Monday, July 31, 2006

Maybe this is the reason public school teachers in Florida don't like homeschooling

Over the last couple weeks my wife has tried to address some hostile claims about homeschooling: part 1, part2, part3. These posts was in response an attack on homeschooling by a public school teacher in Florida.

Today after reading Parents Are Taking Education Back Home (Hat tip: I wonder if part of the hostility is that homeschooling is growing so quickly in Florida. The article claims that over the last five years the number of children being homeschooled has grown almost 30%. Public school teachers may recognize that their job security is threaten.

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We got our submission in; you have eight hours to get yours in

Submissions for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling are due in eight hours. Shannon of PHAT Mommy is hosting. Here are the instructions for submitting a post.

Remember you can submit a post from another blog. If you see a great post on homeschooling consider submitting it, or asking the blogger to submit it. It is a great way to let other's know that you enjoyed and appreciated their thoughts.

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The Carnival of Kid Comedy, number 19, is up!

Kim has done a great job of keeping the Carnival of Kid Comedy going. She is hosting this week's carnival.

If you have missed some of the previous Carnivals of Kid Comedy, go here.

And when your child says or does something funny, go here to learn how to submit a post. Submissions are due Friday night at midnight.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Rants, Raves and Oh well

I know I shouldn't have done it, but I sent a follow up email to the person who recently left anti-homeschool comments on our blog. It's the psychologist in me that wants to know why people do what they do and believe what they believe. After my series of posts on Anti-homeschooling Views (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4), I was hoping to see inside the mind of someone whose attitudes are so different than mine.

This is what I sent:


I'm conducting an informal survey on attitudes about homeschooling. Would you be willing to share a few of your reasons for not liking homeschooling?

Give as many or as few as you like, but be specific please.

For example you could share an experience such as "My next door neighbor homeschools and their kids harrass my dog" or something more philosophical like "I believe that children at home are more at risk for abuse."

Any input you have would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Janine Cate

This is the response I received:

It is near illegal in the state of Florida.

It is stupid. And go to the florida dept of education to check on our standards.

I was hoping for a reason, not just a reiteration of the same opinion.
So, I sent a follow up email:

Thank you for your response.

I'm having a little trouble following what you mean.

>It is near illegal in the state of Florida.

Are you trying to say that you dislike homeschooling because you think it is illegal in your state?

> It is stupid. And go to the florida dept of education to check on our standards.

Are you trying to say that you dislike like homeschooling because you think it doesn't meet the educational standards set by the state?

I'm not trying to offend you, nor am I trying to change your mind. I'm just trying to understand where you are coming from. Do you have any first hand experience with homeschooling (A friend, relative, neighbor, acquaintance)?
Or are your feeling based on something else (a news article, data from a study, something a professor said in class, the opinion of someone you admire)?

Again, thank you for your response.

May I share your feedback with other people interested in homeschooling? I can keep your name and email address unlisted if you prefer.

Janine Cate

This was the response:

Most who homeschool in this state do not pass the Florida Comp Assessment Test


I still don't know why she dislikes homeschooling.

I'm trying to track down the FCAT results. It's like wandering through a maze.

This is what I've found so far for public school children:

In science, 33% of 8th grade students performed at grade level or above.
In reading, 46% of 8th grade students performed at grade level or above.
In mathmatics, 60% of 8th grade students performed at grade level or above.

For seniors, 14% passed the reading portion of the test, and 29% passed the math portion.

I haven't found the scores posted for homeschool students. I'm not that convinced that test results mean a whole lot, but don't think it would be very hard to beat a 14% and 29% pass rate.

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Study shows benefit of play time with mom

It is interesting to see how news headlines often don't match the actual content of the article.

For example, this headline:

Social Stimulation For Kids With Stunted Growth Prevents Emotional Problems

"The researchers re-examined 103 of the children 16 years later and found that those who had the social simulation as babies had fewer psychological and social problems than the others. The milk supplements had no significant impact on the children."

Now, when you hear the phrase "social stimulation," what do you think of? I think of children in groups of other children or day care, oops I mean preschool.

In this study, the "social stimulation" was actually "weekly play sessions with their mothers."

So, why didn't the headline say "Play time with mothers prevents emotional problems?"

Regardless of the headline, the study has interesting implications. Children with stunted growth due to malnutrition did better in life as a result of play time with their mother than with milk supplements.

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Links to interesting postings - 28 July 2006

Valerie Bonham Moon has a thoughtful post on The curious love affair with American high school sports — and one man’s opinion about why homeschoolers aren’t invited. Having lived abroad Valerie had some insight into the American tradition of school spirit.

I enjoyed this article: The road increasingly traveled: Homeschooling. It is a fair coverage of some of the reasons more people are turning to homeschooling. (Hat tip: HS Blog - HomeSchool Blog)

I remember seeing some mention in other blogs about a recent study which found that the average working parent spent an average of 19 minutes a day with their children. This article: 19 minutes - how long working parents give their children reviews some of the findings of the study. The Office of National Statistics found that parents who work full-time spend just 19 minutes every day caring for their own children, and another 16 minutes a day looking after their children as a secondary activity. Pretty scary.

