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What can you say? Or should you just say nothing at all?

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Joined: 29 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 6:32 pm    Post subject: What can you say? Or should you just say nothing at all? Reply with quote

I am new here, and it’s an interesting place here with a lot of things regarding homeschooling that I had never considered. I don’t come here as a parent homeschooling a child or as a child who was homeschooled. Instead, I come here as someone who sells curriculum to parents on a daily basis. When I first started my job at this bookstore in Texas, I was sixteen and knew nothing about state laws concerning home education, nor anything about the curriculum we sold, other than that much of it was costly and came in brightly colored packages with smiling children on the covers. So after a week of sounding like an idiot when current and prospective homeschoolers would come to me with questions, I did the only thing I could do: research. I checked out a book published by the Texas Homeschool Coalition from the library, and surfed around a few websites about homeschooling, browsing through laws and statistics. Needless to say, I was surprised.
In Texas, homeschools are considered private schools, and are in no way regulated by the state save a few suggestions about teaching math, language arts, sciences, and good citizenship. I kept an open mind, thinking that public schools that were regulated by the Texas Education Agency really couldn’t guarantee the success of a child’s education any more than a private home school could. That’s not mentioning that the positive statistics surrounding homeschooling spoke so highly for it. So after a few weeks, I got more comfortable explaining the ins and outs of home education and various curricula to parents.
Then I started meeting parents who did homeschool. I saw a lot of seasoned veterans and some newbies ready to dive in. I heard their stories. I even discovered that I worked alongside several homeschooled people. And that’s where my optimistic feelings about homeschooling really began to become conflicted. My two coworkers were as unalike as night and day. One had been homeschooled since the second grade and had never looked back. She and her brothers and sisters were all in college by that point, and this particular girl was smart as a whip with a good sense of humor: a clear success story. Yet there was another girl who really seemed to struggle. She had also “graduated” by that point from her own private homeschool. She had in fact never even been to a public school at all (which I do not necessarily consider to be a bad thing). But her parents had decided not to enroll her in school for religious reasons, and decided that home education was the only solution because they could not afford a private school. Yet they could also not afford the time off of work to actually teach her. So from age five, she had been given a few books and an occasional hour of arbitrary instruction until she was roughly twelve, and after that, she was simply given books. She stopped school entirely at age fifteen to go to work, and that’s when I met her. The poor girl was essentially walking illiterate, and gotin trouble several times for not completing written assignments. It wasn’t because she was lazy, but simply because she could hardly read. She left about a year later, has since gotten married and had two children, both of whom she fully intends to homeschool. My only question is how she plans to do so when she herself struggled to stumble through a list of opening and closing chores.
I’ve met a lot of homeschoolers over the past five years there. A lot of homeschooled children make me smile, because they are well-cared for, extremely polite, and far above public school children in most or all core subjects. A lot of them have just been regular kids who liked to play baseball on the weekends and chat online. A lot of old stereotypes I had about homeschoolers being backwards and oddly hyper religious began to fade away. They haven’t ever come back. But I also quickly began to wonder if there are certain people who aren’t cut out for it, yet insist on doing so anyway. I have seen homeschooling done extremely well, but have met cases like my second homeschooled coworked where homeschooling went completely wrong for ignorance and neglect. I met a father who refused to teach his son algebra because he had never learned it in school, and if he could make it through life with a ninth grade education, so could his son. I’ve met quite a few parents who had children that had been kicked out of school (or dropped out) for behavioral and grade-related reasons so they decided to come in and buy one or two supplemental books to give their children a “complete” high school education.
I have even had two parents offer to pay me to teach their children because they didn’t have the time to do it. Last year I had a parent ask me to help her child with a science experiment because she couldn’t figure out why a tornado tube worked or how to use it. I have had several ask me to grade assignments because the teacher’s manuals were too confusing, just like fifth grade math. I don’t feel as though it is my place to tell people that they should not homeschool their child in instances like this, yet a small part of me wonders if someone who can not read instructions or comprehend even the most basic concepts of a subject should be allowed to personally homeschool their child. Yet another part of me feels that parents are responsible for the welfare of their children and should be allowed to homeschool if they feel it is their only alternative to public school. The only thing I have ever been able to do in good conscience is to refer them to some homeschooling groups in the area and pray that they get some help with teaching their children.
I have started to question statistics regarding the positive nature of homeschooling. It seems to me that in public schools, a lot of children fall through the cracks and that is unacceptable. Yet a lot of homeschooled children seem to fall through the cracks as well, as a result of a combination of environment and apathetic or uneducated parents with little time to spare and less money. When the public schools fail, standardized tests and school ratings are quick to point out the deficiencies behind the system, and homeschoolers clamor that home education is obviously the better option. While I don’t deny that it certainly is an option that can and should be explored, I now seriously think that the failures of some homeschools are severely underreported. Think about it. Who honestly wants to come forward and admit that their child can barely read, spell, or do arithmetic?
I’m fairly confident the previous examples do not describe any one here, given that members here care enough to assemble and sustain a website devoted to helping parents educate their kids. But I have met parents out there that don’t care, or care very little about how or what their child learns at home, just so long as they aren’t doing it in a public school. Those children have fallen through cracks in a system, and it’s not necessarily a governmental system. They’ve fallen through cracks in communities at churches, within families, circles of friends, soccer teams, and neighborhoods. I worry that if there are any replies to this post that members of this site think I hate homeschooling, and blast me with reasons how what I have described can not be true or is barely a blip on the radar of successfully homeschooled children. I admit that I have no record, count, or statistics of instances where I or others feel that homeschooling can fail, but I can promise I have seen it. Public school, private school, or home school, there is no excuse for a child, any one child, to receive a substandard education. I’m not certain of the laws in other states besides Texas, and for a lot of you out there elsewhere, I know the standards are a little, or even a lot tougher. I just wonder what can be done to ensure that every child gets an equally satisfactory education, no matter the method. What am I supposed to say to someone who probably wouldn’t be very successful at home education, or is clearly not successful at the endeavor? Is it even my place to question how others choose to teach their children?
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Joined: 14 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know the answer to your question, I agree with you that there are people who are homeschooling who should not be.

