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Jerry Webster

The Scent of Blood

By June 27, 2013

Follow me on:

I did something foolish and mildly selfish: I went on the hunt. I was challenged by the homeschooling guide, Kathy Ceceri, called a "critic" of homeschooling as if that were a major interest of mine and then misquoted or misconstrued. She put a link to a blog "What About Me?" that I wrote in response to a "homeschooling graduation" where I ruminated over the meaning of a graduation ceremony for families who withdrew their chidlren from public education, an important public institution with strong democratic roots. I used the word entitled. Evil, evil me.

It's been a while since I've been in a dust-up online. They generate some traffic and they get the adrenaline going. I started back in 1971 when I was the Education Columnist for the Pitt News at the University of Pittsburgh, where I was also the Chair of the Undergraduate Council in the School of Education.

I think what really got under my skin was the fact that Kathy claims to debunk homeschooling myths with anecdotal and unsubstantiated research claims. So, I went to the University of Nevada Las Vegas Library (Lied) and went into ERIC to review the literature and wrote an article with my findings . I was surprised at how little and how old (much of it from the 90's, the hey day of Home Schooling.) Perhaps because of the right's more intense interest in breaking teachers' unions, replacing us with unemployable marketing graduates (Teach for America . . . I'll get hate mail for that) and wholesale for-profit charter schools (ever been the victim of an Edison program?) homeschooling has seemed like a romantic backwater for hippies and the Christian religious fringe. Before you start sending hate mail about making fun of Hippies and Christians, you need to know that in 1972 I had shoulder length hair and in 1985 I had a Master of Divinity from Luther Northwestern Seminary (now Luther Seminary) in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was accused of being sure of myself. It must be all the education (MEd, Westchester University of PA, Post baccalaureate Certificate in Autism, Pennsylvania State University; Reading Specialist, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota.)

But, back to the hunt. It culminated in a group of Academic Research Librarians at UNLV searching data bases with unalloyed glee: I was hunting down the credentials of Dr. Brian D. Ray, PhD, the founder and executive director of the National Homeschooling Research Institute in Salem, Oregon: the state capital and home of the University of Oregon. Dr. Ray's PhD is from Oregon State University in Corvallis. Ranked as 139th as a national university, they are a "selective" University with an acceptance rate of 77.7 percent. Doesn't seem all that picky, though, does it?

Dr. Ray makes a number of claims "based on research" but then charges $50 to get his bibliography. This same "research" is claimed as the basis for several of Kathy's claims. There is no other research to support them. Otherwise, most of her claims are based on anecdotal information, some of it completely in contradition to other research I found: i.e. Diversity:  Dr. Ray claims 15% of homeschooled children are from "minorities." The 2010 cencus puts the "minority" (Nonwhite, hispanic) population under one year at 50.4%. Until homeschooled children reach 40 percent or so, it is specious to claim diversity. Homeschoolers presently are mostly white and a large proportion (42%) report that religion and morality are their reasons for homeschooling.

So, Kathy, if experience and anecdote are sufficient to support an argument in this debate then I say, what you site as myths are not myths. They are true! In my experience, homeschooling parents believe themselves to be entitled, they are religious (Ironically, like Dr. Ray, they gravitate to the PCA, the refuge of disgruntled reactionary white people) and would not be qualified to teach in public schools. Their children are as likely to be indulged and rude as they are to be polite. I have known some lovely people who homeschooled their children (my son did 8 years of Suzuki) and some obnoxious, socially maladroit people who homeschooled their children. Oh, and my personal experience also confirms something that didn't make your list: homeschoolers' homes are filthy and chaotic.

I understand that nothing I say or do will change the minds of those who homeschool. I know for About.com it is a valuable audience, since homeschooling parents spend a lot of time online and About.com is paid by advertisers by the page view. But it is evident that homeschoolers are much like Tea Party right wingers: they live in a self reinforcing loop of like minded people who reinforce their own prejudices. They have little regard for hard evidence. But the UNLV research librarians and I had a lovely time sussing out Dr. Ray's self-aggrandizing hype.  But the only place where believing in something makes it true is in Peter Pan.  So  clap, clap, clap for the homeschooling fairies!

