Father of Homeschooling - Dr. Raymond Moore

A Tribute to a True Pioneer: Dr. Raymond Moore
by Gena Suarez

I consider Dr. Raymond Moore to be the father of the modern home school movement. The avalanche of mail we received at Focus on the Family after our initial broadcast with Ray in 1979 confirmed that his pioneering theories on education had found a receptive audience! I’m tremendously thankful for his friendship that has spanned nearly twenty-five years.—Dr. James Dobson

“Ray Moore helped found the homeschooling movement. He and Dorothy spent countless hours helping parents learn to relax and enjoy their children, and in doing so nurtured many future generations of homeschoolers.”—Pat Farenga

“Dr. Moore’s work has been a call to liberate ourselves from the triumphant jackbooted march of education, and join our children along riverbanks and upon clandestine islands where magic flutes and magic bells can lay claim upon our minds. Those are the places where freedom happens.”—David H. Albert

“Educators in America owe Dr. Raymond Moore a debt of gratitude for his work on behalf of parents and children. He dedicated his life to fighting for the principle that the parent is the number one teacher in a child’s life. The remarkable achievement of homeschooling in American education today is largely due to Dr. Moore’s leadership and vision. For this he deserves much praise.”—Dr. William J. Bennett

“Dr. Raymond Moore legitimized homeschooling as a viable educational option by publishing research and data that gave credibility to a fledgling movement. The entire homeschooling movement is deeply indebted to him for opening people’s minds to the benefits of returning education to a natural, home based, tutorial method between parent and child. We have immense gratitude for these two pioneers and the legacy they have bestowed on the homeschool movement, and think every homeschooler should begin homeschooling by reading their books.”—Jessica Hulcy, Co-Author, and Wade Hulcy, President, KONOS, Inc.

About Assembly Hall…
Assembly Hall at The Old Schoolhouse is the place to gather together to hear from the best in the homeschool community. These folks, who sit in as TOS guests, are responsible for helping to strengthen the homeschool community. This issue we spoke with a true pioneer, Dr. Raymond Moore. Dr. Moore happens to live near us, the publishers of TOS, and we have enjoyed visiting him and his new wife, Dottie, at their home. As we began preparing for this interview, all communications were finished out with prayer. Dr. Moore is very kind and reminds us of a doting grandfather. One night, after encircling us with prayer for our magazine and the movement, as we left his home, he stooped to kiss our six year old daughter, Julia. Out of all the Assembly Hall pieces we’ve done, this one has personally touched us most. Something about Dr. Moore’s kind blue eyes, his calm demeanor, and his way of listening struck a chord deep within us. While compiling this piece, we had a neat idea. Dr. Moore is 87 years old and has done so much—given so much. Why not make this a tribute? He certainly deserves one! So we made a few phone calls and asked certain members of the homeschooling community to join us, giving us fresh new quotes we could feature alongside this piece. The response (100% asked said “YES”) was overwhelming and reminded us why we love this community so. You’ll see what they have to say in these next few pages. Enjoy the communion! We hope you come away with a renewed desire to train up your children in a way they should go. Meet us here again, next issue, in Assembly Hall for a great talk with Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler!—Paul & Gena

Dr. Raymond Moore is a name few homeschoolers don’t recognize. For many people when this name is mentioned, a walk down memory lane begins to unfurl—a rough and renegade lane. It takes us back to the days when families homeschooled underground. Laws were questioned. Officials scrambled to stay on top. Laws were interpreted incorrectly. Enforcements and unfair judgments were enacted which jailed people, took kids, and left moms and dads alone, openly crying. People stood firm in their convictions. An envelope of support began to surround them. And then we saw Dr. Dobson sharing good news, Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore speaking, and people listening. Out of the woodwork came true pioneers, voices of reason in a wilderness of the unknown: John Holt/Growing Without Schooling Magazine, John Taylor Gatto, the Colfax family, Home Education Magazine. Support groups sprang up everywhere along with conferences, massive assemblies and new laws on the books. A national awakening.

I have had the honor of speaking to a gentleman, a gentle man, who, along with his beautiful wife Dorothy, has given his life’s work to an exploding movement—a movement that would not be where it is today without him. Please welcome Dr. Raymond Moore to these pages as our esteemed guest in this Assembly Hall platform at The Old Schoolhouse.

TOS: Dr. Moore, thank you for taking time out of your demanding schedule to speak to our readers. When we spoke on the phone recently, you shared that you were headed for Asia in a few weeks. What countries did you visit, and why? Did you accomplish what you set out to do?

Raymond Moore: Gena, the Mid-Asia trip took us halfway around the world and back: from Portland, Oregon, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Frankfurt, Germany, and on to Almaty, the largest city in eastern Kazakhstan which is the largest nation south of Russia and west of China. In this mix of Eastern and Western Worlds we worked out a model work study program for five nations in central Asia. Our goal was to demonstrate to parents, teachers and students how to work together and learn how to earn a living as well as shoot a basket and kick a ball. And we spent a few days in the adjacent nation of Kyrgyzstan where we illustrated these methods in seminars. We balanced the teacher-student work program with an equal amount of study, using what many call the Moore Formula. Its homeschooling students are declared by some major universities to be ‘a luxury’ for their behavior, creativity and leadership, and many major scholarships.

