Monday, November 28, 2005

Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know?

I’m very grateful to my friends and family with children in public school for their willingness to let their struggles show. I’ve got friends who serve on the PTA and volunteer at school. They put in long hours trying to make things better. They help their children with homework late at night. Their struggles are many.

For example, my nephew must do the practice exercise for his spelling words even though he gets them all correct on the pretest. It is a waste of his time and effort. He’s not learning anything from the exercise. If he doesn’t do the homework, then he can’t go out for recess. My niece in high school tells of teachers who don’t teach. Sometimes during class time they show R rated movies. (Her teacher actually showed “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” during class time.) I’m glad my niece got up and walked out. In a local school, the principal called the police when a 3rd grade student crawled in an open classroom window to get his lunch that he forgot. They lock the classrooms at lunch time and the kid would have gotten in trouble if he went to the office to ask the teacher to unlock it.

I am perplexed at why parents don’t say “enough is enough.” In the end, I think it comes down to this: They are afraid.

I have to ask myself, "Why does homeschooling look so scary to them?" Usually, the first comment I get after telling someone that I homeschool is “That’s great, but I could never do that.”

There may be some truth to that. I’ve heard it said that about 50% of homeschoolers washout in the first year.

Again, I have to ask myself why? Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know? I think we need to do a better job of getting the message out that most parents find homeschooling pleasant. I think parents already know how bad things are at school. Pointing it out doesn't make parents less afraid of their alternatives.

Any ideas how to do that?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

We hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving

Our best wishes to you and your family, may you have joy with your family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is homeschooling right for you?

Should every family homeschool? The answer is no. There are some people who shouldn’t homeschool.

So here’s my little check list:

1. Are you mentally healthy? Would the stress of homeschooling exacerbate an existing mental instability? Do you have healthy boundaries? Parents, who are living vicariously through their children, produce neurotic children. Of course, parents with kids in school can make them just as crazy, but the child at least has less exposure.

2. Do you have a stable, safe home environment? If there is abuse or addiction in the home, children may be better served some place else. Prolonged exposure to bickering parents does not increase a child’s feeling of well being.

Note: It is important to have a clear picture of how a good parent behaves. Our society has a much distorted view on parenting. Many adults don’t have the basic skills for good parenting. If you were raised in a way you would not like to repeat, have you taken the time to educate yourself on parenting? Under stress, we usually revert back to what we saw as a child. Homeschooling is a great practice ground for becoming a better parent. You can’t do that unless you have a vision of where you want to go.

3. Do you, as a parent, love to learn? Or are you willing to learn? Are you excited by documentaries and museums?

4. Are you flexible? Parents who are able to “roll with the punches” do a great job educating their children. They are able to adapt to the changing needs of there children. (Note: when trying new curriculum, buy it on or one of those types of websites. If it doesn’t it work for your kid, sell it and move on. Or check with other homeschoolers to see if they have the curriculum and are willing to let you check it out.)

5. Are you willing to work hard? This doesn’t mean homeschooling is a joyless drudgery. It means that you must put in consistent effort. This is not for the lazy.

6. Can you color outside the lines? If you are a conformist, then homeschooling would be very stressful. Homeschooling isn’t about keeping up with the crowd or pleasing others. It’s about meeting the needs of your child and family.

7. Can you handle rejection? Homeschooling is a process of trial and error. Some times your best efforts will not be well received. Kids don’t always like what they need. It's ok if your in-laws don't like it.

8. Do you love your children?

If you answered yes to these questions, then homeschooling is right for you.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Discussion about ADHD and the need for fathers

Dr. Helen Smith has a review of "Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm" which has an interesting hypothesis: “ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) might be related to a lack of a positive father figure.” The books reports on a study that found children with ADHD seemed to respond well to good father figures. Many of the comments on her blog challenge the validity of the claim. Some who don’t believe the hypothesis point to children who grew up with great fathers and still have ADHD, and thus there can’t be any causition.

