Monday, June 22, 2009

Homeschooling Helps Schools Financially?

For years, one of the favorite criticisms of homeschooling has been that it "drains resources from the public schools." After all, the reasoning goes, schools get paid per-pupil, so homeschooling, by removing students from the schools, reduces the amount of money the schools make. (Of course, this argument ignores the fact that the reason schools get paid per student is that each student also COSTS the school money, but why point out the obvious, right?) :)

But an article in yesterday's Washington Times online highlights a new study that finds that homeschooling actually benefits the schools' bottom line.

What Mr. Wenders and Miss Clements found, however, was that home-schoolers save the state of Nevada between $24 million and $34 million per year, decreasing schools' expenses far more than the decrease in revenues, thus creating a net gain for the school districts.

The article also shares findings from a similar study by the North Carolina Department of Non-Public Education, and points out that homeschoolers also save taxpayers money by not becoming prisoners (!). It's a good article, and not very long, so click over and read the whole thing. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Field Guide to Homeschoolers?

Dana over at Principled Discovery (incidentally, one of my favorite bloggers) is hosting the latest Carnival of Homeschooling: A Field Guide to Homeschoolers. It's fun and there are TONS of great entries by dozens of different bloggers. Be sure to stop by and take a look!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How To Teach Kids Diversity

There's a really excellent article over at Simply Catholic, entitled "Racism and Homeschooling," that every homeschooler and public or private school educator needs to read. The author answers the criticism common to many anti-homeschoolers that only in a public school can kids really learn to appreciate diversity, and really be properly socialized, by pointing out how many better opportunities are available to homeschooling families. I've read a lot of posts and articles on socialization, but this one takes a unique angle in showing how homeschoolers can - and DO - teach our kids to appreciate and respect other cultures and races, far more effectively than what can happen in a classroom full of kids. The author concludes with a list of 10 ways you can teach your kids to appreciate other cultures, even if they don't live among them.

Here's just a very small sample of the great material in that post:

There is something about learning in school that just sucks the life out of anything exotic. Where are the smells of basil and curry? Where are the lilting tones of another language or music? Maybe you glimpse a foreign culture in a film-strip or an assembly? What unique cultural experience awaits the student within the walls of the classroom that can not be duplicated or improved in the home? Do not allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that just existing in a classroom with a child from Russia or Guatemala serves to immerse you in that culture. . . . When they are in class with you everyone is sitting in the same desks, looking at the same book, eating the same school lunch, taking the same standardized test and swinging on the same swing set at recess. Talking and interaction, learning about each other are NOT what school is about. The classroom couldn’t withstand that kind of interaction on a regular basis — I know I sat in one for 13 years.

Now let me make a radical suggestion: I am purposing that the homeschool setting is actually more likely to expose the average child in the average community to different cultures, peoples and experiences than the school setting. I would suggest this even if it was not the parent’s intent to expose their children to different cultures, but if the parents value their children learning about different cultures in the least they can quickly and easily surpass even a good public school in this area.

Schools have one huge disadvantage when it comes to immersing a child in the diversity of real life: they remove the child from real life. Children are segregated in schools by age, by ability and often by language. On top of this children then commonly segregate themselves by neighborhood affiliation, race, creed, or special interest. . . . Even in my rather homogeneous high-school the band geeks and chess club sat at one table, the jocks at another, the cheerleaders never mixed with the glee-club and the poor students and rich students sat on opposite sides of uncrossable divides. If you want to learn about segregation between races, creeds and class go to a public high-school.

Darcee has some great insights, many of which I've not seen before. It's a rather long post, but it's well worth reading - you'll be glad you did!

A "Profound Shift"?

There's been a lot of comment on homeschooling websites about the article in USA Today a few days ago entitled "Profound Shift in Kind of Families Who Are Homeschooling Their Children." My biggest criticism of the article has to do with their use of U.S. Department of Education study recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics, "The Condition of Education 2009." After having reviewed that study, it simply does not appear to support the claims in the first sentence of the USA Today article that "Parents who home-school children increasingly are white, wealthy and well-educated — and their numbers have nearly doubled in a decade."

