So I seemed to hit a nerve with one reader the other day with my How Do We Start the Revolution entry, the following is the emails that we exchanged this weekend, I have posted them here with her permission. Her writing is in Italics. I am putting it here unedited (except for spelling) even though not all of it was friendly.
I adamantly, but respectfully, disagree with your ideas that “parents should take back the role of educating their children” and that homeschooling is the way to start some sort of educational revolution.
There are many angles from which I disagree with this, but it seems to me that we miss the point when we view education as “what’s important for MY child.”
As a community member, I see the children in the community as not just the son or daughter in one family, but the future of the community. Just because someone doesn’t have children doesn’t mean they aren’t invested in the future for children, and it would be undemocratic to think so. When you take teachers and community members out of the conversation and debate, an exclusive group is formed, and the democratic act of education ends. It’s the same situation as when teachers exclude parents.
If we really want to reform our educational system (especially for the very young), then it must be done in a shared democracy, when people come together to talk about values and beliefs about childhood, then we will be able to move forward together.
Now, if your 3 year-old is doing worksheets all day in school and the school refuses to consider educational research that you mention that renders it inappropriate, that’s one thing, but most schools make an honest attempt to share the act of education with families. As educators, we’re taught that the family is an important part of a child, and that little can be done in school unless we recognize that. To paint teachers as ‘hoarders of education’ seems one-sided, to say the least.
To suggest that homeschooling is an appropriate way for people to come together to start a conversation is laughable. It would be comparable to a state seceding from the union because it didn’t agree with a handful of the laws. The rest of the Union won’t change because of it, and that state would be withdrawing from the argument, completely inhibiting change.
Schools are already places where people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, races, and religions congregate. I’m not sure what the demographics of homeschooled children are, but it seems fair to say they are mostly white and middle class.
I was in Reggio Emilia a few weeks ago, and perhaps one of the most important observations I made was about the people that gave us the tour of the city on the first day – all affiliated with Reggio Children: one was a college student, one was a parent of a child who passed through the schools 20 years ago, one was a police officer, one was a parent of a current student and one was a teacher. Perhaps their approach is so powerful because it’s an act of inclusion and shared democracy, rather than delegation of education.
excuse me? unlike you I was out with my family yesterday and don’t spend my entire life on-line. I have just read both of you comments. Perhaps if you were to focus on more than one single line and not blindly attack homeschoolers or maybe read the entire discussion over at Camp Creek you might have something better to say than to attack someone. I am tempted to not post you comment because it sounds more like a rant by someone who has an obvious agenda.
I was preparing to post you first comment, when I read but obviously you are more interested in goading me on than having a respectful conversation. Your comment only responds to one line and not to the entire post. If you are one of those teachers, I also find it interesting that you attack my mentioning of homeschooling but find no reason to comment on Lori’s choices and discussion of the importance of Homeschooling is her comments as well, is this because I happen to be a “nobody” to you. So I find it laughable myself that you find it okay to even send me a second message calling me a sensor, I have never censored my blog comments but now I actually am tempted to because you seem interested in attention not a conversation.
I’m sorry if you felt attacked, and I admit that I was angry when I
wrote the comment, but if you post strongly opinionated comments on
your public blog, then you should expect to receive strongly
opinionated comments. If you want to generate discussion, and then
censor the comments that you do not agree with, you have to admit that
what you want is not honest dialogue in the community, but a way to
regulate education. I saw that another comment had been approved and
posted that was written after mine, and assumed you had decided to
As for me and my family? I live in the Middle East, there is a major
time difference, and made the comment last night when I was on the
internet – when most people, even those with families, like to do the
same. I, also, don’t spend my entire life online, and am a teacher
for 50 hours a week. The hardest part of being a teacher? Trying to
get parents involved in their children’s education.
I decided to respond to your post this way instead of Lori’s (whom I
don’t even know, and had no idea she was a “somebody”), because she
didn’t eagerly blame teachers and schools for the woes of the
educational system, but was merely commenting that there needed to be
a change. I do disagree with Lori at times, but think that much of
the information and conversational threads on her blog are applicable
for a school setting, too. Furthermore, the comments in this
particular thread aren’t at all about homeschooling, and so the
comments I made on your blog were in regards to a completely different
argument. I, too, believe that there needs to be a change in the way
we view children and early childhood education, but fundamentally
believe that meaningful education requires the support of the
community, and relies on the values it has.
It seems to me that deciding to homeschool means that family has
decided to no longer contribute to the ongoing dialogue in schools
about what’s best for all children. It seems to me that most families
that homeschool are concerned only about the education of their
children, rather than the education of the community’s children. I do
think homeschooling can be a successful way of educating children, but
I do stand by my original comments that it’s not a very sound argument
for changing the overall way the community approaches education.
