Friday, December 31, 2010

More Thoughts on Home Schooling

I had a few interesting comments on the last post, about home schooling.  I don't think home schooling is usually a good idea, but since I know people are going to do it anyway, I wanted to give them an idea of what is required. 

One comment speaks for itself quite well:

As a former elementary school teacher, the question I would like to ask parents who home school their children is this:  Would you remove your child's tonsils? No? If you haven't been trained a teacher, what makes you think you can teach?

The obvious point is that for some reason, a medical doctor's education is something that is revered and gladly paid for (for the vast majority).

With teaching, on the other hand, the training that we underwent and experience that we have is seriously undervalued.
Another person adds to the list:  

Excellent list! i did think of a couple more, maybe...: Does your child have access to other adults beyond the family? Have you considered that a child can't take being with their parent all day even if you feel fine with that level of contact? Do you have a peer group that you can be mentored from?
That is an excellent point.  It may not be in the *child's* best interest to only be around a parent and no other adults.  In addition, I think it is important for children to learn to respect other adults.  This does not have to be done in a school setting, but it does need to be done.
Another commenter pointed out that some children may have medical/emotional issues that makes it difficult for them to go to public school.  This is true, although public schools in most jurisdictions are required to meet these students' needs, even if that means paying for private tutoring.  This is not usually advertised though because it costs districts so much money.  However, the fact remains that home schooling is a full-time job and one that someone should be properly trained to do.  

Three years ago: Happy New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Home Schooling

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm fairly anti-home schooling.  That may be a bit of an understatement, actually.  I think that home schooling is often used by parents to keep their children away from the world and in a bit of a bubble longer, and I generally don't think that's healthy.  It especially bothers me, as a Christian, when Christian families home school in an attempt to keep their children away from any non-Christian influences.  I just don't think that's Biblical.

However, a dear friend of mine told me she may be home schooling her daughters.  I still don't think it's the best choice for most people but I have compiled a list of things to realistically consider when deciding to home school or not.

1. Do you (the home schooling parent) have enough time and energy to invest in this?  Teaching is a full-time job.  Remember that.  Full-time.  You can't do it justice if you treat it as any less.

2. Do you have any experience teaching?  Being good at something is not enough.  Many people are good at things and totally incapable of teaching them.  Do you know any teaching strategies?  Do you know how to communicate ideas and facts in a way that will help your child or children learn effectively?

3. Do you have a curriculum?  Do you know anything about the curriculum or anyone who has used it?  Do you have all the material for the curriculum?

4. Do you have a plan for your children to meet other children?  Preferably children outside of their own racial/socio-economic/religious groups?  This, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable services of public schools.

5. Do you have a plan for your children to learn to work with other children?  Not just their siblings.  In school, children learn to work with people they may not like, may not understand, may not get along with.  This is an important life skill.

6. Do you have a grasp on all the subjects you will be teaching?  In addition to teaching skills, you must understand the subjects.  This is much easier with younger children and harder with secondary school, where most teachers specialize in one subject.

7. Can you handle being around your children all day every day with no breaks at all?  This is too much for many people.

8. Are you willing to get professional help (teachers or tutors with the appropriate experience and credentials) if needed?

9. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to make sure you're meeting all your state's requirements?  If home schooling high school students, are you willing to make sure you are meeting the requirements for college entrance?

Teachers, any more things to think about?

One year ago: A Beautiful Christmas in the Ghetto

Three years ago: Payment Received!

Four years ago: Butterflies!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Dreams

My dream is to be a pediatrician because I want kids to be safe and have a better Life and have someone who cares about them.

The reason I want to be a peditairican so I can help kids so They can be smart in school what I like about a pediatricain that I get to help small children and be heathly because some kids can die because the don't eat fruit and stuff so they won't be so sick and I want chidlen to Live heathly Lives like we do we want children to Live as Long as us.

[that girl routinely ate Flamin' Hot Cheetos with nacho cheese and a Pepsi for breakfast]

I want to be a sience teacher because I get to help students with sience and school problems and they can trust me with anything.  I want it because I can study animals because nature is interesting.

I have a dreem.  I have a dream to be a spy so I can spy on People and take them to jail and help People and I will have to learn hard at shcool to be a sPy and I what to work for the CiA and so I can get money for a car and a pet and that's my dream.

One year ago: The Difference 20 Years Makes

Two years ago: Bits and Pieces Again

Three years ago: Interesting Followup

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Dream is to Help Children

From one of the most disturbed students I've ever had: (her spelling wasn't good either)

She needed this type of help.  More than almost every child I've ever met.

My dream is to help chridren.  Because I have two help chrildren.  And enven if I had to help arofens I would treat them as my own chridren.  The chrildren I am going to help.  I hope they belive in there self. 

In maybe part of the reason the chrildren ar poor I think maybe because they didn't get a good edecation.

I really care for chridren.  I watch a lot of shows of poor chrildren.  And I hate what I see.

One year ago: The Good and Bad of the Year

Three years ago: The Money That I'm Owed

Four years ago: Computers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hey! I'm Smart!

