Friday, June 20, 2008

Another Court Takes Law Into Its Own Hands

In Canada, a judge's ruling recently undermined a father who was trying to correct his 12-year-old daughter's disobedience. In a frightening violation of parental authority, the court ruled the father had punished his daughter "excessively" by refusing her permission to go on a school camping trip after she had disobeyed him. Details are here on Albert Mohler's blog.

This ruling is downright dangerous - not only for parents but also for children. If parents do not have the authority to choose logical consequences in order to prevent their children from engaging in dangerous, illegal, or inappropriate behavior - if children can sue and the court will simply step in and overrule the consequences just because the court happens to deem them "excessive" - then the government is going to raise a generation of unruly, undisciplined young people who have no concept of what adult life is really like. You see, if employees choose not to show up for work, or if they choose to have an intense argument with their boss, the consequences may be what the employees would deem excessive - they may be fired, and lose their income, a good reference, and perhaps even their home and possessions. Those are pretty excessive consequences for one little argument, or for "just being a bit late sometimes" - but they are reality.

Missing a school camping trip seems to be a very appropriate consequence for a disobedient 12-year-old. It is sufficient to act as a deterrent to the behavior, without producing excessive long term pain. I know of no parent who would think that is an excessive punishment, especially in light of the fact that by the time a child reaches 12, she is coming to the end of the parent's ability to inflict meaningful consequences. It's critically important that before she leaves home, she comes to understand that the world does not operate according to her whims. Unfortunately, this young lady has just learned that it does - at least if she's willing to go to court to fight for those whims. I fear this is not the last we will hear about this young lady - and I fear the future will show she has not turned out better for this arbitrary court decision.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Why Do People Dislike Homeschoolers?

In today's Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Sonny Scott has a surprisingly frank, and fascinating, article entitled "Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort." I don't know much about Mr. Scott, but I found his article enjoyable, if a bit unrealistic about how well-behaved homeschoolers are. Normally I prefer to encourage you to click over and read the article on the original site; however, this is a short article and it's hard to give you just a taste of it. So here it is in its entirety.

You see them at the grocery, or in a discount store.

It's a big family by today’s standards - "just like stair steps," as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.

There's no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task.

You are looking at some of the estimated 2 million children being home schooled in the U.S., and the number is growing. Their reputation for academic achievement has caused colleges to begin aggressively recruiting them. Savings to the taxpayers in instructional costs are conservatively estimated at $4 billion, and some place the figure as high as $9 billion. When you consider that these families pay taxes to support public schools, but demand nothing from them, it seems quite a deal for the public.

Home schooling parents are usually better educated than the norm, and are more likely to attend worship services. Their motives are many and varied. Some fear contagion from the anti-clericalism, coarse speech, suggestive behavior and hedonistic values that characterize secular schools. Others are concerned for their children’s safety. Some want their children to be challenged beyond the minimal competencies of the public schools. Concern for a theistic world view largely permeates the movement.

Indications are that home schooling is working well for the kids, and the parents are pleased with their choice, but the practice is coming under increasing suspicion, and even official attack, as in California.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much?

Methinks American middle-class people are uncomfortable around the home schooled for the same reason the alcoholic is uneasy around the teetotaler.

Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

Just as the jealous Chaldeans schemed to bring the wrath of the king upon the Hebrew eunuchs, we are happy to sic the state’s bureaucrats on these “trouble makers.” Their implicit rejection of America’s most venerated idol, Materialism, (a.k.a. “Individualism”) spurs us to heat the furnace and feed the lions.

Young families must make the decision: Will junior go to day care and day school, or will mom stay home and raise him? The rationalizations begin. "A family just can't make it on one income." (Our parents did.) "It just costs so much to raise a child nowadays." (Yeah, if you buy brand-name clothing, pre-prepared food, join every club and activity, and spend half the cost of a house on the daughter’s wedding, it does.) And so, the decision is made. We give up the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers. We compensate by getting a boat to take them to the river, a van to carry them to Little League, a 2,800-square-foot house, an ATV, a zero-turn Cub Cadet, and a fund to finance a brand-name college education. And most significantly, we claim “our right” to pursue a career for our own "self-fulfillment."

