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Sassafrass Grove Logo Homeschool Commentary

----"As I see it..."
Response to TIME Magazine Cover Story - "Seceding From School"...
Homeschooling equals Abuse??...
Why Homeschool? Because Life's Too Short!!...
Social Decay and the Public School System...
Educational Arrogance...
Homeschoolers - "competition", or a valuable resource?...
Public Belligerence - Calvin Abuse...
Age Segregation...
Attachment...
CHART Mural Dedication...
To Bee, or Not to Bee...
Can You Spell "Irony"?...
Perparing for the Real World...
Give Homeschooling Some Academic Thought...
More on Socialization and Behavior...
Homeschooling pros and cons...
Ignoring Homeschool Reality...
Lifelong learning...
Pro HS does not necessarily equal cons PS...
Letter to Oprah...
More thoughts on homeschooling...

Note: Sarah A. McUmber-House is a veteran homeschooler who hosts a website dedicated to helping other homeschoolers find resources and support around the world. She has spoken to continuing education classes for teachers on the subject, and has written numerous comments on the topic, including an article for WomanSpeak Magazine. You can find out more at her website: http://www.angelfire.com/mo/sassafrassgrove/ - or search for "HomeSchool at Sassafrass Grove".

- All opinions expressed here are those of the author, Sarah Ann McUmber-House, and are based soley on her own experiences, observations, research and philosophy. She makes no claims to "know it all", nor to "have all the answers". She offers them humbly for your consideration. You may quote freely if you desire, provided you give credit to the author. You may contact her at mcuhouse@nemonet.com A link back to the Sassafrass Grove site would be appreciated.


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----Response to TIME Magazine article...- 08/21/2001

Time Magazine had a cover article on Home Schooling in its August 27, 2001 issue that really raised some steam with me. Following is my admittedly sarcastic response to it, with some minor editing. (I was so incensed that I sent it off without even spell checking it, LOL!):

Ok, Ok,... I've quit laughing and cursing, and now I'm ready to point out a few glaring aspects of your August article on the world of homeschooling. First, let me thank you for a basically supportively written work. Second, let me thank at least one of the authors for making some excellent points in homeschooling's favor, although they were attempting to point out its shortcomings.

---A telling quote... "The thus far steep growth of home schooling does have limits, as it takes a galactic commitment of time and money and patience for a parent to spend all day, every day, relearning algebra (or getting it for the first time) and then teaching it."

Gee, wouldn't that reflect directly on the problems with the public school system's efficacy?? If these parents are "getting it for the first time" while they teach their own kids, perhaps they, too, are benefitting more from homeschooling than from previously being "in the system".

---"If you spend time with home schoolers, you get a sense that some of them have missed out on whole swaths of childhood; the admirable efforts by their parents to ensure their education and safety sometimes seem to have gone too far. In 1992 psychotherapist Larry Shyers did a study while at the University of Florida in which he closely examined the behavior of 35 home schoolers and 35 public schoolers. He found that home schoolers were generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers. In short, they behaved like miniature adults."

I think the term "civilized people" would have been much more accurate than "miniature adults". Does the writer have a clue that he or she just disproved their original point?? Yes, doggone it, these kids are just too darned civilized!

---"Susanne Allen, 35, a home-schooling mother from Atlanta, claims her children will be "better citizens" because home schooling gives them the opportunity to work together, rather than sitting at individual desks. "They learn to be caring for other people by seeing an older sibling care for them," she says. But will that make them better citizens or just better siblings?"

Is that a rhetorical question, or just abject stupidity? LOL! Better siblings make better citizens. When the author asks, "But will that (working together and learning to care for others) make them better citizens or just better siblings?", I had to laugh. What *is* democracy but the act of living, working, and caring for others, together?

If children are taught fairness, responsibility and the other foundations of good citizenship at home, within the framework of their own families (yes, some people really do have families where this works, even if they are not perfect), then they will be better prepared to take that fairness and responsibility out into the "real" world. They will be better able to participate as good citizens in a working democracy than kids who learn to cheat, slide by, get entertainment from the mistreatment of others, disrespect their parents because everyone else in their class seems to, live according to the latest fashion rather than their own conscience, or learn not to give a ruddy darn.

I do not see a difference between how we learn to treat and live with our siblings and how we learn to treat and live with the rest of the world.

---"One could argue that kids need to get into a certain amount of trouble to learn how to handle temptations and their consequences."

Of course, one could also argue that teaching them how to 'handle temptations and their consequences' is better done at home and *before* they are thrown into the frey.

---"The same blinkered approach can extend to academics. "I make pretty much all the decisions about what to study," says Maren McKee, 15, of Naperville, Ill., who left public school after third grade. "I wasn't interested in math or composition, so I didn't really do it. I liked to dance." But now McKee, who is dyslexic, realizes she will need more than dance steps to get into college. "My mom and I are going to spend this whole year on math and learning to write," she says, perhaps not fully appreciating that both of those skills can take much longer than a year to learn."

On the other hand, she (and her mother) probably *does* realize how difficult it would likely have been for her to learn either one in the public schools, where they still push students to pass with their peers rather than give the one on one time that homeschooling allows. That one-on-one time, and her own motivation, may well enable her to do the very thing the writer fears impossible.

---"The basic function of a liberal education is to expose people to fields they normally wouldn't investigate. Whether you believe the purpose of education is to shape one's character in a democracy or to prepare Johnny for his job, neither is accomplished when kids get to study only what they want."

Really? Hmmm... Homeschooling allows us to expand the the opportunity for our children to pursue a wider variety of interests than the standard public school model allows... so that we can expose them to fields they normally wouldn't have the opportunity to investigate.

---"..."Putting money into home schooling is throwing money down a rathole. You have no idea if that money is being spent properly or children are benefiting."

It would do a bit of justice to repeat the quote with "public schools" in place of "home schooling". Homeschoolers still pay the school taxes, whether they utilize the public schools or not. By the way, no one but the homeschooling families is putting money into homeschooling, and they are producing better results than the public school system on far less per-child monetary investment.

---"On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether public schools can still play a vital role in communities if they become simply another consumer good pushed by market forces and not a common good that transcends them."

This statement would be true whether there were homeschoolers or not, and it is arguable that the public schools have already become so.

Thank you for at least giving some attention to a very viable educational alternative. Too bad you didn't find people who know more about homeschooling to balance it.

An added note: In the online poll, you ask "Is the rise of home schooling a threat to the public school system?". The public school system is it's own threat. Perhaps an equally, or even more astute question would be "Is the public school system's failure threatening the successful education of our children to the point that it is prompting a rise in home schooling?"

