6/17/2003

GOING OFFLINE FOR A WHILE The inimitable Dean Esmay is helping me to move off the blogger software to MT. As part of this process I need to change hosting companies and possibly the URL. It'll still be cobranchi.com but may be the main page. Regardless, the DNS change will take a couple of days. This page may disappear for a while. Keep checking in, though. I'll be back ASAP.
NOT AN EDU-BLOGGER but Skip Oliva does a fine job of framing the issues surrounding the Bryants case. Definitely worth a click.
A SHARP YOUNG LADY This PA homeschooler won a statewide oratory contest sponsored by a Right-to-Life organization.
Annie said she is not an "in your face" activist, but if the issues of abstinence or abortion come up, "I'm not afraid to say how I feel."

Potential boyfriends know her beliefs from the start. "It helps weed out the good ones from the bad ones."
Good for her (and her 'rents).
LIMBAUGH BACKS BRYANTS Not Rush, but David. I like this close:
[D]espite homeschooling's outstanding academic track record, we can expect persistent opposition from the establishment, sometimes reaching the point of policemen and social workers at homeschoolers' homes threatening to snatch away their children.

But we can also be sure that homeschooling families will continue to resist this oppression. They deserve our support, because they are fighting over the most fundamental rights of a free society: the right to raise and educate children as they see fit. They are carrying the banner of liberty for all of us.
BOO! HISS! Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has vetoed the "Homeschooling Freedom" bill.
“I am deeply concerned that a system with no monitoring or accountability will allow a small number of children to fall through the cracks and to reach adulthood without receiving the minimal education,” he said.
He forgot to add, "that we provide in the government schools." I'm sure that homeschoolers will remember come next election. We are not many but we are very politically active.
THIS IS NEWS The outgoing president of the LAUSD has blasted the teachers' union as "the greatest obstacle there is to improving the city's educational system." School boards tend to be very sympathetic to the positions of the NEA, so when a school board member takes them on, it should make the union shudder- especially in the largest school district in the country.
"The union exists for a really good reason, and that is the teachers got the wrong end of the stick for decades," she said. "But we now have created the beast we deserve for doing that..."

"The bottom line is there are two things that create power in California -- that's money and votes -- and they have both," she said. "That's fine if you favor their policies, but their policies are not necessarily pro-kid."
Well said.
STAY AT HOME MOMS' (AND DADS') ranks are increasing, according to new census data. Since 1994, the number of kids with one parent home is up 18%.
"This is just another indicator that there's this quiet grass-roots movement" among mothers to return home to raise their children, said Brenda Hunter, a psychologist and author of several books, including "The Power of Mother Love..."

And it's not just mothers of babies who are stepping out of the work force; it's mothers of older children," said Mrs. Hunter, who is member of the Motherhood Project at the Institute for American Values.

"Women know that older children need them around just as much as babies, because of the drugs, sex, the terrible influences that are out there."
This is a bad thing in the eyes of the NOW.
Another explanation is that "unemployment is up and it may be that families that used to have two wage earners may be finding they only have one job," said Leslie Calman, executive vice president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"It may also be that they weigh the cost of quality child care against their own earnings and decide for a time to stay home," she said, adding that today the fund is starting a "family initiative" program aimed at getting more and better child care, preschool and after-school services.
God forbid that a womyn would choose of her own free will to stay home and raise her children. It can't be. No sane, intelligent womyn would do that!

6/16/2003

G-SCHOOL SPORTS A bill introduced in the PA legislature would allow homeschoolers to participate in all extra-curriculars. I wish they'd fix their awful homeschooling law before tackling peripheral issues like this.
BRYANT UPDATE Possible good news- the DSS cancelled a scheduled court hearing.
FIRE HER! How's this for sheer idiocy: A middle school principal refused to allow several children to walk across the stage for their "graduation" because, in her mind, they were "overdressed." She said one 12-year-old boy, who was wearing a nice pin-striped suit, looked like a pimp. A couple of girls who were wearing long dresses were also excluded.
84% OF AMERICANS POLLED think homeschoolers should not be "required to take government-schools' assessment exams," according to the results from this completely unscientific WorldNetDaily poll. I'm sure the poll was put up as a sidebar to their article on the Bryant Family saga. I really wonder about the 27 people (g-school teachers?) who answered this way:
Yes, professional educators need to have oversight
And, in an interesting juxtaposition, the ad at the bottom of the results page says something about protecting yourself from terrorism: smallpox, dirty bombs, martial law... Nothing about rogue DSS agents, though.

6/15/2003

HOMESCHOOL GRAD A nice profile of a 17-year-old former homeschooler who is getting ready to start his junior year of college.
NCLB Regular readers of this page will no doubt have recognized by now that I am no particular fan of the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal government has no constitutional mandate to be involved in education at all, much less the right to dictate to the states how they will or won't educate their citizenry. That should be left to the states and to the people (those pesky 9th and 10th Amendments again). But, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. NoChildLeft.com does a real disservice to their readers with this month's issue. They start off with this howler:
Shock and Awe Campaign Hits Schools

Few people have awakened to the damage likely to result from Washington's current approach to school reform. While the proponents of NCLB (AKA Helter-Skelter) like to claim that its strategies are based on sound scientific evidence, that claim collapses under scrutiny.
Comparing NCLB to both a military doctrine and to a mass-murder is not going to convince many that NoChildLeft.com is an organization which is serious about influencing public debate. The rest of the issue is equally weak. They spend almost the entire column wailing about NCLB and high-stakes tests.
"For the first time, Florida third graders must pass a reading test or be held back, and earlier this month Gov. Jeb Bush announced that 23 percent - 43,000 - had flunked."
Unfortunately, NCLB says nothing about high-stakes testing. It's not mandated and, IIRC, NCLB actually takes a brief swipe at the concept. It gets worse. NCL.com sounds like an arm of the NEA. Here are some of their suggestions for amendments to NCLB.
Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

Support informed school choice within public systems.

Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.
Translation, we're ok with choice as long as there isn't any. We want to maintain and expand the current government monopoly on education. The charter school movement is just a sham.

6/14/2003

BRYANT FAMILY UPDATE Here's a transcript of a TV report. Kim Bryant has a wicked sense of irony:
"I think I was threatened by DSS yesterday when the children refused to take the tests. [The DSS oficer] said she was very disappointed with them. She said parents should teach children to obey authority," Kim Bryant said.
Cathy Henderson of EducationalFreedom.com writes of Mrs. Bryant:
Because she would never complain or whine in any way. You never hear her complain about a lack of support. You'd have to know Kim... She is just the gentlest person. Strong and outspoken about what she believes, but at heart so gentle that it still affects me very deeply what the family has done.
I am 100% behind the Bryants in this. Good luck, Bryant family.

UPDATE: Here's a link to HSLDA's take on MA homeschooling law.

UPDATE: The Bryant family saga is the lead story on today's EducationNews.org

6/13/2003

PLEASE READ THIS! This will be the last post of the day so it stays at the top of the page. The Bryant family in Waltham, MA is at war with the local DSS over homeschooling. Yesterday, DSS called the police in an attempt to force the kids to take a standardized test.
George Nicholas Bryant, 15, and Nyssa Bryant, 13, stood behind their parents, Kim and George, as police and DSS workers attempted to collect the children at 7:45 a.m. DSS demanded that the two complete a test to determine their educational level...

Both sides agree that the children are in no way abused mentally, physically, sexually or emotionally, but legal custody of the children was taken from Kim and George Bryant in December 2001. The children will remain under the legal custody of DSS until their 16th birthdays...

Pontes said that a possibility exists that the children will be removed from their home, but that was a last course of action.

"No one wants these children to be put in foster homes. The best course of action would for (the Bryants) to instruct the children to take the test," said Etscovitz.
This is all about the DSS demonstrating its power over parents. I hope homeschoolers in MA (and across the country) continue to rally to the Bryant's defense. This could be any of us.
PC UPDATE The Executive Director for the Institute for School Innovation takes exception to an article about PC (personal computer)-free schools first blogged here. I'm not impressed with her column as she presents absolutely zero data to refute the points made in the original article. She does, however, get emotionally overwrought with this diatribe:
Rosemond maintains that computers prevent children from developing creativity and problem-solving skills, and cause them to develop poor social skills. He claims there is research to back this up. He advocates home schooling as the way to prevent exposure to computers at public school.

