Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Jennifer

Here's another mama from my internet group! Jennifer is a mother of two.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

Alex - 3 years and Lirum - 9 months

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

Human beings begin learning the moment they are born. I am 29... Shawn is 34.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

"[Self directed education] does not confine young people, in the manner of Public Schools, to an overly narrow range of socially permissible roles... and they will largely be judged on the merits of their work, not arbitrarily restricted on account of their age...

[If public schools were cut]... the level of general education would not decline, indeed, it would increase! The individualism and internal discipline needed for true focused learning would naturally emerge as some people pursue their academic interests while others, if compulsory school attendance laws are repealed, would try to get an early start in the business world. The morass of today's teenage subculture would largely disappear as young people's interactions would become more imbedded in the broader society rather than mired in the largely short term and superficial concerns of their peers... Hopefully, [Public school] will one day become a distant memory of a less enlightened past."
  • I can home school. Many parents cannot, I am blessed to have that option.
  • I don't agree with much of the curriculum, academic and otherwise, that the Public School espouses. I feel that the public schools are overcrowded, too many students per teacher. In home school, a student learns at their own pace, rather than having to meet the pace of the larger group, and they are not ridiculed by their peers for needing to spend more time on a certain subject. I believe that, largely, Public schools - and any education received by the student through public education - are, by very nature, externally driven. Thankfully there are true educators in our Public Schools who recognize this problem and create a grassroots effort to promote self directed education in their pupils.
  • I believe that artificially segregating children by age rather than ability hampers true education. As the author above states so eloquently, Public schools are less about academic excellence and more about "the largely short term and superficial concerns of their peers". Everyone is roughly the same age, regardless of emotional or social advancement. The real world doesn't work like that. People are jumbled together in the real world with peers of different ages. Why do we want to educate our children in an artificial atmosphere?
  • I am often asked if my homeschooled children will become socially adept adults if they don't take part in public school. I am forced to wonder how public school emulates "the real world" in any way!
  • I believe in exposing a child to a wide variety of ideas and philosophies... in the Public School system, only those ideas sanctioned by the government are taught... this is ideal for indoctrination, not so ideal for independent thought and creative process.
  • Competition rules the day in Public School. Some healthy competition is good, but when everything you do pits you against your peers, other schools, and even an arbitrary standard, it is difficult to love learning for its own sake. Being the best is all encompassing.
4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

Child-led, or self directed, Unit Studies. I like the idea of looking at a topic from all angles, as the child picks the topic and then is guided by the adult in studying it thoroughly, but if the child loses interest in the topic it is easy to step away and move on to another topic. We believe a child should be led to develop a love for lifelong learning, not just to memorize facts so that they can pass a test. We can make this style fit into our children's personal learning style, whatever that turns out to be, whether they be a tactile or visual or auditory learner, it wont matter...

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

I believe in lifelong learning. I believe that I am, myself, still in my "academic life" because I am still alive. I will facilitate their self-directed education while they are children living in my home. If at some point their needs are no longer met at home, I am open to the idea of putting them in an institutional setting, private, public, or individual tutoring.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

This is addressed in my treatise linked above, however... the most basic answer would be that Public School does NOT approximate the "real world" by segregating students by age instead of ability. This makes the issue a moot point. However, SOME children who are homeschooled ARE socially awkward. But, I think we can all agree that this happens in Public Schools as well. I doubt that the actual place of education has much to do with socialization. A child's personality and access to social situations does matter. That access can be given through any number of educational models and is not restricted to education outside the home. Home educated children have access to a wider variety of social situations than do their traditionally educated peers because they are not confined to a school for hours each day.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

Complying with local and state laws while maintaining the integrity of the experience for the individual child.

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

We currently live in Washington... they have some requirements, but it's not toooo onerous:

  • Education must occur between 8 and 18.
  • You must notify the local superintendent in writing and signed by the parent every year by Sept. 15th or within 2 weeks of school starting or upon pulling them out of school that you PLAN to homeschool, there are no other required information.
  • There are technically required 180 days per year of instruction but the state recognizes that the hours per day of instruction may vary and so they don't really enforce that.
  • There are required subjects and annual testing requirements, but only the parent sees the results.
  • And the parent must meet certain requirements... for example, I am "qualified" because I have more than 45 college credits. You can also qualify by being supervised by a certified teacher, by taking a state certified course in home education, or be approved by the local superintendent.
The only thing that gets my goat is the testing... publicly educated students don't submit to annual standardized testing. I think the standards should be the same for all students regardless of the mode of education. With the way some states operate, it is as if they don't trust parents to be able to educate their children. They NEED Big Brother to make sure they aren't ruining their kids... it is sad. At least in WA. the child's test scores are only given to the parent. The public may not even request them. The only time you have to divulge the scores to anyone is if you put your child into a public school. Also, the scores could go toward proving to a potential college that the student has met academic requirements. However, many many colleges (including HARVARD) have departments designed specifically to test homeschooled students to ensure proper placement.

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