Friday, September 09, 2011

Homeschooling is easy!

I was reading Lawrence Ludlow’s excellent series on Voluntarist schooling when I came upon this statement: “For many busy parents, home-schooling is not an option – despite the extraordinary success of home-schooled children. Many parents do not have the time, skills, and resources needed by their children to flourish.” I have a bit of perspective to add to this.

I have been a member of the ORSIG homeschooling email list for many years now. This has about a thousand members (mostly moms) in the state of Oregon.

A while back, I had noted that the Old Media constantly harped on this meme: “homeschooling is wonderful, in its way, but homeschooling parents are saints, and most of us are not capable of doing it.” Of course this was apparently a ruse for discouraging people from looking into homeschooling, while acknowledging that they were no longer able to get the homeschooling genie back into the bottle again.

Only problem was, that my experience with homeschooling moms did not jive with this meme. Rather than being saints, they were much like other parents I have known--no better, no worse. They were in fact quite usual, ordinary.

I decided to do a little experiment. I asked a question on the ORSIG homeschooling list, something to this effect: “I want to ask mothers who have had experience both with government schooling and with homeschooling, a very simple question. Which is easier? Please understand, I am not asking which is more uplifting or rewarding or anything of that nature. I simply want to know, which option do you consider the easier?” I did not coach anyone to give an expected “correct” answer; in fact I had no idea what the answer would be.

As I recall, I got about 10 to 15 responses to that question. The near unanimous response was that homeschooling was easier than government schooling. The sole response that differed was that one mom, with one of her children, said it was about a wash between the two options!

Needless to say, this brings into question the meme that only saintly parents can manage homeschooling. If homeschooling is not only better for your kids, but flat-out easier than the government schools, then what is stopping you from homeschooling, really?

This result struck me so strongly that I went out and bought (rented?) the domain name, intending to put together a website that would help remove this meme as an impediment to homeschooling. Alas, I never did anything with it. “The best-laid plans...”

How could it be that homeschooling is easy? A bit of reflection gives the answer, and this answer came out in the responses to my question, too. For one thing, kids are learning machines, if you just get out of their way. A little facilitating is all that is necessary, especially for the “unschooling" crowd.

No need to reproduce “school at home”-- the image that the Ministry of Propaganda wants everyone to have of homeschooling.

All of a sudden, a family does not have to live on the government school schedule. Vacations can be any time of the year (lower costs in the shoulder seasons, no need to fight with others at work for that vacation slot in the schedule, etc.). No need to shuttle kids here and there for school events (shuttling still goes on with homeschoolers, but only what they want to put up with). No need to help with pointless or stupid government school homework, or worry about your kid not fitting in or being drugged with Ritalin. No need to attempt to reverse the indoctrination your kids receive every day in the indoctrination camps. According to actual homeschooling moms with experience in both camps, it’s easier!

The facts are, some variation of homeschooling is available to almost every family. Many families have one parent or a grandparent at home. Of those that don’t, often work schedules for the parents can be juggled. And for the rest, we can simply look back in history to the “dame schools,” just elderly, more cultured ladies in the neighborhood willing to take in a few kids for a few hours for a little money. There are an infinite variety of strategies possible for those willing to escape the government school monopoly. All it takes is will and a bit of imagination.

One amusing aside: since the Ministry of Propaganda has taken this stance of “homeschooling parents are saints,” it has effectively shut off the coercive option of forcing parents back into government schools, or making homeschooling as difficult legally as possible. Saints aren’t to be beaten up, are they? California tried it a while back, failing spectacularly. Whenever a new regulation is imposed on homeschoolers, the response is for more homeschoolers to go “non-compliant”—indeed, Oregon has a large, feisty non-compliant population of homeschoolers. The trend, over the years, has been less regulation of homeschoolers as a result; this goes counter to the usual trend in our budding police state. Homeschooling is one place where many parents first encounter real freedom. It’s a heady feeling!


British PM: we need elitism in schools

David Cameron will signal a return to “elitism” in schools in an attempt to mend Britain’s “broken” society and secure the economic future.

