NEA for Kerry but against homeschoolers! - Part 2

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: NEA for Kerry but against homeschoolers! - Part 2
By Sheeprun (Sheeprun) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:21 pm: Edit

Continuation of Part One

By Thoughtfulmom (Thoughtfulmom) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:48 pm: Edit

I feel that for me, teaching one's children it's bit like teaching a spouse to drive. Some people can do it, and others cannot. It has to do more with my own limitations than with the principle of the thing.

LOL. Apt analogy! I can't imagine teaching my spouse (or my kids!) how to drive. Actually I learned how to drive well after I was married, and I think it might have destroyed the marriage if I'd asked my husband to teach me! (I hired a professional.)

But I was trying to say that ALL of us are teaching our kids, whether we "homeschool" officially or not. It's really a continuum rather than a dichotomy. All of us are capable of teaching our children SOME things and not others.

We may not all be fully conscious that we are teaching by example, in informal conversations, etc. but all of us--except for those who send our kids to boarding school 12 months a year--are homeschoolers in the broader sense of the word.

And just about all of us, official "homeschoolers" or not, have limitations on what we feel we are able to teach our kids, so we all "subcontract" some of our children's education out to varying degrees. (I know homeschool parents who feel very confident about teaching just about every other high school subject EXCEPT for drivers ed, for example, so they subcontract that one out! Of course, lots of parents subcontract that one out for other reasons too--like getting a lower auto insurance rate.)

And the issue of "the right temperament" is a very interesting thing. Most homeschoolers whom I've met didn't think they had it in them before they started. And some of them eventually realized they had been right, and ended up returning their kids to school after a less than satisfactory homeschooling experience. But plenty of those who had thought--I can't do this, I'm not the right type--in fact discovered that their families flourished with homeschooling.

I knew a woman who was a member of the Harvard faculty back in the 80s, when Harvard was admitting the first few homeschoolers.

She heard a colleague raving about how wonderful the homeschoolers were--their intellectual curiosity, their freshness and openness to the academic enterprise (because they weren't burned out from years of sitting in classrooms.)

The woman, whose first child was a toddler at the time, said, "Oh, I'm sure it's a wonderful educational path, but the parent would have to have a very special kind of personality to do that sort of thing, and I'm sure I don't have the right temperament!"

As the toddler grew older, the young woman realized that her daughter was a natural autodidact--and eventually, by the third grade, she realized that even though she (the mom) might not have the right temperament to teach her child, her child certainly did have the right temperament to take ownership of her own education!

The young woman had simply observed all the things her daughter was choosing to learn on her own, in her free time at home (in the summer, on weekends, on sick days and snow days, etc.) She was a voracious reader, a prolific writer, and an enthusiastic problemsolver. Ultimately the woman decided that spending 30 hours a week in a school classroom (plus time on the bus, busywork homework, etc.) was just not the best use of her daughter's time.

This was despite the fact that the local schools had a well-deserved reputation for excellence. It's just that the parents could see a spark of excitement, a passion for learning, that was evident in the wide-ranging and voracious learning the child chose to do on her own, a spark that was missing from her school experience.

And so that was the end of the child's enrollment in a conventional K-12 school, though the parents continually monitored the situation, and were prepared to support a return to school if that seemed appropriate at some point down the road.

As the years went by, the mom supported a variety of community educational experiences for her daughter--enrollment in part-time college courses, various public lectures and community discussion study groups, arts groups, etc., but she probably did very little of what Marite would term "teaching" her own child. Indeed, the child's knowledge soon outstripped her parents in many areas.

The "young woman" is now middle-aged and that "toddler" is now herself a young woman who has had a wonderful wide-ranging education. She's taken lots of local college courses, spent half a year living away from home in various academic residential programs over the years, has qualified for the National AP Scholar Award with 5's in a broad variety of disciplines, and has made many contributions to her community, including volunteering in the public schools. She has read voraciously and written prolifically. She's had time to travel, time to take yoga classes, time to take long contemplative walks along the river, time to reflect, time to daydream, time to ponder the mysteries of life. She's had time to act and direct plays, time to write poetry and stories and letters, time to work, time to help her family and her community. (She's also had time to sleep!...a rare commodity for conventional high school students!)

So it's really an issue of the child's temperament as well as the parents'.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 05:59 pm: Edit


How right you are!

