In considering the positions I have read regarding the issue of Quaker schools, I have found myself writing a bit here and there in response. Inevitably, my responses grow too long for comment and must become their own blog post. Here is one. More will likely follow.
Can Home Schooling models be utilized to extend the benefits of Quaker education to kids in public schools?
In the discussion about private Quaker schools, I am annoyed when all of us who can't use this option gripe at each other. Pretty senseless. The reality is that most of us can't afford private schools and/or are faced with the reality that there just aren't enough private Quaker schools available for Friends in the United States. Unless we plan to start building Quaker schools in every village, the discussion quickly become irrelevant for the lion's share of Friends. So where does that leave us? Home school and public school.
Sometimes I think the home school/public school/private school debate becomes a bit black and white. When we frame these choices as either/or, we miss out on all kinds of possibilities. Home schoolers don't do all their education at home. We often use our public schools' resources. We make use of community centers, libraries, museums, family, and friends. We buy, borrow, rent, or swap private lessons, curricula, lesson plans, and courses. Likewise, kids who go to public school do not receive all their education on campus. Their parents, like me, are teaching them at home too.
I like the idea of part-time home schooling for those kids whose folks cannot or do not wish to home school full time. What I've learned as a home schooling mom is that there is no real "school day." Learning can take place at any time. It can take place outside of the context of brick and mortar classrooms, and it doesn't have to fit within the rules of institutionalized educational formats. I believe we can extend home schooling principles to all Quaker kids as a means of ensuring that our children receive the best Friends can offer young people whether or not an affordable Quaker school is nearby.
Although I'm interested in the question of whether or not Friends' private schools are too expensive for ordinary folks, my primary interest lies in exploring alternatives to institutional mindsets regarding educational theory. My interest lies in the question of whether or not we are willing to meet people where they are. Do we have the will to provide a strong Quaker foundation for our kids whether they go to a Friends' school, a public school, or are schooled at home? Do our communities ( local, regional, national, and online) provide accessible materials and enthusiastic support to Quaker parents and Quaker kids? Are we responsive to the diversity of needs in our community? Are we creative? Approachable? Curious? Do young Friends feel welcome in our meetings? Do grown-up Friends give time and attention to the children of their meeting or do they segregate them, silence them, and ignore them? Although I'm not yet sure how we should proceed in light of the answers to these questions, I still feel that we can make it possible for every young person who grows up among Friends, whether a graduate of a Friends' school, a public school, or their parents' kitchen table school, to confidently say, "I had a Quaker education."