The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) are about to lock horns for the second time.
The education system in Barbados is failing many of the nation’s children. One may even say it is failing the majority of them. For this reason parents are seeking alternative modes of education for their children. Homeschooling is becoming an option for parents seeking better educational practices and a safe environment for their little ones. For some reason some of the Barbadian “educated” elite have an issue with this. Why?
The MOE although totally unprepared for the rise in interest as it pertains to homeschooling, continues to put stumbling blocks in the way of parents who seek such. These stumbling blocks are created because the MOE is totally ignorant about homeschooling and how it is applied. Not unlike the issue of cannabis legalization in Barbados, even when presented by the facts based on research from credible sources, the relevant ministries that have the ability to deal with the issues are slow to act (very slow, snail speed).
Before we get into the reason why the AHF and MOE are about to lock horns, let us take a quick look at where and how homeschooling originated.
One of the most powerful and unexpected American social movements during the last quarter of the twentieth century was homeschooling, by which thousands of parents broke with generations of law and custom and chose to provide the primary and secondary education of their children in their own homes. Homeschooling has represented a historic effort to rebuild homes. A critical family function ceded to the state nearly 150 years before was coming home. The movement returned to families a common work and purpose. Evidence existed, moreover, that these families grew stronger as a result. Homeschooling households had, on average, nearly twice as many children as the American average, and they were less likely to be affected by divorce. Home-schooled children also found disproportionate success in national spelling, geography, and history competitions, and they were being actively recruited by leading colleges and universities.
An article from First Principles – Homeschooling states that the one root of modern homeschooling reaches into late Victorian England. The Christian educator Charlotte Mason, in Home Education (1896), urged parents, especially mothers, to understand “that the education of their [young] children . . . is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own.”
It goes on to say, other roots were American. The agrarian Ralph Borsodi, in his Flight from the City (1933), labeled the home education of his own sons a successful “experiment in domestic production.” It saved time and resulted in happier, better adjusted children. The experience also taught the Borsodis that true education “was really reciprocal; in the very effort to educate the boys, we educated ourselves.” Raymond Moore, a developmental psychologist and devout Seventh-Day Adventist, made the case for home-centered schooling immediately after World War II. “The family is the best learning nest until near adolescence,” he wrote. Where the regimentation and peer pressures found in public schools suppressed children’s creativity and joy, home schools would open their minds to the abundance of “God’s world.”
While Mason and Moore saw home-schooling as an opportunity for Christian expression, the iconoclastic educator John Holt joined Borsodi in building a secular case for bringing children home. He emphasized the incompetence of American public education, the violation of the civil liberties of children by an oppressive bureaucracy, and a growing sense of duty among parents: “Having chosen to have children, they feel very strongly that it is their responsibility to help these children grow into good, smart, capable, loving, trustworthy, and responsible human beings.” By the mid-1970s, home-schooling under Holt’s influence bore the aura of that era’s “counterculture.” It seemed part of the rebellion against the ponderous postwar liberal order defined by an informal alliance of big government, big business, and big labor.
The same decade also saw the emergence of a more visible Christian homeschooling community. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions banning prayer in public schools and legalizing abortion, heavy-handed efforts by the Carter administration to regulate religious schools, and the deep intrusion by federal courts into school administration (symbolized by forced busing) stimulated many Christian parents to bring their children home. During the 1980s, the number of homeschooling families climbed sharply. For Protestants, this represented a startling loss of faith in public schools, which had long taught a kind of watered-down Protestant morality. As the evangelical author Susan Schaeffer Macaulay wrote in her popular book For the Children’s Sake (1984), “the right to parental or family liberty over education is a fundamental right that, because of the pervasiveness of modern government, is being threatened.” She also reintroduced the ideas of Charlotte Mason to a new generation of young women, urging them to see “that children are persons who should be treated as individuals as they are introduced to the variety and richness of the world in which we live.” Roman Catholics inclined toward homeschooling took heart from the statements of Pope John Paul II affirming “the primary right of parents to educate their children” (Charter of Rights of the Family, 1983). Father John Hardon, S.J., saw homeschooling as “the necessary concomitant of a culture in which the church is being opposed on every level of her existence” and so “absolutely necessary for the survival of the Catholic Church in our country.”
The homeschooling movement began to take institutional form as well. Two Christian lawyers, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, created the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983. Several American states used compulsory school attendance laws in the late 1980s to suppress home schools; some parents were imprisoned for a time. But home school associations proved to be effective lobbyists and by the mid-1990s home education was legal (if facing varying degrees of regulation) in all fifty states. When the National Education Association (NEA) pressed in 1994 to use a new federal education bill to discourage home schools, an unprecedented torrent of phone calls to congressional offices crushed the NEA effort (the key House of Representatives vote stopping this effort was a stunning 424 to 1). Homeschoolers had come of political age.
By the turn of the millennium, the U.S. government counted 1.2 million American children in homeschools, up from 25,000 in 1975; other estimates reached as high as two million, or about 4 percent of all U.S. schoolchildren. While highly diverse in composition, clear majorities of homeschool families were both Christian and conservative. Claiming family autonomy, these households frequently banded together for mutual assistance. Hundreds of small, mostly family-run businesses emerged to supply homeschooling households with curricula, books, and other items to assist parent-guided learning.
The MOE has revoked permission given to a parent to homeschool her son. This decision they say was based on the mother not following the curriculum approved by them and the mother failing to attend an assessment meeting that they called. The mother who withdrew her son from school due to extensive bullying feels she is now herself being bullied by the MOE. The AHF will not have it. For the second time in as much time the AHF is preparing itself to challenge the decision of the MOE to not grant this mother further permission to homeschool her son.
To be continued ……
The AHF will soon be hosting a public forum on homeschooling. This will include the screening of ” Class Dismissed’ and a discussion on homeschooling activism in Barbados. The MOE will be invited as well as the Minister of Education, principals, teachers and of course parents.