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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Those Who Can't Teach

The old adage states that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, teach gym.” I’d like to add a fourth line to that old saw. Those who can’t teach gym become school administrators. It occurred to me that if Darwin’s theory of evolution was true and that a species selectively breeds for the strongest and most desired traits, there would be no more stupid people left in the world. Yet, we regularly see that isn’t true, and we need to look no further than school administrators to see the most egregious examples of less than stellar critical thinking skills. One school administrator strip searched a thirteen-year-old girl on the suspicion of hiding ibuprofen in her underwear. An Eagle Scout was suspended for having a pocket knife in an emergency kit in his car. A Texas school district filed truancy charges against a mother for homeschooling her children in compliance with state law, while at the same time demanding private information from the family that went beyond the requirements of state law. These stories would be funny if they were not so serious.

Last February, I read a story that made me wonder whether or not prospective administrators are required to take EDU 522: The Constitution Doesn’t Apply To You.  Allegedly, a school administrator at Harriton High School used images captured on a school issued laptop computer web cam to initiate disciplinary action against a fifteen-year-old boy for improper behavior in his home. You read that correctly: improper behavior in his home. The school district has the ability to secretly capture screen shots at any time on a district issued computer without the knowledge of the user. The district also has the ability to capture images through the web cam imbedded in the computer without the knowledge of the user. If a young student leaves his or her school issued computer on and open while changing their clothes in the privacy of their bedroom, the school just might take their picture!

Who in their right mind thought that this was a good idea? In what world do school administrators believe that they have the right to reach into a private citizen’s home and discipline the citizen? Why would they even want to? It’s not as if school administrators lack for things to do. And if the district wins the lawsuit brought against them by the student’s family, and some 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? I have to wonder if some school officials have somehow mentally disengaged themselves from participating in US citizenship and the US Constitution to become some sort of world citizen-at-large.

I’d like to say that this case is a slam-dunk for the plaintiff, but I don’t have that much faith in the judicial system. I would have thought that the strip-search case was a certain 9-0 decision by the SCOTUS, but apparently Justice Thomas believes that "judges are not qualified to second-guess the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment.” His words. That’s frightening.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the follow-up to this school computer case.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Home Spun Comic #396

You can read more Home Spun Comics every Tuesday and Thursday here at The Homeschool Apologist.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why do I Homeschool?

By Deana

There are many reasons why some parents choose homeschooling instead of enrolling their children in public or private school. I’m not professing homeschool as the only right choice for all children’s education. And, my reasons for homeschooling, although they are many, are probably not the same reasons as the next homeschooling family’s.  I recognize that for most families, traditional schooling works best for them, for many different reasons as well.
The majority of my friends and family do not homeschool, and I do not judge them negatively for that choice in any way. In fact, I hope my daughter can always play alongside their children, and that I can continue to enjoy the good relationships that I have with my friends. I’d also like to add that my husband and I both attended public school from Kindergarten through high school, and we both were very successful academically, and really have just a few reasonable complaints about our experiences there.
Since we made the decision to homeschool one year ago, many people have asked me, “Why do you homeschool?” Well, honestly, my reasons vary from day to day, but my husband and I know without a doubt that it’s the right choice for our family. When I first began this blog, I wrote these reasons down as I tried to define my homeschooling philosophy. So, here they are, just some of the reasons why we’ve come to believe that homeschooling is for us (in no particular order):

You can read more of Deanna’s writing at

Friday, October 8, 2010

If All the Other Kids Go to College...

