Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take Your Time and Get It Right

If there is one aspect of homeschooling that all homeschoolers know but that never gets explained properly to the public it is the fact that home education is a lifestyle.   Homeschooling is not simply a block of time each day that is interchangeable with a brick-and-mortar school schedule.   Because of the level of dedication that a family must have for this lifestyle, I am always interested in reading why people choose to educate their children at home. 
Recently, I read Cindy’s blog.  Cindy writes at Get Along HomeIn a recent post titled, “Why Homeschool?she answered that question.   I found her answer to be at once refreshingly honest and compelling reading, so I asked for and received permission to share her answer with you.  
She wrote:
My primary reason [for homeschooling] is simply this: I don’t want to live that way.
By “that way,” I mean the normal American lifestyle.  I don’t want to live a life of constant running. It’s always a rush between home, school, work, church, and social functions. We were not meant to live this way!
Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else.
My mom and dad worked 40-50 hours a week to keep a roof over our heads. I was thrown in with a group of other kids at a babysitter’s house all summer. During the school year, I was thrown into taxpayer-funded babysitting (aka public school) with a group of other kids. I was home at night to eat and sleep. On weekends, we searched for entertainment. On weekdays, I got up early and went to bed exhausted, empty. My parents barely had a word to say to me. How could they? We led separate lives! I had a “normal” childhood. It was a wasted childhood, spent among people I didn’t know, going places that I didn’t want to be, without ever a moment to breathe.
All the pointless bustling about from place to place kept me from ever really knowing my family. And it kept them from knowing me. Most importantly, it kept me from knowing God. Church was just another place we had to hurry to get to. My parents were just the people who made me go there. God was just something you do when you aren’t doing something else.
I don’t want to live that way, and I really, really don’t want my kids to live that way. So that’s why we homeschool, in a nutshell: so we can take our time and get it right.
There is nothing that I can add that says more than Cindy’s last sentence, but it is worth repeating.  In regards to raising her children, she homeschools, “so we can take our time and get it right.”
If you would like to share your reasons for homeschooling, feel free to contact us at  We’d love to read your story!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why I Homeschool

"Why did you decide to homeschool?"

It's not an unusual question.  In fact, if I've answered it once in the last 20 years, I've answered it dozens of times!  I'm sure you won't find it hard to believe that I have a few reasons "at-the-ready" for when I'm asked this question!  In a somewhat controversial post last week I provided an explanation of my 20-year old vow to never send my children to public school.  The post evoked a bit of emotional discussion from both sides of the debate.

On a somewhat lighter note, I'd like to share a few more points that help to explain my decision to homeschool.  I first posted my Top 10 Reasons Why I Homeschool nearly 3 years ago.  My reasons haven't changed.   Enjoy!

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Homeschool
  • Pajamas are less expensive than school clothes.
  • Not all kids can color in the lines for 3 hours at the age of 5 1/2
  • The lines are shorter at Disney World in early October when all the other kids are in school.
  • I want to be the one to experience the joy of teaching my child to read and to watch the joy on his face when he reads his first chapter book!
  • Kids need socialization that doesn't involve being made fun of for wearing the wrong shoes to school.
  • Kids are allowed to pray and sing "Away in a Manger" and "Joy to the World" in my school.
  • Learning is more effective when the student/teacher ratio is 1:1 than when it's 25:1.
  • No one is better equipped to teach my child than the person who knows him better than!
  • I like my kids and I want to be with them all day!
And the #1 Reason I homeschool my kids is......
  • Homeschooling WORKS!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Even When Licensed and Certified, a Cougar is Still a Cougar