In general it seems many hard problems have more than one cause. I am not an expert on ADHD. My guess is there may be many different things that lead to a child developing ADHD, and that there are many different symthoms which people lump together as ADHD. There may be some chemical issues, certain chemicals in our environment may contribute or cause ADHD. There may be some genetic issues. There may be environmental issues. It seems reasonable that if there is more than one cause to ADHD, that helping men to be better fathers might help some children, but not all children.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

unschool day

Today was one of those "unschool" days. Things just didn't go as planned. My oldest started with her piano practicing. Usually, we are pretty structured. However, my middle daughter got up complaining of a headache and a stuffy nose and spent the day as the "sick" kid. We had family scripture study and my husband went off to work.

My middle daughter wrote in her journal but said she was too sick to practice the piano. She ended up lying on the couch watching her older sister's (the "well" kid's) history and science class. (My 6th grader takes classes from a private religious school which she watches on DVD.)

My five year old kept changing clothes. First she was a princess. Then she was something else. I lost track. I need to send her into her room to clean up the mess she left.

For most of the morning, there was a throw blanket on the front room floor (on a sheet to keep it clean) that I was working on as a Christmas gift. The girls took turns helping, even the "sick kid." I had learned how to do this particular project two days ago while helping some friends make blankets and quilts for Project Linus. I don't sew or do crafty things much, so with some trepidation I took my self off to the fabric store yesterday and bought the material. It turned out quite nicely, so everyone I know is getting a new throw blanket this year. The girls are excited about making blankets for their cousins. We planned our next outing to the fabric store.

My oldest daughter has a paper due tomorrow on the archetypes and symbols in her favorite book. So, we spent most of the afternoon working on that. The neighbor boy came over to play after he got home from kindergarten. He stayed until dinner time.

Around 3 O'clock, a pump trainer showed up at my house to show me how to use my new insulin pump. I recently dropped my old one and broke it. Of course, they don't sell that model anymore, so I had to upgrade to the new model which doesn't use any of the supplies I have on hand. It also comes with a new blood tester which is different from my current blood tester. I spent some time trying to figure out how it works. I didn't really pay much attention to the kids for the next hour or so.

My youngest daughter took the white "popcorn" packing stuff from the box the pump supplies came in to use as snow on the art project she was working on. The "sick" kid wandered off to read a book. The "well" kid wandered off to read a book too, even though she should have been working on her math.

Eventually, the "well" kid unloaded the dishwasher. The now "sort of sick kid" had a tea party with her younger sister before deciding she might be sick again.

I just realized that I gave myself a blister on the side of one finger. It must have been from the scissors I used to cut out the blanket pieces. My 5 year old came in and asked if she could "play on the computer or have a piece of candy." I said no to the candy and yes to the computer. The 5 year old calls me in to the other room to help her read the words on the computer screen.

I realize that I still have not done piano with the 5 year old. I sit by the piano while she practices her “twinkle songs.” Boy, I hate this stage.

My husband is working late tonight, so I'm not making dinner. I told the big kids to fend for themselves. They finish off the rolls I made two days ago, so I make macaroni and cheese. Only the 5 year old eats it.

The big girls take themselves off to shower and get ready for bed.

All the kids end up in the back porch playing paper dolls. They draw pictures of horses and cut them out. They even set up breeding programs for their various mares and stallions. They often make charts of the breed and the names they want to use for the new colts.

I call the "sick" kid to load the dishwasher, the 5 year old to pick up the packing popcorn scattered around the house, and the oldest to tidy up the family room. At this point, they all say they are hungry and decide to eat the macaroni and cheese.

My new insulin pump beeps. It takes a few minutes to figure out what the beep means and what I'm supposed to do. I go have some mac and cheese too. The "not so sick anymore" kid is in the kitchen singing while she loads the dishwasher. My oldest daughter went off to tidy up the family room like I asked. The five year old goes to get her pajamas on.

After the kids go to bed, my husband gets home. He is disappointed to find there are no left overs.

Links to interesting postings - 17 Nov 05

Will Franklin has some good news. He has some graphs showing that violence and fear of violence at school has gone down from 1995 to 2003. The data is from a government 189 page report. I didn't see any analysis on why there has been a drop, but I only spent five minutes skimming the report.

