Utterly Meaningless » 2005 » January

    Filed on January 24, 2005 at 4:50 pm under by dcobranchi

    This is one of those stories that could have ended so much worse.

    Wednesday’s predicted flurries quickly turned into frozen, dangerous road conditions, leaving Person County Schools scrambling to get students safely home.

    Other school systems in the Triangle area also encountered problems with pupil transportation. Wake County Schools were forced to keep students overnight when conditions there became so dangerous that buses couldn’t run and parents could not get to schools to pick up their kids.

    Person County Schools got all of its students home, although not entirely without incident. Sheila Caswell said her 13-year-old son was put off his bus on U.S. 501 North and told by the bus driver to walk the rest of the way home because police had closed Ca-Vel Chubb Lake Road.

    After walking nearly two hours, up Kitten Hill, said Caswell, her son could not feel his hands nor feet and was having trouble breathing.

    The superintendent has decided that putting kids off the bus onto a major highway miles from their homes is not to be considered a “best practice.”


    Filed on at 4:45 pm under by dcobranchi

    Show your love by taking them out of school.


    Filed on at 4:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    No commentary required on this one.


    Filed on at 1:11 pm under by dcobranchi

    This has to be one of the nicest spam messages I’ve ever received:


    I am interested in link exchange with your site: http://www.cobranchi.com
    We have 7 pharmacy related sites:…

    I think I’ll pass.


    Filed on at 11:14 am under by dcobranchi

    This EdNews piece on military recruitment via the g-schools is pretty unbelievable. Ninety percent reads like the worst sort of anti-military garbage one can imagine. It wasn’t until I got to the very end, that I realized it was all a straw man:

    Many of the same parents who bemoan their having been given no prior knowledge of the release of their children’s phone numbers to the military, defend these same children’s right to an abortion without their parents’ awareness.

    For many, their loathing of the military is exceeded only be their love of knowing that it’s there, just in case. Security’s cling has made cowards, or at least hypocrites of them. They know as well as anybody else that they would want the killers of their killers to be seen as humanitarians.

    If the call of the military is such anathema to a targeted recruit that he recoils at even having diplomatic relations with them, that young American should luxuriate in the courage of his convictions, tell them where he lives, high-tail it to Canada, leaving a forwarding address, and gladly suffer the consequences.

    If fired by honor, their protest would welcome the crucible of inconvenience. If lit by bravado, it would scramble for excuses to cheat the ordeal of self-sacrifice.

    Once again the military stands by as the ideologues fight it out.

    FWIW, I don’t like the opt-out policy, but I never like any opt-out policy. If the military wants a kid’s name and number, they should be required to ask. Thankfully, homeschoolers aren’t subject to this sort of subterfuge.


    Filed on at 10:04 am under by dcobranchi

    An interesting description of a homeschooler protesting Roe v. Wade:

    Those gathered Saturday said a red-headed homeschool student from Bethel, attending his first-ever anti-abortion rally, also has his heart in the right place. Though just 17, Travis Tyson had spent considerable time searching his soul over the controversial subject.

    Why mention the color of his hair? Bizarre.


    Filed on at 8:27 am under by dcobranchi

    The examples in this little primer on unschooling are rather commonplace except for the very first, which seems to me calculated to raise liberal ire:

    For at least one day every fall, Teagan George’s classroom is in the woods or in a field. Her text is a deer, freshly shot by her father.

    “She’s really interested in field dressing,” said John George, who stays at home with his 8-year-old daughter. “And for a little kid to be exposed to that, so she’s not afraid of what she sees when an animal is being cut open or butchered, is a great learning experience.”

    I also find the reporter’s summary definition of unschooling somewhat lacking:

    While homeschoolers choose to teach their children themselves, taking control of their education from the state and the public schools, unschoolers give control over education to their children. Without fixed schedules and curriculum, unschoolers let the kids learn what they want, when they want.

    In another mood I would take apart the premise that the state has control of education in the first place, but what bugs me most now is that no one but the most “radical unschooler”/TCS type simply turns the kids loose in the manner implied by the second sentence — where’s the acknowledgment of the guiding hand? In our own house, there is constant discussion about finding new ways to expose the boys to the world’s wonders and constant follow-up on things that grab their interest. Undergirding those efforts is constant monitoring of (and if necessary gentle correction of) basics like language usage, practical mathematics, manners, and “life skills”.

    We may be letting the kids drive the bus, but whatever rambling route they choose, they’re going to end up on the hilltop we envisioned years ago with no more than a traffic ticket or two along the way.

    BONUS: Daryl seems to have so much fun, so here goes: Name the film from which the headline on this post comes and the character who utters the phrase.

    EVENING HINT: It was a sled.

