Monday, February 27, 2012

Home Schooling: You Decide

Homeschooling: Why and How

Author: Gail Nagasako

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

There are many schools of thought regarding homeschooling your child or children. Some feel that in order for children to receive a well-rounded and better education they need to have more structure and guidance that can only be provided by a parent equipped with the right resources and curriculum at home. Others feel that children need to be able to socialize and interact with their peers and learn handle the stress and everyday life of Public Education. This reviewer is going to base her thoughts, comments and views strictly on what the author has written, the validity of the research and the information presented in this book. Explaining at length how to create a program aimed at and geared to the specific educational needs of your child is what the author imparts in this book.

Before determining whether to begin homeschooling your child you as a parent need to determine and decide if this is right for your child and your family. Researching the materials needed and resources as well as being able to teach and develop a curriculum geared to your child’s educational needs are paramount. Plus, there are legal requirements that must be adhered too. State compliance, textbooks, curriculum needs and preparing for standardized tests that are required take a real commitment on your part.

I need to begin by saying that I taught for over 30 years in the NYC Public Schools in the same school as a reading and writing staff developer and a specialist working with children with learning problems. Working in small groups and even in a classroom I learned and did adapt my program and the curriculum to meet the needs of every student in my class and in the reading program. I even arrived 2 hours early on most days to work with students in need of more instruction. That being said I can understand to a degree the author’s concerns related to the Public Schools but not every classroom or school is the same. Socialization has become a serious issue as some children often follow in the wrong footsteps learning to fit into the mold of the more popular kids in the school even if they are difficult or behavior problems. Homeschooling as the author states helps to remove this problem and create a more positive path for their children to follow. Funding is another issue wherever you go and teachers have to deal with larger class sizes and some with too many students of diversified backgrounds. But, they should be trained and prepared to handle these differences before stepping inside a classroom. Many obstacles have to be overcome and the author’s purpose in speaking out and writing about homeschooling is not to sell you on the program but to give the reader an informed understanding and viable alternative to public education. The author does not state that you should remove your child from the public or private school setting but learning about homeschooling will provide another way to give your child a more positive experience. Home-based education is the accurate term. As a home-school consultant working with parents whose children are having problems in school she tries to instill confidence and relieve them of the stress they are experiencing.

Beginning with a brief questionnaire the author asks the reader to answer five simple questions before going any further into the book.
1.    At least five things you are good at doing?
2.    At least five things you love doing?
3.    At least three things you are not good at doing?
4.    At least three things you do not like to do?
5.    Where and from whom you learned each thing?

Next she relates how she hopes this book will help inform the reader. Questions asked of each parent before beginning relate to socialization, academics and instruction. The first topic discussed in Chapter One is Why Home School and the basics. Beginning with Traditional Schools: What, Why and How Schools teach begins this chapter. The author begins by stating that most schools follow a government-mandated curriculum geared to preparing students to pass standardized tests. Stating children are instructed in the same things at the same age except for the gifted and talented. It seems that the schools as I read it formulate a prescription that each child must follow or a prescription filled for all students at each different level leaning no room for individualization or gearing to specific needs. Also stating the difficulties providing an educational program geared to working with children with diverse families and backgrounds seems to be one reason why she advocates for home schooling. She continues to state that students attending private schools are only there because they presented problems in the public schools. This point I have to disagree with as my brother went to private school and so did my niece and they were definitely not discipline problems. Their parents wanted them to receive a well-rounded academic education as well as a religious one. There are many private schools in the area where I live now and where I lived before where parents want their children to receive more than just a secular education. I do know from first hand experience that in many private schools if a students presents a problem that are not going to be able to continue. On page 4 the author relates to the parent many basic questions they need to ask themselves when deciding about the pros and cons of public education related to many areas.

Socialization is the next area-discussed beginning with the ways children learns to interact with others in a wide range of settings. Home- schooled children are exposed to adults who model the right way to behave and are there to answer their questions on the spot. In a public school environment the author feels that children will learn the same things in an adverse environment that might carry over to other areas and at home. There are some or many children that find it difficult dealing with bullies, hard to handle students and would benefit from a safer and more nurturing environment but you can only protect kids so much and then when going to work as an adult or even in college they will encounter different types of people and have to learn how to handle difficult situations.

Academics are the next area presented. Explaining the rationale behind when children should be taught, when it is tool early and why schools do not provide the right programs and discipline as well as the successes of alternative schools plus the positives of learning at home. Describing her own experiences in the public schools and how son’s successes ads credibility to what she is saying. She also includes the research of many child developers and testimonials of parents and teachers that have been a part of a home school program. Living where she does have its advantages making it easier to do a wider ranger of activities not only indoors but outdoors too. Children that are traditionally and home-schooled participated in the program that she set up giving everyone a chance to judge it for themselves. Hearing her son Thumper discuss his experiences and telling about how he felt going to public school for the first time at age 13 is interesting and telling. You hear parents relate their success in their own words. Not all of the children were home school throughout their entire educational experience. The final section in Chapter One includes 64 reasons why we home-school.

Chapter two gets down to the basics. From the legalities, to the formal curriculum you can buy to the way you can create a program for you child to learn at his/her own pace the research is extensive and there and the questions we all have are answered. Homeschoolers have the right and freedom to choose the program for their child and education is not a race to the finish. She states that these students often outscore those that attended public education. If testing is required in your state then you need to get the materials required to help your child pass but this can be done better she states at home where your child will be well rested, well fed and can prepare at his or her own pace.  Many other questions are asked and answered such as if you home school your child can they go to high school? What about college? What about if a child is labeled as learning disabled and how is that handled? What happens if the child gets bored and will I go crazy staying home all day? The freedom to go out and do your errands is yours because you can home school at child any time during the day for any length of time you choose. She does address what happens if a parent has to work and how they can find a program that might work. There are many other questions answered in Chapter Two and one basic one that is well addressed is what happens if your child, like any other child does not like a subject, hates something or does not want to learn what he/she is supposed to learn. Read pages 66- 69 to understand how these concerns are handled. If you child needs a more structured program or checklist that her son created for himself to complete each week then do it. There are many different curriculums that you can implement: Those created by other people, which you can buy but can be expensive or those created by you and your child. Read pages 70- 94 to read about the curricula she used and others. On page 95 you can learn more about the legalities. The final chapter deals with where to start and how to find out where you are. Start with the questionnaires on pages 102- 110 and you will have a much clearer understanding of what it takes to begin your own home school program and much more. Added to this chapter are resources, appendixes that will help you understand your role in a positive light plus endnotes, the author’s bio and important resources on the net and books that you can refer to before and after beginning your program. Whether you decide to try home schooling or whether you are skeptical and need to be more informed and are not sure this is one book that is well documented, well researched and a great resource that will definitely assist in helping you decide the path you want to take for your children and the type of educational programs you want them to experience. There is no right or wrong in this. It is up to you to decide and up to you to make sure that your child is educated whether at home, in a public or private school setting or a combination of both when the time feels right.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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