In defense of homeschooling

David Black recently sent me some interesting points on my welcome page in opposition to (unschooling?) homeschooling. I thought I would make my response into this post since other homeschoolers or potential homeschoolers may have to answer similar questions. It’s obvious he has serious objections to homeschooling and feels state public schooling should be the only option. Here’s what I have to say. My responses are indented.

I’m curious to know how many DIY schoolers here have earned their state certifications to instruct students?

Great question! Unfortunately, I don’t know. State requirements for certification vary. My certification is from a private school, not the state. I haven’t checked to see what needs to be done to have it recognized by the state yet.

I’m of the theory that most, if not all, so-called “unschoolers” aren’t simply malcontents who feel their destinies are out of their control, so by taking advantage of a few laws, they seize the control they think they have lost to traditional k-12 institutions.

A few different points here. First, Unschooling is just one form of homeschooling. It’s where the child’s interests rather than a preset curriculum guide what the child is to learn. I think you are trying to lump all different forms of homeschooling as unstructured radical unschooling which may be part of your confusion. I have a few similar concerns about families who do radical unschooling. However, that is only one form of homeschooling. Most families who homeschool have some sort of structure and routine (myself included).

What sort of experience and interaction have you had with unschoolers or homeschoolers? Are you making this broad judgment by observations of only a few families? Just as it is wrong to assume all public schools are failures based upon a few high profile problems, it is equally unfair to judge thousands of individual families based upon a few isolated cases. This is what happened in California. That was wrong and the court has reversed it’s decision and recognized this mistake. Both need to be judged on a case by case individual basis.

While many people do start homeschooling because of discontent with the public schools, that is not our primary reason. See my page on homeschooling for my many detailed reasons we chose to homeschool.

One other thing to consider. What about high school students who voluntarily leave school to homeschool? I don’t mean dropout of school exactly. Just quit traditional public school to homeschool because they don’t feel they are getting a good education? They feel they are better off teaching themselves (either directly or through supervised independent learning courses) then staying public high school.

I am of the opinion that if you aren’t certified, then you have no ethical business trying to teach your child the school or district mandated curriculum at home.

Being certified or not does not automatically guarantee success as a teacher. Certification just means you have been instructed in teaching method theory and have a basic knowledge of the material to be taught. There are many excellent private school teachers that aren’t state certified and many public school teachers which are certified that really shouldn’t be teaching. No, certification doesn’t necessarily mean competency in teaching.

I don’t want to be limited to teaching the local district curriculum. I teach a curriculum tailored to my kids interests and learning styles that meets my district’s (which isn’t the local district) performance levels for each subject. I have a district representative who agrees to my decisions and monitors our progress.

It’s ironic that my representative for the district is the same woman who was my supervisor when I interned at public school. She left classroom teaching to advise homeschoolers and now also homeschools her kids. Our kids will have to pass the same state high school exit exam as their public school peers in order to be given a diploma.

Disagreement over district curriculum (for whatever reason) is one of the more popular reasons people start to homeschool. One of the great things about homeschooling is curriculum customization. If part of the curriculum you originally chose just isn’t working, then you are free to switch. You can’t do that in public schools. Public schools teach to the median children. If your kids need more time (either because they are really interested or having difficulty) in public schools, that’s too bad. The teacher can make recommendations for tutors or assign extra work but the class must move on. In homeschool, you can take as little or as much time as needed.

What if I read a few medical textbooks and declare myself a medical doctor? Should that be permitted to treat my own children?

YES, if you can prove you’re competent. Homeschoolers pass SAT and ACT exams with equal or higher scores than their public school peers. Homeschooling success depends more upon the learning materials and opportunities they are given than who instructs them. I’m not trying to underplay the importance of the teacher, but if quality curriculum is used, then almost anyone who has enough patience and cares about the success of the kids can teach.

Another thing to think about. If you’ve ever had to explain how to do a homework problem, then you’ve taught a student. Should you have to call a certified teacher in order to do this?

An autodidactic’s folly is to presume their expert status without formal training and certification. They are assuaging unchecked egos that believe they can do better than someone else. meanwhile, their kids suffer from lack of real structure, order, and discipline, all of which will be expected of them when they grow up and leave the nest.