Extremist views like this do a disservice to children and their parents, and are a slap in the face to public schools. Computers are wonderful learning tools for young children and a great support for teachers.
How is it a slap in anyone's face (except perhaps Bill Gates) to say that PC use might be harmful to younger kids. And labeling someone an "extremist" is about as lame a rhetorical device as you can imagine. Before Ms. Butzin writes another column for a newspaper, she ought to spend some time observing a debate class at one of those high-schools we like to slap in the face.

6/12/2003

WOULD YOU KNOW YOUR WIFE & CHILDREN? This poor homeschooling mom was arrested and held in jail for six days in a bizarre case of mistaken identity. She was accused of kidnapping her own kids and fleeing from France to the US. The husband of the missing woman swore in court that she was his wife and the kids were his. DNA evidence proved otherwise.
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE star Frankie Muniz is homeschooled.
“Why? I'm going to like the Emmy's, the Golden Globes, the Grammy's,” says Frankie. “I’m meeting all my favorite celebrities. I have the opportunity to do that, and why would someone pass that up to go to a high school prom?I'm extremely happy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
LOCAL WWHS The lede says it all:
Two boys - a 14-year-old middle-schooler and a 12-year-old elementary student - were arrested after being caught with loaded handguns Tuesday. That same morning, a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped after being abducted on the way to her Northwest school, police and school officials said yesterday.
Superintendent Paul Vallas' solution leaves a bit to be desired.
Vallas - who was at a White House ceremony with President Bush when this spate of schoolhouse crime was going on - yesterday called on parents to help keep the schools safe by checking their children's bookbags for weapons.

APPLE-A-DAY Allen Reece's blog archives are still available on blogspot. For those who were late to the party, Allen was a first-year teacher who chronicled his experiences at a school in Louisiana. His bosses eventually got word of his blog and he was let go. The archives are an interesting history. Here's the first one. You'll have to manually change the date in the URL to get to the others.

6/11/2003

ATHLETICS A school board in South Dakota made the right decision to forbid homeschoolers from participating in school sports, argues this editoral. What caught my eye was this stunning bit of (il)logic:
Granted, the parents of home-schooled children do pay local taxes that support the school districts, but taking their kids out of the schools also removes roughly $4,000 per head in state aid. For the Yankton district, that amounted to about $250,000 this past year, which is not an insignificant sum.
OK, the school district didn't get the quarter mill for the kids they weren't educating. That also means that the state didn't have to collect that money in taxes. Which probably means that the taxpayers in North Dakota won't have to pay the quarter million in taxes. Which means that homeschoolers kept money in the pockets of the readers of the newspaper. Why is it so hard for people to understand that homeschooling does not COST school districts anything but instead SAVES them the expense of educating them?
DAYTIME CURFEWS Jackson and Perry Counties in Illinois want to impose a daytime curfew. Naturally, homeschooling parents are opposed. Curfews are such a bad idea. They don't work and unjustly punish the completely innocent.
CIGARETTES, BOOZE, AND OREOS Walter Williams has a pretty good column on just how ridiculous some of these anti-obesity nannies have become.
Oreo cookies should be banned from sale to children in California. That's according to Stephen Joseph, who filed a lawsuit against Nabisco last month in California's Marin County Superior Court. Oreo cookies contain trans fat, an ingredient that makes the cookies crisp and their filling creamy. Joseph says that trans fat is so dangerous that our children should be protected from it...

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also demands government control of what we eat. It calls for excise taxes on fatty foods, additional taxes on cars and television sets, and a doubling of the excise tax on beer. By making cars and televisions more expensive, it thinks it will force people to walk more and stop being couch potatoes.

CSPI's Michael Jacobson said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses (and) meat." CSPI wants the tax revenues earmarked for government-sponsored exercise programs.
Williams has a sarcastic suggestion:
Maybe as an alternative to taxes, there might be a call for laws similar to what's called the Dram Shop Act in some states, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons. Applied to food, that law might ban the sale of hamburgers and fries to a fat person, or a mandate that scales be placed in front of cash registers where a customer is weighed prior to a sale.


SHE'S GOT GAME Kim Swygert is on a roll with at least a trio of really good posts. Start here and scroll down.
PSA Received via email from NHEN-Legislative listserv:
From: Christine Webb
Contact: retromom@earthlink.net
Topic: Governor to act on "Homeschool Equity" Bill

SB 761 is on the Governor's desk. He has five days to either sign or veto the bill, or he can allow it to become law without his signature.

Oregon residents who support this bill are encouraged to send a letter, postcard or e-mail to the Governor ASAP. He can be e-mailed through his website at: http://governor.oregon.gov/contact.htm A brief, polite message asking him to please sign SB 761-A into law would be appropriate. Those working on the bill have asked that the Governor's office NOT be phoned about this bill, at this time, as that can have a negative effect.

The Governor has made noises about possibly vetoing the bill, lately, but, when he met with the bill's sponsor, he expressed concerns about the bill but did not say he would veto it. There is hope and the most positive action at this time is "friendly contact" to encourage him to allow this bill to pass into law!
I believe the "Homeschool Equity" bill is aka the "Homeschool Freedom" bill.

6/10/2003

CHILD ABUSE Someone call Child Welfare. This homeschooling mom MUST be breaking a law somewhere.
She home schools her daughter and three sons, who begin classes each year on Aug. 1 so they can take a break during grafting season from mid-April to early June. Her husband and children often help her.
See? She FORCES her kids to be outside in the springtime instead of locked away in some windowless government-school building. Oh, the humanity!
OBEY ME! I don't consider myself a Right-Winger but found this liberalslant.com piece highly entertaining:
[T]he Far Right, understandably, has no stake in a public that is informed and which has acquired critical intelligence through a liberal education. Such individuals make very poor serfs. Neither is the Far Right much interested in an integrated public. "Divide and conquer!" So instead of continuing our traditional support of public education, they offer us privatization (“vouchers”) and home schooling, which can only lead to social disintegration and blind obedience to authority.
Homeschooling leads to blind obedience? Then, how come I can't get my kids to pick up their toys?
A MUST READ Here's a powerful essay about the parallels between school choice and the civil-rights movement.
Desperate times require desperate measures. When I hear advocates say that school choice is the new civil-rights issue, I wonder how much they believe it. Despite the talk, I haven't seen them adopting the tactics of the civil-rights movement. It will take action, not armchair radicalism, to convince policymakers that parents really want more educational choices.

There's no better place to look for guidance on the strategy of the civil-rights movement than the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," written 40 years ago by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In response to clergymen who had criticized him for leading demonstrations in Alabama, King outlined the steps for nonviolent social change...

School choice is said to be a civil-rights issue. Furthermore, some school-choice advocates compare choice opponents to the white segregationists King was fighting.
I'm not sure that the system can be fixed short of getting the state out of the ed business. But, in the short run, allowing parents to decide what is best for their kids surely would be an improvement.
STOP THE PRESSES Today seems to be the day for obvious headlines. Here's another earth-shattering announcement care of the Detroit News Op/Ed page:
Teachers unions delay education reforms
I thought that was their raison d'ĂȘtre.
1ST AMENDMENT, 2ND AMENDMENT- WHO CARES? A CA middle school student was upset that there is an advertisement for the NRA (placed by a grandfather of one of the students) in her school yearbook. Even though she "graduated" with a 4.0, she should have paid more attention in civics class:
"School is supposed to be a place where kids should be safe from hearing about weapons," she said.
And I thought it was a place where they were supposed to learn (including what those pesky amendments are all about).
THREE AND OUT! Florida is going to experiment with allowing a few kids to graduate after only three years in high school. Sounds good to me (but you already knew that). What makes this blog-worthy is this quote:
[H]undreds of high school students already take dual enrollment classes at a community college or at the University of South Florida to earn both high school and college credit. Some earn a year's college credit while still in high school.

