Homeschoolers: The last radicals

Homeschooling is the only “authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States,” writes Kevin D. Williamson in National Review.

Homeschoolers . . . pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.

The modern homeschooling movement has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies, Williamson writes. Summerhill was the Bible of early homeschoolers, not the Bible.

These days, conservative Christian homeschoolers have been joined by  ”a growing number of secular, progressive, organic-quinoa-consuming homeschool families, ” Williamson writes. Most homeschooling parents are well-off and suburban. Their children typically score “well above the public school average” on achievement exams. In addition,  ”multiple studies by various researchers have found the home educated to be doing well in terms of their social, emotional, and psychological development.”

However, progressives don’t think parents have the right to put their children’s wellbeing ahead of the collective good, he writes. For example, Dana Goldstein, writing in Slate, urged parents to send their high-achieving children to public school so they could raise the achievement of their less-advantaged classmates.

Nine-tenths of American children attend government schools, and most of the remaining tenth attend government-approved private schools. The political class wants as many of that remaining tenth in government schools as possible; teachers’ unions have money on the line, and ideologues do not want any young skull beyond their curricular reach. A political class that does not trust people with a Big Gulp is not going to trust them with the minds of children.

Homeschooling represents a libertarian impulse, Williamson argues.

Homeschoolers may have many different and incompatible political beliefs, but they all implicitly share an opinion about the bureaucrats: They don’t need them — not always, not as much as the bureaucrats think. That’s what makes them radical and, to those with a certain view of the world, terrifying.

Homeschooling’s enemies have given up trying to outlaw home education, but they’re trying to control it, Williamson concludes.

Homeschooling in the city

When dad’s a part-time professor  and editor and mom’s a laid-off journalist, there’s no money for private school and no motivation to schlep the kids from Brooklyn to Manhattan for a public school with a “gifted” class. Paul Elie writes about the joys of homeschooling in the city in The Atlantic.

Homeschooling isn’t just for “religious traditionalists and off-the-grid homesteaders,” Elie writes. For middle-class parents — with a stay-at-home mom or dad — it’s “a practical alternative to New York’s notoriously inadequate education system.”

The city’s public schools are underfunded, overcrowded, and perpetually in turnaround. District boundaries governing enrollment change from one year to the next, as do standards for admission to gifted programs and “citywide” schools, accept­ance to which is determined by children’s scores on tests whose educational relevance is questionable.

. . . Some of the parents in our (homeschooling) circle are “unschoolers,” convinced that early education should follow a child’s interests and initiatives rather than shape them. Some of us aspire to offer something like a classical education: logic and rhetoric, mythology, Latin. Most of us are put off by the public schools’ emphasis on standardized tests and their scant attention to the visual arts, music, religion, and foreign languages.

New York City offers a “gorgeous mosaic of intellectual and cultural offerings,” Elite writes.

On a normal day in our Brooklyn apartment, I teach math first thing, then go to an office space in a different neighborhood. Lenora picks up from there, teaching American and world history, language arts, geography, and penmanship, depending on the day. She and the boys then set out into the city for science at the Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; history at the Queens County Farm Museum or the Wyckoff Farmhouse, in Brooklyn; or art at the Metropolitan Museum.

Homeschoolers can find free programs or affordable classes, such as one that “teaches children the history of a place—­medieval Europe, Federal-era New York—through its architecture.”  He pays $5 a week for a homeschool soccer program led by a coach who can’t find other work during regular school hours.

Gallup: Private schools get top marks

Seventy-eight percent of Americans say private schools provide an excellent or good education, according to a new Gallup poll. At least 6 in 10 say parochial schools or charter schools provide a quality education, 46 percent endorse homeschooling and 37 percent say public schools are excellent or good.

Parents of school-aged children are more likely to praise public schools: 47 percent say public schools as excellent or good. Democrats also are more positive about public schools. But all groups said education quality is highest in private and parochial schools.

As in every survey, people were much more satisfied with their children’s public school than with public schooling in general.

Home schools go ‘hybrid’

Home schooling is going “hybrid,” reports Education Week. Parents mix and match their own lessons, online courses, community college classes, private classes, tutoring and even part-time studies at the local public school.

Baywood Learning Center in Oakland, Calif., a private school for gifted students . . . has a la carte classes on individual subjects once a week, as well as a multiage class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays to cover core academics. Director Grace Neufeld said demand for the latter has grown 50 percent in the last year, to about 40 students ages 4 to 17.

