Archive for ‘homeschooling’

May 24, 2009

Home-Schooling Works:Fencing Champion Dakota Root, 17

One of the questions every home-schooling parent hears is, “What about extra-curricular activities?” OK, even with six kids, I’m still five kids short of a varsity football squad, but my 16-year-old twins sons, for example, are excellent swimmers who just completed YMCA lifeguard certification.

Lots of home-schooled kids not only compete in sports, they excel. The Las Vegas Review-Journal just featured one such athlete, 17-year-old Dakota Root:

“Every time you fence, you have to keep changing your game,” Dakota said. “You can’t just rely on your skills. You have to rely on growing within the bout. You don’t do that in most other sports.”
Dakota has been in the sport only four years, but she is considering attending college at Ivy League fencing powerhouses such as Harvard and Columbia as well as Duke, Northwestern and Notre Dame. There appears to be reciprocal interest. . . .
She has achieved scores of 2,240 on the Scholastic Achievement Test (Dakota still hopes to break 2,300) and 31 on the American College Test. . . .
Last November she traveled to Germany and Austria for 16-and-under World Cup tournaments. Dakota fenced especially well in Germany, making the fourth round of pool play.
Showing that performance was no fluke, Dakota in April won under-19 epee at the Pacific Coast Championships in Long Beach, Calif. She was second in the senior epee, which was open to all ages.
That’s a head-turning rise through the ranks for a relative newcomer. It’s also a rise that could continue, perhaps even to the Olympic Games, with 2016 as the likely target. . . .

You can read the whole thing. Dakota is also a refutation of the stupid claim that home-schooled kids aren’t “socialized” adequately. You want to see poise? Watch this C-SPAN video as Dakota Root (then just 16) nominated her father, Wayne Allyn Root, for president at the 2008 Libertarian Party convention:

I covered the 2008 LP convention, where Wayne made it to the fifth ballot of the six-round “Dogfight in Denver” nomination battle, and then was chosen as Bob Barr’s vice-presidential running mate.

When I saw Wayne at the Georgia LP state convention last month, he spent most of his time bragging on his daughter who — and I hope I’m not spoiling any scholarship negotiations here — is leaning heavily toward Columbia. (She likes the big city.) Wayne also brags on Dakota in his new book, The Conscience of a Libertarian:

To illustrate the remarkable talent, creativity and intelligence of home-schooled children, I offer Exhibit A: My 17-year-old daughter Dakota Root. She is beautiful; well mannered; disciplined; articulate; poised beyond her years; treats adults with respect; maintains a straight A+ average in her studies; scores in the 99th percentile of every national test she takes; devours as man as a dozen books a month (because she wants to, not because she has to); has achieved a black belt in martial arts; and is a world class fencer who has participated in Junior Olympics, Fencing Nationals and World Cup events internationally. . . .
Many adults that have had the pleasure of meeting Dakota have made the comment, “Is your daughter home-schooled?” I always answer, “Yes, but how did you know?” The reply is always the same, “In my experience, only home-schooled kids are this focused, disciplined, well-mannered and respectful of adults.”

It’s true. Hearing one’s children praised for being poised, well-mannered and respectful is one of the joys of being a home-schooling parent. Wayne writes:

Dakota has had the advantage of being taught one on one literally since birth, by people that love her . . . praise her . . . motivate her . . . and expect the very best of her.

The official publication date for Wayne’s book The Conscience of a Libertarian is the Fourth of July (when else?) but you can order it now at Amazon.com.

UPDATE: Hey, Wayne’s not the only home-schooling dad who can brag on his kids. And remember, I’m an expert.

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April 6, 2009

‘Maximum feasible non-cooperation’

My earlier post about Ray Moore and his book, Let My Children Go, got linked and commented upon by the Creative Minority Report.

You should go read that, if only for my response to a commenter — a Christian who works as a public-school teacher in Texas — in which I thumbnailed my philosophy of maximum feasible non-cooperation with the public school system.

