Home schooling as a respite rather than a retreat from public schools

Writer Laura Brodie once received this sage advice from a preschool teacher: “Don’t worry about tears at drop-off time. Was your child crying when you picked her up?”

Frustrated with testing and rigidity in the classroom, Laura Brody home schooled her 10-year-old for one year and chronicled the experience.

Frustrated with testing and rigidity in the classroom, Laura Brodie home schooled her 10-year-old for one year and chronicled the experience.

Brodie remembered those words when her oldest daughter Julia struggled in elementary school and came home desolate. A dreamy child with a unique learning style, Julia grew increasingly unhappy with the relentless test prep, drills and worksheets.

So Brodie, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, decided to home school Julia for fifth grade, cutting down her own college teaching load to become her daughter’s teacher.

Brodie chronicles the challenges and rewards of that year in her new book, “Love in a Time of Homeschooling.”

The book is not a paean to home schooling, which Brodie says she could never embrace full-time, calling herself a public school parent who chose to home school to meet her child’s needs. The book is the saga of a mother who decided that her unconventional child needed an unconventional approach to education, at least for a little while.

In an interview, Brodie explains that her goal with one year was to allow Julia to “take a break and catch her breath.”
In listening to Brodie talk about her daughter, parents may recognize their own strong-willed  child. Julia used a pacifier until age 4 because she cried so much. Bedtimes were an endless battle.

On an outdoor field trip, Julia once lost sight of her group because she stopped at a stream to stare at the fish. (The following year Julia could only participate in a lakeside school scavenger hunt if one of her parents accompanied her.)

Julia balked at doing her homework, dragging out her assignments for hours until both she and her mother were frustrated. She hated the strict routines of the classroom and mourned the lack of movement, freedom and choice.

But given that life requires compromises and that routine is often inescapable, does it serve a child who isn’t willing to compromise to re-jigger your entire life to accommodate them?

“This is one of the advantages of short-term home schooling,” says Brodie. “My child was going to experience public-school rigors. She was going to be in environments in life that might not be ideal and she would have to learn to deal with it much of the time.

“But life isn’t all about suffering. It isn’t about saying, ‘Too bad, you have to deal with it,’” says Brodie. “We can show our children there are other ways to learn.

For one year, you can  pursue something that works better and that you hope rejuvenates their love of learning.”

Now, from a vantage of several years later, Brodie can see her missteps as a home-schooling parent. As a college professor, she says she treated her 10-year-old as a miniature college student.

Brodie expected Julia to enjoy hands-on math at the grocery store, not understanding that her young daughter preferred the decoding worksheets and word search puzzles that Brodie had always dismissed as busywork.

She also realized belatedly that Julia was a visual learner and learned most effectively from drawing.  Had she better understood Julia’s learning style, Brodie says now she would have handed her a sketchbook and had her draw the solar system or Africa.

In researching her book, Brodie learned a lot about home schooling and its demands on parents; she was surprised at the minimal education qualifications for home-schooling parents in many states and that the testing some states require of home-schooled children is “a cheater’s paradise.”

She also has watched the refinement of the concept, including the intriguing practice of blending home schooling and traditional classes.  “It is not unusual at our high school to see home schoolers coming over for a foreign language or an elective,” she says.

Brodie isn’t planning to home school her two younger daughters, or to resume home schooling of Julia.

Julia’s return to public school had its tensions, but overall she welcomed being back among peers. (She told her mother, “Let’s face it, Mom, you and I mostly hung out with a lot of old people.”)

But Brodie has twinges as Julia describes high school as an anti-intellectual climate. However, the teen loves art class and had a great math teacher. Even with a Harvard degree and a University of Virginia doctorate, Brodie says she’d be out of her league teaching high school and didn’t want to resort to hiring tutors for Julia.

She bemoans the dearth of writing in schools, saying, “Julia wrote more in her year at home when she did in sixth, seventh and eighth grade combined.”

With the testing frenzy that has seized control of schools, Brodie worries that the three R’s of education have become reading, ’rithmetic and rote memorization.

