Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Are Homeschoolers Well Prepared for College?

One of the favorite complaints of the anti-homeschooling crowd is that homeschoolers are getting to college unprepared. I find that criticism a bit ridiculous, considering how poorly public schools are preparing kids for college; still, it's only fair to attempt to address it from time to time. The most recent post I've seen on the topic is from Greg Laden's blog, and is entitled "The Homeschooler Mind Set." (I found this through a well-written response from another homeschooling blogger, "She's Right." I HIGHLY recommend you go see her response - it isn't very long and it's excellent. Still, I think I have a few things to add to what she said, so here goes.)

In case you don't feel like clicking over to read Greg's blog, let me see if I can summarize. He basically says that while some homeschoolers do a reasonably good job, many teachers are not "generally happy with what shows up at their classroom door from Home Schooling Land." I think there's reason to address what he's saying. (The remainder of his post is made up of a poor analogy and uninformed opinion, along with some carefully selected quotes intended to make the majority of homeschoolers look like religious zealots or uninformed fools - I will not address any of that here.)

Here's how I responded (some minor editing changes made on the fly for the sake of this blog entry).

If you're going to post on how homeschooling is often not done well (and in fact I believe that shows you're making progress - I remember some months ago your being against almost all homeschooling), you might consider whether quoting college professors really helps your case all that much. Certainly, some college professors have had some homeschoolers who have done poorly. But how many college professors have complained about how their public-schooled students are doing? I believe you'd find FAR more complaints about public-schooled kids than about home-schooled ones. And the complaints about public-schooled kids are far more serious, because their deficiences tend to affect every area of their education. If they can't read, can't write, can't take notes, or won't follow directions, their entire future lives and careers are at stake (not just their success in the 6 units of science they have to take to get a B.A.).
Take a look at these quotes.

From James Gatti, in a comment on Vermont Tiger:

I have spent 35 years teaching economics and finance at the University of Vermont and have seen the dramatic decline all too closely. The ability of my students to read with comprehension, to calculate, to reason abstractly has eroded, but the most severe problem is a refusal to work as hard as is necessary to learn difficult material. I had a student take one of my required courses who had failed it with three other faculty members. She got the highest grade in the course when she took it with me. Why? Because she finally did what the other three faculty members and I told her to do. Do the readings when they are assigned. Do the problems as assigned. If you don't understand the readings or have trouble with the problems come and see us for help. It is not rocket science; it is hard work. They treat 4 years of college as an extended vacation.

From an article in the Des Moines Register, March 10, 2008:

"I just think it's unfortunate that such a large percentage of students who arrive at our door are in need of additional remediation to come up to the college level," said M.J. Dolan, executive director of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees. . . .

Iowa community college students have been observed taking courses to catch up on junior high level skills, such as multiplying fractions, the basics of algebra, and identifying transition words that help connect ideas in written text. . . .

Laura Browne, associate dean of learning services at the Iowa Valley Community College District, said many incoming students need remedial reading and writing classes because they have spent so much time using grammatical shorthand to blog, send text messages and e-mail.

"They don't know how to write complete sentences," she said. "Spelling is a problem."

Jeri Lee, who teaches an elementary algebra course at Des Moines Area Community College, said students struggle in her class because they have become too dependent on the calculator.

"They never learn the basic facts," Lee said. "Their mind-set is, 'Let the machine do it for me.' "

Or this, from ACT's National Curriculum Survey Policy Implications Report:

High school teachers believe state standards are preparing students well for college-level work; however, roughly 65 percent of postsecondary instructors responded that their state’s standards prepared students poorly or very poorly for college-level work in English/writing, reading, and science.


32 percent of high school teachers think students today are better prepared for college-level work—a percentage nearly two and a half times greater than that of postsecondary instructors who believe this.

Or this, from the Executive Summary of ACT's "Rigor At Risk" report on College Readiness:

Even when students take substantial numbers of additional courses, no more than three-fourths of them are ready for first-year college coursework. Despite the higher percentages of students who met the College Readiness Benchmarks and took more than the recommended core, still no more than 38 percent of these students are ready for first-year college science, no more than 60 percent are ready for first-year college social science, no more than 75 percent are ready for first-year college mathematics, and no more than 77 percent are ready for first-year college English. So, even taking additional higher-level coursework in high school does not lead to increased college readiness for many students.


Students who earn good grades in their high school courses are led to believe they are ready for college; unfortunately, many are not. Many students are receiving high grades in their high school courses, leading them to believe they are ready for college. But nearly half of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates who earned a grade of A or B in high school Algebra II did not meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for Mathematics, and more than half of the graduates who earned a grade of A or B in high school Physics did not meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for Science.

