Friday, March 14, 2008

Homeschooling

Homeschooling has been in the news this week. The California State Supreme Court issued a ruling that seemed to require a crackdown on homeschooling in that state, but then their state education superintendent announced that there would be no change in their policy. Ms. Cornelius expressed her concern about the laxity of standards for homeschoolers, and I can see where she's coming from because in Minnesota, we aren't exactly rigid about it. Since I recently wrote a post saying that education shouldn't be compulsory, however, I can't very well take a stand against weak standards for homeschoolers. In the book I wrote, I had a section dealing with homeschooling, I hope nobody minds too much if I do a little plagiarizing from that now.

Homeschooling has gotten a great amount of favorable press, and more and more people are choosing this option for their children. Reports tell about how well many homeschooled kids do on ACTs and SATs, and when homeschoolers do things like winning national spelling bees, they get a lot of attention. With public education being portrayed as a disaster in the media, homeschooling must look very attractive to a lot of parents.

I should begin by saying that I do have a prejudice against homeschooling. Our school distict has lost a lot of kids to homeschooling over the past several years, and because of that we've lost some very good young teachers who ended up being cut. That would be bad enough in itself, but in Warroad, many of the homeschoolers belong to the "God is not allowed in public schools" crowd. If you want to send this fairly level-headed person into an absolute rage, all you have to do is say that.

We have two kinds of homeschoolers in Warroad, and those students in one of them definitely won't be winning any spelling bees or dazzling us with their college entrance exam scores. A typical example is a boy I had at the beginning of a recent school year. He showed up the first day, missed the next two, then showed up again, then missed, and so on. I can't remember all of his excuses, but I do remember one was the ever-popular, "My grandfather's sick." Who knows? Maybe he was. But why a high school student would have to miss eight days for Grandpa's illness is beyond me. In any case, after about three weeks, our school secretary showed me a note from his mother: "I will be homeschooling my son for his last two cources." (Her spelling, not mine.) Her son's last two "cources" were the American history class that I teach and--you guessed it--English.

I am all for homeschooling this type of student. Unless he was suddenly transformed, he wasn't going to contribute anything positive to his classes, and he had the definite potential for dragging another student or two down with him. I think our school actually owes that mother a big thank you.

There are other homeschoolers in our district, though, who will do well on college entrance exams. I have no doubt that, with an intelligent parent, a child can get a great education at home. There are valid questions about what a homeschooler misses socially, but from the point of view of a student's academic development, having an individually tailored curriculum could certainly be an advantage.

My biggest concern with homeschooling, as far as motivated students are concerned, is not what they are missing out on, but what our schools are missing out on by not having them with us. We need those kids! A few years back I had one such student in my economics and sociology classes. He had been homeschooled for most of his life, but he took some classes at our high school. He was a great kid who was very bright, and there could be no doubt that his parents had done a fantastic job. He was a very mild mannered young man, but he took part in our discussions--almost reluctantly, it seemed--and he always had something intelligent to say. My economics and sociology classes were better because of him. I don't know what he missed by not taking all his classes in our schools, but I know that we missed him. I would have loved to have had him in one of my American history classes two years before, and the other students would have loved having him, too. Had he been in one of those classes, that class would have been better, and the students in that class would have learned more. He is now the student body president at the University of North Dakota.

It would be hard to criticize parents who homeschool their children in a school district where it was impossible to get a good education, but that has not been the case in Warroad. We have a school where students can get a good education, because we still have enough kids from families with parents who care about education and who still trust us enough to send us their kids. But if a school like ours loses enough of those kids--as the media, many experts, and politicians seem to be encouraging--it won't matter how good the teachers are, or how good the principal is, or what new and nifty teaching techniques are being used, or how much high tech equipment is brought in. It’s simply not going to be a very good place to learn. The scary thing is that we have lost a lot of kids to homeschooling over the last few years, and we aren't as good a school as we were when I wrote my book.

There are homeschooling parents for whom I have a great deal of respect. Obviously I respect the parents of that economics and sociology student that I had. I also have a great deal of respect for Mark Roulo, a homeschooling parent, who is kind enough to privately tell me via email when I've made a mistake on one of my posts, rather than letting everyone know in the comments section. But anyone who has read a few of my posts probably knows that I believe the effect that kids have on other kids in our schools is incredibly important. The most critical need in our public schools today is for good parents who really think education is important to have enough confidence in us to trust us with their children. Good parents who send their kids to public schools may not know it, but they are performing a service to their communities and to our nation. If we have enough kids from those families, our public schools are going to be just fine. But if more and more of those good parents become convinced that public schools are too inadequate for their kids, then that perception will increasingly become reality. And that would be a national tragedy.

