The Best Schooling Possible

Raymond Moore November/December 1999
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Which brings us to American parents' penchant for jettisoning their children when they should still be at the breast or in a high chair or working, playing, and learning with mother at home. The state of the family today is perilous; with child rejection leading regressively to family breakdown, divorce, mixed families, fatherless children, single mothers, early and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, gangdom, abortion, social diseases, depression, violence, and suicide.

Early institutionalization is surely a most pervasive form of child abuse. Americans compete with Sweden and England for the boldest rejection of offspring, like ostriches and turtles that by nature leave their eggs unattended in the sand. Our research findings over the past 25 years, as well as records from the period between the 1600s and the mid-1800s, proves that vision, hearing, brain development, cognition, and sociability demand later ages for formal studies--both at home and in classrooms--and require much more time with parents. And scholars note that older learning ages would save millions of children from learning failure.[1] A glance at the U.S. figures for both child care and nursing homes tells us that in America, as in ancient Greece and Rome, the earlier you institutionalize your children, the earlier they will institutionalize you!

But don't children become more selflessly sociable by associating with their peers? This is hardly the case. Bronfenbrenner found that if children spend more of their time with their peers than their parents through most of their preteen years, they will give the back of their hands to family values and become dependent on their peers. Bronfenbrenner's study has since been replicated by several other reputable studies. He says, "It is not primarily the family, but other institutions in our society, that determine how and with whom children spend their time, and it is these institutions that have created and perpetuate the age-segregated and thereby often amoral or antisocial world in which our children live and grow. Central among the institutions which by their structure and limited concern have encouraged these socially disruptive developments have been our schools."

Yet he has moving words for parents: "The peer-oriented youngster was more influenced by a lack of attention and concern at home than by the attractiveness of the peer group. In general, the peer-oriented children held rather negative views of themselves and the peer group. They also expressed a dim view of their own future. Their parents were rated as lower than those of the adult-oriented children both in the expression of affection and support, and in the exercise of discipline and control. Finally, in contrast to the adult-oriented group, the peer-oriented children report engaging in more antisocial behavior, such as 'doing something illegal,' 'playing hooky,' lying, teasing other children, etc. In summary it would seem that the peer oriented child is more a product of parental disregard than of the attractiveness of the peer group--that he turns to his age-mates less by choice than by default . . . . [Today] the shift from parents to peers as the child's major source of information occurs at an earlier time . . . and is much more pronounced . . . . Social contagion . . . is already well developed at the preschool level.[2]

The lackluster performances of some public schools is a wake-up call to society. Some school systems have asked the Moore Foundation for our help, since our system has produced standardized test averages nearly 40 points above norms. Recent scores in Idaho, for example, showed classrooms performing at 57 percent overall, and home schools at 87 percent; with math at 88 percent and reading at 89 percent. Yet peer dependency is a far greater threat in both public and church schools than just poor academic results. It is a social cancer that, according to Bronfenbrenner, devours self- worth, optimism for their life goals, respect for parents, and even trust in their peers.[3] The earlier you school your children, the more likely they are to feel that you reject them.

The home-school movement has confronted conventional wisdom and practice. The National Education Association has repeatedly slandered it, without evidence; and other educational associations and local schools have reflected these opinions. Yet courts, legislatures, and the media have been remarkably fair. The main damage to home schooling has come from within the movement: from publishers who may be more interested in dollars than research, by a religious minority who interpret Scripture too narrowly, and by curriculum entrepreneurs catering to a mass education approach to home schooling--commonly called "school at home"--instead of accommodating parents who prefer to tailor materials to children's interests and abilities.

The Moore home-schooling program took precautions at the outset, and we have fared well. Our research was held to rigid criteria laid down by top child development and learning experts. Thirty-five university authors have requested chapters for their child development books, and research colleagues are remarkably supportive of our child readiness findings.

