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Jerry Webster

What About Me?

By June 19, 2011

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The New York Times had an article that piqued my interest this week: it was an article about a graduation ceremony for home schooled students held at the Miami Zoo.  It was written in part to mark the increase in students who are being home schooled by their parents, a trend that has grown significantly.  It also pondered the meaning of a celebration for students who only meet for the first time at the graduation rehearsal.   They quoted one parent as wanting for her daughter "what she experienced at her high school graduation."  What exactly was that?

When I graduated, I graduated with a group of people I knew.  Not well, mind you, as I transferred to Williamsport, Pennsylvania from a high school in the western suburbs of Chicago in November of my junior year.  It was still enough time to bond over chemistry, choir performances and SAT scores.   When we left high school, we did it with a shared understanding of our community, of our future and of who we were as citizens of a country.  That was in 1969.

A lot of things have changed since then.  I am writing this on my laptop on my lap on Highway 15, returning from a weekend in Santa Monica, California.  When I graduated from high school I bought an old Royal typewriter, since I liked the heft and the amount of pressure it took to type, as I had learned to type on an old manual typewriter in typing class.  No electric typewriter for me.  Technology, the internet, and new communications media like this website have changed how we live and experience the world.  The opportunities to make a good living without a college education were abundant then.  Not so anymore.

A few things we shared also were the belief that we would get social security when we retired, and that medical care would be available and at least affordable.  Social Security and Medicaid were social safety net programs that were premised on the notion that everyone participated and everyone shared the risk.  It made it possible for me to spend a life time doing things that I considered worthwhile, if not very lucrative: teaching elementary school and serving as a Lutheran minister.

To me, homeschooling seems to reflect a "me first" kind of mentality.  It's also a reason I look at homeschooling with at least distrust, if not outright hostility.   Why do parents choose to remove their children from public school?  I know that the reason is sometimes religious and sometimes because their child suffers bullying.   All too often they seem to be people with an incredible sense of entitlement, the belief that they know better what a good education looks like.  Back in Pennsylvania, you are not required to have a college degree to homeschool your children.  It becomes a case of "the ignorant teaching the ignorant."  In some states all you are required is that you use an "approved curriculum" which you can access online or buy through an organization.

I have no doubt that in many places public education has failed some children.   But that's not a reason to abandon public education.  It's a reason to invest time and energy into seeing that public education works.  After all, those young people will be paying your social security, if there is still social security.

It is especially true for special education.   When PL49-142 (The Education for All Children Act) was passed in 1975, it established the right of students in need of special education services access to a "Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)"  It's expensive.  But no less expensive than the services they will need if we make no effort provide them with the skills they need to find employment and make a contribution to society.  Every child I move from dependence to some form of independence as a young person with autism creates significant savings for society, unless of course we decide to "terminate" or "eliminate" "defectives" as did Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

What kind of graduation address would you give to children who were homeschooled?   "Go for it, since you are so much better than everyone else that you deserve it?"  Certainly not "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."  Personally, I think we need to stop asking "What about me?" and start asking "What about us?"


June 20, 2011 at 8:03 am
(1) Lee says:

Ironically it sounds as if you are offended that these people do not pursue the education system that you believe to be right. You also make a very common mistake that many in education make, and that is that the parent could not possibly know what is best for their children when it comes to education. You mentioned how some parents have this view toward educators, think of the flip side at how counterproductive this attitude can be for the educator when it comes to relationships with parents.

I agree that there should be strong qualifications to home school children, it should not be left to anyone.

There are a lot of people that don’t feel that public education is doing so well. That is where that whole “reform” thing comes in.

My kids have and will go through the public schools. I have spent more than a decade in human services and now in Special Education. I have put a lot of time into what they call “saving the world.” I have to admit though, I have sometimes wondered if I’m doing my part to save the world by keeping my kids in certain schools. I KNOW my son misses out on some things, is it fair to him? In order to save the world, is it my duty to sacrifice his thirteen years of education?

If I’m qualified and have the option, I would like to think that I could educated my children if I choose. I don’t, but I would like to think I could.