Picking ripe fruit at the school store is a skill I have mild ability in. Luckily it looks like a scientist has found a way to help shoppers: Professor invents 'ripeness' sticker. The sticker is sensitive to a chemical fruit produce as it ripens. Soon you'll be able to look at the sticker and pick the ripe fruit. Amazing. (Hat tip:

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

A couple interesting posts from Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs has been blogging about education for eons, in internet time. She recently passed the 1,600,000 visit mark!!! Here are selections from her recent posts:

There's been an effort recently at some schools to ban candy. Economist Tim Harford doubts they can do it. One thing jumped out at me: a student is making $100 a day selling candy on the school grounds. William Guntrip is a 13-year-old boy who buys candy at the store and retails it during school hours.

And Joanne links to an article by Scott Elliot about a high school with a video game track. The students sign up for a three year program to design, create, and sell a video game. Sounds fun.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Have you heard of the "opaque gorilla video"?

Recently the New York Times had an interesting article - Come Here Often? And by the Way, Did You Happen to Notice That Gorilla? (Hat tip: Cool Digest) James Gorman writes:

Cognitive science tells us we’re not even getting the straight dope from our ears and eyes because our brain is concocting a good story from the input.

(For the moment let’s not worry about who “we” are. Let’s assume that we know who “we” are.)

I can live with that. I imagine the brain as a writer dealing with raw information. You can’t give the reader just the facts, with no transitions or metaphors or narrative structure. So you create a story, or, perhaps, a column.

The woman in the gorilla suit is something else again.

I’m referring, of course, to the 1999 video known (to those in the know) as the “opaque gorilla video,” which is used in numerous studies of how people fail to see what is right in front of them. It is only 75 seconds long.

Six people, three in light clothes, three in dark, weave around and pass two basketballs, white clothes to white clothes and dark to dark.

In the middle of the video a woman (scientific reports have specified the gender of the hidden human) in a gorilla suit walks calmly through the group, stops briefly to pound her chest — although not in a very noticeable way — and then continues walking out of the video frame.

The whole article is pretty interesting. James Gorman had given enough clues that I was able to track down the video. Got to this site. Go down to the second major section, the second blue bar across titled Inattentional Blindess Examples. There are four versions. I got the last one, the "7.5 MB Applet opaque gorilla from Simons and Chabris."

I watched the video and very easily saw the gorilla. But I was intrigued, so I got the video ready. I had my wife sit in front of my computer. I told her: "There were two groups of people, three dressed in black and three dressed in white. They are passing basketballs back and forth. Count how many times the basketballs are passed." She watched the video and never saw the gorilla. I had her watch again, telling her just to watch and not pay attention the number of passes, and the second time through she saw the gorilla. Pretty freaky.

Another interesting set of videos are about a situation where one person asks another person for directions, and mid way through getting help the "lost" person is switched for another person. (This is the third section below the first blue bar.) About half the time the helpful person doesn't regonize there has been a switch.

There are a number of other interesting videos at this site. I'd be curious how many people don't see the gorilla.

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Carnivals - Kid Comedy, Education, and Roundhouse Roundup

Here are some recent carnivals:

Carnival of Kid Comedy #18 - About funny things children have said or done.

Carnival of Education 77 - One of the oldest carnivals, lots of interesting thoughts about education

Roundhouse Roundup, No. 2 - About trains, model trains, and toy trains

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Blogs and writing

About nine months ago my wife and I first started blogging. One of our main goals was to encourage readers to consider homeschooling, and support those who were already homeschooling. As the months have gone by I've come to realize that a key part of effective blogging is the quality of the writing. I like this quotation:

When something can be read without effort,
great effort has gone into its writing.

-Enrique Jardiel Poncela
(Reader's Digest January 1995)
(Hat tip: Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day)

With the intent of improving my writing I've recently started working my way through Roy Peter Clark's "Fifty (50!) Tools which can help you in Writing." The original page no longer seems to link to the pages on each of the 50 tools, but this link works.

Speaking of writing and blogging, Virginia Postrel suggests on her blog that daily blog posts are so Web 1.0. The thought is that too frequent posting is driving away readers. With so many blogs, and doubling every six months, readers can not keep up. I'm don't believe it, but it is an interesting thought.

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Request for Advice

We received a request for advice:

Anonymous said...
I am so afraid of failing my children,but I want so badly to homeschool them. How did you get over that fear?I have wanted to do this for the last two years,but the closer it gets to school starting I let people convince me I can't handle it.

Before I give my advice, you need to ask yourself if there is a valid reason not to homeschool. There are some cases where homeschooling is not a good idea. Here's my check list to determine if homeschooling is right for you?

This is my advice:

1. Do research. Read books on different homeschooling philosophies. Find a style that feels right to you. Educate yourself on child development. Much of public and private education is developmentally inappropriate regardless of the quality of the school.

2. Attend a homeschool conference. After we attended our first homeschooling conference (the year before we started homeschooling), I felt much less anxious about homeschooling. I could see that these successful homeschoolers were people just like me.

3. Find new friends. If all your friends send their children to public school and are critical of your choice to homeschool, you will feel anxious. This doesn't mean you cut these people out of your life, but it helps to surround yourself with people who can support you in your choice to homeschool. This is where a homeschool support group can be helpful. It took me years of attending homeschool park day before I felt comfortable. But now that I do, I have many resources available to me which make homeschooling easier. I have people I can talk to about different homeschooling struggles. I can see a variety of educational materials and hear how well they worked for other families.

