When I heard that Ben Domenech was helping to create a conservative blog called Red America at - of all places - the Washington Post, I mentioned to my friends that I hoped the WaPo was ready for the vitriolic hate mail (and possible DDOS attacks) that seems to follow statements by any conservative blogger (Ben most likely had familiarity with this from his time at RedState).
Unlike the group of Ben's critics who have already amassed, I didn't obsess over his background, so I didn't realize that he was homeschooled. And boy, does that ever seem to piss people off. Michelle Malkin has compiled quite a list from the comments at liberal blogs. After reading this sort of tripe, I definitely sympathize with those homeschooling parents who report negative experiences with public bias.
If Ben replies to any of these critics who claim that he's stupid and narrow-minded and warped mainly due to his homeschooling experience, it should be along the lines of, "Well, maybe being stuck in the house with your parents for 18 years would have been a traumatic, dumbing-down experience, but my parents were pretty damn wonderful."
(RedState also has an amusing summary of all the hating and shrieking going on.)
West Virginia is apparently going completely down the tubes, due to...homeschooling parents?
In December, a Home School Legal Defense Association member family in Fayette County, West Virginia, received a letter from the county's attendance director. The two-page letter demanded that families complete and return a form declaring whether they intended to use the WESTEST or another standardized achievement test for their end-of-the-year assessment.
Furthermore, the letter demanded that a certified teacher complete and send the school district an invasive, four-page form for families choosing the portfolio evaluation option.
HSLDA called the county's attendance director. She repeatedly stated that she thought that homeschoolers needed to have more supervision by the school district. At one point, she said, "You've heard of third world countries? Well, that is what is happening to West Virginia because of homeschooling."
Well, that's a pretty nasty comment.
The big Cobranchi has the Carnival of Homeschooling at his place this week. He was recently interviewed by the Free Market New Network. And I agree with him 100% about the existence of the South Carolina state motto; from what I understand, folks from North Carolina use it as well.
As for the links, I like this instructional essay on fun ways to teach mathematical constructs to three- to six-year-old kids. I suppose Richard Cohen would insist on telling the little kids to pick up their paintbrushes instead - those equations are just too darn useless!
The Cato Institute wonders what all the fuss is about:
The reality, verifiable by anecdote and standardized test alike, is that in every academic area home-schooled students are far surpassing students enrolled in government schools. The most reliable data are from a 1998 study by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of the University of Maryland in which over 20,000 home-schooled students took standardized tests and completed other questionnaires. Unlike previous studies, Rudner's was conducted on a comparatively large sample and included only families who agreed to participate before knowing their children's test scores. The study concludes that "in every subject and at every grade level of the [tests], home schooled students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts." Furthermore, the study shows that home-schooled children had average scores that fell between the 82nd and the 92nd percentile in reading and reached the 85th percentile in math. By the eighth grade, the average home-schooled student is performing four grade levels above the national average.
Home-schooled students are almost always self-selected (I suppose there are a few kids whose parents would rather not teach them at home, but are forced to do so), so author Isabel Lyman is, quite rightly, not arguing that homeschooling causes these academic gains.
Some interesting arguments:
Home schooling, by contrast, is based on the principles of liberty. Families enjoy the freedom to teach what they want, when they want. Parents can advocate a strict creationist view or they can offer evolution, without fear of offending anyone. Home-schooling parents don't take a dime from taxpayers and don't impose their educational methods on others; their children certainly are not gunning down other children.
The principles of liberty as applied to homeschooling extend so far as to include unschooling, in which it certainly seems possible for children to miss the lessons that come with drudgery, boring topics, and external schedules (whether you think those lessons should be missed is another issue). And while homeschooled kids might not be scoping out (in the ugliest sense) other children in large numbers, we can no longer argue that all homeschooled familes are insulated from teenage violence. As The American Spectator notes, though, dangerous homeschooled kids are very much the exception, not the rule, and the evidence is piling up that homeschooled kids, in general, are not lacking in academic or social progress when compared to their public- and private-schooled peers.
This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is in fact an alphabet of homeschooling links. An older homeschooling post of mine is featured under "S".
The day has finally arrived - the first Carnival of Homeschooling. Henry and Janine Cate are the organizers, and they've got tons of links. Not suprisingly, the homeschoolers who refuse to be quiet when others insist their children aren't "socialized" are referred to as the Lion Tamers, and most of them note that socialization can be bad as well as good.
In reading their posts, I realized that while it's trendy for those in the educational establishment to oppose NCLB by claiming that it ignores the "individuality" of each child, those same establishment folks insist that students who recieve very individual socialization via homeschooling are missing out by not being offered the exact same social experiences as those in their class and age group. Interesting how that works, isn't it?
A 16-year-old California boy won a premier high school science competition Monday for his innovative approach to an old math problem that could help in the design of airplane wings. Michael Viscardi, a senior from San Diego, won a $100,000 college scholarship, the top individual prize in the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology.
Viscardi said he's been homeschooled since fifth grade, although he does take math classes at the University of California at San Diego three days a week. His father is a software engineer and his mother, who stays at home, has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, he said.
This TimeForKids quote amuses me:
Viscardi has been home schooled since fifth grade. He takes math classes at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) three days a week. The college level classes paid off! Viscardi worked on his winning math theorem for about six months with a UCSD professor. His father is a software engineer and his mother has a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
So, a year or two of college math "pays off" - but nothing about the seven years of homeschooling? Heh.
Isn't it funny the way school administrators are all for increased regulation and reliance on standardized tests when it's homeschooling parents in question?
Indiana University Education Professor Dr. Robert Kunzman has studied home schooling for years. “The anecdotal evidence suggests that the large majority of them are doing quite an impressive job with their students and children,” he said...
Critics are skeptical. Dr. Kunzman recently surveyed Indiana public school superintendents. Of those who responded, 96 percent said home schoolers are not sufficiently regulated and 54 percent said home schooled students should be required to take ISTEP, Indiana's standardized test.
“I think they see that they are losing students from their school systems and they perceive home schoolers as a threat,” said Kelly Wright, a parent who home schools.
I think they do, too.
I came home after a hellish day of work, plugged into the Internet, checked Joanne Jacob's site, and just about knocked my jaw out of alignment when it dropped open after I read this smarmy, condescending, arrogant article by NEA member - and elementary school head custodian - Dave Arnold:
There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education. There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let’s say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all...
So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!
Well, we have to believe him - he used multiple exclamation points! Doesn't that make him right? Especially when he flat-out states that parents have absolutely no idea how difficult teaching can be (um, haven't they already realized how hard child-rearing is?), and they're creating social misfits by not allowing for proper socialization (because, as we all know, homeschooling parents never let their kids leave the house).
