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Home Is Where the Learning Is

On Feb. 28, the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled that school-aged children in the state of California are required to be taught by credentialed teachers. What has ensued over the past month has been a furor in the home-schooling community, with articles and editorials in the L.A. Times, the San Diego Tribune and plenty of other media outlets. Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement on March 7 against the ruling, saying, "Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will."

About 1.1 million students are home-schooled, according to 2003 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Home-schoolers are more often white, are usually in families with three or more children and most often live in two-parent households with one parent working outside the home. Twenty-five percent of home-schooled students had parents who had earned a high school diploma or less. Home-schoolers clearly make their choices for a variety of reasons; sometimes it's about religion or politics and sometimes it's simply about the quality of the neighborhood schools.

Take Gregory J. Millman, who has written a book about his family's home-schooling experiences. Millman also wrote an article in Sunday's Outlook section entitled "Home Is Where the School Is." Millman and his wife chose to home school their children because they didn't want to subject their children to the ills of the school system where they lived and the family couldn't afford to move to a better district. He talks about teaching his children statistics by taking them to spring training baseball games in Florida. For chemistry, Millman said in a live discussion on Monday, he worked with another home-schooling family to host a chemistry class. When experimental needs outgrew their home, they used a lab at a college.

Millman's not alone in choosing this path as an answer to parents' views of their local public schools. Several years ago, Lester Spence, an assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, spoke to NPR about his family's choice to home school. The neighborhood school in Baltimore had no recess or gym for his six year old, who was crammed into a class of 30. Unhappy with the learning environment, Spence and his wife took control of their children's education and joined a community of black home-schooling families. He raves about their decision.

Do you home school or have you thought about it? What methods do you find effective at teaching your own children whether you home school or not? What is the straw that pushed you away from your other school options?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 26, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Teens , Tweens
Previous: How to Handle 'Challenging' Children | Next: Judging Books

Comments


I would do it. My mother is a 30-year teacher with a masters degree who continues to seek out training/education. She would be more than happy to take her years of experience and skill and apply it to her grandchildren.

Posted by: Tanya | March 26, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Tanya, then why hasn't she or why doesn't she now?

My mother said the same thing until the first day she, at 72, watched my son at age 4 for 8 hours. Then the offer was rescinded post haste.

The only people I know who homeschool have bizarre reasons for doing it, such as they don't want their kids exposed to foreign languages, kids of other races and religions, or "liberal" thinking, whatever that means. Because I'm a white man, these fathers don't see an issue with explaining explicitly who they're "protecting" their children from meeting. And they all live in Fairfax or Loudon or Howard or areas with better school districts than average.

No one is going to share that on this board, but every single person I talked to mentioned walking into Pre-K meetings "with parents who didn't speak English" or "parents I wouldn't let in my house" or "people who smelled" or "liberals who want to keep Jesus out of the classroom." Homeschooler parents, tell the truth and shame the devil, you know these people from your meetings because I know them from work.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

is it typical for a neighborhood elementary school to have a gym? I didn't attend a school with a gym until high school. we just played on the playground.

No recess? that is terrible! Kids need that! I can't imagination why anyone would enroll their kid in a school that didn't allow a recess period.

Posted by: mommy | March 26, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I have never seriously considered homeschooling, partly because I'm happy with our local school but also because I just don't have the skills for it. I don't have the patience and I don't have the capacity for structure. I would be depressed and resentful with the degree of isolation that it would produce. I know my limitations.

Posted by: Angela | March 26, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I am an attorney who administers a non profit law firm serving indigent people in a geographically large, northern,rural area of the US. The clients we serve often select to home school their children usually at the suggestion of their local pastors. Most of our program's clients have a high school diploma or less. There is little oversight of the home schoolers' efforts and accomplishments. Our staff refer to home schooling as the pathway to poverty because we often see the home schooled children of former clients pregnant, abused and unable to maintain employment due to, in part, a lack of an education.

Homeschooling, when engaged with a clear purpose, technical support and oversight can be successful. It just has not been the experience here.

Posted by: MG | March 26, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

To the person who has only met people with bigoted reasons for homeschooling:

I'm sorry you work with people like that. They really do seem icky, and I'm sure glad I've never met them! You asked for honesty. Well, I met my first homeschooler 20 years ago, and over the years, ran into quite a few. It never occurred to me I'd do it myself, but we did make that decision this year.

In all those years before homeschooling, and in the time since we started ourselves, I've never met a single homeschooler who homeschooled for any of those reasons you've cited. Not one.

