Category Archives: Homeschool

Homeschool Decision Part 2: The Academics

I’ve taught college freshmen for seven years.  These students have come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from rural high schools to private school graduates.  This is what I can tell you about freshmen English students.

1.) They don’t know the rules for capitalization

2.) They don’t know the rules for apostrophe usage

3.) They don’t understand that they can fail a class.

4.) They expect that they will be able to take quizzes and tests as many times as needed until the right grade is achieved.

5.) They don’t understand that work will NOT be accepted if it is late.

6.) MANY of them have NEVER written a basic research paper

As a result of this experience I have always been rather suspect of our public school system.  However, I understand I’m biased.  That I am only seeing these students through a very narrow lens and perhaps I am not being fair.

When I first started questioning whether or not the academic needs of my kids were being met I decided I had better rely on hard facts instead of my own perception.

It Is All About The Test

The first thing I wanted to take a look at was how testing has actually affected our school environment.  I went to the Texas Department of Education and did some reading.  The STAAR test is focused on the following “core” subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.  At first this seems like a completely fine list, until you think about what is MISSING from this list.  For example, art, music, history, geography, handwriting, and literature (which is different from reading).  After I looked at this list I compared it to my kids’ daily school schedule and it was an EXACT match.  They had time allotted to math, reading, science and social studies, and that is it.  My kids go to art, music and library once for 30 minutes EVERY TWO WEEKS.  My conclusion was clear, yes, the school teaches to the test.  In fact our school is so good at taking the test our test scores are some of the highest in the state.  Our school excels at the STAAR test so well because they start testing the kids in Kindergarten in anticipation of the test in third grade.  Max spent so much time in assessment and testing this year that at one point his teacher went almost three months without reading with him one-on-one.

The Numbers

I desperately wanted my assumptions to be wrong.  I wanted to find some secret piece of research that showed how superior public schools were to anything else.  I searched.  I went to the university library and dug.  The numbers, studies and results were so overwhelmingly in favor of home school that I couldn’t ignore them.

  • 74% of home school students attend college
  • 46% of public school students attend college
  • The average SAT score of a home schooled student is 1043
  • The average SAT score for a public school student in Texas is 985

The Pedagogy

The numbers are there.  They are solid, but when you combine them with the limited subject profile, and the school process you start to wonder how we’ve limped along as a society for as long as we have.

The public school system was designed at the same time as the industrial revolution – the development of the Model T and Ford’s radical assembly plant mode of operation.  The goal of public school was to educate the masses – the poor.  As a result the public school system is set up like an assembly line.  All 6 year olds in and every year extra features get added and they get spit out at the other end.  However, our children aren’t cars and they aren’t cogs in a machine and they definitely don’t all learn the same way, grow the same way or react to the same learning environment the same way.  I would like for somebody to explain to me the benefit of giving 1 adult 19 students ranging for the autistic and academically challenged all the way to the gifted and talented students and expect HER to meet all of their needs equally.  She can’t.  And the fact that more than 90% of public school teachers are women that is even more detrimental for our boys.

But don’t take my word for it, I suggest you watch this great video. It takes 11 minutes

Changing Education Paradigms

And if that video doesn’t do it for you, then I suggest you read “The Knowledge Deficit” by E.D. Hirsch.

That’s Great But…..

Here I am with the academics obviously better, but what about socialization?  I mean goodness, you don’t want to raise social dorks do you? How will your kids learn to be competitive? How will they learn to stand up for themselves? How will they learn social norms? Well, I save that for part 3.


Home School Decision Part 1: The Big Picture

When deciding to home school the kids this coming fall the first question I asked myself, which may seem obvious, was “what do I want my kids to get from their k-12 education?”  I suppose as a former project manager I can’t help but focus on the end goal.  What am I supposed to achieve at the end of my project?  What is the big picture?  My father used to say, “if you don’t know where you’re headed then how will you know if you’ve arrived?” What seemed like a simple question ended up being rather complex when I really thought about it.

We send our children to public school with what expectation?  That they will learn to read? They master reading by 2nd grade.  Learn to write? Also complete by 2nd grade.  No, it is more than that.  At the end of the day this is the list that I settled on:

  • College Readiness: I of course would like my children to achieve higher education and I would expect their K-12 education to prepare them for this level of course work.  This means their reading comprehension, study skills, and a certain breadth and depth of knowledge. Their ability to complete basic library research and understand the components of a basic sentence.
  • Fundamental Understanding of Core Subjects: math, reading, writing, science.  But I also want them to know geography, government, literature, history, social studies, philosophy, etc.  They need a strong foundation in a variety of subjects.  It is this combination of subjects that provides them with a lens through which they can see and understand the world.
  • Citizenship: I would like my children to learn how to be contributing members of society, which means instructing them in the value of hard work, community service, and government.  This also means learning to be tolerant, respectful and polite.
  • Critical thinking: I want my children to challenge assumptions and think for themselves.  In an age of media overload I want them to be discerning in their reading and research.  My parents encouraged me to question EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY and I would like that same curiosity to be encouraged in my own children.
  • Variety of life experiences: I want my kids to have the ability to participate in non-academic pursuits – athletics, the fine arts, school government, etc.  The humanities have always been a big part of my life (and David’s) and I want my children to be exposed to this variety.
  • Knowledge and Understanding of the World:  I don’t want them to live in a bubble (I know, you are shocked by this because I’ve chose to home school and isn’t that what all home schoolers want? a bubble). I want them to know a Buddhist, Atheist, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Black, Hispanic, Gay, Asian.  I want them to “eat from the banquet of life” -to love and appreciate the rainbow of the world and why it all works together to create something bountiful and beautiful. I want them to know that their heritage and their values are not the only ones that exist.  I want them to not be afraid of “the different” but to embrace it.

I will be the first to admit that this is a tall order, even for the public schools to fulfill.  It is nearly an impossible order when you consider the constraints under which the school system functions.  When I started down this path I was trying to prove that home school was NOT the right decision and so I was trying very hard to give the public schools a fair shake.  I looked at this list and I assigned a grade for each item, reflecting how well I thought the school was doing at accomplishing these goals. The school system ended up with a 2.16 GPA – they received 2 Ds, 2 Cs, 1 B and 1 A.  And the A was in “Knowledge of the World” and the B was in “Variety of Life Experiences” — the recess of the school system.  So yes, the school was getting an A in recess but failing everything else.

I am not pulling my children out of school to isolate them.  The fact that my son learned the F-word in 1st grade is bothersome, but I can parent around that.  The fact that girls in Lucy’s 3rd grade class are watching YouTube videos, unsupervised, on french kissing is troubling but I can parent through that as well.  I can even parent through bullying and “mean girls”.  But it is not worth the effort of dealing with all of these social nightmares when the academics aren’t performing.  At the end of the day the only good thing my kids were getting out of the school system was something they could receive at an afternoon on a soccer field or the Girl Scouts. I definitely don’t need the school to insure that my children are exposed to a variety of cultures or to expose them to a variety of life experiences.  I am fully capable of doing that part myself.

The next thing I looked at was how were the academics — really.  I had my perceptions based on the results I see as a college professor and what I see coming home as a parent, but I realize that I am not objective.   The next blog post will look at the academics.




Growing up my mother used to tell me that the Jewish people valued education above all else because, it was the one thing we could take with us when fleeing persecution. I don’t know if that is true, but it left an indelible mark on my life.  Education, the pursuit of it and the promotion of it, has always been important to me. When it came time to launch my own children on to their educational journey I didn’t hesitate to enroll them in public schools.

As a matter of fact David and I live in one of the best public school systems in Texas.  Our high school is ranked #99 out 1,725 high schools. Our school system is widely recognized for its high test scores and for a gifted and talented student population that is 18% – 5% higher than the average school system in Texas.  At every turn I have been impressed by the professionals that serve in our local elementary school.  Indeed, when the tragedy at Newtown occurred I instantly thought of our own teachers and children and knew -without a shadow of a doubt – that my children’s teachers would have acted as heroically as those brave teachers we lost.

The Tide Does Not Turn Instantly, But Slowly And Gradually Until Suddenly You Are Lost At Sea.

Lucy has been in public school since 1st grade and although there have been small things here and there that make me scratch my head about the public school system I have been mainly satisfied with my child’s education.  Things changed this year.

When Max started school he was behind from day one.  He is left-handed and a boy with a speech impediment.  Although he struggled in Kindergarten his teacher was loving and patient and she reassured us that Max would outgrow most of his struggles.  He entered first grade and according to the school assessments he was “at the bottom of the normal range, but still normal”.  This means, “he doesn’t qualify for extra help”.  They did provide him with reading tutoring in school (or SSI for you educators).  Starting in November a series of events tipped me off that something was wrong.

First, I was having parent volunteers telling me repeatedly how QUIET Max was in class.  This is not Max’s personality so that surprised me.  I then began to realize that most of Max’s school work was coming home blank, empty or incomplete.  He was having huge tantrums at home — tantrums that sometimes resulted in a 3-4 hour cry-fest. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and then a small conversation with his cousin crytalized the picture for me.  Max admitted that he was embarrassed when he stuttered and stammered in front of his friends.

