Home School Mother Appointed to Office of Private Education
At the U.S. Department of Education’s National Private School Leadership Meeting on February 13, 1992, Michelle Easton, Executive Assistant in the Office of Private Education, introduced her new staff.
An exciting development in the staffing of Mrs. Easton’s office is the appointment of Patricia Williams, a part-time attorney in the Department’s Office for Civil Rights. “On loan” to the Department of Education, Mrs. Williams has been assigned to concentrate her work in the Office for Private Education on home-schooling issues. Patricia Williams and her husband home school their sons, ages 10 and 7.
One of Mrs. Williams’ first assignments is preparation of an aggressive contact between the U.S. Department of Education and the Pentagon about the matter of home school graduates experiencing discrimination in military enlistment.
Mother Chooses Home Education to Protect Children from Violent Schools
Ann Landers published a letter on January 22, 1992, from “No Longer Afraid in Toronto,” a mother who decided to teach her children at home after they were “beaten up and robbed so many times they were afraid to leave the house.” Her progress report is typical: the children were happier, felt secure, and learned much.
The sad thing is that city officials managed to intimidate this mother with erroneous information that she was not allowed to keep her children out of school. She ended up leaving the country to find safety for her children. Ann Landers is petitioning school principals across our country to do something about the guns in schools.
Psychological Corporation Invites Participation in Test Review
While taking annual standardized achievement tests, many home-educated students have experienced the inadvertent bias which results from questions presupposing that the traditional classroom experience is universal to all children. It is especially easy for a young child to be confused when asked to mark the building where children learn to read and write when a home is not pictured. Questions oriented to fire drills, school chorus, recess, and school bus safety are only a few examples of similar quandaries.
These and other complaints about accuracy of test answer options and inferential questions where Biblical convictions cut across the student’s ability to select the “correct” answer prompted the National Center to ask if we could be involved in the screening process for new test items.
A January 20, 1992, letter from Dr. Barrie Wellens, Director of Educational Measurement at the Psychological Corporation, indicated that “We’ll try to involve you wherever we can in our test development in order to make sure we’re doing the right things for your students. Thanks again for your concern.”
Are Social Security Numbers Required for 4-H?
The National Center has received some reports that home school parents in the New England states were required to provide social security numbers for each child they were registering to participate in 4-H club activities. We called the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ask if this was a requirement mandated by them or if the requirement was generated locally. We also wanted to know if children would be allowed to participate if they did not have a social security number or if their parents declined to share that information.
The response we received indicated that requiring social security numbers was not a national policy. The person with whom we spoke was intensely interested in knowing where the local groups had gotten their directive to require this form of identification. Thus, if you run into a request for giving your children’s social security numbers to 4-H leaders, please ask them from whence this directive comes. Any information you can obtain will be helpful to the National Center in our ongoing discussions with the Department of Agriculture.
Montana School District Offers Reimbursement to Home Schoolers
School District 6 will reimburse a home school family for a portion of their costs of enrollment in the Calvert Correspondence Course, according to the Hungry Horse News of Columbia Falls. Monies are to be appropriated from the transportation fund, and the actual payment will be made after the children demonstrate successful completion of their work.
Michael Farris Discusses “Education Reform” with National Leaders
Attorney Michael Farris, president and founder of HSLDA, was able to offer several comments in the National Private School Leadership briefing on February 13, 1992, to enlighten attendees about the mindset and heartbeat of home schoolers. At one point it was suggested that if public schools were significantly improved through the medium of parental choice, home schoolers would be more likely to enroll their children. Mr. Farris countered that statement and explained very clearly that many parents opt for home education as a conviction that the presence of better public schools would not alter.
Mr. Farris also made it clear that if America 2000 strategies continue to draw upon members of the education establishment to bring about change, reform will never happen. Bureaucrats will continue to bring more of the same, and it appears from several appointments that highly regarded, “established” educators are the ones being named to key positions. The account of how Mike’s father, a veteran public school principal for many years, often shared that he could run a profit-making school with extensive updated resources if bureaucracy were trimmed to workable proportions met with much affirmation from private school leaders.
In a lunch meeting subsequent to the briefing, Mr. Farris was able to encourage the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education to continue inviting representatives of all branches of home schooling to their meetings. He emphasized that home schoolers are unique individuals, who are not necessarily represented by one or two key organizations.
