Education: May 2009 Archives

TulipGirl tweeted a link to an anti-homeschooling blog rant by a teacher named Jesse Scaccia. He begins, "Homeschooling: great for self-aggrandizing, society-phobic mother...... but not quite so good for the kid," and he goes on to list his "top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing." His "reasons" include: homeschooled students are "geeky," homeschooling is selfish (because your child won't be in public school to help teach his peers), it's arrogant for a homeschool parent to think she can teach as well as Jesse Scaccia with his many academic degrees, and, most significantly, "As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off."

In the blog post's comments, a diverse assortment of homeschooling parents take Mr. Scaccia to task for his ignorance and prejudice. Of the many solid responses, this one by The Princess Mom, who blogs at Growing Up Gifted, was my favorite:

Homeschooling is the ultimate in school accountability. I can't pass the buck to next year's teacher-I *am* next year's teacher. I can't blame the parent's poor attitude-I *am* the parent. I can't justify poor test scores by comparing to the whole neighborhood, or blaming the diverse student population or being an urban district. (I've heard all these excuses from teachers and administrators across the country.) I'm accountable to someone even more important than the district or the state department of ed. I'm accountable to my kids. If I don't prepare them for college and life in the world, that's my fault. And if that didn't matter to me, I wouldn't be homeschooling in the first place.

MORE from homeschooling parents:

Dana at Principled Discovery does an interesting thought-experiment with a paragraph from Scaccia's follow-up ("Homeschoolers: Do They Care Too Much?").

Tammy Takahashi liked what she saw in homeschooling families and wanted it for her own:

Here's what I noticed:

1) The teens and the parents liked each other.
2) The teens all had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and most of them were already doing them.
3) The parents and kids were all relaxed, happy, well-spoken. (Even when we disagreed a LOT.)
4) The kids were incredibly interested in life. They were enthusiastic about what they were doing in their lives and in planning for their future. (BTW, so were the parents, about their own lives, not just the kids'.)
5) The teens were not judgmental of each other, were not afraid or wary of adults, and treated the little ones well....

They had this way about them that I had never seen before - the geeks, jocks, musicians, brainiacs... they were all cool with each other. There are no gangs, or "us against them" mentality (granted, I chose to only attend inclusive conferences and park days). When someone acted like a jerk, they dealt with it, then moved on and forgave. They liked themselves and each other. Some were gawky and some were attractive, some were buff, others were lanky, yet, they were all cool with each other. There is a ton of social pressure in homeschool groups, and that's to be cool to one another....

The truth is this: kids and families who go through public school (and even private schools to a certain degree) have to struggle and fight to stay in a good place, and to maintain involved in the world around them. Kids and families who homeschool are naturally in a place to have these things, without fighting. Why choose to fight if we don't have to? If see two lines at a grocery store, one long and one short, which one would you choose? If you get a job offer and one has a comfortable working environment, and the other requires longer hours and lots of work at home, for the same pay, which would you choose?

We knew we wanted a liberal, open-minded, accepting, and involved life for our kids. In the world around us, not just in school. And we just couldn't see how we'd have enough time to have all these things without killing ourselves, if they went to public school.

An MIT admissions officer offers advice to homeschooled applicants.

Via Jeff Lindsay on Twitter, I learned about Classical School in Appleton, Wisconsin, a charter Pre-K - 8 school of 450 students that follows a classical curriculum. The school follows E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum. Hirsch is the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. From the Core Knowledge FAQ:

The "Core Knowledge" movement is an educational reform based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education.... Professor Hirsch has argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.

The FAQ is worth reading for their responses to questions like:

"Students are unique individuals, so can we really expect them all to learn the same material? Shouldn't schooling respond to the unique learning styles of each individual child?"

"Is the specific academic content in the Core Knowledge curriculum developmentally appropriate for young children?"

Since knowledge is changing so rapidly, isn't the best approach to teach children to "learn how to learn," rather than to teach specific knowledge?

Without coming right out and saying it, the Core Knowledge approach rebuffs the philosophies and fads of modern public education while embracing the classical Trivium, which begins with "Grammar." The Grammar of the Trivium is not merely how you put words together, but it encompasses the facts and rules of a range of disciplines, including math, history, music, the visual arts, and science, as well as language.

Here's part of the Core Knowledge response to the "learn how to learn" concept:

...Children learn new knowledge by building upon what they already know. It's important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that's when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first six grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling. The most powerful tool for later learning is not an abstract set of procedures (such as "problem solving") but a broad base of knowledge in many fields....

...The basic principles of science and constitutional government, the important events of world history, the essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression -- all of these are part of a solid core that does not change rapidly, but instead forms the basis for true lifelong learning.

And in response to the criticism of rote memorization and the idea that children need critical thinking skills, not just a bunch of facts:

No one wants schools to think of curriculum solely in terms of facts. We also want -- and students need -- opportunities to use the facts, to apply them, question them, discuss them, doubt them, connect them, analyze them, verify or deny them, solve problems with them. All these activities, however, rely upon having some facts to work with. Without factual knowledge about an issue or problem, you can't think critically about it -- you can only have an uninformed opinion.

Oklahoma has three officially certified Core Knowledge schools -- schools that have implemented at least 80% of the curriculum with a goal of full implementation: Cleveland and Sequoyah Elementary Schools in Oklahoma City, and Clegern Elementary School in Edmond.

Clegern Elementary is certified as a Core Knowledge visitation site, a model school where the curriculum has been fully implemented. Clegern is also a "parent choice school" -- any family in the Edmond district may apply to attend; students are chosen by lottery. It's telling that much of the school's FAQ page has to do with who does or doesn't get an edge in the selection process.

Another 13 schools in Oklahoma City and one in Anadarko are "Friends of Core Knowledge," which means that the schools are implementing the curriculum at some level.

The curriculum of Classical Charter School in Appleton reminds me in many respects of the curriculum at Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa -- for example, both use Saxon Math and Shurley Grammar. I like the fact that instead of the vague "social studies," they have history, geography, and literature.

Now that the Tulsa Public Schools board has dropped its senseless and expensive lawsuit against the state's charter school law. An editorial in the Oklahoman noted a report that the Tulsa school board spent $103,000 on attorney's fees to pursue the suit; appealing to the State Supreme Court would have cost another $125,000. The Oklahoman's advice:

This lawsuit was a bad idea from the start. Money that could have been spent for the benefit of teachers and students went to lawyers instead. That was the only guaranteed outcome, and by no logic could that be considered good for children or taxpayers.

What's good for children -- and by extension taxpayers -- is for Tulsa to not just accept but embrace quality charter schools. Those schools exist to serve Tulsa's children. Their success doesn't reflect poorly on the district; rather, it says that the district cares enough about its students to step outside its comfort zone.

Oklahoma City has 12 charter schools. Tulsa has three. Perhaps now the Tulsa district will be open to new charters, or perhaps one of the universities would sponsor a Core Knowledge charter school here.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Education category from May 2009.

Education: April 2009 is the previous archive.

Education: July 2009 is the next archive.

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