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Cristina, the newest regular contributor here at The Homeschool Apologist.   Cristina joins us from her blog, Home Spun Juggling, where “she offers a view of her life in comic strips,” and invites readers “to share her love of learning, laughter and circus arts.”  Yes, circus arts!     Besides homeschooling her children and drawing comic strips, Cristina is an avid juggler.   The subtitle to Cristina’s blog says a lot about her work.   “Life is not black and white.  I only draw it that way.  This is the story of our homeschooling life in comic strips and my thoughts, which often wax philosophical.”   Cristina’s comic strips have heart and soul and humor, and we are blessed to be able to share them here at THA.
In a recent blog post, Cristina wrote about a new challenge facing her family.  It is a challenge that Linda has faced three times over, I will be facing for the first time this year, and many of you have or will experience in the near future.  Read along as she explores what to do
September was busy. And crazy. After all the busy we encountered last year, I was really hoping for something better. This is probably unrealistic of me. As they age, my children have gotten more busy, not less. This September saw a new chapter of growing pains: college.
For those of you with younger children, let me explain. Somewhere around 8th grade, the questions that swirl around your homeschooling begin to change. Instead of "what about socialization?" you hear "is she going to high school?" Once you say you are continuing homeschooling, the question becomes, "What about college?" We live in an age when college preparation can begin with the right daycare center, so I suppose we have been a bit more insulated from this issue than the average parent, but once the question started coming, it was relentless.
The problem was that Marina is highly intelligent and well read. She easily conversed with the adults she met. Everyone she spoke to was impressed by her ability to talk on various subjects. When I first heard the question, I was extremely laid back about the issue--She's only 14! What's the rush? I didn't start college until I was almost 19! She doesn't know what direction she wants to take yet. We wouldn't have the money for it anyway.--It soon became clear that this was only the beginning.
By the time she was 15, the high schoolers we knew had taken up the chant. Marina fielded various questions about whether she was going to college, which colleges she was considering, had she taken the SAT, and "what do you want to study?" I think that last question is what broke her. When you are multi-talented, it is hard to pick one area of focus. She started having moments of anxiety and depression that she hid very well from others, but not from me. Part of the reason I stopped reporting her at 16 was to allow her room to explore. She wasn't going to do this as long as I was filling out quarterlies and having my own little panic attacks every three months. It also didn't help that her two best friends had opted to go to high school. We were running out of homeschooled teens for her to connect with.
Long story short, when we were given the opportunity to attend a homeschooling information meeting at the local college, we took it. Which led to us going through the application process and placement tests. That led to her enrollment this September in an English 101 class. Which, in turn, has led to many tears this September as she worried about finding the class and as she tries to understand the professor's instructions, hyper-focuses on assignments, and worries about the teacher falling behind in her own schedule. Meanwhile, I am kicking myself for allowing us to get swept up in the college craziness. I'm not quite sure how we got here so fast.

Some lessons I've learned along the way...
  • I really wish I had encouraged her to start with something she was more interested in, like Italian. Frankly, I should have insisted on this. The English teacher she has is known to be tough. Several students had dropped her class by the third week.
  • I am glad we decided to start with only one class. We're in no rush here. She's only 17.
  • It would have been better to have her face the placements with less fear. If she could have spent a year--even six months--reviewing algebra and practicing essay writing, I think she would have been much more relaxed for the testing situation.
  • I don't regret skipping the SAT.
  • The majority of her peers right now are kids right out of high school, so she really isn't the youngest person there.
Some lessons she is learning...
  • She needs to learn to write faster for class activities.
  • She likes that people she meets on campus don't automatically ask what grade she's in or what school does she go to.
  • She isn't the only one to panic over assignments. Just today, the professor had to push a deadline back another week because students were anxious about completing it in time. (In their defense, they would only have had one day to finish this particular assignment.)
  • Being a student with a part-time job means she needs to improve her time management.
  • Saying no is easier when you blame college assignments.
  • The professor's schedule is not written in stone. It's more like guidelines.

I know things will settle down eventually. I simply wish I had not allowed the wave of outsiders' opinions to push us here before we were ready. I want my kids to make decisions in a calm and well thought out way, not to please me or anyone else. Apparently, I'm still fighting that urge to please others!
You can read more of Cristina's writing at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Birds of a Homeschooling Feather

The e-mail appeared to be as innocent as any other from the Christian Homeschoolers Around Leavenworth Kansas (CHALK).  It was a reminder for their monthly meeting.  Then I noticed that sentence in the middle of the text.  It was the sentence that said, “You are not welcome here.”  That’s because CHALK “is a homeschool group that meets together once a month for mom's meetings” (emphasis mine).  In an email chain between the leader of the group and a prospective member, it was made clear that men are not welcome: neither husbands nor stay-at-home homeschooling dads.  