Any appeal I make in this respect may well fall on a lot of deaf ears, because I'm not sure many of the homeschooling parents--at least in my community--care about this. Obviously, as a public school teacher, I don't have much contact with them, but I did when I ran our Little League baseball program in which some of them would enroll their kids. I realize that this is anecdotal, but in my dealings with them, I found the homeschooling parents that I dealt with, by their actions and requests, to be very concerned about their own children, but not about anyone else's. They didn't care about their kids' teammates, they didn't care about kids on the other teams, and they didn't care about what we were trying to do with our program. It's natural for parents to care the most about their own children, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I think we have better communities and a better nation when parents who are concerned about their own kids' education and activities also have concern for other kids. I see that in the best parents of kids in our school. I have seen very little of it in homeschooling parents in Warroad.

38 Comments:

Blogger jettybetty said...

Dennis,
Since I am very pro-public education I very much enjoyed your perspective on homeschooling. I had not thought of it exactly like this before.

Blessings!

3/14/2008 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis, you start out by saying that you do have a prejudice against homeschooling, and end by saying that you see very little concern for other children from the homeschooling parents in Warroad. Just to be fair, don't you think that there may be a connection between the two?

3/14/2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Anonymous, part of my prejudice comes from the dealings I had with homeschooling parents in our community when I was running our Little League program. I'm certainly not saying that they were bad parents. They just didn't seem to have the sense of "team" or "community" that our best public school parents had. It seems to me that that's part of the nature of the beast.

I will say this, though. If I were a parent of young children, and I thought my school district was lousy, I would consider homeschooling. But, at least at the high school level, the thing I would most be concerned about would be the other kids my children would be going to school with. If a parent had walked into any of my American History classes five years ago, I can't imagine why that parent would consider homeschooling. But it would be a different story if that same parent had walked into my sixth hour American History class at the beginning of this year.

3/15/2008 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I think my child will receive a better education at home than in a public school, then I will home-school him. And that decision, I'm afraid, will be made without regard to whether or not other kids in that school would have benefited from my child's presence. My responsibility is to educate my child, not to use my child as a some sort of tool to boost other kids to his detriment.

3/15/2008 5:27 AM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

Hello, Dennis!

Hopefully you like reading comments from opposing viewpoints because I sure have one!

I have two older children in public schools, two younger children I homeschool and two infants. I'm a pretty involved parent and you're welcome to check out my blog and see some of the things I do with my homeschoolers during the day.

My son Elf is autistic and when he was six, he no longer qualified for that "Young Child With a Disability" label. The folks at the school district, I think, chose to believe that he was not truly autistic because he could seem to function at some times and not others. Large crowds are of particular concern and will literally freak the child out. But get him in a room alone and he speaks coherently. He makes eye contact. He can read and write. The teachers pretty well decided that because of these things, he was "manipulating" and locked him in a closet on multiple occasions when he had meltdowns. They call it a "safe room" so it must be okay. (Incidentally, my older son G is almost 13 and more obviously autistic. He has reading and comprehension delays that, I believe, make teachers more sympathetic to the fact that there is a "problem." I can't say enough good things about how the public school in the SAME DISTRICT is treating this particular child.)

We pulled Elf and began homeschooling him. You may be thinking at this point that what this lady went through with her child is hardly indicative of public education, and I'd agree. But what recourse do parents have when they feel their children are not well-cared for in public schools? What recourse do they have when they feel that the schools are expressly teaching things they feel are immoral and wrong? WHOSE child is it, anyway?

Do you honestly think that involved parents ought to keep their children in school for the benefit of the other children alone? What kind of parent would REALLY do that? Those would be the parents, I'd submit to you, who love their political agenda more than their child. It's not that these parents DON'T care for other people's children. It's that their children are the most important to them, and the people to whom they have a direct responsibility. What you might not see is these parents' involvement with children at church or soccer practice or -- dare I say it? -- homeschool co-op. There can be quite a few children there, you know!

When I read opinions about how children ought to be in public schools for the good of society or that they need some "accountability," in homeschooling I wonder if we're still in America.

