Friday, September 17, 2010

The Others Are Among Us And Coming To A University Near You

My dad brought over an issue of Time...the one about schools. The article is called "A Call to Action for Public Schools" and talks about a new documentary that makes a compelling case for urgent reform. Urgent! Reform! Should start by hassling homeschoolers trying to get into college.


We're in the middle of the college application process. And yes, all the schools we're applying to accept homeschoolers...and make them jump through a few hoops, too. Like I have time for that.

If you homeschool, you've heard people say things very similar to the following:

You guys are great homeschoolers. I'm just concerned about the OTHER homeschoolers.

You know, not all homeschoolers are as conscientious as you are. There are OTHERS.

I think we all need to be worried about those kids who are at home but not REALLY being homeschooled, you know? The OTHERS.

Well, your kids are obviously doing okay, but what about the OTHERS?

I'm sorry, but where's Sawyer? If I'm going to have to constantly be on the lookout for The Others, dangit, I want Sawyer on the set. Preferably without a shirt.

Once, while at an Odyssey of the Mind tournament, my friend sat in the school cafeteria talking to some other Odyssey of the Mind coaches, all of whom were public school teachers. Upon hearing that she was a non-teacher coach of a homeschooled team, one of them said, "Homeschoolers? Wow. Well, you're obviously doing your job with your kids. I'm just concerned about the homeschooled kids whose parents aren't really giving them a good education." To which my friend replied something along the lines of, "You're obviously doing your job. I'm just concerned about the public schooled kids who aren't receiving a good education."

Hello! Of which there are documented gazillions!!! When did Public School get the great reputation here? Now, I'm not saying that there aren't good schools (there are) and great teachers (there are) and kids who are receiving excellent educations (there are) - I'm just saying that it takes work and it isn't a given. By a long shot - it is not a given. The statistics and research and test scores and endless articles like the one in Time prove it.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand? Are, according to research and statistics and articles, doing extremely well. They're leading the nation in standardized test scores (including college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT) and they're doing it consistently. They're doing well in colleges and universities and tend to graduate within four years, in contrast to other students who either do not graduate or take longer than four years. They win the stupid spelling bee, the geo bee, and god knows they freaking RULE at all the Bible contests around the country. Also? They are kind of like rock stars at Odyssey of the Mind (just kidding - but my teams tend to do really well - so do the school kids). People, where are the OTHERS? Where are they? I run around with a zillion homeschoolers, meet new ones all the time, go places and do things and I have never run into this horribly uneducated group of mindless misfits whose parents are sitting at home with their feet propped up feeding their kids candy, sodas, and a steady stream of Jerry Springer reruns. If you qualify, please contact me! I've been DYING to meet you!

Anyway, there are so many of these Others running around that colleges and universities are Majorly Suspicious of homeschoolers. So even if your kid has a great SAT or ACT score? You're going to be required to do a little extra to prove they're not too ignorant to consume massive quantities beer and Ecstasy on campus like all the other kids. You're going to have to provide a list of textbooks used, editions, authors and teachers....a sample of an actual Lab Report (because nobody could EVER fake one of those!!) and take a few extra SAT II Subject tests. An almost perfect score on the critical reading portion of the SAT doesn't prove anything - please have her take a Subject Test that school kids do not have to take so that we know she can read. Okay. But if the scores don't mean anything then why do we have the test? Just wondering. Not that it matters. Jumping through hoops is fun and exciting and thrilling. Makes me miss public school.

Now then, you know how there's always a twist at the end of a good story? Here's my twist. We are The Others. (insert evil laugh.) That's right. It is 10:00 in the morning and my kids are still asleep. It is mid-September and we have not yet started doing any kind of remotely consistent or recognizable schooling.

In my defense, I was going to start trying to get everyone doing something a little more formal last week - because quite frankly - Grilled Cheese Chick was making me feel like sh*t with her schooling of the children over there on her blog. I'm pretty sure she will burn out any day now - but don't tell her I said that.

So, while Ellie played Rachmaninoff on her piano, and Joel played Guns-n-Roses on his guitar, and Jeff played Pearl Jam on his (all in separate rooms but all still within hearing for me), I pulled the three younger kids away from prop-making for their puppet show in order to "start school." It is good to start with the younger ones because they are still kind of into me at times and will go along with crazy hair-brained schemes like readin' and writin'.

"Camille," I said. "Let's do some math. We have a math book around here, remember? You did some of it last year."

"We're doing school? Yay!" LOVE HER. "Let me get my stamp collection!"

"No, no," I say. "I've scheduled a math lesson."

Camille returns with her massive stamp collection, courtesy of my cousin in Missoula, Montana. "Mikey sent me a Bhutan stamp and I was supposed to learn about Bhutan and I never did."

Sigh. Fine. "After Bhutan we'll do math, right?"


An hour later, we'd done a lovely little report on Bhutan. It was fun. She made a cover sheet, printed up maps and flag pictures and stapled the whole thing, put it in an envelope and addressed it to Cousin Mikey. Mikey, by the way, is a retired army colonel, not the cute little freckled cousin you're imagining.

"Now for math," I said.

"Mom!" Jules yells. Jules is always yelling when he's not mumbling. "We need to do this soon!" He throws the Witte Museum Member Magazine down on the table. "They're doing a bug thing and they're showing old bug movies and I want to see the old bug movies."

Okay. They're not doing the bug thing yet, and they're not showing the bug movies yet - that is all coming up soon - but Jules has Aspergers and wasn't going to get off the bug movie topic. He started in on all the old scary bug movies they're going to show outside in the fall and it does sound like fun. Then he starts talking about the movie "The Birds" and how old stories aren't scary compared to today's scary stories. I wanted to bring up math, which can be horrifying for me, but I knew he wasn't having any of it as long as he was on a roll, which he was.

