June 22, 2005

"A reward for ... complying"?

Should public schools give home-schooled kids access to extra-curriculars?
[M]any districts strongly resist the idea, citing inadequate resources, liability issues, questions about whether students would be displaced from teams and clubs, and concerns about whether home-schooled children could be held to the same academic and attendance standards. In some states, districts also lose state aid when children leave to be home schooled, although that is not the case in Pennsylvania....

Brian Barnhart, assistant superintendent of the 3,250-student Lampeter-Strasburg School District, said the school board remained unconvinced that home-schooled children could be held to the same standards as public school students.

Mr. Barnhart said many parents also worried that home-schooled students would take coveted positions from public school students. "We see extracurricular activities as a reward for students who are complying and who are working through school," he said.
I think the financial issues ought to be resolved fairly, but I'm not sure about the basis for the rest of this opposition. I suppose if schools kick regular students off sports teams for bad grades, those kids might feel resentful of the home-schoolers who get to be on the team. But then isn't the question really whether there's equivalent accountability imposed on the parents who home school for the academics that they teach?

39 comments:

Art said...

According to party doctrine, parents are presumed to be accountable. Would you trust the government to decide these things?
As for private schools, the market place provides all the accountability one could ever want.
Only "government schools" (which si the party approved term for public schools need to be held accountable because they are inhererently corrupt.

Dave said...

Isn't the appropriate solution to eliminate public spending on education? If we were to adopt that radially simple step, then these issues would not arise.

DaveG said...

I understand his point, but I have to say that every home schooled kid I've ever met has not "been held to the same academic standards" of public schools. Rather, they've been held to a far higher standard. Frankly, I believe that's why home schooling even exists. It addresses a need not being met by public schools.

As home schooling becomes more prevalent, the issue of extracurricular activities will also be addressed. I'm already seeing this locally as groups of home-schoolers band together to provide their own activities. That said, I would guess that most parents that opt for home schooling are more concerned that their child learn academics than whether or not they play sports. With the way funding is going in my state, most extracurricular activities are either pay-to-play (which has its own set of issues) or gone altogether, so it's really becoming a moot point.

Kathleen B. said...

Prof. Althouse: your comments are well-taken. It does certainly appear that some amount of the opposition is based on hostility to home-schooling and maybe a desire to "punish" kids who are home schooled.

Art: according to party doctrine, your comments are quite creepy.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: It seems to me the parents make the decision to home school, so it's important for the public to think of the kids' interest. The idea that the kids should be stuck with the whole package of their parents' choice troubles me. To exclude the kids here is to try to put pressure on the parents. But we need to think of the kids, and integrating them into the general school populations -- which they want! -- seems to be a public good that should be responded to directly and benevolently. Don't use those already isolated kids as leverage to change the minds of their presumably strong-willed parents.

Dave said...

Ann: I've had the chance to meet a number of home-schooled children. Not all of them fit the stereotype of isolated students. Many are involved in their communities.

Granted, most home-schooled kids come from far more religious families than is the norm, and therefore from families that are antagonistic to prevailing secular society. But I don't think that necessarily means that such kids are more isolated. Some may be, but not all.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Fair enough. I think plenty of kids feel isolated at regular school, and good home-schooling parents are undoubtedly doing this to connect there kids to social things. But home schooling does inherently involve a choice to isolate your kids in one way, and it's good, it seems to me, for the community to reach out and include them where they want it.

SteveR said...

As a parent who homeschooled for 7 years (three kids) before putting them in public school, we belonged to home schooling organizations and its a very diverse group, any attempt to characterize them one way or another is foolish.

As far as I am concerned, if you pay your taxes and want your child to participate, it should be allowed with minimal requirements. Many schools already allow it even for attending certain classes at the high school level on a part time basis. Suffice to say, intolerance among professionals in public education, is not in short supply. Fortunately there are many caring and reasonable ones as well.