In contrast, look at this from Chris Bachelder, the Associate Vice President of Hillsdale College:

I asked our admissions office to compare last year’s ACT science scores of homeschooled students with their conventionally-educated counterparts. The homeschoolers averaged in the 85th percentile on the science portion of the test, scoring one point below the average of all admitted students. Their scores in non-science areas were generally superior to the conventionally schooled students, and by a much greater margin than the alleged "deficiency" that (the author) suggests would warrant an enormous intrusion into the lives of homeschooling families.

All in all, our experience is that homeschooling is not only more cost effective but can produce results comparable to or better than private, parochial or public schools. For those interested in academic studies, there is a vast amount of literature available to the public supporting this conclusion.

Since public schools are already doing a notoriously poor job of preparing our kids for college, while many homeschoolers are doing an excellent job, why pick on the homeschoolers? So what if some of our homeschooled kids are not well prepared in science - clearly MANY public schooled kids (acccording to the ACT quote above, more than half of students earning an A or B in physics) are not well prepared in science, and many of them are also not well prepared in reading, writing, math, and even spelling.

Given the options, I'll stick with homeschooling. I can do what's necessary to remedy the possibility of a science deficiency; but if my public-schooled child is bringing home A's or B's in physics, and still not being well prepared for college science, how will I even know that, let alone remedy it?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Homeschooling for Less

Since I only have two children, I don't spend a lot of time over at the Large Family Mothering blog. But last night, Sherry posted an article entitled, "Homeschooling--less is more links and lists," that's a good reminder for those of us who sometimes take our homeschooling too seriously - and make it too expensive. Homeschooling does not have to be expensive; there are a lot of benefits in keeping it simple, especially in the early years.

What kinds of things does she recommend? I won't go into all of them, because I want you to click over and read her article for yourself. But here are a few of the highlights:

- Read aloud -

first the Bible (children can understand the simple stories-from Genesis on-as they are presented verbatum, no need to purchase a "Bible story book") all sorts of picture books, etc. I would have them draw about what we read, or not--whatever they wished. I would encourage whatever they drew--not worrying whether they were staying in the lines, or even that they were "artistically correct", but just appreciating what they created as coming from their hearts and enjoying it. I would place these creations on the fridge or any other nifty place where we could all enjoy them.

- Buy books for Mom, not for the kids.

- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons - this has worked really well for her, but it didn't work for me, with either of my girls. In my opinion, the more specific the lesson book you use, the less likely it is to work universally. Still, you need some kind of phonics materials - but keep it inexpensive as you may need to try something different if it doesn't work for you. Explode the Code phonics, Phonics Pathways, Modern Curriculum Press phonics, Pathway Readers "Learning with Sounds" - these are some inexpensive ideas to get you started.

- Dr. Seuss

- Mother Goose

- The Science of Cooking website

. . . and much more. Please take the time to follow the link and see all she has to say. I've been homeschooling for 8 years, and I still needed the reminder - the curriculum is not the most important part. Homeschooling is about the relationship between us and our children, and about how that relationship can help our children become lifelong learners.

The Proof Is In the Pudding

There's a great little op-ed piece today in The Justice, the student newspaper of Brandeis University, that confirms this - the best evidence in favor of homeschooling lies in those young adults who are graduating from their homeschools and moving out into the world successfully. The author is Tatiana Tripp, who was homeschooled herself for several years and is now a sophomore at Brandeis. Her editorial is significantly better written than many I've read, and in fact is better than many syndicated columnists.

In her article, Tatiana highlights many of the benefits of homeschooling that I've discussed here. The variety of homeschooling methods, the low student-teacher ratio, the extra time homeschooled students have, the additional social skills they learn, and more, are all addressed clearly and concisely. In addition, she deals with some of the myths about homeschooling, including the question of socialization and that of religious indoctrination.

I believe it's young people like Tatiana who make the best case for homeschooling. As time goes on and more kids graduate from homeschooling, we will likely see many more like her - thoughtful, analytical, eloquent, and unafraid to point out the fallacies of current thought - and the myths about homeschooling will be exposed as obviously ridiculous.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More On Evolution's Logical Conclusion

A couple of months ago I posted this article entitled "Evolution's Logical Conclusion," pointing out the difficulty evolutionists face in explaining, in evolutionary terms, how human beings can be of equal intelligence and worth.

Earlier this week, Joe Carter over at Evangelical Outpost had three posts on ways evolutionists help the cause of intelligent design (triggered by the response to Ben Stein's new film "Expelled"). These are a bit lengthy, but they're not difficult to read, and if you're interested in this topic (regardless of whether you are a creationist, a believer in intelligent design, or an evolutionist), you really ought to read what he has to say.

