Ms. Saulny starts off on the wrong foot slam-bang in the first paragraph with this: "One recent afternoon, time passed loudly, and without order or lessons, in their home..."
First off, the time may have seemed to pass 'loudly' for Ms. Saulny, but for those of us with young children in the house it probably wasn't that bad. In fact - it sounds normal when you are dealing with 4 kids. I have noticed that we mothers are able to tune out the 'loudly' part of raising children - - but the 'loudly' part of it does not go unnoticed by those not initiated in the art of spending time with young'uns.
Second off, 'without order'. What may seems to be 'without order' to Ms. Saulny, again, sounds quite orderly to me. The 4 y/old has a box over his head, the 7 y/old is playing with the baby. The 9 y/old is reading aloud. Everything's under control!
Third off, 'no lessons'. I disagree. The 9 y/old is reading aloud to the younger ones about medieval warrior women. Great subject - and the kids will adore it! What do any of us know about medieval warrior women? Nothing? I thought so.
She then goes on to provide the estimated number of homeschooled children in the US as 1.1 million nationwide.
According to The National Home Educators Research Institute, that number is closer to 2 million for school year 2005-2006.
In the same paragraph she calls unschooling the 'most extreme application' of homeschooling.
Here's the deal with homeschooling. On the spectrum of style of homeschooling - you run from unschooling (no formal curriculum, real-world instruction on the subjects that most interest the child) to what some would consider a very rigid, curriculum based 'school at home'. Just for your information, over the (almost) 6 years that I have been teaching my children at home, I have gradually moved from a very nervous, rigid teacher-mom to a more relaxed, 'yes we need to get x-amount of instruction in but let's take some extra time on this since you are enjoying it so much' type of mom. I went from doubting my ability - and quite frankly doubting my children's abilities - to knowing that we are doing great, they are doing great, we don't need the 'experts' to advise or supervise us. My focus is on academic excellence. Every family has their own priorities. Some believe that being a good Christian is the primary goal, others believe most in their children's creativity and focus on not stifling that. I have also come under fire from homeschoolers who have a different philosophy than I have . I'm a 'live and let live' kinda gal. I'm open to others having a different priority than my own. So. Anyway - onward and upward.
I am a little disappointed that Ms. Saulny uses Luis Huerta as her professional expert for her article. Luis Huerta is a professor at Teacher's College of Columbia University and co-author of a paper entitled 'School Choice: Abundant Hopes, Scarce Evidence of Results.' *warning - pdf*
Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. Apparently, neither Mr. Huerta nor Ms. Saulny are aware of numerous studies done on homeschool students and charter school students. Here are links to a few - *sigh*. (I'm very annoyed about having to provide this information when it is out there for any journalist or professor at a Teacher's College to find themselves. Anyhoo - here goes.)
From NHERI there is this: An overview of the research that has been conducted on homeschoolers academic performance and socialization.
* The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
* Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
* Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
* Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
* Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
* Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.
Social, Emotional and Psychological Development:
* The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
* Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.
A Great Reason Not to Go to School.
On Charter Schools:
Performance of California Charter Schools. *warning - pdf*
The summary of the study goes thus: "Among other things, it showed that charter schools are improving the scores of low-achieving high school students significantly faster than their traditional counterparts. The study also found that the lower overall scores of charter schools are likely due to the type of students enrolling in them, rather than poor teaching. With many charter schools still in their infancy and likely to improve with age, CREDO's study suggests the state should continue supporting these fledgling schools."
Professor Huerta is apparently very concerned about the 'unschooled' children. All studies of homeschoolers - whether unschooling or school at home - show that the homeschooled children are outperforming their peers in public schools in every way. When a study is done, or test scores are compared, the style of homeschooling is not asked for. Therefore Mr. Huerta doesn't know which high achieving homeschooled kid is an unschooler and which is not. Listen. Pennsylvania has one of the most oppressive homeschool laws in the country. The kids are evaluated every year by a professional evaluator, they are tested using state approved tests in several grades, a list of goals has to be submitted to the school district every year, a portfolio of work examples must be kept, days or hours must be documented - we don't know, nor do we care, what philosophy of homeschooling the parents happen to have. They outperform - period. For most unschooling type homeschoolers, tests are taboo. They object to the almighty State's attempt to weedle their slimy little tentacles into their children's mind. I can understand that - and respect it. My belief is different - but I can definitely see their point. Can you?
Ms. Saulny appears to be alarmed that unschooling, which comes 'under the umbrella of home education', is legal in every state.
I repeat - unschooling is a style of homeschooling and it always has been. There is nothing new here. Kids have been unschooled their entire school career, have gone on to college and graduated, and by and large are living as productive members of our society - even marrying and beginning to unschool their little ones. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, yes! Even in a highly regulated state such as Pennsylvania, the state does not dictate your day to day operation of your homeschool. If the kids are being educated to the state's satisfaction, you're fine.
Here's a quote from the article to get you going:
"Experts assume that the upward trend (of families choosing homeschooling) has continued, and some worry that the general public is unaware of the movement’s laissez-faire approach to learning."
Okay - I started out thinking this journalist was being fairly reasonable in her approach to homeschooling - but that - right up there - just pissed me off. May I please ask the journalist AND the worried 'experts' if they are perhaps worried about the children in public schools who are incapable of outperforming third-world countries in global comparisons? It's not the homeschoolers that you need to be worrying about - it's the kids rotting in the sewer of the teacher's union controlled public school system that need worrying about.
Oohhhhhhhhhh, but nooooooo. These lovers of the status quo, these swine feeding at the federal trough of taxpayer money, will do anything to stop school choice or school reform. 'Education Next', a publication of The Hoover Institution, features a juicy - yet disgusting - little tale of the lengths to which charter school opponents will go in their attempt to prevent you and me and every taxpaying citizen from exercising our parental duty to provide a decent education to our children. Our children - the future of this great Republic. Read the gory details here: Games Charter Opponents Play.
Bah! I'm done.
God bless America. God save the Republic!