SpunkyHomeSchooler has a link to a promise in Kalamazoo to give public school children a 100% tuition scholarship if they are accepted to state universities. She asks homeschoolers if the promise would be enough to send their children back to school. Of the 14 comments so far, no one has said yes.

Like Daryl Cobranchi, I greatly enjoy NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Today's picture of some young stars is pretty breath taking.

Joanne Jacobs comments on an article about how most high school graduates go off to college, but half never get a college degree. Joanne points out that at least part of the problem is many students are going off unprepared.

HomeSchoolBuzz has a link to a nice article about a family that decided to homeschool. A year ago the mother thought there was something wrong with homeschoolers. After a summer of study the parents decided to homeschool their three children, for three different reasons.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Stacking the deck

Parents have very limited time to influence the character development of their children. Studies have shown that most parents only have a few minutes a day of meaningful interaction with their children. These same children spend hours each day hearing messages contrary to the morals and standards of their families. Billboards, television, radio, advertising, internet, and other children, all compete with parents for the hearts and minds of their children. Schools more than ever distribute propaganda almost unchecked.

It has been said that prior to the age of about 8 years old, children swallow information whole. They don't sift it for accuracy. If an authority figure says the world is flat, for that child the world is flat. If a young child is taught a lie, it may take him until he is an adult to unlearn it. Even if what they learn is essentially true, but misunderstood or misrepresented, it can cause problems.

We had a funny thing happen like this. When my daughters were 4 and 6 years old, they attended a safety lesson at a friend's house. The lesson taught how to dial 911 in case of an emergency. The example used was someone choking on a chicken bone. For the next 4 years, my daughter would not eat chicken off the bone. No matter what I said, they didn't believe that eating a drumstick was safe.

So if you think about it, our window of opportunity as parents is extraordinarily small.

Homeschooling is stacking the deck in our favor.
Our children are protected when they are too young to distinguish between truth and error. When they are older, we get at least as much time as our opponents in the war of ideas.

Selections from "The Education Wonks"

One of the best blogs I've found for education issues is The Education Wonks. The blog is run by a teacher in California, who goes by EdWonk. He does a great job of keeping on top of many of the latest issues and thoughts about education.

Forty weeks ago the first Carnival of Education appeared on The Education Wonks. Since then the carnival has been hosted a few times by other bloggers, but it is mainly organized by EdWonk. There have been dozens and dozens of links to interesting postings.

The following are selections from this week's Carnival of Education:

Rhymes With Right points out the double standard of pushing for special privileges for blacks and women in colleges.

Vernice Jones at Jones Blog has a powerful story about a woman who persevered.

Tim Fredrick has some interesting ideas about using Wiki to help with education.

Education Matters US has a posting about a School Superintendent who decided to go into deficit spending after the community decided three times not to raise taxes.

The Education Wonks have a lot more links to check out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Seasonal issues for homeschoolers

One-Sixteenth has some funny and insightful thoughts about problems homeschoolers have with this time of the year.

Coming of Age at my local high school

There are so many influences out there which can harm our families. Schools now go out of their way to expose children to what a few years ago adults found distrubing. For example, my local high school's Freshmen Honors English has an interesting agenda. The theme is called "coming of age." Every book contains a plot line that includes one or more of the following: attempted child rape, child rape, rape, incest, homosexuality and prostitution. The stories are downers: life is ugly, sex is sordid, family doesn't love you, dog-eat-dog.

I want to know what ever happened to the old classics. While these themes are in some of the old classics, they are not explained in graphic detail. For example, Les Miserables deals with suffering and prostitution but with a redeeming message. [In fairness, they did have one classic on the list: Romeo and Juliet. Of all the Shakespeare out there to choose from, they had to pick the one with stupid teenagers who fall in lust and kill themselves in less than 72 hours.]

The main book used in the class is, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which Maya Angelou writes in detail about an abusive childhood, being raped as a child, as well as other ugly and depressing stuff. While Maya Angelou may be a talented author and the book may have some redeeming message, this is not an age appropriate book for most students.

What's worse, children are forced to read the book, participate in class discussions and do a class project on the it. I know of one parent who complained and was given an alternative book, A Member of the Wedding. While not graphic in nature, it is still one of those downer books with an attempted rape. Because of doing the alternate book, the student is required to do the group project alone. The student still has to participate/be present for the group discussion of the objectionable book.