Comments

June 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm
(1) Jen says:

Patronizing the homeschool community is doing nothing to help the public schools. Most homeschoolers want the public schools to succeed, as do you, but the tone in this article does nothing to get extra voters and political activists to help your cause.

Perhaps homeschooling parents do feel entitled, if you mean that they are entitled to seek the best education for their children, or participate in public school sports as the law in 10 states allows homeschoolers to do. After all, we do pay for the public schools but typically don’t receive any benefit from them.

If you truly feel strongly about healing the schools, a better approach would be to get everyone, regardless of party lines or current stance on public vs home school to see your point clearly and ask them to join you, outlining how people can help ( not just party bashing). Stereo typical name calling does not help.

BTW: I do not affiliate with any party, but when you resort to bashing, it makes you sound uneducated, no matter how educated you really are. Like it or not, people make opinions whether or not to help based on perception.

Oh, and you were absolutely right about homeschoolers typically having messy homes… We just don’t have the time to deal with it and we always have some weird project being worked on.

June 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm
(2) Mike Jones says:

You know one thing that homeschoolers really don’t tend to do? Fetishize our degrees and qualifications. I, for instance (ah! there’s that word again) haven’t seen the need to mention anything about my college experience or degrees because I’m not interested in trying to make a thinly disguised argument from authority. Which is really all you have, after admitting that there’s little research and none of it new.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), there’s a lot of information available these days, from places like the US Department of Education. They have a report that’s just *chock full* of interesting data on school choice between 1993 and 2007, over 1.5 million children were homeschooled in the US in 2007, up from 1.1 million in 2003, and 850,000 in 1999. So perhaps the 1990s weren’t the “hey day [sic]” of homeschooling, after all.

You’ve really shown nothing in this series of articles except the depth of your own biases, your inability to see homeschoolers as anything but an undifferentiated mass, and your need to flaunt your credentials, which is undercut both by the quality of your prose and of your research. Your insistence on using stereotypes reveals a crippling shallowness of thought. A week in a freshman logic or rhetoric course would teach you the flaw in trying to discredit someone’s research simply because their university doesn’t come up to your standards for selectivity of admissions.

In all, you exhibit the worst features of the public school system: an innate dislike of anything “different”, an overweening deference to credentials, and a sense of curiosity stunted to the point that you don’t seem to be able to grasp that perhaps not everything is the way that you’ve been taught it to be. You may have received some of the finest training in the world, but your education is sadly lacking.

June 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm
(3) specialed says:

You need to read the article that accompanies the blog. Stewart and Neeley’s work, in 2005, found that in some states as many as half of the children who were not enrolled in public schools were not enrolled with the state as being homeschooled, either. They are a significant part of the 1.5 to 1.7 million children in the department of education reports. Where are they? The hey dey had more to do with the popular surge that made homeschooling legal. Just because it seems (there was an interesting article on New Jersey,[Richardson] as well) that people are choosing homeschooling, we don’t have any real evidence whether it is related to wanting to school their children at home or negligence.

Rather than providing any new evidence, you have also responded with name calling. Sorry. It is not possible to discount myth with more myth. I will admit that, just as I did in my blog, there was a little blood lust involved. I’m tired of people making sweeping claims without any research or evidence.

