Homeschooling has always been a part of the great American experiment with human freedom. Early Americans learned primarily within their homes or in very small schools formed by neighboring families. Due to the rigors of life in that era, parents had little time apart from work, so pre-university education was often largely self-taught. Most students who continued their educations attended universities which were entirely funded by voluntary private means, usually as Christian institutions. These generations of Americans built all of the underlying institutions of freedom of the United States and most of its scientific and technological base.
A Taxing Problem
The rise of socialism and the concomitant reduction of freedom in America during the past century, however, has brought with it the phenomenon of large government schools that are financed by forced taxation. Huge sums of money (now about $5,375 per student per year) are seized from American citizens by force or threat of force (usually the threat of confiscation of homes and other property) in order to finance these schools and the literal army of more than two million bureaucrats and teachers who inhabit them.
The current cost of homeschooling now averages $546 per student per year - about one-tenth the cost of government schooling. Yet even this cost is difficult for many overtaxed American families. With taxes and regulations consuming over half of the earnings of the average family, both parents are often required to work for wages, leaving the family without a homemaker who can serve as teacher to the homeschool.
The Decline of American Education
During their initial decades (without considering their entirely wrongful dependence upon outright theft of private property), government schools were moderately effective. The momentum generated by quality private education within a nation of people with Christian moral principles carried forward into the government schools. As is usually the case when a socialist government takes over a private enterprise, the enterprise continued successfully for a while until the government ruined it.
The demise of government schools in the United States is nearly complete. These schools are now moral sewers that actively oppose most Christian principles. Academically they have sunk to remarkably low levels. These socialist institutions have even invented a whole class of new (nonexistent) learning "diseases." More than five million uncooperative students have been "diagnosed" with these diseases and are then given mind-altering drugs. These schools cannot be saved. The only sensible question is how much longer these institutions of nationalized child-abuse will be allowed to continue operating. Most children who manage to rise above their peers in government or private schools do so by self-learning. They create intellectual islands within themselves, and mentally isolate themselves from the chaos around them.
As parents have become aware of these terrible conditions, they are turning to homeschooling in record numbers. Homeschooling strengthens the family by keeping it together throughout each day, permits the teaching of decent and correct moral and religious principles, and provides an opportunity for academic progress consistent with each individual child's perseverance and ability.
The New Revolution
Fortunately, the revolution in computer costs is occurring simultaneously with the new rise of homeschooling. Researchers have used computers since the 1960s, but computer capabilities that formerly cost millions of dollars now cost only about one thousand dollars. Consequently, 34 percent of American families and over 85 percent of homeschool families now have home computers.
Since these machines permit information transfer at a very low cost, especially by CD-ROM, the price of homeschooling is presently dropping to as little as $100 per student per year (aside from the initial purchase of a single computer available to each family). I expect that, within ten years, the price of computerized teaching materials for homeschooling could drop to as little as $10 per student per year up to age 18, and that homeschooled, fully-accredited university educations will become available at a cost of about $500 per student per year, or about $2,000 for a four-year bachelors degree.
As tax-financed education dies, private schools and homeschools are taking its place. American families, and therefore America itself, will greatly benefit if homeschools eventually dominate over private schools. The technology to facilitate this is here, but there are two additional factors that, in my opinion, will decide this issue.
First, will the homeschool movement succeed in growing away from the mediocre academic standards that have been set by government schools? There is a widespread demand for curricula that are "easy and fun." Government schools have met this demand by lowering academic standards. Sadly, many homeschool curricula are still keyed to the "grade" levels of government schools - for the same reason. Easy and fun curricula sell too well to parents and children who have become intellectually lazy. This academic link between the faded standards of government and the academic standards that American children need to excel in the modern world must be broken. If it is not, elite private schools and the high costs associated with them will prevail.
Second, will the homeschool movement realize that learning is an individual activity that, at least until the age of 18, requires very little intervention? The academic growth of a student is not a toy for parental self-satisfaction. It is a completely personal activity that takes place between the student and the books. Parents need only to provide their children with high-quality educational materials, a good study environment, and excellent study habits. Anything or anyone who gets between the student and the books diminishes this activity.
Children learn their faith, morals, ethics, behavior, work habits, and most other important things by example. The examples homeschooled children follow can be closely controlled by their parents. (This is one major disadvantage of even private schools. The examples there are primarily from an undisciplined mob of other immature children.) Children learn academic subjects, however, by self-study.
The keys to expanding homeschooling to include most American children (rather than a fortunate few) are self-learning with non-teacher-based curricula, high academic standards, and an understanding of the importance of disciplined study habits and a good study environment. These keys can unlock wonderful lives for hundreds of millions of American children and can assure a great future for our country. We must provide these keys.