Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year....and a Good Read!

The holidays have preempted our regularly scheduled blogging activity here at The Homeschool Apologist, but we definitely don't want you to go away!! 

This article, Troubled Teens Born in the Classroom, crossed my Twitter feed this morning. And it's good.  Really good.  I would expound on it with a well-written, brilliant response, but:
  1. We're still partying here, and I really don't have time.
  2. The article says it all.
Suffice it to say that here in America, our schools are stealing our children away from us.  When the solution is as simple as not handing your child over to the system to begin with, the most surprising thing is that so many families stand for it.

I haven't read her other articles yet, but actress turned homeschool advocate Sam Sorbo, has a couple other posts here and here that look very interesting as well.  

Arby and I will return to regular blogging one of these days....hopefully when we do, you'll still be here!!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas 

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Thanks for joining us here on The Homeschool Apologist over the last several months!  We're thankful for each and every person who has stopped by and taken the time to read what we have to say!  We hope you'll continue to stop by from time to time in 2011!!

Christmas Blessings to you and yours,

May the grace, peace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill your hearts today and every day.  Have a blessed Christmas and a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

(There’s No Place Like) Camping in the Winter Time

Sung to the tune of
(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays 

Oh, there’s no place like camping on this weekend,
For no matter how low the merc’ry drops-
If you’re a member of Boy Scout Troop one-six-seven,
In the winter time you earn your camping chops!
Oh, the boys they start complaining when the forecast’s nice and dry.
They like to camp in ten feet of ice and snow.
If they don’t sleep in a blizzard then it isn’t worth the trip.
You can’t learn to treat your frostbite,
If it isn’t frigid at night!

Oh, there’s no place like camping on this weekend,
For no matter how low the merc’ry drops-
If you’re a member of Boy Scout Troop one-six-seven,
In the winter time you earn your camping chops!

The Scoutmaster builds a camp fire that’s seen from outer space,
It will melt a ring of snow a mile wide.
We’ll be sliding through a mud pit as we cook our dinner fare.
But, the food it is terrific,
Just don’t watch what they put in it!

Oh, there’s no place like camping on this weekend,
When we long for the comforts of a home,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
Next time winter camp inside a Holidome!
Next time winter camp inside a Holidome!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The Government-Education Complex": Another Reason to Homeschool

Bruno Behrend, of Extreme Wisdom, recently wrote an article for Somewhat Reasonable, the blog of The Heartland Institute, which has provided me with an incredibly well-written explanation of yet another reason why I continue to make the choice to homeschool my children. 

In this fantastic article, Bruno Behrend calls our national education system "The Government-Education Complex", and his description of the structural make-up, agenda, and outcome of this taxpayer-funded monstrosity is spot-on.
"The 'Government Education Complex' is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex."
"The Government Education Complex is designed to grow itself, while spending money by the billions. It is operating exactly as intended. The actual education of America’s children is not its agenda. Spending money is its agenda."
The parents of America's children should be asking themselves these question.

Why would I entrust my child's entire future to a system which
"...merely uses our children as a stick to beat more money out of us while providing, at best, a mediocre education for the lucky few?" 
Why would I entrust my child to a system that is not interested in reforming itself, despite well-documented evidence of pervasive failure to produce positive results?

Mr. Behrend is not a fan of reform.  Instead he argues for a more far-reaching solution.  He believesand I concurthat the only solution is the complete dismantling of a system that is far more successful at lining the pockets of unions, administrators, politicians, and special interests than it is in providing America's children with a quality education.

And until the system is dismantled, it may have control of my tax dollars, but it will NEVER have control of my children.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Words are not Sufficient...

Yesterday, Dana Hanley, of Roscommon Acres (formerly Principled Discovery) posted a heartbreaking post concerning the sudden passing of their sweet 22-month old son, Mattias Ryker Hanley. Please pray for Dana, her husband, and their five other children as they pass through these deep waters. 

"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling." (Psalms 46:1-3 NKJV)
"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalms 18:2 NKJV)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"New Direction for Education Policy in the House"

One can hope that this will begin the process of bringing about a reversal of current trends.

Here are a few excerpts from statements made by Minnesota Representative, John Kline, the new chairman of the House Labor and Education Committee. 

