed for isolated families who lack access to public schools, libraries and shops.

Typically, these materials recreate the school environment in the home and are based on the same subject-area expectations as publicly run schools, allowing an easy transition into school. They are among the more expensive options, but are easy to use and require minimal preparation. The guides are usually extensive, with step-by-step instructions. These programs may include standardized tests and remote examinations to yield an accredited school diploma.

Online education

Online schools and educational resources can improve the quality of home education and make it more accessible. Online resources for home education include courses of study, educational games, online tests, online tutoring, and occupational training. Online learning potentially allows students and families access to specialized teachers and materials and greater flexibility in scheduling. Parents can be with their children during online tutoring session. Finally, online tutoring is useful for students who are disabled or otherwise limited in their ability to travel.
College years

The lack of "formal" records and transcripts (kept by school districts) is rarely a problem for home educated students who wish to enter college. Most, if not all, states permit home education parents to issue a high school transcript for their child, and many parents choose to use standardized test scores to aid colleges in evaluating students. The College Board suggests that home educated students keep detailed records and portfolios.

In the last several decades, US colleges and universities have become increasingly open to accepting students from diverse backgrounds, including home educated students. According to one source, home educated students have now matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.

A growing number of home educated students are choosing dual enrollment, earning college credit by taking community college classes while in high school. Others choose to earn college credits through standardized tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).
Where should you do home education?

Home education is legal in many countries. Countries with the most prevalent home education movements include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some countries have highly regulated home education programs as an extension of the compulsory school system; others, such as Germany and Brazil, have outlawed it entirely. In other countries, while not restricted by law, home education is not socially acceptable or considered undesirable and is virtually non-existent.

Community resources

Home education should not be confined to the home or only one environment. home educators often take advantage of educational opportunities at museums, community centers, athletic clubs, after-school programs, churches, science preserves, parks, and other community resources. Secondary school level students may take classes at community colleges, which typically have open admission policies. In many communities, home educating parents and students participate in community theater, dance, band, symphony, and chorale opportunities.

Groups of home education families often join together to create home education co-ops. These groups typically meet once a week and provide a classroom environment. These are family-centered support groups whose members seek to pool their talents and resources in a collective effort to broaden the scope of their children's education. They provide a classroom environment where students can do hands-on and group learning such as performing, science experiments, art projects, foreign language study, spelling bees, discussions, etc. Parents whose children take classes serve in volunteer roles to keep costs low and make the program a success.

Certain states, such as Maine, have laws that permit home education families to take advantage of public school resources. In such cases, children can be members of sports teams, be members of the school band, can take art classes, and utilize services such as speech therapy while maintaining their home education lifestyle.

Concerns about socialization are often a factor in the decision to home school. Many home educators believe that the conditions common in conventional schools, like age segregation, a low ratio of adults to children, a lack of contact with the community, and a lack of people in professions other than teaching or school administration create an unhealthy social environment. They feel that their children benefit from coming in contact with people of diverse ages and backgrounds in a variety of contexts. They also feel that their children benefit from having some ability to influence what people they encounter, and in what contexts they encounter them.

Home educators cite studies which report that home educated students tend to be more mature than their schooled peers, and some believe this is a result of the wide range of people with which they have the opportunity to communicate.
I Quit, I Think

The Retirement announcement of John Taylor Gatto
written in the Wall Street Journal on July 25th, 1991

I’ve taught public school for 26 years but I just can’t do it anymore. For years I asked the local school board and superintendent to let me teach a curriculum that doesn’t hurt kids, but they had other fish to fry. So I’m going to quit, I think.

I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.

I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.

An exaggeration? Hardly. Parents aren’t meant to participate in our form of schooling, rhetoric to the contrary. My orders as schoolteacher are to make children fit an animal training system, not to help each find his or her personal path.

The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the faith that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.

That idea passed into American history through the Puritans. It found its “scientific” presentation in the bell curve, along which talent supposedly apportions itself by some Iron Law of biology.

It’s a religious idea and school is its church. New York City hires me to be a priest. I offer rituals to keep heresy at bay. I provide documentation to justify the heavenly pyramid.

Socrates foresaw that if teaching became a formal profession something like this would happen. Professional interest is best served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating laity to priesthood. School has become too vital a jobs project, contract-giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be “re-formed.” It has political allies to guard its marches.

That’s why reforms come and go-without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.

David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first — the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I will label Rachel “learning disabled” and slow David down a bit, too.

