How Long Does Basic Education Take? by Léo Gaumont

The government school system says it takes twelve years to get an education: six years of elementary, three years of academic purgatory called junior high, and then three years of high school. Those three years, grades seven, eight, and nine, I call “academic purgatory” because no new concepts are taught. What happens is that the schools are simply trying to control the students’ raging hormones.

The students who are starting grade ten are generally not sitting there going, “Oh boy, now we’re in high school!” Instead, what they have in their mind is, “Three more stinking years and it’s over.” That’s what they’re thinking. And at the big graduation party they’re not jumping up on the seats and going, “We’ve made it! We’re academically prepared! We’re ready for the world because we’ve been enlightened and we’re full of wisdom!” No. It’s a big party because it’s the same one that would have happened if they had got out of jail. It’s like parole.

How long does it actually take to educate a child? Does it really take twelve years? In reality, it takes about a hundred hours to do the basic training.

If we take twelve years and throw out the three years of junior high, we are left with nine years. Let’s really exaggerate and say that the children are actually learning and advancing academically half of the time. What’s half of nine years? Four and a half years. We could start them at ten and send them to university at fifteen. In the meantime they would still have a life. I’m serious. My wife and I have seen it happen, time and time again.

Pulling Children Out of School

When we get parents pulling children out of school to home educate them, things are a bit different. The longer the children have been in school, the more issues they have and the more damage there is to fix. There are some students who are in such a bad condition that we just tell the parents to do nothing for a full year. Just let the kids go. Let them undo all that yucky feeling.

Sometimes we wonder, seeing a child sitting, waiting for a school bus and crying: What part of crying don’t we get? They’re not happy at school. We really have to give our heads a shake. Some parents say, “I know they don’t want to go to school, but they have to.” Says who?

These are things that people need to question sometimes. Having been part of the public system themselves, most people have been trained to think in a certain way. When anyone dares to try to think outside of that norm, it doesn’t take long before someone else comes along and demands, “What are you doing?”

Finished At Sixteen

What Faye and I have discovered with home educated children is that by the time they are sixteen, they’re usually done with their formal education. Some home educating parents have a seventeen or an eighteen-year-old and are wondering why they’re having such difficulty keeping him or her home. But it’s probably because he or she is beyond the season for home education. He or she was probably done at sixteen.

In the Jewish culture a boy became a man when he was officially inducted into adulthood at the bar mitzvah. The community said that the boy had become an adult. But the public school system says to a boy of the same age, “No, you can’t be an adult yet. You must be a child for another five, six, or seven years, and then we’re going to cut you into the big, wide world because you’re ready.”

But having gone through the school system they’re not ready. They’ve been told what to think but not how to think. Then the school system sends the children out into the world and all of a sudden someone says, “Think.” But they were never taught how to think for themselves.

Again, we find that sixteen is the end of the home education program, especially for those who live in the country. In the country a child gets a driver’s license the day after he or she turns sixteen. Once they get a license, they’re gone. They’re gone because they’re ready. Many people think, “But don’t they have to be eighteen?” Once again, says who?

Part Time Work and Online Classes

By the time they are sixteen, Faye and I encourage all of our students to be involved in part-time work, or taking online classes, or both. It’s a means to an end, not an end in itself. When we talk about this part-time work and online classes, some students ask, “But what if I don’t want to go to university?” We reply, “How are two or three university courses going to hurt you even if you don’t want to go to university? And what else are you going to do?”

It is at this stage of the home education program that many home educating parents are guilty of a particular offense, especially those who have been through the public school system. They’re guilty of asking their children to go backwards in order to advance. Parents will ask their child to perform a task and the child will reply, “I know this already. I get this.” But the parents are saying, “Oh yeah, but there’s another fifty-eight questions.” Forget it. The kid knows it. He doesn’t need to go over and over it again. The other fifty-eight questions were designed for the school, which has to keep the good students busy while the students who can’t get it in the first place take a little more time to do the few that they eventually get done.

Home educating students do not need to be encumbered by such arbitrary materials designed for a school classroom. They can move forward once they’ve understood a concept, and by advancing at their own pace they can complete an effective education in much less time than the school system requires.