I'm sure they're out there, but I guess it depends on the circles you move in. The vast majority of homeschoolers I've met are actually liberal, secular, and homeschool for reasons relating to academics and values. (Values it sounds as if you'd support.) Those I've met who are Christian conservatives are not prejudiced, nor do they homeschool exclusively for religious reasons. In my experience, homeschoolers make a great effort to expose kids to other races, religions, etc.

Actually, statistics indicate that 9 percent of homeschoolers are African American, 5 percent are hispanic. I haven't seen figures on Asians, but do know Asian homeschoolers as well.

I'm sorry you work in a place where you have to meet such obnoxious people. But lots of people who think like that are in the school system, too.

Incidentally, I homeschool in a "good" district after years of using a public school and hearing all about the daily racial and sexual slurs, obscenity, etc in the halls and lunchroom. The primary reason I homeschool is academic, but the please don't imagine that "good" districts are lacking in bigotted parents or kids who are creating a lousy atmosphere for others because of what they bring from home.

Posted by: homeschooler telling the truth | March 26, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

This is a difficult issue for my wife and me with our six-year-old twin girls. They attend a very good private school with everything young entitled girls need in order to take their place in society. But of course there are areas where my wife and I feel we should supplement their education.

On weekends and once a month the girls have tutors come in to augment school and in fact add to what we believe they need to achieve in junior high, high school, college, and marriage. Right now we try and keep the learning to those areas that they can relate to and retain. Later we will teach them about the value of knowing and understanding a portfolio so they can select wisely when marrying. But for now we focus on learning about diamonds, cut, color, clarity, and carat. 18kt. Vs 22 kt. Vera Wang and Prada. Flatware in silver not plate. We demonstrate quality by showing the difference between Sears and BCGB. Gap and Blue Clut. Also we have recently started to talk about the kind of people we as a family can relate to and share values with. They love it. We have them write stories about people they would like to have as friends and we have them grade each others selection for wealth, fashion, politics, values, accessories, etc. So much fun to see them argue about the smallest details. Giggle.

But we are also practical. Right now they are learning how to be more effective firends with their iPhone. Little fingers do well on those key-pads. And I must say their spelling has improved. And we are practicing how to order food in French. For a hoot we go to MacDonalds and order. What fun.

So that is our approach home schooling and private schooling.

Posted by: NYC | March 26, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Angela -- I have never seriously considered it, because it's not right for us. My daughter is a naturally organized person who craves structure and knowing what will happen next. I am the opposite; I've learned to adapt, but operating according to a rigid structure soon makes me start chafing around the edges. Plus she is a HUGE extrovert, with extremely high energy; I am an introvert, and constantly being "on" just wears me down over the course of a day. So the kinds of things I would need to do to provide her with the best learning environment possible would make me miserable. And then there's the whole emotional aspect of it -- in some ways, we're too close for me to be an effective teacher.

My mom, on the other hand, would be great at it -- she's a college professor, has the same basic personality as my daughter, and instinctively knows how to manage her very well; plus, of course, that once-removed grandparent relationship makes it much easier for my daughter to take constructive criticism from her. Unfortunately, she already has two jobs (teaching plus running her own business on the side) -- she has no time left to squeeze in a third, she enjoys what she does too much to quit, and I couldn't afford to pay her what she's worth anyway! :-)

Posted by: Laura | March 26, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

NYC - I give you an A+ for that! *claps*
I like the idea of teaching statistics through baseball - I may have actually enjoyed that class if that's they way I learned it. :-)

Posted by: ME | March 26, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

How Does a Homeschooler Change a Light Bulb?

First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life.

Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles.

Then, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs, as well as prices, and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over money.

Finally, after building a ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed.

Posted by: Tribeca | March 26, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure there are home-schooler parents out there who are qualified educators, but the ones I've met are better qualified as holy rollers than math teachers.

Interesting on-topic article in today's New YOrk Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/us/26muslim.html?ref=us

Posted by: BxNY | March 26, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Let's be completely honest here, people!

Parents who homeschool their kids are a little nuts. They're either religious zealots, New Age hippies, or self-righteous egomaniacs. They're are arrogant, unimaginative, intellectually shallow and academically substandard. Homeschooling parents tend to not teach an overall purvey of any given subject. They teach THEIR view on the subject.

Besides, there's a big racial subtext to homeschooling, isn't there? Most homeschoolers are whites who don't want their kids in a school system with minorities. In fact, in blind studies, that is the third most important reason why parents choose to homeschool.

And what about the kids?

You ever met a homeschooled kid? Sure, they're great at spelling bees but is it any wonder most of them are virgins until they're in their 20's? Socialization is important, people. I've met a ton of homeschooled kids and despite what their parents say, these kids are FREAKS!

