Homeschooling the “Right” Way?

I haven’t done much homeschool blogging lately. I’ve been more caught up in my recent health journey and have focused most of my writing energies there, but yesterday I stumbled on a blog post that troubled me. And if something troubles me, I’m likely to write about it.

So if you’re not a homeschooler, please bear with me for a little bit while I share some thoughts concerning a troubling trend in the homeschool community.

Homeschooling the Right Way?

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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

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Senator Maloney quickly (evidently) realized that he hadn’t adequately thought things through and his bill was quickly withdrawn.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.

Dear Tracy….

(Hat tip to my friend and fellow blogger, Arby, for writing a GREAT blog post that led to this one…more about that in point #2 below.)

Some people just don’t get it.  Tracy Jackson doesn’t get it.  Tracy is a high school science teacher who recently responded to a comment on a Wall Street Journal “Question of the Day” with a challenge:

Homeschooling – I have no problem with homeschooling, but please don’t compare that with my job. There are VERY FEW similarities. If I had only 3-4 self-selected students to educate in the comfort of my own home with any bathroom/food/physical activity/food break and could set my own hours and discipline appropriately, etc. etc. etc —— I could get even better results than those parents. If you don’t believe me, then please fund that study and I will be happy to participate. I will even take 10 students.”  (emphasis mine)

Dear Tracy,
You’re right.  There are very few similarities between what you do and what I do.  Frankly, I don’t think you have any idea just how true that statement is.  So, I’d like to take you up on your offer of a study designed to prove your point.  I think the study will prove a point.  I’m just not sure it will prove the point you think it will prove.  Anyway…in the interest of scientific purity (as a scientist, I’m sure you’ll agree,) we’ll need to set a few parameters just to be sure the study is “legit.”

1.) No can do on your “you-fund-the-study” requirement. Homeschoolers don’t get funded. You are definitely on your own in the money department.

2.) No can do on the “self-selected” students thing either. You will receive a randomly selected, representative sample of students. And speaking of “self-selected” students, you might want to read what my friend Arby has to say about that HERE

3.) Since you’ve made the claim that you could get better results than homeschool parents can, this study really needs to last at least 2 years.  Otherwise we won’t be able to adequately evaluate (and compare) the results.  I’d suggest standardized tests as a fair method of evaluation.  Oh.  And you have to pay for the tests.

4.) As long as we’re talking about money: you don’t get paid for your participation in this study.  No salary.  No benefits.  No collective bargaining agreements.  Sorry, but there’s no one to bargain with!

5.) We’ll go ahead and let you have the 10 kids you suggested you could handle. But even though homeschoolers rarely have more than 1-2 kids in the same grade level, in the interest of fairness, we’ll give you a little bit of a break. You can have two sets of twins. Lucky you!  Your 10 kids will only be at 8 different grade levels.  But though your twins may be at the same grade level, they’ll likely have totally different learning styles.  And the special needs kids (odds are, your representative sample will provide you with at least one!) don’t get a teacher’s aide or resource teacher.  It’s all on you.

6.)  By the way, just so we’re clear, you have to teach all subjects…not just science.  Are you ready for a kindergartner?  Or two??

7.) You have to find, select and pay for all the curriculum for all 10 kids.  Be sure to check Ebay,, Vegsource, homeschool book fairs, and any other used curriculum resource you can possibly think of.  It’ll probably only take you 6-8 weeks of constant searching to finally secure all the curriculum you need at the prices you can afford.  But don’t worry, it’ll be much better next year when you can reuse all your non-consumables with the younger kids.  And if you make the big kids do their work in notebooks instead of writing in the books, you can even reuse the consumables!!  And guess what?  What you won’t be using again, you can sell!  It’s fun. Homeschoolers LOVE using all their free time buying and selling curriculum!

8.) You have to homeschool those 10 kids in your home. With furniture, food, supplies, etc. that you have purchased, begged, borrowed, or stolen yourself.

9.) And speaking of home, you can’t “go home” at the end of the day.  You are home!  You have to live with, cook for, do the laundry for, shop for, wipe the noses of, and everything else for the 10 children you’ve agreed to homeschool. Oh, and by the way…your students never leave.  You don’t get evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers off.  No teacher’s “in-service” days, either.

10.) Each child has to be involved in at least one extra-curricular activity outside the home…you know, so they can get the “socialization” they need.  That’s very important, you know.  I hope you have a big van.

11.) While you’re waiting in the van during one of those extra-curricular activities, you might want to make a list of all the ways your kids are getting socialized.  Keep it handy.  You’re gonna need it.