    HINT #2: Black and white, pre-WWII. (OK, pre-American-entry-into-WWII.)

    ANSWER: I apparently overgeeked on this one. The film is Citizen Kane, and the character is the banker Mr. Thatcher, who’s explaining to his former ward and now bankrupt client Charles Foster Kane (in one of the amazing deep-focus scenes) that though the bank is taking over Kane’s empire, he’ll maintain “a large measure of control” (quickly amended to just “measure of control”) over his scandal-sheet newspapers.


    Filed on January 23, 2005 at 7:21 pm under by dcobranchi

    There’s been a rather lengthy discussion about the German homeschoolers over at HEM-networking. So far, I think that Helen Hegener and I are the only ones who seem to think that homeschooling (or raising our kids) is a right as opposed to a “privilege” granted by the government. This comment is pretty typical:

    Everything is a privilege granted by the government in one way or another, if it weren’t then no one would spend so much time fighting to keep a privilege or get rid of one. You aren’t free if you have to fight to keep your rights and privileges, you may be more free then other people, but if your fighting then you aren’t free, it’s just an illusion. I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m only saying this is the nature of a government.

    Is this the state of homeschooling in America? I always thought that homeschoolers tended towards a libertarian slant and that I was right at home among them. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m even outside the homeschooling mainstream. Fortunately, at least, y’all seem to be right there with me.


    Filed on at 4:31 pm under by dcobranchi

    This piece from Texas is almost refreshing, actually — I prefer open hostility to ABJ-style “objectivity”:

    “A parent can home school their child whether they have a college degree or a GED or nothing at all. They can be a high school dropout and they still have the opportunity to home school their child,” said Dr. Arthur Tucker, assistant principal for learning services at TASD. “The state has given parents the right to do that.”

    Thank you, Mr. State! You’re so nice to us dropouts and weirdos!

    Tucker also contends that students who are home schooled may lack certain socialization that children who attend public schools may get.

    “Public education deals with more than just one aspect of child development,” Tucker said. “When a child is home schooled a lot of times they don’t have the opportunity to develop their socialization skills and things of that nature.”


    Tucker said parents may decide to home school their children because of some type of disagreement with public education.

    “I don’t mean that in a negative way. It is evident that a parent has the right to choose the best educational setting for their child,” he said. “As a public school educator, I think that we look at educating more students in more ways than just dealing with them academically.”

    Such as, mmm, inculcating ethical and intellectual servility to Mr. State and its credentailed lackeys?

    OK, yeah, I’m just picking on this guy — the rest of the quotes in the piece are the standard right stuff.


    Filed on at 2:37 pm under by dcobranchi

    What was VHEA (Virginia Home Education Association) — apparently often confused with HEAV (Home Educators Association of Virginia) — is now The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, or VA Homeschoolers for short (stick a dot-org on there and you have the new website name, too).

    They really missed a chance with that nickname, though. Picture the fun at their next conference:

    “Where’s the Virginia Homeschoolers member booth?”

    “OVa there, OVa there …”


    Filed on at 9:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Test results.JPG
    According to this USAToday article, state accountability tests are not good predictors for those same students’ performance on the NAEP. The paper doesn’t get into the statistics, but I regressed them and the regression only accounts for ~29% of the variance. Perhaps of more significance, the average state has 66% of students “passing” but only 30% “proficient” as per the NAEP. So, are the state tests too easy? Is the NAEP too hard? Or are the tests measuring different things?

    Maybe I can get Kimberly to drop in here to comment. (Hat tip: Deb)

    UPDATE: I labeled the axes incorrectly. I don’t feel like re-creating the thing from scratch. Just mentally switch the two, ok?


    Filed on at 9:18 am under by dcobranchi

    MIT’s Technology Review has a decent article on two generations of homeschoolers at the Institute. Overall, it’s not bad, though there is one major piece of disinformation:

    Parents who stay with homeschooling for the long haul face challenges preparing their children for college. In some states, it can be difficult to acquire the high-school diploma necessary not only for college admission but also for federal aid.

    I don’t know of any state that requires a HS diploma (GED?) for acceptance into college. And the feds clarified that homeschoolers are eligible for financial aid two years ago. No diploma needed. (Hat tip: Jill)


    Filed on at 9:02 am under by dcobranchi

    Joanne Jacobs has a post about throwing out the baby and leaving the bath water. In a similar vein, Gill Bates pointed to a reading program that seemed to work, so of course was rejected.


    Filed on at 7:10 am under by dcobranchi

    The picture’s legit, but they’re not.

    This year she’s trying home schooling using the Idaho Virtual Academy’s K-12 computer program.

    The Idaho Virtual Academy is a cyber charter.