Posted by: Tribeca | March 26, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Do those who are concerned about "holy rollers" really think those kids would be exposed to broader views in private evangelical Christian schools, which is where a lot of them would be if they weren't homeschooling?

Or that public school teachers create such a stimulating, broad-thinking, and magically inclusive atmosphere that the little Holy Roller Juniors would evolve into someone hugely different if they were forced to stay in public school?

I'm sorry that some people have such black-and-white views of homeschooling and public schools: Homeschool Evil, Public School Wonderful. Is that an example of the nuanced, complex thinking that a public school education gave you?

Posted by: homeschooler | March 26, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It has never occurred to me to homeschool. It appears to be a particularly US phenomenum, and thus outside my realm of experience. However, I do believe that there is much to be learned at home, which is probably not taught at school. My daughter is 2, but we do fun things like planting seeds (she's absolutely fascinated by watching our tomato plants emerge and grow at the moment), and she loves going to our local aquarium and pointing out the fish that she recognizes etc. These are fun lessons about life, which may lead her to want to learn more about these topics. In my opinion, you need a balance between the structure of school and the more free-wheeling, fun, life lessons of home.

Posted by: DopeyMummy | March 26, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I don't have an issue with homeschooling, for whatever reason the parent thinks they need to do it, but I am concerned that home schoolers meet educational standards.

This bunk about "only a certified teacher" can teach is crazy. If the children learn what they need to know then I don't care if a "certified" (union card holding?) teacher did it or not.

I never wanted to be a teacher and would never have considered it.

Posted by: RoseG | March 26, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Tribeca, your ignorance is astounding.

Posted by: DandyLion | March 26, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I find it very disturbing that 25% of homeschool parents have a high school diploma or less. I participated in the WaPo chat with Mr. Millman the other day, and when the topic of parental qualification to teach a range of complex subjects such as calculus, advanced physics, chemistry, foreign languages, etc. came up, he seemed to brush it off by saying that homeschooled kids self-direct their own learning. While this may be true to some extent and in some cases, I highly doubt it's the norm. I know my college-educated parents often had difficulty even helping me with homework in high school, let alone being responsible for ensuring my knowledge of math, science, history, literature, foreign language, etc. It sounds like some homeschool parents are really great and expose their kids to new kinds of learning and experiences they wouldn't otherwise have. The homeschooled kids I've known, however, were pretty ignorant, socially backward, and not self-disciplined. Their parents chose to homeschool them for religious reasons.

Posted by: KMR | March 26, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I had never heard of homeschooling until I got to college and met a girl who had been homeschooled -- she had tested out of her district's highest science and math classes in 8th grade, so was attending the local college for science and math, and then subsequently was bullied in high school for being too "smart" - so her mom pulled her out and homeschooled her. She was a little "weird", but not really any more so than the rest of us. It's only in more recent years that I've met homeschoolers who have some sort of "agenda" they want to push - either the district inadequately supports the child, or the schools expose children to things with which the parents are uncomfortable.

I get why the government wants to mandate some sort of baseline criteria for homeschooling - I remember meeting one particularly stupid homeschooling parent who was passing along her inability to do simple arithmetic to her child (if you can't multiply 6 x 4, you oughtn't be trying to teach a 8-year-old how to multiply 6 x 4). Kids don't know when they are being privileged or shortchanged. But instead of mandating teacher requirements, why not focus on testing the kids -- like, "here is what someone your age needs to be able to do; prove to the state that you are meeting standards." It seems far less perilous and alienating.

I'd feel okay homeschooling my kid until about 8th grade or so, but once advanced subjects come along, I'd prefer her to be taught by someone more expert than I (I'm okay with higher-level math & science; it's those English classes that drove me nuts).

Posted by: anny | March 26, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I personally have a favorable view on homeschooling, for the most part. A homeschooler in major Metro areas looks different thana homeschooler in the south or midwest. I'm a mom in DC - I'm considering homeschooling after elementary school, so I've done quite a bit of research into offerings in the DC area. It seems that in DC and NYC and Philly, the parents are, in effect, actually operating as a coop school. These are highly educated parents who are not happy with their school choices. Most teach in groups a few days per week (1 parent teaches science, 1 math, etc) and there are a ton of classes for homeschoolers, including art classes, music, the national zoo has special homeschooling classes, etc.

