Monday, July 12, 2010

A reason (or two) for homeschooling and why you should never listen to a closed-minded teacher!

I am not against educating children in government-run schools. But I do believe that homeschooling can and does produce very well-educated children that can and do achieve much. This statement is not based upon my opinion -- it is shown in study after study -- it is a fact. Since only about 10% of the children in this country are homeschooled, it is obviously not a choice for everyone. I do not condemn parents who send their children to government-run schools, but I disagree that the government run schools of today bear any resemblance to the government-run schools many of us attended decades ago. In fact, homeschooling is much like the one-room schools my older siblings attended  and apparently was good enough to educate my "teacher-educated siblings." I do believe traditional education has produced mediocre results. Again, this is not my opinion, it is a fact. If this were not true, then why does the government continue to throw more and more tax dollars at the traditional public schools and continue to see growing dropout rates, and lower standardized test scores? Even our own U.S. Department of Education admits that too many public schools are failing (unless this is just a ploy for them to federalize our education system, which God help us if that happens!). I also do not believe homeschooling is the "answer" to failing schools. Homeschooling only works when parents want to do it. I know many parents who have tried it and quit, and many who would like to try it, but never start for many reasons! I also know many parents who would never dream of homeschooling their children -- and guess what? I support their decision, whatever it may be!

Several charter schools in our area, located in the poorer areas of the city, provide non-traditional classes and programs for elementary and high school students. They have no teacher's unions, low administration costs and show far better results than the traditional public schools because they aren't caught up in teacher union disputes, school board politics, and political correctness. A friend of mine who works at one charter school in Indianapolis told me that every graduating student who graduated in 2010 will be attending a two or four year college and all have received some type of scholarship or grant to assist them in paying for their education. Many of these students have come out of traditional schools, were failing, and were given personal-one-on-one attention -- just like a homeschooler is given -- and achieved their goals. Obviously, not every child accepted to the school succeeds (just like not every homeschooled student succeeds), but this non-traditional government-run school spends far less per student than the traditional ones and yet, politics, teachers, parents, and union bosses won't support the building of more of these types of schools. I find that a very sad commentary on the "traditional" schools of today -- and I assure you these "traditional schools," many filled with excellent teachers, bear no resemblance to the schools I attended some 3 to 4 decades ago!

For those who argue that universities are "traditional" schools, I would argue they are not and I hope they would not produce mediocre results since the students are adults, are no longer forced to attend classes, and are given a choice as to which university they want to attend. Moreover, like homeschooling, students attending college are, for the most part, teaching themselves and professors are simply tutors who administer exams to verify students have learned what they should. By the time a homeschool student is in college, he or she already has a firm grasp on independent study, teaching oneself, and learning from their "tutor-parent." I didn't go to college to just get a college degree or "a piece of paper," rather I exercised my love for learning that has lasted a lifetime and by God's grace will last until the day I die. This is exactly what my homeschool is all about (I can't speak for others): to challenge my children to have a lifetime love for learning. And I am certain children attending privately-run and government-run schools have this same opportunity and many, I am certain, achieve it too.

Unfortunately, some members of my family continue to stick to their prejudices arguing "I don't feel one person can teach all subjects well no matter how much education or how smart they are." Well, I suppose if you believe a person NEEDS a teacher for his or her entire life to "learn" then that statement is true, but if you believe YOU can teach YOURSELF at some point in time, then the homeschooler doesn't need a teacher to know everything for a child to learn. Moreover, if I'm not mistaken, a teacher in the elementary grades teaches every why does a teacher have enough education to teach every subject in Kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade (and in the case of my older siblings who were taught by one teacher in a one-room school house through high school), but when a child reaches 6th grade suddenly a teacher doesn't possess enough knowledge to teach every subject. Homeschoolers, like every student must take that leap from being taught to being tutored to learning side-by-side WITH the tutor. This transition happens naturally in a homeschools since it is obvious a parent cannot (just like a teacher cannot) know everything a child needs to learn in high school. Often homeschoolers who have a high interest in a subject will exceed the knowledge of his or her tutor because the homeschooler is teaching him or herself! Is this a new concept? Hardly! That is exactly what happens in universities and what is expected to succeed in life. If the sum-total of a lawyer's education is what he or she learns in law school, how does a lawyer learn about a new law or apply case law to specific facts of an entirely different set of parties? It is here that "traditional" teachers lose the argument. They can't have it both ways! Either they must admit a student doesn't need a teacher to learn what he or she wants to learn or the student must have a teacher to learn everything he or she needs or wants to know! The first part of this statement is how all of us live our lives (well, those of us who desire to continue to learn throughout our lifetimes) and the second part of this statement is ridiculous.

My favorite argument from my "teacher" family members is: "I also feel the socialization and exchange of various ideas in school help shape our lives." No question, exchange of ideas do help us shape our lives and who better to banter ideas with than our own family members? It is there that a child can freely express his or her thoughts without fear of ridicule or laughter. It is a safe place where peer pressure doesn't push a child into thinking his "ideas" are stupid or foolish or worse yet, produce homogenized thinking.

As for socialization first response is that I don't want my children to be "socialists." which is exactly what the government schools of today are producing. Moreover, what better socialization skills to possess than to interact with adults and children of all ages rather than children only in your own grade. In fact, nothing after 12th grade remotely resembles the "socialization" a child receives in a traditional school. And why is "school" the only place where children can learn "socialization" skills? Reality tells me that if you want to train a child in the way he should go, the last person who should be training our children is OTHER children!

I have no doubt my "educator" sisters are and were excellent teachers! I have no doubt their students learned many things and many were successful. For many public and private school teachers, teaching is more than a job, but rather it is a desire to plant good seeds into the hearts and minds of children. So why then would these educated educators be so negative toward family members who feel the same way and want the same things for their children but in a homeschool setting? Afterall, a parent who has a heart to homeschool their children make many sacrifices to teach their children and instill in them a love for learning too. Obviously, not every teacher is cut from the same cloth, and one can certainly point to some terrible teachers just like one can point to some pretty terrible homeschoolers! But since one of my sisters told me not too long ago, "you will never convince me that homeschooling is the best way to educate a child," I don't know why I continue to beat my head against the wall. She's made up her mind (never mind the facts) and that's all that matters. Now, the only question is: Have you?

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