Saturday, April 02, 2011

Minding Your Own: Part 1 CBC Viewpoint Analysis Series on Home Education

Seriously CBC? I was trying to find the link for the series I did for CBC Viewpoint Analysis with Bob Sudeyko back in 2006

but it appears that it is no longer there! So what I've done is compiled the articles here as a resource for those who wonder 'but does home education work?' Cheers!

 By Beatrice Ekoko part 1: Minding Your Own

July 13, 2006

Stefanie Mohsennia is a librarian, a self-described "sit down, read and write type." She liked school and did very well. But as a parent, she began to see that her son's learning style differed from hers; she became concerned the school would be unable to answer his needs.
Basics, like the structure of the school day, interfered. Mohsennia said her seven-year-old son "would not be interested in math at 8 or 9 a.m. in the morning."
"Why sacrifice his love of learning?" she asks.
She took a big step and decided to home-school her son. But ironically, to home-school, she had to leave her home.
Mohsennia relocated to Canada from her native Germany, where home education is legally verboten.
Home-schooling is legal everywhere in Canada. Mohsennia's son joins the 80,000 kids estimated by the Canadian Centre for Home Education who are being home-educated as the movement to teach your own grows steadily.
An increasing awareness, understanding and respect for different kinds of learning styles and multiple types of intelligences are stirring the public conscience.
An intensive parenting trend is driving this "profound culture shift," says Professor Scott Davies, a sociologist at McMaster University in Hamilton.
According to Davies, an "underlying culture" among middle-class parents that "prioritizes the needs of the individual child" leads to a "highly individualized conception of learning, one that prizes a customized experience to enhance a child's personality, idiosyncratic talents, cognitive style and sense of self."
'Language of choice and rights'
Davies' research reveals an underlying discourse centring around the "language of choice and rights" that has more and more parents shopping around for styles in a free market of pedagogy.
Questioning parents give voice to a critique of public education that's as old as, well, public education.
When compulsory national education was proposed in 18th-century England, political critic William Godwin penned one of the first objections to national education.
In his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), Godwin warned that "a national education has the most direct tendency to perpetuate ... errors, and to form all minds upon one model."
The one model is firmly entrenched as a major industry with a labyrinth of bureaucracy built around it. In Ontario, the education budget teeters at $17.5 billion a year, with measures proposed at the Ministry of Education that would motivate students to stay in school and keep learning until the age of 18 by threatening fines or revoking driver's licences for drop-outs.
Home-educators who believe that learning is a natural human attribute have a view which is conflicting to the ministry's: motivation must come from within, and, so the theory goes, when people are given charge of their choices with practical support they will come to perceive themselves as life-long learners.
Step outside the one model and the bulk of research indicates that the majority of parents who home-educate do so because they are concerned their children don't get enough moral/religious instruction at school. A smaller but still sizable number eschew the formal structure of school with its standardized curriculum, slotted class times, hierarchy and age segregation and instead seek to provide conditions for more informal, incidental, child-centred learning to occur.
Professor Gary Knowles of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has studied home-educating families for close to 25 years. He notes that "across the spectrum of home-educators, the desire to preserve the integrity of the family and the connection to community is one of the strongest reasons for why parents decide to keep their kids home."
Gloomy reports fade into background
Keeping the kids home means teacher strikes, violence in schools, bullying, peer pressure, boredom, restlessness and other gloomy reports from the front lines of classrooms recede to become background noise.
But leaving school — for motivated families — means an active role pursuing their interests by exploring and engaging resources in their communities. Learning becomes a family project that shifts from formal pedagogy to becoming more of a lifestyle.
For parents from minority groups, home-educating provides an opportunity to teach their own heritage.
Home-schooling families find some of their staunchest supporters in former teachers like American author John Taylor Gatto. Gatto, who penned the iconoclastic Dumbing Us Down, recalls how he "slowly … began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."
Distinguishing between education and schooling, Life Learning Magazine publisher Wendy Priesnitz writes that schooling "confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new."
Are schools up to the task of preparing children for a future requiring the ability to be flexible, resourceful and self-directed to keep up with the changing demands of society? While the question remains open to debate, home-educating families aren't waiting to find out.