[Note: if you use the book links, look at the differences in the reviews. Teens saw the book differently than adults. I was struck by how differently I viewed books that I had read as a teen when I reread them as an adult. I'm not against books that deal with difficult topics. I'm against children being forced to immerse themselves in ugly or disturbing adult topics at vulnerable developmental stages. I'm against the the school playing head games with teenagers. ]

I was most upset by the "classical conditioning" ramifications. The students in the class are mostly 14 year olds. At that age and stage of development, boys and even girls can be very easily aroused by sexual descriptions. This arousal is now being associated with violence and rape. So instead of sexual arousal being elements of love and marriage, it is part of rape and incest. Yea, right. That is just what I want the boys who may someday date my daughters to learn in school.

What nurtures curiosity? What destroys it?

Craig Newmark has a link to a column by J. Peder Zane about children lacking curiosity. I agree with Craig that one of the more interesting quotes is:

"It's not that they don't know, it's that they don't care about what they don't know."

Most complex problems in life have more than one cause. A good friend once claimed the hard problems could have as many as fifty causes. One of the reasons hard problems are so hard to solve is because a single solution will only affect part of the problem. Remember when trying to solve a complex problem that we may never be able to solve it completely. But if we can address some of the major causes, a big problem may become much smaller, to the point we don't have to worry about the problem nearly as much.

A lack of curiosity in this generation of children has many contributing causes. For example large amounts of time in front of a TV tends to encourage children to be less curious. They passively wait for an answer.

I believe one of the major causes of a lack of curiosity in our children today is the fundamental structure of the public school system. It is not designed to nurture children's curiosity. The public school system is designed to teach children according to a schedule, to move all of them along at the same pace, and in general turn children into passive receptacles, ready to receive the knowledge the teacher will impart to them.

What nurtures curiosity? Most little children have an endless supply of curiosity. A two year old can ask fifty to a hundred questions in a ten minute period. They want to know more about the world, they find it fascinating. When they ask a question, and it is answered, they are much more likely to ask another question. When they get a chance to explore the world, to investigate subjects they find interesting, they will continue being curious.

Fast forward to the same child ten years down the road. In a typical day at school the teacher might start teaching something interesting, like some of the causes of a war, or a new principle in math, or how to draw three dimensional figures. The child starts to get excited and wants to understand the new idea, but if he asks questions outside of what the teacher wants to focus on, the child will be told to stay on topic. If the child quietly tries to explore on his own at some point the teacher will end the class, or move the class on to another topic. This event occurs again and again in a public school. Some times their curiosity is nurtured and encouraged, but more often the public school slowly smoothers and destroys curiosity.

Getting children out of public schools and turning off the television would be some good first steps to solving this problem.

Links to interesting postings - 14 Nov 05

Joanne Jacobs links to an article by a father who learned that a high school in Berkeley is offering to give children 12 condoms a week if they come to the Condom Club at lunch time. Even with the recent 9th circuit court ruling that parents of children in public students have no "fundamental right" to control what sexual information their children are exposed to, this seems over the top. Schools should not be encouraging thirteen year old children to have sex.

SpunkyHomeSchool talks about teaching children manners so they are ready for polite society. One of the benefits of homeschooling is parents can focus on the areas their children need help in.

The Education Wonks has a picture and a link to a sad story in the UK about a girl who got beaten up because she was doing well is school. Be warned, the picture of the girls face is painful. I've read in a number of places that one of the biggest problems in the UK schools is bullying. Both teachers and parents agree that there is too much physical violence and other types of bullying.

HomeSchoolBuzz mentions a Vox Day column with some pretty strong arguments for homeschooling. Vox quotes Lenin who said: "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

School would have ruined that kid!

Children are unique individuals. They do not advance at the same rate or in the same way. Schools usually have an assembly line attitude. All 1st graders should be able to do the same set of skills. All 2nd graders should have the same set of skills and so forth.

