Monday, February 20, 2012

Rick, Rick, Rick - What Century Are You Living In?

We have a presidential election coming up (if you haven't noticed). President Obama is running for the Democratics and the Republicans, well - they'll pick someone, eventually.

My biased take is that I hope the Republicans tear each other to shreds and that someone staggers out of the Republican convention, dazed and bleeding.

Why? Well, if you care about public education, you'd wonder would happen to public education if any of these candidates are elected President.

We know what would happen with Santorum who likes to lecture people on why parents should all be homeschooling. Really? He loves the idea of the "one-room schoolhouse".

He says it's "weird" for kids of the same age to all be in the same classroom.

Actually, I like Montessori teaching which DOES encourage multi-age learning. But a classroom where all the students are related and taught by a relative (usually their mom) is better than a classroom with trained teachers? And learning how to get along in an environment with different kids of people? In a building where you don't have your home bathroom? (I never realized what a big deal this was until one son told me he tried - across his entire K-12 experience to NOT use the bathroom at school. Maybe it's a boy thing, I don't know.)

I pulled my son out of an LA class at Eckstein because he and I were so unhappy with what he was being taught (or not taught). I had ONE class to teach my 13-year old child.

It was hard, really, really hard. I had to make lesson plans, get him to sit down and listen and, yes, teach. (I went very old-school and we had spelling lessons, Greek and Roman mythology and grammar lessons.) But what a job and it was one lousy class.

So is it likely that in every single family in the U.S., there's someone who can teach many children across several grade levels? And, do it well? I have my doubts. It's just not plausible.

I'm not sure Rick Santorum has set foot in a public school. He doesn't talk like he has. It's pretty disrespectful to discount the entire public school system.

On the upside, though, I don't think he would push charters.

28 comments:

Tina said...

Homeschoolers consistently outpace institutional learners in all areas, but that is not to say that going to school doesn't teach one how to survive, thrive, and make friends in a diverse community. Yet homeschooling is a little like working from home: safe, self directed, individualized, incredibly rich if one takes advantage of all technology resources. On the other hand, a student misses the buzz of the 1st day and 1st period on Mondays, the thrill of watching cheerleaders and football players get lots and lots of attention, oh yes and the warm feelings of a teacher who does not know your name after 4 months NOT because the teacher is dumb or bad but rather because s/he simply has too many students. Au contraire, homeschoolers get to move at their own pace, graduate when they are sixteen, attend Running Start that rolls easily into university. BUT they don't get to go to prom and get a yearbook with their senior quote censured and experience senioritis... I wonder, Melissa, what is it exactly that homeschoolers don't get to do..? Ah yes, have two parents working. That's true; that's priceless.

BTW I do not support Santoran, am a full blown Obama fan, but hey, leave homeschoolers to choose as they wish without discriminating.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You know, I am in agreement with Tina. I've always thought home schooling was the best you could give a kid. Most people can't do it so schools are next best. But to have the experience of field trips on demand and social experiences that don't teach you fear and anxiety is far superior to our public school experience.

I love teaching and I love the school house. But, I also know many kids who have been home schooled and they turn out just fine. Providing they have loving, enriching and judicious family teachers. Not all parents can do that and their children should be in school.

Also, I think home schooling is probably more practical in the early years. Middle school may demand significantly more. As would high school.

n...

Anonymous said...

Ew, for the record, I don't support Santorum either. BTW, did you read about the peaceful protest against Virginia's bill to demand ultrasounds on all abortions.

n...

KG said...

Santorum should just get it straight now, Major shareholders and the stock market way ahead of people. And stop with all the other B.S.

Sometime Homeschooler said...

So Melissa, are you saying that "trained teachers" know better than parents how to teach their own kids? I'm really shocked that even after doing it yourself because of a bad teacher you still felt the need to slam homeschooling.

I've homeschooled FT as well as had my kids in FT public school. First of all, there are hundreds, probably thousands of resources parents can use to teach their kids, INCLUDING the use of other adults, professional and otherwise. Field trips and gatherings with kids of other cultures and ages are available, and if you take a look at places like community centers, museums, etc, you'll see that they have special homeschool classes-lots of chance to use other bathrooms and have other teachers.

My kids entered public school at the tops of their classes and I'm sure you know that Harvard, Yale, etc. take a number of homeschooled kids every year, even though a "related person" taught them all the way through high school.

I don't agree with anything Santorum says but your dismissal of homeschooling is a little shocking. I thought you were all about what best for the kids and sometimes, that means teaching them one or more subjects yourself.

Anonymous said...

Middle school may demand significantly more. As would high school.

Have you actually been in a middle school lately? Mostly they do nothing at all. Not hard to beat those "demands".

-parent

Lisa said...