Many fine schoolteachers in America's public and church school systems are frustrated trying to cope honestly with educational policies that defy replicable research. For 23 years the National Education Association has urged school entrance as low as age 3, in spite of conclusions from Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, and Cornell that suggest ages of 10 to 14, or "junior high school," are early enough for class studies. And it fosters programs that take even more of a child's time from their family. As in-house consultant at the NEA for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, I found teaching staff ignoring its own research division. They endorsed rote homework, even though it was condemned by its own researchers, who insisted instead on more teacher responses and supervised study. Yet in John Goodlad's study of 1,016 U.S. elementary and secondary schools, the average teacher spent a total of only seven minutes daily in personal responses for all of his/her students--a few seconds per student.[4] And homework usually intrudes on family closeness, industry, and service.

Clearly, TV, vision-tiring and passive video, rivalry-sport excitement, sugar snacks and drinks, irregular meals and rest hours, along with premature births, are among factors that contribute to hyperactivity and so-called learning disability, but more than nine of 10 cases involve lack of warm parental responsiveness. Yet many parents, teachers, physicians, and psychologists treat symptoms more than causes. Within a generation or so their diagnoses may come true as they drive the kids to drugs via Ritalin and other substances that may in their offspring predict genetically driven, authentic LD/ADHD.

Males are uniquely vulnerable. Typically late-blooming, boys mature in their late teens unless they have warm, responsive homes before adolescence. They go to school at the same age as girls, and must take the same work, although they are a year or so behind them in maturity. So with no concern for research, states find 13 boys to every girl in remedial classes.[5] They are labeled "learning-disabled," but are in fact usually learning-delayed. Bright as the girls, alert to peer ridicule, and sensing rejection by parents and teachers, they must find family. Indeed they find it: in gangs, alcohol, drugs, sex, violence, and suicide. (Did you ever hear of Columbine?)

But girls aren't entirely exempt from the problems of conventional schooling practices. At a Palm Springs school meeting, a grieving mother told us how fellow Christians pressured her to send her virtuous daughter to public school to share her "light and salt" with amoral peers. "So," she concluded, "we sent her to help them." She added tearfully, "And they put out her light." The reality of a moral danger cannot, of course, in itself be used to justify a divide between religious and secular families. Christ had strong words for exclusivist Pharisees.

Discipline is increasingly a puzzle, but does not need to be. Your example is the best teacher. Yet you can't do much about it if you are not near your children most of the time! This is not to condemn working mothers; but children should be given highest priority if there is any choice to make. You, your warmth, and your example make up your greatest power to meet their behavioral needs. Any society that has flaunted this principle by separating children from their parents--ancient Greece, Rome, et al.--has collapsed. Few parents realize that the busy child, helping and making money at home, will seldom be the troubled child. They are working with you![6]

Old-fashioned chores and home businesses, and altruistic service at every opportunity, work wonders in child development. Over the past century we have moved our families to the cities; we have deserted the woodpile and the gardens that kept us alive mentally, spiritually, and physically, and substituted rivalry sports and amusements that have little to offer. California's Regional Occupation Programs address this void by providing half-day jobs for high school students who, year after year, come up with the highest average grades in the state. They are developing model behavior and a sense of self-worth. Home schools have widely adopted this format, often through a home business.

Boys are especially at risk in society's move away from home schools or family-like, age-integrated one-room schoolhouses, where they enrolled around ages 8 to 14, to today's big schools, where some go while still in diapers. Harvard's late president James Bryant Conant designed the big schools with their busing systems as "educational parks," but grieved as he saw them turn into educational ghettos.

Yet parents overwhelmingly assume that kids are best socialized en masse- the more the merrier--unaware that larger numbers bring fewer worthwhile relationships. For top obedience training, would you send your favorite puppy to the local pound in a yellow cage with red-flashing rear lights? Or would you prefer to teach obedience and character development by example at home?