Sincerely,
Sarah A. (annie) McUmber-House

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----Homeschooling equals Abuse??...- 08/14/2001

In the news lately, there seems to be an underlying view that homeschool either equals or fosters child abuse. Due to lots of media coverage of some recent horrible events, homeschooling is getting an undue tarnish on its reputation even as many people are just becoming familiar with the term.

The erroneous assumption is that homeschooling somehow caused a Texas mother, in the depths of depression, to drown her 5 small children; or that homeschooling was somehow "to blame" in an Idaho case of children defending themselves, after being deprived of their mother due to her arrest (in what may just turn out to be trumped up charges and a land grab attempt); even that homeschooling was part of the reason three North Carolina teens ended up dead in a murder suicide horror.

It would make just as much sense to blame the mailorder industry for these crimes. I'll wager that each of those households had, at some time, used mailorder to receive something through the postal system rather than attend a public location to buy those items. It could just as easily be argued that there were bruises or other signs of abuse being hidden by such action.

Or maybe it is the clothing industry. After all, it produces a wide variety of long sleeved shirts. OR perhaps the makeup manufacturers. They do sell a lot of cover-up sticks!

The media focus on homeschooling as a "symptom" or "tool" of abuse is absolutely offbase. I suggest we all learn to recognize the difference between a related detail, and a causal detail. Yes, homeschooling is a related detail in these stories, but it is not a causal detail.

Let's get realistic here - The ratio of homeschoolers to public/private school families is exceptionally heavily weighted on the non-homeschooling side.

The recent news stories do represent a scary aspect of humanity - that abusive people tend to isolate themselves and their families. However, inarguably the vast majority of child abuse is occuring in homes where the children are schooled in the "system", and by parents who were schooled in that same system.

Homeschooling is not the real issue. Abuse is, and people who are prone to abuse will naturally seek to isolate themselves, to avoid being found out, and to avoid interference. That doesn't mean that everyone who seeks to avoid public school involvement is either isolationist or abusive.

Homeschooling is not an isolationist movement, but it, like many other things, can be used by isolationists to further their own plans. If those plans are sick, the results will be too. People seeking to isolate themselves may tend to use "KEEP OUT" signs too. That does not mean that everyone who homeschools or uses a "No Trespassing" sign is doing so to isolate themselves from the public and mistreat their children. Although, I suppose we could blame the sign manufacturers as well!

Get real! Homeschoolers are like any other slice of the American (or worldwide) pie... there are going to be some bad apples, but the great majority are good people trying to do the best thing for their children. Not the most attention grabbing headline, I know, but much more honest.

Related articles:
"The Dark Side of Homeschooling"
Questioning the motives of home-schooling parents
JoAnn McGuckin Released on Own Recognizance
Resentment of success by home-schoolers

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----Why Homeschool? Because Life's Too Short!!...- 08/11/2001

I've been doing a lot of research this last couple of weeks. It's not for a paper, a lesson or a unit study. It's for my brother's life. He has a brain tumor - cancer -, and the list of long term (more than 3 years is considered *long*!) survivors of this most common malignant brain tumor is so short you might not need both hands - at least not both thumbs - to count it. Yes, it is terribly depressing, but ultimately life-affirming.

We are all at risk daily. Some of us log more miles in high traffic than we care to count, work with risky substances, live in high crime areas, or have inherited family traditions like high bloodpressure or breast cancer. It is a proven fact that bad things happen to good people as well as those some of us would like to call evil, to rich as well as poor, and to the young as well as old.

I'm gladd that my husband and I have long had the tradition of making sure that we have a good, close, eye-contact hug before either one of us leaves the homestead in a vehicle. We have spent many hours waiting with family and friends in hospitals, driving them to appointments, talking with them at home and doing whatever we mutually enjoy. Even though my inlaws defy all logic and drive me nuts, and certainly don't believe it, I love them - partly just because they somehow managed to produce this wonderful man I had the luck to marry, and partly because I know what they ahve been through. Our children have had to deal with the dire illness and loss of several friends (both young and old), neighbors and family members - too many, really.

What does all this have to do with homeschooling? Everything! Because we've been able to be together so much, through thick and thin, and had such flexible schedules, we've been *able* to be there, emotionally and physically, for our loved ones when they've needed us. And they've been there for us too, let me add. We've enjoyed the freedom to discuss touchy subjects, research illnesses and wellness, and have truly close support.

We get the opportunity to truly know our children, seeing them as they grow, and nurturing their interests like too many parents don't really get enough time to do. We have more opportunity to include extended family in our daily lives. We get to actually take life as it comes to us without the rigid schedule imposed by institutional schooling. We also get the chance to learn early on that life is too short to waste. That is a real blessing.

Don't worry if your child doesn't match the "norms". Worry that no matter how long you have him or her, it will never be long enough.

Remember that love is so much more important than 'things', and the golden rule is absolutely the best one rule for life - a much more important lesson than anything else you can teach.

Love and blessing on you all,
annie

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----Social Decay and the Public School System...- 04/03/2001

"As you have sown, so shall you reap."

The public school system, & the society in general are beginning to see the inevitable results of so many years spent focusing on standardized teaching, & homogenous academics, with absolutely no regard for the effects of mob situations on children. &, undoubtedly, the attendant effects of a definite negative turn in advertizing & popular television, music & movies.

The unifying factor in the rash of recent school shootings seems to be anger the child has built up over being treated rudely by classmates. This should come as no surprise. Every one of us, if we are honest, can recount situations we, or our children, encountered in the schools that put a child at a distinct disadvantage physically & emotionally. That is what makes it so ludicrous when someone brings up the question of "proper socialization" in criticism of homeschoolers. The public schools have not been offering anything resembling "proper" socialization from the start. (for an interesting perspective on this, see the following article: Abolishing High School, and see the Socialization Page on this site)

With a long term average of fewer than one adult's attention to 25 or more children, it is no wonder that mean juvenile behavior has escalated as much or more than civilized behavior. The standard reaction in the schools, since even my own early years, is to punish the person who tells - labeling them "tattle-tales", allowing them to be shunned by other children & even the teachers. This has long given support for improper behavior, bullying & rudeness while condemning honesty. It doesn't get missed by the kids - they pick up the message very quickly - "no matter what the "Golden Rule" says, Nobody is going to protect me. The truth doesn't count! I don't count. Adults say one thing & do another, so I can't trust them either."

Even dismissing all the arguments about the methods, curriculum & testing (& there are many cogent ones), the essential fact is that the schools have not been a positive overall social experience for far too many people over the last several generations. A great deal of this is simply due to overcrowding & inability of teachers to have effective (not necessarily forceful, but behavior improving) control over the childrens' behavior. The children have not *had* to have control over their own behavior. There have been no effective consequences, & the cumulative effect has been to put the "mob mentality" of uncooperative kids in control.

