Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Homeschooling Works

HT to Why Homeschool for the links to two posts on other homeschool blogs that ought to make parents considering homeschooling (or doubting themselves as they homeschool) feel that they really can do it, and do it better than schools can! The first is titled So You Think You're Not Smart Enough to Homeschool? at Guilt-Free Homeschooling. A couple quotes from there to whet your whistle:

I have met many people whose reaction to homeschooling is "You would have to be smart to do that!" Knowing what really goes on behind the scenes in homeschooling, my thought is "What is smart?" How intelligent does a person have to be to homeschool successfully? I do not have to know all the answers in order to be a good teacher, I just have to know where or how to find the answers. I do not have to be able to do something myself in order to be able to teach about it.

In my past educational experiences, I have had art instructors who effectively taught me about DaVinci and Rembrandt, but who could not duplicate the works of those masters themselves. I had English instructors who taught me about Shakespeare and Longfellow, but who had never written comparable works. I had history teachers who had done nothing memorable themselves and geography teachers who had never traveled the globe. My science teachers had made no remarkable scientific discoveries, and yet they were able to pass on accurate scientific knowledge. These successful instructors all relied to some degree on the resources and experiences of others.

Such great points! This is the kind of thing that I try to get across to people who aren't sure about homeschooling--both to parents who want to homeschool and to the naysayers. Be sure to read the rest of her post for more insights.

The other post is titled The Golden Quote and was written last year at We Have Always Lived in a Homeschool. From the end of her post:
TO RECAP: An average student who is individually tutored will outdistance 98% of the students in a classroom setting, or do two standard deviations (2 sigmas) better. No classroom teaching method yet devised comes anywhere near that figure. This study means that a learning disabled student who is individually tutored will do as well as an average student in a classroom setting. An average student who is individually tutored will do as well as a gifted student in a classroom setting. A gifted student who is individually tutored will go off the scale. Since two standard deviations is an awful lot of wiggle room, this study also means that an average parent who makes a reasonable effort at tutoring his or her children will do a better job than the best classrooms in the country.

You really ought to read the whole post. There are numerous links to follow. An important quote (in my opinion) from a site on Benjamin S Bloom, referred to in the post:
Each teacher begins a new term (or course) with the expectation that about a third of his students will adequately learn what he has to teach. He expects about a third of his students to fail or just "get by." Finally, he expects another third to learn a good deal of what he has to teach, but not enough to be regarded as "good students" . . . The cost of this system in reducing opportunities for further learning and in alienating youth from both school and society is so great that no society can tolerate it for long. Most students (perhaps over 90 percent) can master what we have to teach them, and it is the task of instruction to find the means which will enable our students to master the subject under consideration (Bloom, 1968a, p. 1). [Emphasis mine.]

And teacher expectations determine so much of a child's learning experience. I've read about studies that showed that when two "equal" groups of children are taught, if the teacher is told group A is at least average, or gifted, and group B has learning disabilities, or is a "slow" group, the students in group B will not learn as much, even though they are of equal ability. Why? Because the teacher doesn't expect them to, and this determines how and what he/she teaches them. I'll have to track some of those studies down, now. If anyone has a link, please put it in a comment for me!

And no, I'm not trying to put down parents who aren't homeschooling their kids. And I'm not trying to say that teachers are bad people. I'm trying to demonstrate why homeschooling can be a much better option, and that it doesn't take a professional teacher to do a great job. (Not to mention that many private schools don't require a teaching certificate, so what does that tell you? Those schools, and the parents, are more concerned with a person's knowledge of the subject, and not with their passing a certification test. But that's another subject for another day.)

I'm saying that school systems (public, private, parochial, military, etc) by their very nature are inherently and fundamentally loaded with stumbling blocks to the student's reaching his/her full potential. They cannot offer one-on-one tutoring to every student, or anything close to it. Their expectations of a child (and what "track" they put him in) determine so much of that child's future. In many instances, the interests of the school are put ahead of the interests of the children they are supposed to be teaching (NCLB, SOLs, and funding, for example). You can't sue a school for not educating your child. They never guarantee (or define) an education, only compulsory attendance. I could go on, but I'll just suggest reading John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down, instead!

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