I found the article on homeschooling interesting, but I have to admit, I found the feedback comments even more so. My oldest daughter has been taught at home for 4 years. She has never attended a publicly funded school nor sat in a traditional classroom environment. According to some, this lack of pubilc schooling would mean that she has a lack of social skills as well. One would expect then that when among her peers, she would be unable to navigate the social structure. She could even appear odd, out of place and unable to negotiate, problem solve or even work with others in a team effort. If not being in school causes children to be socially behind their public schooled peers, then it should be quite easy to spot the homeschooled children on the playground. Hmm...well that's funny because so far when others find out my daughter is taught at home they are genuinely surprised. She appears to be just like all the other kids in the group, except that her acedemic abilities often far surpass her age group. She's often the organizer, the planner, the one in charge of the group activity on the playground. She's the one who searches out other children so as to include everyone in the game regardless of their age or ability. She's the one who works to make the chosen activity fair and fun for all involved. I suppose that type of social behaviour could make her unlike her peers. But so far, that has not been a behaviour that others have viewed as negative. If my daughter is truly lacking the social skills of her public schooled peers, then all I can think is perhaps less is more. Email: SUBJECT2: CBC News: Analysis & Viewpoint: Minding your own - Home based education Subject: Comment: CBC News: Analysis & Viewpoint: Minding your own - Home based education CityandCountry: Owen Sound,Ontario Name: Kim Wehrle "What about the social skills that home-schooled children will never experience due to seclusion? Important life lessons are learned on the playground every day, and though some children certainly require more attention than others in the classroom, those who home-school ALL of their children are, in the lamest terms, keeping them away from the real world."

As a homeschooling parent, I just have to say that this is SO TRUE.

With all the free time my son has from not being stuck in a classroom all day long, he's totally not able to participate in karate classes, gymnastics classes, violin lessons and orchestra rehearsals, ballet classes, and art classes. And he certainly never interacts with other kids while at those classes.

He also never plays with the kids in the neighbourhood (when they're home from school). Neither does he play with friends from our homeschooling groups. He never has conflicts with other neighbour kids that he has to resolve. He's kept locked up and never sees anyone except for me.

Because of course we all know that public-school kids get all of their 'socializing' while in classes sitting quietly behind their desks, and not when they're home playing outside with their friends, or visiting relatives, or having slumber parties.

And when my son is helping me with the grocery shopping, when he's observing me doing the banking, when we're watching or reading the news, when we're talking about business and industry in Canada and internationally and how finances work and how to fill out forms and applications with the government, when he's helping with the housework and learning how to look after younger children, when he's out and about with me as I do my errands around the community, etc etc, he's absolutely being totally cut off from the 'real world'.

Unlike his fellows in the public schools, in their neat little classrooms 35 hours a week 10 months of the year for 12+ years of their lives. Because the 'real world' is exactly like school. Yup. Guilty as charged.

—Heather Dunham | Dundas, Ont.

I just finished reading the feedback from your story on homeschooling. Several people eluded to the fact that the homeschooling option was for middle class families that could afford it.

We have been homeschooling for four years and survive on one income. As a family we have made choices to drive older cars (1985 wagon), purchase clothing from second hand stores, limit our spending etc.

It is more important right now to provide a solid foundation for our boys than to have brand names, cable t.v. or a week in Cuba. We can give them not only a solid education but develop in them a sense of caring and kindness for others and their community.

Our family is no different than anyone elses. I still have to vigorously remind the boys(occasionally my husband as well) that farting in public is not funny, that just because it has the word "fruit" on the box doesn't necessarily make it count toward their fruit and veg requirements and that I will probably will never give the ok to skateboarding off the roof.