Oh, and he's quick to remind parents that pulling their kids out of the public school system - either for homeschooling or private school - is "not the best way to fight the laws that govern our education system." That's funny, I thought boycotts were not only beloved by those who champion the government schools, but a pretty damn effective, nonviolent, and legal way to make one's viewpoint known. I guess Dave would have advised those protesting Rosa Park's treatment to keep riding the buses, no matter what.
Natalie Narxus posts a lovely, nasty letter written to Dave Arnold by homeschooling parent Dominick Cancilla. She also quotes Dave's reply, in which he makes it clear that (a) his strong and principled stance against homeschooling seems to be based solely on his extremely limited experience with it and (b) he's incapable of recognizing sarcasm:
I deeply appreciate hearing from you and receiving your fantastic comments and compliments concerning my article on the fallacies of home schooling. As you likely gathered from my article, it is a subject that is truly a thorn in my side.
I'm acquainted with a couple that have adopted two very cute and fairly inelleligent [sic] little boys, but they are turning them into social misfits by not allowing them to attend public school. The only friends they have are home schooled as well and social misfits also. They spend the great majority of their lives within the confines of their own home being home schooled so their lives won't be corrupted by the evils of this world. Perhaps their lives won't be corrupted, but it is primarily because these poor children aren't being allowed to have a life.
That's it. He doesn't mention any research on homeschooling, doesn't even give evidence for why he's decided these kids are social misfits. Just says what it shame it is that their only friends (there could be dozens of them, for all we know) are also homeschooled.
Woody's Woundup goes for a full-bore fisking which is worth a read.
Former lefty Keith Thompson has his own blog, and one post is a delightful interview with a homeschooling parent:
...several Marin homeschool parents said they scratched their heads in wonder when they read a recent essay (New York Times, May 15) by University of Chicago professor Mark Lilla, citing the “separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement” as an ominous sign for the culture, along with “fascination with the ‘end times,’ the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks.”
The anonymous homeschooling mom I spoke to says she doesn’t recognize the movement she’s part of in Lilla’s account. “Kids have been homeschooled for centuries, for goodness sake. It’s public education that’s the relative newcomer. I’m close friends with several conservative Christian homeschooling families, as well as with homeschooling families that voted for John Kerry and Ralph Nader. We don’t argue politics and we don’t fight culture wars. We talk about what’s best for our kids. If that makes us weird, then maybe we’re hitchhiking in the wrong galaxy.”
Reader Max G. sends along a pair of links from Right Reason. I can't say I've done much reading in "philosophical conservatism," but over at RR they've got things to say about homeschooling. Graeme Hunter praises homeschooling parents for carrying the torch that could save civilization (again), while Roger Scruton believes homeschooling is one link in the chain of moving kids from public to private schools.
Steve Kellmeyer claims that homeschooling is not "a good fit for the modern family," but he's not damning homeschooling - he's damning society for making the modern family sterile and ignorant.
The battle for state regulation of homeshooled education goes on, with Utah passing a bill that gives parents more control over, and privacy about, what they teach.
Are you a homeschooling parent tired of hearing the accusation that your kids can't possibly be "well-socialized"? Finally, some research to back you up.
Greg Beato ponders why the homeschooling revolution is getting so little attention from some quarters:
...what's at least as striking as the [homeschooling convention's] religious component is how enthusiastic everyone is. The aisles buzz with the energy characteristic of all large gatherings where hitherto unlinked individuals are thrilled to discover that, yes, there are others -- lots of them...
...[almost] everyone...is welcome — including, say, grant makers, former CEOs with a penchant for pedagogical re-engineering, and pretty much anyone else from the world of mainstream education reform. No one like that has shown up, however. Despite homeschooling's increasing popularity—a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 1.1 million students are now being homeschooled in the United States—neither corporate altruists nor philanthropic foundations have shown much interest in it...
Instead, would-be reformers continue to give generously to a public school system they routinely condemn as inefficient, dysfunctional, and hopelessly obsolete...
...The public school system is 90,000 schools strong, 3 million teachers wide, 47 million students deep. So while it's easy enough to demand euthanasia, it's another thing entirely to actually kill the beast.
WriteWingNut vents about the negative portrayals of homeschooler, especially with regards to the aspects of domestic violence and socialization:
One of my biggest pet peeves as a homeschooling mother is the "socialization" myth. Anti-homeschoolers would have everyone believe that our kids are locked in a cramped house all day, forbidden to speak to outsiders. The truth is, the lack of school restraints gives us more opportunity for genuine socialization. Our kids aren't grouped with only those the same age as them, at a desk in a classroom, being told by a teacher, "You're not here to socialize!"...
I can't tell you how many stories I've seen done by the media where they bring some "homeschooler" out of the woodwork who's being charged with child neglect and abuse. Only to find out that they were never really true "homeschoolers" in the first place. Their kids were just truant. There was no homeschooling going on, but they want to throw that label on them to hurt our movement.
I remember sitting around with a group of fellow soccer moms in a middle school for a photo session. One of the moms asked me, "Why doesn't Amanda go here?" Then she said, "Oh...that's right..you homeschool."
Then she went on about how she could never do that, and I told her it wasn't as hard as it seems. She then said in a very disparaging voice, "Well, I send my kid to school for the other kids." And all the moms around her nodded their heads vigorously. My blood was boiling and I calmly waited for a chance to defend myself, but they were talking so much about how important socialization at school was that I could never get a word in edgewise.
I later found out that the mother who instigated the attack on me is married to the county Superintendant of Public Schools here. Figures.
The research is already beginning to appear suggesting that homeschooled parents do just fine in socializing their kids:
Despite a 1999 statement from the National Education Association that, "home schooling cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience," a study released earlier this month shows home-schooled students are actually more socially and academically advanced than their peers.
Patrick Basham, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of the study, said the findings "aren't surprising in intellectual terms, but it does turn the major anecdotal opposition to home schooling - that it produces social retards - on its head."
The study by the Fraser Institute, an independent public policy organization based in Vancouver, Canada, focused on home-schooled students in North America. According to the study's findings, the typical home-schooled child is more mature, friendly, happy, thoughtful, competent, and better socialized than students in public or private schools. They are also less peer dependent and exhibit "significantly higher" self-esteem, according to the study.
But Janet Bass, a representative of The American Federation of Teachers, said it's impossible to compare home schooling with institutional schools.
