The Privilege of an Education

The Privilege of an Education

One of our Brave Writer moms asked the question: What is the purpose of education—specifically of educating the masses or public education? That stayed with me all day. Here’s how I think about it.

Several years ago I was a part of a political discussion list online. Members on the list were from all over the world (not just the United States). In a conversation about education, I shared the virtues of homeschooling and the members of the group reacted positively to my characterization of what homeschooling offers to children. Except for one person. A French woman, living in France. Her comment stunned me:

“Homeschooling is not democratic.”

‘Scuse me? I read her comment twice. “What do you mean it’s not democratic? It’s the most democratic. Our democracy allows for individual choice, for the freedom to pursue happiness according to your own ideals. By allowing a variety of educational models, we are providing individuals the right to choose the education that’s right for their children, rather than trapping them into an education that is subpar or not tailored to the student.”

How could she argue with that?

She did. Here’s what she said (paraphrase),

“Education is the vehicle for becoming an equal citizen in any society, and should not be tied to a person’s socio-economic or geographic limits. If homeschooling is a superior model of education and only those with the finances, physical health, sufficient education themselves, and the ability to keep a parent home full time, then it is not available to all equally. If a parent has to keep their children in a poor public school due to their inability to afford a private school or because they can’t homeschool for any reason, that child through no fault of his own is receiving an inferior education to others. A democracy means we are equals. We cannot be equals if we do not all get the same education. Parents should work to improve the public schools together, not abandon them.”

She went on: “A democracy is not built on equal opportunity to choose an education method but on equal access to the same quality education.”

I have to be honest here. This line of reasoning stopped me cold. I had never seen it through that lens.

I thought about the two revolutions: The American Revolution and the French Revolution. The American Revolution was built on the notion of individual rights culminating in the right to pursue an individual vision of happiness (not a one size-fits all version of happiness—not one version of religion or employment or education enforced for everyone, but a variety of choices we make for ourselves). Our highest ideal: the individual right and freedom to make something of self—seizing opportunities, working hard, creating the outcome, being responsible for both success and failure.

The French Revolution had a different emphasis. Because of the abuses of power in the hands of the monarchy and the elite, the everyday person revolted demanding that each citizen be no better than any other. A leveling of the playing field and the protecting of the least advantaged became the clarion call: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Enriching yourself at the expense of others was suspect! The pursuit of happiness was prized when it included everyone, not when it competed (so the thinking goes). They might say that if a society allowed for a variety of educational models, it might be creating a new hierarchy.

Education, then, was seen as the foundation of all citizenship—of active participation, of creating the conditions (the rails) on which our democracies thrive.

The education of the masses (public education in its truest sense) is a democratic principle—a choice to say that all lives are of equal value. Each life deserves to have access to a cache of information and a set of skills that make participating in the public square (participatory representative government) possible. Not only that, but education is also the chief vehicle for innovation and economic development which helps the country to thrive.

So that gets me back to school choice versus working harder to ensure that public schools are created equally, providing all citizens with a quality, sufficient education.

It is with this pair of ideals in mind (the right to customize educational choices and the obligation to provide a robust, complete education to all) that I think about my role in the debate about school choice.

It does us the most good to remember that it is a privilege to homeschool—it is a choice we make due to our dissatisfaction with other methods of education including public education, and our capacity to actually DO the task (health, economics, and personal educational level as sufficient). Not everyone has those capacities (immigrants, poorly educated, the working poor, single parents, chronically ill).

Homeschool provides a critique of other models of education. Let’s not hoard the insights! It’s worth it to share what we’ve learned. It’s also worth it to work for schools to include homeschoolers in after school programs or part time enrollment—bringing together two styles of education.

That said, with privilege also comes obligation
and responsibility to our fellow citizens.

It matters that we care about the education of all our children (not just our own families) when we think about educational policy and reform. Tax structures for how schools are funded matter, even if my kids never go to public school. I care about those laws and would love to see them reformed. It is in everyone’s best interest to have a well educated populace.

What happened when I listened to this counterpoint about democracy and education was that I paused—I saw for a moment the limits of my own vision of education. I want to be more aware and supportive of innovation in the public school system, and more conscientious about how I can contribute what I know about learning to the larger narrative of education in America.