Here in Missouri, I do not have to have any contact with school officials or notify them if we're homeschooling. I did, of course, have to give them a letter of withdrawal for my child. I made it effective immediately. No administrator is reviewing my curriculum and I do not have to test at all, ever.

"Oh, no!" you may be thinking. "Surely she may have lax academic standards. She may be using homeschooling as a cover-up for abuse."

I'm sure some parents do. What's the remedy for that? Involve the STATE in the private lives of all citizens? Ensure that all children are tested so that they're at "grade level" and suffer no educational neglect?

Can we think about what you're asking when you speak of accountability? If my child must pass a test to continue homeschooling, I'm going to want my child to be able to pass it each year. If I want my child to pass it each year, I will teach the concepts that are in the test. It would affect the scope and sequence of my curriculum. In short, the state would be dictating what I would teach in a backhanded way. (Unless I wanted my child to fail and re-enter public schools, I suppose...)

This might *seem* fine if you want to be sure my eight-year-old can add and subtract. I think you know, however, that tests can change over time and that there are a good *plenty* of people in academia with a decided political opinion that may be diametrically opposed to my own. These people would want to influence the things we would teach our children.

I'd suggest you go to the HSLDA website and find out what is happening to homeschoolers in Germany. Adolf HITLER began the compulsory education of children in Germany so that their little minds could be moulded in accordance with his political ideology.

Just think about that next time you criticize parents who want to teach their kids about God at home. All that "love your neighbour" stuff can be contagious.

Hopefully I've been a good neighbour to you and we have decent and civil discourse; however, I'm quite certain you will be unable to convince me to enroll my precious little ones in the nearest public school anytime soon.

Bless you again! For all our disagreements, you do sound like someone who truly cares about the education of children, and for that I thank you. I just feel that I ought to have a choice in what to do with my own children without government/ school district oversight.

:]

3/15/2008 5:42 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

The first anonymous comment was mine. I forgot to type in my name. I've known quite a few homeschooling parents, and never seen what you describe, Dennis. I'm not saying that I know you're wrong, just that I suspect your prejudice may be clouding your judgement here.

Judge's opinion from a 1961 case involving homeschooling:

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

In other words, indoctrination is a primary purpose of the educational system.

3/15/2008 6:05 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Anonymous #2 and Mrs. C., I am well aware that no parent is going to send their kids to public school solely because they might have a positive effect on other kids. But I do wish that parents considering the options would take that into consideration.

Obviously, I sent my kids to public schools. Because I did that, it was in my interest to care about that school and the programs my kids were in. I think that's healthy.

Does that mean that I think no one should ever consider homeschooling their kids, or that anyone who does is a poor citizen? Absolutely not. As I indicated in my last comment, there are situations in which I would consider homeschooling my kids if I were still a young parent.

Mrs. C., I'm wondering if you misunderstood me. I am against making education compulsory, so I don't have a problem with whether or not standards are lax for homeschooling.

I must be honest with you and say that I LOVE comments from people who agree with me. I mean, who doesn't like being told they are right? I know I sure do! But I also realize that this blog would be pretty boring if it weren't for people like you who disagree with me. That is especially true when they are as nice about it as you are.

Daniel, you are assuming that public schools and teachers are all operating according to what some judge said 47 years ago. First of all, I can tell you that judges haven't got a clue about what goes on in public school classrooms. They have proven that again and again over the years. Secondly, this judge said that before Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky, and our recent adventure in Iraq. There have been a lot of public school teachers who have been affected by those things, so they aren't all doing the things that judge said we are supposed to do.

3/15/2008 7:04 AM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

Dennis, thanks for the clarification. And for being so civil with me! I have added your blog link to my list of "blogs on education." So if your sitemeter says I've visited your blog 5,000 times today I'm not stalking you -- it's because I'm figuring out how to get the blog name correctly written on my links... how to spell your name... making sure that when I click on the link in my blog it works... etc. I'm a reasonably intelligent person, but a bit technologically behind and it takes me a while to get things together.

I come across many folks who would like all public education dismantled. I'm one of them, to be honest, but I'm also a realist. It's not going away any time soon.

There are many things GOOD and BAD about public education. Many more discussions to be had in the future, I'm sure. Have a good weekend!

3/15/2008 7:27 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

Dennis, public schools are still teaching a government approved cirriculum with government approved textbooks and materials. Which means that public schools are always going to be teaching that obedience to the state is necessary for the welfare of society. The reality is that obedience to the state is necessary only for the welfare of the politicians. That hasn't changed in the past 47 years. And I would think that our recent adventures in Iraq would have made that clear.