June 29, 2013 at 2:15 am
(4) Libby says:

I can’t believe how arrogant you are. I’ve never seen a homeschool person express such rudeness as you do here. Are you trying to claim public schools Are bastions of diversity? Laughable. And homes of public schools are impeccable? Give me a break. Such broad generalities can only be uttered by a truly small mind. You have no good argument anywhere? What does being Christian, middle class, or lacking in diversity have to do with a quality education? Mothers are the first and most important teachers. What exactly makes them ill-qualified? If you say, “lack of a Masters of Education” I will not be able to contain my merriment. I have a Masters in the Education of Sophie and Lila. No teacher could possibly match me. I was homeschooled and have never had a ‘social problem’ and I have met plenty of public school students that are very socially awkward, public school does nothing to solve a naturally awkward kid, it just spares them the bullying, well a lot if it any way. I am also an Atheist and know a a lot of homeschoolers who fall in a wide range of beliefs. I am white but my husband is not, so I have diversity in my own home. My 4 year old is reading at 4th grade level and doing 1st grade math. And you are a fool on a sinking ship…the American school system. Oh, I just finished reading The Language Police, I’ll never put my children in that mess.

June 29, 2013 at 8:00 am
(5) Annette says:

Hmmm. . . where you say you ” ruminated over the meaning of a graduation ceremony for families who withdrew their chidlren [sic} from public education, an important public institution with strong democratic roots. I used the word entitled.”

I just attended my middle daughter’s homeschool graduation. I NEVER “withdrew” her from public education, as she never attended. I am middle class, and since my divorce, I am probably less than that. I disabled veteran, single mom. My kids have attended private schools and home schools. They even attended a democratic Sudbury school. MUCH more democratic than your “public institution with stron democratic roots.” My kids are anything but entitled. It was a sacrifice each step of the way.

So, I am my kids hang out with like-minded people? I attended a very large church full of public school children and public school teacher. Only three homeschoolers attend, two of them are my teens, one is an 8 year old. Perhaps you mean the ballet studio where my daughters spend 15+ hours a week? Again, we’re the ONLY homeschoolers there as well. Maybe you mean the library where my daughter works? Well, yes we do see homeschoolers there, but we don’t know any of them, nor do we hang out with them. And, for that matter, amongst homeschoolers, there is a WIDE range of reasons to homeschool, styles of homeschooling, styles of parenting, etc We disagree on more than we have in common.

I suppose there’s nothing like-minded about those who are anti-homeschooling? I personally am not anti-public school, though I do consider myself a proponent of alternative education. Bottom line, I am pro-choice, even for you.

June 29, 2013 at 9:54 am
(6) Stacy says:

You, Mr. Webster, are out on a witch hunt. Why? I’m not sure. Are you trying to justify your qualifications as a teacher or administrator of this broken system you defend so viciously? Not sure. Don’t care. But one thing you should know – parents like us, who choose to homeschool our kids out of sheer disgust that our system is run and staffed by foolish people like you – aren’t looking for research studies to debunk myths. We’re looking for what’s best for our own individual kids. We don’t care if there’s a lack of diversity in our population. Our kids experience diversity in their real lives. And dude how uneducated are you if you make the weird blanket generalization that all homeschoolers homes are filthy and chaotic? Your claims are all just… WEIRD. Like driven by some strange psychological pathos. I feel sorry for you.

June 29, 2013 at 11:40 am
(7) specialed says:

I’m a little concerned if you are teaching your children reading. You obviously are incapable of drawing inferences or follow a logical sequence. (please see CCSS.) The link for Kathy Cereci’s blog is in the second sentence of this blog, as well as a reference to my first blog. I’m not on a witch hunt, I’m trying to keep them out of my trees. I started by defending myself, and then the whackos all came out.