My kids are average bright. They have also been late readers. I should add at this point that my husband was a late reader too. It was very difficult as a homeschooler to have a kid who couldn't read well in 1st and 2nd grade. Most of their school friends were in very rigorous programs that expected reading fluency in kindergarten. I myself was an early reader, so when my kids didn't read it was very stressful for me. We did phonics regularly. I called it my "empty little ritual." The books said to repeat each page until the child can do it easily. If we had done that, we would have never gotten off of page 1. To keep my oldest daughter from getting too frustrated, we would limit it to 5 minutes and did other simple reading activities (like Bob Books). We made very little progress.

We did standardized testing when my daughter turned 8. She was starting to improve more rapidly, but was still barely on a second grade reading level. However, we listened to many books on tape, so her language skills were quite advanced. About the time the second Harry Potter book came out, my daughter decided she was tired of waiting for her dad to read it with her. Soon she was reading 60 chapter books a month. I hadn't realized just how much she was reading until I made her keep a reading log for a few months. When we retested at the end of 4th grade, her reading level was 12+.

I think school would have ruined that kid. She would have learned to hate reading. When the next sister started to officially "homeschool", I was much more relaxed. We did phonics for 5 minutes a day and I told her don't worry about reading. You will read when you are 8.

Actually, that daughter's reading didn't kick in until she was 9. However, even though she didn't read well then, she could write beautifully sounding paragraphs. I know this sounds odd. Almost every word on her paper was misspelled. I corrected the spelling and had her recopy her work but didn't change the content. She can string together words better than some adults I know. I suspect this was helped by being a late reader. She has literally spent years listening to books on tape which honed her language skills.

Again, I think that school would have ruined that kid too.

Should the principal be fired or reassigned?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a sad article. The lead line is:

"The Elizabeth Forward principal who humiliated a third-grader falsely accused of stealing money from a schoolmate has been suspended for three days, officials said Thursday."

The school principal way over reacted. He harshly disciplined the wrong student. The superintendent basically said go use some of your vacation. Member of the school board said the principal wasn't disciplined harshly enough.

I agree with the schoolboard. It doesn't sound like this principal should be a principal any longer.

Hat tip to EducationWonks

Friday, November 11, 2005

Slave to the system

When people ask me why I homeschool, I give a couple of short answers. Here's the first one: We have a problem with authority figures.

While being "tongue in check," this sums up how I feel about giving up personal freedoms for convenience sake. We, as parents, have a moral obligation to provide for the education of our children. Even if you get involved at school (volunteer in the classroom, serve in the PTA, help with fund raising, and see that homework is completed), you are still not likely to get the kind of education you want for your children.

Why? The school does not see parents as clients to whom they are accountable. The education system has its own ambitions, which have more to do with political power than needs of children. In the end, the system serves only itself.

If you take into consideration how much time involved parents put into school and time spent doing car-pool, I think it would be comparable to the average homeschooling parent. The big difference is that homeschool families take on the whole responsibility. If things aren't working, there is no one else to blame. In return, if things aren't working, families have the power to make necessary changes.

So, throw off the shackles of your oppression. Take your kids home, take your life back, and be free.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Shooting at the Campbell County Jail, opps I mean School

Dr. Helen (Instapundit's wife) has a letter from a student who went to Campbell County School. The former student says the school was more of a jail, than a school. Dr. Helen has researched the issue of school violence and found that often schools with shootings treat the students more like prisoners than students. She wrote a book, "The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill," about troubled children. You can read it online at:

In the comments Dr. Helen says:

"Kids today feel little ability to get away from their situation--they are mandated to go to school--and will be jailed or their parents jailed if they do not attend. Many of them feel trapped. Often, these kids do not want to run away from home but from their school. In my research, I have found that hatred and dislike of school plays a large part in a kid becoming violent."

I may need to add her book to my stack.

Selections from

As usual, has a wondeful selection of links to articles about education. Day after day they find education related articles on the web. They also briefly list various commentaries and reports about education. This is a great place to go for finding what is in the news about education.

Illinois test scores for elementary students have recently been released. The Chicago Tribune reveals that the reading scores have held flat for the last five years, at a very poor level. Some good news, math scores have climbed.

