Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Should Unschooling Be Illegal?

The blogosphere is all a buzz, both positive and negative, because ABC put out an obviously biased and heavily edited piece on "unschooling." Many who spoke against unschooling in various comment sections worried about about whether the parents thought through the consequences of their "lazy parenting" and whether these poor children were going to get into college or get hired. MomLogic sums up the negativity when she opines,
"Sounds like this kind of hands-off training should be illegal, right? It isn't."
Just as some may believe the parents in this clip haven't thought through the consequences of this, I don't believe many who oppose them have thought through the logical consequences of making this illegal.

How do you make unshcooling illegal? Do you write a statute into each state saying "unschooling" is illegal. Well what is unschooling? Is it those who don't use textbooks but are guided by the family's interests and the parents' principles? Or is those who don't use textbooks and the children select all the activities based on their interests alone? Or what if it's a combination of the two would that be acceptable and legal? Who decides?

And if we ever come upon a legally acceptable definition, how do we enforce it? Do we allow state officials to come unannounced to a parents home and search around to see what the kids are doing and that they're getting the proper training? Can't do that without a search warrant, so that won't work.

I know, let's test the unschooled kids to make sure they are thinking exactly what the state thinks they ought to be thinking. Well that's a possibility, but what if they flunk because the parent doesn't teach to some arbitrary standard set by some politician. Do we make them go to public school? Well then what do we do with all the kids who are in public school who flunk the state test? Make the parents homeschool because the state failed to adequately train them? But for some reason we can't call the teachers lazy; no, instead we blame the parents and everything else but the teachers and the public school system.

Honestly, what's going on in many inner city schools should be of more concern than what's going on in the small minority of homes who unschool. These kids are at least play fighting in this video, it's real and it's deadly in the Detroit Public Schools and the graduation rate is less than 30% last time I checked. And they are doing it all with taxpayer money. This family is footing their own bill for their "folly."

Can these unschooled kids turn out any worse than Dylan Klebold who was an excellent student but became one of the Columbine killers? He even wrote an essay just weeks before the shooting displaying utter contempt for his school mates. It was read and graded by his teacher. A huge massacre and yet no one is calling for public schooling to be illegal! Why not?

In fact, violence in our schools is become so common it rarely makes headline news anymore. And it's not just violence but all sorts of behavior. Just yesterday I read about middle and high schoolers sexting at school. Where's the outcry against too much free time and activity in the public schools?

Yet, let a parent exercise a little more freedom than what other parents find acceptable and we demand government intervention and a ban on unschooling.

ABC puts out an EDITED clip of what THEY want you to think and right on cue they get exactly the response they desired. George Stephanopoulos and the accompanying reporter set up the bias from the very start and most viewers lost all objectivity.

But look at the clip and the update again and you'll see normal teenagers actually enjoying each others company in the same house. That's POSITIVE. You'll see two teenagers making eye contact with the reporter and responding well in a pressure situation. That's POSITIVE. You'll see a home filled with activities, plants, games, and parents who love them. That's POSITIVE. It's not the perfect home, but it's much more pleasant than many other homes with two teenagers.

It may not be what you or I want for our home or our child's education, but it is far from criminal and most certainly should not be illegal.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Unschooling Story (updated w/new video)

About once or twice a year we can count on the main stream media to focus on unschoolers as if it is some new phenomenon within homeschooling. It's not. But given the crisis-driven policy decisions we're seeing come out of Washington lately, I wouldn't be surprised if this sparks a demand for more uniform standards among these "extreme parents" who homeschool using any method.

Honestly, it's too bad we didn't have this much investigative reporting of President Obama and his schooling. He won't even let us see his transcripts. For all we know, he may have stayed home and played all day too!

The story was updated today on GMA with the couple providing added context. Of course, the first concern was...can these kids get a job? Is that the only purpose of education anymore? I thought the couple handled themselves well. Pat Farenga makes a guest appearance and defends unschooling toward the end of the clip.

(Thanks to my friend Nancy for telling me about this story and Lorraine for the update.)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Midwest Invasion Highlights

I was encouraged, inspired, informed, and exhausted by the time the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio closed on Saturday evening. The Duke Energy Center certainly was buzzing as over 13,000 homeschoolers shopped the vendor hall and attended various workshops on topics ranging from sibling squabbles to parental rights.

The highlight for me was meeting these two dear sweet mothers (I don't even know their names) who wandered by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine table uncertain about whether or not homeschooling was the right choice for them.

They wanted to attend my workshop, The ART of Homeschooling, but arrived at my room late and by mistake a note was left on the door saying "Do Not Disturb, Taping in Progress." When they entered the booth and found out I was "Spunky" both ladies simultaneously bent to my eye level (they were both very tall) and begged me to give them a shortened version.

They came by the table the next day a whole lot calmer and confidently announced that they are going to homeschool. I'm proud of them both and think they are going to do just fine.