In a press release statement earlier today, Kline stated:
My goal for the federal programs and agencies that oversee our schools and workplaces is to provide certainty and simplicity. We must ensure federal red tape does not become the enemy of innovation, and that federal mandates do not become roadblocks on the path to reform.
Earlier this year, Kline pushed against national education standards and assessments, which would encroach upon state and local authority to determine what children are taught in the classroom. He stated:
This is the U.S. Department of Education, putting [out its] view of what needs to be done. … It’s not the states deciding. It’s not local control.
Furthermore, he noted:
That’s not our [the federal government’s] job. … If you’re starting to put the federal government in charge of assessments, standards, you’re moving in a way that I don’t think Americans want.
Read the entire article HERE.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

$350,000.00 - Not a Bad Paycheck for a Third Grader

I am not a big fan of the litigious society that we have become.  More often than not, when I hear of a court-awarded financial windfall for someone I mentally thank Stella Liebeck for opening the litigation floodgates.  Having written that, I must admit that I was quite pleased to read of the $350,000 settlement for Alex Barton.  I almost wrote about Alex when I first read his story.  In May of 2008, his kindergarten teacher allowed her students to vote on whether or not the young man would remain a member of the class.  Apparently, young Alex had been a bit of a disruption.  The teacher decided to hold a reality-show style vote with the rest of the kindergarteners determining Alex’s fate.  Alex lost.  This must be an example of the socialization that homeschooling critics argue for when they state that students will never learn how to interact with society if they do not sit with their peers for six hours each day in a public school classroom.
Well, it turns out that young Alex had a very good reason for his inability to control his behavior in the classroom.   Alex Barton is autistic.  Specifically, he has Asperger's syndrome.   Young master Barton completed his kindergarten year in a homeschool.     And what happened to kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo, one of those college educated, licensed, professionals whose credentials are so critical to educational success that they are held up as an example to homeschooling parents as reasons why we shouldn’t attempt to teach at home?   She was suspended for a year, but has since returned to the classroom with her tenure reinstated. 
You can read Brian Hamacher’s complete report here. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Major Havoc, What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Major Havoc sighed in frustration, dropping his head into his hands.  My initial thought was that he would launch into all the reasons his 8-year-old mind could create for not completing his A beka Language 2 writing assignment.  I checked my own impatience.  He has been stalling on completing his work during the last two weeks.  He will finish second grade before Christmas, and I think we are both looking forward to the break before he begins third grade after the first of the year.
 “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Dad, I have to write one sentence telling what I would like to be when I grow up.”
“So?”  I replied.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Nothing!  I am going to ask my wife to get a job.”
“Good luck with that,” I thought to myself.  This stay-at-home dad thing is a great gig if you can find someone to finance it, but it isn’t the most attractive calling card on the dating market.  It certainly wasn’t in the plans when my wife and I married.
I smiled at the Major.  “Write what you just told me.”
His face positively beamed when he heard my reply.  It never occurred to him that his idea was an acceptable answer.  “Really?”
“Sure.  Write what you just told me.  If that is the truth, then write it.”  
The Major had no difficulties completing the rest of his assignment. 
Write three reasons why you want to be that.
I want to take care of my children.
My wife can get the money.
I can start cooking dinner.
I love his first reason.  I want to take care of my children. No matter what eventually decides to do in life, I hope he never loses that desire.  I wish more men shared in that dream.  I will have to teach him that ketchup is not a food group, and that man cannot live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone (although he is trying to prove me wrong on that).
Write two ways you can prepare for that job.
Marrying my wife.
Having a baby.
At least he has those two items in their proper order.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bit Off-Topic...But is it??

We are blessed to live in an amazing country that affords us rights, privileges and comforts that many people around the world can only dream of.  One of the privileges that we still enjoy is the right to choose how we will educate our children.  As homeschoolers, we are so blessed to have the opportunity to educate our children at home--to teach them as WE see fit, and to instill in them the values that WE stand on.  It is a blessing that MANY around the world do not enjoy.

I stumbled on this video this morning on the Why Homeschool blog.  It hit me hard.  Every blessing, every right, every privilege that is mine to enjoy, is only mine because of the sacrifice of those who fought for me.  

"I salute the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom."
"All gave some, some gave all."

"I Fought For You"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America


WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Itchy Kidney Follow-up

A long time ago, on a blog far, far away, I told a story about my wife, my oldest son, and a pair of scissors.  It went something like this…

As we all know, home schooling is not easy.  There are many sacrifices that we make in order to keep our children at home and teach them according to our values, our religious beliefs, and our educational philosophy.   Most of us live off of one income.  That’s a challenge.  In order to live off of one income we do not have many of the “luxury” items that seem so prevalent in society.   For some of us, basic necessities can be a challenge from month to month.  So we drive older model cars that are a little banged-up, we don’t go to the movies very often, and dinners out are rare.  A lot of our clothing comes from thrift stores.  And in our house, my wife cuts our hair. 

She has been cutting our hair for years.  She’s cut mine as long as we’ve been together,   and she’s good at it.   If it were only my hair that she was cutting, everything would be fine.  The problem comes when she has to cut the General Mayhem’s hair.  Cutting the General’s hair is like hugging an eel. 

On the patience scale, with "ten" being "Saintly" and "one" being a "Titan missile with a very short fuse," both the General and his mother are two’s.   Hair cuts are generally long, loud, frustrating shouting matches. 

“I itch!”

“Sit still!”

“How much longer?”

“If you’d stop wiggling I’d have been done an hour ago!”

