Monday, March 28, 2011

First Things First: David Mills' Weighs In On Home Education

David Mills, writing at First Things, offers an interesting look at home education starting with his ideas about Linda’s favorite question du jour for homeschoolers, the dreaded “S” word.   He wrote:
Some suddenly furrow their brows and purse their lips and declare their concerns about homeschooling, less often about the quality of the education as about the children’s (meaning, in context, our children’s, which is, you know, really rude) “socialization.” I sometimes feel I must surrounded by fascists, such is their apparent concern for making sure our children fit in to the society as it is.

Fewer people respond this way than they used to, or maybe I just don’t meet this kind of person so much anymore. Which is probably a good thing. My wife, who is much more charitable than I am in dealing with annoying people, answers them politely, and tells them about the homeschooling groups to which our children go several days a week and all the other activities they are involved in.

I have so far resisted the temptation to put my hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye, and ask, “Why are you under the delusion that I care what you think?” or to say something shorter and ruder and more, um, declarative. They are, after, being impertinent, and there is something in the self-asserted piety of their alleged concern for my children that really annoys me.
You can read the rest of David’s column here.  It’s worth reading, as well as the comments.  If you leave a comment of your own, please post it here, too.  We’d love to read what you wrote!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Guest Column #1: A Flashback

Several years ago, we tossed our oldest into our local school system, the Apathy School District, after tensions at home rose to unprecedented levels.  General Mayhem lasted for four tumultuous months at Apathy Middle School.  While he was there, this “A” math student saw his grades, and his skills, drop to “C/D” levels.  He asked to be returned to homeschooling that summer, and it has taken us from the end of his sixth grade year to the middle of his eighth grade year to repair the academic damage and get him caught up to where he should be in the school year.  To celebrate that accomplishment, I share with you a post I wrote in May of 2009 concerning his time at AMS.  It remains at #6 on the top ten list of most frequently read posts at Bedlam.
In light of Arby's computer having committed virtual Hari Kari, today’s entry was written by retired teacher and local 46 shop steward, Mr. Iggy Noramus.

Alright you heathens. You uneducated slobs. You know who you are. You’re members of the great unwashed masses of homeschoolers who have not received your diplomas or your state certificates or your blessing from the local chapter of the NEA, but you still have the audacity to think that you are qualified to teach your own children. Except for Kelliann, of course. She taught. And Kathleen. She taught. And then there’s Arby. He has six or seven years in the classroom. I cannot forget Linda. She started teaching back before chalk was invented and her oldest just graduated with a 4.0 from Northern Illinois University. But the rest of you, and you know who you are, you’d better listen up! You think you know what you’re doing with your Apologia Science and you’re A Beka history and your Saxon Mathematics or your Alpha and Omega stuff.  (You've got to keep an eye on those Alpha and Omega saleswomen. There's a dodgy lot.)  You uppity johnny-come-latelys. I bet you even resort to using one of those gimmicky, prefabricated worksheets that you can buy in a book at Walmart or download from some website like I’m here to tell you that teachers, real teachers, teachers with a pedigree and a license and a local 46 union card would never resort to such material. Well, unless they teach Math at Apathy Middle School. Then an worksheet is just fine. Sometimes teachers, real teachers, are so busy with taking attendance and handling discipline and distributing condoms that they don’t have the time to create a worksheet for math review. Then an edhelper worksheet is just fine.

Now, the rest of you, you snobitty snobs who think you’re so high and mighty because you actually look over your children’s papers and check them for accuracy and errors, you need to accept some facts. Professional teachers, real teachers, are busy people. They have lots of responsibilities. Deadlines to meet, state assessments to assess. Sometimes these real teachers just don’t have the time to collect and grade every student’s paper. Sometimes we put the answers on the overhead projector, making the students self-correct their papers, and then quiz them on those self-corrected problems by having them copy the problem from their homework sheet onto the test. Don’t look at the fact that students aren’t being required to demonstrate mathematical mastery by calculating a full set of equations. This method of instruction and testing is perfectly sound, rooted in pedagogy, and should not be attempted at home by amateurs. Leave this to the professionals.

