If you follow homeschool news, you have probably heard that the Romeike family’s request for asylum was denied.
If you follow homeschool news, you have probably heard that the Romeike family’s request for asylum was denied.
From my column last week:
“Why do you say we don’t have money for pizza when you have money in your purse?” she asked, and the lesson was on.
I pulled out a stack of envelopes and found some play money from one of our games. First, we talked about budget categories. We agreed that we need food, gas, a place to live, clothing and other necessities.
I wrote the category names on the envelopes along with what we spend on each per month. Then I counted out what we usually budget for a month, and I put the play money into the envelopes. Every dollar had a home.
With a little more explanation of where the money goes, my daughter was set to concede that having money in my purse does not mean it is available for anything we want. If we use money from one category for something else, we have to go without what we already have planned for. I wish it were this easy to explain budgeting to politicians.
The lesson seemed to sink in because just last week, my boys were discussing their relative wealth. We give them a small allowance and require them to put a portion of that into a bank account. Max was feeling pretty rich until Olivia started reminding him that his savings is already earmarked for college.
And yet, if things continue as they are, he may be able to get an excellent college education without ever enrolling in a class. Information is available to inquisitive and discerning minds, and it will be interesting to see how this changes the college landscape in years to come.
When I arrived at Oklahoma State University to begin my college years, I didn’t know why I was there except that everyone always expected that I’d go. So I went. I met with an adviser who filled out paperwork and told me to go stand in line to get the classes I would need to finish my degree in four years.
I decided to major in speech pathology, and the rest of my coursework was then determined by the handy list the department gave me. I stood in a few more lines and always got the classes on the list. Graduation day came right on schedule.
If there was such a thing as an impacted program, I didn’t know it. Impaction, as I learned in some of my medically oriented coursework, applied to wisdom teeth and bowels, and I was grateful to have avoided both definitions of the word.
Looking at the college landscape now, I see a much different scenario ahead for my children. Reading and listening to current students, I hear about waiting lists, rising costs and degree programs that go on seemingly forever when students aren’t able to get the classes needed to earn their diploma. Add in a sluggish job market after graduation, and I understand why some are asking, “Why bother?”
Coursera and a few other sites now offer free college coursework. While the information is free for the learning, there is no college credit or diploma at the end. For those who need a specific degree to enter a profession, self-guided learning will not be enough to satisfy that requirement.
Many students, though, can look to successful college drop-outs and see that homeschooling principles can definitely be applied to higher learning. Uncollege.org provides information about how to educate oneself outside of a traditional college environment.
As the trend for self-guided learning continues, it will be interesting watch as many would-be university students find themselves pursuing home education through the college years.
In my column a couple weeks ago, I talked about the Common Core standards and how they relate to homeschoolers. Are homeschoolers in danger or is all the panic just hype? You decide.
From the column:
Someone asked me last week if the new Common Core standards for public education will affect homeschoolers. My response was a resounding: “Huh?” So I looked around and asked around and came to the conclusion that homeschooling and Common Core have a lot in common with dinner at my house.
Let me explain.
My insistence that everybody try at least one bite of each dish leads to a fair amount of dinnertime drama. I assure my children that they will get through it and that when they are out on their own, they can purchase and prepare anything they want for dinner.
Each child’s tastes are unique. Bella is my adventurous child. At 2 years of age, she tried broccoli for the first time. After one bite, she stretched her pudgy little hands out and pulled the entire serving bowl toward her. “Mine,” she said, as she reached in for more.
It isn’t always so easy. In order to entice all my children to try new things, I occasionally pull out the great maternal standby: “Because I said so.”
Common Core is a nationally standardized curriculum that most states have adopted for use in their public schools. Some in the homeschool arena have expressed concerns that vary from a vague unease to full-on terror that Common Core is the beginning of the end when it comes to the right to homeschool in this country. Add in US Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent comment that homeschooling is not a fundamental right, and such fears begin to escalate.
The fears can be distilled to a few main areas. The primary concern is that a nationally standardized curriculum will lead to nationally standardized testing. Some fret that this would lead to pressure on homeschoolers to teach the same curriculum rather than having freedom to select their own coursework.
In addition, national testing — if it extended to homeschoolers — might lead to national tracking of students. National standards may also be incorporated into college entrance exams and that might, somehow, skew entrance requirements in such a way that it would make it harder for homeschoolers to be admitted to their school of choice.
The federal government has enticed states to adopt Common Core by using their version of “because I said so.” Federal funding is tied to leaving older methods behind in favor of Common Core. Almost every state has come to the table to take a bite.