Here are the links:

10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design (Part I)
10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design (Part II)
10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design (Part III)

I believe Joe's tenth "way," "By not being able to believe their own theory," is a slightly different way of saying what I said in my original post, "Evolution's Logical Conclusion." He illustrates this with a quote from philosopher of science David Stove, who "notes that ultra-Darwinists assert that while man was once trapped in the struggle to survive and pass on our genes, we no longer are trapped in the spiral of natural selection. " In this way Darwinists attempt to justify what I referred to in a comment on my earlier post:

I recently ran across a quote from a prominent evolutionist (I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould, but I could be wrong), to the effect that he would fight strongly for survival of the fittest as our origin, but he would fight strongly against it as a moral basis. I think that illustrates the problem an evolutionist faces; he thinks it has been positive to this point in our evolution, but he is in a quandary when he considers what would happen if we tried to behave as if evolution would result in further progress now, especially in terms of human development.

Evolutionists are caught in a trap when they face the values of our modern society. If you believe in evolution, you simply have no grounds for believing that humans have not developed in such a way that some are inherently better than others. Even the invention of technology, which is sometimes cited by evolutionists as more significant to human development than evolution, would make the inventors "smarter" (and therefore, by evolutionary standards, better - more likely to survive) than those who didn't invent such technology.

The struggle for all evolutionists, as far as I can see, is to believe their own theory. They want to believe that all people are valuable and worthy (thus discrimination on the basis of race is wrong, for example), but they have no real basis for coming to that conclusion. They have no foundation from which to argue, because they've rejected the one foundation that establishes definitively that we are all equal.

A More Substantive Answer to Homeschooling "Essay"

On Thursday I posted on Summer's humorous response to Jack Lessenberry's "Essay: Homeschooling." Yesterday, Dana over at Principled Discovery posted an excellent and substantive discussion of the same essay.

Dana's major criticism relates to the quote Jack used about the Hillsdale College honors program director who reportedly said that homeschoolers are "badly deficient in science." Unlike Jack, Dana actually did a bit of research - she actually looked up the quote, for one thing!

Here's Jack's version of the quote:

Hillsdale College is about as conservative a liberal arts school as exists on the planet. But Hillsdale’s honors program director recently told the Detroit Free Press that the home schooled children he sees are typically badly deficient in science education.

Not surprisingly, Jack significantly distorted the quote. In the first place, the original quote came from the Michigan Education report in 2002 - not exactly "recent." In the second place, the original quote did not say they were "badly deficient," only that they were "typically deficient." Inserting the word "badly" makes the situation sound worse than the original statement sounded.

Dana then contacted David Stewart, the former honors program director. She got an answer in less than 12 hours. Not surprisingly, Dr. Stewart made it clear that even the original quote was taken out of context:

I am generally favorably-disposed towards home-schooling (indeed, two of my own children are currently home-schooled), and my 2002 comments to the reporter were positive. He was looking for balance, so I said something to the effect that if homeschoolers have a consistent weakness, it’s laboratory sciences: students are typically better prepared in math, history, English, etc. than in laboratory sciences. I also said that many parents recognize that deficiency and enroll their children in a local community college during the senior year of high school.

Let's see . . . "IF homeschoolers have a consistent weakness" doesn't sound like students are "typically deficient," much less "typically badly deficient." Taking a community college class or two during your senior year of high school also doesn't sound like "badly deficient" to me. And isn't interesting how the reporter managed to completely leave out pretty much the entire context of the quote - Dr. Stewart's favorable disposition toward homeschooling, the fact that he homeschools his own kids, and his statement that homeschooled students are typically better prepared in math, history, and English. The "balance" the reporter was looking for was all that showed up in the original article. Hmmm - why do I sense an agenda here?

Dana also requested a response from Hillsdale College, and got an answer from their Associate Vice President, which included this:

I asked our admissions office to compare last year’s ACT science scores of omeschooled students with their conventionally-educated counterparts. The homeschoolers averaged in the 85th percentile on the science portion of the test, scoring one point below the average of all admitted students. Their scores in non-science areas were generally superior to the conventionally schooled students, and by a much greater margin than the alleged “deficiency” that Mr. Lessenberry suggests would warrant an enormous intrusion into the lives of homeschooling families.

All in all, our experience is that homeschooling is not only more cost effective but can produce results comparable to or better than private, parochial or public schools. For those interested in academic studies, there is a vast amount of literature available to the public supporting this conclusion.

It seems clear that Jack is badly distorting both the wording and the meaning the original quote. I posted this comment on his blog less than 48 hours after he posted his "Essay" - not surprisingly, he did not respond.

