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The Unschooling Method

Posted by Annie on Mar 11, 2008 in Legal

In response to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial ‘Rule of Education’.

Homeschooling legal in Michigan since 1993!

An editorial, which ran in the San Francisco Chronicle today was quite disturbing. While the article pointed out the hypocrisy of a state that from all appearances believes every child in the state should be supervised by government officials, it went on to condemn parents who choose to "unschool" their children.

Clearly the author – isn’t it interesting that the most damning opinion editorials, never include the authors name – doesn’t understand what unschooling is.

In the article, the author states:

The homeschool movement would contend that the state’s approach of recent years – which is basically to look the other way – has worked just fine. They point to the homeschool graduates who are excelling at elite universities, or the students who are dominating spelling bees, as evidence that the laissez-faire approach should continue.

Then again, the students we worry about are those whose parents isolate them from a full curriculum of basic subjects – especially those who follow the philosophy of "unschooling."

Just for the record, unschooling is not the absence of education. It is the practice of using normal everyday things in the education process, instead of a more textbook centered learning experience. Some children need alternatives to the norm of spending hours with their nose buried in a book.

While some unschoolers prefer to use a "child-led" method in their own homeschooling efforts, which basically follows the interests of the child, as opposed to driving the process, this is not true for all unschooling homeschoolers. The child-led method works especially well for strong-willed children, who like to have their own way. It shows a respect for their needs and wishes, while at the same-time providing relevant learning opportunities. This individualized approach to learning is one not generally available to children enrolled in public schools, mainly because teachers with classrooms of 30+ students would consider it all-out anarchy.

As most teachers will tell you, not all children fit a standard mold. It is up to parents to find what works best for their child and work to provide the best learning method and environment to meet those needs.

Homeschooling is the best educational choice for many of our children. After all, what parent doesn’t want the best for their child? Parents who choose to educate their children at home must make accommodations to do so, usually reordering their lives, schedules, priorities and often even their careers. We have enough on our plates without having the state muscle in and second-guess our choices.

We have all been assigned teachers in school that we wish we didn’t have to deal with for one reason or another. Have you ever attempted to have a child moved to another class, when teacher and child rubbed each other the wrong way? It’s next to impossible. What if your child is enrolled in a charter school and you are assigned a teacher that doesn’t understand your child’s needs? It’s not easy to switch charter schools mid-term.

As adults we all have choices; If we don’t like the laws in California, we can choose to move to another state. We can choose what car we drive, we can choose where we spend our money and our time. What choice does a child have? They must either attend the school in their district, or hope their parents can afford a private school. Only in recent years has home study become an acceptable alternative. Prior to the acceptance of homeschooling, children had very few choices.

Following the logic of this author all parents would need to be:

  • A Licensed Chauffeur – better not drive your children anywhere.
  • A Certified Nutritionist – better not feed your children anything.
  • A Licensed Medical Doctor – forget about treating that banged up knee.
  • An Ordained Minister – nevermind those bedtime prayers.
  • A Licensed Nurse Practitioner – put away that thermometer and those aspirins.
  • A Licensed Psychologist – forget about modifying bad behaviors and kissing away those tears.

I’ve read many posts over the past few days about how homeschoolers should be overseen by credentialed teachers. What a joke. I recently spoke to a woman who has two children enrolled in a California charter school. During a brief conversation with her she extolled the benefits of her charter. She explained that she has $1600.00 per semester to spend on books, classes, computer software, etc. Her children were provided state-paid horseback riding lessons and guitar lessons. Gee, when I attended high school, I don’t recall horseback riding lessons as being part of the curriculum.

What really disturbed me was that when her children were tested, they just filled in the bubbles any ‘ole way – and of course they failed the test. She was taken to task about it and told she would be kicked out of the program if her children did it again. The following year, the tests were sent home with the children and allowed to do them under their mother’s supervision – without a teacher present. The children aced the tests and were honored during a special awards ceremony for being "most improved."

The children aren’t required to do any work or turn in any assignments; the "teacher" fudges all the numbers and records. What is this teaching these children? That ethics don’t matter? How to get around the system?

What those who support "homeschool oversight" fail to realize is that even though the law still requires teachers to be ethical, many are not. Teachers are so overwhelmed with their current workload; they simply don’t have the time to properly monitor additional students. No matter what safeguards are put in place by the state, dishonest parents, teachers and children can and will get around the rules.

If you are thinking, “at least someone will be able to monitor the children, so they won’t fall through the cracks.” That’s simply bunk. Every one of us who attended the public school knows at least one child who was being abused or mistreated at home and yet no one spoke up. Just because a child has contact with a teacher doesn’t mean a thing.