12.) And finally, there should be at least one other “extenuating circumstance” in your life.  Normally these “real life” circumstances pick us. We don’t pick them. But we’ll be kind. You can pick.

a.) You’re juggling homeschooling and a part-time job. And being the director of the local food co-op.

b.) Your spouse is out of work so you’re down to NO incomes.

c.) You’re caring for your aging parents who live 60 miles away and require regular visits and care.

There. I think that about covers it.

So, how ’bout it, Tracy?  Still want to participate?

Link Up!

Update on IL SB 136

On January 27, 2011, Senator Edward D. Maloney, D-Chicago, filed SB 136.  Just a little over a week ago the news of Senator Maloney’s bill began to gather steam within the Illinois homeschool community. It was a week of scrambling to get information about the now infamous bill…a week of incredibly well-organized fact-finding, communication, networking, and mobilizing on the part of homeschoolers from all over the state of Illinois.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, the homeschoolers of Illinois descended on Springfield to remind Illinois lawmakers that the state is accountable to its citizens, and not the other way around. Hundreds of homeschooled children, along with their parents and grandparents, got the civics lesson of a lifetime. In total, more than 4000 citizens made their presence known. This is how democracy was designed to work. This is how citizens respectfully, but forcefully, stand their ground.

And in the end, the citizens prevailed. This morning, the news was good. On February 17, 2011, SB 136 had been “tabled.”  According to the glossary of the Illinois General Assembly, tabling a bill means “laying on the table or killing.  Tabling removes a bill…from consideration.

There is some question as to whether Senator Maloney intends to let the matter die.  In a radio interview this afternoon, Mr. Maloney expressed a desire to continue to pursue the “truancy issue.”  It would be wise to continue to be vigilant. However, today’s victory is still a victory.  On the Illinois Christian Home Educators (ICHE) Blog, Jeff Lewis who spoke for Illinois Homeschoolers at the hearing on Tuesday shared thoughts about today’s victory. I appreciate his explanation of the current situation:

We are grateful that today the state senate voted to table Senate Bill 136. The vote came at the request of Senator Maloney, who introduced the bill that led to the hearing by the Senate Education Committee on February 15. That hearing brought to life the collective voice of 4,000 homeschoolers appearing at the State Capitol and thousands more who got involved even if they could not be in Springfield. Our voice has been heard; our legislators have listened. Just as ICHE encouraged families across the state to intervene during the past few days, so now we encourage those same families to express their gratitude for this decision in favor of freedom.

Many have rushed to point out that the bill was not actually voted down, or that another bill could easily be introduced that would start the debate all over again. That may well be true, but homeschoolers in Illinois live with that possibility every day. That thought may not have occurred to many of us before this week, but that is the nature of our legislative process.

ICHE’s Legislative Task Force is optimistic about Senatory Maloney’s willingness to listen to our input. He has publicly stated that he wants to work with homeschoolers, not against us. Senator Maloney was willing to sit down with us the week before the hearing, and we would welcome future discussion to help him understand the hearts and minds of the families of ICHE.

For now, we are rejoicing in God’s mercy to allow us to continue in the freedom we have enjoyed for many years in this state. As we look to the future, we are trusting in that same mercy to lead and guide us.

So what’s next for Illinois Homeschoolers?

First, we need to thank Mr. Maloney for his decision to table this bill.  ICHE and HSLDA also deserve our gratitude for arguing this case so effectively.  If you have not had the opportunity to watch clips from the hearing, please do.  It was VERY informative!

Next, we need to stay informed and involved in the fight to preserve our freedom.  Several organizations can help keep homeschoolers informed in the weeks and months to come.  ICHE’s Legislative Task Force, HSLDA, and the newly formed Illinois Homeschool PAC (currently only on Facebook), can all provide us with a wealth of information in the days ahead.

It’s been an interesting week.

Now, it’s time to get back to school before that mean truancy officer comes knocking on my door to offer his “help.”

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.

:  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. . . .”


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!

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!

The Homeschool Village–Homeschool Panel

For the next couple of months, it will be my privilege to participate on a panel with 6 other homeschool moms at The Homeschool Village.  The purpose of the panel is to encourage homeschoolers who are engaged in all stages of the homeschool journey.  As a 20-year veteran of homeschooling, I guess I qualify!!

Every week, the members of the panel will respond to a homeschool-related question.   I hope that the collective wisdom and experience of the women serving on the panel will serve to encourage and spur others on to find joy in their own homeschool journeys!  Join me and the rest of the panel over at The Homeschool Village every Thursday!!  Here’s a link to the panel members’ answers to the first question–Do You Encourage Your Homeschoolers to Set New Year’s Goals!

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.