Professors Homeschooling

The Chronicle carries a story on an English professor whose children are being homeschooled. I appreciated the article. Remember the “Too darn bad you aren’t using your education” comment?

Some of the stuff he wrote about their family certainly applies to mine.

Being avid readers ourselves, we have about 4,000 books in our house, which now includes a children’s library. I suppose it was inevitable that we would spend a lot of time reading to our children, and they would have an early desire to learn to read for themselves and for each other.

On good days, home schooling seems like the most natural method of elementary education one could imagine.

Ultimately, we want the best education for our children, and, on the whole, home schooling seems like the best option. It is also one that our daughters seem to desire, and, if any of them wanted to go to the nearby public school, we would certainly consider it…

We went for homeschooling because we thought it would be the best education for our children. Being so far ahead of Professor Pannapacker, my boys are in high school now, I know that it has been the best education for our children. But there are other good reasons, too, that he discusses, for homeschooling professors to do so.

They want the best education for their children, but they are not wealthy. Professors are usually well informed about what constitutes a good education in terms of methods and resources. The experience of small classes and one-on-one tutoring inevitably convinces teachers of the effectiveness of methods that can easily be replicated in the home, though they are prohibitive for all but exclusive private schools that are usually beyond the reach of academics with more than one child. Home schooling, therefore, becomes a logical choice when the costs of private education and day care become greater than one parent’s income.

They enjoy learning. For nearly all professors, the chance to review and expand their own youthful education in a variety of fields is a treat that almost transcends the educational needs of their children. Mathematicians, for example, relish the chance to reread the literature they half-missed when they were mastering geometry, and English professors, like me, enjoy the chance to relearn the astronomy they once loved before calculus crushed their hopes for a scientific career. They often see themselves as learning with their children rather than simply teaching them.

They are confident in their ability to teach. Professors often see teaching their own children as part of a continuum of pleasurable obligations to the next generation; they seek to integrate the values of their profession with the values they live at home. Since professors often teach the teachers, they tend to believe — perhaps with some hubris — in their ability to teach effectively at all grade levels. But more often, they recognize their limitations and seek collaboration with other parents — often professors themselves — with different areas of expertise.

They value unstructured learning. Professors know how much time is lost by learning in an institutional setting. A large portion of the time spent in school is devoted to moving students around, dealing with disruptions, health problems, different amounts of preparation, and unequal rates of learning. Without all the crowd control and level seeking, the formal requirements of education can be completed in only a few hours a day, leaving lots of time for self-directed learning and play. As a result, home-schooled children generally learn faster and with less boredom and less justified resentment.

They privilege the family over peer groups. Professors often celebrate diversity as a value in education, and, among those who home school, many mention the value for their children of cross-generational experiences instead of identifying only with a peer group. In large families, children also benefit from teaching their younger siblings, who are generally eager to keep up. Home-schooled students are less likely to become alienated from their families as a result of antisocial, anti-intellectual peer conformity. They develop a set of values that enable them to resist the negative socialization that outweighs, by far, the benefits of segregation by age.

They have negative memories of their own education. Although it takes some probing, nearly every professor with home-schooled children mentions traumatic childhood experiences in school. Professors, as a group, tend to have been sensitive, intelligent children who were picked on and ostracized. They foresee the same treatment for their own children, and they want to do everything they can to prevent the children from experiencing the traumas they experienced. Professors recognize how many of our most brilliant students have been emotionally or physically terrorized for a dozen years before they arrive at college. School sometimes teaches otherwise happy and intelligent children to become sullen and secretive and contemptuous of learning.

A very thoughtful discussion on the part of a homeschooling professor. As a homeschooling adjunct, for now, I appreciated it.

Thanks to A Constrained Vision for pointing it out.