Which brings us back to American parents' penchant for jettisoning their kids when they still should be at the breast or in a high chair at home. The family today is in trouble, with child rejection leading regressively to family breakdown, divorce, mixed families, fatherless children, single mothers, early and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, abortion, social diseases, depression, violence and suicide. Happily, millions of parents are returning home to make motherhood and fatherhood prime professions. Many are finding that kids' warmest security blanket and fruition of their needs is a complete family.

Now numbering in the millions, home-schooling parents and children are returning the U.S. to the educational excellence and high literacy of America's early centuries. And many classroom families are picking up the idea and spending more time with their kids at home: eating, talking, reading, working, and living together joyously as they haven't done for years.

This trend is seen in states from Alaska to North Carolina that have compared home-taught students with those publicly schooled. Universities such as Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Stanford award scholarships out of proportion to home-schooling numbers

The Moore Formula

The Moore Formula has set the pace for the home-school movement in achievement, scholarships, and overall behavior and maturity simply by following the genius of Scripture, history, research, and common sense.

Among recent study-work-service students is Alabama home-schooler David Eidsmoe, one of America's 34 Civil Air Patrol cadet colonels, who turned down a National Merit Scholarship to enter the Air Force Academy.

Washington State's Shannon Reiswig began his work program at age 4, picking up prunings in the family orchard. He bought a neighbor's cherry orchard from his savings at 10, and at 21 is an expert agronomist, mechanic, and packinghouse computer and maintenance man, with personal assets in six figures. He big-brothers neighborhood kids in southwestern Wenatchee.

Alaska's Barnaby Marsh at 6 helped restore injured birds for the Forestry Service at Denali, Alaska. He then spent three summers as a Smithsonian intern, chosen from 500 applicants. At 19 he left Harvard to take a scholarship at Cornell in ornithology, an area in which he is now a world leader. After graduation, he returned to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Joe Harrington was the fifth of 11 children who worked with their parents, Kevin and Kirstin, making tofu and growing sprouts. Joe began at 13 to transform the gold-refining process at Simplot, Idaho's largest agricultural and industrial complex, and increased gold-retrieval per ton of ore by 300 percent. He and his college-age siblings have all received major university scholarships. The three youngest Harringtons are continuing to thrive on the same track under dad's teaching.

These results vindicate the logic of making sure that children are ready before putting them under pressure. (See Raymond S. Moore, Better Late Than Early, first published by Reader's Digest, and School Can Wait II, both available from Moore Foundation, P.O. Box 1, Camas, WA 98607.) We make sure of balanced self-worth and character combinations of (1) study, centered on children's interests and taught on a project basis with full attention to the best in math, science, language, etc., (2) manual skill building work that teaches how to earn a living, and (3) selfless service in community and home. Children become officers and managers of household businesses at early ages, equating authority and freedom with honesty and dependability as they grow, learn, and save. Their entrepreneur and service work builds powerful altruistic sociality.

The need is truer today than when the program was featured in Harper's Magazine and Reader's Digest 27 years ago (July and October 1972, respectively). America is well down the primrose path as a child-abusing, criminal-breeding nation whose people and institutions promote and accommodate a state's in loco parentis ambitions via schools and family "services," bound for certain societal collapse. Whatever your position on day-care, early schooling, rote homework, working women, sexual license, homosexuality, abortion, or other family issues, remember that if you would preserve society and the human race, some factors are not negotiable. Above all, kids need warm steady adults, with plenty of creative manual work and selfless home and community service. This can be accomplished with greatest success when modeled by and with you, not the state.

Thankfully, the old American home school is awakening millions of women to the beauty of motherhood, and men to the accountability of fatherhood at their sides. Home schoolers find that kids' warmest security blanket is the complete family. Professionally oriented mothers willingly return to the greatest profession of all--mothering.