DirtCrashr said...

I was homeschooled as a kid because we lived overseas, the materials we (older brother and sister included) used were grade-specific, from a correspondence school in Baltimore (that still exists). We were active in local sports and the community despite our language barrier, and later we went to a boarding school for "socialization" purposes, so the high-standards never wavered.
Back in the US after it all it was a difficult adjustment to the lower standards of public school, even in Palo Alto in 1969. I got real lazy that's for sure, because everything was so easy - and with good grades and basically AP classes all the time, (except Math which was playing-out the social experiment of "New Math"), I didn't have a problem staying in sports - but how many kids start playing water-polo in Jr. High? I never really adapted to the traditional US sports like football basketball or baseball, and played soccer instead.
I did feel isolated in school and never quite clicked, probably because of my early overseas experiences, and chose to return to the boarding-school 6,000+ miles away and graduate there.
Looking at what my nephews seem to haver (not) gotten out of public school, I'd have to agree with the guy who said, "In fifty years we've gone from teaching Greek and Latin in high school, to teaching Remedial English in college."

JLP said...

Since the parents of home-schooled children are paying property taxes just like they would if their children were going to public school, then I think they should have the right to extra-cirriculars.

JLP

AllThingsFinancial

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't have any children, but if I did and was homeschooling them, I would be pissed if they couldn't participate in government school extracurricular activities. Homeschool parents pay their taxes just like everyone else. I think it is immoral to keep their children from being able to participate. Just another way of trying to force children to enter government schools.

I'm with Dave. Stop public spending on education. I'm also with Art. The government school system is inherently corrupt because it has zero accountability.

R. U. Serious said...

I didn't even know Spelling Bee was a team sport.

Damned If I Know

Slocum said...

Since the parents of home-schooled children are paying property taxes just like they would if their children were going to public school, then I think they should have the right to extra-curriculars.

Well, that's not all there is to the funding story. In districts where funding is local and not based on the number of students, the home-schooling parents are doing the district a favor by educating their kids at home for free and leaving more funding for everybody else. In Michigan, though, where funding has been equalized, all districts receive a per-student allocation which is lost when a student leaves. Such districts do have an incentive to get homeschoolers to take at least some classes (for which they get partial state funding) but no incentive to provide extra-curricular opportunities for home-schoolers who take no classes and bring in no money to the district.

The other nice thing about such districts, though, is there is a strong incentive for them to be accomodating to parents thinking of pulling kids out. This fall, in fact, we will be trying partial homeschooling with our son but he's going to remain a full-time student of the district. How so? He's going to be taking a couple of his academic classes at home through the state's virtual high school program.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Ann,

As an educator, do you really have to ask if there is professional hostility towards amateurs? My wife and I have both home-schooled and publicly-educated our kids. While we have met some wonderful teachers and administrators, you don't have to look far beneath the surface to find an attitude of disdain and mistrust: What could we possibly know about teaching our own children?

"Concerns" about academic performance and liability are a smokescreen to preserve the status quo and protect monopoly control over education and funding. That the real concern is not education is given away by the pull quote from your headline: "Extra-curricular activites are a reward for complying."

Medicine, news media and education are all being challenged by the wider distribution of information that upsets the model of the all-knowing decision-maker (doctor, news anchor, teacher). Some adapt to these changes; some resist with all the authority and resources they can muster. But the model is changing. Fewer and fewer parents are willing to simply hand their children over to be educated with no say in the process. And those who have opted to educate their children themselves are less willing to sit at the back of the bus they've paid for themselves.

Sloanasaurus said...

Home Schooling also makes people unequal. Its not fair that some parents have the skill and resources to home school their kids. Consequently, we should have affirmative action programs for public school kids in getting jobs or getting into College after school. Further, we should pass laws limiting the amount of time parents can spend home schooling their kids to make sure public school kids are not of lower quality.

Dave said...

