As a public high school English teacher,David Guterson possesses an insider glimpse into the problems of our education system. One of the core weaknesses of the education system is the restriction of learning within the four walls of the classroom.
In his book, Guterson (1993) not onlyjustifies his decision to homeschool his children, but also explores the critical role of homeschooling in challenging the premises of public education.
Although people choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons, one of the key reasons is their disillusionment with public education. With its standardized curriculum that is designated for the masses, the education system imposes its stamp of uniformity on every student, with little respect to their distinctive strengths and weaknesses.
In contrast, homeschooling offers a child-centered curriculum that promotes the children’s pursuit of their interests. Rather than impose their expectations of education on their children, parents allow their children to take the initiative in the learning process by guiding them in the right direction.
Guterson and his children follow the latter’s interest by going on excursions and exploring topics such as salmon or flight in detail. This type of education is premised on the belief that children are spontaneous learners who are intrinsically motivated to learn in a conducive environment. Instead of educating their children for future employment, homeschoolers are concerned with the cultivation of the love of learning by igniting all of the body’s senses (Guterson, 1993).
In spite of its orthodox methods of learning, homeschooling has shown that it is academically superior to public education. According to Guterson’s father (described in the book, a criminal lawyer who has defended homeschoolers in many cases) homeschoolers have higher test scores than their counterparts in public education. Although the public is concerned that many of the parents are not certified for teaching, Guterson, Sr. points out that that homeschoolers perform equally well on the standardized tests, regardless of their parents’ academic levels and credentials (in Guterson, 1993).
Guterson (1993) also addresses another prevalent concern that homeschoolers are not given adequate opportunities to socialize with their peers. According to Guterson (1993), schools often provide a negative social environment with its emphasis on forming cliques, competition and tracking. On the other hand, homeschoolers are liberated from the pressures of school life to form their own perceptions in their interaction with people of all ages within the community. Without the negative influences, properly taught homeschoolers are more likely than their counterparts in public education to develop sympathy and compassion towards others.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that Guterson (1993) is not a completely biased author who paints an idyllic portrait of homeschooling. In Chapter Seven, he depicts the economic sacrifices made by homeschoolers who have to devote a substantial amount of time and energy in their children’s education. Because they homeschool their children, homeschooling parents do not have a two-person income. Thus, the decision to homeschool one’s children involves a serious undertaking that affects other aspects of life.
In order to overcome financial difficulties and obstacles, Guterson (1993) highlights the use of the Internet, public libraries and low-cost community resources that can be integrated into the education. At the same time, he also proposes an interesting idea that brings homeschoolers and public schools together by allowing homeschoolers to use public school resources.
Ultimately, Guterson’s work is a celebration of an alternative
conception of education and learning. He believes that homeschooling offers an education that extends beyond the artificial environment of schools and exposes children to the real world that abounds with learning opportunities. Even more significantly, he supports homeschooling as a parent and a teacher because it combines the best of both worlds (family and school): “[Parents of my students] love their children with a depth I can’t match; and finally teaching is an act of love before it is anything else” (p. 10).