1. 1-room schoolhouses have been phased out all over the country due to cost. Large, institutional class sizes are what we have due to the size of investment that people are willing to make. We can achieve Rick's ideal school of small schools and mixed age classrooms -- but it is going to take taxes to fund it.

2. Homeschooling has never been the norm for all. There have been times when most people didn't have any academic learning. Is that what he's looking for?

3. I don't know about "not pushing for charters." These are basically private enterprise running schools. That is what existed in the days before public school systems, so maybe that is what he would try to institute. (Let's go back to private libraries while we are at it.)

Kate Martin said...

I'm supporting Obama, but not because I don't want to give hime a pass on his disastrous ed policies which are an embarrassment to me. I have a hard time forgiving him for choosing a basketball buddy BSer for head of the DOE.

I certainly would like to see more homeschooling rather than less in the future especially given NCLB and RTTT crap in lieu of real teaching and learning opportunities.

Homeschooling my younger son in 6th grade was one of the best decisions I've ever made. He told me recently that it was his best year in school. He went to jobsites with me every day (I do design and construction management), he kept a journal of tools seen at the job, got a tip of the day from various different tradespeople, and generally became very comfortable with construction and knowledgeable about design and what it takes to build things. We were able to be flexible about the way we approached every subject. That was immensely valuable. If I had it to do again, I would give my other son the same opportunity for at least a year and if possible I would try to take a couple of other kids under my homeschool wings because at the time there were a handful of other kids- kids not doing well in our schools - begging me to homeschool them as well. I know I could have helped them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Tina, I didn't say one bad word about homeschooling. In fact, I point out that I did it once for one class.

What I am saying is that Santorum's idea that everyone in the country could be homeschooling their children is far-fetched.

Also, I'm sorry you didn't have a good high school experience. The ability to meet a wide variety of people, have access to all kinds of teachers and activities is on the plus side. There are positives and negatives to any teaching situation.

Also, there is nothing stopping any kid in high school to take Running Start (my kid did and earned college credit) or graduating early.

I did not say that teachers know how to teach YOUR own child better. No one knows your child as you do.

But knowing your child and knowing how to teach your child are two different things. There is a reason why people get educated to be teachers. I absolutely think most parents, especially after elementary school, would have a tough time with it.

As for two parents working, most of the time that isn't a choice, it's a reality.

Lisa said...

I'm not seeing Melissa being dismissive of homeschooling -- did you notice where she said she tried it for just one class and it was a huge challenge? I think she respects homeschoolers, as do I. But does everyone have what it takes to home school? I don't think so.

Sometime Homeschooler said...

Of course not everyone can do it but more CAN than they might think. That's because there are so many different ways to do it. I DO think Melissa has been dismissive, because she mentions in her original post and again here in the comments about "trained teachers" being better than most parents.

I know someone who barely made it out of high school thanks to dyslexia and her own bad choices. When her son fell ill in middle school he HAD to be homeschooled. She found a resource to look over his work and went to the school and got all of the books he would use and the syllabi. His father and stepfather taught him some subjects, but he self-directed most of the work.

The following year he was well but they chose to homeschool again because he was so successful. He is now 2nd in his high school class on track to get into a selective college.

What Melissa isn't getting is that there PARENTS don't have to be the only ones doing the teaching. It's a common belief that homeschoolers do "school at home" rather than a customized type of learning. It's only really hard if you lack the will to find what works.

I certainly don't think EVERYONE everywhere should homeschool but it's insulting to keep saying teachers know how to educate our own kids better. That just isn't true in many cases.

Kate Martin said...

I'd just like to note that while I personally believe we should be encouraging just about every kid to do Running Start - and not just because it's the only way to get remedial classes in language arts and math (shame on our district!) - the reality is that the district shuns it because it takes away per pupil funding which IMO should follow the kid to Running Start. Of course the kid is no longer in the seat at SPS so why shouldn't the funding follow the kids. Running Start isn't exactly promoted by SPS, it's actually hidden pretty well which is super unfortunate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sometime Homeschooler, if all it takes to insult you is to say that I believe that, overall, teachers are likely to teach better than parents, then I guess I stand accused.

It was not meant as an insult and I can see from some of the responses here that this is a touchy subject.

Charlie Mas said...

Like Melissa, I home-schooled a child in one subject one year. I taught my daughter algebra in the eighth grade.

I did it because she said that her entire seventh grade year of math classes were a complete waste of time. She did not learn a single thing. And by the first month of the eighth grade she could see that it was going to be a repeat of the failure of the seventh grade.

We tried to spend about 45 minutes on algebra about four nights a week. We didn't even come close. There was always something else to do. In truth we probably did forty minutes two or three nights a week. Nevertheless, we got through the entire algebra course. Things go a whole heck of a lot faster with one-on-one instruction.