Public school kids already have affirmative action plans to get them into college: it's called "affirmative action." Very few home schooled kids are minorities, after all...

Jeff said...

Sloanasaurus, I can not tell if you are serious or not. You said that it was "unfair that some parents had the skill and the resources to home school their kids." What skills are necessary other then being able to read, write, work hard and be motivated to do the best job possible? What extra resources do you need? My son goes to a public school, but we still spend a fortune on clothes, fees, books and supplies. The home schooling families that I know have low to middle incomes. Higher income families can pay for private school. It does not take resources, it takes sacriface of time and income. I hope you were being sarcastic when you said that laws should be passed limited time that parents could home school their kids.

Synova said...

I think that sloanasaurus was being sarcastic.

Even so, one issue concerning homeschool students participation in extracurriculars that I've heard seriously raised that hasn't been mentioned here is that homeschooled children actually aren't on a level playing feild when it comes to competitive activities because they haven't sat in classrooms all day. They get more rest and have more time to practice.

The concerns about academic requirements for extracurriculars is also something that people worry about. That many parents are quite willing to put themselves under the authority of the school district is troublesome to those of us who are not because it becomes harder to hold a firm line against interference.

Lastly... if homeschoolers choose a sort of isolation, they have chosen it over another sort of isolation. The isolation of young people *in* school loneliness and social isolation from age-mates (not the same thing as "peers" frankly) I'm talking about the isolation from the community. The problem is recognized and there are sometimes programs to get the kids a little bit of exposure to old people or adults in the workplace or much younger children.

In fact, one of the main reasons I decided to homeschool was that the young homeschooled children I met seemed to see me as a human being rather than an alien. They seemed to think that I was an interesting person and worthy of their time. I don't think it ever occured to them that there was any reason that they could only relate to their age-mates.

Ann Althouse said...

Synova: "homeschooled children actually aren't on a level playing feild when it comes to competitive activities because they haven't sat in classrooms all day. They get more rest and have more time to practice."

The real problem here is the unnecessary physical restraint of the young, imposed by the government, and only avoidable if parents commit to providing education at home. If the substantive content of school is not equivalent to the time we physically restrain them, we are doing a terrible wrong. When I was young, I greatly resented the time the government stole from me this way.

jar said...

A comment or two.

If a public school student needs certain grades to join or stay in a sport how would you make sure that the home school student had the equivalent of those grades?

The other thing is what are we teaching our children about disappointment and how to deal with it? Life comes with a certain amount of choices and we have to live with the results of those choices. If you want your child to go to public school then you have to deal with the consequences that choice brings. Same with home schooling. That doesn't mean that you can't work to change some things. It does mean that sometimes life is unfair and other times it downright sucks and your child has to be able to deal with it and move on and perhaps find other interests.

Ann Althouse said...

Jar: Life may be unfair, but schools need to be fair to kids. They have to figure out what is fair and do that. As for choices, it is the parents not the kids who make these choices, and the analysis of what's fair should take that into account.

And why should school be a package deal? Why should we improve the mix of choices for parents and children? Why should one size fit all? What sort of a message is that?

Jaime said...

As a public school educator, I see this issue from another perspective. For the dedicated home-school parent teacher who has high standards and just wants his/her child to have the opportunity to participate in extra-curriculars, this all seems fair. But... Unfortunately, there are parents who place more value in their child's athletic experience than in their child's academic education and will do almost anything to keep their child "on the team" - including bending the rules. The school at which I teach has both performance and attendance requirements to participate (students must be passing all classes and must be in attendance all day). Most parents are supportive of these athletic codes, but there are the occasional ones who thing their darling child is above it. I could imagine a scenario in which a sports-minded parent receives a report card in the mail that says Johnny can't play basketball because he is failing geometry, makes the decision that Johnny's basketball career is more important than math, and promptly declares Johnny "home-schooled."

amy said...

I'm surprised they don't already have more community-based activies.