    UPDATE: Upon further review, the call on the field is reversed. The picture does not go with the article. First down, Tim Haas!


    Filed on at 7:00 am under by dcobranchi

    This article out of Wisconsin starts off as if it’s going to be a typical anti-homeschooling rant (a la the ABJ).

    Even though this is the era of No Child Left Behind and increased educational accountability, parents who teach their own children at home receive very little government scrutiny.

    In Wisconsin, home-schooled children don’t have to meet state standards and benchmarks and don’t have to take standardized tests, and it goes without saying that they are not required to be taught by qualified teachers the way their public school peers are.

    I was all prepared to fire up my ranting response, but no need. The article never goes negative. It never goes anywhere. It quotes several homeschoolers (including Larry Kaseman) and then just kind of ends. Pretty wimpy, IMO. In fact, the most interesting feature is probably the sidebar which includes this factoid:

    Home-schooled students were first counted in the 1984-1985 school year, when 966 Wisconsin students, or about 0.1 percent of the total student population, were taught at home. The number grew steadily through the 2002-2003 school year, when there were 21,288 home-schooled students, or 2.04 percent.

    The number declined slightly in 2003-2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, to 21,034 students.

    The red light is flashing in Wisconsin, too.


    Filed on at 6:18 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times has a pretty poor editorial on the teaching of Intelligent Design in g-school science classes. They’re against it, of course, but the concluding graf might surprise you:

    That said, in districts where evolution is a burning issue, there ought to be some place in school where the religious and cultural criticisms of evolution can be discussed, perhaps in a comparative religion class or a history or current events course. But school boards need to recognize that neither creationism nor intelligent design is an alternative to Darwinism as a scientific explanation of the evolution of life.

    Y’all know my views on this, but even I see how poor this piece is:

    In 2002, more than a decade after the movement began, a pioneer of intelligent design lamented that the movement had many sympathizers but few research workers, no biology texts and no sustained curriculum to offer educators. Another leading expositor told a Christian magazine last year that the field had no theory of biological design to guide research, just “a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions.”

    I recognize the limited space available to the editors but asserting that a “pioneer” and a “leading expositor” had expressed regrets about the state of research into ID without naming them is very weak. Who are they? Do they even exist? Google doesn’t have the phrase “a bag of powerful intuitions,” let alone the longer quotation. Does anyone have a LexisNexis account?

    UPDATE: LexisNexis has no record of it for the last two years. Very suspicious.

    GROW UP!

    Filed on at 5:34 am under by dcobranchi

    You have to wonder where the parents were in this episode:

    A 40-year-old woman held sex and drug parties with teenage boys, telling police she wanted to be a “cool mom,” authorities say.

    Sylvia Johnson allegedly provided marijuana, methamphetamine and alcohol to eight boys at parties held at her suburban Denver home in 2003 and 2004. According to court papers, she admitted having sex with five of the boys.

    …According to court papers, Johnson told investigators she was not popular in high school and had finally started “feeling like one of the group.”

    Maybe she’ll get to be in the clique with all the other “cool” inmates. I know my kids are going to hate me when they’re in their teens, but they will not go to parties where I don’t know exactly who is in charge and what everyone is doing. I figure it’s my job to make them hate me.


    Filed on January 22, 2005 at 4:58 pm under by dcobranchi

    We’ll get 12″ before the storm pulls out early tomorrow a.m. And, yes, the dog is in heaven.


    Filed on at 7:11 am under by dcobranchi

    Why are religious conservatives so obsessed with bestiality? Homeschool grad David N. Bass (does he really get paid for this crap?) goes off on same sex marriage and polygamy. As is apparently the rule for his columns, it is full of slippery-slope arguments and illogic. He eventually almost gets to the heart of the argument, but then misses the point completely:

    That question raises profound constitutional issues. Is marriage a civil institution defined by government, or a religious institution defined by God and simply recognized by government? The first philosophy sets mankind as the final arbiter of law and opens the doorway to illogical relativism; the second acknowledges a Creator God who has revealed Himself to mankind and establishes government to reflect laws and unalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson reflects this in the Declaration of Independence by stating that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and that “Governments are instituted among Men” to secure these God-given rights.

    Which God? The God of the Old Testament who apparently condoned polygamy? Or the Jesus of the New who condemned it. Can Jews be polygamists? Why not? They don’t accept the NT. How ’bout conservative Mormons? They have their own holy books which not only condone polygamy, but mandate it. First Amendment, remember? Free Exercise, thereof? It was the federal government that forced the LDS to abandon polygamy so that Utah could become a state. So is Bass arguing that the feds should dictate to the churches? That would seem to be a strange position for a religious conservative to take.

