Letters (April 30, 2011)


Holub responds to political inquiries

I have been receiving inquiries the last three to four weeks from acquaintances saying they have been approached by people from a local community requesting to find out when my term as county commissioner is up and if I intend to run again. To make it simple for everyone, my term is up in 2012 and, yes I intend to run again.

However, I have been approached about running for state representative. I haven’t said no, but it depends on how things turn out on a couple of pending issues before I’d make that decision.

If anyone has any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m in the phone book.

Dan Holub
Marion

Home-schooling should be respected

I’m writing in response to a recent Free Falling column (April 13) that might have given people the wrong impression regarding home-schoolers.

Although a home-educating parent for the last 16 years, and current president of the county home-school support group (McHomes), I don’t necessarily feel like an expert on the subject. But I do believe my contact with the home-school community in general, and my many years of monitoring my children’s home education, has helped make me somewhat qualified to share an opinion.

In his column, Mr. Woelk made a couple of generalizations that I feel compelled to respond to. He mentions that home-schools, along with charter, online and private schools, want to “get a piece of the public education pie.” He evidently believes these entities would like to be reimbursed for not using the public education system that their tax dollars support.

I don’t know how many home-school parents he’s interviewed regarding this subject. I’ll admit, it would be nice if my tax dollars could support a style and form of education I more heartily believe in. But my husband and I knew 16 years ago when we started our home-schooling journey, the financial burden was ours to bear.

In theory, vouchers sound great for many families in “the country club set.” And perhaps many families who send their kids to private schools are blessed to live in a higher income bracket. But the reality is most home-school families do not fall into the “country club set.” In fact, according to home-schooling journal articles I was able to find, only 16 percent of home-school families earn $90,000 annually, or more. And only 10 percent earn from $70,000 to $90,000. Over half make under $70,000 a year, and included in that are a whopping 48 percent who make less than $50,000 annually.

And keep in mind, many of those families, especially among Christian home educators, have several more mouths to feed than the typical nuclear family.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents who are home-schooling, or just thinking about it, and I can honestly say that the topic of vouchers one day helping us finance our children’s education at home has rarely, if ever, come up.

There’s a reason for this. In my opinion, most families realize that letting federal and state assistance into their checking accounts would also mean allowing federal and state standards and regulations, regarding what they teach and how they teach it, into their home schools.

That seems unnecessary when studies shared by Home School Legal Defense Association and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation reveal that most home-schooled students, who are tested, consistently score above average on annual skills assessments, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and Test of Achievement and Proficiency.

Mr. Woelk stated he was offended by my decision to home school. In all honesty, I wasn’t even considering the feelings of teachers when weighing all the options regarding the education of my children.

Let me offer a sincere and heartfelt apology to all the teachers out there who feel offended by my decision to educate my children at home. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. I am friends with, and dearly love, many of you. You have one of the most difficult jobs on the planet.

Two of my children have spent time in the classroom with some of you, and even they recognize that you are overworked and under-appreciated.

The fact is, there are almost as many reasons for homeschooling as there are families choosing to do so. Most families educate at home due to philosophical reasons; they truly believe the institutional style of education is not the best way for their children.

One could argue that the public school system itself has not been around very long—a little over 100 years. Before that, every child was home or church schooled.

Some have children with special needs and feel they can best be taught at home. Many families have decided they want to freely teach Christian character and Bible history to their child­ren more than just one day a week.

Keep in mind that home school conventions are brimming with curriculum choices, catering to every style of learner, every age group and every special need. Whatever the reason, I can assure you the decision to educate at home rarely has anything to do with the teachers their children would encounter in the public system.

Another point of contention in Mr. Woelk’s article was that he didn’t see many “products”—that term really bothers me—of home-school environments who do not develop social issues due, in some part, to their isolation from traditional students.

I don’t know exactly how many home-school “products” he has been exposed to, but my work as a home-school parent, editor on a popular home-schooling website, and numerous visits to home-school conventions, has exposed me to thousands of these “products.” These students work as pages at the state capitol, become chemical engineers, surgeons, entrepreneurs, Scripps Spelling Bee winners, “American Idol” contestants and more. Some have earned scholarships to state and private universities based on personal interviews and transcripts, alone.

Do a few of these home school “products” get speeding tickets, run with the wrong crowd, get arrested or just become the “class clown” in every situation? Certainly. Just like their public school counterparts.