4. Pray about it. (If you are not a praying sort, meditate or something like that.) Receiving an answer that "yes, this is the right thing for my family" makes the whole process easier. Everybody has bad days. If you have a personal "witness" that this is the right thing, than the bad days are easier to handle.

5. Expect a few bad days and growing pains. If your children have been in school for any length of time, they may not be overjoyed at the change. If the peer group is already more important to the child than his family, you could be in for a rough patch at first. You may be the one not happy with the change, if you've become accustomed to having most of the day to yourself while you kids are at school. Make the commitment to try it for a year, regardless of how bad it goes at first. Some things just take time.

6. Get your kids on board with idea. Ask your children what they are interested in learning. It is alright to let somethings fall by the wayside from time to time. For example, if the child is really excited about horses, then study horses. Incorporate math, writing, and science into the study of horses. Plan fun trips during the traditional school year to take advantage of short lines and good weather.

7. Rearrange some household chores, if necessary. This can take some pressure off of you. For example, my husband does all the laundry. He starts a load when he gets up in the morning. By the time he leaves for work, he moves that load into the dryer and starts another. I have the kids help sort and put away the laundry during the day.

8. Clarify your goals. Decide how you will measure success. How well behaved or happy the child? Standardized testing? If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

We consider our homeschool a success if our children can, by their teens, make and keep covenants with the Lord, have the skills to live independent and self sufficient as an adult, be politically savvy and involved in supporting good government, and be able to articulate complex ideas in written form. Oh, and they would never consider dumping us in a nursing home when we are old and frail. [Spunky at Spunky Homeschool has a good post about this called Why We Homeschool.]

So, how do you measure this in kindergarten? It looks like a happy, well behaved child that is excited by learning.

9. Start slowly. Trying to do too much too soon will burn you out. Start simply and add new things gradually. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.

10. Focus on the relationship with the child. If your child aces the ACT and SAT but hates you, leaves home and never comes back, you are not a successful homeschooler. This also doesn't mean you are a push over parent. Just remember your homeschool routine should not look like a military boarding school, unless that's what your child needs.

Good luck on your homeschooling journey.

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Anti-Homeschooling Views - part 4

This is the end of the series (part 1, part 2, part 3) of posts on anti-homeschooling attitudes.

Most things don't happen for only one reason. Attitudes and biases are often a combination of factors. Regardless, psychological reasons usually play a part.

1. Envy

Homeschooling allows a great deal of personal freedom. We travel in the off season. The weather is nicer and the lines are shorter. Airfare and hotels are cheaper. Families tied to the school calendar are limited in their travel plans. I can't image how awful it would be to go to someplace like Disney Land during the summer. When our family went to Disney Land, we went in the middle of October in the middle of the week. The weather was comfortable. The lines were relatively short. If I had spent a hot summer day standing in line, I would feel a bit cranky too.

Homeschooling allows a high degree of individualization not available to most children in public school. Misery loves company. If your child has to suffer through a boring class with bad text books, why should the homeschool kids not have to suffer too. (See Andrea 's comment on part 1.)

2. Ego

It is human nature to feel superior to others. Many see homeschooling as an affront to hardworking, dedicated teachers. Professional educators would like to believe that their teacher certificate makes them a better teacher. Academically, teaching degrees at universities are the easiest course work offered. Teachers have the lowest post graduate test scores. On the first administration of the Massachusetts Teachers Tests, 60% of the teachers failed. In California, the failure rates are similar. There are many gifted and talented teachers out there, but it is in spite of their education, not because of it. (See Daryl's comment on part 1.)

In fairness, prejudices based on ego afflict homeschoolers as well as public schoolers. Homeschoolers need to be careful to not let their egos get in the way. Public schoolers should not be made to feel like they are "loosing face" by embracing homeschooling.

3. Need for affiliation

Homeschooling is a more independent lifestyle. Personalities are different. Some people only feel comfortable in the "herd" with structured rules and external authority. Not everyone has the disposition to be a "trail blazer."

Many view homeschooling as spending all day at home alone with little outside contact. (I would like to add that I spend far too much of my time in the car driving my children from place to place. I few days home with no outside distraction would be nice once in a while.)

There are many ways to homeschool. Those with a desire for more affiliation can homeschool under the "umbrella" of a private or public school, and/or can participate in support groups.

4. Guilt

This one is also tied up in politics. Many people want to help make the world a better place. However, if they don't spend their time or resources towards this end, it causes feelings of guilt. Saying the you "support your local public school" and voting for "taxes for school" relieve the individual's feelings of disquiet. They have the illusion of "helping save the world" without having to dedicate their time and their money towards the cause. The government is doing it for them. This particularly annoys me. Generosity is what you do with your money and your time. Raising my taxes to pay for some government program that pretends to help children is not a virtue. (See Malcolm Kirkpatrick's comment on part 1.)

5. Frustration

On the other end of the spectrum from those against homeschooling because of "social" guilt, are the hard working individuals trying to save the world through the public schools. These people donate a great deal of time and money to improve the lives of children and families through the schools. The heroic efforts often show very little results. They want to believe that if everyone embraced public education, things would be different. Because of their involvement, they know just have bad things really are out there. They are painfully aware of missed opportunities. Homeschooling takes the brightest and best away from their cause. They expect us to sacrifice our children in the hopes of saving someone else's children.

I've pondered on this myself. The way I make the world a better place is by encouraging more families to save their own children while financially supporting educational charities.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wise man/Foolish man vs. April showers bring May flowers

Today my 6 year old daughter wanted to sing me a song she learned at church. Many people may recognize it from Sunday school, "The wise man and the foolish man."