In this country we have laws that say we are innocent until proven guilty. Parents, who are found to be abusive, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The rest of us just want to be free to live our lives, teach our children and help them grow up to be the best they can be.

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CA Stone Age

Posted by Annie on Mar 10, 2008 in Legal

Homeschooling legal in Michigan since 1993

Homeschooling legal in Michigan since 1993!

I am from Michigan and a few years back our family decided to move from California to Michigan: what a culture shock. It was like a throw back to the 90’s. No Internet Café, no computer fair or convention to attend, no technology deals.

It was like living in the Stone Age. I found it unbelievable how many people did not have computers or web pages to show off their business to the world. It was a huge adjustment for our family.

When we returned to California five-years-ago, it was with a sigh of relief to be back in "civilization," and among a more technologically-advanced forward-thinking people. With the recent developments, I’m not so sure. After all, Michigan has a homeschool law that says, "hey, parents can be trusted."

While at the same time, if Judge Croskey of the 2nd Appellate Court has his way California will be the state with the most restrictive homeschool law in the country. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Now Michigan residents are rubbing our nose in it. A recent 13 News article taunts us, "Homeschooling legal in Michigan since 1993." The article continues:

Wyoming – Michigan once had a law requiring parents to have a teacher certification if they homeschool their children. But unlike California, the Michigan law was changed 15 years ago.

Now Michigan parents who say they want to home school their children for religious reasons need no certification. The law was overturned in 1993 after an Allendale couple took their case to the Michigan Supreme Court and won.

Will California lose its reputation for being movers and shakers, a leader among the states? Will we now begin to look toward Michigan for guidance? Remember the phrase… "As California goes, so goes the nation?" That’s a scary thought.

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News in the News

Posted by Annie on Mar 7, 2008 in Legal

Homeschooling is legal and everyone now knows it.

Homeschooling is legal and everyone now knows it!

Have you been following all the online commotion? All this exposure is good, good, good — for homeschooling in California. If you are currently homeschooling in California, it might surprise you to know that as a homeschooling contact and editor of LocalHS, I am often asked if homeschooling is legal.

It always surprises me and I feel like saying, get with it man, where have you been? Living under a rock? But of course, I explain the law to them and move on to the important stuff. The upside to the court ruling that has phones ringing off the hook and fingers flying, is good news because those who weren’t aware of the legality of homeschool are getting an education now and much of the news has been positive.

Some of these articles really crack me up. Just this morning an AP article had to this to say:

The immediate impact of the ruling was not clear. Attorneys for the state Department of Education were reviewing the ruling, and home schooling organizations were lining up against it.

Totally funny! The Department of Education is reviewing the ruling. Oh yeah, and what exactly are they going to do? Start a war? You don’t fire up homeschoolers by calling it illegal, then drag in homeschoolers and charge them with a crime. Come on – whom are they trying to kid?

The CDE has backed down to homeschoolers time and time again over the years. Several years ago some of us caught the CDE telling bold faced lies on their website. The truth is homeschoolers in this state have been well-educated as to their rights as parents and as homeschoolers. We have enough lawyers available to us to drag this issue through the courts until most of our children are in college.

Kristin Chapman of World Mag reported that:

Legal experts say the ruling is a long time coming, given that home schooling is virtually unregulated in California…

Martin said school districts and social workers have been reluctant to scrutinize suspect home schools for fear of lawsuits. The ruling, he expects, will make it easier for them to monitor parents who have neglected or under-educated children through home schooling.

I just love that word "monitor." They can’t even "monitor" their own teachers. Have you read the news lately? Teachers are constantly being busted for something, schools are misappropriating funds and there is no way most homeschoolers are going to give up our right to tend to our own children, much less allow anyone to "monitor" us.

Speaking as someone who has lived around the country — we always check out the homeschooling laws in the state before we consider a move. States like Michigan and Texas have no regulation. All hell hasn’t broken out there yet. I think the schools should be minding their own business and let us mind ours.

Which brings me to the teacher layoffs. Just how many new students do you think these schools can readily handle — in addition to their current students? The governor has cut back school funding, pink slips are being sent out to teachers across the state next month and yet, they think they are going to force our children into already overcrowded classrooms?

I don’t think so…

This is an election year and I’m guessing legislators aren’t going to want to alienate a huge voting block either. Remember the last time homeschoolers got riled up and shut down the switch board at the White House?

If you ask my opinion (well you didn’t, but I’m going to give it anyway), the courts will do their best to defuse this situation the best way they can. While it’s not easy to get an opinion depublished that is their safest course of action.

~Annette signing off – for now.

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