``If they leave [high school] after they earn 18 credits, they'll end up paying for an extra year of college,'' she said.
I don't get it. Surely the kids who are dual-enrolled have to pay for the community college. Anyone in Florida know the real story?
DUH! Here's a headline for SneakingSuspicions:
Researchers verify reading ability gets a boost from phonics
Is this really surprising?

6/09/2003

TEACHER PAY Education NExt has two articles up arguing whether teachers are overpaid or underpaid. Both are pretty good with no edu-babble.
WHINE, WHINE, WHINE Pity the poor teachers who have it SO HARD
Those who carp about the supposed "good life" of teachers and their in-built "summer benefit" don't realize that teaching is probably the most demanding interpersonal profession; think of it...one teacher face to face with 20 to 30 students from 8:30 to 3:00 every day.

Most teachers are not equipped with the stamina of the Energizer bunny. The need to recharge our individual batteries -- not to mention our psyches -- requires more than ritual weekend breaks. The summer downtime constitutes a significant opportunity for vital renewal.
No other "profession" gets 2 1/2 months off to renew and refresh (plus 2 weeks at Christmas and 1 at Easter.) What makes teaching harder than engineering, or accounting, or, or, or ...? What a bunch of whiners.
OTOH Here's the lede from an editorial in today's Boston Globe:
Some 55,000 members of the class of 2003 -- the first to face the state's high-stakes exit examination -- are now departing their high schools with well-earned, meaningful diplomas in hand. Their efforts, and those of their teachers, resulted in a 92 percent pass rate, reason enough to leave behind the bitter debates about the fairness of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests.
FCAT BOYCOTT The St. Petersburg Times has some more info on the Miami-area boycott of FL businesses. There are some real beauties in here:
The first caller [to the talk-radio show hosted by the protest's chief organizer] said he avoided the Florida Turnpike even though it meant being late for a meeting. His family has switched from Florida orange juice to apple juice...

"I think the governor is going to look at that ... and say, "Those Negroes aren't going to do nothin', " Wilcox, the organizer of PULSE, People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality, said Tuesday in his windowless office in Miami's Overtown neighborhood. "But I got news for them boys this time..."
I feel for the kids who haven't passed the test. They've got a tough row to hoe. But, if there are going to be high-stakes tests, some graduating class is going to have to be first. If Bush caves, the boycotters will be back arguing that next year's graduating class shouldn't have to face the consequences of not passing.

6/08/2003

SPELLING BEE Last one, I promise. Here's a neat article profiling a homeschooler who made it to the third round of the Nationals.
KAFKAESQUE Diversity has now become the be-all end end-all of school "reform," even to the point of harming black students.
Bestowed with options their parents never had, many African-American students who were involuntarily bused to schools in white Pinellas neighborhoods are choosing to remain closer to home.

The change signals the promise and potential peril for the county's school choice plan that starts this fall. More black children will attend school near their homes when classes begin Aug. 5. But administrators at the schools they left behind are bemoaning the loss of cultural and social diversity.
Horrors! Parents are choosing to enroll their kids in neighborhood schools instead of chanting the "diversity" mantra and busing their kids across town. Parent involvement in the schools is a good thing, right? Who's more likely to be involved- a parent who has to drive 45 minutes to the school or one who could walk there? This is just beyond aggravating. Just scrap the whole damned system!

UPDATE: Reader TraciE suggests that it may be "all about the money." Schools receive extra federal funds for warehousing (not serving) poor children. These edu-crats may just be looking at the bottom line. Food for thought.
WWHS
A 12-year-old boy arrested at school with a loaded .357 Magnum revolver in his backpack may have pointed it at other students after all and even threatened to shoot a staff member, police said yesterday.
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT? Texas has just deregulated the UT system to allow the schools to charge what the traffic will bare. Students aren't happy thattuition will likely be going up.
"Most students I know would not be for an increase in tuition. It's going to squeeze a lot of people out of school (who) can't afford it," Patterson said. "I'm an out-of-state student and my tuition is already high. I think somebody should stand up and say something about it."
I'm really not too sympathetic, as I don't believe the state shouldn't be in the university business at all. If the state quit subsidizing tuition and sold the college infrastructure to the private sector, we'd be able to determine what a college education should really cost.

6/07/2003

NO SURPRISE HERE A group of homeschoolers in San Francisco have been taking a special class on epidemiology. For the final class, the school staged a mock epidemic. The kids had to figure out who the "carrier" was.
What happens when the speeding neurons of young teens collide with an epidemic like SARS?

They get answers fast -- faster than adults expect.

That was the outcome in the Berkeley hills this week when a handful of 12- and 13-year-old students were confronted with a mystery disease that had raced through the staff at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Like a pack of small-scale Sherlock Holmeses in hyper-drive, the six youngsters quickly brought the origin of the mock epidemic to bay.

"Usually, it takes people a little bit longer," said their surprised instructor, Ann Moriarty, who devised Thursday's exercise for a special class on epidemics for homeschooled children.

The challenge perplexed many grown-ups in the room.

6/06/2003

A MATCHED SET This will go perfectly with my DIY shoulder-fired SAM.
BIZARRE I found this blog in the referrer logs. Parts of it are written in Sanskrit.
BUT, THEY'RE PROFESSIONALS If teachers want to be treated as professionals, they have to act as professionals- FIRST!
Teachers on strike at a northwestern New Jersey school district defied a judge's order yesterday, refusing to work for the second day in a row and forcing the district to close school today.
A REALLY DUMB IDEA At least 11 members of DE's legislature think the solution to a shortage of substitute teachers is to require edu-crats to drive all over the state filling in for up to 10 days per year. HB 207 has got to be one of the more idiotic bills considered by Leg Hall (that's our Capitol) this year.

SYNOPSIS

Delaware currently faces a substitute teacher shortage, and school districts and charter schools confront daily the difficulties of replacing teachers with effective and qualified substitutes. Moreover, as school reforms take hold, it is important that Professional Employees employed by the Department of Education maintain a close connection with the classroom teacher. This bill satisfies both needs by requiring Professional Employees to spend a small amount of time each school year working in the State’s public schools.

"§ 1231. Substitution Requirements for Professional Employees.

The Secretary shall establish and keep current a roster listing all Professional Employees of the Department, together with contact information for each such employee. As used in this Section, Professional Employee means each employee having a degree in education or holding or having held any teacher License or Certificate in any subject.

The roster created in Subsection (a) above shall be sent by the Secretary to each public school district in the State and to each charter school in the State. Upon a timely request to the Department by a school district or charter school, the Department shall make a Professional Employee available to substitute teach. Each employee appearing on the roster shall be made available as a substitute teacher; provided, however, that no such employee shall be required to substitute teach more than ten (10) school days in any one school year.
CURFEW Here's a pretty good piece on a TX town that is considering imposing a daytime curfew. The article does a nice job of summarizing the reasons the town is considering to justify the curfew. Homeschooling parents were opposed and managed to get the ordinanced tabled.
IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN Prom season, that is. The NYT has a piece about the lengths that some school districts are going to in order to prevent (or at least curb) underage drinking. Some of the solutions include mandatory buses, parents having to drop off the kids and pick them up, and banning limos. Perhaps the prom is a tradition that has outlived whatever usefulness it once had. Yet another reason to homeschool.

6/05/2003

LAST DAY I'm still on the road so further blogging will have to wait until tonight when I get home.
BOOKMARK THIS A teacher was fired because her kids were not enrolled in the government schools. She sued and won. No big shock there. That issue was decided in 1925 in Pearce. What is newsworthy is this:
Gary Beckner, with the Association of American Educators, said public education is not the only means to an educated public.

"We don't believe that there's just one system that can provide that education," Beckner said.

While most of his group's members are in the public schools, he said the emphasis should always be on what's best for each family.

"We support all schools — parochial, private, public and home schooling," Beckner said.
YOU DON'T SEE THAT EVERYDAY The Charlotte Observer includes an Op/Ed from regular contributor Danny Brooks that includes this astounding line:
One recent story should make parents strongly consider home schooling over government schools.
I never thought I'd see the derisive "government school" label used in a Big Media paper. Very interesting.
SPELLBOUND This Academy Award-nominated documentary follows a group of youngsters as they fight their way through regional events and eventually to the Nationals. I heard an interview with the producer and the director of the film and am looking forward to seeing it (it's available on VHS and DVD). Napur Lala, one of the stars of the movie and the eventual winner of the whole tournament, was homeschooled. The St. Petersburg Times has a nice feature on her and how the Bee and the movie have affected her life.

