In response to a discussion at “Pro Libertate Nostra”,  questions arose about the quality and control measures in place in the home school model.  I have copied the consequent article below and attempted to answer the concerns addressed by mainstream educators.

“Education for whom (and for what purpose)?” by tegis.

I study economics and school systems, most of the people in my class are pretty left-wingish and would not agree with the homeschooling idea (or any idea at all concerning private initiatives in the education sector), but for me freedom of choice is one of the most important pillars for modern education and it is extremely important that we actually debate things like how to challenge state monopoly on education and how to use our resources well thought-out. The left sees education as a tool for;

1. a way to smash the sc. class system and make everyone more or less alike, through (trying to) create us alike in mind.
2. spreading of their own agenda. This they have together with social conservatives – they just have a different agenda.
3. an institution where they construct workers – small cogs for the big wheel.

I definitely believe that homeschooling will have a function to fill in the future – everywhere. But the example of Australia is a good example on how the State actually do NOT wish for competition in this field. They want to have control of what kids are being taught and they are not going to let that go, unless there will come a real change – a change for more freedom for families, parents, and individuals to actually have a real choice.

Beyondbluestockings: It is correct that the Australian government does not wish competition in the education sector.  Under a conservative government Australia has enjoyed more freedom to homeschool than is the present case under the Labor party (here the conservative party are called “Liberals”, the liberal party called “Labor, or Greens, or Democrats”)

Tegis: It would be really interesting to know more about this, maybe Mrs. Bluestockings has some Internet sources to share with us when it comes to material (curricula etc.) aimed for home school situations?

Beyondbluestockings: There is an enormous choice, although there is a dearth of Australian content as homeschooling has been largely unknown or ignored in our country, and has only fairly recently come to notice here.  Here are two curriculum review sites, which will give something of an idea of what is out there, just to scratch the surface.

Tegis: Has there been any research on the subject, like how homeschooled kids stand in comparison with the other kids in State schools? How about exams and national tests – do they have to do that?

Beyondbluestockings: From the home school legal defense site:

In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, “Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America.” The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects.

Each year the University of New South Wales holds the Australasian Schools Competitions, which are open to registered homeschooled children and give a detailed analysis of the strengths and weakness in each subject attempted.  The results are returned with the position your child holds within the state of residence.  This years results have not yet been returned, but the previous attempted competitions my students returned these places within our state:

Science 81  percentile
Maths 88
English 99

Science 98
Maths 79
Spelling 90
English 96

My youngest student has not qualified by age to enter any of these yet, but is currently working one to two grade levels above her age.

There are also tests for grades 3, 5, 7, 9, to measure numeracy and literacy standards in all state and private schools, which homeschooled children are requested to participate in.  The unfortunate element in the process is that it does not allow for learning things at different times to the state school, just as the old method of determining IQ did not allow for different educational experiences.  Some classical educators believe it is better to start teaching maths at around 10 years, and cover the work quickly and easily, rather than start when a child is 5 or six years, and take a long, sometimes challenging road to achieve the same result.  Such a person would be disadvantaged in the standardized tests, but not in the long term.  Similarly, some people choose to concentrate on formal grammar later than the state programs.  These tests are good, essential even, to the schools to see who is “falling through the gaps” but hardly suit the needs of home schooled children.

Tegis: Another obstacle that I see is that it is much easier maybe to stand up against your own mother or father if s/he is teaching them. A “real” teacher would have much more of an authoritarian role in the eyes of his/her students, am I right? Isn’t it easy for the kids just to cut class?

Beyondbluestockings: Ironically, this is one reason I chose to homeschool.  With the removal of corporal punishment from schools, the authority of the teachers has dissolved.  Combine that with absent parents, and parents who fail to train their children yet become hysterical if they are reprimanded by a teacher, you have a resultant disciplinary disaster.

