Home Education Magazine
March-April 1997 - Columns
News Watch - Linda Dobson
Psychologist's View on Homeschooling, Parents Sharing Homeschooling
CA: ISP Accreditation Threats
Looks Like Homeschooled Kids Not Using Enough Psychologists
"Home Schools: How Do They Affect Children?" Bridget Murray, APA Monitor (publication of the American Psychological Association), December, 1996
The introduction to this article includes, "During the 1980s, states and educators officially sanctioned [homeschooling], instead of dismissing it as a passing fancy of societal dissenters." Well, at least we can understand the author equates home educators with social dissenters from the outset. This is vital if any practicing homeschooler wants to read through the entire article without throwing it into the woodstove.
Looking out for our poor children denied "social and educational opportunities," "many psychologists fear that home-schoolers are trying to protect children from becoming adults." Instead, it appears, some psychologists want to protect children from parental education.
This is just the beginning, folks, of an article full of both misleading and outright false statements sprinkled among comments that, if found elsewhere, would lend strong credence to the benefits of home ed. For example, included among the "multiple benefits" parents see from homeschooling is "controlled socialization." But is credit given for parents who juggle numerous social engagements to expand their children's horizons? No, this author assumes/presupposes/guesses that we participate in outside activities "to quiet accusations that home-schooling fails to adequately socialize children." Let me be the first to go on record and let Ms. Murray know that educational decisions are made to benefit our children, not to quiet accusations from anybody, anywhere about anything.
Other highlighted homeschool benefits, including improved relationships with adults, one-on-one teaching and family support, are punctuated with true life successes shared by home educators, among them a nuclear pharmacy professor at the University of New Mexico and a family-studies professor from Kansas State University. Murray even notes Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.'s study of 20,000 students which "found that parental disengagement contributes to low academic achievement."
But apparently we shouldn't get too "engaged" on our own as "most psychologists believe" parents should be helping government school teachers tackle problems like substance abuse and violence. Murray never says how many are "most psychologists" nor does she say whether "most" comes from a survey of 5, 500 or 500,000.
Turns out "most" could very well mean "one" since Murray has no qualms about citing a 1995 case study of one (count 'em, one!) eleven year-old homeschooler as support for stating homeschooling "can fail to advance children in their weak areas." (Criticism leveled even after admitting that "homeschooling may draw out students' strengths!")
Totally ignoring that another researcher, Mona Delahooke of California, "showed no differences between the academic achievement of children taught at home and at school," Murray says Delahooke - and other psychologists - still have reservations, including "lack of exposure to diversity." (What if parents are teaching a narrow view that goes against what society values? asks a psychologist consultant to Maryland schools, who apparently doesn't question what society values.) They're concerned about "lack of participation in greater society" - as far as I'm concerned, this doesn't even warrant comment.
And last (finally!), they're concerned about "potential difficulty entering mainstream life." The vision of "mainstream life," by the way, extends all the way to re-entering public school or going to college. "Practically all colleges accept applications from home-schooled students," Murray writes, "but their criteria for accepting students is subjective and varies according to individual cases, notes research analyst Linda Knopp of the American Council on Education." (So what?)
"For example, American University in Washington, DC admits some homeschooled students, but finds that judging their applications is difficult because 'there are no set standards,' said Steve Pultz, the university's director of admissions." (C'mon. Making the job of college admissions personnel a little more challenging than usual is a reason not to homeschool?)
These psychologists see a need for more "outcomes" research on the subject of homeschooling. No need for formal studies, guys. Just look around - there will soon be a grown homeschooler in a community near you.
While on the surface this is a negative - one could even say ridiculous - article, I choose to look at it as a feather in homeschoolers' caps. Keeping kids home obviously keeps them off of Ritalin and out of psychologists and school counselors' offices. For many, that could be an overwhelmingly positive benefit of homeschooling all by itself.
