An article "HOWEVER TEMPTING, YOU CAN’T JUST SKIP MIDDLE SCHOOL" by Julia Steiny, a former member of the Providence School Board, appeared in The Providence Journal, Rhode Island on February 5, 2007. I actually saw first in the HomeSchoolBuzz weekly e-newsletter a second article about homeschooling by the same author in which she says, "Judging by my e-mail, last week’s column offended a large number of families who teach their children at home, rather than send them to school….I implied that a child’s experience at an excellent middle school would be preferable to home-schooling." I had not seen the previous article and wanted to read what had offended a large number of homeschoolers. Not finding it on The Providence Journal website and not knowing what it was entitled, I wrote to Julia asking if she could send it to me or tell me where I could find it. She sent it to me.
She had written about a recent get-away in which the young proprietress of a bed and breakfast learned that Julia was involved in education and said : "Our kids are still in elementary school, but we’re thinking of pulling them out and home-schooling them when it’s time for middle school. What do you think?" Julia asked why do you want to do that, and the young mom replied, "Oh you know. So they can just skip it. I’ll just keep them with me, and we’ll go around and do cool things." Julia concluded, "I told my charming B & B acquaintance that keeping pubescents home is not ideal. Somehow, these kids need a world of their own, as well as a home to retreat to. The mom’s heart is in the right place, but she’s not doing her kids or herself a favor if she tries to ‘skip it.’"
I did find several blogs which took Julia to task for her observations. When I wrote Julia asking to see the original article, I said, "I publish a homeschooling newsletter and do research into media references to homeschooling. Your February 11, 2007, article ‘Home-schooling, Where educating children comes first,’ from the Providence Journal was passed along to me. You made reference to ‘last week’s column.’ I have tried to search for your previous article on the Providence Journal website and have been unable to come up with it. I would like to read it to see what might have been ‘offensive’ to homeschoolers. Is there some link by which I can access the previous article? By the way, I do appreciate the good things you had to say in the Feb. 11 article. Thank you for your attention."
Julia responded, "Here it is. It was really about middle school, but I took off from a comment. After tons of interaction with home-schoolers, they’ve begun to remind me of unionized teachers — offended by everything, quick on the draw and often blind to the bigger picture. Sorry, I’m just clearing out the last of their mail. It has not been a fun two weeks."
I replied, "Thank you for responding and sending the article. I am truly sorry if the homeschoolers who contacted you about this article came across as offended by everything. Perhaps because homeschooling has been so often maligned and criticized, some of us tend to be a little more defensive perhaps that we always need to be. I can see why some homeschoolers did not agree with some of the things in the article. I myself do not necessarily agree that ‘these kids need a world of their own.’ I am firmly convinced that even as they grow older, they need loving families more than anything else to help them mature and prepare for adulthood. Given what is often said by educators today, I wonder how this nation even survived before compulsory attendance laws were passed in the early twentieth century and public schooling became almost universal. Of course, those are philosophical arguments that are still going on. But, having read the second article, I again thank you for your followup article on Feb. 11."
I did not say this to Julia, but after reading the article again, I noticed her statement, "Pubescents don’t need to be spared the locker room; they need counseling and advice on how to deal with it." Well, I have been in "the locker room"and know what goes on there Yes, it was 35 to forty years ago, but I am sure that it has only gotten worse since then. Having experienced such things myself, I believe that children ought to be spared the locker room, and by keeping them home and instructing them myself, I can provide the counseling and advice on how they can handle things like it when they need to.
Julia wrote back, "Of course they need loving families. That’s a straw dog. But many kids rebel — appropriately so according to evolution and child development — and they do want mini-worlds of their own, hopefully populated with the all-important peers as well as wonderful adults who will triangulate with the parents. School is not the answer to all problems by a long shot. And there are some terrible schools out there. But it is an institution that will continue to educate — whatever that means — the vast majority of the kids in this and all developed countries and for that reason alone it needs and deserves our best attention and sympathy. The many people who wrote irate that I didn’t think most urban parents would make good home-schoolers were just nuts in my opinion. By all means, go your own way. But take care from your side not to contribute to such a powerful divide between us and them. Let many flowers bloom. Sorry, I got a few more today and I’m smarting. Your note was perfectly respectful. Thank you for that."
I really do not want to keep up a running argument with Julia. I certainly do not agree with her comment that "kids rebel–appropriately so according to evolution and child development" because I reject the false doctrine of evolution and the humanistic theories of child development that are based upon it, with its stress on "the all-important peers." I have to wonder if that is where the whole problem of "peer pressure" in our modern society began to develop! I realize that there are many who agree that the public school "is an institution that will continue to educate…and for that reason alone it needs and deserves our best attention and sympathy," so I will try "not to contribute to such a powerful divide between us and them." However, my own view is that the public school system as it exists today is fundamentally broken and simply cannot be fixed with "attention and sympathy." It needs to be totally dismantled and the responsibility of providing education put back into the hands of parents. Therefore, those who are involved in public schools do have my sympathy!
In her second article entitled "HOMESCHOOLING, WHERE EDUCATING CHILDREN COMES FIRST," Julia said, "I apologize for raising their blood pressures. Many home-schoolers have compelling reasons for getting their kids off the educational grid….This column observes all kinds of kids and programs, but I admit home-schooling gets short shrift….Mary Ryan, coordinator of the Home Education Network of Rhode Island, believes that in the best of all possible worlds, all children would be home-schooled by their parents. ‘Schools should not be the norm! Because of them, children have become nothing more than a way to fund teaching jobs.. Sadly, she is not entirely wrong about this….Ryan is entirely correct that we must stop organizing schooling of all kinds for the benefit of the grownups. The system needs to be turned on its head so the kids and their families come first. We need to empower all the parents with more options. Including the home-schoolers."