Friday, September 28, 2007

Head lice in public schools

I learned something new today, folks. Suddenly things made sense to me.

One thing I always hated when school started was the dreaded "Head Lice Note."

You know the one:

"This note is to inform you that a child in your son's/daughter's class has been found to have head lice. Please check your child....blah blah blah"

So then there is the paranoia and constant checking of your child. Or the times when you find the note comes too late - there is already an infestation.

Now, most school districts say that they have a "no-nit policy." Kids cannot come back to school unless/until they are completely nit-free.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

They can say it all they want. It is not true. I am sure there are a few school districts that adhere to that, but, for the most part, people just don't want the kids to miss more than a day or 2 of school.

And I found out why. Money, of course.

According to Quantum's Survey of over 1,000 School Nurses:

75% say head lice have increased over the last three years.
On average, 10% of the elementary school student body gets head lice.
Each student is absent an average of 4.2 days.

And:

Head lice result in lost education days, lost funding due to non-excused sick days, and lost income to parents who must stay home to care for their lice-ridden children.

So the schools don't want the kids to stay out - they want their money/funding.

Now for my rant:

I hate head lice. They are the most vile little creatures around.

It took me forever to get rid of these little suckers, too, but I found a way. (I made my own concoction - bwahahahahahahahahahahaha.) (That was evil laughter.) The stuff at the store is a joke and the prescription stuff is really scary. I made something myself that wiped the little suckers out. (Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.)

I am soooooooo glad I did not get one of those notes this year! :-)

A surprising source of materials

Actually, I suppose it's not so surprising, but I did not think that Books-a-Million had a whole lot of materials suitable for homeschoolers, but they do.

Of course I know they have books. I mean, I am not that slow. LOL

What I mean is that they have a whole section for books specifically for homeschoolers - workbooks, worktexts, and also books about different homeschooling philosophies.

One series I like for "supplemental" work is the Spectrum series of workbooks from McGraw-Hill. They have different books for grade levels and subjects: Reading, writing, math, etc. Nice stuff for extra practice and for a little variety, you know? :o)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The economics of homeschooling

One thing I love about homeschooling is that it can truly fit any budget.

The average annual expenditure per homeschooled student is around $450, according to research I quoted earlier.

This works out to around $37.50 per month - less than what most people spend for cable tv. I, personally, save more than that each month on gas money because I don't have to drive the kids back and forth to school each day.

There are also tons of books/websites that proclaim to show you how to homeschool for free or almost free. (Simply use a search engine with the terms "homeschool free" for ideas.)

But what about 2 common scenarios:
  1. Mom works outside the home and the family "needs" her income.
  2. There is a single parent home.

For scenario #1, there are very few instances that I have seen where Mom's income was actually necessary. When you factor in the extra costs of Mom's job - extra gas, pantyhose, afterschool care, fast food/eating out because Mom is too tired to cook or is not home to cook, etc - Mom's income gets whittled away pretty quickly.

Many times, Mom's job puts the family into a higher tax bracket, increasing taxes to the point that the family would come out ahead by Mom not working. This is especially true if the family's income is pushed to the point of being just below the next tax bracket.

For scenario #2, it is trickier, but I have supported myself and 2 small kids as a single mom by working from home, so it can be done. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Again, when you do not work outside of the home, many expenses go down, so you can do just as much with less money. Not having the cost of driving back and forth to work and school saves a ton of money on gas.

Let's look at some numbers, shall we?

Let's say Mom makes $25,000 a year at her job.

Taxes will take $6250.

Gas for the job takes approximately $30 per week. That's $1560.

Afterschool care for 2 kids is another $80 per week. (That is low for what I have seen, but that's okay.) (Before-school care would be more, but let's say Mom doesn't need it.) That's $4160 per year.

The family eats out once a week because Mom is too tired to cook. For a family of four, let's say that is $40. That is $2080 per year.

