Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homeschooling In America

I came across this article on this blog. Basically, the crux of the article is that Obama does not believe parents should have the choice to homeschool children. I believe that if Obama is elected, he will push legislation to make it very difficult or impossible for parents to educate children in the home. Obama and other democratic nominees have long been in the pockets of the NEA and other teacher's unions. They wish to eliminate school choice, close charter schools, and eliminate home schooing.

This is such a difficult issue for me. I can honestly see both sides of the issue. However, God commands us to "Train up a child in the way he should go." It is a parent's job to decide the best way their children should be educated. For some, this is the public school. For some, private Christian schools. For some charter schools or private schools. For others, homeschooling. My opinion is that we should have the CHOICE. We know what is best for our particular child, not the government.

I have been a member of a teacher's union. My husband is currently a member of a teacher's union. We are aware of the fact that these unions are VEHEMENTLY opposed to school choice and homeschooling. However, we made the choice to be a member of these unions for our own protection (liability insurance). While a member of the union, I was pretty vocal about my political beliefs. We did NOT support the same political candidates that were endorsed by our union. I often called Austin and respectfully expressed my concern about certain candidates that were endorsed. I still do....I did it yesterday.

Now, the other side of the coin. As a school counselor, one of my responsibilities was completing educational testing on students who had been homeschooled and were now enrolling in the public school. I used the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The ITBS is a nationally recognized exam that is nationally normed every three years. It is a thorough test and gives a pretty good indication of a student's knowledge. There are several parts to this test, given over separate periods of time. I used most sections of the test including: Vocabulary, Word Analysis, Language, Reading Comprehension, Math Computation, Math Problem Solving, and Listening Skills. The administration in our school would examine the testing results and we would use it as a guide to determine if the student was academically ready to be placed in a specific grade level.

Here is what I found: Out of HUNDREDS of students that I tested over a period of seven years, there were less than 20 students (that's being generous) who showed an academic readiness for the grade in which they were enrolling. We realize that every student does not have good test-taking skills, especially those who have been in a homeschool situation. So, we often asked the parents to provide evidence and examples of the child's learning. Our thought was if we could see evidence of learning on grade level in their homeschool assignments, we would consider that when deciding to place the child in the age-appropriate grade level. Of all the parents I requested this evidence from, only TWO families were able to deliver. Most parents got very uncomfortable, couldn't answer direct questions about their choice of homeschool curricula and were "unwilling" to let us review the child's work. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the academic learning that was taking place in their homeschool situation was minimal to none.

Another factor to consider is the type of homeschool children I was testing. Most had been in public school previously, left for one reason or another (usually discipline-related), and were now re-enrolling after a couple of years. So, my personal data is much different from what what national data says about the academic success of homeschool children. See this article for evidence of excellent college preparedness in homeschoolers.

I tell you my experience of dealing with homeschooled children to provide a reason why so many educators feel strongly against school choice. It is VERY sad to see children whose parents do not take the God-given responsibility seriously to educate their children. Many of these "homeschooled" children were left at home alone all day while their parents worked, having no supervision at all. However, I DO NOT believe that all parents should be punished because some refuse to take their responsibility seriously.

The laws here in Texas concerning homeschool governance are not restrictive. Parents are not required to provide annual educational evidence of growth to school officials. Homeschool children are not required to take part in the state testing program. However, if school personnel feel that a student is not being served by homeschooling, the district truancy officer has the authority to visit the household and request evidence of education. If the evidence is not satisfactory, the truancy officer can refer the parent(s) to the court for truancy charges. This almost never happens. Our truancy officers are busy enough chasing all the public education students who don't show up for school.

As you can see, the issue of school choice is complex. I can sympathize with educators who feel that all children should be enrolled in a school. They have seen children who have been disserviced by homeschooling over and over again. It is frustrating for teachers to try to re-teach all the concepts that were lost during the student's haitus of "homeschooling."

However, this does not change my opinion that parents should be free to choose homeschooling for their children. I have met so many families over the years in my churches and personal circle of friends that do an excellent job of homeschooling. It is so evident in their children. It is a wonderful way for Christian parents to instill sound and Biblical teaching! There is such a wide array of excellent curricula, homeschool co-ops, and resources for parents. If Obama is elected, I pray that legislation will not be successful that will restrict or eliminate the right of parents to homeschool.


Mrs. Sprinkles said...

Have you made a choice?...Curious minds want to know...

Joanna J. said...

The short answer is that we have not made a choice. A lot of it depends on where we live and if we decide for me to go back to work. If we still live here, she will not attend the local elementary school. I will homeschool. If we can sell our home and move to Todd's new district, we can pick and choose which elementary school would be best for her to attend. Also, if I go back to work as an elementary school counselor, she can attend my school. I like the idea of working on the same campus she attends kindergarten. However, if we are not satisfied with the public school choices, I will look forward to homeschooling her and we will continue to trust God's provision for us living on one income.