My point is home-schooling doesn’t make children socially inept, any more than public school makes every student a social butterfly, capable of functioning as a thriving and contributing member of society. Children make choices no matter how they’ve been taught, and some have “baggage” issues they choose to work out the hard way. Blaming home-schooling for their poor choices would be like blaming the public school system for the poor choices its students make.

The “lack of socialization” myth is just that. It’s been debunked over and over again. Most home-schooled students not only have friends in both public and home-school circles, but they participate in recreation league and Christian school sports, 4-H events, Scouting, Sunday school, church youth groups and more. They get plenty of socialization.

The advantage is that home-schooling parents can have more input into what kind of socialization their kids will get. And home-schooled kids tend to be able to function socially with all ages, because their classroom has not been limited to same-aged peers.

As a parent who has operated somewhat in both worlds, I am grateful for both the reception and cooperation I’ve received from public school officials. They’ve always offered support and assistance in whatever way they could.

Of course, they would like to see my kids enrolled in the public school at some point. I don’t blame them for that. But most have always made me feel like they respected my right and choice to home-school, even if they don’t agree philosophically with that choice. Not all home-schoolers have had good experiences with public school officials where they live, so I’m grateful that I have had.

I understand and empathize with Mr. Woelk’s frustrations regarding the attacks on education he perceives. But let me be clear on two points. Although some homeschoolers might like to take advantage of a few things that their tax dollars already help pay for in the public school system, most do not feel that the public school system has anything to offer them, and therefore do not want vouchers to help support their decision to school at home.

Further, if you knew as many home-school graduates as I do, I believe your socialization fears would quickly be dispelled.

Lisa Schafer, president
Marion County Home Educators

Home-schoolers have the right to choose

I am writing in response to Bob Woelk’s Free Falling article in last week’s Free Press. I have two reasons for responding. First, Mr. Woelk raises current questions and concerns about our public education system that I agree demand our attention.

The second more personal reason is in response to the offensive launched against those of us who home-school.

My children do not participate in the public school system, but many of our friends and relatives do. My family is affected by and concerned about decisions made in public education. Our tax dollars fund public schools and those of us who home-school benefit when those schools are at their best because they educate many of our child­ren’s peers and much of our country’s future.

I want every child in our country to receive the best possible education, and I would love to see good teachers well-paid, respected and secure.

I agree with Mr. Woelk that the public school system is under attack, but not by alternative education. I would argue that the public school system is broken, and therefore under attack from within.

My feeling is that schools need to simplify. We need to remember what is an educational “want” and an educational “need.” What schools need most are good teachers, curriculum and educational equipment. After those most basic needs are met, good maintenance people and secretaries are important.

Almost everything else is a “want.” I am not saying the other items are without value, but it is time our country’s budgeters begin to consider what is actually necessary.

I suspect it would help the school system tremendously if administrative positions were cut by at least two-thirds, teacher’s salaries were significantly increased and extracurricular activities raised all or most of their own funds.

My ideas may not be the most popular, but I feel it is time for some creative approaches to the educational funding problems. I see too many good, experienced teachers let go or beaten out of the system because they are the highest paid, when they are the very staff members we need in the system the most.

My second concern is that we have become a nation of finger pointers, forgetting that we participate in making our own rules, and that we must always honor dissension and the opposing view’s rights lest ours be taken from us as well. We have forgotten there is no “they” in “We the people.”

Home-school students, vouchers and private schools are not part of the public school system’s problems. If anything, competition keeps any institution, for-profit or not, on its figurative toes. Monopolies never measure up; we all know what absolute power does.

Private schools provide an important alternative to public schools. Parents need to be able to exercise free choice in their children’s educations.

Unfortunately, private school is not an option to many; but it needs to remain an option. Charter schools are a good thing because they provide competition as well. Charter schools also give those who can’t afford private school a similar choice.

I am undecided about the voucher issue because it is a complex one. I have found the financially elite are generally the most opposed to that idea, and that some private schools falsely inflate their tuitions to keep the threat of vouchers out.

As a home-schooler, I can say with full confidence that I (and I suspect most of my counterparts) do not want “a piece of the public education pie.” I just want to be left alone.

I assume the comments made about home-schoolers were most likely made out of ignorance and bad personal experience. Home-school families are just as diverse as any other group and make the choice to home-school based on myriad reasons.

There is no offense aimed at good professional teachers in this choice. As a matter of fact, I know several home-school moms who were professional teachers. My own mother was a professional schoolteacher and I count myself lucky to have her assistance in my children’s education.