I’ll admit, I had to look up “autodidactic” in the dictionary. For everyone else unsure or clueless about the meaning, it’s a self-taught person.

Yes, it’s presumptuous to assume you know everything. That is true of anyone. However, it is also folly, to assume just because someone doesn’t have a formal title or degree they are untrained or unqualified. It doesn’t matter so much how you know something as what you know. My husband is often consulted as an expert in coal boilers yet he has no formal training in boilers. It is all self-taught. Even qualified experts call him for help because he has the most hands-on experience with these systems.

This sounds like a twist on the old homeschoolers aren’t socialized argument. Homeschoolers in general that I’ve observed are better socially mannered than their public school peers. They are less given to peer pressure and more likely to make responsible decisions. I’m always getting compliments on how nice manners my kids have. Sure, kids learn to play in public schools, just not playing nicely.

Tell me what profession will allow its employees to work at their own pace and on their own schedule.

Many jobs give employees a goal or project and a completion date then the employee is left alone to complete the work. This is similar to how many homeschools are run. The student is given a task and instruction then given time to complete it. They aren’t totally unstructured. Students learn time management and goal setting in this manner. It’s not the quantity of time that matters when learning new material, but rather the quality of time. What difference does it make if he needs 2o minutes or 2 hours to learn column addition? Everyone learns at their own pace, which is how homeschools

Part of formal education is to prep you for real life. Staying at home with mom or dad playing make believe is not prepping a child for real life. It’s setting them up for real failure.

My husband was homeschooled then went on to earn 2 university degrees: geology and biology.

And having only same age peers to interact with all day like in a typical classroom setting isn’t natural. Where else in life are you restricted to being only with other people who are exactly the same age as you? Homeschoolers interact with people of various ages.

What a pity more of you don’t see that. You read some research that tells you exactly what you want to hear that you conclude that all education is rotten.

Not true. It would appear you have the same but opposite bias. I’m not trying to point fingers but want to take a moment to point out that there isn’t any one approach or method that works for everyone because everyone has their own learning style and unique needs. Homeschooled education is only one of many options for education. Families should look at all options based upon their individual situation and location then decide which would be best for their kids. There are successes and failures in each one. Homeschooling just fits my family situation best. It’s not for everyone. Again, see my page about why we homeschool for more details.

You’ve failed to learn that a modern education must be a partnership between a school and its parents.

That is a myth. That is only one interpretation of what schooling is. And how much more of a partnership can there be between school and parents if the parents are the school? Yes, in a utopia public school there would be a perfect cooperation between home and school, but that just isn’t reality for many schools or families. Tragically it is the kids who loose because of it. Our nation’s high drop out rate and poor performance record or many graduates is a testament to how many schools have failed our nation’s kids.

Clearly, the fact that you bailed proves that you did not fulfill your part of the commitment. You expected your school to do everything for your child.

Interesting. The ironic thing is that most homeschoolers still pay school tax but recieve no benefits from their money. In addition, they spend their own money to buy educational curriculum and materials that best suit their kids. They don’t expect anything from their district.

As for me, I’m homeschooling in cooperation with a school district which became in 2001 the only district in the nation to ever win the Baldridge Award for Excellence. To quote from the district website:

“It has received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s premier award for performance excellence and quality achievement. With 30 faculty and staff, Chugach School District (CSD) is the smallest organization to win this award. In addition, it is one of the first-ever winners in the education category. Chugach’s 214 students are scattered throughout 22,000 square miles of mostly isolated and remote areas of South Central Alaska accessible only by air and water. Half of the students are Native Alaskans.”

How many traditional public schools can say that? I’m proud to be part of this innovative school district’s home extension service. You can find out more about the district on their website

Fitness update 4

This is my last fitness update of 2008. New Year’s Day is Thursday. I don’t think I will manage to meet my original goal when I started this plan for the end of the year. I’m going to have to start over with the Slim in 6 since I am so out of shape from being sick. Oh well, life is what happens when you make other plans. 😛 The key is not to give up and stay positive. While I haven’t lost much weight (3 pounds), I haven’t gained any in the last 5 weeks. Slow and steady is best, but still I’m a bit disappointed.