I have a question for you: Why is it that with all the comments left here, the responses you've given relate to typos and to your own credentials to speak to the issue (which quite frankly aren't all that impressive)? Why have you not dealt with the substance of the comments posted here?

You see, throwing more money at a broken school system isn't going to fix it. The schools in our state get well over $6000 per student per year, and still can't educate their kids; I spend about $1000 per year for two students, and my kids are far ahead of most public schooled students both academically and socially. And that's the norm for homeschooled kids - they are far better off than most public-schooled kids in all areas, including academic, social, and emotional.

So some homeschooled kids might need some make-up work in science. They can take some classes or do some reading and take care of that kind of deficiency. At least my kids can read well, write well, and do math; they can find Alaska on a map (even though they've never been there); they can identify the Vice-President of the United States; they have a solid understanding of history, including not only what happened but why; they know how to learn and actually WANT to continue doing it; they can relate well to other people who don't live in the same neighborhood with them, as well as to older people and to children. I don't mean to say that science deficiencies are OK - science is a critically important part of our homeschool curriculum, and my own kids will not get to college deficient in science education; but there's more to life than any one academic subject, and my kids' ability and desire to learn mean that if they should have any academic deficiencies, they will be able to make those up fairly

So where's your answer to the substance of these comments? How do you justify advocating that the current education system, which even you admit doesn't do a very good job of educating the children it does have, should regulate and control and prescribe the education of homeschooled kids?

Not only did he not respond to this comment, but he also ignored two comments from faculty at Hillsdale College, including one from the man who has been the honors program director there for five years and has never spoken with the Detroit Free Press or with Jack.

In short, not only is Jack's essay badly researched and poorly written, but he has taken quotes out of context, added words to them, and failed to respond to substantive disagreement. So much for objective criticism of the homeschooling movement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Benefits of Homeschooling for Gifted Kids

There's a great article on "A Bundle of Contradictions" entitled "It May Not Be Perfect . . ." It addresses the challenges that face gifted kids in many (if not most) public schools, and discusses the benefits of homeschooling for these kids.

I found this especially interesting in light of the fact that I originally chose to homeschool because of my highly gifted older daughter. When she was 3 1/2, I started looking into preschools - only to discover she already had all but one or two of the skills taught in Kindergarten in those schools. Not only was she extremely bright and already ahead academically, but the other preschoolers around her clearly saw her as a strong leader. I could foresee all sorts of problems for her if I put her in a school environment. I didn't think it would be fair to the teacher to saddle her with this leadership- and academically-gifted child who would likely only create discipline issues in the classroom; nor did I think it would be fair to my daughter to put her in a situation where she would be sitting around waiting for almost two years for the other children to "catch up." So I decided to homeschool her.

Of course it didn't occur to me at the time that if she was already two years ahead, she was likely to continue to move even further ahead as she was homeschooled! And today at age 11, she is easily completing pre-algebra and doing a two-year junior-high-level science course in one year. This means in the next year or so she'll be moving into high-school-level courses.

The blog post "It May Not Be Perfect . . . " points out the struggles encountered, both academically and socially, but kids like my daughter. It highlights the problems with the prevailing opinions that "the gifted child will get along fine" in school, and that "it is the gifted child who is "screwed up" and needs to learn to get along with other kids," and answers those opinions with truthful perspectives on what really happens to these kids in school.

I really appreciate this post, and its willingness to confront the critics of homeschooling on these issues. It's one thing to say that average children benefit from public schooling; it's something else again to claim that all children ought to be forced to face these situations. Parents choose homeschooling for many reasons, including properly addressing the needs of their gifted children. Critics of homeschooling ought to wake up and realize that all children don't learn the same way or at the same pace, and that homeschooling can be beneficial precisely because it gears the education directly to the needs of each individual child.

How to Properly Criticize Homeschooling

Yesterday on Mom Is Teaching, Summer had an excellent profile on "How To Hate On Homeschoolers Properly." (HT: Just Enough) Summer pulled from this "Essay" by Jack, as she explained

the 5 rules you have to follow to write a rant as powerful and defined as Jack’s is. I have seen so many people try to discredit home education but fall short every time of really publishing the kind of rant that has most of us falling out of our chairs in fits of laughter.

Be sure you read the comments, too - on both blogs if you can find the time; those on Jack's are mostly thoughtful commentaries on the problems with his piece, while those on Summer's are just plain fun.

