Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reasons for Home Study (Quintilian)

I'm skipping ahead for a moment in Quintilian -- after reading Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers I thought it might be a good time to bring up what Quintilian said about the advantages of "building school" over home tutoring. He is not the only educator in history to make these points -- Charlotte Mason is another who several times expressed her understanding of the benefits of group education over private, home tutoring. Here is what Quintilian said:

BUT let us suppose that the child now gradually increases in size, leaves the lap, and applies himself to learning in earnest. In this place, accordingly, must be considered the question whether it is more advantageous to confine the learner at home and within the walls of a private house, or to commit him to the large numbers of a school and, as it were, to public teachers.

The latter mode, I observe, has had the sanction of those by whom the polity of the most eminent states was settled, as well as that of the most illustrious authors. Yet it is not to be concealed that there are some, who from certain notions of their own, disapprove of this almost public mode of instruction.
Those who prefer home education, he writes, have two main reasons that he has been able to discern:

one, that they take better precautions for the morals of the young by avoiding a concourse of human beings of that age which is most prone to vice (from which cause I wish it were falsely asserted that provocations to immoral conduct arise);

the other, that whoever may be the teacher, he is likely to bestow his time more liberally on one pupil than if he has to divide it among several.
He treats each of them in turn. But I think this may be enough for one post. Certainly these are reasons that homeschoolers commonly cite today as their basic reasons for homeschooling.

  1. Better for their moral formation
  2. Better because it is more effective (and most often because of individualization of education).
I homeschool my kids, of course. I also have one child in public school.

My case for homeschooling isn't that it is absolutely and everywhere the best thing. I think it might be possible to make a case like that, but I have not tried to make it because I feel pretty solid on the foundations I do have, which are as follows:

  1. Parents have the primary responsibility -- the right and duty -- for the education of their own children. Whatever you may choose to delegate, whether by recourse to tutors, textbooks, homeschool curriculums, private schools or the conventional local public school option, you carry the responsibility. With this responsibility has to come freedom. The government does not allow this freedom; it belongs to the parents, whether the government happens to recognize it or not.
  2. Quintilian obviously acknowledges that, and so did the majority of thinkers throughout history. It was only in our 20th century that it came into question, and now many parents simply aren't aware that they have this right and privilege.
  3. Parents can't generate options from mid-air. It is the society's duty to support the parents in their task. Parents have to choose from the best options available to them. And within these options, there are priorities. Moral formation is of first priority and quality of intellectual formation is second, as Quintilian points out.
So there I will leave it for now!

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