I am *not* advocating a return to the days of belts & yardsticks used as "disciplinary tools". What I am advocating is a return to requiring decent behavior - no bullying, no name calling, no money hustling, no drug dealing, no smoking, so sex, no hazing, no rudeness tolerated against other students or the teachers.

Whose responsibility is this? Initially & primarily, it is the parents who must teach their kids to value right & stand up against wrong. Next, it falls to the teachers, & they are too far outnumbered to be of much use. Then, it falls to the children themselves. If they are taught well at home how to treat others, they have a chance of hanging onto that, but if they are not, they will fall prey very quickly. If they find little or no support for their positive choices, there will be few who can stand up in the face of the ugliness.

Don't think our kids don't see what we do in the world through the news & other media. They cannot help but come to some troubling conclusions as to why we allow so much violence to go unchallenged. We've given tacit approval to ugliness for so long that many people think it is "normal". We even 'celebrate' it in our television & magazines. That is a sad comment on our civilization.

The socialization problem has been brewing for generations, & needs more than our prayers, it needs our actions, & it won't change overnight.

We must teach our kids right from wrong, using the Bible or whatever other tools we choose. We must be willing to stand up against evil, whether it is a bullying child or an abusive adult. We absolutely must set a better example than was set for us.

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----Educational Arrogance...- 3/31/2001

There is one aspect of our human social lives that affects our daily living like no other. Our self esteem, social stature, work prospects, marriages, families and our futures are incredibly influenced, even dependent upon our education. If you have the requisite degree(s), you are a shoe-in, or so we are told. If you do not,... well, "...please don't let the door hit you on your way out, and the nearest Fast-Food-Joint is four blocks South" is a bleak, all-or-nothing view of the future. Contrary to that prediction, many degreed professionals are finding themselves with the carpet yanked out from under them in current business practice.

I may not have a series of impressive initials after my name, but I usually know what they stand for when I see them on others'. Those little letters tell me that their owner spent years working, studying, researching and recording information on their chosen subject (and probably three to four times as long paying for it). It also tells me that I will likely have to pay a lot of money to discuss that topic with them. 8^) What that group of letters, or the absence thereof, doesn't tell you is who the person really is or the sum total of what he or she knows. I am in no way meaning to impugn the value of higher education, mind you, but occasionally, self satisfaction and pride make us arrogant.

Some people wear their heights of education as a badge, decorating their very stationery with letters of prestige, as well-earned trophies of years of commitment to study. We address many by the very title of their highest level of schooling, rather than by their name. Others are more subtle, but still, undeniably deserving of respect. We tend to forget though, that respect is one of those comodities that we can well afford to pass around. There are many intelligent people out there in the 'real world' that deserve more of it than they are getting, and the societal habit of educational arrogance needs to be broken.

Smithsonian Magazine featured an article back in 1997, "Two Cultures - Never The Twain Shall Meet?", which addressed the issue of the usurpation of intellectualism. Since 'intellectualism' means using the mind or intellect in the pursuit of knowledge, I will equate it with education for this talk. The article is actually aimed at getting scientists the same respect that art and literary scholars have as "intellectuals". The point of the hijacking of the term is my focus, as it represents a more insidious division of the social structures.

The article includes a quote from conservative writer Russell Kirk, "'Intellectual' is an ugly word . . . it implies consummate snobbery.", and it goes on to say that "Intellectuals are now to be found only on the campuses of colleges and universities" when they were once also found in the general populace. Citing that long ago, Shakespeare was performed by traveling troupes in even the smallest of towns, and was then known to citizens of all walks, another author accuses the Universities of stealing 'The Bard' and making him inaccessible to those outside the hallowed halls.

I propose that it is not just "intellectualism" that has been stolen, but the whole idea of "education". In our society, it is now assumed that only those who attend a recognized institutional school can be considered educated. This arrogance is not just in regards to higher education, but is held to be true in the earliest grades. Assumptions are dangerous things because they fool us into thinking that we know the truth.

My mother was a well educated woman, as anybody who knew her would enthusiastically aver. She did not go to college, but few would ever have guessed that. She was a thinking individual who was always up for discussing things of importance, whether debating with her minister or participating in community support in one capacity or another. She knew her own mind and was always looking to expand it. In fact, if she were sitting still for more than three minutes, you could bank on a book or a 'good' publication being in her hands. Libraries have always been part of the woodwork in my family, and access to public ones taken full advantage of.

I, myself, have been asked by three different people in my community to join the American Association of University Women. They were each very surprised to find out that my lone semester of college disqualifies me. Had I not gotten distracted by a shade of 'true love', I might have pursued a degree (or two) while I was still young. I may yet do so, but woe betide the person who assumes I'm sitting back stagnating in the mean time. I'm too busy educating myself, and my children, to worry about that.

I have friends who live the 'University Life', where they teach, practice, discuss, tutor, perform and live their subject. It is easy to tell a bit about who they are. They are the rare few, lucky enough to find ways to live what they love. Others find ways to get paid enough to be able to do what they love. Like my friend, the lawyer whose real passion is Civil War History; my husband, the computer data systems degree holder, who has been a student of war history (particularly WWII), and of dinosaurs, since he was knee high to a velociraptor; A dear departed friend who was a fine artist and was exceptionally well versed in Jungian theory, which influenced her official study of the visual arts; and the talented and professional artist who established and runs her own successful advertising agency. Their levels of knowledge on their self-taught subjects are astounding. They too, spend years working, studying, researching and recording information on their chosen subject. However, they don't pay an institution to provide them with an official paper documenting it. Does that make it insignificant? Hardly! Education counts, no matter where you get it.

It is easy to fall into the habit of looking at schools as the sole sources of learning, but important to note that education does not *only* occur in institutions. Particularly in this day and age, with global access to knowledge on the world wide web, the current culmination of centuries of literary work available in libraries, bookstores, and topical magazines, education is available to the masses. Anyone who can read, has an ounce of self motivation and access to information can get an education. The limit to that learning is only their own interest, willingness to seek knowledge, and the arrogance of those who believe they 'own' it.

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----Homeschoolers - "competition", or a valuable resource?- 3/28/2001

In response to the 03/28/2001 article "Paige Warns Districts Of Increased Competition", in Education Week on the Web

I am a little disturbed that Mr. Paige sees us (homeschoolers) as "competition" to be beaten.

Though I know I may not be in the majority here, I don't think education should be based on competition.

I think that the best of current knowledge should be available to whoever seeks it. Schools should not have to compete for funds, students or ratings. If we offer the best, the students will benefit, the communities, the nation, the world will benefit. The whole goal of our entire educational system should be to offer the best available, not just the minimum requirements or what the district will fund. It doesn't all have to come through the crowded halls of the public school system or the hallowed lecture rooms of major universities. If the best is not available in the classrooms, students, whatever age, should be free to seek it elsewhere.