87 comments Add your comment

LSH

June 5th, 2010
6:54 am

I truly admire and give credit to all parents who step in and do what is needed for their child realizing that the school can only do so much. Public schools are designed for the average child and for them, they are very good. Children on the extreme edges of “normal” (gifted or with learning differences) have needs that just cannot be met in crowded classrooms with teachers stressed to the max in our test frenzy environment. I also appreciate the candor the author expresses in realizing that even though she is clearly well educated, she may be out of her element to teach all high school classes. I give credit to this parent who took charge of her daughters education instead of screaming and yelling at the teacher and the administration to do more for her child. My hope is that now after all her insight and effort, she may be a catalyst for change in the public schools. A good teacher, not under the gun for constant test prep, probably could have made allowances and accommodations for her child. Teachers are not up in arms over this constant testing because we do not want accountability as some politicians say. We know it’s not good for children, we know many are being stifled and left behind.

just browsing

June 5th, 2010
7:43 am

There are times when homeschooling can be a benefit- if the parent is aware of how to vary the strategies to provide diverse learning experiences that tap into all aspects of learning. This is what professionals know how to do. Do all teachers vary their approaches- no- however- as I have experimented with various approaches (as good teachers like to refine their craft)- there is a way to provide these experiences in a more structured setting- and it works. There are times when students are distressed and require the reprieve from public schools, but they can also develop an inability to adjust and handle difficult situations with peers, or, teachers, which can carry over into adulthood. All of education, or life for that matter, is not a bed of roses.

Marcus Valdes

June 5th, 2010
7:56 am

So she bemoans where the schools are lacking, but still sends them to school? For our family, homeschooling is the only solution right now.

Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
8:01 am

Hats off to this parent doing everything she could for her daughter, but I wonder if she took the time to research the teachers at the school to find which one was the best fit for her daughter. Great teachers don’t need to dumb down a class to get their students to pass a basic skills test, and if she had found out who the great teachers were, she could have just gotten her daughter in their classes. I know not all teachers are great, but there are at least a few in every school.

JoeBee

June 5th, 2010
8:09 am

Sounds like she knows that homeschooling is best for her child but she cannot bring herself to admit it. When she was at home, she could address her child’s weaknesses and tailor each day to the child’s needs. After all, what could better than a 1 to 1 teacher to student ratio?

Bruster

June 5th, 2010
8:39 am

Why am I being still awaiting moderation?? THIS IS MY NAME……….

Bruster

June 5th, 2010
8:54 am

waiting…………….

catlady

June 5th, 2010
8:57 am

“Even with a Harvard degree and a University of Virginia doctorate, Brodie says she’d be out of her league teaching high school and didn’t want to resort to hiring tutors for Julia.”

Exactly. And if she tried to teach more than one child, with the wide range of abilities and skills and attitudes presented in public school, she would find herself in further over her head. Not to mention that public school teachers DO NOT enjoy the perks of “free inquiry” and actually being in charge of their classroom as she is in teaching college.

I am glad if this worked for her daughter. I am willing to bet it was a year’s “break” for her teachers and classmates as well. It sounds as if mom went about her usual life, (ie “hung out with a lot of old people”). That Julia spent more time writing that year than ever is no surprise, given that her mom is an English professor and in school she would be in classes of 20 or more.

It sounds like her daughter had a hard time in the world long before she went to school. Sounds like the year did not solve her problems, either. Maybe the year off was also for mom?

At any rate, I hope Brodie wil direct her efforts to changing the current focus of education (reading, rithmetic, and rote memorization), realizing that in the real world she would not be able to do what public school teachers are asked to do. Her epiphany might move her to make things better for all the special Julias out there.

Devil's Advocate's Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
9:55 am

“I know not all teachers are great, but there are at least a few in every school.”

Ah, but how many good teacher and even average teachers could do great things if we were willing to support them in when it comes to chronically disruptive students?

Perhaps enough great things that we might no longer need a army of educational bureaucrats to recycle “reform” every few years?

But why let the actual education of students get in the way of a jobs program for career educrats?

Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
10:04 am

Great teachers can change the behaviors of the chronically disruptive. We just need more great teachers, because you will never be able to effectively legislate behavior.

They are kids, and no matter how many clever monikers you use, or how many ways you interject the same tired argument into every posting, the only thing that can correct the chronically misbehaving is a great teacher. Bureaucrats have nothing to do with it, and administrators should have little role in the correction.

Devil's Advocate's Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
10:40 am

They are kids, and no matter how many clever monikers you use, or how many ways you interject the same tired argument into every posting, the only thing that can correct the chronically misbehaving is a great teacher.

Let’s put your little theory to the test Devil’s Advocate.

Two groups of kids

Group one, we give a great teacher all the time in the world to teach a chronically disruptive child about honesty.

Group two is the control group.

Then let’s put 50 wallets with 100 dollar bills in them on the floor in two separate malls.

In one mall, there is no supervision of the child, and no one around to see what the child does with the wallet. That’s where we send the children who had the great teacher.

Mall two, where we send the kids who didn’t have the benefit of a great teacher, we place a sure consequence for doing wrong, a security guard, within five feet of every wallet.

