Sunday, May 15, 2005

Reply to the Thomas article in the Illinois Leader

Scott Thomas’ column from the Illinois Leader - “Homeschooling Not a Good Idea For Most”

It has baffled me why this editorial was published in the Illinois Leader. Perhaps they were trying to rake up controversy to raise readership. I’m not really sure. What I am sure of was my disappointment in reading this in the Leader. The Leader has been one of the few places a homeschooler in Illinois could find good information on homeschooling in the State of Illinois. I’ve looked back over their homeschooling section. It’s slim pickings the last article on legislation was this:
by our very own Susan Ryan. August 24, 2004. If nothing else Scott Thomas’ column and the Leader’s lack of positive interest in the homeschooling community has led to publishing this blog sooner rather than later. The following is a contribution from a homeschooling mom and good friend of mine addressed to Mr Thomas in regards to his editorial in the Leader:

Mr. Thomas,

I’m writing to urge you to consider expanding your information base. Interview people who deal with thousands of both public and home schooled students every year. Talk to ushers at a performing arts center, the staff at the planetarium, instructors at a nature preserve, children’s librarians, or docents at a museum. What are their observations on the “real life” skills amongst the students they encounter?

Which groups maintain focus for extended periods of time? Which students show more interest in and aptitude for learning new information? Which ones articulate thoughtful questions that illustrate not only listening but comprehension skills? Which are able to complete assignments successfully, whether individually or cooperating in teams?

I’ve been told by representatives from these very fields in our community that the answer to these questions is, more often than not, the home schooled students.

Walk into the children’s section of any book store to see evidence of a growing market niche in response to consumer demand: educational workbooks and test preparation on every subject and geared at all grade levels. Many materials don’t just review a subject, they teach it from scratch. Ironically, most of these resources are from publishers who are already selling their textbooks to the schools! If their initial product is at all satisfactory, if all these schools chock full of experts are so expertly administering the lessons, why the need to back it up with all this extra stuff?

Unhappily for these families, it appears that they don’t happen to have access to your all-star team of educators. In fact, what you described is closer to those fantasy teams that sports enthusiasts enjoy putting together to compete in virtual sports leagues. Sure, they’re fun to daydream about, but we all know there will never be anything like it in the “real world.”

It’s true, there are many areas in which I am not an expert, but home schooling two children through a day’s homework at or above their respective grade levels goes much more quickly than doing the same for a group of 24. In addition to participating in weekly, bi-weekly and monthly home school co-op activities, we use extra time and flexibility in our schedule to attend an average of 3-4 field trips per month. Some public school students don’t even get that many outings in a year.

We’ve learned first hand from potters, blacksmiths, ostrich farmers, bakers, museum curators, bookbinders, paramedics, inventors, glass blowers, sheep farmers, martial arts experts, fire fighters, meteorologists, plant biologists, police officers, nature conservationists, artists, politicians, authors, astronomers, physicists and classical, bluegrass, jazz, ethnic and contemporary musicians out there in the “real world.”

Anyway, I don’t need to be a chef to cook dinner, or a seamstress to sew a Halloween costume, or a scientist to adjust a cake recipe or an accountant to organize our finances, or a master gardener to grow tomatoes. And I don’t need to be an expert to teach those skills.

Generally speaking, home schooled students are educated and socialized at levels at or above their respective peers in public school. Just as, generally speaking, public school students receive a satisfactory education. In both scenarios, there are successes as well as failures. In either situation, good parents make the difference.

Home schooling is enabling, rather than hindering, me in my effort to not only “draw from” but exploit the “wealth of experience and resources” available in our community and more realistically prepare my children for the world in which they will be living.

Naomi Young

Homeschool Legislation Watch
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