    The ACLU is right to defend polygamists’ religious practices. And, yes, I’m still a card-carrying member.

    There is a solution to this whole marriage issue, of course. Bass walked right up to the edge and peered over, but didn’t have the guts to face it. The only long-term solution is to get the government out of the marriage business completely. Let churches marry whomever they will. Let the government recognize (and enforce) contractual agreements between two (or more) people for mutual aid (dogs need not apply). So gays would be happy. Polygamists would be happy. Most everyone else would go along pretty much as we have been. Bass and Santorum? Hey, no plan is perfect.


    Filed on at 6:31 am under by dcobranchi

    I’d have awarded Tim the full nickel if the mom’s face were visible. The article is mostly harmless.


    Filed on at 6:23 am under by dcobranchi

    That’s not a typo. From an upcoming events blurb:

    * “Homeschoolers: Who Eats Who-o-o?” a Runge Nature Center program for homeschoolers 8-16, 2-3 p.m. Reservations required; call 526-5544.

    And, yes, it really is in Missouri.


    Filed on at 4:59 am under by dcobranchi

    Didn’t enemies lists go out of style back in the ’70s? It seems that Maryland Gov. Erhlich may be taking a stroll down Memory Lane.

    Gov. Robert Ehrlich of Maryland has pushed the public interest aside by promulgating an extraordinary ban forbidding tens of thousands of state employees from talking to two Baltimore Sun journalists whose coverage has displeased him. The gag order is a sweeping attempt to cut the two – the statehouse bureau chief and a columnist – from the flow of information vital to democracy. It is no surprise that The Sun has felt obliged to go to court to defend the journalists and accuse the governor of violating the First Amendment right of free speech.

    In a heavily Democratic state, this has got to backfire on him in the long run.

    BONUS: You know how the game is played. Group name and album title. If you’re really good, come up with the song title, too. No fair Googling.

    UPDATE: Did I stump y’all? A hint: What have we done? Maggie, what we have done?


    Filed on January 21, 2005 at 8:51 pm under by dcobranchi

    A bad bill has been filed.

    B. All home school students shall participate in the state’s academic assessment program and shall take the standards-based academic performance tests in their respective school districts that are required of public school students.

    C. The department may require home school students who do not demonstrate adequate yearly progress to attend a public or private school.”

    And, yes, the sponsor is a Democrat.

    NM home educators– start your engines.


    Filed on at 8:25 pm under by dcobranchi

    Sasha Albertini (cool name, BTW) pointed me to this wonderful Paul Graham essay that every high school student (and more than a few adults) ought to read. Over and over again. Until it’s seared into their brains. It’s kind of the antithesis of the Fulghum pablum “Everything I needed to know…”

    It’s long and not really excerptable. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, click on over, and enjoy.


    Filed on at 10:39 am under by dcobranchi

    of homeschooling data for the state of NC. (HT: Eric Holcombe). I’ll take a look at this in more detail later, but a quick glance indicates a fairly linear decrease in the rate of growth of homeschooling. No big shock there, of course.


    Filed on at 7:38 am under by dcobranchi

    Beverly Hernandez has a short piece on a homeschooler who is making her way in the world. Beverly’s looking for other examples. That’s the batsignal, Robin.


    Filed on at 4:41 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s an update to the South Dakota SB 11 story. It fleshes out the HSLDA e-lert a bit. What caught my eye, though, was the concluding graf:

    Larry Sax, a parent from Brandon, said there is no need to require that local school officials monitor testing of home-schooled students. Teachers in home schools are just as trustworthy as those in public schools, he said.

    We don’t really want to go there, do we?


    Filed on at 4:28 am under by dcobranchi

    In an article about a little girl who died while on a strict “whole foods” diet we find this:

    Along with holding to an uncooked food philosophy, investigators found the Andressohns had strong beliefs in home schooling, doctors only in a necessity, no immunizations and enemas for all.

    Is this spin supposed to show how wack the parents are?


    Filed on January 20, 2005 at 9:27 pm under by dcobranchi

    According to an HSLDA e-lert, South Dakota Senate Bill 11 (blogged here) went down in flames today:

    No one testified in favor of the bill except the two sponsors, Senator Kooistra and Representative Roberts.

    …Several other homeschoolers testified against the bill. The room was crammed with parents who opposed the bill. They overflowed the hearing room and spilled out into the adjoining hall.

    Senator Kooistra could see there was little support for his bill. In his rebuttal, he said, “I have an idea where this bill is going.” He then suggested that the Department of Education “step up to the plate.”

    …When the Chairman called for a vote, every Senator voted against SB 11
    except Senator Kooistra.

    I’ve said it before– politicians mess with us at their own peril.


