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Off-Grid Education

February 18, 2019

I recently saw an interesting conversation on Facebook that quickly turned into a debate on homeschooling, with the usual public school teacher suspects claiming—among other things—that homeschooled students usually ended up needing to be “fixed” by credentialed public school teachers, were more likely to end up abused because of a lack of intervention by public school teachers, and were “weird” compared to public school students, because of the classic “lack of socialization.”

Without turning this into a dogpile of the public education system, I do genuinely believe that homeschooling is a critical, integral part of being “off-grid.” Let’s look at that, then we’ll return to the above complaints.

Education has a couple of very basic, generally agreed upon dictionary definitions:

1) The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.

2) An enlightening experience.

3) The knowledge and development resulting from the process of being educated.

4) The process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.

I don’t know very many people who would disagree with those definitions, including public school teachers. I—and many others—would quibble with the “…especially at a school or university” clause, but that’s minor.

Ultimately, number four is the definition with the most value, not least of which because it is the most broadly inclusive, and covers the other three. It also covers, completely, why I am a firm believer in home—or at least, local, community centric—schooling.

Public schools can teach knowledge. Whether the knowledge they teach has any relevance to the real world, past the primary school grades, is open to debate, but the fundamentals of education: reading, writing, and arithmetic, the public schools CAN—and traditionally HAVE—done a reasonably good job of. The thing is though, any functioning adult, with the willingness to do so, can ALSO teach those, and will—in my experience—do a much better job of making them accessible to the child, than a school teacher.

My seven year old is an age-peer with second graders. She is currently reading Wildwood Wisdom, by Ellsworth Jaeger. Slowly, but she is reading it, and she carries it with her, all the time, reading sections that interest her, or come to her attention because of something she sees around the farm. Wildwood Wisdom, for those poor, sheltered souls unfamiliar with this classic of woodcraft, is a 474 page tome on outdoor living skills, written in 1945, and generally targeted at teenage and adult readers.

She also does basic arithmetic, including addition and subtraction, and is working on multiplication. She has also written letters and notes to friends and family, on paper, with pens and pencils.

It COULD be argued that we are a special case, because I have a post-graduate degree, and formal training in pedagogy, but that would be a bullshit argument, because people have been teaching their own children how to read and do arithmetic and write, as long as there has been reading, writing, and arithmetic. Again, ANY parent—or interested, functional adult—can teach the same basic knowledge that a public grammar school teacher can. From there, learning is—or should be—largely self-directed anyway. Sure, kids should probably know the basics of things like the Scientific Method, and Civics, etc, but guess what? If you know how to read, you can learn those things by….reading…and all it requires is interest. If that interest is not present, no amount of threats about “failing,” “bad grades,” or “permanent records,” is going to create that interest in a “student.” You know who does a good job of eliciting interest in young people about any given subject? The adults they are familiar with and respect, who display an interest in that subject…not public school teachers.

Values and beliefs have no place—whatsoever—being taught in public schools. Period. Values and beliefs are cultural artifacts depending on religion and cultural worldviews. It MIGHT have been possible, once upon a time, for teachers in small, rural communities, who attended church with the local community, and spent their social time within the community…and ideally, was raised within the community…to effectively teach values and beliefs in a schoolroom setting, but I have to be honest…if a public school teacher told me, to my face, that my kids needed to go to public school to learn beliefs and values, I would shortly be going to jail for beating the ever-loving-dogfuck out of them.

Finally, we come to skills. We have an education system that has become basically a form of indentured servitude for young adults, because of the emphasis placed on “College for everyone!” “If you don’t get good grades, and get into a good college, you’ll never be successful in life!” Yet, tradesmen today, with a two-year education—or a good apprenticeship—make considerably more money than a graduate of a four-year college with pretty much any degree, with significantly less debt as a result.

I know a large number of people who checked off all the boxes, got good grades in high school, went to college, got a four year degree, and, twenty five years later, are STILL trying to pay off student loan debt.

The simple fact is, shoving kids into a classroom, and spoonfeeding them book knowledge is a far simpler, far more cost-efficient means of processing them through the system. Even in a small, rural community, with a couple thousand kids…let’s say a typical graduation class of 50-75 students…is not going to be practicably able to educate those students in actual physical, tactile skills that they can put to use at an employable level.

