Monday, March 8, 2010

A Look at Homeschooling

Not that many years ago, a parent had choices if they did not want to send their kids to public schools. In many areas, especially here in St. Louis, you could send your child to a private or parochial school. There were costs associated but those costs were not so high as a family could not afford it. That is rapidly not the case anymore. Every year, we are hearing about the shuttering of more private schools. This is usually due to a combination of declining attendance and increased costs. Advocates of public education tend to use this to show the need of public schools when in reality it is a catch 22.

Families, for one reason or another, cannot afford a private education and have to pull their children from private school and send them to public. Depending upon the area, things like factory closings, industry layoffs, etc. can have a dramatic effect on just a few schools/parishes. In North County alone we have seen several Catholic schools close over the past few years.

Rather than sending their kids to public school and with no voucher program in place, more and more people are taking up home schooling. Parents are choosing to keep their children out of school and home school them, continuing education in manners they believe in. In the past this was usually done as a part of religious beliefs. More and more parents are staying home because they are resisting the indoctrination of beliefs that many public schools are now promoting.

The homeschooling movement is getting bigger and bigger, every year. More parents are choosing to not work and instead educate their children in a manner which best serves the child and the way parents want their children raised. This is not an easy thing to do. Parents must track all of the lesson plans and be ready to present them for inspection at any time. These lesson plans must meet minimum requirements based upon each state. These are all, in my opinion, reasonable requirements. It ensures accurate record keeping and holds parent accountable to ate least meet state requirements. Each state has different rules for homeschooling. In regards to Missouri, the government is fairly home school friendly.

Let me say upfront, I am not a fan of public schools. There are a lot of good administrators and teachers that work in public schools. The problem stems from the politics and a vocal minority in the districts that push a liberal if not all out progressive agenda. Even those teachers who do not believe in the curriculum presented, are forced to do so by the districts and the teachers unions.

That said, the NEA and the various teachers unions are not too happy about homeschooling. In fact, the NEA has a yearly resolution that they add just in regards to homeschooling. For the 2009-2010 school year, it reads as follows:
B-81. Home Schooling
The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of
the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.
The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.
The Association further believes that local public school systems should have the
authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school setting from a home school setting.
The entire document can be found here.

Basically, the NEA is saying:

  • Home schoolers receive less than comprehensive education compared to those in a public school.
  • Home schooling parents should pay their school taxes as well as pay their child's education costs at home.
  • Home schooling teachers, even those with more education than public school teachers, should be state licensed.
  • Home schoolers must use state mandated curriculum.
  • Home schooling children should NOT be able to participate in any extra-curricular activities that their parent's taxes pay for.

Do a quick Google or Bing search on teachers unions and home schooling and you will find several stories on teachers unions attempting to restrict, block and even outlaw homeschooling. Why are they doing this? Why does the NEA care if you or your neighbors decide to home school your child? There are two reasons, one is political and one is ideological.

Let's start with the politics of it all. If you pull your child or children out of public school, your are decreasing federal and state funds those schools would receive. Depending upon state laws, a school could receive no funding for your children. This hits the teachers unions in the pocket book. Fewer students means fewer teachers. Fewer teachers means less union dues. Fewer teachers means less power to the union as it is not representing nearly as many people. Just look at how the once strong labor unions are losing political power. Why is that, because there are fewer union members.

The other political reason is simple. A majority of home schooled children test higher than their public school peers. These children tend to do better in standardized testing, spelling bees, college entrance exams. In fact, according to a study released in 2004, home schooled children scored higher across the board no matter what race.

There was no significant difference between minority and white home schooled students. For example, in grades K-12, both white and minority students scored, on the average, in the 87th percentile. In math, whites scored in the 82nd percentile while minorities scored in the 77th percentile. In the public schools, however, there is a sharp contrast. White public school eighth grade students, nationally scored the 58th percentile in math and the 57th percentile in reading. Black eighth grade students, on the other hand, scored on the average at the 24th percentile in math and the 28th percentile in reading. Hispanics scored at the 29th percentile in math and the 28th percentile in reading.
The entire article can be found here.

Home schoolers are making public schools look bad. It is as simple as that. Home schoolers are showing that longer school days and lecture style education is not a superior method of teaching. Rather than fix the situation, the NEA and teachers unions want to promote the current establishment. Since homeschooling is still a minority, even though it is growing, it is easier to demonize and lobby against homeschooling than trying to fix the situation.