Why should it be true, & believe me, it is, that many children have better success learning at home than in the public school system? Is it because the system is too crowded? Too many teachers who don't love kids? Too underfunded? Too mired in testing? Too oriented to conformity? Too much like a business? Yes to all of the above.

The system is terribly ill. Mr. Paige cites "an inadequate supply of well-trained teachers & a high turnover of top administrators & other school leaders" as major causes of the problems our schools face. What makes that turnover so high? Why are the teachers not well-trained? Why are the leaders in our communities not focusing on the children? Why are we trying so desperately to keep things the way they have been when it is so obvious that the way it has been isn't working?

Ms. Clinton says' "We need an education budget that orders more tests, & gives the money to design & implement them." We do not need more tests! We do not need more regulation, more "accountability", or more enforcement. What we do need is more teachers, more money spent on materials, more freedom to be flexible, & more interest from the public & parents in particular. The standard approach now seems to be to do what little can be done within budget to meet the minimum requirements. Why in the world are we even thinking "minimum" when we are providing for our children - our very future?

Our nation places very high value on funding sports teams. Just look at how much we spend on tickets, paraphenalia & refreshments at the games. We value celebrities, paying out the nose for movie tickets, videos & CDs, & the magazines that talk about them. We value violence & belligerence, in the form of television shows, wrestling events, popular music & video sales, & obscenity-laden bumper stickers & T-shirts. We value new cars, trucks & expensive footwear. We do not value learning. There are not many people getting rich off of the celebration of education. We do not see cancer researchers in revealing clothes on the covers of popular magazines. We do not hear people bidding on stocks to fund educational events. We do not see college professors giving free lectures at the public libraries. Educational television & public radio have to raise their own funds. We see public schools have to beg for funds & frequently get turned down because the public doesn't want to pay any more in taxes, though it would be less than they spend in cigarettes & beer. We are a nation in a sad state indeed.

Yes, hire those 100,000 new teachers. Better yet, make it 200,000. Reduce class sizes, a lot! Do help districts cover the costs of school construction and repairs. Those are absolutely necesssary steps. Then, instead of asking the failing system how to fix itself, perhaps it might be better to ask the homeschoolers, "What is it you are doing that makes you so successful? Teach us your secrets."

It's because we give a hoot about the child in front of us, not the money, or prestige, or rating to be gained. We know better than to hang on to some established status quo that has long since been proven useless. We know how to look at an individual student, and we have the time to do so because we aren't saddled with 30 of them at a time. We know that learning "dis"abilities are really just different abilities, and have the time and interest to find new ways to reach, deal with and help them. We know how to ask one another how to do things rather than bull our way through. We know how to see a child, not a statistic. We know how to listen to what a child is telling us, and again, we have the time to do so. We don't see a child telling the truth as being a "tattle-tale" to be ostracized. We know that children will learn if given the opportunity and the tools, if they are not belittled and made to feel stupid and useless. We know that rote memorization and testing are not the be-all and end-all of education. Most important of all - We know, and value our children.

Sarah A. McUmber-House

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----Public Belligerence - Calvin Abuse... - 3/24/2001

I happen to be a "Calvin and Hobbs" fan. Calvin has always represented the imp in childhood. Though he more than occaisionally crosses the 'brat' line, he is really a decent kid. Now-a-days, Calvin is being pushed over that 'brat' line, in fact, shoved over the 'really rude and belligerant' line, and I object!

I don't mind bumper stickers that declare someone's poitical views, or even their religious bent, if they do so decently. What I do object to is the recent flood of 'in-your-face' stickers: bumpers or windows "decorated" with rude, lacivious, downright face-smacking commentary that shouts things like, "I drive this kind of vehicle and you don't, so you stink!", only in much more obnoxious terms, and frequently featuring Calvin urinating or defecating on the "opposition's" logo.

Now, I'm no prude, and even I must admit to occaisionally sinking into a little of that sort verbage myself, when pushed to the brink, but this is getting ridiculous. Freedom of speech is one thing, but throwing manure in people's faces is another. Sure, I could just avoid reading these things, and teach my children to avoid looking at the other people in this world, but doesn't that rather defeat the whole purpose of society? (And of good driving, but that's another story!) - that is, if you care a fig about the society you live in. I still do.

When did a neighbor who drives a different brand of vehicle become "the enemy"? What sense does it make to virtually punch people you don't even know? When did it become acceptable for our kids (some of whom are quite grown up now, physically, at least) to shout rude things at and threaten other people? When did showing our dirty derrieres in public become something to be proud of? Oh, yes, I remember now. I think it was about third grade when I was a kid - it's probably in kindergarten now. Too bad so many people never grow out of it.

My oldest thinks that Calvin's owner should sue the heck out of everyone who abuses his copyright. By Jove! I think she's got it! I suppose *this* is the "real world" people keep telling me I'm not preparing my kids for by schooling them at home. Shame on me.

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----Age Segregation... - 8/26/2000

A friend was telling me about her 12yo son being kept from participating in a science group because he did not match the age requirement. It was for 14-16 year olds. He had been doing the same work as the older kids, the group met to pursue science, not specifically teenage-related things, so , "Why?" To tell a child they dont't fit in because they are ...what...? Too smart for their age? Sheesh... I think we know where that comes from!

IMHO, we've become too steeped in the age segregation thing, and it is mostly due to the "need" to seperate kids at the beginning of public schooling.

Consider the difference between a child who is allowed to enter kindergarten this year because her birthday falls in the last week of the suggested time-frame and the neighbor boy who is put off till next year because he was born two weeks after... it makes a year of difference in their public school carreer, but was only three weeks difference in their actual ages... not a realistic distinction.... but ..."we have to draw the line *somewhere*..."

Now, consider the differences between your own children. If you have more than one, you know that they rarely do things on exactly the same schedule, walking, talking, using full sentences, reading, riding a bike... why should they have to match exactly any other kid at the same age, let alone a group of 25 or more?

Unfortunately, our society tends to accept segregation, be it age, race, physical, religious or other, as a "norm"... there is far more to the individual than any narrow definition that can be placed on him or her, and we each deserve the chance to pursue learning according to our own interest and ability, not just the stereotype or misunderstanding of someone else. We are not a "one-size-fits-all" society, why should we settle for a "one-size-fits-all" educational system, which, even at its best, is not successful for everybody, and at its worst is a perpetuation of stress and despair that is not appropriate for anyone.

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----Attachment... - 7/28/2000

"Do you really believe it is healthy for you to have your life revolve around your kids?"

It's not only healthy and natural, it's *important*...IF you are able to see attachment as a positive thing.

