Why Schools Will Always Fail to Educate Children

It's a bold statement. 

Schools will always fail to educate children. 

Schools are effective in many areas, but not in the area of education. Schools function as economical child care centers. They disseminate and test standardized knowledge. Schools level the playing field with relatively great ease. Schools are successful in perpetuating groupthink.

If you want your children educated, however, don't send them to school. 

Nine years ago we decided to abandon the IDEAL of public school in favor of homeschool - precisely because I came to the realization the schools were never going to be able to EDUCATE my children.

This decision was not arrived at lightly. I was the product of public schools. I have degrees in education - an advanced one in Educational Leadership and Supervision. You might say I used to be heavily invested in the success of the public schools. 

I want to shake people who tell me why they can't homeschool, because I know it CAN BE DONE. Our children are precious and we must stop subjecting them to substandard public education which assumes so little of them. The future of our nation depends on it - and if I may be so bold - I think we are witnessing a steady decline in our nation because of generations of adults who have been educated by increasingly failing public schools.

At the end of this post I have a suggested reading list for you. These are books that I read before and during our homeschool journey. We must be educated ourselves and articulate why we do what we do. I pray this post emboldens and encourages you!


Why Schools Will Always Fail to Educate Children

Whether you are a veteran homeschooler or just contemplating this idea of homeschooling, you need to be aware of definitions and painful truths. I will do that here today.

Before I continue, let me clarify what education means to me. Definition of a term is important, and I hope we're on the same page with this one: 


Education is a process of inviting truth and possibility, of encouraging and giving time to discovery. Education is an ongoing set of social, moral and academic skills necessary for children to thrive in life.


Education is NOT obtaining a set of skills for a job. It is NOT acquiring the tools to be a productive citizen. It is SO MUCH more than that.

Reasons Traditional Schools Fail (and will Continue to Fail) to Educate Children

Why Schools Will Always Fail to Educate Children


Schools Are Built for Adults - NOT Children

I first heard this when I was pursuing my Master's Degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision. It was a problem plaguing public schools twenty years ago, and it still plagues them today.

Consider just a few ways we construct schools and school days for adults and NOT children:

  • Length of School Day - Shorter school days would be met with opposition from working parents who need children taken care of while they work - yet we know shorter days are better for children.
  • Classroom Setup - Control is much easier for teachers when children are made to sit in cramped desks in overcrowded classrooms.
  • Academic Agendas - All students in a classroom follow basically the same path - for the convenience of the teacher.  How in the world could one teacher create individualized education plans for 25 students in his/her classroom?
  • Busy Work - Teachers need to be able to keep all children "engaged" during the school day. To keep from mayhem ensuing, teacher assign busy work like word searches and crossword puzzles. UGH.
  • Testing - How do schools demonstrate they are performing? Test scores. Many times school funding and teacher pay are linked to test scores. Is it best for the children? No one really considers that, do they?


Schools Are Built on a Conformity/Commodity Model

The entire foundation of our American public school system (based on the Prussian model of education) began in New England in the 1850s.

Our nation needed a way to deal with increasing waves of immigrants. America needed a unified spirit and goal. The result of this was conformity. 

(If you look at schools today most of them have the same physical appearance - the same as prisons. They are designed to house and control large numbers of children. Honestly, next time you drive by a school ask yourself if it looks like an appealing place to spend nearly 8 hours each day - 9 months each year.)

The goal is this: children should CONFORM to the system and children are a COMMODITY which is run through the system over the course of twelve years. 

Step back and REALLY look at it. Is your child a unique child in a public school, or are they simply a cog in the wheel - a number to be counted and measured? 

As we know, children are created uniquely by God. Conformity really isn't such a good thing for children if they are going to develop their abilities and talents, yet conformity is encouraged and celebrated in public schools.


Reasons Schools Fail to Educate Children

The Eight-Hour Dummies

Please forgive my crass verbiage here. The term "eight-hour dummy", however, is one that was prevalent when I was a teacher. 

