Sunday, January 20, 2008

Public Schools

I read this column and while I found some morsels in it worth chewing, the rest seemed a bit over the top. It's not that I don't support home schooling--I do, among other schooling options-- but there's a bit too much drama in that column to hook me.

However, a phrase in one of the comments definitely caught my eye.

If you want to sum up the worst potential of public schools, you don't call them public schools. You call them government education centers. If that very accurate phrase doesn't send a shiver down your spine, then you are what's known as a liberal.


Mike the Mad Biologist said...

If you find home schooling discussions over the top, you might try this novel:

Darren said...

I don't find homeschooling discussions over the top--as I said, I support homeschooling. What I found over the top was this particular article.

Ellen K said...

It's pretty melodramatic in its attitude. My concern is that there are people who take on the job of homeschooling without knowing what it should entail. I have had several students come into public school after years of homeschool education. There are a few things that they share in common-all can read well, but lack deep comprehension of what they have read, they can solve problems within limited parameters but can't twist that application to other uses. Homeschooled kids are strong in rote memory, but they are limited in what they have observed of the much larger world, which puts them at a serious educational and social disadvantage. Many are naive and that leads them to either rebel and become part of the problem children or the victim of their exploits. And lastly, too many homeschool programs-especially at the middle school level-are left to the children to self-teach while parents work or deal with other siblings. There will always be kids you can lock in a room with a book and they will excel-but that is not the norm. And for every homeschooled kid that gets into Yale, there are others who are barely literate and who will struggle to catch up for many years after they graduate.

Anonymous said...

"Homeschooled kids are strong in rote memory, but they are limited in what they have observed of the much larger world, which puts them at a serious educational and social disadvantage."

The homeschooled kids you see may fit this pattern, but the ones who switch to public school after a few years of homeschooling are far from a representative sample.

There are other homeschooled kids who have probably seen more of the "larger world" than an average public school educated kid. It would be surprising if this were *not* the case, given that the homeschooled kids tend to have more free time and have vacation/travel schedules that are less constrained than kids in traditional schools.

Any generalizations of homeschooled kids tend to miss that the *range* of what you get from homeschooled kids tends to be much wider than that of kids from public or private schools.

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

I'll agree that homeschooled kids I've encountered who have switched to government education centers are often certainly behind their peers in academic knowledge. However, the first homeschooled children I ever met were amazing. I had an in-depth conversation with a *5 year old* about Poe's works. That's probably not the kind of kid who's going to transfer to government education centers later, though.

Donalbain said...

Kent Brockman: Just miles from your doorstep, hundreds of men are given weapons and trained to kill. The government calls it the Army, but a more alarmist name would be... The Killbot Factory.

allen said...

> And for every homeschooled kid that gets into Yale, there are others who are barely literate and who will struggle to catch up for many years after they graduate.

That seems like a much better percentage then some of the urban school districts I've read (and know) about. And, a significantly better deal for the tax-payer.

Detroit, for instance, graduates about 30% of its entering class, net. Based on state attainment numbers it's unlikely many of those that graduate are going off to Yale either.

Ellen K said...

Part of the situation is that many parents take their kids out of even private schools because their children are not excelling. This situation is sometimes blamed on the schools, while it may be a learning disability that is denied or undiagnosed. In addition, while there are some excellent homeschool programs out there, they are expensive and time-consuming, which means that one parent either has to stay home and teach or arrangements have to be made. And then there's the issue of affordability. The cheaper programs are often lacking in a wide range of material and the testing situation is poorly monitored if at all. In our state, many people who homeschool do so for religious reasons, which is fine as far as it goes. But we have had some situations where homeschooling was also used as a way to control and isolate children from the outside world to cover up more serious family issues. And in the end, it takes a great deal of preparation for even the primary grades, which is why we seem to see an influx of homeschooled students at the high school level. I know that some parents make it work, but it isn't as easy as people like to think.

Mrs. C said...

My children won't have the in-depth Poe discussion, but at 7 and 6 they do read the King James with some assistance and interpretation.

Unfortunately our district didn't seem to recognize the expert opinions of a well-known childrens' hospital, two psychologists and the mother that the 7-year-old child is on the spectrum. They would lock the kid in a closet for his "bad choices" on a regular basis last year. It's an unfair double-standard in my opinion; what if parents ever pulled such a stunt??

I don't think I ever questioned the monopoly or the inherent evil in public education's power over families until I went through what I did with my son.

I can associate well with the tracking that is mentioned in the article. We pulled our six-year-old out of the public school after one week of kindergarten. He was constantly getting suspended for being unable to stand on line or use the bathroom appropriately. (Six children in a bathroom alone, and several sinks. It was just too tempting, I suppose.)