What does this have to do with home-based education? As homeschooling has grown in popularity, many families have chosen to use a charter school to oversee their educational experience. While this is not required, it means that the public charter school makes public school textbooks and materials available for charter school students who are educated in the home setting.
For the past few years, our family has been among the group choosing to educate at home under the umbrella of a local charter school. Public school textbooks and materials are available for us to use free of charge. If we don’t like what the charter has to offer, we can purchase and prepare our own curriculum any time we want. Standardized testing and tracking of those results is part of the package. If I don’t like it, I can opt not to use the charter school.
Avoiding Common Core curriculum and testing is simple for those who wish to do so, but it means homeschool parents need to come up with their own learning materials. Those who fill their homeschool plate with public school textbooks shouldn’t be complaining with their mouths full.
The Today show interviewed a family that has 10 kids. Six of those kids have taken at least a few college classes starting by age 12. The remaining 4 kids aren’t slacking–they just aren’t old enough…..yet.
A great story about a family that encourages their children to pursue excellence while still allowing them to be children.
It has been a while since I submitted something to a blog carnival, but recently I decided to send something in. The carnival is up over at The Common Room, and it is a well-rounded collection of posts. Topics include questions about teaching multiple grades, mom-led learning after the kiddos grow up, and some great ideas about teaching science.
That’s just a start. Head on over to the Homeschool Carnival and take a look.
Todd Starnes had this to say about the Romeike family’s possible deportation. Check the comments for a common theme: If they’d come in illegally would they still be at risk of deportation?
Meanwhile over at the NY Times, there is this piece about the rights of girls to get an education in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and several African countries. I don’t hear anyone clamoring to take in all these families who want their girls to get a basic education. Yet they are in very real danger:
Within the past two weeks alone, a 41-year-old teacher was gunned down 200 meters from her all-girls school near the Pakistan-Afghan border; two classrooms in an all-girls school in the north of Pakistan were blown up; and at an awards ceremony in the heart of Karachi, a principal was shot to death and another teacher and four pupils were wounded after grenades were hurled into a school that specialized in enrolling girls.
It was perhaps no coincidence that the Karachi teachers had been visited last year by Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old who was shot in October simply because she wanted girls to go to school and is now a global symbol for the right of girls to education.
In the last two years hundreds of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been firebombed and closed down by religious fundamentalists determined to stop the march of girls’ education.
Is there enough compassion to go around? Is there really anything that can be done to help the children who risk their lives to get some basic knowledge? Does their plight compare at all with that of the Romeike family?
So many questions.
Given a choice, I usually prefer to write “slice of life” stories about our homeschool adventure. I like to leave the politics on the side and focus on what it means to us to be a homeschool family.
In that effort, I realize that I have very few trials compared to many. I can take my kids out during school hours, I don’t have to shutter the windows when we are home so that nobody will know the children are not in a traditional school classroom. These blessings we take for granted. But are we entitled to homeschooling? Is homeschooling a fundamental right?
The buzz over this issue is only getting louder, fueled in part by some with an agenda and fanned by those who fear that the homeschool sky is falling.
In short, there is a family, the Romeikes from Germany. In 2008, they came to the US on tourist visas and filed for protection from persecution. Their grounds were that they were unduly persecuted for their religious beliefs. Those beliefs, they said, guided them to homeschool, and homeschooling is illegal in Germany. My column this week talked about this family.
Peeling Back the Layers
The Romeikes didn’t just pack up, sell the pianos and head for Tennessee. This Time article from 2010 says they were recruited by the Home School Legal Defense Association. The HSLDA promised to help in their legal case. Every press release asks for financial assistance but does not mention that the HSLDA went to the Romeikes asking for the fight, the Romeikes did not go to the HSLDA and ask for their help. The Romeike family was granted asylum initially.
If the HSLDA had not contacted them, I wonder if the Romeike family would have stayed in Germany or moved to another country other than the US.
In addition to asking if homeschooling is a fundamental right, I would ask if an American organization should take on the challenge to German law, because there is an element of this that seems like the HSLDA is just picking a fight to make their point.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the organization has done a lot of good work, but some of those press releases give an icky feel to it all–is this a political platform or a fundraising effort?
As a result of this case–and maybe we could argue that the case was more about clarifying US law than it was about taking a poke at German law–we have a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder stating that homeschooling is not a fundamental right. That raised the hackles of all sorts of ordinary folks who might have missed the original story altogether.
The case is garnering international attention, and it raises some interesting questions. The Romeikes were initially granted asylum, but the US government petitioned to overturn that ruling and ultimately to deport the family. Is this a point of law? Is the US government simply trying to placate an ally? Does our government fear a flood of immigrants seeking asylum? (Note to the government–we already have a flood of immigrants).