I had my kids because I wanted to make them my priority for the duration of their need... (yes, sometimes I *do* doubt my sanity, but not very often...LOL!)

I see their attachment (and so does their dad) to Mom as a very good thing. That's why babies don't grow up even faster, *and* why I don't send them off to someone else for their day-to-day education. Personally (I know that not everyone agrees, and this is *my* opinion), raising my kids *is* what I'm doing for myself. I take time to do the webpages and some art, and my DH and I *do* spend some private time together, but they are my main focus, and I think that's how it should be -I'm their mother... it's part of the job description in my book.

I regret that I didn't figure out a healthy way to live my life earlier in my career as a woman, but I can think of nothing worth more as a contribution for me to make to the world than the healthy, inquisitive, loving, generous and honest people I am raising. The world needs lots more of them.

No piece of artwork I could ever produce, no lines of poetry, no exquisitly tastey dish, no movie I could ever see or class I could take will mean more in the long run. Of course, that does not *exclude* my doing art, writing, cooking for fun, going to movies or taking classes, just that for me, they come *after* the kids.

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----CHART Mural Dedication... 6/25/2000

Click Here for the text of the speech given at the dedication of The CHART Mural Project in Hannibal, Missouri. - (While not actually HomeSchool in focus, definitely a parenting and teen topic.)

----To Bee, or Not To Bee... - 6/08/2000

My kids aren't into spelling bees, geography bees, quilting bees, or even honey bees. In fact, if it looks or sounds like schoolwork or homework, you're likely to hear the usual groans. That's O.K. with me. I do not enjoy the competitive stuff or the hours upon hours upon hours spent at such events. Dance recitals drain me, horse shows wear me out, and art competitions leave me questioning the value of judging others' creative merit, so I'm not the least disappointed that my kids don't go in for that sort of activity. What they are into though, is pretty amazing stuff.

My oldest already knows at fourteen that she wants to work with animals. Goodness knows she's already had some experience, what with the varying population of beasties we always seem to have - from hedgehogs to horses. She just got back her score on the first mail-in quiz in her correspondance course for animal care - an "A". I'm very proud, and not at all surprised. She was recognized at age ten by the area conservation workers as "Lydia the environmentalist" because she knew so much about the animals and environment they were exploring in the summer program. Our minister's dog was having some trouble the other day, at an after service reception, and she confidently examined the animal's condition, looked at its gums and correctly identified the seizure.

My middle child, at twelve, is teaching himself how to animate images on his computer. He is learning programming and troubleshooting, which comes in very handy for the rest of us when our computers remind us that they are merely electronic devices and not thinking machines. He would very much like to work for LEGO, though he is reconsidering this since he became concerned about the affordability of such things for the average kid. He is coming to grips with the fact that, wonderful as they are, they are exhorbitantly priced, and he would prefer to do something all kids can participate in.

My youngest is seven, and still preoccupied with playing horses, or unicorns, or pegasuses, or whatever the focus of the day. She just made a joke about the red sea when we were using a piece of red plastic to represent the water in our game. I think that when a seven year old refers to the red sea, it is a pretty fair indication that she is doing a lot more in her young life than just playing. She is busy designing her own costume right now for "some creature" (I trust it will be vegetarian), setting up a tea party, and has picked out the next volume of "the Babysitters' Club" for us to read together. She is quite sure she will be an artist, probably also a musician and possibly a dancer. I'm still hoping to avoid recitals, but I will encourage her in all those areas.

My kids are getting their education at home rather than in a school setting. They are finding that whatever they want to do, it is likely to involve some level of expertise in math, and certainly a good command of the English language. The fact that they are getting these things outside the structure of a public school seems to worry some folks. I must confess, I'm not one of them.

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----Can You Spell "Irony"? - 6/08/2000

Irony - (noun) 'I-r&-nE also 'I(-&)r-nE, Latin ironia, from Greek eirOnia, from eirOn dissembler, -

I have to wonder how many of the 'sour-graping' critics of homeschooling who surfaced with such strong opinions after the recent sweep of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, can spell, define, or even recognize irony when confronted by it. For irony it surely is when one questions the value of an educational approach that allows children the time and encouragement to learn and excel in such endeavors as recognizing the language of origin and the probable spelling of such words as "demarche", or "euonym", let alone know the meaning.

When a child takes on a challenge, whether it is learning to ride a bicycle free-style or to correctly spell more words than her neighbors, it is a wonderful thing. Whether they choose to become musicians, writers, or free-throw artists, they are usually celebrated. How ironic then, that many people are up in arms about the accomplishments of children who just happen to hone their talents while schooled at home. When the winners turn out to be homeschoolers, the celebration dims considerably, and movement begins to make things more difficult for them to enter in the future.

You would think that we were talking about using steroids, false 'amateur' status, and government funding to pump up the muscles on these competitors. What 'unfair' advantage do these kids have? Their parents. Yup, their parents have taken the time and made the commitment to help the kids focus and study the subjects of their choice. "How dare they!? If these kids were in the public schools, they wouldn't have the time to study so hard and learn so much! It just isn't fair!" Oh, there's that irony thing again.

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----Preparing to Work in the Real World - 6/2000

Many critics of homeschooling cite 'preparedness for the real world' as an arguement for putting kids into the public school system. They seem to imply that the 'real' world relies on workers being cooped up with people of their own age group and educational level. I'm not sure that has ever really been true, but today, the 'real world' is even more removed from that scenario than ever.

Many people choose to work from their own homes, and the advent of the internet has made that more than a dream for many. Instant communication allows people to fulfil their obligations to their jobs without ever leaving the comfort of their own homes. They can work until 3am if they wish or attend a meeting of the board while nursing an infant. How sensible it seems that many people choose home for education as well.

The world-wide-web has made many barriers drop. Any topic you have an interest in can probably be found on the net. Experts share their knowledge freely and in-depth studies are enabled in many areas. Schooling no longer requires a rigid schedule either. An onsite teacher or a class of 30 is no longer the rule. The compass of education has expanded exponentially, and students across the world have benefitted, in public and private schools, and in their own homes. The accessibility of knowledge has never been higher. Now children and families have more choices than ever in preparing for the 'real world'.

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----Give Homeschooling Some Academic Thought 5/2000

Homeschooling must really be something. Oprah has touched on it, Excite had a poll on the internet about it, and even President Clinton mentioned it in recent speeches! What that "something" is, seems to be unclear to a lot of folks.

Many have the idea that Homeschoolers are a bunch of religious fanatics sheltering their children from all input but that of the bible. "'tain't so!" Though there are those who fit that description, they are by no means the only ones, and are quite likely in the minority of homeschoolers now.