6/04/2003

THIS JUST IN! Here's the latest earth-shattering headline from the NEA:
Poll Finds Teachers' Support for Unions Is Strong
I hope they didn't spend too much money on that poll.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER ALL-DAY MEETING Later.
STATE'S RIGHTS Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is apparently a dyed-in-the-wool statist. He is threatening to veto theo Homeschool Freedom bill:
But Kulongoski, in a letter distributed to lawmakers, raised the threat of a veto on grounds that eliminating the tests would remove the only way to ensure students are being adequately taught at home...

Kulongoski said that current state laws on the subject balance the rights of parents to teach their children at home with the state’s right to have minimal levels of testing.
The state doesn't have rights to regulate. It has raw power. People have rights- the right to be left alone among them. Just not in Oregon, I guess. Unfortunately, the Democratic governor was just re-elected, so he'll be there for a while.

6/03/2003

EDU-SPAM I just received this spam from a group affiliated with the Public Education Network which, as far as I can tell, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NEA. The spam is a hoot:
Dear friend,

America's kids are suffering! Politicians are slashing education budgets across the country and their cuts are hurting our kids’ educations and limiting their futures.

Our kids are paying the price for these unfair decisions -- class sizes are getting bigger, language classes are being cut, after school programs are being abandoned, school safety is being overlooked, and many schools have even started charging students for busing.

You can help by acting now! Click here to send a FREE letter asking your state legislators to protect your state's schools.

Time is short, so please take action now. These are the kinds of problems that will not go away...

1/3 of all school districts in Massachusetts have started charging middle and high-school students for busing.
Schools in Santa Monica, CA were just forced to lay off more than 200 staff members due to a $13.8 million budget cut.
Oregon is scrapping its writing, science, and math tests in some grades because they're just too expensive to administer.
Schools in Muskogee, OK can no longer provide field trips or spring sports travel to their students. The cuts will hurt basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, and track teams.
Can this mess really be America's public education system?

Things are bad now, but they will only get worse if we don't act RIGHT AWAY. Please join us to help make sure our schools get the funding they so desperately need – and encourage your friends to do the same.

Click here to help - send your FREE letter now. Don't our kids and our society deserve better?

And once you've sent your letter, please forward this message to 10 people. Together, we stand a chance of saving our schools.

Thank you for acting now to make a difference.

Sincerely,

Eve Fox
Online Campaign Coordinator
www.GiveKidsGoodSchools.com
AND YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD IT HARD This is really homeschooling on the edge.
"Bringing up my family in the bush has been one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life," says Kate. "Being a mother, I was constantly worrying; are they going to be eaten by a lion, bitten by a black mamba or trampled by an elephant - concerns our ancestors would have had. But we worked as a team, the children and I - as equals learning together."
The homeschooling mom studies lions in the wild.
LIGHT BLOGGAGE I'm on the road again and will not have net access until late this evening. See y'all then.
OREGON NEWS An OR TV station has a short piece up on the Homeschool Freedom Bill. There's a good quote from a homeschooling dad but this line was news to me.
Despite support in both houses, Governor Kulongoski is expected to veto the bill.
I hope the station is wrong.

6/02/2003

A LOCAL, STUPID PERVERT I resisted blogging this story about the local teacher who was caught with child pornography- until I read how he was caught. The idiot took sexually explicit photos of a 15-year-old boy and then took the film to the drugstore to be developed. I guess if we're going to have perverts teaching in the schools it's probably better if they're stupid enough to get caught. Kind of like the Darwin Awards.
RUN AWAY! Democratic hopeful Howard Dean was preaching to the choir of government-school teachers when he came up with this gem.
He supports early childhood development programs, such as one in his state that sends a social worker to the bedside of every woman who has just given birth.
If that really is his policy, in my mind that automatically disqualifies him. I can just imagine what Lydia and I would have to say to a social worker who found out we were planning on homeschooling. Well, actually, I can't because there is no way that I'd allow a social worker within 100 yards of my family.
O CANADA A Canadian study finds that traditional school uniforms make girls uncomfortable. The girls felt that men were staring at them. If true, this should probably be addressed. What caught my eye, though, were these concluding 'grafs:
The study fits into a relatively new academic focus, dress studies, which examines dress as a way of explaining culture and behaviour.

The school uniform paper was presented alongside papers on the prom dress, the influence of Britney Spears and "little girls in sexy clothes," and the pedagogy of shoes at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Halifax.
Pedagogy of shoes? Your (Canadian) tax dollars at work.

6/01/2003

GRAMMATICALLY INCORRECT The NYT has an interesting column on grammar and politics.
But that's what "correct grammar" often comes down to nowadays. It has been taken over by cultists who learned everything they needed to know about grammar in ninth grade, and who have turned the enterprise into an insider's game of gotcha! For those purposes, the more obscure and unintuitive the rule, the better.

Pity the poor writer who comes at grammar armed only with common sense and a knowledge of what English writers have done in the past — they're liable to be busted for violating ordinances they couldn't possibly have been aware of.
As even a casual reader of this blog is aware, I'm not exactly a stickler for grammar. That said, even I know that you're not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. :-)
WWHS This brief article exhibits numerous reasons to homeschool: violence, a disruptive student, a whiny teacher, and a lawsuit.

5/31/2003

GIRLS RULE Joanne Jacobs has a excellent post about how boys are shortchanged in the public school system.
I'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE I really did post these this morning. For some reason blogger just decided to take the day off. MT here I come.
NOT A TYPO GoogleNews found an article that said some homeschoolers "rode on top of houses." I thought it must be a typo and that it should have been "horses." Nope. The kids were helping their father move houses and they were actually riding atop the homes.
EXIT STAGE LEFT? Exit exams are generating more pushback from parents as large numbers of kids fail these tests and are subsequently denied diplomas. The WaPo has a pretty balanced piece on the pros & cons of high-stakes testing.
HOMESCHOOLING IN IN FortWayne.com has a series of articles on homeschooling. The one on socialization is excellent:
"At high school, it's teenagers raising teenagers," Worman said. "I wanted to have some input in how (my daughters were being) raised."

Socialization, one of the major arguments against home schooling, has become a big reason why families turn to personalized education. Home-school critics have said students who study at home lack social skills to interact with other children.

It's that same interaction that has many home-schooling parents wary of traditional or even parochial methods. They fear what their child could learn outside the classroom.
The whole series is worth a read. Click on the link above. The other articles are linked from there.

5/30/2003

EXAM SCAM II A FL teacher has been fired for copying and distributing last year's FCAT as a practice for this year's test. The state reuses items and does not release old tests.
EXAM SCAM Wrightslaw.com is urging parents whose kids fail the state exit exam to beat the system by essentially "enrolling" the kids in a diploma mill.
Private school students do not have to pass state exit exams. Home schooled students do not have to pass state exit exams.

The easiest way to eliminate the exit exam obstacle is to apply your child's high school credits to a private school diploma.
They recommend the North Atlantic Regional Schools (NARS) in Maine.
The child registers at the school. NARS requests the child's records from the public school. The public school sends the records to NARS. If the child's transcript shows the child has earned the required credits, NARS awards a high school diploma. If the transcript does not show the required credits, NARS can tell you how to obtain the missing credits.
So, it's not quite as bad as the spam-diplomas. Still, NARS caters to homeschoolers, and this scam would tend to devalue any diploma that NARS awards.
WAY OVERKILL Some kids in a Denver High School threw water balloons after a school end-of-year assembly. For punishment, the principal has banned 20 of them, including the class valedictorian, from attending graduation.
VIRGINIA POLITICS This one is slightly OT but an interesting piece on local politics in Northern Virginia. Michael Farris and the homeschooling community figure prominently.
OREGON EDU-CRATS are up in arms about the Homeschool Freedom bill which is going to be passed this year. The bill would end mandatory testing for homeschoolers. This, of course, is a bad thing:
Rep. Elaine Hopson, D-Tillamook, a former public school district superintendent, said she supports a home schooling option but opposes dropping the test requirement.