If you're looking for a good critique of Jack's essay (as opposed to light, fun reading), be sure to also click over to Doc's blog. He has some excellent points and actually provides research to back them up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"The Real Cons of Homeschooling"

Don't know how I missed this one until now, but it's definitely worth another look. Back in October 2006, Tammy posted this article on "The Real Cons of Homeschooling." With all the talk that goes on about the negative side of homeschooling, this is a great post on some of the real challenges homeschoolers face. What are they? Here's Tammy's list.

1) Parents and kids have to learn to accept each other as they are, and to get along with each other so well that they can live together peacefully.

2) Parents have to accept responsibility for their actions and live their lives, pretty much all the time, in a way that they want to see their children live their lives.

3) Families have to listen to a lot of smack, and field a lot of questions about their decision. It takes a long time to convince the world around them that it’s OK that they don’t send their kids to school.

4) Parents have to be resourceful. Parents have to learn how to find things in their community, how to get information on their own, how to access people who can answer their questions, and how to communicate well.

5) Parents have to let go enough that they can balance their devotion to their children with their own interests and self-care. Parents in school have to do this too, but it’s more poignant in homeschooling, because it’s very easy to spend every waking moment dealing with homeschooling “stuff” and kid “stuff” that we forget about who we are as individuals with our own interests.

6) Homeschooling requires dedication - but not to workbooks and curriculum. Homeschooling can involved these things, but the dedication has to be towards being a good person, being open minded, and to being involved with the family. It also requires parents to be dedicated to understanding their children.

7) Homeschoolers have increased chance of making themselves sick with worry, with fear and with guilt. One of the biggest cons of homeschooling is the time it takes to learn to live as a homeschooler without these hovering over us. Homeschoolers have to pave their own way. Even if there is support and resources available, ultimately, homeschoolers have to shovel most of their own snow. In other words - homeschoolers have to be independent and willing to put in the footwork.

9) Often, homeschoolers have to stand up, alone, and do what they have to do even though others around them are doing something different. Homeschoolers have to be OK with not conforming, and know themselves well enough to be able to walk into a situation and know they are the only ones there who homeschool, and will probably be questioned, talked about or even confronted.

10) And finally, homeschoolers have to accept that no matter what they do, life will never be perfect; kids will always have holes in their learning, the house will never stay clean, and there will never be enough time to get everything done that we want to do. The hardest thing about homeschooling is choosing between the million and one options, million and one workbooks, projects and learning opportunities. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is also the biggest con of all - freedom.

I thought of another one as I was looking at these:

Parents have to have a heart for their children more than for their routines and methods. Parents who choose to be rigid may achieve what they want in the short run, but in the long run, they will drive their children away, and undo everything they have worked so hard for. This is true even if you're not homeschooling, but it's very much more true when you spend almost every waking moment with your children - if your heart is not really given to them, you will likely lose them.

What do you think? Are there others you can think of?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Homeschooling and Being "Missional"

Tony Jones has recently reposted an article he originally posted a couple of years ago, entitled "Death to Homeschooling!" In it, he claims,

But it seems to me that if we are truly committed to living a missional life, then we must enroll our kids in the public school. That is, we are committed to living lives fully invested in what I might call the "Jesus Ethic" or the "Kingdom of God Ethic," and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that we live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society.

He goes on to cite a number of secular sources - not Christian sources and not Scripture - and then to state:

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

I can't argue that as an evangelical Christian, I am "committed to living lives fully invested in what I might call the "Jesus Ethic" . . . and also fully invested in the society." I also can't argue that "I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be."

But I can argue that that commitment and that mandate don't require me to throw my little child, essentially unarmed, into our culture's primary recruitment tool, and one of the hotbeds of spiritual warfare in our world. The people I have the strongest influence on, and the highest responsibility to disciple, are my own children. If I "win the world," and lose my children, the price was too high. That's a sacrifice far too many godly people have made, and I believe it is quite frankly unbiblical. How many well-known biblical characters followed the Lord themselves, but lost some or all of their children in the process? I can think of a good number: Isaac, Aaron, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah.

In response to Tony's post, I made this comment:

Just one question here: WHO is called to be missional?

Honestly, I don’t find that Jesus called five-and six-year-olds to world missions. Missions is for spiritually mature adults, who have learned to follow Jesus and are ready to teach others. Jesus didn’t even expect His own disciples to be missional until they’d been trained by spending many, many hours in His presence.

I MIGHT consider letting my 16- or 17-year-old go to high school if they feel called to missions there. But is it really right to send our little children into an environment that is hostile to their faith for 30 hours a week (not including homework or bus rides or time with the friends they made there)? Or does the job of missions belong to ME as an ADULT? (By the way, I congratulate those Christian adults who have gone into the public school system to be missional as teachers, counselors, and so on - we need many more like you!)

