Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up (Infograph)

I LOVE infographs. They deliver lots of information in an easy to see and process format. And this one has a ton of statistics…all very well documented.

I particularly love the “When they Grow Up Section.”

Are you glad you were homeschooled?

Heck, yeah!

Will you homeschool your own children?

Darn straight.

Pretty sure my girls would concur.

Anyway…here are the cold, hard facts.  Homeschooling rocks.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

Voice Your Opinion…Just Do Your Homework First

Some people just don’t think before they write. Or before they propose laws.

The anonymous writer of a recent opinion piece (and the Senator who first sparked the registration debate in Illinois) did not think this thing through.  Any thinking person with a knowledge of the facts simply cannot support the conclusions they’ve drawn.

Let me provide a bit of background information.  In January, Illinois Senator Edward Maloney (which interestingly enough rhymes with bologna) introduced a bill (IL SB136) that would require Illinois homeschoolers to register with the state.  In his very emotional testimony during an Education Committee Hearing on February 15th, Mr. Maloney communicated that he just “cares about the children.”   He just wants to ensure that no children slip through the cracks.  During the hearing, Mr. Maloney and a scary Illinois truant officer further explained that if they don’t know where the homeschoolers are, they can’t help them.  All they want is to know where the homeschoolers are.  They just want to help.

Yeah.  Right.

Some 4000 homeschoolers descended on the Illinois capitol the day of the aforementioned hearing.   As a result, Senator Maloney quickly (evidently) realized that he hadn’t adequately thought things through and his bill was quickly withdrawn.  For the moment Illinois homeschoolers are breathing a sigh of relief.  But just for the moment.  Unfortunately, Senator Maloney has made it clear he’s not finished.  (By the way, the homeschoolers at the capitol that day were reportedly quiet, polite and respectful…and they didn’t do ANY damage to the capital building…unlike certain teacher’s union supporters in neighboring Wisconsin over the last few weeks!)

This morning, my friend and co-blogger, Arby, shared some thoughts on an opinion piece posted on the website of The Belleville News-Democrat.   Arby suggested that his readers take a look at the post and leave a comment of their own.  Here’s the jist of the point being made by this anonymous writer of ill-advised opinion:

“Illinois has some of the most relaxed homeschooling requirements in the nation. In our view, there needs to be greater accountability. In addition to registering, we think students should be tested every year to ensure their education is progressing at the proper pace. For parents doing a good job of teaching what’s required by law, such testing would validate their work. For the rest, it would be an opportunity to fix what isn’t working.”

First.  He hasn’t done his own homework on Illinois’ supposed relaxed requirements.  Illinois has standards that homeschoolers are required to follow.  These standards have been in place since the court case of People vs. Levison in 1950.   Since that time, the burden of proof has been on the homeschooler to provide documentation of compliance with the standards…when challenged.   The fact that homeschoolers are rarely challenged does not change the fact that the standards exist.  If the requirements are “relaxed”, it’s only because Illinois officials have always opted to leave homeschoolers largely unchallenged.  And for that we are truly thankful.

Second, the writer seems to believe that the registration and testing of homeschooled children would give Illinois education officials a way to identify the “broken” homeschoolers and “fix” what isn’t working.   The comment I left on the anonymous opinion post explains what I think about that….

“I just did a little bit of math. According to records and statistics supported by the ISBE*, the number of Illinois public school children that are falling through the cracks is 495,434. That number comes from the total number of children enrolled in 2010 (2,064,312) divided by the composite percentage (24%) of Illinois school children that do not “meet standards.” (All tests, 3rd-11th grade)

“The picture is even worse when you filter out the results from Illinois’ 11th graders. Of 134,007 11th graders tested in 2010 (PSAE), 45% do not “meet standards.” Add to that number the 12,912 11th graders that were evidently enrolled in 2010, but were not tested (more than likely because they have already “fallen through the cracks”,) and it’s clear that 73,215 of Illinois’ publicly enrolled 11th graders have already fallen through the cracks.