The Drudge Report, The Spartanburg Herald-Times online edition, and are all reporting that two South Carolina teachers have been arrested on suspicion of hosting parties last summer where they provided sex, drugs, and alcohol to students aged 11 and up.   Forty-two year old Sarah Jane Lindsay was a 4K teacher at Boiling Springs Elementary School in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, while 44-year-old party co-host Audrey Beidleman Grabarkiewicz taught preschool at Lake Bowen Baptist Church in Inman, South Carolina.  Both women have been arrested after a lengthy investigation conducted by Spartanburg County Sherriff’s Deputies.   Neither woman is currently employed.  The Lake Bowen Baptist Church fired Audrey Grabarkiewicz and Sarah Jane resigned from Boiling Springs Elementary school.  The church’s website has no mention of their recently fired teacher.  Boiling Springs Elementary’s website has been scrubbed of any mention of their former teacher, but retains its banner proclaiming "Discover Your Treasure...Learning is an adventure at BSES.” I bet it’s an adventure.  I hear their summer school program is a hoot, too.  There is no mention of the allegations on either website, but why should there be?  
This is much ado about nothing.
I might understand the national coverage of this local community problem if these women provided sex, drugs, and alcohol to all of the children in their school, or in their respective classes, but the truth is they did not.  They provided sex, drugs, and alcohol to some students.  A select few.  And since none of the students were from either of these teacher's classrooms, what’s the big deal?  Audrey Beidleman Grabarkiewicz was only charged with 10 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  She had sex with teenagers who were over the age of 16.  In South Carolina, 16 is the age of consent.   What's wrong with a little cougar action?  No problems there.   Sarah Jane Lindsay has a slightly bigger legal problem, which explains why her $50,000 bond was twice the amount levied on Ms. Grabarkiewicz.  Sarah was charged with nine counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor as well as criminal sexual conduct with a minor between the ages of 11 and 14 years of age.  
Now, no one should overreact to the alleged activities.  We must remember some salient facts.  Neither woman engaged in these activities with their students.  The incidents did not take place on either school or church property.  Their own teenaged children were not involved.  They allegedly provided sex, drugs, and alcohol to some students aged 11 years old and older.  We cannot forget that both of these women are innocent of committing the charges brought against them until they are proven guilty by the state of South Carolina.  I’m not even certain why Ms. Lindsay resigned from her position.  Her 4k students were safe under her care.
Under no circumstances can we allow ourselves to believe that this incident reflects poorly on Boiling Springs public schools or the teachers and staff that work there.  This is an isolated incident that took place off of school grounds by a now former teacher in the privacy of her home.    This really should be a private matter between these women and their husbands.  If a house of worship can experience an incident such as the one that allegedly took place, it can happen anywhere.  In no way does this reflect poorly on public schooling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Modifier Mandate

I would like to apply the Modifier Mandate to California State University Northbridge’s (CSUN) school newspaper, the Daily Sundial, and their recent online article “Homeschool isn’t the same as school.”  The Modifier Mandate is simple: All strong opinions should be qualified in order to protect the feelings of people who might be offended.  It was developed from the comments left from a reader of this blog who was insulted by what was perceived as a blanket condemnation of public school teachers in a previous post.   For example, it is wrong to state that “schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for teaching-to-the-test.”  Applying the Modifier Mandate to this statement, it is correct to write that some “schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for teaching-to-the-test.”   The Modifier Mandate calls for fairness, and is consistent with modern teaching models where feelings are more important for academic achievement than is accuracy or facts. (1) 
It is important to note that the authors of the Daily Sundial essay felt no need to qualify any of their statements concerning homeschooling, homeschoolers, or their parents. Homeschool critics rarely, if ever, acknowledge the successes of or benefits from homeschooling. It is clear from reading the article that homeschooling parents do not have the “credential” to teach their children.  Apparently, there is only one.  Homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age.”  The absence of any qualifiers means that all homeschooling parents lack the proper credentials to teach their own children, and there are no homeschools that provide a proper socialization experience for students.   Give the authors credit where credit is due, they took a strong stance and argued for it.
Applying the Modifier Mandate to this article, several important changes are needed. 
Instead of writing that homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age,” the authors should have written that some homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age.”  To be fair, the reclusive, hermit homeschooling community remains fairly isolated from society.  Oh, they make up .0000000001 percent of homeschoolers, given that the vast majority of homeschooled children participate in activities outside of the home where they come into contact with their public schooled brethren, but the hermits should be mentioned.   
Instead of writing that “homeschooled students only interact with their parents and/or siblings that they see on a day to day basis,” the authors should have written that somehomeschooled students only interact with their parents and/or siblings that they see on a day to day basis.”   
The Modifier Mandate must also be applied to arguments made in favor of public education over home education.   The authors should have written that some “public schools provide qualified teachers, suitable learning facilities and proper social interactions between students.”  You cannot honestly argue that the Oceanside, California, school district provided a qualified teacher to students when they allowed illiterate teacher John Corcoran to teach for 17 years. (2)  You cannot honestly argue that all school districts provide “proper social interactions between students” when the Toronto District School Board of Education and the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported that “33 per cent [of students] say they've been sexually harassed in the past two years; another 29 admit to having been touched or grabbed inappropriately and seven per cent have actually been victims of a major sexual assault.” (3)  The intellectual honesty that one reader believed was lacking from this blog’s last post demands that we cannot even suggest that all schools provide a safe learning environment while ignoring the improper social interactions between students and teachers as documented by the World Net Daily list of the 200+ teachers who have sexually assaulted students. (4)
Homeschooling critics like to argue that no matter how bad public schools can be, with unqualified teachers, teacher on student assaults, student on student assaults, and the all of the other problems that occur in our nation’s schools, public schools are still a better option.  They play the odds, believing that these situations are rare.  They are the exception to the rule.  I say that is like playing Russian Roulette.  You can load the gun with one bullet, spin the cylinder, point the gun at your head, and pull the trigger with good odds that you will survive the experience.  You can enroll your children in public school with good odds that they will survive the experience without harm.  They probably will.  But for those parents who do not wish to play Russian Roulette with their children’s lives, homeshooling is the preferred option.  There are no qualifiers where the health and safety of my children is concerned. 
I will not budge an inch from my defense of home education as long as there are people making unfounded, ignorant, blanket statements such as the ones written in the Daily Sundial editorial without a shred of research, evidence beyond personal anecdote, or the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that homeschooling is successful in the vast majority of circumstances. (5)  Give Linda credit in her last blog post, she documented her writing.  Her sources are available for anyone to read, support, or refute.  It is long past the time for public educators to admit the failures of the public school system and acknowledge that homeschooling works!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why NOT Public School?

