Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jumping RIght In...

While this isn't technically my FIRST post, it is my first post of any substance. I decided I need to start off with something that might get people talking, and a topic close to my heart is education.

This past spring, a judge in California tried to make homeschooling illegal unless the parent is a licensed teacher. And while the ruling is basically being ignored by the state (Governor Ah-nold doesn't support it and the state education department refuses to enforce it), news commentators and bloggers have discussed the merits and downfalls of the ruling.

In order to teach in the public school system (and I assume most private schools), a person must have a license or must be working toward a license. Many school systems, especially those who struggle to find teachers, will allow a person with a degree to teach while s/he is taking classes to receive a license. For example, someone who has a degree in English like me is allowed to teach while taking her education classes to get certified.

If a teacher must have a license to teach in the (gasp!) public school system, then why can practically ANYONE choose to homeschool his or her child? Prior to 1994, Tennessee residents who wished to homeschool were required to have a B.A; however, that requirement was lowered and parents now must only have their high school diploma or G.E.D. Parents who don't have the minimum required educational requirements CAN submit waivers which are sometimes approved.

A high school diploma means you graduated; it does not mean you performed well in high school. And considering the pracitce of "social promotion" that was much more prevalent in years past, many of these parents didn't "earn" their diploma. Basically, Tennesse's law potentially allows uneducated--though most likely well-meaning--parents to homeschool their children.

Now before you jump on me, give me a moment to clarify a few things. I'm not AGAINST homeschooling. When done correctly, I am more than willing to admit the value of this method. I understand why parents are disenchanted with the public education system; as a public high school teacher since 2001, I've witnessed first-hand the problems in our schools. The blame for the decline must be placed on many heads, including the parents...but that's a WHOLE different blog.

Back to homeschooling... I understand why parents want to homeschool. I APPLAUD those who pour themselves into it and do it the right way. I think homeschooled kids are just as successful as kids who attend regular school, public and private. I know people who were homeschooled who are brilliant, well-rounded individuals. But the key to homeschooling is the kids have to be SCHOOLED CORRECTLY. And while it seems a majority of the parents are doing this, I can't help but think that some (again, well-meaning) parents just aren't up to the job.

Am I saying that a degree equals infinite knowledge and teaching ability? No. I have a degree and teach school, but that doesn't mean I'm the least bit equipped to teach calculus or chemistry or Spanish or practically anything out of my subject area. BUT I do feel that I COULD teach those things if I needed to. It would take a lot of studying and reviewing on my part, and I would have to take it a lesson at a time and probably learn a lot of it WITH my child. But the bottom line is that I could do it. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I enjoy learning and it has always been a priority. If I want to learn something, I can.

But everyone's not like me.

What about the parent who wants to homeschool who STRUGGLED in school? Or worse, who never really cared that much about school s/he was young? How do these people homeschool their children, especially when the child gets into the upper grades? How do you teach Calculus when you barely passed Algebra? How do teach your child to write an essay when you still can't tell the difference between an adjective and adverb? How do you teach chemistry when you had to retake it in summer school?

My point is what happens to the kids whose parents just aren't up to the challenge?

As I've said, a degree doesn't mean you know everything, but it means you've learned SOMETHING. It shows that you (hopefully) can at least comprehend a wide range of subjects and content areas.

Okay, I've ranted enough. Time for you all to weigh in on this. What type of educational background should parents have in order to homeschool their children? Is a high school diploma enough? Should a degree be required? Or is just the desire to teach your kids at home enough?


Erica Dean said...

This is why math and I don't get along. Neither of my parents were math savvy. Boo.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Amber. I look forward to more!

Diana said...

Well, personally, I think parents should have at least a master's degree before they decide to homeschool their kids, especially in this millennium. A bachelor's degree now is almost equivalent to a high school diploma, which doesn't serve much purpose, if you ask me. A person can't really work for a company, say FedEx, with just a B.A. If s/he does get hired, it would probably be a low- rank/paying job, although that is much better than working at McDonald's or Burger King.

I think, in essence, it's better for the kids' future to just attend a public school, but if their parents are adamantly against it, then they should AT LEAST have a master's or be willing to work towards one. After all, it's their own children's future that they're dealing with, and it would be a horrible thing to do if they messed up their education and their kids ended up jobless.

Anonymous said...

Well stated.

Sometimes people just need to know when to say when. Those who do not, need to be told.


Anonymous said...

A woman I work with homeschooled her sons. SHe only has a HS diploma. She did a great job (her younger son will take the ACT/SAT this year & will probably score at the very top). I think parents should have to pass a general knowledge test to get some sort of homeschool instructor license before they can take their kids out of public school. That way even those without a BA but with some sense can teach their own children.

Vaughn said...

The excerpt below is from an article on the website for the National Home Education Research Institute in response to the California ruling. After the excerpt, there is more commentary by me. Here is the excerpt:

"At least two things are clear in this situation. First, the judges, in their sweeping remarks, ignored significant research evidence that home-educated children and youth typically significantly outperform their peers in public schools in terms of academic achievement. They score, on average, 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. This is the consistent state of affairs while the large majority of their parents, their main academic teachers, have never been certified, licensed, or otherwise approved by the state as teachers. Furthermore, these students, in grades K through 12, also typically fare as well or better than their institutional public and private school peers in terms of social, emotional, and psychological development. And, research shows that adults who were home educated appear to be more civically active and engaged and give more community service than do the general public. The research base is clear on this. In other words, the positive correlates of home-based education for the majority community of homeschool families were apparently irrelevant to the court as it made a decision related to one family (in a juvenile court proceeding) that the court would clearly apply to all families who choose private homeschooling rather than state-approved and state-regulated public and private institutional schooling or state-certified-teacher tutoring."

I read a great deal of this research a few years ago when we were kicking around the idea of homeschooling Amanda. You see, homeschoolers don't do AS WELL as their peers, they BLOW THEM OUT OF THE WATER on virtually everything from academic achievement to voting to civic responsibility to environmental stewardship, etc.

Now, I tell you what my initial reaction was to the California case: "Hell yeah, make them silly parents actually qualified to teach! If they are doing it without teaching certificates, why make the teachers get them?" Then I remembered my research. It looks as if the California legislature is eagerly and enthusiastically attempting to fix something that is not broken. It is guilty of inductive reasoning which is common in case law: Basically it boils down to reasoning from the specific (one family aberration that can't teach their kids worth a flip) to the general (let's ignore the research and burden every family that homeschools with getting a teaching certificate) Sounds like these legislators could have used some homeschooling, huh?

Pharmommy said...

what about "Unschooling..." That one really threw me for a loop.

I think parents should get to decide even if not educated... I hate government interference with any sort of parenting choice as long as it's not abusive to child.... that said.. is ineffective homeschooling abusive?

Good one.