#1 Teaching Kids is Easy
Keeping young kids quiet, sitting at a desk, for seven hours a day, 180 days per year is hard. Teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic is easy.
People who tell you otherwise about the general population are lying to protect their jobs. Or assuming you are functionally illiterate. Or both.
#2 Recess is Only Fun for Cool Kids
The rest get beaten to a pulp — either physically or emotionally. Or hide on the unfavorable side of the playground.
#3 Being the Guinea Pig Is Not So Awesome
My oldest daughter, Jessica (now 26 and completing her master’s thesis in information systems), attended public school full time in kindergarten and first grade. (Before she enlightened me.)
After her kindergarten year, we were told she would be part of a pilot program for a new handwriting course the next year. I asked a few questions:
Q: What if the program fails?
A: The students will return to the regular program the next year.
Q: So the year of work will be wasted?
A: No, we’ll have more data.
Q: How will they catch up?
A: They’ll have to work harder.
Q: What if the program succeeds?
A: It will be tested in more classes the next year?
Q: Will my daughter be in those test classes?
A: She might. She might not.
And, of course, if the school boundaries change or if we move, then she’ll be at the mercy of some other administrator.
#4 Content Trumps Classroom Management
Elementary education degrees are highly focused on classroom management and barely focused on content. Unless your home is chaotic and dysfunctional without bulletin boards and you have no idea what to do if your child “complains about a stomach ache right before a lesson,” you may find the amazing certification provided by this degree and certification to be completely irrelevant.
According to research (see Lucy Sells, et al), the majority of education majors choose the major to avoid upper level math. According to more research (see just about anything), scientists (and those who actually use it) see math as a tool, while school teachers (who don’t like it and don’t get it) see math as inexplicable, nonsensical magic. Are these really the people who should introduce your children to math? (And if you hate math, can you see this might be why?)
#5 Most School Math Sucks and So Does Saxon
The designated course for Maths 1–3 (the new, new Common Core math of the 21st century) in Utah is Core Plus. But teachers can use any curriculum they want because “Common Core doesn’t dictate curriculum!” As long, that is, as teachers configure, map, and/or gerrymander the math of choice to match Core Plus. And it sucks, big time.
Then there’s Saxon math. Choice of homeschoolers and “math fundamentalists” everywhere. And it sucks, too.
Unless you are enrolled in some configuration of a public school, you don’t have to use either one. You can use the best resources in spite of what the latest fad, trend, gimmick, or mandate says.
Explaining why the Common Core math mandates are stupid is as easy as pointing to any implementation of the standards themselves.
My favorite example of why I have long been an opponent of Saxon comes from a study I read years ago. It compared the answers given by those “excelling” in plug and chug Saxon math and those with high scores in programs that had more of a “discovery math” focus (that was actually led by people who understood and enjoyed mathematics (as opposed to the vast majority of school teachers)).
Q: You buy three loaves of bread at the store. Each sack can hold two loaves of bread. How many sacks do you need?
Saxon answer: 1.5 bags
Real math answer: 1 bag and carry the other loaf or two bags, with one half full
[Note: My mother did not allow me to use the word “sucks,” even as it became more and more common. After years of enforcing that rule in my own home, I came to grips with the fact that it no longer means what it used to mean. Deal.]
#6 Teachers and Administrators Assume Your Child is a Jerk — Whether It Is True or Not
My second daughter, Belinda (now in college studying landscape management), took two classes at Lehi Junior High when she was in 8th grade. Her choir teacher was a tyrant and her art teacher was a dream.
When I mentioned the situation to an older friend of many (public schooled) kids, she said, “Junior high teachers are either mean…or they’re new.”
About the same time, my oldest was taking a couple of classes at Lehi High School. Whenever she needed to talk to administrators she was hesitant. I always countered with the idea that if she was respectful and clear to teachers and administrators, she would be treated well. Bad advice. And dead wrong.
Because she didn’t attend a full day, my husband generally drove her the ten miles to the school. But he was scheduled to be out of town for a week, so I called the school to get details about the local bus schedule.
Me: Hi. We live in Eagle Mountain and don’t usually use the busses, but we need to tomorrow. Can you help me figure out the bus schedule?
Front office administrator: The bus schedule is posted on the wall outside the office.
Me: Oh, thanks. But we aren’t at the school. We’re home.
Front office administrator: Well you can look at the schedules on the wall.
