Welcome Change

If this happens as a result of the Chinkvirus lockdown, at  least ONE good thing will have come out of it:

A new poll was released by RealClear Opinion Research the other day, indicating that the complaints we’ve been hearing about online schooling may not be as prevalent as we thought. When asked if they were “more or less likely to enroll your son or daughter in a homeschool, neighborhood homeschool co-op, or virtual school once the lockdowns are over,” 41 percent of parents said they were more likely. Only 31 percent were less likely to do so. That is an amazing increase in positivity, especially considering that only three percent of the population was homeschooled before the lockdown.
But there are some more surprising numbers from that poll. Homeschooling, it seems, is not something that more whites want to do to flex their privilege muscle. Only 36 percent of white parents said they were more likely to homeschool. For Hispanic parents that number was 38 percent, while Black and Asian parents were at 50 and 54 percent respectively.
Another jaw-dropping fact is that this trend is not partisan. Forty-six percent of Democrats said they are more likely to homeschool, while 42 percent of Republicans said the same.

Why?

The survey doesn’t make a lot of sense based on what we’re hearing in the media about how hard online education is, how children aren’t learning anything, and how parents are maxed out.
A few theories come to mind.
One is that parents have tried homeschooling. Some – not all, but some – see that even in such an uncertain time of cobbled together education, they can do it. If it can be done at a time like this, imagine how effective they could be with more preparation and a curriculum designed for true homeschooling, not one adapted from institutional schooling at the eleventh hour.
But there’s another possibility. Could parents have realized just how much time their children waste in traditional school? Another poll, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, asked parents how much time their children spend on average each day on their school work. The most common answer was a mere three hours (see chart). This is less than half of the 6.28 hours the average student in Minnesota spends in each day of public schooling. It’s easy to see how parents could start to scratch their heads and imagine how much more their child could learn if not bound by the constraints which come from waiting for the whole class to move along.

The instruction topic which strikes fear into the hearts of prospective homeschoolers is mathematics, and it shouldn’t.

Here’s a stone-cold fact:  do you know how long it takes for a child of moderate intelligence to learn high-school math, up to college-level algebra?  One year.

One year’s instruction, properly taught to a child who is prepared to learn it, or is motivated to learn it.

And if all other learning is delayed while the math is being taught, that year falls to four months.

Here are the caveats.

Learning occurs under two (and only two) sets of circumstances:  love, and fear.  (Love of the topic, and fear of the consequences of not learning it.)  Absent those circumstances, no learning will take place and you’d have about the same success in teaching your dog calculus.

So if you’re not sure of your own ability in math, hire a tutor for Junior and Girl-child.

The only other thing you need to teach your kids before they leave home is literacy:  how to read, and how to write.  They are the easiest things in the world to teach, as long as you yourself are even slightly literate.  (If not, see “tutor” above.)  Literacy is not only the sine qua non  of a successful life, but illiteracy spells absolute doom in a civilized society.

The secret of all children is simple:  they have an innate desire to learn about the world about them.  They are, quite simply, sponges and the learning not only occurs naturally, it accelerates as they get older.  The only reasons it won’t accelerate are distraction (videogames etc.), and boredom (e.g. a high-school classroom).

That said, there is one small problem that we as a society are unwilling to admit:  some children — and adults, actually — are incapable of learning.  Quite simply, their learning takes place up to a point, and then stops completely, usually at about sixth-grade level.  And here’s the inescapable fact related to this problem:  these people are not suited for college — they are not even suited for a proper high school, for that matter — and their futures depend on fostering other skills.  (TV Chef Jamie Oliver is an example:  he’s severely dyslexic, even today, so he made a career in a field in which reading was not critical.  His example is but one of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions.)

The only other prerequisite for education is quite simple:  discipline.  It’s the discipline of knowing that some things must be learned (e.g. simple multiplication- or division tables, or the alphabet), and that there are consequences for not learning them.  The joy of homeschooling, by the way, is being in charge of deciding what  those things are, for each child (because each will be different), and what the consequences of failure are.

And I would suggest that such discipline is created far more easily at home — as it has been for literally centuries — than at a public education facility.  Furthermore (and this is the difficult bit), the discipline has to start with the teacher (i.e. the parents).

We all know that children require structure in their lives — it’s such a truism I’m not even going to bother to defend it — so any homeschooling requires planning, and a great deal of it.  Educators need to establish clear goals for their children, but that doesn’t mean timetables.  If you plan on your kids being able to read and understand Silas Marner , Lord Of The Flies  or Catch-22  by age sixteen, for example, know up front that they may accomplish that before that time, or after.  It doesn’t matter.  (Educational goals are like a budget:  they’re an advisory plan, not a rigid timetable.)

All the evidence is there:  as a group, homeschooled kids are better prepared for college, have lower dropout rates and achieve higher grades than their state-educated peers.  It’s not even close.

If, however, you’re too lazy or too fearful or too busy or feel too inadequate to do this for your children, by all means send them back to public school, where their futures will be decided by government-decided regulation and curricula, and shaped by indifferent civil servants who owe their tenure more to union influence than their own abilities.

As Professor Glenn Reynolds has put it (and I paraphrase):  sending your children to public schools could quite justifiably be termed child abuse.


The caveats:  not all teachers are uncaring drones, not all public schools are more akin to prisons than education establishments, not all student populations are feral jungles, and not all government regulations and curricula are absolute shit.
As any bookie will tell you, however, that’s not the way to bet.