It is also why I never vilify the choice to put children in school—the successful education of the masses globally is the revolution of the ages. It is staggering to think of how many people can read today, for instance, compared to the rest of history. And that ability DOES make a difference on every level of social and global cooperation.

If we say we value education, it’s important to value it wherever we see it and to find common ground and to give our best to it. At least, that’s how I think about it having been an elite privileged home educator.

The Homeschool Alliance


S2E1: A Brave, Hip Homeschooler – with Rebecca Spooner

Brave Writer Lifestyle Podcasts

It’s baaaaaack! My podcast that lurched along at my whim, not on any schedule, has returned—with a schedule and a podcast engineer!

I’m excited about Season 2 especially, because I’ve turned to real experts in the homeschool adventure—not celebrities, not curriculum providers. These podcasts are interviews with Brave Writer Moms who are living the Brave Writer Lifestyle with their kids, each in their unique way.

I can’t wait for you to meet these moms—they are in the trenches amid piles of laundry just like you. They offer a slew of tested tricks and practices to increase the magic in your homeschool.

If you’re new to Brave Writer (Welcome by the way!! I’m so glad you’re here!), you can learn about the Brave Writer Lifestyle on our website now!

Then tune in to the podcast. Subscribe to Brave Writer podcasts on iTunes or check them out here on the Brave Writer blog.

The first Brave Writer Lifestyle podcast is with Rebecca Spooner of Hip Homeschooling!

Rebecca Spooner, Hip Homeschooling

Rebecca writes about homeschooling on her blog Hip Homeschooling, and she helps others with planning their lives and launching their own blogs at RebeccaSpooner.com. She has five kids between the ages of three and nine, all of whom are homeschooled.

Listen to the podcast!

 

Also, you can download the show notes from the Brave Writer’s Life in Brief podcast. The notes include:

  • Podcast Highlights
  • Memorable quotes
  • Helpful Resources

Brave Writer Lifestyle Podcast Show NotesDownload Show Notes

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Would you please post a review on iTunes for us? You’ll help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey when you do. Thanks in advance!


Friday Freewrite: Have a Heart

Friday Freewrite: Have a Heart

Here’s a fun freewriting activity for Valentine’s Day (or any day!):

  • print the images
  • cut them into squares
  • fold in half
  • mix in a bowl
  • select one at random
  • write a story or poem inspired by the picture!

Friday Freewrite: Have a HeartDownload Have a Heart Printout


New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.


Movie Night! Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Movie Night Pirate of the Caribbean

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Captain Jack Sparrow arrives in Port Royal with nothing but the clothes on his back and a legendary reputation. He’s hoping to commandeer a ship, but when he saves the life of Elizabeth, the Governor’s daughter, he’s imprisoned and sentenced to death. But more pirates attack Port Royal that night—the cursed crew of a mysterious ship called The Black Pearl!

Pirates! Three hundred years ago they were the terror of the waves. To most westerners these days, pirates are the terror of the big screen where they entertain audiences worldwide.

The Pirates of the Caribbean film series is one of the most successful in history, and it’s somewhat unique in that it’s based on previously existing material, but the source material is not a book or a comic. Pirates of the Caribbean began as a theme park ride. It was the last attraction to be overseen by Walt Disney himself and opened in 1967 at Disneyland. The movie does, however, have a junior novelization…which, I suppose, would be an adaptation of an adaptation of a theme park? Argh, my head hurts!

The Curse of the Black Pearl is a marvelous swashbuckling adventure for the whole family. Give it a go!

Discussion Questions

  • Captain Jack is a classic antihero, a main character who lacks traditionally heroic characteristics. Do you still root for him or do you think he deserves to face justice? Explain your answer.
  • Which characters change most throughout the story? Give examples.
  • Captain Jack says that Will’s father was “a pirate and a good man.” Do you think that’s possible? What does it mean to be a good man?
  • Which genre would you class the film as? Adventure? Fantasy? Neither? Both? Share your reasons.

Additional Resources

Pirate Birthday Party – How to create a pirate party for kids with recycled materials.