The Prime Minister will attack the “prizes for all” culture in which competitiveness is frowned upon and winners are shunned.

In a significant speech, he will outline Coalition plans to ensure teaching is based on “excellence”, saying that controversial reforms are needed to “bring back the values of a good education”.

Failure to do so would be “fatal to prosperity”, he will say.

The comments mark the latest in a series of attempts to focus on education in response to the riots that shocked London and other English cities last month.

They follow the announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, of back-to-basics discipline in state schools. He plans to give teachers more freedom to search pupils suspected of carrying banned items and to let them use reasonable force in removing the most disruptive children from the classroom.

Mr Cameron will seek to move the debate on to standards, saying that a rigorous focus on the basics is needed to give young people “the character to live a good life, to be good citizens”.

The Prime Minister will say: “For the future of our economy, and our society, we need a first-class education for every child. Of course, everyone’s agreed on that. “The trouble is that for years we’ve been bogged down in a great debate about how we get there. Standards or structures? Learning by rote or by play? Elitism or all winning prizes?”

Mr Cameron makes it clear that he is in favour of elitism and not prizes for all. He will add: “These debates are over – because it’s clear what works. Discipline works. Rigour works. Freedom for schools works. Having high expectations works. “Now we’ve got to get on with it – and we don’t have any time to lose.”

Ministers have already outlined plans to insist on at least a 2:2 degree before students join teacher training courses, and to hand generous bursaries to the brightest graduates who want to teach key subjects such as science and maths.

The Government has also introduced the English Baccalaureate, a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils gaining good grades in academic subjects including maths, English, science, languages, history and geography.

In his speech, Mr Cameron will also champion the opening of the first free schools, state-funded institutions run by parents, charities and faith groups, independent of local council control. Some 24 have opened this month.

The measures have provoked fury among teaching unions who claim they smack of elitism and represent an attempt to dismantle the state education system.

But Mr Cameron will say that free schools will “have the power to change lives”. He will also seek to link improvements in education to mending “our broken society.”

“We’ve got to be ambitious if we want to compete in the world,” he will say. “When China is going through an educational renaissance, when India is churning out science graduates, any complacency now would be fatal.

“And we’ve got to be ambitious, too, if we want to mend our broken society. Because education doesn’t just give people the tools to make a good living – it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens.”

The comments come days after Nick Clegg said that parents must take more responsibility. The Deputy Prime Minister insisted that teachers should be left to educate, and not be expected to act as “surrogate mothers and fathers”.


Britain even worse at maths than Albania as UK schools rank 43rd in the world

Britain is languishing behind Albania in a league table for maths and science education, according to an authoritative international study. A report by the World Economic Forum has ranked UK schools 43rd in the world – behind countries such as Iran, Trinidad and Tobago and Lithuania.

The findings are a damning indictment of Tony Blair’s pledge to prioritise ‘education, education, education’ and come after education spending doubled from £35.8billion to £71billion under Labour.

The WEF findings reveal British pupils are at a disadvantage compared to many others around the world, with the country at risk of developing a core skills shortage.

While the UK languishes in 43rd position in the table, Singapore tops the list, followed by Belgium and Finland.

New Zealand takes seventh place, Canada eighth, France 15th and Bosnia and Herzegovina 41st. Just below the UK sit Jordan and Romania.

And Britons do not only fare poorly when it comes to maths and science, as a recent OECD report showed a fifth of 15-year-olds are ‘functionally illiterate’.

The WEF annual study, carried out between January and July, is based on in-depth surveys of 142 countries and takes into account each nation’s economic and business standing.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said: ‘After 13 years in which Labour failed to grasp the importance of maths and science education to our future prosperity, this report shows how much ground we have to make up.’ ‘We should be competing with the likes of Singapore, not Iran and Albania.’

The UK’s ranking in 2008 was 47th, meaning there has been a slight improvement over the last three years. It is thought this is because during the recession, teenagers have heeded calls from employers for more graduates who have core skills in maths and science.


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