I am not defending the schools: we are in a sorry state because state legislators and the people who vote for them fail to fund them fully. You completely failed to understand my basic argument, that you have no right to make claims without research, and existing research doesn’t support anything that Kathy said. Most of what Kathy says about homeschoolers is based on anecdotal evidence, the people she knows. You are doing exactly the same thing. I was clear I was taking the same liberty when I said that homeschoolers homes where chaotic and dirty, but I was taking it from my own experience. It’s not a
weird assertion. If we can use anecdotal evidence to support our points, then my anecdote is just as valid as Kathy’s. And considering that my education (I know, I bring up all that dang graduate school) I took statistics three times, so I kind of understand all that silly mean, median, standard deviation, validity stuff. I must be evil, do you think?) I lived for 8 years near Ann Arbor, Michigan and knew a bunch of Suzuki violin parents who homeschooled. Scary homes, some of them. About.com will pay me for over 2,000 words, not “our system”. The research used by Dr. Brian D. Ray PhD (sorry Dr. Brian D. Ray, D.O, in Iowa) is specious, is not peer reviewed and uses self selected samples. I admit the rant was self-indulgent, and my defenders won’t show up until Monday when my Newsletter goes out.

If I use you as “evidence,” you support many of my arguments. Your tone indicates a defensive, self important elitist. (Kathy’s term, Myth Two) You obviously believe that bullying and self importance are valid means of argument. Your lack of attention to the detail clearly indicates that you would be unqualified to teach in a public setting. But, that’s just my poor “foolish” opinion.

I knew that the hate mail would come tumbling out when I wrote this. As I wrote, like the Tea Party, Homeschoolers exist in a self referenced loop.

Oh, good news! My public/private schooled child has been asked by Allyson Schwartz to be the state chair of “Young Democrats for Schwartz for Governor.” I guess I wasn’t such a terrible parent after all!

June 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm
(8) Julie says:

Wow…I just read this (and the other posts from you and Kathy,) and I am shocked that a special ed teacher would take such a stance against homeschooling. I am a homeschooling mom and former special ed teacher (and, no, that does not make me ‘qualified’ to teach my children.)

When I was teaching in public school, I was incredibly saddened by the lack of services that my students were actually receiving, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS CLEARLY STATED IN THEIR IEP’s. I fought hard to get those services for each and every one of my students in my overcrowded classroom. Parents would ask me to help them navigate the muck and mire that was (is) the Special Education System. I had thought I might become an advocate for families who needed help in getting their children the services they needed, but soon after that horrible experience, I realized that I could not subject myself to the constant stress and frustration that is The System. Years later, my sister did hire such an advocate (and a lawyer,) to get her autistic son the services he needed, and it turns out I could have made a fortune if I had stayed on that path.

Fast forward a few years, and I am a mom of two boys who now lives down the street from a “California Distinguished School.” I had imagined walking and biking to school with my children as well as being an active volunteer in their classrooms, the school PTA, and maybe even the school board. But something kept nagging at me…I just couldn’t subject my kids to that same system that had failed so many other children, and luckily, I realized I had options. I had a friend who homeschooled, and although it was no where near on my radar at the time, I started to read some books about it (I suggest you do the same before you write another article condemning homeschooling.)

(continued in next comment…)

June 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm
(9) Julie says:

(…continued from previous comment.)

Fast forward a few more years, and I have become a very active organizer in my homeschool community, offering counsel (for free,) to those who are considering homeschooling. Most parents come to me because they are frustrated with their current situation in both public and private schools (and some are just very afraid of what lies ahead based on what they’ve seen/heard, even though their children are not yet school age.) I realize I am much happier helping families feel empowered to make educational decisions for their children rather than the helplessness and hopeless feelings associated with traditional schools.

And there are many others who decide to homeschool because they don’t want their kids’ education to be based on the top down model of curriculum and standards decided upon by some politicians and corporations; they don’t want their child’s day to be confined to a classroom full of same age peers and a few adults; they don’t want their kids to learn because somebody tells them it’s going to be on the test. They hope to provide an environment where inquiry based learning and experiences in the community educate their children. They hope to see their children learning because they are curious and intrinsically motivated to do so rather than the carrot and stick approach used in nearly every school. They desire to spend this time with their children rather than send them off to school for 6-8 hours a day, followed by hours of homework struggles that lead to conflicts within the family. (Really, I could go on, but this post is long enough as it is.)

