Written in By Ann Zeise
Some of us are looking forward to the start of school with glee, for now we’ll have the beaches and campgrounds to ourselves! We are the homeschoolers of the World.
I was going to wait until nearer the end of the month for this topic, but the articles about homeschooling came out in the August Bay Area Parent, which is given away freely around the San Francisco area. This is my rebuttal to Tracy Pope who wrote “Classroom is Best” (page 48). [Not online any longer.]
Mrs. Pope begins by asking, “To repair your car, would you take it to the dentist?” And then goes on to make the analogy, “To provide your children with a well-rounded education … would you do it yourself?” My child isn’t broken, Mrs. Pope. That is one of the problems I have with public education: the attitude that children are broken people, most likely abused by their parents, and must, through government intrusion, be “fixed.” Unless my car is terribly beyond my husband’s capability to fix, he does the repairs. My son, now 12, has been checking the fluids for a couple of years now. (“Problem Solving and Prevention” is one of the things we “teach” at home!)
In this family we take care of our teeth, too, so our trips to the dentist, biannually, are usually benign. We don’t confuse our cars and our teeth. We want our child to be extremely competent in his field of choice, which may not even exist today. We believe that homeschooling will provide our son with far better academics and the social skills to be as competent an adult as he is capable of being. Both private and public education failed our son.
A bit of background. I’m a credentialed teacher, K-9 and junior college; my husband is an MIT dropout, who has mostly taught himself computer architecture and works as a system design engineer. I have taught in public schools. Mrs. Pope, you forgot to mention that there are four (4) ways to legally homeschool in California: filing an R-4 (making your home a private school), going under the “umbrella” of the school district office’s or a private school’s Independent Study Program (ISP), and lastly, the way I do it, the “tutoring option.” Are you aware that many families with a parent who is a certified teacher now homeschool under this option? They know why they want to keep their children out of public and private schools!
Mrs. Pope, only 1% go under the public ISP because all an ISP attempts to have you do is duplicate public education in your home. If your child wasn’t learning in public school, why would you want to duplicate the same methods?Homeschooling parents read up on the methods of Montessori, Waldorf, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and other educational methods and ideals, then make a choice what seems right for their family. If it doesn’t work, they can change it the next day, not wait for government wheels to grind.
Mrs. Pope, look at it this way: we’re your control group. If, like so many elementary teachers, you are a little weak in science, I’ll explain. A control group is that part of an experiment that is not subjected to the factors you are studying. Should the experimental group change significantly from the control group, than the factor you are studying is probably the cause, for better or worse. Homeschool students on the average score above 85% when academically tested!
Your premise is that, given teachers that are required to keep up with new teaching methods and techniques for managing the diverse learning styles of 20-32 (or more in high school) students at one time, these students will all turn out to value and appreciate other individuals. Mrs. Pope, were you on coffee break during recess? Have you missed the schoolyard fights, the belittling and scape-goating that goes on? Any semblance of “fostering critical thinking and promoting tolerance” you may have simulated with them in the classroom is forgotten out in the yard. My daughter, a well-liked, top student, told me stories of what she had to do to protect herself from being molested or knifed on school grounds. Yes, school did help her become “street wise,” but I’m sorry now I didn’t have the facts about homeschooling.
So, can homeschooling do any better? Well, we don’t simulate reality: we live it. Our friends are diverse because we like them as individuals. Not only are my son’s friends a multi-cultural diverse crowd, they are not all just his age! Neighborhood friends are usually hanging out at our house because it’s a fun house to be in. Scott spends several days a month with his grandmother (because he can and she enjoys his company!) in a retirement community, where he helps her and her elderly friends fix things or just plays cards with them. He occasionally goes to work with his father where he’s helping to document a flight simulation program. (Yes! We “teach” flight training!) We attend a homeschooling park day weekly, where Scott enjoys just being a kid. It’s fun watching him play a rough game of ball with the older kids, and then flop down and give gentle attention to one of the younger children.
Academically, Scott is way above his age level (12). He reads very well, from a broad selection of types of books, and his pace is about a thick book every day or two! He loves science fiction and action packed adventures. Some books are “classics” and some are “candy” books. He’s up to factoring polynomials in Algebra. Rather than study one type of science all year long, we vary according to current interest, tying in the common threads from all the sciences. Sometimes the chemistry set is fascinating, sometimes it’s watching the social interaction of the rabbits a la Jane Goodall. Next we have the microscope or the telescope pulled out. He writes when he has something important to put to pen or computer. He has only to fight me for internet computer time. He networked our Macs and printers last year and explains how to grab files to me!
We’re out in the community a lot. Scott’s on the swim team and in a Boy Scout Troop. Just earned his First Class rank. For “civics” last year, he helped our neighbor, Henry Manayan, run for mayor of Milpitas. He did “precinct walking” with him, and was a big help with the copy machine. He kept that thing running when the adults had about given up on it. Election day, while other kids read about how democracy works, Scott was visiting polling places, helping mom with “poll watching.” He knows, really knows, what those terms mean. Best part was helping to put up the numbers election night as the results came in, and then popping balloons with excitement!
I must thank individual business people for taking time from their busy routines to answer Scott’s questions. He learned about the lifecycle of the flea from the Calaveras Vet. An architect from Devcon taught him about “tilt-ups” after he had watched the new buildings in McCarthy Ranch go up. The City Planner asked him if he’d solved the traffic problems yet in SimCity, and gave him a few clues. We took a class on rescue along with other Milpitas business people, learning how to safely lift a cement block off a victim, and inspect a building after an earthquake.
Is it no wonder kids with this much curiosity and intelligence are attempting college classes as young as 12 or 13? Sure these gifted kids aren’t as suave as the 18-20 year olds one would normally find at a community college, Mrs. Pope, but having a suave, glib 12 year old isn’t our goal! Frankly, I don’t like 12 year olds who act like they are 20, do you, Mrs. Pope? Most young folks from public schools don’t know how to apply what they’ve learned in school to business. That comes with being part of a business! Most homeschool children have a chance to have a small business of their own, hold volunteer jobs, or help parents with their business year after year, not for one candy sale.
I couldn’t help but let out a big sigh at the next two articles. The next page (54) is about teenaged depression. School made my son depressed. At nine he thought he had no hope. He was a failure, a bad boy: he’d labeled himself with the help of his teacher and classmates. Today he is a confident adolescent. The article points out that the main cause of teen depression is “fighting with peers.” And where are children forced to be with tormenting peers all day long? Eh, Mrs. Pope? Next page (56) is “Daycare Bad For Babies? It may be teaching the wrong socialization skills.” Conclusion is that poorly supervised group situations can be hazardous for babies, and that keeping them at home will not handicap them later on. Modeling and reinforcement of good behavior by loving adults are the prime ways the young learn good socialization skills. I’d say that the same holds true for older children, too, and so would many parents. Homeschooling is legal and it’s best.