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Dear Secretary of Education, I Have Some Concerns

Daja September 30, 2016

By Daja, Contributing Writer

The Christian Science Monitor hosted a breakfast with the US Secretary of Education last week. On the menu: bacon, eggs, muffins, and narrow-minded ideas about eduction.

The Secretary of Education’s Perception of Homeschooling

When asked about homeschooling, US Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said that he’s concerned that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.” (source: Politico) He continued, “Obviously, it’s up to families if they want to take a homeschool approach,” but then said he worries that “students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school” – unless parents are “very intentional about it.” King said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors – elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it. (source)

So, let’s sum up King’s worries:

  1. Homeschoolers aren’t getting the range of options that are good for all kids.
  2. Some families’ approach to homeschooling is lacking.
  3. Homeschoolers aren’t getting “rapid instructional experience.”
  4. Some parents homeschool without being “very intentional.”
  5. Homeschooled students don’t build relationships with others (recycled “socialization” argument)

Let’s flip the script. Secretary King, I have some concerns for you, too. A little something to chew on along with your eggs and bacon…

Dear Secretary of Education, I Have Some Concerns

Dear Secretary of Education, I Have Some Concerns

Answering Mr. King’s Concerns With My Own Concerns

Are all public school children getting a wide range of options? (The gap between urban and suburban graduation rates is 18%, and in New York, that gap is 29 percent. Great range of options there.) Besides graduating at higher rates, homeschooled students are working and interacting at every level of society.

Dear Secretary of Education, I Have Some Concerns

(source: HSLDA)

Secretary King, I’m concerned that all these “options” that supposedly public schooled students have, do not lead them to higher education, aren’t you? (According to recent research 74% of the homeschooled go on to higher education, as compared to 49% of the general public.)

It worries me that some public schools’ approach to education is sorely lacking. Public schools spend an average of $9963 per student per year (as opposed to parents who spend an average of $500 per homeschool student) and yet only 69% of the general population has read a book in the past 6 months. (For homeschoolers, that’s 99%. Yeah, that’s right.) Perhaps education isn’t a problem you can buy your way out of.

“Rapid” Instruction?

You’re concerned that homeschoolers aren’t getting rapid instructional experience. I’m concerned that public school student aren’t reading books, understanding government and politics, participating in community service or graduating high school. Let’s not forget that education isn’t an end to itself. It is also a means to being more meaningful contributors to society, better neighbors, healthier and happier people.

And “rapid.” I’m concerned about that, too. What’s the virtue in speed? Does slow and steady not win the race? Doesn’t every child learn at their own pace and in their own way, according to their unique set of gifts and abilities?

You’re concerned that some parents aren’t “intentional” enough. Who are these homeschooling parents?  Sounds like some shifty folks. It’s as if they said, “Hey, it’s a lot of work to get the kids to school on time. So, let’s just say we homeschool so we can sleep ’til noon.” But, wait…what’s that? More than 66% of homeschooling fathers have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher degree. The same is true for more than 62% of homeschooling mothers.)

I’m concerned about your lack of respect for parents and their judgement. (source) As with other things (like vaccination, for one) why mistrust the people who have the most emotional, spiritual, financial, cultural investment in the child in exchange for trusting a bureaucracy who has never met your child and has nothing at stake in playing fast and lose with their education and futures?

Mr. King, you’re concerned that homeschooled students aren’t building relationships with their peers, teachers and mentors. Are you equally concerned that public school students aren’t building healthy relationships with siblings, parents, grandparents, and neighbors? We have only so many hours in a day. If a child is at school from when the bus picks them up at 7am until they get home at 3pm, not including hours away from home at extra-curricular activities such as sports, clubs and music lessons, adding to that the 1-2 hours of homework each night, when does that leave him time to have tea with his grandmother or to help his grandfather work on the car or to play outside with his siblings?

One may be in school for 13 years of life, but family and community will be there your whole life. The “real world” is not within the four walls of the school. The real world is the home, the farm, the market, the church, the neighborhood. By isolating and insulating our young people from the real world for such a large chunk of their daily young lives, how is that teaching them how to maintain real relationships in other contexts?

The Facts

Wake up, that’s the coffee you’re smelling.  Let’s face the facts, Mr. King. Homeschooling is on the rise in the United States. According the the Family Research Council “The home-education movement has exploded under Obama, spiking from 1.5 million to more than two million in just five years.” (source) Homeschoolers are not going away. Public school is experiencing a growth rate of 1%. Homeschooling is growing at a rate of 7%. There are over 2 million homeschoolers in the United States. And the majority of those who were homeschooled, will also homeschool their kids. In fact, over 82% of those who were homeschooled say they will homeschool their children. (source: HSLDA)

I am one of them.

I was homeschooled, back-in-the-day. When my parents embarked on the journey of homeschooling we didn’t have any other homeschoolers in our social circle, church or family. We were it. It was the great experiment. But, my parents were willing to make whatever sacrifices they had to in order for their children to become successful, happy and well-adjusted adults. For us, that meant homeschooling. (That may not be the case for your family and that is OK. We all have to make the decisions and sacrifices that make sense for us.)

And all their children (my siblings and I) have chosen to homeschool our children. You can’t stop this trend with false narratives of children without options and parents without ambition, students who are not socialized and don’t know how to make it in the real world. That’s a pure fiction. And we see right through it.

You have concerns? We have concerns. And we are willing to do whatever it takes.

Please pass the muffins.

What are your concerns with the educational system?

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Daja is the happy wife of Gana and the mother of nine amazing children. She's bookish and easily distracted and has too many ideas and not enough time. She writes about family life, preparedness, natural health, liturgical living over at The Provision Room, your source of abundant home-centered living!
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2 Comments

  1. Excellent points! As a homeschooling parent who taught in the public school system for some time, I can’t understand how anyone trained in the field of Education can’t see that the teacher to child ratio of homeschooling makes it an ideal situation for the best learning. The only area where I would disagree slightly with you is in regards to homeschool parents that aren’t “intentional”. Unfortunately, I’ve known more than one family who fit this description, and their children were, effectively, not being educated. It’s definitely not the norm, but it does happen. Sadly, many more children slip through the cracks of public education, too. Overall, fantastic piece with spot on observations!

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  2. I have concerns about public schoolers, and I have concerns about some of my fellow homeschoolers. Bottom line, some public school teachers do a great job, and some homeschool parents do a great job. But the quality of the educational experience is primarily based upon the socioeconomic status of the school or the parent. (those living in generational poverty situations tend to have not have had an exposure to quality educational experiences, so they can’t pass that on.)

    I’ve met some homeschool parents who have done a appalling job, with teens who can’t read but they can work on the family farm (this was in Texas). I was asked by a 16-year-old boy at my father’s church if I would be willing to teach him how to read when he came to work in the food pantry each week. And I did, his mother had been homeschooled and also was not taught to read, she was instructed to keep a home. On the same vein, I’ve seen the posted results that say the schools in my area are in the bottom 10% of the state. The two thing that both of these tales have in common is poverty. So I have great concerns about the future outcomes of many children in this country

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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