"They're two totally different environments," she said, adding that there's no comparison to children in school to children "at home with mommy." As long as the right programs are in place, "you'll get good results" no matter what the environment, Bass said.
But wait, I thought the NEA said that homeschooling couldn't possibly cut the mustard. And now the AFT is claiming that we can't compare the two? Really? Why not? The outcome measures are there - test scores, college admissions, even the vaunted "self-esteem" indices - for the assessment. But now, for some reason, we're supposed to believe that we can't possibly draw any conclusions by comparing the two methods. Certainly, the homeschooling group is special, and self-selected - but it's silly to say that no conclusions can be reached.
What's more, the NEA goes on and on about how important parental involvement is in education. Doesn't it make sense, then, to wonder if the ultimate in parental involvement - homeschooling - might have the potential to be the ultimate in educational environments?
And that line about "at home with mommy" is just insulting, if you ask me.
Here's the report, by the way. Choice quote:
There is one overriding lesson for policymakers to learn from this survey of home schooling. As home schooling researcher Isabel Lyman pithily described the American experience: “Home schooling has produced literate students with minimal government interference at a fraction of the cost of any government program” (Lyman, 1998).
I'd say they're learning that lesson, and they're none too happy about it.
The Senate Education committee approved a plan to create the Georgia Virtual School - giving students in small school systems computer access to advanced placement classes and other courses that may not be available to them locally.
The classes would be funded by state tax dollars based on the number of courses students were taking. A change introduced by Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, would open up to six online courses a year to students not enrolled in public school.
"I want to be fair to every student," Thomas said. "Their parents are paying a lot of taxes."
Incidentally, Jim apologizes for the profanity in his response to those who complain that this plan somehow "weakens public schools"; he was feeling a bit cheeky this morning. Entirely justified, in my mind.
More testing for home-schooled kids in Oregon?
An Oregon Department of Education plan to crack down on school districts that receive money for teaching home-schoolers could require hundreds of Central Oregon students to take yet another standardized test.
The policy change will require home-schooled students to take the Oregon Statewide Assessment test if they receive tutoring or take special classes in reading/literature, math or science that are paid for by public schools. Oregon home-schoolers already must take a national standardized test in third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades.
Parents who don't rely on public school classes at all won't be affected.
The Akron, OH Beacon Journal is skeptical about claims of homeschooling success:
...there are many among the approximately 1.1 million home-schooled children who are receiving an above-average education. However, if Americans accept the idea that home schooling is putting public schools to shame with an extraordinary crop of bright students, it's mainly because home schoolers successfully have marketed good anecdotes and bad analyses of the few national studies.
Despite [president of the Home School Legal Defense Association] Smith's assertion, there are serious critics [sic - I think they mean "criticisms"].
• Studies routinely cited as evidence that home-schooled students perform better than public school students don't prove anything because there are huge, untested segments of the home-school population that may be failing, according to many researchers.
Yes, and they may also be passing. Why assume that only the ones who agree to testing are doing well? That might be a valid assumption, but we don't know at this point.
• Representatives of the SAT and ACT college testing services said their annual reports are being misused and don't prove that home schoolers are smarter.
Really? I haven't seen this anywhere. And how could high scores for homeschooled students been interpreted any way other than evidence that those particular students did master the material? Certainly, representatives of the College Board, ETS, and ACT may say that those tests are not IQ tests, but that applies to all students. Likewise, the scores of homeschooled kids might not be generalizable to the population of homeschooling kids at large, but that doesn't mean we should conclude that untested kids are in fact doing poorly. We just don't know.
• Some state universities, Ivy League colleges and military academies said that home schoolers have been underrepresented among their incoming freshmen.
And this is a criticism of homeschooling how?
• Only a few states collect information about home schoolers. In Arkansas, where the state has aggregate standardized test scores for home schoolers, results show a downward trend for at least six years and, at best, academic mediocrity.
Fine. Solid data to suggest that in Arkansas, homeschooling students may not stand out. But if we're not going to generalize to all homeschooled students on the basis of the few who test, I see no reason to generalize to homeschooled students across the country on the basis of Arkansas.
• There is concern among school officials and some researchers that the number of home-school failures is growing at a rate and a social cost that are unknown -- and no one is paying attention.
You mean, a high social cost as compared to what is placed upon society by failing public schools? Given the relatively small numbers of homeschooled children, it's very hard to believe that they're representing all of what's wrong with kids these days. I'd have to see some seriously hard data to believe that inadequate homeschooling has anywhere near the negative impact on society as bad public schooling.
Although this introduction is not promising, the rest of the article is fairly well-informed, albeit sensationalized, with the obligatory "homeschooled-kid-shackled-to-a-bed" horror story. All the caveats included by researchers in this article are good ones, and the criticisms are exactly what I expected - the results of previous studies do not "prove" that homeschooled kids are, as a whole, better off. However, neither do they suggest, as opponents of homeschooling would have you believe, that homeschooled kids are as a whole worse off. And I certainly wouldn't conclude from what's presented here that we should all worry about those untested homeschoolers and their potential negative impact on society.
Certainly, the topic of how much oversight should be focused on homeschoolers is debatable. I also agree that homeschooling support groups may have been too effusive with their claims of success. But I also still feel, even after reading this article, that a lot of opposition to homeschooling comes from the belief that only parents who want to ignore or mistreat their kids keep them away from the public school system. Perhaps the reason homeschooling supporters get carried away with their praise of homeschooling is because they're tired of being viewed as religious freaks who want to keep their kids chained to beds all day.
It could have been Wednesday or Saturday. For Ellanah Rhoades, 13, and her family, those two days aren't as different as they are for most. Rhoades is a student at Napa Valley Alternative School, the independent study program run by Napa Valley Unified School District, and she makes up her own schedule.
The independent study program has been around for decades, originally designed to serve kids who were on the brink of failing out or who didn't fit in, as well as bedridden children who became ill during the school year. But long-standing enrollment caps were lifted three years ago. Now that anyone can attend, a growing number of people, like the Rhoades family, are signing up for a brand-new reason: to homeschool.
The homeschooling contingent remains a significant minority of the 120 students enrolled, but they have been increasing in numbers, said Kurt Schultz, who oversees the program...
June Rhoades doesn't have to help her daughter much. Ellanah, who caught up to her mom in height in the past year, is a smart kid, scoring above her grade level on standardized tests and "going through books like water," June said. A teacher assigns homework and monitors her progress, meeting with Ellanah once a week to grade assignments and talk about the coming week.
Interestingly, the Napa Valley materials are often based on Christian beliefs, which fits, I suppose, with an area that describes itself as "Eden" (for wine grapes, anyway). And, delightfully, there is competition in the homeschooling market in this area, which forces the NV Alternative School to try to keep up. Who benefits the most from this? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.
Over near Iron City, PA, homeschooling is in the news:
Some Mon Valley school district superintendents say opposition to their districts' home schooling programs is non-existent. That's not the case elsewhere in the state, where two families who home-school their children filed suit against public school districts Sept. 27.
The parents contend in the filing that they don't have to report their educational plans to school officials, according to the state's Religious Freedom Protection Act. Thomas and Timari Prevish filed suit against the Norwin School District, and Darrell and Kathleen Combs filed suit against Homer-Center School District in Indiana County.
Their complaints contend Pennsylvania's Religious Freedom Protection Act nullifies requirements in the state's school code that force home-schoolers to present proof of curriculum and coursework completed.
The second lawsuit addresses the same issue, and it's not clear yet if PA's RFP Act, signed last year, covers this type of claim:
Monessen School District Superintendent Dr. Alex Warren said he is not familiar with the legislation and is unsure if it supports the parents' claims.
"What they're professing as an argument may or may not be appropriate, I really don't know," he said. "The key question is how does it relate with education."
Warren and Dr. Cynthia Chelen, the district's coordinator of curriculum and instruction who tracks Monessen's home school students, said school officials have not heard complaints about how the students are monitored.
Chelen said 12 home-schooled students living in the area report to Monessen school officials twice a year and take an annual standardized test as a means of assessment. She said the program has been well received by parents in the district who teach their children at home.
It's not just school officials who are skeptical:
Linda Wohar, of Brownsville, a home schooling advocate, has home schooled 10 of her children. She said she recently read about the lawsuit and concluded it is "invalid."
"It's not really something applicable to home schoolers in PA at all. It's kind of vague," she said of the lawsuit. "They're saying that it keeps them from practicing their religion. It's not really that appropriate and most home schoolers aren't really behind them."
I'd say someone with 10 kids knows of what she speaks.
This article says four, not two, families in all have filed similar lawsuits:
The Combs, one of four Pennsylvania families who have filed similar claims across the state, believe the home-schooling law restricts their religious freedom in a way that violates the law.
One of the home schooling requirements is that parents submit an annual affidavit to their local school district's superintendent outlining their educational goals for their children, and then turn in a log at the end of the year that shows what subjects were taught on what days, what work was done and the time spent on it, as well as an evaluation from a neutral, certified teacher who reviews the work and interviews the child.
The Combs, believing the Bible gives them the responsibility for educating their children, decided this year not to submit those reports.
As a result, Homer-Center School Superintendent Joseph Marcoline has filed truancy charges against them.
I have the feeling that these sorts of claims are arousing ire in other homeschooling families because they play into the common negative stereotypes of homeschooling parents - that they're all religious freaks who don't want anyone else educating, or even coming into contact with, their children. I think it's a bum rap - the Combs should be able to contest the school's decision, if they believe the law protects them - but I can see why it might grate on the nerves of others.
I'm sure all you homeschooling parents out there will be deeply moved to hear that one Mississippi education official is "concerned" about the rising rates of homeschooling:
Peggy Peterson, director of compulsory school attendance enforcement with the Mississippi Department of Education, said she fears that some children may not be receiving top equality education instruction from their parents. Mississippi Department of Education statistics show that the number of families homeschooling in the state has increased since 1999, when officials began monitoring enrollment.
A total of 11,063 Mississippi children were homeschooled last year, up from 8,768 in May 1999. Lauderdale County alone had 281 families homeschooling their children in May of this year.
Which is an increase of 26% - not too shabby. Ms. Peterson is concerned that some parents just aren't qualified to teach their kids. Amusing, in a state (along with Minnesota) for which the passing scores on PRAXIS I are the lowest in the nation in math and reading. Here are the "tough" questions on the math portion - no calculators allowed!
Peterson's office is the only one with the state Department of Education that has anything to do with homeschooling. Families that homeschool their children must register with their county's school attendance officer; the officer, in turn, reports to Peterson's office.
Peterson, a former president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said some states require parents who teach their children to have a certain level of education. She said there was no such requirement in Mississippi.
"Mississippi has the most lenient homeschool laws in the nation," Peterson said.
Good for it, say those who homeschool there:
Joseph and Mary Beth Hallman of Lauderdale County homeschool their son and daughter. They said they wanted to make sure their children receive the best education possible. "No one cares more about our children than we do," said Mary Beth Hallman, whose two children have never attended a public or private school. "And it is a privilege to teach them at home."
Sarah Nicholas, a spokeswoman for the state College Board, said homeschool students often score higher than public school students on the American College Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test - two national, standardized tests used for college admissions.
"I don't know why they score so high," Nicholas said. "But historically, students who are homeschooled usually have exceptionally high scores on those tests."
Ms. Nicholas is being polite in claiming ignorance of why homeschooling kids do so well. It has something to do with parents who are smart, motivated, and consider it a privilege to be able to teach their own kids.
And for those of you new readers who believe that all homeschooled children become adults who are severely lacking in social skills, I suggest you read this post, and this one, and this one - and all the accompanying comments. If you still want to take the chance to comment on here and claim that homeschooled kids are "missing out" on the social life, you can't say you weren't warned.
A recent AP report on the rise of homeschooling notes that parents believe, in increasing numbers, that public schools are not safe or appropriate places for their kids:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Almost 1.1 million students were home-schooled last year, their numbers pushed higher by parents frustrated over school conditions and wanting to include morality and religion with the English and math.
The estimated figure of students taught at home has grown 29 percent since 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.
In surveys, parents offered two main reasons for choosing home schooling: 31 percent cited concerns about the environment of regular schools, and 30 percent wanted the flexibility to teach religious or moral lessons. Third, at 16 percent, was dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.
All of these are things parents should be concerned about when it comes to their children. But heaven knows we can't have a "balanced" report on homeschooling without a hysterical critic who insists that all homeschooled kids are kept locked in closets until their 18th birthday:
That sense of anxiety - fueled by terrorism warnings, high-profile school shootings and a desire to keep children out of harm's way - probably has helped home schooling grow, said Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists...Feinberg said, parents must consider whether their children will emerge from home schooling with limited exposure to other children and various cultures...
"At some point, children are going to have to interact with the rest of the world," he said. "If they haven't had the opportunity to build their emotional muscles so they have that capacity to interact, how effective are they going to be outside their cloistered environment?"