For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, “special education.” After a few months she’ll be locked into her place forever.

In 26 years of teaching rich kids and poor, I almost never met a “learning disabled” child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one, either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by the human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.

That’s the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school religion punishing our nation.

There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen–that probably guarantees it won’t.

How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum, or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn, or deliberate indifference to it.

I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work, I think.
My Story

I was fortunate to grow up in Kenmore, a very small village north of, and adjacent to, Buffalo, New York. This was a very intimate community composed mainly of middle class folks whose primary concerns were raising their families and being happy.

I attended Charles A. Lindbergh elementary school from kindergarten until sixth grade. My many years at the school were fun, I had many friends, and I actually did learn a few things. Although it was not the same warm environment as home, it was acceptable at least at the beginning. As the years went on though, I found myself getting in trouble in class, mostly for being restless and talking too much. A typical day for me meant staying after school and writing on the blackboard....yes they were black back in the day...."I will not talk in class" 300 times. The teachers always seemed to pick 300 times as the penalty for some reason, almost like it was a mandate from the New York State Department of Education. My friends were already home and playing football in the street, while I was forced into complying with this punishment imposed on me simply because my behavior was "disruptive" to the class.

No consideration was given then as to why I was behaving in this manner and unable to control myself. No one bothered to realize I was bored out of my mind and was able to comprehend the materials being taught in a quarter of the time it took the teacher to teach them. As I progressed towards sixth grade, the problem became more pronounced, and I found myself unable to abide by the strict controls being place on me and my desire to learn at a faster speed.

Then came middle school and an even more structured environment. More rules, more requirements, more restrictions, and of course, more penalties for deviant behavior. Couple this with a much more hierarchical social structure, and middle school simply became intolerable for me. Every day I watched as my formally innocent elementary school friends changed, and began showing a blatant disregard for authority, growing apathy towards studying and learning in general, and even worse, a demoralized attitude towards their future in American society and the World.

Enough was enough already. I began to get stomach cramps and was nauseous every day on the way to school. The symptoms worsened until the point I was hospitalized for a week to ascertain if there was some physiological reason for my discomfort. After a lot of testing, it was determined my manifestations were psychological, at which time the student counselor appointed a psychologist to ascertain my "problem", come up with a diagnosis, and find a solution. After being subjected to numerous psychological tests, including IQ where I scored extremely high, I was eventually labeled with the term "school phobia", at which time the school allowed me to drop out and study at home until I could get my head together.

This was a new situation for such a small village....a kid who was not bad, but simply could not handle, and did not want to go to school. The concept of home education did not exist then....I was simply a kid who did not fit the public school system. The stories about me began to circulate in town and went from, I was stealing cars, to chronic drug use....BTW I never used drugs to this day, not even cannibis, though I am an avid wine aficionado. The truth was, I stayed home every day watching "Days of Our Lives", a daytime soap opera, spent time studying, and in the afternoon played street football with my friends once they escaped from school for the day.

The school continued to put pressure on me to return to class, and at age 15, I decided to remove myself from school. The legal age to drop out of school in New York State was 16 at that time, and in fact, is still the same as of this writing. Since I was still 15 years old, the state would not allow me to quit school. When I would not comply with their demand to return, New York State took me to court. I can still vividly remember standing in the courtroom, my legs shaking in front of the judge, and being forced to defend myself for the crime of not wanting to go to school. The judge pulled out every trick in the book, including intimidation stating that if I decided not to return to school, he could and would order me to serve time in a Juvenile Detention Center, AKA Juvy, which is effectively a secure prison or jail for persons under the age of majority, who commit crimes....LIKE NOT GOING TO SCHOOL. I said to the judge, "do what you need to do, but I am not returning to school", and with that the case was dismissed.

I was fortunate and thankful my parents supported me 100 percent and were able to convince the school and the state to allow me to leave school permanently. I eventually took the GED, the high school diploma equivalency exam, and began attending night school at the State University of New York at Buffalo at the age of 17, a year before my high school graduating class. A few years later, I moved to California, graduated from San Diego State University with a business degree, and went to work as a real estate appraiser, eventually owning a very successful appraisal firm in San Diego. After retiring at age 40, I returned to college, obtained an English teaching TEFL certificate, completed a two year associates degree program in Japanese studies, and moved to Japan where I met my wife Akiko. We are now residing on a beautiful subtropical island called Tanegashima in Japan, with our three sons Shai, Lael, and Ethan, who are all being happily home educated.
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