14 comments

  1. The racial detail doesn’t surprise me at all. There is no group that the public schools has failed more than blacks. A lot of the energy in the charter school movement also comes from blacks. 27% of charter school students are black which is about triple the number of blacks in the population.

  2. Our two oldest learned to read before we really knew they could. Once we realized they had learned from us sitting and reading with them, teaching them consisted of explaining that letters represented the different sounds people used to talk and the spelling of word gave you its pronunciation. After that a few weeks practice with writing and emphasising the importance of writing and they were off. It helped that they were told that books contained all the info humans had so reading opened all that to them.
    The younger two we taught at the same time as the older. They all read fast and well. Drove teachers crazy.

  3. Black and Asian parents were at 50 and 54 percent respectively.

    I think that they are both seeing the opposite sides of the same coin. The Asian parents are realizing how much their children are being held back by the dumb-dumbs in the class who can’t keep up. The black parents are realizing how much their children are being held back by the dumb-dumbs teaching the class.

    Both are turning to Kahn Academy instead.

  4. One of your very best essays, ever.
    Now if only we can return to the notion that home schooling is proper and normal, and not just some kooky affectation. We really need some kind of an academic Elon Musk.
    .

  5. I grew up in church and learned to read from the Bible before I ever started school. To me school was incarceration. I cannot tell you one thing I learned in school that I wouldn’t have learned on my own. The other reason the .edu is panicking is that they’re losing a chance to politically indoctrinate another generation. Never mind the fact that public schools are state subsidized daycare for many parents

    1. indoctrination….
      That touches why I wanted to respond to this, and why the positives in this poll are on the uptick:
      Because of the forced home-schooling resulting from the lock-down, many parents have been forced to realize what crap the schools have been shoveling into the minds of their children, and won’t stand for it any longer. And that the only way to prevent it in the future is to keep those kids at home, learning things that truly matter, and having them read something other than Howard Zinn’s fantasies.

  6. My sister-in-law homeschooled her four children, as she and my brother were living in an isolated region of northeastern Wyoming whilst he was employed with the Department of the Interior as a mine reclamation inspector. Closest school was 100-mile round trip daily. She is deaf, but all the kids know ASL. She eventually got a cochlear implant, but not until the youngest was in her last year of high school.
    All four kids were in a home school co-op of about 16-20 kids, many mixing in and out over the years. My SIL and brother both have 2-year, junior college tech degrees. Some of the other parents had college degrees, but most did not.
    All four kids are bright, engaging and essentially fearless. In addition to the 3 R’s, they were all taught bushcraft, animal husbandry, basic geology, agriculture and independent living skills including the value of work and ethical behavior. The oldest finished high school at 15 and wanted to go to VMI, but had to wait until he turned 17. So he took a year off, moved to Hawaii and worked in a bird sanctuary. In his spare time, he learned how to fly sailplanes. Graduated from VMI in top 2% of his class, is former Army Captain in the Intelligence Branch and now works for an US intelligence agency overseas.
    Middle two boys are twins and also finished high school at 15. They both are graduates of the University of Iowa’s Physician Assistant program and are working in remote healthcare. One on offshore oil rigs, the other in the Marshall Islands.
    My niece, the youngest, is a graduate of The School of the Ozarks, and Tufts University and is a breeding geneticist for an international equine breed preservation organization.
    Anecdotal, to be sure, but all the key elements you mentioned in your short essay were present: love, discipline and the absence of time-wasting distractions.
    My path was slightly different, as I was, from grades 1-12, educated by The Jesuits (fear, discipline and hard work in lieu of time-wasting distractions) and from age 17-55, by the United States Navy.

    My two stepsons are trudging through college at a leisurely pace, having never been challenged in school, never joined a club or a sports team, having no hobbies outside of video games. They’ve both changed majors at least 3 times and each time they drop back a year in time and an order of magnitude in the level of effort required to get the degree. B- students in high school, C- students in college.

    The Harvard apparatchik wants sheeple that are willing to believe that only elites like her can protect them from the wolves.

  7. Kim, as usual, I learn something from your posting, and you reveal the shortcomings in my own education 40+ years ago. In this case, it’s “sine qua non.”

    Your stats about how long it takes to learn mathematics strike a cord with me. Meine Frau und ich bought a home in northeast Albuquerque believing naively the schools would be better in this part of town. Our son and daughter both had the same grossly incompetent but highly awarded eighth grade math teacher. Eighth grade math is a watershed year in developing mathematical abilities — you learn how to do word problems, i.e., how to take a problem, set up equations, and solve them. I tried and failed to get them moved to another math teacher because the administration stonewalled me every step of the way. I later learned the teachers union rules Albuquerque Public Schools. My son was flunking out in his high school freshman year (boredom, and teachers who teach only to the girls), and I got him moved to a charter school which saved his education (praise G-d!). On the other hand, my daughter finished through the public schools and received her diploma, but she never recovered from that eighth grade math teacher and should not have received her diploma on time. Crank the kids through; give ’em a piece of paper. Yeah, right.

    The other thing in your post that resonates strongly with me is “love, and fear.” Love and fear describe Judaism’s and Christianity’s relationship with G-d: We love G-d at the same time we fear Him. When my wife and I prepared to have children, it occurred to me that my job is to model G-d for our children, and what a heavy but wonderful burden that is.

    Keep up the writing, Kim. You bless us all.

    Desert Rat, AKA Old Timer in Albuquerque

  8. Hmmmmm……does this signal the rise of a new “work-from-home” profession of “individual tutor”??? Given the ubiquity and usefulness of Zoom….

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