The Hewitt Research Foundation presented its “Home Based Leadership Conference” on February 17, 1986 at the Hyatt Hotel in Princeton, New Jersey. It was a day-long event which included talks, panel discussions, question-answer sessions, and displays by curriculum suppliers. Raymond and Dorothy Moore (Hewitt Research Foundation), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Donna Richoux (Holt Associates), John Eidsmoe (Oral Roberts University Law School), and Michael Farris (Home School Legal Defense Association) were among the speakers. Hundreds of people from the eastern half of the U.S. and a few, including this writer, from west of the Mississippi River attended.
History, research, and common sense.
Raymond Moore was the first speaker and entitled his presentation, “Home-based education, 1986: history, research and common sense.” He gave an overview of what he perceived to be relevant research, facts, and anecdotes to the area of home schooling. He first referred to a Smithsonian Institution-supported study of genius. Those geniuses studied shared certain characteristics as children:
(1) very warm, responsive parents, (2) relative isolation from their peers, and (3) allowance to work out their fantasies. He then proceeded to interrelate the work of Carl Zimmerman, Jean Piaget, Urie Bronfenbrenner, Bill Elkind, and others to suggest that formal education should be put off until much later (i.e. about nine or ten years of age) than is the norm in the U.S. today.
Near the end of his talk, Moore explained what he meant by “incest in education.” He said that a child is brought into formal schooling too early and burns out or doesn’t succeed. This child is then labeled “learning disabled.” And now, in the last two generations educators have developed “special education programs” to deal with this type of child. The school gets more money for the special education child and this encourages the system to label more children learning disabled so that the system can feed itself and grow.
Moore ended his talk by saying that home schooled children are not socially deprived. In fact, he quipped, “They often employ public school children in their muffin routes.”
Dorothy Moore then gave a brief presentation. She emphasized that home schooling is not for everyone; it is an alternative. Speaking of the parental involvement in home schooling, she pointed out that Benjamin Bloom now considers Head Start a failure because it depends so much on parental involvement, and the typical Head Start endeavor does not have this type of involvement.
Working with legislators.
Phyllis Schlafly gave a dynamic talk entitled, “How to work with legislators to develop sound legislation.” She did much groundwork before she directly addressed the topic of the title. She explained that she was one of the 10% who involved her child in home schooling for intellectual, rather than religious, reasons. She did so to teach her child how to read using the phonics method. From here, Schlafly spent some time comparing sight reading and phonics. Her conclusion was that phonics is the superior method for learning to read.
She then discussed the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (Hatch Amendment, 1978) and the hearings that the U.S. Dept. of Education (ED) held on them during the Spring of 1984. She implied that the influence of the National Education Association (NEA) kept the results of the hearings from being publicized. So, she took excerpts from the public documents and published them in Child Abuse in the Classroom. Soon thereafter, the ED published its regulations and the “NEA went into orbit.” She said that the NEA will not debate her, but they send Norman Leer’s “People for the American Way” to debate her. Schlafly said a basic confrontation is involved:
parents having primary responsibility for their children versus teachers and schools doing what they want in schools with the children, denying parental rights.
Schlafly went on to emphasize that the Hatch Amendment only protects the parts of schooling supported by federal monies, while the vast majority of funds are local in source. So, parents must lobby, and lobby diligently, because there are many lobbyists who are state-paid employees and lobby hard for state control of public education. For example, she claimed that there is a strong movement nationwide for full-day kindergarten and voluntary and/or mandatory schooling at the age of three or four. This would create more jobs for teachers, she emphasized.
Most state legislators are responsive to their constituents, she said. At the state level, the power is people:
well-timed phone calls, letters, invitations to homes, warm people at meetings, and testimonies at hearings. The presence of a thousand people at a special gathering has much more impact on a legislator than the most logical presentation for or against a cause.
Philosophy and methods.
Dorothy Moore followed with a talk entitled, “Philosophy, goals, materials and methods.” She took the approach of listing the characteristics she perceives in home schooling parents, which was an ingenious way to praise them and to say what she wanted to say about philosophy and methods. This was very appropriate since most of the people in attendance were home schooling parents, whether “leaders” or not.