Mom needs to look good, right? Pantyhose, clothing, hairdo, etc. Let's give Mom $200 a month for all of that. That's $2400.

Mom eats out for lunch twice a week with the girls from work. That's $20 a week. That's $1040.

So we are down to $7510 from $25,000 already. That doesn't even factor in the convenience foods the family buys for "quick" meals and other costs.

Now, let's say this family chooses to homeschool. How to make up that $7510???

The kids' expenses will go down. No uniforms to buy or tons of new clothes. Remember "play clothes"? Yep, that's what we do. Instead of a whole new wardrobe for school, we buy a few new outfits and then the kids wear play clothes around the house.

You know that huge school supply list you get each year? Buying tissues, pencils, marklers, etc. for the whole class?? Nope. You have 2 kids (or however many), and you are the teacher. Buy what you want. It is your choice! I saved an average of $75 a year just for this - not counting clothing.

Bookbags? Nope. That saved me $20 per child. (See how this adds up?)

Registration fees? Nope. (Yes, public schools now charge a fee to register your child - at least here in SC they do. Unbelievable.) That saves $35 per year, per child.

See how fun this gets? :o)

There are other ways to save money, too. I will blog about that later.

One more note: If you feel the absolute need to bring in an extra income, look at ways to make money from home. Perhaps you have a hobby that can be income-producing. There are other ways to make money from home, as well.

-----Shay :o)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

So, what can be done about public schools?

I am sorry it has taken me so long to write this response. (Not like anyone was waiting around on pins and needles for it, but oh well.)

I started and stopped on this post so many times. I researched and quoted and dug for answers. I wrote several long posts and made lots of cases for lots of different causes and solutions.

But, for me, it all boils down to three things:
  1. Throwing more money at public schools won't fix them. The problem isn't the school system. The problem is that broken, hurting kids are being sent to school and the school suffers for it.
  2. I cannot change all of those kids. I can only love on mine and raise them the best way I know how. My job/duty/privilege is to care for my kids and make sure I do my best for them.
  3. My kids are better off academically, socially, and emotionally being homeschooled by me.

I do the best I can with other kids that are in my circle of influence. I try to help them all I can, but putting my kids in the war zone called "public school" is not good for my kids. So I won't do it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Academic reasons to homeschool

Want some reasons to homeschool? Try these:

Academic Statistics

The average homeschool 8th grade student performs four grade levels above the national average (Rudner study).

One in four homeschool students (24.5%) are enrolled one or more grades above age level.

Students who have been home schooled their entire lives have the highest scholastic achievement.

In every subject and at every grade level of the ITBS and TAP batteries, homeschool students scored significantly higher than their counterparts in public and private schools.

Homeschool profile

Median amount spent on home schooling per child in the US - $450

Household incomes

18% of home school families earn less than $25,000, 44% of households between $25,000 and $49,000.

Television

65.3% of 4th grade homeschoolers spend one hour or less per day watching television

Regulation

States with High government regulation of home schools - homeschool battery score - 86

States with Moderate government regulation of home schools - homeschool battery score - 85

States with Low government regulation of home schools - homeschool battery score - 86

Certification

Performance of 4th grade home schoolers where at least one parent was certified - Composite Percentage Score 82

Performance of 4th grade home schoolers where neither parent was certified - Composite Percentage Score 82

Minority Performance

Home school - average reading score (white) - 87 percentile;

Public school - average reading score (white) - 61 percentile

Home school - average reading score (minority) - 87 percentile;

Public school - average reading score (minority) -49 percent

Home school - average math score (white) - 82 percentile;

Public school - average math score (white) - 60 percentile

Home school - average math score (minority) - 77 percentile;

Public school - average math score (minority) - 50 percentile

The above statistics were taken from http://www.chec.org/Legislative/News/HomeschoolingStatistics/Index.html

Other crime statistics for schools

"The Center for the Prevention of School Violence has gathered information concerning the procedures which are being used across the United States to track school violence incidents. This review was prompted by President Clinton's call for the creation of "an annual report card on school violence." Findings which reflect information from state departments of education or departments of criminal justice reveal that eight states are creating what can be described as detailed reports of school crime or violence, and eight states are keeping tracking of such crime and violence in less-detailed reports. Thirty-four states do not have reporting systems except those required by the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994.