These kids are also usually homeschooled for a few years - not forever. I met a mom would did the middle school years at home and then the kids went on to a great private school. Some home school high school aged kids so that advanced kids can take college courses, focus on their interests...Some do a few years when they're young if they feel the child should be home for a little longer than be thrown into at 5 yrs old. I have never met a person homeschooled from k-12.

I personally would love to homeschool because I love the connection with my child when we learn together. I'd love for her to experience the world with me on travel, reading books, etc...My child is gifted and I think we could learn so much more through a few years of homeschooling (especially the middle school years) than for her to get lost in the hormonal shuffle that is jr. high!

I do find it disheartening that most homeschool parents barely have a high school degree, though.

Posted by: DCMOM | March 26, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I knew 2 persons in college who had been "homeschooled", both had parents who had more than a college education. The parents of one chose to homeschool to escape racial tensions (they were an interracial couple) and they were also totally hippies. The other dropped out of highschool at 12 because he was bored, took university classes for 4 years, then started in an Ivy league college at 16.
All the other homeschoolers I have met have been far right "christians" who cited religious reasons for homeschooling.

Since high school students are learning things in biology class that I learned during my PhD, I do not think that I could provide an adequate schooling for my child without taking many classes myself. So I really don't see how someone who barely finished high school education could do so.

Posted by: Toni | March 26, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I wuz skooled at homes. Looks how smart I is! Mye mom taut me everything I know. She didnt go to no realz school either. We r fine. Dont worry.

Posted by: Bobo | March 26, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I would lose my friggin' mind if I homeschooled my kids. The schools where I live are wonderful, so it's not a consideration.

I think it's probably okay for some (but certainly not for all who actually are homeschooled). There are plenty of success stories out there, kids who got into Harvard at age 17, kids who won the National Spelling Bee, etc. But for every success story, I'll bet there are two or three kids not getting a well-rounded education.

The homeschooled children I personally know fairly well (total of maybe a dozen) are a mixed lot. In my experience, if the family is doing it for religious reasons, the kids tend to be extremely sheltered about what the real world is like. My SD is the same age as two of the kids we've known for a long time and has always said that they are "weird". (I actually agree. They don't seem to have a lot of fun, never really did even when they were little.) And every child I've ever met who's been homeschooled seems kind of old before their time, not necessarily a bad thing but a little different.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 26, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

There's actually some research that indicates that homeschooled children whose parents had only a high-school education out-perform the same population (children of parents with only high-school degrees) who went to public school.

It seems counter-intuitive. But if you think of it, this is a challenged population, generally going to low-performing schools; so the impact of a parent teaching one-on-one, and giving time for the kid to master the subject, may actually trump the impact of a less-than-stellar teacher standing in front of a bored classroom of 35 hormonal kids.

Personally, I expect to take advantage of coops, seminar-style group classes with hired teachers, or community college options if I'm still homeschooling for, say, high-school chemistry or calculus! And frankly, I can't imagine how parents without high-school degrees can teach well. (In many states, you can't register as a homeschooler without at least a high-school degree.)

But there is some reason to think that homeschoolers whose parents with only high-school degrees are at least matching, and probably outperforming, similar kids in public schools.

Posted by: homeschooler telling the truth | March 26, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I know people who have done it right, and done it wrong. I think I could through about 8th grade, but I don't need to or want to at this point, my daughter is thriving in KG.

One woman I know homeschooled because her daughter was very lopsided academically and she felt that her daughter wasn't getting the proper attention/help at either end. In 5th grade or so the girl was rocking college-level reading and writing, but struggling with 2nd-3rd grade math. I'd probably look at private schools first, but I can respect her decision.

Another couple I know homeschooled for two years that they were traveling. The focused one year on US history and culture (as well as the reading, writing, math, science) and another year on European history and culture. You guess where they were traveling for Dad's business. It was a neat opportunity, and the hassle of pulling the kids out for a week or two at a time would have been insane.

Posted by: inBoston | March 26, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I never seriously considered homeschooling although I occasionally daydreamed about it.(I know for sure that, while it might work with one, it would be a disaster for the other...). One thing about the homeschool model does trouble me (and someone else mentioned this) - for many parents, it seems as though the major motivation is to exercise greater control over the child's intellectual and social environment and to some extent isolate them from the larger society (for a variety of reasons, some admirable, some less so). Children need to learn that there are multiple sources of authority in the world, some conflicting, some worth challenging - including your parents. And navigating the social dynamics of human tribes (read school cliques, etc) is also a necessary life skill. People who, out of love, hold their children tightly and protect them from the failings of the world are not necessarily doing them a favor.

