Homeschooling Badly: Basic Life Lessons Counted as Academic Learning

WhenCowsKidsCollideby Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide

After finishing the four remaining chapters in “Before You Meet Prince Charming”, I’d like to begin addressing another concerning area in CP/QF teaching: homeschooling as a method of indoctrination.

I am not against homeschooling across the board.  I’ve known plenty of students who have been well-served by learning at home.  The main connecting point of homeschool successes is that parents were homeschooling for the academic benefit of their student and were willing to adapt their methods to advance their child’s academic success.

The main problem with CP/QF home-schooling revolves around both the end goal of indoctrinating children into a narrow lifestyle and the rationales used to justify continuing homeschooling when parents realize that they are doing an inadequate job due to the stresses of raising a large to extremely large family of closely spaced children on a single income while attempting to homeschool.

The first toxic rationale I’d like to look at is the idea that the day-to-day living skills taught by parents is the equivalent of academic learning.   For example, my parents taught all of their kids how to keep a home in an age-appropriate manner.  We learned to wash dishes, clean floors, organize our belongings and do laundry.  What my parents did not do was to decide that learning how to cut the grass was equivalent to a science class.

This is more egregious when used with older students.  For young children, living is filled with learning experiences.  As students gain the basic methods of exploring the world – reading above 2.2 grade, expository writing, basic arithmetic – students need to be exposed to more abstract theories within academic areas.  In English, students need to start looking at how writers create works.  In Social Studies, students need to start exploring how cultures are the same and different.  Science begins to focus on how explaining why changing a factor in a system causes a certain result.  In math, problems require using more abstract concepts to answer more complicated questions.  This can be accomplished in a myriad of methods – but all of the methods require meticulous advance thought and planning by the parent-teacher.

An example of a “quiz” to help parents ameliorate their feelings of inadequate academic homeschooling is found on the blog Guilt-Free Homeschooling.  After a few paragraphs discussing reasons homeschooling parents think they might not be doing enough, this quiz appears.  Whether or not the quiz is supposed to cover academic material wavers depending on which sentence the blogger is writing.  Since the main goal of public and private schooling is producing students who are proficient in academic skills, homeschooling success should include comparable academic results.

For each of the 20 questions, parents decide if each of their kids is described as “Yes/Nearly Always” (5pts), “Maybe/Sometimes” (2pt) or “No/Rarely” (0pts). Parents are expected to adapt the questions to the age of each kid.   For each question, I am going to reflect on if the question reflects an academic goal and what point value I would award for my nearly 5-month old son.  Since a 5-month old is far too young for academic work, the correct end score should be 0 pts.

1. Is your child interested in his schoolwork?

This question has some academic value since engaged students tend to learn a subject more easily.
My son has no school work so that’s 0 pts.

2. Does your child have multiple interests and duties to fill his time each day (schoolwork; home chores; pleasure reading; hobbies; playing beneficial or educational video or computer games; playing board, table, card, dice games; open or unstructured playtimes not involving TV; outdoor sports and activities; and artistic or musical pursuits)?

I can’t see an academic value to this question.
My son likes open, unstructured play time, playing with adults, trying to sing along with people and is fascinated by paintings so that’s a “Yes” for 5pts.

3. Is your child able to entertain himself during free time?

This is an important question in terms of time and emotional regulation, but it’s not an academic question.
Little Guy is quite good at amusing himself in a wide variety of ways so he’s earned another 5pts.

4. Is your child involved in any hobbies that could become lifelong pursuits?

Not academic at all.
My son likes exercising, music, watching films (he vocalizes like the characters are talking to him), and being outdoors. That’s another 5 point “Yes” response.

5. Does your child read anything for pleasure (books, magazines, comic books, internet articles, etc.)?

Reading is an important academic skill! Yay!
My son does not read yet. That’s 0 points.

6. Does your child beg to keep the light on past bedtime so he can “finish the chapter”?

While reading is an important skill, reading for pleasure after bedtime is not a critical skill.
My son can’t read yet – although he can be pretty solid at trying to convince us that he should be able to stay up all night :-) 0 pts.

7. Can your child read and follow directions (directions for traveling to another location, directions for assembling a new toy or playing a new game, and directions for preparing a recipe)?

The question has a problem: it’s double-barreled. This means that the question is asking two different skills – reading and following directions. How do you score a dyslexic kid who can’t read well but can follow complicated verbal instructions? Since reading has been assessed once already, the question should just ask about direction following which is an important academic skill.
My kid can’t follow directions of any type yet. That’s 0 points.

8. Does your child possess an extensive vocabulary for his age?

Vocabulary is an important Language Arts skill! Yay!
Little guy can’t speak yet so that’s 0 points.

9. Does your child willingly speak when spoken to? Will he answer questions from relatives or friends regarding his schoolwork? Does he give complete answers using full sentences?

This is a triple-barreled question that covers not being shy, discussing schoolwork with outsiders, and age appropriate verbal sentence construction. The last question is part of Language Arts skills.
Here’s another example of a problem with triple barrel construction: My son gleefully chatters at people who talk to him, but can’t answer questions or use complete sentences. Since he’s doing age appropriate speech practice, I’m going to give him a 5.

10. Is your child comfortable (considering his age) speaking in front of a friendly group of people (family or friends) in an informal setting?

While public speech is an academic skill, the setting of this question covers an informal situation without academic content.
My son loves chatting with people. 5 pts.

11. Can your child react appropriately to people he does not know in acceptable situations (store clerks and sales associates, restaurant wait-staff, police, and medical professionals)?