3/15/2008 8:08 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Mrs. C., when it comes to being technologically behind, I'm with you! I'm so bad that I've been advertising for Gulf Hurricane Relief for the last year because I don't know how to get rid of the darned thing. YOU have a nice weekend, too!

Daniel, I think you've just inspired another post. You're getting pretty good at that!

3/15/2008 9:16 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

Mrs. C, my compliments to you! I would also like to see all public education dismantled. I believe homeschooling your children and encouraging others to do the same is the best way to move towards the goal of educational freedom.

Dennis, I don't see how its possible to plagiarize from your own book. Is it?

I would add to my last comment that obedience to morality is necessary for the welfare of society. And it doesn't take a state for that.

3/15/2008 10:06 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Geez, I feel like I'm getting ganged up on here! And JETTYBETTY, thank you! I got so busy dealing with the people who disagreed with me that I forgot to thank the one who actually liked what I had to say!

3/15/2008 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Fermoyle,

I also teach in a public high school here in Tennessee and I have been encouraged by much of what you have to say. However, I have to disagree with your stance on homeschooling. I taught my two sons from birth through the 8th grade. I taught both of them to read well before school age and so I figured that since that was the main thing they needed to get out of elementary school we could spend our time doing other things. And we did. We read and read, did science experiments, used a solid and consistent math program, made friends at church and in sports programs, travelled with Dad and spent lots and lots of time as a family. Because we felt inadequate to teach them the higher maths and sciences, we sent them to private schools for high school. We knew as graduates of our local, small, rural school system that they would never get the math and science background that they needed to succeed in college.
Would you truly ask us to sacrifice these wonderful and character-building years for the good of the public school system?


Now all of us are involved in some kind of public service. My oldest son is a cadet at West Point who will be serving his country for at least 7 more years. My youngest son also hopes to do ROTC and serve in the Army.

Very kindest regards and I look forward to more discussion with you.

Amy P. in Tennessee

3/15/2008 4:09 PM  
OpenID joycemocha said...

Dennis, I'll jump to your defense here. Before I was a teacher, I was a 4-H leader. As a 4-H leader, I saw a lot of homeschooling parents--and they ran the gamut from very structured and involved to parents who used the TV as a babysitter and the kids didn't learn squat from year to year.

Despite their involvement in a volunteer organization, though, most of the parents I dealt with did not readily volunteer in larger ways--or, if they did, it had to be on their terms. They wanted much more control over the kids than the other parents wanted, things like uniforms to wear at Fair, for one example which did not go over well.

As a teacher, I know of some excellent homeschoolers, and I've dealt with some awful situations as well (such as the self-taught kid who basically read books at night and snowboarded all day--he had some behavioral challenges to boot). But even the home school kids from a good situation need to be explicitly taught the dynamics of working through a system, and cooperation with others. There are home school parents who teach these skills, but they're in the minority, not the majority. My guess is that one reason many home school parents do pull their kids (with the exception of the poster above with the autistic student--if you don't have a district that works well with autism, often you really don't have an alternative other than private schooling or home schooling) is that they don't work well within the system themselves. At least that's my particular limited experience.

3/15/2008 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis (and the rest)!

I have only a little to contribute to the discussion on homeschoolers failing to care enough about other people's children, but I *can* provide some information the recent California court ruling.

Here goes.

In late February, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that parents who home school their children must have a teaching credential. This has, predictably, caused quite an uproar in the homeschool community (both in California and in other states). This ruling will probably be appealed to the California Supreme Court. What happens there is anyone's guess.

I'm not a lawyer, but I have read the court decision as well as the relevant California law on the subject. I don't think that the ruling means what people think it means.

Some background is in order.

The most important background it that California *has* no legal homeschooling. And hasn't for a long time (possibly forever). The word 'homeschool' doesn't appear in the law regarding education in California.

Instead, California provides several basic choices for a child to be legally educated and not considered truant. The key ones are:

1) The child can attend a public school.

2) The child can attend a private school.

3) The child can be tutored at home. IN THIS CASE, the TUTOR MUST HAVE A CALIFORNIA TEACHING CREDENTIAL.

The court basically ruled that the family in question:
(a) Had not done (1)-(3), and
(b) Did not have a constitutional right to homeschool (if they did, then the laws would be overridden by the constitution).

