Archives for category: Home Schooling

Jack Schneider is a historian of education. In this post, which he wrote at my request, he analyzes the new push for homeschooling. In the midst of the global pandemic, with millions of children quarantined at home, its not surprising that parents are compelled to be teachers. But how many parents will want to homeschool when real schools are one day available again?

Schneider writes:

Never let a good crisis go to waste. As any policy advocate knows, the destabilizing nature of an emergency creates a rare opportunity: sweeping change can happen quickly.

Both parties have a history of exploiting difficulties and disasters. During the Great Recession, for instance, the Obama administration pushed through a series of heavy-handed federal education reforms that might otherwise have met with stiff resistance. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the most ambitious education proposals have come from Republicans, because the shuttering of schools has played to their advantage.

With state revenues shrinking before our eyes and schools forced online, conservatives have seized the opportunity to push for a number of long-standing pet projects: virtual schooling, spending cuts, union-busting, and privatization. Unthinkable in ordinary times, these ideologically-motivated reforms suddenly seem plausible.
Consider the recent push for homeschooling. The right has long made the case that public education is a waste of taxpayer funds and an offense to individual liberty. “Government schools,” as many conservatives deridingly call them, strip parents of their freedom to educate their children as they please; worse, they do so at an annual cost of nearly a trillion dollars. Homeschooling, by contrast, is defined by limited government oversight and costs taxpayers virtually nothing.

Homeschooling is no great evil. It predates formal schooling and has existed alongside the public education system for roughly two centuries. It also constitutes a small fraction of overall school enrollments in the United States.

Yet it is important to understand current advocacy for homeschooling as what it is: crisis-related opportunism. Homeschooling hasn’t suddenly become better or more appealing than it ever was. Instead, market-oriented conservatives understand that this is the best shot they’ve ever had at dismantling public education (an aim that Jennifer Berkshire and I detail in our book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door). Homeschooling, for those like Betsy DeVos, is a means to that end.

A recent article in Education Next—a publication created by the conservative Hoover Institution—offers a perfect case in point. It may lead with the classic ideological argument—that homeschooling offers “the freedom to explore education as families see fit, with limited government oversight.” But the real aim of the piece is to persuade readers that our concerns about homeschooling are “overblown.” It’s a play for respectability—ammunition for the policy siege to come.

Yet the evidence on offer is hardly compelling. As we learn, homeschooled children go to museums and libraries somewhat more often than their public school counterparts—largely because they are not at school all day. They are slightly more likely to visit a zoo or aquarium. And they are 17 percentage points more likely to do arts and crafts projects. We are also told, as if we couldn’t have guessed, that homeschooled children are more likely to participate in family activities.

And that’s just about all.

There are some nods to the fact that homeschooling isn’t uniform—that families often band together, employ additional internet-based resources, and sometimes even participate in school-based activities. But on the whole, there is little evidence that homeschooling is a viable large-scale alternative to public education.

To his credit, the study’s author, Daniel Hamlin, doesn’t make that claim. But we need to imagine how such studies will be transformed as they careen across the internet, and as they are weaponized by ideologically-motivated legislators.

We must remember, too, that there is a cost to homeschooling. Most children who are homeschooled probably turn out just fine, though the truth is we don’t actually know—we don’t have the evidence. For many children, however, a shift away from school as we know it would be devastating. Their academic experiences would be more limited and their social experiences much narrower. They would lose out on nutrition and health services, miss opportunities to build interracial and cross-class friendships, and experience far more idiosyncratic forms of citizenship preparation. All of this, as we know from educational research, would most severely affect the least advantaged—those from historically marginalized racial groups and low-income families.

Despite the limited evidentiary base for homeschooling, and the serious concerns we should have, we can be sure that the push for widespread homeschooling will come. The present crisis is simply too good to waste. And given the nature of this emergency, the case for channeling funds directly to families—even if it is at the expense of public school budgets—is an easy one to make.

So, expect to see a sudden influx of research (and research-like products) that tells us to put our concerns aside, to embrace homeschooling for the time being, and to allow policy leaders to blaze a new trail. But read carefully, and remember that any changes implemented now may endure far into the future.

Rachel Cohen writes that the pandemic is encouraging many parents to consider home schooling and to pressure Congress to pay them to do it.

I disagree.

Before the pandemic, about 2 million children were home schooled, mostly by parents who were either evangelical Christians or who worried about the diverse culture of the public schools or bullying or low standards.

But parents who work don’t want to home school. Most parents prefer that their children learn from knowledgeable teachers alongside others and engage in the academic, social, and cultural activities at school.

The vast majority of parents are eager for school to resume so they can return to work.

Of course, the anti-public school lobby will take advantage of the pandemic to try to divert funding from public schools to private bank accounts.