June 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm
(2) specialed says:

I wouldn’t say I’m “Offended” but I do often wonder if the people who make these choices really do it in the best interest of their children. I actually don’t think you and I disagree. The hardest thing for many people is that all too often the way to get a good education for your children is to live in a community with good schools, which are often expensive and out of the reach of many of the same people who teach there, like on Long Island.

I actually think it may take some significant structural changes in how revenue is collected (property taxes alone, in places like New Hampshire, I know are killing people,) and how education is provided. Opting out by home schooling your children will not impact how those decisions are made, they simply embolden the people who believe that market solutions are right for every problem. I would certainly be making a lot more than I am, if I could sell my services to the highest bidder.

June 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm
(3) JHS2 says:

I have been home schooling my 7 year old ever since he could talk. He has never attended public school. Recently, I started joint home schooling with family using the Waldorf Homeschooling Method. My 7 year old is very creative, out going, talking and curious about learning. And that is something I do not want to have crushed. I do not think you find a lot of that ‘curious about learning’ attitude in regular schooling. I have never pushed or forced him to learn. I have just made the information available, and when he is ready for it, he learns it. Homeschooling has provided him with a flexibility regular school does not provide.

June 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm
(4) specialed says:

Interesting . . . you seem to make my point. Most seven year old are creative, curious and talk. I should know: I taught second grade for 5 years. What you don’t say, is: is your child reading at grade level? Does he know his math facts, addition, subtraction, fractions (at least halves, thirds, fourths, eighths.) How does he function in social groups? How do you know what he would or would not do in a public school, if you’ve never enrolled him? Do you know a good public school from a bad one?
Unfortunately, JHS2, like many homeschooling parents all you can provide is some anecdotal pap about “creativity,” but you don’t really address the issues of what public education means for our society. As the middle class is shrinking and the necessity for both parents to work grows, home schooling is a luxury not everyone can afford. Your son will need skills you may have never acquired. How will he get them? I guess I’m with the Germans on this one: homeschooling isn’t a luxury America can afford if we are going to be competitive.

March 5, 2013 at 9:05 pm
(5) Jane says:

I’m seriously considering homeschooling my daughter, now in sixth grade. Yes, I have a “sense of entitlement”: I believe my daughter is entitled to a decent education, which she most definitely is not receiving in our local, rural public school system. The schools use the smarter kids as tutors for the kids who need extra help — not a bad deal for the teachers, but it means my daughter can’t proceed at her own (accelerated) pace through the material. Instead, she’s held back while serving as an unpaid tutor to help the slower students catch up.

I’m the product of a highly-ranked public school system on Long Island, and I believe in public schools. However, turning this particular school system (in the rural South) around would take time … time my daughter does not have. She’s already falling behind on what she’ll need to know to apply to decent colleges, mainly because most of the students in this school system aren’t going to college, and so the schools don’t focus on college readiness.

Sure, I’d love for the public schools here to be better. I’ve even worked some within the system to make them better. But it’s an uphill battle, and one that I don’t have time to fight. Better to homeschool and make sure my daughter gets a decent education than to suffer through another six years of this and then find at her high school graduation ceremony that it all fell far short of what she needed.

June 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm
(6) Misti says:

Part 1

Having sacrificed our four older children on the altar of public education, when we were surprised and blesed with a fifth child my husband and I agreed from the beginning that we would homeschool.

Do we have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Perhaps. Are we selfishly depriving the schools of our contributions? Perhaps. Do we have a better idea what education can be? Sure we do. So?

When our older children were in schools, the setting did not serve them well and our attempts to contribute were welcome only within narrow parameters that did nothing to address our concerns. We were expected to send money, to “help out” as rules enforcement in classrooms, to send snacks. We were not welcome to help tutor youngesters, including our own, whose needs were not addressed and whose questions were not answered.

Because we love learning and are excited by exploring many firlds of knowledge, my husband and I felt that the level of education our children recieved in schools was appallingly low. Sadly, because of the time demands made by the school, there was very little time to introduce more challenging material – and our kids were so turned off to the idea of learning, that they resisted any attempts to make it fun and interesting.