"The wise man built his house upon the rock.
The wise man built his house upon the rock.
The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came tumbling down.
The rains came down and the flowers came up. The rains came down and the flowers came up..."

At this point I stopped her and asked her to sing that part again.

"The rains came down and the flowers came up. The rains came down and the flowers came up and the house on the rock stood firm."

"Honey, it's floods not flowers," I replied.

She looked at me blankly. "You know, like flood waters."

"NO ITS NOT! It's flowers!"

If "April showers brings May flowers" then the "rains come down the flowers came up" makes perfect sense.

I found a fun website where people share misunderstood lyrics of hymns and Christmas carols. It's a fun look into the world of childlike understanding.

The Carnival of Homeschooling, week 30, is up - with a School House Rock theme

Melissa Wiley is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. She weaves the posts together using some of the classics from School House Rock. Melissa blogs at The Liting House and Here in the Bonny Glen, and she is the author of The Martha Years and The Charlotte Years

And here are a few other recent Carnivals: Carnival of Kid Comedy, The Carnival of Family Life, The Carnival of Storytelling, and the Carnival of Children's Literature.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Triumphs and Traumas

The last few weeks my soon to be 12 year old daughter has been attending a band camp (4 hours a day) at a local middle school. She plays piano, but had no previous experience with an instrument. The camp seemed like a good way to jump start her on the clarinet. I had some reservations about this idea. At things age, the peer group can lure the child away from family and spiritual things. She has never expressed an interest in attending public school. Had I started something I would later regret? Personally, I found the driving back and forth to the school down right creepy. It felt like I was going over to the dark side.

Camp has gone well. After two weeks, she can play a few songs on the clarinet. It helped that she could already read music. She had a few of those "nasty girl" experiences. Nothing traumatic, but it gave her an opportunity to see what she is missing. It also gave us a chance to talk about different responses she could try. Over all she's enjoyed the camp and the practice with difficult people was a plus.

Last Friday, the camp include a water play time. The parents needed to sign a permission slip. My daughter was looking forward to the water play and I signed the permission slip for her on Tuesday. On Thursday, she asked if we could get a water gun. We scheduled a time to stop by at a store to pick one up.

During that same week, the younger two girls were in puppet camp. The camp ended with a little puppet show. My oldest daughter had attended this summer camp in the past. Normally, the whole family would watch the puppet show put on by the children the last day of camp. We had talked about picking up my oldest daughter early from her band camp so that she could attend the puppet show with the family. With the conflict between the water play and the puppet show, I had just let it drop.

I was very surprised on Thursday evening when my oldest daughter brought up the puppet show. She said that in years past we had all gone to her puppet shows. My oldest daughter decided that she could just skip the water play at band camp and go to the puppet show with the family. And so, that is what she did.

I proud of her for choosing to support her sisters over doing something fun with friends. I glad she got to see first hand what "nasty girls" are like and how to handle them. And, I'm really glad she doesn't want to go to public school.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Anyone know what happen to Family Pass (Mentura)

Just a little over two years ago we signed up for DVDs through the mail with Mentura. It was great to get DVDs without having to go down to the local Blockbuster store or the library. About a year ago Mentura became Family Pass. We continued to enjoy good service.

Sometime in the last couple months it looks like they have gone out of business. The web sites no longer work and the phone numbers have been disconnected. Does anyone know what happen?

We're thinking about getting a similar service. I know about Netflicks. Are there any other companies that you would recommend, or warn people to stay away from? Thanks.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Anti-homeschooling Views - part 3

Continuing on from Anti-homeschooling Views - part 1 and part2,

Here are few political reasons to dislike homeschooling.

1) Removes children from the reach of the great propaganda machines

Public education itself was embraced as a means of promoting social changes. Many believe that by manipulating the world view of children, they can bring about improvements to society. Those with a "messiah complex" contend that they, and only they, know best.

Unfortunately, it doesn't usually work that way. For example, the anti-drug campaigns in schools and on TV cost tax payers millions of dollars. The DARE program does nothing to decrease the use of illegal drugs. The "this is your brain on drugs" commercials have been shown to increase drug use, especially among boys.

2) Weakens bargaining power of teacher's unions and political groups

The NEA is one of the largest special interest groups in the United States. Their financial support and influence in politics is huge. Anyone part of this organization and those like it would, by necessity, dislike what homeschooling represents.

3) Jeopardizes employment of adults

The school system is one, if not the largest expenditure in state and federal budgets. Schools and the attached bureaucracies are one of the largest employers in many communities. People with few marketable skills outside the education venues will find anything that diminishes the influence of that bureaucracy very threatening.

4) Persuasion from Anti-homeschooling factions

It is easy to be intimidated by someone with credentials. Bureaucracies and teachers unions promote the idea that "you can't make it without us." Schools do a lot of self promotion. They are "saving children from a life of crime" and so forth. Parents, who themselves are a product of public school, are taught to be dependent. They see themselves as incompetent to meet the educational needs of their children.

To be continued..... part 4.

My next post will debate the psychological and emotional reasons to dislike homeschooling.

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Links to interesting postings - 20 July 2006

A friend of ours who designs houses for a living says Google's SketchUp is pretty amazing. Our daughters have played with it a bit, and have started the tutorial.