“Education can essentially be defined by one word: participation.”
-Carla Rinaldi, Reggio Emilia
I’d also like to apologize for criticizing your argument without
making any alternative suggestions on how to make the change that we
both agree needs to happen. I posted on my blog several weeks ago
about defining and redefining our values as a community concerning
Perhaps that link should have been my original post.
I guess I’m curious why you only focused on one parenthesis rather than reading the entire entry that focuses on groups of people working together.
From my perspective, I was commenting on the whole post, but may have
mentioned only one part.
Schools are groups of people working together. If homeschoolers bring
their children together, they become schools or school co-ops. I
don’t see how this is any different from a neighborhood school, except
for the fact that it would most likely only include white, middle
class, highly educated, and Christian children. I have a hard time
believing an equitable change for all children would happen by these
people coming together and talking. I’m not at all saying that these
people have prejudiced beliefs or are racist, but I think the people
who are going to fight the most for children are their parents, and so
I have to wonder about those children aren’t described by the
aforementioned characteristics. Correct me if I’m wrong about those
demographics – I have no research on this, but am just pulling from my
own observations from homeschoolers I’ve known.
I think homeschooling has a lot to offer individual children, like
focused attention, the gift of time, and the ability to see children
for their potential, creativity, and intelligence, rather than trying
to fit them into a box (which can be an unfortunate side-effect of
institutional education). As a teacher, I would never see leaving to
start my own school with only my own beliefs as appropriate, because
no one would be representing my beliefs about children and education
in the school anymore – the system wouldn’t change. It just seems
ironic to me to imagine homeschooling as a feasible way to change
education, making it more equitable and more appropriate for all
children. Laughable was definitely the wrong word.
Upon reflection, I find myself most passionate about this because it
seems that I share the same beliefs about childhood and education with
many homeschoolers (at least those in the blogosphere), and when these
people leave schools, there are fewer people to present and argue for
these ideas in PTAs, class meetings, and schools to contribute to this
seeing how I am neither christian or middle class your assumptions are off. I think if you knew more about the world of homeschooling you might see this. Besides my discussion on my blog was about parents of children, neither homeschooling families or schooled families. The question I was asking was how to start the revolution you have made a lot of guess what my revolution might look like.
As for your earlier comment that most school systems have a great deal of parental involvement in what goes on in the school I would suggest looking at any public school system in this country and ask whether or not the parents feel heard. Perhaps in your small school the parents have a voice but they are already choosing the educational system that you offer.
If you were to read the rest of the comments on Lori’s blog you might notice that I have spent years teaching in these very environments and have seen that parents defer to teachers who are the “experts” just the same way they may with Doctors, the ones that stand up for their opinions are often considered trouble. I have no problem with successful alternative schools, however all I was answering was how to start a revolution not asking for anyone to attack my particular stand point.
To be honest this whole discussion has made me think that children’s education is really a too volatile space to start the change, too many people seem to know what’s best for everyone else, perhaps the model of change should be more like that of community gardens.
In addition, since I could not afford to send my child to a private school I would rather have him experience the diversity of the world in freedom rather in the boxed and skewed curriculums the American schools use.
think they’re necessary for change to happen. I think it would have
been wonderful if this conversation was on the web for everyone to
read. It would have been interesting to hear other opinions.
As a teacher, I spend most of my life thinking about the ways to
provoke learning in my students and facilitate their growth. To
suggest a solution, you mentioned taking back the reigns from
educators and talking among parents, that would leave me out of the
discussion feels exclusive and inconsiderate. Perhaps you weren’t
thinking that you were offending anyone with this proposed solution,
but I think it’s important for others to see another perspective.
but believe that GOOD teachers see themselves learning alongside
children, and are constantly revising their beliefs about children and
education. I know that there are teachers, particularly in public
school system, who don’t share these beliefs, are teaching the same
way and things they did 15 years ago, and have ceased to challenge
themselves intellectually in their work and revise their methods
according to research. I would suggest that these people are no
longer doing their jobs, and I think most schools would agree that
they want teachers who are reflective and inquisitive learners.
Parents should be seriously concerned when they find their children in
the care of a teacher like this, and should make their concerns known.
However, there are many teachers who consider themselves reflective
researchers who devote their careers to provoking learning and
creativity, and reforming the educational system to be more
developmentally appropriate and inclusive. I think these educators
are deeply valuable to the community, and would have a lot to add to a
conversation (many of them are already having this conversation).
Feel free to post any of this conversation on your blog. I admit that
my initial argument would have been more powerful and clear if I had
filtered out my anger, but I do stand by my beliefs concerning schools
as the obvious place for these conversations to occur.