It got so bad that my wife, whom I cheekily refer to as “The Boss,” recently admitted that she hates cutting hair and doesn’t want to do it any longer.  So I was more than surprised when she announced last night that she was cutting everyone’s hair.  When she was finished cutting Major Havoc’s hair, the Boss called for General Mayhem. 

I was shocked. 

She didn’t get five seconds into wetting down his hair when the General began to wiggle and squirm, giggle and shake.  The frustration level rose so quickly you’d have thought this was a continuation of the last hair cut six months previously. 

“Stop moving!”

“My shoulder itches.”

“Your shoulder always itches, now look up!”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”


And then came the comment that brought the haircut to a halt.  After ten minutes of barking and snipping the General looked at his mother and said,

“My kidney itches!”

“That’s it!  I don’t care how your hair looks.  You’re done.  Leave!”

She slammed her scissors on the table, muttering in disgust.  Then she looked at me and asked, “Are you ready?”

“Me?” I gasped.

“Yes, you.  You need a haircut.” 

“You know, I think I’d rather have you cut my hair before you cut the General’s.  Not after.”

“You know how to sit still.  Come here!”

So I got my hair cut.   

I only heard one “Oops,” and one “Oh, shoot!” and one “Now that side is too short!” in what was otherwise a pleasant moment between husband and wife.   Finally, she put her instruments of follicle terror on the table and asked, “Does this feel even to you?”

I told her it was fine, and commenced sweeping up all of the hair clippings.  And it is fine.  If I tilt my head ever so slightly to the right my hair looks perfectly even. 

Ah, the sacrifices we make to home school!

Now, I retold that story in order to tell you this one:

Saturday, I was dry walling the new bedroom in the basement.  The house was quiet.  I assumed that The Boss was harvesting her Australian Finger Lime on Farmville while the children played outside.  As I carried an armload of supplies up the basement steps, I heard The Boss talking with General Mayhem.  I almost dropped my load of materials when I turned the corner into the kitchen and discovered the General sitting in a chair while his mother cut his hair! 

A haircut!  With no arguing!  With no yelling!  A haircut with no itchy internal organs!  It was so peaceful and pleasant I thought I was in the wrong house.  It occurred to me at that moment that things do get better.  The kids grow up.  It's amazing. 

We are starting to see signs that all our hard work is paying off.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Have a Mistress

I have a mistress. 
And my wife doesn’t mind. 
How cool is that?!
One aspect of homeschooling that I just love is how much I learn while teaching my children.  Today I learned that I not only have a mistress, but that my wife doesn’t mind.  Not at all.  Why should she?  It is she.     
My son Major Havoc completed an extended worksheet on abbreviations this afternoon.  Through the process of elimination he connected the abbreviation “Mrs.” with the word “mistress.”  When I looked over his paper I was certain that there was a misprint.  “Mrs.” is the abbreviation for “mistress?”  I checked the dictionary.  Sure enough, the worksheet was correct.
The next question that came to mind was, “How did I make it to 45 years of age and not know that “Mrs.” is the abbreviation for “mistress?” 
The short answer is that I attended public schools.  The long answer is that somewhere along the line I was taught that “Miss” was a term used to address a single woman, “Mrs.” was used to address a married woman, and “Mister” was used to address a man.   “Mister” could be abbreviated using “Mr.” It never once occurred to me to ask what “Mrs.” stood for beyond “married woman.”
I think I’m going to start introducing my wife as my mistress.
“Hi!  My name is Arby.  This is my mistress, Melissa.”  Then I’m going to enjoy some very entertaining facial expressions as people look from her to me and wonder exactly how to respond. 
Mistress Melissa.  Sounds exotic!
And to think that I wouldn’t have learned this if I wasn’t homeschooling...
Now, how cool is that?!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Do You Socialize Your Children?

Oh dear, this made me laugh so hard.  Have you ever had a conversation like this?

Monday, November 15, 2010

HomeschoolView.TV--Homeschooling the Reluctant Learner

Though homeschooling is usually a part of life that brings great joy, it can also be a source of great frustration.  Kids don't always want to learn.  And their reluctance often brings with it tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.  And sometimes even the child cries.

One of Cristina's comics gives a bit of insight...

So how can you handle a reluctant learner?  Without losing your sanity?  Here are some tips via HomeschoolView.TV:

What do you do with your reluctant learner?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homespun Comic #158

I thought this comic that Cristina reposted a few days ago seemed quite apropos in light of the recent post on math instruction!! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

One More Reason to Homeschool: Everyday Mathematics

Remember when you were a kid and your parents complained about the "New Math" you were being taught in school?  I don't know about you, but honestly, I just thought my parents weren't all that smart.  How on earth they managed to do their jobs (my dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse) with their incredibly limited math expertise was beyond me. 

Interestingly enough, my parent's intellectual capabilities grew by leaps and bounds as I got older. It's funny how that happens isn't it?

I was reminded of my own math education (and my parent's reaction to it) last week when a friend posted this video on Facebook.

In Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth, M.J. McDermott exposes some rather alarming trends in math education which are clearly demonstrated in two popular math programs. (The video is long, but well-worth the time spent watching it!)  Everyday Mathematics and Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space are examples of "new-new math," or what has become more descriptively known as "fuzzy math".  I was first introduced to Everyday Mathematics (also known as Chicago Math) several years ago when I was substitute teaching in our local school district.  At first, some aspects of Everyday Mathematics seemed to make sense.  It made math fun.  And practical.  Great for use in...well...everyday life.  But then I started to notice how much in the book wasn't even really about math.  Huh?  And I began to notice language and methods that seemed completely ludicrous.

My initial exposure to Everyday Mathematics led me to a quick investigation which revealed a virtual boatload of negative "press" about this highly acclaimed curriculum.  I found numerous critical reviews written by everyone from math experts to parents to bloggers and journalists.  Even a number of system-bucking teachers jumped bravely into the fight.  Many of these critiques provide passionate testimony and firsthand knowledge of the damage that Everyday Mathematics has done (and continues to do.) In fact, just about the only vocal support I could find seemed to come from the program's own creators and from a few educational bureaucrats desperately trying to justify their own misguided decisions to inflict Everyday Mathematics on the unsuspecting parents and children in their districts. 

After this initial exposure to the world of "fuzzy math", I began to encounter something else that I found very interesting.  As a representative of a homeschool curriculum company, I attend about 10-12 homeschool conventions each year.  The company I represent publishes a spiral-based math program that is quite popular among homeschoolers.  Over the last several years, I've had a surprising number of parents indicate that the single most important factor in their decision to homeschool was Everyday Mathematics. More than once, a parent has done a double-take when I use the word "spiral-based" to describe our math program.  The concerned look was followed immediately by a question:  "If it's spiral-based, does that mean it's like Everyday Math?"

People homeschool for a lot of different reasons.  It turns out Everyday Mathematics is more than just a "highly acclaimed" math program.

It's also become a GREAT reason to homeschool.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Have you written?

My eighth grader is writing an essay for our literature class.  His assignment is to discuss how and why the use of rhetoric is central to the novel Animal Farm.  The echoes of his groaning hang in the air since I gave him the assignment yesterday afternoon.  My middle child is on the fourth day of his search for his missing science book, while showing a slightly suffocating need to have me sit next to him as he navigates second grade punctuation and 18-9= 9.  He knows the answers. He craves the 230 pound security blanket.  Meanwhile, the girl runs through the house, eagerly completing Abeka’s Button Bear exercises, mastering basic counting, and learning “Q.”  Three grades.  One house under construction.  One dad.
In the living room, a laptop sits open on a little green desk, one tiny white light blinking steadily, asking, “Have you written your blog post today?  Have you written your blog post today?”   It’s the electronic raven rapping, tapping on my chamber door.  Have you written?
One of the pleasures of writing The Homeschool Apologist is knowing that there is an audience that appreciates our efforts.  We were blessed to have 83 readers sign-up to follow us through Networked Blogs and Google Connect since our first post on August 12th.  We are grateful that so many people stopped by to visit and showed an interest in our blog. 
One thing that we do not see much of is comments.  With the exception of a few days where we were taken to task by a couple of angry public school teachers/supporters (and those were fun days), we do not hear from our readers.  That begs a question.  Are you there? 
Both Linda and I enjoy writing about and writing in defense of homeschooling.  We enjoy harvesting the comics from Cristina’s vast collection of Home Spun Juggling wisdom.  At the same time, we need to know that we are providing a service that is useful and enjoyed.  It is time to ask you, our readers, for some feedback.  Are you out there?  Are you reading?  Are we providing you with information that is helpful?  Please take a moment and tell us.  We need to hear from you.  
Now it’s time to rouse the troops, serve some breakfast, teach some algebra, and introduce “P.”  It’s another homeschooling day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homeschooling Hindsights--HomeschoolView.TV

If only we could learn everything we need to know about homeschooling BEFORE we begin the daunting task of educating our children!  Of course we've all heard the adage "Hindsight is 20/20."  Well, unfortunately, by the time you have the advantage of hindsight, you've likely already moved beyond the point of a homeschool "do-over."

Several weeks ago, as part of Alpha Omega Publications' HomeschoolView.TV series, I sat down with another veteran homeschool mom to talk through some of our own homeschool hindsights.  Janet Tatman (author of Daily Focus) and I have learned much over the course of our 45 years of combined homeschool experience.  In this two-part episode, Janet and I share some of the things that we would do differently if given the opportunity--and as most of you probably know, I HAVE been given the chance to do a "homeschool do-over!"  My three daughters are all homeschool graduates, but we've just begun the homeschool journey over again with our 6-year old son.  So, in fact, my hindsight IS also foresight.  Hopefully the lessons Janet and I have learned along the way can help to light the path that stretches in front of you!!