I haven't been blogging as much the last two weeks because I've been playing Civilization IV. If you like strategy games, check out Sulla's Civ4 Introduction.

The Headmistress, of The Common Room, found an intersting quote by Judith Kleinfeld: "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls." This is from a article.

On her blog, The History of the (Whole) World, Susan Wise Bauers writes about homeschooling her own children and what they are doing this summer.

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Start planning on your submission for the next Carnival of Homeschooling (and other carnivals)

Melissa Wiley, author of The Martha Years and The Charlotte Years, will be hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling. She's teased us with a carrot to induce us to submit entries for the carnival. (She might name a character in one of her books after you.) If you are interested, go check out the instructions on how to submit an entry. As always entries are due at 6:00 PM PST on Monday evenings.

Joanne, of A Day in Our Lives, will be hosting the next edition of Unschooling Voices the first of August. Go here for instructions on how to submit, and the question for the August carnival.

Karen, of The Thomas Institute, is calling for submissions on model railroads. Entires are due Monday, the 24th, at midnight.

And finally the Carnival of Education will be held next week at Text Savvy. Send your submissions to mr(dot)obelus(at) no later than 10 PM CST on Tuesday night.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Carnival of Homeschooling, week 29, is up

NerdMom, of the Nerd Family, is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. We have an amazingly decided group of people who help with hosting the carnival. Poor NerdMom has been sick with a high fever and yet she still got the carnival up!

You might also be interested in checking out the Carnival of Education over at Education in Texas.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Interview: Scott Somerville – HSLDA Attorney/Activist

Below is an interview with Scott Somerville done via email. Scott is an attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The first time I remember reading something by Scott was his chapter "Legalizing Home Schooling in the US: Family, Community and the Law” in Homeschooling in full view -- a Reader. I like his blog - Somerschool. Scott is currently co-posting with Daryl Cobranchi over at Home Education and Other Stuff.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Brief bio:

Scott and his wife started homeschooling when their oldest child was ready for kindergarten. Scott went to Harvard Law School and earned his law degree. He has since worked for the Home School Legal Defense Association and helped thousands of homeschoolers deal with aggressive government agencies. For more information see his: biography.


What types of books do you like to read? What are some of your favorite books?

At the age of eleven, my draft-dodging friends turned me on to The Hobbit and I got hooked early on Middle Earth. As a teen, I was a science fiction addict. I read the classics: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, plus anything else I could find with rockets, mutants, or time travel. I went off to Dartmouth College to become a research biochemist, but took a Logic course and wound up a Philosophy major. That might explain my fascination with geeky stuff: my two favorite books are the Bible and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in that order.

What was your experience with school growing up? Did you attend a public
school, a private school, or were you homeschooled?

My dad was a "mobile minister to the poor" in Boone County, West Virginia--the county with the third worst public schools in the state with the third worst public schools. I skipped first and eighth grades, wore Coke bottle glasses, had a silver tooth, and was hopelessly overweight. I was off the nerd charts in more ways than you can count! Mom did her best to keep school from killing any love I had of learning--we weren't homeschoolers (Dad was on Nixon's "enemies list" back then, and we couldn't take the risk), but we read Summerhill over and over. I got picked up by the police in St. Louis at the age of 11 because my parents put me on a bus for Sante Fe, New Mexico to get me out of school for a month. (They called home, found I was really SUPPOSED to be there, and let me go.) At 13, however, I got a full scholarship to Phillips Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire. They were looking for diversity, and I was it! We didn't even have running water back home (it took me three months to really learn to flush), and suddenly I was hanging out with sons of Senators.

What did you enjoy about going to Harvard? What did you find the most

Harvard was fun. I'd been a programmer for almost ten years, and had served as President of the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire. The politics at Harvard didn't bother me--I paid my liberal dues before a lot of my classmates had been born (the KKK had burned a cross on my lawn when I was two, and I'd marched in antiwar protests in 1969). I was frustrated by the inconsistency of my classmates, though--they didn't seem to be willing to follow their stated principles through to their conclusions. The one exception was my friend Peter, who had been a Catholic priest before he became a gay activist. Peter's Jesuit training meant that he would stick to his convictions, even when they led to politically incorrect conclusions--like his argument that rape defendants should have the same rights as other criminals. Sadly, people like Peter were rare.

Home School Legal Defense Association:

What was the path which lead you to working for the HSLDA?

I was just a programmer, earning the mortgage to house five eager young learners, when the State of New Hampshire announced their intention to triple the regulations on homeschoolers. A friend in the Department of Education tipped us off, and said that if we could start a new statewide group in the next two weeks, homeschoolers could get one more seat on the Rules Revision Subcommittee that was being formed. Two weeks later, the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire existed, and, oddly enough, I was president. That put me on the Rules Revision Subcommittee: which had eleven members, eight of whom were from the public schools, and five of whom were lawyers. It wasn't exactly a level playing field! Elaine Rapp and I were the only two homeschoolers in the mix--but we held our own. The State Board of Education ultimately accepted our "minority report" and rejected the proposal the other nine came up with. By the time that battle was over, I was ready to leave programming and go off to law school to even things up!

What is a typical week for you working at the HSLDA?

