New Jersey’s Courier-Post published a lengthy article covering homeschooling issues in NJ and across the country.Two nationally known entities in and out of the homeschool community were quoted, even as many consider Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Stanford University’s Political Science Professor Reich notorious, outlying elements from both ends of the political spectrum. Professor Reich displays continuous irritation with homeschoolers’ educational and family freedoms and it was forked out again in the Courier-Post. HSLDA lauds standardized testing results, while high-stakes testing is currently raising its ugly head in federal Common Core/Race to the Top/No Child Left Behind invasions.
I appreciated the parents’ reflections in the article.
Medford mom: ‘I do not think home educators should be regulated, ever’– written by Phil Dunn
Rosemary Laberee of Medford has been a homeschooling mother for the last 14 years.
“I do not think home educators should be regulated, ever,” said Laberee, whose four children are now 19, 16, 13 and 10.
“We have proven ourselves.”
There are experts, however, who disagree. They say there should be oversight for parents who choose to educate their own children.
Even in the use of the quoted analogy below, the tobacco industry and homeschooling have so very little in common. The same sort of negative connotations are reflected in Professor Reich’s “under the radar” reference pertaining to lack of homeschool reporting to public schools.
But it is true these HSLDA referenced studies were slanted. From the Courier-Post:
Research completed by the Home School Legal Defense Association shows homeschoolers, on average, score 37 percentage points higher than public school students on standardized tests. The study also found the achievement gaps common to public schools negligible in the homeschool community.
But Stanford political scientist Rob Reich likened the study to a major tobacco company releasing research on nicotine addiction, saying HSLDA numbers do not paint the full picture of homeschool education.
“These studies are done on weak research,” Reich maintained. “And I’m not saying it’s wrong; we just don’t have a true picture of how they are doing.”
Reich has concluded proven statistics for homeschoolers are hard to come by.
His conclusion isn’t disputed, but it’s also not a negative aspect of homeschooling. One countering factor is questioning why proven and unfortunate statistics concerning the US population’s majority attending public schools doesn’t serve much useful purpose. One recent example, the follow-up on the study regarding teens’ natural sleep habits and school schedules is in a coma, because those needs don’t suit the institutional schedule.
One of Professor Reich’s motivations seems to be pinpointing where homeschoolers are and what the families are doing. That would happen when kids have to take those tests and report them. From his Stanford site on “Home Schooling“:
Why do we lack such evidence [on homeschooling outcomes]? The reason is related to the massively de-regulated environment for homeschoolers. Because existing regulations for home schooling are either so minimal or so little enforced, many parents do not notify local educational officials when they decide to home school. At least ten states do not even require parents to register their home schools. A great deal of home schooling occurs “under the radar”, so to speak, so that even if local officials wished to test or monitor the progress of home schooled students, they wouldn’t even know how to locate them. Researchers and public officials have, quite literally, no sense of the total population of home schooled students. This is the primary obstacle to studying home schooling.
The question – Is this a problem for homeschoolers or homeschool researchers? I would say it appears hugely irritating to the latter and a blessing to the former. For example, Illinois homeschoolers don’t notify or register with the state or local school districts. From my provincial homeschooling view, I’ll point out a top public engineering and agricultural university has a specific homeschooling recruitment website. The U of I is surely measuring historic successes. Anecdotally, I know a few unschoolers who passed out of the university with some high level skills and degrees. That should be satisfying to an academic professional, even if ignoring the artists and other living successes not seeking out college.
From the Courier-Post comes an objective reflection:
Dr. Pamela Vaughan, assistant dean in the school of education at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, said most homeschool parents have no interest involving the state in their child’s education.
“It really depends on the family, but a parent’s decision to pull their child from public school usually stems from something very specific,” added Vaughan, who completed her doctoral thesis on the topic of homeschooling .
“I remember one of the people in the research study was a figure skater, and it was cheaper to rent the rink for practice late at night, so they decided to homeschool.”
Homeschooling mom – Meg Walker – believes the tax-funded accountability burden schools have for education should be front and center.
“I do not think it’s the schools’ job to hold parents accountable,” Walker added. “Rather, I think it is the parents’ job to hold schools accountable.”
But citing components in his research, Reich said giving parents sole authority over a child’s education could hinder their social growth.
Somehow, school socialization has become the reason to school your children.
“Part of education is for young people to decide for themselves what life choices to make,” Reich maintained.
“The beliefs of their parents should not be the only authority.”
At some future point, schools might offer up the beds to sleep and other physical needs children might have, but it doesn’t seem conducive to consistently portray their caretakers’ (also known as parents) views and beliefs as a negative. Besides implying the false notion most homeschoolers aren’t actively engaged in their community. Parents love and nurture their children. Institutions don’t. It’s just that simple. Scott Woodruff is stating an obvious fact below in the Courier-Post:
But HSLDA’s Woodruff counters that, saying children are naturally hardwired to believe what their parents do is important.
“If a child sees their parent working out, doing Iron Man competitions, they will grow up thinking physical fitness is important,” said Woodruff. “If a little child sees his mother teaching, education becomes important.”
Meg Walker pointed out the learned value of seeking out educational opportunities. Education shouldn’t be hated by kids.
Walker’s children returned to public school when they reached ninth grade. She said no system is absolute; whether homeschool or public school, both have their problems.
“Did our eclectic approach to elementary education result in ‘gaps’ in my kids’ knowledge when they got to high school? Yes,” Walker added, “there were gaps.
“But when my kids encountered such a gap, they sought answers, either from a teacher or from us at home or from the Internet.”
The indirect exchange between HSLDA’s Woodruff and Stanford’s Reich displays interesting, power-seeking dynamics. I enjoyed the parents’ homeschooling perspectives, and a New Jersey homeschool organization was absent in this representation, as they are the ones living the homeschool regulations (or lack of).
The lucrative business end of standardized testing seems to have little to do with learning. HSLDA applauds testing results. The over-abundance of state and federal regulations, including testing requirements, likely diminishes public education success results. But Rob Reich wants more homeschool accountability. His irritation with HSLDA, plus their celebration of homeschoolers’ standardized test “successes” seems highly ironic and almost entertaining – if not for the high stakes involved in Common Core and our society’s educational status. Reich calls HSLDA research “glorified anecdotes”, which many homeschoolers wouldn’t dispute because they despise the test focus. But ignoring the 2nd and 3rd generations of home educated families successfully living and learning proves Reich’s blind eye. Homeschoolers satisfy our families’ needs and help along our children’s useful societal role, without much government help. It might not suit Rob Reich’s goal. With the proximity and their often unwelcome push in our nation and states’ Capitols, it might not suit HSLDA’s goal either.