Matrimonial Attorneys Need To Understand Homeschooling
"Home Education and Shared Parental Responsibility," Kevin P. Smith, The Florida Bar Journal, December, 1996, pp. 49-51
The purpose of this article, states its author, Florida attorney Smith, "is to alert family law attorneys and the judiciary that this healthy and successful alternative (homeschooling) must be carefully considered and properly presented at trial so that the 'best interest of the child' is considered." Obviously, homeschooling as a thorn in the side of divorcing parents now warrants increased attention.
"In Florida, legal custody for children is known as parental responsibility and is found in F.S. 61.13. Pursuant to this statute, parents are presumed to 'share' the parental responsibilities and duties for their children. F.S. 61.046(11) defines 'shared parental responsibility' as follows: Shared parental responsibility means a court-ordered relationship in which both parties retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly.
"Also set forth in F.S. 61.13 is the ability for the trial court to allocate or divide specific parental responsibilities, for example primary residence, between the parents. In accord with this statutory authority, the parental responsibility for educational decisions may be awarded to one parent."
Smith asserts home education issues in divorce proceedings should be considered an educational decision requiring conference between parents. Then, if they cannot agree, "the court would need to determine which parent should make this 'school choice' in the child's best interest." So far in Florida there are no precedents in appellate decisions.
If the issue of homeschooling arises as part of the initial divorce, Smith suggests "the party desiring to home educate should consider requesting an allocation of the educational responsibility from the trial court to avoid future problems." Unfortunately, however, disagreements about education tend to occur after entry of the final judgment.
Suggestions to matrimonial lawyers who are or will be working on behalf of home educators:
- Learn the background and benefits of homeschooling
- Review state statute requirements to ensure the client's program conforms with the law
- Learn "the specific features" of the client's homeschool program, including "interaction with other 'supporting' home educators in the local community" (in part for potential witnesses)
- Be prepared at trial to present benefits via "surveys, research studies, statistical compilations, and the testimony of expert and lay witnesses."
- "It can and should be argued that 232.02 'presumes' parental competency to teach
As part of his conclusion Smith states, "Personal opinions on the education of a party's children are abundant and do vary, but the summary rejection of an important educational alternative is not in the best interest of children."
California's Isps To Suffer Horrible Fate?
"Accreditation Plan Poses Threat to Homeschool Liberty," In the opinion of the trustees of the California Homeschool Network by Jackie Orsi, Network News (CHN, PO Box 44, Vineburg, CA 95487-0044), Dec.-Jan. '97, p. 1+
The owner-operators of three private independent study programs (ISPs) in southern California "are incorporating under the name National Independent Study Accreditation Association (NISAA). Terry Neven of Sunland Christian School is Executive Director. Sally Angel, owner of Alternative Schools of California, and Lee Gordanier and Marilyn Mosley, proprietors of Laurel Springs School, join Neven in this effort." Neven, it is noted in a prominent sidebar, is "virtually alone among California homeschoolers" in accepting "without question the opinions of the State Department of Education" regarding the unacceptability of private school affidavits pursuant to EC331990. The move is supposedly in response to the seemingly growing problem some homeschoolers are experiencing in "a few public school districts" when "high schools are refusing to grant academic credit to homeschoolers who attempt to enter public school."
We can never know for sure what motivates others. While I'd like to give the above-mentioned parties the benefit of the doubt (forgive them for they know not what they do), the obviously ruinous effects are set forth in this piece as the California Homeschool Network Trustees make their stand on the move quite clear.
At first glance, you may think accreditation would lend - well, credibility - to the programs. Think again. As Orsi points out, "Virtually all California high schools are accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), and these are the very same schools where grade inflation and self-esteem promotion are rampant...and where functional illiterates collect diplomas." In other words, accreditation is merely a sign that a school has passed the muster on standards like the number of school library books and the completeness of required paperwork. Nowhere is the quality of a transferring student's work considered - or assured.
A second drawback of an accreditation agency is its existence as a business practice supported by large sums of money schools are willing to pay for the "honor." The crediting agency furthers the monopolistic grip of public schools, as private schools are harder pressed to meet the financial requirements of accreditation.