Which group takes the fewest wallets at the end of the day?

Maybe Devil’s Advocate, your ego is too emotionally invested in being the “savior” in being the “great teacher”.

Because the truly great teachers, those who don’t have the ego need, realize one of a child’s best teachers is consequences.

Now eventually, the great teacher will hopefully have an impact in such a way that those kids, without a sure fire consequence, will do the right things in life.

But to make the claim that we shouldn’t support teachers in matters of discipline because a “great teacher” can handle everything makes as much sense as saying we shouldn’t support cops with a judicial system because “great cops” will “manage” the criminal element in such a way they don’t want to commit crimes anymore.

Devil's Advocate's Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
10:51 am

Great teachers can change the behaviors of the chronically disruptive. We just need more great teachers, because you will never be able to effectively legislate behavior.

Really. Then why do people reflexively slow down when they see a cop with a radar gun?

The fact of the matter is Devil’s Advocate if a bunch of teens were leaving their school in cars and flying through an elementary school zone and putting lives at risk, 99 people out of a hundred would prefer the school place a cop with a radar gun in front of the school, not a “great teacher” giving them inspirational speeches about doing the right thing.

Of course there’s always one who has such an ego need to be the “savior” that they are willing to not support teachers so they can be the hero.

catlady

June 5th, 2010
10:51 am

DA: and the most effective teacher who can correct the behavior of the chronically misbehaving is…THE PARENT. The first teacher.

Here is what I have noticed: As a young teacher you show that you have “got it”: you can handle and help (or at least minimize the effect of) the chronically disruptive. So,year after year, you are “given” those kids because “you have a way with them.’ Meanwhile, your less talented/dedicated teachers work with the “better” kids, while you handle the “problems.” Eventually, you become older/tireder/sick of the constant stress, as more and more of the problemed kids are stuffed into your classes. And, after 15 or 20 years, your principal starts to think less of your abilities, and shuffles you into less desirable assignments, while lamenting that you have “lost your drive.” I have seen this happen to a number of my colleagues. And, the weaker teachers, frequently the “favored ones”, get the accolades and the plum assignments. And never develop the skills to handle the tough ones.

Devil’s Advocate, even a great teacher cannot be great with 28 students, 10 of whom are chronically disruptive, 5 of whom don’t speak English well, 5 of whom are “slow”. That teacher cannot save all those kids, correct their behavior, bring them (from several years below) up to grade level, not with all the talent in the world. Not alone.

Devil's Advocate's Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
10:56 am

They are kids, and no matter how many clever monikers you use, or how many ways you interject the same tired argument into every posting, the only thing that can correct the chronically misbehaving is a great teacher.

Same tired argument? Show me a school, any school, where the primary focus became supporting teachers in holding students accountable for behavior, up to and including the point where the school was willing to remove chronically disruptive students from the classroom, and the school failed to improve.

But look at every system in Georgia, who preaches pablum about “great teachers” and “great teacher training” and see how that’s working for you.

Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
11:12 am

Here’s how it breaks down for me on this issue DADA”
Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Kawla

June 5th, 2010
11:42 am

I am currently a homeschooling Mom and while I think it is wonderful, I dont think it is for everyone. The important thing for me though, is that we have the CHOICE to homeschool if traditional public/private schools are not meeting our needs for whatever reason. I see my kids doing a mix of schooling as they grow up, this year homeschool is the right choice for us, next year it may not be.

However, as a homeschooler I have to defend it and point out that every homeschooler says that the first year is the toughest. The first year is the year you are figuring out what works for you and your child and what resources are out there. So if the author put in a second year, it might have been smoother. If the authors child said they mostly hung out with old people then the author obviously did not advantage of the huge amount of homeschool social resources out there. There are groups, co-ops and classes galore where a homeschooled child can meet others. For example, my first grader performed in a musical, participated in a history fair, performed in 2 ‘recitals’, was in a homeschool bowling league, and attended a 3 day science camp, These were all homeschool only activities. We were also active in a group that did a field trip to various locations about once a month, and the Moms and kids all got to be quite close. But to find these activities took some research and getting to know other homeschoolers on my part.

As for the academics, we participated in co-op classes and my daughter had a tutor come in every so often, just to give me a break and let me have someone else view her progress. It was still a lot cheaper than private school and I enjoyed having the flexibility of homeschooling with not all of the responsibility. But the point is every parent/child combo is different and finding what works for you may take a little time. We started with one phonics text and a spelling text that I decided after a couple of months was just not working for us. I did some research and switched to a different one and we moved ahead. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to do that!

