I didn’t even have to check my Google alerts this morning to find blog-fodder. My morning newspaper contained a letter to the editor stating that homeschooling must be held, “accountable for … tragedies.”
A few weeks ago an article was published in the Kansas City Star about the growth of virtual public schools, but the article labeled these providers as “home schools.” Of course, a (gentle) clarification had to be made. Apparently, the writer of today’s letter took the clarifications as praise (“Recent letters have extolled the value of home schooling.”) and was moved to add his own clarification.
However, there is a darker side to this issue. The nature of my work brings me into contact with public high school students with disabilities, learning disabilities being the most prevalent. I have on occasion been called upon to assist home-schooled students transitioning from school to work or to higher education.
Some of these students enter the public school system in their mid to late teens after their parents or the students themselves discover that home schooling did not work out as planned. The public schools are then called upon to repair the damage.
These students are functioning academically at an elementary school level. Most are socially inept as well and painfully aware of their deficiencies as compared to their age group. To say it will be difficult for them to succeed in life is an understatement.
No education system is perfect. None of them.
Public schools aren’t perfect.
Private schools aren’t perfect.
Homeschooling isn’t perfect.
All forms of education are administered by people who have their own faults, foibles and hangups. But to say specifically that, “Home schools need to be held accountable” (how, specifically?) “for these tragedies as well as their successes,” in the context of homeschooled children enrolling in public schools, implies that the other systems are tragedy-free. Are they?
Coincidentally, I followed a link this morning to a post at another blog that, in part, mentions this very issue.
Apple Stars, What is homeschooling
Another segment of people are coming to homeschooling with a myriad of school-created labels attached to their children who are floundering in the system. The parents recognize that the environment in which their children were being educated doesnt work for them, so they are seeking other choices under the same paradigm that might work better.
One of my own children missed out on a label. She needed one-on-one help in order to grok 3rd grade math* the way it was being taught in school. I well-remember that my explanations as to how the math functions worked, in contrast to the textbook being used, were ‘wrong.’ When I asked our guidance counselor about help, she told me that if my daughter was tested to find out if she had a problem, she’d be labeled. Of course, without any ‘testing,’ my daughter also couldn’t get any particular help in class, either. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
*Thank goodness she missed being labeled: “the Army contended that [Wendell Mcleod's] problem took root before he got there, pointing out that he needed extra help with mathematics and reading while in grammar school.” How long must a person pay for the crime of being a square peg in a round hole? Just how permanent is that “permanent record?”
Now if ‘homeschooling’ is to be “held accountable” for the tragedy of children returning to school because the homeschooling ‘didn’t work,’ then the reciprocal would be that public schools should also be “held accountable” for the tragedies the bureaucracy inflicts on children, sometimes to the point that they are pushed out of school.
Just as some families return to public schooling (or a private school) in the quest to find the situation in which their children will learn best, so too do some families turn to homeschooling (or a private school) for the same reason. However, holding public schools “accountable” for these tragedies is not legally possible. (NCLB restricts federal funds)
Virginia Commwealth University, Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute, 2003, Educational Accountability and Malpractice
In the New York case, Donohue v Copiaque (1979), an unemployed, eighteen-year old, former student and his parents brought a “failure to educate” claim against a public school system. The young man could neither read menus nor take the written portion of test for a drivers license, and his mother had to help him fill out job applications. The parents claimed that school officials (1) should have provided their son with special help (in the lower grades), (2) should not have promoted their son from grade to grade, (3) should have advised them of their sons reading problem, and (4) should have provided appropriate personnel and facilities to respond to their sons needs. The court ruled in favor of the school system, because there was no precedent for holding public school officials liable for “failure to educate a student.”
Education World, Wallingford, Connecticut, 29 April 2003, Are We Still “A Nation at Risk?”
In the United States, 12 percent of students are among those top performers; only six countries — New Zealand, Finland, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland — have a larger percentage of top performers. At the other end of the scalean average of 18 percent of 15-year-olds in OECD countries (including the United States) show serious weaknesses in the literacy skills needed for further learning. With a relatively high percentage of its students doing well, but a relatively high percentage also doing poorly, the United States, on average, is only average.”
Nearly 20 percent of Americans in the U.S. workforce today are high school dropouts. About 25 percent of high school graduates are functionally illiterate.
‘Homeschooling’ can be held accountable for batting a thousand the day that other forms of education attain the same standard.
posted by Valerie