NISAA's structure would allow it to become the monopoly vehicle of ISPs with a fee structure restrictive to small, private ISPs. Furthermore, it is an open invitation to allow the larger, existing programs to reap greater business. "Only schools enrolling 100 or more students will be accepted."
NISAA's standards include: "General supervision and ongoing assessment of the Instructional Program will be made by a credentialed teacher." According to Orsi, "Parents are not even considered to be teachers according to NISAA standards which prescribe 'the educational partnership: the teacher, the parent or other adult, and the student.'"
Apparently, Neven fears "a possible move on the part of state officials" to impose governance. Under current conditions it is wise to guard against this. But is the answer then to step in and impose governance yourself? Smothering the individual freedom essential to homeschooling's success - by any parties for any reasons - is still oppression. Does it really matter by what name the tyrant calls himself when you're living under his thumb?
I am using this opportunity to ask those involved in this move to reconsider their actions. I know you probably have already invested a lot of money, and dream of greater profit to come. You likely believe this will help the cause of homeschooling. History has assuredly proven it will not. The current government school system offers irrefutable testimony of the failure to society and harm to children that become the primary results of a few imposing their own ideas of "educational excellence" on the many. To play the same game as the numerous, well-financed opponents of homeschooling engage in is to play with fire.
And it is the souls of California's approximately 150,000 homeschooling children you will burn.
Accent On Success
"Home Schooling's Success Shakes 'Extremist' Image," Carol Innerst, The Washington Times (DC), December 11, 1996, pp. A1, A6-7
This article was the third of a 3-part series. The first part is described as "Home schooling is gaining respectability and clout, but despite the progress, battles lie ahead for parents; a look at the surge in home schooling and the reasons. Blacks are bailing out of the D.C. school system; Maryland and Virginia are making strides, but each is hard fought; a look at the local home schooling scene" comprises part two. If any readers have parts 1 & 2, they sound worthy of a look through News Watch, so please send them along if you could.
While we may be shaking the "extremist" image, it's still being promulgated by the likes of Morris Dees, chief trial counsel and chairman of the Southern Poverty Law Center who connected homeschoolers and "others with 'peculiar interests' to the Christian Patriot militias" during an address at a September convention of newspaper editors. It's not surprising, then, that "the prejudice also permeates the media's representation of home schooling." Also mentioned (won't this ever go away?) was the Time coverage shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, which was covered in a prior News Watch.
In typical educrat fashion, spokeperson for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Jay Butler explains districts don't like mix and match learning because "the school doesn't get state aid for that kid" if he's not registered. NSBA's written policy states "private and home schools should be subject to governmental supervision which assures a minimum standard of instruction." This while the National Education Association "frets over home schoolers eluding the socialization training of the public school setting."
National Association of Elementary School Principals spokesperson June Million admits this organization doesn't think homeschooling "is in the best interest of most children." They do, however, think schools should cooperate and offer extracurricular activities for admittedly selfish reasons. "Our reasoning is that a lot of homeschoolers will come back when they say they can't do it anymore, so it makes sense to retain a good relationship."
Picking up on the increasing number of older homeschooled students, the article tells of a workshop for the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC). "At least 200 of the 3000 admissions officers asked questions about home schoolers and higher education."
"They said they wanted to be on any list that shows them to be friendly to home schoolers... And they wanted to know what they could do to fix their admissions policies to make it easier for home schoolers to get admitted." NACAC's executive director points out the ever-growing number of homeschooled applicants "is still a very small percentage of total enrollment."
Glare Of The Spotlight
"Are Home Schooled Students Truant? Local Parent Alleges State Has No Say in Child's Education," Tim Crossman, The Rutland Tribune (VT), November 21, 1996, p. 1
Without ever registering with the state, and after moving to a new school district and homeschooling since the beginning of the school year, Cindy Wade, publisher of Right at Home newsletter and "outspoken advocate" of homeschooling, gave a November 9 speech to the Vermonters for Educational Choice at the group's organizational meeting. Shortly thereafter, Superintendent Henry Burnham began "pushing her to sign up her children in a state-approved home study course or send them to an approved school."