In another part of the email, I saw mention of their statement of faith.  There is a statement of faith that the group asks all members to sign.  It isn’t mandatory, but they make it clear that by joining the group you agree to the tenets of the statement.  The statement contains standard Christian concepts quoted directly from scripture, and many Christian groups require members to sign them.  I was once asked to sign a statement of Christian faith by a practicing lesbian who was also a homeschooling group administrator, a concept that I found both ironic and amusing.  No one has ever been able to explain to me how these faith statements fit with James5:12, "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned," or Matthew 5:37, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”  Oddly, no one who ever required me to sign a statement of faith ever asked me whether or not I agreed.  It has always been a case of sign, or leave.

In the Today Show Online article As home-schooling moves to mainstream, stigma fades, a generally fair article about homeschooling, black homeschooler Angela Jenkins searched for other black homeschoolers with whom she could connect.   She “started DFWhomeschoolcafe, a website originally created to connect people of color to home-schooling resources and provide a place for them to share ideas with each other. Her site is one of various sites and support groups for people of color.” The article also listed websites such as the Black Homeschoolers Club, the National Black Home Educators, and Mommy Maestra, “a Latina home-schooling blog.” There are Yahoo! and Google groups, like the CHALK group, for Chinese-Americans, Latinos, Native American, and Muslim homeschoolers.

We read and hear a lot in the media about how politically polarized our nation has become.  I think our nation is segregated far beyond political divisions, and the evidence for that segregation has been staring me in the face for decades.  I grew up in a city that had a Polish community second only to Warsaw in size and population.  There were sections of town that were “Italian,” Czechoslovakian,” and “Black.”  Once in awhile we drove to “Chinatown.”  I am certain that at one time there was a need for birds of a feather to flock together as successive waves of immigration swept across the country.  People tend to be distrustful of change and look for support from a comfortable source: people like themselves.  At the same time, I suspect that the great melting pot doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t exist by choice.  We may be dumping beef and potatoes and carrots into the stew pot, but no matter how often we stir the beef is hanging out in one third of the pot, the potatoes are piled in the another third, and the carrots are bunched together in the last unclaimed section.   

I'm left with more questions than answers.  How can Christian homeschoolers spread the word of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross if they only associate with other Christian homeschoolers?  Is the "evil one" at work in a homeschooling group when they require a signed statement of faith and actively exclude people from participation, or are the members merely treating other people as they wish to be treated?  Why must homeschooling groups be segregated by gender?  Don’t fathers of homeschoolers have something to offer to the homeschooling conversation?   After all, the dialogue does concern their children.  Don’t fathers who stay at home and homeschool need dialogue with other homeschoolers concerning curriculum, lesson plans, resources, and field trips?  What don’t I understand about being Latino or Black or Chinese or female that makes mastering algebraic facts different than it is for male Caucasians?  Why are caucasians excluded from the category "people of color?"  "Caucasian" does not mean "white" any more than "Black" really means "black."  Just look at a cross-section of "people of color" and you'll see a wide variation on the theme of brown.  Frankly, I'm more of a reddish-pinkish hue than I am white, unless you're looking at my naked legs in the dead of winter. Then you might have a point.  Is it possible that homeschooling critics make a valid point about homeschooling when they raise issues concerning homogeny?   Where is the diversity in self-segregated homeschooling communities?  Or, was Thurgood Marshall wrong?  Is separate really equal?  Is separate preferred? Is the call for diversity a sham?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New Feature: Schooling in the News

People regularly feed me news articles concerning both homeschooling and public school education.  Friends, relatives, and readers email links to news articles concerning teachers, students, classroom trends, policy trends, and disciplinary issues, as well as casual mentions of homeschooling.  You name it and I’ve received it.  Usually these emails contain a note such as the subject line on a recent email from my wife: They Just Feed You This Stuff for Your Blog.  I am grateful for all of the help that I have received.   Don't stop sending those links!