Seen It All

June 5th, 2010
12:12 pm

I appreciate Mrs. Brodie’s honesty. I also glad that she chose to undertake the experience. She learned a lot from her journey. I think a lot more people should try homeschooling at least once. You will learn a lot about yourself, your child, and truly about education.

Years ago I met a parent who had taught her son at home for one year when he was in the third grade. She told me that it was more challenging than she thought it would have been. She also said that her son really only wanted to play, not “do work” at “school”. This same parent once visited my class to observe her son. She was surprised to see her son and what class was really like.

I think more parents should undertake both experiences. Then I believe some of the attitudes would change. They would get a ray of light and a different perspective on things. Right now a lot of this is on the outside looking in.

Hey, one year of homeschooling changed the thinking of a liberal college professor (a lady who I’m sure thought she knew it all).

Oh, BTW, most people take up homeschool for philosphical and idealogical reasons, not because they think that they can teach better than the public schools. Most people know they can’t outteach a university trained, state certified teacher of the public schools with all of their resources and materials. It’s done for other reasons.

catlady

June 5th, 2010
12:25 pm

still filtered from 90 min ago

Angela

June 5th, 2010
12:31 pm

@Devil’s Advocate,

Good Afternoon,

I just could not resist. Please just let that lady have her GLORY! And, what’s up with all of the run on sentences? LOVE, LOVE, to YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Devil's Advocate

June 5th, 2010
12:36 pm

I did.

There are none.

Your ignorance is your bliss. CONGRATULATIONS!!! HUGS!!!

Ex Teacher, Future Homeschooler

June 5th, 2010
12:46 pm

Having taught for 15 years, 3 of those in DCSS. I left teaching this year to homeschool. There are many homeschool co-ops and activities out there, one just needs to look for them. Children can get socialized and be amongst their peers in positive experiences, so that is not an issue to me. Co-ops are also in existence for high school where students are able to perform hands-on science experiments, something lacking in many of our middle and high schools.

I do not see school as a place for socialization, but as a place for learning. However, learning can only take place if one is able to challenge the students, hold them to high expectations, and have discipline in the classroom. When these things are lacking, so is the quality of education. The education system in DCSS is more worried about customer service (keeping parents happy) than educating the children.

Homeschooled children have similar SAT/ACT scores are children who attend private and public schools. Homeschooled children are admitted to top notch universities (yes, even the Ivy League).

I look forward to the challenges of homeschooling. It will not be easy, but it will be what best fits the needs of my family and the expectations that we have for our children. Having been among many homeschooled children, I have found them well adjusted, and able to hold in depth conversations. I also see their vocabulary as stronger and their general skills as better, because their parents are able to have a stricter set of standards, than I was able in my classroom.

There are many teachers like myself, who have decided to stay home and homeschool their children because they do not like what is happening in our school systems. I believe the number of homeschooled children will continue to increase, as our schools continue to fail our children and make them less and less prepared for the true rigors of college and life.

Richard Alpert

June 5th, 2010
1:03 pm

All kids need the interactions with other kids daily. It’s good that schools are diverse and its even good that students are exposed to negative situations, which teach them how to handle them. Homeschooling does NOTHING to prepare kids for any social situations which they will encounter in life. They need do be exposed to conflict, controversy, criticism and how to personally be responsible for their own well-being. They need a variety of instructors as well, mommy won’t be there boss one day unless they end up living in her basement (which I know plenty of home-schooled students where this is just the case..)

vmckay

June 5th, 2010
1:18 pm

Much like Laurie I homeschooled my son when he was in the second grade, two years ago. I removed him from a frustratingly counter-productive public school environment that I won’t go into details about. I am a divorced parent of three, my son being the youngest. I have had ongoing and at times angst-filled concern about the quality of education for all three of my children. I re-enrolled my son into a public school after a family move to a different state. My (new state’s) schools operate on generally the same premise… state testing is the district’s preoccupation. My son’s state test results have exceeded requirements these past the two years – as they had in the previous state. I am once again considering a way out of this school mess – but this time for my eighth grader. The way the schools now operate is a mis-guided mess! Yes, I have the option to homeschool my children – but then what? My son could probably test up to eighth grade standards, and my eighth grader could likely test out of high school. My concern: why are our schools set up like this at all? Academic achievement and true education is seemingly not the focus of American education, at all. Before my divorce, I traveled around the U.S. with my military husband. The oldest daughter experienced many different (state’s) education programs. I sadly recall my oldest child (now an IB high school graduate) bemoaning the fact that (even as she took college-credit classes in high school) she felt “high school” was a waste of her time. I understand Laurie’s ‘dilemma’. After-all, she is a college professor who probably understands that the education process for our children simply is not at all about their ‘academic education’ anymore.