Where I live there are several very large non-school related sports organizations. They play against other teams in their organization, and have competitions with other towns. Much like the schools do, but it's all seperate.

There's also all the normal outside school activies like boy/girl scouts, 4-H, dance, karate, etc.

amy said...

I just wanted to add the community college in our county provides all sorts of classes for high school aged children that they couldn't necessarily take being homeschooled (photography, debate, advanced math classes, etc) and during the summertime they have College for Kids for kids grade 3-8.

rafinlay said...

If home-schooling is in question as to standards, socialization, etc, then perhaps we could fix that by placing "in-school" "students" with one of the home-schooling homes. Naturally, the students selected would be those who would most likely benefit, i.e., those failing in the public school environment. That way, the home-school environment can be made more nearly equivalent to the in-school environment.

Sloanasaurus said...

Rafinlay: I have never heard this idea. It is quite novel. In addition, the state should pay the home schooling parent the $12,000 per student cost (in Minneapolis). With a class of only 10 kids, a home schooling parent could be making an additional $120,000 per year. They may even be able to hire an additional instructor.

DaveG said...

Sloan...

In Ohio, we call that a charter school. I don't know if other states have an equivalent or not.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe said...

If you want your child to go to public school then you have to deal with the consequences that choice brings.

Imagine that instead of eating dinner at home every night, you had to go to a restaurant, pay as you entered, and be given whatever the chef felt like giving you. You could complain on the way out. Or you could go to the biweekly restaurant meetings where you would be given 90 seconds to state your problem.

This is kind of where we're at with public schools.

And let's not mangle the word choice too much. A true choice is between two (or more) alternatives. Parents of homeschooled or private schooled children aren't so much choosing as they are paying twice for what they wanted the first time.

Kev said...

A couple of points:

First, a lot of people are talking about how they're "paying twice" (by virtue of their state property taxes, or however public education happens to be funded in their state) if they homeschool or send their kids to private school. It's not really beneficial to think of it that way; remember, childless households pay those taxes as well. I'd like to think that we're paying those taxes so that society as a whole will be educated, because having such a society is beneficial to all of us. Having a majority of people in our community whose skills don't go past "you want fries with that?" does not bode well for anyone.

Second, the thing that troubles me about homeschooling (and yes, I'm an educator, though I work in and not for a school district) is that it seems rather presumptuous of these parents to think that they can singlehandedly replace the training and experience of a host of professional educators. Surely a few subjects are going to suffer. Besides, if these parents are so good at teaching, why aren't they teachers? Share the wealth with the rest of the community...

Finally, my completely unscientific poll (compiled after having taught many formerly-homeschooled kids who entered public school for high school, and also having dated a homeschool "graduate" for a while) has shown me that most of the homeschooled kids I've encountered have had extremely narrow worldviews and don't know what to do in "real-world" situations where they're not the center of attention. I certainly invite others to cite exceptions, but this is what I've seen, and it doesn't seem to be very beneficial to put a whole bunch of kids like that out in the world.

Sloanasaurus said...

"...Besides, if these parents are so good at teaching, why aren't they teachers? Share the wealth with the rest of the community..."

Hmmm...

The Teacher's Union does a good job of keeping itself a special club. That is why so many crappy teachers are allowed to continue teaching. There are good teachers too, and they deserve to continue. Tenure is an evil thing for grades K-12. Just ask Arnold.

Slocum said...

Second, the thing that troubles me about homeschooling (and yes, I'm an educator, though I work in and not for a school district) is that it seems rather presumptuous of these parents to think that they can singlehandedly replace the training and experience of a host of professional educators.

One of the thing homeschooled kids can learn is to speak clearly. Do teachers really think that referring to themselves as 'professional educators' enhances their status? To me the term 'professional educator' suggests an insecure teacher prone to spout educationese (anyone care for a 'rubric'?)