In the state we live in in Australia homeschooling has been vaguely legislated, but not strongly enough that the state can do anything about children such as these.

This has changed and registration is about to be compulsory, there are a lot of people who are very upset about this, saying that the state is interferring and next we will be told what to teach etc.

I see it as a good thing. We don't have to provide learning plans or anything to be registered, but if someone in this state reports neglect or unsatisfactory education of a homeschooled child, the state is now able to look into and act on this and I think that this is necessary to protect the rights of all children to a good education. If someone reports I am not educating my children, I have the proof that he is learning and so any government person looking into my schooling practices gives me nothing to fear.
Sandra, Homeschooling Mum in Australia
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, there will always be bad parents. These are most likely the same parents who "wouldn't have time" to help their public school child with their homework. Unfortunately, public schools drop kids through the cracks all the time and it's almost always due to having bad parents. Getting a public education because the parents don't have time to homeschool doesn't ensure a better education than the one they would have gotten at home. Parents are so critical to a child's education that bad parents can literally destroy it - no matter where the actual instruction comes from. Homeschooled kids are capable of learning on their own, but the parents must provide the foundation - basic math, good reading skills and a love of learning. Homeschooling parents may or may not provide this (most do, fortunately). Schools hit the mark some of the time - they may give the child basic math, but more and more studies show how illiterate graduating seniors are and they certainly do not instill a love of learning in most kids. The only way I made it through public school in one piece is because my parents worked hard to preserve the love of learning in me - and I consider myself one of the lucky ones who loves to learn and still goes back to school even though I'm graduated from high school.

Fortunately and unfortunately, I think the number of homeschooled kids with bad parents who fall through the cracks are outnumbered by the number by the parents who work hard to give their kids the best education they can. There are also a lot of parents who are undereducated themselves who work their tails off to stay ahead of their kids in terms of material they're teaching them - this benefits both parent and child since the parent is now more highly educated and is giving their child a good education. There are lots of homeschool studies that show a parent's education doesn't affect a child's performance in homeschool. What matters is parental involvement and unfortunately, that's not something you can legislate. You will always have people looking to pass off their responsibility off onto someone else and some of those people use homeschooling as an excuse for certain ideals, yet do not accept the tremendous responsibility that goes along with it. Unfortunately, it's parents like these that get used as an example by anti-homeschoolers when attempting to regulate all homeschoolers - they are not the norm, but they're the only ammo against homeschoolers they have since it's proven to be a successful type of education over and over, when it's taken seriously and the parents are responsible.
To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.
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