TOS: When I reflect on homeschooling and its earliest beginnings, names like Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore, John Holt and others of that caliber come to mind. Another key individual I think of is Dr. James Dobson, who indeed accomplished much for the movement via media. I understand you and Jim Dobson have a special friendship and a history that spans decades. In what ways did he assist you and how did your relationship begin?

Raymond Moore: I think of friends, of public figures much more notable than I—many unheralded heroes and heroines. David and Micki Colfax. Meg Johnson. Nancy Plent. William Bennett. Gay Clark. Phyllis Schlafly. Also, big-hearted, all-winning attorneys like John Eidsmoe. Steve Graber. Vernon Alger. John Whitehead. Yes, among these figures were James and Shirley Dobson. At a Northwest meeting, Sandy Scully, a pastor’s wife, handed Dr. Dobson a copy of our Reader’s Digest Press book, Better Late Than Early. I was surprised to learn that he read it from cover to cover. Dr. Dobson soon invited me to broadcast with him. He called me, and then Dorothy with me, back for 21 programs. These made a big difference in developing the modern homeschool movement over a period of 23 years. And this became a great fellowship. Dr. Dobson has been a loyal friend, the most influential person in the world we could have found to create a powerful movement.

TOS: You and your first wife, Dorothy, home educated your children. In fact, your son Dennis and your lovely Kathie have continued in your footsteps in many ways contributing vastly to the Moore Foundation. Kathleen Kordenbrock (your Kathie) is a TOS Magazine State Coordinator (California) and is a wealth of information to our readers. Why did you and Dorothy decide to homeschool?

Raymond Moore: Dorothy and I had become alarmed at the languishing family values that peer dependence was delivering out of early institutional life. We had learned from both history and research that the loss of those values was laying a heavy burden on society, one much too heavy to bear without terrible loss. Just look at the rapid development of preschools and commensurate growth of nursing homes. Both are at times necessary, but all too often adult children simply dispose of aging parents with little thoughtfulness. We are much like ancient Greece, Rome, and also China with its “death houses.” An ominous truism has emerged that was rare in the Western World half a century ago: The earlier you institutionalize your children, the earlier they institutionalize you!

TOS: What is the Moore Formula? How can families apply it fresh out of public school?

Raymond Moore: The Moore Formula builds the children’s or students’ curricula or life programs (balanced in work, study and service) on their worthy interests, aptitudes and abilities, in which the teacher is active in all three in a true balance that, for example, ensures that students use their hands in work wherever possible as much as they use their heads in study. The story of Jimmy, below, pretty much tells you how this is handled in the form of a unit or project. In this case the unit is “transportation.” It accommodates motorcycles, yet doesn’t deprive Jimmy:

“The Motorcycle Boy”
A tearful mother called from Houston, sobbing that her son hated school. He had become withdrawn, and she feared that he was suicidal. She said he was bright, but felt trapped in special education. On questioning, it turned out that he was 10, in the fourth grade, and had started school “when he was almost five.” We knew from this that he had not been ready for school and naturally hated it.

Next, we asked about his interests. But she said that was the trouble—he had no special interest. When we pursued that question, certain that a bright boy must have some kind of unique interest, she admitted, “He just lives and sleeps and eats motorcycles.”

We strongly advised removing him from school immediately if he was suicidal (it was a risk to have him wait, as we usually do, until the next major vacation) and take him down that afternoon to the best magazine stand in town and buy his choice of motorcycle magazines. We advised her to have him look up motorcycles in the World Book or other encyclopedia. Our staff enrolled him in the Moore Academy and showed his mother how to teach him with what we call a unit or project, in this case, on transportation. He studied everything that flies, floats, rolls and walks from jin-rickshas in Japan, caribou carts in the Philippines, camels in the Middle East and ships in war or peace, to planes at Boeing, Seattle.

Jimmy was into geography all over the world. He was interested in all kinds of birds and planes and how they fly; many cultures; the physics and chemistry of internal combustion motors and flight; the math of distances, costs, repairs, and depreciation. He wanted to know how to figure changes in the times of sunrise and sunset, and the fullness of the moon. The laws and economics relating to travel and health and exercise peaked his interest. He began to write happily to the presidents of motorcycle companies and legislators who made transportation laws. He was into all basic areas of education. He had become almost instantly motivated when we targeted his interests, aptitudes and abilities. Note that he had logically refused to write for his teacher, for he was unable and boyishly immature to write for a teacher who assigned the same topic for all pupils whether they were ready for writing or not.

Three months later his mother called, excited that she “had no idea that a child could be so creative and learn so fast.” He helped around the house, made money in several home industries, and was a “grease monkey” at a bicycle shop owned by a Spanish-speaking Mexican family (he was too young to help in a motorcycle dealership). And he developed a fast friendship when he “adopted” a feeble old couple for whom he frequently ran errands.

