My op/eds are now blogged at the
Commentary section of Home Education Magazine.
Expanded child care
programs offer parents peace of mind
But we like Big
Brother, he's just a management tool
Why We All Aren't Homeschoolers
Letters to the Editor
Expanded child care programs offer parents peace of mind
I am usually on the side of 'mission,' even when
'mission' bugs the bejabbers out of me. For the most part (and
especially in times of emergency) 'mission' must be supported, and families
have been recognized as part of 'readiness' because if a servicemember has
family problems, he or she may not perform well in a critical
situation. To provide peace of mind to such servicemembers, the Air
Mobility Command has instituted Extended Duty Care, Returning Home Care and
Mildly Ill Care for children at certain Air Force bases.
I recognize a need for extended duty care. Single parents and dual-military
couples must either shirk duties and allow their single co-workers, or
co-workers married to a stay-at-home parent, to pick up the slack because
care for children is not available past normal duty hours. The
returning home care has me baffled because I don't know why the children
wouldn't be home when the parent is getting reacquainted. If the kids are in
daycare . . . That's a puzzler.
The one that irks my child-advocating soul is the Mildly Ill Care.
When kids are ill, even mildly, they don't want to go anywhere, especially
not all day. They want Mommy or Daddy to stay home with them, but this
seems to be interfering with the Air Force's best laid plans for Mommy or
Daddy to show up for work.
"While the EDC and RHC programs are heavily used, Ms. Doelger said the
use of MIFCC is not nearly as high as expected. Each base provider is
contracted for 600 hours per month, yet only 16 percent of the hours
contracted have been used among the bases.
“We’re trying to figure out what we need to do to let parents know this is
available,” said Ms. Doelger. The mildly ill providers will begin to spend
time at the child development and youth centers to meet parents and help
them to enroll in the program.
Another obstacle is that not all of the bases have found providers for
mildly ill care.
“The challenge is that [providers] cannot have any children of their own at
home under the age of eight,” said Ms. Doelger. “The ideal situation is to
have a provider who has children in school so that during the day she has no
children in her home except these children that are mildly ill.” She said
that she is working hard to find providers for the remaining bases and hopes
to find them before the new contract period in January."
Perhaps there's something the people who
invented the program don't get about 'mildly ill' children and family life,
the family life both of the care providers and the families of the ill
children, and why parents would choose to stay home rather than bundle up sick
kiddies for a car ride and an all-dayer.
I understand that 'mission' is important, that the job needs to be done and
that without the people to do the job, someone will suffer. In this case,
though, it seems that, on the institutional level, the children are the ones
expected to do the (mild) suffering.
Because demand for the program isn't very high, daycare providers are to hang out
at youth centers to drum up business? (and where are the kids they're normally
caring for while they're out hustling daycare?) Just how far does the concept
of the village-raised child go? It seems we are getting to the point where,
when a family arrives at a duty station that the expectation is that Parent #1
reports for duty, Parent #2 finds a job, the children are assigned to their
respective duty stations whether that is school, pre-school, or daycare. And
now a program has been developed where the children can't even get a pass to
stay home when they are ill. The reality of bedroom communities has been
extended to bedroom families: the only time the whole crew is together is when
It is far too politically incorrect to challenge the concept of single-parents
in the military and dual-military couples; General Elizabeth Hoisington lost
that battle in the 1970s and the socialistic tendencies of the military have
expanded. (I find this ironic, and it brings me no joy) Perhaps it is an
unreal recruiting goal to allow only unencumbered warrior-parents (those with
a dependable partner to care for the kids) to remain on active duty as it was
before the 1970s. Perhaps it is discrimination to disallow the service of
these otherwise well-qualified people, but military service is a privilege,
not a right, and other discriminators are in effect to bar military service
where, in civilian occupations, the discriminated-against condition is merely
a matter of a work-around. In today's military, though, deployability is all.
But this is without taking the feverish kiddies, and how they feel, into
consideration, and that's my main objection. The little ones didn't raise their
hands and swear an oath to support and defend, and on the days they're ill they
ought to be allowed to stand down from their readiness-support positions, and
stay home in their own beds with Mommy or Daddy bringing them cocoa or chicken
Playing the "Expert" card
Another article on homeschooling is CNN's
Survey: Home schooling up 29 percent Sounds positive, doesn't it?
