Do You Lose Your Children if You Send Them to School?

Dear Reader,

I wrote recently about Charlotte Mason’s comments on the social environment of the school. She cautioned parents to use wisdom in choosing their children’s school, saying that its social atmosphere is as important and the curriculum and teacher. I think we all have some understanding that there is a social hierarchy within any class or school and that there can be undercurrents which one can feel but not control. Now, this need not be bad thing. There is no reason why such a mini-society need be a bad one.

But Charlotte did make to observation in the passage I looked at last time that when the child goes to school they begin to swim in a different pond so to speak. They must navigate a social system which is different from the one they have primarily known up until that point, that of their family. So the question arises how do they manage to live in both worlds? Will one necessarily receive preference over the other? I have often heard parents of school-children say that when you send them to school you lose them. Is this a necessary consequence of these two competing social worlds?

Charlotte Mason, in her fifth book, Formation of Character, has some pretty harsh statements on this topic:

“This parental duty is the more to be insisted on, because school life is so exigeant that the modern schoolboy or girl is nearly as much given up by parents as was the Spartan child of whom the state took possession.” (p.123)

Do you remember Sparta? It was the Greek city-state in which boys and girls were sent off (at age 7 I believe) to be rigorously trained. They were separated from their families from then on. They were essentially the property of the state which I think raises a lot of fears we homeschooling parents probably have any way about the public schools.

Charlotte continues:

“The day school should offer the advantage of keeping the children constantly under home influence; but does it do so? As a matter of fact, are not the children so much occupied with school tasks, and their lectures so taken up with school companions and school interests, that the parents gradually lose hold of them?” (p.123)

I believe the “day school” here is in contrast to boarding school.  In other words, it is the kind of schools we usually use in our society. I think we can all relate to the fact that school takes over most of life, especially as homework increases. There is little time for anything else. And school friends and their opinions can easily become more important than family.

And this situation is something we have come to accept. We are a bit sad, perhaps, but we view it as normal so we do not fight it:

“And the worst of it is, many parents, with the diffidence of good people, are ready to believe that their children get something better at school than they have the power to give; that, in fact, all proper and suitable training is given there, and they just make a merit of not interfering.” (p.123)

Homeschooling parents will be familiar with the questions along the lines of “how do you teach your own children?” or “how do you know what to teach?” We have come to believe that education is the realm of specialists and that we parents must cede our place to them.

Now of course one solution to all this is to take the homeschooling route and that is what my family has chosen to do (for various reasons). But the question still remains: can one send their children to school without losing them to that environment? I do believe the answer is yes but it takes some conscious effort. If you look back at the first quote above, you will see that it begins “The parental duty is more to be insisted upon . . . ” This is the beginning of  a new section, but it follows a section on standardization in education and the need for parents to emphasize moral training since their children will not be receiving it in the schools.

And here then is the key, parents must first of all be aware of the problem and of the potential conflicts, and secondly, they must make a conscious effort to remain an influence in their children’s lives and to provide what the schools are lacking because there are areas that the public schools are just not equipped to address.

People always exclaim over homeschoolers and how much work we must put into our children’s education, but, honestly, my own view is that I would have a much harder time sending my kids to school. I don’t think I would have the energy or strength to stay on top of them and to remain involved in their lives if I sent them to school. Homeschooling is in many ways an easier option; it does away with the conflicts. Yes, I have to teach them academics as well as moral and spiritual training but I do not also have to fight against competing forces which reign over them for most of their day.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] is it? Charlotte has spent some time discussing the drawbacks of the school environment (see this post for example), but her solution is not to homeschool but for parents to be proactive and to […]


  2. […] common problem, which I have addressed in other posts, is that the school takes the place of the family. Since I have talked about this before, I will […]


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