Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Public School Education

How the Unions Have Failed the Public Schools
It’s hard to miss the constant news coverage about the teachers unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana etc.  I know I haven’t been able to escape it since I work from home and I have the news on all day in the background. But besides that I also take a personal interest in educational issues since I decided to educate my own children 10 years ago.  At first this interest was more to justify my decision than anything else, but now I admit – I do it to gloat a little.  You see my lazy, X-Box and MySpace addicted, no bedtime, no parental controls kids have thrived under my homeschool regime.  They are both excellent readers and one is even somewhat of a math whiz – though he tells me everyday how much he hates algebra.  At least he gets the right answers, which is more than I did in junior high.

When I look back on my own public school education I also admit that I can’t really think of a bad teacher – sure some of them were weird and some of them a little obsessive in a matriarchal nun sort of way, but I can honestly say they all knew how to teach. 

I knew above all else that my teacher’s in Lake County, Ohio were in school to make me learn whether I wanted to or not.  If it weren’t for the fact that I moved to California halfway through junior year it is possible that I would not have a single bad experience to recall about my public school teachers.

You see, I had an excellent public school education.  From nasty Mrs. Sowards in 6th grade to quirky Mr. Engle in 10th – they all rocked my little educational world.  They taught me everything I needed to know.  Which was a really good thing because when I got to California things took a bad turn.  I might even go as far to say those people were worthless. 

Even though I was far from honor role material when I entered my 11th grade English class at Escondido High, I was a full year ahead of those poor saps.  On top of that I was balled out by the teacher for having the nerve to choose Cannery Row as my novel for Right to Read Week.  Clearly , she said loud enough for all to hear, it was over my head and the only reason I choose the book was for its lack of thickness. This just pissed me off because anyone who knew me knew I was always a reader and I chose Cannery Row because I hadn’t read it yet, not because it was skinny.  I actually prefer thick books myself.

At any rate – I managed to keep my mouth shut that day, being the new girl and all it doesn’t do to make enemies so quickly.  But I returned the next day With Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I actually had read that book before but you know – shock treatments and motorcycles were my kind of topic.  I flashed it to the “teacher” and told her I found a suitable replacement.  She shut the hell up after that.

From there I went to two other California high schools as I moved around from parent to parent, finally settling at Anaheim High School where Mrs. Who-Gives-A Crap gave me a C just because I had a tattoo and talked to the skinhead girl who sat next to me.  What was I supposed to do?  The whole school was Vietnamese and Mexican, hell they even had the announcements in Vietnamese.  She spoke my language, was friendly, and had a fringe – which I had never seen in Ohio!  I lost my temper with that teacher but she never did take back that C.  I was probably the most educated person in that room.

Then there was the fact that I was 2 years ahead at Anaheim Unified but – they explained patiently to me – I had taken too many math classes before 11th grade.  And even though I had completed Geometry (barely but hey) in the 10th grade it didn’t count because it was not in 11th or 12th grade and that was their “policy”.  Ditto for science.  So even though I was two years ahead now I still had to go to night school if I wanted a diploma.

I agreed and completed a semester of science at night (took me 2 months and it was open book) and took an additional semester during the day along with “consumer math” just to get that lousy piece of paper.  I also had to take Driver’s Ed because that was another “policy”.  All three of those teachers made me the “teacher aid” and had me grading papers.

I also worked in the office and the library because you see I didn’t need a full day’s worth of classes but they couldn’t just let me go home when I was finished – I was stuck there for the duration because that was another “policy”.  I should have been on the payroll if you ask me.

Flash forward to my own children’s education and we find my daughter graduating 6th grade on the honor roll.  That was the year we moved to Fort Collins in Colorado so I could finish my BS degree.  So she started junior high there.

Do you recall that she was on the honor role the year before?  She had a signed letter from our State Representative congratulating her on her achievements.  Funny thing though – when I pulled her out of school for homeschool a few weeks into 7th grade year (after a parent entered the school and tried to beat up a student in her class) I found out she had never even  memorized her times tables. 

How could a child who had never learned what 5x9 is be on the honor role?

I found out a lot more about my daughter’s public school education from that point on and decided that my son would be educated the way I was – because the public school education I received and the public school education my daughter received - were not the same thing.

Those of you who don’t know Lake County, Ohio (where I received my free education) might try and justify this with neighborhood environment.  And hey, maybe that’s true for Anaheim High – but my daughter was educated in Wheat Ridge, Colorado – not a high society neighborhood by any means – but certainly just as blue collar and middle class as Willowick, Ohio.

So back to my original point about teachers unions.  Back to the days when I felt I had to justify my homeschooling decision with statistics and whatnot…back 10 years ago, before I had a graduate degree and owned my own business…back when I was arguing with public school teachers about how the system was failing our kids and how school choice and charter schools were the answer.

And I ask you – where do we find ourselves today?  Having this same FREAKING discussion.  And while I was taking action, while I took full responsibility for my children’s education, while I spent tens of thousands of dollars on educational materials and easily the equivalent number of hours teaching – the public schools are still failing our students!  Isn’t anyone else TIRED of this conversation yet?  It makes me want to SCREAM!