Can we please, once and for all, stop with the myth that homeschooled kids never leave the house, never interact socially with other kids their age, and never learn anything about "other cultures"? We all know that's being tossed in here as a sop to the cult of diversity; given that most families are not diverse in ethnicity or SES, no wonder the growing popularity of homeschooling gives the PC educrat types fits.
As Michelle Malkin points out, it's frighteningly easy to compile a list of "invaluable, emotional muscle-building experiences" to use as an argument for why kids shouldn't be allowed near public schools. It's ludicrous, in the age of the Internet, to argue that kids who are educated at home are somehow "cloistered" away from society.
Hey, homeschooling parents, what do you think of this idea?
The end product of this year's [Virginia] General Assembly session is making its way across the desk of Gov. Mark Warner. One bit of legislation that should never have made it through the House of Representatives, much less to the governor's office, has gotten the deep-six via the governor's veto.
House Bill 675, jointly patroned by local legislators Ben Cline and Steve Landes along with eight other Republican delegates, one Democratic senator and three Republican senators, would have abolished the requirement that parents who home-school their children possess at least a bachelor's degree...Warner, in his veto, noted correctly that while public school teachers are being expected to adhere to increasingly strict requirements, especially those imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act, loosening requirements for home-schooled children made no sense, and, in fact, were a retreat.
The governor is right. Home education should be based on standards, too, otherwise the drive to require them in public school is nothing but a sham and a means of dismantling free public education in America...
In his veto, Gov. Warner noted he had submitted a proposed amendment to the bill stating that he would be willing to entertain the notion of home-school teachers without college degrees if they had achieved a composite score on the PRAXIS I or SAT I exams not less than the ones required for beginning teachers licensed by the Board of Education. Warner also said that if a parent had achieved a score above the 50th percentile in English and mathematics on a national standardized norm-referenced test approved by the Department of Education, that would be considered suitable.
Even in school districts with excellent public schools, parents are choosing to homeschool:
The Los Rios subdivision in east Plano is served by some of the best public schools in Collin County. Dooley Elementary has been rated an exemplary school four of the last five years. Redbook magazine once picked Plano East Senior High, which sits in the neighborhood's northeast corner, as the best high school in Texas.
Not exactly the place you would expect to find parents going it alone on the education front. But that's exactly what's happening in this upper-middle-class enclave. Los Rios is a hotbed of home schooling.
Several neighborhood families have formed a home-schooling association, and by their account, at least 16 Los Rios families are schooling their 25 school-age children at home. There are more than 1,000 families with children in the neighborhood.
It's not just about quality of education, but about teaching children what is "real." Homeschooling is one way to ward off what some parents call the "want monster" - "the relentless pursuit of more 'stuff' – clothes, cars, trips" that are so often a part of two-income households with children in public schools. Homeschoolers are often living on one income, so life gets reduced to the basics. And homeschoolers like it that way.
Mrs. Clay, for example, used to be on the corporate fast track with Texas Health Resources, where she negotiated multimillion-dollar contracts with hospitals. Her husband, James, is a hospital administrator, but with the decision to home school, their five-bedroom, three-bathroom home is on the market. The family's high-speed Internet line is a thing of the past. So, too, is cable TV.
"It's forced us to take a look at what's real in life," said Mrs. Clay, 32. "It's real simple. To me, home schooling is real. It's authentic."
A storefront business in Oregon called Professor Mom is in business to help homeschooling parents:
As home schooling becomes a more and more popular option for families with children with special needs which are not met by the public schools, families who are simply fed up with unresponsive public education, and those who assess the efforts of public education as falling short of teaching to the capacities of their children, business is starting to fill the gap to assist home schoolers. Professor Mom, a storefront business in Central Point, also hosting a web site addresses that need.
First off, home schooling is a legal option in Oregon. There are some laws dealing with it that the potential home educator must consider.
Will your child be at least 7 years old as of September 1st of this year? If NO, then no further action or notification is required. OAR (Oregon Administrative Rule) 581-021-0026 (11) If the answer is yes, then you need to send a one-time written notice of your intent to home school your child. OAR 581-021-0026 (4) The notice is sent to the Education Service District (ESD) for your county. You can find the ESD address at the Oregon Home Education Network website under "Resources"....
If you are interested in learning more about home schooling and its benefits and burdens, contact Professor Mom.
Professor Mom's Homeschool Center
834 S Front St
Central Point, OR 97502
Monday - Thursday 10:00 - 5:00 PM PST
Sounds like a great resource to me, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing spring up in other states.
Michelle Malkin is in stratospheric dudgeon today, and I can't say I blame her:
New Jersey's child welfare system, like most state child welfare systems, is a corrupt and deadly mess. Children are lost in the shuffle, shipped to abusive foster homes, returned to rapists and child molesters, and left to die in closets while paperwork piles up. So who does the government decide to punish for the bureaucracy's abysmal failure to protect these innocents?
And what does the government think will solve its ills?
More power and paperwork.
Last week, a Democratic assemblywoman introduced a bill that would impose annual academic testing and annual medical exams on home-schooled students in the Garden State. Never mind a federal law that prohibits states from requiring that homeschoolers take the state assessment designed for public school students. And never mind the fact that no public or private school students are subject to such health regulations. The State Board of Education would be given unprecedented regulatory authority over homeschoolers.
I'm not aware of the federal law to which Michelle refers, but she's right about the medical exam (Update: As Daryl tactfully points out, Michelle means the NCLB Act. Doh!). And it's appalling for NJ Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg to claim that the heinous cases of foster child abuse are the rationale behind this focus on homeschoolers.
When it comes to the travesty that is NJ's foster care system, Michelle has data to back up her flaming comments:
While New Jersey politicians attempts to punish law-abiding homeschoolers for the sins of DYFS and the Jacksons, one of every 14 children in foster care in the state is placed in a home operated by someone with a criminal conviction or documented as having mistreated a child.
Moreover, according to a study released last summer by the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, one in 10 were abused or neglected by the agency caregiver and one in five didn't receive needed medical care. "The DYFS picture is not just bleak; it is one of chaos and tragedy," the report concluded. "From the reading of the disorganized and incomplete case files, to the statistical analysis of the status of children in the 'care' of DYFS, institutional abuse, neglect and ineptitude are the dominant themes."
Earth to New Jersey: "institutional abuse, neglect and ineptitude" are not the dominant themes of your state's homeschooling familes. But they are the themes of the homes in which your foster children live. Targeting homeschoolers with forced medical exams will do nothing to fix this problem.
More information on homeschoolers - "A little less home, a lot more help"
After a decade spent organizing arts and science classes in her living room for her home-schooled children, Bambi Thompson last year founded a center for cooperative education in a church basement in this coastal city.