“Education is both a right and a responsibility,” she said. “There are some parents who don’t accept that responsibility.”

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, said children’s welfare is more important than the possible inconvenience of having to give a child a test every three years.

State School Superintendent Susan Castillo also opposes the bill.

If mandatory testing is eliminated, she said in a letter to legislators, “there will be nothing to prevent an irresponsible or incompetent parent from simply keeping a child out of school and providing no education at all.”
And I suppose the best way to protect kids from "irresponsible or incompetent" parents is to put them in the care of the loving and caring teachers.
SPELLING BEE FINALS An 8th-grader from Dallas won the Nationals yesterday. CNN didn't report where he goes to school but they did mention that the runner-up is homeschooled.

UPDATE: The WashTimes reports that the winner attends St. Mark's School of Texas.

5/29/2003

BURNED IN TENNESSEE Homeschoolers are discriminated against in the just-passed TN lottery bill. The original proposal had a requirement that public and private schoolers had to have both a 3.0 GPA AND score 19 on the ACT. Homeschoolers, because GPA is not necessarily a valid measurement, would have had to score 23 with no GPA requirement. At the last minute, "AND" was changed to "OR" but no change was made in the ACT requirement. Thus, everyone in the state except homeschoolers are eligible with a score of 19. Legislators claim it was an oversight that will be fixed before the first scholarships are awarded in 2004.

5/28/2003

OT: A GOOD CAUSE Here's one of those stories that makes you feel good. MedSend pays off doctors' student loans so they can go into the missionary field. My in-laws are retired career medical missionaries so this one is near-and-dear.
NYT BLOWS IT The NYT has a lengthy piece about cyber charters. It's pretty good except that they call it "homeschooling" throughout. They point out that the homeschooling community has some problems with cyber charters but I think they miss the reason.
Online schools also have detractors among parents who school their children on their own and who say that a set curriculum discourages independence.
Lots of homeschoolers use set curricula. The problem is not the curriculum; it's having to be accountable to the state for following the curriculum. That and newspapers confusing cyber charters with homeschooling.
A CYNICAL VICTORY Jeb Bush wins by losing. The other day I criticized FL Governor Jeb Bush for caving in to a boycott threat. Bush proposed legislation that would allow seniors who failed the FCAT to substitute SAT or ACT results in order to graduate. The bill has died in the Senate as the session has ended. This whole situation just doesn't pass the smell test with me and comes off as a cynical ploy by Bush.
Senate President Jim King said Tuesday that the bill needed to go through a committee for study and that Bush shouldn't expect to put a bill in on a Friday and be approved four days later.

"At this late date, it doesn't make any sense," said King, who noted that the bill could come up during a second special session starting in June to address medical malpractice. "The Senate does not lend itself to immediacy."
I'm sure that Jeb Bush is shocked that a Republican-controlled Senate won't take up a bill supported by the Republican governor. Sure.
TESTING, TESTING The NYT profiles a FL kindergarten teacher who is hanging up her fingerpaints due, at least in part, to the mandated tests.
Ms. MacLeish, 53, sent a letter home saying this would be her last year teaching kindergarten. It was no ordinary goodbye letter. Ms. MacLeish was m-a-d. Her tears were not pink [i.e., happy]. She fears that the kindergarten world she knows and has raised to a fine art is being destroyed. "A single high-stakes test score is now measuring Florida's children, leaving little time to devote to their character or potential or talents or depth of knowledge," she wrote. "Kindergarten teachers throughout the state have replaced valued learning centers (home center, art center, blocks, dramatic play) with paper and pencil tasks, dittos, coloring sheets, scripted lessons, workbook pages..." This year, for the first time, Ms. MacLeish had to spend two days giving state tests to kindergartners to establish base-line scores.
There is a point at which standardized testing becomes counter-productive. Two days of tests in kindergarten may have passed it. I'm still not even convinced that early academic training is always useful or even appropriate. Our younger daughter was ready for it at age 5 (she's an insatiable reader at 6). I'm not sure our younger son (who's an insatiable PS2er) will be.

5/27/2003

PC UPDATE SysAdmin Ron Harrington pointed me towards a 1997 article questioning the value of computers in the classroom. This quote had me pulling out what little hair I have left:
In a poll taken early last year U.S. teachers ranked computer skills and media technology as more "essential" than the study of European history, biology, chemistry, and physics; than dealing with social problems such as drugs and family breakdown; than learning practical job skills; and than reading modern American writers such as Steinbeck and Hemingway or classic ones such as Plato and Shakespeare.
History and biology- sure. I can buy that. But chemistry?! What are we coming to? Seriously, I've long felt that computer training was supplanting education. In our pre-homeschooling days, our oldest was taught "keyboarding" in the 1st grade. What a waste of time! Teach them to read first.

BTW, Ron Harrington doesn't let his kids use the computer. His rationale seems pretty, er, rational to me:
[I]t's because they need to be prepared for a fast-changing high-tech world. For that world, they need to be able to read well, think logically and creatively, and solve problems. There's no evidence computers will help them aquire those abilities, and considerable evidence computers will do harm.
BASKIN-ROBBINS Homeschoolers come in many flavors these days. This positive article out of Washington state depicts several. As an aside, Washington has a pretty crappy homeschooling law.
The state law requires parents to have completed the equivalent of at least a year's college or be certified to teach in a qualifying course, register annually with their school district as home-schoolers, and have their children take annual standardized achievement tests. Family records of compliance should include test scores or assessments by a qualified teacher.
PC-FREE SCHOOLS? Not "politically correct", but "personal computers." Psychologist Jane Healy's book "Failure to Connect" makes the claim that allowing kids younger than age 7 access to computer-aided education actually stunts brain development.
This is not to say that children so exposed for significant periods of time will suffer loss of general intelligence (IQ), but they may suffer significant loss of ability in one or more discrete "intelligences" such as creativity and social skills, and gain little of enduring value in the process.

Healy recommends that children would be significantly better off if computers were withheld until age 7, and even then used conservatively...

Unfortunately, about the only way today's parents can prevent their children from having access to computers before the fifth grade is to home-school. There are exceptions. The Calvert School in Baltimore adheres to the "no computers in the classroom until grade 5" principle. The accelerated performance of Calvert School students, drawn from across the socio-economic spectrum, more than affirms what Healy has found and the warning she issues.
The author of this review makes the common correlation-causation error, but the premise is interesting. I may try to pick up a copy of the book.

5/26/2003

SPELLING BEE INFO According to this article, 31 of the 251 contestants in the Nationals are homeschoolers.
THE O' KEEFFE'S Here's a nice article about a homeschooler in the National Spelling Bee. And, yes, her last name really is O' Keeffe.
OT: SUPERCOMPUTER ON THE CHEAP Scientists have designed and built a supercomputer by stringing together 70 Sony PS2s. This could come in handy for when your homeschooler decides to design his own shoulder-fired SAM.

5/25/2003

RI BEE Another homeschooler is on his way to the National Spelling Bee in D.C.
TOLD YA SO Guess why the teacher's union in TX is opposed to a virtual charter. (See answer in the previous post).
HOMESCHOOLERS NEED NOT APPLY Florida legislators have voted to start a virtual charter school for up to 1000 students. Interestingly, homeschoolers are ineligible.
Lawmakers attached several conditions: Courses must follow state standards, teachers must be certified in Florida, and students must take the FCAT and have attended public school the previous year.
This is probably a smart move, politically. One of the most common complaints (by the teachers' union) about virtual charters is that the school district is just paying for homeschoolers. Of course, the union is undeterred:
"It sounds like a cross between homeschooling and vouchers in many ways," said Marshall Ogletree of the Florida Education Association. "If you've already made the decision to homeschool your child, it's not a whole lot different, except the state is going to buy your computer for you."
A foolish consistency...
OVERWROUGHT Check out this headline from the Detroit News: School exit exams wreak havoc. One tiny bit of info here: according to the paper, kids in Florida have six chances to pass the FCAT. The paper still takes the position that exit exams are tantamount to child abuse.
OT: SPAM! The NYT has a series of short interviews with technology experts on the subject of stopping spam. I'm an earthlink subscriber so will be trying the SpamBlocker technology when it's released next week. Hopefully, no more Nigeria scam letters or breast enlargement ads will get through.