Here are some of the problems in that statement and in the reporter's support for it:

1) The fact that "3.9% of white families homeschool, up from 2% in 1999," does not in fact mean that homeschoolers are increasingly white, but rather reflects the fact that the total number of homeschoolers has doubled since 1999. A review of additional material associated with the study makes it clear that while the percentage of blacks who homeschool has declined over the years of the study, from 1% of black families to .8%, the percentage of Hispanics has increased from 1.1% to 1.5%, and the percentage of families of other races has increased from 1.9% to 3.4%. All this is not to deny that far more whites homeschool than those of other racial/ethnic groups; it is simply to point out that when the number of homeschoolers overall is increasing, an increase in the number of white homeschoolers does not mean a corresponding decrease in those of other races. Looking at the table further makes it clear: In 1999, 75.3% of homeschooling families were white; in 2003, 77% of homeschooling families were white; in 2007 (the year the most recent survey was done), 76.8% of homeschooling families were white. But because this distribution for each of these has a standard error of over 3%, this difference is not statistically significant; in other words, the 1999 number COULD have been as high as 78.6%, and the 2007 COULD have been as low as 73.5%. But of course, this would not have supported the reporter's contention that "homeschoolers are increasingly white" - because the study simply does not support that conclusion.

2) The reporter's contention that "homeschoolers are increasingly . . . wealthy" is questionable because neither the article nor the study mention the effect of inflation on family income levels over the years between 1999 and 2007. The table is quite clear that in 1999, 30.1% of homeschoolers had incomes below $25,000; 32.7% had incomes between $25,001 and $50,000; 19.1% had incomes between $50,001 and $75,000; and 17.4% had incomes over $75,001. In 2007, the distribution of homeschooling families had changed: only 15.9% had incomes below $25,000; 24.1% had incomes between $25,001 and $50,000; 26.8% had incomes between $50,001 and $75,000; and 33.2% had incomes over $75,000. That clearly represents a huge increase in income - but it's important to remember that during that time, the median household income increased from $38,885 to $50,233.

In 1999, the federal poverty threshold for a family of 4 was $17,030; in 2007, it was $21,203. Thus, in 1999, many families who made under $25,000 who were not under the poverty level; by 2007, most families who made under $25,000 were. In 1999, many families who made less than $50,000 made more than the median income; by 2007, none did.

The median income for families increased from $47,469 in 1999 (under $50,000) to $62,359 (halfway into the third group). These changes in income levels are obviously going to have a very significant effect on homeschoolers as well as the non-homeschooling population. I do see one trend that seems significant: there has been an increase in the homeschooling among those who make over $75,000 per year. This increase is greater than can be accounted for simply by inflation; it seems likely that as it has become clear that homeschoolers can do very well, those who make more money are willing to give it a try.

The reporter, however, does not mention that increase as support for his contention. Instead, he uses this statistic: "In 1999, 63.6% of home-schooling families earned less than $50,000. Now 60.0% earn more than $50,000." In light of the above-mentioned increase in median family income, that change is exactly what would be expected if homeschooling families simply kept pace with the rest of the nation, and shows no increase at all in the "wealth" of families who are homeschooling.

3) As for the contention that "homeschoolers are increasingly . . . well educated," the data in the study does not seem to support that well. Among those with a graduate or professional degree, homeschooling has actually declined since 1999. In 1999, 47.4% of homeschoolers had at least a bachelor's degree; in 2007, 49.9% did. This difference is not statistically significant. In 1999, 81.1% of homeschooling families had at least some college; in 2007, 86.3% of homeschooling families did - so if you consider "some college" to be "well educated," I suppose you might agree with the reporter's statement.

