Education and Home School Quotable Quotes

Following are a list of “quotable quotes” about education and home schooling…

which I published on a previous version of this website–way back on March 27, 2008! Some blog posts are evergreen, worthy of being resurrected 🙂 I hope you enjoy these quotes and facts from many different sources — and many different viewpoints. Some you’ll agree with, others you may not (and be warned: some are written with a degree of irony/satire!). But all are worth thinking about…

Wendy Priesnitz, Canadian homeschool leader: [Education] “nurtures independence of mind, thought and action… children learn best when they choose what to study, when to study, and for how long… the best learning is spontaneous learning or self-directed learning.” and “…learning of complicated concepts occurs spontaneously as a result of desire and curiosity…”

John Holt, America’s pre-eminent thinker on alternative education: “Most of what I knew [of value], I had not learned in school or in any other school-like environment.”

Kelly Green, Canadian home-educator: “In an ideal world I would prefer to see a collaborative, co-operative effort whereby children and families could take part in the public education system instead of being subsumed by it; where we could have access to gyms and music lessons without being held accountable for every moment of the day… keeping your child out of school is perceived [by some] to be a form of abuse and it’s up to the parents to disabuse the system and the rest of the community of this notion.”

Lara Murphy, university student and former homeschooler: “The spirit of independent inquiry and critical thinking was already well-established [from my home-schooling experience]. In that sense home schooling is much closer to a university experience than it is to high school.”

Nancy Gibbs, reporter, Time Magazine, October 31, 1994: “…there’s no such thing [as traditional homeschoolers] anymore. A movement once reserved largely for misanthropes, missionaries and religious fundamentalists now embraces such a range of American families that it has become a mainstream alternative to regular public or private education.”

Jon Reider, associate director of admissions at Stanford University: Many colleges are eager to welcome freshmen who bring different experiences of learning. “What it really boils down to is getting a sense of a student’s intellectual drive.”

Robert Sternberg, Yale University psychologist: says there are three types of intelligence: 1. analytical, acquiring and memorizing information, usually of others’ ideas (typical of school-type methods) 2. creative, which cannot be measured by objective tests yet is highly desired in the real world 3. practical, also immeasurable, yet crucially important in later life. Education should teach us how to live.

Debra A. Bell, former high school English teacher: “80 separate studies have shown that pupils taught individually achieve 30 percent higher on standardized tests than do their peers taught in a classroom setting… most of these children are taught [formally] for no more than one to two hours per day by parents with high school diplomas only. Besides individualized instruction which honors the child’s internal timetable and his specific needs, homeschooling also affords parents and children the freedom to explore all subjects creatively and thoroughly. The homeschooling parent knows that all of life is a learning experience… No one cares about a child or understands his needs better than his parents [who have already taught him] to walk, dress, eat, and how to use the English language. Why do parents suddenly become unqualified when their children reach age 5? The truth is, they don’t.”

Facts about education: In Canada, homeschooling, sometimes combined with formal religious education, was the educational norm until the late 19th Century. In BC, free public education was decreed in 1872 and made mandatory in 1873. But by 1892 barely 60% of children were attending school. Taking all of a society’s children away from their parents for compulsory public schooling has historically been the exception, not the norm. While it is true that some earlier civilizations had formal educational systems, for all or more often a select group of their children, these schools were inevitably a way of indoctrinating society into a particular brand of religious or political thinking.

Dr. Brian Ray, president, National Home Education Research Institute: “The tutorial method of teaching has always been the superior method. Home education epitomizes this method, providing essentials for success — a close student/teacher relationship, family — consistent values, motivation, flexibility, and individualization.”

Inge Cannon, executive director of Education PLUS: “Many [colleges and universities] actively recruit home-educated graduates because of their maturity, independent thinking skills, creativity, and extensive academic preparation.”

G.K. Chesterton: “The State did not own men so entirely even when it could send them to the stake, as it sometimes does now when it can send them to the elementary school.”

Dr. Chester Pierce, Professor of Education, Harvard University: “Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill, because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding fathers, our elected officials, towards his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural Being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It is up to you teachers to make all of these sick children well by creating the international children of the future.”

Brian Watts: “Adam Smith never took a course in economics, but his writings have been classics on the subject for a long time. Karl Marx never took a course in economics or political science, yet he has had a profound impact on both those disciplines. Charles Darwin never took a course in biology; he had a degree in theology, and that obviously did not do him much good. John Dewey never took a course in Education — which means that he himself would not have been qualified to teach in any of the public schools that he promoted! Who is to say that parents are unqualified to raise their children?”

Profs. John Anderson, Lynne Reder, and Herbert Simon of Carnegie-Mellon University: “All evidence indicates that real competence only comes with extensive practice…. The instructional problem is not to kill motivation by demanding drill, but to find tasks that provide practice — while at the same time sustaining interest.”

Robert W. Weisbery, Temple University psychology professor: “There is evidence that deep immersion is required in a discipline before you produce anything of great novelty. Before you look at significant achievement, expect to see 10 years of deep immersion to gain knowledge.”

A homeschool mom: “The important thing is not whether they learn Math Facts or the Rivers of South America or any other data. The gift that is in your power to give them is an awareness that whatever they need to know can be learned, and a sense that life only becomes more enjoyable as we learn more and more about the world around us. You don’t have to “teach” them this — live it, show them, pursue your own interests and share your genuine pleasure at the new things you learn every day.”

A homeschooling parent: “When [your child] is grown up, it won’t make any difference at all what age he was when he learned to read or add or tie his shoes. Nobody will base a hiring decision or university admission on that information, his potential mate will not care one way or the other, and his mortgage application will not ask for this particular detail about his past. We don’t have any idea what’s going on in his mind as he drives his trucks around the sandbox, but I bet he’s laying down neural networks like crazy, and any alternate activity that we “plan” for him probably won’t be as effective.”

