I hesitated while considering blogging this next article. I agree with the conclusion of the writer, that homeschooling is a viable educational path, but I disagree with the justifications.
My justification for homeschooling is academic and educational freedom. This author’s justification is that homeschooling ‘works.’ By disagreeing, I feel as if I’m spitting in the author’s eye even though he seems to be a staunch supporter of homeschooling. I apologize for that impression, but still, I have to squeak up.
Homeschooling is a viable alternative to public schools, 11 June 2007, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California
Homeschooling may not be for everyone, but there are certainly indicators that it works well for most and extremely well for some.
‘Working well’ shouldn’t be a justification for a ‘freedom of thought’ alternative, although it’s certainly a benefit. The parameters of what constitute ‘working well’ can change, and not all methods appear to be consistent with standard models that produce positive results using standard evaluation methods. By that I mean that some parents don’t do ‘school at home’ and use standardized tests, and their kids might not produce good test scores while they are homeschooling. I asked this question directly over at Talk2Action in a discussion about “regulating homeschooling.” I didn’t get an answer.
- I happen to have unschoolish ‘Waldorfian’ tendencies so that my kids did few ‘assignments’ (I read aloud, and we had long discussions) and they completed no standardized tests until they took their SATs after they received their high school diplomas. On any lovely day we would adjourn for long bike rides or walks in the woods. The children played invented games such as “Rosie Concentration” (Rosie made it up and was the M.C.), played Scrabble for spelling, and made doll clothes while I read to them. I chose everything we used and about the only textbooks were Saxon math texts. We lived overseas and there was no oversight.How comfortable would scholars be with a high-school diplomaed Mom (with ‘some college’) taking responsibility for basic education and ‘high school’ and not following a standard school curriculum? (our ‘curriculum’ was following history chronologically from ‘the beginning’ until the present)
The kids have turned out OK (no one’s been in jail and two have done their jury duty on the right side of the jury box) so I didn’t break them. But without the benefit of hindsight, is it probable that scholars and education professionals would have approved of my method if I was dependent on their good will?
Other points that I disagree with are:
It is now the largest school reform alternative. …
The number of students reported to be homeschooled in 1978 was only 12,500 (many say the number was actually higher due to underreporting) …
Comparisons in achievement tests of homeschooled students to national averages for all students show that homeschooled children are well above the national average in every subject and at every grade level in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and in Tests of Achievement and Proficiency. …
Keep in mind that the performance of these children is generally accomplished without certified teachers, without standardized curricula, without approved and mandated text books and teaching materials, and — possibly most important — without the often intrusive rules and regulations imposed by school boards and administrators. …
The parents (the teachers) are dedicated, and the students are achieving. It is a welcome example of students and teachers working together to achieve outstanding performance. …
I’ll take the points one by one.
- It is now the largest school reform alternative.
Homeschooling is not about public school reform any more than private schooling is. Public schools are accountable to taxpayers for they money they use, while homeschooling is a privately funded endeavor.
It may be said that the public-school-at-home movement is public school reform, but it is different than homeschooling despite the superficial resemblances. Public-school-at-home programs are often operated under different laws than homeschooling, and they use public funds.
- The number of students reported to be homeschooled in 1978 was only 12,500 (many say the number was actually higher due to underreporting)
On some discussion lists, members have asked if now it isn’t the other way around. One of the criteria used in The Parent Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program, 1999 was, “Students were considered to be homeschooled if their parents reported them being schooled at home instead of at a public or private school, if their enrollment in public or private schools did not exceed 25 hours a week, and if they were not being homeschooled solely because of a temporary illness.” [emphasis added]
Twenty-five hours per week divided by five days of school per week comes out to five hours per day. In whose universe does one hour of “homeschooling” and five hours of enrolled class time per day count as “homeschooling?”
So, what would be the point of inflating the numbers of homeschooled kids?