If the courts decide that the Romeikes should be granted protection, does it then lead to cases for other families to apply? After all, some countries forbid the education of girls. Can all families with girls then come to the US and be granted asylum? If the Romeikes eventually prevail, will we have a flood of asylum seekers from Germany, Sweden and other countries that forbid home education?
The debate rages on. Where do you stand?
Some ask why the Romeikes would flee. Did they have a reasonable fear that they would have their children taken away or that they would be arrested? Here are a few cases that would support their case that they are part of a group with immutable characteristics that set them apart from society, single them out for persecution and place them in need of protection.
Melissa Busekros, committed to an insane asylum because she wanted to be homeschooled.
Klaus and Kathrin Landahl fled the country with their 5 children to avoid arrest for homeschooling.
Could you, would you, leave your home to keep on homeschooling? Are our rights in danger here in the US? I’d love to hear your comments on this.
My column from 3/14–
We have been learning about chromosomes in our homeschool recently. As often happens, our lessons are initiated by circumstance, and the curriculum is guided by life. After several family discussions, the boys brought their own questions to me one evening.
“Mom, what is Down Syndrome?” Max asked.
“Down Syndrome is what happens when a person has one extra chromosome,” I said.
“But what is a chromosome?” Max asked.
“Well, a chromosome is kind of like a set of instructions. You know how sometimes I tell you something to do and then your sisters come in and boss you around and each of them tells you what to do, and then things get kind of confusing?”
Both boys nodded vigorously. They clearly understood this part. “Well, chromosomes tell a baby how to start growing inside the mom. When there are too many instructions in there, things can get confusing.” They thought about that for a moment, and I pulled them closer.
“Open your hand,” I told Max. “You see those lines all over your palm? See how you have one here and here?” Max nodded. Atticus took off the baseball glove he’d been wearing all afternoon, unfurled his fingers and looked down. I traced the lines on his hand then showed him mine. All of us had several creases across our palms.
“Now look at Dominic’s hands, and tell me what you see,” I said.
Max reached down and unclenched the baby’s fists. First one, then the other. “There’s only one line,” he said.
“Right,” I said. “Only one. That is something that happens with Down Syndrome. It’s not a big deal, it’s just different. Somehow the instructions for how many lines to put on a hand got a little mixed up.”
“There are other things, too,” I told them. “See how your little fingers are straight? Dominic’s pinky fingers have a little curve in them. You can also see that his ears are kind of lower than yours, and his eyes look a little different than yours do, too. Now do you think that is a problem?”
They shook their heads.
“Did I ever have Down Syndrome?” Atticus asked.
“No, it doesn’t work like that,” I told him. “Either you have it or you don’t. If you have Down Syndrome, you have it for your whole life. Dominic will always have it, and you never will.”
Atticus nodded. “Oh,” he said.
“There is one other thing that you can’t really see right now.” I continued. “Dominic’s muscles are a little bit weaker than yours were when you were a baby. He might have trouble learning to do some things that you can do, or it might take him a little longer to learn to do things. You can help him with that.”
“Yeah, because I’m strong,” Atticus told me. He started flexing his muscles to prove his point. Max obviously saw that as a challenge, and soon they were comparing biceps and assuring me they were very, very strong. Boys are like that.
“I can teach him to play baseball,” Atticus said, shoving his baseball glove toward Dominic’s face.
“You might need to wait until he’s a little older,” I told him. “Right now that glove is bigger than his diaper.”
“He can wear it,” Atticus said, giggling at the thought of using a baseball glove as a diaper. Our lesson on chromosomes was clearly over.
There will be more to learn as we go to appointments, schedule tests and navigate a new world parenting this sweet boy who is now and forever a part of our family. As always, we are very blessed.
Why do I even read message boards and Facebook pages about homeschooling? Usually because I have some other task I’m putting off, but I seriously need to reconsider how I waste my time.
The subject keeps coming up: How do I get started?
And the moms weigh in. “I write my entire curriculum every year.”
“We only do unit studies that I have written myself.”
“I organize my curriculum onto Pinterest to keep track.”
“I consult the state standards for all subjects and plan accordingly.”
Somewhere in there, a voice of reason: “Why?”
Nobody answers that question, but I can relate to that one mom asking “Why?”
There is so much out there to see and learn and do and experience. And if you want to spend your time doing worksheets all day, there are thousands available. You don’t have to spend a month (a month!) at the beginning of each year planning. You can take the hand down from your forehead and give up the martyr routine. It isn’t necessary to plan every single moment of every single day. LIVE a little!
Is that too harsh?