5/24/2003

OH, YEAH Apologies for the small number posts this past week. I was in Las Vegas from Sunday through last night (on business). Internet access from my room was minimal (and expensive).
ALMA MATER Here's a new homeschooling blog I found in the referrer logs. She's(?) also a newbie homeschooler. A double welcome, Stacy.
DOUBLY INSULTING Here's more from Utah. Jordan School District is considering implementing a random drug-testing policy for all students involved in extracurricular activities. The program, which would cost an estimated $86,000 per year, would be paid for by increasing student activity fees.
BUSH CAVES So much for bold leadership in Florida. Jeb Bush is now pushing for a quick law that would allow for some students who failed the FCAT to graduate anyway.
Among the changes Bush seeks: a quick study by the state Board of Education that would determine what scores on college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT are equivalent to a passing score on the FCAT. Students who failed the FCAT this year but performed well on the entrance exams would be awarded a diploma if lawmakers agree to the fix.

The governor's demand that legislators tackle the issue before the end of a special budget session Tuesday comes a day after thousands protested outside his Miami office, decrying the state policy that prevents students who fail the new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test from receiving a diploma.
Of course, it's all about the children.
The governor's defense of the FCAT amid growing unease among blacks and Hispanics has angered even members of his own party, who have noted that Hispanic voters have been critical to the governor's election victories and are being courted for next year's presidential election.
OT: AN INTERESTING HEADLINE This one surprised me coming from the Mormon-church-owned Deseret News: School spirit: Christian students join forces to strengthen each other
OBE? Lynn Stuter has a column up concerning homeschoolers and outcome-based education (OBE). Ms. Stuter is very concerned that the government is attempting to bring ALL homeschoolers back into the system.
As such, there is a movement afoot to pull homeschoolers back into the system. This is being done by offering homeschoolers incentives such as computers, money for curriculum, testing, supervision and assistance in weak areas ... this type of thing.

One "incentive" that has reached across the nation is William Bennett's K12® Virtual Academy program...The system must include everyone. To that end, homeschoolers must be drawn back into the system. This is to be accomplished in one of two ways: 1) offer the homeschoolers incentives (carrots) sufficient enough to encourage them back into the system whether they know they are back in the system or not; 2) force the homeschoolers back into the system.
Her chief concern seems to be Goals 2000/OBE. But, I thought the NCLB Act effectively did away with the last remants of Goals 2000. Am I missing something here?
PSA I received this email which I re-print here in its entirety:
I am planning a homeschooling Prom in Ohio. The event will take place in Columbus, Ohio and I am trying to get an early word out. The time will be April 24, 2004. I am trying to guage the interest from Ohio homeschooling teens that might travel to an event like this. I am a homeschooling mom of 5 years and I have a teenage daughter. This is my drive behind the Prom. Could you help me spread the word? Those interested could e-mail me at scifigal@insight.rr.com. I am in the process of getting a web site together for the event.


Thanks Alice Everage

5/23/2003

HOME EDUCATION WEEK... down under. This article reads like a press release from HSLDA but it appears to be mainstream press. I found this sentence funny:
Home education is the modern term for used to be called homeschooling and, yes, it is legal.
I guess we're archaic here in the US. Besides, what do you call kids who are being "home educated?" The paper apparently doesn't have an answer and refers to them as "home schoolers." US 1 AUS 0.
WILLIE AND ME I'm on the road again. See y'all tomorrow.
BOYCOTT BEGINS Miami community groups protesting the state high school exit tests have begun to boycott several FL industries in an attempt to get Gov. Jeb Bush to change the policy.
''For this school year, it needs to be total amnesty, because the state did not prepare these families for this punitive measure,'' said Wilson, D-Miami.
No way. Florida gave several years warning that this day was coming.
WE'RE ALL DISADVANTAGED NOW According to the USAT, colleges have been implementing an affirmative action program for all males, since females have higher grades and test scores. TYhis 'graf made we gag:
The admissions preferences allow schools to maintain the diversity that enriches campuses where 56% of all students at four-year colleges are female. By using less-rigorous academic standards for male applicants, colleges keep freshman classes from swinging too far out of balance. They also provide needed recognition that grades and test scores provide an incomplete picture of what boys can contribute to a school.
There may be a silver lining here. If women are being hurt by AA programs, maybe some pro-AA groups will start to re-think their position. Or, is this a cynical ploy to try to influence SCOTUS and save college diversity programs?

5/22/2003

VICTORY IN CALIFORNIA Here's the text of a letter that CA homeschoolers received from the Homeschool Association of California:
Dear Homeschool Family,

I have wonderful news to report. This evening I was sent an email by the California Department of Education Deputy General Counsel Michael Hersher that the CDE is no longer telling anyone that "homeschooling is not legal in California." It has taken various documents off its website and is taking the position that filing an affidavit does not
represent any certification by CDE about the filer. Its position is that only local school districts have authority to decide that a child who attends a private school is truant. Mr. Hersher stated that the CDE is not trying to influence local discretion in truancy matters in either direction.

I checked the website to confirm that the references to home schooling had been removed. Since most, if not all, of the truancy problems suffered by homeschoolers in the past several years have been a direct result of the CDE's position regarding the legality of home based private schools, this is a major victory.

This result shows how important it is for homeschoolers and homeschooling organizations to work together for our common good: The ability of each of us to choose the best educational option for our children.

Congratulations to each of you and all of us.

Linda J. Conrad, Esq.
Legal Chair
HomeSchool Association of California (HSC)

O'KEEFES PREMIERS TONIGHT The show that had HSLDA in an uproar airs tonight on the WB Network. Check your local listings.
DUMB QUESTION The NCLB Act provides that school districts must allow students to transfer out of "unsafe" schools. A local politician doesn't really get it.
Sen. James Rhoades, R-Schuylkill, wondered whether home-based instruction, either through homeschooling or enrollment in an online charter school, was acceptable for students in districts that could neither provide transfers to another local school nor find a neighboring district that would enroll them.
Pennsylvania politicians tend to be anti-homeschooling. But, we're "ok" when we can help them out of a jam.

5/21/2003

I'VE HEARD THIS QUESTION Here's a cute column by a homeschooling mom of seven. We only have four kids but still get the strange looks and occasional dumb questions about having "so many" children. One time, a snooty business woman asked Lydia if she were going to go back to school to get her GED when all the kids are in school. Lydia holds a Master's in Psychology.
HOT OFF THE WIRE Homeschooler James Williams just won the National Geography Bee. This is the second year in a row that a homeschooler has won the competition. The winner gets a $25,000 college scholarship.
INTERESTING FACTOID From a WashTimes article on the practice of tithing in America.
Catholics are among five segments of the population who paid less than one-tenth of one percent to their church, Barna reports; the other four groups are: Hispanics, liberals, downscale households earning less than $20,000 a year and not being headed by college graduates, and parents who home-school their children.

5/20/2003

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Today the love of my life turns something. I'm on the road and will miss the big day. Lydia, if you read this, know that I love you and miss you and want the whole world (or at least the 100 or so who hit this site) to know.
DEPRESSING NEWS A couple of studies of the sexual behavior of kids were released yesterday. The results are not pretty. 2/3 of the kids are sexually active before they graduate and a good percentage of the ones who haven't had intercourse claim to have been "intimate" with a partner. Also, 1 in 5 kids under the age of 15 are sexually active. One more reason to homeschool.
RE-MOTIVATED The school which was going to give a zero to a girl who sang at a presidential visit has relented. The power of the net.

5/19/2003

SEGREGATED GRADUATIONS The WaPo has a piece on colleges hostong ceremonies that are racially or ethnically segregated. This is a disturbing trend that I have been remiss in covering. Fortunately, Izzy and Kim are on the ball.
BACK LATER I'm in a meeting until 9 p.m. See y'all then.
GRADUATION DAY Here's a brief article on the graduation ceremony some homeschholing parents organized. Nice idea.
FINALLY! More OT- Delaware Governor Minner signed the Sunday liquor sales bill last week and stores were allowed to open on Sunday for the first time ever. The NYT reports that there is a growing trend among the states to bring down one of the last vestiges of blue laws. The purpose for the change is to increase tax revenues.