Angela

June 5th, 2010
1:19 pm

@Devil’s Advocate,

My ingorance maybe bliss, but I know how to get under your skin and I do it well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rosie

June 5th, 2010
1:21 pm

Mr. Alpert — I homeschooled my children for 19 years and they are all now in “society.” What you have observed can be true, but if you would please put the same critical observations towards public-schooled children you would see that we are now facing crisis in our nation. I watched all facets of schooling (and their results) for many years before I decided to home school my children. I was not impressed with what the public school was turning out, academically, socially, or otherwise. What I generally saw was a group of people who were like lemmings, running in a pack over the cliff. Sure, there are socially weird homeschoolers, but there are socially weird public-schooled children who can’t look an adult in the eye and who can’t carry on a decent conversation with anyone outside their peer group. I wanted my kids to be able to think for themselves. We raised them in a home where they learned to work hard, do unusual and difficult things, mix and socialize with a range of people from babies to old folks; we challenged them to know what they believe and why….I now have four very individual adults that do not think in the typical box-fashion of young people. They aren’t perfect, but they are well-fitted to whatever challenges come their way. They are all survivors and they know how to survive. They are also very social, not only with their peer group. They love babies and have compassion for the sick and elderly, because they were not raised in lock-step fashion. Not everyone can or should homeschool, but thank God I had the opportunity to do it. People seem to forget that this is not a new concept….in the course of history, it has been done longer than the public school.

Shannon, M.Div.

June 5th, 2010
2:18 pm

I think public school, private school, and homeschooling advocates could all benefit from taking a deep breath and acknowledging that there are pros and cons with each system.

Dr. Brodie’s experience is interesting in several ways. In the homeschooling vs. public/private school debates, it is rarely acknowledged that many students change from one to another more than once. Also, it’s good to see someone like her who is deeply committed to public education exploring homeschooling with a more detached viewpoint.

Homeschool worries me because of the very reason that most people choose to do it: it limits exposure to other viewpoints. This troubles me. I attended a private school as a child (through eighth grade). Until I switched to ninth grade, I did not realize that there were people in the world who are not Christians–much less that the “truths” I was taught were not universally accepted. Seriously.

This is what scares me about homeschooling. Too often, the homeschooling families I meet do so in order that their children be sheltered from the common consensus of reality (i.e., evolution).

drew (former teacher)

June 5th, 2010
2:29 pm

Devils Advocate says: “the only thing that can correct the chronically misbehaving is a great teacher.”

That’s one of the most asinine statements I’ve ever read on this blog. It’s the PARENT’S responsibility to see that their child behaves in school…the teacher’s job is to teach. Furthermore, even if you DO believe that it’s the “school’s” responsibility to turn around a chronic-disruptive student, it’s the administrators, not the teachers, who have the best chance of turning a student around. Unfortunately, most administrators (like most parents) are too spineless to deal effectively with chronic misbehavior, and generally just shuffle the problem right back to the classroom teacher.

And if schools don’t come up with a better way to deal with the chronically disruptive, it’ll be the death of public schools. It gets worse each year, and the political correct idea that the schools MUST SAVE these few who have no regard for authority, and no desire to learn, is slowly killing public education.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

But back on topic…yes, home schooling is the first, best option when public schools aren’t working, and private school isn’t affordable. Kudos to all the parents who have done it, and done it well. Unfortunately, most parents lack the knowledge, skills, and patience required to do the job well.

Rich

June 5th, 2010
2:59 pm

Glad she tried it for a year. Not for her, but the comment that I found odd was “that the testing some states require of home-schooled children is “a cheater’s paradise.” Cheating is not about oppotunity, it is about the lack of intergrity. In Georgia, we have high schools that 80% of the students have a “B” average for the Hope, but the average SAT score is 1000. The two do not go together. Also, last year a few school systems were identified as cheating on the tests. Don’t assume that parent that homeschool are more likely to cheat, you might assume less likely.

Rich

June 5th, 2010
3:04 pm

Shannon, M.Div. – I am not sure that your statement is correct. You said. “Homeschool worries me because of the very reason that most people choose to do it: it limits exposure to other viewpoints”. Most parents that I know that homeschool want children exposed to different viewpoints. It seems that in many schools across the nation that different viewpoints are be denied to the children. On evolution, religious and science are not always at odds. Yes, I belive that God created everything. How did he do it, not sure maybe evolution?