So while the teachers bitch and moan about their freaking benefits, parents are being held hostage by their Unions.  And if the Unions represented kids (and they don’t – just read their mission statement – it only represent the interests of TEACHERS), and weren't so worried about their PENSIONS, then they’d allow school choice, merit pay, and charters to take over where they have failed.

And my apologies to those of you who still live in Lake County, Ohio and have children who receive the same excellent public school education that we did when we were young – you are lucky if you do; most of the country is stuck with Mrs. Who-Gives-A Crap because she’s got TENURE and this AIN’T YOUR GRANDMA’S FREAKING PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION ANYMORE!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Did You Know You Were RADICAL?


How the Nation Views Homeshooling

Did You Know You Were RADICAL? How the Nation Views HomeshoolingLike my last blog post - this one deals with the state of the nation's tolerance level for homeschooling.  I am, and have been for several years, under the assumption that the view of homeschooling in mainstream society was one of reluctant acceptance.  A view that had matured to a certain degree over the years to blossom into the idea that homeschool had become an accepted outer circle fringe choice for parents.  Maybe not quite mainstream, yet not the albatross of weirdness that it once was.

I was pretty confident in this assumption until I was browsing a National Review article called Coyotes in the State of Nature, by Kevin Williamson last week.  It is really a second amendment rights piece that illustrates how the Progressives hate the fact that the Constitution as it reads would allow just about anyone to apply for a gun permit.  Which just blew my mind anyway.  Living in Colorado gun permits means a conceal carry permit - not an actual permit to simply own a gun in your house.  Anyway - fast forward to page three of the article and he began to wrap things up with this paragraph:

"The horror that progressives feel for gun owners is in many ways like the horror they feel for homeschoolers, whom they recognize, correctly, as one of the few truly radical movements in America. Prof. Robin West of Georgetown University’s law school offers a typical reaction to the phenomenon: “The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner. These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000-square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots. Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.” God defend the holy tax base!" 

I was, in all respects, a little taken aback to be honest.  People really see us as homeless vacant lot living weirdos?  Is that the mainstream image of homeschool?  Are we, as Williamson points out, "one of the few truly radical movements in America."  Really?

How did that happen?  I mean, I know how that happened - it is a rhetorical question.  But ask yourself - how did educating one's child become such a threat to the Progressive ideology?  I looked up the “scholarly piece” Williamson quotes in his article and read it for myself.  Yup.  Sure enough Prof. Robin West of Georgetown University does indeed feel we are tarp-living homeless people who refuse to contribute their fair share of the tax base by having mothers stay home to - gasp - teach their own children.

So, is it me or are these people the ones living in Bizzaro-Land?  Am I the only one who thinks sending your kids to school for brainwashing is abnormal?

I guess it just stuns me that after all these years people still hate the homeschoolers.  They make up outrageous lies about us and "respected publications" such as Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, from The Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland would print an article filled with such non-scholarly work.  A piece filled with bigotry and bias a mile long.  A piece that is titled "The Harms of Homeschooling".  I won't bother to link to it - that rag doesn't deserve my backlink.  If you really want to read the garbage you can do a search and find it almost anywhere.

My point for this post is the same as the last post - homeschoolers are still considered "radical".  Heck, when a guy who writes for the National Review can print the sentence "The horror that progressives feel for gun owners is in many ways like the horror they feel for homeschoolers, whom they recognize, correctly, as one of the few truly radical movements in America." and say it with conviction - we have to know we have a problem.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is the Country Becoming LESS Tolerant of Homeschool?

It's a good question - one that matters since now is the time when my HSLDA membership expires. I will renew it - I ALWAYS do - and I am glad they are there because while I personally think homeschool is more accepted among my circles, I don't think large pockets of the country feel that way. Let me give you an example - recently I was browsing Craig's List looking for ducks and noticed the "forum". I have been on Craig's list for years and maybe visited that forum 2 or 3 times tops, but on this day I was curious so I went into the education section.

What did I find? Only dozens of posts bashing homeschoolers. Really nasty posts too, not anything with a valid point - but I was amazed. Maybe I don't mingle with the anti-homeschoolers enough or maybe I just assumed that people are like me and respect the rights of the parent to make choices in their child's life. But I was wrong. So I decided to post about my experience, telling people how rewarding it has been, what I've taught my kids over the years, etc. And the filth that replied almost knocked my socks off!

That doesn't bother me really. I have "friends" who put down homeschooling every chance they get, so a stranger is no big deal. But a week or so later I see an article about Sharron Angle, you know that Tea Party lady who is running for office in Nevada? She is telling her story of how a judge tried to prevent her from homeschooling even though it was legal. Not surprising, I read the Homeschool Court Report - it happens all the time. But the comments were just flat out calling her a liar. Simple as that - L-I-A-R. They felt it was fantastical that a JUDGE might legislate from the bench and try to deny someone’s individual rights and freedoms.Hello? What has this person been up to for the past 10 years? That's just about all judges have been doing. And today begins the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagen to the United States Supreme Court. A woman who has never been a judge before and who believes that free speech can be limited.