Also, there were a lot of conversations that went like this:

Me: So that's how it works.

Her: What? That's it?

Me: Yeah.

Her: But that's so easy.

Me: No one is trying to make it hard.

Her: But I thought it was going to be this big deal.

Me: No. That's it. Does it make sense?

Her: Yeah. It makes perfect sense.

Me: Okay, good. Do these twenty problems here for practice and to show me that you get it.

It's funny, but there aren't that many take-away lessons from algebra. You want to make sure that the kids get the idea of isolating the variable, the slope-intercept formula for a line (y=mx+b), some geometry formulas for area and volume, factoring and FOILing for working with polynomials, how to solve equations with two variables, and graphing some parabolas and hyperbolic curves. If they come out of it with a rock solid understanding and competence with those things, they are pretty well set.

With each thing we started with nomenclature, then the algorithm and how it works, then we moved on to WHY the algorithm works, then we went back to how it works and how to work it. There were always references to the practical applications for each of these formula. That often led to discussions of science, history, mythology, literature and human nature.

It was a positive experience for both of us, but it was hard for us to keep any kind of discipline about time and topic.

Eric B said...

One of the best lines I heard about Santorum is that he's one of the best mind of the 13th century. Unfortunately, that's turning out to be far more accurate than I like to think.

Sometime Homeschooler said...

It IS really touchy, Melissa, because a lot of intelligent people think that homeschoolers are weird fringe characters who do it to keep their kids away from the masses or that the kids are unsocialized or that they leave home unable to keep up academically with schooled kids. For the vast majority, that's simply untrue.

I know that you're a very strong advocate for teachers, and that's fine, but please, don't assume that parents can't, or won't, give their homeschooled kids as good an education as many teachers can. I'm not insulted so much as concerned that an advocate like either doesn't know or doesn't care what the realities are regarding homeschooling.

Charlie, it's hard to do when you're working FT, especially if your child is not self-directed. But many parents make it work. The friend I mentioned above worked FT too. Her son's schooling was a priority when she got home-above dinner or her other activities. He also did much of the work on his own. I continue to supplement my kid's schooling. As it's just supplementary, we have no set schedule, but one does have to remain dedicated.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Unbelievable.

Homeschooling can be a great choice. I even tried it (and was humbled).

But the point is NOT whether homeschooling is doable, good/bad, whatever.

The point is that Rick Santorum's idea that the majority of parents could stay home and teach their child(ren) is not credible. THAT was the point.

We have too many single parent households for that.

We have too many people who need two incomes to get by for that.

I did not say that parents couldn't do it - I said that homeschooling the majority of American public schoolchildren was just not a valid idea.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone who reads this blog thinks that all homeschoolers are on the fringe—though at least a few are, especially where creation science is concerned.

But that aside, what Melissa is concerned about is not small groups of dedicated parents who have decided to homeschool their children, but a presidential candidate who thinks it should be the norm—a means to replace our present public school system.

One of the reasons public schools are having such a difficult time educating all children right now is the fact that many children come from homes where education is not valued or where parents are so stressed and overwhelmed by trying to survive in the world that they cannot support their child's education. A presidential candidate who is so unaware of this reality to expect these same families to successfully homeschool children is completely out of touch with reality.

I believe that is the point Melissa is trying to make—not that homeschooling in bad or that teachers always do it better.

Please look at the big picture. I am happy that you are able and willing to homeschool, but please don't think that it would be the best choice for every family. And as Melissa also said, in these economic times, most families have two working parent to cover the basics—at least here in over-priced Seattle.

Solvay

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that some argue that $ should follow the student who attends running start yet criticize charter schools for the same reason.

Charter advocate

Sometime Homeschooler said...

Sigh-so much misinterpretation...Melissa and Solvay, I thought it was a given that people here would see this position of Santorum's as just as wacko as most of his others. And of course my point was never that ALL students should be homeschooled, sheesh. It CAN be done, EVEN in two-income families and even in low-income families or those who do not speak English as first language. That, and the fact that parents are OFTEN as good as "real" teachers, were my only primary points.


By the way, I'm hoping there's another option for WV than the new arrangement. I am having a terrible time with the new version.

anonymous said...

Lets also acknowledge that not every family WANTS to home school. I certainly don't want to, and my kids don't want me to.

My kids love being in school and they are thriving. They love their school sports teams, they love being part of the school newspaper, going to their school dances, football games, clubs, the school band's trip to California...

And (for the most part) they like their teachers too.

I have no desire to homeschool, and I resent the fact that a presidential candidate would try to impose that one me. Just as a homeschool family would undoubtedly resent a presidential candidate that tried to mandate all children attend public school.