Any evidence that Mr. Arby might have seen, or that the oh-I’m-so-smart-because-I-have-an-engineering-MS-degree-wife of his claims to have seen of a dramatic drop in General Mayhem's math scores since entering public school is coincidental. One or two more years of Apathy Middle School instruction should clearly demonstrate consistent “C” level work, a far better indication of the General’s ability than one of those Iowa tests. Can’t trust those results. Arby might have given him the answers.

You just need to accept that an education provided by a certified, card carrying union represented professional teacher is far superior to anything you can do at home, thank you very much.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where Public School Administrators Prove Once Again That Their Sanity Is In Doubt

Hayley Russell was described by many of her teachers as both “bright and capable,” as well as “overly social, and often sidetracked in class.”  She sounds like an average middle school student, to me.  So what did the former Rachel Carson Middle School student do to earn a seven week suspension, and be prohibited from being on school property without first obtaining permission?  She brought drugs to school.   Hayley’s drug of choice was prescription acne medication, and under the Fairfax County, Virginia school district’s zero tolerance drug policy, Haley deserved a strict punishment.  We all know what a threat clear skin is to our public institutions of learning.  You can find the Washington Post article here.
I will grant that both Haley and her parents should have followed school rules and sent the medication to the school where it would have been stored in the office and administered as needed by a school official.  They didn’t.  Haley kept the pills in her locker.  After two classmates narced on her to school administrators, the school investigated the matter, taking ten pages of notes and conducting a school hearing that the Russells described as both “invasive and condescending.” There was absolutely no evidence that Hayley ever attempted to sell or distribute her acne medication to other students, or do anything other than combat the affects of clogged pores.
Any school administrator worth their salt would have discovered the medication, called the Russells, reminded them of the school policy and asked them to comply, and then returned Hayley to the classroom.  That would have been not only rational and sane, but perfectly acceptable under Virigina law, which clearly states that in situations involving drugs, “special circumstances may be considered and other consequences given by school boards or through a superintendent’s designee.”  Haley’s disciplinary record was clean. She was an A/B student.  Instead, an investigation ensued that determined Hayley “willfully and deliberately possessed and consumed prescription medication at school, knowing that her actions were in violation of school rules,” adding that she “put the safety and well-being of other students and staff at risk.” 
The staff and students were in danger.  
Would someone remind why we’re supposed to send our children to public schools? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dream Versus The Reality

Cristina wrote: Just so you know, my children have already informed me that I did not include enough traffic and food stops, or any red lights for that matter. Sorry! I was going for simplicity and legibility.

You can find more of Cristina's comics at Home Spun Juggling

Friday, March 18, 2011

A "You've Got To Be Kidding Me!" Moment

Linda sent me a note with the following video attached.  She wrote: This was a definite "you've got to be kidding me" moment!  Since Linda is in Greenville this weekend, she asked me to post the following Youtube clip of retired NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin.  After viewing this clip, there is very little that needs to be said about the NEA’s priorities, except that it is definitely not children!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homeschooler or Entrepreneur?

I was in high school the first time I heard a gas station pump jockey referred to as a Petroleum Distribution Engineer.  It was about that time that janitors became custodians.  I was a custodian during college, although I never figured out what I was in custody of besides a broom, a mop, and a toilet brush.  Sales clerks became associates, stewardesses became flight attendants, and the personnel department became Human Resources.  When I enlisted and chose the glamorous position of submarine cook, I quickly learned that according to the Navy I was a Mess Management Specialist.    I suppose that was apt.  I created a few messes during my time in the galley.  Now John Edwards and Ignaty Dyakov have taken the renaming of job titles in an entirely new direction.  Are you a homeschooler, or an educational entrepreneur?
Don’t fret!  I am not writing about the philandering former vice-presidential candidate, US senator, and deceased-child channeling lawyer John Edwards.  This John Edwards is “an education professional with nearly 30 years experience of teaching in schools in the UK, 12 of these in senior leadership, the last 5 years of which were as a Head Teacher of an 11-18 mixed secondary school in the South East of England.”  His educational writing is distributed by PR Fire, a press release distribution firm in England.  John’s co-author is Ignaty Dyakov, “an educationalist with more than 9 years experience of teaching in schools and Universities in the UK and abroad, 5 of these in education management working with secondary and university students.” 
Misters Edwards and Dyakov compared the qualities of an entrepreneur with those of a homeschooler.  Both the entrepreneur and the homeschooler are creative risk-takers, leaders, “vital contributors to the wealth and prosperity of the nation,” and people who do not “follow convention.” They wrote:
Entrepreneurs have been shown through research to be less likely to sacrifice their personal values than employed managers. So too, homeschoolers will often point to strongly held values and personal conviction to back their decision. Entrepreneurs, like homeschoolers also desire    independence, they often want to challenge themselves and, occasionally, entrepreneurship, like homeschooling, is borne of circumstances where there is little other choice.
I was afraid that the authors had wandered of their rather creative analysis of home education when they wrote that “homeschooling unquestionably involves risk, with obvious questions arising such as: Will the children lack socialization? Will they achieve as much as their peers?”  I would argue that sending our children to a public school involves far more risk than teaching them at home.  My fears were short lived.  They answered their own questions when they wrote that “research again suggests they suffer no ill effects on either count, with some compelling evidence pointing to much more positive outcomes.”

