Dear School Boards Everywhere:
Recently, the county I was raised in has decided to become a great deal more strict on their homeschoolers. I now live in the next county but have heard one story after another of homeschooling moms being interrogated about not showing enough proof that they are regularly instructing their children. I personally know many of these moms and know them to be loving, diligent educators of their children who willingly made available ample proof for educating their children.
Honestly, I must admit that as a homeschooling mom I, automatically, come to the defense of my wounded comrades. I majored in Elementary Education during my four years in college and have had experience with teaching at a private school.
My most extreme issue with this particular system of homeschool assessment is the reviewers lack of familiarity with the process of homeschooling. The reviewers are employees of the public school system, usually teachers or administrators, with little to no experience in the actual world of homeschooling. Homeschooling is not something a mother does from 9-5. It is a total subculture. It is who we are!
How does the average homeschool philosophy and, therefore, program differ from that of public school?
#1 The child is being educated by his parent(s). These are the people who know him better and love him more than anyone in the world. A parent has the opportunity to pick up on the needs and challenges of their child more quickly and adjust their teaching styles accordingly.
As a teacher I often wondered why one of my students seemed to be down or acting up on certain days. As a mother I know if one of my children has not been feeling well, got a poor night’s sleep or did not eat enough for breakfast.
I am also aware of how my children learn best and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
#2 The student to teacher ratio is much lower in most cases of homeschooling than that of the public school classroom. This allows for a parent to access their child one on one, on a daily basis, by often sitting beside them or reviewing their work and being able to field questions that arise regularly. This makes the need for tests and quizzes minimal, especially in the elementary grades, because the parent knows what the child understands. The child is then not forced to move on to another concept until he has mastered the current one because he is not trying to keep up with his classmates.
#3 Public schools live by testing whether regularly in the classroom or annually by standardized testing. In a large arena, when the culture demands a means of comparison in the overall knowledge of a student, this makes sense. Sadly, this has led many educators to “teach to the test”. Students learn only to regurgitate the information instead of internalizing its lifelong value. This is great for factory workers and people who are not required to think for themselves. This does not encourage a lifelong love of learning.
After many years in the county in question’s school system, I graduated 5th in my class of around 150 students. Yet when I arrived at college I still had the “just pass the test” mentality that I had been taught. I still mourn the loss of the true education I missed during my college years because instead of desiring knowledge my goal was just to get a diploma.
Due to the individualized nature of homeschooling, students can be encouraged to learn for the joy of it and not because they will be graded on it or comparatively tested about it.
Homeschooling parents have opportunities that most educators can only dream about. As a family we have traveled by van as far northeast as Massachusetts and as far southeast as Florida. We have driven out to Iowa and Wisconsin while stopping at many National Historical Sites along the way. Can we say FIELD TRIP?
Being a homeschooling mom has finally gotten me out of the “is this going to be on the test?” mentality and into a “that’s amazing what else can I learn” mindset.
#4 Why would homeschooling parents have their child(ren) home with them an extra 40+ hours a week when they could put them on a school bus for free, if they did not care about their child(ren)’s well-being?
I venture to say that the main motivation for most homeschoolers is love. We are not being paid or given any material benefit for educating our children at home. There is no substitute teacher when we are having a bad day. Being with your children 24/7 doesn’t allow for a whole lot of “me time.” We are not earning “homeschooling parent of the year” awards are being featured with honors in the local newspaper. There are not even tax breaks afforded for purchasing curriculum. Our major driving force is a love for our children and the overwhelming desire to see them succeed.
The great majority of homeschooling parents have their child’s best-interests in mind and are investing their lives into making it happen. Don’t punish the majority for the sake of the one percent that are not doing what they should.
Train your review staff to know about different curriculum options and methods of homeschooling. If you truly care about our children and their future we are on the same side.
A Loving Parent