There's no such thing. I start the day by plowing through a few score emails (unless I've been off to a conference, in which case I may be dealing with a few hundred messages). At any moment the phone may ring because a social worker, police officer, or truant officer is standing on some member family's porch. In September, I'm on high alert dealing with truant officers and school superintendents, whereas in legislative season (January-April), I'm responsible for anything some legislator may decide to do that might affect homeschoolers. As one 19th century judge put it, "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the Legislature is in session." From April to July I travel a lot, speaking at homeschool conferences. In between all these items, I help parents deal with everything from runaway teens to animal control officers. If it could affect your homeschool, it tends to wind up on my desk!

Tell us about an interesting case you've work on in the last year.

One military mom with three children recognized some symptoms of depression, and went to the doctor on base to get some help. The doctor found out she was homeschooling and reported her for child neglect. Under the law of the jurisdiction where she lives, you can't report mental health issues as "neglect" unless the condition makes it impossible for the parent to care for the child. That wasn't even remotely true in this case--but the doctor's prejudice against homeschooling outweighed the letter and the spirit of the law. HSLDA showed the relevant child neglect laws to Child Protective Services and asked whether CPS had any evidence the mother was actually incapable of caring for her children. Her decision to seek medical attention should have been evidence in her favor, not the sole basis for removing her children. The good news is, we were able to help this family out. The bad news is that there are so many similar cases out there!


Has any government agency come after your children? If so, what happened?

Not mine, but they tried to take a child out from under my roof once. It wasn't pretty. When my oldest child was about six, we had a single mother in our home for a year or so. Her little boy was about one year old when she got "hotlined" for child abuse. I wasn't in the home when the social workers showed up, and neither was my wife, but I called home for some reason and the single mom was in tears. "What's wrong?" I asked. "They've come to take my baby!" Things got a little interesting after that. I called some friends who drove straight over to our house--and they parked in the police cruiser. The tables turned as the house filled up with our friends and neighbors. The police said, "Your making this social worker feel very nervous!" My friends said, "How do you think this poor mother feels?" The police finally left the mother and child alone, but it took weeks and a lot of legal fees to sort things out. That's when I learned that the standard legal advice is, "Just do whatever the social worker says. If you don't have anyhing to hide, why fight it?"

Back when you got started to homeschool it was very rare. How did you and
your wife end up homeschooling?

A childless married friend named Linda came bouncing into our kitchen when my wife was expecting our third, saying, "I've found it! I've found it! I've found the answer to everything! It's called 'homeschooling'!" This was NOT the news Marcia was waiting to hear! She had been looking forward to putting our boys into some preschool somewhere so she could start a pottery studio. I loved the idea of homeschooling, but kept my mouth shut. We got a chance to go to the "Basic Homeschool Workshop" in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1985, and it changed our lives forever. When we stepped out of that seminar, we were hooked.

What effects do blogs have on homeschooling?

Blogs can assist the forward-thinking homeschooler and encourage the isolated mom, but the relationship between blogs and homeschools goes deeper than that, in my opinion. I see significant parallels between the two movements. Journalists and educators have a lot of power in our society; the two professions essentially shape what Americans think. When homeschoolers dared to teach their own, it drove the NEA crazy... and now that bloggers are in full swing, the mainstream media is feeling the heat. I see bloggers and homeschoolers as the two most obvious success stories in our post-modern world.

In general do you think homeschoolers are safer than 10 to 20 years ago?


As you ponder the future, what areas do you think homeschoolers should be concerned about?

We live in interesting times, as they say in the old Chinese curse. Unity and diversity helped homeschoolers overcome a lot of bad laws in the 1980s, but that unity took a beating in 1991 when Dr. Raymond Moore published his White Paper. Dr. Moore alleged that "Protestant Exclusivists" had taken over homeschooling. There was quite a flurry of activity in the next few years, and by the time the dust settled, homeschoolers were more or less divided into two camps: what Dr. Mitchell Stevens call the "believers" and the "inclusives." I don't think our movement will be strong again until we find some way to get beyond this divide.

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Anti-homeschooling Views - part 2

Continuing on from Anti-homeschooling Views part 1.

My next catergory is fear. (Many of these categories overlap).

1. Fear of the unknown

Better the devil you know than the devil you don't. I personally know many parents who are dissatisfied with public education, but are terrified of the alternative. They are comfortable with their set of problems and don't want to trade them in for another set.

It is how I feel every time we change medical plans. Regardless of how good are bad the last plan worked, I hate to change. I know how to play my current system. It is daunting to learn the ins and outs of a new program.

2. Fear of failure

Many people are not "comfortable" with failure. I learned quickly as a new homeschooler to let go and move on when a new (often expensive) curriculum didn't work. Not everything we have tried while homeschooling worked well. We've had some wonderful successes, but just as many failures. I think we went through three spelling programs before we found one that worked for my kids. I don't want to even talk about Latin. I think we will give up and try Japanese this year.

Fragile egos can't handle the ups and downs of homeschooling. Public education reinforces that kind of thinking. We can't have competition, social promotion regardless of ability, can't let the bright hard working kids excel because it might make the slower kids feel bad, and grade inflation are just a few examples of this.

3. Fear of responsibility

We live in a society that wants privileges without responsibilities. Education is now a right. Children are entitled to a high school diploma even if they didn't put in the effort and can't pass a simple exit exam. Parents want the title with out the actual responsibility for their children. Homeschoolers are steping up to the challenge of actually caring for their own children. Other parents are worried that if we can do it, they might be expected to do it also.