A couple of years ago, while engaged in a conversation with a fellow homeschooler, I made a fairly extreme declaration:
"I would never send my children to public school."
A day or two later, this fellow homeschooler called me and challenged my statement.
"Why would you say something so extreme? You don't really mean that, do you?"
In fact, I do mean it.

I acknowledge that this position is extreme. Parents decide to teach their children at home for a multitude of reasons. Many of these are more proactive than defensive. While I agree with many of the proactive reasons, for me they are all secondary. The main reason I homeschool my own children is defensive…I don’t want them in public school. I am a certified teacher and my arguments against public schools are based on experience and observations from more than 20 years of association with and involvement in public schools. I began to recognize many of these issues early on in my teaching career…some even before I graduated from college! And the problems I began to observe more than 20 years ago have only gotten worse in the years since.

So, the question remains: Why would I say something so extreme?
  • Schools are institutions designed to educate the masses. They are not designed to meet either the emotional or academic needs of the individual. As such, they will most effectively reach "the average" student, often missing the needs of the lowest and highest performing children.
  • Schools are places where values such as tolerance, acceptance, self-esteem, diversity, and relativism are esteemed more highly than academic excellence. Ironically, the tolerance and acceptance so tenaciously advocated is often not objectively practiced by its most vocal proponents.
  • Schools are places where a dangerous brand of socialization is valued. This brand of socialization insists that children are capable of preparing each other to be meaningful, productive members of society. This brand of socialization argues that being bullied, ostracized, and laughed at is a necessary part of the socialization process. (How else will your children learn to get along in the world?) This brand of socialization exalts rudeness and vulgarity over civility and decency. It values disorder and chaos over discipline and self-control. This brand of socialization favors the popular, the attractive, and the likable, creating a social hierarchy which diminishes the value of those who don’t “measure up”. Ironically, in a place intended for learning, this brand of socialization often values academic mediocrity over academic excellence. In other words, in school it’s often considered "not cool" to be smart.
  • Schools are places where government bureaucracy and union mentality prevent good teachers from being rewarded for being good teachers.[1] This same system keeps bad teachers from being penalized for being bad teachers and could even prevent dangerous teachers from being removed from the classroom.[2] And to add insult to injury, schools are places where parents often have no say in who teaches their children. The NEA (and the politicians whom they control) stubbornly refuse to create a system which would provide parents with their choice of schools—a system which would inevitably result in improvements to our schools and a better education for all our children.[3][4]
  • Schools are places where curriculum rich in revisionist history, humanism, environmental indoctrination, multiculturalism, and liberalism is often taught by teachers who share a similar agenda. Current “feel-good” teaching methods often stress self-esteem over academic excellence.[5]  In much of today’s curriculum, activities which promote “teamwork” and “cooperation” are more highly esteemed than activities which encourage a strong academic foundation.
  • Schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for "teaching-to-the-test". Performance is judged by standardization rather than by the presence of inquisitiveness, curiosity and wonder.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

It was 1985. I was a newly married college graduate, recently certified and looking for a teaching job. I was reading a book, Child Abuse in the Classroom, by Phyllis Schlafly, which presented startling evidence of the existence of many of the issues which I have just addressed. I looked at my husband of just a few months and said,  

"I will never send my children to public school."

