I received a call last week from a co-worker in the company I drive school bus for. This woman told me she had some questions about homeschooling and was given my name as someone who might be able to answer them.
Cool, I thought. The topic of homeschooling just happens to be one of my passions, and if I can encourage anyone along the pathway, or help them to decide to take that route, I'm very eager to help.
She asked me how a person would go about getting registered, how records are kept, that sort of stuff. Then, just when I was warming to the subject, she burst my bubble. The reason she was asking me these questions was because she was planning to "report" a negligent homeschooling mother, and was hoping that I could tell her whom she should call. I gave her the information she sought, and hung up the phone, much troubled.
It stuck with me all day and into the next. So, I decided to give her a call and have a little chat.
I asked her, very kindly (honest....), how she knew for sure that this mother was being negligent. I informed her that some of the benefits of homeschooling was that school could be done at many different times of the day, many hours less a day than the typical public schooler, and with many different learning styles or approaches to schooling. Just because she didn't see this child having school did not necessarily mean that they weren't doing their schoolwork. She informed me that she just knew (reassuring me that she understood all of the points that I made), but that she just knew because she knew the family.
Here is what I really wanted to ask her if I could have asked her with the right spirit:
1) Have you ever reported the parent and/or teacher of a public school child?
2) If not, then why not?
3) Can you honestly tell me that in all of your years of dealing with public schools that you have not met at least one child who was not doing well in school?
4) If a child had "slipped through the cracks", then whose fault was it, the parent(s) or the teacher(s)?
Like I said, I am a very strong homeschooling advocate. However, I do realize, especially since driving a school bus, that there are situations where attending a public school is in the best interest of the child. I drive these types of children around all the time - children whose parents would be incapable of teaching their child themselves. I have very much come to admire the service that these teachers and schools provide for these children.
But..........this is what I also see: I see children that do not know how to spell their last name IN GRADE THREE. I see a grade eight girl who told me that it was only three years ago - in grade five - that she was able to read for the first time the type of chapter books my daughter is reading now, in grade one.
When I was in grade 12, I had an excellent English teacher, one who actually still believed in oral reading. She regularly had the class read out loud. In GRADE 12. Guess how many could actually oral read at a Grade 12 level? About a half dozen. That's six, total. Out of over 20 students.
And so I wonder, if I, or anyone else for that matter, were to take the approach that my co-worker is planning to take on a homeschooling mom - then where on earth would we even begin with the public schools? Whose fault is it when a child is passed on from grade to grade without even knowing how to read? Whose fault is it when a child in grade three can't even spell her last name? How do kids make it through to the end of their public school education with the oral reading level of a grade school child?
WHO IS AT FAULT? The parents or the teachers? Or both?
I realize that there are some negligent homeschooling parents. However, statistics hugely support the success of homeschooling as a whole, in every aspect - not just academically, but socially as well.
And it comes down to this: If a person is going to take to task the negligence of a homeschooling parent(s) - real or imagined - then please use that same principle to ensure that everyone in your circle of influence is getting as good an education as possible in the public system.
Maybe it will even help out the public education system in the long run......