Home Education Graduate Panel

by Josiah Audette

School Boy

The following is a series of questions and answers from a graduate panel of which I was a part.


Grad Panel Questions:

1. Describe your homeschooling experience.

In a word, at the risk of sounding pretentious, successful. But I suppose that raises the question of what successful homeschooling is.  Initially, my education was a basic imitation of the public school system. We exercised with inimitable discipline classroom itinerary, curricular grade order, standardized testing, scoring, textbook modules, and other such organons of bureaucracy. The objective of this quixotic pedagogy and the success measurement was to get into university. We subscribed to the common notions that a successful homeschooler gets the highest grades, or performs extracurricular studies, or becomes a peerless career person, or an entrepreneur, or university student. While some of these are laudable pursuits they are limited and misconceived objectives. Through a series of providential events my parents came to discover that “schooling” was not necessarily annexed to “success.” Postman’s evaluation was that, “We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think “success” is synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, “schooling,” but historically that isn’t true in either an intellectual or economic sense.” Thus, pragmatically speaking, for the times of substantial economic development in America and Canada schooling was in its most puerile form and thereby inconsequential to the prosperity encountered. My parents recognized as Whitehead writes, “Education is the acquisition of the art of utilization of knowledge” and therefore, “There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations.” Contrary to common opinion, homeschooling is not by the book, or at least, the textbook. Home education reformed in our family away from being merely well-informed individuals on the systematic facts regarding a particular series of textbook disciplines. The bureaucratic instruments I mentioned earlier became more and more foreign and alien to my education as sound learning and sound character was imparted to me by the discipleship of my parents. My education began to look something like John Milton’s exhortation where he states, “I call a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public of peace and war.” Summarily, my homeschooling experience was not defined by my grades, my character development, the intensity of my curriculum, my career, or secondary education although I underwent all of those components. Rather, my parents acknowledged that a successful homeschooler was not a well-taught person as the public school system would propose, but instead a self-taught person. That is to say, autodidactic. Hence I have difficulty saying that I am a “graduate” from schooling. Because I am learning more now than I ever did as a homeschooler. My years as a homeschooler were not to inculcate me with a supposedly sufficient systematic knowledge of facts so I could be “successful.” My years as a homeschooler was an introduction and inducement to continue to learn and teach myself to “perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the office both private and public.”

2. Is there anything you would change about your homeschooling experience?

Again in short, everything. I believe it to be my duty and every succeeding generations duty to be actively and constantly reforming upon the previous. An unfortunate misconception in homeschooling is to raise our children to be “well-informed.” We teach them to think and know multiple facts about science, math, logic, music etc… However, education of mere half-digested facts and too many of them is “The devil in the scholastic world” and we’re really being no different than the public institutions except for the fact were just more stubborn. Neil Postman warned, “The teaching of a scientific outlook in the curriculum does not insure that students will develop a scientific mind-set.” Alfred North Whitehead had this critique for such curriculum, “We must beware of what I call ‘inert ideas’ that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combination.” Teaching children disconnected, contextless, and fragmented facts is not only useless but harmful. Useless, idle, inert thoughts are brain cancer to the autodidactic mind. They will kill any desire and love of learning. Contrary to educating our children to think about science, math, logic, and music Whitehead is saying we must educate our children to think scientifically, mathematically, logically, and musically. The key is knowledge applied. “Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important… The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life.” Education follows life, not life education as is the characteristic of some homeschooling expectations. What I would make to be the “Few and important” ideas which are introduced into a child’s education is, as Postman recommends, the Trivium model of the Middle Ages. The Trivium consisted of teaching the child to think critically through logic, rhetoric, and grammar. Grammar diagrams, rhetoric form, and logic laws not taught as facts, but as the applicable means to think grammatically, logically, and communicably. Once the child is able to think critically I would continue to the Quadrivium. The Quadrivium consisted of the scientific art disciplines (Physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc…). I would most definitely include the lost sciences such as jurisprudence. Teach your children Biblical Case Law, and Lord William Blackstone’s English Common Law, and Kennedy’s Canadian constitutional law. Lord Blackstone acutely wrote, “For I think it an undeniable position, that a competent knowledge of the laws of that society, in which we live, is the proper accomplishment of every gentleman and scholar; an highly useful, I had almost said essential, part of liberal and polite education.” Additionally, I would teach everything from etiquette, economics, culinary arts, culture, worldview, philosophy, history, to horticulture. Benjamin Franklin, a model autodidact illustrated the development of the mind which should characterize the multi-generational, autodidactic, homeschooling family. “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” Finally, there is a simple but difficult process for attaining all of this and Francis Bacon summarizes it well. “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” In other words, specialized, active, applicable knowledge in these disciplines can be attained through reading good books to and with your children, conversing about them, and requiring essays of them. This is what I did at home, it is what I do now, and this is the very same model Cambridge uses to remarkable success. Notice how foreign standardized testing, grading, textbooks, and such like bureaucratic organons are to this model. As Postman noted regarding these modern conventions, “I shall not argue here that this is a stupid or dangerous idea, only that it is peculiar. What is even more peculiar is that so many of us do not find the idea peculiar.”

3. What was the best part about being homeschooled? (You can include favourite subjects or activities)

Discipleship. Geoffrey Botkin observes the hebraic discipleship model practiced in Cambridge university where students need no GPA, or credit hours, or typical grade averages, or even lecture attendance. They only have need of an understated endorsement from their tutor which goes something like this in Latin. “Here is a man I know to be of sound learning and good character, suitable to receive his degree.” In order to merit such an endorsement the student was placed under a mentor and tasked to write an essay on their particular discipline with which they know nothing about. It was the responsibility of the student to discover the resources, time, lectures, books, and interviews needed to form their essay. Periodically, the student met with their mentor in order that they might have opportunity to defend and review their essay work. It was a difficult and refining process for the student. One defined these interview moments as, “Exploring the vast wildernesses of my ignorance.” Finally, the essay was authoritative, clear, and sufficient and the understatement for the endorsement was granted by the mentor. Notice the parallel to the earlier quotation from Francis Bacon. “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and wiring and exact man.” I practice this method to this day. For instance, I am currently reading a stack of books and writing an essay on “The English Common Law Doctrines of Primogeniture & Coverture as distinguished from their counterparts of Gavelkind and Universal Suffrage together with their consequences upon English & Canadian society in the 1800s.” With regards to reading John Taylor Gatto writes, “Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself… Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense.” This is nothing less than homeschooling, where face-to-face discipleship imparts sound character and stimulates sound learning.

4. Do you feel your home education has prepared you for your education choices since high school and for adulthood? Explain.

Yes, so much so I have yet to want or need it. Higher education or post-secondary is not helpful to the autodidactic homeschooler for two reasons. One, Universities are not places of higher learning. Geoffrey Botkin acutely defines them as, “Pseudo-academic bureaucracies of politically correct indoctrination and statist compliance.” Secondly, by definition, autodidacts don’t need post-secondary or credentials to be successful. The real achievement of a homeschooler is not entrance into university to succeed in life but to succeed in life without university all together. If the very intent of home education is to separate ourselves from wicked influence then why are we so attracted to the modern university which is the very scourge of depravity itself? If the very intent of home education is family independence, liberty of content and freedom of expression why would we desire to place ourselves in an environment which revokes such rights? University professor himself, Niel Postman, writes, “Schools became the first secular bureaucracies, structures for legitimizing some parts of the flow of information and discrediting other parts. Schools were, in short, a means of governing the ecology of information.” If we are truly self-made individuals and self-learners why the lust to institutionalize ourselves? I simply do not understand how homeschoolers hate public school with such vehemence, but have this inordinate love for university, the veritable culmination of the vices of compulsory schooling. Autodidacts don’t need or want post-secondary credentials. Again, contrary to common opinion schooling and success are not necessarily conducive towards each other. John Milton writes, “The end of learning is to repair the ruin of our first parents, by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge, to love Him, to intimate Him, to be like Him.” You can’t do that in university.

5. a) Are you taking or have you taken any post-secondary education? Explain, including any difficulties you encountered and how you worked those out.

I have taken post-secondary. Again, the difficulty and challenge is not in doing university but doing without it. Employers or customers are far more eager for an individual who has the experience which states they have done it rather than the piece of paper which states they can do it. Alfred North Whitehead remarked, “The valuable intellectual development is self-development.”

5. b) Did you go directly into the workforce instead of post-secondary?  Explain, including any difficulties you encountered and how you worked those out.

I have worked in both white and blue collar vocations during and after homeschooling. A mentor of mind shared with me recently a enormously true consideration. Just because your homeschooled doesn’t mean you get a head start in the workplace. We deceive ourselves if we consider public schoolers as failures and rejects. They will give you a run for your money so think critically and don’t take opportunities for granted.

6. Do you plan/hope to home school your own children someday?

As a homeschool “graduate” I am engaged in Bacon’s curriculum of reading, conference, and writing more than ever before. While reviewing my answers for these questions I came to the realization that I am currently learning, reading, writing, and communicating more ideas regarding more subjects more efficiently and more effectively than I ever remotely did while being educated at home. Therefore the notion of passing this love of learning and accumulation of knowledge on as a homeschool dad if the Lord wills is something beyond pleasure to my mind.