Simply put, if your child doesn't CONFORM, they will be given a label. This label explains why they don't FIT IN, why they don't learn the same as everyone else.This label means there is something wrong with your child and THEY must be fixed. There must be accommodations and modifications made. They might even be put in a different class of children.

These children, surprisingly enough, only have this "problem" at school - during the eight hours they are within the school walls. Once they leave the school they are just KIDS - with all of their foibles and the like. These "eight-hour dummies" are made to feel as though there is something wrong with THEM, something that warrants a label. 

A side note: many "eight-hour dummies" have turned out to be some of America's greatest thinkers and innovators. Funny how that works.

In truth, the vast majority of the time, the child is just being who God created them to be. The onus should not be on the CHILD to change. They simply do not thrive in the CONFORMITY model of public education.

My heart breaks for these children - many of whom don't have an advocate at home, or whose parents actually might buy into the belief  their child is flawed in some way. 

We lose these students down the line. They feel "less than" or they just give up altogether. It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of our education system today.


Most Schools Are Run by the Government

It is absurd to believe a bureaucratic government can possibly make well-informed decisions about education. Even though education is a function of the states, shifting national standards (hello Common Core) impact the delivery of education in a myriad of ways. 

Pesky things like money, politics, and egos come into play and once again the best interests of our children are left in the dust.

Once again, while the adults are sorting it all out, our children are growing and changing. Many times, if you seek to effect educational change in your own local school system your own children will be out of the system by the time the change is enacted. 

The popular saying - "Babies won't keep" is so true. Except in this instance we should say "Students won't keep." 


The Idea of "Education for All" is Just an IDEAL

The model of public education is a pie-in-the-sky ideal. 

I remember the argument I received from many when we decided to leave the public schools. It always went something like this: 

"If all educated and involved families abandon the public schools, what will education look like for the rest of the children? We all need to be invested in the system to make it work."

Well guess what. Here's a great response to that one:  "We are not willing to sacrifice our children for an ideal. My children are too precious for me to throw them into a system and pray change will come about, or for me to waste my valuable time and energy hoping for a change."

Can you IMAGINE the frustration bubbling just below the surface of so many of our public schooled children? 

Why Schools Fail to Educate Children

THIS is Why We Homeschool

After all of the things I witnessed as a student, teacher, and parent in the public school system, it was time to go. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to homeschool my children. 

I am thankful to have been practicing my outside-the-box thinking for the past nine years. It comes in handy in so many other areas of life! The following books will be encouraging and helpful to you as you either travel down the homeschool road or contemplate taking the leap away from traditional school into homeschool. 

Because my oldest is approaching college age, we've also been having interesting discussions and discoveries about going (or not going) to college, and what the value of a college education might (or might not) be. Food for thought. I've included a couple of books for this, too. 


Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child's EducationWhat Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? And Other Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other FolliesHow Children Learn, 50th anniversary edition (A Merloyd Lawrence Book)Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of HomeschoolingYou, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best EducationExcellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful LifeWhere You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania


I'd love a respectful discussion of whether or not you think schools are capable of truly educating children.

Leave me a comment below and we'll get one started!


Homeschooling: When Being Normal Looks Weird

Have you ever felt like you are the only "normal" one left?

Are you maybe the only one in your family who educates their children at home?  Are you the only homeschoolers in your church? Maybe you are the only ones in your community. 

When you abandon the ideal of traditional education you veer into (what is perceived by others) as weird territory? 

Sometimes I have just thrown my hands up to my husband and said, "Are we the only NORMAL ones left?"

When Being Normal Looks Weird: A Message to the Homeschool Critics

Have you ever felt like you are the only "normal" one left?

Are you maybe the only one in your family who homeschools?  Are you the only homeschoolers in your church? Maybe you are the only ones in your community. 

Sometimes I have just thrown my hands up to my husband and said, "Are we the only NORMAL ones left?"

At our very first  Great Homeschool Convention, we listened to a panel of Classical educators moderated by Andrew Kern.

