One Perspective on Homeschooling

What is that light down the road?

PerspectiveThe further you back away the better your perspective. At least that is what I have always told myself. In physical terms it is true – I always want the camera to back away so I can see the larger context whether it be sports or a news event. The ‘bigger picture’ has always drawn me, has always fascinated me for human events too. In fact, I feel very uncomfortable forming an opinion on any issue without an exploration of that bigger picture.

I suppose what you risk in backing up for perspective is getting so far away you actually lose sight. Yet, for me, I have been rewarded too many times with one of those “I get what is going on here!’ moments, or, been rewarded by being moved to ask the better questions. Another risk in that bigger picture perspective is that it often challenges the dominant thinking. I am not suggesting that I have experienced anything like realizing the earth isn’t the center of the universe and subsequently suffering the wrath of the dominant theology; yet some days have been very dark with ridicule.

I had been watching the news about the collapse of Wall Street when the title lines on the homeschooling news feeds were peppered by the National Center for Educational Statistics report of growth in homeschooling numbers – it took Google 0.29 seconds to come up with 29,027 blog articles about the growth of homeschooling. I will confess to not being thorough and reviewing each of these blogs, but the predominant sense in my random review was the bloggers by-in-large felt this was great news, three cheers for us:

1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007

In this Brief, students are considered to be homeschooled if their parents reported them as being schooled at home instead of at a public or private school for at least part of their education and if their part-time enrollment in public or private school did not exceed 25 hours a week

Over the years HEM has dissected a large number of surveys and a review of this survey questionnaire doesn’t make me want to shout for joy. They leave a lot of room for misinterpretation. A look at the NHES:2007 SCREENER sheet tells me the key term, enrollment, is mentioned in the notes for surveyors, not in the direct questions to parents. I am sitting in Wasilla, Alaska as I type this; our home offices are in Washington state. Both states have public school programs which have advertised themselves as homeschooling. The wording of this survey would lead participants of these programs to reasonably identify themselves as homeschoolers for this survey.

We can, have and will debate whether enrollment in public school programs is homeschooling or not. We have taken a lot of criticism over the years for holding the position that enrollment in public school is not homeschooling. But I think this argument may very well be just an academic exercise at this point. I fear the autonomy we enjoyed while homeschooling our kids may be a thing of the past, as homeschools are driven toward acting more and more like schools.

What does this have to do with the collapse on Wall Street? To get a perspective on this question, I have to tell you I backed up to 1969. As a college kid taking a Short Story and Novel English course, it dawned on me that the regularly scheduled tests were written by the Teaching Assistants, who all appeared to be working on their Doctorates. My TA wrote the first test, which was based totally on his lesson plans. So after a little poking around I came up with a list of which TA was responsible for which test. Then ‘success’ in this class was a simple matter of attending the TA’s class in the week leading to the test. No study necessary, no understanding of the material was needed – just listen in class and regurgitate. I gamed the system, got an A. For the buddies who I let in on my ‘secret,’ and my parents, who were paying for this schooling, it was a great and celebrated success. The real lesson I took away was that gaming the system (corruption) pays. So Schooling 101: Corruption can equal success.

The temptation is to draw strict hard lines, but like I suggested earlier, perspective can be dangerous – be careful how you use it. I will not try to argue that school corrupted a generation, but at the same time there are parallels between my schooling and the corruption in the financial sector. Both systems have high stakes for those in them, expectations and demands of success are as real for a school kid as they are for a CEO, and rewards for meeting these expectations are tangible. I may express a reluctance to draw a straight line between school and the stories coming out of the financial sector, but we hear educators and politicians drawing direct lines between schooling and success, based on a promise of greater accountability.

The calls for more accountability in our education system promise a better educational system. Yet, I just keep thinking of that A in English, and, from my perspective, I have to wonder if there isn’t systemic corruption inherent in the way we choose to measure success? As homeschoolers are being pushed to be more like schools, can we challenge the measure of success for our kids? Is our goal raising kids or raising test scores?

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One Response to One Perspective on Homeschooling

  1. Mary on January 27, 2009 at 7:35 am

    I wonder if they are using the same crazy math for gathering the number of homeschoolers as they have been using in the financial sector?

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