I find it all too common for Christian parents to use the excuse of being missional with their kids to avoid their own responsibility to seek out the mission field themselves. It seems to me that as an adult, I must find where God wants ME to be missional; and at the same time, I must carefully raise my children, protecting them from harmful spiritual influences, and training them toward spiritual maturity, when it will be their turn to be missional to their own world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is Homeschooling a Libertarian Idea? - Part III

I concluded my "conversation" with the commenter with this final thought, which illustrates the liberty children (and teachers) have when homeschooling - liberty that's difficult to find if not nonexistent in the school setting.

Here's an example of the kind of liberty homeschooled kids have. I don't know this family; I've never heard of them until I came across this blog entry. But this is very common, in my experience, when it comes to how homeschooling families function today.

How many schoolkids have this kind of liberty? Frankly, how many school teachers have the liberty to discard their lesson plans because a better learning opportunity came up?

I just don't understand how a person can contend that forcing a child to sit in a school classroom 30 hours a week, 36 weeks a year, for most of their growing-up years, is in any way libertarian. Homeschooling, on the other hand, while not ALWAYS libertarian in the way it is executed, can certainly be done in such a way as to fit beautifully with libertarian ideas, and it generally IS done in a way that provides the child with far more liberty - both today and in the future - than a public school education can.

Is Homeschooling a Libertarian Idea? - Part II

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, I was engaged on someone else's blog with another commenter who argued that homeschooling was not libertarian, because it restricted a child's liberty. In response to my comment (which made up most of my previous post), the other person posted this comment.

Of course there are many excellent parents who place their children's rights above their own when they homeschool....... but you can take the failures and blame the system!

Our laws allow parents to limit the freedoms and liberties of a child - and I don't mean the liberty to be antisocial, to harm themselves and others etc.

The system has loopholes and this harms kids!

And to include anonymous... (Note to my readers: this is me - MM)

Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent.

The liberties you talk about, however, don't seem to be "liberties."

"Kids in public school are limited in who they interact with.." Nonsense! They mix with the whole population of children, black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, gay, straight, Latino, European. Not just the family and Mum and Dad's friends. Homeschooling is designed to limit the liberty of a child to mix with others. That’s the whole point of it..

"Traveling with their families" is about the family's liberty.

"What they do with their time." All part of social education and self discipline. ...and so on and so on.

I expect I sound angry, and I am. I’m fed with children being restricted by their parents in order to make them conform.

Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents. Ask me, I was a schools advisor for many years and a psychotherapist.

Ask college professors who have to give extra attention to home-schooled children whose education has left them totally unable to cope with college life.

Homeschooling usually used by authoritarian, often religiously inspired, adults to control children's experiences and limit them to their own view of the world. It seems, often, to indoctrination rather than education.

Libertarianism condemns such manipulation of people.

Whew! It was hard to even know where to start with this one. His post is full of so many false assumptions and generalizations that I'd be willing to bet this guy did not study logic in school - if he did, it's a testimony to how poor our education system really is. And his post made me see red - which didn't facilitate thinking clearly in order to give him solid responses.

But here's how I answered him.

Did it ever occur to you that as a psychotherapist, you might have seen only the worst examples possible of homeschooling? You've made the statement:

"Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent."

This implies that I am an exception among homeschooling parents. To the contrary, I've been involved in the homeschooling movement for many years - I was homeschooled myself for 6 years as a missionary kid, I helped a church start a homeschooling umbrella school, I have homeschooled my own kids for 8 years, I have taught and worked in a homeschooling enrichment program, I participate in several online forums, and I write a homeschooling blog. I know literally hundreds of homeschooling families, and by FAR the majority are much like I am. They love their children, and they homeschool because they believe homeschooling provides their children with a far better education than the public school system. Not only that, most of the homeschooling parents I know believe, as I do, that homeschooling provides our children with much greater liberty, both today and later as adults, than the public school system will ever be able to do.

I strongly disagree that kids in school are not limited in who they interact with. You said yourself that children in school "mix with the whole population of children" - yes, ONLY children (oh, yes, and a few carefully selected teachers). And the "whole population" they mix with is basically limited to the children in their neighborhood who attend public school. Homeschooled kids, on the other hand, have the opportunity to interact not only with people of all races, religions, and social classes, but also with people of all AGES - something sadly missing in schoolkids these days. Most of the homeschoolers I know have good friends of all ages. They are often excellent with toddlers and preschoolers; they can hold an intelligent conversation with an adult; they are even kind, thoughtful, and polite to seniors. Where on earth did you get the idea that the whole point of homeschooling is to "limit the liberty of a child to mix with others"? I don't know ANY homeschooler who would agree with that statement (maybe there are a few - but I've never come across one). In fact, most homeschoolers are very concerned that their children have the opportunity to mix with others of all ages, races, religions, and social classes.