I think the rise of "mainstream" homeschool has had a good run but I think we are deluding ourselves if we think this will continue. I believe Sharron Angle's story because I know that people with "power" try to exert themselves on people who don't have any all the time. Remain alert people. Send in those membership dues to HSLDA. They work SO hard for us. All of us. We must all hang together or we will certainly all hang separately.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Free Homeschool Curriculum Week!

It is free curriculum week at the Simple Schooling Classroom.  All week we are offering you the opportunity to sit your kids down and see how fun can be!  Included in this giveaway are two awesome printables - almost 1000 pages worth!  Believe me, this event isn't something you want to miss out on.  So come on down and get your stuff!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Homeschool, The Kentucky Derby, & Horses

By J. Anne Huss

Did you watch the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday? First Saturday in May - I never miss it. This year seemed especially lucky for the Derby winners - Super Saver makes Calvin Borel the Run for the Roses winner for a third time in four years. A new record and Super Saver's trainer, Todd Pletcher, won his first derby after only trying for 24 years. To top it off, there was a contest this year where one lucky winner would get to spend the day at the track and then place a $100,000 bet on the horse of his choice. Glen Fullerton picked Super Saver to win and took home almost a million dollars. What a lucky day. Calvin says this horse can take the Triple Crown...I can't wait to see the Preakness and Belmont.

So what does all this have to do with homeschool? Well, I started thinking how horse crazy I was as a kid. I had it bad. I always had it bad - but I got it worse when I started to read The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. Suddenly I was the only 10 year old who subscribed to the now defunct Turf Magazine. I devoured The Black Stallion books - they were filled not only with lots of horsey things, but adventure at every turn. That Black had more fun than a horse should. I still have my original copy of every single book. I went on to earn my undergraduate in Equine Science, but by that time I was obsessed with the Jumpers. I can't get enough of the Jumpers. Or the Eventers for that matter. But thoroughbred horse racing is still my old passion and every time I see the Triple Crown races I am transported back to my horse-crazy youth and my obsession with The Black Stallion books. I kept them on a special shelf in my room WELL into my teens. I polished that shelf so much their spines would reflect off the wood in the sunlight, I was proud to own such a spectacular set of words, and I took very good care of them.

To some, horse racing is about betting and money, but to "horse-people" (you know who you are) it is about horses. The Black Stallion books are also about history as much as horses. All set in the 1940's and 50's, you cannot help but immerse yourself into days gone by. There are 20 books in the series, with most written between 1941 and 1959, but a few oddballs linger on into the 60's, 70's and 80's, so it is the perfect series for middle graders who can't get enough books to read about a favorite character. There are also movies that go well with the first two books - both with stunning locations, costumes, and of course horses!

If your kids are horse crazy and they're doing the Simple Schooling Science of Horses unit study - then why not add a few horsey classics to their summer reading list? They'll love you for it and who knows - maybe 30 years from now they'll be watching the 166th running of the Kentucky Derby thinking about how they got so darn horse-crazy!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Simple Homeschool Classroom - Homeschool Expo

WOW! The Homeschool Classroom from The Simple Homeschool has really taken off. Parents are excited about the all new interactive format for homeschool curriculum and unit studies, and they LOVE the fact that every single week new unit studies are added for free. It really is an investment that keeps giving back all year long.

During the week of May 10th-14th, they are planning a super Homeschool Online Open House EXPO where both parents and students and get an entire week of classes FREE to try out and see if this new interactive format will fit their style. In addition, there will be special HUGE printable that has never been offered before, as well as a sneak peak at the new Interactive Middle School Physics - an all-inclusive, computer based, full year science course that was written especially for homeschool students to foster a love for science and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Come visit The Classroom today and register for your FREE week of online classes!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Great Ideas Gone Bad

How the Public School System has become the Betamax of America

I can think of so many - the mullet for example. I mean business in the front - party in the back - sounds great, right? Or how about Betamax? Anyone still remember that little mistake? Back in the late 70's there were two competing systems for watching movies at home. One was VHS, which we all know about, and the other was Betamax. Betamax is still a little dark spot on the household name that is Sony, kind of like Speed 2 or say...public school.

Yeah, public school makes the list. See the thing is, even Betamax knew when it was beat and joined the revolution that was VHS. Public school however, is clinging to life in the good old days when one room schoolhouses were necessary for the survival of the country.
Today, the good idea that was the public education system has gone terribly wrong partly because it has become obsolete and partly because it is ripe with corruption. Regardless, the public school system in America makes Betamax look like the idea of the century.

And it simply can't be "fixed". This isn't a rant about the public schools or the teachers, or the parents, or the students; although all of those people are part of the problem. I'm talking about the system. When a public education in D.C. costs almost $18,000 we have a problem. A BIG problem. And if you think taht is bad, you haven't seen nothin' yet - think $17,000 a year is bad? How about $28,000? You could send your child to the BEST private day school in your area (any area) for that money!

Watch the vidoos below...