Homeschooling passes private school in NC


Shane and Bruce McGregor study in the living room, while their mother, Deanna, reviews curriculum. Photo: Ken Harper/Creative Commons

In North Carolina, homeschoolers now outnumber private school students, writes Genevieve Wood of the Heritage Foundation.

About 3.4 percent of the school-age population is educated at home, according to federal estimates.

“In the Tar Heel state, homeschooling has increased by 27 percent over the past two years,” writes Wood. “Those who run local homeschooling groups in North Carolina say Common Core is a big factor.”

According to a 2011 national survey by the U.S. Education Department, 91 percent of parents said they chose homeschooling because of “a concern about the school environment” which included worry about safety, drugs or negative peer pressure, 77 percent said “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction” was a major reason and 74 percent cited “dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.”

Homeschooling in the city

An estimated 2 million children — about 2.5 percent of school-age kids  — are educated at home. In a look at urban homeschooling in City Journal, Matthew Hennessey provides some history of the movement that I haven’t seen before.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

Anne Tozzi teaches her five children in her Yonkers, New York home.

In the mid-1970s, as few as 10,000 children were homeschooled in the United States, mostly in rural areas, he writes. Homeschooling was illegal in 30 states.

Things started to change in 1978, when “the Internal Revenue Service under President Jimmy Carter threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of Christian day schools that it accused of using religion-based admissions standards to circumvent federal antisegregation laws,” Hennessey writes.

The IRS ultimately caved on its threats, but the evangelicals took a message away from the battle: the federal government—as embodied by the newly established Departmentof Education—was out to get them.

“What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA,” Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich told sociologist William Martin for his book With God on Our Side. “[It] was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools. . . . [S]uddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased.”

Backed by the Religious Right, Home School Legal Defense Association lawyers fought a state-by-state battle in the 1980s to remove legal barriers to homeschooling. “By 1993, the practice was legal in all 50 states,” writes Hennessey.

Homeschooling is becoming more secular and urban. Online courseware has made it much easier for parents to educate their children at home.  It’s also easy to network with other homeschooling parents and students.

Anne and Erik Tozzi teach their five children in their Yonkers home. He’s a specialist in medieval history; she’s an art historian and rare-book specialist.

Schoolwork for the Tozzi children, who range in age from two to 14, can mean a day spent at their book-strewn dining-room table discussing Chaucer or a visit to the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

. . . Last year, the older Tozzi kids worked with students from around the country to write a radio script, which they produced for an all-online course. They took online classes in Latin, religion, and math with teachers based in other cities. They used Skype for live class lectures and to communicate with other students for their projects. . . .  The younger children used Skype for a weekly “Story Time” with a teacher.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of homeschoolers are urban, 34 percent suburban and 31 percent live in rural areas.

 

Homeschooling up by 62%

The number of homeschooled students increased by 61.8 percent from 2003 to 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly 1.8 million children were homeschooled.  

More educated parents are more likely to teach their children at home. An estimated 1.6 percent of students whose parents earned a high school diploma or less are homeschooled. That rises to 2.2 percent of students whose parents have some post high school training or education, 2.4 percent of children of college graduates and 2.5 percent of those whose parents earned a graduate or professional degree are homeschooled.

In addition, homeschooling parents are disproportionately white, married, middle class and living in rural areas.

Let boys be boys

“Rather than being appreciated for the future explorers, warriors and leaders they were designed to be, boys are viewed as defective little girls,” writes Rhonda Robinson on PJ Media. “What is the real trouble with boys? Well, simply put, they are not girls.” 

Robinson homeschooled five girls — and then two boys. She discovered there’s a difference. “In my house ADD is considered a personality type, not a mental disorder,” she writes.

As a homeschooler, she could spend her boys outside to play when they couldn’t concentrate. Schools can’t do that. Robinson also blames feminist ideology. “Boys with uniquely masculine strengths, once prized, are no longer valued. In fact, these traits of boyhood are considered dangerous, even pathological.”

Why blacks are homeschooling their kids

“Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling,” writes Jessica Huseman in the Hechinger Report. Black  parents cite low expectations for their children or “dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated.”

Marvell Robinson, now 7, was the only black student in his kindergarten and first-grade classes at a San Diego elementary school. His “Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that affects social skills, made him a target of “curiosity and cruelty,” writes Huseman.