This is an important life-skill for parents to teach their kid – but it’s not an academic skill.
Little Guy shows an age-appropriate level of initial reticence towards strangers followed by willing interaction if the person appears friendly. That’s a 5pt answer.

12. Does your child play a variety of games (board & table games, card games, dice games, solitary games & group games, and games focusing on math, geography, and varied trivia)?

I like playing games but I wouldn’t have classed this as a major academic skill. Does playing outdoor games like group sports count?
My son does enjoy playing solitary games like “Smack the toy”…but I don’t know if that’s what the question is asking. I guess I’d give him two points….

13. Can your child accurately handle money and make change (whether in real life or as part of a board game)?

This is an important academic skill that involves skip counting, addition and subtraction. The problem is that this question doesn’t scale up well for kids beyond early elementary school.
My son can’t do that yet. In fact, I’m not sure he’s ever seen me handle money; he’s restricted from being out in densely populated public spaces like stores and I rarely use cash for most purchases. That’s 0 points.

14. Does your child help with home chores on a regular basis?

Helping out around the house does give some important language practice along with both fine and gross motor skill practice for young children. The benefit of routine chores for academic skill building drops off by late elementary unless parents spend a lot of time connecting the chores to scientific or mathematical principles. The longer-term connections to chemistry involved in cooking or using cleaning products are more a real-life connection to make an abstract principle clearer. In other words, many people are excellent cooks without understanding the science behind cooking and everyone should know not to mix cleaning products without knowing how to explain the scientific reactions behind the reason.
My son creates more household chores. That’s a zero point response.

15. Does your child possess basic life-skills? Can he prepare a simple meal (make a sandwich or scramble eggs)? Can he clean himself, his clothing, and his living quarters?

Life skills are different from academic skills. The question is also triple-barreled.
My son’s doing well in life skills. He’s showing increased emotional regulation through self-soothing. He can communicate pleasure. He can let others know when he is uncomfortable or upset. His gross and fine motor skills are progressing normally. That’s 5 points.

16. Does your child possess basic computer skills (type with more than two fingers, control the computer mouse or track-ball, open a word-processing program and begin a document, and navigate through safe internet sites)?

Computer literacy is an academic skill – although this is hard to scale down for young children. The list of skills given is also a bit restricted for a high school student who I would want to have experience using multimedia programs, cloud-based programs, and ability to determine the weight to give information found on different websites.
No, my son can’t use a computer yet – but he does like to bang on my laptop keyboard. 0pts.

17. Does your child possess basic research skills (finding a specific book at the library, finding a specific number in the telephone book, finding a specific place on a map, and using a dictionary)?

Research skills are important academic skills – but that list is a strange mix that should be accomplished by 3rd-4th grade at the latest. Older students need to know how to cite sources, differentiate author biases’, use more advanced research tools like thesauruses, and interpret distance and topography on maps.
Kiddo does none of those things yet. 0 points.

18. Does your child witness and/or assist in a variety of adult responsibilities so that he will be comfortable when faced with those situations himself (paying bills, balancing checkbook or bank account, simple home repairs or auto repairs, meal planning, making appointments, and organizing a home)?

Another double-barreled question – how do you score a kid who witnesses, but does not assist? These are important life skills. A few of them require basic math skills – but most can be accomplished well long before graduating high school.
My kid has witnessed all of those items except balancing a checkbook since we do that online. He’s too young to help. 2 points, I guess.

19. Can your child take notes from a speaker? (Your pastor’s sermon is an excellent training ground for taking notes in future college lectures.)

Note-taking is an academic skill! The “helpful” tip only works in certain congregations; having a kid take notes at a Catholic Mass would be considered at best odd and at worst rude.
No, Little Guy is not a note-taker.

20. Does your child possess basic religious beliefs and know why he believes what he believes? Does he know how to learn more about his faith?

This isn’t a major area of academic study outside of parochial schools. More importantly, I don’t know how to answer this question coherently for most age groups.
Well, we think our son has pledged his undying allegiance to a toy sun that has a face painted on it. When he sees it, he stares deeply at it and talks intensely to it. So….probably a 0 so far.

Net outcomes:
1)In the most generous scoring possible, eight of the questions cover academic topics at least partially.  The remaining 12 questions cover life skills – so a student could earn 60 points without any academic learning.   The academic questions are heavily weighted towards reading.  Reading is of critical importance, but a basic education needs to cover math, science and social studies as well.

2) My five-month old son scored a 39 out of 100 possible points.  While that was a fun exercise, using him as a control has grounding in creating surveys.  A solidly constructed quiz should give a 0pt response for person with no academic experience.  This exercise shows that the quiz has a bias of +39 points which means the quiz awards 39 excess points.

To interpret the results of the quiz, parents add up the score for each kid and get one of three outcomes.

  • Students who score less than 40pts are not doing enough.  With 39 excess points, it is nearly impossible to score low enough to end up in this category!  If my son was old enough to speak, he would have moved into the next category up.  For students who can read, it is impossible to fail this quiz.
  • Students scoring between 40-85 are “off to a good start”.  Removing the biased points means that students only need to earn between 1-46 points.  If a student enjoys reading, they will pick up roughly 30 points.
  • Students above 85 pts are doing fine.  I agree these kids are doing fine in life skills – but they may or may not being doing well academically.
Next post: “If I teach my child how to learn, they can learn whatever they need to know in the future” is a nice poster, but may be rough on your kid.
moreRead more by Mel
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Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide She is also an very valuable source of scientific information for us here at NLQ. Mel is also blessed with the ability to look at the issues of Quiverfull with a rational mind and break them down to their most basic of elements.

 


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