4. Fear of work

The most common response I get when I tell someone I homeschool is, "That's great, but I could never do that." My response is, "Yes, you could. What you are really saying is that it would take more effort than you are willing to make." They usually agree.

Some of this attitude may come from a mistaken perception that homeschooling is "school at home." If I tried to recreate the typical class room schedule at home, I would give up too.

5. Fear of being "different"

Many people just don't want to stand out in a crowd. I trace some of this back to public education. The goal of school is to make all children to look, act and test the same. They are to be interchangeable widgets on an assembly line. Because children are "socialized" by other children instead of adults, the pack mentality is reinforced. Don't get me wrong. There is something to be said for being able to get along in a group setting. However, group-think is a poor way to make decisions in life.

To be continued....

My next category is Politics.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Anti-homeschooling Views - part 1

After my Rants, Raves and Comments series (part 1, part2, part3), I've spent some time considering the source of anti-homeschooling sentiments.

A dislike is not born in a vacuum.

So, what do you think are the leading reasons people have for disliking homeschooling?

My first category is perspective. We interpret events around us looking through the lense of our own experience. Then, what are the experiences that lead to a negative view of homeschooling?

1. A personal experience with a "bad" homeschooler

I've known a few children who I thought might be better off in school than at home with an imbalanced parent. The problem wasn't homeschooling. Going to school would not change the reality that these kids were stuck with unstable parents. I know someone who took her kids on the road with her drug dealing/truck driver boy friend. She called it homeschooling. It wasn't. It was neglect. If that were my only experience with homeschooling, I wouldn't think very highly of homeschooling either.

2. No personal experience with homeschoolers

It is human nature to be afraid of something you know nothing about. If you don't personally know any homeschoolers and you hear a story in the news about a homeschooler who abused their children, it would be easy to form a prejudice against homeschooling. Prejudice grows when there is limited information in the public view.

3. Response to anti-public-school attitudes

Disdain from homeschoolers towards families who have their children in public school does not promote goodwill towards homeschooling. I admit sometimes I do "think" those kind of thoughts, but I try very hard not to show it. I constantly remind my children that familes whose children go to public school can still be very nice (even if our personal experience is sometimes to the contrary.) I try very hard not to assume I know better than the parents what is best for their children.

4. Illusion of cause and effect

Some parents choose to homeschool because they have children who don't do well in a school-like setting. It is easy to misjudge this situation from the outside. Before we had children, I knew a family who homeschooled their children. The children were clingy and would not speak in front of even the smallest group. At the time, I felt such rage ever time I saw those children, with their fearfulness. I attributed this state of affairs to bad homeschooling.

Since then, I've met other really good homeschool families whose parenting I thought was superb, and yet they had a clingy, shy child. I came to the conclusion, that some children are just born that way and traumatizing a shy child by sending them to school would not change his nature. In fact, it would probably make it worse. I made the mistaken assumption that homeschooling caused the child to be unusually shy. I suspect that the parents were initially attracted to homeschooling becaue it well suited their extremely shy children.

To be continued.... Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

(I've sketched out a half dozen more reasons, but I can only do so many coherent thoughts at one time)

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Friday, July 14, 2006

The Carnival of Comments

So, I had this idea for a new carnival, The Carnival of Comments. Bloggers could submit the most outrageous comment left on their blog and their response to it.

I think if we had a contest, Daryl at HE&OS would win. In April, he had a back and forth with a public school teacher's blog. Unfortunately, the teacher used so many swear words we could never link to it. ; )

Rants, Raves and Comments - part 3

Continuing on from Rants, Raves and Comments - part 1 and part 2

7/13/2006 2:29 PM JEANNE said...
"Home-schooled kids won’t be subject to drugs, bullies, violence, or peer pressure, as they are in public schools. Home-schooled children who are “different” in any way won’t have to endure cruel jokes and taunts from other children in their classes. [Note: this is a comment from Joel Turtel.]


FACT: As a group, homeschooled children become very well adjusted adults.

The study by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D provides a good look at the adult life of homeschoolers.

* 71% of the home-educated were participating in any ongoing community service activity, while 37% of similarly aged U.S. adults and 39% of all U.S. adults did so.

* 74.2% of the home-educated had attained some college courses or higher versus 46.2% of general U.S. population in the same age range.

* Home-educated adults are more civically involved than the general population.

* Home-educated college students reported a binge drinking rate of less than 3%, in comparison to the
44% of U.S. college students.


FACT: Public school doesn't resemble adult reality.

As a adult, no one calls me names (well, except on this blog). I'm not bullied. I'm not forced to spend all day with people exactly my age. If someone were to mistreatment me, I am free to leave and go some place else. I only read the books I want to read. No body cares how I do my hair or if I have the "right" clothes. I don't worry that I'm too tall, too short, too thin, too fat or too smart to fit in with the "in" crowd. Heck, I don't even know of an "in" crowd. I'm not forced to listen to vulgar conversations about what someone did last weekend while they were drunk.

Sheltering children is wrong and abuse

FACT: It's the parents job to protect children while teaching them how to protect themselves.

Suicide, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy demonstrate how children respond to situations they aren't prepared to handle. Throwing a child into the deep end of a pool is not the same thing as teaching them how to swim. My children are not at home hiding under the bed. They are out in the world learning how to be adults while enjoying parental supervision and protection.

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Rants, Raves and Comments - part 2

Continuing on from Rants, Raves and Comments - part 1

This is a response to a recent comment on our blog.