Articles like these are frustrating, because the authors appear to be searching for data to support their own pre-drawn conclusions. On the other hand, Albert Mohler has a new article, drawn from the same study, that provides a much more solidly supported perspective. It's entitled, "A Major Force in Education," and I encourage you to check it out. :) He points out some interesting, and some concerning, trends indicated by the report. Here's his conclusion:

Education cannot be reduced to statistics, but the trends revealed in this new report from the Department of Education deserve close attention. In our day, education represents a clash of worldviews. Increasingly toxic approaches to education (or what is called education) drive many schools and many school systems. In that light, the fact that so many . . . parents are taking education into their own hands is a sign of hope. As this new report makes clear, we should expect homeschooling to be a growth industry in years ahead.

Monday, June 01, 2009

What Is Socialization All About?

It's been forever since I've updated this blog, but lately some great stuff has been coming out and I have to post about it!

One of the best articles I've ever seen on homeschooling and socialization (and after being in the homeschooling world for many years, I've seen quite a few!) was posted yesterday on Just Enough and Nothing More. It's entitled, "General Response to Homeschoolers: Do They Care Too Much?" I haven't read the link to the original article; it sounds a little too frustrating for me to read today. But the author of the response post did her homework when she decided to homeschool, and her observations about homeschooled teens and families are fascinating.

I've worked with groups of homeschooled kids for several years now. I'm currently working with two different groups of about 120 kids each, ranging in age from 5 to 18, helping administrate two different one-day-a-week enrichment programs. About 40 of our kids in each program are teens. Being a homeschooling mom myself, I'm always observing carefully the interactions of the teens, especially as my own daughters approach those years, and I find them to be exactly as the author of "Just Enough" describes them. Homeschooled teens are typical kids in many ways, but they are honest and accepting, and they care about each other. Generally speaking, they have decent relationships with their parents, they have good friendships, and they are kind to younger kids. They interact positively and comfortably with people of all different ages, including their own peers - something which is fairly uncommon among those teens who attend school. Not only that, but when they encounter people of different races or socioeconomic classes, they are far more accepting than most schooled kids I've seen.

Obviously, some kids are better at this than others; there are those who struggle socially in any context. What's amazing is to see how a group of homeschooled teens can take in those who do struggle, accept them, and provide a positive opportunity for growth. In the case of one young man I know, he came to our group as an seventh-grader out of public school. He had had great difficulty socially in school; he was failing all his classes; and when he first came to our group he would sit all day hunched over, with his hoodie over his head. His mother was desperate. Within a few months, he was more positive, but throughout that first year he would often leave class and come sit sullenly at the office table. At the first parent-teacher conference of the second year, his parents came to our table with a question: "We don't understand - what do these grades mean?" They were just typical letter grades - but the young man had all A's and B's, and his parents couldn't believe it! They went to his teachers to thank them, but the teachers knew and stated clearly - it wasn't them, it was the other kids, who had come around the young man, had supported and encouraged him, and had gently shaped his behavior to be more socially appropriate. During the second year, he never came to our office table any more, and the hoodie had been left behind while he interacted with his friends. And at the end of this past year, this young man got multiple awards, including one for "Most Improved in Drama," and the High Honor Roll - he had discovered that not only did he have friends, but he was quite gifted in acting, and he had earned straight A's all year! All this, primarily because his peers had accepted and believed in him, and had helped him become more than he could otherwise have been. How likely is it, honestly, that this young man would have achieved this kind of positive result if he'd been in a regular school setting?

Now that my older daughter is almost 13, I have to agree with the author's assessment of homeschooled teens. I am so pleased with how my daughter gets along with others. She contributes very positively to our family; she loves her younger sister and (while of course getting very annoyed by her at times) spends time reading to and interacting with her; she impresses the adults around her by her friendliness and maturity; she goes into nursing homes to perform for them or polish their nails, and is friendly and kind to them; and she has many good friends she loves to email or talk with by cell phone or go to movies with or learn to do archery from. She's consistent in her schoolwork and loves to practice her piano, flute, and cello; she studies hard, plays hard, generally sleeps well, and is pretty satisfied with her life for a junior higher. She is an all-around healthy young lady, and I'm not at all sure she would be at such a positive place in her life if she'd been in school all these years.

The post linked above describes how many of the homeschooled teens the author observed are much like those I've known, and it is excellent. It's not terribly long, and well worth reading the whole thing.