There is a link to Terri W.’s essay at her HS Empowerment ring, A Look at Homeschooling & Education Choice that can be accessed under Homeschool Hot Buttons.
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of Terri’s statements to set the record straight once and for all. For the sake of understanding, I will put “Terri wrote:” before her statements and “Mary responds:” in front of mine.
~~ Mary Nix
In A Look at Homeschooling & Education Choice, Terri wrote: “By the looks of the numbers flocking to new educational options nationwide, those in the homeschool community opposing some educational choices don’t appear to be representative of the majority of homeschoolers or of those who welcome home based learning alternatives. However, their arguments against public virtual schools, blended schools directed to homeschoolers, or those options appealing to the general public as some form of public home education programs, bear examination, if only in the service of being informed education consumers.”
Mary’s reply: Why do you keep painting homeschoolers as OPPOSING EDUCATIONAL CHOICE. Most of the homeschoolers I know oppose homeschooling being brought under the public school umbrella with no laws ever needing to change. A good example of that is illustrated via one of your webring members websites:
- NCLB Homeschool
- 5 Reasons Our Kids are in a Public Homeschool Program
- 3 Steps to Making State standards Useful at Home
Terri wrote: “At first blush, it may appear somewhat dichotomous that any portion this innovative and independent minded part of our population should be opposed to any sort of educational options that give more children an opportunity to learn in more flexible, individualized, self-paced learning environments. In fact, the increasing exodus from public schools by those choosing private or home schools is, in large measure, what has driven public schools to create these new, more personalized learning options in an obvious bid to provide what’s long been missing from public education.”
Mary’s reply: And I applaud any choice for any family as do many home educators.
Terri wrote: “But some of that independence is part of the reason for the suspicion, rejection and sometimes outright protest of these options. Often an outpost for anti-government types unwilling to have their children or their families subjected to any sort of perceived authoritative oversight, many of these homeschoolers see the new public school offerings as baited traps set to lure them back into the clutches of the government. Still others fear that the new programs will lead to increased regulation of what’s often a joyously free-spirited learning experience, unencumbered by tests or other superficial accountability measures.
To be fair, these are, to some extent, reasonable concerns. Schools lose money when children attend school at home; although, commensurately, students at home aren’t a draw on public school resources, either. Be that as it may, though, if schools can recoup the loss by being the school at home providers, they’ve stemmed their economic hemorrhaging at least somewhat.”
Mary’s reply: In my state, local schools that provide their own virtuals keep the money in their district, those who have students who leave have to pay for them out of their district funding and they have never received nor put out any money for home educators.
Terri wrote: “And the accountability issue is certainly not to be discounted. Despite the fact that homeschooling has more than proven itself a worthy and successful academic choice, with now second and third generation home educators succeeding in business and higher education venues, there are still those who call for greater accountability measures.
But clearly the new trends are not going to stop. The flood gates of choice have opened and homeschoolers, like others, either ride the waves of change with skill and verve, or they drown. In the past thirty years, homeschoolers have shown the academic world that anyone and everyone can teach and learn; that self-paced, self-directed learning outperforms stilted teaching methodologies; that a passion for life and living provides the best classroom in the world; and that there’s nothing that inspires children more than being loved.”
Mary’s reply: Excuse me, why will we drown if we don’t join in the flood gates of choice? Why can’t we continue caring about each choice and the accountability measures attached to them? Why does this equal objections in your mind?
Terri wrote: “We can’t now complain that others have sat up and taken notice and are trying to reproduce this wonderfully intimate way of learning on a larger social scale. The benefits of home education have long been limited to a very small section of our population for a variety of social and economic reasons. This isn’t to say that homeschooling is expensive it can be as expensive or inexpensive as a family chooses to make it. But it typically does require at least one stay at home parent, and thus the loss of an income, and certainly access to educational resources like libraries and, increasingly, a computer.
The new options like virtual charter schools, blended schools and public community schools are bringing these enriching family perks to many more people than has ever been possible, to the benefit of families and communities alike. In California, a school called Galileo Academy 101 (http://www.vvdailypress.com/2005/112618510126626.html), in Victorville, has developed a program that serves the needs of highly gifted children, both public schooled and homeschooled. The common ground is the children’s love of learning and their need for intellectual challenge.”
Mary’s reply The other common ground for the school is that they have to ENROLL in public school to participate. There is no shame in that.
Contininuing with what Terri wrote: “For the most part, these options are viewed in a positive light by students, educators and the community.
Arguments from resistant home educators that these new options somehow threaten homeschool freedoms, or that they will inevitably lead to increased accountability measures or restrictive legislation of homeschoolers have so far proven unfounded. While anecdotal evidence of malfeasance abounds, there is little actual evidence that these new options have in any way negatively impacted home education in any broad sense.”
Mary’s reply: There you go painting us as insubordinates again!
Terri wrote: In Florida, for example, where the Florida Virtual School has been an option for all residents public, private and home schooled for nearly a decade now, and two new public virtual charter schools have been introduced in the service of class size reduction legislation, homeschool enrollment continues to grow at a rate of about 10% a year (currently at nearly 60,000), and no new legislation of home education has resulted.
Mary’s reply: That is great news. As I recall, part-time enrollment is included in that number?
Terri wrote: “In Alaska, home educators move easily between a variety of offerings, and have for some time, without any apparent negative impact on the home education community. And in California, which doesn’t have any home education laws, per se, a variety of charter options serve residents, including many specifically designed for the homeschool population, again without any restrictive legislation resulting.”
