Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Home Schooling Hullabaloo

So I was listening to NPR earlier today and heard about the latest buzz over a California State judicial ruling that homeschooling is not a Constitutional right parents have and thus all forms of homeschooling are in violation of state law. If parents want to teach their children at home rather than send them to schools, they must have certified teaching credentials.

I heard this whole ordeal originally came about because some parents who homeschool physically abuse their children.

Is it just me or is this the most ridiculous policy response, ever so typical of politicians wanting to look like they're doing something when they're really not doing anything? While I'm somewhat sympathetic to the notion that it would be better if homeschooling parents had at least some teaching background or some sense they're qualified to be solely responsible for an entire education, I think that if this ruling came in response to physical abuse then it is wholly inadequate. Physical abuse happens and as long as some parents are prone to abusing their children, they're gonna do it whether or not the children are schooled at home or through public education. Moreover, just because the parents have teaching credentials doesn't prevent them from engaging in abuse.

Some homeschooling parents called into NPR to extol the benefits of homeschooling: full attention to the needs of the child, greater ability to integrate daily life into the learning experience, greater attention to balance of mental and physical health, etc. I'm a bit on the fence about it. I think homeschoolers also have to be really careful to integrate social time for their children to interact with others their age. There are important lessons that parents can't always give to their children, that only come with the experience of interacting with friends, enemies, peers and strangers. Homeschooling could be a really powerful way to help develop a child, encourage curiosity and an ability to approach life in a wiser, more holistic manner...but it would be very difficult to do this properly.

But when I think about the day I have my own children, this is where I reach a dilemma. I think the greatest tragedy of the mass education system is that it all but extinguishes children's natural curiosity. Children (and later as adults) get caught in this cycle of reading, memorizing, and regurgitating and the only real measure of learning is the grade at the end. Eventually grades become the sole motivator, not the actual learning process. (I might be over exaggerating, but probably not by much.) The measure of a good student is who got As and Bs, not who was curious, resourceful, inquisitive or pushed themselves to greater heights.

When I have my own kids, what will I do? Do I pursue my chance as an educator trying to help hundreds of students in what little way I can, or do I devote my time to saving my own children from boredom and complacency? And seriously, how is it even possible to afford homeschooling your children? Can people actually afford to live comfortably on one income in this day and age? Even if I decided to homeschool my kids for only part of their education, say through grade school, and then put them in junior high or high school, it would be so difficult to re-enter the workforce after 6 or so years of not working.

::sigh:: I guess these are the decisions we have to make.


  1. I think in California you have to make at least $120,000 to live comfortably (but not excessively and probably with no extra money to save). That's why it's difficult to live on one income. But if you can make it work for a few years while your children are small then that's awesome. The scariest part for me is something you brought up, which is getting back in the work force. If I have a job that allows me to work part time that would be ideal because then you never fully exit the work force. I'm not counting on it though.

  2. Oh and I also think that you can send your kids to school but do things with them after school to encourage their natural curiosity, ensure they aren't bored etc. That way they can have the social aspect of school but they can also have a chance to become their own person and find out their interests. And you can do it in a fun way like take them to the natural history museum or read them Harry Potter (can't wait to read my kids Harry Potter!). I think sitting in front of the TV all day will make them bored and complacent, not necessarily going to school. I'm sort of against home schooling, not that I'm against other people doing it but I would never do it.

  3. Yeah, I never would have considered home schooling until I heard the segment on NPR and homeschoolers were talking about their own experiences, and it just happens that I heard it while I've been doing a lot of my own research about effective educational techniques and some of the big problems of mass education systems. I'm trying to find ways to encourage more active learning in my classroom. Some of the things I've been trying have been really effective, but there are still some difficult barriers to overcome. So it made me think about the potential benefits of homeschooling. I still don't really think it's possible (money-wise and the difficulty of rejoining the workforce). But it does give me things to think about, like your suggestions of how to combine public education with your own guidance.

  4. I've thought about homeschooling, just because of all the BS that goes on in public schools these kids not being allowed to play tag because a kid's feelings might get hurt. Give me a break.
    And yes, it's totally possible to live on one income, it's just a matter of priorities- you might not be able to have that big new house or the fancy car, or live on the coast. I know lots of places (even in CA) where $120k is more than enough to have a pretty good life.

  5. The problem is that the places in CA where it's possible to live on $120K don't have jobs that pay $120K. But I totally agree that it's all about priorities and maybe living in CA isn't the answer.

  6. That's true. But there are places where you get more bang for your buck, I guess that was my point. You can get a new house for $200k in lots of places in CA, just not the coast. The problem is when people insist on living somewhere like San Diego and then can't understand why they can't survive on one income. As you know, location isn't a big deal to me, and one of the main factors in where we move next (for Josh's med school) is cost of living.

  7. Yeah I'm pretty sure neither of our careers realistically pulls in $120K on its own...Not to mention my career would pretty much be shot if I decided to take some time off. It's hard enough to get tenure if you're female and have a family. Automatically they assume you're not totally committed to your career and therefore not worthy of tenure. Sexist and retarded, but true.

  8. The beauty of being a professor and an artist are that you both have somehwat flexible I'm sure you could coordinate so that one of you is always available...


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