Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Parents' Choice in Education

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century

A few weeks ago after having some prayer and mentor sessions with my daughter, we decided that it was time to drop some of her classes in her homeschooling. We had decided last spring for my son to take Open High School. Two of the big draws were that he could do BYU independent study through it and that he would get his own laptop for the school year. Open High is the first Internet-based charter high school in Utah. See openhighschool.org. After we heard that one of my daughter's friends would be doing it, we decided to let her try it too. After all, when you are off the conveyor-belt, it doesn't matter if she really isn't high school age, being only 13 at the time. I have to admit, getting her own laptop was probably the real reason she wanted to do it so much.

She did well, and got A's, but then after Christmas she added some more classes to her homeschooling bag, like Pyramid Project (see thelemi.com), classical acting, ballroom dance, and mock trial. This is all in addition to her regular math course, LDS seminary, and her Leadership Education-based girls scholar academy. I was reading in the TJED for Teens (tjedforteens.com) book about how a parent-mentor is supposed to help the mentee be real about time requirements for projects they commit to. I immediately knew I had been lacking in this area for my daughter and needed to gently remind her that she was taking on too much.

The upshot of this is that she finally decided to quit Open High School, at least for this year. The biggest reason was that they didn't follow the "dual enrollment" policy of regular public schools. She couldn't take one or two classes, which we thought she could handle, Open High said she had to take four. (This whole story is worthy of another post.) So I had to return the laptop. That meant a trip to downtown SLC. It was eye-opening to find out that Open High shares office space with an organization called "Parents Choice in Education." At first I thought, how great that there's a place you can go to learn more about your educational choices for your children, to learn about an alternative to public schools.

But then after more reflection, i realized this is a sad commentary on our society. We are so disconnected as a community at the grassroots level that we need an office to tell us about our choices for educating our children. Yes, public schools are a choice, or resource, but they are not the only choice. Why don't more parents know this?

The word is starting to get out, especially thanks to the TJED movement. Yes, your children are yours to educate, they are not the state's. All parents should know that when it comes to education, you have lots of options. No, you don't have to homeschool, you shouldn't feel forced to homeschool, and there are options besides the neighborhood public school. It's important to ponder the idea about how much government should be involved in education. Glen Beck has a whole chapter about education in his book Arguing With Idiots that I recommend to every parent. He points out that the federal government has no authority given in the Constitution to be over education of children. So can we just nix No Child Left Behind? After all, whose plan does that sound like?

He also asks why it is that parents are supposed to enroll their kids in the public school they live the closest to. Why not allow public schools to have to compete for students' public school dollars just like businesses have to compete for customers' dollars? Competition breeds excellence. That's why we have such amazing high-tech gadgets like cell phones, computers, and iPods, and why they keep getting cheaper every year. I love that the charter school movement and homeschooling are giving regular public schools some kind of competition. It's about time.

If you would like to learn more about your educational options then read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. We don't need an office for parents' choices in education, we just need to read more as parents and ask questions and create more community.

Homeschooling isn't awful, incredibly hard, and socially backwards as people make it out to be. You can still have a life when you homeschool. In fact, you actually have more of a life! You meet some really fun people and read cool books and go to neat places. You create your own schedule, not the schedule of a school district's. That's what the TJED movement is all about, creating your own schedule based on what you want to learn as a woman, and what you want to help your children to learn. It is hard, but it's worth it, and even fun LOTS of times!

In Relief Society the lesson from Gospel Principles was recently about Freedom to Choose. I had to leave during part of it to take sick kids home, but I was going to mention that freedom to choose applies to all areas of life, including our children's education. Why do we force children to sit at desks when they are five when they should have the freedom to run and play and work along side their parents? LDS educator Neil Flinders wrote a book called Teach the Children, an agency approach to education. DeMille was mentored by Flinders and his book is the non-LDS version for the masses.

Come to the TJED Forum in SLC on March 19-20 at the Hilton Hotel to learn more about choices in education. LDS author Brad Wilcox (bradwilcox.com) is speaking on the 19th, as well as someone from the Arbinger Institute. Some amazing speakers are speaking on the 20th too, like Kelli Poll, my homeschooling mentor, and Lara Gallagher of lazyorganizer.com fame. Come even if you don't homeschool just because it's so much fun to learn. This is for all parents, not just homeschoolers! We won't force you to sign any commitment form to homeschool. See tjedmarketplace.com for more info. If you can't come, you can buy downloads of the talks at the same web site, as well as talks from past years. I hope to see some of you there!

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