Monday, February 23, 2015

The liberty advantages to homeschooling

My kids will be dumb, rejected by their peers, unable to get a job, go to college, or function in society as adults. They will miss out on prom, as well as all the other joys that normal kids get to experience… All these are thoughts that ran through my mind while making the decision to homeschool our three children.

My own qualifications as a teacher also weighed heavily on my mind. I don’t have any particular academic strengths. I never was, and never had the desire, to excel in school. In fact, I hated it so much that even in the late 1990s when the dogma of, “you have to go to college to get a job and succeed” was experiencing its climax, I happily chose to not take a single college course immediately out of high school.

Despite my best efforts in unshackling myself from my own conventional education, I still harbored many insecurities about taking the plunge into homeschooling. It’s one thing to make choices for myself; it’s quite another to make them for a small child. These thoughts weighed heavily on my mind, despite the fact that I can’t stand “the state,” and have proven quite successful in life by doing the exact opposite of what my teachers and school councilors advised me to do throughout my life.

As for my wife, who has her Master’s in Education and was a third grade school teacher for 7 years, we never automatically thought of that as sufficient. Our insecurities ran deep.

It wasn’t until my wife and I sat down and wrote out all the negatives and positives of each option — homeschool vs. conventional school (public or private) — that we were able to see the competitive advantage of a child who is homeschooled, versus one who is not.

***Before I go any further, I realize that homeschooling is a privilege. Not everyone has this option, so please excuse my enthusiasm for what it is: a father’s excitement about raising his kids***

Below are the Liberty Advantages to homeschooling as we see them.

1) Social Life — To start, the social life they will have in the context of being their own individuals is paramount. My children, who are homeschooled, currently interact with other children in sports, dance, karate, neighborhood play time, community events, homeschool groups. They also interact with me in daily business activities and conversations.

Rather than being locked up in a room with an authoritative figure for 7 hours each day, and literally needing a permission pass just to use the bathroom, children who are homeschooled have the opportunity to experience the same sovereignty individuals who are not in school have. You eat when you’re hungry, take a piss when you have to go, engage in conversation with people you enjoy, and voluntarily seek out hobbies with others who share your passions.

It’s funny, a lot of people think homeschooled kids are going to turn out weird.A far greater concern for us as parents is whether or not our kids will be like trained animals by the age 18 while in school, with conditioned limits placed upon their potential and a head filled with nationalistic, corporatist dogma.

1) One on One Teaching — You just can’t beat the 1-to-1 ratio a parent has, compared to a 1-to-25 ratio a public school teacher experiences. Even the most passionate teacher has to teach according to what will benefit the overall class most, which isn’t always at the level that will necessarily best teach your child. My wife, who as I mentioned is a former elementary school teacher, was shocked at how efficient a home classroom could be. What took 5 or 6 hours was only taking 1 hour when she was teaching my son.

Furthermore, you are not alone. Homeschool parents represent a large group with regular meetings, and there is plenty of curriculum, including the one my family is using: the Ron Paul homeschool curriculum.

1) The Freedom to Learn – We all learn best by doing. The biggest problem I have with conventional education is that we condition our young people to become order takers. Any diversion from what the teacher wants, or the state demands, is deemed as failure or underachievement. I don’t like training people to be submissive, or to fear the risk or being different. If a child is going to learn to live as an independent adult, why not allow them live a life of learning rather than be told what to think within these daily 8-hour conditioning sessions?

Some Other advantages — The flexibility to focus in on what your child is actually interested in. Then there’s the added bonus of being able to spend more time with your little ones.

My own personal journey and awakening came about due to the tyrannical actions of the state after 9/11, and what I have found is that the more I distance myself from the state, the higher my quality of life is. The more I choose to ignore it, the better every day becomes. 10 years ago, I would have happily sent my kids off to school. But now, I get to hang out with my children throughout the day, eat lunch with them, converse, and even join them for the occasional nap. Making your own life’s course and completely ignoring all expectations around you has to be one of the greatest acts of liberty one can experience. I can only hope that my actions can serve as an positive example for my children.


