“Waiting for Superman

I just finished watching “Waiting for Superman,” the recent documentary about American education, and I find myself frustrated as I think about what I saw.

Not that it wasn’t a good film: it was. It vividly depicted how adults look out for themselves instead of the children they teach, suggesting they are a major stumbling block for educational change. I don’t disagree with that; watching the film made me very glad I homeschooled my kids.

My frustration lies in two areas: first off, the families depicted in the film have put all their faith in public schools. They try to get their children into better schools; those that fail think their children’s futures are doomed. Those that succeed think all their worries are over and their children will be just fine. That faith in schools is misguided, and the fact that they are so sure of this is just plain frustrating to me because I know from experience that you can work with your own child and help them, whether after school or instead of school. So you do have options.

I think of the inner-city single mom I once met who worked as a police officer on the third shift, came home and slept a few hours and then taught her son during the day. She wouldn’t let him out of their apartment without her because their neighborhood was so dangerous. But she was determined to give him an education and keep him out of gangs. She didn’t look to schools to save her son. She took it upon herself. I wish the parents in “Waiting for Superman” would figure this out instead of relying on the school system to save their children.

My other frustration is with the common attitude displayed in the film (and most everywhere else these days) that the only way out of poverty is a college education. How well I know from my research for my latest book that only about 20% of the job openings predicted by the federal government for the next ten years will require a college degree. Telling every child that a college education is their ticket to success is just plain cruel. That myth is perpetuated in this film, and I hate to see that happening. It’s just not fair to children. Yes, some should go to college because they have an aptitude for higher learning and a desire to excel in a career area that requires a college diploma (doctor, lawyer, etc.) But to tell all children they must go? It’s outdated advice that will lead many of them to become overburdened with college debt and unable to find a decent-paying job to help them pay back what they owe.

So if you want to see a movie that will make it clear why you shouldn’t send your child to school, you’ll like this film. Otherwise, it will probably just make you sad….or frustrated like I am right now.

One more thing: while the makers of this film were more than willing to criticize lousy teachers, they also put good teachers on a pedestal. I get so tired of that attitude. Yes, good teachers are important. But so are good cops, and good doctors, and good cooks. A child’s success in life is aided by the influence of many people, not just teachers, and primarily their parents and others who love them. And even children whose parents are not exactly Parents of the Year can be positively influenced by others who are not their schoolteachers. Besides, it’s not that hard to teach kids to read, write and do math if you haven’t put them somewhere (like school) where their inborn desire to learn has been snuffed out.

Schools Step Out Onto the Slippery Slope of Educational Freedom

And so it begins…school districts are finding that they can keep their school year from being extended further into summer by allowing kids to learn online on snow days. And already they’ve discovered that kids like being free to learn online, and parents like seeing what the kids are learning. Isn’t this an interesting turn of events?

Personally, I think they’ve stepped out onto the slippery slope of (dare I say it?) educational freedom. Of course they think they don’t want to be there; note the comment of this parent:

“I think it’s a great tool to have,” said Cameron’s mother, Jane. “Obviously it’s not going to replace going to school. But for situations like this, I think it’s wonderful.”

I think it’s wonderful, too, because once people get a taste of freedom, they want more. I can picture kids being allowed to stay home on Veterans Day as long as they do an online history study assigned by their teacher. How about Valentine’s Day at home? They can exchange virtual valentines on Facebook while finishing their math homework online. I’m sure you can think of other ways kids can learn at home on school “holidays.”

Here’s where the slippery slope comes in: the more kids “do school” online, the more they’ll want to keep doing so. As for the school districts, they’ll soon find all sorts of reasons to let kids learn online because it will save money (most school districts are hurting financially these days) and teachers will be free to supervise from afar.