A common choice for California homeschoolers is option (2), attend a private school.

"Huh?" you ask.

The key here is that the homeschoolers set up a private school for their kids. This is legal (so far), and the California Department of Education has made it easy to do this (and, in fact, has an expedited on-line form for this purpose). The only requirements for the teachers in a private school in California is that they "be capable of teaching." Historically, California has not monitored the qualifications of private school teachers. As of today, there is no requirement that teachers in private schools be credentialed.

The family in question for the court ruling was pursing a 4th option (that lots of people thought was legal until this court ruling). This option was basically distance learning, with periodic monitoring by the organization running the distance learning. The organization that the family that was involved in the court case selected is, in fact, accredited.

*This* is what the court ruled was a no-no. Homeschooling via the 'private school' route does not appear to be discussed at all.

I expect that next school year will see a large increase in the number of California homeschoolers using option (2). Other that this, I don't see this court ruling changing much.

-Regards,
Mark Roulo

3/15/2008 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some very good arguments here both for and against homeschooling. Here is what I have to add. I have met some very bright well educated people that were homeschooled that were clearly given a very good education. I know of others that were homeschooled that are unable to read and obviously lack essential skills that they need to function independantly in society. Shouldn't someone be held accountable for this great injustice. While I see where Mrs. C is coming from in her argument about the government getting involved with her teaching shouldn't someone be checking in to make sure the proper education is being provided. I just think too many parents are using homeschooling as an easy way out of dealing with problems their children have in public school systems. If homeschooling is done with care and passion I have no problem with it because these kids will be well educated. The problem I have is the lax homeschooling because ultimately the one that suffers is the child.

3/15/2008 10:04 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Joycemocha, thanks for your help. I needed it!

Mark, you never cease to amaze me with your research. I had read a couple of articles and blogs about the California situation, but I have to admit that the situation did confuse me. You have helped straighten me out on it, and that's an accomplishment!

Amy P., it appears to me that you didn't read some of the earlier comments, and I certainly don't blame you if you didn't, but I will repeat something I said in earlier comments. I would not ask you to sacrifice those years you had for the public school system. But as a public school teacher, certainly you can see that having good kids in your classes matters. I'm a high school social studies teacher, and maybe the effect is more obvious in my situation, but I know that if the best kids are taken out of my classes, my classes are a little worse. I think a lot of people don't realize that, and I would like people who haven't made the choice yet to consider that. From the description you've given, I would almost guarantee that your kids would have made their public school classes better. I'm not going to back off on that. But I also understand that in the end, each family has to make their own decision based on the totality of their own circumstances. I wouldn't say you made a bad or selfish decision, because, as I also indicated in one of my comments, there are situations in which I would consider homeschooling if I were a parent. As I said in my post, I am familiar with the situation in Warroad, and many of the homeschoolers here belong to the "God is not allowed in public schools" club, and I deeply resent that point of view.

Anonymous (the last one), I am very sympathetic to what you are saying. My only problem with it is that, at least at the middle and high school levels, I think that having kids in public schools who don't want to be there, or from families who don't want them to be there, does more harm than good.

3/16/2008 3:15 AM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

Dennis, not to dredge up bad memories or hijack the blog, I would have to say that while JESUS is always sovereign, He certainly is NOT glorified in public schools. (How often you hear the name of JESUS in the school, rather than the generic, inoffensive "God," I think, is telling.) Some recent examples but not an entire list:

1. My older son Patrick was asked to construct an "altar to the dead" in Spanish class. (Violation of commandment number one in Exodus 20.) The public school, it seems, wants to teach toleration of all religions, etc. except conservative Evangelical Christianity, because people DON'T THINK about how assignments like that will look to us. We are a sizeable minority in this area of Missouri.

I understood after speaking with the teacher that she just thought she was giving the children an experience from another culture, but to my mind the teacher-student relationship is not equal and Patrick is one of the few students able to feel he can speak up. It should NOT be a daily duty for me to peruse the curriculum of each of my two older boys, each of whom have several teachers. Not to mention the fact that their classes change entirely the following semester and you start all over again.

I should be able to send my kids to school and trust that while mistakes happen, generally there is a spirit of understanding and accomodation in the area of religion. If they don't want me opening the school day on the loudspeaker with prayers to JESUS, why do they think it's ok to make an altar to the dead in class? Courtesy works both ways!!