There is a report on Nelson Cowan, a researcher at University of Missouri-Columbia, who has found that you can teach children to increase the speed at which children memorize, but it has no affect in increasing the ability to remember. Learning to remember faster doesn't lead to better memorizing.

The Houston Chronicle found that Texas school districts get $1,442 for students who fail the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. This seems like a financial incentive to help children fail the test. Later in the article it says the schools risk losing the money if they can't show the money was used to increase scores. Wouldn't it make more sense to give a small bonus for every child who passed the test?

Thoughts on Home improvement, blogging, and homeschooling

Paul Chesser has some interesting thoughts about how in general people who are not considered professionals can often outperform "the experts." He points out that in general homeschoolers do a much better job than the public education system. As they say, read the whole thing.

Education related columns on

There are a number of columns on today dealing with education:

Marvin Olasky has a column with recommendations for United States history books. He mentions David McCullough's "1776" which is on my stack to read. I did read David McCullough's "John Adams" which I greatly enjoyed.

George Will looks at how Utah is rebelling against the "No Child Left Behind" law.

Larry Elder's column is about how the Los Angeles Unified School District used school buses to take 800 children from ten high schools to an anti-war, anti-Bush rally. He wonders if the school district would ever also use funds to bus students to a pro-war, pro-Bush rally.

Emmett Tyrrell revisits vouchers. In principle vouchers seem like a good idea. The problem I have with vouchers is there is still great government involvement, and everywhere they have been tried they seem to get watered down. The movement has been going on for thirty years and hasn't gotten very far. Homeschooling has done much better. is a fairly conservative group. Are there equivalent liberal columnists who sometimes talk about education?

The failings of public school push people into homeschooling

I happened across a post about how the bad schools in Nevada had prompted a family to explore the option of homeschooling. Recently I was rereading part of the 1983 report, "A Nation At Risk" which has this famous quote:

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."

I wonder how many people have felt pushed into homeschooling. For most people it isn't easy to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, which goes against the norm. For decades pretty much everyone sent their children to public schools. The early pioneers of homeschooling in the 1970s and 1980s were doing something very unconventional. It took a lot of courage even to consider homeschooling back then. I am thankful for their courage and efforts.

Unfortunately since the 1983 report, public education has gotten worse, but this has lead more and more families to the joys and benefits of homeschooling.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 9 Nov 05

Joanne Jacobs has a review of a government report finding that only 73% of students graduate from highschool in the "normal" four years. Sad and scary.

The Education Wonks has a post mentioning Joanne Jacobs' new book "Our School : The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds" Yesterday the Amazon ranking was 490,648. Today it is 6,726. A pretty good climb for one day. Also at The Education Wonks is the "The Carnival of Eduacation" which has a lot of good links.

HomeSchoolBuzz has a link to an opinion piece by Joel Turtel comparing prisons and schools. Joel wrote "Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray Our Children" which was published earlier this year. has a couple interesting links. An article written in the UK claims schools are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Heartland Institute reports that colleges and universities are actively recruiting homeschoolers.

Family Relationships

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the opportunity to strengthen family relationships.

Good relationships take time. I think about how different things are for my daughters, as apposed to many of their friends. My daughters interact with each other on and off all through the day. Because we almost never do "school work" after dinner, evenings are family and fun time. Their friends who are in school see very little of their siblings during the day, maybe only a few minutes at breakfast while they are rushing to get out the door to school. Their evenings are filled with "homework", leaving little time for family interaction.

Of course, my children do get on each others' nerves and quarrel sometimes. Recently, while driving home from some activity or another, the girls were arguing in the back seat. I just had to smile when I heard my 5 year accuse her sister of being "so argumentative." Another benefit of spending so much time with her older sisters is that she knows how to use really big words.

This is not to say that my children only interact with each other. Today, my 5 year old had another homeschool friend come over after lunch to play for a few hours. After dinner, the older girls went with another homeschool friend to an activity at church. However, I think they are clear where their loyalties lie. Our family is a team. The relationship we build in our family is one of the few things we can take with us when we go.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good article about myths of homeschooling

Many of our friends or family don't understand homeschooling. This article by Rachel Gathercole addresses most of the popular myths of homeschooling. You might consider forwarding it to anyone who has asked you questions recently.