Most homeschoolers are just ordinary parents who are doing their best to make sure their kids will lead happy and productive lives, which I think puts us all on the same page.

—Heather Hayes | Honeywood, Ont.

I was homeschooled by my mother (a single mom working full-time) until Grade 5, when I entered public school. I am now a statistician with a graduate degree, and a normal social life, so I haven't lost out in any way due to my home-schooling. (I think that addresses points made by several previous commenters.)

I am absolutely convinced that my foundation skills (numeric, spelling, grammar, etc.) are far better than they likely would have been had I been entirely educated in the public school system. I also was able to learn both German and English simultaneously, which meant that at age 10 I could read and write in German as well as any Austrian child the same age.

I was able to go on many field trips, even if it was just to the local park to look at the plants and bugs. My mum and I were able to jointly explore questions on our own pace; I look back fondly on some of our afternoons spent studying leaf formations, animal tracks, or snowflakes.

Through home education (and specifically through my mother's very deliberate and engaging pedagogy), I not only learned facts and information, I learned HOW TO LEARN for myself. I attribute a large portion of my academic success to the foundations that my mother laid out for me in my early years, and I am eternally grateful that she was so committed to my education. Only one teacher (in the 14 years of schooling I've had since) has had anywhere near as much impact on what I do today and how I do it.

I hope that homeschooling continues to be a legal option for families in Canada. I do not believe that homeschooling is superior to public education (there are some absolutely amazing public educators out there and some dismal homeschooler parents), but I know that for some families, it is absolutely the better choice.

—Maria Lorenzi | Burnaby, B.C.

Public schooling is not perfect neither is homeschooling. I found the article rather snobbish. Parents who choose to homeschool are likely to be financialy better off and educated, which means they probably went to public schools or private schools.

Bottom line sooner or later parents are not going to be able to meet the demands of higher learning. Their children will not have the training of being in a classroom with other people and the regiment of bells and class times and learning math at 9am as opposed to whenever I'm in the mood. The children as adults will not be able to adjust to teaching being done by a complete stranger who has no emotional or familial interest in them.

Critics of public schools say, it stifles creativity, it's too regimented etc. Parents who homeschool will only pass on their bias and neurosis and regimentation to their children. The only difference between public and homeschooling is Public schools are a cornucopia of neurosis. This is much more difficult to deal with.

—Nick Pirozzoli | Brantford, Ont.

Kudos to CBC and to Ms. Ekoko for this article. It was refreshing to read such pro-homeschooling affirmation.

I have to admit a few of the comments in the "feedback" section bothered me. Sadly, the "Big S" myth is still alive and well, even among the generally open-minded and intelligent CBC audience.

What's the "Big S"? Why, the SOCIALIZATION myth! Why, oh why, oh why do some people still assume, when they hear the term "homeschooling" that children who are homeschooled are socially isolated?

The term "homeschooling" does not mean that the children are locked in the closet when not diligently filling out their little correspondence school workbooks.

This is the picture some seem to have, and it is quite as stereotypical and false as the notion that every school child that's not being bullied and humiliated is in turn squashing the lunches of others!

Look outside of your pre-conceived notions at what is really happening! While doubtless there are "bad" homeschool settings I personally don't believe they are any more common, proportionately speaking, than "bad" classroom or school settings.

Most kids, whether in traditional schools or homeschools, get along just fine the majority of the time. They have friends (and generally a few "non-friends" as well), they are great at some subjects and less great at others, they have their own passions, whether it be computer games or baseball or swimming or dance.

For most kids the "how" of getting their "3 Rs", whether in a traditional schoolroom, or at the kitchen table, is only a small facet of the people they are and will become.

Think about this: while homeschooling there are perhaps, in many situations, MORE opportunities for meaningful social contact and pursuit of personal goals and dreams. I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Ekoko's articles on this subject.

—Barb Scharf | McLeese Lake, B.C.