Home Schooling in the United States: Trends and Characteristics, 16 May 2002, Education Policy Analysis Archives
If home schooling continues to grow, demand will grow for the types of services that are starting to be offered by public schools and distance education providers. A result will be pressure on schools to design school curricula that allow students and parents to pick and choose what they like. According to some observers, another result will be the creation of new schools and school-like institutions built around the common needs and concerns of home-schooling families (Hill 2000) and the growth of public school programs designed specifically for home schoolers (Lines 2000b).
Demand for services. In other words, providing people with approved programs … and adding to the education bureaucracy.
For years parents homeschooled without “curriculum,” without support groups, without “master teacher advice” from websites. The nose-counting is important to those who want to do something with homeschooling, and to sell that ‘something’ to the legislators in states so that programs can be established, but the nose-counting isn’t a make-it-or-break-it factor to people who just want to get on with living with their kids. Yes, it is nice to have large state conferences, and to have groups with whom to socialize, but they aren’t critical to homeschooling.
The kicker is, that it is hard for cash-strapped families to consider that the path of greatest independence is to keep paying their taxes, and decline to participate in the government-provided public-school-at-home programs. If that is too difficult then perhaps homeschooling — love and a library card — or perhaps the use of a free curriculum, isn’t the best choice for a family. There is no shame in that. We all do what we have to do.
- Comparisons in achievement tests of homeschooled students to national averages for all students show that homeschooled children are well above the national average in every subject and at every grade level in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and in Tests of Achievement and Proficiency.
And if they weren’t?
Public schools: Do they outperform private ones?, 10 May 2005, Christian Science Monitor
But beleaguered public schools have recently received a small, though noteworthy, boost. After accounting for students’ socioeconomic background, a new study shows public school children outperforming their private school peers on a federal math exam.
If this were the case across the board, would private schools be disbanded? I would hope not, and the article provides another rationale:
“When parents make decisions about schools,” says Mr. McTighe of CAPE, “they don’t compare these constructed statistical abstracts. They look at a particular school in a particular neighborhood and ask: Is that school the right match for my child?”
Often, intangibles – a safe environment and caring staff or a culture that embraces and reflects a family’s values – influence the decision as much as test scores.
Parents may choose homeschooling, whether their children are stellar, or average, or need help, just like they can choose public schooling or private schooling.
- The parents (the teachers) are dedicated, and the students are achieving. It is a welcome example of students and teachers working together to achieve outstanding performance.
The school terms are annoying. The quantification of parents and children in terms of school roles only serves to reinforce the viewpoint that the proper place of children is in ‘school.’
To see the bias, read a passage from a classic book, but replace the words about children with words about students.
Ellen Tebbits, with apologies to Beverly Cleary
Ellen Tebbits was in a hurry. As she ran down Tillamook Street with her ballet slippers tucked under her arm, she did not even stop to scuff through the autumn leaves on the sidewalk. The reason Ellen was in a hurry was a secret she would never, never tell.
Ellen was a thin little student, with dark hair and brown eyes. She wore bands on her teeth, and her hair was scraggly on the left side of her face, because she spent so much time reading and twisting a lock of hair around her finger as she read. She had no students at home and, since Nancy Jane had moved away from next door, there was no other student her own age living on Tillamook Street.
So she had no really best student. She did not even have a dog or cat to play with, because her mother said animals tracked in mud and left hair on the furniture.
Of course Ellen [knew] lots of students at school, but that was not the same as having a best student who lived in the same neighborhood and could come over to play after school and on Saturdays. Today, however, Ellen was almost glad she did not have a best student, because best students do not have secrets from one another. She was sure she would rather be lonely the rest of her life than share the secret of why she had to get to her dancing class before any of the other students.
Casting children as “students” is akin to casting all adults as “employees.” We are not our jobs, we are people.
All in all, I agree with the article’s author that school bureaucrats should keep their distance from families. But justifying and quantifying homeschooling in terms of the school bureaucracy weakens our natural right and responsibility to educate our children.
posted by Valerie