And I haven’t.


Friday, September 17, 2010

"Oh, Really?"—How I Became An Apologist

Shortly after my oldest daughter completed her second semester in college, a friend who happens to be a retired public school teacher and administrator, asked me a simple question. I'd been homeschooling for 17 years by this time, but this single conversation was a major turning point for me.

Over the years since I first began my homeschool journey, I have had dozens of conversations with people about homeschooling, and more specifically, about my decision to homeschool my children. Occasionally, though not often enough, I have felt free to express my views with complete honesty. Often—in fact, all too often—I have felt compelled to "tone down" my comments so as not to offend the listener.

Well, on this particular day, all that changed. Tom asked, "So how was Darcy's first year in college?"  I answered quickly, failing to recognize the underlying question. "She did GREAT!"  He continued, "Darcy's been homeschooled since kindergarten, right? How well did she do keeping up with her classmates?" Now the question being asked "between the lines" was being heard loud and clear!
"Was your daughter, educated at home by her mother, really able to keep up with students who have been taught by well-trained, highly-specialized teachers?"
That was all it took.  My defenses were up and I was ready to fire.  I proceeded to explain to Tom just how well Darcy was doing in school.
"Thanks for asking, Tom. Darcy's doing great. She was invited to join the Honors program at Northern, and during her first year managed to achieve a 4.0 grade point average, despite having a schedule crammed with Honors classes. In fact, she recently explained her thoughts on WHY she has done so much better that most of her honors program peers. 'Mom, I don't think I'm smarter than the rest of the kids in my classes, I just think that I've been taught how to study and to learn so much more effectively than they have. They just don't seem to know how to learn.' "
Tom replied with an inkling of an attitude,  
"You do know that you're talking to a public school educator, right?"
Oh, Really?

In that single moment, I decided never to worry about offending again. All of a sudden it dawned on me that in our compulsory education driven society, it was absolutely fine for Tom to ask me questions that might offend me! But he made it perfectly clear that it was NOT fine to voice opinions which offend the politically correct institution of public education. Over the years I have been asked SO MANY questions that have offended me, and for the first time in nearly 17 years, I decided that it was time to tell the matter who it offended.
"Yes, I know you're an educator, Tom, but that doesn't change the truth. You asked a question and I answered it—truthfully. Darcy was incredibly well-prepared for her college academic experience by her homeschool education. In fact, her experience seems to suggest that she was much better prepared than many of her "traditionally" schooled peers."
So, homeschoolers, despite evidence that shows overwhelmingly that home educated students do better than their publically-schooled peers in almost every measurable area, it would seem that we are the only ones who have to be careful not to offend. Evidently we are NOT free to question the cultural norm or offend those who so fiercely defend it.

Oh, really??