“Your post states that 50,000 children are homeschooled in Illinois (all grades). Let’s assume for a moment that Illinois’ homeschooled children are failing at the same rates as the children being school in Illinois public schools (which I can assure you they are NOT.) That would mean that 12,000 homeschooled children are failing to meet standards.

“Hmmm, so let’s see….the number of homeschooled children that MIGHT be falling through the cracks is just a small fraction of the number of Illinois public school children that ARE falling through the cracks. In fact, the TOTAL number of homeschooled children in Illinois is a tiny percentage of the number of Illinois public school children that ARE falling through the cracks. Clearly, Illinois has a much bigger real problem to solve than the imagined problem of homeschooling.

“When Illinois educators (and politicians) can prove that they are capable of solving the problem of children that are already falling through the cracks in their own schools, then maybe they’ll have a leg to stand on when they attempt to convince homeschoolers that they are here to “help.”

*All records/statistics were pulled directly from the Illinois Interactive Report Card, a project that was “created at Northern Illinois University with support from Illinois State Board of Education.”

My opinion?  Purveyors of  strong opinion concerning homeschoolers and what they need should really do their homework before waxing eloquent.

IL SB 136: Pointless Regulation of Homeschoolers (UPDATED)

Here in Illinois, we’re currently involved in a battle to retain our rights to homeschool our children without interference from the state.  True to form, an Illinois politician is proposing a law to solve a problem that may not even be a problem to begin with.  If passed, this law would require all homeschoolers to register with local authorities and/or the state board of education.  The original proposal was withdrawn because it also included language which required all non-public students to be registered.  According to Illinois Review, Illinois Senator Ed Maloney (sponsor of SB 136) stated last week that “…we’re not going for the private school students, we’re going to change that [in the proposal].  What we want to know is where the homeschoolers are.  It’s as simple as that.
Evidently, Mr. Maloney, which ironically rhymes with bologne, is concerned with the lack of regulation of homeschoolers in Illinois.  Though he doesn’t seem to have much evidence that a  widespread problem exists, he  still believes his proposed law holds the key to ensuring that Illinois’ homeschooled children receive a quality education.  In an outstanding editorial, “Homeschoolers Not the Problem,” the SouthTown Star, quotes Mr. Maloney,

There are virtually no regulations on homeschools. No curriculum, no periodic checks on their progress.  We want more accountability.”  (emphasis mine)

As the SouthTown Star article effectively points out, Mr. Maloney seems to forget that large numbers of students currently receiving a regulated, state-administered education are not doing all that well.
In an interview this morning with Cisco Cotto on a popular Chicago radio station (transcript available here,) Senator Maloney displayed both his ignorance and his bias. When questioned about his financial ties to the Unions, he also displayed a propensity toward bending the truth as this record clearly indicates.  But what else would you expect from a liberal, big-government politician from Chicago?
Illinois has been a holdout in terms of homeschool regulation.  Laws currently on the books here in Illinois place standards and requirements on homeschoolers, with the burden of proof being placed on the homeschooler to prove his compliance if challenged.  This law would be a huge, and ominous change for homeschoolers in Illinois.  Give the government an inch and they’ll end up taking a mile.


UPDATED POST HEARING
:  From ICHE:

“The hearing is over and Senator Maloney is not planning to withdraw SB 136. Looks like it may be a long battle. Even though the Education Committee chairman kept referring back to registration, things like testing and curriculum approval and, and, and, . . kept coming up. One truant officer said that if they knew where we all were they could check on us and “help” us. Hmmm. . . .”

Discouraging.

We will continue to fight.

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal

The Homeschool Chick

In my life this week…

It’s been a week of sickness…fevers, coughs, colds…and general “ick”.  I’ve been slowly recovering from all of the aforementioned symptoms, and Jimmy spent the better part of the week suffering through the worst of them.  He’s better now…happily spending today playing with his cousins after nearly a week of quarantine!