Read the article first, especially the last three paragraphs, just after "Expert:
Anxiety probably fueling growth;" I believe the addition is called
In an article, 'both sides' of the subject are to be presented. It is
assumed, of course, that all subjects have at least two sides, one usually 'up'
and the other usually 'down.' Another assumption is that the person being
asked to render an opinion on the subject in question is qualified to offer that
opinion. In this case a person who helps direct an association of school
psychologists is presumed to be an expert on homeschooling. That is akin
to asking the the director of an infant-formula company to rate breastmilk.
In the CNN article parents are described as having "no formal training as
teachers." In response I wonder about all that hands-on time I had with
my children while they were growing from babies into children.
At a minimum of 12 hours per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for
five years, I racked up over 20,000 clock hours of one-on-one experience.
If divided by 180 clock hours per credit hour, this span of time equals
111 credit hours. Does that count, at least, as being an expert on my
own children? Teachers may have been trained in classroom management,
and how to use
teacher-proof materials, but I know my kids.
Concerning the "variety of subjects" that the expert wonders whether or not
I can "handle," why it assumed that as an adult I can manage the
intricacies of modern life, but yet I can't figure out how to pass
on the information that I was taught in school? I'm supposed to be
clever enough to figure out the differences in medical insurance plans (and
to be a savvy health-consumer), file income tax returns in compliance with the
IRS's rules, be able to safely merge into 70+ MPH traffic (or 140+ KPH
traffic on the Autobahn), negotiate a mortgage in buying a home, pick the
best candidate for office in elections from dog catcher to president, and
perhaps even be able to serve a soufflé before it falls, but yet Lewis and Clark, i-before-e-except-after-c,
A² + B² = C², iambic pentameter, and writing legibly are all beyond me?
Why, oh, why, do the experts insist that, as children, we need to work
towards and overtake all the milestones of The One Right Way in order to be
educated, but then, once we're adults and beyond educational compulsion, assume
we're too dim to pass it on to our own children -- or adjust to changes in the
information? Did we get it, or did we not? If we did get it, why
aren't we assumed to be able to pass it on? If we did not get it,
why should our kids have to be subjected to a long, ineffective process?
Was it the right way or not? If it wasn't the right way 'back then,' and
if the present way is still only a guess, why do I want more experts
experimenting again, this time on my kids? If these people are so enthused about
the process of educational experimentation, let them be like
and get their own kids.
At the risk of being presumed to be wearing a tinfoil hat, is all this an
overarching agenda to convince us we're all in need of government help from our
cradles to our graves? Or perhaps is Education yet another governmental jobs
program meant to work towards full employment? Or maybe there really are
people who enjoy making the population jump through hoops? Can someone please
explain the whole point, because the logic doesn't carry through.
Continuing with the article, the question is asked if homeschooled "students" (I assume
this is edu-speak for 'children') get the same materials they would have at
schools? (the seeming implication is that homeschoolers use inferior
materials) Now why would we want to do that? Has this psychologist
read any school materials? Has the article-writer? Do either of
them remember how 'riveting' textbooks are? Maybe they're getting reports of
schoolchildren staying up past their bedtimes reading textbooks under the covers with flashlights?
Sir, one reason to homeschool is to escape having to use school
materials. Many of us have no wish to duplicate the use of school materials, nor to
replicate the school experience.
Near the end of the article comes the statement (without the link I provide), "More
is needed to help resolve such questions about home schooling." I get
tired just reading things like that. I see tax-dollar signs. I see
committees. I see experts-with-the-ear-of-the-legislator, and people who
have adjusted to bureaucratic restraints, all assuming restraints are natural, while
those of us affected by their attentions have to take time out of our lives
(and away from our children) to clear the air. Parents have been
raising children successfully for millennia. As I recently explained
to my four-year-old grandson (who was questioning the natural order of
things, specifically why I got to tell him what to do, and not vice versa), the reason children are born into families with grownups
in charge is that
the grownups have been around longer, and know more than the children.
Those of us who haven't won Darwin Awards have figured out a thing or three,
and it is our job to pass on that knowledge to children. Humans raised
in such a way have adjusted to cultural change down through the ages, and 'progress'
has been made. So far, the parts of human society that have
changed from being hunter-gatherers have not slipped back to living in
stone-age conditions. There have been pockets of people in other times
and places who experienced close
calls, but humanity collectively recovered.
