A Guarded Education

When it was used in centuries past, that phrase meant educating young Quakers outside the temptations and distractions of the non-Quaker world. The idea was to be in the world but not of it. Quaker schools like Westtown, Moses Brown, Penn Charter, etc. were set up to do the job. As many have pointed out, they have all gone pretty mainstream with a minority of their faculty and student populations being Friends, and most are now separate from the Meetings which used to oversee their operation.

My husband and I are engaged in the guarded education of our children at home not terribly dissimilarly from those old Quaker schools’ original intent. We don’t like the culture or basic assumptions of the public schools in our area both because they are not centered on the development and welfare of children, and because they are subject to the winds of whatever the current reform package demands.

We want Berit and Dana to have their instruction match their learning needs (both have Dyslexia) and move at a pace that allows them to really learn, not match the pace of the group. We don’t have faith in the “special” education system, and we want our kids to see their specialness in broader terms. We are not seeking to divorce them from the modern world – they have a TV and computers, like to shop at Old Navy, etc. – but we want them to be accustomed to living simply and to living outside the consuming trends of fashion.

We are guarding their innocence and childhood too. Both of us see kids under significant stress in our daily work as educators, especially the ones who have some obstacle to smooth learning. If there is any simple thing that I have learned in 22 years of teaching it is that stressed out kids are more likely to have trouble learning and social growing (to say nothing of physical growing) than kids who have time to breathe, to inquire, and to follow their inclinations. Dana has been fascinated by birds this year and has spent whole days watching the activities at her feeder set-up. She wouldn’t have had the time if she were in regular school. I snuck in math (how many birds? which types? how much of each kind of seed?) and science and drawing, and poetry, everything in terms of birds. Berit has gone from one half hour lesson on her harp and being reminded to practice, to an hour lesson and needing to be prompted to do something else. This would not have happened in a school context. Both love Shakespeare and have no idea that its supposed to be “hard.” They are relatively unsophisticated compared to the kids I see in most of the schools, and that’s just fine. They will have decades of being adults. I’m happy that they are having a childhood.

I hope what we are doing guards them from those aspects of the world which would interfere with their learning to listen to that still small voice while they are growing up. I hope we are nurturing their ability to hear it and to respond.



  1. edbooked said,

    July 25, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    You are wise to distrust the public education system, although public schools do provide opportunity for students to develop socialization skills. The potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape in America are discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, a portion of which may be viewed online by contacting the publisher at http://www.Xlibris.com, clicking on their Bookstore link, then Searching by title. This intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story contains many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. Check it out for youself. Discuss it with your friends. See if you agree with the recommended solutions.

  2. Driftingfocus said,

    August 7, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    What you’re doing sounds very, very much like a constructivist pedagogy. There were a few schools of that sort when I was young, but sadly most are closed now. I went to one for 3-4 years until it closed, and I feel that I can safely say that I think it was probably one of the most positively influential educative experiences I have had in my life.

  3. weedragon said,

    July 26, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Oh I how I love this term, Guarded Education! I feel that this is something we strive towards as well. My children are very guarded…from society at large, from being pushed into an academic and intellectual way before their time. I feel that children at Waldorf Schools have this “guarded education”, and we accomplish similar results with homeschooling using this influence. I love your blog, and am looking forward to reading more. Anything that I can do to help create more of a Quaker homeschooling community (even if virtually), let me know. I used to be a teacher as well…and am trying to bring Quakerism into the small and larger details of our everyday life.

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