- Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Mr. Lubienski goes on to claim that homeschooling is a flight from the public school and nothing more than an exit strategy. Again, there is truth in his statement. But the argument that he builds from this premise has an odd logic to it. He attempts to say that leaving the school system rather than staying is shortchanging the democratic process of debate or the deliberative process of public education that serves the common good. But isn't the exit from the public school for either moral or academic reasons a democratic statement in and of itself? Homeschool families do not wish to see the end of public school. They often do not even resent the fact that their tax dollars continue to go to public schools. They simply wish to have the right to educate their children in the way they see fit, the ultimate in parental involvement. Hence, the "exit strategy" is a part of the democratic deliberative process concerning education, not the silent voice that Mr. Lubienski would suggest.
The third and final argument against homeschooling comes from the National Education Association (NEA). The clear stance of the NEA against homeschooling should be recognized as a statement coming from a labor union. As such, the NEA's position on homeschooling is as it should be: one that protects the jobs of its members. The most troubling aspect of the NEA's position is not the position itself but the perception of the NEA by the general public and by government institutions. The NEA is often seen as being authoritative in terms of what is good and right concerning the education of children, particularly since its members are educational specialists. As with any union, the union itself does not represent the thoughts and beliefs of all its members, and many public school teachers have no negative thoughts or impressions of homeschooling. But the position of the NEA itself, when it is seen as authoritative, represents a troubling reality for homeschool families. In fact, the public needs to recognize that the NEA is first a labor union and will decide its position on homeschooling--or anything else that would result in fewer jobs for educators--accordingly, even in light of growing support for homeschooling in the research.
Potential Reasons for These Outcomes
While there is no way to be certain why homeschooling is producing such positive outcomes, Brian Ray approaches this question in a way that attempts to quantify attributes of homeschooling that contribute to its success. Noting what typically makes for a successful educational experience in other research projects, he notes that many of those elements can be found in homeschooling, including parental involvement, small class sizes, tutoring, positive social interaction, and individualized attention. (Ray, B.D. (2000) "Home Schooling: The Amelioration of Negative Influences on Learning?")
The researchers also speculated that the flexibility of homeschooling contributes to the success, as well as the less formal qualities that homeschoolers have a tendency to develop over time. Families had a tendency to gradually adopt a style of education that worked for them, adapting to the needs of the student as well as the teacher and family. Of note was the idea that parents were able to tune in to the needs of their children and make the necessary changes to make the most of the education.(Ensign, J. (2000) "Defying the Stereotypes of Special Education: Home School Students." Peabody Journal of Education. Vol. 75, 147-158.) The idea that children in homeschool situations never leave the educational environment also may contribute to the overall success of this form of training. Parents who homeschool are likely to try to make an educational experience out of many activities. As a result, learning becomes associated with reallife experiences.
Research may not be able to fully explain why homeschooling works so well, in part because of the small amount of research available. But it does appear that the homeschool situation provides elements that are ideal for learning and that the flexible, customizable approach to learning in a natural environment makes for good outcomes. Add a teacher with strong personal motivation to see that his or her students succeed, and you may have a powerful formula for remarkable outcomes.
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