Another week (or is it 2?) has come and gone. I’m not doing so good. I was sick last week, first a cold then sour stomach. I’m still not feeling great. Then on Christmas we went out to dinner. When we were getting into the car, my son got sick to his stomach. Ugh. He’s still sick today too. So we haven’t enjoyed the holiday much this year. It was fun seeing the kids open gifts though.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a notebook with a weight loss payment plan. I’m glad he is not only supporting me but joining me in this weight loss plan.

Then the next day was my daughter’s fourth birthday. I made her a homemade chocolate cake and icing from a family recipe (same as we had for our wedding cake).

I’m now stuck at 169. Not bad considering most people gain weight this time of year. Between Christmas eating out, Christmas goodies, and birthday cake along with being sick we haven’t been eating very well recently. For instance, yesterday I only ate a bowl of corn cereal, cake, and ramen noodles.

I also haven’t done any exercising. Who really exercises when sick? It is now -13 degrees outside. Downtown is -35. Not very nice weather for doing anything outside. I gave ski poles to my son for Christmas. Hopefully we can get outside soon but the forecast doesn’t sound promising. The Christmas tree is in the middle of our living room so there’s no place to exercise inside either (even if I felt like it).
With being sick, lack of exercise, and not eating well, I feel so weak.

Hopefully next week I will feel better and can get back on track again. Judging from the hangups, it will be busy for work (we have a message we are closed until Monday). I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for exercising but at least we can eat better.

Tonight while the kids read in bed before lights out, I did Slim & Limber, a 15 minute stretching routing on my Slim in 6 DVD. I’ve never done it before. I feel much better now. More relaxed. I watched the ab routine. It looked tough but possibly doable on busy days if I want exercise. It’s only 10 minutes.

Keep Christ in Christmas?

Let me think this through. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still trying to figure out Christmas.

That may sound a bit strange. Christmas is after all a celebration of Christ’s birth, right? Not so fast.

Here’s a poem and thoughts about why not Christmas posted by A Godly Maiden. Also why Simple Living AK are celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas this year.

Like Easter and Halloween, Christmas is an overlay holiday by the Catholic church of a pagan festival. They took the festival celebrating the birth of the sun god and transformed it into the birthday of the Son. It’s not mentioned in the Bible to remember the day of His birth. In fact, the day is a bit vague, unlike the day of His death. I’m no Biblical scholar, so I won’t go into detail.

The fact that Christmas is celebrated widely in almost identical ways by both Christians and non-Christians yet isn’t a patriotic holiday should give Christians pause. Also, Christmas isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Yes, the angels came to celebrate on the day of His birth, but after that, no one celebrated this day in later years.

Christmas for many Christians is a tradition with very little personal religious meaning anymore. It’s about having fun, the joy of Christmas, shopping. Indeed, in today’s modern consumerist society, the pagan traditions are gaining importance (tree & decorations, bon fires, expensive presents, parties) as it moves from Christ’s Mass to X-mas. It’s become a selfish holiday. A holiday instead of a Holy Day.

The Christmas tree is more of a tradition for tradition’s sake and I’m beginning to believe that is wrong. Family traditions are great. It just needs to be understood the meaning behind the tradition. I’ve looked into the history of Christmas trees and find they are similar to Easter eggs. And why not, if they are both originally part of pagan festivals? What is the modern reason for keeping Christmas trees? How can they relate to the Birth of our Savior? I fail to see a connection in this way. I see more of a connection to the consumer/selfish gift exchange tradition.

What about the presents? Surely there’s nothing wrong with that? Giving is an unselfish Christian act, right? Not quite. Not when giving a gift they tell you to buy. It’s nice to get something another person likes, but the outright selfishness of “get me this for Christmas” and the Christmas wish lists are wrong. I like families who keep the gifting a secret. But this is a form of deception, which is also wrong. We give nice gifts but also expect nice things too. If you say different, you are deceiving yourself.

We don’t have Santa at our house. Santa is a god of consumerism, plain and simple. It is teaching kids to be selfish. Some object to Santa because of magical associations. I see Santa as a form of deception and lying, which is a sin. It’s not fun. I’ve seen too many young kids screaming and crying in terror as they sit in Santa’s lap the first time.