    Filed on at 12:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    First Tinky Winky and now Sponge Bob. What is the world coming to? (via Darby)


    Filed on at 11:48 am under by dcobranchi

    This one is pretty dumb. A school district in Milwaukee allows teachers to assign homework over the summer. A parent has sued over the issue. I think the lawsuit is pretty silly, but so is assigning graded math homework over the summer. What if the kid was traveling? It seems the schools would just as soon take over all the parenting responsibilities 24/7 year-round.

    Yet another reason WWHS.


    Filed on at 8:44 am under by dcobranchi

    for my office. Too cool.


    Filed on at 5:45 am under by dcobranchi

    Izzy found a good tale of a Utah edu-crat who overstepped her bounds and got smacked down by informed home educators.

    When a letter from the Tooele County School District to parents that home school their children requested that they meet with School Director Sandy Shepard to review their curriculum, homeschoolers were none too pleased.
    In the Jan. 7 letter Shepard, the district administration’s elementary education director, stated the district “has the responsibility to validate that home school programs are offering the required subjects” in accordance with state curriculum.

    “To meet this responsibility I have set aside Feb. 7, 8, or 15 to meet each of you and review your home school program,” she wrote. Home schoolers were instructed to contact the district office to set up a 30-minute appointment with Shepard.

    “I will conduct home visits with home schoolers who are unable to schedule an appointment,” she continued.

    Under UT law, she doesn’t have the power to do inspections during the school year. Home educators organized and pointed out the error of her ways. Not to worry. It was all a big misunderstanding.

    When contacted about home schoolers’ concerns with the Shepard’s request, Superintendent Dr. Larry Shumway said Shepard was merely offering to assist parents with their home schooling program on a voluntary basis, although that intention wasn’t made clear in the letter.

    “She’s offering to work with them if they’d like. We’re not interested in requiring them [to meet with Shepard], but we want to be helpful to them if they would like us to be,” Shumway told the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. “We’re not wanting to impose on them.”

    The superintendent was asked why the ‘optional’ nature of the request wasn’t spelled out in Shepard’s letter or if the district plans to send home schoolers a clarification.

    “I’d be willing to talk to anyone who has a concern or a question,” Shumway said. “If there are people who misunderstood [the letter] then we will clarify.”

    The article concludes with one of the best homeschooling quotes I’ve seen:

    “We know our rights and we’re not worried about anything.”


    Filed on at 5:24 am under by dcobranchi

    I like meat. Meat and more meat. Steak. Sausage. Pork chops. (Mmmmm. Pork chops.) Evidently, that puts me somewhere around Cro-Magnon Man on the evolutionary scale:

    Insensitive people ignore animals’ pain

    For the life of me, I cannot comprehend how humans can be so insensitive to all that animals go through so that people can have a lot of unnecessary things.

    Cows are sometimes skinned alive because stun guns that are supposed to kill them don’t function properly. Just before they’re killed, they realize what’s going to happen. They smell the blood and death. They become hysterical and topple over each other in an attempt to get away, sometimes breaking their legs trying to get out of the pens.

    Monkeys that resemble us are experimented on in the cruelest manner, so that people can get scientific data which can be obtained by other methods.

    Foxes, raccoons and other animals are trapped so painfully that the animals often chew their own legs off to try to escape. How can anyone with a heart and brain not be upset about this?

    Furthermore, most nutritionists agree that a vegetarian diet is much better for our health. We don’t have to subject animals to this. It’s better for the environment if we eat vegetarian food. The only reason meat seems to taste good is because of spices.

    The people who disregard animal suffering are the ones who should be ashamed. It’s not civilized. The more evolved an individual is, the more sensitive he is to the suffering of others.

    Cynthia McPherson, Newark


    Filed on at 4:57 am under by dcobranchi

    This is snark, pure and simple. If you’re a big fan of Pres. Bush you might just want to skip ahead:

    And so we’re raising the standards for every public school in America. If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense to raise the bar, not lower the bar. (Applause.) If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense to measure to determine whether every child is learning. That’s called accountability, accountability for results. Accountability is so crucial to achieve our goal for every child learning to read, write, add and subtract. Accountability helps to correct problems early, before it is too late. Accountability enables a good teacher to test a curriculum as to whether or not that curriculum is working. Accountability allows principals and teachers to determine whether methodology is working. Accountability also is a way to make sure parents stay involved in the educational systems across our country.

    So, he does know the word. Now if only he’d apply it to the folks in his Administration.