The home school organizations have long been wary of federal aid for fear that it will open the door to federal accountability, which they don’t want.

Although the national media occasionally finds a brilliant child who was home schooled, there are few families that can muster the knowledge and experience that are provided by experienced teachers of English, history, science, mathematics, foreign languages, and other studies.

If home schoolers get federal funding, they should be tested to determine if they are adequately prepared. Their children should take the same tests as others in the state. Their homes should be inspected to ensure that they are safe spaces. Where public money goes, accountability should follow. And that’s why most home schoolers don’t want public money.

Our reader Laura Chapman explains what the phrase “the money follows the child” really means. It’s another way of saying that every child should have “a backpack full of cash” strapped on them, to be spent anywhere. Another way to see it is as a jackhammer to destroy our democratically-controlled system of public schools and turn children over to the tender mercies of the free market. The billionaires—the Waltons, Bloomberg, Koch, Gates, Broad, Hastings, Anschutz, Sinquefeld—love the free market. They think it’s best for everyone.

Chapman writes:

The new phrase for money-follows-the-child policies favored by those who want privatized education is this:

We have a “pluralistic system of education.” That phrase is already being used in promote subsidized choice, with everyone eligible for federal funds and expansion of state-level choice programs.

Pluralistic education means that the great American way to educate children will support–
homeschoolers,
free-lance education service providers,
charter schools,
private schools,
religious schools,
traditional public schools,
online instructional delivery,
pay-for-success ventures,
specialty programs for the talented and those in need of therapeutic support (whether in homes, commercial facilities, or brick and mortar schools).
and other possibilities.

In this pluralistic system, market forces and innovative forms of instruction flourish, unimpeded by regulation. Federal subsidies are “fair” when money follows the student.

Proponents claim that all of these flavors of education can and should be subsidized with public funds, eithe in proportion to their market share or their performance on the optional “normative pluralistic standards and curriculum.”

Examples of optional “normative pluralistic standards” are those present in current federal and state legislation, in national campaigns for standards and tests such as those launched to support the “Common Core State Standards,” and the proliferation of rating schemes such as those at GreatSchools.org, US News and World Reports, and EdWeek’s “Chance of Success” reports.

This Pluralism R-US meme is being promoted by EdChoice, the organization once known as the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation, also Jeb Bush and his Chiefs for Change organization, and scholars.

Key scholars are at the Walton funded University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform; Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes; the University of Washington Bothell’s Center on Reinventing Public Education; Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance; and Johns Hopkins School of Education Institute for Education Policy.

For a brief look at the rationale for this meme and the policy agenda see
“Pluralism in American School Systems,” https://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/PluralismBrief-Jan2018.pdf

For a look at other promotions, see this recent 74 Million.org call for the use of stimulus money for “all types of schools.”

Bradford: $13B in Stimulus Money for K-12 Schools Is a Good Start. But All Types of Schools Will Need More Help From the Feds in Order to Reopen


Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed me about my thoughts about what might happen after the nightmare pandemic that has changed our lives. Would more parents decide to homeschool their children? Would distance learning replace the school as we have known it? Would policy makers take a new view of standardized testing?

Here are my answers.

I have seen many home-made videos about the COVID-19 shutdown of large parts of society, but this one is the absolute best so far!

It’s a British family, Ben and Danielle Marsh and their four children, who live in Kent. They sing “One Day More” from “Les Miserables,” and they are hilarious!

I loved it!

Thanks to Bob Shepherd for supplying a link that works.

John Merrow rightly says that the new stay-at-home schooling is not homeschooling.

There are no bells, no crowd control, and very few real teachers.

It is home LEARNING, and there is a wealth of resources available to parents.

He offers many activities and links to resources.

A parent recently said on Twitter that the current situation cannot be compared to homeschooling, because those parents who exercise that option have access to museums, libraries, and other community activities that are mostly closed for the same reason schools are closed.

Please watch as this mother prays for relief from her new role as a homeschooling mom.

She laments:

“Ah, Lord, the spirit of Common Core has taken over my house…”

This video went viral after it appeared on Twitter.

A veteran school nurse offers advice to parents to help them while they are schooling their children at home.

A huge google Doc with parent resources from RelentlessSchoolNurse, link at bottom of page:

The Relentless School Nurse: Dear Parents, A Message From Your School Nurse

The Relentless School Nurse: COVID-19 Survival Guide for Parents and Kids Who Are Home

Related FB group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/445786889466638/?ref=share

Here is the bio of “The Relentless School Nurse.”

Published by Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN
Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association. She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor. She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include, 2019 National Association of School Nurses President’s Award, 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year, 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year, and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty. Follow Robin on Twitter at @RobinCogan.

This came from a friend in Illinois:

Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.