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Sunday, May 3, 2009

A response to my blog entry on home schooling

This is part of a discussion that I have been having since I posted about home schooling and Christian Education on April 23rd. Doris made a comment that began this discussion and I asked her if I could share her comments. She obliged. As she states, brevity is not her strong point. Grab a cup of coffee and read her thoughts and own personal experiences.

Tom,
I have some thoughts and experiences I'd like to share with you on homeschooling.
You're absolutely right in that homeschooling can be very poorly done, but that is not always the case. I live in South Carolina, and our public school system is, well, suspect. We decided to home school our first two children, and in retrospect I know that it was a good idea. I have a bachelor's degree in sociology and my husband is a mechanical/design engineering graduate of Georgia Tech. There is a long legacy of educators in my family. From the time my kids were able to sit up by themselves we were educating them. All parents do. The question is, of course, what are you teaching your kids? We kept providing interesting, relevant, age/stage appropriate information to them throughout the early school years. We used packaged curriculum as a guideline, to keep scope and sequence formulas mostly. We also got out into the community and did real life active learning.
Our town has an active home school association which is much better than what you describe in your blog post. We had PE days at the YMCA where the kids got instruction from the trained staff, not just free-play. We had home school group days once a week where certain parents with specific skills or knowledge provided specialized classes in foreign language, lab sciences, art, and mathematics beyond the basics. My daughter took a French class for three years at the elementary grade level, and when she went to public school in the 9th grade was well equipped to take the French class taught there. (Granted, this is South Carolina, so I'm not sure how good the public school class was.) My daughter is an intelligent, outgoing, well rounded person who has been able since her early teens to carry on meaningful conversations with adults as well as her age peers. She attended the public high school, graduated in 2007, and is now finishing her sophomore year at a prestigious private college in the state. She continues to qualify for the state's highest level of scholarship-based financial aid.
My son will graduate from high school next month. He started public school in the 6th grade because he had developed an uncooperative attitude at home. I realized I could not teach him if he was not willing to be taught. He desperately wanted to attend middle school. I knew he had no clue what he was asking for, and would hate it, but I didn't argue with him because his mind was made up. I was right on all counts, but he survived and learned a lot about himself. I'm not sure how much academic content he learned those three years, but he definitely got an education. It took him a while longer to adapt, but he's a bit socially retarded anyway. (I say that in a technical, psychological sense, not to personally demean him in any way.) He seems to have gotten his act together, and within the last year and a half has excelled in his school work. He recently earned his Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouting. We received word this week that he has been accepted at the college of his choice.
You say that in your experience, home schooled kids are socially retarded. My daughter is in no way socially retarded, nor has she ever been. My son is somewhat socially retarded, but he has always been. His social retardation has much more to do with his bio-psychological state than any experience or lack of experience. The family has worked with him to help as much as possible, and as I say, he is improving. Maturity has as much to do with that as anything, I think. His older sister has been a great help to him as well. Though I have no way to prove it, I strongly believe that keeping him out of the public school system throughout his elementary school years was most beneficial. Had he been in a classroom he would no doubt have been medicated earlier and more heavily than he is. He would have been negatively labeled by the educrats and stigmatized by his peers. His progress in school would have been irrevocably hampered.
You may wonder how I came to this conclusion. I have current experience. I mentioned at the beginning of this (ever lengthening) missive that I home schooled my first two children. When these kids were 7 and 9 years old, we adopted a newborn baby boy. A year later we adopted another child, a year-old little girl. In addition to our older kids, we have two children who are now 11-year-old fifth graders. These children have been in the public school system since pre-school. Our little boy, whom I refer to as “Sproing” on my blog, is in many ways much like his older brother. He has issues with socially appropriate behavior and has, since second grade, been a troublesome child in the classroom. He has been a troublesome child at home for longer than that. I see things happening at school that distress me. Because of his behavior and academic performance (generally poor) the teachers and administrators have largely given up on him. There are a few notable exceptions, but by and large he has little chance of being treated fairly. As a family we are doing everything we know how in order to help this little guy get his behavior under control. He has been receiving professional care for years. As he moves into puberty it is getting worse. We are struggling to help him. The school system has been helpful in the most marginal sense, primarily through those few sainted individuals who seem to really care about him as a person. It is quite an adventure. And while I have no way of knowing for sure, from the patterns I see in the way our school system deals with this little guy, I suspect our oldest son would never have attained the academic and social success he has if he’d been in the school system in elementary school. I also think that another year or two at home would have done him a world of good, but as I said, he made that impossible.
And now a word about art: I found particularly interesting what you had to say about your experience with home schooled students’ lack of art education. I minored in art in college, and though I did not incorporate art in my lesson plans as much as I could have, my kids were not totally ignorant about art and famous artists, both musical and visual. (We didn’t do much at all with performing arts.) Interestingly enough, both of these children are specializing in art now. This semester my daughter was accepted in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at her school. She has been a declared art major from the beginning of her college career, and plans to seek an MFA degree as soon as she earns her bachelor’s degree. My son has been accepted into the graphic arts program at one of the Art Institutes here in the Southeast, and will be working toward a fully accredited bachelor’s degree program when he starts school in the fall. Though I attribute much of their interest and ability in art to their exposure to art education at the public school, I must admit that as a family we emphasize and encourage artistic expression. I am sad, both for you and your students, that this has not been your experience with the home schooled.
Alas, I have rambled on for too long. Brevity is not my specialty. I merely wanted to defend homeschooling as a viable educational option, and to give you a different perspective from what seems to have been your experience. Thank you for allowing me to do so.
I am ever so grateful that Ur-Spo directed me to your space in the blogosphere. I look forward to reading more about your very interesting life! Congratulations, too, on the blessed adoption of your adorable daughter. I am extremely pleased that you and your husband are able to provide such a loving, welcoming home for her. May your family be ever blessed.
Sincerely,
Doris (“Java”)
Blog: my life or something like it @
http://javajones-mylife.blogspot.com/