You can read the entire article here.
So, are you creative?  Independent? A risk-taker?  A leader?  Do you follow convention?  Are you a homeschooler, or an educational entrepreneur? 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Registration at a Minimum...They're at it Again in Illinois

The Belleville News Democrat, a small paper serving the southwestern Illinois/St. Louis area, has an online editorial today titled “Registration at a minimum” that calls for state mandated registration and testing of Illinois’ homeschooled children.  You can read the entire editorial here. Their argument isn’t new.  They use the some-kids-fall-through-the-cracks argument to justify state oversight of homeschooling.   Their rationale?  But kids who don't get a proper education can become the problem of the state as adults. So everyone has a stake in children's learning whether it happens in a traditional classroom or in a home.”  The observation that some kids “can” fall through the cracks is not backed up with a single instance of any homeschooled kids actually falling through the cracks and becoming a problem for the state.  With so many public schooled students actually falling through the cracks (many of them with high school diplomas) and actually becoming problems for the state, the editorial writers at the News Democrat should focus their attention on public schools and leave homeschooling families alone. 
Please take a moment to read their editorial and leave a comment.  If you can, share your comment here after you’ve posted it to their website.  We’d love to read what you have to say!

Post Script
The current edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Life Nurturing Education.  Check it out!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Say No To MOOSE

After reading Linda’s last post, I did some investigating into the UN, the NEA, and their educational concerns that she highlighted.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I must not be very bright.  I’m probably one of those people Ron Schiller was thinking of when the NPR executive commented that “liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives.”   So, I am calling on any liberal readers of this blog, or liberal friends of readers of this blog, to come to my aid and explain something to me.    I thought I was a fairly well educated person.  I thought that I knew about certain facts of life, those facts that in a kinder and gentler age were referred to as “the birds and the bees,” but are now referred to as standard MTV programming.  I know what masturbation is.  I know what an orgasm is.  I know what oral sex is.  I honestly do not know how masturbation, orgasm, and oral sex education (MOOSE) for sixth graders is going to help the United Nations achieve their Millennium Development Goals, but according to a panel at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), teaching MOOSE to middle and high school students is “key” to solving many of the world’s ills.
The 2010 Millennium Goals are impressive.  The UN would like to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.  These aren’t bad ideas.  I just don’t see the connection between teaching a sixth grader about MOOSE and achieving universal primary education.  If a teacher explains the big M to a group of children in Japan, will that help a six-year-old learn to read in Bulgaria?  If your sixth grade daughter learns about MOOSE, how will that combat the spread of malaria?  Wouldn’t DDT be more effective?  Will MOOSE develop a global partnership for development?  Only in the early fall, and only in northern North America, Europe and Asia.  Certainly not globally. 
I do know that MOOSE over-population will affect environmental sustainability, but for some reason I don’t think either the UN or Diane Schneider of the National Education Association (NEA) agree.  She spoke at the CSW about expanding sex education for middle and high school students to include comprehensive teachings about MOOSE.  She made a point of mentioning that abstinence-only education was not a good idea, and that children should not be able to opt-out of MOOSE.  It seems to me that if you want to guarantee a decrease in child mortality rates, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, then abstinence would be a central theme in MOOSE instruction.   You don’t have to pay if you don’t play.   Unfortunately, learning about MOOSE will encourage naturally curious youth to want to try MOOSE activities, activities which do lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Those diseases will make environmental sustainability unachievable.  We need look no further than Africa to see that.
The truth behind the educational claims made by the NEA is that MOOSE has absolutely nothing to do with attaining UN Millennial Goals.  Through a simple internet search using the terms “NEA” and “homosexuality,” you will find that the NEA is a secular, pro-homosexual organization.  Choice is fine if you are choosing to end a life through abortion, but as Ms. Schneider made clear through her comments, it ends if you are a parent choosing to have your children opt-out of MOOSE studies.   I have to agree with Linda’s comments in her last post. The NEA + the UN = wolves in wolves’ clothing,  and I am not going to feed my children to the wolves. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NEA + UN = Wolves in Wolves' Clothing