Recent estimates of the growing number taking full responsibility for the rearing and education of their own children puts the number at anywhere from 1.7 to 2 million, and not all are doing so for religious reasons. The diversity is amazing - religious views vary from fundamentalist Christians, to Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Unitarians, athiests, and every flavor in between; with families from single as well as two parent households; with financial range from welfare qualified to high income - the full gamut! The styles are just as varied: 'school at home', 'relaxed homeschooling', 'unschooling' and more.

For most, it's not a 'trend', a 'movement', a 'political statement', or a direct comment on the public school system, and certainly not a slap in the face to teachers. It is simply a parenting choice that many see as highly advantageous for the whole family and the child in particular.

Certainly some are rescuing their child from untenable situations in the schools (verbal and/or physical abuse by peers or teachers; inability to get one-on-one attention needed; health problems; mobile lifestyle; anything making it more difficult to work within the confines of the situation). Others are indeed trying to shield their youngsters from some influences. Some of these seem rather paranoid to those who disagree, but there are plenty of hard to deny negative influences in far too many schools (drug availability, violence, extreme peer pressure, early sexual activity, mob mentality, and other anti-social behavior being touted as 'proper socialization') that certainly should trigger some caution in all parents, and in the whole educational system.

Far more are making this choice as a way to keep the family unit intact, have a firmer influence over the daily activities of their minor children and to ensure that their kids have every opportunity to excell in the world. It is not a task taken on lightly. The committment is strong, and the results are beginning to make themselves clear: homeschoolers excell academically.

Just a couple of examples available on the internet:

Post-Gazette: Online charts: PA homeschoolers score well on 1999 SATs

Homeschooled students take unorthodox route to become top college candidates

The Hoover Institute: How Home School Will Change Public Education

Although the idea still sounds new and foreign to many, it has been around forever. The current practice has its 'official' origins in the 1970s work of the late John Holt. Volumes have been written by Holt and others about the educational needs, styles and abilities of children, and all point to the same conclusion. Education conscious studies have shown repeatedly that when parents get involved with their child's schooling, the child thrives as never before. We are just taking that a logical step further.

The public school system was originally set up to fulfill a need. Some would say that need was for the opportunity of every child to have access to education, while others would argue that that need was for dull witted factory workers. Whatever the historical/political motives may have been, it is a need that many people feel that they can meet more than adequately at home. With the advent of the internet, the wide availability of public libraries and boundless curiosity, many children and their families are finding it true.

"School is wherever the learning happens!"

The most often posed argument is "What about 'socialization'!?" Sounds like a good question - and if you ask most homeschooled families, you will find (after they stop laughing) a long list of activities, events and groups they are actively involved in that include people of all ages, diverse backgrounds and varied focus. Perhaps the question should be, "Is the 'socialization' kids receive in the public schools actually positive?"

It is the opinion of many that the current state of our society is at a woeful low due to the demise of the family unit. There are many reasons, including increased mobility, job scarcity, etc., but many think that at least part of the problem is that we started thinking that owning things was more important than taking responsibility for our own children's wellbeing. It became the norm to send them off to someone else for most of their waking hours for play and learning so we could add income that seemed so necessary to "living the good life". Some of us have found ourselves re-evaluating just what "the good life" is, and deciding that family and the true happiness of our children is the very foundation of our good lives. Many families find that they have to make some genuine sacrifices to manage to afford the supplies, books, tools, curriculum, and other expenses, but believe that the benefits far outweigh the losses that giving up a second income necessitate.

Despite the hard to pin down definition of homeschooling, there really is "something" to it: a viable choice for education that can be very successfull.

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----More on Socialization and Behavior

While discussing differences between public school and homeschool socialization, several people pointed out that verbal abuse is an aspect of the "real world" that kids at public schools get to "learn to deal with". Certainly the "real world" has plenty of verbal abuse and rude treatment, but consider the difference in scenarios between a public school playground with say, an average of 75 kids on it and possibly 5 teachers - vs the homeschooled children who have their siblings and neighbors to deal with in a better ratio.

The teachers on the PS playground cannot possibly be on top of all activity all the time, and children, especially the elementary grades, can get into a pack mentality ever so quickly. Damage done. The homeschooled kids we have interaction with have an average ratio more like four kids to one adult and the behavior is usually monitored in a much more immediate way. Damage caught and dealt with before it goes too far...or, more likely, such abusive activity doesn't even come up....and not because the kids are all one color, religion or ethnic group, but because the rude behavior is not tolerated by the group. Even if an individual parent isn't keeping tabs on their own, most homeschoolers in a group take on some of the responsibility for the other kids as well.

Personally, I'd rather my child learned that it is wrong to treat others that way or to be treated that way and see examples of adults stopping that behavior, rather than being taught that it is "just part of life". It is not in my family, nor in the circle of friends that I choose.

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----Homeschooling Pros & Cons

While waiting for my son at the orthodontist's today (and reading the Unschooling Handbook in the waiting room) I was listening to two women talk about their kids and school...one is an elementary teacher, the other the mother of a college student she 'guided' toward seeking a teaching degree, and of a young boy who is not as active a participant in school as his sisters had been. She had chosen to keep him in a local private school because he would be 1 of 12 students in his class there as opposed to 1 of 24 in the public school.

The teacher was commenting on how she was dissapointed in the local system for skewing the stats to represent a higher teacher to student ratio than is actually occurring, and how the kids suffer from being in classes of 20 or more, even with parental involvement. The other mother was saying how lucky her daughter had been to have the first one for her teacher. The topic of the daughter becoming a teacher came up, and how good it would be for her to teach, since she is so good with children, etc....I interjected that it would be good to add more good teachers to the pool, and how sad it is that the 'authorities' recognise the importance of presenting the appearance of better teacher/student ratios, but not that of actually providing it. Both mothers agreed. Then I said that I homeschool. The teacher said that a few years ago, she would have opposed homeschool, or private school, but that now she has even considered homeschooling herself.

Another woman came in and was greeted and identified as a recently retired teacher. She said she had been teaching for 41 years. They disscussed the preparations for the upcoming year, who was teaching where, what favorite students were doing now, etc. After the other two mothers left, I asked the retired teacher what she considered the most positive change she had seen in her 40 some years of teaching. She did not answer right away, and I said, "If there were positive changes..." and she started to talk about the changes in "society" - television, shopping centers, language, etc., that had affected the quality of education....none of her statements lead me to believe that she considered any of these to be very positive influences.

I am so glad that I have the freedom to teach my own children.