What homeschool parents can offer, obviously, is an unbeatably small class size, which means lots of individual attention, and the ability to customize the style and pace of the class to suit the student (zip through chapters 3 and 4 because the student finds those easy but spend more time on chapter 7 that the student finds more difficult). This kind of customization is simply not possible in a large classroom.

And it's truly amazing the number of ways a teacher can be a poor match for a student. For example, last school year my middle-school aged son had a math teacher who was clearly smart, dedicated, and hard-working. But she was inflexibly committed to her system--a system that couldn't possibly have been less suited to absent-minded 13-year-old boys if it were designed specifically to frustrate them (and no, there were no other teachers teaching the same course in the school). We are so looking forward to his self-paced online math class in the fall.

I can count on one hand the number of teachers my son and daughter had in middle and high school who were both good AND a good fit. And this is in one of the highest-rated districts in the state.

Besides, if these parents are so good at teaching, why aren't they teachers? Share the wealth with the rest of the community...

Teaching one subject with a one-size-fits-all approach to several classes of 25 or 30 students you barely know (and where a significant part of the job is crowd control) just isn't the same thing as tutoring a single student you know intimately, now is it?

Kev said...

OK, perhaps my use of the term "professional educator" was poorly-chosen. I'm no union member (or friend thereof), and I rarely speak "edubabble" like that. I think the term I really meant to use was qualified educator. That was the point I was trying to make: no matter how well a parent-as-teacher knows their child-as-student, how can that one parent possibly have all the specialized knowledge to adequately replace six or seven teachers in the various subjects taught in school.

And Slocum,I have no doubt that many of your kids' teachers may not have been a "good fit." Learning to deal with that situation is part of life! Think about how many coworkers, bosses, etc. are not a "good fit." Expecting everything in life to always suit one's individual needs produces the self-centered kids I discussed in my earlier comment.

But yes, I agree that a significant portion of classroom teaching is crowd control; that's one of the reasons I didn't go into classroom teaching.

Slocum said...

How can that one parent possibly have all the specialized knowledge to adequately replace six or seven teachers in the various subjects taught in school.

Do you know where Abe Lincoln went to law school?

This is one of my biggest problems with teachers--they firmly believe that nobody can learn anything unless somebody teaches it. I've been on school-improvement committees of various kinds and have been stunned by teachers who believe they can't be expected to learn anything unless somebody sends them to a class. Everybody I know figured out on their own how to use email and, say, how to set up a spreadsheet and generate a graph--but not these teachers. If this was going to be expected then professional development funds and classes would be required. Aaargh.

One of the things that students can pick up outside the classroom setting is how to learn outside the classroom setting which is an invaluable life skill.

And Slocum,I have no doubt that many of your kids' teachers may not have been a "good fit." Learning to deal with that situation is part of life!

Yes and no. You don't have to go into an occupation or take a job where the fit is lousy. There are many many professions where somebody who has trouble keeping track of pieces of paper can excel. Similarly, there are many professions where there is nothing at all comparable to daily homework assignments which are penalized if even a day late. School, in my experience, is simply NOT representative, and many people who absolutely HATED middle school and high school with a passion nonetheless enjoyed college and their careers.

Think about how many coworkers, bosses, etc. are not a "good fit." Expecting everything in life to always suit one's individual needs produces the self-centered kids I discussed in my earlier comment.

There's a big difference between expecting everything to fit (which, yes, is obvioulsy unrealistic) and having no choice about the organization you have to fit with and your role in it.

But yes, I agree that a significant portion of classroom teaching is crowd control; that's one of the reasons I didn't go into classroom teaching.

But the lack of customization and the crowd-control aspects lower the bar considerably for the home-schooler trying to match or exceed what they would have achieved in class.

Kev said...

"Do you know where Abe Lincoln went to law school?"

Surely you're not desiring to revert to the educational system of the 1840's...

"This is one of my biggest problems with teachers--they firmly believe that nobody can learn anything unless somebody teaches it."