Max doesn’t talk in school because he doesn’t want people to know that he stutters

Max doesn’t ask for help because he doesn’t want people to know that he can’t read the directions

Max doesn’t complete his work because his handwriting is sloppy and undeveloped and it embarrasses him

I still can barely think about it without crying.  School had become a horrible torturous environment for him.  BUT, he’s “normal”.  His word recognition and his ability to memorize sight words (even though he really can’t read) all kept him on the low end of “normal”.  But he wasn’t normal, and he knew it.

I wrote the teachers, I talked to the principal and we had our ARD meeting and they put him in line to be evaluated for speech. However, this is where the system breaks down.  It will take them up to 60 days to evaluate Max and then another 30 days to get him into any intervention program.  That is the remainder of the school year.  In other words, his 1st grade year was a waste.  None to very little progress was made on his education this year.

In the meantime I hired a private speech therapist and hired a private reading tutoring service to work with him.  He’s getting better and gaining confidence but it is slow. His teacher, although kind, is overwhelmed with her other 18 students and cannot possibly dedicate the time to Max that he requires.  Besides, he’s “normal”.

If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another

Although this was upsetting and I was worried I was willing to put the effort in to make his public school career work.  That was until I received an email from Lucy’s teacher expressing concerns over her behavior.  LUCY? BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS? You could have knocked me over with a feather. The teacher explained to me in exasperated tones that Lucy was not listening to directions in class and had to ask for the same directions to be repeated again and again. She was moving Lucy to the front of the class and could I “please talk with her at home about her behavior”.  When I approached Lucy with this issue she explained that she didn’t realize she wasn’t listening and that school was “the most boring thing EVER”.  I made an appointment with the teacher to explore the issue further, but before that meeting I received her report card – 5 A’s and 1 B.  So my poorly behaved child, who wasn’t listening had still managed to pull off an almost perfect report card.  Disconnect? Yep.  When I met with the teacher she couldn’t describe the problem in any further detail and had no insight.  Indeed within two weeks Lucy had been moved to the front of the class and then returned to the back of the class. What was the purpose? And in the meantime Lucy, who values being the perfect rule follower, had gone through a week of anxiety, lost confidence in her teacher and now thinks her teacher hates her.

The Tipping Point

Things add up.  My unhappiness with the school system wasn’t just about these two incidents.  It was a collection of issues including; Max being teased, Lucy dealing with “cool girls” and their blatant dislike of her, the school system’s obsessive interest in nutrition and weight to the point that Lucy thinks she’s fat and the kids now have gym three days a week.  I’m not inherently opposed to gym three times a week but I am when it comes at the sacrifice of art class and library and music which now only happen every other week.  I might possibly even be able to stomach all this until you add STAAR testing on top of it all.  Where do I start with the standardized test issue and the fact that is has so corrupted our school system that it no longer even resembles the school system I attended 30+ years ago. When Lucy spent two days of school on PRACTICE TESTS and then came home crying because she had to stay in from recess to retake the test because she failed — and by “fail” I mean she got a 79% which wasn’t acceptable by the teacher’s standards.  ON A PRACTICE TEST.  That was the tipping point.  I was done. There had to be a better option for educating my kids.


I was notified in early February that I wasn’t accepted into my PhD program.  I was disappointed, but I was also relieved.  I wasn’t sure that was the path God intended for me and so I took the rejection as a sign from God – “choose a different journey”.  As I examined my children’s education and their struggles I couldn’t help but to think “I could do better”.  Not that the teachers aren’t educated and professionally trained experts – they are and I appreciate that.  However, the school system has these wonderful professionals ham-strung, hog-tied and unable to do their job. I spent weeks researching.  I talked with every educational expert I could find from the kid’s previous teachers, to their reading tutor, speech therapist, other public school teachers, parents and people who research education.  The conclusion? Homeschooling.  If I wanted my children to have a well-rounded education that challenged them and allowed them to grow in their strengths and supported their weaknesses homeschooling was the only path to achievement.

And so I find myself in a position that I never expected.  This coming Fall I will remove my children from the public school system and take on the challenging and exciting task of teaching them at home. I recognize that this is a large responsibility.  I also know that many of you will not agree with my decision and that is ok. We can still be friends.

In the coming weeks I will share more with you regarding the research I conducted and how it lead me to this decision.  I am not a person to make decision based purely on emotion and so as you can imagine my choice is based on facts – not rhetoric. I am not removing my children in an effort to isolate or protect them (from what? from whom?).  I am removing my children in an effort to broaden their world beyond the standardized test.  I want my children to be able to learn at the pace which allows them to fully understand a concept first before being pushed into the next stage.

Parenting is a series of crossroads, and all we can do is hope that we turn down the right road