A very interesting article. It strikes me that it is not so much about homeschooling as it is about creative teaching. The best of our school teachers seize on learning opportunities and individual interests in the classroom in the same way that the author does in her home.
I take several messages from this. One is that we need to recruit and retain highly creative young teachers into the profession. This is especially true as the large baby boom generation continues to retire. We need to raise back up the status of the teaching profession, which has been disdained by some. It would also help if teaching paid more.
Here in Iowa in 2013 we adopted a new professional development model for teachers to allow them to exercise more creativity and to broaden their approaches to the teaching art. We called it the teacher-leadership-compensation plan. (OK, that’s TLC for short. Too cute, I know. I didn’t make up the acronym.) Individual school districts were allowed to design their own specifics, but the general thrust of the program was to provide teachers with a path to professional development that did not involve leaving the classroom to go into administration. Certain teachers were chosen to take on master teacher and mentoring roles, and teachers were given more time to visit each other’s classrooms and to collaborate on teaching methods. And, they get more pay when they take on greater roles. TLC (both kinds) has been adopted by virtually all of our school districts.
Another message is the importance of paying attention to individual students, and the key to that is smaller class sizes. Children are indeed unique individuals, but it is hard for a teacher to know those individuals when there are 30 kids in her classroom.
I have often said, when meeting with groups of homeschooling parents, that I admire their dedication, effort, and sacrifice and the high quality results they often get with their kids. I admire their results, but I am not surprised. Give any public school teacher the two advantages a homeschooling parent has—small class size and strong parental support—and that professional teacher can work wonders, too.
One homeschooling issue too lightly touched on in the article is the challenge of socialization with other children. “Home schooling works best when isolation is actively avoided,” the author states. Amen. In the pandemic, this is a problem for every parent, but it will not go away for homeschoolers, even if this virus ever does. Learning how to get along with, cooperate with, work with, and learn from other children not related are also critical educational goals, especially in our increasingly diverse and globally integrated world. Those opportunities occur naturally in the public schools. Group activities like band and volleyball teach teamwork but are very hard for homeschoolers unless one has a very, very large family.
In Iowa, we have a program in many school districts called the homeschool assistance program. Homeschool students who participate in HSAP can join in those school activities (e.g., advanced courses, group activities) that homeschooling parents may not be able to provide at home. Some public funding does attach to the activities done in the public schools. HSAP has always seemed to me to be a useful bridge across the divide that has sometimes separated the homeschooling community and the public schools.
Thanks for the article.
Editor’s note: The letter writer is an Iowa state senator and the ranking member and former chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee.