Saturday, June 13, 2009

Teachers and Home Schooling

I have never understood why my colleagues object to home schooling. It is not as if there are not enough children to go around for us to educate based on the percentage of children being pulled out by parents who wish to teach their children at home. In fact with ever dwindling budgets, larger classrooms, and more demands from parents with fewer resources to meet them, you would think teachers would finally get on board and start supporting the movement. Ignorance is something I will admit to when first approached about the subject. There was nothing to be for or against. Just expressed lack of understanding of what it meant to home school. Once a friend of my husband’s, introduced me to his family and I had a chance to see one family’s approach, I was hooked and have continued to research this method of education. Making it a priority to help parents who make this personal choice has become a great learning opportunity for me.

There are some basic misunderstandings on both sides of the table and I have encountered ignorance in both camps. Let me be clear, ignorance really has no place in education. The idea should be to break through ignorance, to come to acknowledge what you do not know. There is much that both groups do not know or even try to understand about the other. Having one foot in both camps it can be a war zone when you mention that to either side.

However, there are some basic facts that both sides can and should agree on and celebrate. Unlike private schools, we don’t have home schooling families accessing our school bus programs. The research I have done indicates that some states do offer incentives through on-line charter school programs and support programs to allow more parents who want to have their children at home with more structured support do so, but from what I have read that is a small percentage of home schooling families and still a cost savings to the taxpayer.

On-line schools require no physical plant, no support staff, building maintenance, utilities, and other costs that do not go down in a regular school until we shut it. Opening virtual academy options in public settings and encouraging parents to utilize them actually creates smaller class sizes and give more individual class time to those students who are attending the traditional brick and mortar schools. So even for parents who choose the public school home charter method there is still a significant cost savings to the public. The on-line tuition is generally not the equivalent of the brick and mortar per pupil cost.

So what is it that bothers the establishment so much about home schooling? Many worry about the quality of education. Are parents qualified to teach the subjects that they will need to teach students? Well, in the quiet, away from the spotlight, where nobody will quote us, can we truly say that all students are truly getting the individual attention they need with the way we are doing things today? If we look at the actual test results of children, are we kidding ourselves if we believe that a child with access to one on one attention, on-line class resources, time alone to think, to process, time with other focused students who want to learn, will not really have the equal chance to learn that he/she will get in a class of twenty-five kids?

Will some parents be lousy at home schooling and some children fail as a result. Of course they will. Can we not say the same about public and private schools? There will always be people that do a wonderful job, some who do an adequate job, some who get by, and others who fail. The question remains do we punish all for the fear of the worst possible scenarios?

That being said I started with getting my teaching colleagues to back off on home schooling parents but I can not leave without saying that home schoolers can not paint all schools as being evil places of failure without recognizing their biases either. As much as I admire home schooling, I know children and parents that truly do need space from one another to learn. In my family, I have tutored some of them and you learn sometimes a stranger just speaks differently, even using the same words. Sometimes a child just finds pearls of wisdom dropped that you have repeated over and over for their entire lives, said by a stranger they just met in September, and now it is as if the world has opened and the words are all fresh and new. For some families home schooling is the greatest gift of time to learn, the chance to grow as a community of learners, and the opportunity to share a love of learning with your children. There is nothing wrong in a family that chooses another path and realizes that for their child another option is a better option. That is were bias needs to be removed.

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