In our homeschool this week…

Our homeschooling routine definitely suffered this week as a result of the sniffling and hacking, but we managed to cram a few things in so that Jimmy would be prepared for his co-op classes on Monday.  On Thursday he did a whole week’s worth of McCall-Crabbs Reading Comprehension Tests.  His cold did not affect his scores.  Check out the last three grade equivalent scores on the bottom of the page.  By the way, he’s in first grade.  Yeah.  The boy can read!

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Last night Jim and I went to hear GreenChoby.

Nearly 15 years ago, Carolyn Green and Mike Choby served on staff (though not at the same time) with the ministry that my husband and I served with.  During Mike’s tenure with the  ministry, Jim introduced Mike to Carolyn, and the rest, as they say, is “musical history!”  It’s been several years since we’ve heard them perform, but last night we were able to see them at a local coffee house…and it was wonderful.  It was dark…and all I had with me was my iPod, so sorry about the bad picture…

If GreenChoby is ever in your area, definitely go give them a listen!  Want a sample?  You can listen to a couple of their songs here: Carry Me Back Home and Patience . More information about Mike and Carolyn and their upcoming events can be found here on the Official GreenChoby Facebook Page.

What’s working/not working for us…

Everything having to do with language is working for us.  I love Shurley English.  I love SWR (Spell to Write and Read.)  I love McCall-Crabbs.

Everything having to do with math is NOT working for us.  In this area, we’re really struggling.  We’ll keep plowing through it, but I have a feeling we’re going to have to make a change.  Grrr…I hate changing curriculum!!

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have…

Many of my homeschool thoughts and questions get asked/discussed over on my other blog!  Please consider this an official invitation to join me  and my very talented co-author (and stay-at-home homeschool dad), Arby, over at The Homeschool Apologist!

And every Thursday during January and February, some of my answers to common Homeschool Questions can be found over on The Homeschool Village Panel!

A photo to share…

Here’s the look I got early this week when I asked the question, “How are you feeling?”

Interested in joining this weekly meme?  Join the fun HERE!

Link Up: Accomplishment (well, sort of….)

Time to link up at The Homeschool Village with our week’s accomplishments!  Well, sickness has hindered yet another week of accomplishment in our home.  At least the normal kind.

Normally we do accomplish things.  We classify sentences.  We do math.  We learn about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We read.  You know….normal school stuff…like this.

But the beginning of this week was different.   Fever and a cough kept Jimmy on the couch instead of at the table accomplishing normal 1st grade stuff.   So instead of doing school, he took pictures with my iPod….lots of pictures.  Let’s just call it Photography 101.  Frankly, I think he’s got talent.  Okay….maybe not.  But he had fun!

He’s better now.  I think maybe we’ll do school.

Oh and by the way….I hope my NEXT week’s accomplishments include winning THIS AWESOME GIVEAWAY at An Untraditional Home!!  (FYI…the Giveaway ends today!!)

Do Homeschoolers WANT a Tax Break?

An article in the New York Times Opinion Pages has supporters and critics of homeschooling debating the idea of giving homeschoolers tax credits.  While having a few extra dollars in our pockets might seem like a great idea, a tax break that comes with “strings attached” could mean more trouble than the money is worth.

It’s likely that tax credits for homeschoolers would not be offered without strings.  Our puppet legislators, and the lobbyists who pull their strings, are not in the business of doing favors for homeschoolers.  Money isn’t free. And it’s what comes with the money that would have many homeschoolers questioning whether or not they want to check the credit box on their tax return.

So is there Room for Debate…Do Homeschoolers Deserve a Tax Break? Read the debate and decide for yourself.

UPDATED:  Find some additional commentary on this debate on Spunky HomeSchool’s blog HERE!

