Tag Archives: Homeschooling

Homeschoolers Go Back to School, Too

For a long time, this Staples TV ad was my favorite commercial:

I still think it’s hilarious, but since my kids don’t technically go “back to school” anymore, I don’t get the same pleasure out of it.  I have to say that this is one of the few times during the school year in which I am actually jealous of those families whose kids physically attend school.

In my suburban neighborhood, the first day of school is an unofficial holiday.  Moms and Dads all gather at the bus stop in the morning and afternoon with cameras to record the day.  A moms-without-kids lunch date happens at a local restaurant.  Everyone excitedly talks about their lists of things to accomplish while the children are in school.

Not so for us homeschool parents.  My kids are still here, just like every other day.  I suppose I could join the other moms out at the bus stop to chat, but that would seem sort of silly.  I doubt anyone would mind if I attended the lunch date, but I wouldn’t have much to contribute to conversations about this new teacher or that dress code policy or the job of Room Mom.  I can’t join in the excitement about JV football or marching band.  And my list of things to accomplish during the day might include some ambitious projects, but those will certainly be interrupted by calls for help with some research or a quick read of an essay rough draft.  Inevitably, this will occur just as soon as I get the roller loaded with paint or as I’m about to put my ear buds on and head out the door for a walk.

Don’t get me wrong.  Of course there are benefits to homeschooling which emerge at this time of year.  We don’t have to worry about sleeping through the alarm and missing the bus.  No one forgets his lunch or permission slip.  And one of my personal favorites, I don’t have to participate in the total scam of shopping for the particular supplies required for each grade, homeroom, or class.  I leave it up to my own kids to pick their favorite type and color of pen, choose spiral notebooks over binders, and decide whether they will make index cards of vocabulary words or not.  Plus, I only have to provide tissues and Lysol wipes for my own household, not an entire student body.  Let’s not forget the relative ease of making dental, orthodontic, or other appointments when you don’t have to worry about your student missing a quiz while they were getting brackets adjusted or copying the notes they missed while they were getting their teeth cleaned.

OK, so the perks of homeschooling far outweigh the short-lived relief of the first day of school.  However, I know I can’t possibly be alone among homeschooling moms when I wish that every once in a while, I could just put my kids on the school bus and wave after them.  Maybe let them wander around the public high school to see what they are missing–or not.  Maybe they would gain a little more appreciation for just how good they have it: going to the bathroom or getting a drink whenever they feel like it, not having to listen to a teacher drone on and on until everyone finally gets it, setting their own schedule and either living with the consequences of it or reaping its rewards.

“Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?  Maybe not.  Maybe just a bittersweet time.  And a time to shine a spotlight on exactly how uncommon we are around here.

 

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Why We Homeschool… Part 3

It’s official.  The United States educational system has embarrassed itself on the international scene.  Out of 34 countries participating in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, we came in at number…25, according to this report.  The world’s superpower didn’t even make it into the top half.  We came in behind Asian nations of China, Singapore, and South Korea.  No surprise there.  What is somewhat more alarming is that we ranked lower than Estonia and the Slovak Republic, 2 countries which are hardly major international players and are scarcely more than a generation away from the dark ages of Communism and the turmoil after its fall.

The Obama administration took this news as a clear sign that we need to spend more on education, even though Estonia spends about half what we do but still beat us.  It seems to me that every year, we throw more money at the public schools, and we see little return on our “investment,” as the Secretary of Education likes to call it.

So what do the Koreans know about education that we don’t?  According to this article, Korean parents “almost universally make their children’s education the family’s unquestioned priority.”  Certainly the South Korean government spends a lot on education, but parents there also realize that they have a critical role.  A public school principal noted the differences between Western families and those of his country:

“Foreigners may think it’s strange. I think the main difference between the Western and the Korean parents (is) their way of life is quite different from ordinary Westerners. They are ready to sacrifice themselves for their kids. Whereas ordinary Westerners are seeking their own happiness.”

What if parents in this country were willing to do whatever it takes to ensure a superior education for their children?  Shoot, what if parents were willing to do anything at all rather than just enroll the child at the local public school and then let the government take it from there?