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----Ignoring Homeschool Reality

While discussing homeschooling's worth on one of the many venues, someone said, "It is based upon generalizations which ignore much of the great work done by teachers in public schools." My reply: "I would have to say that your judgement of homeschooling is the same: It ignores parents that teach their own children who are not able to attend private schools. It ignores parents that fill in the void for children whose public school teachers have been unable to do the great job of schooling that some here are able to do. It ignores parents who have children who do not fit the mold that public schooling so often requires students to fill. It ignores the parents who use new and creative methods to teach children. It ignores the parents who are educated enough to have a good idea what they are doing. It ignores the parents who are doing a great job bringing up exceptional children who are getting into the colleges of their choice...with scholarships...It ignores the parents who have done this for years and have access to and share vast resources....yes, in home schools."

"It's easier to write off the efforts of those who believe that attempting to fix the public school system with continued patience and success stories risks their own children's educational success. We *do* actually recognize that public schools still serve a desperately needed function, despite their numerous imperfections. We just don't want our children to be lost in the shuffle or damaged by the not so perfect system that we have to deal with while we work for and wait for the needed changes."

"I just find it fascinating that it's so easy to write off home schooling based upon it's imperfections. I should be glad that that attitude isn't taken with everything else."

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----Lifelong Learning 5/2000

Necessity is the mother of...lifelong learning!

Although I was not homeschooled, a great deal of my learning happened at home during my school years, and so much more-so after.

Out of necessity (earning money), I learned to run a printing press, set type, do layout work, landscaping, wait tables (everyone should have to just for the experience), fit shoes, cut rubylith, take appointments, become more diplomatic, keep charts, give respiratory treatments, draw arterial blood, resuscitate people, pour and trim dental models, fashion dental retainers, and a whole lot more (and to identify the traits of ADD, LOL!). When I had to get somewhere quickly and the only car available to me was a friends' VW bug, I learned to drive a stick shift. When my ancient truck broke down, and I couldn't afford to pay someone else to repair it (money, again), I learned how to locate parts, how to barter, how to change a starter, how to adjust hinges, hammer out dents, replace brakes, mend wiring, change a headlight, adjust the lifters, change the oil, adjust the linkage, and lots more. Also out of necessity (needing a roof over our heads and having no large amounts of money), I learned how to float concrete, frame a house, use all manner of power tools, take a shower with only two gallons of water, do plumbing (yay!), hang windows, siding, roofing, hang drywall, plumb a door, build and use composting toilets (don't shudder, they're great!), run electrical wiring, cut firewood, dig ditches, garden, etc.

When I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that my kids are going to learn what they need. I've set them up with good reading skills, good examples, knowledge of where to go to find things out, how to ask questions, and no fear of getting their hands dirty. Although right now they prefer to "ask Mom or Dad!", there will come a time when they realize *they* have the tools, and there will be no stopping them either.

Now that I have another ancient truck, I'll be dredging up old knowledge, checking books, asking questions again, and have three young mechanical assistants at hand.

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----'Pro' homeschool does not necessarily equal 'con' public school (long)

The PROs of homeschooling in my life are not necessarily examples of the CONs of public school. Just because I choose to homeschool does not mean that I think everyone should, could or would. It is one alternative in education. It does not mean that I think it is the best one for everybody or the only one that should be available. It most assuredly does not mean that I think public school is bad and should be abolished, or that it is not good for anybody. It simply means that I choose to teach my own children.

Some argue that we are isolating our kids from the 'real' world - "as a way of controlling the environment". I would say it is a way of controlling how they will initially interact with that environment, and how that environment's influence will be nurtured or countereacted. It fits our lifestyle. It reflects our views. It makes my children, my husband and myself happy.

Although we have always homeschooled our kids, a couple of years ago we suddenly ended up caring for a short-term neighbor's children for ten months. They loved school because it was the one thing in their lives they could count on. For them, school was indeed a haven. They knew who would be there, who the adult in their lives that day would be, who the teacher would be, that they had friends they could be with for a few fleeting moments of their otherwise scary lives. I met their teachers, worked with the secretary and principal to ensure that these two very smart, creative and damaged children could keep that stability for as long as possible. I know that helped them. At the same time, it gave us a very real first-hand look at the local school system. Most of the teachers are loving, and appear to be adequately qualified for their jobs, but they are overworked, stressed and the district is underfunded. Many of the children are not models for a perfect world, and their influence/interference with the other children does take up a lot of the teachers' energy.

From the interaction with these children and attendance at quite a few school events, my oldest child, who thought she really did want to try public school, dramatically changed her mind. My other two have always said they didn't want to quit homeschooling, and became all the more adamant about it. The environment they encountered there was not one they wanted to participate in - their choice.

This may sound contrary to what you think about homeschoolers, since the fudamentalists have a bit of a corner on the "publicity" as homeschoolers, but there are vast numbers of people doing it for reasons other than religion. We do not keep our kids confined or isolated from the world - rather, we expose them, (and here is the key point, I think:) with our guidance, to a broader view of the world than they would be likely to get in the public schools. Certainly there are many who have had a bad public school experience which lead to homeschooling. It is a viable alternative to those times when the child, parents and the school do not find a way to work together successfully - whatever the reason. Many others have chosen to do so just because it works for them.

One thing that I do find troubling is that in the current standard, young children are removed from the home for many hours a day to be in the company of many peers and few adults. I do see this as potentially destructive to the unity of the family. I do not think that the schools are the basic problem in the decay of the family. However, the destruction of the family unit is made easier when people who are inclined to, can choose to just ignore their responsibility for their children and place it upon the backs of the schools. (There is no hidden definition here...these people come from all walks of life.) Notice that I said "who are inclined to" - that is not an assumption that if you send your children to public school you are necessarily shirking your duties as a good parent.

I can tell from the family dynamics in my own home, and those I have observed in many families over the years, that when the oldest child first goes off to school or some other away-from-the-family activity, the younger ones often suffer more separation anxiety than you would suppose - Now they have more time with Mom, less sibling competition, etc., but they really miss having the other child very much. If there is a good relationship between the children they suffer from the loss. Of course, you can argue that they suffer the same sort of anxiety when one or the other, or both of the parents go to work. Precisely, and it may not be all that beneficial to the kids to have that stress doubled. Incidently, this is why we operate our business from our home. DH is able to see the kids a lot more this way than he would be at an office or store outside the home. He works untold hours, but he is often here, where they can come in and see him, ask him questions or just sit near their father when they need to. Our choice. Our opportunity. I know it is not be viable for everyone.