Wade feels her belief that the state has no business in her children's education is backed by interpretations of the U.S. and Vermont constitutions. The portion of the Vermont law on education quoted in the article states: "A person having the control of a child between the ages of seven and seventeen years shall cause the child to attend an approved public school, an approved or recognized independent school, or a home study program for the full number of days..." Like Wade, I don't see the word "approved" in front of the words "home study program," though admittedly this does not constitute an in-depth study of the state's laws regarding homeschooling.
Superintendent Burnham, who would write "stronger" regulations if it was up to him, was tipped off to the Wade family by a call from Natalie Casco who works for the homeschooling division of the education department. Casco, a member of the Rutland County Christian Homeschoolers, disagrees with Wade's interpretation of the law. "She noted that the definition of a home study program means the parent must send an enrollment to the commissioner annually, along with a yearly assessment."
The education department's homeschooling division's charter, however, "does not include truancy enforcement." One might naturally wonder, then, what motivates a fellow homeschooler to place a damning phone call to the superintendent especially when it's not part of the job description?
A Notice and Complaint by Truant Officer was delivered to the family on December 10, 1996.
Public Radio Coverage In Boston...
"The Connection," host Christopher Lyden, Boston Public Radio (WBUR), 11/27/96
Lyden is either a closet homeschooler or a radio host who performs his pre-show research carefully. Beginning with a list of "famous" homeschoolers, he announces homeschooling "is going mainstream in the 90's...doing it for all sorts of reasons...on the principle you can take the classroom out of the school, but you can't take education out of the family...We're staying home today without a note from the doctor!"
Lyden's in-studio guests were homeschooler Tammy Rosenblatt and GWS's Susannah Sheffer. Sheffer, a wonderfully articulate interviewee, remarked on the trend of older homeschoolers, both those rapidly growing up from within the ranks and teens turning away from government school in their high school years. When asked, she cited confidence, ability to look adults in the eye, and self knowledge among the traits that differentiate homeschoolers from their government school counterparts, and noted flexibility as a common thread among homeschoolers of all stripes.
Earmarks of homeschooling parents? Trust in child, said Sheffer, along with the willingness and learned strength to do something different.
Lyden opened the show to callers. The first came from a 12 year-old homeschooler, then a Muslim mom thinking about homeschooling but wondering how to get information from somewhere other than a Christian group. Herein lies my only disappointment with Sheffer's appearance: With the chance to share with the entire Boston area the plethora of resources and books available today, she mentioned only GWS. The general public and, more importantly, the neophyte, could get the impression through this, their introduction to the topic, that this is the extent of material on the topic. I think it would greatly help our collective advocacy if we all remember that while we may be very informed about homeschooling, there's many, many more out there who still haven't a clue. Tell everybody there are many important resources out there - newbies want to know there's help at every turn. A great opportunity to inform and educate the general public missed.
Another call, this time from Dr. Ron Ariglado, executive director of the National Association of Elementary Principals. (We've met Ariglado in previous News Watch travels.) He was asked for "specific" instances where homeschooling has drawbacks. Ariglado began by saying he "saw children isolated from peers...," yet within the same breath this came down to one child he talked to who though provided a good academic foundation was a case of "social and isolated deprivation...that was a very pervasive issue...compounded by other problems unique to that family...child came back after two year hiatus..." One child with "unique" family problems is a slim research base, particularly compared to Sheffer's rich store of real life examples.
Three homeschooled kids, ages 10,12 and 15, called the show. Lyden felt that since they all sounded so self-assured, these were the ideal types of kids to do well in a homeschool environment. As I hollered at the cassette player, "No, you've got it backwards - homeschooling creates self-assuredness, it's not that self-assuredness creates a happy homeschooler!" Sheffer made the same point to listeners.
"Can't see anything on the horizon that's going to stop the growth of homeschooling," Lyden concluded. "We'll have to talk about this again." Here's hoping he's right on both counts.