I hire professionals to provide classes for my children regularly. No offense is meant to professionals who dedicate themselves to an often thankless job educating others’ children. If anything, many home-schoolers, like me, hold a different world view concerning education, and as an American I hope that will be respected by others.

I realize there are home-school families who do a poor job with socialization, just as there are public-school families and schoolteachers who do an equally poor job appropriately socializing the children they are responsible for.

In my experience, most home-school students enjoy a very active social life, close family and community bonds and strong education.

My children enjoy a far richer and safer social life than my husband or I enjoyed in private or public school. We both endured years of torture and abuse not only at the hands of students, but teachers as well.

I am able to monitor social activities carefully, end social contacts and fire teachers if need be, and counsel my child­ren personally. This is part of the appeal of parent-directed education.

We based much of our decision to home-school on our strong belief in attachment parenting and on our desire to raise healthily attached, fully functional interdependent adults. We want our children to excel to their potential and beyond, and not be put down when they are “slow” in a given area.

As a student, I was bored and lacked challenge until college, and I learned to be academically lazy as a result. My husband never really had his learning difficulties addressed and gave up early in spite of an impressive intellect.

We don’t want this for our kids. We want the freedom to cater to their individual learning styles, intellects and needs. We are exercising our parental rights to choose the beliefs and learning strategies we think are best for our children. We don’t want the government’s money, system or help.

Home-schoolers are a part of this community, and we contribute to it. Please remember that we pay our fair share, and we make the choice to home-school at great personal sacrifice because we believe in what we are doing.

Those who violate our parental rights will eventually violate yours as well, and finger pointing generally leads to witch hunts rather than healthy discourse.

Let’s engage in a mutually respectful dialogue about how to help our nation’s public education system. It is an important discussion that demands creative thinking on all our parts.

I personally would like to thank all the teachers—public, private and home-school—who give their jobs their all, building our nation’s future, too often with little honor, respect or compensation.

We’ll see Mr. Woelk on the tennis courts. Even if I disagree with some of his thoughts, my kids love him and we still think he’s awesome.

Sheri Schmidt

Marion County

I read with interest Bob Woelk’s column (April 13) on what he perceives to be an attack on public education in last week’s paper. His editorial was focused on what is best for the teachers and the “system,” rather than on what is best for our children.

I agree that public education should be adequately funded to ensure that students get a good education. However, in tough times, I am not sure that any government entity should be exempt from belt-tightening.

The Legislature is not attacking education; it is just trying to work out a reasonable means of funding it. The state cannot spend beyond its means and with education being the bulk of our tax dollars, it makes sense that funding must be reduced.

What bothers me most about Bob’s article is his attack on private schools and home-schooling. I have taught in public schools for seven years and private school for 22 years. My wife and I also home-schooled our two daughters for five years. Our two daughters also attended Catholic schools and public schools, so we have seen every aspect of education.

Bob’s characterization of home-schooled kids as being socially inept is not true. My experience with the home-school group we were involved with in Marion County was exactly opposite of what he noted.

The home-schooled students could politely communicate with older adults and very young kids because they encountered them at the many functions that they attended, whereas in public education students are segregated by age and so they do not have the experience homeschooled students do of interaction with other age groups.

No matter what segment of education you examine, there are problem students and problem teachers. This is why in public schools there are in-services on drugs, discipline and bullying. As statistics show, the average home-school student performs significantly higher on standardized tests than their public school counterparts, are more socially mature and are sought after by colleges.

To address the comments about tenure, I would like to point out that it is a double-edged sword. Tenure can be a means to protect educators who are good, but also keep those who should not be in education.

The most significant attribute that makes a student successful is parents who care and support their child’s efforts at learning. Home-schooled children obviously have that attribute.

Finally, you cannot use a broad brush to paint private schools. Many cater to the rich, but the Catholic schools in the Wichita Diocese do not charge tuition, so there are students from all socio-economic backgrounds.

For those schools that charge tuition, vouchers are a means by which parents can make the choice to send their children to the school they want. And if the public schools are doing an excellent job of educating our children, they have nothing to fear from the voucher system.

Mr. Woelk, I am sure you and many other public school teachers do heroic work in educating the youth of today. Please acknowledge that home­-school parents and private-school teachers are equally heroic in what they do.

I don’t think the home-schooling experience that my daughters received hurt them socially or academically, but actually helped them achieve an average ACT score of 34 and graduate from Notre Dame University on full-ride scholarships. You would have a different opinion of home-schooling if you would get to know the homeschoolers in Marion County.

Greg and Rose Davidson
Marion


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