Reason - Greater exposure to the world

HomeSchoolBuzz had a link to an article about homeschoolers who had aGeography Fair to expose children to different cultures around the world.

Earlier this year we had a somewhat similar experience. I've been able to work out a deal with my manager. About once every year or two I'll take some stuff from work; my family and I will hit the road. While we are gone I'll work about twenty hours a week.

This year we left during the middle of April and flew to the East coast. We spent a couple days in Kentucky and then Virginia with family. We spent a week in Southern New Jersey, a week in Boston, and then another week in back in Virginia, this time in Williamsburg. We saw many historical sites in Boston and Williamsburg. A funny event occurred a couple months later.

We use the CAT/5 test to see how our daughters are doing. During the American history portion of the test our third grade daughter started giggling. Our daughter said “The questions are so silly.” We had visited every place mentioned on the test. She ended up scoring at 12+ grade for social studies, she didn’t miss a single question. In comparison she scored at the 1st grade level on spelling, an area we know she struggles with.

Homer’s Odyssey

During our second year of homeschooling, I gave birth to our third child. Many of the details of that year are lost in the fog of pregnancy and baby induced sleep deprivation. I had a 6 year old (1st grader) and a 4 year old (preschooler). As a result of this challenging circumstance, I stumbled across an educational truth: If you set the stage, children will learn even (or especially) when you are not actively involved.

We were using an approach which emphasized read-aloud books. Because of my time constraints and limited functioning brain cells, I began using books on tape. I just didn’t have the time to read as much as I had hoped to my kids. Luckily, our local library carried quite of few of the books on our reading list. I would introduce the book on tape while we were in the car. In the car, I didn’t have to compete with the interruptions at home. A typical errand took about 10-20 minutes driving time, which was long enough to get them interested. After they were interested in the story, they eagerly listened while at home.

At this time, our city was building a new library. The old library was going to be closed for 3 months. After which, a temporary library would be open until the new library was completed. As a result, patrons could check out books for 3 months!!! That year, we were studying the ancient Romans and Greeks. The day before the old library closed, I got some children’s books on ancient Rome and Greece. And as an after thought, I grabbed Homer’s Odyssey unabridged on tape for myself. I figured in 3 months I would get around to listening to the 26 tapes in the box.

We spent the next day dressed up in togas made from old sheets, reading the children’s books and doing a few suggested activities. The following day was a hard one for me. I had been up most of the night with the baby. My husband got the kids up, fed them and left for work. I got up when the baby woke up a few hours later. I realized that house was awfully quiet. I found the girls in their bedroom, dressed in togas, sitting by the tape player. They were listening to Homer’s Odyssey. After that, we took the Homer tapes every where we went. As I would pull into the driveway after an errand, the girls would yell, “Don’t turn off the car.” They wanted to keep listening to the story. We finished all 26 tapes by the time the library re-opened. My 4 year old also picked up a nice British accent from listening to the tapes.

I just love homeschooling.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Starting to Homeschool

I've heard it said that 50% of families who start to homeschool don't make it through the first year.

I've personally had quite a few friends get excited about homeschooling, only to give up after a few weeks. In many ways, homeschooling is like planting seeds. It takes a season to see the fruits of your labor. It usually doesn't produce instant results. Problems that developed as a result of years of public education are not going to magically disappear in a few weeks at home. Parents fail to take into consideration that when your child spends the majority of his waking hours away from home, it is easier to pretend everything is all right. I mean, if you don't see a problem behavior often (because you don't spend that much time with your kid), the difficulties seem smaller. Also, the problem becomes someone else's responsibility. It is much easier emotionally when it is the school’s responsibility to fix that kid.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “My kids just won’t listen to me.” So, you think it is any different for homeschoolers? I’ve had to go toe-to-toe with each of my kids to get them to listen to me. My advice to parents is that you want to work out this relationship now while they are young. Later, you don’t want to go up against a teenage who has no respect for you.

You’ve got to be willing to go through at certain amount of discomfort when you start homeschooling. Kids don’t necessarily like what is good for them. Children like to test you. And remember, everyone has a bad day sometimes.


