Education & Homeschooling

by Lee Stranahan, crossposted at LeeStranahan.com

Obama names Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He's considered a reformer but gets mixed marks from a lot of parents in Chicago. This isn't really a surprise for a reformer, though. He's worked to reduce handgun violence in schools and promoted a gay-friendly charter school, which has the wingnuts frothing at the mouth.

I did a little research but couldn't find any info on Duncan's position on a special area of interest of mine and something that puts me at odds with some other progressives on occasion; homeschooling.

My wife and I homeschool. You may have a picture of homeschooling where the kids are reading the Bible all day long or maybe sitting in neat rows and studying The Classics and practicing for a spelling bee.That ain't us.We're largely "Unschoolers" which is sort of the extreme version of homeschooling where you let your kids learn on their own. We provide resources to help them pursue what they are interested in. There's a fair amount of video game playing and TV and internet surfing plus crafts and pillow fights and messing with my iPod Touch.We like homeschooling. It fits our lifestyle. I used to travel a lot doing seminars and we were free to take the kids with us, where they've been able to see most of the country.More importantly, we think it works. My long term example is my son Shane, who is 16 years old now. He was homeschooled up until seventh grade. At the point, I stopped doing seminars and landed a full time job. Shane wanted to try 'normal' school, so he was enrolled in public school.Now, this is where the homeschooling thing becomes somewhat interesting politically. Shane had never been 'tested'.And when he started seventh grade, we didn't prep him in any special way. I said 'do your best, don't get lazy' and that was about it.Should this even be legal? M'god - this kid lived until the age of twelve without being tested! How did the government know we weren't brainwashing him? What if he wasn't learning a damn thing with all the traveling and video gaming and (shudder) television? What if he didn't know how to do division?Okay, well - Shane didn't know how to do division. It hadn't come up at home, I guess. So he's in math class and the first time a division problem came up he literally had no idea what to do. He also found it weird that he had to ask permission to go to the bathroom and stuff like that.Well, to cut to the chase - it's not a problem. Shane caught up with rest of the class in a couple weeks. He stayed in public school for a couple of years, went on to be selected for advanced placement classes and become an honors student. He started high school, didn't like it, and went back to homeschooling. A few weeks after he turned sixteen, he started classes at Pasadena Community College and just found out he got an A+ on his main essay this semester - something I'm proud to say I'm not responsible for in any way.So this is my problem with having too much regulation on homeschooling. I think we need good public schools because most parents aren't in a position where they can homeschool or send their kids to private school. And there may be downsides to people teaching their kids that dinosaurs roamed the earth 4,000 years ago but most of the people who believe that stuff actually went to public school.