Category: Education Reform

How do I get kids to join a tutoring class that is taught by high school students?

My high school friends are looking forward to making money through teaching students in our community.

However, after asking people to attend, there were concerns to be addressed like

  • How can I trust freshmen to teach me?
  • Is it worth it?

How do I handle such advertising over text without being pushy?

Written 29 May

Reach out to the homeschool community.

There are many homeschool groups on social media, and they routinely seek opportunities for collaborative learning.

For example, I am currently attempting to form a math circle in our community, and would be thrilled to involve high school students. I would also be willing to pay a high school student to organize, as I believe there would be benefits beyond that gained from tutoring. Additionally, it could allow parents to share costs.

What are some questions about homeschool a parent may ask?

I am planning on being homeschooled next school year as a sophomore in NY, but my father is still not fully convinced that it’s the best option for me.

What are some questions he might have about homeschool? What are some info I can tell him to convince him?

Written 24 May 2017

BoyinabandYou probably don’t want to show this video to your father, but it actually summarizes a ton of research in a short time. (I have spent hundreds of hours researching this topic, and I believe Dave Brown captures them well).

So, if your father is a relatively normal parent, he is likely to ask the following questions:

  • How will homeschooling impact your chances of getting into the college you desire
    • Answer: Lots of homeschoolers get into the college of their choice. In fact, many colleges actively recruit homeschoolers. Check out the college websites you are interested in, to see their requirements for homeschool students. In many cases, a high school diploma is not required – the SAT scores are, however, very important.
  • How will you study?
    • Aha. Tons of answers on this one, but the short answer is – whatever best suits you.
    • Okay, your dad probably won’t like that answer, so here’s an alternate. Studies show that tutoring and mastery learning (see Benjamin Bloom) are the best ways to learn. So, if you don’t have a tutor, the best way to learn is to study the topic (read, watch, do), and then test yourself to make sure you get it. Rinse and repeat until you are comfortable you properly understand the topic.
    • Okay … another answer. You can use resources such as Khan Academy (which has mastery learning “baked in” to its math approach), or Coursera. Or, you can register for, and participate in, community college courses.
  • What will you study?
    • One answer is … whatever interests me.
    • Another answer … I will study the topics which are required for college entry, and to help me pursue the field of my choice.
  • How will I be sure that you are spending your time productively?
    • One answer … you won’t. (And since it is my life at stake, it is my responsibility to do well).
    • Another answer … you will be able to monitor my progress on Khan Academy (parent login); review my Coursera and/or community college grades.
  • How will you take care of exercise, and socialization?
    • You can participate in sports (even on many school teams or extracurricular activities – check with your local school district). Also, there are many homeschool groups which regularly host activities.
  • What did I forget to ask?
    • Don’t worry. There are lots of resources, such as local homeschool groups, and lots of website homeschool discussions.

And you definitely don’t want to show your dad this one.

