Do Homeschoolers Know More?

September 29, 2007

Just read this article.

“With the popularity of home schooling on the rise, the academic payoff may not be as large as parents think. ”

 If you read on you find out that the basis for this statement is test scores.  In Arkansas the homeschoolers have to take the same test that the public school students do.  It’s a simple matter of just seeing who’s score is higher, right? 

The problem is that there are hidden assumptions here.  The first is that this test is able to gauge knowledge.  You don’t have to be an expert to know that these standardized, multiple choice tests are used, not because they’re wonderfully accurate at identifying knowledge, but because logistically, there’s no other way to test so many children across so many subjects.  There are children who have a lot of knowledge but are poor test takers.  There are children who don’t have the knowledge but have the testing skills to be able to guess the right answer.  Which kid is smarter?  Does this test really test knowledge or test taking ability?

The second assumption here is that the test covers what a student has learned.  For public school students, that’s fine.  They’re all using the same curriculum, the same list of skills and knowledge.  Not so for homeschoolers who often, if not always, are learning a things beyond what the public school curriculum offers.  Even the things both public schools and homeschools teach are sometimes taught on different time tables.  

This was the case for us when the girls took a standardized test last year.  Our curriculum had us learning multiple digit multiplication before moving on to division facts.  That’s contrary to most school curriculum.  So on the standardized test there were questions the girls didn’t know the answers to and the test didn’t give them the opportunity to show the more advanced skills they had.  I imagine this happens a lot to homeschoolers.

This would help explain why, as the article states, the top scores changed as the grades progressed.  Public students start out on top, because they’re spending all their time working on exactly what the test will teach.  Homeschoolers end on top because by the time they reach 8th grade they’ve covered everything the pubic school kids have, even if they’ve taken a different path to get there.

Who knows more? Who knows?  My guess is homeschoolers if only because in my limited experience with my girls, they’ve learned (and retained) far more in the past year and a half of homeschooling than in the previous 2 and a half years of public school.  That’s enough proof for me.

Fitness Tests in TX

September 27, 2007

I saw this article and I’ve just got to vent.

Ok, so now we need to ‘test’ kids’ fitness levels.  Yes, subjecting children to a skin fold test presumably performed by a teacher in a public school will definitely help us determine a child’s fitness level.  I imagine it will do wonders for their self-esteem as well.

My biggest beef is that a child’s health should clearly lie solely within the bounds of the parents, no?  Would adults stand for a law that required them to exercise for a certain amount of time each week?  So why is ok to let the government meddle with our kids’ health?  I think it’s just another in a long list of things parents pass off on schools.  The schools, not the parents, are responsible for teaching character, self-esteem, math, reading… and now health and fitness.

How do they support such an absurd law?  There’s a correlation between good grades and fitness.  Hmmm…. could that be connected to the correlation between caring, involved parents and good grades?  Naw!  It must be purely coincidence that the parents who are taking responsibility for their kids’ education are also taking responsibility for their health. 

I love how the article ends… this testing will help teachers design their curriculum.  LOL.  They need to be told the kids’ exact test results – each and every one of the hundreds they teach, in order to figure out what to do next.  I’m sure that will help.  Have you seen some gym teachers?  They could start by being good examples themselves!

If we’re going to have an absurd law to help these kids with fitness problems, I suggest we have all the parents come in and get fitness tested instead of the kids.  Those parents who don’t pass the test can then be required to all the ridiculous things this law expects of the kids.  I’m betting that would do far more for the health and fitness of the children.  It would also send the right message to the parents – this is their responsibility, not the school’s!

I read this article a while ago and read posts on various blogs expressing opinions on regulating homeschoolers.  All the opinions I read were against regulations.  That makes sense to me, I thought the hoopla was over and I forgot about the whole thing. 

But today I saw this post  which expressed support for regulations.  Then I read this post  which goes past regulation and right to restriction of homeschoolers. There are so many more homeschoolers, so much more awareness of homeschooling, so many recognizing the achievements of homeschoolers and so many more colleges and universities accepting homeschoolers these days that I was a bit surprised to see these posts.

It seems to me that they come from a place of fear.  What I find amusing is that the fear they express is so similar to the fear they accuse homeschoolers of having.  They say homeschoolers keep their kids home to shelter them from ‘other’ influences and ideas, out of fear.  But why are the opponents so concerned about folks having different influences and ideas from their own? It’s the same fear. 

Killing time waiting for the water to boil for the spaghetti I looked at this article about a high school’s graduation rate – 38%!  Thirty-eight percent?!  What does  state Education Commissioner Richard Mills have to say about it?  He calls it a “warning sign.”   You have to fail 62% of your students before there’s warning signs?  The article mentions other school districts that have just over 50% graduation rates.  This is acceptable? 

If even one of my students (only 50%) fails in homeschool, my state would be quick to shut me down.  Next year I’ll have three students.  So if one fails (a slight 33%) wouldn’t they still assume I was incompetent.  Doesn’t the same hold for them?

Mills goes on to say, “The alarm bell could not be ringing any more loudly than it is.”  (I agree the bell is ringing and has been ringing for quite some time now…. my theory is there isn’t anyone home.)  He then goes on to try to ‘defend’ the statistics by saying that it doesn’t take into account all the kids who ‘failed’ but might have passed after summer school.  Oh, ok!  Everything is ok now cause it’s just that they FAILED?! 

Moving on the article mentions that high school takes some kids 5 or 6 years to complete.  I’d like to know more about these kids…. are these special ed students who’s parents let them stay in as long as possible?  Or are we talking about regular kids who just aren’t getting what they need in these years to get the job done? 

It’s painful to think about all the kids, real, live, living, breathing children these statistics represent. How long will public schools continue to let these kids down before meaningful changes take place? 

I think I’m pretty careful about not offering my kids external rewards… but this article makes me think perhaps I need to check myself to be sure I’m being careful enough…. Does offering a lollipop for the 3 year old to get his hair cut count?