    Filed on at 4:52 am under by dcobranchi

    Skip Oliva pointed out that President Bush is pounding the pavement (and the lectern) pushing for more federalization of education:

    I believe the federal government has a role to play. As you can tell, I believe the federal government had a role to play in primary education, and I believe the federal government has a role to play in secondary education. Up to now, the reforms, as I’ve explained to you, focus on the primary schools. Today, I propose a $1.5 billion initiative to help every high school student graduate with the skills necessary to succeed. (Applause.) Before you get too nervous, please understand that I strongly believe in local control of schools. I don’t believe you can have innovation at Stuart High School if the federal government is trying to teach you how to run your school.

    The role of the federal government is to — is to serve as a funding source for specific projects, and an instigator for accountability systems. The accountability system is, of course, devised by local people. The state of Virginia has devised its own accountability system. I don’t believe in a federal test. I believe a federal test leads to federal control, and I believe federal control of the public school systems leads to failure. (Applause.) And so I believe the federal government has an obligation to help in a way that helps local districts and local schools achieve our objectives. Some of that money ought to be — that I’ve just announced will go to early intervention programs.

    … To ensure that the intervention programs are working and graduates are prepared, we need to be certain that high school students are learning every year. So the second component of my high school initiative is to measure progress with tests in reading and math in the 9th, 10th and 11th grade. (Applause.) Listen, I’ve heard every excuse in the book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child is learning if you don’t test. We’ve got money in the budget to help the states implement the tests. There should be no excuse saying, well, it’s an unfunded mandate. Forget it — it will be funded. I’ve heard people say you’re teaching the test; if you teach a child to read, they’ll pass the test. Testing is important. Testing at high school levels will help us to become more competitive as the years go by. Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing will allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will enable schools to track. Testing will make sure that diploma is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed. (Applause.)

    This has some potential to affect homeschooling. Assuming Bush gets this (which I highly doubt), it makes it awfully easy for state legislators to point at private schoolers and at us: “Why don’t they have to test, too”? Keep your eyes open, folks.


    Filed on at 4:26 am under by dcobranchi

    Dave Woodbury forwarded the response he got to to an email written in support of the German homeschoolers. It’s basically all about the “s” word and sounds like it could have been written by Tim’s lunch buddy. Maybe there really is a Teutonic mindset, eh?

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Thank you for your e-mail concerning mandatory school attendance in Germany.

    In Germany, the laws on mandatory school attendance are based on the principle of the government’s traditional responsibility for providing education for the people. Mandatory school attendance was first introduced in Germany in 1919 under the constitution of the Weimar Republic to guarantee education for all, especially socially disadvantaged families. Then and now, equality is seen as an important democratic ideal. You may be aware of the fact that schooling in Germany is generally free of charge.

    Article 7 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (German constitution) places the entire school system under the supervision of the government and ensures that the government makes education available to very citizen. Homeschooling may be equally effective in terms of test scores. It is important to keep in mind, however, that school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct. Daily contact with other students from all walks of life promotes tolerance, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.

    The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole. If we are to achieve integration, not only must the majority of the population prevent the ostracization of religious minorities or minorities with different world views, but minorities must also remain open and engage in dialogue with those who think differently or share different beliefs. Such a dialogue with minorities is not only necessary but also enriches an open, pluralistic society.

    It goes without saying that parents play an important role in the education of their children. They can and should pass on their values to their children. In this respect, mandatory school attendance should be seen not as an obstacle but as a complement. Religious conflict is prevented under the Basic Law, where the right to establish private schools is guaranteed. In addition, religion is not a mandatory subject at public schools; however, it is offered to those who decide to select it as a subject.

    I hope this explanation is helpful to you in better understanding the German system of school attendance.

    Thank you for your interest. For further information about Germany please subscribe to our free web new service which you can find on www.germany.info.

    Thomas Wriessnig
    Head of Cultural Department
    German Embassy


    Filed on January 19, 2005 at 6:16 pm under by dcobranchi

    Yes, I know they speak English in the Philippines. I was trying to give the reporter the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, I’d have to that say he’s utterly clueless:

    That’s why there’s no heart, no soul to many young starlets’ performances these days: Their lack of schooling [i.e., their homeschooling status] has made them shallow, silly-even stupid. And stupidity, no matter how appealingly it’s packaged in a pretty face or hunky body, is no delight to watch.

    So, young starlets, go back to school! Never mind if it takes you longer to make it in show biz. If you’re good and ready, you’ll make it, anyway.

    There’s more, but I think you get the idea.


    Filed on at 6:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s an interesting tale about a school district that got caught with its hand in the state’s cookie jar:

    The Union-Baker Education Service District, which has been accused of fraud, plans to lay off 30 instructors and close several education centers by Feb. 1 to cut costs, officials said.