[1].See W. D. Rohwer, Harvard Education Review, 1971; Meredith Robinson, Stanford Research Institute, 1975; Urie Bronfenbrenner, Two Worlds of Childhood, (Simon and Schuster,1970); L. Benezet, Columbia University Dissertation; Anne. K. Soderman, Education Week, March 1984, pp. 19, 20.
[2].Bronfenbrenner, p. 152.
[3].Ibid., pp. 101, 102.
[4].Phi Delta Kappan, March 1983.
[5].Soderman, pp. 19, 20.
[6].Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore, Minding Your Own Business, (Thomas Nelson; now published by Moore Foundation P.O. Box 1, Camas, WA 98671).



Royal Secrets
The Japanese imperial family taught us something about children's deepest needs when we lived there in the 1950s. Our teacher was Emperor Hirohito's oldest brother, Prince Takamatsu, who told us the story of an imperial home school. Visiting to dedicate our college's administration building, the prince and his lovely princess relaxed in our living room, while my wife, Dorothy, and her helpers put the last touches to lunch. The prince sat on our old-style tapestry-sheathed divan with arms around Dennis, 8, and Kathleen, 4. His wife nodded from a matching side chair as he told two little Americans how emperors are made: manners, language, integrity, promptness, dependability, work, and service.

The method was simple, but we knew it was effective. It met fully the needs of Crown Prince Akihito, now Japan's emperor, in achievement, behavior, character, and all the other ABC's of rearing great kids. It agreed with the latest child-development research and matched perfectly the biblical prescription for developing uncommon genius and leadership: (a) warm, responsive parents and other adults, (b) virtual isolation from children outside the family, and (c) much freedom to explore their own legitimate interests within the bounds of wholesome learning.

The imperial ABC's included such wholesome A's as affection, appreciation, attitude, and attention. The B's marked a balance between work and play, responsibility and freedom, and service and recreation. And C clearly stood for character as clearly as the needle to the pole. Add teachability, thoughtfulness, and purity of language and habits, and you are truly in the royal line. It is just as easy to say "Yes, sir" or "Pardon me" as "Yeah" and "Uh-huh." Akihito was taught to be a royal model to all children and adults of the nation, to epitomize their needs, whether or not he embodied their wants. The young prince was never allowed to forget his duty to his fellow citizens.

History confirms that in all truly great societies family closeness is the key. Some have wondered how the Russian family survived for 70 years under Communism. Cornell's eminent family specialist Urie Bronfenbrenner found that Russian families demonstrate more family affection than Americans. In Shinto-Buddhist Japan, the imperial couple kept Akihito-san near them until he was well into his teens. The young prince learned at his mother's knee and from other adults in the palace. He worked with his father in his famed botanical laboratory in a royal work-study-service program. He was an unusually mature youth, with the reasonability, perception, and judgment of a well-balanced adult before he entered his teen years, a common characteristic of youth who are reared close to home. He was a credit both to his parents and to officials of the palace. Is that possible for Western civilization today?

Let me contrast and confirm the principles of child training and education.

In 1976 I received a letter from the secretary to Her Serene Highness Grace of Monaco. She had read our research-based Reader's Digest book Better Late Than Early about early schooling and was inviting me to visit her the next time I was in Europe. I did visit some time later. As we talked alone in the palace garden, I was moved by the personal confirmation of the message of our book by this icon of femininity. She had read the book well. After alluding briefly to her children, whom she loved dearly, her eyes began watering, and as an American to an American she said tenderly, "I have spent my years with the Red Cross . . . . I did not know . . . . If only I could have them over again, how I wish . . . . I would spend my time with my children." In the absence of the maternal watch, her youngsters had become captives of their peers. Princess Grace did not know until too late what it meant to be born to the palace.

Raymond Moore is the grandfather of the home-schooling renaissance and a world pioneer in teacher-student work-study programs. He shares parenthood honors with Dorothy, his wife of 61 years, a son, a daughter, and seven "special kids."

For information on the Moore Formula or the Moore Academy write P.O. Box 1, Camas, WA 98607; call 360-835-5500; e-mail; or visit the website

Article Author: Raymond Moore