June 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm
(7) Misti says:

Part 2:

That said, I know that some schools work very, very well for some families. I am very happy for those families. However that was not our experience and neither of us was up for taking on that exercise in frustration again at this point of our lives. We have been homeschooling for 10 years now. Our youngest son is still bright and curious with no sign of the anger that troubles his older siblings at this age, and he thinks of learning as “fun” and “just what you do”.

As to the level of his educaiton, because we are not required to test in our state I don’t know how he would stack up against the local school children, but I do know that he has a deep and thorough understanding of the material he has covered and it is building into a coherent understanding of the history of human achievement. He is also learning how to learn, so that any details he may miss along the way, he can easily pick up as he needs them.

As a bonus, along with our son, we are recieving the education we always wanted!

Are we selfish for homeschooling? Yeah. Yeah, I guess we are – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

June 29, 2013 at 7:24 am
(8) Susanne says:

I’ve homeschooled since my oldest was just starting (he’s going into ’6thish’ grade)
we’ve been in the same homeschool group since then, and in 5-7 years he will graduate with his friends. He’ll have a graduation ceremony. If we decide to join other homeschoolers that we know less then it’s no different than people outside of your friend group. 20 of the kids will be his close buddies.

As for academics he’s 11 and reads on a college level, he is starting pre-algebra in August, and he’ll be doing college level astronomy and his third year of latin.

You have no idea what homeschooling is like now. None. I’ve read your other blog. You just.don’t.know.

June 29, 2013 at 11:51 am
(9) specialed says:

My, when I don’t agree with you I’m rude? Obviously your homeschooling didn’t teach you how to engage in a debate. You need to realize that as well as all you wonder mothers there are mothers who physically and sexually abuse their children. I once had a phone relationship with a multiple personality whose mother stood by as her father and brothers emotionally and sexually abused her. Arguing that ovaries trump scholarship is a pretty weak endorsement of homschooling.

June 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm
(10) Susan Raber says:

Having spoken to dozens of public school parents over the years who made such statements as “I couldn’t stand to be with my kids all day” and “I can’t wait until summer is over and the kids go back to school”, I could also get out my broad brush and declare public school parents as selfish.

Or, I could note that the jails and mental institutions of this country are just chock full o’ public school graduates! Does public schooling cause criminal behavior and insanity?

Color me not interested in pointless derision and taunting. I’d much rather be supportive of school choice, and encourage the understanding that education is about opportunities and the fulfilling of the potential of individuals, in whatever form that takes with whatever resources available. We should never tie the hands of parents when it comes to educational choice.

June 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm
(11) specialed says:

Touche. I don’t make any broad brush assertions (okay, the messy house one) about homeschooled children. As Kathy does. Did you know there is however research that shows there’s an inverse relationship between how much is spent per pupil in public schools and the amount spent on prisons in states (like Minnesota. May be old research.)

Mr. Fleas kind of went off the deep end. Check the article by Stewart and Seeley on ERIC. Do you know where all the missing homeschool students in Michigan are? If you homeschool you should know your local public university library well. They usually give you access to their data bases on at least a couple computers. Check with the reference librarian.

July 2, 2013 at 10:20 am
(12) Mary Ryan says:

This will be posted in four parts because it will not accept my response in whole.

The author, Jerry Webster, states that: “To me, homeschooling seems to reflect a “me first” kind of mentality. It’s also a reason I look at homeschooling with at least distrust, if not outright hostility. Why do parents choose to remove their children from public school?”

Mr. Webster then assumes that:

“All too often they seem to be people with an incredible sense of entitlement, the belief that they know better what a good education looks like.”

Mr. Webster further advises that:

“Back in Pennsylvania, you are not required to have a college degree to homeschool your children. It becomes a case of ‘the ignorant teaching the ignorant.’”

This article makes it unclear whether the author intends to antagonize individuals to respond for pleasure or is genuinely “ignorant” of the facts. I’ll accept that this article as one written in pure and genuine “ignorance” rather than that of malice.

