Tag: School System

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.

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Which of the following do you recommend: homeschooling (online) or the US public school system, and why?

My daughters on the verge of 2 years old and I have another one on the way. I’m wary about sending them to public school, because I personally didn’t learn a lot (a bit too easy) and it didn’t really help socially. While I know there are pros and cons to both, what are your point of views?

Written Apr 18

free to learn

Wow … you are way ahead of the game!

 

First of all … relax. You have plenty of time to figure things out and, who knows, the playing field may change significantly by school time.

Until that day comes, you have quite a bit of homework to do.

Your first assignment: What are your goals for your children? What do you want them to achieve as a result of their education?

Second assignment: What are the strengths and weaknesses of each child? How do they interact with others? Are they social, or not? Gifted? Any learning difficulties, etc?

Third assignment (and this question is just a start): What are the strengths and weaknesses of different educational choices, and how well do they fit each of your children?

The good thing is that you have several years to complete your assignments, before you make any decisions.


Now it’s time for me to answer your question.

But first, a digression.

There’s a body of research that suggests we should not begin to formally educate our children until they are older. Some studies indicate that it can actually provide negative performance outcomes. The consensus seems to be about age seven. Several European countries, including Sweden and Poland, do not require schooling until age seven.

Other researchers believe that it is far more important (and natural) to encourage our children to play during their formative years. Dr. Peter Gray has a lot to say about this, but we’ll talk some more about him later.

So, don’t be in a big rush to start your kids on the education hamster wheel. Anyway, back to our story.

Deciding on a specific curriculum greatly depends on the answers to the above assignments. In fact, it is entirely possible that each of your children will require a completely different approach.

Your question asks us to compare online versus traditional schooling. There are two major considerations for this comparison. The first is the adequacy of the curriculum, and that mostly depends on the classes that are chosen (both online and traditional). I have read no research that indicates online teaching is better than traditional. Ultimately, your children need to do the work to understand the concepts, and to demonstrate mastery. Whichever method is chosen will require someone to ensure they are “getting” the material. My view, from a curricular perspective, is that this is a toss-up. Either option could provide a really good, or really bad, education.

The second major consideration is the learning style and, in my view, this incorporates the degree of social activities and interaction required. Online learning tends to be more isolated. A classroom environment is more likely to foster group interaction. However, once again, each situation is different, so you have to be careful. My view on this one is mixed. Some kids thrive in a social environment, while others prefer to work in isolation. (It happens that our daughter prefers relative isolation – a large classroom is a bad environment for her. We also have friends whose homeschooled children have chosen to return to traditional school).

Therefore, your answer is … it depends.


But that’s just the beginning. You forgot to ask some other important questions.

For example … what other learning opportunities exist, other than online or traditional education?

And it turns out, there are lots of choices available. Here’s an excerpt from one of my other answers:

  • 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.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to be restricted to one choice … there’s a whole smorgasbord available.


There is one other very important consideration. Some children have special needs, or have specific learning disabilities. While it may be possible, or even desirable, to homeschool, it is also quite possible that a traditional school has better resources available. Once again, carefully consider the alternatives. Traditional school may be the better choice.


Oops! I said I would mention more about Dr. Peter Gray, so here it is.

Peter Gray is a leading advocate and researcher who writes about unschooling. I find myself drawn to the philosophy of unschooling. I always seek to engage my daughter in choices about what, and how, she should learn. I recommend studying the principles, as it may help you clarify the educational goals you seek for your children.

Why are teachers important?

mean_teacher_800w_600h

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?

School-Choice-2-1024x681

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.

Why do we still have common core and what can replace it?

heartland-commoncore-math

Written Apr 12

Uh oh! I’m schizophrenic on this one.

 

On the one hand, I resent the paternalistic view that someone should tell me and my children what they should learn. (That’s the little guy on my right shoulder talking. He’s the same little guy that made me decide to homeschool our daughter).

On the other hand, I’ve read portions of the Common Core standards, and they are really pretty good. They actually make a lot of “Common Sense”. (So the little guy on my left shoulder wants me to think about this one more carefully).


So, what am I to decide?

There happens to be another course of action.

It is my belief that decisions about the education of our children should be made at the lowest possible level – ideally, a compact between teachers, parents, and students. It is, therefore, also my belief that bureaucrats at the federal and state level should have little say about my children’s education, and should have virtually no voice in what they should be taught. In fact, these beliefs have led me to pursue homeschooling for my child.

However, these beliefs do not necessarily conflict with the Common Core Standards (CCSS).

Why is this?

It turns out that the CCSS were developed by a group of people who are either educators, or are considered experts in the fields of mathematics and English language arts. In other words, the standards are developed by teachers. Hmm.

Furthermore, as a homeschool parent, I find it is not unreasonable to have guidance in determining levels of knowledge desirable for my child to function in society, or to pursue advanced education.

The CCSS provides a roadmap (which I consider reasonable) for teachers and students in the pursuit of mathematics and English language arts education. They do not require my children to participate in standardized testing.


And now for a couple of anecdotes.

First, I should point out that I am a product of the Scottish school system. I participated in national exams (“O-levels” and “A-levels”). When I came to the US, these credentials were adequate to not only admit me to university, but to exempt me from several freshman-level courses. Therefore, I acknowledge that standardized tests can have value when appropriately administered.

Second. As a homeschool parent, the CCSS (which were developed by educators) provides a roadmap for the education of my daughter. The only real difference for us, as homeschoolers, is that we can choose whether or not to implement the standards. It just so happens that I believe the standards are appropriate, and helpful.


So, to answer the question – “Why do we still have common core and what can replace it?”.

Our children need certain skills to survive in the world in which they will occupy. I happen to believe that mathematics and English language arts are very important and valuable skills for this purpose. (I recognize that some may disagree). Therefore, I am quite happy to acknowledge, and accept, the efforts of educators who have examined this carefully. Occasionally, I may differ in their opinions. However, the principle that our children should possess a basic understanding and knowledge of mathematics and the English language is acceptable. In my view, the principles of the CCSS are broad enough to accomplish these goals.

If parents are opposed to the CCSS (which assumes they have studied the standards), then it is up to the parents to work with their children’s teachers to agree upon an alternative. (Good luck!).