My eighth grade student, while working on his history homework:

"Why did the US Capitol switch from New York City to Washington, DC?  Oh, I know.  It was to compromise because the South didn't want to pay off the North's debts so they got to have the capitol... Hey!!  I'm SMART!!!"

Three years ago: So Outta There
                          More School Closures

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm White Too

I had a realization when I went to pick up my Little Sister at her housing development (projects) this weekend.  There is very little difference between the Section 8 housing projects in Oakland and the segregated South or South Africa under apartheid.  I've been there on weekends, on weekdays, in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night.  I have never ever seen another white person.  Not one.  I have not even seen a Latino or Asian person.  I have only seen African-American people there - visitors or residents.

I think I would have noticed earlier if I hadn't been so used to being the only white person when I was teaching.  I still have the feeling sometimes of being in a group and thinking, "Oh my goodness, everyone here is white except for me!  Wait a minute, I'm white too!"  It sounds silly but it's a fairly common occurrence for me. 

It's fairly disconcerting to realize how very segregated our city can still be.  In the Bay Area, in California, in 2010.  You'd think we were past that.  You'd hope so.  But you'd be wrong.  If you don't believe me, come to East Oakland with me someday.  We'll play the game I taught a friend from another country when explaining the segregation that still exists.  It's called "Find the White Person."  When you're in that neighborhood, it's almost impossible.

One year ago: Stuffed Animals

Four years ago: SO Predictable.
                        Owl Pellets

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The new figure for high school dropouts in Oakland Unified is 40%

That's doesn't count the number of kids who drop out before high school.  A lot of kids drop out before then - during middle school or between middle and high school.  I'd like to see figures about the total dropout rates.  I think it would be terrifying.

Three years ago: The Best Form of Birth Control

Four years ago: The Playground

Friday, December 10, 2010


I'm going to give all the parents out there a little tip.  Don't ever name your child Angel. I don't care if you pronounce it the English or Spanish way, don't do it.  There is a 99.9% chance that your child will do everything in his or her power to *not* live up to that name.  I've had 5 or 6 kids named Angel over the years - from various ethnic backgrounds - and it has not been good.  Interestingly, the Angelas and Angelinas I've known who go by Angel are fine.  Just avoid Angel.

Also, I think being a teacher gives you a much smaller pool of potential names than other people.  I've heard people talk about what they want to name their children and many of them make me cringe - not because the  names are bad but because I remember a child with that name.  It goes the other way too; it's just not as memorable.

One year ago: Things You Hope You Never Hear from a Third Grader

Three years ago: To Be Expected
                          Playing Businessman on BART

Four years ago: Turning in Their Guns

Monday, December 06, 2010

Vote for My Niece!

Look at this face!  If you vote for this face, she could be on the Gerber baby food labels!  More importantly, she could win a $25,000 scholarship!  You have to give them your email address but I so far haven't gotten any spam from them, so I think it's OK.  You can vote once a day.  Help Symphony win!!

One year ago: Reflections on Public Education

Three years ago: Tales from BART

Four years ago: I Knew What They Meant, But...

Saturday, December 04, 2010


I have a hard time with rich people.  And I have a fairly low threshold regarding who I consider to be rich people.  However, since I need to tutor kids whose parents can afford to pay me, I've been working with more people who I consider to be rich, or at least well-off.

I was worried about this- I've been working pretty exclusively with kids in poverty before this, and I thought the wealthier kids would be harder for me - more entitled, more spoiled, etc.  This is true in part, but not entirely.  I had a lesson in how rich kids aren't necessarily this way with a little girl I work with.

This girl, who's about 9 years old, goes to a very expensive, very prestigious private school.  She is chatty, and started asking me about the kids I used to teach.  She asked if I tutored any of the kids who I used to teach.  When I said no, she asked why.  I said, "Well, most of them don't have the money to pay for tutoring."  She said, "Can't their parents pay?"  I explained that actually their parents were pretty poor and couldn't afford it.

The little girl looked at me with huge eyes.  She started tearing up.  I think it was honestly the first time she has ever considered poor kids before, as a real possibility.  For the rest of the session, she kept asking me about the kids and how they could be helped.  This girl is extremely privileged and quite insulated.  But I think she might end up being OK, just from natural compassion.

Three years ago: Adventures in Subbing

Four years ago: Song Flutes

Friday, December 03, 2010

Learning Conditions

It's always been interesting to me how conditions in an educational setting can be so much worse than in any other sort of work environment, and it is accepted.  Everything from asbestos to temperature to total incompetence at the upper levels is accepted.  Here's a very simple example of something that wouldn't be tolerated in any other setting.

Classrooms are cold because the heat isn't working in many of the Oakland schools.  I have only rarely had that happen, but I've had the opposite happen.  I subbed for a friend in November a few years ago and t was literally ninety degrees in the classroom because the thermostat was broken.  It was miserable.

Read the comments  I especially like the commenter who says it's California, what are you complaining about?  I'd love to see his business environment lack heat - yes, even in California - and him put up with it because we're not in New England.

Why should the teachers (and the kids) have to expect poor conditions?

One year ago: Two Steps Forward...

Four years ago: Brown Tommy
                        Homicide Count
                        The War at Home