I dare say Sir, unless you are a pure antagonist, you might have been wise to first investigate, research and answer the question you asked of others and allowed yourself an open mind before writing such an article with such a blend of ignorance and arrogance. Further, perhaps you should have researched the history of “public education” or the “Underground History of American Education” You will likely be astounded. Its not the pretty picture which you have painted. Here is another reference to a man who is a Pennsylvania Native, a brilliant man, and an author of several books, including many which are used by several colleges and universities in their “education” programs.

An Ignorant parent who chose to facilitate the “education” of her own.
Mary Ryan
Rhode Island Hope

Continued….next post

July 2, 2013 at 10:23 am
(13) Mary Ryan says:

Now to address your assumption that “they” (likely you mean “the parents” seem to be “people” with a sense of “entitlement” and that they believe that they”know better” what a good education ” looks like. Well, a) Our United States Supreme Court has made it clear in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000)

“The liberty interest at issue in this case—the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children— is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. More than 75 years ago, in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399, 401 (1923), we held that the “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right of parents to “establish a home and bring up children” and “to control the education of their own.” Two years later, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 534-535 (1925), we again held that the “liberty of parents and guardians” includes the right “to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.” We explained in Pierce that “[t]he child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Id., at 535. We returned to the subject in Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158 (1944), and again confirmed that there is a constitutional dimension to the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary 66*66 function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.” Id., at 166.”

…………………………….Continued to post no. 3

An Ignorant parent who chose to facilitate the “education” of her own.
Mary Ryan
Rhode Island Hope

July 2, 2013 at 10:43 am
(14) Jon says:

You have the ‘graduation address’ almost right. I will be able to tell my son to got out and succeed because “you have a better education, a better work ethic, more experience, and a firmer moral base than 98% of your contemporaries”. That is not because he is a better person, necessary. And for Kennedy’s quote, he is raised to believe he owes something to America, not that he should rely on government largess to support him. Moreover, most homeschooled kids could tell you when and where that quote came from; the majority of public school students can’t even tell you who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

July 5, 2013 at 1:09 am
(15) K says:

My goodness, what a load of rubbish! Too much to address, but after reading a couple different articles which you authored, I cannot imagine why you think the public schools spending so much money on students vs. the amount homeschools do makes them superior. It is called waste and the waste is enormous. As far as looking to the public school for assessment, it is absolutely not comparable! Why on earth would I look to the school for the silly “on grade level” nonsense when the schools are failures? Why are kids graduating that cannot read? My 12 yr old, during this past school year, read the Poetic Edda, Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Flies among other classics, we went to several Shakespeare plays, she plays violin in an orchestra (concert master) and is generally bright and always amazes me! We are not religious, she is not sheltered and what an insult to accuse the things that you do. Vile. With school shootings, dumbed down pop culture, etc, you simply cannot defend these schools the way they are. Yes, I second the suggestion of reading John Taylor Gatto, teacher of the year. Try “Dumbing Us Down” to start. Or, you could just turn on the TV (and bringing up abusive homeschool parents, please. How often do we hear of teachers abusing students? Um, everyday?)

July 8, 2013 at 7:39 am
(16) Alasandra says:

I don’t know Mr. Webster, why did you choose to send your son to an elite boarding school in New England? Just like parents who choose to send their children to elite boarding schools, homeschool parents have various reasons for making the choice to homeschool. Mainly we just want to ensure that our children get the best education possible.

Personally I think public school parents are the ones with the “me first” mentality. As they educate their children at tax payer expense. While those of us who homeschool or send our children to private schools pay for our own child’s education as well as subsidize the public schools. Your distrust and hostility seem a tad misplace Mr. Webster.

July 8, 2013 at 8:39 am
(17) specialed says:

I didn’t send my son to an elite boarding school. He chose to go and we supported his decision (when we saw how much he would get in scholarship money. I taught at a private residential school.) That may also be a significant difference between home school parents and public school parents. I know I don’t “own” my children. We also, as a family are not “enmeshed.” We know where we begin and our children end. I do believe that parents do choose homeschooling because they believe it is best. I don’t know that I am hostile: if you had been attacked as viciously as I have you’d be feeling a testy, too. I’m just tired of being other people’s doormats: the cost of being “nice.”

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