So what brought about all of this attention on education?  SuzyQ received her PSAT scores in the mail this week.  As a homeschooling family, we don’t get many opportunities to evaluate our kids in relation to everyone else.  There’s no class ranking.  Her scores gave me a little affirmation that she’s doing just fine without the “benefits” of licensed teachers, group projects, and state-approved curricula.  Yes, even uncommon parents need a small morale boost here and there.

We continue to do what we can to make our kids’ education a priority.  Oh, and as someone with Slovak ancestry, I say, “Way to go, Slovak Republic!”

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Why We Homeschool…Part 2

Talk about education seems to be everywhere in the news lately.  First, we learned on NBC’s Today Show that President Obama readily admits the Washington DC public schools can’t provide the high-quality education he wants for his daughters.  And everyone is talking about the new movie “Waiting for Superman,” which spotlights problems in the New York City public school system.  Then yesterday, New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, announced (here) what was called a “tough love” education reform package for the state’s public schools.  My favorite part was this: 

Unqualified teachers will feel the lash. The governor is demanding that teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade actually pass tests in reading and math in order to be certified. 

You can bet that went over well with the education establishment.  In fact, the state’s teacher’s union is already crying foul about that provision among others.  Am I the only one scratching my head at the outrage here?  If a teacher can’t pass reading and math tests, why is she standing in the front of the classroom?  According to the National Council on Teacher Quality(NCTQ), part of the problem–at least in math–can be traced to inadequate preparation provided by college and universities to education majors.  Education schools do not set high admission standards in math, nor do they require education students to improve their math skills.  Some schools require NO math courses in order to obtain an education degree. 

The NCTQ also highlights problems with high school science teachers.  In another of its recent studies, the group found that the majority of states allow high school science teachers to teach specific subjects such as chemistry or physics without specialized training in those areas.  Maybe the reason so many kids hate math and science is that their teachers simply can’t teach those subjects.  Here’s the NCTQ conclusion:  

But it does no one any good – not teachers, students, future scientists, or society in general – to create loopholes and use the notion of “flexibility” to cover up the fact that our nation’s students aren’t acquiring the scientific knowledge and skills they need for success in the 21st century. Unless we demand that STEM teachers have deep knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching, we won’t get to the root of the problem. 

There is SO much wrong with education in America today.  Without a desire to overhaul the system, from teacher training to licensing requirements to reforming tenure rules and so on, we won’t see any great leaps forward in our kids’ performance.  

I’m certainly no genius, but I at least know when and where to seek help for my kids when we’re in the dark about geometry proofs, physics formulas, or the theme of a short story.  That’s just one of the benefits of homeschooling.  

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Why We Homeschool…A Continuing Series

This is the first of many posts to come about why we have chosen to homeschool our 2 kids, even through high school.  This  story from the New York Times about multiple valedictorians caught my eye.  It seems that high school principals are concerned about too much competition among students for the top-ranked spot.  Rather than simply doing the math and awarding the honor to the student with the highest GPA, school officials in many districts call all students with straight A’s valedictorians, no matter if they took Honors courses, AP courses, or just the basics.  Here’s a quote from one school principal: “When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?”

Of course, this is nothing new.  I’ve encountered this same sort of thinking from my kids’ earliest school years, before we made the leap into homeschooling.  I can recall the science fairs which were not judged, so every entry received the same blue ribbon.   My son has a shelf full of dusty baseball trophies, no matter that his team never came in first place.  I’ve attended end-of-the-year award ceremonies in which every child in the class received an award of some kind.

When everyone gets the award or honor, it ceases to be an honor at all or becomes an “honor inflation,” as Chris Healy, an associate professor at Furman University, puts it.  The title Valedictorian has no meaning if it’s given to more than just the number 1 ranked student, just like all of those certificates and dusty trophies given for participation have no meaning.  What will happen to all of these children who have been treated like hot-house flowers when they leave school?  Will they cry foul when a colleague receives a merit-based raise or bonus while they don’t?

So we choose not to participate in the American educational establishment.  I think we can do a better job at preparing our kids for the real world at home.

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