The Great Illustrated Encyclopedia – Life aboard a pirate ship.

Goodreads – Books about pirates.

Movie Discussion Club


Is Brave Writer a Complete Writing Program?

Is Brave Writer a Complete Writing Program?

Brave Writer is a complete writing and language arts program, not supplemental. The goal of what we do is to prepare kids to be competent, confident writers in a variety of settings, including academic contexts like college and beyond. We get there by beginning with writing voice and nurturing it so that a child discovers what it feels like to have something to say, something worth preserving on paper or on a computer. That self expression puts a child in touch with the part of self that generates original thought, accesses his or her vocabulary, and selects the best “container” for their writing (does this material suit a poem or a report, a letter or an academic essay?).

Where we differ from other programs is that we are not organized by grade level, but by developmental stages of growth in writing. We see writing in three categories:

  1. original writing (the process of generating original thought and putting that into the written word),
  2. the mechanics of writing (which we explore using living literature and the practices of copywork and dictation),
  3. and writing projects (bringing mechanics and thoughts together to create something—lapbook, mini report, a poster, textual criticism in an essay, research papers, and so on…).

The Writer’s Jungle is the primary manual that teaches both philosophy and process using a variety of activities and writing excursions. It is written to the homeschooling parent and is not a text book. Each chapter has a writing process to do with your child with samples and explanations about its application to the writing process.

The Wand, Arrow, and Boomerang offer a monthly literature guide focused on a single novel that is age appropriate. In these month-long guides you will find 4 weeks worth of copywork and dictation with detailed, user-friendly descriptions of the literary elements, grammar, spelling, and punctuation found in the passages.

The products like Jot it Down, Partnership Writing, Faltering Ownership and Help for High School are focused on writing products/projects. This is where we introduce forms for writing—but we get there differently than most writing programs. We focus first on

  • immersion in material,
  • developing original thought,
  • examining one’s own perspective against others,
  • and creating space for creativity (btw, creativity is just as necessary for a persuasive essay as it is for a poem).

Then we explore the convention of the form for writing and look at ways to apply it to the content generated by the student.

We take revision seriously—it is not just a process of correcting a few typos or spelling errors, or hunting in a thesaurus for a better term. Revision in Brave Writer is about giving new vision to the writing—engaging in a process of re-imagining the content—deepening and expanding it.

Our online classes cover all three aspects of writing: original thought, mechanics and literature, and writing forms.

It is possible to do only Brave Writer materials and classes for the entirety of your child’s childhood. That said, it’s also wise to give your kids the chance to write in additional contexts as well so that they experience how other people teach writing. I usually recommend including some other writing opportunities in high school (co-op, local junior college, working with another writing instructor) once the writing voice is strong and well formed. We do have a wide variety of writing coaches in Brave Writer, though, and that provides its own variety too.

I come from professional writing. What we do when we work with people aspiring to be writers is we stir up the writing life first.

We say: What do you have to say? Then we help them get that out.

Schools tend to say to students: Writing is difficult so I’m going to tell you exactly what to write and how.

In the school context, kids lose touch with having something to say and keep trying to figure out what the teacher wants to read.

In the professional context, the writer gets more and more in touch with having something to offer. That makes learning the various forms not only more interesting, but more powerful. The writing then sounds like them!

Adding one last thought about academic writing: I teach at the university level. What most professors complain about with college writing is that students know the formulas for writing but don’t have much skill with original thought or critical inquiry of texts. There’s a hunger among academics for students to break free of the rigid formulas and to connect with the discipline or the field.

In our high school writing classes, we do teach the academic forms, but we do so with a view to ensuring that our students generate insight first and that they learn how to do the rhetorical work of examining sources for credibility, understanding point of view, and learning to hold positions dispassionately.

Our students who have gone off to college and return to tell us about it have said that their professors often praise them for their original thought or that their writing sounds like them—not a formula. We use college composition principles and teach the MLA citation structures, but not at the expense of cultivating a writer’s rhetorical imagination. We do both. We just save that academic specificity for high school when the mind is more mature and ready to do that kind of work.

Curious about Brave Writer?