Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Well-Meaning Amateurs, My Foot!

Apparently I am late to this bandwagon (just found this article this morning) but it's got me all het up, as my supervising teacher used to say. The gist of this essay is that homeschoolers are "well meaning" but not smart enough or professional enough to teach their own children and are being misled by the curriculum publishers who only want their money.

You can read the whole article in the link above, but I need to refute some of these assertions line by line:

"[W]hy would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children?" He says in the last paragraph that he's referring to "teaching math, science, art, writing, history, geography and other subjects."

A. As a former elementary teacher, I can tell you unequivocally that not every teacher knows any more about those subjects than I do. I've seen classroom teachers misspell words on the blackboard during a lesson. So let's not hold up "professional" teachers as more knowledgeable than your average parent. Any subject they don't know thoroughly (and some they do) they just follow along in the textbook and teach the lessons the curriculum publishers provide for them. "But wait!" I hear you say, "Aren't those same curriculum providers misleading parents into thinking they are qualified to teach their own children?" The short answer? YES!

The bottom line is that I know more about "math, science, art, writing, history, geography and other subjects" than my children do and that's all that's required to teach someone something--knowing more than the learner knows. If only "professional teachers" are qualified, then why is "peer-to-peer teaching" all the rage in the public schools? Surely, if a parent is not qualified to teach a child, a slightly older child is not qualified, right? Not to mention the fact that he will have time to work with a mentor, who knows more about his areas of interest than even a "professional teacher" would!

"That is, [leave teaching] to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!"

I know I'm deliberately misunderstanding his point here, but surely he must realize he's suggesting that classroom teachers with less than ten years experience are also not qualified to teach. Such lack of precision in logic doesn't say much for his own [presumably] public school education. I suppose the students in his school should be grateful Mr. Arnold is a professional janitor not a professional teacher.

"Of course there are circumstances that might make it necessary for parents to teach their children at home. For example, if the child is severely handicapped and cannot be transported safely to a school, or is bedridden with a serious disease, or lives in such a remote area that attending a public school is near impossible."

A couple paragraphs beyond this quote, Mr. Arnold rants about the old "socialization" chestnut. So I guess he believes that homeschooling is only acceptable when socialization is near impossible.

Despite what he believes, homeschooling does not take place in a vacuum. There are local homeschool groups which schedule field trips, classes and other group activities. Homeschoolers play community sports, do volunteer work and participate in Scouts and church groups. My son and I have not holed ourselves up in our compound with a case of bottled water and a rifle.

"It’s obvious to me that these organizations [curriculum publishers] are in it for the money. They are involved in the education of children mostly in the hope of profiting at the hands of well-meaning but gullible parents."

What about the well-meaning but gullible school districts who use their products? Please. You are not going to learn more about The Odyssey from excerpts in an anthology/textbook than you would reading the actual book. And where does all that taxpayer money for textbooks go? For profit curriculum publishers, that's where.

"Don’t most parents have a tough enough job teaching their children social, disciplinary and behavioral skills?"

Perhaps, but the job is a lot easier when you have the children with you for more than an hour a day and you don't have to spend that hour undoing the bad behavior they learned at school.

"They would be wise to help their children and themselves by leaving the responsibility of teaching math, science, art, writing, history, geography and other subjects to those who are knowledgeable, trained and motivated to do the best job possible."

Who could be more motivated to "do the best job possible" than a child's own parent? How wise is it to leave the responsibility for raising our children to a stranger, let alone a new stranger every year?

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois.) (italics mine)

The irony is, of course, that while I am happy to take over the role of teacher for my children, I would never presume to know how to run one of those giant floor polishers!


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Anonymous said...

An excellent rebuttal! As a homeschool graduate working my way through college as a janitor I heartily agree.