Wendy Priesnitz, Canadian homeschool leader: “…the essence of learning [is] recognizing patterns, generalizing about them, then applying that learning to other situations. This moving from the whole picture to its details, beginning with concrete experience and moving to abstract rules, is almost opposite from the process we think of as teaching.” and “Rather than an adult-prepared curriculum, what learners need most is time to muddle — opportunities to explore, to investigate their questions and ideas. Learning is a process of figuring things out, making connections, getting ideas and testing them, taking risks, making mistakes and trying again.”

Dr. Anthony Coletta, Ph.D., What’s Best for Kids: “In the 1990s many decisions about education… are based on the needs of adults, rather than on the child development knowledge already in our possession… Policy decisions about education are in fact based more on economic, social and political factors than they are on this reliable body of knowledge…. stress, low self-esteem, poor learning attitudes and discipline problems… [are] a direct result of… the movement to teach kids earlier, create standards for each grade level, and hold kids accountable [which] is counter-productive when applied to the lower grades, because of widely variable maturation rates in children under 8.”

Charlotte Mason, foundational British educator: “This horse-in-a-mill round of geography and French, history and sums, was no more than playing at education; for who remembers the scraps of knowledge he labored over as a child? and would not the application of a few hours in later life effect more than a year’s drudgery at any one subject in childhood? If education is to secure the step-by-step progress of the individual and the race, it must mean something over and above the daily plodding at small tasks which goes by the name…. Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education that if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.”

Stephen Moiozo: “Homeschooling isn’t: The same kids in the same room doing the same thing at the same rate in the same way to achieve the same results because they’re the same age.”

Robert Frost, poet: “Education is… hanging around until you’ve caught on.”

Joyce Eynon, president of the Canadian Home and School Federation: “What’s really important is for parents to get involved with their children’s’ education. Every study ever done shows children do better in school if their parents are involved.”

Alan Kay, Computer pioneer, who is given credit for inventing the personal computer, begs educators to remember that if schools cannot solve a problem without computers, they should not try to solve it with computers.

Charlotte Mason: British educator: “Though system [the observing of rules until the habit of doing certain things, of behaving in certain ways, is confirmed] is highly useful as an instrument of education, a ‘system of education’ is mischievous, as producing only mechanical action instead of the vital growth and movement of a human being.”

E.D. Hirsch, Jr. author of Cultural Literacy: “To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world…. Only by piling up specific, communally shared information can children learn to participate in complex cooperative activities with other members of their community…. In an anthropological perspective, the basic goal of education in a human community is acculturation, the transmission to children of the specific information shared by the adults of the group or polis…. In contrast to the theories of Plato [the specific contents transmitted to children are by far the most important elements of education] and Rousseau [we should encourage the natural development of young children and not impose adult ideas upon them before they can truly understand them]… only by accumulating shared symbols, and the shared information that the symbols represent can we learn to communicate effectively with one another in our national community…. A people is best unified by being taught in childhood the best things in its intellectual and moral heritage.”

Susannah Sheffer, author and unschooling advocate: Parents need to “model for their children a life of interest and exploration, so that the family lives with the understanding that learning is not some mysterious thing only children do, but rather an integral part of being alive.”

John Holt, Unschooling advocate and author: “…there are no experiences from which we learn nothing. We learn something from everything we do, and everything that happens to us or is done to us. What we learn may make us more informed or more ignorant, wiser or stupider, stronger or weaker, but we always learn something. What it is depends on the experience, and above all, on how we feel about it.”

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher and mentor: “I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less ‘showily.’ Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself…. Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.”

An unschooler: “Anytime that, without being invited, with being asked, we try to teach somebody else something… we convey to that person… a double message…. I am teaching you something important, but you’re not smart enough to see how important it is. Unless I teach it to you, you’d probably never bother to find out….[And] what I’m teaching you is so difficult that, if I didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t learn it.”

Aaron Falbel: “We adopt the ‘educative stance’ when we feel it is our right and duty to manipulate others for their own good.”

S.S. Macauley: “The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened.”

John Holt: Schools teach that “learning is separate from the rest of life. If you want to learn something of any importance, you must get it from a teacher, in a school. From this, it follows that understanding is not an activity but a thing, a commodity. It is not something you do or make for yourself, but something you get. It is scarce, valuable, and expensive. You can get it only from someone who has it — if he is willing to give it to you. You can’t make your own; if you do, it’s no good, you can’t get anything for it. Some people have much more of this valuable knowledge than others, and because they do, they have a right to tell the others what to do. Since other people will tell you whatever is important for you to learn, your own questions are hardly ever worth asking or answering.”

Source unknown: Once upon a time the animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming, and all the animals had to take all the subjects. The duck was good in swimming; better, in fact, than the instructor. He made passing grades in flying, but he was particularly hopeless in running. Because he was low in this subject, he was made to stay in after school, and drop his swimming team in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable, so nobody worried about that — except the duck. The eagle was considered a problem pupil and was severely disciplined because although he beat all the others to the top of the trees in climbing class, he insisted on using his own method: flying. The rabbit started out at the top of his class in running, but he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school because of so much make-up work in swimming. The squirrel led the class in climbing, but his flying teacher made him start his flying lessons from the ground up instead of from the top down. He developed charley-horses from over-extension at take-off and began getting C’s in climbing and D’s in running. The practical prairie dogs apprenticed their offspring to the badgers when school authorities refused to add digging to the curriculum. The turtle was placed in a slow learner class and spent much of his time in detention for failure to comply in flying class.”

What quotable quotes about education and home schooling would you add to this list?

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