As someone mentioned, it is hard to answer this as public, private, and home schools are not “monolithic”. There are so many variables. For us, my wife is an early childhood educator and I have a strong math/science background. Our daughter has bene homeschooled from K to 10th grade, at present. We plan to go through 12th with her prep’d from the SATs and GED exams. Her curriculum has always paralleled State requirements (and more). It has been a most satisfying experience for all. No, she is not stuck in a room with a parent day after day, year after year. She has many activities (art, gym, etc.) with other homeschoolers and field trips. Homeschooling parents WANT to be involved in their child’s education, so they seek resources to keep things fresh and exciting. The freedom of being homeschooled is that ANY PLACE can be a classroom. It’s not at all what you are picturing. We’re not working a step ahead of her in the books. We’re confident in our own knowledge that we could tackle whatever problems she may find.
My daughter is in 8th grade at a public school too. I don’t think her school is particularly good, probably solidly average. She’s in regular classes, not advanced. For English class she has to read every night but that’s just a side thing and there are a lot of other assignments too.
I’ve seen errors in notes from teachers quite a few times over the years but nothing major (notes from front office staff can be a little worse but still not usually too bad). We kind of had the opposite problem one year where a teacher would “correct” her writing to a ridiculous extent. She was only in 4th grade and her writing would be *covered *in red ink, mostly things that were just a matter of style, such as word choice. My daughter found it so discouraging! Then her teacher told me what an excellent writer she was and I was shocked she felt that way (even though it is true, and all her teachers say it, I just didn’t think this one thought it). I guess this teacher thought she was an editor for a publishing house or something. Fourth graders’ writing is not supposed to be perfect! My daughter has some self-confidence issues already so that pissed me off so much.
My biggest concern this year and last year is that several teachers are constantly drilling it into the students’ heads that high school and college is going to be sooo much harder than this, so you better take this seriously and prepare! I mean this is said all the time, even having guest speakers come to give presentations on it. They’re telling that to the students who aren’t concerned enough, of course. My daughter is already really worried about those things and has anxiety issues and it’s making me crazy that they keep telling her this! I tell her to just ignore them (and that high school isn’t especially harder than middle school, and in college you take fewer classes at once [they never mentioned that, while always warning that every class takes hours of studying each day, which of course also isn’t true]) but she says they have to do assignments based on this fear-mongering too sometimes. Really sucks that they’re only teaching to one type of kid and ignoring those with too much or an appropriate level of concern about the future.
Anyway…I did know a Head Start teacher whose writing level was about at the level of a bright Head Start student. I can only imagine the notes home parents must have received from her.
This strikes me as incredibly arrogant, but that’s just my opinion. I could understand an argument about most people not having sufficient teaching experience, but the low intelligence/competence angle? :rolleyes:
Teachers in primary education have average IQs of around 110. In Finland, where the education is famous for being so good, all teachers have a master’s degree, meaning their average intelligence is probably even higher than that. For teachers overall, that’s a little more intelligent than average.
Then, the lower someone’s intelligence, the more likely they will overestimate their intelligence. So the problem is that the less intelligent people, those who might make less competent home schoolers, are less capable of judging their ability.
It’s a shame that it’s seen as a bad thing to not be clever enough to teach. I think it’s related to our perception of teachers, the low status they hold. Nobody would say it’s offensive to say that most people are not clever and competent enough to design a spaceship. Most people simply aren’t suited to that. Why would everyone be suited to teach? It’s just not realistic.
Again, this is not an argument against specific cases, but just a thought on which situation, overall, is preferable. It’s just something to bear in mind. Teachers are teachers because that is what they are supposed to be good at, due to certain characteristics. That doesn’t mean a parent can’t also be a good teacher, but it means that not every parent will be a good teacher. That’s all, no massive insult to people.
I don’t disagree that not every parent would be a good teacher. That is a far cry from “most people aren’t intelligent enough to teach”. And I don’t hold a low status of teachers. My dad is a lifelong public school teacher and my mom is a retired public school teacher (and they would both raise an eyebrow at the intelligence comment).
I think being a teacher is really different than teaching your own kids. I don’t know that’s it’s useful to talk about “Having the intelligence to teach” because I think we worry too much about native intelligence, but I do think it’s true that teaching is a skill, and it takes work and time and training to develop that skill. I certainly don’t think the average person could step in and do what I do.
That said, I don’t think teaching your own kid is anything like doing what I do. Most of the training and craft and skill of teaching is related to understanding how to deal with a wide variety of kids efficiently. Content knowledge is really secondary to cognitive awareness: understanding how people think, what misunderstandings they are likely to develop, how to motivate, inspire, support.