Homeschool Hindsights, Part I

Homeschool Hindsights, Part II

Home Spun Comic #287

Monday, November 1, 2010

Please Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Election Day.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to vote one way or another.  I’m not going to discuss specific candidates or their parties.  I know how I am going to vote tomorrow.  I trust that you know how you are going to vote tomorrow.   I suspect that there is little that I can say or do to change your mind, even if I wanted to.  Instead, I am going to ask you for a favor.
Think about homeschooling.
There are a lot of issues in this country that gain our attention, from the deficit to unemployment, from taxes to health care, our relationship with foreign countries and the ever present threat of terrorists and their desire to harm us.   It’s a lot to think about.
When you go to the polls tomorrow, please think about your children and their future.  Think about the quality of the education that they are receiving.  Consider your candidates, and ask yourself which candidate is going to support your freedom to educate your children at home?  Which candidate will support your freedom to educate your children at home without placing onerous burdens or restrictions on the process?  I demonstrated last week that there is at least one candidate in Missouri actively campaigning against homeschooling.  I am certain there are more. 
Please think about this issue.  Pray about this issue.  Please vote tomorrow.  Please consider supporting those candidates who will support your right to educate your children at home.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A "Proffessional" Candidate Campaigns Against "Lobbiests"

Kurt Bahr graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in History/Political Science.  He also earned a Master’s in Government/Public Policy from Regent University.  Matt Simmons attended three schools: St. Louis Community College, Central Missouri State, and Ranken Technical College.   He does not appear to have earned a degree from any of those institutions of higher learning.   Mr. Bahr served in the United States Air Force.  Mr. Simmons is a third generation pipefitter who “completed a five-year apprenticeship program with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, an organization that he has been an active member of for more than 19 years” (1).  He has served on the Hazelwood school board; the O’Fallon, Missouri, Traffic Commission; and the St. Charles County Ambulance District #5 Board.  Both men are candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives in District 19.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Two men with honorable backgrounds are competing for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.    We should be so blessed to have qualified candidates in every political contest; however, there’s more to the story.
Mr. Simmons is a graduate of Hazelwood East High School.  Mr. Bahr is a homeschool graduate, and Matt Simmons doesn’t like it.  Not one bit.  Matt Simmons is so anti-homeschooling that he is making it a central focus of his candidacy.  If you watch his campaign commercial, which you can find here, you’ll see that he is a staunch proponent of public schooling, which has earned him the endorsement of the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri Association of School Administrators, as well as the undying support of his wife, a public school teacher.  He wants “to ensure that Missouri’s children are allowed the opportunity to receive a world class education” (1).  Clearly, that does not include homeschooling. 
Mr. Bahr believes that “Education is first and foremost the responsibility of the parent.  Missouri must assist our parents, making sure that quality schools with quality teachers are available to everyone regardless of where they live.  Allowing parents a choice implements accountability, increases competition among public schools, and leads to a better quality education" (2).
Just wait, there’s even more!
Take a closer look at Matt Simmons’ campaign commercial.  I took a screen shot from his first commercial.

It’s the commercial where this public high school graduate misspelled the word “lobbyist.” Look for yourself. The scrolling script read “lobbiest.” The error in this commercial has been corrected and the commerical re-released.

Look at the screenshot of this former school board member’s campaign website.

He misspelled the word “professional.” It reads, “proffessional” (1).

So, who would you want to have representing you in Missouri’s 19th district?

When I wrote the “Why We Blog” page for The Homeschool Apologist, I wrote that this is not the time to sit back and relax. As second and third generation homeschoolers, we cannot rest on the success of our late 20th century homeschooling predecessors. Home education is constantly under attack in this country. Public school educators and their powerful NEA union representatives command the attention of legislators who would write laws outlawing home education. Newscasters, reporters, websites and bloggers will cling to any negative mention of homeschooling and use it as a battering ram to break down laws supporting our academic freedom. Critics of homeschooling are everywhere. They shout loudly and clearly to anyone who will listen. It is time for homeschoolers to speak up, speak out, and make our voices heard. We cannot allow opponents of homeschooling to dominate the conversation or set the terms of the debate. If we do, we will lose the debate before it begins. If we don't speak up, we will lose the freedoms fought for by so many Americans just a few short years ago.
We only need to look at the Missouri District 19 race to see that this is true.  