The nuture versus nature argument continues

A study in the UK looked at families that had both biological children of the parents, and adopted children. The researches found evidence that genetic factors contribute about 75% to educational attainment.

Hat tip to Jerry Pournelle.

At some point the important thing is that success in life is a combination of your genes, your environment, and the effort you choose to put forth. Nature and nurture merely provide the foundation. The house we make of our life can be a hut, or a castle. There are countless stories of people who worked and worked and worked, and did well in life. It is nice to have a head start, but it is probably more important to teach your children to work.

When I was a teenager my mother gave me a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan "press on." has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Links to interesting postings - 7 Nov 05


Daryl Cobranchi has a link to a Denver Post article on a professional bowler, Rick Lawrence. Rick takes his family with him as he travels to tournaments. They are homeschoolers.

SpunkyHomeschool has a fun posting of the "New Miranda" rights.

Trouble in public schools:

Joanne Jacobs mentions a recent Fordham Foundation report which found "48 percent of white public school parents and 68 percent of black parents would opt for private (or charter) schools"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reason - Zero Tolerance sometimes leads to Zero Intelligence

My wife and I plan to publish a couple reasons a week. Over the last two years I've read dozens of books, and looked through several hundred web sites, looking for reasons why people homeschool. The last time I counted we had over 70 distinct reasons for homeschooling. With so many reasons, it is a bit of a dilemma to decide on which reason to mention first.

Most every day I'll wade through a couple dozen blogs. One of my favorites is Zero Intelligence, which is run by Jim Peacock. Over the last couple years there has been a movement for "Zero Tolerance" of things like drugs, weapons, and so forth. School leaders and politicians want it clear there will be no tolerance for hard drugs or weapons on the school premise. Week after week Jim finds instances of times where school administrators way over react. Most people agree that children should not have heroin or a hand gun at school, but in an effort to have "Zero Tolerance" many administrators get carried away. A girl was suspended for having tylenol in her bag. Three girls and a boy were stripped searched when some money was missing. A fourth grader was suspended for five days because he refused to answer a question on a test. Recently a girl 11 year old girl was suspended for folding a piece of paper into a gun.

One reason for some parents to homeschool is to avoid the kind of zero tolerance which leads to "zero intelligence." Time after time students are dealt harsh punishments for what really seem to be minor infractions. But when teachers are caught doing more serious actions, often the teacher's hand is slapped. Children learn it isn't so much about following the rules as being in a position of power.

What are some of the worse instances you've seen of zero tolerance?

A Thomas Jefferson Education

I heard Oliver DeMille, president of George Wythe College speak, last night at a book signing at Barnes and Noble. Mr. DeMille is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education. I was surprised. He was much younger than I expected. I had heard about the "Thomas Jefferson approach" before but had not done any reading on it. From his book and talk, it was very clear that public education is not designed to build leadership skills and profound thinking. That kind of education must be done one on one or in small groups. Public assembly line education is designed to produce factory workers, fast food server, and other drone types.

I was happy to find that our family was already doing many of the things he suggested. I'm going to focus more on talking with my daughters about the books they are reading. I was also happy to see that I already read many of the classic books on his list (but not much recently).

The big point he made was that parents need to education themselves, read good books, reread good books, and talk about them. Children raised in homes with self-educated parents will likely follow that example.

I’m so glad my children are educated at home.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Kids love to learn

We are starting our 7th year of homeschooling. Over the years we've had many experiences that remind me how children love to learn if not burned out by school. My last visit to the eye doctor demonstrated this.

I went in to pick out a new pair of glasses. After I spent a few minutes looking at frames, I realized that my daughters (ages 11, 9, 5) were no longer with me. I looked up and found them on the waiting room side of the office. They were gathered around a TV screen watching an explanation of laser eye surgery which included diagrams of the eye. All three watched the video for about ten minutes. My 9 year old watched for the full half hour we were at the office. After picking out my glasses, I stopped to check with the receptionists about my next appointment. The receptionist commented to me that, "We've never had kids sit and watch that eye video before." I just smiled to myself and thought, "I just love homeschooling."