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflective Practice

During the 1999-2001school years, I was a member of a state of Missouri Performance Based Teacher Evaluation pilot program.   The program was designed to improve the process of teacher evaluation by requiring teachers to develop a professional portfolio documenting their best practices in the classroom in a variety of categories.  I participated in the program only because the administration at the school where I taught was distributing extra-curricular activities assignments, and I really did not want to be the freshman girl’s cheerleading coach.  The only other option presented to me was participation in a new evaluation program.  I silently accepted option “B,” and immediately tossed the portfolio on a shelf for three months, blowing off the dust and completing the project only when I saw the deadline approaching.  I kept secret my disdain for the program and my real reason for participating from the assistant principal conducting my review until she pulled me out of the audience at a state teacher’s convention break-out session at a resort in the Lake of the Ozarks and placed me on a panel with several superintendants, principals, and assistant principals fielding questions about the new program.  I had attended the convention at her invitation without realizing that she wanted me there to sit on the panel.  I was quickly flooded with questions from the audience for two reasons.   I was one of only two teachers on the panel with real-life classroom experience completing the new portfolio, and I was the only person speaking about the program with both blunt honesty and humor.   It was in front of the crowd where I admitted to the audience why I started the program, how I completed the portfolio, and what I learned throughout the process.  I discovered two things while answering those questions.  The large amount of reflective practice that I put into developing that portfolio showed me that I was a better teacher than I ever gave myself credit for being.  That was an important lesson for me to learn.  It translated into improved performance in the classroom.  The second thing I learned is that my assistant principal had a great sense of humor.
The purpose of reflective practice is to encourage people to think about and learn from experiences in order to improve performance in a given task.  In theory, reflective practice is not supposed to be a solitary event.  It is most effective when engaged in with another person, preferably a person with more experience.  In a mentoring relationship, we engage in discussion with a trusted friend who can listen to our ideas, offer insights into our practices, and share their successes and failures to help us improve our performance.   Reflective practice is the ideal behind a homeschooling support group, a time of meeting where home educating parents can seek friendship, assistance, and advice from other homeschooling parents.   A homeschool support group is a teacher’s professional development time for the homeschooling community. 
In reality, I believe most stay-at-home homeschooling parents operate in a solitary environment.  We spend time alone in our thoughts, wondering whether or not the decisions we made were good, effective choices.  We wonder if we made the right curriculum choices.  We wonder whether or not our children are learning everything that they need to know.  We ask ourselves if we are being too harsh, too lenient, or too demanding on our children.   Sometimes we wonder if we should be homeschooling at all.  The first four of those five questions are good questions to ask of ourselves, but they produce better answers if they are addressed with another person. 
Homeschooling can be a busy lifestyle, leaving parents little quiet time to remember our own names, let alone gather and process our thoughts.   The little free time that we have gets split between a spouse, friends, pursuing hobbies, and tending to our own spiritual needs.  How much time do you invest in analyzing the effects of both your educational and parental decisions?  Often the two are inseparable.  How often do you ask yourself, “What worked well today?   What went wrong today?  What can be done differently in the future?”   More importantly, with whom do you ask these questions?
What is your level of reflective practice?  

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Personal Note on Homeschooling

This year is the first year that I am homeschooling three children. My oldest son is in eighth grade. My second child, also a boy, is in second-and-a-half grade. The caboose, my daughter, just started kindergarten. If you’ve ever read my family blog you’ll know that I refer to my house as Bedlam, named after the infamous Bethlehem Royal Hospital in England. I joke that this place is an asylum. There are days when I must answer a question about algebra for the oldest, quiz the middle child on his spelling, and explain “A” to the girl, all in the span of a few moments. I find that this really is not difficult. After all, isn’t that what happened in one room school houses across this country years ago? President Herbert Hoover attended a one room school house. So did writer Joyce Carol Oats, astronaut Alan B. Shepherd, and author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our country was built on small class sizes containing multiple grade levels. Why would that be a problem now?

I had to laugh last week when I realized one afternoon that the oldest was working on his algebra on the couch while the middle child was reading a book on my bed and the girl and I were reading Hooked on Phonics at the kitchen table. With the exception of three fish, the “classroom” in the basement was empty. I laughed because I was reminded of the August 30th post where non-homeschoolers wrote that new homeschoolers must have a specific learning area set aside from the rest of the house. If I may quote my father, “Bunk!” (90% of the wit and witticisms of my father are not repeatable in mixed company, so I have to use them when I can) Homeschooled children naturally gravitate to a comfortable location to work, based upon their individual wants and needs. I fail to see how this is a problem. As far the “classroom,” I’m still trying to convince my wife that we should remove the tables and chairs and replace them with a pool table.

One aspect of homeschooling that I find interesting is that from one year to the next it is always a new and interesting experience. With each year that passes there are new topics of study, new depths to which we study familiar topics, and a wider variety of activities in which we can participate. I cannot say the same thing for the freshman in Connie’s class. Connie was a veteran teacher at a Missouri high school where I taught. She was well liked by her colleagues. Connie attended all of the required faculty and department meetings. She rarely sent a student to the office. She didn’t make a fuss. On any given day you could walk into her classroom and find her students quietly working. On a worksheet. From the stacks of worksheets that she kept on the shelves in her room. For Connie, each day of each school year was exactly the same as the same day the previous year, because she mindlessly repeated the same lessons in the same order. The only thing that changed in Connie’s lesson plans was the year written in pencil on the front of her plan book. The extent of her reflective practice was wondering whether or not she had enough copies of the day’s worksheets. Connie was retired on active duty, drawing a pay check for doing little more than breathing as she ticked off the years towards retirement.

