Run, Don’t Walk, Away from Public Schools

I’ve been accused of being negative about public school. It’s true, I’m guilty. When I was an inmate, er student, in the public schools, I thought it was a big waste of time. When I became a parent, I chose to homeschool my kids instead of putting them on the big yellow bus with the neighbor kids.

Public school was bad enough back then, but look at it now. Teachers complain that the students don’t listen to them because they’re allowed to be on their phones in class. Public school grads arrive at college unable to read at grade level or write a coherent paragraph. Meanwhile, political correctness and political bias run rampant.

Just recently, a Boston public school allowed a tombstone with the name of President Donald Trump at a school-sponsored Halloween event. On the other coast, a California school sponsored a scarecrow contest where one of the scarecrows was clearly meant to represent President Trump. This would never have been allowed in the schools I went to, as flawed as they were.

Of course, these specific behaviors, while condoned by the schools, are the fault of parents. But the schools allowed their behavior instead of forbidding it. While the institution of public schooling itself is one giant mistake, some of the families involved in the public schools are also problematic. How else can you explain parents who send their children to their local public library’s Drag Queen Story Time?

Run, don’t walk, away from the public schools (read John Taylor Gatto’s books for encouragement). If you’re not up for homeschooling, find a good private school. Don’t sentence your child to years in a failing system.

 

Child vs. Lesson Plan

My youngest nephew is seven, and a very bright child. He loves science, and keeps busy at home with educational toys that would bore or overwhelm many boys his age.

Up until recently, he did very well in school. But his second-grade teacher expects her students to sit quietly and read; she thinks he has a problem with this so she’s been sending notes home about it, which is upsetting him and his mother.

As I said, he’s seven and he’s a boy. Sitting quietly and reading is not his natural behavior. I’m not saying he shouldn’t learn this, but I’m sad that his current inability in this area is affecting his grades.

But that’s school. The teacher plans a learning experience for the entire class; those who can’t do what she says will be graded down.

Don’t think this only happens in school. When I was homeschooling, especially at the beginning, there were times when I found “the perfect curriculum” at a homeschool convention, brought it home, made lesson plans using it, and watched my children for signs of “delight-directed learning” or whatever the catchphrase was on the cover….but was disappointed to see none of that on their faces. That’s when I realized that they didn’t do well with the curriculum. I had to learn that children learn best when the subject is presented in a way that works for them…..which may not be the way that works best for the teacher.

Ultimately, gearing materials toward the child’s interests, intelligence level and developmental stage is what works. Successful homeschooling parents learn to do that for their children. Teachers, even very good teachers, can try to do that but how do you accommodate the needs of 30 children from a variety of backgrounds? You can’t.

That’s why homeschooling is so successful, especially once we stop trying to be a school and concentrate instead on giving each of our children what they need at a particular point in time.

“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.

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!  🙂

Homeschooling and Unemployed Parents

I heard on the radio this morning that 40% of the unemployed have been out of work for over a year. I don’t know how they come up with these statistics, but a quick mental survey of the people in my family and social circle makes me think that 40% is close to accurate or maybe even a little on the low side.

Am I the only person who thinks these people could take advantage of their downtime by homeschooling their kids? Given the state of the schools today, it seems like a win-win situation: the unemployed person finds something worthwhile to do with their days, and their child or teen actually learns a few things by working with their parent. Many of these parents aren’t going to find a job anytime soon. Given the changes in our economy, homeschooling might even turn out to be a long-term solution for both parent and child.

After all, homeschooling isn’t that hard, and teaching a child can be done much more efficiently at home than in a classroom of 30 students (62 if you live in Detroit.) Considering that many high schools students now text their way through class, it’s pretty easy to learn more at home than at school these days.

With all the great educational tools available in public libraries and on the Internet (for instance, there’s a nice free math and science education just waiting for young people right here), what can the schools do for kids today that we parents can’t? (Please don’t tell me that football games and proms are essential, because an entire generation of homeschooled adults have shown that they aren’t!)

Some people believe that the public schools are already going down, as Gary North has stated in his excellent article on the subject. The quality of education continues its slide into the abyss, and funding is likely to be cut, thanks to the financial problems most states and the Feds are struggling with.

I think that dying schools and unemployed parents could be blessings in disguise for American families. Unemployed parents who decide to take advantage of their newly found free time to facilitate their children’s learning can develop closer relationships with them while giving them a better, more individualized education that they can get in school. At the same time, they’ll combat the demoralizing feelings that come with being unemployed because they’ll be spending their days doing something that’s important and personally rewarding. They may even find that they feel better about themselves than they did when they were employed. Win-win, indeed!