Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's wrong with "substantially similar"

Quick recap, for those not familiar with me: I have been home  educating  my kids- 9th grade, 7th grade, and 4th grade- since day one, embracing the neo-classical schooling style. 5 years ago, when the youngest was in Kindergarten, I signed up with what is referred to as an ALE- Alternate Learning Environment; in our case, Columbia Virtual Academy . We've been with them since, and I have had a great relationship them. I have always felt supported in my educational choices and they have facilitated ME doing what I know works with MY kids, rather then telling me what to do.
Here's how it has worked; parents are connected to an advisory teacher, who works with parents to set educational goals that meet the family's needs while meeting state standards. parents can order curriculum that applies to those goals and is secular. They can also arrange payment for outside classes, usually in the areas of fine arts and PE. It's a great set up for the parent who is doing a schooly, non religious homeschooling experience, especially if they would like a break on karate or ballet.
Like many ALE parents I know, I signed up not so much to get books paid for, but classes (not paying for books IS great). Over the past couple of years, as the state has worked to balance the budget on the backs of our state's schoolchildren, the benefits to ALE parents have been cut. I'm really not at all worried about being able to keep ordering the curriculum I have been ordering all along. I teach in an academically rigorous, secular (except for Greek) fashion. The phrase that is going to hurt children in the end is "substantially similar".

This will mainly apply to outside classes; fine arts, PE, enrichment. Parents cannot apply to the ALE for payment of classes that are not substantially similar to those offered in public schools. This may sound great on the surface to those who envision ALE parents as free wheeling radical unschoolers who want the state to pay for their kids horseback riding lessons. This is an inaccurate stereotype, as  unschoolers  *generally* find ALE programmes are not compatible with their style, and most parents use more mundane classes. But what I want to address, and this is only my opinion, is the idea that ALE  students should have classes substantially similar to those in public schools.
They've got it backwards.
The state seems completely oblivious to the fact that in ALE s, they have a perfect opportunity to conduct research into improving education, not with models and predictions, but with real students. They can see what works small scale before trying it large scale. They can do it without paying analysts exorbitant amounts of money that should be going to the classrooms.
Do students who take piano lessons get higher math scores?
Do children who take ballet classes have better attention spans?
What about the test scores of students who have art classes?

What we really need is for public school students to start getting experiences substantially similar to the one independent  homeschooling  and ALE families provide their children.

I'd like to point out that this also applies to academics. It boggles my mind that our school district seems to spend thousands of dollars every few years trying to figure out why the test scores are so low, and what they can do to fix it.  Do they ever think to look at what the children who are not in public schools are taught? Just as an example: many homeschools and private schools use Saxon math. They tend to have higher test scores. Why don't more public schools use Saxon?
Some people think ALE parents want  special privileges for their kids; staying home while expecting the state to pay for whatever fun they want their kids to be able to do. For me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe every kid deserves access to the arts, dance, physical education that enriches their lives, and proven academics.


At 3:11 PM, Blogger A said...

This is just too much! Given that CVA (as an ex-CVA parent; due to move out of state) our scores are higher than the rest of the "normal" schools they shouldn't be forced to not provide the studies we feel needed to help our children. CVA was founded by homeschool parents that didn't find it right that they paid taxes to the local school and still had to pay for EVERYTHING they did while homeschooling their children. Our country NEVER intended for public school to be the was to be for those that could not homeschool yet now it is the norm and anyone that doesn't use them is "odd" this is an issue with our current setup.
I totally agree with you that they should be using us as the example/test subjects instead of us belittling our standards to accomodate the "norm"

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe said...

Thanks, I agree.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger mandyc said...

I believe everyone has a right to educate their child as they see fit. I know homeschooling parents, private school families and public school fans. We have our eldest in public school right now and are loving it. It's a good fit for our family. What I see lacking in public education? Strong family units. What homeschooling students and private school students have in common usually are involved, educated parents who care about their children. Public schools deal with ALL children. It's rough out there. In my mind no matter what curriculum a school uses it still has to battle poverty, bad parenting, no parenting, divorce and all manner of things that plague children nowadays. It's partly why we enrolled our child - we want to be a light in the public education system. The joke was kind of on us this year because God has been shining HIs light into our daughter's life this year using a number of friend's that she has made and fabulous teachers she has :)


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