Homeschooling does not allow for that level of sloth. My children are too active, too inquisitive, and too curious to allow for anything but meeting their needs from year to year. The one huge difference between homeschooling parents and professional teachers is that we love our children in a way that professional teachers cannot. That love makes up for the years of college and teacher’s ed classes that most teachers have, most homeschooling parents do not have, and most homeschooling critics complain we need. I’ve sat through those classes. They are not all that they are purported to be.  My reflective practice is driven by my love for my children.  I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my instruction.  And with the ever changing nature of homeschooling, there is no time for academic recycling.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Active Parenting Makes the Educational Difference

I wrote this post on homeschooling a few years ago. Some long time readers will be familiar with it.  For newer readers, this post looks at why homeschooling critics react so negatively to homeschooling, and how homeschoolers should respond.

A college diploma. Passing scores on a state mandated test. A teaching license. What do these three things have in common? Each one is required for employment as a teacher in an American public school classroom. Frequently, teaching candidates must also pass a series of job interviews and an examination of a professional portfolio showing best practices in the classroom. It appears to be a daunting task to become a public school teacher.

Even with all of this required education and testing, school systems nationwide have problems. In fact, some have severe problems, problems that homeschooling families wish to avoid and problems that homeschooling critics wish to ignore. These problems are well documented in print and visual media, on-line, and over the air waves. No matter how many times we hear that US schools are dropping in the rankings of schools world-wide, we hear homeschooling critics insist that all children should attend public school.1 No matter how many stories we hear about middle school and high school students distributing nude photos of girls via cell phones and school laptop computers, we also hear public educators raise concerns that home schooled children are not properly socialized.2 It does not matter how many teachers make the list of sexual predators who have raped students,3 opponents of homeschooling seem more concerned about what happens within the walls of a home school than what happens within the walls of our nation’s public schools. Inherent in the desire to shine light into the houses where homeschoolers reside is the belief that there is something evil that must be exposed. In short, no matter how poorly public schools perform, supporters continue to believe that those public schools are head and shoulders above any other choice.

While problems exist, the vast majority of our public schools are safe. The majority of our public school teachers are dedicated professionals who truly believe in helping children. A student who attends classes each day, works attentively, completes her homework, and studies hard can receive a good education. The difference between students who fail and students who excel is often their parents. It is true more often than it is not that parents who are actively involved in their children’s lives - who instill the value of a good education and force their children to work hard at their studies - are the parents of successful students. Strong, effective parenting can mean the difference between students who do drugs and those who do not. An involved parent can make the difference between a student who distributes pornographic pictures of herself to her friends and a student who does not. Homeschooling is an excellent example of active parenting, and the results of study after study reveal that homeschooled children outperform their peers on academic tests at all levels. Homeschoolers typically give up a second income and many luxuries in life in order to provide a high quality education and sound instruction in morals, values, and faith. Homeschoolers choose to do this while paying taxes to the public school system and asking for nothing in return, except to be left alone to pursue their academic freedom.

A question remains in the great debate between those who would abolish home education and those who support academic freedom. Why would citizens who support public education deny the freedom of home education to their fellow citizens, when the home educators do not harm them in any manner? Sonny Scott, writing in a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal article titled, “Home-schoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort,” offered one good reason why homeschooling is disliked.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much?

Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

Sometimes reality is difficult to accept. Parents who see the failing state of public education yet place their children in that system anyway see a homeschooler’s rejection of public education as a judgment of their values. Parents who see instances of sexual abuse in their schools and still choose to send their children to those schools see a homeschooler’s rejection of that option as a judgment of their parenting. The public school teacher who hears home educators say, “No thank you, we can do it better at home,” hears a rejection of his or her professional competence. And what makes that rejection even more offensive to the teacher is that it comes from individuals whom they consider grossly unqualified—parents who are not tested, not certified, and not licensed by the state. The success of homeschooling is a mirror which reflects the state of public education to the greater community. It is no wonder that so many people want to break the mirror. It is easier to ignore a problem than to turn an introspective eye and correct what needs to be corrected.

More than ever, homeschoolers need to stand firm in the defense of academic freedom. We need to fight to protect homeschooling as an option for all Americans. While doing so, we must meet our detractors with grace. We must listen to their arguments with love. Our communities are hurting. We must assure them that while we may not agree, we respect their right to educate their children as they choose. All that we ask is the same in return. We should be allowed the freedom to educate our children at home.

(Permission to reprint Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.)




Wednesday, September 8, 2010

As Long as We're Talking about Socialization....

Over the years, I have suffered through many conversations with people who are, at best, skeptical of homeschooling and homeschoolers. Their logic is often flawed, based on a lack of information as well as a lack of...well...rational thinking.