Bottom line, Mr. Webster, is that you really know nothing about homeschooling or why parents choose to homeschool, so please try to keep you articles and comments to the subject in which you are supposed to be an ‘expert.’

June 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm
(10) Telulah says:

I feel like I just read an article written by someone as mature as a 7 year old. To top it off, I am also a public school teacher who does believe it is anyone’s right to choose their education. This article was harsh (probably intended) and childish (unintended, I assume).

June 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm
(11) Mister Fleas says:

Several things struck me about you.

You like to flaunt your worthless degrees as though that makes you better than other people.

You are talk of homeschool’s “heyday” being the 1990s. In 1999 1.7% percent of American students were homeschooled. Today, it is about 4%. Apparently you do not know what the word “heyday” means…or you cannot do basic arithmetic.

Finally, there are the personal attacks on homeschoolers(criticizing the cleanliness of their homes, calling them entitled, calling their children “rude”).

Homeschoolers are doing far and away better in academics and in socialization than government schooled children, but all you can do is bleat at them. Here’s a study about homeschooling with the data laid out in bright pictures even someone with your “education” should be able to comprehend.

Mister, you should be ashamed of yourself.

June 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm
(12) ramrants says:

What an incredibly condescending article. And what a shock that you are a liberal.

‘In my experience, homeschooling parents believe themselves to be entitled, they are religious (Ironically, like Dr. Ray, they gravitate to the PCA, the refuge of disgruntled reactionary white people) and would not be qualified to teach in public schools.”

What? People who practice a religion are not qualified to teach? Since when?

” Oh, and my personal experience also confirms something that didn’t make your list: homeschoolers’ homes are filthy and chaotic.”

How do you know this? Are you the homeschool home inspector?

“But it is evident that homeschoolers are much like Tea Party right wingers: they live in a self reinforcing loop of like minded people who reinforce their own prejudices. They have little regard for hard evidence. But the UNLV research librarians and I had a lovely time sussing out Dr. Ray’s self-aggrandizing hype. But the only place where believing in something makes it true is in Peter Pan. So clap, clap, clap for the homeschooling fairies”

Who is it that is making wholesale judgements about an entire, diverse group of people? As I was reading this article, I was thinking the same thing of you – that you are a closed-minded liberal that lives in a self reinforcing loop of like minded people who reinforce your own prejudices. You do realize you are the flip side of the same coin of your criticism, right?

And why is it that liberals are so nasty to people that are different from them?

June 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm
(13) specialed says:

Liberals are nasty? You need to stop watching so much Fox News.

I guess I’m just fed up. Fed up with people who make sweeping generalization based on their own experience and then attack anyone who disagrees. Fed up with recent immigrants who tell me what my ancestors (Dad joined Sons of the American Revolution so we could, but it isn’t worth the dues to me.) believed or didn’t believe about the constitution. If you would have read the blog carefully you would have read “So, Kathy, if experience and anecdote are sufficient to support an argument in this debate then I say, what you site as myths are not myths. They are true!” You can’t possibly know what my experience was in the 90′s when my sons were in elementary school, or the number of people I knew who homeschooled their children. My experience of chaotic, messy homes was 100%. So I haven’t been in a million homes, but my experience, in terms of Kathy’s anecdotal claims, is perhaps more valid than yours (if it’s based only on your own home.)

As for slamming other people’s faith, if you had read my biography, you would know I am an ordained Lutheran Minister with an MDiv. from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I am not in the habit of judging other people’s faith, though they are in the habit of judging mine. I spent the morning in church, and just finished writing an email to Lisa Jo Rudy, the Autism guide for About.com, to compare experiences with the Rev. Dr. Krister Stendahl, who was the dean of Harvard Divinity School until his retirement.

But then, I’m willing to express an opinion over my own, real name. I do write a nice polemic, though, don’t I?

June 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm
(14) ramrants says:

Your paper credentials are meaningless/worthless in trying to establish credibility. All anyone has to do is look at how you treat others (condescending, name calling, etc.) to see that you seriously lack any professional maturity. All the paper credentials in the world can’t help you.