Now, more than 50 families from the surrounding area regularly bring their children to the Discovery Center for Arts and Sciences. They meet twice a week to explore everything from small machines and inventions to the workings of the solar system and pet telepathy.
Although it is the only center of its kind in the state, its success highlights the recent explosion in the number of home-schooled students and in activities and programs designed for them. There are as many as 2 million children nationwide being taught at home.
"Finding classes used to mean putting up little index cards in public libraries and grocery stores," said home-schooling parent and author Patrick Farenga of Medford. "Now home-schooling is a lot less about staying home and a lot more about going out."
The upside is that nontraditional students can participate in an ever-expanding array of classes. But home-schooling parents say the boom has created a new problem all its own: winnowing down the choices.
I bet those of you who are homeschooling never thought you'd see the day when you had that problem.
While the choices may seem overwhelming, the benefits are obvious, said [home-schooling parent and author Patrick] Farenga. His oldest daughter, Lauren, began taking classes at Middlesex Community College in Bradford when she was just 12. Instead of having to take courses prescribed by a high-school curriculum, she was able to pursue an interest in forensics spurred by the television show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
"She went out and took criminal courses, including shadowing a police officer and doing an actual crime scene investigation with a team of classmates," Farenga said. "When it was all over, she decided she was really more interested in criminal psychology, which led to child psychology, which eventually led to general psychology. One thing just leads to another."
More on homeschooling in Washington:
[Homeschooling family the Clines] work pretty much year-round, with the exception of July. That's not to say there aren't any breaks. The family does travel often together, a freedom afforded by home schooling. The curriculum they use is a 36-week plan, which equals 180 days of teaching, exactly what the state requires of public school students...
Cline, who is the product of a public-school education, said her perspective on home-schooling has changed dramatically since having children.
She is less receptive to what she called the idea of "conveyor-belt'' education, in which hundreds of students are put into a school and expected to learn someone else's agenda on someone else's schedule.
Instead, she puts her energy into helping her children focus and be passionate about their areas of interest while still taking time for the necessary nuts and bolts of computation and letters.
A second article documents the changes in homeschooling policies in Washington:
Prior to 1985, only people with a teaching certificate could teach at home. That provision excluded a lot of people from the practice, so many chose to home school their children underground, said Jon Wartes, who helped craft the state law that ultimately allowed parents to legally teach their children at home.
The first large-scale effort in Washington to change the law came in 1982, when parents began to lobby Olympia...However, different groups were supporting different bills and their divided efforts went nowhere...
Some people opposed the creation of a home-based education law not because they objected to home schooling, but because the existence of a law meant there was some governmental involvement in the decisions they made regarding their children...For them, teaching their children was a religious freedom and a parents' rights issue that required no governmental oversight, a stance that made them seem extremist and unwilling to compromise...
On the other side was the Washington Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.
Heh. In 1985, the law allowing parents to homeschool was passed, and the specifics are provided below:
There are three ways a parent can become qualified to teach at home. They must have either completed a course in home-based instruction at a post-secondary or vocational-technical institution, have 45 hours of college credit hours or be supervised by a certified teacher.
Parents must also sign a form with the school district that their child would have attended which exempts the district from responsibility of educating that child...
While the law does not require home-schooling parents to teach a certain number of hours a day or days in a year, it does require parents to plan and supervise instruction in the following areas: occupational education, science, math, language, social studies, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, and appreciation of art and music.
Parents are also required to give their child a standardized achievement test each year, although the results are only sent back to the parents, left unchecked by the state.
Big article on homeschooling in The Hook; great title, too.
Home for the Holidays, and Every Other Day Too...
...the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1.7 percent of all students are now home-schooled. That means growing numbers of parents including atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims-- as well as the Christians who have long held the home-schooling spotlight-- are choosing this route...
"The number one reason people home-school is to give their children a good solid foundation," says local parent Kevin Cox, who adds, "I'm not Christian."
Cox and his wife, Sarah Pool, believe they had no choice but to home-school. A lab technician in UVA's biochemistry department, Cox blames a combination of bad teachers and his own uninvolved parents for limiting his opportunities. He didn't want this his kids to suffer the same fate.
"I went in to the blue collar working world because that was the direction I was pushed," says Cox. "I just barely made it out of high school, and I'm not a stupid person. I know plenty of people who are very intelligent who can barely read."
That's why he and Pool got nervous when their oldest child was in first grade in public school. Despite glowing report cards, she could not read. Cox, an intense man with definite notions about education, was fearful that his eldest child was heading "towards mediocrity." Unable to afford private tuition, the couple decided to instruct their daughter at home.
Emphasis mine. Other parents pay little mind to the insistence of those who say kids schooled at home just don't get enough "diversity":
Some critics of the home education movement worry about the social implications of keeping kids home. In a USA Today op-ed piece entitled, "Home Is No Place for School," educator Dennis L. Evans asks, "Can there be anything more important to each child and thus to our democratic society than to develop virtues and values such as respect for others, the ability to communicate and collaborate, and an openness to diversity and new ideas?"
Caryn Hamilton believes some schools could stand a little diversity training of their own. That's why she and her husband, Lance, an attorney at the Judge Advocate General school, had always planned to teach at home. They wanted to protect their children from the culturally and racially biased education they experienced as black students...
Countering the argument about home-schoolers being isolated is the Albemarle County Homeschoolers Network. Formed just last summer, the group already claims a membership of over 60. In fact, so linked are these home-schooling families that news of this article triggered a flurry of emails among its members.
One great piece of trivia - Jostens, the well-known class ring manufacturer, now has a line for homeschooled kids. When the school nostalgia corporations get involved, you know it's a trend that's here to stay.
I designed my own, assuming I was a homeschooler graduating in 2004. Take a look. Click on the binoculars in the order form to see the options I chose. Pretty nifty, eh?
(Ah, the link doesn't work now. You can click here, though, to build your own. Mine was cool; a music symbol on one side and the American flag on the other.)
More than 29,000 families choose to homeschool in North Carolina, and according to this article, they're happy with their decisions to do so:
A gray schoolhouse sits on three acres of land in Bethel. It's located next to a plot of corn, and a gravel road with chickens scurrying around it leads to the door. In the enclosed back yard are a swing set and a trampoline. Six horses graze outside of the fence.
This isn't D.H. Conley High School. It isn't Wellcome Middle School. It's the home school of Dawn Tyson. Tyson has been home schooling her children, Travis, 16, and Natalie, 10, for eight years...
Horses, trampolines...sounds like heaven to me.
More and more people across North Carolina have chosen to set up home school classrooms for their children, according to the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education. Since the 1996-97 school year, the number of students who are home schooled in North Carolina has increased by more than 18,000.
Growing dissatisfaction with public education is contributing to the trend, home school advocates and parents said. Families believe they can teach their children better, provide a safer, more nurturing atmosphere, create a stronger family unit and allow children to practice religious beliefs more freely.
So far, the test scores back up at the least the "teaching better" part, although nature certainly can't be separated from nurture here (it may just be smarter parents with smarter kids who choose to homeschool):
According to North Carolinians for Home Education, a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for home schooling, the state's home-educated high schoolers scored 10.5 percent above the national average on the ACT this year. The home school students achieved an average composite score of 23 on the college admissions test, ahead of the national average of 20.8 on a 36-point scale.
Statistics show that the education home schoolers receive is at least on par with public education, said Gary Dunn, psychology manager at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
Homeschooling parents also feel they have a better chance of keeping their kids away from negative social influences:
Although apprehensive about the possible results, Dawn is glad her children are not exposed to the social environment she believes exists in public schools.
Home school parents have to consider the prospect of children missing out on social opportunities offered to children by traditional school life: football games, dances, clubs and graduation ceremonies.
No studies have been conducted on the social consequences of home schooling, Dunn said. But anecdotal evidence suggests there are no negative consequences as long as parents create other social opportunities.
You know, I have to wonder just why there is this monolithic idea in public education that every kid must attend football games and dances in order to be properly "socialized." I mean, for a geek such as myself, homeschooling would have been a dream come true in middle school, when I was being picked on every day for being "different." Was the realization that some kids can really be power-hungry, cruel, and obnoxious (without getting caught) the "socialization" I was supposed to receive?
C'mon. While there are legitimate concerns about homeschooling, I believe the "socialization" factor to be the least valid, especially for kids who are smart or "different". See the quotation about homes being "a safer, more nurturing atmosphere" above.
Here's a great article about homeschooling parents who are very happy with their decision, and whose kids are thriving in the home environment:
Before the decision to home school their daughters was made, parents Shawn and Susan Lorenz said they did a lot of research into the matter.
Shawn said he originally had two concerns: whether his kids would be socially illiterate and whether they would be able to get into a good college. He said it did not take much research to discover that these concerns were unfounded...
"The general conception of what a homeschooled child looks like is a kid in a cabin in Montana who wins the National Spelling Bee," Shawn said. "That really isn't the case."
Good for him for doing the research, instead of just buying into the myth that kids who homeschool are complete isolates (or are covered with bruises).
While Susan does most of the teaching, her husband helps out sometimes. For subjects neither of them know well, they usually try to get outside help. For math, the Lorenzes buy a program called Math-U-See, which consists of a workbook, a teacher's manual and a video lesson for more than 40 different chapters.
Other outside help comes in the form of homeschooling organizations. The Lorenzes belong to three of these groups: the Home School Legal Defense Association, which provides legal advice, the Family Resource Center in Salem, which organizes group trips, and another organization based out of Andover that provides the necessary standardized tests.
"There's a ton of homeschooling groups and you could go crazy trying to belong to everything," Susan said.
Nice of the article to present all this informatino to readers who may already be "going crazy" to try to figure out the rules and regulations about homeschooling, and who would be eager to contact these groups.
Shawn said his decision to homeschool his daughters did not have anything to do with the public school system, though he did say his kids could learn more at home.
His main problem with the middle/high school [in Georgetown the two are combined] was that it has children of so many different age groups.
"Putting my 11-year-old girl in the same building as 18-year-old boys (is a concern)," Shawn said. "They sit on the corner and smoke cigarettes and having my daughter walk past that to get educated is a concern."
Good for him! I'm sure some people might complain that he's trying to "control" his daughters too much, but it's not a wild idea to think that an 11-year-old could be a target of harassment, or worse, from guys seven years older. I'm all in favor of parents who try to keep their kids from growing up too fast, and who control their environment so that they're not exposed to inappropriately sexualized ideas, or left to their own devices in an area with older kids.
A former school teacher with a dual degree in special education and education, Susan said the hardest part of teaching her kids at home is finding the time to do everything.
"I never, ever thought I'd be homeschooling, but I'm so glad we are," she said.
While Susan said home school is the best option for her family, she admits that it may not suit other families.
"This is something both of my kids really wanted," she said. "If you have a child that doesn't want to be homeschooled, it can be really frustrating.
"This isn't something everyone can do," she added. "But traditional schooling is not for everyone either."
Good conclusion, especially in pointing out that a former teacher - with an education degree - can see the value in homeschooling as opposed to traditional schooling.
A circuitous round of blog-reading this afternoon led me to this rant, which is about a CBS special, "A Dark Side To Home Schooling", that apparently tries to paint as many homeschooling parents as possible with the child-abuse brush.
From the CBS site:
The school bus never stopped at the secluded trailer on Hickory Crossroads in rural North Carolina because for five years Nissa and Kent Warren home schooled their children. Then, as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, county workers got an anonymous tip: better check on those kids...
For weeks, the parents tried to keep social workers out until the day detectives and Lock were called in.
"I was stunned at the squalor that I saw," says Lock. "There was rotting food, animal feces on the floor. I can't imagine anyone living in a residence like this..."
In the bedroom, 14-year-old Brandon had committed suicide with a rifle after killing his brother Kyle and sister Marnie. Their mother discovered the bodies.
One horrible case - in which, it should be noted, the mother (who had been previously convicted of abuse) contacted the authorities to report the crime. CBS's conclusion? After noting that the number of homeschooled students has risen to 50,000 in NC, CBS bemoans the lack of state employees overseeing the program, and quotes advocates as saying that because there is so little "supervision," there is by definition a lack of "protection" for these kids.
However, simply because the number of homeschooled kids has risen, that's no proof that kids in those homes are more likely to be abused, and that more "supervision" and "protection" is needed. Yes, homeschooled kids can remain more hidden from public eye - but I think it's ridiculous to conclude, as one advocate does, that homeschoolers "deliberately keep [kids] out of the public eye because the children do have injuries that are visible, and they don't want them to be seen."
Interestingly, there are no statistics presented here about the prevalence of abused kids who attend public schools, because if that percentage was higher than the percentage of homeschooled kids for whom abuse has been discovered, that would shoot CBS's theory all to hell, wouldn't it?
