Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's Not About What That's About...


There’s been an educational brouhaha across the nation lately. I’ve held off blogging about it until I had more facts but I think it’s important to present you with what I have so far.

First, a little background. Online schools are just that, a school online. It’s like going to the local public or private school except your child sits at your computer desk. They sign in to homeroom and go to classes online. They have teachers for different subjects or maybe one overall to monitor their progress. Someone other than the parent teaches them, tests them and keeps records of their progress. Some of these online schools are accredited, meaning they “count” as bonafide schools in the state you live in.

Are they homeschools?

Technically no, because the parent isn’t teaching the child and keeping their records. They are, however, considered alternative homeschools because the child is at home. They’re handy if the primary homeschooling parent (PHP) is ill and can’t keep up with lessons, or if the PHP has to care for ill or aging parents. In some cases the PHP may feel unqualified to teach a certain grade or class (I can help with that, let me know if you have that situation). There are times when an online school is God’s answer, but it’s alternative homeschool.

Government (state) schools have become more than a little miffed by the homeschooling movement. There are always the snide comments that homeschool isn’t real school and other insults but as we’ve grown, government schools have had to concede our viability. One of the reasons they aren’t keen on us isn’t because they think we have inferior schools, it’s because they lose tax dollars for every seat that isn’t filled with a child. Approximately 10K per child - give or take a few thousand depending on which state it is. Add up the number of current homeschoolers, multiply by 10K and you’ll see how much potential Federal cash they’re losing - you’ll understand their whine better.

Some schools cover this by enrolling local homeschoolers in the public school anyway, either without the parent’s knowledge (which happened to us in Boston) or by telling the parents this is necessary which is a lie. Control has been the name of the game from day one. Who’s minding the children? Surely not the parents!

Is it any wonder someone’s gotten savvy lately in the public school system? The latest gig is a public state-funded, state-accredited online school that you can do in your home. Yeah, you’re a homeschooler now! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

This new program called K-12 is apparently available in every state but gets renamed as it’s adopted, sort of like the MCAS was. It’s public school online. And you don’t even need internet access or a computer, the state will give you that for free. Aren’t you interested yet? I hear bureaucrats sneezing into their hands at my breakfast table, “Get with the program, damn it.” It’s not intrusion if you let them in the door.

Here's the link to the news story about the Pennsylvania school that used their school issued computers to spy on families.

Is the free curriculum and computer deal attractive? To those of us who’ve given our life blood to fight for homeschool freedom for the last two decades, this is repulsive. The state will have control, not the parent, which is what homeschool circumvents. To those of us who have sacrificed that second income to protect and nurture our own, this sounds like the deal of the century. How many times have I thought if there was a decent public school around, I wouldn’t mind sending my children? (Usually in the heat of agonizing over a difficult math problem or yet another day of slogging through grammar when we all want to be at the park.)

But the truth is, if there was a decent public school around I still wouldn’t send my children because I am their teacher. I homeschool so I can teach them. They had the chance to go to an exclusive private school for free. We refused, because it’s not about what that’s about.

Recently a friend told me she read a letter sent home from a public school. It told parents they were homeschoolers because they helped their children with homework and took an active part in their child’s learning. It said they had every right to call themselves homeschoolers and enjoy the respect that homeschoolers receive. Besides being an outright fabrication, it would have been laughable if it wasn’t such a con. Public school parents are not homeschoolers, even if they help their children with homework. I'm not a politician if I give a speech.  And homeschoolers get very little respect even after decades of proven academic and life skill accomplishments.

So why are they blurring the lines?

For every child they get in public school at home, they'll get that Federal money and then again for the physical seat that is filled at the actual school. That’s a lotta dough, folks, and apparently enough to have some using emotional manipulation and telling lies.

I don’t know about you but I don’t spend 10K on one child’s curriculum per year and guess what? They don't either, nor will they. Never mind the student gets a free computer for the school year… those are less than $500. now and at bulk rate for a state order, probably less than $200. each, where's all the rest of the money going?

And what will the parent get? That's easy, the same public school control, I mean, headaches, minus the social interaction everyone’s been screaming about homeschoolers losing out on all these years. Funny how they aren’t worried about that anymore since they found a way to use homeschool to their advantage.

Here are three links you’ll find very interesting. The second one is a sad state of affairs for that family, but of course things would go that route, it’s the government school. Unsuspecting parents have no idea until they are ensnared by the system.  And sadder still, some of those implementing these things really think they are good ideas. 