During all but the last century and half (roughly), people managed, without
federal research, without centralized planning, and without government
oversight, to get along and get ahead. Yes, we are still putting on
our collective pants one leg at a time, and Edenic paradise has not been
achieved. This will probably continue as long as the human race survives:
each new cultural or technological advancement becomes the new 'normal' and
Consequently, I think that American society, and others, can weather
homeschooling without a federal imprimatur as to its efficacy. The
question is, will the
But we like Big
Brother, he's just a management tool:
No, it's not the latest and greatest in schooling
for kids. It's the latest and greatest in
them. PowerSchool is an integrated system that is, ". . .reaching a
granularity that is unprecedented, with up-to-the-minute
information about a student's progress, tracked for reporting and
automatically streamlined with multiple data systems."
"The PowerSchool SIS 2004 SIF agent will provide
schools with the
appropriate tools for tight integration, through real-time data exchange, with
other administrative systems such as transportation, library, curriculum and
other SIF-compliant applications."
How soon before the kids have to swipe their cards
to enter and exit classrooms, lunchrooms, and libraries? Testing, too,
could be even more closely controlled by having the kids swipe their cards at
a computer terminal, and take tests whose scores are automatically
downloadable by anyone with access. It makes the end-of-year public
posting of the academic standing of each person in my high school senior class seem practically
friendly. Or maybe the kids can just wear an
RFID tag around their necks on
one of the ever-popular ID-card lanyards I've seen in all the places
where access is controlled. Dedicated surveillance for the
And for families who school their kids at
home, no need to feel left out.
"PowerSchool 2004 will also provide an automated process for tracking
attendance for students participating in
California Alternative Education
Programs. The new version will be able to track attendance by hour,
maximum numbers of hours per day/week, backfill hours to previous weeks,
support the notion of full time equivalents and much more to ensure
appropriate state funding is received for Alternative Education Programs by
accurately recording student program hours."
Thank goodness! The only question is,
will you have to install the RFID terminal in your front door, or will the
state pick up the tab?
Soon after I wrote the above an
east-coast online-email-list-friend wrote and commented, "You seem surprised by all
this." She works in a public school system and her specialty is
testing and working with talented-and-gifted children. The school uses PowerSchool. A
summary of her comments is:
~~ easily tracked because teachers email attendance to the
~~ schedules are tracked because it is known where children are
at any time
~~ child's average known to anyone with a password into the
~~ child's purchases could be tracked by PowerSchool
~~ laptops issued to children were wirelessly networked so that
teachers could log on to any student's computer and look at that child's
~~ all the information could be downloaded and archived
creating a virtual portfolio; it is not inconceivable that the system could
be programmed to look for selected activities, a personal
HAL for each
child? Or, as another list-member asked, the "paperclip helper on steroids?"
~~ the state my friend lives in originally planned for the
laptops to be distributed to all junior-high-age-children in the state,
including privately-schooled students and homeschooled children
All this can be useful. Teachers can save time figuring up grades (a
big benefit for them). Or, as my friend notes, when a parent comes to pick
up a child early only one class has to be disturbed because it is known
where each child is.
Parents-with-passwords could also check on the whereabouts of their
children without leaving work.
As is usual with new technology, we implement it before we have any idea of
the effect it will have. Today most of us are comfortable with the
concept of mandatory mass-schooling where children arrive, are sorted, and
are instructed with the information driven by the
largest markets. Because of this, we who choose homeschooling feel
compelled to justify our choice despite continual examples of the
mass-schooling-model malfunctioning. Would George Washington's mother
have felt a need to justify why George was home? Similarly
developments as diverse as electricity, internal combustion engines,
highways, television (that wonderful target for many social ills),
computers, the internet became a part of our Perfectly Normal World. I
made a joke (above) about RFID scanners being used to track kids.
Serendipity struck again:
Florida Hand Scanners .
Homeschooled children have (so far) been
spared the technological Sorting Hat experience of the public-school model.
But, by returning to the public-school system, even from the safety of their
homes, families are supporting the growth of 'accounting technologies' and
lending their approval to the process, and the technological creep of
top-down control. Cultural 'toothpaste' cannot be (easily) smushed
back into the tube, but that doesn't mean we have to roll in it.