Teachers Fired for Flirting on Facebook with Students

By Perry Chiaramonte and Yoav Gonen
Published October 18, 2010
New York Post
 They threw the Facebook at 'em.
At least three educators from city public high schools have been fired in the past six months for having inappropriate dealings with students on Facebook -- one of which culminated in a sexual relationship, The Post has learned.
One of the booted employees is former Bronx teacher Chadwin Reynolds, who "friended" about a half-dozen female students and wrote creepy comments like, "This is sexy," under some of their Facebook photos, schools investigators found.
Reynolds, a former Fordham HS for the Arts teacher, allegedly even tried to get one teen to go out with him by getting her phone number and sending her flowers, candy and a teddy bear.
And despite knowing that the schoolgirls could view his Facebook profile, Reynolds posted a tasteless tagline that read, "I'm not a gynecologist, but I'll take a look inside," according to the special commissioner of investigation for the New York City school district.
Reynolds, 37, protested to The Post that his case "was thrown out. It's not true. The Board of Ed found that the claims were not valid," even though the Department of Education confirmed that he had been cut loose because of the social-networking scandal.
Another ex-DOE employee -- Laurie Hirsch, 30, a former paraprofessional at Bryant HS in Long Island City, Queens -- was canned in May for her steamy Facebook shenanigans involving a student.
She had posted a photo of her kissing an 18-year-old male former student on the lips, which sparked an investigation.
The student subsequently told probers at the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation that he had had sex with Hirsch about 10 times in her apartment last year, and records revealed 2,700 phone contacts between the pair over a six-month period.
Hirsch, while not minimizing the extent of her mistakes, said neither she nor the student had been attending school any longer when their dalliance began.
"I was suspended indefinitely" for using a cellphone too frequently during school time, she told The Post. "And it didn't seem in any way, shape or form that I was getting my job back" when the relationship with the boy took off.
In Manhattan, substitute teacher Stephen D'Andrilli also "friended" several female students at Essex Street Academy on Facebook and sent inappropriate messages, according to schools investigators.
He allegedly sent one girl a message telling her she was pretty and told her he had tried to visit her during one of her Saturday classes.
To another young girl, he wrote that her "boyfriend [did not] deserve a beautiful girl like you," schools probers found.
D'Andrilli, who did not return a message seeking comment, was barred last month from subbing ever again.
As part of a wider probe into inappropriate teacher conduct, a fourth employee -- a male teacher at La Guardia HS -- was found to be giving extra credit to students who "friended" him. He was not disciplined.
Despite the flurry of troubling incidents, DOE officials said they don't currently have a policy that addresses teacher-student communication on Facebook.
Still, "we continually look at ways that our policies may need to evolve to keep pace with technology," said a DOE spokeswoman.
School districts in states such as Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Ohio have ordered or urged teachers not to "friend" students on social-networking sites.
Dozens of other districts also have strengthened guidelines governing school employees' use of social-networking sites -- something Internet-safety experts recommend.
"It may be advisable to put it into policy, just because you have too many teachers who aren't going to think this out," said Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.
"I think it's safer for teachers and students to be interacting on the educational plane -- not a friendship plane," she added. "Socializing on Facebook can cross over into areas that are potentially dangerous."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Educational Bias Is Everywhere

According to the National Education Association, homeschooling programs “based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.”  If the NEA wrote it, that seems to be good enough for ESPN action sports writer Matt Higgins.  In his article titled, “Home is where the school is,” he went on to opine that “homeschool students are not required to take standardized tests under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Therefore, direct comparisons between student performance at traditional schooling versus homeschool are difficult to make.”  Fortunately for homeschoolers, we know better.  Unfortunately for homeschoolers, Matt Higgins does not. 
The popularity of professional sports gives sports writers a large forum in which to expound their views.  Few are larger than ESPN, a network devoted entirely to sports.  It is in this forum that Mr. Higgins demonstrated both his educational bias as well as his professional sloth.   It would have taken one minute on Google with the words “homeschool” and “test scores” to locate an HSLDA’a article that states “In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, "Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America." The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects.”  Further research on the HSLDA website would have shown Mr. Higgins that his premise was incorrect.  There is plenty of evidence that direct comparisons are not difficult o make.  In those comparisons, homeschoolers come out on top.
So, what’s his beef?
There are parents of rising young stars who compete in surfing, skateboarding, BMX and motocross racing, and snowboarding, that are allowing their children to give up traditional public and private school education in order to spend more time in practice and competition.  There are huge pay checks available to young professional athletes.  These parents want to give their children the opportunity to grab the financial golden ring early in life.  One manner of creating more time for their children to practice and compete is to homeschool their children.  Mr. Higgins’ complaint is that he doesn’t believe that these young people are well educated.  In his narrow analysis, the culprit must be homeschooling.
I don’t know.  Mr. Higgins may be correct in his assertion that these particular athletes are not well educated.  They might be as dumb as a box of rocks.  Condemning homeschooling as the culprit is like condemning cars after a couple of people get into automobile accidents.  The fault isn’t in homeschooling.  The fault, if there is any to be assigned, lies with the parents and their level of commitment to the homeschooling lifestyle.   Experienced homeschoolers know the dedication it takes to educate a child at home.  The rise of poorly educated young athletes is not a cause to condemn the hard work of dedicated homeschoolers.   That clarity of thought escaped Mr. Higgins.  And that is the type of bias that homeschoolers face every day in this country. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Homeschool? I Could NEVER Do That!

Anyone who has homeschooled for any length of time has likely heard a few of these explanations offered by questioning friends and relatives explaining why they could never homeschool their children.  Maybe these responses will convince them they should!

"My kids would drive me crazy."