For Massachusetts:

An Idaho family:

HSLDA's info:

I seriously doubt online public schools will go far. Many public school parents want others watching their children for them so they can get that second income. Who will babysit the children while the parents are at work? Law enforcement officials will not be happy with public homeschool children playing on the streets after school, that is if they sit down at the computer while their parents are away. It’s a disaster waiting in the wings. And then what? The public school will send someone to the home to make sure they are sitting at the computer? The new slogan will be "A social worker for every home!"

It’s interesting to me that the two systems in most disrepair in the US are the school system and the church system. The minute you start institutionalizing family, you’ve got a problem. Jesus didn’t send his disciples to Temple to get an education. He taught them the kingdom himself. And he didn’t send them to church either, he fellowshipped with them on hillsides, in gardens, and homes, wherever he was. I guess we’ve all been blurring the lines for a very long time. Home schools and home churches were the norm in the First Century and they worked. How and why we’ve gotten so far off course is not as important as getting back on course. Parents hanging out with their children is really what it is about.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Good Reason to Homeschool

Last week we started our homeschool for 2010/2011. I love summer but it sure is fun to pull out the books and study again. I look forward to it almost as much as my teens. They have a great writing book they’re using this year, I’ll be doing the exercises with them. I dug through some boxes in the basement and found an old standby. Erica liked it so much, she stashed with her things rather than put it away in the school boxes when she went to college. The Writer’s Toolbox – you guessed it, another grammar book to feed my English addiction. We’ll be making good use of that this year.

As we got down to business, the girls asked me for their schedule. They’re old enough to know what they need to do so I had them make it themselves. They were thrilled and came up with great plans. Per usual, we have music and art. I don’t think we’d survive without those. Molly’s got a great watercolor book that I’ll be doing with her this year. Did I say we homeschool? Sometimes I think it’s Mom school or Mom’s re-school!

With our schedules in place and time for reading and good movies and field trips and homeschool group events, I remembered the reason I love to do school at home. We can design it the way we want to. Molly had a chorus retreat last weekend that she gets school credit for. She’s also singing with the highest choir this year in the Boston Children’s Chorus. Another good reason to homeschool; we have time to do the extras and still get some sleep!

Today we drove Erica to the airport; she’s on a photography trip out of state. We left the house at 6:30, dropped Paul off at work, and drove to Erica’s apartment where we all had breakfast. Then we leisurely drove to the airport. We got back around 10:00. The girls were concerned about finishing all of their subjects with less time to study, normally we start at 7:30, so I gave them the day off from math cutting out about an hour from their work for the day. Two little faces beamed at me. This is the beauty of homeschool, we can rearrange things to have more family time. When all is said and done, they may not remember the formula for an area of a circle or how to find the vanishing point in a painting, but they will remember having bagels at their sister’s house on a rainy Friday morning and dropping her off at the airport for her first traveling photography gig, and then coming home to have decaf coffee with Mom and not having to do math for one day out of the year.

These are the things that make my heart sing.

Every homeschool day and week isn’t as glorious as these have been. I have my off days and so do the girls. But all in all, we wouldn’t trade homeschool for anything. I’m a selfish mom. It’s just not enough for me to see my babies take their first steps and say their first words. I have to be there for all their moments as long as I can. Eighteen years is a very short time to hang out with my favorite people in the world.

Wishing you all another wonderful homeschool year!

photo credits: & 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Herds of Cash Cows

I suppose it was inevitable. Homeschool is growing, but more importantly to business, homeschoolers are buying. And we are buying quite a bit. In the last few years, many companies have branched out of their fields to try to eat in our pastures.

Last year on Facebook there was a savvy ad about how to get your child to learn better with big letters “FOR HOMESCHOOLERS.” At first I laughed, that’s why we stay away from programs and schools - we want our children to learn better and we believe that happens at home with parents teaching their own children. 

I laughed until one of my friends, who was unsure about her ability to teach her children, thought this was a good idea. I pointed out to her that it was nothing more than clever marketing playing on her fears. This year her children are not in homeschool. Those fears ate them up.

It’s a jungle out there.

If you aren’t convinced that homeschool is the way to go, there are many programs that will try to come into your home and teach your children for you, for a price and one that isn’t always monetary.

Sometimes that’s ok. Online schools (also considered alternative homeschools) like the one I mentioned last week, work well if a parent feels they want someone with more knowledge to help out in a subject or if there is a crisis in the family. Personally, though, I’ve homeschooled through crisis, it’s not that hard, and there’s nothing wrong with learning alongside your child, in fact there might be a lot of right in it. We each have to walk with God on what is the best for our own families remembering that we ourselves are homeschooled by the Almighty.

