I remember it well. The years have not diminished the memory of the night I decided to homeschool. I was a recently certified teacher with a brand new husband and a teaching job in a suburban elementary school.
That night I finished reading Child Abuse in the Classroom by Phyllis Schlafly. In her book, Ms. Schlafly highlighted the alarming trend of secular ideology and practice—tolerance, relativism, values clarification—being shoved down the throats of unsuspecting school children (without parental knowledge or approval) during the late 70’s and early 80’s. (Bill Muehlenberg of CultureWatch has done an outstanding review of Child Abuse in the Classroom here.) The things I read about the agenda of secular education fueled my growing concerns about a profession that I had worked hard to prepare for. In a moment of clarity, all that I had learned, observed, and experienced during my years of preparation for the teaching profession suddenly seemed to collide with everything I believed to be true. Ironically, the revelation did nothing to diminish my desire to teach. Rather, in that moment, I knew that my own children would never step foot in a public school. And they haven’t…until now.
After 13 years of home education and 3 years in university classrooms as an education major, Darcy, my oldest, is now spending every day as a student teacher in a public school classroom. And not surprisingly, she’s beginning to experience the same conflict of ideology that I experienced almost 25 years ago. Like me, it has resulted in a strengthened desire to make a difference in the lives of the children she teaches. But ultimately she has also concluded that when she has children, they will never step foot in a public school classroom. So what has this homeschooler turned public school teacher learned about public education during her time in the classroom?
- Public schools don’t really do a great job of socializing children. Put a perfectly polite, obedient child in classroom full of chatty, disobedient, and disrespectful children and watch the socialization process begin to work its magic. In just a few weeks, in terms of behavior, the “good” child has been socialized to “fit in” with his peers. Ironically, it doesn’t usually work the other way around.
- During a seven-hour school day, an inordinate number of hours are typically spent in classroom management, behavior management, and various other non-academic time-stealers, leaving a limited amount of time free for actual academics.
- A teacher’s time is often taken up with administrative duties—required activities that can greatly diminish the time available for actual teaching and preparation for teaching. These duties can leave teachers feeling drained and frustrated…before they ever teach a single lesson!
- The most successful students in public school are actually homeschooled students. HUH? That’s right…parental involvement in the life of a student is the single most important factor in creating success in the classroom. Any teacher will tell you that successful kids excel to the degree that they do because the home environment reinforces and expands on what is being accomplished in school, and in many cases, compensates for a less-than-optimal school experience (though teachers might not tell you that part.)
- Highly successful students are the exception in public schools. The status quo (or below) is the norm.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that when skeptics criticize homeschooling, they often do so by raising this argument:
Children belong in government regulated schools where trained professionals are committed to, and equipped to provide for, the success of every child. Parents are not qualified to teach their own children and by choosing to homeschool, they put their children at risk of failing academically.
Increasingly, a cry is being heard calling for government regulation of homeschools. That wouldn’t be quite so ridiculous if public schools were consistently successful at educating the children they are already responsible for. But national statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Education suggest otherwise.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the area of math, national test results (2007) reveal that 62% of 4th grade students are at or below Basic level of achievement. In the area of reading, results reveal that 68% of 4th graders are at or below Basic achievement. In math and reading, 69% and 70% of eighth graders were at or below basic, respectively. And what exactly do those numbers mean? By definition, basic achievement denotes “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade assessed.” Listen to that again…basic achievement denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficiency at the grade level assessed. That means that approximately 2/3 of all 4th and 8th grade students in U.S. public schools have only partially mastered the fundamental skills necessary for academic proficiency! And this is a national average. The achievement statistics for some states and urban districts are absolutely abysmal!
At the heart of the matter is this: statistics suggest that government-run schools staffed by qualified teachers are failing to provide the majority of their students with a basic level of proficiency in required knowledge and skills. Successful students are NOT the norm in our nation’s schools. It is absolutely appalling that anyone associated with the state-run education community should dare to suggest that a system that is failing so many children should attempt to provide oversight for anyone. Public schools really should rescue the kids trapped in their own burning building before they come looking for the little fires that might be burning in ours.