What would drive me crazy is trying to find quality time to spend with my children after school, homework, soccer practice, piano lessons, and gymnastics are over!  Do my kids drive me crazy sometimes?  Sure.  But why does that have to mean that I want them out of my house for 7-8 hours every day?

"We live in a GREAT school district."

Unfortunately, even GREAT school districts operate under the illusion that all children can learn in a classroom with 20-30 other children, taught by a single teacher who will not begin to fully understand a child's academic needs until well into the school year.  (Not to mention the multitude of other issues that a child may deal with in a traditional school setting!)

"We would get too much flack from our relatives."

You probably will get flack.  But if you know that what you're doing is best for your children, you'll be prepared respond to the flack.  Arm yourself with statistics that expose the shortcomings of public education and the strengths of schooling at home...that'll get them thinking!

"I'm terrible in Algebra."

By the time you're done homeschooling, you'll be much better in Algebra...and Chemistry....and Physics....and History.  After relearning these upper level high school courses with my homeschooled children, I eventually began tutoring high school students in these very subject areas!  And if I was able to wrap my 35+ year old brain back around Algebra, so can you!!

"I'm not patient enough to teach my own children!"

Newsflash!!  Public school teachers aren't always patient enough to teach children either.  Occasional impatience and frustration are guaranteed by-products of teaching....both in public school AND homeschool classrooms!  Since trials generally result in the development of patience, I can assure you that by the time you finish homeschooling, you'll be the most patient mom on your block! "

My child is too social, he'll be bored at home."

If your child is bored unless he's socializing, then a public school classroom is likely the worst learning environment you could place him!!  It's a little bit like putting a match in a fire and hoping it won't catch fire!

"I wouldn't know where to start."

Don't try to reinvent the wheel!  Attend a regional homeschool convention (this link provides just a few of the MANY available in the United States each year!) and/or find a local homeschool group.  Learn from those who are already doing it!

"It will cost too much!"

Yes, homeschooling can require some sacrifice, but in financial terms, sending a child to public school can actually cost as much or more than homeschooling!  But there's an even more important question that should be raised--what are the potential spiritual, emotional, and social costs of NOT homeschooling? Is it a price you're willing to pay?

"But I'm not a teacher, how will I know what to do?"

Despite the incessant assertions of the educational establishment, as a parent, you are infinitely more prepared to meet your child's academic needs than even a good teacher who is responsible for the academic growth of an entire classroom of children--many of whom are sporting a variety of academic and emotional special needs. (Not to mention that--and the establishment won't tell you this--in the public school setting, not all teachers are "good" teachers!)

"My child won't learn how to get along in the real world."

If you want to prepare your child for the real world, the best possible environment for him to learn in is one which provides security, acceptance, cooperation, and mutual respect.  Where would you be more likely to find this type of environment...a public school classroom or at home?

Have you heard some others?  If so, please share them along with your responses!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Move Over Whoopi. It's HomeschoolView.TV!

I guess technically, my role as the fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof way back in 1980 was my real acting debut.  That role required that I wear a beard...and men's pants.  And that I climb onto a rickety roof.  In the dark.  With a violin.  I try not to think about it too often.

I've never really felt terribly comfortable in front of an audience.  Or in front of the camera.  But despite my lack of meaningful experience, I was recently given one more shot at "fame."   Several months ago, Alpha Omega Publications, a homeschool curriculum publisher, created HomeschoolView.TV,  a series of informational "TV" episodes for homeschoolers.  The episodes cover a broad range of topics that AOP hopes will both encourage and inform families at all stages of the homeschool journey.  We taped twelve episodes while I was in IA last month...this was one of the the first.  I think I look just a wee bit "out of my element," but I think maybe with a bit more practice I could give the ladies at "The View" a run for their money!

In this episode, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of being involved with a homeschool co-op.   Arby raised one of the potential "down-sides" in a post a couple of weeks ago.  Fortunately, not all co-ops are run with the same mindset that Arby experienced in one of the groups in his area.  In fact, as you'll hear in the video, homeschool co-ops can offer many benefits to homeschool families!!  

So what do you think?  Should I send my resumé to Barbara Walters?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Embracing our Differences

Homeschoolers are a diverse lot.  And we’re growing more diverse every day.  Each parent brings to the homeschool classroom a variety of gifts, talents, life experiences, personal qualities, and practical challenges.  And our children, like us, bring a vast array of spiritual, emotional, and academic strengths and weaknesses to the table each morning when we commence our school days.  These factors are at the heart of what makes each family unique and of how we create our homeschooling experience.

As members of this diverse community, we are often very aware of our differences, and yet, not surprisingly, we are unified behind a single purpose.  Within the framework of the greater purpose, we are individually driven by a variety of “secondary” motivations. But, we’re all working toward a single goal—to equip our children to live, serve, and work in the world into which they one day be thrust.

So why do so many of us have such a difficult time accepting the homeschooling approaches and methods others have chosen for their own families?