You can't make stuff like this up.

I'm actually not going to provide much commentary on this article. It would force me to type words that I really don't want to type. And think thoughts that I really don't want to think. Suffice it to say that the NEA has a dark and scary agenda for our children that is so outrageous it's almost unbelievable. And it's this agenda that is one of my top reasons for keeping my children at home and out of the very determined clutches of the NEA. And just in case there was any wiggle-room in my commitment to homeschool, this article removed the wiggle.  For good.  Why stuff like this doesn't convince every American parent to homeschool is absolutely beyond me.

At the UN's recent "Commission on the Status of Women," Diane Schneider, a representative of the NEA had much to say.  Here's a snippet.
Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.”  “Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.” (emphasis mine)

If you think you can stand it, you can read more about the NEA's recommendations for your children's education on the website of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute*.

And then pop over to The All American Blogger* to read a great commentary on the article.

And then give your children great big hugs and promise them that you'll never feed them to the wolves.

I don't know about you, but the view from our "binary box" is just fine.

(*Please note that both articles linked above contain content that is not suitable for children.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Swim At Your Own Risk

Wow!  Homeschoolers.  What a pestilent lot we are.  We are the bane of the internet.  We’re like a school of piranha when an unsuspecting bovine wanders to the river bank for a drink.  One wrong step and – Bammo! – we attack.   In minutes, an unsuspecting anti-homeschooler innocently posting on their blog finds their arguments stripped to the bone, dismantled and useless, sinking in the broadband river of the World Wide Web.  Just look what happened to poor Sandy, although I would be quite remiss if I did not point out that I am not calling her a cow. The loneliest blogger online needs only to write one post critical of homeschooling and their page counter spikes through the stratosphere as we assemble en masse to protest.   We’re pretty effective in person, too, as was most recently witnessed at the state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.  We also sing well. 
Homeschoolers are quite adept at protecting their interests, whether they are confronting the opinions of bloggers, news reports concerning home education, or legislative action that increases governmental regulation over homeschooling and unnecessarily burdens homeschoolers.  Why are we so effective?  How do we circle the wagons to fight unwanted interference when within the homeschooling community there are so many divisions based on curriculum, educational philosophy, and religion?  I think the answer rests in one word: culture.   Read the definition of “culture” and ask yourself whether or not it describes home educators as a group.
cul·ture – noun (from
1. the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
It is true that homeschoolers try to raise their children with an appreciation for the arts, the ability to write cohesive letters, exhibit proper manners, and to develop the habit of scholarly pursuits.  Like my son, who makes Lego Star Wars movies and posts them on Youtube.
2. that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.
They are really good movies for a beginner.
3. a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
Homeschoolers are at a particular stage of civilization where we openly reject government control of education.   History will mark the years from the early seventies to now as a period of renewal in terms of home education.  Are we neohomeschoolists or neohomescholars?
4. development or improvement of the mind by education or training.
I try.  Dear God, I try.  Please don’t judge my efforts by the antics of my eight year old.  He’s a work in progress.  Aren’t we all?  And he'll stop playing Amazing Grace with his arm pit in church.  I promise. 
5. the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture…
…and the homeschooling culture.  This is working.  I think I’m on to something here.
6. Anthropology. the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
We certainly hope that our manner of raising and educating our children is carried on through the generations after we pass on.  I will be disappointed if none of my children homeschool.
7. Biology .
                a. the cultivation of microorganisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientific   study, medicinal use, etc.
                b. the product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
Well, the NEA certainly thinks we are, and not a very beneficial culture, either.
8. the act or practice of cultivating the soil; tillage.
Metaphorically speaking, if my children are the soil, and I am the farmer, this works. 
9. the raising of plants or animals, especially with a view to their improvement.
The sounds that emanate from the basement while my children are at play often make me wonder if they’ve been secretly removed from my house and replaced with howler monkeys.  So, yeah, this fits, too.
10. the product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
I see growth in my children.  Sometimes its abnormal growth, like my oldest boy’s mastery of belching “The Gettysburg Address,” but I take what I can get without complaining. 
Are you nodding your head?  Do you see yourself reflected above? Your children? I’m betting that if you’ve spent any amount of time homeschooling, your answer is yes.
Critics do not realize that home education does not simply concern the memorization of facts and figures.  Neither is it just an activity between nine in the morning and three in the afternoon.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle.  It defines who we are as a people.  Our choices in home educating our children reflect what we believe in, how we view the world around us and how we interact with that world.  Homeschooling takes incredible sacrifice.   From researching curriculum to purchasing the same, from lesson planning to instruction, and from grading work to providing timely feedback, teaching children at home takes a tremendous amount of effort.   We willingly sacrifice time, hobbies, social activities, and a second income in order to ensure that our children have the best possible chance at a successful life.   When people call for homeschool reform, for government oversight of home education, homeschoolers see an effort to evaluate and control our faith, our family, and our standards for living in the privacy of our homes, with the potential to mandate changes in our homes with which we do not agree.  This is especially true of Christian homeschoolers, whose constitutionally protected faith demands they educate their children with a world view that governs every subject they teach.    We rightly oppose the government’s reach into our homes.  
So, tell me, fellow piranhas, are we engaged in a simple defense of an educational philosophy, or are we defending our culture?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More "Nothing New" Arguments Against Homeschooling