I was also thinking that sometimes, we achieve the same results by adopting opposite strategies. You are very correct that we teach through modeling. I read constantly and I am sure that my kids have picked up on that. But I did not enjoy reading to them. In fact, as soon as my S could decipher phonetically, I made a deal with him. He could sit by me (often in bed) while I read my book and he read his. I'd help him with difficult words. That became our bedtime reading ritual. I think that this speeded up his reading. For the same reason, I taught them to look things up themselves. Others have enjoyed reading to their kids long after the kids had become independent readers. Many love to learn new things alongside their kids and see it as a bonus of homeschooling their kids.
Somehow, our kids mostly turn out all right!

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:44 pm: Edit

Our experience with the Public school system has been amazing (First and only time for us). With our S we have enjoyed a great ride. To us every door, every opportunity that came with each grade were always 'right'. One of our friend did homeschool her two children up to 8th grade (one of them is at Stanford).

However, I always thought of homeschooling as making your kids live in a hermetically sealed environments. I was amazed at the opportunities kids get in a PS to explore whatever interest they have. They can explore music, drama, speech, dance, debates, math and science, volunteering, robotics........

And the best thing I liked about the PS is making the kids work in teams, subconciously teaching them values of team work, time management, leadership, racial as well as gender harmony.

My employer spends lots of money on Diversity, team building and other softer issues, but I think when this generation of kids start working and reach management levels, many of these issues would become mute.

I don't think a home schooled child can ever have the experiences of a PS.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

>"However, I always thought of homeschooling as making your kids live in a hermetically sealed environments. I was amazed at the opportunities kids get in a PS to explore whatever interest they have. They can explore music, drama, speech, dance, debates, math and science, volunteering, robotics........ "

The term homeschooling is very unfortunate because it is misleading. It sounds like homeschooled kids spend the majority of the time stuck in the house, which is totally not the case, especially for teens. Some education certainly happens in the home, but it is in no way restricted to that. Homeschooled kids can and do explore all of the things you mention both inside and outside the home. They have the entire community at their disposal, not just the opportunities available within a school. All of the after-school, summer, and week-end activities available to school kids in a community are available to homeschoolers also. Plus homeschoolers can take advantage of having free time on week-days in order to do things would be difficult for school kids to schedule, like internships, college classes, volunteering in the community. Plus homeschool families frequently organize group activities for homeschoolers. Our homeschool community has a chess team, math team, drama group, soccer group, Science Bowl team, social club, reading clubs, robotics team, dances, graduation ceremony, etc, etc. You could go to something every day if you wanted to.

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:09 pm: Edit

Texas137: But don't you think the home schooled chidren interface with other children with a carbon copy background, and same parental thought processes?

Sure as a homeschooler you can participate in a chess team, math team, drama group, soccer group, Science Bowl team, social club, reading clubs, robotics team, dances, etc etc. But there is a difference in participation and striving to excel. I must say that (based on my limited observation with the Band), no home schooler or even a private school kid can compete with the PS kid in regionals or UILs (sorry to be blunt).

By Thoughtfulmom (Thoughtfulmom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:15 pm: Edit

And the best thing I liked about the PS is making the kids work in teams, subconciously teaching them values of team work, time management, leadership, racial as well as gender harmony.

The homeschooled students I know are very eager to seek out opportunities to work in community-based teams that are often far more diverse than those they would find in their local public schools.

Affluent suburban public schools often offer very little in the way of socioeconomic and racial diversity, but I know homeschoolers who have started up community-based groups that draw public, private, and homeschooled students to work together--and their membership crosses school district boundaries, so inner-city public school kids end up working on the same team with suburban kids.

By Thoughtfulmom (Thoughtfulmom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:28 pm: Edit

Texas137: But don't you think the home schooled chidren interface with other children with a carbon copy background, and same parental thought processes?

I'm not Texas137, but I'll take a stab at addressing this anyway.