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that touched on this issue.  In it, I asked the question Who Am I?, and in response to that question, admitted a bit of insecurity concerning my own homeschool choices.  But I also mounted a defense of the methods that I utilized during my (up to that point) 16 years of homeschooling experience.

Some time ago, as I browsed the homeschool blogosphere, I read a statement that got under my skin.  It was a blanket statement of opinion that drew a line in the sand between traditional and non-traditional homeschoolers.  The statement that first drew my attention was this:
“Many of us tried to reproduce the school atmosphere and teaching methods at home.  There is no need or value in doing that.” (emphasis mine.)
I beg to differ.  I agree that there is not a need to do it that way.  However, I disagree that there is no value in doing it that way.

My daughters are a testament to the intrinsic value of this approach.  I have homeschooled for 18+ years.  If I had to classify myself, I would call myself a “traditional” homeschooler.  We like desks.  We like textbooks and workbooks and other traditional learning methods. We like following (for the most part) a traditional school calendar.  And I can tell you from personal experience that the “school-at-home” approach has great value—for us.

All three girls are now high school graduates.  Each one has transitioned to the “post-homeschool” world with great success.  The approach that we utilized provided a learning environment that built into my daughters the tools that have helped them to thrive in their young adult years—a love of learning, strong study skills, discipline, and academic independence.  Because it’s what I’m most comfortable with, I hope this approach will also work for my 6-year old son, but if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

I have purposely not linked directly to the blog I’ve quoted.  My purpose is NOT to criticize its author or to pick a fight with non-traditional homeschoolers.  Their methods have value—for them.  Non-traditional methods are a perfect fit for many families.  But some of those methods just don’t work for me or my children.  And by the same token, most non-traditional homeschoolers would not feel comfortable using the methods that I have utilized.  And that’s okay.

As members of a large and diverse community, we need to embrace the differences and learn to focus on our common goal.  In doing so, we give each other a little bit more freedom to make homeschooling decisions without fear of criticism or judgment.  We need to be careful not to allow our belief and confidence in our own personal preferences scare new homeschoolers away from approaches that might be a perfect fit for them and their children.  A successful and rewarding homeschool experience isn’t likely to be found in any one particular method or approach.  The reward comes from finding out what works best for you!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

They Are Children, Not Entertainers

The Lower Merion School District didn’t do anything wrong when Harriton High School Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko confronted a student over alleged “inappropriate behavior in his home” and “cited as evidence a photograph from a webcam embedded in” the student’s “personal laptop issued by the school district” (1).  That is the reported decision of U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger after an internal investigation by the school district and an investigation conducted by the FBI.   The issue under consideration was whether or not the school district intentionally meant to spy on students in their home.  The answer to that question was “no.”  The school district only admitted that it made some “mistakes.”
School district employees used the remote picture-taking ability of the webcams to snap over 400 pictures of one student in his home.  In some of them he was partially undressed.   School district employees snapped over 56,000 pictures from their 2,300 laptop computers supposedly for the purpose of locating lost laptop computers.  That’s just shy of 25 pictures per computer.  Jacqui Cheng, Senior Apply Editor writing at, reported that
IT staff responsible for monitoring the student laptops seemingly viewed the whole thing as entertainment, with one admin telling another via e-mail that the photos were "like a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera." Another responded with, "I know. I love it!"
So, if they didn’t do anything wrong, why did the school district settle a lawsuit for $610,000?   The school district claims that it was protecting the financial interests of the tax-payers.  There were $1.2 million in legal fees for this case.  $185,000 went to the two students involved in the case, with one student reaping $175,000 and another receiving $10,000.   $425,000 went to lawyers for the plaintiffs legal expenses.  $1.2 million dollars is a lot of tax-payer money for “mistakes.” 
What concerns me the most about this case is the one issue that hasn’t been reported on or discussed.  I raised this in my original post.   In what world do school administrators believe that they have the right to reach into a private citizen’s home and discipline the citizen?  Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko “informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the School District.”  School district personnel have no right to discipline students for their behavior in their homes!  Why would they even want to? It’s not as if school administrators lack for things to do.  If a judge somewhere decides that this is an acceptable action for government-run schools to take, don’t the administrators realize that a precedent will be set for the government to look into their homes, too? Where are our fourth amendment rights in this case?  Do school administrators believe that they are exempt from the US Constitution?
School districts have no business buying and distributing laptop computers to students.   There is no possibility of financial loss to taxpayers through lost or stolen computers when the responsibility for purchasing computers is left where it should be – with individual parents.  There is nothing so critical in the computer world that it will significantly harm a student’s education if they learn without the use of a laptop.  There is no evidence that the use of laptops is significantly improving education in America, or improving our test scores against those of students from other countries.  Without these laptops, there is no need to hire IT personnel to monitor district issued computers.   That removes the possibility of district personnel snooping for their personal entertainment into the private lives of students.  
My children are not and never will be a source of entertainment for school district employees.