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Meddelanden - cdwitmer

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(Förlåt mig för att lämna kommentarer på Engelska på ett Svenskt BBS.)

I am raising seven children in Tokyo, Japan. The first time any of my children attended a conventional school was when they went to study at the university. Until then, all of them have been entirely homeschooled. Both parents have university-level educations; however, neither parent is trained as an educator. If anyone observed our home education situation, they would recognize immediately that we are total amateurs! We have made many mistakes. However, the mistakes have not been serious and have not cost us very much. Furthermore, there are some important areas where we parents are absolute experts: we understand our children and their individual needs better than anyone else in the world. Also, we are able to show our children love better than anyone outside the family is able to. The most important education that parents provide is our own living example. Two parents who love each other -- that is the ultimate education which every child needs to see every day, more than anything else. Also, when both parents delight in learning and the children can see this every day, they too naturally love to learn. Our children study very diligently with very little pushing from the parents. We are grateful that we are able to educate our children in these most essential matters.

There are many things that we simply cannot teach our children. However, in today's world, it is no longer a problem. All of the areas that we have trouble teaching are covered here:

Khan Academy provides an excellent education to anyone, and it is entirely free! And there are many more resources like it becoming available on the Internet all the time -- in English and in other languages too.

The industrial revolution systematically separated children from their parents for the first time in history. Parents would go off to work, while the children would go off to the State school, where they would receive an education designed to make them conform and become useful workers in the factories. However, in the post-industrial age of the Internet, we have now come full circle. The spiral has advanced but also turned back on itself to where a pre-industrial approach to raising children and education is once again possible. A surprisingly sophisticated education is possible, entirely without school.

Perhaps the most common question (or worry) we hear about home schooling is "What about the socialization of the children? How will they be able to get along with other children or function in groups?" The assumption seems to be that homeschooled children will become misfits in society and unable to function effectively in groups. However, our own experience, and the experience of almost all other homeschooling families that we know, has been exactly the opposite. Rather than being constantly kept together in a very unnatural environment with children of exactly the same age as themselves, our children have always interacted very naturally with people much older and much younger than themselves, and they are extremely flexible and make excellent team players!

So far only two of our seven children have reached university age, but they have both entered top-ranking universities in Japan. In fact, my eldest child was not only the youngest person to ever enter her university, she graduated at the very top of her class, and now she is attending graduate school in the Netherlands on a full scholarship. The younger children I expect will all turn out very well too because they are among the most diligent students that I have ever known in my life. They are far more dedicated students than I was at their age, despite the fact that we parents do not create a high-pressure environment for them. They simply love to learn.

Here in Japan about 130,000 children are homeschooled. Most of them are homeschooled for "negative" reasons -- they hate going to school and finally reach a point where they simply refuse to go any longer. They drop out. So as an alternative most of them take up homeschooling. Many of them ultimately do well and go on to the university and a happy and successful adult life, despite the fact that they began homeschooling for negative reasons. A smaller number of families, like ours, have always seen homeschooling as preferable and have done it exclusively from the beginning. I personally know about a dozen such children who are now adults with successful careers and children of their own, and none of them have any regrets about having been homeschooled. Although they all think their educations could have been better, they all agree it was overall better for them than conventional schooling would have been. Please note, I am not recommending homeschooling as a panacea for everyone. But it is wonderful to have the freedom to be able to choose to do it!

One interesting thing is, technically homeschooling is illegal in Japan. Yet the authorities never enforce the law. The worst punishment I ever heard of was a family being fined 1,000 yen per child per year for failure to send the children to school. 1,000 yen will buy you a meal at a rather average restaurant in Japan, so you can see that the punishment is largely symbolic. And in most cases even that penalty is not imposed. Usually the school officials are fully supportive of the parents' decision. They know that almost all parents almost always seek their children's best interests first. (What a crazy concept, eh?) The law does not stipulate any particular punishment for failure to send children to State-approved schools. I suppose that if the local authorities wanted to, they could go in and take the children away from the homeschooling parents, such as happened in this case in Sweden. However, in Japan nobody would even think of doing such a thing. If it happened, the public outrage would be immense.

The homeschooling capital of the world is the United States. There, nearly 3% of children are homeschooled. This number has risen about 75% since ten years ago in 1999. American government-run education, is, of course, the laughing stock of the developed world. The American government spends more on education and has worse results to show for the money spent than almost any other industrialized country. This contrasts very strongly with the situation of homeschooled children, who consistently outperform conventionally schooled children by a very large margin.

Homeschooling is not for everybody, by any means. But people who choose to homeschool are almost always able to succeed at it, and it should not be officially discouraged. People should have the freedom to choose to do it. Society will be much better off in the long run if such basic parental freedoms are respected.

Our prayers go out to the Johansson family, and to other persecuted families in Sweden, Germany, Belgium and other parts of Europe where homeschoolers are harrassed for no good reason. Please know that people all over the world are supporting you, even if your own governments are not.

Sorry for the long comment in English!

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