Schools are time wasters
When I talk to people about home education, you simply cannot help but compare and contrast with the alternate product, the one most people think to use first: the state schools. One point I make is that they are horrible wasters of time.
I said for years that you could accomplish in 2 hours of focussed work at home what would take you 2 weeks to accomplish at school. Now, I have been known to resort to hyperbole on occasion. And so I would wonder, now and again, whether I was perhaps exaggerating a bit when I said this. Could I actually make a good case to support this accusation?
Please understand that I did not make this particular claim in a vacuum: I had good reasons. First off, you just know that one can do so much more in a one-on-one situation (like home education) than in a group scenario (like the classroom). Second, we fostered children for many years and heard all kinds of stories about what goes on within those hallowed halls of learning. And don’t forget, I spent 17 years of my life in state-subsidised classrooms, from Kindergarten through to gaining a BA degree. I know very well what goes on.
One of the best stories ever was the mum I met here in Palmerston North when I was a door to door salesman. She considered herself a dummy: she had to leave school at age 14 and never did any good anyway. Well, when her 10-year-old daughter got glandular fever or some such thing that forced her to stay at home for three months, the mum had no idea how her daughter would keep up. Sure, the school gave her some text books and said they’d more or less cover this and that, but the girl was ill and the mum was a “dummy.” Hoping for the best, they did a little bit in the text books each day, not much as the girl was ill. So when she went back to school after three months, the mum discovered she was a full month ahead of the rest of her class! Not surprisingly the mum, a big burly woman with a loud voice, demanded of the teacher what on earth they do each day in the classroom. She did not receive a satisfactory answer, but nothing changed either.
Anyway, when our daughter Charmagne was about 15, I asked if she’d like to spend a couple days at a school, just to see what it was like. She was horrified! But I mentioned it would be like a field trip, that she’d need to go with a friend and just tag along from class to class, and all with the permission of the school authorities, of course. No, she was not going to be enrolled! So she relaxed and saw the fun side of it. She got all the permissions and organised to meet with friends as they got off the bus as it arrived at the school, a once-private Protestant church school that had now integrated. While waiting for her friends, she, her siblings and I looked at the moon still in the sky, and I told them a bit about earth rotations, moon phases and the like. Then the bus came, her friends appeared and we waved goodbye.
At 3:15 that after noon when I picked her up, she just let out a weary sigh. “Dad,” she said, “I used to think you were exaggerating when you said one could accomplish in 2 hours at home what would take 2 weeks to do at school. But now I think you have been understating the case! I learned more in those few minutes talking about the moon this morning than I learned in all of the rest of the day. I just didn’t believe it was possible to waste so much time in a single day. But I do now.”
I rest my case.