Me: OK, but right now we are home. We live in Eagle Mountain, so we aren’t close by and we need to use the bus tomorrow.
Front office administrator: Do you think I’m going to walk out and get the schedule for you? Look at it yourself.
Click. Dial tone.
I sat there holding the phone with my mouth gaping open. Stunned. Then I realized she thought I was a student.
I called back and the same woman answered.
Me: Hello, can I get your name please?
Me: Hello? Can I get your name?
Front office administrator: Can I help you?
Me: I’d like to know who just hung up on my daughter who called about a bus schedule. Can I get your name please?
Front office administrator: Wait just one minute. I will get the schedules.
She got the schedules (which, from the speed of retrieval, appeared to be sitting on her desk in front of her) and told me the pickup places and times. The entire process took all of about 30 seconds. But she refused to give her name.
We’ve had some great teachers and we’ve known some jerky students. But when your child tells you that the teachers and/or administrators are mistreating them, don’t dismiss it out of hand. It’s probably true.
As as a corollary — and to prove I’m not a my-angelic-child-is-never-to-be-blamed parent — here is another incident that occurred.
My third daughter, Alana, was attending Timpanogos High school for a few classes. One day, during rehearsal, her drama teacher called her a “little shit.” She came home and told me about the incident, very matter-of-factly.
“Were you being one?” I asked.
“Yea, I guess so.”
“Well,” I said, “tomorrow go apologize to her.”
No, I don’t think teachers should curse at students or call them names. They should have better decorum and more self-discipline. But kids shouldn’t be little buggers, either. They should be respectful and cooperative unless their is an explicit and consequential issue at hand that warrants taking a stand.
#7 School Lunch
Chili, breadstick, and applesauce day. I still remember my least favorite (and regular) menu on the Orem Elementary lunch calendar. As a very food-interested child, I dreaded it.
Now schools often provide menu choices, presuming that you consider “pizza or chicken nuggets” followed by “pizza or hamburger” (rinse and repeat) a real choice. But with all the whining and kvetching and money funneled into school lunch programs around the country, I continue to be baffled.
The solution is simple. Pack a lunch. Yes, I know it’s requires work and planning on your part. I know it’s (probably) not taxpayer subsidized. But if you don’t like what is fed to your kids (and you shouldn’t like it), do it yourself.
Strangely, it seems to be asking too much to suggest parents take back responsibility for feeding their own children. You know, after so many years of having someone else do it for them. So maybe they should start homeschooling, at least until they get used to basic parenting duties again.
#8 It’s All About Time
Every fall so-called “women’s magazines” (and blogs and Facebook statuses) feature stories about the awesomeness of getting your life back now that your kids are back in their 180-day cycle of taxpayer subsidized daycare. Every spring the same publications lament about how you are going to survive the long, hot summer trying to manage your own children all day long.
In fact, one of the most common questions I hear from public school moms is: “How can you stand being around your kids all day?”
This is generally followed by exclamations such as, “I need me time!” (OK, we all need R&R, but do you really need 1,260 hours of “me time” every year to be functional and get your nails done?)
If you buy into all that, this item isn’t for you. If you actually like being around your kids and don’t mind being responsible for those you brought into this world, then take note. Homeschooling means you get somewhere in the vicinity of 16,380 more hours with your kids than you would otherwise. (Your results may vary.)
When I’m on my deathbed, I’m pretty sure I will not lament this and wish I had only had more time for mahjong.
#9 Institutional Schooling Is Not Real Life
If you are sending your children to school under the auspices that you don’t want to shelter them from the “real world,” think again. Public school is no more “real” than homeschool. And homeschool will usually be much more like the rest of the real world than schools.
- Adults aren’t placed in age-segrated classrooms all day.
- Adults who are bullied can change their circumstances, locations, jobs, bosses.
- Adults who are bored or overwhelmed can move elsewhere.
- Adults rarely have to ask permission to use the bathroom or get a drink.
#10 Indoctrination is Real
You may be totally fine with all the tripe being fed to your kids in the name of education at your local school. But for the love of Pete, make sense of your position.
You can’t reasonably claim that your children are at school 7 hours per day 180 days per year to learn, while being totally immune from…ahem…learning.
Public schools are run by unions and the government. If you don’t agree with what they preach — and of course they preach — then you’re fooling yourself if you think your children aren’t absorbing it.
Bonus! School Busses
What are your favorite reasons for homeschooling?