Well, in a conversation several years ago, I found rational thinking in a very unexpected place. I was attending a homeschool convention in Wichita, Kansas, and was checking into my hotel. The desk clerk was a very pleasant, but very "interesting" looking young man. Behind the blue hair, body piercings, and tattoos, he was a VERY personable, very engaging kid.

As he checked me in, he asked a question he probably asked many times every day.
"What are you doing in Wichita?"
I replied that I had come to attend a homeschool convention.
"Oh, do you homeschool?"
"Yes, I've homeschooled my children for the last 16 years".
"Wow, that's cool. I've heard of that. Don't you worry about how your kids will get socialization?"
Honestly, it kind of cracked me up to hear that question from this particular young man, but I stifled a smile and began to give my standard answer.
"Well, I..."
He never gave me a chance to respond.
"Wait, forget I asked that." He grinned. "I'm the most socially maladjusted person I know, and I went to public school, so I guess it's kind of a dumb question isn't it?"
I think maybe I'll go get a tattoo.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Concerning Socialization: Let's Change the Conversation

Arby's recent socialization posts got me thinking about how ridiculous this argument really is. If you're a homeschooler, you know. You've been there. Conversations with non-homeschoolers inevitably come down to one question.

The conversations usually go something like this:

"Oh, wow. You homeschool? Really? Isn't that hard?"
"No, it's really great! I love it!"
"Well, I could never do that!"
"Sure you could...there are LOTS of resources available to help you."
"But don't you worry about socialization?"

I think its time for homeschoolers to approach this question differently. In my recent post, Defending Homeschooling, I challenged myself and others to think about really listening to the answers we give to the questions we are so often asked.

So do I worry about socialization? Honestly?  No...not for one single second! And why not?

First, because I know my kids ARE being effectively socialized...they really don't need school for that. They are living in and amongst family, friends, and neighbors. They are learning from mature, responsible adults how to be mature, responsible members of society. But there's another more important reason I don't worry about the socialization my kids are "missing" by not attending public school.  It's simple. In terms of socialization, my children have not missed anything of value.  Rather, what they have missed socially actually has negative value.  In other words, I'm glad they missed it!

After pondering this for a few minutes, I had a thought. And I got out my dictionary.
an·ti·so·cial (ân'tç-sô'shəl, ân'tî-) Pronunciation Key
  1. Shunning the society of others; not sociable.
  2. Hostile to or disruptive of the established social order; marked by or engaging in behavior that violates accepted mores
  3. Antagonistic toward or disrespectful of others; rude.
Doesn't that sound a bit familiar?  It seems to me that the conduct and behavior most often displayed in today's American public schools would be more accurately defined as "anti-social" than "social". Doesn't it seem just a little strange that WE are the ones being questioned about our childrens' socialization?  I've come to the conclusion that the wrong people are being asked the wrong question.

So the next time someone asks a homeschooler,
"Aren't you worried about socialization?," 
I propose a different reply:
"No. Aren't you worried about anti-socialization?"

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is a Real Homeschooler Standing Up

In response to a series of articles concerning homeschooling but written by non-homeschoolers, I asked if the real homeschoolers would please stand up. There are a lot of people writing “how to” essays about homeschooling, but very few of them have any real firsthand knowledge of how to go about educating their children at home. The first homeschooler to raise her hand was TwistedSister. She wrote:

"Eight years ago we started homeschooling. When I decided to leave the classroom to teach our three children, I decided we had to have a specific room with properly sized tables and chairs for the different ages. I learned to drywall, how to install a drop ceiling, and to lay carpet that summer. I also built two tables (with the help of our handyman neighbor across the street) one at preschool height and one normal height. We started with five other families in our basement, four mothers and twelve kids. I closed-in the front porch for an entryway. The kids all had hooks for their coats and a dry place to leave their shoes. I screened in the back deck so the kids would have an area to sit for lunch without a bunch of flies swarming over their food. We had a swing set, a sandbox, and a trampoline in the backyard."

Twisted’s initial approach to homeschooling matched that of several of the Helium writers that suggested homeschoolers needed a specific space designated for homeschooling. How did that work out? “The classroom we built has rarely ever been used for studies. The boys don't like it.” They’ve switched from working at tables to studying at individual desks and moved back to tables. She wrote, “They finally found that they loved working at different spots in the house for different subjects. The kitchen table is best for English, the couch for history and health, the master bed for math.” They study outside, on their trampoline, and even on a Physical Therapy ball. And you don’t want to be a snake in the grass near Twisted’s homeschool. I watched her dissect a snake on her driveway. She’s fast. She had the head off, the body split open, and the still beating heart exposed in less than a minute.