I feel that our current "western civilization" version of society tends to undervalue children. (I am not versed in the status of minors in other cultures) Certainly, children are not what teenagers are seeking when they enter into sex (I'm being optimistic, here, and avoiding the fact that many aren't even teens yet), and children are not what most adults choose first when faced with a "good" television show versus a half-hour of activity with their child. The fact that my DH and I value our children's presence in our lives to the point where we would even choose to take on the awsome task of directing their education seems to send some people into near hysterics. They cannot fathom how we could actually be sane and still want to have our children's company when we could ship them off to G'ma's or have so much more time to do what we "want" by sending them off to public school. We have never been the sort of parents who seek to get rid of the kids so that we can go off and do what we want. We usually find that what we want to do can easily be tailored to include the kids. Why would I want to keep an exciting experience that is not inappropriate for children, from the kids I most want to give the world to? Far from being isolated, my kids get a very wide spectrum of experience in the company of the two adults whom I most trust to give them guidance - my DH and Me. They also get plenty of input from other kids and adults. I know that some HSers are more isolated than I think they should be, but certainly it is not a universal truth.

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----Response to Oprah's short segment on Homeschooling 4/2000

Unfortunately, I missed the show with the letters to Oprah segment on homeschooling (we were studying Egypt, and got so caught up in reading that the time escaped us). I couldn't miss the aftermath on the homeschooling web boards though. Wow! It seems that there was some contempt in the audience, 'expert' and the young education student.

I certainly hope that Oprah will have a full show about it in the future, although even that will barely be time to scratch the surface of a wonderful, life affirming, family healing, full fledged movement.

Since our society has gotten so entrenched in the 'send them off to someone else to take care of' routine that we hardly even recognise them when they come home (*if* they come home), it is doubtful that we will be able to escape the PS vs HS debate. There is so much animosity from some of the public school systems in response to the loss of student numbers, and the perceived 'slap in the face' to teachers, that laws are in the works that may indeed threaten homeschoolers' freedom to take this personal educational option. It needn't be this way.

I still gladly pay my school taxes, though I would dearly love to be able to deduct the costs of schooling supplies, books, courses, etc. that we have to buy ourselves from my income taxes. I even do some volunteer work at the local elementary school although none of my children have, or will, attend. I don't think teachers are no good, I just think that I can do this with my own children and keep our family close and functional.

Undeniably, there are plenty of 'horror stories' as regards the public school system, and assuredly there are some in the homeschooling closets as well, but, personally, I would prefer to see it treated more as a parenting option rather than as a Public School vs HomeSchool debate. The 'us vs them' approach is tiresome, and really doesn't get to what, for me, is the real issue - Can the family unit be maintained and some of the damage to our society be repaired by a change in parenting practice that allows for parents to take full responsibility for the rearing and educating of their own children? Obviously, it can, and homeschooling is certainly a positive portion of that change.

The socialization question is hairy place to start, but gives a good picture of what many are doing this for. Even when you set aside the 'horror stories' from previous public school experiences, and just look at what the children are like, you see that homeschooling has a wonderful effect. On one of the webpages that has bulletin boards for homeschoolers, someone recently asked if those who were homeschooling had experienced any easing of the transition into the teen years. The responses were fast, numerous and all a resounding "Yes!".

It doesn't matter what religion you are, what ethnic group you are in, or what region of the country you inhabit. If you take responsiblitly for your children's behavior and for maintaining their safety, you will make the world a better place. That's really all I want to do.

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----Thoughts on Homeschooling

I've been homeschooling my kids for over a dozen years - (it depends on when you think learning starts - before or after birth). We've evolved from a set schedule and specific number of worksheets approach to very loose, eclectic, "life is learning" philosophy. We do a lot, but do not worry much about just how we stack up to the local school/grade levels. There are some subjects where they would come up behind, but several where they would far outstrip their age peers. My husband and I figure that if they are happy, and know how to find the information they need, they are doing far better than many people today. We encourage them to pursue their dreams.

It is good to network with others, but not always easily done. We don't participate in the local HS support group because of religious differences, but I have maintained a website (http://www.angelfire.com/mo/sassafrassgrove/) for homeschoolers for several years where I share all the links I've used and ideas etcetera for any other homeschoolers to use.

Many people homeschool on the basis of preserving their religious beliefs, and, like them, we do like having more control over the influences that will affect our children's spiritual developement. Although some prefer to limit the ideas available to their youngsters, others choose to provide a broad base of knowledge for their children to make their own decisions from. We have found that homeschoolers run the full gamut - from fundamentalist Christian all the way to athiests, and many flavors in between. It seems that we have much more in common than many would think.

My initial introduction to homeschooling was when a young mother of 5 year-old twins brought them in to the place I worked and asked for a tour. I found the idea intriguing - parents taking full responsibility for the raising of their children.

Homeschooling offers unlimited opportunities to those who are willing to work at it. There is so much information available on the internet and in the public libraries, that you can cover almost any ground you choose. Being able to follow your child's interests and fit the schedule to their abilities makes it particularly helpful to those who have children with learning disabilities, or who are gifted.

It is interesting that the current model for public schools is called "traditional". In actuality, the "modern" method of putting all one age group in one class for schooling is hardly tradition. The "one room schoolhouse" would be more fittingly described that way, and that is more what homeschooling is - All ages, from kindergarten to ready-for-college working together. The older kids help the younger ones with their lessons, reinforcing their own understanding, and everyone gets to participate in each subject to their own ability. Public schools came about to offer a minimum of schooling to 'everyman', but that does not negate the value of parents teaching their own children. Many extraordinary people were schooled at home or even self-taught.

This is not a "new" thing. History has shown that children who are encouraged to read and to pursue their dreams, excell no matter where they are taught. I believe it will also show that the more parents are involved in the education of their children, the better our world will be for it. If my children were in the public schools, I would certainly be involved there, but, luckily, I have the patience, resourcefulness and committment to do it at home.

There are many social issues that prompt families to opt for this choice as well. There is a lot of questioning of the ability of our children to function in the "real world" since they are so "isolated" by being schooled at home. But just how positive is the socialization kids receive in the public school system today? It is not a mirror of "real life" as many seem to think. How many people work only with people of their own age? How many parents want their children to get more input on dangerous subjects from their equally ignorant (or, perhaps worse, more experienced) peers than from the parents themselves? How many parents really want their children to be essentially unsupervised through much of their formative years? How often do you hear a parent say, "Oh, how wonderful, the latest fashions are so affordable!" If your child happens to have a learning disorder, the social ramifications can be staggering. Then, on an even more serious side, how many parents really feel that their children are safe in the schools today? What message does it send our kids when they have to go through metal detectors or pack searches on their way into a building that is supposed to be the center of their learning?

Certainly, in some areas, children are encouraged to think for themselves, but in far too many schools, it is fit the current chosen stereotype or else...with the "else" being anything from simple rejection to out and out violent treatment. What would it be like if parents took more of the responsibility for the rearing of their own children? What if they were actually around for most of their child's questions and experiences during these especially important young years? What if they took it upon themselves to see to it that their children got to follow their dreams?

Many times we meet people who just don't seem to understand how we can "do this" to our children, but I think we are doing something wonderful.

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