7/13/2006 2:25 PM JEANNE said... It is also a midwestern phenom.

FACT: Homeschoolers live in all 50 states.

The US Department of Education estimated that in 1995, 1.4% of the US population age 4 to 17 are homeschooled. The homeschooling rate varies from state to state, but is at least 1% or higher in every state. Many agree that this estimate is low.

If you live in Florida, you cannot really really do it due to the cost of it all. Homes are $400,000 here, so women do,will and have to work.

Fact: Homeschoolers find a way to make it work in a variety of financial situations and locations.

In Bay Area of California where I live, there are many homeschool families as evidenced by the number of homeschool groups. In Santa Clara county, the median home price is over $750,000.

My dear husband and I are in our 40s and have no children. We cannot afford to adopt and well, y'all are soooooooooo off the wall.

Fact: Adoption is very affordable when done through the foster-adopt program.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida does not charge to place foster children in adoptive homes. The main costs for a foster care adoption are court costs and attorney fees. In most cases, these costs are less than $500 and may be reimbursed by the state. The state of Florida will even pay for 4 years of college for the adopted child.

I DARE YOU ALL TO TAKE THE fcat. You would not pass that test. Your lessons are no good. Prove to me what lessons you do.

Fact: Parents of homeschoolers had higher levels of educational attainment than did parents of nonhomeschoolers.

Educated parents would have little problem passing a high school level test. Here's some sample questions from the fcat.

We could go round and round on the pros and cons of testing. I don't think testing necessarily measures what some think it does. However, we do use standardize testing as a tool. I use it to see if I'm missing something and to give the kids practice at that type of testing. I don't base my curriculum around the test and I don't report the results to anyone.

For example, when my oldest daughter was in 2nd grade, she tested a little below grade level. We didn't change what we were doing, just continued on the same. As she matured, everything changed. In 4th grade, she tested at a 12+ reading level. The test confirmed what I already knew. Somewhere around 8 years old, reading finally clicked for her.

How children test in 2nd grade, 4th grade, 9th grade and so forth really doesn't matter, but it gives them practice. When they take tests like the ACT or SAT before college, they should feel comfortable with the standardized testing game and know how to work the system.

I have used 3 different testing services. The easiest and cheapest is I've also used Bayside Educational Services to take the CAT/5 test. It is more expensive and slower, but you get neat printouts with graphs comparing your child to the norm. I admit, I like the little graphs, charts, and percentiles. When I go over the results with the girls, I point out their top results and say, "This can get you a money for college."

By the way, I will be home doctoring next week. Brain surgery. I learned it in homeschool. Do you teach that too?

FACT: Teacher certification does not improve academic performance.

Again, From Education Policy Analysis Archives, Volume 7 Number 8 March 23, 1999

"...Controlling for grade and parent education level, there is no significant difference in the achievement levels of home school students whose parents are certified and those that are not."

" every grade level, the mean performance of home school students whose parents do not have a college degree is much higher than the mean performance of students in public schools. Their percentiles are mostly in the 65th to 69th percentile range."

Remember, this isn't brain surgery.

To continue see Rants, Raves and Comments - part 3

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Rants, Raves and Comments - part 1

We recently had someone post an anti-homeschool rant on our blog. It was a response, in part, to two comments left by Joel Turtel. The rant was full of emotion, but no facts.

Usually, someone will respond in this way if they are frightened by something they don't understand. I imagine there are many people who don't post messages that share the same attitudes based on no information or prejudice.

So here are the facts in response to the first comment.

JEANNE said...
Don't come to Florida homeschoolers!!!! We have the Florida Comprehansive Assessment Test, ALONG WITH THE other REQ. TESTS.


Fact: Homeschoolers score very well on standardize testing.

From Education Policy Analysis Archives, Volume 7 Number 8 March 23, 1999
(ISSN 1068-2341 )

"....the median scores for home school students are well above their public/private school counterparts in every subject and in every grade. The corresponding percentiles range from the 62nd to the 91st percentile; most percentiles are between the 75th and the 85th percentile."

".....In every area and every grade, the median scores for home school students exceed the median scores of students enrolled in Catholic/Private schools."

"...students who are home schooled for their entire academic life do better than students who have been home schooled for only a few years."

I am very ANTI HOMESCHOOL. IT IS "i WON'T PAY TAXES, I am not going to get my child in a class that is color diverse, I don't want to help the local school districts, I am more holy or more Catholic than the Pope" attitude.


Fact: Homeschoolers pay the same taxes as families who send their children to public school.

Homeschoolers and families who send their children to private school pay the cost of their children's education, as well as paying for the education of other people's children. Tax money from these families supports the local school district. By educating their own children, they are helping to decrease over-crowding.

Fact: Parents are motived to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons.

From the National Center for Educational Statistics, the most common reasons to homeschool are (a) can give child a better education at home (79.5%), (b) religious reasons (76.7%), (c) teach child particular values, beliefs, and worldview (73.5), (d) to develop character/morality (69.2%), (e) object to what school teaches (61.7%), and (f) poor learning environment at school (56.1%).

Fact: People resort to name calling and personal attacks when a difference of opinion is based on an emotional response, not fact. It is a technique used to avoid looking at information that could be psychologically painful or that reminds the individual of an unpleasant truth.

For more see Rants, Raves and Comments - part 2

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