I find as a parent who is constantly with my children, it not only forces me to address issues in my own life that are less than ideal as an example to uphold, but it means that I am very aware of the character of my children, and have many opportunities to teach them appropriate behaviour.  If I have authority to teach my child that it is an important discipline to get out of your pj’s in the morning, pick your towel off the floor, etc, then to sit at the table and start your maths is a natural extension.  It is not an area I have any more issue with than any other thing a parent may require of their child.  I can see that some parents would find it a challenge after children have been removed from school to the home environment, as the school system is inclined to erode the child’s belief in his parent’s intelligence and right to speak to him on any subject – but that’s a whole other post 😉

Tegis: As I understand it, you aim more for the earlier stages, am I right? More like grammar school level? As you say there are probably a lot of resources to be found for high school level as well, but to me it just seems that this is such a high standard of teaching that it demands too much background knowledge on the field.

Beyondbluestockings: It may have sounded as though my emphasis is on the grammar stage, and certainly there are many studies to show that the later a child enters institutional life the better his chances of success, however I am equally an advocate for homeschooling in the later years.

The curriculum is still self teaching for many choices, and where a student is struggling and the parent is unable to supply the answers, help from outside sources, be they a distance education school, a private tutor, a friend or relative with experience in that field, can be sought.  Although the idea that professional teachers will teach a subject to your student more thoroughly than a parent could is no doubt true, again, there are a lot of other factors in the educational equation.  The number of students that teacher is trying to teach, the attitude of the teacher and students, the environment of the school, etc. will all effect the learning outcomes.  One dedicated parent with a willing student, both eager to achieve learning, will go a long way..

Tegis: My worries are mostly about assessment and evaluation – how can we know that the kids actually get a good education delivered to them? How do we know some hicks are not just teaching them that the world is a flat pancake and the moon is made of cheese?

Beyondbluestockings: There will always be parents who are dead beats and who raise dead beat kids.  (is “dead beat” a universal term? I mean a.. a no-hoper, never has a job, someone whose finer self has not been awakened!)  These people have children who in the school system would be truant, and in the homeschool world be the same thing.  Generally, this type of person would not genuinely consider homeschooling. (because it really is a lot of work!)  What to do with those kinds of families is beyond the scope of my ramble here.  However, at worst, if a child endures his entire childhood without a scintilla of information penetrating his mind, be that in the public school system or a homeschool situation, adult learning opportunities abound.  In a very short time he would, should he choose to apply himself, acquire an education that would serve him to improve his lot in life.

Tegis: Some control or assessment seems to be needed, and homeschooling seems to obstruct that?

Beyondbluestockings: As a registered homeschooler, work samples must be submitted to the education authorities each term, along with a log of each day’s learning activities completed, a list of excursions, extra curricular learning, etc.  This is in addition to the beginning of the year submission of a scope and sequence of all material in your learning pathway for the year, which is subject to approval.  In most states, a moderator will come to your house to assess your learning environment, (does the child have a well lit, airy space to work?) and view your work.  ( I personally suspect it is really to see if your child is covered in bruises and looks unwashed and unfed. There is a ridiculous assumed correlation between homeschooling and child abuse in the minds of those who don’t condone the education of children outside of institutional control, as though children have never been abused in institutions!  And I will, with supreme self control, resist running off on a rant of that tangent)

Tegis: The best way would probably be national tests and for the funding every family should get a backpack of money (not real money like that but money that should directly go to education and that they only can use for that) for every child and that they then can use it for whatever system of education they would like. It seems to be the fairest way to handle it. I don’t think a tax refund is exactly the same thing, I’m  talking about school vouchers – that you then can use on whatever product within the education sector you like – formal or non-formal alike.

Beyondbluestockings: While I have explained the disadvantages for some homeschoolers with standardized testing, the financial package you suggest would seem more appropriate than the current situation.  Each implementation of curriculum in education has been a choice reflecting the personal bias in educational philosophy and religion of the chooser.  This is true of the materials used in all schools, and I believe should be so in each home where children are being educated.  Parents choosing to educate at home are inclined to spend a great deal of time and effort in research, and should be allowed to exercise the same choice in materials used without retributive financial consequences.

Tegis, thank you for exploring this subject with me.