They saw a jumpy boy who could not write well or control his impulses. I took him home and in a matter of months, he is now doing the PUBLIC SCHOOL curriculum in third grade math, and Christian curriculum in first and second grade English. If he were in kindergarten still, I suppose he could tell me what a "square" is rather than "square unit" when one is dealing with area.

I also have two older children in public schools. One is autistic and the upper grades' teachers and special ed people actually do a good job with him (so far). The other is in the gifted program. They're "ok" where they are at this point, but if I were starting over I certainly would have homeschooled them.

I think it comes down to parental choice. I am leery of educators who want to dictate my curriculum, or "ensure" that my child is getting a good education. Generally speaking, parents have the best interests of their child at heart and administrators are looking at saving money. (Jaded of me, I know.)

Darren said...

Homeschooling co-ops seem to be able to combine the best of both worlds--control over the curriculum combined with instructors knowledgeable in specific areas.

Ellen K said...

I would agree that coops do offer some features that would give children a wider scope as they progressed. As for the parent who was upset because their child was in trouble for not standing in line or behaving in the bathroom, I would say, yes, that's a problem with impulse control. And no, you don't stand there and watch a bunch of kids pee-that would open up a whole different can of worms. At some point kids have to develop inner control. That could be a parent who doesn't understand that in life there are expectations in behavior when in public. There are limits to what is tolerated. If they haven't been exposed to public behavior in the family, then they will encounter such expectations no matter where they go to school. Let me add, I did seriously consider homeschooling my youngest child, so I looked at available programs. For what the make up in reading (not a plus for a dyslexic kid) they lose in hands on activities in science, math, art and other electives. It may still be a viable solution for kids who have careers in sports or the performing arts, or for children from very orthodox religious households, but even with all the downsides of testing and such, kids have to learn to function in a diverse world that won't always adhere to their particular needs. If they don't learn that early on, then they end up in colleges that don't accommodate them or in jobs that don't fit. The basic points-a free public education is what has set the U.S. apart from older nations where only the rich and connected were educated AND in this world, not everything is going to conform to one person's preferences and people have to learn to adapt or they will fail. Sorry this is so long.

Mrs. C said...

Yes, especially in the upper grades, Darren. Unfortunately, most of them require adherence to a "statement of faith," which would exclude all secular homeschoolers as well as some who have differing beliefs. For example, I am a Christian who does not believe in the Trinity concept. That means my children can't do a nature study on owl pellets with the other kids in co-op. (A belief in the Trinitarian concept of God is very necessary when one is dissecting owl poo, you know.)

I guess it's their co-op, but a little stringent.

Ellen, I agree with you that there are plenty of kids who were PULLED from public school because of disabilty... and in my opinion it is usually the school that is to blame for its own lack of help. Schools usually do the minimum they can get away with, not necessarily what would be best for the child.

I'm glad I live in a reasonably free state. I don't have to tell anyone in the district that I'm homeschooling or take any state-mandated tests. I would not want to be accountable to ANYONE, since these are MY children and I am not accepting ANY of your tax dollars.

And I'm going to say this nicely, but firmly: the family life of homeschoolers is no-one's business so long as there is no outright abuse. I'm worried that cases like Benita Jacks' would serve as an excuse to monitor everyone's family "for the sake of the children."

But like I said before, I *do* have two children in p.s. and I'm hardly an alarmist. But it seems when I go on any education blog, even a *conservative* education blog, someone has to go and talk about "monitoring" homeschool families. I think we need to go back to the Constitution and think about the powers government should and should NOT have over families.

Mrs. C said...

Ellen, sending six five-year-old boys into the bathroom alone is just asking for trouble. The simple solution is of course to have a one-person bathroom in the class and take turns. They USED to do this before the school became overcrowded... now they take whole classrooms on an expedition to the central restroom three times a day, while the children are literally PACKED in the hallway and jostled by much larger children.

I can't imagine that you really think our home behaviour is such that I allow my child to splash in the sink at home and never train him properly... hopefully I read that wrong. But the idea of "learning to adapt or we fail" doesn't bode well for special-needs kids, does it? I'm not saying splashing in the sink is a great thing, but suspending him constantly is NOT going to teach him impulse control if he has difficulty with it already. To a certain extent, you must structure the environment to the needs of the child. The special-needs preschool this child went to was excellent in this regard. It all fell apart with lack of support in kindergarten.

*So far,* the school district seems to be doing an admirable job with my 12-year-old with autism. They understand that sometimes we have good and bad days, and there is an aide available during his most difficult class.

It CAN be done well in public school, but my problem is that it all depends on the staff you get and the attitude of the administration. And personally speaking, we had administration changes about four years ago at the elementary that altered things for the worst, and a redistricting that brought in all *kinds* of kids from Kansas City and overcrowded our school.

I don't want to hijack the blog, but most parents who PULL their kids out of school are doing it because they see bad things happening... and because they CAN.