This bleeds into the ideological stance. The groups in charge of the unions and the NEA are part of the 60's groups that believe in the "It takes a village" idea to raising children. Rather than me rehash what has already been done, I will defer to Glenn Beck and his recent special on
childhood indoctrination. This really highlights the ideology that is present in our school system and is being promoted right now in public schools. If you want a reminder of what is going on, just watch this video.

This video makes me sick. I do not believe that this is an isolated incident.

I have been working on this article for some time, researching home schooling and making sure I was certain of what I was finding. In fact, this entire entry started on my investigation into school choice and vouchers. It was during this review that I started finding all of the information on home schooling. Since vouchers appear to be out of the question as far as the legislature is concerned, then homeschooling is the option people are taking.

The problem is not just the teachers unions and the NEA. Legislatures and courts across the country are getting involved. Other countries have already outlawed homeschooling and there is currently a UN treaty that the US has not ratified which could make homeschooling illegal. According to HSLDA the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child could make all forms of homeschooling illegal. Now I am not a lawyer but it is my understanding that this treaty would override any existing US or state law. This is why there is a movement to amend the US Constitution to state that no treaty can override US law. President Obama has stated that he supports this convention and in February 2009, Senator Barbara Boxer called for Obama to ratify it. In addition, several state legislators have attempted to limit the capabilities of parents or increase the difficulty to home school. Many of these are done in the name of protecting children but in the process of doing so, limit the rights of their parents to parent their children as they wish.

I contacted and spoke via chat with several home school moms who agreed to speak to me on the condition of anonymity. For each of them, their reasons for homeschooling were different. One of them, Mom 1, does it because she is afraid the school will say her son has ADD just because he hyper. Another, Mom 2, does it because she feels that the Ferguson Florissant school district teaches to testing and not to educate the students. And still another, Mom 3, does it because she does not want to send her children to Ritneour schools. The last one I talked to, Mom 4, said that she does not send her child to the Hazelwood schools because she feels the schools teach to the lowest possible level and the St. Ferdinand Catholic School filled up too quick after another local Catholic school closed. Each of them had different reasons for homeschooling. The one thing they all agreed on was that they teach in fear. They teach in fear because as Mom 4 said "there always seems to be some piece of legislation they are working on in Jeff City that is going to cause problems." "Yeah," said Mom 2,"between the politicians and the courts it seems like we cannot catch a break." I asked what she meant by the courts. "Just last year there was a divorce where the court almost forced a home schooling mom to send her kids to public school because the father said that the mother was not qualified to be a teacher and she needed to be tested." This of course was a reference to the the Lisa Payne-Naeger divorce case in St. Charles.

Towards the end of our conversation, it was Mom 1 who put it so succinctly, "Listen, I do not expect everyone to do what I do, but I just want to have the option. My son is reading at a grade level higher than he would if he was in school. He is learning and retaining what I have taught him. I just worry that this is going to be taken away from me."

"Me too," said Mom 3. "I used to take the kids with me shopping during the daytime. There are a heck of a lot less people and I can turn it into a learning session talking about money, budgets, food, you name it. I don't anymore because I am afraid people will turn us in or something. This group and a couple of others like it are all I have."

These and several other comments they made really drove home the point. These four women meet on a regular basis to let their kids play and they have joined the Families for Home Education, an advocacy group for home schoolers. These moms and others like them are pooling their resources together to form Scout Troops, bands, theater groups and more. That said, the ones I have talked to and based on comments on message boards, they all worry that the rug is going to be pulled from out of under them.

Whether or not you agree with home schooling is not the point here. Parents have a right to educate their children as they wish. First it's home schooling, next it's private schools until there is nothing left but government run education. Personally, I do not believe that home schooling is right for every child. That said, I believe that every parent has a right to home school if they so wish. The next time you hear or read something about government intervention on behalf of children, take some time to think about how it could effect you and your rights to parent your children as you wish. After all, isn't this what it's all about.

This was a long strange trip, but I think it was worth it. I welcome your feedback.

1 comment:

Cindy Wade said...

This has to be one of the best written and researched opinion pieces on homeschooling I've ever read. Well done!

The writer came to the same conclusion I arrived at many years's all about our right to raise our children as we see fit. The US Constitution guarantees this right but it is a constant battle to maintain it.

My two homeschooled children are grown now. We didn't bother to enroll in our state's home study program. The truant officer came knocking but what we did was flip the focus onto the system. It takes guts and creativity but we were eventually ignored by the school officials.

It's a war out there and we're in a battle for the very lives of our children. There is no debating. There is no ultimatum. There is no taking of prisoners. The enemy must be nuked!