Sandy Laurence is concerned. About homeschoolers.
"According to just about every article I see on homeschooling, the practice is definitely on the rise. That concerns me, because I often wonder what percentage of homeschooled kids are educated as well as they would be in a good public or private school."
If you've homeschooled for at least a week, you've heard it before.

Sandy raises concerns about the caliber of the instruction that children will receive from a parent as compared to trained teachers.

She raises concerns about...drum roll...socialization. Now there's a shocker.

She raises concerns about homeschooled kids missing out on music, languages and art.  She doesn't have a clue.

Go check out the article and read all the comments and leave one of your own. Or leave one here. I love to hear your thoughts!

Here's what I had to say:
I'm a mom and a teacher. But what has benefited my children most in our homeschooling experience is NOT the fact that I'm a teacher. It's the fact that I'm their mom. Period. I KNOW them. A teacher might have some fancy techniques and expertise (though MANY teachers don't!!), but a mother knows, and LOVES, her child. And she has a vested interest in that child's future. That's what makes homeschooling successful. Yes, there are good teachers. But even the best teachers DON'T always have my child's best interests at heart. I do.

But what irritates me the most about your post is the socialization argument. As someone who has been homeschooling for more than 20 years, frankly, I've had it with the "socialization" argument. I went to public schools. I've taught in public school. I've tutored dozens of children who go to public schools. Here's a newsflash. The socialization that children receive in public school leaves A LOT to be desired. There is nothing there (in a social sense) that my children missed out on. I reject the argument that homeschooled kids need to be enrolled in lots of extra-curricular activities in order to "make up" for the lack of socialization. In my opinion, there is nothing to "make up" for. My children were better off because they were not socialized in that environment. Period. (By the way, three of my children are now adults....I can back this statement with proof that they are all confident, mature, socially capable young adults.)

I wrote a general argument of why I wouldn't send my kids to public school here. Here's an excerpt regarding socialization:

"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.

Here's another post I recently wrote about socialization.

School isn't supposed to be about socialization. It's supposed to be about learning. At least that's what my 5th grade teacher always told me.
"Be quiet and get to work. School isn't the place for socializing!"

(BTW...I linked this post at today's "Hip Homeschool Hop".)