Another high point was meeting attorney David Gibbs from Homeschool Legal Advantage. He spoke on the Constitution and why the Parental Rights Amendment is not the best solution to our soothe our parental anxieties. I agreed and hope to talk more about his organization and and his views very soon. His talk followed Cathy Duffy's workshop on the history of education and the standards movement. The two talks complimented each other very nicely.

Other notable moments were...

Meeting my college roommate and her 13 kids after not seeing her for nearly 25 years. Priceless.

Spending time wandering the vendor hall with my daughter, Katie. Expensive.

Sharing my heart for homeschooling. Fun.

Tim Hawkins
and his one-man comedy routine. Hilarious.

Brennan Dean definitely knows how to put on a great convention! I hope to see you there next year.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Education by the ELITE

In today's Wall Street Journal, Craig Barett, a former CEO of Intel Corp. and co-chair of ACHIEVE made his case for national standards in education.
Fifty different sets of standards make no sense. It is much more efficient and less costly for states to mutually develop standards and then work together on the tools needed, such as tests and textbooks, to ensure the standards reach classrooms, teachers and students.
If cost and efficiency are now the primary objectives of government then it makes absolutely no sense to have fifty states at all. If we really want to reduce costs why not abolish Congress and the idea of a representative republic and instead commission an unelected board appointed by a supreme leader to determine what the laws and regulations should be for everyone. We could call the board ELITE! Once established, the ELITE! can work with us to make sure we have the tools needed to ensure that everyone becomes a good citizen and follows the ELITE! standard. And let's benchmark the ELITE! standard internationally so that leaders in countries such as Venezuela and Cuba don't feel left out of the American governing process.

Barett then goes on to handle this objection,
I realize that some critics worry that common state standards will lead to federal standards and a big government encroachment on matters traditionally the domain of states and localities. But as a conservative businessman, I can't agree with these arguments. The common core effort has been 100% voluntary. And while the federal government hopes to incentivize states to adopt common standards, the effort has been entirely state-led, with no federal funding or exertion of influence over their content.
If this were 1910 then Barett might have a legitimate argument, but this 2010 and recent events prove just the opposite . Who would have predicted that in a single year the federal government would have taken over student loans, General Motors, and health care? This is sufficient proof to me that any state which accepts federal "incentives" eventually yields to federal control.

As I recently pointed out here and here and David Mundy at Education Week emphatically confirms Common Core State Standards are nothing more than Outcome Based Education repackaged and brought to you by Marc Tucker and his comrades at the National Center for Education and the Economy.

Unlike when Outcome Based Education was introduced under President Clinton, the reception to Obama Based Education has been largely favorable. Barett takes note in the WSJ,
The reaction to them has been positive from across the political spectrum, from teachers unions (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers) to conservative governors such as Georgia's Sonny Perdue and Indiana's Mitch Daniels.
Why are politicians of both parties, unions, corporate CEO's, and others who usually can't agree on anything so willing to accept national standards and eventually federal control? Because they share the belief that our children are nothing more than a commodity which must be trained to be good citizens in the global economy. Bartlett tips his hand,
"Of course, education reform is not merely about creating future workers. Making sense of retirement options, health-care plans and mortgages—not to mention bills pending in Congress—requires a sophisticated level of knowledge and skills. We have an obligation to prepare our students to be capable adult citizens."
That part about making sense of bills pending in Congress is comical. Nancy Pelosi said Congress had to "pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it..." No sophisticated level of knowledge or skills are required to do that! (Rep. Hare of Illinois provides the evidence.)

Let me be clear, parents not politicians and CEOs bear the responsibility for our children's education and should set the standard that will prepare their offspring for adulthood. The state is neither our nanny nor our partner in that task. It is "we the people" who hold our government officials accountable and not the other way around. That principle was once a core American value commonly held by all citizens, amazingly it was widely accepted without federal "incentives."

Homeschoolers still know and believe in that principle . If we don't speak up against national standards no one else will do it for us and we'll only have ourselves to blame when we too are controlled and regulated by the ELITE.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

More on HSLDA & National Standards

It's not my intention to beat up on HSLDA but reader MRL contacted HSLDA regarding their delay in issuing an e-alert and Common Core State Standards and received an odd response,
Spunky, just talked with HSLDA. They said the reason they sent the e-mail so late was that they didn't know about it until then. They explained to me that they have people who watch state and federal law and this is being proposed through the National Governor's Association (they don't make law) and it was only brought to their attention by a lobbying group. As to not being able to comment, the only thing they said was that it was probably because there were so many people commenting that the site crashed, but they could not verify that. Of course the NEA is behind this and we are going to have to watch our individual state legislatures to make sure it doesn't get passed in our individual states.
Seriously, if the stakes weren't so high I'd laugh at the absurdity of HSLDA admitting that it was brought to their attention by another lobby group. This isn't new and HSLDA shouldn't be relying on another lobby group when so many homeschoolers rely on them for information.

(As an aside, I talked to someone at HSLDA in 2007 about common state standards when I questioned their endorsement of Mike Huckabee for President. I blogged about it here. And in 2006 I was jokingly called a "sucker" by then HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville for talking about the move toward national standards and the expanding role of the federal government. He later admitted I had a legitimate point.)