SallyB

June 5th, 2010
4:26 pm

Devils Advocate says: “the only thing that can correct the chronically misbehaving is a great teacher.”

I can’t agree, D.A.

However, having taught for 32 years, it always puzzled me why a student could be totally well behaved in some of his/her classes, and totally unmanageable in some. There was hardly a year in which this didn’t happen with at least one or two students. And, it would happen year after year, with no consistency in subject area OR the teachers. Go figure’

Willing to disagree

June 5th, 2010
4:32 pm

I have taught at alternative type schools for 20 years. You cannot begin to tell me that the solution is just a “good” teacher. Now in a so-called regular school, I am witness to the chronic disrupters and yes, it is the responsibility of the administrators to deal with these particular students. Yes, good classroom management can take care of the incidentals, but the chronic disrupters need to be removed. Their consequences must come immediately and they must mean something. Trust me, I have written these students up, contacted the parents, referred them to counselors, social workers, etc. but if they are allowed to repeatedly come back and repeatedly disrupt, then that is out of my hands. That is when I do the WRONG thing by just saying, “get out!” I have a right to have a calm classroom. I know how to manage behavior, but there are always the disrupters who ruin a class. Give me the support I need, and I could actually teach. Why make so many loopholes to keep disruptive kids in the class? In reality, those kids end up, by the end of the semester, roaming the halls because everyone is throwing them out. This is obviously not good. It is truancy within the school walls. Now you get rid of alternative schools, so those kids will end up dropping out when all we truly need is a firm, consistent administrative team that can handle these kids. It only takes a few to ruin a class, so why not deal with those few?

Angela

June 5th, 2010
4:45 pm

@SallyB,

It has been my experience that many of the behavior problems act out with those that they know they can and not those who will not take that crap.

I had one this past school year loved me one minute and the next did not. I requested that he be moved when he told a huge lie on me. Then, about a week later he went home and told his grandmother that he wanted to come back to my class. When he came back I could not get him away from me. He was under me 24/7. It just depends on the teacher and the student’s relationship.

Richard Alpert

June 5th, 2010
5:06 pm

“there are socially weird public-schooled children who can’t look an adult in the eye and who can’t carry on a decent conversation with anyone outside their peer group”
Rosie, you are very correct about this point and I’m happy that your children turned out socially productive. I’m a middle school teacher with 80% of my students from very low economic areas. Many of these kids are respectful and can handle themselves respectfully in any situation, but yes, there are those who have no idea what it means to be respectful to authority. This is true across the board, no matter what your upbringing, but it all comes down to parenting and what kids are taught at home. That’s every parent’s responsibility, which I can tell you have done a fine job with.
However, my point is that it is more than mandatory that ALL children be exposed to peers and authority figures (not related to them) each throughout each day. This is society, this is America. People have to know how to interact with others, no matter their socio-economic status, upbringing, or level of respect for others. The most successful individuals are the ones who surround themselves with a diverse group of demographics. Kids have no idea where or even who they’ll be in 20 years, but the more exposure they have to the “real” world, the more prepared they will be.

Fred

June 5th, 2010
5:16 pm

As usual there are some great comments here and some that are just dumber than a box or rocks, and some that contain both elements.

I used to think that home-schoolers were nutcases. Then I got educated on home schooling. Yeah, some are still nutcases, but most aren’t. Properly done, home school beats gov’t indoctrination centers, I mean public schools, every time.

DA makes a very good point although you professional teachers won’t admit it. All students are CHILDREN. Children are impressionable. A great teacher that they come to love and respect WILL influence their desire to do wrong or act out. But then Catlady made a good point about those “great teachers” being dumped on by admin and burning out. It’s a catch 22 situation.

As far as the parent being the role model and all that? Ye haw. While that is the way it SHOULD be, sadly that isn’t how it is, we live in the real world, not Ozzie and Harriet’s. Crackheads, thugs, and other losers have kids too. It is NOT the childs fault that their parents should have been sterilized if not just shot before they had a chance to procreate.

There are two main problems in public education. 1. There are more crappy teachers than there are good teachers. I’m not saying that most teachers are crappy, as MOST teachers are just average, I’m saying the bad ones out number the GREAT ones. It’s that way in every aspect of life. The teachers unions make sure we can’t fire the crappy ones and the great ones either burn out or just quit in disgust because they are not allowed to teach which leads right into number 2.