A story was told by Martin Cothran that went something like this (I'm paraphrasing here, but you will get the general idea.):

In Australia there was a rugby match where all of the players were naked.   In the middle of the game, a fully clothed spectator went running across the field.  

Sometimes it seems as if WE, as homeschoolers, are that fully clothed spectator.  

Everyone on that field looks a certain way - and then we run across looking DIFFERENT. 

We get the feeling that being the only normal one left is weird, but as individuals who are convicted to home educate we must stay the course and do what we know is best for our own children.

After all, this new "normal" of compulsory schooling and assembly line education hasn't been around all that long. Educating your children at home used to be the way things were done.

Thinking deep thoughts about worthy ideals used to be in vogue. Reading REAL books used to be the norm. 

You get the point...


This story hit home with my husband and I at the convention. 

It really hit home, however, just a few days later.

In a series of unrelated events, we received criticism of our choice to homeschool (directly and indirectly). 

We were LONG past caring what others think of our decision to homeschool. After many years of doing this we KNOW this is the best path for our children, just as a parent that sends their child to school knows the best path for their child. 

After all, we shouldn't  do things to please others. We do not believe in conforming to the world.

When Being Normal Looks Weird: A Message to the Homeschool Critics

I didn't realize just how far we had evolved in our thinking until just recently. I was put in a position to articulate why we homeschool to a critic. After all, I consider myself a homeschool ambassador

I tried to pepper my words with grace and a remembrance of the time when I didn't quite understand why in the world someone would want to HOMESCHOOL. 

People criticize what they don't know or understand, and sometimes what intimidates or threatens them. 

When someone takes the time to criticize our decision as homeschoolers it tells me they either have too much time on their hands, or are woefully uninformed. I know, because this was once the way I behaved.

So my friends, the next time that neighbor, family member, or "friend" criticizes you (either to your face or behind your back), please remember the naked rugby tournament.

The next time you hear things like:

"Their children are so sheltered they won't be prepared for the real world. How are they going to learn to relate to other kids their own age? "


"You don't let your kids watch cable?"


"Do you really LIKE homeschooling?" (I actually got that one once.)

or (my personal favorite)

"Aren't you depriving the world of what your child has to offer?"

 - please remember what you are doing takes courage, sacrifice, and an obedience many people do not understand.

When I look at this picture, I remember a time  when we were at a crossroads. 


My daughter had been crammed into the historically under-served "middle" in her public school classroom. Her once enthusiastic learning spirit had been squashed little by little. She didn't want to go to school because of a few mean girls in her class. She was only allowed to choose books from a certain shelf in the library because they were at her "reading level" (I knew she could read harder material, but they didn't give her the chance.). 

My son was thriving in a four year old preschool program at our church. I was literally sick thinking about putting him in public school Kindergarten and watching him go through the same equalization process. He was so very bright and precocious, too - if he didn't get a very patient, loving teacher he would probably spend the entire year in time out. 

Words from my time in graduate school for Educational Leadership kept ringing in my head:

"Schools are built for the adults that work in them, not the children."

Someone suggested I read Weapons of Mass Instruction.

That is when we just knew we had to make a change. 

We needed to return to NORMAL.  

I wish I would have known then what I do know about choosing to homeschool.

It isn't our job to make the critics understand; it is our job to raise these precious souls that have been entrusted to us in the best way we know how.

What we are doing by home educating our children is so normal it just appears weird.

My favorite scripture during these times of criticism is James 1: 2-4:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I like to meditate on these verses often. They keep me grounded and thankful. 

We are running a most worthy race, and if we persevere, we will lack nothing.

Remember - it's ok to look "weird" - you know you're really NORMAL. 

You CAN Homeschool

I've written an eBook chock full of encouragement, helpful advice, and so much more -- these are words from a former public school teacher, administrator, and parent. These words are born out of a need to help other parents in their homeschool endeavors.

This is our journey to being WEIRD.

I pray it blesses you.

Download the FREE eBook:

I'd love to hear your story about being WEIRD.

 Leave it for me in the comments below!

When Being Normal Looks Weird: A Message to the Homeschool Critics