Among other traits, she listed the parents as: individuals willing to be different, not peer-dependent, wanting to develop a strong family but not isolated from society, providing care and nurture without being over-protective, having broad goals, utilizing a variety of materials and methods, using parent and peer tutoring, usually requiring children to master the subject studied, and learning with their children. Referring to Benjamin Bloom and his book All our children learning, Dorothy Moore said that 80% of our children, if given the time and opportunity, can learn as well as those that we normally think of as the top 20%.
A panel of lawyers started things after lunch with a presentation on “Constitutional, criminal and family law.” John Eidsmoe gave a lively and humorous first talk. He briefly reviewed four U.S. Supreme Court cases that indirectly dealt with home schooling. He also outlined six hierarchical steps involved in effective dealings between home schoolers and the law: (1) educate self and officials, (2) negotiate, (3) legislate, (4) litigate, (5) agitate, and (6) if all else fails, regurgitate. The audience burst out in laughter at the last point. Not every case needs to go through all six steps.
Michael Farris then explained that the Home School Legal Defense Association (address given above) was organized for mainly two reasons: (1) to get home schooling families out of trouble, and (2) to keep local home school-friendly lawyers from going broke.
Jim Knicely of the Rutherford Institute (address given above) stated that the battle (between home educator parents and the state) was lost at the turn of the century when compulsory education laws were emplaced. He said that the “free exercise principle” is holding the reins on the state, but there has not yet been a direct case to get their hands completely of f of the family.
Sandra Wise, a constitutional lawyer of the firm Ball and Skelly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then spoke of the importance of home schoolers educating the public. She said that home schooling families need to come out from underground, educate people, and get lawyers involved in developing strong legislation to support parents’ rights to home school.
The last event was a panel discussion with the title “How can we build the highest standards in home education?” The panelists were Fran Nolan (former supervisor of elementary education, New York State), Donna Richoux (editor, “Growing Without Schooling”), Dorothy Moore, and Ellen Dana (curriculum director, Hewitt-Moore Child Development Denter). Nolan spoke of the “power of an idea” and that home schooling parents must have a vision of what it is they are attempting.
Richoux spoke of John Holt’s ideas of how to get the most energy from people who are involved in social reform. These involved not starting a national organization because too much time would be wasted in trying to agree. So, he started a directory of home schoolers and designed “Growing Without Schooling” to be very participatory in nature. Richoux said that she invites a diversity of groups in home schooling. Dorothy Moore reiterated some of what Richoux had to say and placed strong emphasis on cooperation amongst various home schooling groups.
Dana offered two main points. First, home educators should remember that they are “. . .home schooling, not having school at home.” Her point was that a person should not try to take everything that a conventional school does and attempt to implement it in the home. Second, parents should do a conscientious evaluation of their home school. Hewitt-Moore has developed a questionnaire index to help in this area.
The conference was encouraging to many home schooling parents and it offered much information to those interested in this form of education. However, I would like to make two editorial comments. One, the conference was only for “leadership” in a very general sense. It gave general ideas about legislation, lobbying, and striving for excellence at the local level. These suggestions and encouragements were probably very helpful for many parents in attendance. On the other hand, such generalities were redundant for those who had already experienced these types of activities. This was clear from others with whom I had discussions. There was little planned attempt to discuss leadership in the areas of research or the perception of home education at the national level.
Second, Raymond Moore planned to and did use the occasion to make two points that were very personal to him. One was that he cannot continue to endorse five to eight hours per day, workbook-type activities that several curriculum suppliers have been selling to home educators. Then he listed names of businesses with whom he is upset. His second point was that he was tired of anti-state sentiments among some home schoolers. He said, “We have no business to hate the state, because we are the state. We do have to draw the line for the state, however.”
It was an exciting and stimulating day of activities. Among other things, I enjoyed getting acquainted with a few of you HOME SCHOOL RESEARCHER participants. In addition, Raymond and Dorothy Moore gave a talk (about early childhood education and home schooling) that evening at Princeton University. It was sponsored by the Teacher Preparation and Placement Program (Henry Drewry, director). The Moore’s reiterated much of what they had said earlier in the day. It was an encouragement to them and to others involved in home education that such a university would grant them audience.