2. In science, the teacher had planned on teaching evolution until I asked questions about this during "open house." Other parents got very upset and the plans got scrapped. Actually, it would be *fine* with me if evolution were taught as a scientific theory in the upper grades so long as differing viewpoints are respected and the parents opt their children IN. Please don't sneak controversial topics into the curriculum that you KNOW parents will object to without warning them! The same courtesy, please, with "works of literature."

3. In social studies, the students were encouraged to explore Egyptian culture by writing a PRAYER to the sun-god RA. These people either are not thinking or they have no respect for a sizeable religious population in the school. Either way, it doesn't speak well for public education.

4. Sex ed. We've opted out, but parents are not specifically told what's in the curriculum, and if I weren't looking I'd have never known. Certainly my children know what sort of scene would happen if they came home and told me what was taught and would likely say NOTHING.

5. Our high school also participates in the Day of Silence over the objection of many parents. I understand if you believe in "gay rights." I really do. I understand that you can have a different opinion or perspective than my child. The administration ought not to encourage such a one-sided demonstration on its campus, however.

Don't kid yourself that just because prayer isn't allowed in school that religion is not being taught. It's a secular sort of religion, to be sure, but it's being taught, and subtly. It's the kind of worldview that tells my child that he is intolerant and hateful for calling sin what it is. It's the kind that tells him his family is backward for not subscribing to the idea of the "equality of the sexes" or that we are somehow bigoted for insisting that our child not participate in Kwanzaa celebrations when they were younger.

Perhaps eating the apple of homeschooling has opened my eyes to a world of sin in the p.s. system. I honestly did not see how bad it was before. There are good things in public schools, and I'm not into melodrama and painting every ps teacher as a villain (many are Christians!!), but that's my perspective of the "God in public schools" argument.

It IS just my perspective based on my limited experience, however. I'd be interested to read what others have to say on the topic. You have so many GOOD things in your blog, and I appreciate the open door. Hopefully I have not overstayed my welcome, but I had a free hour here and have been longing for some adult conversation.

I'm sure on some other post, I'll be your amen corner, ok? Just not this one!!

3/16/2008 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Amy P. said...

Dennis,
I appreciate your reply to my post. I want you to know that I did read your prior responses and that I did have them in mind when writing my response. Allow me to give an illustration of what I'm trying to say.

THis morning, in church, the minister gave a sermon based on an exposition of the 36th chapter of Isaiah in which a lot of background in ancient history is needed to fully understand the passage. BAsically, he was describing the siege of Jerusalem by an Assyrian king named Sennacharib. Now while the minister was going through the somewhat tedious explanation of the historical background I looked over at my two sons (the oldest one is home on spring break), and saw that they were both paying close attention and showing great interest. You see, we studied Sennacharib in our little homeschool. We studied all of the ancient kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine. We even memorized the "The fall of Sennacharib" by Lord Byron. We had time to do that! We had time to do chores together, to garden, cook, visit grandparents, nursing home residents, neighbors. We turned off the cable access in our home and read books at night and watched videos together. My children never complained because they never knew there was any other way!

And yes, as a public school teacher (Spanish), I do wish I had more kids like my own in my classroom, who have a familiarity and perspective on history. It would be much easier to teach culture and geography. However, if I had not homeschooled them, they would never have achieved that level of knowledge and interest. I know its an ironic twist! And I'm not sure what the answer is.

But I do know this. I would never sacrifice my children's excellent education in order to save the public school system. As you have entitled your blog, public schools are battlefields. We do not send our children to do battle. We send adults to do that work. I hope that somehow I can be an influence for good on some of the children I teach, but I do not hold out much hope for the future of federal-controlled, state-controlled education.

If we want the good parents back , we have to let them run the schools. Not the president, not the legislature, not the NEA, not the Department of Education...this work is the parents' responsibility and they need to take it back.

Amy P. in Tennessee

3/16/2008 2:15 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Mrs. C., there are teachers who do stupid things. Without knowing any more about the situation than what you've described, I have to say that the idea of having kids write a prayer to an Egyptian sun god sounds incredibly stupid. As someone who tries his best to defend public schools, I find it embarrassing.

I expressed my feelings about whether or not God is allowed in public schools in one of my early posts. Rather than putting in a link, I think I might run it again. What the heck--TV has re-runs all the time, so why can't I have one.

And you absolutely have not overstayed your welcome. I'm glad that you feel strongly enough about something I wrote to respond the way you did.

