When I am passionate about something, you know it. Most of the time my friends and family will say, Calm down! as I’m talking because I get so worked up. I guess that’s the Type-A coming out in me. Anyway, I feel pretty passionately about what I’m about to say. I was a teacher for 6+ years before becoming a stay-at-home mom and I have some thoughts on this issue. And, if you start reading this and strongly disagree, I urge you to keep reading, you will be really surprised at my closing thoughts.
So, here we go. I’ve found through reading SEVERAL blogs lately that homeschooling is on the rise. Apparently, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are about 2.2 million home educated children in the US. This baffles me! To me, homeschooling seems so unnatural, but that’s probably because I’ve been in a classroom for years. I also don’t know who would actually want to do this? Why wouldn’t you just leave it to the professionals? I like the idea of my kids going off to school and interacting with other students and teachers! Plus, I need a break! To help you understand how I feel about this, in true teacher fashion, I’ll give you an example:
I guess I can explain my way of thinking on this subject as this: Something went wrong with my electricity in my house. Sure, I could look it up on YouTube and read books to educate myself on how to fix it, but why not just hire a professional who knows what they’re doing to fix it? Why on Earth would you try to take on something like this yourself? Is the end result the same? Maybe, or maybe not? So, yeah, that may have pissed you off because you think I’m comparing your kid to an electrical problem and you to a DIY Electrician, but that’s not really what I meant.
Let me explain…
So, I have a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education and know the content I am qualified to teach VERY well, just ask any of my previous students (this is where my old students should scroll to the bottom and leave a comment about how I was such an AMAZING teacher). Very few people actually completely major in the subject they’re teaching; it’s rare to find someone like me. For example, most people go to school knowing they want to become a teacher and major in Education. They take classes to hone in on the area they want to teach and major in some kind of Education program. Then, as long as they can pass the Praxis text, they are good to go and they can become a qualified teacher. Not me. I majored in Biology, actually I was Pre-Pharmacy for a while, and I ended up with a BA in Biology and a Concentration in Neuroscience. Whoa, right? I MUST be smart! Well, yes, but that major wasn’t really getting me anywhere, especially since it wasn’t ideal timing for me to jump into Pharmacy School (my dad just passed away) and so my “smartness” wasn’t getting me anywhere. So, the next best thing was to go to Graduate school and get my Masters in Education, so I could teach.
Still with me? I promise, this article really is about homeschooling! So anyway, I moved south and started teaching at a not-so-great school and then eventually got a job at a SUPER-great school! I was living the dream, right? No. The amount of work that was put on me as a science teacher (not to mention NEW teacher in general) was incredible. Not only did we have lesson plans due every day, but I taught 220 students! Yes, 220! And that meant that for every assignment I gave, I had to grade 220 of them! WTF! How is this even possible?
On top of that, teachers are faced with parent
criticisms meetings, committees, report cards, state testing, district testing, phone calls, discipline issues, differentiated lessons and children with special needs. We are asked to be innovative and we are evaluated using a very impossible difficult evaluation tool that is supposed to be objective, but is SO subjective! There were many days I left my classroom in tears or so angry that I could have exploded, but rarely was it because of the kids. It was the incredible workload on my plate and that I kept being asked to do more, more, more and to be better, better, better! Aside from actually being in front of the kids and interacting with them, there was never a time when it was really that “fun”. I had very little autonomy to allow my “craft” or “art” as an individual to shine through.
A robot could easily do the job of a public school teacher, on some accounts, because there are so many checklists and systems we are forced to follow…it has very little to do with how “good” a teacher is anymore, it’s more about how well can they “play the game”.
So, my biggest question, concern, rant, whatever this is about the homeschooling thing is not that it’s not a good choice or that I don’t agree with it, but rather, how the hell can a mom of 6 homeschool her kids with 6 different curriculums and do it just as well as someone who knows the ins-and-outs of education and is a master at the content they teach?
At first, my personal thought was that homeschooling can’t be done as effectively as in a classroom. Learning in a classroom setting not only teaches the kids the content, but it also teaches them empathy, social skills, and discipline. There are definitely some children who I have taught that would have done SO much better in a different setting, the classroom just wasn’t right for them, but for the most part, school is a great experience for kids. They get to play sports, learn classroom etiquette, develop a rapport with adults OTHER than their parents, and they get to make lifelong friendships.
Aside from my personal thoughts about homeschooling vs. public schooling, I’d also like to point the finger at the public education system.
Earlier I asked, “How the hell can a mom of 6 homeschool her kids with 6 different curriculums and do it just as well as someone who knows the ins-and-outs of education and is a master at the content they teach?” It wasn’t a jab at those moms and dad’s homeschooling their kids, but rather a serious “How the hell do you do this?” and “Why does it have to be so difficult to just teach one curriculum in a public setting?”
Ask a public school teacher, especially a middle or high school teacher, to teach more than two subjects and they’ll flip! Why, because it’s SO hard to manage just ONE! And then you’re going to ask us to completely learn a whole other subject area? NO F’ING WAY! It’s seemingly impossible to be knowledgeable enough or capable to teach and manage this many lessons, assignments, and students and it causes teachers to spread themselves too thin and get burnt out. Plus, needless to say, it’s not in their pay grade. But people do it, and they do it well, but rarely do you EVER seeing a public school secondary education teacher instructing more than two curriculums. And then we go back to the homeschooling parent, who is apparently managing and facilitating several different lessons per day, across several different curriculums, and you’re telling me this is as effective? I don’t know, that’s a hard pill for me to swallow.
So when you look at the data from homeschooled children from the National Home Education Research Institute you’ll (be shocked to) find the following:
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.)
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
- Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
WHAAAT? It actually works? Assuming that the data is unbiased, this is insane to me! It ACTUALLY works. So, maybe this is the time I’m supposed to say, Yay, go homeschooling kids and parents!, but I’m not going to say that just yet. I will tip my hat and congratulate you homeschooling folks; I know it’s not easy, in fact, it’s incredibly hard! However, I think we need to use this information to reconsider how we go about public education…if something else is working, I don’t think we should argue it and put it down, we should take a look and see what they’re (homeschooling parents) doing and why what we’re (public schools) doing isn’t as effective.
So, I said my closing remarks may surprise you, didn’t I? Here they are:
I’m not going to take one side or the other, but I am going to point this out: I don’t think all the extra shit public school teachers are asked to do is helping. I think we need to get back to the basics and just let our teachers teach. Moms and Dads, who may not know shit about the content their teaching (no offense), are doing it successfully! They take the time to learn the content and help their kids in the best way they can and they are SUCCESSFUL, regardless of their economic status, demographics, or background…and we all know this is NOT the case for public schools.
I guess I just think teaching at a public school does not have to be as hard as we (the system) make it. I’ve said this during my whole career as an educator, Just let them teach! The data, the methodology, the evaluations, the paperwork, the meetings, and the initiatives aren’t helping – they’re taking away from planning time and hindering us from being able to create really impactful, effective lessons. If a mom of 6 can teach each of her children the same things I would (while in her pajamas) and do it just as effectively or better, then there is something REALLY wrong with our system. Don’t you agree?
And let me just finish by saying Thank you to every teacher out there, who is doing the best they can, because it’s SO hard. Aside from being a parent, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.
Keep working hard public, private and homeschool teachers. Keep putting in the time because it’s working and no matter what anyone tells you, you ARE making a difference.
I guess it doesn’t matter who is teaching what or where, what really matters is that the child is getting the best education possible. Right? That’s my two cents and I guess that’s also why I’m no longer a public school teacher (lol).
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