Saturday, August 23, 2014

So, Educating My Child at Home Does Harm to the Common Good?

A friend posted an article on her Facebook page that I found intriguing.  The article "NC homeschools and abandoning the common good" left me in disbelief.  Ms. Maxwell (author) points out the growing trend of leaving public and even private schooling and turning to homeschooling.  North Carolina's homeschooling numbers are growing by leaps and bounds and she feels that parents would rather care for their own child's education rather than try to change the system.  Thus, they are abandoning the common good.

Now, I have been in the educational system.  I taught approximately 150 students a year and stood in a classroom teaching a variety of children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.  The first few years I taught, I did not have mandated standards to be a slave toward.  I could gauge an interest level in my students and adapt as needed. My classes were rigorous, but were tailored to the need of the student.  I had flexibility to slow down on a topic, go back to previous topic, or change topics as I saw fit.  If one class needed extra practice on genetics problems, we could spend extra time.  If another class caught on and mastered the skill before the other class, we could move on to more complexities for that class.

Three years into teaching, the state finally adopted science standards and decided to create an end of year exam for the courses I taught.  My freedom of tailoring to my students needs started to diminish.  Slowly, I was having to teach solely to the standards and had no more flexibility to slow down and spend extra time on a topic for mastery.  Those that got it, got it.  Those that didn't, had to move on.  I was available for after school tutoring, but few would come.

As the years passed, I noticed that there was an undertone to kids that were struggling.  They were giving up and just going through the motions of being at school.  There wasn't time for them to master a topic and feel good about themselves.  They did just enough to try and make the bare minimum passing rate on a test of for the year.

As a teacher, I tried to explain this to the instructional coach, the department chair, the guidance counselors.  I tried to get the students that needed the extra help to stay after school, but they had jobs or just didn't want to be at school any longer.  Other teachers and I would talk about how education needed reform, but how the system just doesn't want to do it.

I had my own children around this time period.  I told my husband that I didn't want to send them into the school system.  We knew that in our situation, our oldest child may have to attend a few years of schooling.  I knew I had to remain vigilant on her behalf.

She attended kindergarten through third grade.  The first year of school wasn't too bad.  She has always been one to obey and do what she is instructed to do by an adult.  She enjoyed learning and was well ahead of many of her classmates.  The first grade year was okay.  The teacher wasn't bad, but she wasn't great.  I had to reteach many misconceptions taught to her during that year.  Second grade started wonderful, but then the teacher left for maternity leave.  Stress began to kick in with all the testing that was required.  By the end, my innocent, love for learning, child was starting to disappear.  Third grade became worse.  The stakes were high for the teacher.  This was the year that the students took the state exam.  I was amazed at what I thought was being taught.  Then found out it was just being given to memorize and regurgitate back out.  I was in disgust.  My child was having to take AR tests weekly.  Reading became a chore and not fun.  MAP testing was done three times a year.  Unit tests were constantly being given on one topic or another.  Tests, Tests, Tests!  The educational system was out of control and as a teacher and parent, I could not change it.  That is, unless I took complete control and decided to homeschool.

That is exactly what I did.  I was tired of seeing what the system was doing in my own classroom and angry about what it was doing to my child.  Are we rich? No.  Homeschooling is a sacrifice.  Our material wants are placed on the back burner, while our children's needs are meet.  How does this harm the common good?

We are still tax payers.  Our tax money goes to education.  We don't receive a tax incentive or break for homeschooling.  The educational system does not have two extra children to make room for in the overcrowded classroom.  The money that would go to educate my children is now dispersed amongst others.  The teachers don't have to try and individualize my children's needs.  How does this harm the common good?

The author refers to Emily Matchar (author of "Homeward Bound) and quotes Matchar as saying, “Historian Janet Golden observes that we’ve abandoned the idea of communal good in favor of individual, family-focused solutions.” That means “there are fewer people … volunteering to improve the public schools.” She describes it as “opting out” of the social contract.

I don't know about you, but I never signed a social contract.  Fewer people are volunteering to improve public schools because most have caught on that public education does not want to be improved.  Common Core is a prime example!  If more American citizens would read, "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America", they would be astonished of the true intent of the public educational system.  

There are many people with no children in public school trying to get rid of Common Core.  There are rallies and protest.  However, if you ask many public school parents about Common Core, they looked puzzled and haven't a clue what you are talking about.  Some may shrug and state they don't like Common Core and then follow up with a statement, but I have to send them to school anyway.  Do you?  You do have a choice, but it may come with a sacrifice.  Is your child's education and well being worth the sacrifice of that new car or expensive vacation?  You may have to scale back your wants and decide that your child is more important than the 4000 square foot house.  If you can live in a modest house on one income and put your child's education first, would you?  I know how we answered that!

Emily Matchar in her book "Homeward Bound" also states the following, "“Parents with high socioeconomic status – the ones with the greatest social and political clout – advocated for policy changes that ultimately benefited everybody,”  Now, according to Ms. Maxwell this was from the historic context of the Progressive era (1890-1920).  What I am seeing and have researched is that most high socioeconomic families do not send their children to public schools.  They elect to send their children to private schools or have them tutored at home.  They influence their own child's education by picking and choosing how the school or tutor they want.  How is this any different from what homeschooling parents do for their child's education?

The school reform that came in the 1890s and early 1920s called for mandatory attendance.  Basic education for all citizens.  Literacy programs so that all could read and write for their own welfare.  The Prussian education system was set in place and modified to fit the needs of the United States.  The needs of the industrialized workforce.  The sole purpose of mandatory public education is provide a industry with a labor force that can read and calculate to fulfill an entry level position. 

Through the course of 'educational advancement' we have dumbed down the k-12 system and now the colleges are seeing the effects.  Remedial classes in colleges are becoming the norm.  They are having to bring up to speed students that should never have been admitted through their doors.  The greed of the educational system is to convince every parent and child in America, he is nothing without a college diploma. 

Homeschooling families have caught on to this ploy from the education system.  (At least the majority of them.)  The homeschool families that bravely call themselves unschoolers or eclectic homeschoolers are teaching their children to hack their educations.  College is not the means to everything.  Unless your child's passion requires them to obtain a college degree, hack it!  Why does this harm the common good?

In her closing, Ms. Maxwell states, "Such a solipsistic view is detrimental to society as a whole as well as to our individual families. What good is one family without another? One neighborhood without another? One town without another? We need each other. It takes all of us to build a better society."

Trust me, contrary to popular belief the home school community is large and vast.  We do not hide in our homes and keep our children locked away from society.  We have friends that are Christians, Catholics, Atheist, Jewish, etc.  We have friends that are single parents, homosexual, multi-generational, etc.  We volunteer within our communities and come to the aid of others in need within our community.  Our children experience all this without being promised a class party if they do xyz for the community.  They do it because we are teaching them what real adults do in a community and the real reward is found deep inside yourself, not the class party. 

Homeschooling does not harm the common good.  It allows for self thinking and discovery.  It allows children to fit into the real world they are not realistically preparing for in institutionalized education.  This generation of homeschooled children and the next and the next will make a change in the educational system of the United States.  It is because the only way the public educational system is going to really change is to take away its base and that is its children.  We cannot take away the money from taxes, but we can take away our children and send the message that until things change our best option is to school elsewhere.

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