Friday, September 28, 2007

Attack of the Disney Tomatoes!

Several months ago I was taken aback, once again, by the excessive commercialism of our country. Let me start this by saying that over the years I have gone to great pains to keep commercials, excessive disney (no, didn't boycott them, just don't want my kids to equate disney with the Bible, Aesop, Homer, Hugo or Steinbeck), junk toys, and cable television out of my home. I like to have a quiet, reflective home, without ad executives telling me what I, or my children, need.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when they SNUCK ONE IN on me! I was innocently preparing a salad for dinner, and what did I find? A tiny unusual sticker on my tomato (see photo)!

Squinting my eyes, I moved closer to the tomato.

"Coming soon to dvd....Peter Pan... buy it!" the tomato told me.

Why in the world was a tomato telling me about the next Peter Pan movie? Is this what they have to resort to to get into my home? Sneak up on my tomatoes? What I was seeing was the end product of a really stupid marketing campaign. Well, it wasn't that stupid, I guess because they did get the message of Peter Pan into my home -- and it was the only way they got it there.
Guess what, though. I didn't buy the dvd.

I am annoyed though. How can anyone achieve any serious contentment living in a culture where everything -- even your tomato -- is telling you need something else? I also wondered how many people didn't even notice the sticker. Just one more advertisement in an already saturated culture.

More on Public Education, NEA and Homeschooling (Will she ever stop?)

It's important to note that I am not anti-public education. I've made the decision to home school my children based on numerous things: my experiences in education college, my experiences as a teacher, the specific learning needs of my children, and my desire to share a love of learning with them. In short, I really home school because I enjoy my children and love to be with them and teach them.

Other families have different goals, different dynamics and different experiences. I know that children CAN have positive public school experiences. I know that there are some GREAT public school teachers out there (there are also terrible ones like the special ed teachers I saw laughing at the developmentally handicapped child who couldn't figure out how to use a jump rope).

What I don't agree with is the NEA making blanket statements about home schooling, especially when they have absolutely no statistics or studies to back up their resolutions. I agree that not every family should choose home education, but I also think that public education is not the solution for every child either. The difference between me and the NEA, though, is that I'm willing to agree that each family has the right to choose.

The fact is that most states have enough accountability for homeschoolers that very few children are going to fall through the cracks academically or socially. Certainly, the public schools cannot claim a 100% success rate... so how can the NEA even begin to challenge home schooling?

Education never works as a one-size-fits-all philosophy.

My Photo -- aren't I lovely?

Deb Takes on the NEA (yikes!)

Following is my response to the article entitled Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs by Dave Arnold, on the NEA's website. The blue text are direct quotes from Mr. Arnold's article.


There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!

While it’s true that I wouldn’t hire a doctor to work with the wiring in my home, it’s also true that I don’t always need to hire a doctor just because I’m sick. I didn’t hire a lawyer to write my will, and I don’t hire a plumber to snake my drain. Yes, the right person for a job is important, but just who is the right person, and how much “professional” does the average (or exceptional for that matter) child need?

Further, this argument puts forward the idea that a family that home schools never delegates any teaching to another source. This, of course, shows a lack of research (evident later in the article when the only sources he cites are vaguely referenced web sites on home schooling), as many – I might even say most – home school families hire tutors/teachers in specific fields on a regular basis. The difference really lies in the fact that a professional teacher or tutor is only brought in when needed for their exceptional skill in a specialized subject, and the parent can hand pick the teacher that they use.

In some cases, Mr. Arnold finds home schooling acceptable:

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.

Not only is this argument filled with errors, it’s downright biased and offensive! Mr. Arnold spends the first portion of his article stating that no parent is good enough to give a formal education to their child and now is stating that is not the case if the child is severely handicapped. So, it would logically follow then, that in Mr. Arnold’s humble opinion, if a child is severely handicapped then it's okay for them to have a less-than-desirable education. What handicapped child cannot be transported safely? I have three children with special needs (one of whom uses a power wheelchair), work somewhat extensively in the special needs community, and cannot think of a disability that would preclude ever taking the child out of the home. Perhaps mordantly severe allergies… although a controlled environment at the school or a teacher brought to the home can be worked out. Then there is constant hospitalization, however, most pediatric hospitals keep a teacher on staff, so home schooling is not a necessity. I would have to draw the conclusion that Mr. Arnold does not believe that the education of a severely sick or handicapped child is an important matter. In addition to that, apparently children that live in remote areas are not worthy of the excellent education that Mr. Arnold believes the public schools offer.