    The centers, which offer classes for home-school and at-risk students, are in Burns, John Day, Nyssa, Wallowa and Pendleton, according to Boyd Swent, interim ESD superintendent. Centers in La Grande and Baker City could close in March.

    The service district has come under fire since an outside audit last year alleged “significant fraudulent reporting” of enrollments that brought in $425,000 in revenues. The audit also revealed questionable pay-benefit packages and expense claims for some employees. The recall of three board members followed, and a criminal investigation is under way by Oregon State Police.

    The service district provides specialized services to school districts, such as help with special education students or technology. Swent said the district’s projected budget for 2004-05 has fallen from $24.3 million to $10 million, and staff numbers will drop from 200 last summer to about 85 after Feb. 1.

    The Union-Baker district has roughly 1,300 students in various programs, including about 400 home-school students. It is one of about 20 education service districts around Oregon that are funded by local tax levies, school districts and the state.

    The district’s home-school children will be hardest hit, said parent Ann Camarata of Baker City.

    “Somehow, the kids are having to pay the piper for their (district staff’s) stupidity,” she said. “Their main agenda is to shut down the home-school program no matter what.”

    Wow! Edu-crats using homeschoolers’ part-time enrollment to steal money boost their enrollments. Whodathunkit?


    Filed on at 1:01 pm under by dcobranchi

    Teachers in Boston are poor-mouthing (again). They don’t have enough money to “adequately teach kids,” and they want more. For what? Who knows?

    “The goal of the ads is to restore enough funding to provide all our students with the high quality education they need,” said Anne Wass, vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

    Let me guess– almost any additional money would go towards higher teacher salaries and smaller classroom size, even though these have little to no correlation with performance.

    I am so sick of teachers demanding more money and then failing to do their jobs. I have a radical proposal: Cut their pay by 25 percent. See how many stay around. If the number is manageable, cut their pay some more. That’s how real businesses work; they pay their employees just enough to keep them from leaving.


    Filed on at 12:50 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Governator is attempting to mess with the 3rd and 4th rails of g-school education– merit pay and tenure.

    The bill also extends the probationary period to win tenure for new employees from two years to 10… Merit pay, or “performance pay,” as Schwarzenegger’s education Secretary Richard Riordan calls it, can reflect any number of criteria: student test scores, teacher evaluations, skills and knowledge, peer reviews, parental outreach, willingness to teach in poor schools. The idea has been heatedly discussed for decades but has picked up momentum recently as part of a national trend away from paying teachers based on experience alone.

    I wish him luck on both counts. Tenure in the g-schools is an abomination. It was designed to ensure that university professors, who are supposed to engage in original research, would have the academic freedom to pursue controversial subjects. How that got extended to g-school teachers who do no research and follow a state-mandated curriculum is a mystery.

    And, I’ve never understood why teachers think their jobs are so complicated that they should be exempt from performance evaluations. Like almost every other professional employee, I have an annual performance review. Is it “fair”? It depends on what you mean by “fair.” If you mean completely objective, of course not. My boss and colleagues all have opinions and they all get factored in. So what? I’d love to see a similar system for schools. Let the principal and the parents provide the feedback. Heck, even the kids know which teachers are good and which are deadwood.

    Arnold is threatening to take his proposal directly to the voters. It could make for a very interesting campaign.


    Filed on at 10:33 am under by dcobranchi

    Public school officials and their elected lackeys are usually pretty circumspect when they complain about school choice, couching their fear of dwindling funds in somber talk of their “responsibility to the children”.

    But down in the Florida Keys, where plans for a collegiate charter school (a high school/college hybrid which would meet on the local community college campus) have apparently excited quite a bit of interest, the local school board chief has dispensed with euphemism:

    “If 75 students left Key West High School, that would take $450,000 out of that school’s budget, which can only mean bad news,” board Chairwoman Eileen Quinn said in August.

    Does she get more points for honesty or for contempt toward 75 students who might get a better education for themselves if the charter is built?


    Filed on at 10:06 am under by dcobranchi

    The Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal apparently has a regular column by a homeschooling mother:

    The Wakeman clan had the opportunity to visit the southern Jersey shore in December to assist my sister in celebrating a milestone birthday. While there, we visited the shore as my sons hadn’t seen the ocean since they were in diapers.

    They immediately shed their shoes and began some serious exploration. Despite claims of seeing England, some great discoveries were made. Conveniently, we had been studying several ancient Greek scientists and their documentation of natural observations, so we had all the makings of an educational field trip.

    During one of our beach escapades appeared every homeschooling mom’s dream — a discovery of something none of us had seen before.

    I Googled around a bit, and it doesn’t seem as if she mentions homeschooling too often. Still, I bet that the simple fact of having a homeschooler write for the paper helps keep the editors in check when the possibility for a negative story arises. Maybe that should be a new goal for us — get a homeschooling stringer on every paper in the country!