The increasing numbers of parents who either work from home, work part-time or are unemployed means there will be adult supervision during the day. Once regular days of “school at home” become more prevalent, and everyone gets comfortable with the concept, more families are going to take advantage of full-time virtual learning as offered by the public schools here in Wisconsin and other states. I can picture angry taxpayers eventually insisting that the schools consolidate their physical facilities to reflect the lower numbers of kids showing up, thus lowering costs. As for the kids who are too poor to have a computer or Internet access, the cost could be taken on by the school district for much less than the cost of keeping up all the buildings and staff.

And just think of the teens whose grades will go up because they can do school later in the day, after they’ve had enough sleep, instead of getting up at 6 am!

Yes, this turn of events has real possibilities.

How Much Do You Spend on Homeschooling?

Have you ever added up what you spend to homeschool your children?

I used to, and still do. For the first few years (back in the 1980s), I spent around $500 a year to educate our two eldest children. I was buying books from A Beka back then, which isn’t cheap.

Once I had a few years of homeschooling under my belt, I became more interested in trying a variety of books and curriculum, so my annual expenditure actually went down a few hundred dollars or so. Most of what I did spend went to Rainbow Resource at each year’s homeschool convention; Christian Book Distributors, Miller Pads and Paper and Rod and Staff got a few dollars from us, too.

We spent only a few hundred dollars a year (even after having two more children) until the first year of high school for our eldest, when we signed her up for a correspondence school. We registered her brother for the same program the following year, and that was probably our most expensive year of homeschooling ever: $1000 total.

Before long, we jointly decided that the program involved too much memorization for tests, so we went back to doing our own thing. Since then, I doubt I’ve ever crossed the $300/year mark, no matter how many children I was homeschooling at one time.

I’m going to guess that you spend a similar amount. Am I right?

Whatever you spend, I’ll bet it’s not as much as the figures quoted for private and public education by writer Bill Walker from New Hampshire:

The Well School in Peterborough charges $7,360 for grades 1–4 and $8,800 for grades 5–8. Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton is $12,160 for grades 1–8. Monadnock Waldorf School costs $7800 for all grades. Here’s the fee schedule for St. Joseph Regional in Keene: “Tuition for grades K-8 for Catholics is $3,153, and $4,412 for non-Catholics. There is a 5 percent discount for one-time payment in full, and a discount for multiple children from a family.”

Now that’s private school tuition, and it far exceeds what our family has historically spent on homeschooling each year. But it’s nothing compared to what Walker says the public schools in New Hampshire spend: over $14,000 a year per student.

I have a feeling that far exceeds the most freespending homeschooling family in the country. But if you’re the exception, I’d love to hear where you’re spending all that cash!  🙂

History, Homeschooling and the Internet

I’ve been addicted to reading since I was three years old. I can’t help it, it’s what I do. 

For many years, well into adulthood, I spent several hours each weekend reading the voluminous Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. But it’s now a shadow of its former self, thanks to the Internet, which is where I do most of my reading these days.

I love having such a variety of interesting things to read. Once in a while, however, I hit on something really good, something someone has written that is so spot-on that I just have to share it with others. And have I got something good to share today.

Prolific writer and economic historian Gary North has written an awesome piece entitled “Public Education is Going Down” that clearly explains how the rise of the Internet is slowly killing public education. His theory is that, thanks to the growing availability of knowledge online at an increasingly lower cost, we parents are regaining the educational control that was lost centuries ago:

Home schooling is a throwback to the fifteenth century. It lets parents choose the content and structure of their children’s education. But it goes far beyond anything available then. One size does not fit all: all parents or all children. There is enormous diversity today, and it is getting even more diverse.

Read the entire article for yourself, and be sure to catch his last line. It made me smile  🙂

Homeschoolers Score Above Average on ACT Tests

ACT Inc. has announced that the average homeschooled student taking the ACT scores higher than the national average.

I know that this merely emphasizes what has been shown in previous studies and tests, which is that homeschooled students do better scholastically than public school students in general. But it’s always nice to add to the pile of evidence that homeschooling works.

I wonder how long it will take for the education establishment to admit it?