Amy, I can't speak for your school, but I can for mine. I KNOW that students who want a good education can get one here, because I've seen so many who have--and that includes my own three sons. I think you'll agree that the key to that is how important education is to the parents. Obviously education is very important to your family. Your kids might not have learned about Sennacharib, but unless your public school is much worse than ours, I'll bet they would have gotten a good education even if they had gone to it. I can't say that they would have matched academically what you were able to give to them, but I think they'd have been more than fine. I do have kids in my classes whose level of knowledge and interest is impressive, and you can almost always see the influence of their homes in that. I suspect that if I'd have had your kids in any of the great majority of classes I've had over the year, I'd have loved them, and they'd have loved the class.

3/16/2008 3:34 PM  
Blogger jettybetty said...

awww--If you haven't noticed I am VERY pro-public schools--not always for the same reasons you are--so I like to hear your perspective! Once again--keep up the good work!

3/17/2008 4:21 AM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

Dismantle public schooling? Good grief... It's all well and good for those who are able to say that everyone should homeschool their child and that the government should have no say in what people are learning, but what about the overwhelming majority of people who simply aren't able to take that route, either for financial reasons, or because of inadequacies in their own education.

I have a degree in Education from a respected university (one of the best education programs in Western Canada), and I'd still be uncomfortable homeschooling my own kids. Why? Because all my teaching knowledge and the vast majority of my subject area knowledge is geared towards high school. I don't know what a kindergarten student needs to know by the end of that year...

Secondly, the "right" to an education is not a private right - it's a public good. It's good for a democratic country to have an educated populace. It's therefore every citizen's obligation to assist in providing that education (which we do through taxes), and the government's responsibility to ensure that every child has access to education that is at or above an agreed-upon standard. That standard is set through curriculum. Therefore, the government must necessarily be involved in education through collection and disbursement of funds for education for all citizens and to ensure that all citizens have access to the same standard of education through the establishment of curriculum guidelines.

I'd also like to address one of mrs c's points that makes me grind my teeth every time I hear it. I am a Bible-believing Christian. I go to church every Sunday, I teach Sunday School. I also teach evolution in my biology class. The idea that the two are necessarily incompatible is false, propagated by anti-science zealots with no respect for the scientific method, accuracy in instruction, or the history of science. Every time I hear some Christian spout off a memorized list of why evolution is wrong, it saddens me that they have so closed their minds to the possibilities inherent in the theory.

3/17/2008 7:21 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

Let's not forget, Ian, that you teach in the public schools, and, therefore, have a financial interest in having people forced to pay for public education. You can deny that all you want, but I won't buy it.

3/17/2008 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

Does that all of a sudden disqualify the logic of my argument?

3/17/2008 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's all well and good for those who are able to say that everyone should homeschool their child and..."

Most people who want the government out of education expect that the vast bulk of the children will wind up at private schools, not that they will be homeschooled.

:-)

-Mark Roulo

3/17/2008 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Ian, from my point of view, the logic just keeps getting better and better the farther north you go!

3/17/2008 3:27 PM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

It certainly casts suspicion on your arguments, Ian. And it should. Following the money is usually a good strategy to get to the bottom of things. This is why I don't believe that any meaningful change will ever come from within the education establishment. It's going to have to come from without.

The logic behind your argument is that society has rights that supersede those of individuals. I hold that society has no rights. Only individuals have rights. The only way to uphold the rights of society is to violate the rights of some individuals. That's not freedom, that's slavery.

3/17/2008 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following the money is usually a good strategy to get to the bottom of things. This is why I don't believe that any meaningful change will ever come from within the education establishment.

Given that you think that "meaningful change" means "abolishing public schools," you're probably right. However, any other interpretation of "meaningful change" means that you've just insulted every teacher and administrator in the public schools. Of course, the fact that you didn't understand anything Ian said makes your "argument" worthless anyway, since you didn't really address what he said, and your statement about what his argument is based on is invalid on its face. Your statements are like every other libertarian foolishness I've ever read: self-centered, vacuous, and ultimately without merit.

Michael

3/17/2008 4:40 PM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

I'm horribly insulted, Michael.

Yes, I do think that meaningful change means abolishing public schools.

And I understand JUST EXACTLY what Ian is saying. I've heard it many times. Some of it I agree with (the theory of evolution), but most of it is collectivist nonsense.

3/17/2008 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Amy P. said...