The eight states which are creating detailed reports are: Alabama; California; Delaware; Florida; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; and Virginia. Table One provides information concerning the contents of these reports. The titles of the reports indicate different emphases in these states with four using "violence" in some way, three using "crime," two using the notion of safety ("safe schools" and "safety"), one using "conduct," and one each specifying "weapon possession" or "substance abuse."

The current reporting processes which exist in these states date back to 1990 in South Carolina. As Table One presents, the states collect data on 'offenses,' 'incidents,' or 'crimes' in anywhere from four categories to twenty-six.

Details concerning offenders and victims vary across the states as do details concerning the incidents themselves and the consequences associated with the acts which occur. One state, North Carolina, gathers specific information concerning strategies the schools are using 'to combat crime and violence.' " (Taken from http://www.ncdjjdp.org/cpsv/library/usincident.htm)

Shay's notes: Translation: some states are doing just the bare minimum required by Federal Law and others are actually going above and beyond, to varying degrees.

The result of this is that is is impossible to make a state-by-state comparison of school crime statistics. It is like comparing apples to oranges. (Which is the idea, I am sure. No one can say, "My school district is better than yours" if there are no stats.)

Now let's see what else we find:

According to The report by the Department of Justice (you can read all 78 pages here: http://www.ncdjjdp.org/cpsv/library/usincident.htm), from January 1990 to February 28th, 2002, there were 1055 incidents of bombs being placed on school premises (not just threats - actual bombs being placed on school property). Of those 1055 incidents, only 14 were preceded by a threat. Only 14. In the same report, it is said that only 5-10 percent of threats involved real bombs. (Of course, no one knows which ones are fake or real until thoroughly investigated.)

Shay again - this scares the heck out of me.....we are not talking about a few isolated incidents. This is a widespread problem!

I'd rather have my kids home and safe, thank you very much, getting a tailor-made, superior education - with me.

Thoughts?

School Violence

The news reports cover the most horrific crimes committed in schools - shootings, etc.

What about what happens every day?

Here are some statistics about SC schools from the years 1996 - 1998. The following data comes from this source: http://www.scdps.org/ojp/school_violence_findings.html Feel free to read everything in detail if you have a strong stomach. Or meds. Or both.

Please keep in mind that SC is not a large state, either. To find out statistics for your state, try Googling "statistics+violence+school+your state"

Violence:

A total of 11, 548 violent offenses were reported in SC for grades K-12 for the years 1996-1998. (My question is, "How many were not reported?")

Of these reported offenses, the breakdown is as follows:

Aggravated Assault
1,303

Forcible Fondling
337

Forcible Sodomy
36

Intimidation
2,023

Murder
2

Rape
84

Robbery
160

Simple Assault
7,585

Sexual Assault w Object
18

Total
11,548

I don't know about you, but these statistics really scare the heck out of me. These are just the ones that were reported. What about the incidents that were not reported because the victim was too afraid come forward and talk to the police?

My kids did not go to a horrible school. They really didn't. But they did see fistfights and assualts on teachers on a regular basis (not to mention kids hurting each other). A pregnant teacher was kicked in the stomach. Another teacher was so shaken because of injuries she received while trying to break up a fight between students that she left and went home.

This is wrong. Throwing money at the problem won't change things. Putting a program into place at school when the child's home life is the cause of the behavior won't help the situation.

So what can be done? I'd love to hear some of your ideas. (I'll write about mine on my next post).

Monday, September 17, 2007

"What about socialization?"

I love it when I tell people I have chosen to homeschool and they ask, “What about socialization?”

