After reading, and reading, and reading, and analyzing for the past month instead of blogging, I figured I ought to catch up with some of the stories that I’ve missed while concentrating on Section 522. A series caught my eye among the various google alerts and email-list posts stacked up in my inbox, and I tracked down all the articles of the series, and made my way through most of it. Even by the first article, I decided it wasn’t a positive series, but by then, it was too late to go on to something else. And I do need to blog something. I’ll be charitable and say that I think the writer doesn’t yet ‘get’ homeschooling. The articles are:
- Salem Commoner Times, 4-part series, December 2005
2 Dec: Homeschooling trend growing in America< 9 Dec: Mothers share reasons for homeschooling
16 Dec: Homeschooling requires dedication from parents
23 Dec: Parents must consider variety of issues before deciding to homeschool children
The common thread of the pieces boiled down to ‘Don’t try this at home.’ The writer tried to be objective, but the disbelief that ordinary parents are able to raise their children at home, all by their lonesomes, comes through. I’m coming to the conclusion about non-homeschooling writers of homeschooling articles, the advice should be, "Don’t try this at work."
While reading this series to see if, hope against hope, there was something in the series worth a recommendation, I felt as if I was watching a tennis game. First there was something positive mentioned, then something negative, then something positive, then something negative. In the end, the overall feeling I got is that, for the author, the negatives win.
In the first article there is a reference to Ms. Patricia Lines’ work from 1987 in which the writer quotes, "Between 1850 and 1970, most children were not educated at home by their parents. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, home education once again began to emerge as an alternative to public schooling." No, no, no. Home ed wasn’t "again" an alternative to public schooling because, before the quoted date, there was no public schooling as we know it. If there’s nothing to be an alternative to, then whatever is in place is It.
In the second article there were odd quotations from some of the interviewees. One concerned two ladies, the first a veteran, and the other new to homeschooling. The quotation characterized the veteran as being kind enough to, "never put any pressure on her or tried to convince her of anything." Now why would she do that? Unlike the founders of some efforts< , I don't see 'homeschooling' as a proselytizing activity. 'Homeschooling' is about living with our children, not about converting the masses. As long as you and I are both within the law, you let me live my life the way I want, and I'll do the same for you.
Another odd comment was from the mother who said, in apparent reference to continuing to homeschool, "I really believe God intended for me to learn from this. He has broken me and broken me and broken me to keep giving of myself in regard to my children and it has really been a blessing to me." Yes, there are trials and tribulations in life — that’s life. The writer of the articles must have had many quotes to choose from. Picking this one gives a strange slant to homeschooling.
The third article continues with the strong emphasis on ‘do not try this at home.’ "I think if I can just get through today, I will try it tomorrow. As long as God gives me the strength to do it, that is what I am going to do." … "It is critically important that you have some type of support." Now this mom works as well as homeschools, so that may be why she doesn’t find homeschooling as breezy as some do (although raising children is never actually ‘breezy’). I might have second thoughts, too, if I was trying to balance two jobs.
Still, the mantra of ‘homeschooling is hard’ is repeated, "Homeschooling is not for everyone, she explained. The day is extremely structured and they learn together as a family, with God as the foundation of it all." (I, myself, preferred to aim towards the "birds of the air and lilies of the field" style rather than extreme structure) There are quotations from veteran homeschooling moms about teaching their children to teach themselves, which are nice, but the article wraps up with the sentiment akin to, ‘don’t you get too full of yourself, missy.’ "Jackson stressed how difficult it is to homeschool." The quoted mom mentions the families who attempt homeschooling, but put their kids back in school. I wonder how many of them try to replicate school-at-home, or use a highly structured program?
The final article starts with, "Homeschooling parents have several things to ponder while they make final choices is regard to the decision of homeschooling their children." It isn’t a "final decision." Homeschooling is not some irrevocable burning of the bridge back to the land of milk and honey. It is a continuing choice, as is mentioned farther along in the article, "The reason for the advice is that, for many families, home schooling is not a permanent choice."
Next comes an off-putting observation, "In regard to curriculum for homeschoolers, determining what tools to use in teaching ones children at home is a hit and miss situation." Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Life ahead! Choosing your learning tools is no more hit and miss than shopping in a grocery store, or buying furniture, or picking out a new vacuum cleaner (actually, picking the vacuum cleaner is proving to be a tough nut to crack!) Because of the cost of some packaged materials, though, I do advise choosing carefully. Still, if you pick out a book that isn’t the flavor of the month with the kids, all is not lost, and book swaps and curriculum exchanges can turn a lemon of a purchase into the lemonade of re-sale.
A couple of paragraphs pass with opinions that show that the writer may be trying to ‘get’ homeschooling, but it all gets spoiled with, "What gives homeschooling a bad name …" Homeschooling has a bad name? Waitaminnit, I thought we aced all tests with a single swipe of our Number Twos, were the reigning Bee Champions of The Nation, and out-socialized the socialists. When did we get a bad name? Did I miss something on the RSS-feed?
"… are those who pull their children out of the public school because they get mad at the school, then keep their children home with actually no plan in place for their childs education. In the long run, after the parents have tired of fighting their kids and trying to figure out what they should be teaching, they send them back to school." Oh. So some parents try doing their best, decide that the homeschooling actually isn’t the best, and return the children to the public schools? And they’re wrong to have done that? Should they have kept them home doing not-their-best after all? It makes you wonder what you’d have to do to be considered raising your children well.
Whatever raising children well consists of, a viable path doesn’t appear to be homeschooling them, "Many experts feel that socialization is a big issue with homeschooling. The schools are a major influence in the lives of children. They spend many hours in the school setting. What can take the place of the hours spent with other youth?"
If you take the kids out, you’re wrong. If you put them back, you’re wrong. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
The article carries on with more tennis-game objectivity. Dr. Bryan (sic) Ray is quoted, as are Drs. Smith and Sikkink, all with positive statistics, but then a straight shot beans the reader, "Homeschooled children do not encounter the diversity in a community, so they risk both not fitting in with their peer group, as well as not being able to easily understand other points of view." Do we all see the image of the poor little cloistered misfits, with noses pressed against the window pane of Life, watching the hurly burly world go by, completely unable to comprehend all the fuss?
Other homeschooling disadvantages are mentioned, and the admonishment is given, "In reality, homeschooling is a choice that is right for some families and not for others. So if one is considering homeschooling, they need to be honest and ask whether they can provide a nurturing educational environment and whether they the time available (sic) to construct good lessons and exercises." And if one is writing for the public, one should endeavor to keep one’s singularity or plurality of the subject in agreement throughout the sentence, and to include all the verbs. (my apologies for the grammar police outburst, but at the conclusion of a series-of-four, one’s patience is a bit stretched)
And if the topic of the series is homeschooling, keep it ‘homeschooling’ and don’t conjure bogeymen where there are none. "Most did not do this because Salem has poor schools and teachers, because that is not an issue. In fact, the opposite is true. Salem and the surrounding area has excellent schools." If it’s not an issue, why mention it?
My conclusion after reading this set of four back-and-forth articles is goose-eggs. Writer, love. Readers, love. Game, set and match.