Posted by: lurker | March 26, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Lurker, exactly. You said what I was thinking but couldn't articulate, and you said it perfectly.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 26, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Following up on my earlier comments, I also share some of the concerns posted here that I'm not qualified to homeschool. Yes, I know my daughter, I have various degrees, but I don't know 7 different ways to teach long division. I am more comfortable with trained educators who have at least studied child development and teaching methods.

Of course, they're not perfect either -- sometimes they know how to say something in a way that makes it through, sometimes I do, sometimes my husband does. But I like having all of us together on a team, instead of me trying to figure it all out myself.

It does seem that homeschooling has changed quite a bit. When I went to college 20+ yrs ago, the only homeschoolers I knew were there for religious reasons. I think back then that many states were much more hostile to homeschooling, so you pretty much had to justify the decision by demonstrating that public schools went against your religious principles. It's interesting to see the dramatic growth -- but I do wish there were some standards imposed on the process, to make sure the kids really are getting an education.

Posted by: Laura | March 26, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

You ever met a homeschooled kid? Sure, they're great at spelling bees but is it any wonder most of them are virgins until they're in their 20's? Socialization is important, people. I've met a ton of homeschooled kids and despite what their parents say, these kids are FREAKS!

Posted by: Tribeca | March 26, 2008 10:18 AM

Tribeca, you are so insensitive... What does virginity have to do with schooling. I am proud of the fact that I was a virgin until the day I married my husband at the age of 33!! I am the product of public schools and am a public school teacher. If people want to homeschool their children, I have no problem with that as long as their children have structure and standards they have to meet just as my students need to with their classes.

Posted by: amwhite | March 26, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

You ever met a homeschooled kid? Sure, they're great at spelling bees but is it any wonder most of them are virgins until they're in their 20's? Socialization is important, people. I've met a ton of homeschooled kids and despite what their parents say, these kids are FREAKS!

Posted by: Tribeca | March 26, 2008 10:18 AM

Tribeca, you are so insensitive... What does virginity have to do with schooling. I am proud of the fact that I was a virgin until the day I married my husband at the age of 33!! I am the product of public schools and am a public school teacher. If people want to homeschool their children, I have no problem with that as long as their children have structure and standards they have to meet just as my students need to with their classes.

Posted by: amwhite | March 26, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Teaching long division is one thing. Teaching critical thinking and analysis and moving from pedagogy to andogogy is another. I do not believe many parents can discern the difference between teaching and learning.

Posted by: NYC | March 26, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

huked on phonicks wurked for me!!:)

Posted by: pre-kteacher | March 26, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, my high school was definitely not the best, but me and my siblings still have done well in the world. The difference? We had parents who were INVOVLED. My parents (dad-attorney, mom-CPA) were very busy people but not to busy to attend PTA meeetings (dad was president for a number of years), meet our teachers, go over our homework, etc. During dinner we would have actual discussions about the world, literature, etc., instead of being zombies in front of the TV. On long car trips, we had contests on who could name the most state capitals, and other things along that line. My parents did not allow the TV or a DVD player in the van to become our babysitters.

Posted by: ME | March 26, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Good point, NYC. But I'm not sure the schools do that very well, either. When a something like 40% of the population (including a presidential candidate) doesn't "believe" in evolution, it's pretty clear that we're not doing a very good job teaching kids what the word "theory" means to scientists, or what the scientific method is all about.

I will say that even though I was in honors classes in high school, the really valuable part of my education -- how to read a book, how to think through and test ideas, how to put together an argument -- was at home. School gave me the what/when/where; home gave me the why and how.

Of course, growing up with two professors, I was extremely privileged in that regard. I do worry about kids who don't get that kind of teaching either at home or at school. It's one of those sneaky skills -- if you never learned it, you probably don't even realize that it's missing.

Posted by: Laura | March 26, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

ME and Laura have good points -- parents need to pick up the slack when it comes to education.

Posted by: thekid | March 26, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Okay, a couple of minor things:
RoseG, a "certified" teacher these days in most places has a whole lot more than a union card: they have a Master's in Education and probably state licensure (which means they have met certain standards, attend continuing ed courses, etc.). Certified teachers in private schools probably aren't even unionized.

Homeschooler@10:35, actually no, I don't think children who are homeschooled by religious parents would be any more open-minded if they were educated in religious schools. However, the religious schools do have to meet some minimum content standards with respect to their curricula; homeschoolers do not necessarily have to do so, and for many kids there are also socialization issues to consider. My point was, the homeschooler parents I've known know far more about their conservative faith than they do about math or English grammar. Nor do I think the only religiously biased homeschoolers are Christians - the NYT link I posted is about Muslim homeschoolers, and I'm sure there are other religious represented in the movement as well. (I'd like to think "holy roller" is a more inclusive term than "Jesus freak.")