2. Teachers aren’t allowed to teach. I was surprised to find out that most private school teachers get paid less than public school teachers. Then I found out WHY. They are allowed to teach. They are allowed to do the thing that they love, that they were “called” to do, teach children. Mold and strengthen young minds. They aren’t stuck in a system where they spend more time making up lesson plans and other nonsensical BS they they do TEACHING. Public school teachers spend more time dotting i’s and crossing t’s to satisfy the ever growing bureaucratic bull squeeze than they do teaching. If they stray outside the guidelines put in place by some idiot administrator who couldn’t teach a kid to fall down if they pushed him off a building, then they get scolded, written up, reprimanded. “I don’t care if all your second graders have learned calculus, you don’t have a lesson plan, it’s not in the second grade goals, and you aren’t certified to teach differential equations. You step out of lined one more time and you are fired!” How can we expect our teachers to be perky and innovative in an environment like that?

@catlady: you 8:57 was spot on. I especially liked the part where you said: “I am glad if this worked for her daughter. I am willing to bet it was a year’s “break” for her teachers and classmates as well.” I was thinking along the same lines. Sounds to me like Julia is an undisciplined brat who’s mommy makes excuses for her bad behavior rather than teach her how to behave. 1 year of trying to teach her was all mommy could handle. Her hippie views couldn’t hold up to reality but that doesn’t mean her views are wrong………. naw, never that…………

catlady

June 5th, 2010
5:51 pm

Fred, you put it in a little more direct way than I would. I also suspect that mom tried to continue her “professor” ways (hanging out with old people) while giving her daughter writing assignments and allowing her to “draw” her lessons. Perhaps her daughter liked those worksheets because they provided some structure, which (with a pacifier because she “cried all the time” at 4!) she may have needed. She couldn’t get to bed or get homework done, simple chores which became battles. I’d love to know if she was one of the “babies of the class” (by age).

Hope she can draw her answers on the SAT, and do a performance piece for her senior year project.

I may be reading between the lines too much, turning this into War and Peace, but I hear a storyline below the surface… (as a teacher of 38 years, mother of 3)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by gbkgwyneth, MONISE SEWARD. MONISE SEWARD said: From @AJCGetSchooled Home schooling as a respite rather than a retreat from public school http://ow.ly/1UzqS [...]

catlady

June 5th, 2010
5:59 pm

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2010
6:13 pm

@Catlady, If you read the book, you get a sense that Julia was a creative child who did not adjust well to the conformity requirements and sitting-still world of the classroom.
Because so much of the world does require conformity and accepting a lot of boredom, I did ask Laura Brodie about whether her daughter should learn to adjust to the world rather than mom creating a world.
I thought Laura’s answer was a good one: She was not pulling Julia out forever, just for a year. So, she saw it as a break rather than an escape.
I do think the question for home schooling parents whose kids don’t like routine is what happens to them later in life. I would suspect that kids for whom the classroom rules are unbearable end up with careers that give them freedom and allow them to create their own workplaces. I have such a friend who could never work in an office and she never has. She works from her home and says now she would have been the ideal home school student, bright and motivated, but determined to do things her own way, at her own pace and at her own discretion.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

June 5th, 2010
6:19 pm

One thing I would like throw out there to all of you is that Laura Brodie says that while her daughter was overwhelmed by all the homework in fourth grade, Laura never thought of telling the teacher that it was too much and that her daughter would only do 40 minutes — following the basic rule of 10 minutes of homework per grade.
I did an interview two years ago with one of the leaders of the No Homework movement who surprised me as well by saying that parents can simply say “no” to homework.
I would never do it, but I have not been faced by a child whose life has been made miserable by too much homework.
I would love to know what other parents and teachers think about this.
Maureen

Kawla

June 5th, 2010
7:27 pm

Maureen- I often think about that when someone tells me they could never homeschool…but then proceeds to tell me about the hours they spend helping their kid every night on homework. I think to myself that they are already DOING a good bit of ‘homeschooling’ even if they dont realize it!

ScienceTeacher671

June 5th, 2010
7:33 pm

@Angela – “It has been my experience that many of the behavior problems act out with those that they know they can and not those who will not take that crap.”

There’s that, but then there is also the kid who is an angel in my class and a total brat in yours, and the other kid who is a brat in my class but an angel in yours, which does happen.

SallyB

June 5th, 2010
7:41 pm

Maureen : Long ago, the mother of one of my students made a really good point. She said that she worked every day and treasured the precious time she had with her two children at dinnertime and before their bedtime. She felt that that was way more important than their having to do homework for the 2 hours before bedtime.. She asked our teaching team if we would give that some thought and try to come up with a plan so that there would not be so much each night. We liked her idea and ever after considered it in team planning time. If Science had a test, then math gave just a little practice hw ….If English had an essay to write, Social Studies put off the big time homework assignment. It worked really well and we got lots of kudos from parents and others for implementing the plan.