We treat Christmas more as a birthday party. It is a way for me to remind the kids of Christ’s teaching, why He came, etc. I also tell them Christmas isn’t truly the day of His birth but rather the traditional day it is celebrated. I’d really like to replace the tree and trimmings with a nativity next year but not sure what we’ll do.

So what really is Christmas? If you take away the tree, Santa, the consumerist/selfish gift giving, the false manger scene with 3 wise men (where did that number come from anyway?) bringing expensive gifts what is truly Christian that’s left? Even the date is wrong (animals are born in spring not mid-winter). It is a starting to seem more and more like a false holiday.

I still don’t know the answer. Keep Christ in Christmas? Shouldn’t it be put Christ into Christmas since it wasn’t really His holiday? Are we to become purists and just abandon it? Are we to replace it with a more Biblical holiday? Are we to adapt it to be more Christian and less worldly? Is it to be a birthday party with a religious theme? Should we just go with the flow and celebrate? Is it even Christian to question? Better yet, is it Christian to NOT question why Christmas?

Updated Christian Light website

Christian Light has updated their website. It’s now wonderfully easy to use. The even have a quote by me under the testimonials for homeschool: parent-teacher training (I’m Alaska)!

The homeschool (CLE) layout has better descriptions and cover pictures for each course. You can browse by grade or subject. The scope and sequence is available in PDF (or to buy hardcopy). The address is still

Paid for weight loss

Merry Christmas!

One of the gifts from my husband today wasn’t anything you can buy in a store. He gave me a 3 ring binder (ok that part you can get in a store) with just 3 pages in it. On them he outlined a plan to pay us for loosing weight and keeping it off. He has some investments that are starting to pay off and thought our current and future health was the most important thing to spend the money on.

How it works is a bit complicated. It is a 10 year plan. (He likes to think long term) Anyway, for the first 4 years he has outlined goal weights for us both on a monthly basis. If we meet the goal he will pay us from his investments a per pound amount. If only one of us meets the goal, we only get 25 % of the amount. If neither of us met the goal, then we get nothing and the money is reinvested or spent elsewhere.

His goal weights are very attainable. Slow weight loss is healthiest and less likely to cause burnout if you fail one week trying to catchup the next. It is also the best way to keep weight off since it is likely caused by permanent diet and lifestyle changes. We’ve both lost weight in the past with fad diets and overdoing exercise only to gain it and more back. This plan of his is to try to provide incentive enough to make permanent changes so we don’t regain weight.

I mentioned a few weeks back, a study I found that says those with financial incentive to loose weight lost more than those without. That is what sparked this plan of his. His end goal is for us to loose about 55 pounds each. The key is we both have to loose weight to make it work. We also have to keep it off.

Another reason against state churches

If you think state control of churches ended 450 years ago with the Reformation, think again. In Germany, there is a proposal to limit who can attend Christams Eve Midnight Mass to only those who have paid church tax. I found this story on Yahoo. Perhaps they should set aside most rows for church tax payers but open the rest to everyone.

It also makes me leery of large holiday church services. I wonder where the people are the rest of the year. What is it about the holidays of Christmas and Easter that bring out people to church?

BERLIN (Reuters) – Some senior German politicians have caused a stir by suggesting that only citizens who pay church tax should be allowed to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Worried that regular churchgoers cannot find a seat due to the popularity of the traditional Christmas service, Thomas Volk, a top member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Baden-Wuerttemberg, said the church should be selective.

“I support the idea of church services on December 24 being open only to those people who pay church tax,” Volk, from the predominantly Catholic southern state, told top-selling Bild newspaper this week.

Martin Lindner, a member of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) in Berlin, also expressed alarm at the lack of places in church and told Bild that parish members should get tickets entitling them to the best seats.

Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches get most of their funding from revenues collected by the tax office. Germans who officially leave their church are exempt from the church tax.

But the idea hit a storm of protest from church figures.

“The idea that only parish members should get a place in the church on Christmas Eve and that other people should be excluded is absurd,” the head of Germany‘s EKD Protestant Church, Wolfgang Huber, told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Happy solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice everyone! I’m not ashamed to admit I’m celebrating and rejoicing over Winter Solstice. No it doesn’t have some mythical or religious importance like it may for others. For my family, the fact that the days are now going to be getting longer is reason enough to celebrate. We live sub-arctic Alaska where this time of year sunlight is a rare treat. Right now it is 230 in the afternoon and the sun is setting. However, from now until summer solstice, days will be getting lighter. Yeah! We’re halfway through the winter.