Homeschoolers don’t have to do that. They have to present content to their own kids, whom they know well. And they have the luxury of being inefficient. As a teacher, my time with my students is so limited, and if I get an assignment or lecture wrong, it’s a huge wasted opportunity. I also can’t modify much on the fly: materials have to be set up in advance, assignments are made and sent home. If its’ not working, they are going to go home and beat their head against the wall for six useless hours and I won’t be there. Furthermore, I may not even know it’s not working for some portion of my kids until a week or more before I get a solid assessment back. For a homeschooler, you have none of that. Your feedback is immediate–if something isn’t working, you shift gears right there. If they don’t get something, you slow down. If a lesson is a disaster, you shelve it and go on to something else. And even if you waste six weeks trying approaches that aren’t working, you can realistically make those six weeks up amazingly quickly when you find the thing that does work because you don’t have to then go back and find the different things that work for all the different kids.
Where I doubt the “average person” is not in intelligence, but in willingness to do the work that is required. I think almost anyone could be a solid homeschool teacher if they 1) have access to some minimal funds and 2) are willing to engage in the reflective practice they need to master content and to monitor what and how their child is learning and research ways to adjust what they do.
I think the real issue isn’t “most people aren’t intellegent enough to teach” its that homeschooling is a combination of two people - usually mom and kid. Where kid is a motivated self learner, mom just needs to provide support - she doesn’t need to be able to do Algebra. A kid with discipline and the desire to learn, given eight hours a day to do so, will learn. Perhaps Mom needs to provide a little structure, particularly in early grades and later ones. My daughters friend - the one with social issues not made better by homeschooling - she’s a dedicated self learner - she’s gotten through four years of math in two (she loves math) she has gotten through half the 100 best books in English Lit list, she reads History, Science, etc. She’s not going to have any issues academically - for her, the reason she was pulled, and the scary thing about homeschool, is the social.
A mom and kid who don’t get along are going to have a hard time being successful even if each is motivated and smart. Too much baggage. I have a friend who almost homeschooled her eldest daughter - she has an MA in education, and her daughter is bright, but she pointed out that when her daughter needed it most - in middle school - the two of them were not getting along - it would have been a disaster. I’m lucky in my issues with my son, none of his disciplinary issues are outright defiance, or this wouldn’t work. If I give him 25 math problems, he whines about it being 25, and does them. If he simply said “no”- I’d have to put him back in school.
This. My own biggest issue is that I really don’t know what average is. I have my son and I have a very bright one year younger daughter. So I don’t know if his what I think of as very stilted and superficial writing skills are normal for ninth grade (he isn’t a verbal kid to start with - his vocabulary is small, he doesn’t like to read - compared to the rest of the family, he is barely literate, but his test scores place him as above average). But, I can work directly with him on getting him to see ideas - and I can give him immediate feedback and I can note in a draft that transitions are hard in writing and give him a transitions word list. When he has an issue with a concept in Algebra, we work it out - often together. If he doesn’t understand a question, I can guide him to an answer.
One of the most frustrating things about having my kids in school is that the feedback loop is so slow, that by the time my kids get their feedback (in the form of a grade), its too late and the class has moved onto another topic.
Very interesting points Manda JO and Dangerosa. I don’t disagree.
Quite frankly, your husband sounds like a colossal pain in the ass. If he was grading it for his own amusement, that’s one thing. That he actually bothers to send it back? Seriously?
Am I the only one who doesn’t find this horribly awful? A teacher who is above average in intelligence with the right skills should be a more than adequate educator in primary education.
I will tell you that how a kid is writing compared to his peers matters less than if there is steady improvement. The problem with 14 year old boys and writing–and this sounds trite, but it’s true–is that they have nothing to say. Not all of them, of course, but many of them just spend little time reflecting on their own thoughts, feelings, opinions: since they themselves don’t really give a crap what they think about stuff, why would anyone else?
I know you are not asking for advice, and the teacher on the spot always knows more than anyone else, but if I had tons of time to teach a 14 year old boy how to write, I’d spend a lot of it playing cards and talking. Boys talk best when they don’t have to look you in the face, when their can be long gaps in the conversations that aren’t awkward. I’d spend a lot of time expressing my own opinions and reactions to things, and leaving gaps where he was welcome to express his own. And I’d play a little dumb when his ideas were vague and unclear, and make him reexplain it–but I’d help out when the frustration started to pass the shut-down point. I’d stay far away from topics that were even slightly personal: I’d talk about literature, movies, video game plots and characters, about science and math and politics. I’d talk a lot about the strategy of whatever game we were playing.