Another Reason to Homeschool: Everyday Mathematics

(Cross-posted from The Homeschool Apologist):

Remember when you were a kid and your parents complained about the “New Math” you were being taught in school?  I don’t know about you, but honestly, I just thought my parents weren’t all that smart.  How on earth they managed to do their jobs (my dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse) with their incredibly limited math expertise was beyond me.

Interestingly enough, my parent’s intellectual capabilities grew by leaps and bounds as I got older. It’s funny how that happens isn’t it?

I was reminded of my own math education (and my parent’s reaction to it) last week when a friend posted this video on Facebook.

In Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth, M.J. McDermott exposes some rather alarming trends in math education which are clearly demonstrated in two popular math programs. (The video is long, but well-worth the time spent watching it!)  Everyday Mathematics and Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space are examples of “new-new math,” or what has become more descriptively known as “fuzzy math”.  I was first introduced to Everyday Mathematics (also known as Chicago Math) several years ago when I was substitute teaching in our local school district.  At first, some aspects of Everyday Mathematics seemed to make sense.  It made math fun.  And practical.  Great for use in…well…everyday life.  But then I started to notice how much in the book wasn’t even really about math.  Huh?  And I began to notice language and methods that seemed completely ludicrous.

My initial exposure to Everyday Mathematics led me to a quick investigation which revealed a virtual boatload of negative “press” about this highly acclaimed curriculum.  I found numerous critical reviews written by everyone from math experts to parents to journalists.  Even a number of system-bucking teachers jumped bravely into the fight.  Many of these critiques provide passionate testimony and firsthand knowledge of the damage that Everyday Mathematics has done (and continues to do.) In fact, just about the only vocal support I could find seemed to come from the program’s own creators and from a few educational bureaucrats desperately trying to justify their own misguided decisions to inflict Everyday Mathematics on the unsuspecting parents and children in their districts.

After this initial exposure to the world of “fuzzy math”, I began to encounter something else that I found very interesting.  As a representative of a homeschool curriculum company, I attend about 10-12 homeschool conventions each year.  The company I represent publishes a spiral-based math program that is quite popular among homeschoolers.  Over the last several years, I’ve had a surprising number of parents indicate that the single most important factor in their decision to homeschool was Everyday Mathematics. More than once, a parent has done a double-take when I use the word “spiral-based” to describe our math program.  The concerned look was followed immediately by a question:  “If it’s spiral-based, does that mean it’s like Everyday Math?”

People homeschool for a lot of different reasons.  It turns out Everyday Mathematics is more than just a “highly acclaimed” math program.

It’s also become a GREAT reason to homeschool.

Speaking of Socialization…

(Also posted over at The Homeschool Apologist.  Head over there for more homeschooling posts by Arby and me!)

Over the years, I have engaged in many conversations with people who are, at best, skeptical of homeschooling and homeschoolers. Their logic is often flawed, based on a lack of information as well as a lack of…well…rational thinking.

Well, in a conversation several years ago, I found rational thinking in a very unexpected place. I was attending a homeschool convention in Wichita, Kansas, and was checking into my hotel. The desk clerk was a very pleasant, but very “interesting” looking young man. Behind the blue hair, body piercings, and tattoos, he was a VERY personable, very engaging kid.

As he checked me in, he asked a question he probably asked many times every day.

What brings you to Wichita?

I replied that I had come to attend a homeschool convention.

Oh, do you homeschool?”

“Yes, I’ve homeschooled my children for the last 16 years”.

Wow, that’s cool. I’ve heard of that. Don’t you worry about how your kids will get socialization?

Honestly, it kind of cracked me up to hear that question from this particular young man, but I stifled a smile and began to give my standard answer.

Well, I…

He never gave me a chance to respond.

Wait, forget I asked that.” He grinned. “I’m the most socially maladjusted person I know, and I went to public school, so I guess it’s kind of a dumb question isn’t it?

I think maybe I’ll go get a tattoo.