“You don't need a lot to homeschool,” she added. “I still fight the urge to establish our schedule like a public school schedule. That's how I was taught. I then get frustrated within the first two weeks of school because I can't stand it. We are adjusting our workload to fit our style. That doesn't mean I drop any of their lessons. They still keep a full load, and we will get through it together, side-by-side on the couch most of the time.”

She completed her essay with one final thought. “This is a real homeschooler standing up.”

It’s refreshing to read an active homeschooler share her experiences rather than theories presented by writers with no real knowledge or experience about their topics.

You can read TwistedSisterinChrist’s entire essay, Eight Years of Homeschooling Brings Lots of Changes, at her blog, Eat, Fart, and Bark.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Social Participation

In the September-October 2010 issue of Scouting, the magazine for adults in the BSA, author Kathy Seal wrote an article titled “The Troop Bully.” STOP THE PRESSES! There are bullies in Boy Scout Troops? I thought bullies only existed in the hallways and on the playgrounds of public schools. Isn’t that what we are constantly told by those people that would end the practice of homeschooling in America? Children must attend public school in order to learn how to deal with their peers, both the good and the bad. If they do not attend public school they will not have the proper skills to prepare them for life. They call it “socialization.” I reject this type of commonly stated reason for opposition to homeschooling. There isn’t a “socialization” lesson a person can learn in America’s classrooms that cannot be learned by homeschoolers through simply participating in society.

Amy Hatch, writing in her essay “Homeschooling? Not for My Kids,” stated, “Homeschooling proponents say their children have ample opportunities for socialization, but I don't buy it. In our small community, the ability to organize a sports league or orchestra would be limited, at best. And then there's the time factor -- as working parents, we just couldn't manage.” There’s a huge flaw in her analysis. Homeschooling parents do not need to organize extra-curricular activities for their children. All we have to do is participate in the activities that exist. And we do. Homeschooling children participate in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, martial arts, cheerleading, dance classes, music lessons, scouting, church sponsored youth groups and a wide variety of activities that bring them in contact with their public schooling peers. During those interactions our children experience the same range of “socialization” that some children experience while attending school. Bullies don’t stop bullying when the dismissal bell rings. They bully in the park. They bully on sports teams. Bullies exist within homeschooling communities, too.

What other life skills do our children need to learn? Waiting patiently in line? Check. They learn to wait in line in the check-out lane of a grocery store, for a public restroom, on the dugout bench while waiting for a turn at bat, or in line for communion. Sharing? Homeschoolers have that covered, too. Our children learn to share school supplies with their siblings and with other children in homeschooling co-ops, with members of their sports teams, at Cub Scout meetings, and while playing with neighborhood children. Working in large and small groups? Check. That gets covered in Sunday school, youth groups, team sports. The simple fact is that public schools are not the sole source for gaining needed skills for life. For every situation that you can think of in a public school, I can find the same experience outside of school. And outside of school is where homeschoolers thrive.

Not only do I reject the importance of public school attendance but I reject the commonly held definition of “socialization,” too. “Socialization” is a noun that means “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Notice that in the definition, there is no reference as to how an individual acquires these things. The verb “socialize,” which means “to make social; make fit for life in companionship with others,” also lacks the critical component explaining how a person is made social. I will argue that the best person to make a five year old “fit for life in companionship with others” is not another five year old, just as the best person to teach a fourth grader how to spell Mississippi or how to add fractions is not another fourth grader. These things are best taught by an adult, preferably an adult with a vested interest in the success of the child, and one who leads by example. It makes perfect sense for parents to educate their children at home and in an educational setting where they retain some control in order to teach their children “norms, values, behavior, and social skills” so that when children participate in society they have the skills necessary for success. It’s counter-productive to throw our children to the wolves and hope they survive!

The socialization argument is an old saw that needs to be retired. The “what about socialization” question is an ignorant, knee-jerk reaction to an issue that deserves thoughtful consideration. It indicates a person who has invested neither the time nor the energy to learn about homeschooling, to watch a homeschool in operation, or to broaden their educational horizons. Education is a profession dominated by liberal minded people, but they show a distinct lack of liberal open mindedness when citizens think outside of the educational box and try something different. 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.