About Me: Are You Part of the Homeschooling Movement?

Question: So how did you get involved in the home schooling movement? I home schooled some, saw a lot of positive out of it. Unfortunately, I also met home school parents who didn’t do a good job.

Answer: The short answer is, No. At least not in the sense of a movement that is organized. I think many people believe a movement isn’t a real movement until there are some non-profits involved, hiring lobbyists to give the movement ‘a voice’ in Washington. That’s not a movement. A movement is something where a huge number of people end up doing the same thing without the need for mailing lists, newsletters, calling trees and fundraising campaigns.

IF we are using the later term, then yes, I am part of the homeschooling movement. And I got into it by simply not forcing my kids to attend their local public school.

I didn’t get involved in the “movement” so much, as I just decided to become an involved parent. We decided to be involved in the raising AND education of our children. We decided early on that one of us was going to stay home when we had children, and as it turned out, I was self-employed in a business that was not conducive to a steady income and my wife was. Choice made.

While the kids were growing up, I used my skills to develop a web based and user-group based homeschooling network http://www.ihen.org. I also joined a few other, like-minded parents to found http://www.indianahomeschoolers.com. For about a decade now, we’ve supported, helped, networked with other parents who need help with their homeschooling. We’ve (collectively) answered literally thousands of questions and pointed thousands of people in the right directions, finding co-ops, internet resources, hard resources (like museums, libraries, etc.) and generally Helped Hoosiers Homeschool. In fact, that’s our motto: Helping Hoosiers Homeschool since the turn of the century.

Are we a movement? Nah. We’re a project. A work in progress. We aren’t so much a “movement” as we are a simple networking hub for information and ideas about alternatives to public, state schooling.

So, am I a part of the movement? I suppose so. But it’s not like I have a fancy placard on the wall making it official.

Now… What About Those Other People?

The end of your question reflects a condition I like to refer to as: TOPS (Those Other People Syndrome).

If I can encourage you to think outside of the box a little, I would like for you to think deeply about your last two sentences.

You say you experienced a lot of positive things. Were those experiences more positive than you might have experienced with a public school? If so, then isn’t that the entire point of having the freedom to choose the educational paths for your family? You did great! Kids are great! Life is good!

But you say it’s unfortunate that (in your opinion) there were some parents who weren’t doing a good job homeschooling their own kids.

First… so what? Does the fact that (in your opinion) some people don’t do such a good job, impugn the entire enterprise? (I ask that because there are a surprising number of people who believe that a few bad apples should indite the entire barrel.)

Here is where I would like for everyone to do a little deeper thinking: If that is the case — bad homeschoolers make homeschooling an undesirable lifestyle for everyone — then what are we to do with other failing things? What about failing government schools? Bad teachers? Uninvolved and neglectful parents? Are not they just as, if not more, influential and destructive to the lives of children?

And what about those parents who are just plain bad? They send their kids to public schools because it’s convenient to not have to care for your own children 24/7, they don’t have to take responsibility for the kids’ education — and it’s free. The State Schools teach the kids next to nothing in a values-free vacuum, because they believe that kids that don’t learn things just don’t have involved parents. The kids don’t get any instruction at home, so  in essence, we have millions of kids being raised by government schools adopting Lord of the Flies philosophies and nurtured by the media culture. The kids are screwed until they can leave home and make a mess of their lives all on their own.

It’s at this point where we can easily tell which young adults were homeschooled and which went to public institutions. And I can say without doubt that the worst homeschooler I’ve met has never been worse than the best public schooler I’ve met. See, I don’t judge the parents; I judge the fruit (once it has matured.)

Are the bad parents doing a good job? Can we more easily point to those families on the street and say, “I’m worried about the way they’re raising their kids.” Sure we can.

But we don’t. Do we. So why the scrutiny on homeschoolers… who are most likely sitting quietly in a library, reading or researching or doing something relatively useful with their lives, with some involved guidance from their parents?

Homeschoolers are easy targets because they’re not doing things the way the rest of the Sheeple do, and that makes the Sheeple nervous.

The point is: at the end of the day, there isn’t much we can do about how people raise and educate their children, can we? We can’t conduct junk food raids on the homes of fat parents with fat kids (yet) and we can’t conduct “educational neglect” raids on the homes of homeschooling families (mostly because most public schools are doing much worse at that teaching thing.)

Fact is: Homeschooling families are always “suspect” and under suspicion for somehow harming their own children by doing something so out of the ordinary as RAISING THEM. Why is that? Please think about it a bit.

If there is one thing, dear reader, you come away with after reading this post, I hope you begin believing that it’s more important to watch out for the people who are REALLY affecting, abusing, indoctrinating our children and stop worrying about how parents — you’ve seen or heard about — are raising and educating their children. Here’s another motto I’ve used for years:

All Parents are Educators. What are you teaching YOUR children?

And THAT is what I do. I help people make progress and think for themselves and stop worrying about Those Other People by busting a few myths. If this is something you call a “movement” — to that I say, “Whatever. I’m in.”


Getting to the Brass Tacks

Here are some questions I’ve received lately. Let’s just get to the brass tacks and get them answered:

I would like to know who monitors children that are homeschooled?

A: Their parents, of course. Is there a problem with that?

Are [homeschoolers] tested yearly/quarterly to make sure that the children are getting an adequate education? If not, how is the state sure that homeschooled children are just not ‘dropouts’?

A: I suppose you would have to ask the parents of the children in question. Really… if you are truly concerned about any specific child that appears to be in the process of educating differently, you should just get brave and ask the parent(s) yourself. Most homeschoolers I know would be glad to answer sincere questions about the education of their children. However, homeschooling parents are not interested in going through an inquisition over why they choose to not have the State monitor their children.

