I enjoyed my evening as I watched the movie 'Captain Fantastic' and was thrilled to see Hollywood acknowledge the homeschool movement. The first part of the show was inspiring as we witnessed an extreme homeschool program and then as the plot moved to the anti-social behaviour of the oldest boy a message loud and clear began to surface, to wit, "Dad, you taught me nothing. All I know about the world is what is in books!" (I'm not quoting exactly, but the gist is the same).
This was the moment, the touchstone upon which the plot moved from the father running a fantastic homeschooling program to the father not being so fantastic after all and his own journey of doubt in his methods begins. 'Perhaps homeschooling develops anti-social children and perhaps we need a structured school system to develop our children properly' is the tone of the rest of the movie.
The question I want to probe is two-fold: Is the plot line plausible, namely, that with having 6 children, a mother and father completely involved in their lives (until lately where mom goes into the hospital), parents who are educated and socially apt, and having life experience through nature - that these children would have social difficulties in the 'real' world?
The second question I want to probe is the method of homeschooling itself. Is it fantastic?
I. Socially defunct because of homeschooling
It is with this point of the movie that I take issue. I don't believe it is even possible that these children, in the situation they were in, could possibly be socially inept.
This is why: First of all, socialization comes first and foremost through the family. Granted, now days where the average amount of children in a family is 1.8, there is definitely less socialization happening. However, in a family of 6 children, with a mom and dad present??? Highly unlikely. In a family of 8, in nature, living off the grid, these children would've learned how to resolve conflict, express their feelings, debate and celebrate together. No video games. No smart phones. No social media. No - these children were socialized very well. If there is a problem with their socialization it would stem from their father's free use of cuss words and his plan to steal food. (These were exceptions to their schooling and granted even though stealing is wrong, the skills used in stealing are great to have).
There is a grave misconception that we must send our children to school to be socialized. This would mean what? Learning how to sit quietly in a classroom, learning how to line up straight in a hallway, learning pop slang, pop trends and clothing? I remember well the situation that confirmed this myth for me. I had a grade four boy in my class who couldn't tie his shoes, dressed sloppily and struggled to make friends. I wondered why he struggled after being in a school for 5 years (4 years at 6-7hrs/day) he still struggled socially. Then I met his parents. Then I understood why he struggled. Then I knew that the parents were not only the primary educators of their children, but also the primary socializers.
II. Captain's Homeschool Program
Watching the first 30min of this show was definitely the most inspiring. I was challenged in some of the areas of our own homeschool program and have recently made some changes. Though some aspects of the situation were a bit extreme (e.g.: the children being able to speak 5 languages), his program was excellent. I'll highlight the aspects I found worthy:
a. Living off the land: This is a priceless learning experience! Hunting, killing and preparing their own meat, growing a garden, learning how to wield a knife, bow/arrow and how to purify water. These are life skills that our video game generation knows nothing about.
b. Rigorous workouts: The program was based more on fitness than it was learning basketball/volleyball/hockey skills. His children had an intensive workout they engaged in daily to increase cardiovascular, muscular ability and agility. I would suggest that most sports can be learned quite easily to a proficient level if one has mastery over his body.
c. Reading: His children were not reading fluff. They were engaging in philosophy, history, economics, politics and classics. Further, they weren't just writing a summary paragraph of what they read or drawing a picture or answering some fill-in-the-blank questions, rather they were engaged with the text and he drove them deep into the author's intent.
d. Music: His children played instruments. Aristotle insists that music educates the soul and is key for learning how to spend our leisure time in a fine and divine way. We witnessed this as they sat around the fire playing their instruments and dancing.
e. Chores: The regular day to day grind of being a family and making the family work with a tight schedule and much to learn, included chores. Chores is not just an opportunity to serve or grow in virtue - it is learning a life skill and developing good habits.
f. Father's Involvement: The father's involvement with the homeschool program was key. OH how jealous I was that he was able to commit every day to the development of his children! A father plays a specific role in his child's education and this was wonderfully present in the days before the industrial revolution where his son learned the trade of the father. Now days, in modern times, the father goes off to work and his son has little connection with what happens at his father's work.
If you haven't considered homeschooling, consider it. The scene in the movie where his young child is able to explain why there was a Bill of Rights and the 'schooled' child was proficient at video games was not too far off reality.
Kenton E. Biffert