"I beg to differ," I said. "Old stories can be terrifying. Let me find that book of Edgar Allen Poe stories...."

"Edgar Allen Poe?"

"You've heard of him, right?"

"Yeah. He's mentioned in the Beatles song I am the Walrus."

Well, it totally figures Jules would know something like that (and he's right) but that was all he knew. I found the book, and we read The "Masque of the Red Death." Camille listened in and they were both spellbound through the entire thing. (I don't mean to toot my own horn but I am an awesome read-alouder. You should hear me do Hank the Cowdog.) Jules admitted that it had been a little scary, and he was really into the language and the descriptions and how Poe managed to scare the pants off of you with basically one scene. He wanted to read more Edgar Allen Poe.

While we were discussing The Masque of the Red Death Joel crawled out of his cave. "Hey! I know that story!" he said. Then he went on to describe the prince, the party, the disease that wiped everyone out...and I wanted to know when he'd read Edgar Allen Poe and he was like, "Huh? That happened on a level of Halo." (Maybe it wasn't Halo. Maybe it was something else. But Halo is what he's into at the moment.) I had to laugh. My dad is concerned about how much time Joel spends gaming, watching cartoons, reading graphic novels, etc. He is my pop culture kid. But the truth is that you can be discussing anything from economics to politics to religion and Joel is going to say, "On the 4th season of Family Guy, episode 16, Peter blah blah blah blah" and it is always relevant. Maybe we're not having social studies or history in a formal setting, but Brian the dog is teaching Joel everything he ever needed to know about religion or the 60's or the Bush era. His education is in good hands. The kid knows stuff, and his curriculum is now officially better than anything the State of Texas is using.

Jasper? Never got into the scene that morning. Every educational model has its annoying and determined drop-out rate, no matter how small percentage-wise. And I have mine. Jasper dropped out in kindergarten and he's apparently not reached that point in his life where he examines his goals and says, "maybe i should go back to school...."

Anyway - the math book eventually got opened, Camille realized it was about 25 more pages of double digit addition with carrying the tens and said, "Don't they ever do anything new in this stupid book?" At the same time, when I tried to skip ahead she had a heart attack because she doesn't like to skip ahead but she didn't feel like doing double digit addition so she tossed the book back from whence it came. Which is why I'm glad she's not in school.

All in all, it was a morning spent in creating and exploring and discussing, learning.

So. We are The Others. Don't tell anybody.


  1. The least you could have done was to break up your paragraphs with pictures of a shirtless Sawyer.
    You are a Wonder Woman. I am in Awe of Homeschooling parents. I really don't know how you do it and still remain sane. Kudos!!!
    If I ever run out of money and have to pull the kids out of "Catholic School", I'm shipping them down to you.
    I'm just worried about the Others who won't be taught by you.
    Your Friend, product of a public school which explains a lot, m.

  2. grace is my poe junkie. i'm sure that doesn'y surprise you :)
    and i'm nursing m and too lazy to log in

  3. I am also too lazy to log in, but unlike Miss K. I have no excuse. Loved the post, but my only question is what is the benefit of finishing college in 4 years? Why is that one of your arguments? I see nothing wrong with a homeschooled college student taking a break and exploring other options - or any college student for that matter. The majority of us are not doing what we studied in college anyway.
    Just my thought for the day. So glad I know the "other" family - oh, and my Jul was a big Poe fan as well.

  4. It isn't necessarily a positive thing to measure success by - but then again, neither is college :). It is just something they tout in stats...coming to the conclusion that you get out of school earlier if you are self-motivated (which hs'ers often are) and pass your classes and, because so many hs'ers have had the time to explore their interests and develop their passions, know what they want to do. It is also cheaper if you can get out in 4 rather than 7. But yeah, me of all people...I don't think it is a plus to be in a big hurry to do anything :).

  5. Awesome post. I need to re read this every time I feel the urge to start scheduling our school. Which seems to be happening more often lately. Except for today - today was spent at the zoo swimming in the "mini" beach and having picnics.

    Keep 'em coming - I don't like going thru sardine withdrawal. ;-)

  6. I think I may be one of those others too. Why would I want to go to the trouble to recreate public school at home, when there is a perfectly mediocre one right down the street?
    Today's "curriculum" included going to a new frozen yogurt place for lunch - serve yourself, 40 cents per once, including all the toppings. Isn't that math? And economics? And, um... nutrition?
    Sidebar: Yes, we had dessert for lunch, but isn't it better caloriewise to have it 'instead of' rather than 'in addition to'? Oh look! More math.

  7. did you go to that one school yet? you know, the one we discussed? because i am so behind on life and i have no idea when that is scheduled. and i hope i didn't miss it.

  8. Now I know.
    We are the others, too.

    I loved, loved, LOVED this post.

  9. I just want to point out that public-schooled kids have lots of access to Halo and Family Guy, etc., too, and Austin could certainly give Joel a run for his money any day! Hardy-har.

  10. Julie - with the textbooks that will soon be teaching Texas kids...thank God Austin is covered by some real learning (like Southpark). Another school kid taken care of. And yes, I bet he could give Joel a run for his money!

  11. I LOVE LOVE this post.

    In fact I just shared it with my crazy bunch of mostly unschooled Moms. I am cracking up. My 10 year old is always surprising me with her knowledge and it usually comes from some totally 'inappropriate' TV show. ;)