The move toward national standards hasn't exactly been kept a secret since Obama won the White House either. In March of 2009, in a speech before the National Science Teachers Association Conference Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said national standards benchmarked internationally was the goal of the new Obama administration.

First, we are encouraging states to adopt rigorous standards that are internationally benchmarked. A nation without true career- and college-ready standards is lying to its children. A nation with low academic standards is telling students and parents that our kids are doing well—when, in fact, they are not.

A nation that does not benchmark its standards against the highest international standards is crippling our children in the competition for jobs.

Their "encouragement" came in the form of money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Race for the Top. Governor's struggling to balance their state budgets .
drooled over the pot of cash and are doing all they can to get the funds.

The fact that the NGA doesn't make law is irrelevant to the push toward national standards. HSLDA doesn't make law either but it would be ridiculous to think we should disregard them and their ideas because they don't write the actual laws.

The NGA is a very influential group that carries a lot of weight on Capital Hill and routinely testifies before Congress on various issues, including Common Core Standards. In December of 2009, Bill Ritter the Governor of Colorado testified the following,before the
U.S. House Education and Labor Committee committee. He said,
"Through the creation of the Race to the Top Fund, Congress and the Administration took the first step in shifting the focus of federal policy from a punitive, mandate-driven compliance system toward a federal-state partnership that supports state-led innovation. For example, the Race to the Top Fund competition provides carrots—not sticks—to voluntary state adoption of common standards."
All this demonstrates to me is that the Governors are now in agreement with the federal government that national standards benchmarked internationally are now the best thing for our country and are willing to work together to make it happen. During his testimony Governor Ritter also talked about opening up comments after the standards were unveiled in early 2010. Was HSLDA watching what was happening in the Congressional committee charged with creating education policy? It appears not otherwise they wouldn't have needed another lobby group telling them about it and would have alerted their membership sooner.

But the issue isn't entirely the lapse in HSLDA alerting its members to the comments section but the wonderment that HSLDA is virtually silent against the push for national standards and the implementation a European style educational system here in America. We know they're watching Europe and their various legislative committees. In regards to Sweden, HSLDA wrote,
"In just one year the climate for homeschooling has changed dramatically."
In a decade or less, we could be writing the same sentence about homeschooling here in America. Michael Donnelly obviously understands how damaging a socialist mindset can be to our freedom to homeschool and wrote, "
It is important that we help Swedish homeschoolers so that the stereotypical view of homeschoolers can be stopped from spreading to other nations—including our own."
If they want to help Sweden that's their business, but if what is going on in Sweden could affect us then certainly what is going on with the National Governors Association is at least equally important to us, isn't it? The socialist mindset of centralized state control of education is already spreading to our nation, yet we hear virtually nothing from HSLDA. They didn't even post anything about it on their Facebook page with over 12,000 fans.

The educational climate in this country has changed it's time we all start paying closer attention. The comments section still appears to be open so go ahead and tell the Governors what you think.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

HSLDA, National Standards, and You

A little late to the party, HSLDA has finally alerted its membership to the threat common core state standards pose to homeschool freedoms.
The proponents believe that national standards, or common state standards, will increase school readiness, increase academic proficiency, and better prepare students for life and the workforce. The common standards are not stand-alone: many of their proponents call for aligning curriculum from pre-kindergarten through graduation from college, so-called “p–16.” Others call for even more drastic intervention in the lives of students and families: place children from birth until graduation from college into government run programs and schools. We believe that this threatens parental rights and ultimately, homeschool freedom.
I'm glad to know that HSLDA is on alert but where have they been? The e-alert is dated March 31 and public commentary ends tomorrow, April 2! That's not a whole lot of time. Informing and alerting the various committees and state officials should have been happening much sooner. Many states are already implementing much of the reform in order to increase their chance at obtaining federal funds. And as we can all observe, Congress isn't sitting idle either. They're very willing and eager to implement Obama's blueprint.

Already, one key component of the "P-16" cradle-to-college curriculum alignment was passed as a part of health care bill -- student loans. The federal government will now administer all college loans. Remember, he who holds the purse holds the power and can impose mandates upon the public. I have little doubt that obtaining a credentialed diploma using core national curricula will one day be a part of the federal loan application and approval process.

Homeschoolers who do not have the requisite credential on their diploma proving completion of a "rigorous" curriculum will likely be denied college aid. I'm not advocating that a student go into to debt to go to college, but certainly they should be the one to decide and not be denied simply because they were homeschooled using Bob Jones and not a "state approved" curriculum.

If you think that's far-fetched, consider a case I first blogged about in August of 2005 involving Christian students who were denied admission to the University of California because UC did not consider the students to have completed the requisite courses for admission. In January of this year, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the University of California's right to deny admission. The students completed a variety of courses using books published by Bob Jones and A Beka. This is the same curricula used by many homeschoolers.

As homeschoolers, it's incumbent upon us to stay alert and informed and not simply rely on any one organization to do it all for us. The job is too big and the future to important to let down our guard and think this will never happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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