. . . “Parents usually design a patchwork quilt of different classes and activities for their children,” she said. “What I see is they sign up for various classes being held in various locations like science centers or museums or different places. They also add things like music lessons, art lessons, sports, or martial arts.”

Parents join together in co-ops to share teaching, such as the Inman Hybrid Home School program in Inman, Ga.

Founder Holly Longino, a former health teacher at Carver Middle School in Inman, left public teaching to home-school her four children, but last year started the group classes a few times a week with five students and a handful of retired public school teachers. The teachers provide video lectures for students to use as well as in-class projects.

More than 2 million students were homeschooled in 2010, nearly 4 percent of  K-12 students, according to Homeschooling in America by Joseph Murphy, a Vanderbilt education professor.  While most homeschoolers are conservative and religious, a growing number of moderate and liberal families are choosing to teach their own children, Murphy found. “Bullying and teaching practices, have now edged out religious values (31.2 percent to 29.8 percent) as the top reason parents teach their children at home.”

 

Why kids should specialize

Kids suffer long-term from schoolwork that doesn’t interest them argues career advice blogger Penelope Trunk, who’s started homeschooling her children.

When people ask me why my kids aren’t learning math, I ask them why their kids aren’t learning an instrument. Or why they aren’t learning a language. Because math, music, and language all develop the brain in similar ways. They are all good for a similar type of learning. But the question that assumes that math is the one right way to develop that part of the brain betrays the assumption that traditional school knows best.

Traditional schools want students to learn a little bit of everything, Trunk writes. But the world rewards specialists.

For ten years I have been writing about how important specializing is for your career. Specialization is essential, really, to to staying employable throughout your adult life. But I have recently been blown away by how clear the research is that kids should specialize as well.

Which means that you either need to make your kid great at the test-taking game, or you need to find something else for the kid to be great at.

What if your children are good at various things but not really great at anything? What if your five-year-old wants to specialize in TV watching or dolls or dinosaurs and no interest in math or music or language?

NH overrides school choice veto

New Hampshire parents will get help paying for private school or homeschooling. The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a new parental choice tax credit.

Businesses will receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations, which would distribute the scholarships for students to attend private or religious schools. The money could also be used to defray the cost of a home-school education.

The scholarships could only go to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – about $70,000 for a family of four.

The program would be limited to $4 million in scholarships in the first year, then $6 million the next year and $8 million the third year.

 

Carnival of Homeschooling

The summer fun edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Small World At Home.

6-year-old qualifies for National Spelling Bee

A six-year-old Virginia girl who learned to read before the age of 2 will compete in the National Spelling Bee. Homeschooled by her mother, a college professor, Lori Anne Madison plans to become an astrobiologist, reports AP. She also excels in math and swimming.

“Hold on to that basalt,” Lori Anne Madison said in a bossy 6-year-old’s voice, shoving a chunk at her mother, “and do not drop it.”

“Go away,” her mother said playfully.

Sorina Madison held on the rock nonetheless, and soon was carrying more basalt and a nice hunk of quartz.

By then Lori Anne, wearing a green “Little Miss Sunshine” shirt, had joined up with more friends and had taken on a different quest, searching for snails, slugs, tadpoles, water striders, baby snakes at the Scotts Run Nature Preserve in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“Oh my gosh, what is it? A water worm. A water worm! It’s alive,” said Lori Anne. “I need it in my collection. It’s wonderful.”

Her mother tried to enroll Lori Anne in a private school for the gifted, but the headmaster said she was too smart.

The veteran spellers, some as old as 15, have honed sophisticated study methods, spending hours daily over many months in their attempts to master as much of the unabridged dictionary as possible.

Lori Anne? She likes to study while jumping on her trampoline, with her mother calling out words.

“She doesn’t sit at a table for hours to study anything. I mean, she’s 6,” Sorina said with laugh. “She’s still a 6-year-old and we want to allow her to be a 6-year-old.”

Lori Anne’s favorite word is ”sprachgefuhl,” which means an intuitive sense of what’s linguistically appropriate.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Sprittibee is hosting the Texas edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by A Life Supreme, honors a creation of the Harry Potter world, the pensieve, which “allows you to take thoughts that you have conveniently removed from your mind (and stored in handy phials up on the shelf) and view them from another perspective at a later time.”

That could be useful.