Atheist Group Goes After Okla. Schools For ‘Illegal’ Bible Distribution

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, expanded its campaign to keep Bibles from being given to public school students to Oklahoma this week, sending letters to 26 school districts across the state complaining of “illegal” Bible distribution by The Gideons International.

After learning the Bibles were being passed out, FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel wrote “strong letters” to the school systems alleging the schools were violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing the Christian group, known for handing out Bibles in schools, hotels and prisons across the country, to bring Bibles into classrooms.

“It is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit the distribution of bibles as part of the public school day,” said the letter, according to an FFRF press release. “Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools is prohibited,”

Seidel also accused the Gideons of “illegal” and “predatory conduct” toward children.

“Parents carefully instruct their children not to accept any gifts from strangers. The Gideon practice of distributing bibles to schoolchildren teaches them to ignore that guidance," he stated.

The letter asked the school districts to halt all Bible distribution.

“It's time for school officials in Oklahoma to do their job, enforce the law and protect students from the Gideons,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in the release.

This is not the first time FFRF has blasted public school systems over this issue. Last year, after a long series of legal battles, FFRF successfully prevented Orange County Public Schools in Florida from allowing Bibles to be passively distributed to high school students on National Religious Freedom Day in January.

WorldChangers of Florida, a Christian group, had been placing Bibles on tables in common areas in local high schools for students who wished to take one.

In response, FFRF won the right to distribute its own materials on the same day, including an explicit pamphlet entitled “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible.”

After months of court battles with FFRF, as well as continued promises by the atheist group and the Satanic Temple to pass out their own materials to students, the school district amended its distribution policy to ban all religious materials from being made available to students by outside groups.


Australia: Industry Group calls for national strategy to address crippling STEM skill shortages

“A lack of critical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills among the current and emerging workforce is holding back Australian employers in their quest to be more innovative, productive and competitive;” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

The negative implications for our economy were highlighted in an Ai Group report released today - Progressing STEM Skills in Australia – which included survey results from more than 300 businesses across the economy.  The survey found that businesses are having difficulty recruiting employees with STEM skills including technicians and trade workers (44 per cent), professionals (21 per cent) and managers (19 per cent).

"This report demonstrates the significant challenges facing Australia's educators and employers to adequately skill the workforce required to build a competitive economy for the future,” Mr Willox said

"Over 36 per cent of the employers surveyed reported their greatest barrier to recruitment of staff with STEM skills to be a lack of qualifications relevant to their business.  Other key barriers included a lack of workplace experience and employability skills (34 per cent) and a lack of applicants with STEM skills (29 per cent).

"STEM skills are essential for the future economic and social well-being of the nation and employment in this area grew about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years.  Despite this, enrolments and the number of graduates with STEM qualifications continue to decline and secondary school enrolments in mathematics and science are also decreasing. Accordingly the pipeline of STEM skills to the workforce remains perilous.

"There is an urgent need to develop a national STEM skills strategy to lift the level of STEM qualified employees in the workforce to enable the Australian economy to be more competitive and prosperous” Mr Willox said.

Key findings:

*                STEM skills are increasingly important for the workforce and the competitiveness of the Australian economy.

*                Australia is underperforming internationally compared to STEM strong countries.

*                Participation by school students in STEM related subjects is decreasing and our performance in international comparisons is below many other countries.

*                Participation by university students in STEM related disciplines is not keeping pace with the needs of the economy and is low compared to other similar economies.

*                Employers continue to experience difficulties recruiting STEM qualified staff, especially as technicians and trade workers.

*                Australia lacks a national STEM skills strategy and is the only country in the OECD without a science or technology strategy.

*                Australian Government financial assistance to STEM is thinly dispersed, non-systemic and does not contribute to a national approach.

*                School – industry STEM initiatives are characterised by un-coordinated and non-systemic activity.

*                University – industry collaboration, including in STEM fields, is low by international comparisons.

*                There is a need to develop more engaging school curriculum and pedagogy to attract students to STEM and a need to increase the STEM qualified teaching workforce.


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