Today I have the pleasure of announcing two new features on The Homeschool Apologist.  There are new pages titled “Homeschooling in the News” and “Public Schools in the News.”  You can find their links on the page bar directly underneath the title banner.  “Homeschooling in the News” is a listing of current news articles concerning homeschooling that are appearing online across the United States.   “Public Schools in the News” is the public school counterpart.  I cannot write about each and every school related news article that I locate, or that is sent to me.  So, I created an online clearing house for all school-related news stories.  It’s a Drudge Report for the homeschooling community.   Each day I will update the list with links to online articles.  If you are interested, the stories are there for you to read. 
I hope you find the information both useful and enjoyable.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coming Soon to a Community Near You

The website reported last Tuesday that the Maine Human Rights Commission decided that it is discriminatory to force a “transgendered” boy to use a boy’s restroom in Maine’s public schools.   The Maine Human Rights Commission has been studying the concept of “biology-based bathrooms,” believing that rather than giving a child access to a bathroom segregated by standard definitions of “male” and “female” based on the body parts with which a child born, a child should be allowed to use either a boy’s or a girl’s bathroom based on the gender that they perceive themselves to be. 
The entire story is as follows:
Tuesday September 28, 2010
School Must Allow ‘Transgender’ 6th Grader to Use Girls’ Bathroom: Maine Human Rights Panel
By Kathleen Gilbert
AUGUSTA, Maine, September 28, 2010 ( - The Maine Human Rights Commission (HRC) has ruled that a middle school unlawfully discriminated against a "transgender" sixth-grade boy by disallowing the child from entering a girls' bathroom and instead assigning him his own separate bathroom.
The matter concerned Orono Middle School's treatment of a child whose parents have insisted has a right to use a girl's bathroom, despite being biologically male, because of his chosen gender identity.
“In choosing to disallow [him] to use the girls’ bathroom facilities, the school was implicitly isolating and alienating her (sic) from other students,” the parents wrote, according to local reports. “We determined that we needed to modify our actions to do the best we could to ensure [our child’s] safety.”
The panel also ruled against Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono last year, when the same parents issued a similar complaint over the school's conduct while their child was in the fifth grade, in the 2007-08 school year.
The school contended that officials had adequately accommodated the child, by educating staff and students on the situation, giving the child his own bathroom and locker room, and even arranging frequent meetings with his parents.  “For the most part, she (sic) appeared to be happy and involved in the school community,” officials wrote.
The parents also alleged that the school subjected the boy to a hostile environment due to harassment from other students, a claim rejected by the HRC panel. He has since been removed from the school district.
In a September 20 meeting, the panel announced they would wait until the election of a new state governor before issuing guidelines on how schools ought to accommodate "transgender" students.

See related coverage:
Maine Human Rights Commission Debates ‘Biology-based Bathrooms’

I strongly believe that it is neither healthy nor appropriate to integrate bathrooms in public schools. It is a recipe for disaster.  Putting aside all arguments for or against the legitimacy of “transgendered” as a state of being, the potential for abuse in integrating public restrooms in a school is enormous.   If this catches on, there will be a significant increase in sexual harassment and sexual assaults in public schools.  Any claims by transgendered people that their needs are legitimate will be grossly overshadowed by the damage done by people who misuse or abuse a claim of a transgendered status in order to gain access to a bathroom for someone of the opposite sex.  I would prefer schools have individual bathrooms rather than larger, multi-person bathrooms if the needs of transgendered people must be met. 
Stories such as this one are appearing with more frequency.  They’ve surfaced in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York.  I will not allow my children to attend an institution where they have to expose themselves to members of the opposite sex while changing in a locker room or toileting.  It simply isn’t going to happen.