Why We All Aren't Homeschoolers
Down through the years (and the discussion
concerning public-schooling-at-home has had birthdays) the concept has been
brought up more than once that 'everyone' homeschools because the grand
majority of us attended to our children so that they learned how to speak, to
walk, to feed themselves and so on. Because all of us 'homeschool,' some people feel that
all parents homeschool regardless of where their children receive their
educations. It sure sounds good, doesn't it? The
trouble is, we're not all homeschoolers. We do all, indeed, learn
continuously. If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to adjust to changing
circumstances. But, if everyone 'homeschools' then the word means nothing
because it is only by having other situations with which to contrast
situations, phenomena, or existences, that the thing being described can
Without death there is no life.
Without up, there is no down.
Without hot, there is no cold.
So, it follows that, if 'everyone homeschools,' then no one does.
Compounding the problem, the word 'homeschooling' has no pat definition, despite what
"Instruct a pupil?" Where does this leave some
unschoolers, especially the radical ones?
" . . . an educational program?" What about those who
use no specific educational
". . . outside of established schools?" Given the
development of virtual instruction via
computer, what is "outside?"
It is this lack of definiteness that may be the source of much of the
controversy surrounding online-charter-school discussions, and the
We Stand For Homeschooling resolution.
It may help to compare the situation to
another ubiquitous activity amongst humans: cooking; specifically
What is 'home-cooking?' Is it cooking
done outside of commercial kitchens, especially in the home?
If so, is it 'home-cooking' if the cook prepares a boxed mix?
Is it 'home-cooking' if the cook heats a frozen meal in the
Is it 'home-cooking' if the cook re-heats leftovers from a
restaurant but adds some
cheese, or parsley, or chopped chives?
Is it 'home-cooking' if the meal preparation follows a
dietary plan devised by a
dietician, using pre-packaged foods consumed on a recommended
schedule, but is
eaten at the dining room table?
The meals may be what one is accustomed to
eat at home, they may be filling, they may be nutritious, but no, these
foods are not 'home-cooking.' To me, 'home-cooking'
is the assembling of the needed ingredients, the combining of them (either
by hand or mechanically -- depending on the level of your sensitivity to
purity of method), putting them into a utensil, and supervising the
finishing method (heating, cooling, or keeping little fingers out of the
bowl). I even see a difference between bread that I hand-knead and
bread that I throw together in the bread machine.
All of the above methods allow people to provide food for legitimate
eating -- but not all of the ways are 'home-cooking.'
So it is with homeschooling. There is
an educational continuum from pure autodidacticism and radical unschooling,
through to instruction in a military academy*. All the 'educational
forms' result in learning something, just as the 'cooking forms' provide
materials for eating something. But they are not all identical and
cannot shelter under the same words.
* For civilian-readers, 'military
academies' have nothing whatsoever to do with 'the military,' the Department
of Defense, or the Pentagon. 'Military academies' (other than the
United State Military Academy, aka, West Point) are private schools run in a
military fashion by people who are civilians (but may have been
servicemembers at some point in their lives). The actual
schools run by 'the military' through the Department of Defense Educational
teach no military 'subjects,' the children do not wear military uniforms,
and no one marches anywhere unless it is to go down the hall 'in line.'
Letters to the
1 October 2004
In reply to:
Smart start in preschool Sep. 30, 2004
The Smartest Start for future workers and taxpayers, today’s children, is not
state-sponsored preschool, but strengthening families. Expanding children’s
time in the school system will not increase their economic worth, which seems
to be one thrust of the universal preschool movement.
Research shows that disadvantaged children gain competence in an improved
environment, but, when the enrichment is removed, the gains fade. Advantaged
children, already at the norm, proceed as usual in a rich environment. Unless
a stimulating environment envelopes a child and continues, as with advantaged
children, early-enhancement competency gains decline.
Sustainable, enveloping enrichment of families in poorer neighborhoods could
be: self-help centers, local ‘discovery’ parks with residents hired as
caretakers, local library branches, and grandparent-babysitting-subsidies to
allow parents who need to work to continue to do so.
If wealth must be redistributed, give it to the people in need, not to
the Achievement Gap: Head Start and Beyond
Benefits of Preschool Don't Last