    Filed on at 8:55 am under by dcobranchi

    Chris O’Donnell found a plugin for MT that prevents Google and other search engines from scanning comments. This means that comment spam won’t work anymore. The spammers can still post comments, but it will do them no good as their page ranks will not move up.

    The plug-in is backwards compatible to at least MT v 2.64. If you are running an MT-based blog, you can download the plugin here. Chris, via email, points out that for 2.6x blogs, you only need to upload the plugin file to your plugins directory; the PHP file is only used in v 3.x. The install takes all of five minutes.

    BTW, I’ve now gone over a week without a single comment spam. I’m sure vervehosting is much happier with me.


    Filed on at 7:17 am under by dcobranchi

    Logic appears to be on the endangered species list. Now, it’s a lawyer who just doesn’t get it:

    A specialist in the defense of juveniles, Brown tailored his remarks to the community’s role in raising youth. He decried schools that suspend or expel unruly students who have questionable home lives. Such youths need the structured, nurturing environment of the schoolhouse to steer them in the right direction, not toss them into the street, he said.

    Like sponges, Brown said, the kids are going to absorb material and information around them no matter the message or messenger.

    They will learn, he said.

    “The question is, from whom, (and) what?” Brown asked the audience, which often applauded him vigorously.

    He questioned a trend toward home schooling as the answer, because the children “will lose all of their social skills.”

    And that’d be a bad thing, how?


    Filed on at 6:51 am under by dcobranchi

    The Wichita Eagle has a very nice profile of a homeschooling mom who has been active in La Leche League for almost 25 years. Homeschooling is only mentioned in passing, but if you have an interest in breast-feeding, the article is well worth a read.


    Filed on at 2:47 am under by dcobranchi

    You just know the reporter had to be laughing as she/he wrote this up:

    A bitter breakup may have prompted a Townsend man to ram a van through the walls of a house before dawn Tuesday, police said.

    Officers said the man, who was arrested later Tuesday, intentionally drove a Hummer SUV into the back of a family’s parked mini-van, forcing it through the walls of their home in Glendale Townhouses, off U.S. 40 in Bear.

    …The incident is being classified as a domestic disturbance because the man’s daughter and Campbell had recently ended a relationship, Navarro said. The man told police that Campbell “was not handling the breakup well,” he said.

    Let’s see– he smashed their van and wrecked their house. I wonder if they’ll get back together in 7 to 14.


    Filed on at 2:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Chris Elam goes all biblical on a Texas legislator who wants to include kids’ Body Mass Index (BMI) on their g-school report cards.

    Heh. Indeed. I found my blender; now where’d I leave the puppies? [MUST. QUIT. CHANNELING. GLENN!]

    PSA: PR

    Filed on at 2:27 am under by dcobranchi

    Kim forwarded this along. Free is good. BTW, Kim, how’s that hand re-count going?

    New Resource for Homeschoolers

    Chicago, IL-January 18th, 2005- Now there is a new, free way for homeschooling families to get news and curriculum reviews, as well as homeschooling content that involves the auditory. That way is called podcasting. Kim Campbell and Ken Bradley have put together a podcast for parents and kids that they are very excited about developing. A podcast is like an audioblog, or a radio show, which one can listen to on their computers or on MP3 players.

    Homeschool Habitat is a half hour podcast show that focuses half on the issues parents enjoy, by providing news and discussions about homeschooling philosophies, as well as reviews. The second part of the show is addressed to homeschooled children and it includes mini-lessons in English, History, Math and Science, as well as content by other homeschooled kids. It will focus on short, fun, hands-on lessons and active learning.

    Kim and Ken are homeschooling parents who have created Home Zine and Relaxed Homeskool, a zine and blog about the homeschooling culture. To find out more, contact Kim Campbell at kimcampbell@speakeasy.net

    UPDATE: Here’s the link to the podcast. Kim sounds exactly how I imagined she would.


    Filed on January 18, 2005 at 8:39 pm under by dcobranchi

    Skip Oliva forwarded the idiotic edu-quote of the day. Concerning PE classes, a “health professor” *snort* opined:

    “Unless we hold physical education teachers accountable for the fitness of the student … there’s no way to evaluate who is good or who is bad because we’re more concerned with math and reading,” Lewis said. “There needs to be some sort of minimal national fitness standard — that would be a very easy thing to establish.”

    I agree. Perhaps we should have exit exams for PE. No one can graduate from high school until they can run a 4-minute mile, dunk a basketball, and bench press 300 pounds.

    Schools have enough trouble teaching the kids to read. One thing at a time, ok?

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