Marvell Robinson plays outside the San Diego Natural History Museum (Photo by Vanessa Robinson)

Marvell Robinson plays outside the San Diego Natural History Museum after a field trip. (Photo by Vanessa Robinson)

“I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself,” said his mother, Vanessa Robinson. In September, Robinson adjusted her nursing schedule so she could teach her second grader at home. Her husband, a sous chef, continues to work full-time.

“The schools want little black boys to behave like little white girls,” said Cheryl Fields-Smith, an education professor at the University of Georgia. “I think black families who are in a position to homeschool can use homeschooling to avoid the issues of their children being labeled ‘trouble makers’ and the suggestion that their children need special-education services because they learn and behave differently.”

Ama Mazama, who teaches African American Studies at Temple, surveyed black homeschoolers for a 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies. Most are trying to protect their children from racism at school, she found. Black children “are treated as though they are not as intelligent and cannot perform as well, and therefore the standards for them should be lower.”

Good students dominate ed debate


Most people debating how to improve education were good students, writes Andrew Rotherham in U.S. News. “The blind spots this creates are enormous.” They have trouble understanding what school is like for those who aren’t good at it.

Diane Ravitch, the school critic turned school defender, has a policy agenda for improving schools that boils down to making classrooms like the ones she liked most as a student. She’s hardly alone in idealizing a system that in practice worked only for a few. As one colleague remarked recently, “everybody likes the race they won.”

For successful students, education is a linear process, he writes. “But most Americans zig and zag.” For example, a majority of college students are part-timers, yet nearly everyone in the education debate attended full-time.

Most fundamentally, this mindset means almost everyone in education is focused on how to make an institution that is not enjoyable for many kids work marginally better. That’s basically what the top-performing public schools, be they charter or traditional schools, do now. . . .

(Among the abundant ironies is that reform critics deride today’s student testing policies as “one size fits all” while fighting against reforming a system that is itself one size fits all).

School is a bad fit for a lot of people, Rotherham concludes.

Homeschooling has freed some kids from traditional classrooms. What would help others? Technology? Career technical education?

Techies try home, un and micro schooling

Parker and Simon Cook.

Parker and Simon Cook are “unschooled” in Berkeley.  Credit: Timothy Archibald/Wired

Homeschooling — and unschooling — are attracting well-to-do techies, reports Jason Tanz on Wired.

Chris Cook never liked sitting in a classroom. He dropped out of college to work on computers. Samantha Cook blogs about parenting, education reform and other topics and “started a network of hackerspaces for kids,” writes Tanz. She “unschools” their two boys at home; their daughter has chosen private school.

“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

. . . Jens Peter de Pedro, an app designer in Brooklyn, says that five of the 10 fathers in his homeschooling group work in tech, as do two of the eight mothers.

“There is a way of thinking within the tech and startup community where you look at the world and go, ‘Is the way we do things now really the best way to do it?’” de Pedro says. “If you look at schools with this mentality, really the only possible conclusion is ‘Heck, I could do this better myself out of my garage!’”

Technology is making new education models possible, says Jyri Engestrom, a “serial entrepreneur.” He started by homeschooling his children with his partner, Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch. That became a 10-student “micro-school.” Now students go part-time to an AltSchool  micro-school in which “teachers help students create their own individualized lesson plans,” writes Tanz. AltSchool is a startup created by an ex-Googler.

Homeschooling has its limits. Many parents don’t have the time, personality or ability. But the technology-enabled micro-school could be the next big thing in alternative education.

Homeschooling faces less regulation

As homeschooling grows, some states are regulating less, reports Motoko Rich for the New York Times. Some 1.8 million children were homeschooled in 2011-12, according to federal estimates. That may increase even more as parents seek to “escape the testing and curriculums that have come along with the Common Core,” predicts the Times.

Fara Williams teaches son Elijah at home (Photo: Michael F. McElroy, New York Times)

Fara Wiles, who was homeschooled as a child, teaches son Elijah at home in Pennyslvania. (Photo: Michael F. McElroy, New York Times)

Eleven states do not require families to report school-age children being taught at home, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Fourteen don’t specify which subjects should be taught. “Only nine states require that parents have at least a high school diploma or equivalent in order to teach their children.” Half the states do not require homeschooled children to take an outside test.

For example, Pennsylvania no longer requires families to submit their children’s portfolios, as well as the results of standardized testing in third, fifth and eighth grade, to district superintendents.