All of this was possible with some parental imagination and a few teacher hints. It can be applied to almost any worthy childhood interest.

TOS: This makes so much sense to me! Let me ask you something. Your philosophy of schooling: when should a child be taught to read and figure sums? Would you adhere to a more “child directed learning” style of teaching?

Raymond Moore: When children are ready in their senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell) cognition (reason, perception, judgment), able to respond to questions such as “Why?” and “How?”, they may be ready for formal classes. I like to call it “child initiated.”

TOS: Your philosophy suggests that physical work should play a vital role in a child’s education and upbringing as a whole. When one takes even the briefest glimpse of history, hard work is proved to be what good character, strong morals and disciplined minds are born of. It was what this country was built upon. Children can no longer draw from such experience, in many cases. Nintendo, television and movies are “mind fodder” of the day.

Raymond Moore: You have said it well, both the negative on Nintendo, TV and movies and your positive on character, morals and self-discipline! An outstanding research report last year shows how using hands in constructive, creative work has a powerful effect on brain development. Dr. Linda Caviness at Andrews University offers thrilling support on this topic. [Berrien Springs, MI, 49104, 2002] Joined with self-control, this combination flowers genius of the highest order. The Smithsonian Study on Genius sets down three specific ingredients in its recipe for genius: (1) warm educationally encouraging and responsive environment, (2) very little association with peers outside the family and (3) a great deal of effort exploring their own interests. [Horizon magazine, 1960)

TOS: Upon discovering the imminent arrival of our first child, I set out to teach him to read (seriously!). Indeed, when he was still in the womb, during my first trimester, even, I was busily creating math worksheets! I laugh when I think about that now. Granted, I was barely 20 years old and rather eager to try my hand at motherhood and homeschooling. I had also heard all the talk about “Super Baby” and was not about to be passed up! I wanted a Super Baby of my own! Of course, once he was born, I abandoned my fugacious agenda to teach him to divide fractions and set out on a more sensible course. What is this “Super Baby” syndrome and why do parents sometimes believe that their children will end up little Mozart’s and da Vinci’s if they can only somehow get them to read during toddlerhood? I look back now and wonder if it was not my own ego driving me to expect this rapid “baby-learning” from my about-to-be-born son.

Raymond Moore: Fugacious indeed…evanescent…vaporous, poisonously so. You will find a chapter on “Super Baby” in our Successful Homeschool Family Handbook. I am not saying that all of the Glen Doman gospel is evil but that his “Super-Baby” and its allied news ignore the truths that sound child development research produces. Many parents are ill informed and crippled by conventional practice, which almost totally ignores sound research. Reports from authoritative American and Canadian neurological organizations agree.

TOS: TOS Magazine, as you know, is teaming up with the Moore Foundation in soon-to-be-announced efforts to assist needy homeschool families (www.helpforhomeschools.org). Homeschooling families with physical and/or financial constraints will soon, Lord willing, have a fund to draw from, regardless of race, religion or status. Why was the foundation set up so many years ago, and how has it helped families?

Raymond Moore: TOS has made a special effort to help families who, for any reason, are in need, and to be open in its acceptance of sound research regardless of trends or laws which bar sound child development and behavior, balanced programs, character, citizenship and skills, and which make little or no provision for readiness. Our Moore Foundation, which first shared the name Hewitt, was endowed by Carl and Ellen Hewitt who gave us $750,000. They asked me to help them while I was a graduate programs officer (masters and doctoral programs) at the U.S. Office of Education in the mid-1960’s. They liked the idea of changing lives through education and health. And we liked the idea of a tax-free foundation. So we arranged for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approval as a not-for-profit foundation that Dorothy and I have operated without salary. We do not have large funds so are seldom able to make grants except for professional help. Our philosophy is to teach how to ‘fish’ rather than simply to supply ‘fish.’ We help families and schools organize sound programs, keep costs low, and teach how to tailor curricula to children’s specific interests, aptitudes, abilities and needs. We concentrate largely on building character and teaching how to earn a living.

TOS: Dr. Moore, you [and Dorothy’s memory] are an inspiration. The influence you had on people is astronomical. Scores of families now home educate successfully because you insisted it was possible. You required them to believe in themselves. In the face of controversy and opposition your work continues, and the movement has never been stronger or larger than it is today. I see you and Dorothy as major players, instrumental pioneers, of this movement. Your contribution has been incredible, never to be dismissed or forgotten. The homeschool community owes you this tribute. Thank you for everything you have given.

Raymond Moore: God did it, not Ray Moore. And under Him, it will go on.

Dr. Raymond S. Moore is a researcher and founder of the homeschool movement since 1944, a world leader with his wife Dorothy to restore and build strong families, an author of or contributor to 60 books and unnumbered articles, an authority in work-study programs, and co-founder of the Family Research Council of America. He has been featured in scores of media events including TODAY, OPRAH, DONAHUE, DOBSON, TIME, N.Y. TIMES, NEWSDAY et. al.

© 2003 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. All rights reserved. Re-printed with permission.

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