Deep down, however, we know that our generation has eaten its seed corn. We lack the discipline and the vision to deny ourselves in the hope of something enduring and worthy for our posterity. We are tired from working extra jobs, and the looming depression threatens our 401k’s. Credit cards are nearly maxed, and it costs a $100 to fuel the Suburban. Now the kid is raising hell again, demanding the latest Play Station as his price for doing his school work … and there goes that modest young woman in the home-made dress with her four bright-eyed, well-behaved home-schooled children in tow. Wouldn’t you just love to wipe that serene look right off her smug face?

Is it any wonder we hate her so?

Sonny Scott a community columnist, lives on Sparta Road in Chickasaw County and his e-mail address is

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Finally - A Non-Homeschooling Mom Gets It!

I usually get frustrated reading articles about homeschooling written by people who don't homeschool. All too often those articles are full of stereotypes and false assumptions, and the authors really don't have a realistic view about homeschooling.

But today I came across a refreshing change in this post entitled "Reconsidering Homeschooling," on the blog called Losses and Gains. The author is a mom who has never homeschooled, in spite of being a former elementary school teacher with a Masters in Teaching, because she never felt she and her older son would be able to get along. But she has a little girl, a 3-year-old, and she's thinking about homeschooling her. And rather than listening to all the garbage, she's thought realistically about why many of us do choose to homeschool. Here's what she thinks:

I have realized that a lot of what drives families to homeschool is the desire to choose. To choose what you believe to be best for your child, to choose what works best for you, and to choose what works well for your family. I see the flexibility homeschooling families have in planning vacations and I envy that. I see the ease with which activities are planned because studies can be worked in and around each child's individual schedule. I see the way a child's unique interests and learning style can be explored and enhanced by a thoughtful, individualized curriculum. And I can't help but wonder too if homeschooling mother's like me who abhor messy, three dimensional projects just don't do them? Wouldn't that be great? No more book report mobiles hanging from a wire hanger. No more diaromas or trioramas. No more clay landscapes perforated with sticks and twigs. No more paper mache, glue guns and midnight runs to Office Max. Heaven.

Here is a lady who gets it. One of the strongest motivations for homeschooling, for many of us, is the freedom to choose what is best - for our children and for our families. That's why different homeschoolers function so very differently, and why homeschool conventions are filled with hundreds of different curriculum options - because we value choice! Some families like to work through basic textbooks and be done, leaving them lots of free time or even the possibility of accelerating education and getting through college young. Others really enjoy the messy craft projects (UGH! - And she's right; we don't do them - at least not very often!). :) My family happens to love reading aloud together; we do LOTS of that in our homeschool. We also value breadth and depth in education, so we don't accelerate - instead, we do lots of "extras," and study topics to whatever depth we choose together. If we want to spend weeks on ancient Egypt, fine; we don't have to rush through so we can get through a textbook with someone else's ideas about what's important for kids to do. We also value social interaction, so my kids go to a homeschool enrichment program all day one day a week, and to a co-op another afternoon every other week, not to mention swim team (3X/week) and weekly church, club, and youth group meetings.

One reason so many homeschooling parents fight government intervention is that we have mostly chosen to homeschool because it gives us choices. Requiring us to have school district approval would mean our choices would be limited to what someone else thinks is best for our kids, someone else who barely even KNOWS our kids!

Lori goes on to say that she is sending her kids to a new school next year.

The New School is a K-12 school so if the boys are there, there is no reason we wouldn't enroll her there as well. No reason other than it is kind of far away from our house and it would mean putting a little 5 year old on a school bus for almost 2 hours each day. Which is why I have begun toying with the idea that maybe I would keep her home for a few years. Maybe just one or two.

I don't blame her a bit. Two hours on a school bus every day would be difficult for me as an adult - I can only imagine how tough it would be for a five-year-old! The trip home, after a long day at school, would be exhausting. I had a similar reaction when I realized our school bus took an hour each way, every day, to get the kids to school and home again - and our school is only 15 minutes from our house! Our first graders were leaving the house at 7:45 and getting home at 4:30! When I saw that, I was very glad I homeschooled. (This next year, my older daughter would have to leave at 6:45 and get home at 3:30, while my younger would leave at 7:45 and get home at 4:30. Then they'd have swim team or club meetings after that, plus homework - how would they even have time for dinner, let alone any time to be a kid? No thanks - I'll stick with homeschooling!)

Anyway, I was very impressed with Lori's post. I hope she does decide to homeschool Pumpkin - she may be surprised to find it's more fun (and more work, too) than she ever thought it could be. :)