Nor is all homeschooling evil. I just have grave doubts that, speaking generally, it provides a solid foundation for higher education or post-secondary employment, in terms of factual knowledge or emotional intelligence.

Posted by: BxNY | March 26, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

me

"Well, my high school was definitely not the best but me and my siblings "

I believe you.

"The difference? We had parents who were INVOVLED. "

Again, I believe you.

"My parents (dad-attorney, mom-CPA) were very busy people but not to busy to attend PTA meeetings (dad was president for a number of years), meet our teachers, go over our homework, etc. During dinner we would have actual discussions about the world, literature, etc., instead of being zombies in front of the TV. On long car trips, we had contests on who could name the most state capitals, and other things along that line. My parents did not allow the TV or a DVD player in the van to become our babysitters."

Looks like your parents forgot about grammar and spelling...


Posted by: Jake | March 26, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I taught at a private Christian school for a while where we took in a lot of formerly homeschooled kids. They varied greatly in terms of their backgrounds and what they did and did not know. The motivations of the homeschooling moms and dads also varied greatly.

In a number of cases the parents, motivated by religious reasons, had adopted kids whom the system had given up on -- kids whose parents were drug addicts, homeless and so forth, kids with fetal alcohol syndrome, kids who had been adopted as older children and who were already several years behind the curve educationally. A lot of these kids had serious learning disabilities and in my opinion the parents did a fantastic job -- much better than the local public school might have done with the same kids.
When you're trying to teach basics -- adding and subtracting, reading and writing -- indoctrination of any form tends to take a basic seat to the flashcards and worksheets needed to achieve this goal.

I know a number of military families who homeschool. When our kids attended the lauded Fairfax County schools, all of them came home in tears more than once as the result of a particularly nasty second grade teacher who found it necessary to explain to my children why she was against the "horrid war which is killing so many people." She never DIRECTLY called my husband a murderer, but she sure crossed the line. That, combined with lots of moving, makes homeschooling appealing to military families. I could see how that might be particularly true if you were stationed on the Left Coast.

I'm uncomfortable as a feminist with the rap music which was regularly played in the cafeteria in the Fairfax County Schools, complete with lyrics about pimps and ho's and descriptions of violence against women. When I complained to the administration, they accused me of being "one of those uptight Christian fundamentalists" -- although the real issue for me was how it made my daughters feel degraded and harassed.

I was also uncomfortable with the long lines of kids receiving their ADD medication at the nurse's office every day. I would homeschool my kids before I would drug them so that they would be docile enough for the public school teachers in the extra-large classes to cope with.

There are no easy answers to this question -- nor are facile answers helpful. I don't think regulation and the occasional administering of a standardized test is a bad thing -- but when I look at the typo's and mistakes made by many of the "credentialed" public school teachers, I can't help but think that the average mom could do a better job.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Jake - I know, I cringed after I read my post. Typing too fast without thinking...I am smarter than I sound! :-)

Posted by: ME | March 26, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"but when I look at the typo's and mistakes made by many of the "credentialed" public school teachers, I can't help but think that the average mom could do a better job."

Such as the typo in your post....

What about the "average father"?

Posted by: Jake | March 26, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I think Jake got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning --someone pissed in your wheaties this morning? You must have been an absolute JOY to your parents and fellow classmates. Maybe it was getting beat up at recess on a regular basis that turned you bitter?

Posted by: thekid | March 26, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow.

Rarely have so many comments revealed such a depth of ignorance and intolerance.

Posted by: Sherry | March 26, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Sherry... to your point

In our era of market economy, where the means (money, technology) tends to become the ends and the epicenter of human existence, the ever expanding fragmentation of knowledge since the division of study into the disciplines of the trivium and quadrivium and the teaching-learning dichotomy in the dominant western culture have inevitably brought about what Schön describes "the Balkanization of the schools--the division into pieces that don't talk to one another" ( Schön, 1987 ).

Posted by: NYC | March 26, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

When I'm having trouble getting my 12 yo out of bed on school mornings, I sometimes threaten to home-school her. She gets that deer-in-the-headlights look and gets out of bed pronto. I wonder what the home-schooled kids think. Do they enjoy not attending a "real" school? I know I wouldn't.

Posted by: MagMom | March 26, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Anon at 12:58 said "I'm uncomfortable as a feminist with the rap music which was regularly played in the cafeteria in the Fairfax County Schools, complete with lyrics about pimps and ho's and descriptions of violence against women. When I complained to the administration, they accused me of being "one of those uptight Christian fundamentalists" -- although the real issue for me was how it made my daughters feel degraded and harassed."