The Center for Home Education Policy – A Solution in Search of a Problem

by Rosemary Ward Laberee

Homeschooling is an educational choice often misunderstood and much aligned. It is the
favorite whipping boy of the main stream media’s education coverage. This essay parses
the misguided efforts of a new organization which has goals of promoting more oversight
in homeschools and which naively hopes to guard against bad parenting – an ever present
iniquity found disproportionately more often in families who send their children to school
than in families who do not.
It was with great interest that I read The Washington Post Magazine’s article, by Lisa Grace Lednicer, on this new enterprise – The Center for Home Education Policy.
Greater Home Education Monitoring (March 2, 2017)
The young people who run this organization were homeschooled and their goal is to help those who do not like the homeschool life their parents have designed for them. The Center for Home Education Policy wants to help young men and women “escape” their homeschools, and, rather presumptuously, will offer some basic life skills support in the process.
Sarah Hunt and Carmen Green are rather accomplished young people (Rhodes Scholar candidate and Georgetown Law). They have an outstanding command of the king’s English, did well at college, and clearly know how to get a job done. This puts them head and shoulders above most of their brick-and-mortar-schooled peers. They are not poster children for some backwoods, Bible-thumping, slop-‘dem-hogs-or-else kind of parenting. I bet that the parents of these enterprising young adults are exceedingly proud of them, as well they should be.
The goal of The Center for Home Education is more government regulation of home education, but as this essay will point out, there are errors and omissions in their petition.
The most obvious problem is this: The Center for Home Education Policy zooms in on fundamentalist Christianity as a culprit while ignoring other forms of religion-motivated, segregating, educational options. This is troubling. If The Center for Home Education Policy truly cares about the isolating and rigid circumstances which can be found in extremely religious homes, and if they care about how hard it is for the young lives trapped there, then it would definitely need to put a wide-angle lens on the camera. Christians are not the only home educators out there. What about the solitariness of Amish children? What of the detachment of children in conservative, orthodox Judaism? Finally, what about the confinement, oppression and degradation of young Muslim girls? These cultures represent huge homeschool communities – why doesn’t the Center for Home Education Policy “go there”?
I think it is because they would not feel comfortable stomping around the sacred grounds of a culture they do not know, even if it does have practices which offend their sensibilities. Maybe they have more respect for the rituals of these religious cultures than for their own? Regardless, their approach to helping home educated youth seems biased. They appear to be on a targeted witch hunt, and it robs their goals of integrity and sincerity.
On the claims of abuse and starvation in these fundamentalist homes, it is imperative to point out the difference between families who are truant and families who home educate. Truant families do not send kids to school. Neither do they homeschool. They do nothing at all because they are bad people. Legislating home education will do nothing at all to save kids from bad parents and creating a police state where kids are checked up on regularly steps into a very menacing space. The corruption in large governmental, bureaucratic departments which aim to “help children” is legendary. Relying on any agency to verify the integrity of a homeschool (against whose standards?) has a distinctly Orwelian stench. Bad people who fail to send their kids to school ALWAYS claim to be homeschooling. Hunt and Green have erroneously conflated these two groups.
Think. How many public-school kids suffer at the hands of bad parents? Tragically, too many to count. Why don’t we blame public education for this? Why don’t we seek some oversight in these families? If a few of the 1.8 million homeschool kids are mistreated in their homes, this is a terrible thing. But here is a much worse statistic – thousands and thousands of kids, who are not homeschooled, are mistreated in their homes each year. Thousands of kids who attend public schools are victims of abuse. Kids who attend public school are also much more likely to be murdered – while AT the school. Child abuse is ghastly and heart-breaking and for the sake of those victims, I think we should interpret the data correctly.
Hunt and Green explain that many kids who were homeschooled in isolating circumstances need very basic life skills training and academic remediation as well. I have caught one or two rare glimpses of this, so I do not disagree entirely. But it is very disingenuous to suggest that this is common in home education. It is not common. It is rare. It is, however, very common to meet a middle schooler who attends a public school and who still cannot read. Of the young people who fill our prisons and who drop out of high school or college, the overwhelming majority went to a public school. (That is a very scary outcome.) Now, THIS looks like a good space to occupy if you want to make a real difference to the kids.
You see, the question that does need an answer is this: Why are so many young people who come out of our nation’s public schools not prepared for college, for life, and for self-sufficiency? Here is a problem that needs a solution, but it is not a problem generally found in homeschool homes.
More importantly, today’s headlines have revealed how public school students are narrowly formed around a bubble of progressive, politically-correct, left-of-center orthodoxy. The shocking events on our nation’s college campuses show us how very intolerant and viciously protective that isolating piece of society can be. (Here, I am referring to the isolation which public education molds.)
Now – take a look at the Nation’s Report Card