Maryland Tries to Mandate Parental Involvement in Schools
It seems like a Parents as Teachers program, but it isn’t one. The Maryland Senate pre-filed legislative proposal No. 41 on January 8, 1992, “for the purpose of establishing within the State Department of Education an action plan for promoting and increasing the involvement of parents in their children’s schools.” The proposal calls for the State Department of Education to teach parents how to increase the academic performance of their children and how to participate effectively in their children’s education. Parents could be required to spend “a specific minimum amount of time each week involved in educational activities with their children.”
It remains to be seen what vehicle the Department will suggest to accomplish training and follow through for such a program. Will it be visits? Anecdotal records? School interviews? As states scramble to get on the America 2000 reform list, this type of legislative activity could become more and more common. Fortunately, this Maryland proposal met with an “unfavorable” report on February 3, 1992.
Florida Public School Reaps Benefit of Core-Content Curriculum for Students
Becoming the first school in the nation to adopt E.D. Hirsch’s “core knowledge” curriculum for elementary students, Three Oaks Elementary School in Fort Myers, Florida is learning some fascinating things about education reform. Initial results seem to indicate that children are really motivated by a curriculum that has in-depth content. Attendance rates have improved dramatically, and classroom disruptions have decreased.
One fifth-grade boy describes the results this way: “In this school I would know something and it sticks to my mind. In my other schools I would learn something and it would leave.” Three Oaks is learning something home-educating families have known all along, and it’s having a dramatic effect!
Most Home Schoolers Would Fail to Qualify as “Traditional Families” in Statistical Research
That statistics can be made to prove anything is a well-known fact in both research and media circles. Numbers pointing to the collapse of the American family in U.S. society are not new, but many of these numbers are used to produce skewed messages which favor a liberal agenda. Coupled with pressures to be “politically correct,” these messages create much distortion and inevitable confusion about what should and should not be acceptable.
An article from the October 1, 1991, issue of Charles Colson’s Breakpoint illustrates this scenario in a thought-provoking manner as it explains the rationale for the research conclusion that “only 1 in 10 American families is traditional anymore.”
When interpreting statistical tables or survey results, it is crucial to understand the definitions of all categories cited.
Family Research Council provides the narrow definition used in the survey that yielded the above conclusion: a traditional family is “one where Dad works, Mom’s a housewife, and they have two—just two—children at home.”
That definition effectively excludes young married couples who have not yet begun their families or have only one child, older couples whose children have left the home, or families who have more than two children—to say nothing of families where mother might work in a family business part time or participate in seasonal opportunities to generate income.
The ironic thing is that if your family does not meet the precise definition used in the survey, it is now branded “non-traditional” and “lumped in the same category as homosexual couples, unmarried partners, and communes.”
Mr. Colson&rsqo;s article examines some of the motivation for such reports, and none of the information is pleasant for those of us who support traditional values. But we must be wise in learning how to respond to information like research statistics when they are shared. Our first question should ask that the definitions of the categories be made plain. This information will “frame the debate” by making the numbers tell the truth. When we quote statistics, we must make sure to include a concise and accurate definition of the categories represented so that we are never guilty of perpetuating someone’s myth or potential manipulation.
Research Confirms Family Commitment as Necessary for School Success
The February 1992 issue of Scientific American featured an analysis of “Indochinese Refugee Families and Academic Achievement.” The piece described detailed studies which verify the desirability of the work home schoolers across this nation have chosen to do.
The question before the researchers was essentially, “Why do the children of Southeast Asian boat people excel in the American school system—when so many American children are failing?” The factors highlighted in the research point to a serious social crisis in the United States rather than an academic crisis. Because the populace is requiring schools to respond to the social crisis, education is being placed on the back burner.
However, studies of immigrant homes revealed that strong parental commitment to transmit cultural security and values, to inculcate a positive work ethic, to reinforce the necessity of personal responsibility in success or failure, and to downplay the materialism/entertainment focus of the American way of life, produces students who excel in their school work. Since these are the lessons home-educating parents are committed to teaching their children, the logical conclusion is that most of the concerns expressed by the education establishment about the quality of preparation home-educated students experience are unfounded.