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Home School

Responding to a post at Pastor Jeff's I realized I had something to say on the subject of home schooling, and on the recent California decision to attack home schoolers.

First, as regular readers will have discerned by careful observation of subtle cues, I'm not a religious fanatic. In fact, I may represent the antipode of religious fanaticism, the farthest point away from true believerhood.

Second, and connected with the above, I am not a stern enforcer of 1950's era morality. (I got my kids interested in learning Italian by teaching them to say, "merda." (You should hear my daughter roll that "r.") Now they want to know more and more. "How do I say, 'you eat merda?'" "How do I say, 'you are a merda head?'"

Third, I don't have any particular hard-on against the teacher's union. I'm not crazy about teachers as a species, because when I was in school I was a maladjusted, defiant, arrogant young prick. (That of course has changed: I'm no longer young.)

Finally, while I am a tiresome pedant, I'm pedantic in areas of no use to small children: politics, TV comedy, the sins of airlines, the pleasures of hard liquour and cigars, the general decline of service in restaurants and retail, the inferiority of New York hotels (I'm sitting in one) as compared with Chicago hotels, the criminal over-use of goat cheese throughout the late 90's . . .

In any case, when pundits talk about the home school voting bloc, they aren't thinking about me or my wife. And yet.

Our daughter spent the first 3 plus years of her life in the rather less-than-enriching environment of a Chinese orphanage. In addition to that, she's dyslexic, like a lot of left-handers. Until last June she attended a very good private school. Really, a very good school. Very committed teachers.

They held her back for a year in kindergarten. But still she had not caught up. She was noticeably -- noticeable to her in particular -- behind kids who were a year, sometimes two years younger. She was coping by becoming a tough girl. We didn't like that path.

Her school is in session 180 days a year. On a very good day her teachers could give her half-an-hour of one-on-one teaching, in addition to the usual song singing, lining up, lunching, recessing, (she liked that part,) playing with blocks, and group lessons -- where she sat largely clueless.

Homeschool is in session approximately 300 days a year. We work with her about an hour a day, mostly on reading, some math, some miscellaneous (telling time, understanding money.) That means in homeschool she gets 300 hours a year of one-on-one teaching. Versus 90 hours in what was, again, a very good private school. 300 versus 90.

In the six months we've been homeschooling she's moved ahead by more than a year. In fact, while she's not up to her age level -- she'd been held back a year, remember -- we think she's about caught up with her grade level.

She used to say, "reading is my enemy." Funny, but depressing. She doesn't say that anymore. She's still quite the little tough girl, but the edge is blunted. She doesn't resist home school. She likes it. She knows the difference between a lower case "b" and a lower case "d."

There's a long way still to go. She will have to learn to be a grind if she's going to do college. And she'll probably go back to school, if not next year, then the year after. But when she does she'll be at grade level, not falling further and further behind.

Most people can't home school their kids. We can. And the advantages are obvious. Show me the school, public or private, that can manage 300 hours a year of one-on-one instruction geared for the specific needs of a student. I know there are a lot of potential minuses as well. I know that many people who home school aren't doing it so their dyslexic kids can play catch-up. Some are doing it because they think the Antichrist writes the Weekly Reader. But you shouldn't build all public policy around worst-case scenarios. And in the end, she's not her teacher's daughter, she's ours.

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“Home School”

  1. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    In your case, society can be quite confident that your daughter is getting a strong education. But school is also about social skills. What sorts of things do you do to help give her social opportunities -- you've mentioned she's kind of a jock, so is she involved in sports?

  2. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    I find this helpful.

  3. Anonymous bookfraud Says:

    i can't see ever home schooling my child, but thanks for giving the non-religious-fanatic angle to this. good luck with your daughter; she sounds like she's doing well.

    for me, i would worry about social interaction -- or learning how to sit in a desk for 8 hours a day trying to pay attention, which is great training for the workplace.

    i really wonder why the courts are involved in this one.

  4. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    Jeez. I assumed that Michael would make social opportunities available; I was just inquiring as to what they were. Didn't mean to imply anything negative.

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Well, with my well-known social skills you can be sure . . . . Okay, actually this is our big worry. She's getting gymnastics, soccer team and art classes, but her social life is about non-existent. But the problem was, falling behind academically was destroying her social network anyway. It's tough when your friends can read and you can't.