Living in subarctic Alaska, where the day length can literally change by an hour a week, you get more of a definite realization of the meaning of solstice. It’s a halfway point in the dark, cold winter. It’s a time to celebrate the renewal of sunshine. It’s not religious, it’s a human celebration of survival in a harsh world.

God’s promise of spring is universal and worldwide. Perhaps that’s the reason why from early civilizations to most modern religions there’s a festival this time of year. I don’t think it any coincidence the miracle of Hanukkah (festival of lights) is this time of year. It could be why the early Catholic church chose this festival to lay Christmas onto (transforming the birth of the sun to the birth of the Son). A mid-winter holiday gives people something to look forward to in an otherwise dull part of the year.

In Fairbanks there were fireworks last night after an indoor street fair downtown yesterday. We are sick so we stayed home and watched the fireworks out the living room window. Not a great view because of the trees, but still they were nice fireworks.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a more severe form of the winter blahs. It is caused by the short day length. It saps your energy and sends you into a depression. Each year is different though. Some years are better than others. Exercise and diet help, although the symptoms send you craving for exactly what is worst for you: carbs and sleep. For most people with SAD, the fall is worse than spring. I’m one of the unusual who have more trouble in the spring. It’s a classical case of lots of ambition but no motivation. Solstice is the halfway point. With the increasing day length, there is more time to get outdoor exercise in the sunshine, which is the best possible thing to lesson the symptoms.

So I say, Hooray for Solstice! Welcome back sun!

12 Days of Christmas meaning

I’ve known there was a lot of hidden symbolism in the old carol The Twelve Days of Christmas but haven’t know exactly what they are before my dad sent me this today.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.

Sick kids?

I think my kids are getting sick. Karen has a stuffy nose and small cough. It doesn’t seem to be bothering her much. I’ll give her some get well tea. Richard volunteered to take a nap and actually is doing so rather than playing in bed. This is very unusual for him except when he is starting to get sick.

Ugh. I hope if they are getting sick, its not very bad. I also hope my husband or I don’t get it but probably will.

We try to avoid public gatherings in the fall and early winter to help keep ourselves from getting sick. This includes doing homeschool rather than public. Not going to church. My friend homeschools but went to church 3 times a week or more last year and her family was always sick. Not letting the kids do activities or group lessons until spring. And limiting visits with friends and family if we know they are sick or have been exposed to sickness. These things may be a bit drastic but seem to help. So far this winter we’ve only been sick once. We have avoided the stomach crud. Still, we do work with the public so we come into contact with sick people when showing apartments sometimes .


I had this can of garbanzo beans (AKA chick peas) in my pantry forever. I don’t even remember where it came from or if I was even the one who got it. It’s just been living in my pantry.

Today the kids were hungry and we are out of thawed peanut butter (we still have about a quarter of a bucket in the freezer). I looked through a bean cookbook for something I could make from this can. Most of the recipes in the book are of Middle East or Mediterranean origin and therefore spicier than we prefer (like curries). However, I found a recipe for falfel that I thought could be modified without ending up too bland. Then I looked at the other ingredients and found that indeed I had almost everything on hand to make it. Several of them call for unusual spices or ingredients we don’t normally use. This one called for a spice called coriander which we don’t have, so  left it out.

Falfel is basically a garbanzo bean mush with garlic, minced onion, chili pepper and cumin (plus the missing coriander) that is fried. It called for an entire onion. Normally that doesn’t sound like a lot but when mixed with only slightly more than a cup of mushed beans, it would have been too much. I put in just 3 thin slices. After mixing everything well, you make small patties and cover them with whole wheat flour then fry them until both sides are brown. We ate them on homemade bread. It made just enough for the 3 of us.

Dried garbanzo beans are cheap. It uses (at least the way I make it) little spices. So the meal was very cheap, probably less than $1 for all of us. The kids wanted seconds so next time I should make more. It is rather filling since it is made with beans. I served it on homemade bread but would probably be good on rice with a little lemon.