My answer is, “Well, I only plan to hide them under a rock 3 days a week, so they should still see some live human beings once in a while.”

But the serious answer is this:

What do you see as “socialization”? The definitions I have found (from dictionary.com) are the following:

  1. To place under government or group ownership or control
  2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable
  3. To convert to the needs of society

Right off the bat, #1 is why I took them out of public school, so that’s out.

As far as #3, have you taken a good look at society as a whole lately? No, thanks. Not my kids. I don’t want my girls dressing like harlots and my sons acting/looking like thugs. No, thank you.

So that brings me to #2 - making fit for companionship with others and making them sociable.

In my opinion, kids need to learn the basics of being sociable with kids their own age - stuff like sharing, cooperation, honesty, generosity, etc. (They could learn this without ever leaving the house, really, since I have four kids, but I digress.) But we do leave the house. Often. Between church, Sunday School, AWANA, playdates, general errands and field trips, my kids see (and interact with) other live human beings quite often.

How much of this socialization do they get in school? Hmmmmmmm….let’s see:

In the time before school starts, they had to sit in the hall by the door of the class. Anyone talking got punished. (Not much socialization there….)

What about in class? Again, talking was punished, so that leaves out any socialization there, too.

What about lunch? In the school where my kids went, the first part of lunch was “quiet lunch” - no talking. That left 10 minutes for talking quietly. If it got too loud, that time was taken away.

Recess was a time for talking, right? Unless, of course, it was taken away as some punishment for the class. :-( Or if it rained, no recess.

So there were days that kids could go to school for 7+ hours and not be able to speak to another child (without being punished).

At best, kids got to “socialize” for 25-30 minutes a day. Out of 7+ hours. Not really a stellar testimony of the socialization that occurs in school.

By contrast, my kids are socializing all day long. Even when they work, they are often chatting with me or with each other. At times, they work together on a project or a reading assignment, too.

They also “play school” with their little brother, so that teaches them skills, too. They think they are only teaching him his numbers, letters, shapes, etc., but they are learning valuable skills, as well - teaching, patience, leadership, compassion, presentation, etc. - so, down the road, when they are asked to help teach other kids, they will be comfortable with it.Reading, writing, etc. - those are important….but there are other skills that are priceless.

"How do you teach multiple kids/ages?"

The kids I homeschool are 11 and 9, plus I have a 2 year old who is “unofficially” homeschooled.

How do I handle teaching different ages and keep a toddler occupied? Glad you asked!

Step into my living room…. I am blessed with 2 very different children. This works out great for homeschooling. My 11 year old is my oldest son. He is up at the crack of dawn most days. He is up and eating breakfast when I stagger out of bed and get my coffee started. I grunt something civil in answer to his cheery, “Hi, Mom!” (Is this kid really mine?? He is SUCH a morning person!) After I get some coffee into me, I resemble a human being and then get down to teaching.

A while later, my daughter (age 9) staggers into the kitchen and grunts something civil in answer to our cheerful, “Hi, Cam!” Once she has had some breakfast and resembles a human being, I start teaching her. (This one I KNOW is mine. LOL :-) )

It works out well. I can teach one-on-one most of the time, and each child can function when he/she works better.

The toddler? He is like I am - sleeps in and takes some time to wake up. When he does wake up, he is (usually) content to snuggle in my lap while I work with whichever child I am helping. Or he will color next to the big kids while they work.

So the answer to the question is simple - let the kids work when they do the best work!

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: “You can’t just let the kids sleep until they wake up naturally! They need to learn to get up when they are supposed to get up!”

I have 2 words for an answer: College students.

When I was in college, I never scheduled a class before noon unless I absolutely had to. Why? As I said before, I am NOT a morning person. So why not schedule classes for when I do my best work?

Same thing with my business. I do most of my work late at night - when I work best!

The result? I have kiddos that are well-rested and work well! It works great for us!

