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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Home Schooling Friends in Syracuse, NY

Normally when I go to a town, I try to check out the sites, sounds, and tourist attractions. This is due to the fact that I rarely know anyone in the town I'm going to. Syracuse, NY is different, however, as it's pretty close to where I went to college. So I spent my time here looking up people I went to school with.

Here's John Van Ryn of WRHO and Alpha Psi Omega fame (we seek to become humble artists...), along with his wife Maria (it will always be D.J. to me though). I was lucky to catch them, as they are in the process of moving to the Boston, MA area.

They've got two kids and seem to be very happy. D.J. is homeschooling the children, which just seemed to be a foreign concept to me. They painted a poor picture of the Syracuse public school system, and wanted to teach their kids at the level in which they felt they were capable of. That level, in their minds, is often at a much higher level than their school system would provide.

I had always imagined home schooling families as being rural fundamentalist Christians trying to avoid society at all costs by living in a cave somewhere. This certainly isn't the case with the Van Ryns. They just want what's best for their children.

I also got together with another friend from college, Karen Whitter (although I remember her as Karen Pierce, but whatever). She's got two girls and a boy and seems to be quite busy. She too is home schooling her kids and had similar criticisms of the area's education system. While her religious beliefs are decidedly Christian, there seemed to be more to her decision than my stereotype of home schooling parents would allow. She seemed quite knowledgeable about her choice and constantly educates herself on teaching techniques and curriculums.

After telling me about homeschooling, we all played hookie. Hey, she is the principal of her school, so we could get away with it. We did the only semi-touristy thing I did in Syracuse, which was visit the Carousel Center (a mall), home of Carousel No. 18. The carousel was constructed in 1909 and is a rare working antique designed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

Her kids are adorable. And they are bright.

Karen seemed very well and it was nice to catch up with her.

Her oldest daughter seemed to be a testament to home schooling, as she had an impressive vocabulary and seemed very aware of her surroundings at all time.

Her younger sister also seemed pretty sharp and had some pretty advanced conversations with her older sister.

The youngest, the lone son of the group, was still in the stuffing food in his face phase, although I cannot blame that on home schooling.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Nearly two million American children are being educated at home, with the number growing at 15 to 20 percent per year.

Homeschooling seems counter-culture at the moment precisely because it's a throwback. Up until recent times, kids were supposed to learn at home. It also reflects a time when one, or both, of the parents stayed at home as well. A research paper from 2001 by Kurt J. Bauman notes:
One of the strongest influences on home schooling from Table 3 is that of having a non-working adult in the household. The coefficient of there being a non-working adult is large and highly significant. The cross-tabular results of Table 2 gave a hint that this relationship was diminishing across years, but the interaction with year was not significant in the multiple regression framework. However, the main effect of non-working remains. Sixty percent of home schooled children have a non-working adult in the home, compared with thirty percent of other children. If home schooling is limited to a particular subgroup, it is probably this one.
The same research paper also seemed to repeat what I've heard from John, Maria, and Karen regarding their motivations for doing it:
The 1996 and 1999 NHES asked parents their reasons for undertaking home schooling, with 16 possible responses. Several themes emerge from these responses. First is the issue of educational quality. The parents of one-half the home schoolers in these surveys were motivated by the idea that home education is better education. A large share also viewed the issue in terms of shortcomings of regular schools: the parents of 30 percent of home-schoolers felt the regular school had a poor learning environment, 14 percent objected to what the school teaches, and another 11 percent felt their children weren't being challenged at school. Another theme had to do with religion and morality. Religion was cited by 33 percent of parents and morality by 9 percent. Practical considerations (transportation to school, the cost of private school) seemed of relatively minor importance. If attitudinal responses are to be believed, home schooling is not primarily a religious phenomenon, although religion is important. Families participating in home schooling do not cite cost as a barrier, even though one might presume that private schools could respond to their academic and moral concerns.
After learning at a Carousel, Karen, the kids and I went to the Spaghetti Factory, a Syracuse staple. Looks like I had a good time with friends and learned something! What can you expect, I hung out with teachers for two days.

Homeschool World

The CATO Institute on Homeschooling


Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was Spagetti Wharehouse.. ;-) BTW.. it was great seeing.. look me up when you get to Boston..

Thursday, 08 June, 2006  

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