Live From The Guillotine takes a different approach, attacking CBS's assumption that increase government supervision necessarily leads to greater protection:
CBS is running a two part story called A Dark Side To Home Schooling today and tomorrow and it's slant makes me furious. The basic story is about alleged homeschooling parents who kept an incredibly filthy house and had a prior conviction of child abuse from another state....Here’s a question for CBS and Ms. Herman-Giddens. Logically following this argument how on earth were these sadists investigated in Arizona if the looming threat or cause of this tragedy is home schooling?
In addition, let’s talk about the supervision or overseeing that is taking place in this country right now. A Dark Side to Pennsylvania:
According to the annual child abuse report, there were 49 children who died in Pennsylvania as a result of abuse or neglect in 2002, which is two more than in 2001.
Also A Dark Side to Social Workers. Or this statistic from A Dark Side to Colorado:
An average of 25 children die in Colorado each year because of neglect or abuse, about 5 percent of the total number of child deaths in the state.
From 1990 to 1995, 47 percent of families with children who died from abuse or neglect had previous Colorado Department of Human Services involvement.
If you want to read story after story of children who’ve fallen through the cracks of just Social Services alone, go here and read A Dark Side to Social Services all night long.
Supervision doesn't seem to cure the problem. Using the logic of the CBS story, we should be leery of allowing Child Protective Services or the foster care system anywhere near our children. These people are already supervised and overseen and they still have stupid or evil people in their systems. The states of Pennsylvania and Colorado should also be avoided since children are dying and one supposes that CBS would advocate every parent in these states being be put under a microscope. After all, some of them kill their children.
Sending the kids to school isn’t necessarily going to protect children either. I hope you didn’t miss the very personal case on my blog of a mother who choked her child, left bruises around her neck, was reported to CPS, and is still living with her mother...
If you don’t understand why I find an attempt to force supervision on innocent home schooling parents this should help you relate. Do you have a child under school age or do you ever watch a child under school age? You just might be next on the list of the perpetually supervised even though you’ve committed no crime. Be waiting for the report on A Dark Side to Parents of Under School-Aged Children...
I know a lot of homeschoolers read N2P, and if the CBS special enraged you too, I'd like to hear about it. You should be mad. As Mrs. DuToit points out, CBS is obviously hoping that any correlation between homeschooling and abuse (which hasn't been established, as far as I'm concerned) should lead one to believe that homeschooling causes abuse. While there may be a causal relationship in the other direction - abusive parents may decide to keep their children out of the school system - the suggestion that parents who homeschool should be automatically monitored for abuse is appalling.
Update: Not surprisingly, Daryl Cobranchi was displeased with CBS's efforts to suggest that all homeschooling parents are potential abusers. He prints a letter from a "Faithful Reader" (his are faithful, mine are devoted):
This report is expected to focus on the handful of child abuse cases over the past 5 to 10 years involving "presumed homeschoolers" including the murder/suicide of "Non homeschooled homeschoolers" in Johnston County, NC two years ago. The CBS reporters will be highlighting various murders, suicides, etc. involving "homeschoolers" nationwide and will attempt to argue that "Homeschooling is out of control". The woman producer stated directly to Hal that he "would not be pleased with the report", and that the intent of the report is to encourage further state and federal government regulation of homeschooling.[emphasis added by Daryl]
Daryl has a few other regulation suggestions for the government. What's more, he's discovered a similar homeschooling=abuse screed in The Scotsman, which not only doesn't provide data to support its conclusions, but flies in the face of studies which support homeschooling. The amount of condescension and contempt in related op-ed that Daryl cites is truly appalling, especially considering that it was written by a teacher, Hugh Reilly:
Parents have been pupils, ergo they are education experts, in much the same way that telly addicts of medical soaps can self-diagnose all manner of ailments without recourse to so-called "health professionals". For this reason, surely it is proper that the Executive hands over educational responsibility to those mums and dads who believe they could do a better job than overpaid classroom duds such as yours truly.
To be fair, parents already do a wonderful job when their kids are young. They encourage literacy skills by reading bedtime stories, albeit abridged versions as they miss out every other page to ensure the bonding experience ends in time for the start of EastEnders. Other kids have numeracy skills developed at a very early age, e.g. when dad walks out of their life, 2 minus 1 equals single parenthood.
Mater and pater could theoretically teach certain aspects of the curriculum. I’m certain that some hard-bodied, toned-up pecs parents would be able to pass on physical fitness techniques but what about the teenagers of the chocoholic, chain-smoking chumps trudging the shopping malls in search of the nearest McDonalds? It’s a recipe for an even greater rate of obesity among the young.
So, parents are no better at educating youth than hypochondriacs and ER devotees are at diagnosing illnesses, all parents rush through reading time to watch soap operas, and all parents turn their kids into grossly obese little cows by treating them to McDonald's every day? Have I got that right? Funny, that doesn't sound like any homeschooling parents that I know.
Mr. Reilly's arguments rest on the general assumption that parents are lazy, irresponsible, and dumb - but my impression is that lazy, irresponsible, dumb people don't take on the immense and difficult task of being solely responsible for their children's education. I think that those types of parents are much more likely to send their kids to school to be indoctrinated by idiots such as Mr. Reilly, and more likely to be satisfied with Mr. Reilly's "teachings."
More and more homeschooling kids are making into the elite group known as National Merit Scholars each year, and even those who were once skeptics about homeschooling are starting to be convinced:
The number [of homeschooled students] awarded National Merit Scholarships, the top prize, has jumped by more than 500 percent since 1995, from 21 to 129.
"I knew my abilities already, but it's nice for people who think home schooling won't work," said [homeschooled student] Sarah, whose eldest brother won a scholarship, one of about 8,000 awarded nationally. Another brother earned a commendation for scoring just below the semifinalist level.
"It gives us something to show them," said Sarah, as she flipped through her log of daily lessons -- including two chapters of calculus, three of the book Brave New World and four Bible chapters -- in the family room of her classic New England-style wood home.
The number of home-schoolers is up dramatically, with the National Home Education Research Institute estimating between 1.7 million and 2.1 million last school year, up from 1.2 million in 1996. Their ACT college admission scores are also consistently above the national average (22.5 vs. 20.8 in 2003), and an education institute study of 5,400 home-schooled kids found scores on standardized exams consistently above national averages in 1995 and 1996.
Many parents in this unconventional group embrace convention, when it comes to standardized tests -- to prove to doubting relatives, neighbors and friends they haven't gone off the deep end.
It's a shame that homeschooling parents feel the need to convince others that they haven't gone off the deep end - but I'm glad the tests are there to help them convince others of the power of home-based instruction.