I doubt that most teachers would actually go that far. But it sounds to me like you have no respect for the teaching profession at all (and yes, I consider it a profession, which is also why I disagree with the concept of teachers' unions...but that's another topic for another time, I suppose). Sure, the classes in ed-school where they "teach you how to teach" are largely worthless, but what generally makes a good teacher is that person being an expert in his/her particular subject. This is where I think most homeschooling parents would fall short, especially in the vast number of subjects which comprise a well-rounded education.

Some things are done best by the experts. Would you perform your own surgery if you're not a doctor? Would you take the controls of a 747 if you're not a pilot? I would think those things would happen only in the most dire of circumstances.

"Everybody I know figured out on their own how to use email and, say, how to set up a spreadsheet and generate a graph--but not these teachers. If this was going to be expected then professional development funds and classes would be required. Aaargh."

There are two possiblilities as to why this happened. One is that these teachers are die-hard union members. But the other might be that the teachers, already burdened with long days and extra work to take home, might be feeling the burden of yet another unfunded mandate, so they're asking to at least use the staff-development days that are a required part of the school year to actually learn something useful, rather than having to do one more thing on their already limited free time.

"School, in my experience, is simply NOT representative, and many people who absolutely HATED middle school and high school with a passion nonetheless enjoyed college and their careers."

Sure, but that could also have to do with the fact that they were actually interested in their major, so the classes taken in college were far more relevant than the (mostly) general-knowledge subjects taken in secondary school. Plus, the emphasis in college is on personal responsibilty (fewer attendance policies, no dress codes and few disciplinary issues), which appeals to many nonconformist-type young people.

Oh, and name me three people who didn't hate middle school. It's just how it is during that particular time of life.

Synova said...

I could not possibly teach children in a classroom. It's not standing up in front and explaining things that I'd have trouble with and it's not one on one explaining things that I'd have trouble with... it's every thing else.

Homeschooling and classroom schooling are not the same. They don't require the same abilities or skills from the teacher.

I don't have to keep 20 to 30 kids on task, for one thing. For another, I don't have to present information in a variety of ways to accomodate the various learning styles of 20-30 students. I don't need to challenge the bright students while making sure that those struggling don't get left behind. I don't have to deal with 40-60 parents.

The two things are not, not, not the same.

Kev said...

I'm not sure how much longer this thread is going to play out. (I think Slocum and I will probably have to agree to disagree, but thanks for a very civil discourse.)

But I have one more point I wish to make, and it dovetails with Synova's assertion that not all homeschool teachers would make good classroom teachers: I'll grant you that, but driven, involved parents like the kind who end up homeschooling their kids are often exactly what the public schools really need--the ones who volunteer in classrooms, chaperone field trips, and sometimes act as the proverbial flies in the ointment when the school needs a kick in the butt. What a shame that so many of these parents have lost patience with "the system" and taken their marbles and gone home(school). Putting all your energy into helping your own kids is all well and good, but putting that same energy into helping the community is often an even nobler undertaking.

Joe said...

I don't think homeschooling parents have lost patience with "the system," although certainly anyone who deals with the bureaucratic castle of our schools has good reason to be impatient.

I think the majority are sick of the banal mediocrity, the drift from discipline, and "socialization" that would be grounds for harassment complaints if it took place within adult situations.

Not to mention that those who believe in (for lack of a better term) traditional values feel that not only are their values not respected, but their children are used as a battleground to prove the parents simple-minded and archaic.

Homeschooling parents aren't pouting in protest--they're doing the job themselves despite the time, energy, and resources needed. I suspect that many would gladly give up this role, but public schools just aren't getting it.

ploopusgirl said...

Specialized skills of elementary school teachers! Ha! In my experience: if you can read, you can teach. The teacher's copy of the text book is the teacher's best friend, afterall.

I agree, Slocum. There's a self-importance to teachers that just puts me off.