A New Blogging Venture…

Homeschooling Works

Yesterday, on my way home from Wisconsin, I checked my email and found a wonderful invitation from one of my favorite bloggers.   The often hilarious Arby from Boarding in Bedlam emailed me an invitation that I absolutely could NOT refuse!  Arby recently began a new homeschool blogging venture and has invited me to join him in authoring this new blog.  The Homeschool Apologist is dedicated to the belief that the institution of homeschooling deserves to be defended as more than “just another option”.  While Arby and I will both continue to blog about family and life on our own blogs, we will use The Homeschool Apologist as a forum dedicated to responding to the criticism that continues to be leveled against the institution of homeschooling AND against families that choose to homeschool.  And we hope our readers will not only be drawn into the discussion, but that The Homeschool Apologist will provide them with the information needed to become well-equipped apologists themselves!  Stop by and have a look!!

Embracing our Differences…

Homeschoolers are a diverse lot.  And we’re growing more diverse every day.  Each parent brings to the homeschool classroom a variety of gifts, talents, life experiences, personal qualities, and practical challenges.  And our children, like us, bring a vast array of spiritual, emotional, and academic strengths and weaknesses to the table each morning when we commence our school days.  These factors are at the heart of what makes each family unique and of how we create our homeschooling experience.

As members of this diverse community, we are often very aware of our differences, and yet, not surprisingly, we are unified behind a single purpose.  Within the framework of the greater purpose, we are individually driven by a variety of “secondary” motivations. But, we’re all working toward a single goal—to equip our children to live, serve, and work in the world into which they one day be thrust.

So why do so many of us have such a difficult time accepting the homeschooling approaches and methods others have chosen for their own families?

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post that touched on this issue.  In it, I asked the question Who Am I?, and in response to that question, admitted a bit of insecurity concerning my own homeschool choices.  But I also mounted a defense of the methods that I utilized during my (up to that point) 16 years of homeschooling experience.

Last week as I was browsing the homeschool blogosphere, I read a statement that got under my skin.  It was a blanket statement of opinion that drew a line in the sand between traditional and non-traditional homeschoolers.  The statement that first drew my attention was this:

“Many of us tried to reproduce the school atmosphere and teaching methods at home.  There is no need or value in doing that.” (emphasis mine.)

I beg to differ.  I agree that there is not a need to do it that way.  However, I disagree that there is no value in doing it that way.

My daughters are a testament to the intrinsic value of this approach.  I have homeschooled for 18+ years.  If I had to classify myself, I would call myself a “traditional” homeschooler.  We like desks.  We like textbooks and workbooks and other traditional learning methods. We like following (for the most part) a traditional school calendar.  And I can tell you from personal experience that the “school-at-home” approach has great value—for us.

Jimmy doing school

Workbook--a staple of "school-at-home"

All three girls are all now high school graduates.  Each one has transitioned to the “post-homeschool” world with great success.  The approach that we utilized provided a learning environment that built into my daughters the tools that have helped them to thrive in their young adult years—a love of learning, strong study skills, discipline, and academic independence.  Because it’s what I’m most comfortable with, I hope this approach will also work for my 6-year old son, but if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

I have purposely not linked directly to the blog I’ve quoted.  My purpose is NOT to criticize its author or to pick a fight with non-traditional homeschoolers.  Their methods have value—for them.  Non-traditional methods are a perfect fit for many families.  But some of those methods just don’t work for me or my children.  And by the same token, most non-traditional homeschoolers would not feel comfortable using the methods that I have utilized.  And that’s okay.

As members of a large and diverse community, we need to embrace the differences and learn to focus on our common goal.  In doing so, we give each other a little bit more freedom to make homeschooling decisions without fear of criticism or judgment.  We need to be careful not to allow our belief and confidence in our own personal preferences scare new homeschoolers away from approaches that might be a perfect fit for them and their children.  A successful and rewarding homeschool experience isn’t likely to be found in any one particular method or approach.  The reward comes from finding out what works best for you!!