“It’s not as difficult as it looks.”

Actually, well, it isn’t. Kindergarten really is kindergarten, first grade is really first grade, and, well, it doesn’t take a 4 year college degree to figure this stuff out. Those of us who graduated from Education College know that the majority of the teaching instruction focuses on classroom discipline and teaching theory. It takes a thirst for knowledge (something severely lacking in America’s teachers) to be a great teacher.

If Frederick Douglas can TEACH HIMSELF how to read by simply asking people questions about words and letters, certainly just about anyone with a decent phonics program can teach their child how to read.

If, as Mr. Arnold states, “teaching is difficult for experienced professionals” then I think that might explain the poor results we see in the public schools!

He goes on to quote a "home school website" in the next section of his article:

“What about socialization? Forget about it!”

Forget about interacting with others? Are they nuts? Socialization is an important component of getting along in life.

This is a classic example of taking a quote out of context! “Forget about it” as used on the quoted website referred to not worrying about the socialization that they will “miss” from not being in school. As the writers of the website explain, socialization in a home school happens as the parents direct, with the parents there to teach the children a healthy way to relate to not only other children but adults as well. I have been present in my children’s lives to teach the appropriate ways to negotiate; stand firm for what is right and determining when to lead and when to follow.

The ONLY time someone needs to be able to navigate a classroom full of children is when they are in school. As adults, almost everything is intergenerational and those mysterious interactions that school teachers often claim happen in their classrooms have absolutely no outlet in general society.

In addition to that, if the socialization of home schoolers is so inferior to that of school students, then explain the lower rates of drug usage, alcohol consumption, teen sexual intercourse, cheating and depression seen in home schooled students.

I know from my own personal experience of home schooling my children that they are able to walk into a new situation, make friends, deal with difficult people and look past disabilities – because their socialization has been guided by our home schooling.

Visit our online bookstore.”

Buying a history, science or math book does not mean an adult can automatically instruct others about the book’s content.

This portion of the article truly reveals the silliness of its argument. “Visit our online bookstore” in no way means that any parent can teach any subject. That is a statement made in uneducated bias, and shows exactly how ill thought out this entire argument is.

I can spend hours finding holes in the remainder of Mr. Arnold’s article, but it’s simply not worthy of my time. I do find it shocking, though, that the NEA is desperate enough for support on their stance towards home schooling, that they would publish such an article! While I know that the NEA is a union that holds the interests of the teachers in first priority and the students far below, I did expect (or should I say hope?) that these people who profess to be educators would not publish so ridiculous an article! However, the NEA stance against home education, at least from an educational standpoint, is not a logical one either. It is an argument that is, at its heart, based in job security (which is what the NEA is really all about). So I would suppose that if there is no real logic for your argument then there would be a tendency to publish anything that shows support for your position.

In addition to that, Mr. Arnold is completely disrespectful in his treatment of home school parents. Perhaps he couldn’t provide a quality education for his children and required the help of the public schools. However, just because he can’t doesn’t mean others can’t either, and he clearly implies that parents who home school are several steps short of sane. Using terms like “gullible” and “wannabe” is downright obscene in a professional publication. Referring to a group of parents as “nuts” is also unprofessional and rude. Why would the NEA even consider publishing such an article? It would lead one to believe that the NEA sees only the cowed, sheepish parents as the good ones – certainly not parents that would choose to challenge how the system is set up, or be willing to try new ideas. As a parent, I would hope that the NEA would have more respect for the role that parents play in the life of a child.

What Mr. Arnold doesn’t understand is that I’m not retreating on the public schools. I’m battling for the mind, soul and health of my child. The public schools can go their way, but I have a right to lead my children a different way. They will learn about healthy relationships, healthy living, applying their faith to their lives and will academically out perform nearly every one of their public school counterparts! But even more important than performance, they have the opportunity to pursue their passions (guided by me and the superior instructors that I choose for them) and explore their options. They won’t waste their childhood doing busy work, be abused by bullies and burned-out teachers. They won’t be told when to use the bathroom, how to think about different issues or get passed onto the next level in a subject without first mastering the basics. They'll learn to think for themselves! They’ll get an EDUCATION!

What Mr. Arnold doesn’t understand is that I’m not a “wannabe”. I have no desire to replicate the public school system. I have a different vision for my children and a different vision as their teacher. And, I know that my vision is much grander and healthier than what would be offered in a classroom.