I'm sorry, but I simply cannot believe that someone in the Fairfax County school administration called you an "upright Christian fundamentalist". This kind of name calling would not be tolerated -- did you report it? Is it possible you are reporting that you HEARD someone said this about you, not to your face?

With regard to the music you say is playing: I have nieces and nephews in Fairfax county middle and high schools. My in-laws are fairly strict people and two of them are teachers. There is no way that my sister-in-law in particular would tolerate that.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 26, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Swap out "upright" for "uptight" in that last post . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 26, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

MagMom, my 12 yo insists he never wants to go back to public school. From his perspective, I'm sure it's because he has so much more time now for socializing! He plays with homeschool friends during the day if his work is done, plays with his public school friends after they're home (without having to worry about arbitrary deadlines for homework that's often busy work), and so on.

But he also says he's learning "real history" and "real science" -- as opposed to the 2 brief periods a week he used to get, in which little was really taught and he was often bored.

Of course, if he grouses about his work (which happens), I have to confess we sometimes resort to saying something like, "Homeschool is about learning, so if you don't like learning this way, that's OK ... you can try public school again." I know what you mean by the "deer in the headlights" look! Boy, does THAT get him motivated!!!

All kids are different. If public school (or a private school) seemed to be the right choice for us, we'd be perfectly happy with it. We're very fortunate in this country to have so many options as parents.

Posted by: new homeschooler | March 26, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The beginning of the New York Times article just broke my heart:

"Like dozens of other Pakistani-American girls here, Hajra Bibi stopped attending the local public school when she reached puberty, and began studying at home.
Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes."

Ugh, ugh, ugh. Wouldn't want to send a girl to school if it might interfere with her cooking and cleaning.

Posted by: acorn | March 26, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I completely support the choice and right to home school.

There's plenty of bad home schoolers and bad reasons to be home schooled which make for great debates and discussions.

But when discussing the right and choice- I think it should be a no-brainer.

Posted by: Liz D | March 26, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Why learn to cook and clean. We have labels on meat to tell adult children of the previous generation how to heat meat so they don't die.

Yup send girls to law school so they can get married, not work, get married to an investment bander, breed, push $1,000 strollers around, talk on the phone, buy lattes, and order take out from David Bouley.

Yup great job we are doing as a country. Value added parenting.

Posted by: NYC | March 26, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Living where I do, I sometimes wish I could homeschool... but I definitely do not have the personality for it.

My daughter (9th grade) is smart but lazy. Although she's in a magnet program, I'm not really sure she's being fully challenged. The quality of teaching is very uneven - some are brilliant, some can barely speak English (esp math/science teachers - PG gets them wherever they can find them). On the other hand, she is extremely social - I don't think she could stand not seeing her friends every day.

My son has ADHD, and although smart, frequently struggleis in school. He would LOVE to learn math through baseball stats :) We've been relatively pleased with our local elementary school, but the prospect of middle school next year is more than a bit scary. Multiple teachers, large classes... we've decided to give it a chance, but if we're not happy, we'll look for other alternatives. It's just that homeschooling won't be one of them.

Posted by: Prince George's Co | March 26, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

PGCo - doesn't EVERYONE's son have ADHD???
*sigh*

Posted by: thekid | March 26, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Before we had kids, we thought we'd home-school. We live in Oakland, and even before the state took over our school district, it was obvious that too many kids weren't getting a decent education.

But after older son was born, and before his problem was diagnosed as autism, we'd figured out that he needed more help than we could give him. We wanted to do what was best for him, so we had no choice but to put his education in the hands of professionals with the training and experience that we lacked.

For the most part, those professionals, teachers, have been outstanding. Dedicated to all their students' success, and specifically fostering our son's progress and successes. There were occassional exceptions, of course - general education teachers who didn't "believe" in IEPs, and consequently wouldn't follow them. That's what state and federal education laws are for.

Younger son might have done somewhat better if we'd home schooled him, but he might not have either.

He's one of those kids who's going to thrive almost anywhere. By the time he was five, *he* wanted to attend public school with other kids just like his big brother. And we still needed to keep involved and on top of the older son's education, which is a huge drain on our time and energy, and if the lawyers needed to be involved, on our bank account too.

Attempting to home school our younger son would most likely have short-changed both our sons. So, the best balance for our family was to have both of them attend public schools.

We're close friends with a few families who are home schooling, and I think the kids are learning and happy. A part of me is a bit envious that the home schooling option couldn't work for our family. I hate to see it taken away from those friends.