"Switchboard," host Steve Zind, Vermont Public Radio, late November, 1996 (part of a broader series featuring school choice)
Guests include Floyd Kohn (not certain of the spelling), principal and teacher at Braintree, VT school and the aforementioned Natalie Casco, homeschooling study consultant to the Vermont Department of Education. Upon discussion of unschooling, Casco informed listeners that the majority of Vermont homeschoolers are not unschoolers, and that 70% of registered home educators cite religion as a reason. A homeschooling father called in, asking that they please stop stereotyping homeschoolers with those kinds of comments. Casco stated the 70% figure was hers as she's "taken a look at enrollments as they come in." (Why is this type of information required on a homeschool enrollment - and if not required, why is anyone providing it?)
Of the nine callers, six were homeschoolers. One caller asked what the guests saw as the role of schools as both homeschooling and technology grow. Casco stated, "homeschoolers are envisioning schools as a resource," as museums and libraries are. Kohn foresees "schools are going to be more structured, more content-oriented than now."
Homeschoolers In College
"In College, They Aren't Home Free: Students School by Parents Face Adjustments, Challenges," Robert O'Harrow, Jr., The Washington Post, December 3, 1996, p. A1
Even as the reporter tried to put a negative spin on this article, beyond the title he just didn't seem to pull it off. Opening with an 18 year-old homeschooler in her first months of college life, O'Harrow writes, "She already split up with one roommate because of a personality conflict. She gets annoyed with classmates who talk too much in class. And there are always deadlines to contend with." If these are the worst of the "challenges" homeschooled teens face on college campuses, we should all save our sympathy for the government schooled kids who reportedly face more pressing trials.
Officials at George Mason, George Washington and American Universities "have enrolled 8-15 homeschoolers each this fall, compared with only one or two a year a few years ago." This trend, according to the report, "is forcing admissions officials to think more carefully about how they measure academic success."
The most interesting personal comments by far come from Patricia Riordan, dean of admissions at George Mason. After commenting, "They're very well prepared for academic challenges," she claims that for all their independence, "homeschoolers often are not as socially skilled as other teenagers."
What evidence is this statement based on? Many of these kids continue to live at home, they dress "more plainly" than public high school kids ("They have been more sheltered."), and (get this), "they don't look like the typical Northern Virginia teenager." Ladies and gentlemen, our children can now be identified as homeschoolers by the way they look (which should make it easy for the myriad truancy cops around the country to leave them alone, no?).
All in all comments from both homeschooled teens and admissions officers made the attempt at negativity look rather, well, silly.
Worth Looking Up
"The School Where It's OK to Major in Fun and Games," Richard Wolkomir, Smithsonian Magazine, Dec, 1996, p. 86 - 97
"Special Assignment: A Look at Homeschooling," Sara Peterson, Lakeville (MN) This Week, November 3, 1996, pp. 1A+ - Two articles that contain lots and lots of homeschool coverage and it's good, good, good! According to stats, 10,500 homeschoolers in MN with the majority between the ages of 7 and 11.
"Learning at Home," Jennifer Scull, The Burlington Union (MA), 10/24/96, pp. 1 & 7 - A nice change of slant as homeschoolers share their stories in the context of the support group.
"More Children Being Educated at Home," Associated Press, Tuscaloosa News, 12/1/96, pp. 5A & 7A - 4500 homeschooling families in Alabama is a best guess estimate, and State Superintendent Ed Richardson says "laws may have to be clarified or additional requirements imposed...to beef up their curriculum."
"The Homeschooling Option - One Student's Experience," Nancy Richards, Bar Harbor Times (ME), 10/24/96, pp. C5-6 - "A new law passed this summer by the ME legislature requires school activities and facilities to be opened to homeschool students. A great quote from homeschool teen Peter Welch: "A lot of the pros of homeschooling have to do with not dealing with the cons of regular school." (c) Linda Dobson
....(articles list) | columns list)
HEM General Information
Subscribe to HEM