A return to the “shop” classes of yesteryear are not the answer either. They might be better than nothing, but with very few exceptions, none of the people I know who took shop classes in high school ever followed that route when they left high school. A semester of “auto shop” might be enough to teach a kid how to do basic routine maintenance on their own vehicle—and that’s hardly a bad thing, but it’s not enough to get them a job at a decent income.

A home schooled kid however, can focus much of their auto-didactic later education on pursuing specific knowledge in a specific trade or craft, and develop a much higher, more refined level of ability, making themselves actually employable.

As a general rule, I don’t dislike or despise public school teachers. I’ve never met anyone who went to school with the intent of being a teacher, who didn’t genuinely love children, and have an interest in helping children have a better life through education. The simple reality though, is that the education system is seriously flawed—whether it is broken, or deliberately designed that way is open to debate. My personal rule on discussing homeschooling with public school teachers is, if they’ve never read John Taylor Gatto, I’m not interested in anything they have to say. Mr Gatto, for those unfamiliar with him, is a former New York City and State Teacher of the Year, multiple times. He believes the system was designed broken. It’s about creating mindless automatons, not educated, thinking citizens.

The aforementioned arguments against homeschooling irk me, because they paint with a very, very broad brush, and the arguments are largely horseshit anyway.

1) Public School teachers only have to “fix” students, because those students don’t fit within the mold of what the public education system says they are supposed to be. I grew up in the public school system, because it was legally required at the time, with no provision for homeschooling. I was considered a “gifted” student, and was placed in special classes for “advanced” students, throughout grade school, junior high, and high school. Starting in grade school, my regular practice was to read my textbooks the first week of school, then promptly blow off the classwork, only bothering to take exams. This became more pronounced in high school, when I found myself regularly in trouble for failing to turn in homework assignments, despite my ability to—invariably—pass every exam ever given with an A grade, and the ability to participate, on topic, in classroom discussions. If anything, I got in more trouble because, if a particular subject area interested me, I would search out other sources on the material, and ended up being able to discuss the subjects in more detail than the teachers were prepared for… Apparently, telling a teacher they are mistaken about something, and being able to cite source material that proves them to be mistaken insults their integrity somehow…

This doesn’t just apply to “gifted” students however. The young girl who has religious beliefs that determine her calling in life is to be a homemaker and raise children, and thus lacks interest in say, algebra, should not be browbeaten into learning algebra. The argument can be made that she will use algebra in her life as a homemaker, but the fact is, it will be practical algebra, learned through application, not the theoretical bullshit spouted by a teacher who probably lacks an understanding of how it applies to real life (an example from personal experience? A high school trig teacher, asking me what I was going to do after graduation. “I’m going to join the Army and be an Airborne Ranger!” “You’ll need trig for that.” “How the fuck am I going to use trig as an Army Ranger?” “Well….uh….uhm….” )

The young guy with a love of the internal combustion engine who wants to be a mechanic? Who gives a shit if he can diagram the structure of a sentence? Does he really need a semester of English Poetry? I get the idea of “broadening horizons,” and etc, but….seriously?

2) I am sure there are homeschooling parents who abuse their children. There are public school parents who abuse their children as well. That’s a bullshit argument, from the word go. People who legitimately abuse children should have their heads caved in. Who defines what “abuse” is though? I recently had someone earnestly insist that spanking your child, with even one swat on the ass, with the bare hand, was “abusive.” I am sure there are people that think the fact I make my children do pushups, instead of spanking them, is abusive. While I personally feel child abuse is much like the Supreme Court definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it,” I suspect that defining abuse—and dealing with it—is best left at the extended family and local community levels. I don’t know though. Outside of the aforementioned fuckhead, nobody who has ever seen me around my kids would accuse me of child abuse, I don’t think.

3) The socialization argument is the absolute most idiotic, head-in-the-clouds, poor grasp of basic human psychology, bullshit excuse I’ve ever heard regarding homeschooling. I can’t speak for anyone except myself, and people I’ve met, but the homeschool kids I have known are light years beyond their institutionalized schooling age-group peers in social skills.

