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Monday, March 31, 2008

Help us celebrate Homeschooling Week!!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 9:47 AM

Don't you just love it when Charlie Crist gets all declarative? For the second year in a row, he's proclaimed from on high that homeschooling ye be good and we shall feast in it. My excruciatingly boring detailed analysis after the hop:


This week in Florida is HOME EDUCATION WEEK, according to an official, state-sponsored proclamation. Here's how it reads:

WHEREAS, the State of Florida is committed to excellence in education and to public policy that strengthens the family and recognizes parental choice in pursuit of that excellence and the importance of parental involvement in education ... providing parents the ultimate authority and responsibility, under God, for the care, character development and educational opportunities for their children ... studies indicate most children who are home educated exhibit self-confidence, good citizenship...and many have proven devotion to their country by faithfully serving in the armed forces of the United States ... the State of Florida and its citizens benefit from reduced educational expenditures ... I, Charlie Crist, do hereby extend greetings and best wishes to all observing Home Education Week.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Fund (HSLDF), the proclamation was secured by the FPEA, the leading force in homeschooling curriculum (more on them later) and also an organization that resulted in zero Google results other than the proclamation and might not exist, the Christian Home Educators of the Sunshine State (feel free to prove me wrong by sending a link).

In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics said that approximately 72% of homeschooled families do so for religious reasons. The other percentage was more vague: dissatisfaction with the curriculum and concern over the environment. This could simply mean the same thing. They don't teach creationism and young girls are disease-ridden whores (by the way, that "1 in 4 teen girls have STDs" study you saw the headlines for? Look further: that's among sexually-active teens and the overwhelming majority of cases involved the human papillomavirus (HPV), which until recently was not widely known about, is 100% preventable and does not require intercourse for transmission. Still scared? Didn't think so.)

That said, there is a niche of secular homeschooling out there. Secular Homeschooling Magazine (over the last 2 years they've put out exactly 2 issues) is out there somewhere. Mostly, however, the secular homeschooling realm is a small community desperate for help and short of materials. Here's a depressing sample from Associated Content:

There are several options for families who don't want their home school curriculum to have a specific religious leaning. One is to find one that offers the Bible studies as optional parts of the overall package, or to simply replace the science texts if they don't teach the desired perspective on evolution or the environment. Another is to create curriculums by piecing together Unit Studies.

Those are the "several options?"

Here's why it's nearly impossible to find non-religious curriculum for homeschoolers in Florida: the FPEA (remember them from the proclamation?) are dominant, powerful, and they are Christian.

Their mission statement:

The Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) exists solely to serve homeschooling families in Florida. The FPEA executes that mission through support for the legal right to homeschool, local school board education and interaction, support group networking, a state convention, local conferences and events, informative communications, and most importantly, by giving individual encouragement, all in accordance with Judeo-Christian principles.

The curriculum they're pushing is provided by the nationwide Rainbow Resource Center.

I was curious what their science curriculum looked like. Aren't you? Let's have a peek:

Bob Jones Science (elementary and secondary):

Bob Jones Science is thoroughly Christian, including many evidences and support of Creationism and many â??holesâ?� in the theory of evolution, particularly at the upper grade levels.

Alpha Omega Science (4th Grade):

Plants, Animals, Manâ??s Environment, Machines, Electricity and Magnetism, Changes in Matter, Weather, Solar System, Planet Earth, Godâ??s Creation

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, Crist's claim in the proclamation that "most children who are home educated exhibit exceptional test scores, higher than average college attendance and success" is as impossible to quantify as the quality of curriculum. The only major studies (Crist refers to "over two decades of studies") found to date were as follows:

1) A 1998 study conducted by Bob Jones University (bible college) which is partially based on a questionnaire given to the parents of homeschooled children and the other part based on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills [Florida does not require standardized testing be administered to the home kids]

2) and the National Home Education Research Institute (who's latest study includes in its benefits "educate the public and the media, educate legislators, gratify grandparents." Huh?!) in a partnership with (you guessed it) the Home School Legal Defense Association. This study was based on surveys given to about 5,000 of the 1.3 million homeschool students at the time (1994-96). From the introduction:

This study, Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America, collected data on 5,402 home school students for the 1994-95 and 1995-96 academic years. Nearly 6,000 surveys were sent to home school families. Some were mailed directly to families. Others were blindly forwarded to families through the leadership of independent home school support groups. HSLDA and Dr. Ray have highlighted some of the key findings of this study. This study demonstrates that home schooling works.

(Well, sure fancy-pants. I'd get straight A's too if the answer to every test question was "God did it.")

In other words, there are absolutely no studies from reputable organizations or colleges with no inherent bias or interest in the findings themselves.Governor Crist is basing his proclamation on research conducted by the same interest groups that pushed this thing on him.

Mr. Crist, you would be able to put that together if only you'd gotten that "critical analysis" and "abstract thinking" stuff our public schools are trying to teach the kids. Oh, if only they could get some, you know, funding. No? Do it at home and with Jesus? Oh. What's that? The Earth is flat and 6,000 years old? I see. Thanks for your time anyway.

Whew. Now that that's out of the way, let's all celebrate!!! Who wants first dibs

at toilet-papering the Department of Education?

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