Think about it: You’re buying some toys for your kids for Christmas. Someone walks up to you and says, “Do you think you should be getting those particular video games for your children?”

You say, “I think I know what my children are able to handle, and at what level they’re at, thank you.”

“But…” interrupts the inquisitor, with an apparent PhD in childhood development, “It’s in our best interests (as a society) to know that your children are receiving the proper games for their level of development. Have you had your children tested?”

The point is that the only people responsible for making sure their children are getting an “adequate education” (whatever that means) are parents. The only responsibility of the State is to make it easy for parents to acquire those learning experiences for their children.

We also need to ask: What is the state doing about the dropouts THEY KNOW ABOUT? What are “we” to do? Seriously!! If someone is so worried about homeschoolers that might also be “dropouts” then any solution that comes to mind should also be applied to those publicly schooled children that are already dropped out or dropping out. 40% dropout rates aren’t uncommon in the Government School realm. What are we doing about THEM?

[I know a child that was withdrawn from school to homeschool.] All the adults in this child’s immediate family would definitely qualify as ‘marginal’ in intelligence and may even qualify as disabled mentally. However, the child, while lacking in social skills, is a very intelligent child.

A: I really don’t know where to go with this question. First, I would probably have to point out that there are millions of parents in the world who are unfit for raising their own children for an infinite number of reasons. Are we willing to even GO THERE? Who decides whom is able to raise their own children or not? Who is doing it right, and according to the standards of whom?

And finally… would you have been HALF as worried about this child, had he been kept in a public school, possibly getting beat up, ignored (educationally) and saddled with the statistical chance he would graduate unable to read his own diploma? What makes you care all of a sudden? The child isn’t where he is supposed to be? That he’s being influenced by his parents more than his school? Do you want to go there?

You say this child is intelligent. How do you know? Do you interact with publicly socialized children much? I do; and I can tell you with almost 95% accuracy when a child is homeschooled, or socialized by the State. I’ll bet you can tell too. Why would anyone want to tell a parent that their children are too polite and well socialized, and they need to go back into a school building to stop that nonsense?

I cannot understand how this child will obtain any sort of education with really no one in the home who can help educate. I feel like the child will fall through the cracks. Is there any system that will follow up to make sure that this child is actually being educated?

A: To understand how this child will get an education outside the influences of the State, you will have to simply spend some more time with his family. That’s really the only way anyone can understand what homeschooling is all about. You have to essentially, homeschool yourself. Homeschoolers learn by asking questions and following their interests in the pursuit of answers. People who can’t think outside of the box tend to believe that something that’s different, is bad or wrong. Unfortunately, there are too many of those types of people who believe that the State is responsible for the upbringing of our children.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but they aren’t.

Enjoy your neighbors and maybe this would be a great time to get to know your little learning neighbor boy. You’ll have a great chance now, since he won’t be cooped up in a State Institution for most of his childhood.


Literacy Facts

There is one thing I always tell all new homeschooling parents: “The single most important thing you can do to succeed at homeschooling your child is this: Read, read, read.”

Okay… that’s three things.

At any rate, the ability to read well is, in my opinion, the single largest predictor of not only academic success, but personal success. Period. Teach your child to read and everything else will come in its own good time.

I can’t think of any other intellectual human ability that is more important than the ability to read; can you?

Here’s the Prime Directive: Read… Comprehend… Communicate. Teach your children to read. When they get that, teach them to write. Toss in some math so they can balance their checkbook. (Bonus: Teach them to balance a checkbook while you’re at it.) After that, the rest will follow.

Some of the schoolish things that we [homeschooling parents] fret over the most, are those things that are secondary, or tertiary to the Prime Directive. They are the things that we assume makes schooling work. After all, we were schooled as children; this must be how this education thing works.

But we forget that schooling only works when you have a mass of children to manage. Homeschoolers don’t have a classroom full of students; we have a family with children to raise. Part of that rearing, includes learning. In spite of the title, homeschoolers aren’t really “schooling” their children. What parents do with children is raise them, prepare them, foster within them a personal self-interest in learning more and more about the world in which we live and the history that got us here.

You need only one thing to accomplish 90% of this rearing thing: Literacy.

Seems to me, most public schools are attempting to teach too many things to too many children who have been damaged from the start by not having been taught to read and comprehend properly.

Here are some literacy stats that don’t give much hope for the way the State is educating our future citizens. Whenever you or another homeschooler is accused of somehow damaging our children by not forcing them to attend a State School of Communal Instruction, refer the inquisitor to this information… if they can understand it.

From Alliance for Excellent Education:

• More than eight million students in grades 4-12 read below grade level. Most are able
to sound out words—the challenge isn’t to teach them to decode text but, rather, to
help them comprehend what they read.

• Only 31% of America’s 8th-grade students—and roughly the same percentage of 12th
graders—meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading
“proficiency” for their grade level.

• Among low-income 8th graders, just 15% read at a proficient level.

• A mere 3% of all 8th graders read at an advanced level.

• On average, African-American and Hispanic 12th-grade students read at the same
level as white 8th-grade students.

• The 25 fastest-growing professions have far greater than average literacy demands,
while the fastest-declining professions have lower than average literacy demands.

• Roughly 23% of high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory level
college writing course.

• About 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills employers seek.

• Employment projections indicate that jobs requiring only a high school degree will
grow by just 9% by the year 2008 while those requiring a bachelor’s degree will grow
by 25% and those requiring an associate’s degree will grow by 31%.

• Male and female students with low academic achievement are twice as likely to
become parents by their senior year of high school compared to students with high
academic achievement.

• For juveniles involved in quality reading instruction programs while in prison,
recidivism was reduced by 20 % or more.

• High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be
arrested in their lifetimes.