Mary’s reply: No, but laws don’t have to change to change a community. People can change with out ever changing a law. John Taylor Gatto told us years ago that educrats knew they couldn’t change our laws so they would start pushing out their “undesirables” into our community and offering freebies to pull us back under their umbrella. Both have occurred. Again, I’m not afraid at all, nor am I against those not welcome in public school joining our ranks. If in our homeschool ranks want to join public school to enjoy the new options, I don’t oppose that either. I oppose all the choices being thrown into one big pot and being confused as one.
Terri wrote: “One of the biggest complaints by those who feel threatened by the new options is the potential confusion caused by calling some of the new public programs homeschooling. They feel that homeschoolers may be misled into participating, only to be caught unawares by NCLB mandated state testing requirements; or they feel that tradition public school families participating in these programs may be fooled into thinking they’re homeschooling, when they’re really participating in a home based public education program.
Both of these concerns seem to imply some sort of ignorance on the part of those choosing these programs, an ignorance that is presumed absent if parents choose traditional homeschooling not affiliated with any public programs. They also seem to presume that families are unable to decide for themselves if they like a program or that they are unable to withdraw from a program whose rules they find unappealing or overly restrictive.”
Mary’s reply: You have implied again and again that we presume parents are ignorant. That is so far from the truth it is not even funny. Parents are wanting to find what is best for their children and I heartily support that effort. Apparently you have not met enough of these intelligent, caring parents who have been told that they are homeschooling with the local public school, homeschooling with the statewide virtual by either the school or others using the program and thinking they are indeed homeschooling. The problem with that for many is that the rules and regulations are very different for the two choices in many states. Are you claiming the many parents who have contacted us since the virtual began, the ones who BELIEVED the schools and the other parents that they were homeschooling and thought they were excused from participating in the mandates as homeschoolers were ignorant! How dare you! They were not ignorant, but trusting. Trusting of the school and other parents. How many of us who first started homeschooling knew to read the fine print or to look beyond what the school told us? That is a process we learned and I will continue to share that information with ANY parent no matter what their educational choice. That does NOT in any way mean that I think they are ignorant. Quite the contrary. I think all parents deserve to know and understand the rights and responsibilities involved in their choice.
Terri wrote: “While it’s true that some virtual charter programs have been mismarketed as “homeschooling,” while clearly being public education programs, the few instances of this problem are “truth in advertising” issues, not homeschooling ones. The other problem is the long time casual and colloquial use of the term “homeschooling” by homeschoolers themselves.
In many states, families homeschool via private school legislative options. They freely claim to be “homeschooling” because they are, in fact, directing their children’s learning in a home based environment, using curricula of their own development or choosing, and without being subject to NCLB requirements. Yet this same casual use of the term homeschooling applied to those using public virtual school options is roundly protested by those who reject these options, and who would often deny them to others.”
Mary’s reply: Yet the member in your webring that I linked to above is promoting state standards for homeschoolers and NCLB homeschooling? At HEM-Networking, a member wrote about a friend who “has recently switched to a PS-at-home program and now feels that there should be a low level of government oversight even for independents.”
Terri wrote: “Florida is another good example of this situation. Homeschool leaders will typically reply, when asked how to homeschool in FL, that there are ” three legal ways to homeschool” in the state. They’re referring to 1) registering as a home educator in one’s county; 2) enrolling in a private school that offers a home based learning option and 3) hiring a private tutor. Asked if any of the public virtual charters are homeschooling, however, most will tell you that they are not ; athough those using the programs will often tell you that they are.
Saying on the one hand, that the first three ways: registered home ed, private and private tutor, with their three sets of different laws, are all “homeschooling” but that a fourth way, virtual charters, also with a different set of laws, *isn’t* homeschooling, creates conflict and confusion. If the term homeschooling can be used that loosely for those enrolled in private schools in FL, it seems only natural to extend its use to public home based options, as well.
The answer to these concerns, however, is not to deny these new options to others. Part of the problem, I believe, is that we’re trying to describe new things with old words. Rather than trying to fit the square pegs of new options into the round holes of old traditions, perhaps the time has come for new categories of learning that correlate more closely with the new experiences they offer.”
Mary’s reply: Why do you continue to accuse us of denying new options to others? How in the world does a request for clarity get translated that way?
Terri wrote: “If we use a descriptive, but broader term like “Home-Based Learning” to encompass all types of family led learning options like homeschooling, virtual charters, and home based private schools, then we could refer to all the options, along with all their commensurate caveats, laws, perks and peculiarities. No one will be misled about anything, and home-based learning can be embraced openly for all the promise that it offers so many people.
Freedom for one group is never served by denying it to others. I, for one, welcome the new pallet of educational choices that, like homeschooling, offer flexibility and more individualized learning opportunities that have previously been unavailable to so many children and families. Commensurately, I would also make a bid for keeping these new options as free and unrestricted as possible. Education requires accountability only to the student and a student who is enjoying learning in a supportive, engaging and exciting environment is being well served without counterproductive, time consuming testing measures that dilute that experience.”
Mary’s reply: Again, why do you continue to accuse advocates who wish to make sure that parents know and understand the rights that are attached to their choice is a method of denying that choice?!?!? I too welcome other choices, often recommend them and remind folks to read the fine print.
Terri wrote: “I believe homeschooling should proudly take its rightful place in the history of education, and that Home Based Learning is the next natural step in the evolution of that story. Virtual schools and blended schools are nothing to fear, but rather new opportunities to be celebrated in our continuing bid to bring Universal Knowledge to All.”
Mary’s reply: Homeschooling already has taken its rightful place in the history of education. Home Based Learning or public school at home can earn its spot as well, but it will do so under the public school umbrella. Thankfully, we do have some things in common with all parents. We all want what is best for our children. We all need to be our own best experts. Finding out our rights and responsibilities is not an indicator of fear, but empowerment. I would have thought by the name of your webring that you would have understood that.
Posted by Mary Nix