Dennis,

I'm assuming that the geographical comment was directed at me.

Since we don't seem to be following each other's logic, let's talk numbers.

What is the average SAT score for your school? The average for our homeschool was a 1475.

Amy P. in Tennessee

3/17/2008 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

I didn't say society had rights - I said there is such thing as a societal good. People may differ on what societal goods there are (we up here in the frozen north include a healthy populace among them, hence socialized medicine), but you cannot argue that they do not exist without promoting an anarchist view of society.

If there are certain things that are good for a society to have, it remains only to decide which things. An educated populace would seem to be an easy choice as a societal good simply by looking at the effects of not having one. From there, you get to the argument I posted above.

The logic of my argument is not refuted by my being "in the system" - you'll have to address its points directly.

Amy P. - the geography comment was directed at me, I think - I'm from Saskatchewan.

3/17/2008 10:26 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Amy, no, and I'm sorry. I wasn't even thinking of you when I wrote that. Ian is from Canada, and he was one of the few commenters on this post who agreed with me. It was strictly meant as a humorous compliment to him. I really wasn't trying to put anyone else down. If you've read enough of my posts and comments, you probably know that I try to use humor whenever I can, and I also try not to personally slam anyone. I should have thought more before I posted that comment, and I hope you'll accept my apology. That comment was absolutely not directed at you or anyone else in a negative way.

3/18/2008 2:39 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

What gave you the idea that I wasn't promoting an anarchist view of society?

3/18/2008 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apology accepted. I'm not usually over-defensive. I can't afford to be as I takes hits everyday at school. Also, my post was short on humility. I apologize as well.

It is true that we think differently about things in the South. We have a very independent and stubborn streak which I think descends from our Scotch-Irish heritage. We tend to be strongly family-centered. If a child fits well into the family, he will fit well into the clan (that's clan with a "c" :) ) And all is well. We tend to be very wary of big government, big corporations, big schools and outsiders telling us what to do. But times, they are 'achanging, as I tell my students every day.

Regarding the attitudes of some homeschoolers, I am well aware of their independent ways. I led a support group for many years. Talk about herding cats! For all that, I've seen remarkable, unbelievable success in their ranks and I will continue to support and defend their cause.

Sorry for the length and frequency of my postings. I have a little extra time as I'm on Spring Break. They will end soon, I promise.

Amy P. in Tennessee

3/18/2008 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

Daniel,
Anarchy is great until something comes up for which you need a centrally planned system: defence, justice, banking, etc.

3/18/2008 7:09 AM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

I don't agree that we need a centrally planned system for any of those things. One reason is that centrally planned systems are not able to anticipate and adapt to changes very well. And changes are a big part of human society.

That's why I suggested that Dennis read John Hasnas's "What's Wrong With A Little Tort Reform?". I would urge you to read it as well. I found it to be very interesting and enlightening, as well as applicable to lots of things besides the law (and as with Dennis, I'm sure that you are at least as intelligent as I am in comprehending what Hasnas has to say).

3/18/2008 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

You don't think a centrally planned judicial system is a good idea? So each district court could interpret law whatever way it wanted to and there would be no recourse for appeal?

And defence might be a little difficult without some coordination between units, otherwise chaos would ensue.

We're not talking "5-year plan" Soviet central planning here, just that there needs to be something to hold the center together. Even classic libertarianism postulates a role for the government (anything that people aren't able to do for themselves). You're proposing something far beyond that.

3/18/2008 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A random update on the California homeschooling ruling (for any lurkers who find this thread in the future).

The ruling caused a predictable uproar and then the California Superintendent of Education said that his office had reviewed the ruling and homeschooling could continue (which was my reading of the ruling, too, but I'm not a lawyer).

After a bit more uproar, the 2nd circuit voided their own ruling and said they would rehear the case.

We got a new ruling in August and the upshot is that the court found that while the California constitution doesn't require that homeschooling be legal (my read, too, for what it is worth), the legislature *can* permit this (because the legislature is in charge of things not covered by the state constitution).

The court then ruled unanimously that while there was an old ruling on the books that said that homeschooling was a no-no, lots of recent legislative activities clearly were intended to permit and support homeschooling (for example, an expedited on-line form for homeschoolers to register as a private school).

So, homeschooling in California is pretty much back to where it was before we got this ruling, but now we have a court ruling that says that things are kosher.

-Regards,
Mark Roulo

8/25/2008 9:08 PM  

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