I'm sure there must be some homeschooled children whose parents restrict them in this way, but the homeschool parents I've met are eager for their children to learn to get along with kids from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I know of two homeschooled teenagers who co-directed a play. One was a fundamentalist Christian and the other an agnostic. The cast included students from public schools, private schools, and homeschoolers. There were Jews, Catholics, fundamentalists, agnostics, secular humanists, conservatives, liberals, gay and bisexual actors, etc. The kids all got along great, bound by their common desire to create the best play possible. They were too busy working on the play to argue theology. (The parents, on the other hand, did have some lively :-) discussions when they came to pick their kids up after rehearsals.) But...the play's the thing, and all's well that ends well.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:33 pm: Edit


>>(The parents, on the other hand, did have some lively :-) discussions when they came to pick their kids up after rehearsals.)>>

LOL! Isn't it so often the case that parents get far more exercized than their kids over the very things that most affect the kids? :-)

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Simba - actually I think it's school kids who only interface with other kids with a carbon-copy background. Most schools are pretty homogenous racially and economically. Then there's the fact that school kids spend all day surrounded with people who are their exact same age.

There are parents who homeschool because they do not want their children exposed to kids who do not share their religious and social views. This is probably what you really have in mind. But that is not a function of homeschooling. There are families whose children attend church-based schools for the same reason. And there are plenty of homeschoolers with a variety of religious beliefs, including atheists, agnostics, and religious apathetics.

Homeschoolers and private school kids don't succeed at UIL because they are not allowed to compete. They compete very successfully in many other contests which could be considered a lot more indicative of excellence than UIL (many serious math competitors for instance, think UIL math events are utterly stupid, sorry to be blunt.). They are well represented, out of all proportion to their numbers, in all of the programs leading to selection of US teams to the international math and science olympiads, for instance. This year the US was represented by 2 homeschoolers at the Int'l Math Olympiad (out of 6), and will be represented by 2 homeschoolers at the Int'l computing olympiad (out of 4). Three years ago an american homeschooler named Reid Barton was number 1 in the *world* at both of those two competitions, competing against the smartest math/computing kids on the planet. There have been homeschoolers on the US Physics Team, Mathcounts Nationals, Research Science Institute, ISEF, Siemens-Westinghouse. You name a top national contest, and homeschoolers have been involved. They have been admitted to all of the most selective colleges. There is no limit to excellence. In fact, many parents choose to homeschool when the local traditional schools cannot provide adequate opportunities for an unusually gifted child.

By Thoughtfulmom (Thoughtfulmom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:43 pm: Edit

Simba: But there is a difference in participation and striving to excel. I must say that (based on my limited observation with the Band), no home schooler or even a private school kid can compete with the PS kid in regionals or UILs (sorry to be blunt).

Homeschool teams have won state and national honors in many contexts--math teams, robotics teams, Envirathon teans come to mind immediately. I'm sure there are others.

Large-scale marching band is probably an opportunity they miss out on, but there are a number of very talented young musicians who homeschool and perform with professional symphonies, bluegrass bands, etc.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:22 pm: Edit

Good point about marching band. And good point about homeschoolers being in city orchestras or in small bands. There's also community theater, book discussion groups based in libraries or book stores, and other community resources open to anyone.

Football is probably another opportunity that homeschoolers miss out on. But then, many school kids miss out on it also, if they want to play but don't make the team. Something like soccer which includes everyone who wants to play, and which tends to be community-based rather than school-based actually allows more access school kids, in addition to being available to homeschoolers. I personally think all sports should be community-based and include anyone(like Little League). More kids would have the opportunity to play and schools could concentrate on academics.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:44 pm: Edit

It sounds like some of the main differences are a function of size. My daughter who attended private school was able to participate in school teams, musical, got all classes she wanted ... My experience and other kids experience in high school was that we didn't get the classes we wanted but our football team went to state- oh boy for the kids that participated, but everyone else?
Home schooling is not for us, but the kids in this area who are often have a terrific experience which doesn't shelter them but on the other hand gives them the foundation to make a difference.
Public schools particulary urban it is true have a much more diverse constituency than private or home school. Lots of kids whose parents aren't involved at all,little money doesn't necessarily give the we're all in this together so we are going to make it work feel.
Big urban schools do often have top programs, but when you have 2000 kids in a school and a top program takes 30 kids who transferred to that school for that reason, it isn't surprising.
For my kids, I would rather that they have the opportunity to try these things, it isn't important that they be Natl merit or go to state, I just want them to be exposed to it.

I have my youngest in a big inner city high school, but I am for vouchers and possibly even for vouchers to be used for religious schools since some feel that secular schools are a religion in themselves. ( Usually the same people who get real excited when it is admitted that Evolution is a "theory", not acknowledging that theory is how we also explain gravity and relativity.)

I am for school choice and freedom when we have taxes going to build major sports arenas how can we get so bent out of shape when we think about giving choice to famiies?