5/18/2003

NICE PROFILES An Iowa homeschooler is profiled here. The article also includes a summary of Iowa's homeschooling law: pretty bad law, IMO.

And, this article, does a very nice job summarising the reasons several families in Florida have chosen to homeschool. There are no negative or snarky comments. Included among the families is a stay-at-home dad.
A MUST READ Kim Swygert has an excellent post about supposed racial bias in the SAT. Psychometrics is a fascinating field, even if I sometimes don't quite get it.
WHY IS THIS SO HARD? The Boston Globe reports today that the national high school drop-out rate is approximately 25%, roughly three times higher than previous estimates. I don't understand how the earlier numbers could have been so far off. If you merely counted incoming freshmen and then the number of graduates four years later for all high schools, you'd have a pretty good idea.
OT: I HAVE NO LIFE The NYT today has two articles that hit close to home. The first is all about blogging. The second, while focusing on Google, includes this throwaway line:
The beauty of the Web, after all, is that it enables us to draw on the expertise of people who take a particular interest in a topic and are willing to take the trouble to set down what they think about it. In that sense, the Web is a tool that enables people who have a life to benefit from the efforts of those who don't.

5/17/2003

YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR This is just laughable. A high school student was fined $1.2M for an running an internet scam. His school then kicked him off the baseball team. He's now suing the school for $50M for ruining his baseball career. He's representing himself in the lawsuit, once again proving the old adage about being your own lawyer.
PRO-CHOICE PETE Former DE governor Pete DuPont has a school choice column in the WSJ's OpinionJournal.
The reason our public education system is failing our children is that monopolies don't work. Insulated from competitive pressures--with a guaranteed student body and annual income, as Mr. Finn noted--school-board, state administrative and union bureaucracies govern the educational system.

American education needs choice and competition and the freedom to innovate if it is going to improve. The rising tide of educational mediocrity so startlingly revealed in 1983 has not ebbed, and until the market forces that have propelled America to the top in other endeavors replace the establishment public education bureaucracies, it may even continue to rise.
Worth a click.
POLITICALLY MOTIVATED? A high school student who sang with the Indianapolis Children's Choir at a Bush speech has been told the absence will not be excused. She will not be allowed to make up any missed work and will receives zeros for the day's assignments.
Superintendent Mark Keen said the absence didn't fit within the school's policy -- even under the excused category of "other educational activity."

The policy defines "other educational activity" as "relevant to the child's academic growth and equivalent to the child's school activities and experiences."
OTOH, I bet these kids had no problem getting their absences excused.
FOX ON BOX FoxNews did a TV piece on homeschooling. They've posted something on the web but it doesn't appear to be a transcript. A couple of factoids stood out that seem questionable.
Thirty states mandate regular testing for homeschooled students; 42 states require a set curriculum; parents in Michigan who teach their own kids must first earn a teaching credential...
(DRUG) TESTING The NYT reports on a large-scale study that shows that drug-testing public school students does little or nothing to reduce the use of drugs.
The study, published last month in The Journal of School Health, a peer-reviewed publication of the American School Health Association, found that 37 percent of 12th graders in schools that tested for drugs said they had smoked marijuana in the last year, compared with 36 percent in schools that did not. In a universe of tens of thousands of students, such a slight deviation is statistically insignificant, and it means the results are essentially identical, the researchers said.

Similarly, 21 percent of 12th graders in schools with testing said they had used other illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin in the last year, while 19 percent of their counterparts in schools without screening said they had done so.

The same pattern held for every other drug and grade level. Whether looking at marijuana or harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, or middle school pupils compared with high school students, the fact that their schools tested for drugs showed no signs of slowing their drug use.
The Supreme Court had justified drug- testing, in part, by its effectiveness in reducing the use of drugs by young people. This study dramatically calls into question that rationale.

5/16/2003

LAUGH O' THE DAY I feel sorry for this columnist. She met perfect homeschoolers and couldn't handle the pressure. I think I'll invite her over to our place; she'd feel right at home.
BRAINWASHING Here's a good column on how edu-crats use youngsters to further their political agenda.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That was certainly true of a recent photo of a little 7-year-old boy holding a sign demanding more money for the schools and holding his fist in the air.

He was part of a demonstration organized by his teachers, and including parents and other students, all of whom were transported to California's state capital in Sacramento to protest budget constraints brought on by the state's huge deficit.

There was a time when taking children out of classes to fight the political battles of adults would have been considered a shameless neglect of duty. But that was long ago.

The little boy with the sign and his fist raised in the air is just one of the millions of victims of a shameless education establishment.
Read the whol ething.

5/15/2003

LATE AGAIN More HazMat this a.m. and then it's down to Dover for the Senate Education Committee meeting where SB103 (the "Homeschools Defined" bill) is on the agenda. Blogging may resume tonight but more likely tomorrow.
AMERICAN GIRL Ideas on Liberty magazine has a nice article on how American Girl Dolls "sell" kids on history.
the company has a successful product. My daughters' school "social studies" books drain the life from American history. The Revolutionary War and Civil War become the opportunity for dry recountings of dates and names, mixed in with "inspiring" vignettes of diverse ethnic groups. These vignettes are, to be blunt, dull as dishwater because committees determined to offend no one wrote them. The American Girl books, on the other hand, are lively and engaging. Because they're fun to read, they get read-over and over and over. My daughters have undoubtedly absorbed more American history from the American Girl books-including more of the social history of "underrepresented" peoples that school text-selection committees seem to value so highly-than from their textbooks and social-studies classes combined.
My real girls have several of the plastic ones and last year Lydia used the book series in teaching history. There was no way our son was going to read an American Girl Doll book, but he didn't seem to mind having Lydia read them aloud to everyone. (via Cathy Henderson)
AMEN! Cathy Henderson nailed one yesterday concerning the Laney Case.
HOME-SCHOOLERS DEFEND RIGHTS"As the home-schooling New Chapel Hill mother accused of killing two of her children sits in a Smith County Jail cell, other parents who home school their children defend the right and argue cases such as the one against Deanna Laney are not the norm." And this quote from a homeschool parent: "This takes a great commitment and not everyone can make this type of commitment..." (TX 5/13)

Just a small suggestion. Part of the unintended consequences of carrying on and on about the "unselfishness", the "sacrificing" and the "commitment" required, along with the "not for everyone" comments from homeschoolers, is that it results in just the reputation requested. I don't "sacrifice" any self-interest; taking full responsibility for the education of my daughter is as selfish as anything I've ever done, as rewarding, as joyful, as any experience of my life. I raise my daughter and guiding her education is part of the job. Yeah, there are tough spots, but sometimes parenting is a little tougher than at other times, and parenting _is_ a commitment. It's not nearly as hard as watching a public school make mincemeat out of childhood. Homeschooling isn't a factor in pushing into madness. I do believe that concentrating a little less on the self-sacrificing-martyr deal is in order.

5/14/2003

ALMOST PERFECT A homeschooling dad has penned a terrific column on his family's homeschooling experiences. If not for the emphasis on certification, it'd be perfect. One to file.
LATE BLOGGING TODAY I have more HazMat training scheduled all day. Blogging will resume tonight.

5/13/2003

THIS THEORY IS CRAZY In a story about the Laney case (where the mom killed her two young sons), CBS News predicts homeschooling will play a role in any trial:
[B]oth women home-schooled their children – a factor that doctors in the Yates trial focused on as one of a few that pushed her into madness. If we ever see a Laney capital murder trial – if there is no plea deal for a life sentence – look for home-schooling to play a role in any insanity defense offered by her attorneys.
HOMESCHOOLERS AND THEIR 'RENTS This short article is mostly about the homeschooling parents but the kid's music is briefly mentioned. The parents sound interesting. They run a catnip farm.
For many years, the Baslers sold their catnip wholesale to Cosmic Catnip of Maryland. Now they own their own Mountain Lion Catnip Company, which sells raw catnip as well as catnip mini-pillows, chin scratchers, and other whimsical cat toys.