Another thing is curriculum: Unit Studies. Unit Studies are great for multiple ages - you cover the same topic for all kids and the older kids get more info than the younger ones do. Most unit studies come with instructions for multiple ages. (Math is the one thing where I teach completely different lessons.)

Take, for example, our latest unit study - Japan. One of the topics is volcanoes of Japan. For the younger child, we study the location and frequency of the volcanoes, plus a brief explanation of why they occur so often there.

For the older child, we did the same, but also included a detailed study of plate tectonics and compared that to the Growing/Expanding Earth Theory and how the two theories differed. Then we debated each of the theories (each of us took a turn on either side of the debate) and discussed if the theory is plausible.

"Do they speak English in Michigan?"

This is a question my 9 year old asked me when she was almost done with 3rd grade.

I kid you not, Ladies and Gentlemen. My third grader - a bright, straight-A student - had no idea that Michigan was a state and that English is the primary language spoken there.

She was in the public school system at that point. I had assumed that she was being taught trivial things like the 50 states and the “other” Presidents - not just Lincoln and Washington. Other trivial stuff like who George Bush is. (Either one.) I was wrong.

That got me asking questions. (Of all the kids, not just her.) Know what I found out?

They had all kinds of lessons on tolerance and self-esteem and other touchy-feely stuff, but can’t find Georgia on a map.They could tell me about their friend (3rd grade) whose mom hid her pot (not the cooking utensil, either) in their classmate’s bookbag (the cops found it anyway), but they could not tell me what the Declaration of Independence was.

They could tell me the procedure for “lockdown” and what to do if a bomb threat is called in to the school - but not who John Hancock was.

That is when I started to seriously look at homeschooling. For the sake of my kids and their education.

About me and this blog

Hello!

I wanted to begin with some background and some answers.

First off, I am the mom of four wonderful kiddos - 2 boys and 2 girls. They are 13, 11, 9 and 2 years old. They are in girl-boy order (I planned that - really!) and they are all precious to me.I am 39 (yeah - it sure is different chasing after a toddler at 39 than it was at 29 - what the heck was I thinking???).

I am married to a wonderful man who is also 39. He is a disabled veteran and an ex-Marine (although I am being informed by the Hubby that there is no such thing as an “ex” Marine). (To which I answer, “Maybe not, but you don’t get deployed anymore, so that’s a plus. Those big paychecks don’t come anymore, either. And I am pretty sure if I tried shopping at the commissary they’d kick me out.” :-) )

I am also homeschooling. Wow. Now don’t get me wrong - I had originally majored in Chemistry in college with a minor in Education. (That sounds soooooo impressive, no?) But I ended up not being a teacher and teaching my own kiddos is a lot different than my student teaching experience. Plus I am pretty sure that if I were teaching high school chemistry I would not have a 2 year old running through the classroom several times an hour. (Partially clothed, at times - but that’s another story. I just loooove the stage when they learn to take off clothes.)

Why did I choose homeschooling? There are so many reasons, but they can all be summed up in one simple sentence: I can do a better job of teaching my kids than the schools can. Period.How can I say this? Easy.

The teachers at the schools where my kids went were too busy trying to referee fights and combat negative home influences to be able to teach effectively. How can they teach when the kids in the room are so apathetic or hostile? If everyone goes home intact, that’s a good day.

In addition, my kids were advanced academically for their grade levels, but they had to wait for the other kids to catch up before they could move on to something else. Now we can go as quickly or as slowly as we need to. I know my kids and what they want to be when they grow up. I know one is so interested in science it is not even funny and the other is a HUGE people-person. I know my 2 year-old is already taking stuff apart to see how things work (like my 11 year old did/does) and is already advanced. I can tailor the academics to each child, not to try to teach to the average children in a room of 20+ kids. I also have one child with learning disabilities and my heart aches when I see her struggle. (She is not my bio child, so I cannot homeschool her at this time. It breaks my heart.)

So I invite you to join me on this journey. It should be a wild ride!

-----Shay :o)