You said, "'Traveling with their families' is about the family's liberty." You may say that if you like - but the truth is that the school prevents CHILDREN from having the opportunity to travel. The parents can still travel - they just have to get someone to take care of the children and get them to school every day. And I work in the schools in the afternoon - I've seen parents do this. Homeschooled kids have the liberty to travel with their families rather than being confined in a school classroom while their parents travel.

"Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents." Where on earth do you GET this stuff? I taught hundreds of homeschoooled kids in several homeschool enrichment programs (as well as teaching keyboards in the public schools in the afternoon), and I can tell you the homeschooled kids are generally far more able to concentrate, to pay attention, and to comprehend than the public school kids. And as for college professors, the vast majority are more than supportive of homeschooling. In fact, colleges have made special accommodations to allow homeschoolers, even though they don't have transcripts from accredited high schools, because they usually end up bringing credit to the school.

I'm sorry, but you haven't made your point. You've made a lot of statements about homeschooling that are completely unsupported by the facts about who homeschools and why. And where is your EVIDENCE that your statements are true?

What I perceive is that you are giving your own opinion and trying to pass it off by, "Ask me; I'm a psychotherapist."

As for the system having loopholes that harm kids, I agree - but homeschooling isn't the loophole that causes the greatest harm. What kind of loopholes harm kids? The ones that allow kids to be alone in a classroom with a teacher who victimizes them (as has recently happened for the THIRD TIME in the local high schools in our district); the ones that allow teachers to simply "show up" and end up with a teaching credential, even if they are a terrible teacher; the ones that allow teachers to assign as much homework as they like, so that kids not only have to spend all day in school but all evening and part of the weekend doing school assignments; the ones that give families only one choice of public school to send their kids, regardless of how bad that choice may be; the ones that allow schools to do private physical exams of children without their parents' consent; the ones that allow schools to teach whatever values they like regardless of the convictions of the parents; the ones that force children into classrooms where they are bullied and refuse to move them; the ones that label kids "special ed" and stick them in classes where they have no opportunity to progress; and many more such examples. Yes, "the system has loopholes and this harms kids!"

But in the long run, homeschooling is far more conducive to libertarian ideals than forcing children to spend almost their entire childhood sitting in a classroom rather than interacting with the real world. And most homeschooling parents do so because it's better for their KIDS than public school.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Private Schools vs. Home Schools

This morning there was a post on the Uncompahgre Gorge blog by danielquenton. He asked the question, "Are private schools better than homeschooling is? What do you think?"

Of course, I can hardly ever resist a question like that. And having a fairly strong opinion on this issue, I had to get my 2 cents' worth in!

I believe (pretty strongly, too), that generally speaking, for most kids, homeschooling is better. Here are some reasons why:

1) Homeschooling provides by far the best teacher-student ratio. This means kids get a more individualized education, and waste less time “learning” what they already know, and doing worksheets in order to keep them busy while the teacher tries to help someone else.

2) Homeschooling takes advantage of a completely different format than classroom education. Kids learn science more effectively, for example, by experiencing the world around them - real gardening rather than bringing home little bean seeds in a jar that ultimately gets thrown away; catching a grasshopper in a jar and watching it eat before releasing it; bird-watching in the backyard or a nearby park; playing with soap bubbles and water to experience the properties of each; and so on. They learn history better by field trips to places where things happened, by reading biographies, original sources, and historical fiction in a comfortable, friendly environment, and then by discussing what they’ve learned with family and friends (rather than reading a textbook full of information processed and made dull by a committee, and then answering a bunch of questions about it). They get a much better foundation in math by cooking, sewing, helping remodel the basement, etc. - and they understand the relevance of it. They get more out of literature when they read whole books rather than just excerpts. And they learn art and music more thoroughly when they see it built into their parents’ lives rather than just as another class they have to get through. Private schools, no matter how good, simply can’t offer the advantages of the homeschooling format - real, whole books, life experience, field trips, observation of real life, interaction with and mentoring by many different people, time to explore, apprenticeship, discussion, and much more.

3) Homeschooling teachers are far more invested in their children’s success than private school teachers can possibly be. After all, ultimately the responsibility for how the child turns out belongs to parents (even when they send their children to school). No one says, “Well, it’s no wonder that child turned out so bad - they had such a terrible third-grade teacher.” The buck stops with the parent, and in homeschooling, that’s even more true.

4) Studies have shown that one of the top measures of a child’s academic success is their relationship with their teacher. Homeschooling parents go to great effort to maintain a good relationship with their children. There’s no guarantee that a child will have that kind of relationship with their teachers, even in a private school.

