Saturday, March 25, 2006

Correct and Incorrect Use of the Word "Homeschooling"

I feel strongly that we need to use correct terms for homeschooling. If a parent has control of the child’s education and teaches their children with the materials of their choice, that is homeschooling.

Apparently some schools have programs where the child is enrolled in the public school but is in an ‘alternative education’ program which means they don’t go into the school building to learn, but they use school materials to learn at home with the assistance of the parent and with close oversight by school staff. That student is actually enrolled in the public school and their education is being funded by taxpayers. That is not homeschooling! Here is one example from a newspaper article titled “Home is Where the Learning Is” that was published in the Contra Costa Times yesterday (March 24, 2006). I actually found this article hard to follow because they called what this child is experiencing homeschooling but later said that in California homeschooling is not legal and that the child was actually part of an alternative educational plan at the public school. Talk about confusing!

The fact of the matter is that public schools with an alternative educational plan such as that are not common. I would guess they are less common than homeschooling!

Charter Schools
If a child is enrolled in a charter school they are part of the public school system. If the charter school happens to be the kind that the child learns at home for part or all of the time using a computer and curriculums and materials from the charter school then they are still a student of a charter school and they are still a part of the public school system. That child is NOT homeschooled even if their body physically is in the home and they are not required to sit inside of a school building to do their 'school work'.

I am on Larry and Susan Kaseman’s bandwagon that we need to use the right labels in the area of how we define what kind of education the child is getting. They have written about this topic in some of their columns in Home Education Magazine. Here is one of their thought-provoking articles about how homeschooling is not charter schooling and it is not an alternative education branch of a public school.

The big distinction arises from who is in control of the educational content and who is paying for it? A student of a charter school is receiving services and materials that are being paid for by taxpayers. Truly homeschooled children and families do not receive any kind of financial assistance from taxpayers or any type of tax credits or vouchers. A student of an 'alternative educational program' such as the child in the article I linked to is really a student of the public school who does not have the use of a school teacher but is receiving assistance from the parent to help the child learn the curriculum and materials that the school forces them to use. The material may be creatively presented by the parent in a way that is tailored to their learning style but they are using the same materials, from what I gathered from the article.

If a charter school's performance goes down, if the charter school is criticized for the results being not up to someone’s standards, we homeschoolers don’t want to be lumped in with them! Let's be clear about what is what. Charter school problems should not be mixed up with homeschooling issues (we have enough challenges without taking on their issues). We don’t need or want our actual homeschooled children being grouped into the same category as those children. If charter school succeed then they will take full credit, if they fail, they can take the fall. Let us homeschoolers stay separate and standing separately, on our own.

Advertisements for charter schools sometimes try to sell their services to homeschoolers, not for pay but for ‘free enrollment’ and to get a free computer and free learning materials. Taxpayers are actually paying for that, it is not ‘free’. Ads for charter schools are often seen in homeschooling magazines, trying to lure parents to enroll the student in a charter school with the promise of 'free' computers or 'free' books and curriculum.

Students of charter schools are actually students enrolled in a public school, it is just that certain charter schools have the children remaining in their homes to do the work, and that the administrators are privately employed but funded with taxpayers money.

Homeschooling is a heck of a lot more than where the child sits to do their school work. Actually the funny thing is that homeschooled children learn not only at home but out and in the real world, so it cannot even be said that homeschoolers always just learn at home.

The Media’s Use of Terms
The media often uses the incorrect terms. The media helps form public opinion. Every time the media say something about a charter school and uses the word ‘homeschooling’ to describe what the child is doing influences the reader’s idea of what homeschooling is. They often mention the terms ‘charter school’ and ‘homeschooling’ in the same article, which confuses the readers and leads people to believe that they are one and the same thing.

People uninformed about homeschooling also may assume that all homeschoolers are linked with schools and get their materials from the supervising school administrators, have tight teacher oversight and that the materials are paid for by taxpayers. Even if an article is positive in tone about a charter school which mixed in the term "homeschooling", it is not a good thing, because, if some time in the future, when charter schooling is criticized or when negative press is given to charter schools, the public can unfortunately also think the problem is about homeschooling.

So here is a little rundown of the possibilities for children to be educated in America:
1. Public schools (also called government schools)
2. Alternative education program of a Public School (this is not homeschooling it is really a branch of #1)
3. Magnet schools (still a public school)
4. Charter schools (a public school run by a private company which may or may not have the student working out of their home, this is not a private school)
5. Private Schools (school separate from the government which charges tuition for attendance)
6. Homeschooling

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cinnamon said...

Personally, I am glad that there are so many different educational choices, but I agree - let's keep our terms straight. I have gotten into some rather heated discussions on this very subject, even with a public-schooling mom who said that all parents are homeschoolers! Don't be surprised if you take some heat for this post.

christinemm said...

Cinnamon, Thanks for the feedback. Parents who send their children to school are not homeschooling parents and to say that is personally offensive to me. I would go nuts if someone had that conversation with me.

A parent of a schooled child is still a parent. They are to see that homework is done and to get them to school and make sure they are well fed and dressed appropriately. That is nothing near the same thing as what a homeschooling parent does.

Some parents 'after school' which is supplementing their school studies with other information that is taught by the parent.

Frankly one of the hardest things for me to deal with is that ultimately I am responsible for the education of my children and on some days that seems overwhelming or scary. On one level to send my kids to school would be easier, I'd then be let off the hook for figuring out what they should be taught, when, and with what materials, and I'd be relieved of the teaching duties and I'd either have free time to myself or I could work and make money (perhaps as a public school teacher, even!).

I have heard some mothers who work full time day jobs and have their children in school and also some time under the care of other paid adults say, "I am a full time mother" (people on television such as past audience members on Oprah and also on one of the trading mother shows, I can't remember if it was Wife Swap or Trading Spouses). I guess it is how one defines what a mother does is the issue. I would say that the fact that I am in charge of my child all day long makes me a 'full time mother' while to me, a mother who is physically apart from her child for X number of hours a day and has them under someone else's charge, I think is not a 'full time mother' but they may be a 'full time mother' in emotion and love, only.