“We made political dolls during the elections,” Basler said. “The idea is that you order the doll that you didn’t want to win, and we’d put catnip in the neck, so your cat gradually rips its head off.”
DEFINITELY TV Isabel Lyman points to a really scary column by a teacher who breaks the world down into TV people and Print people:
"Print People do what they are told to do, almost all the time.

TV People do what they are told to do, less than half the time."
The author claims in her bio that she is "the owner of 'The Learning Clinic,' where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently." Maybe not as effectively as she thinks.
One day I stepped in front of a hall-roaming TV Person who was ignoring my request that he return to class, and stated, "Notice! I am not a TV, and you do not have a remote control! You may not like my 'channel' but it is the one you get to watch at this moment!" I might have saved my energy. He missed the point, looked at me as though I had lost my mind, and detoured around me to continue his out-of-class adventure. I noted not one touch of conscience, guilt, respect. The lights are on, but the reception is poor.
Print people good; TV, bad. She claims that homeschoolers are Print people but I think she's wrong. We're definitely TV people. Shoot, the pioneers in the movement broke the law in order to do what they thought right. That's not only questioning authority. It's rejecting it, outright. That's one of the real lessons our kids will learn from our choices. I'm sure that thought would terrify Ms. Taylor, but I think it's just fine.

5/12/2003

A FISH TALE Here's another reason to homeschool- so Dad can go fishing.
Most professional bass anglers love their jobs, although they hate leaving their families for extended periods, sometimes months...

Spousal careers and school responsibilities keep many families home while pros hit the road for long periods. Alton Jones and his wife, Jimmye Sue, solved this problem. When Alton readies for a trip, the entire Jones family piles into a very large vehicle...

Jimmye Sue home-schools the three children, Alton Jr., 11, Kristen, 8, and Jamie, 5. To share the road with her husband, Jimmye Sue gave up a $50,000 a year job as a nurse, at times the sole support for the family.
ANOTHER WHIZ KID This homeschooler will graduate from community college with 2 Associate's degrees at the age of 15. A cute anecdote:
There were a few bumps along the way.

A Sinclair prof last year asked English 112 students to write about a first in their lives, such as getting their first driver’s license, going out on their first date, first time going into a bar, etc. The professor didn’t know Harry was 14 and hadn’t experienced any of those firsts just yet. Harry wrote about his first class at Sinclair instead.
BILL O'REILLY GETS IT RIGHT... for once. I rarely agree with the stances that the Fox commentator takes but he's spot on with his denouncement of GA politicians who wouldn't even condemn an all-white prom in Taylor County, GA. It's a private party so the ignoramuses have the right to hold the event. Politicans, though, should have been screaming that this is simply intolerable.
POLITICAL BLACKMAIL "Community activists" in Miami are threatening to boycott Florida's tourism, sugar, and citrus induxtries unless Gov. Bush changes their high-stakes test so that fewer minority students will fail. To show just how clueless these people are, here's a quote from one of the leaders.
''We will not continue to support a government economically that will not educate our children,'' Bishop Victor Curry said.
How will lowering the standards assist in educating their children? I think it would accomplish just the opposite.
PC RUN AMOK The University of Mass.- Amherst is considering replacing it's Minutemen mascot because, at least in part, "the nickname is too violent (real Minutemen carried guns), too sexist (there were no Minutewomen) and too ethnic (all those white English people). "

5/11/2003

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all moms but especially to those who have the hardest job in the world, homeschooling moms.
SAD NEWS A homeschooling mom has killed two of her children in what sounds like an eery replay of the Yates case. This one is also in Texas.
HOMESCHOOLING IS BORING In Southern Illinois homeschooling must be so common that it is no longer newsworthy:
The couple is also home-schooling their children, which doesn't sound like a big deal -- after all, more and more families are choosing to home-school these days.

But then you hear how many children the Cherrys have: nine, ranging in age from 8 months to 18 years.
WHO'S THE LOSER? A Dallas middle school teacher had students who failed to do their homework write essays which began "I'm a loser because..." This teacher sounds a bit wacko. CHeck out some of her rules for the classroom:
Stay away from Mrs. B's desk unless I am giving you permission to get something," and "Remember that I am the teacher. You are the student. You do not have as many rights as you think you have."
DAY 35: 209.5 Delta: -1.0, Net: -21.5

OK, made my intermediate goal of 210 by 5/13. Next goal- 200 by 6/11.

5/10/2003

COINCIDENCE? The NY Post has an update on the Massapequa High students who went to a strip club. Interestingly, on the same page is a semi-nude Victoria's Secret ad. If it were any paper other than the Post, I'd say coincidence.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
Boston police and school officials are investigating allegations that a seventh-grader at the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, one of Boston's three exam schools, poisoned his teacher yesterday by pouring household cleaner into the teacher's coffee mug, said school officials.

5/09/2003

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT Traffic today has tripled because people are Googling "glenbrook hazing video" and ending up here. Not that I don't appreciate the traffic, but you really want to use GoogleNews. Click here for the correct search.
DAY 33: 210.5 Delta: 0.0, Net: -20.5
ONE FOR SNEAKING SUSPICIONS Fritz Schranck likes to award "Claudes" for headlines that leave a bit to be desired in the imagination department. Here's a candidate: Tuition hikes might outpace inflation rate Wow! That's only the 800th year in a row that this has happened. Stop the presses!
WANTED: GROWNUPS Yesterday Isabel Lyman blogged a story about a parent taking 15 Massapequa High School baseball players to a strip club. Today, we learn that the Chicago hazing incident may have been fueled by beer purchased by parents. Hey, parents, you're not their buds. Grow up!

BTW, Massapequa is near-and-dear to my heart; I grew up there in the 60's and 70's (yes, I'm that old). It's very typical post-WWII suburbia. In fact, the original Levittown is just down the street.
WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY St. Paul cops are "enforcing" the city's reading program by stopping kids at random and asking if they've read "the book."
Beginning today, about two dozen St. Paul police officers will randomly ask students and other residents about their reading habits. Those who've read "The Watsons" will be rewarded with a T-shirt saying, "I Got Caught Reading by the Saint Paul Police."

Those who haven't read the book will be let off easy — this time. They likely will be handed — not thrown — a copy.
I'm all for encouraging reading but this is just dumb. Police officers are government law enforcement agents. They're sending the message that not reading the (politically) "correct" book borders on criminal behavior.
LATE BLOGGING I'm up in Somerset, NJ again all day. I'll post some more this afternoon.
DELAWARE ITEM: WE HAVE A NUMBER Sen. Dave Sokola filed the proposed homeschooling legislation yesterday. It's SB103. A quick glance didn't find any differences from the DOE proposal but I'll be going over it line-by-line later this afternoon.
VALEDICTORIAN UPDATE A federal judge has ruled that Blair Horstine, the girl suing her school about her valedictorian status, will get to fly solo. Joanne Jacobs picked up on this story today and really blasts Horstine. Kim Swygert's blog from last week continues to generate very interesting comments (including several by Horstine's classmates). I think I had her pegged from the start.

5/08/2003

365 AND COUNTING Today marks the end of one year of blogging. Here's my first post:
Welcome to my blog. This blog is dedicated to homeschooling and other education articles that I find interesting. It may also include some Delaware-specific "edustuff". Forewarned and all that.
Except for my occasional forays into libertarian land, I think I've pretty much stuck to the original format. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if that is a good thing or not.
USA PATRIOT ACT If accurate, this is downright scary.
A month ago I experienced a very small taste of what hundreds of South Asian immigrants and U.S. citizens of South Asian descent have gone through since 9/11, and what thousands of others have come to fear. I was held, against my will and without warrant or cause, under the USA PATRIOT Act. While I understand the need for some measure of security and precaution in times such as these, the manner in which this detention and interrogation took place raises serious questions about police tactics and the safeguarding of civil liberties in times of war.
Read the whole thing.
DAY 32: 210.5 Delta: -0.5, Net: -20.5
LUCKED OUT A 14-year-old student brought a loaded pistol to school in March, claiming he was going to kill the principal, vice principal, and several teachers. He even showed the gun to several of his friends, one of whom finally told police this week. WWHS.