As a specific example, my children carry on conversations with other children their own age, teenagers, and adults ranging from 20-70, on a near daily basis. They have learned to be respectful to others, not because of fear of some arbitrary discipline from a teacher, but because of the quintessential human method of teaching good manners: if you’re rude to me, I will ignore you until you apologize and learn to behave correctly. Within our clan of choice, it is no uncommon occurrence for a misbehaving child to be told to “Stop! When you want to speak to me, do so calmly, and with respect. Do not scream at me, and stop your whining.” This not just by their own parents, but by any other adult within the community.

The difference between this type of cross-age socialization and that of peer- and near-peer age group socialization is not only pronounced, but critical to functioning within society. The ability to not only carry on a respectful conversation with an adult, but also to establish boundaries, becomes critical in adulthood, when dealing with bosses and employers, and even complete strangers. Not being a criminologist, but having studied crime and victim selection processes in some depth, I genuinely believe, a well-developed ability to simply say, “NO!” to someone larger and more “senior” to you, when appropriate, is far more effective at preventing victimization than any amount of self-defense training, for both boys and girls.

So, for me, being “off-grid” educationally is just as critical as being off the power grid, if not more so. Not only do we have the ability to focus the kids’ education on those areas of learning that actually matter, and do it in a manner that interests them and is relevant, but we can skip those aspects of public school education that just don’t fucking matter, and incorporate elements that help them more pragmatically prepare for the world they are inheriting, for better or for worse.

———————-

This ties into being “off-grid” even more so, specifically because, through the reduction of outside resource use, we’ve also reduced our income requirements, which means we can afford to live the lifestyle we choose to live and still have a stay-at-home mom, to help with homeschooling instead of needing to rely on the public school for a babysitter.

If you have children, are serious about the survival of your cultural values and traditions, and want the best for your children, seriously, consider going off-grid, to some degree, so you can afford to homeschool. It will be better for your kids.

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11 Comments
  1. Bill permalink

    John Taylor Gatto. Teacher of the year, I think twice. Once for NYC, and then for the state, and quit teaching almost immediately afterwards because of the Prussian model of the public education system preventing him from continuing with his methodology. He has been very vocal about it writing several books on the subject and doing many interviews. The interview with “Tragedy & Hope” interview was eye opening, though long. A Brilliant man and I’m 99.9% sure he’d agree with you.

    Most public school teachers are arguing more to justify their jobs than to actually do good in my opinion.

  2. Practical Man permalink

    You hit this one out of the park. Well done.
    We’ve been home schooling our kids since day one. It’s paid huge dividends in their development in the ways you cite. They’re simply more mature and appropriate than their age peers.

    It’s also incredibly time efficient. Kids have incentive to work their lessons when they know the payoff is time to do what they like: read, do crafts, or heaven forfend play outside.

    We started homeschooling because we didn’t want our kids in DoD schools. It’s working out great now that I’m out. Sure, we have less cash but we need less. It’s all about setting priorities, mapping out a plan, and getting on with it.

  3. clayton permalink

    It’s a great time to homeschool. There are some really outstanding resources out there, and a good many people are doing it. Get enough kids in one place, and it starts to resemble a quaint community schoolhouse. Funny.

  4. Big Mike permalink

    Home schooling is truly the best for our kids. It is also the only hope for our cultural values for our families. It is also the only hope for in the long run for our nation. The public school system is a backwards system, Kids are grouped together by age groups and trained in that environment. When out of school, they are immersed in a culture of widely ranging ages of people and different cultures with little experience on how to interact. The school system has constantly “dumbed down” the curriculum to the lowest learning potential. Compared to the old one room schools of the 1800’s, kids now are ignorant. Read some historical research and you will see for yourself. To get into Harvard in the early 1800’s, part of the admissions exam was to translate a 500 word document from Latin to Greek and then to English from memory. Purchase some of the old Ray’s Arithmetic books from the 1800’s and see if you or your kids can work the problems. We used them in our studies and they were real mind stretchers. Most kids today don’t know how to THINK. Consider the college snowflakes who can’t vote by mail because they don’t know how to acquire a postage stamp. The school socialization sales pitch is a myth. All of our kids consistently scored two grades ahead of their age group in standardized testing for social and environmental skills.