Angela

June 5th, 2010
7:46 pm

@Fred,

You make some good points about why we as public school teachers have a difficult time teaching. You also, make some good points about private schools as well . However, one thing you did not mention about private school teachers – they do not have to be certified by the state or nationally. Also, I have found that in some private schools some teachers may not have a degree of any kind.

The concern that I would have about Brodie home schooling her daughter, is there some type of learning disability or underlined undiagnosised problem. It sounds to me that her daughter might just be ADHD.

I would also, like to put it out there that homeschooling can be okay if the parent(s) are current or previous educators and know the loop holes, ins and outs, etc. (just my opinion). However, there are pros and cons about the entire subject. Best Wishes to any parent who wants to take on that responsibility. The Japanese start educating their children at home before sending them to public or private school and look at their level of academic competitiveness.

catlady

June 5th, 2010
9:28 pm

Ms. Downey, you may certainly be right. I certainly have not read the book; just what you included, which set off some bells for me. Could you find out the child’s birth month?

I had a child somewhat like this one–very high IQ, very creative, but he still had to learn to jump through the hoops, as that is how most of the real world works. Whether he would pursue a traditional career or not, it seemed important to me that he have the adaptive skills to get by.

As to the homework, our system won’t allow more than 20 minutes of homework (in total) up through 5th grade (maybe higher), so most teachers give virtually none. And if the child does not do it, so what? They cannot be punished grade wise or any other way. And, sadly, for most of our students what they get at school is IT.

Free Market Educator

June 6th, 2010
1:00 am

Here is the op-ed piece from the Washington Post citing the reason Mrs. Brody turned to home schooling:

“When my eldest daughter entered fifth grade, I home-schooled her for one year, just to escape the testing and accomplish nine months of writing across the curriculum. Now I wonder whether my youngest child will need a similar sabbatical to explore the creative writing, science experiments and global history her teachers confess they have little time for.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/04/AR2009030401754.html

Free market education is all about freedom to choose whatever option best suits you and your child. I commend her for exercising her free choice. If any readers are interested in home schooling as a full-time endeavor, there are many more expert voices to learn from. Start with your local home school association (many churches now sponsor home school groups). Most home schoolers are more than happy to guide a novice and help them to plug into the community. As others have posted, your first year might be the most challenging, but every year it gets better and you will grow and learn with your child. In fact, you will be amazed at how ignorant you were, even with a college degree.

toxic friendships

June 6th, 2010
11:07 am

@angela & ST671 – don’t forget the influence of peers – I have had many a behavior problem solved simply by splitting up what I call a toxic friendship – where the kids are bringing out the worst of each other instead of the best. Nice little schedule change often does the trick.

Angela

June 6th, 2010
12:14 pm

@toxic friendships,

You make a good suggestion however, I am unable to do that at the elementary level. Sometimes, we can get a student moved from one class to another but, in most cases it becomes an issue of “why should you give another teacher that headache.”

???

June 6th, 2010
1:03 pm

@Angela, True, some private school teachers are not certified. However, ALL reputable ones that are accredited by SACS have to be certified. This is when a parent truly has to do their homework on picking a high quality one out. This is also when it will cost more for the private schools with the better reputations. Usually private schools that are between $3000 to $8000 don’t have all certified teachers. The one’s that do are the ones that the teachers and administration have been there for 15 plus years. These schools and administration know’s how to do it RIGHT!!! Parents need to do their homework when picking out a quality private school. Yes, the teachers at these schools probably make over all more because of the fact that administration can pay for each individual based on teachers results and attitude. Let the teacher’s teach!!!!!!!!!!

toxic friendships

June 6th, 2010
1:16 pm

@angela – good point – I’m middle school, so we split kids up all the time – usually if two buddies are acting up in one class, they’re acting up in another if they’re together. As long as we keep them on team, admin lets us move them as needed.

I was throwing that out there as a reason why Johnny might act a fool in one class and not in another – it’s not always the teacher – it could be the peers, and nowhere is that more evident than middle school, lol.

How disempowering

June 6th, 2010
2:33 pm

I was throwing that out there as a reason why Johnny might act a fool in one class and not in another – it’s not always the teacher – it could be the peers, and nowhere is that more evident than middle school, lol.

How disempowering to our children that we have let creep into the adult mindset that a child’s behavior is somehow ever the teacher’s fault.

How empowering if we thought and taught our children were responsible for their own behavior.