Regulation can protect children from inadequate home teaching or abusive parents, argues the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Its executive director, Rachel Coleman was homeschooled — successfully — from kindergarten through high school. She collects stories of homeschoolers who say oversight would have helped.

Caitlin Townsend, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Michigan, was home-schooled in Pennsylvania until she was 13, when her parents split up and she moved with her mother to New Jersey, which has virtually no regulations for home-schooling families.

. . .  her mother had used science textbooks that taught the theory of intelligent design and shied away from rigorous math during her high school years.

“When I was growing up we always talked about the school officials as the Big Bad Wolf,” said Ms. Townsend, who had to enroll in remedial math classes in college. “What I could have benefited from was a system of evaluation that would have given my mother some red flags that I needed some tutoring in science and math.”

Of course, it’s very common for high school graduates to need remedial math in college.

Homeschooled students use the SAT or ACT — or a community college transcript — to show they’re prepared for college. The expansion of virtual education is making it easier for motivated students to learn at home, even if the parents aren’t masters of math or science.

Public: 21% of teachers deserve D or F

Americans think half of teachers in their local schools deserve a grade of A or B, while more than a fifth are doing D or F work, reports Education Next‘s 2014 poll. ednext_XV_1_poll_fig03-small

Teachers say 69 percent of their colleagues deserve an A or B, while 8 percent perform at the D level and 5 percent merit an F.

Half of the non-teachers opposed teacher tenure, while one third favored it. “Even 65 percent of respondents who favor tenure say it should be based on student performance,” reports Ed Next.

Teachers endorse tenure by a two-to-one margin and only a third of teachers support basing tenure on student test performance.

Fifty-seven percent of the public supports “basing part of the salaries of teachers on how much their students learn.” Only 21 percent of teachers back merit pay.

More than one-fourth of all families with school-age children have educated a child in a setting other than a traditional public school.

ednext_XV_1_poll_fig04-small

Teachers are as likely to use private, charter or homeschooling.

Public support for Common Core State Standards has eroded in the last year, the survey found.

People like Common Core’s goals, but the “brand” has been damaged, writes Mike Petrilli.

While 39 of voters say the economy is the number one issue that will influence their vote in November, education is the second most important issue, cited by 16 percent of voters according to the new Reason-Rupe poll.

Twenty-five percent of Democrats, but only 12 percent of Republicans, say education will have the most influence on their vote in the midterm elections. African Americans (36 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent) are more likely than whites (14 percent) to rank education as their top issue.

No longer autistic

Mark Macluskie, 16, who is no longer autistic. Credit: Mark Peckmezian for The New York Times

About 10 percent of autistic kids grow out of it, researchers now believe. Intensive behavioral therapy seems to help, but it’s not clear why some children “beat” autism and most do not, writes Ruth Padawer in the New York Times Magazine.

Mark Macluskie was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism at the age of 3.

He showed no apparent interest in those around him and seemed to understand few words. He threw stunning tantrums. And even when he didn’t seem angry, he would run headlong into walls and fall over, then get up and do it again, like a robot programmed to repeat the same pattern eternally, seemingly impervious to pain despite the bruises spreading across his forehead.

His mother, Cynthia, researched therapies so she could teach Mark at home. By the time he was 8, he’d caught up in speech and behavior, but not in social skills.

Cynthia . . . watched DVR recordings of “Leave It to Beaver” with Mark, stopping every few minutes to ask him to predict what might happen next, or what he thought Beaver was thinking, or why June reacted the way she did. When they had watched every episode, they moved on to “Little House on the Prairie” so Mark could practice reading facial expressions.

. . . At parks and restaurants, they watched the faces of passers-by and played social detective, with Cynthia asking Mark to find clues to people’s relationships or emotions. “He didn’t seem to learn that stuff through osmosis like other kids do, so I’d have to walk him through it each time till he got it.”

When he fell in love with robots, Cynthia invited four typically developing children to come over two afternoons a weeks for “robot club.” The five kids began writing code and entering contests.

At 11, Mark no longer met the criteria for autism. Three years later, he competed in a world robotics competition. “He was partnered randomly with teenagers from Singapore and had to strategize with them on the fly,” writes Padwaer. “They won several rounds.”

Now 16, Mark is a “typical geeky teenager,” albeit one who co-hosts a weekly Internet radio show,  “Tech Team,” with 32,000 listeners.

On a parenting blog, a father writes about the kids who don’t beat autism. They are the majority.