I agree with some of the benefits of home-schooling, however, this article is very one-sided. While mentioning the negative aspects of public school, there is no talk of the positive. What about the social skills that home-schooled children will never experience due to seclusion?

Important life lessons are learned on the playground every day, and though some children certainly require more attention than others in the classroom, those who home-school ALL of their children are, in the lamest terms, keeping them away from the real world.

These children will then lack social interactions once they leave the home, furthering their educations in university and/or college. Overprotective parents are every bit as damaging to a young mind as those who neglect their children.

—Jerrod Edson | Mississauga, Ont.

I am a parent active in the learning of my children, who are in a small French-Catholic school in a predominantly English area.

I know a few home-schooling families, and my biggest concern about home-schooled children is how many go on to college or university? How successful are they in post-secondary? This was not addressed in this article.

I wonder too is home-schooling not a more viable option for those families whose father is a high-income earner. The parents I have met who are home-schooling have been mothers, it stands to reason they must be supported because home-schooling is a full-time job.

One parent reported to me that she had home-schooled her daughter due to the child's different learning style, but in the girl's adolescence she went into a high school and was placed a grade behind her age-group due to not being at the same level as those her age.

Schooling is a challenge, teachers are not perfect. In my experience with my children there has been more interaction between the school and the parents than when I went to school in the 70's.

—Francine Martel | Guelph, Ont.

School is often seen as good for 'socializing' children, whatever that means.

As a former public and private school teacher and librarian, I am not overly convinced that throwing children into a general mix when, often, they are not ready, or they are still finding out who they are as individuals. As another has commented, they are 'schooled' -- that's all. There are some excellent teachers who indeed 'draw out' children of all ages, but they are as rare as the excellent school (often without all the bells and whistles).

So, home schooling, for parents who are willing to make that immense, time-consuming, draining committment to bringing their children into a new world of true learning, is the option. Thank goodness it's legal. And blessings to those parents who are helping their children into real learning, without the bells and regimentation.

—Lynne McCarthy | Winnipeg

For several years, we have opted for provincial correspondence curriculum for our children. We were dissatisfied with the level of instruction in the local schools. The teachers were not providing proper classroom discipline or instruction that would allow our children access to post-secondary (university)education.

It seems that many new/young teachers themselves are not educated properly. We saw that the fundamentals of grammar were lacking in the language arts instruction, as well as many failings in mathematics instruction. As parents, we had been better instructed and were able to support the correspondence courses. These courses provided better material than those offered in the public schools to our children.

Attending private schools is not affordable for everyone. Home/correspondence schooling is not an easy programme. It requires parental support and determination from the student and family. As well, there needs to be some social contact for the student. We found ours through sports and music/band.

As an educator and parent, I am saddened that the public schools are not doing a better job of instruction. There seems to be more responsibility "given" to teachers from the parents. With so many parents working to keep up with their financial status, there is less support, discipline, and respect at home for the student and their education.

Thank you for writing about this topic. As the public schools get bogged down with more students who have less support at home, there may be more families taking on this task of home-schooling. It provides a good option, but it is not the answer for everyone.

—Gail Stephan | Fort Nelson, B.C.

This was such an excellent article. It was more than refreshing to read an article on home-learning that was thought out and accurate of myself and all the home learners that I know.

I just had to write to say thank-you to the author for doing this excellent article, and thank-you to CBC for printing it.

—Cristal | Kelowna, B.C.

As I prepare to begin my own journey into the world of home-schooling (my four year old will not be attending Pre-Kindergarten in the fall) I found Ms. Ekwa Ekoko's article validating my own reasons for choosing to home-school.

While home-schooling is becoming more recognized I still daily get family and friends approaching me with concerns and doubts about thadvisabilityty of my choice. I think only time will truly answer their questions and concerns.

Thank you for providing an article on home-schooling. Seeing it discussed in the media helps to make it less "foreign" to everyone.

—Stephanie Land | Sudbury, Ont.

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