In the last year I’ve had several companies contact me wanting the email list of my homeschool group families. As bizarre as this might sound, most of them are Christian. I’ve refused to give it out.  If they want to advertise, they’ll have to do it on their own time and pay for it. It was pretty nervy to ask me. First off, they simply expected me to hand it to them because they said they had a great product. I heard Jesus overturning the money changing tables in the temple, believe me!

The following has happened within the past year:

o A local company wanted to design classes saying they were doing a favor for us and charge us a lot of money. They are non-Christian and non-homeschooling.

o People offered to tutor our children and balked when I say no. Many tutors are not Christian nor do they necessarily agree with homeschooling, not to mention I do the tutoring here.

o Non-homeschooled and non-homeschooling speakers are trying to infiltrate homeschool conventions and are making mega bucks on us.

o I looked into a very expensive curriculum program for writing that is popular with homeschoolers. It’s written by a non-Christian non-homeschooler and designed to be a cash cow - the curriculum can’t be reused by siblings even. And the owner was less than courteous to me when I emailed about the program.

o I researched a program claiming to make my children smarter, designed especially for homeschoolers that is very expensive and taught by non-Christian non-homeschoolers.

o I was contacted several times by a business who asked me to give them my group email list and promised me freebies for doing so, supposedly Christian.

o A new business has cropped up called Homeschool Consulting. People are charging mucho dinero to help families design curriculum, lesson plans and to encourage them to grow. This is what I do for free as a fellow homeschooler. Many of these people are non-Christian and non-homeschoolers.

Why are all these people trying to get our money?  Homeschoolers have become a financial force. If one homeschooler likes something, we tell a friend and so on. There’s a lot of cash to be made on us and they want to lap it up.

They will come up with any gimmick to get our interest so they are busy researching us. I even read an online ad offering to train people to write articles for homeschool magazines. Writers don’t have to be homeschoolers or homeschooled, just act like it.

Maybe we should start designing some criteria for what we’ll buy and what we won’t buy. Here’s some of mine:

1. Do we really need it? If so, I move on to the next one…

2. Is their marketing wholesome, doesn’t prey on fears, etc.

3. Is it Christian? It doesn’t always have to be, but if it isn’t, is it worth it in another way to make up for the lack of spirituality? And if it isn’t Christian, will it be detrimental to our children because of that? Some things are ok, others aren’t.

4. If it’s a classroom, it’s anti-homeschool in my book unless it’s a homeschool co-op. Can I teach what they are teaching? If not, is it really a need? If I can teach it on my own, why bother with it? This is why we left public and private schools so we wouldn’t have strangers teaching our children.

5. What is the price? This includes the non-tangible cost. I can enroll my children in the local park program that is free for the summer but they won’t be with children of similar values.

6. Will it support and enhance our Christian homeschool values? If not, what are we doing it for? Is it really necessary to drive all over town, spend extra hard earned money and time away from home just to get that art class that maybe a book and a half hour a day with our children might be just as good if not better?

Just a side note on that: I met a retired art teacher this summer who gave me some great resources to use in my homeschool. She mentioned a book she thought was excellent. I’ve been using it for fifteen years now.

We don’t realize the gift we’ve been given. Don’t let the draw of the world suck you in.

I don’t give out our email list but I’ve had people tell me it’s ok to do that. Be wise, research the companies you do business with. You have choices. We have Christians who write textbooks now so we don’t have to buy from secular companies.

Check the fruit under the label.

A number of years ago a supposedly Christian man wrote a text book. Because there was a dearth in the homeschool field in that subject, it took off like wildfire. I contacted him because his book was so poorly written my daughter had a hard time understanding it and I suggested he hire an editor (I wasn’t one at the time!). He wrote back furious with me and said he didn’t have to fix anything because people were buying his book anyway. He lost a lot of customers that day. Now we use BJU Press for Science; they are thorough, easy to understand and well written.

You need to know who you’re dealing with, and numbers don’t help. The next time you think popularity can tell you if something is good or not, consider the pornography industry. Their numbers are through the roof and they aren’t godly by a long shot.

You can’t mass produce homeschool, because the heart of it is love. Satan knows love can’t be bought or sold so he wants to repackage his wares, slap a familiar name on it for you and get you to bite. Don’t feed his cash cows.

Love your spouses and your babies and guess what? If you don’t have the coolest lesson plans or the latest fad curriculum in the world, that’s a good thing because you do have the best Teacher and His Curriculum is priceless.

This concludes my two-part sharing on Christian Homeschool marketing. If you have any questions, please email me! And stay tuned, Paul is writing a post on the subject for you as well.

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