  5. I was homeschooled from 5th grade to graduation (got a diploma through a Christian school homeschool program). I HATED public school and was treated badly by other kids and teachers. Now my dad and mom worked full time, but I did really well. In 4th grade I had a 2nd grade reading level, by the end of 6th grade I had a second year college reading level. Also we were involved in homeschool co-ops, some of the parents were VERY highly educated and taught classes, one was a Nuclear Engineer for TVA and former Navy Officer/Nuke in TN. My mom ended up getting a degree and taught public school in the inner city in Memphis, it was a pit. Needless to say, we’re going to homeschool our daughter living Northern Idaho (one of the best states for homeschooling) and my wife is stay at home and we love it, I work from home too, so the whole family is together. Homeschoolers learn from adults how to “socialize” not immature fellow classmates or government employees. Not to mention look at the kids public schools produce, its a freak show, all the SJW idiots and Communists are public school drones. I could go into MUCH more detail, but you covered it well here. Thanks for standing up to the lies about homeschooling. 🙂

  6. I have not read all the article but we homeschooled, so I am very interested in the article. I will comment later and give advice if wanted.

    Now as a former Ft Bragg SERE instructor lets look at some stats.

    8 hours a day x 180 days a year x 12 years = a whole lot of INDOCTRINATION. Hell we get you to Sign The Papers in less than 48 hours, just think of what we could do with developing minds. Yes this is what The Left is doing.

    Think about it

  7. I’d love to home school, but the HH6 has the same “socialization” fears that are classically mentioned by the nay-sayers. So, we send the kid to pub school.
    I make it a point to get involved and I regularly chat with the principal, and we play ball with the vice principal and his kid – so at least I have some influence other than being ‘some parent’ with a concern.
    My approach is to closely monitor what he gets taught and participate in the PTO group – I’m probably the only dad, and an A type at that. I find other parents (99% moms) who want to push programs onto the whole school population just because their one kid has a certain deficiency – even though the parents have the ability, but not the will, to address their kid’s issue directly. The parents actually say that the school should be teaching values because some kids aren’t being taught them at home (it takes a village, etc…). Bullying for example: one mom (progressive, peace-loving, dope-smoking, flower-child type) wanted to pay to have a specialist come in and teach a program about dealing with bullies. Sounds cool right? But the program was basically teaching that you should feel bad for the bully and just let them continue to bully your kid. Instead of kicking the bully’s ass, the kids would be taught how to just get accustomed to being bullied. Fucking bullshit. I tell my son not to start a fight, but if it’s brought to him, he’s 100% cleared-hot on the bully.

    What you get with pub ed is a dumbing down to the lowest performing child (for the most part), though I’m recently seeing teachers carve out special challenging work for advanced kids.
    Teachers spend a fair part of their day dealing with the problem kids instead of teaching. My sister has home-schooled her kids and they have their work done in a couple hours a day. The rest of the day is open for exploring other interests whether it’s electronics, construction, exercise, etc. Kind of like how college is with the freedom of elective courses. Such a great model.

    The other huge negative about pub ed is the sickness. I can’t tell you how many times sickness of all kinds has swept through the school and the parents aren’t notified. Yeah, it helps build immunity, but after the third or fouth time your kid gets sick in a couple months, and spreads it to you, you start to question just how much immunity they are really building.

    • merutledge@juno.com permalink

      Check out this website about home schooling. https://hslda.org/content/We home schooled our girls thru all 12 grades. Both are very successful. A retired school principal that goes to our church frequently comment about how well educated our children are and how much they know about life.Here is a link on their website:https://hslda.org/content/earlyyears/StartHere.aspThis will answer a lot of questions and expose the lies behind the public (state) education system. This organization also provides legal representation to protect you if your school district becomes hostile. The fee was $100 when we were members. They have regional, highly skilled attorneys to assist with the issues at no extra charge. Usually, one letter to the superintendent solves the problem.

  8. SemperFido permalink

    We home schooled all three of our kids and they thrived. Now as adults in their 30’s they are all successful and supporting themselves. The best thing they learned was how to learn.

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  1. Mosby: Off-Grid Education – Lower Valley Assembly

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