THIS is terrifying. None of the kids represented in these statistics were home educated. This is a crisis, a tragedy, and a terrible injustice. On a GRAND scale. How can one point fingers at a very few ill-prepared homeschool children, when an entire nation is facing an academic extinction event brought to us compliments of ….no, not home education…. but that wondrous alternative known as public education? The author of this article, Lisa Grace Lednicer, showed neither the Nation’s Report Card nor the Homeschool Report Card. Such an omission is not cool.
The numbers and the research speak volumes. This is why I think that The Center for Home Education Policy is a solution in search of a problem. Home education builds better citizens.
The problem is public education.
In the Washington Post article, Sarah Hunt explains that some homeschoolers do not even know what the SAT is. The direct opposite has been my experience. I have heard the same things, year in and year out, from homeschool teens who take the SAT or ACT. Homeschooled teens come away shocked at how oblivious the other students are about these tests. During the test breaks they listen to bewildered comments from the school kids, many of whom do not even know why they are there. These public school students are shocked to find out that the test is 3.5 hours long. They are shocked to learn that they must write an essay. They are shocked to learn that they must know Geometry to do the math portion. My own four kids (each took SAT 2 to 3 times in total) were flabbergasted at how unskilled and vulnerable these kids seemed. And they felt pity for them.
As someone who consults with parents during the college application process – parents of homeschoolers as well as parents of public school students – I can tell you that there is a huge difference between the two. Homeschool parents are much more aware of the requirements for graduation and the criteria for admission to college. For many homeschool families, the proof of the pudding arrives during the first year in college. This is when homeschool kids truly shine. Colleges are eager to have them and they thrive, while many of their public schooled peers do not.
I think that Hunt and Green have focused on the wrong data. To illustrate this point – imagine you are in a room where there are 100 young people who were very poorly educated and who come from wacky families. Now, imagine that 5 of them were home educated. How can you hope to be taken seriously when your take-away from this is that more regulation is needed in home education, when the real problem is in the BIG numbers … the 95 other people? It does not make sense.
The timing of this article and, indeed, the timing of the whole “homeschool monitoring” message is suspicious, given the present political climate. There is an elephant in the room, which may be the real reason for the howls for “home education monitoring”. It is this – the inevitable a la carte approach to education. If the US moves toward a voucher model for education then home education will grow even more. So, best to start the bleating and barking for more controls now, right?
I wish The Center for Home Education Policy well but remain convinced that they are a solution in search of a problem. I hope they turn their well-formed minds to the real problems in education, where they might rescue countless children lost in an intellectual and cultural wasteland.

Why are teachers important?


Is it not feasible to learn what one wants to learn by reading, understanding, and practicing from relevant textbooks/journals/YouTube/Khan Academy/Wikipedia/Google?

Okay … first, a “pre-script”. When I searched for an appropriate image for a “teacher”, the vast majority showed a person (usually female) standing at a blackboard in front of a class. Hmm … that says a lot about our education system. Several stereotypes, particularly of the “broadcast mode” of teaching. Anyway, I digress, so back to the real discussion of teachers.

Written Apr 14

Hang on a sec … I’m a little confused by this one.


Let me think about this. I am homeschooling my daughter, and she uses a variety of learning methods, including every single one you mention in your question:

  • Textbooks. Seems to me that these are written by experts who are seeking to impart knowledge to students. In fact, textbooks are a method for teachers to convey information.
  • Journals. This one is a little different. Journals are usually directed at an audience within a certain profession, so they assume a certain base knowledge. The intent, however, is the same – to impart knowledge from an “expert” to others.
  • YouTube. Now it gets more interesting. There’s a lot of stuff on YouTube that is silly, fun, and entertaining. But there is also a lot of stuff that is educational in nature, and can be very engaging (for example, Richard Feynman’s lectures). My daughter’s interest in science probably increased exponentially as a result of vSauce and Veritasium. She also “self-taught” digital drawing and animation by watching YouTube videos. But, once again, these educational videos are brought to us by “teachers”, who are imparting information.
  • Khan Academy. KA has two distinct modes. Videos, which are a form of lecturing (teachers again), and questions, which encourage mastery learning.
  • Wikipedia/Google. Not quite so clear-cut, but once again we are dealing with sharing of information.