To each his own. Back off Santorum.

momster

Anonymous said...

Parent: That's why I said "may." And if you've read me on this blog, I support K-8 schools because I think middle schools have a lot of work to do and they would be enhanced by the structure and familiarity of the K-5 continuum. But, could be my misconception as well.

n...

Floor Pie said...

That phrase “weird socialization” really gets under my skin. It seems like code for something rather unpleasant. Let’s remember that Rick Santorum’s version of “homeschooling” is not the same as all the wonderful homeschooling that’s going on here in Seattle.

We've had our challenges with school, and I’ve definitely felt some pressure to homeschool my 2E child. Maybe we will someday, but so far I’m really glad we didn’t. I'm not ashamed to say that some teachers DO know how to teach him better than I do. I’m pretty awesome, but I couldn’t do what they do.

Anonymous said...

Re Running Start - an excellent program but it is not free anymore. Qualified, ambitious students have had to drop Running Start because they can not afford the extra fees, book costs, etc. now being charged thanks to budget cuts.

-JC.

Jan said...

Melissa -- I think my thin skin is showing. I had the same initial reaction as Tina and "sometime homeschooler" did. I read more criticism of homeschoolers into it than you say you intended.

In practice, my experience was much like Charlie's (though I don't think my kids are as good in math as his). It took MUCH less time to teach (because there is only ONE kid -- mine -- whom I know well -- so as soon as he "gets it," we move on). It highlighted for me, at least, how much time is wasted in school (NOT the teacher's fault, necessarily -- just the reality of 26 or 30 kids in a room, all learning at their own speed, and dealing with their own learning styles and issues). I also had Charlie's problem of struggling to keep to any kind of discipline with respect to time and schedule -- but it STILL took way less time for my child to learn the material than it did in school.

For me, while I found teaching my child (middle school) easy, I came away with two big lessons:

First, it gave me a huge appreciation of the rigors of teaching 30 kids -- all different -- for 6 hours a day. So much goes into class management, differential instruction, lesson presentation, etc. Often, I think that when people minimize the value of great teaching, they are thinking -- well, I can teach my kid the meaning of "irony," I can teach someone basic algebra -- when the job is so much bigger than that (even before all the bs paperwork, fidelity to pacing, etc. that is now being imposed). AND -- the classroom management, differentiated instruction, etc. skills are EXACTLY those that are acquired over time and with practice. So, as we lose the best of our senior teachers to retirement or being pushed out in favor of cheaper teachers -- we lose the best of these skills.

cont'd

Jan said...

Cont'd
The other thing homeschooling taught me is that learning, not teaching, is at the heart of education -- and that learning is neither confined to school nor solely the work of professional educators. My kids learned tons, -- only some of it from me, and much of it on their own -- with good materials (great literature, etc.). When we were not so focused on who was doing the "teaching," we became more focused on who was doing the learning (the kid) and what goes into the learning process. The job of children is to learn enough as kids to become the adults they want/need to be. The job of schools is to create a space where kids -- all kids -- have the time, space, and resources needed to facilitate learning. One of the key components is great teachers (because most kids can identify the electric effects that one or more truly inspiring teachers had on the quantity and quality of what they learned). But teachers are not the ONLY thing. Temperament, habits, learning and living environments (stress, hunger, bullying, poverty, violence) curriculum choices, pedagological choices, medical issues, learning disabilities, etc. etc. -- all impact the learning process. It seems to me that if Mr. Duncan and his friends would stop focusing solely on teaching -- and instead focus on learning, it would be easier for them to do two things:
first, identify and value the OTHER components (besides "teacher quality" that go into learning; and second, realize that the misplaced focus on teacher quality/effectiveness has seriously damaged learning. It has both "undervalued" all of the other variables AND it is deforming what goes on in schools by twisting the actual teaching process to focus on testing and measurement -- not as a way to enhance student learning (if that were the goal, it is pretty clear we should dump most of the testing time in favor of increasing the time available to actually LEARN), but solely for providing the data to evaluate the teachers.

One of the reasons I love the alts (and loved school choice, even though it was imperfect) was that it seemed to stay truer to the idea of offering a broad range of learning environments. When MGJ arrived, with her coaches and fidelity of implementation, and pacing guides, I felt that learning got lost, and the entire emphasis was focused on teaching (defined as delivery of content) -- as though that was somehow the ultimate goal.

For the record, I think Santorum is nuts, on many levels. Home is no more the ideal place for all kids to learn than any specific large public school is the ideal place for all kids to learn. But large public schools that narrow their curriculum to teach to the test, and spend a month or two every year prepping for and taking standardized tests pretty much solely in order to generate data to drive the evaluations of their teachers are not the best place for ANY child to learn.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good points, all, Jan.