But there's also the selfish part of me that wonders if the families with the time, energy, money and knowledge to home school their own children, might be the same missing "time, energy, money and knowledge" that would solve (or at least reduce) the worst problems in our public school system.

Posted by: Sue | March 26, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

My SIL homeschools my niece and nephew. The state provides the kids with a computer, and lessons are done online and with workbooks. I don't know how much actual teaching goes on. There are also 3 kids 2 and under living in the house, and that takes up a lot of mom's time. There aren't extracurricular activities, like sports or field trips with other kids as far as I know. The kids test well, but I really can't imagine how this type of learning is preparing them for any further education. The public schools where they live are a negative environment (gangs, etc.), but it seems to me there has got to be a better alternative.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I was also uncomfortable with the long lines of kids receiving their ADD medication at the nurse's office every day.
--------

BULL

I know in my son's school that the school nurses are not allowed to dispense prescription medication except for asthma inhalers and a few chronic issues. The nurse won't give the kid an aspirin and won't give them allergy meds and if the kid has a temporary illness then they need to stay home.

Your story doesn't match reality, which is part of the homeschool issue, right? that people imagine the public school situation to be different than it really is.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

The majority of the people who commented on this blog have no practical experience home schooling or have pre-concieved notions about who home schools and why.
It's so funny to hear people talk about home schooling as though THAT'S the problem with education. You really have no clue. So please, continue to post to blogs and send your children wherever it is you send them. I'm sure they'll be just fine.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

It's so funny to hear people talk about home schooling as though THAT'S the problem with education.
-----

No one said that, quit imagining things.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 27, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

fr Tribeca:

>....Homeschooling parents tend to not teach an overall purvey of any given subject. They teach THEIR view on the subject. ..

SO true! I've got a cousin who "homeschooled" her 5 kids for a couple years and it was a disaster. I wonder how much tutoring is going to cost now.....

BTW, I loved the "How many homeschoolers does it take to change a light bulb" routine! TOO funny!

Posted by: Alex | March 28, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Tribeca wrote: "Besides, there's a big racial subtext to homeschooling, isn't there? Most homeschoolers are whites who don't want their kids in a school system with minorities. In fact, in blind studies, that is the third most important reason why parents choose to homeschool."

Can you please provide a source for this assertion? I've never heard anything even remotely along these lines before.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics' 2003 survey of the parental motivations for homeschooling the top 3 reasons were:

1. Negative learning environment in other schools (31%)
2. To provide moral or religious instruction (29%)
3. Dissatisfaction with the academics at other schools (17%)

I've never heard a homeschooling family give racist justification for their choice. In fact, I know several African-American or interracial families who chose to homeschool because they felt traditional schools had too low expectations for children of color.

Posted by: Crimson Wife | April 6, 2008 12:04 AM | Report abuse

My son is a sophomore in public school. We live in Howard County and I do believe he is getting a good education, because his teachers tell me he participates wonderfully in class, and he does well on tests. He usually gets 'A's on midterms and finals, and he seems to be learning alot. The problem is, his grades aren't that great, he constantly feels overwhelmed, and it seems like he is just used to being miserable. He has tons of HW and can't seem to get himself organized and focused to get it all done. He does great work but has trouble getting things turned in on time, and none of his teachers accept late work. One '0' grade can bring an 'A' down to a 'D'. He also sometimes doesn't follow the "grading rubric" (list of required elements and their weights) precisely for projects, so even though he worked very hard on it and turned in a wonderful product he will get a low grade. (What, the outline was 70% of the grade?? But the paper he turned in was phenomenal...well, no outline so its an E.) He's pretty much always on home restriction because of his grades and not turning in HW, so he rarely "hangs out" with his friends. Plus, he has Band, Jazz Band, Sports, and Scouts, all of which actually make him feel happy and successful, so I hesitate to take any of those away from him. Report cards come out next week, and I expect to see a 'D' or two and an 'E'. Colleges wont care that has learned alot. Mom and Son are both overwhelmed and frustrated. There is no way I could homeschool him, because I am more scattered and disorganized than he is. From what I see, high school is way harder than the 'real world'. Even college is easier, because all you do is take 3 classes a day (being sure not to schedule one before 10 am). And you are not loading up on extra-curricular activties that you need to pad your college application. College is a breeze compared to what I see my burnt out son going through. Those home-schooled kids have it so easy. Does Mom give you a '0' if the paper is not time-stamped by midnight of the due-date?

Posted by: Mother of Frazzled Public-schooled son | April 9, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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