The issue a student has to deal with, is how to manage all the available information and learning sources above. And that is where teachers/tutors/mentors are vitally important. Ideally, a “teacher” knows the student’s personality, learning style, capabilities and interests. The “teacher” can therefore help guide the student toward an effective application of study. Furthermore, the “teacher” can help the student evaluate the information critically (there’s a lot of bad information out there), evaluate the student’s understanding, and provide feedback.

And this is where our traditional style of education tends to break down. Too many classrooms are stuck in the “broadcast” mode, where the teacher spends a lot of time lecturing. (Of course, there are also many examples of alternate classroom styles, so I am generalizing).

Ideally, our student and teacher should work together to identify areas of interest, and competencies to be developed. The teacher should guide the student to appropriate resources (including many of those discussed above). There may be occasions where the teacher determines that group projects are the appropriate way to learn. In this way, education can become more personal, and individualized.

Of course, my daughter and I can already take advantage of these options, as she is homeschooled. Wouldn’t it be great if our educational system changes course, and sets sail for individualized learning? We have the capability now.

Could a large group of parents that homeschool their children group together and form their own small private school?

Say for example a group of 50 parents decided to pool their resources, with parents teaching subjects that they know best, pooling their money and renting a building.

Is this legal in most states? How large could this homeschool group grow?


Written Apr 13

Think of schooling as a spectrum of choices. The result will therefore look something like this:

  • Unschooling. The interests of the child guide the focus of the learning.
  • Democratic schools (such as the Sudbury school system). The interests of the students guide the curriculum, but this occurs in a community environment.
  • Homeschooling, with the parents (or family members) as the teacher.
  • Homeschooling, with instruction guided by tutors.
  • Online education.
    • This also has its own spectrum, which ranges from selection of individual courses, to a complete curriculum. Online classes are available from grade school to graduate level.
  • Co-op classes – where homeschool families share responsibility for teaching.
  • Umbrella schools. These can also occupy a spectrum, but are generally a hybrid which may offer classes (or not). However, the idea of an umbrella school is to provide for administrative support (such as grades, or transcripts).
  • Dual enrollment. Homeschool students generally have the option of attending community college classes (if they meet minimum qualifications).
  • Charter schools. While some of these schools are essentially just regular schools run by businesses using taxpayer funds, others can be formed by parent groups. The specific rules for formation and administration of charter schools are determined by each state.
  • Private (and religious) schools. Privately funded schools.
  • Magnet schools. These are generally operated by the local school district, but with an emphasis on certain academic areas.
  • Traditional schools.

Parents should think carefully about which option is best suited for their children. As some of the other responses have noted, the choice to homeschool can be VERY dangerous if not done properly.

In my family’s case, we take advantage of several different options noted above. The overall philosophy is unschooling. I have found that engagement and motivation are highest when our daughter has expressed interest in particular subject areas.

The method of instruction varies. I prefer tutoring, as research shows that it is a very effective way of learning. However, I also know that project-based learning is very important (again, supported by research). Therefore, our daughter also participates in several classes (usually online).

Lastly, I believe that mathematics and English are essential ingredients for a basic education, so I ensure that they are a continuing part of the curriculum.

Also (and this may be viewed as heretical in the homeschooling community), I believe that standardized testing has an important role to play in education. I therefore have my daughter participate in annual standardized tests at our local school. This allows me to demonstrate that she is learning the minimum requirements compared to her peers; it will also demonstrate appropriate grade-level placement, if we decide she should return to the traditional school environment (which we don’t plan on doing, but you never know); and it will prepare her for similar testing in the future (e.g. SAT), which may be useful if she decides to pursue college (which is very likely).

So, with the exception of traditional schools (which receive their mandate from federal, state, and local school authorities), I believe it is possible for parents to get together and organize learning (or schools) at virtually all other levels.