Obviously, there’s more to writing than just having something to say: you have to teach thesis and topic sentence, you have to show them when their ideas are not fully developed, you have to teach them to analyze, not just regurgitate. You have to teach how to select and refine appropriate examples. You have to teach anticipation and concession. But having something to say come first, and I think it’s the number-one stumbling block with the kind of boy you are describing. Writing an essay is like baking a cake with inedible ingredients: there’s literally no point in it at all because who cares? No one is ever going to read it, no one would ever want to read it, it’s all bullshit. The person writing it doesn’t give a shit what it says, why would anyone else?
As a teacher, I can’t reach this kid. I simply don’t have time. But I often wish I did, and if I did, that’s what I’d do.
And yes ,the feedback loop is horrible, especially if you have to go through the parents. In some subjects, where there is a right and wrong answer, you can at least give the kids the tools to self-monitor: you can go over the homework the next day in class, and if they didn’t get it, at least they know. But if they don’t come in on their own for additional help, it’s often going to be a week or more before a grade makes it home. And then there is a trade-off: when I was in school, I think graded stuff generally came back more quickly, but teachers were less available. These days, most good teachers I know are helping kids before and after school–so they aren’t grading. That means that either grades have to be completion grades, or they are slow. So do you kick out the kids that are asking for help to make sure there is accurate and timely feedback for the parents of the others? Or do you give completion grades for “trying” the homework and post the answers to the homework every day and let the kids check their own, which means there is faster feedback for the kids, but allows the kids to conceal the problem from their parents? Every solution has terrible trade-offs.
I was homeschooled from 2nd grade through high school graduation. Overall, I’m very grateful to my parents for doing that for me. For a few examples of the pros and cons -
- Growing up in a public school as a obviously gay kid going on 30 years ago, in a rural area that lived for farming, football and God would have been hell. School would easily have been a living nightmare.
- Freedom of time. We could work part of the day, go on field trips on our own schedule, spend a day with our grandmother just because, etc. One good one was having piano lessons early in the day. The teacher was free because other students came after school.
- Freedom of study. Since we weren’t bound to someone else’s schedule and coursework, we could work on things as we wanted to. Say I was really into the Civil War. We didn’t have to only learn about that for 3 days before having to move on. I was also able to work freely at the different levels that were appropriate. Once year I was working on 7th grade math (my worst subject), 9th grade social studies, ninth grade science and a few others.
- the flip side of freedom of time. There were certainly times that it was easy to not do nearly as much work as we should have in a given week.
- No snow days! When the classroom is downstairs, it doesn’t matter.
- Dealing with people that didn’t understand. Such as one of my grandmothers, our pastors wife, random people on the street or at places we were having our own family field trip to.
I would say we turned out well. I was always tested at several grade levels higher than expected. I don’t have a college degree, but that was due to factors outside of ability. The classes I have taken, I received straight A’s. My brother has a masters degree in divinity and is a pastor and respected musician. My sister has a master degree in counselling and is currently a teacher.
Thanks, I wasn’t asking for advice, but this is useful.
Right now we are working more on reading, but I find he communicates better in writing in single paragraphs - its like that something to say only lasts for six sentences, but he can write a nice six sentences.
What drives me crazy is how concrete he is. We just read Our Town and he knows what happened, but when asked to speculate on what Emily learned in Act III I get answers like “that she shouldn’t have gone back” - asking why gets me to “I don’t know” what do you things gets me “I don’t know.” His comprehension is fine, his ability to see allegory seems broken.
But honestly, I’m also teaching him to “cheat.” A three page paper does not have one word on page three, that’s a two page paper. But it doesn’t need any words on page four either and a nice supportive quote or two from the book will get you halfway down page three without a problem. These are some common themes in literature, if asked for analysis, can you work in “love and connection between people” “power” “fear” “self awareness” “death” or “God.” And maybe more than one. From there, you sort of fake it and make shit up. If you were taking a college lit class, you’d skim the book once for content, make your thesis, and then reread carefully, maybe several times - you aren’t about to do that, so before you read the book, find a summary about it on the internet, read it, and form your thesis, read the book with a highlighter and some bookmarks, so you only need to read it once and then write about it. The cake with inedible ingrediants he can bake, he doesn’t want to, but he can bake it if he has a clear ingredient list and a recipe. What he can’t do, which I can do and my husband can do and my daughter can do - so its confusing to us - is show up with a cake.
And, of course, my son won’t ask for help from teachers - that’s part of the non-communicative fifteen year old. So feedback has to come through me, increasing the loop, when teachers are trying to get him to take responsibility.