28 November 2011

Half-and-half homeschooling

Pundit & Pundette | Jill | Getting know where: Public school kids explain why it's better than homeschooling

Those of us who argue that our kids learn more at home, in spite of their untrained, non-unionized teachers and limited budgets, can take the rest of the day off. The public school kids' comments have rendered argument on that score unnecessary. A sampling from the young scholars: [...]

The themes:
  • School is where our friends are (bullies included) and its institutional character prepares us for the grim "real world."
  • Home is an isolating, lonely place.
  • Friends are vastly more important than family.
  • "Socialization" is a necessity and can only take place in school.
  • "Socialization" is more important than learning.
  • Conformity is more important than learning.
  • Learning shouldn't be too pleasant an experience.
  • Herding us into groups is what we deserve.
  • Outside the institution of government school, personal advancement is not possible.
[...]I'm not sure what the poor things mean by "the real world," but I get the feeling they think it's going to be even bleaker than the current conveyor belt they're riding. Passivity and conformity have been bred into them from day one and all they can do is praise the system that is crushing them. It's not their fault; they never had a chance.
Homeschooling is pretty much unknown where I'm from (though I'd say I'm far more symathetic to it than most in my area/social group) so forgive what is perhaps a naive question.

Let's assume arguendo that home-school curtails socialization, and that the socialization you gain in a public school is not counter-productive.*

Why is there not partial homeschooling? Why can't you go to a traditional school to learn humanities, and have your parents teach you STEM, or something like that? Then you get some "socialization" outside the home, as well as the benefits of home instruction.  Why does homeschool seem to be an all-or-nothing proposition?

I had friends in my high school who took courses at the local community college. There were others who took classes in adjacent schools if the correct level wasn't offered in their home school. I think both arrangements are common, and also not frowned upon by the public school system. So it's certainly possible to opt out of public education for specific subjects. But why is that only an option if you're going to some other organized, traditional school?

I also had friends whose parents were professors or teachers. AFAIK they couldn't opt out of, say, their history class in order to be taught by their history professor mother, but they could opt out of schooling entirely in order to be educated entirely at home.  Why does the USNA trust Dr. Smith to teach their middies, but MCPS doesn't trust Dr. Smith to teach her own child?

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When it comes to health care, I'm more interested in innovation in business models and organizational structure than in drugs and devices.  Not that the latter aren't important! I just think other people are already paying enough attention to them, and I think improvements in the former will create the right environment for improvement in the latter.  Similarly I am interested in Seasteading not for the particular rules that the Seasteading Institute would like to emplace in its colonies, but because it is a good metasystem for making the environments which make good rules possible.

Similarly I am most interested in the innovation in schooling systems, not the particular policy changes or teaching techniques that get debated.  More homework? More technology in classrooms? Extend the school day or year? Lower class sizes? Hire more teachers with MAs? Who cares?

We don't need to figure out the answers to those questions. We need to figure out a metasystem which will allow us to figure out the answers to those questions. That's why I'm so interested in vouchers, charters, smaller school districts, etc. It's not that a particular charter school or set of them does things better, it's that they are a better system for discovering the answer.  We need more diversity of approaches, and I think partial homeschooling can be one of those approaches.

Again, I don't know much about the specifics because homeschool just wasn't part of my milieu, but it seems to me like there are major roadblocks to structural innovation here.  Let's say we get things set up so Professor Jones can teach his daughter Suzie history and civics, and have her take her other classes at Local High School.  That's a good step forward.

But can Suzie's friend Eddie also takes history and physics from Professor Jones? What if Eddie's father is a engineer, and wants to Eddie to learn history from Professor Jones while he teaches both Eddie and Suzie calculus? Can they offer reciprocal classes? What if a third parent wants his child to learn with Eddie and Suzie, but not teach himself? Can he pay the other two parents directly?

I'd guess the answer to all of those is no, because we've set up some weird distinction where you can be trusted to teach your own child, but not accept money for teaching someone else's, because then you're running a miniature school, and you need licenses and approvals and oversight and god knows what else. These things standing in the way of people exploring new solutions themselves are what interest me, not arguments about the solutions themselves.

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* Some people I've talked to homeschooling about have been confused about how socializing in school could possible be bad. Just being in a society is no guarantee that a person will pick up habits and views that are helpful. Being press-ganged into the Navy would also force a child to build social skills, but I'm sure there are many out there who doubt the things you would learn there would make you a better member of society. The relentless pressure to conform, from both peers and teachers, may be worse for people than more limited contact that can result from homeschooling.

Via Fourth Checkraise

1 comment:

  1. Why is there not partial homeschooling?

    I think the reason is, always, money. Schools don't get paid (I think) for a student who enrolls for only a few hours: it's all or nothing. No student, no money from the state. No incentive.

    My kids are not, technically, home schooled. They are enrolled in a virtual charter school.

    Details vary by state. Ours is physically located somewhere in West Nowhere Wisconsin. Teachers are all over the state, kids are grouped into classrooms roughly by geography.

    Kids have coursework delivered by the boxful at the beginning of the year, along with supplies. You can plow along with your peers, or work ahead as your abilities dictate. There are daily virtual conferences for some classes. You update your grades on the computer, there are tests each semester you gotta get up and drive the kid over for. Last round these were at U of Phoenix.

    The parent proctors the education. I don't know what other parents do: my wife is a teacher by training so she goes ahead and teaches using the material. Don't tell the union.

    It's public school, but you learn at home.

    If home schooling is like working for yourself out of the house, virtual charters are like working for IBM out of your home office.

    Now, my oldest boy (now 17) at home went to high school across town, starting his freshman year. He wanted the STEM courses and that was just not going to be something his mother or I could do for him. If not for that, and the wrestling team, he'd still be at virtual schools. He doesn't think much of the actual school.

    The socialization thing is a crock. My kids are socialized - they tear ass around the neighborhood all summer and winter with their friends, they get behave themselves, and are on the way to becoming good citizens. Are there socially dorked home school kids? Met a few. Met a few socially dorked kids at public schools, too.