I did have a response prepared to what you wrote, but after rereading your post I realized it would be worthless. You obviously cannot see the ugliness in how you treat others and nothing I, or anyone else, has to say is going to help you see that you are just not a nice person.

I also noticed your continuing insistence of mentioning your credentials and your name dropping (like anyone cares about your email to Lisa Jo Rudy or Rev whomever. Why would you tell me this?). It is very obvious from you are a very insecure little man. Only people who are desperately insecure constantly give you their resume and name drop. The thing is, you are the only one who thinks this is important. No one else does. Again, something I’m sure you don’t and can’t understand.

July 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm
(15) usethebrainsgodgiveyou says:

My degree is in Special Education, Intellectual Disabilities k-12. My only son was in the regular classroom with pull-out resource room He’s a bright kid…he just learns differently.

Public School fail many, many kids like my son. If they don’t fit the system, it’s their problem, not the schools. I have known a couple of mothers with children like mine who started their own schools, very successful and certified by the state, but ~very expensive~. My son would have failed out in 9th grade…but instead, we homeschooled and sent him to Tech College a year and one half early, where they see so many kids who want to succeed with learning disabilities that it’s a smooth transition.

Would it have been better to let the public school fail him?

July 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm
(16) specialed says:

I don’t think you are making sweeping generalizations about homeschooling, as Kathy and many others have. I understand that in many smaller, rural or sometimes stressed metropolitan school districts parents of children with special needs find that they have to withdraw their children because their best efforts have not improved the outcomes. You are not typical homeschooling parents, according to any of the research I have done. It’s too bad you didn’t also pursue due process, while homeschooling) because if your hearing officer had decided the district had failed to meet your child’s need your son would have been awarded compensatory education, usually covered by a large stipend, you would have had the resources to pursue the private school, and at the same time forced your district to reconsider how services and support are provided for students with disabilities but the ability and willingness to pursue a technical program to have a tract to succeed.

July 10, 2013 at 7:51 am
(17) Kat says:

What a nasty piece of work you are! As a public school teacher who has likely never been to the home of a homeschooling family, you somehow have the knowledge to smear all of us with the brush of unqualified, religious zealots who live in squalor. Many of my fellow homeschooling moms are former teachers who realized that the public schools are no place for the above average, below average, or in-any-way different kid. It only took me until my student teaching experience to realize that I could do a much better job myself. I have taught my children for 10 years now and they are all well educated, well socialized, relatively polite human beings. As for the state of our house, between my own obsession with tidiness and a cleaning lady, you can literally eat off my floors. What my religious beliefs have to do with my qualifications to teach my own children to read and write are irrelevant. I’ll put my children’s character and knowledge up against your average publicschooled kid any day of the week.

July 11, 2013 at 9:12 pm
(18) specialed says:

Ironic! I have found what a nasty piece of work homeschooling parents are. If you had read any of my pieces you would know I have been in the home of many homeschoolers. I would prefer not to make sweeping generalizations from those experiences, but since you feel so free to do just that, I have availed myself of the same tactic for arguing. You, and several of my other respondents, also don’t read very well, or you would find that you have misquoted me. I think my next blog should be “why regular people dislike homeschoolers so much.” I can quote a Nevada State Senator and a Nevada State Assemblyman, who think you people are complete whack jobs.

You also need to realize that saying someone was a public school teacher doesn’t necessarily speak well for them. You should check out some of my detractors, who seem to think it is a disqualifying trait. I won’t argue that just like there are some very poor parents out there (our mental hospitals are full of their progeny) there are plenty of poor teachers.

August 28, 2013 at 2:25 am
(19) Carla says:

Oh, you silly, silly little man. The previous comments solidified your absolute… well, silliness, so I’ll throw in a remark that nobody addressed: I homeschool, and my house is spotless. What an angry person you must be.

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