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:06 pm: Edit

I'll offer a progress report on two young women who came out of our VERY small home schooling group:

One young lady grew up playing fiddle with her family's bluegrass string band---known all throughout our region. While at college, she was "discovered" by the chief violinist at the Pittsburgh Symphony and (in an amazingly short time) appeared in concert at Heinz Hall. After college she toured for a year---playing violin in a rock group. She is now in medical school.

Another young lady grew up in ballet slippers. She became lead dancer in a regional ballet company while still a teenager. Later, she studied musical theater in college and then toured nationally with a New York based musical theater group. She recently married the group’s production manager who, it turns out, is a Vermonter familiar to our own "SoozieVT"---small world! (I attended the wedding… what a handsome, nice fellow… with fourteen brothers and sisters!)


Home-schooled students see the world as having all sorts of possibilities--limited only by their own imaginations. They have not had the benefit of various school clubs that suggest, "This is how you pursue this interest."

I expect several of you will quickly point out what an unfair statement that is. Before you start writing, please consider that the whole notion of public school, classrooms, and school activities is a VERY recent experiment: an invention of the industrial revolution. Quite a few remarkable artists, musicians, scholars, scientists and thinkers never heard of public schools; the world would be a different place had it not been for them. I bring up this point because so many parents believe in their heart that public school is somehow the "normal" state of affairs. It is the least normal social institution I am aware of.

By Shennie (Shennie) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:49 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity - I currently live in a state that has does have a voucher program for low income students in the Milwaukee Public school district can get vouchers to attend private schools. Most of the schools are church affiliated but some are private "academies". Several of the private academies have had to close because of misuse of funds and one guy is currently under invesitgation for embezzlement. My guess is the students who attended these schools were not very well served.

However, my biggest complaint about the voucher program is that the voucher schools don't have to meet the same standards as the public schools. They don't participate in the state testing program that is required under NCLB and they don't have to publish any kind of testing data. Some of the schools do publish data, but it is not required. Supporters of this say that since parents choose to send their children there they must be producing a good product. Also, since voucher schools are private, they can pick and choose who they want to educate. They don't have to admit your child if they don't want to and they don't have to give any kind of a reason for denying admission. These schools can also require that parents put in a certain number of volunteer hours, attend parent conferences, etc. The public schools, of course, must take anyone who lives in the district boundries and can make no demands on parents or families.

I really wouldn't mind vouchers if there were some level of accountability. I did read an article recently about a poor neighborhood in Milwaukee that had a private parochial school, a charter school and 2 regular publics. The four schools had decided to quit competing for students and started cooperating with each other, sharing resouces, referrals, etc. By working together they were able to get students into the school that was best able to meet each students needs and sharing resources helped each school's budgeting as well. Test scores rose in all four schools. Ultimately, I think this kind of thing may be the blueprint for the future. But in order for it to work on a larger scale, I think that resonably equal accountability has to be in place for all parties.

By Sdrew (Sdrew) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

I've been reading some of this thread the last week, but had to weigh in now after reading Simba's post. I have homeschooled my son K-12 and he will be attending Rice in 2 weeks. He has been very active in scouts, drama, speech, summer programs, outside classes and labs, college classes, and work experiences. He has also been on a homeschool academic team for the last 6 years that has competed at the local, state, and national level. This year, his team won five state-wide tournaments against private and public school teams. (The social studies bowl had 53 teams from all over the state.) They won the Regional Science Bowl the last two years, winning a trip to compete in the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. There they did manage to win several games against teams who are the best of the best from around the country. They also placed 2nd in the hydrogen fuel cell car competition, winning a hefty $1250 prize. They have qualified for the NAQT National tournament three years, and were able to compete this year in Houston, also winning five of their ten games. He personally was on the state academic team and has competed twice at the Panasonic Academic Challenge. In his elementary/middle school years, he was in the top ten at the state National Geographic Bee three years. To say that homeschooled teams/kids couldn't compete against public or private schools is incorrect. We beat the state champs at several tournaments, but are unable to compete in the actual "state" tournaments.

My daughter has also been very active in band, dance, drama, photography classes, plus many outside academic classes. She plans on starting fencing classes this month also. She is active in 4-H, which fosters community service, leadership, public speaking, and citizenship. I don't think we should think of any one way as being better. I think we should be grateful there are many choices for us to make that best suit our family and children. Sorry to rant!

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