5) Homeschooling allows the teacher to use any curriculum or format that fits a particular student, and to use different curricula or formats for each student. And when students outgrow the teacher’s ability (which they will in many areas - and which, incidentally, some students will do in a classroom approach as well), homeschooling allows the teacher to seek out a different way for the student to learn - whether an online or correspondence course, a college-level class, a book, a mentor or tutor, or some other approach.

6) Homeschooling allows a family the flexibility to determine their priorities based on what’s best for them as a whole group. They have the freedom to put up their textbooks and take a six-day trip back east, as our family did last spring. (Dad bought a car in New Hampshire and we drove it back to Colorado, stopping to enjoy historic Massachusetts, a town in New York named after our family, and Niagara Falls, among other things. Our kids learned more history and geography from that trip than they would have learned in weeks of textbooks, and the learning is alive and real to them still a year later.) Or they can decide to do a bit extra during the summer so they can take time off when other kids are in school. Or they can skip math on a day when the kids are restless and bake cookies instead (a great lesson in fractions or multiplication, especially if you halve or double the recipe).

In short, generally speaking homeschooling is a much better option for most kids. Of course, there are some parents who do not have the self-discipline necessary to keep their kids on task; there are single parents who really can’t make the time to educate their kids; and there are selfish parents who aren’t willing to give up their own agenda to make their kids a priority during the years they are being educated. There are also kids who hate being homeschooled or who desperately want to go to school. Those families might be better off putting their kids in private school. But for parents who care about their children’s education and are willing to dedicate the time and energy necessary, home schooling really provides a much better education.

There’s a reason why the Columbia Missourian online had this quote at the end of their article on homeschooling yesterday:

“The dean of academic affairs at Columbia College, Terry Smith, home schooled his children and remains an influence on the recruitment of future home-schooled students. . . .‘There are no home-schooled students at Columbia College that haven’t excelled,” Monnig said. “They are all really involved, and most are on the dean’s list.’”

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Is Homeschooling a Libertarian Idea?

Some days ago I somehow ended up on a website run by an apparently atheist libertarian who supports homeschooling as a libertarian concept. One of his readers, also a libertarian, took issue with this idea, claiming,

Home schooling is resorted to by parents intent on limiting the childs freedom - it is the liberty of the parent that is at the front here, not the child's.

Libertarianism, at it's deepest, surely means that a child should be given an education that maximises it's liberty - not one that allows the parents to limit the childs experience and freedom.

Not being one to sit idly by and watch as someone made uninformed and inaccurate statements about something I believe in as deeply as homeschooling, I entered into a discussion with the gentleman, and after posting several comments, it occurred to me that perhaps the readers of this blog would be interested in what I had to say. (I should preface my remarks here with the clear statement that I am not a libertarian, but rather a solid conservative; nevertheless I find homeschooling to be strongly libertarian in nature.)

Here is my answer to the commenter's first post.

You said, "Home schooling is resorted to by parents intent on limiting the childs freedom - it is the liberty of the parent that is at the front here, not the child's."

I find this completely untrue. I, and most homeschooling parents I know, homeschool in large part because school is so terribly limiting to children. Kids in public school are limited in who they interact with (pretty much only other children, and mostly only those in the same grade); in what they do with their time (exactly what the teacher says); in what outside activities they do (only what they have time for after school and homework); in how they feel about themselves; in when they can travel with their families; and so much more (even in when they can go to the restroom or get a drink of water!). What's libertarian about that?

My kids, on the other hand, have far more choices than the average public school student. Because they learn one-on-one, they don't have to waste time waiting in lines, waiting to use the restroom, waiting for the other kids to finish an assignment. If they're interested in an activity, they don't have to stop doing it when a bell rings or a teacher tells them to. They can eat when they are hungry, rest when they are tired, go to the bathroom when they need to, take a break if they need one, and get a hug from Mom if they want one. They have far more free time than kids who go to school every day, so they read, paint, build, color, daydream, explore, play with friends, sew, do crafts, experiment, cook, and much more - and they do those things when they want to and because they choose to. They can take their time when we visit a museum or the zoo, moving at their own pace so they can really take it in and make it their own.

At the same time, they are getting a far better education than they would in school, and will be far more ready for college and for the world beyond when they get there. How can I be so sure? I was homeschooled myself for six years, including all of high school. When I went to college, I watched most of my fellow students struggle to make the adjustment to the workload, the expectations, and the independence, while I moved easily into the college world. My kids are following a similar path.

I agree - "a child should be given an education that maximises it's (sic) liberty" - and that's exactly why I homeschool.