My wife has homeschooled our children since 1997. Our oldest daughter attended one year of public-school kindergarten, then did two years in a Christian grade-school before we finally decided to homeschool. None of our other children has ever attended a public school, or ever will, if I can help it.

When our three oldest children got old enough for high school, they attended private Christian schools. Our oldest daughter graduated with honors at age 16, the youngest member of her class, and is now a sophomore in college. Our 16-year-old twin boys — well, they’re both good students, but they’re more into working, playing guitar, breeding pythons, fixing cars, and girls. (My own plan is for the boys to matriculate at The University of Parris Island, home of the Fightin’ Jarheads.)

But last night I was working late (got a deadline project) after I’d left that comment at Creative Minority, and needed to make a run to the convenience store. “Where you going, Dad?” said 16-year-old Bob, who was on the phone with his girlfriend. “Can I drive?”

So Bob drove me to the store, and as the price of that privilege — the boy just got his learner’s permit and loves to drive — he had to listen to my lecture about the systemic flaws of the government education system, and how The Myth of the Good Public School perpetuates this flawed system:

“All learning is individual. . . . You can teach a group, but only the individual learns. . . . Therefore, the idea that a school is ‘good’ because the students on average score well on standard tests is fundamentally false.”

Once you understand this, you realize what’s wrong with The Myth of the Good Public School. The school is taking credit, as an institution, for the individual achievement of its students. The “good” school doesn’t necessarily have better facilities or better teachers, it simply has more good students.

Well, what would happen if the “good” school had fewer good students? What if smart parents with smart kids decided that they were no longer going to let those tax-siphoning bureaucratic mediocrities at the local public school take credit for their child’s achievement?

What if the good kids in that district were all home-schooled, or attended private schools? The aggegate average test scores at the local public school would decline, The Myth of the Good Public School would be exposed as a lie and, if such a movement began to snowball into a national phenomenon, the entire evil soul-destroying system of government education would collapse under the weight of its own transparent bogusness.

Maximum feasible non-cooperation. Think about that: “Going Galt” as a parent.

BTW, my son is an excellent driver. Nature or nuture? I started teaching my kids to drive when they were 12. Both of my brothers are truck drivers and, of course, that hillbilly NASCAR gene runs deep. One thing for sure, my boy didn’t learn to drive because he was taught in any school. Except maybe Old School.

LET MY CHILDREN GO!

UPDATE: In the comments, “Anonymous” (whose name is apparently Philip) links to his own blog post in which he accuses me of “knuckleheadedness . . . ignorant, naïve, paranoid, and delusional.” And his argument is based on . . what? His own memories of his own public school days.

Well, since Anonymous Philip wants to get all into the anecdotal ad hominem — accusing me of being motivated by a resentment of “wedgies”! — perhaps he should be reminded that two can play that game. Which of us is more qualified to speak with authority on the problems of American education?

Let me remind you that I spent the years 1987-91 covering prep sports — dealing routinely with coaches who were also teachers, counselors and administrators — as sports editor of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times. This was followed by a stint 1991-97 at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune where I was, among other things, editor of the weekly schools-and-youth section of the paper. So that’s roughly a decade I spent covering schools.

Perhaps I should mention that, for a couple of semesters of college, I was actually an education major before changing my mind, but I did coursework in such subjects as developmental psychology and pedagogical methods. So there’s that. My late Aunt Barbara was a high-school biology teacher in Georgia, recognized by the “STAR” program as one of the state’s best in her field. And then, of course, I am the father of six children, the eldest now a dean’s list college sophomore. Plus, I was for five years editor of the “Culture Etc.” page of The Washington Times, where I frequently covered issues involving education.

Therefore I would not hesitate to assert that, in terms of experience, observation and general knowledge, my authority to address the problems of public education is many magnitudes greater than that of Anonymous Philip, who apparently has no children and hasn’t deal with education since he was himself a student.

“Well, I turned out OK” is not a persuasive argument, Philip. In a nation where 90 percent of children attend public schools, the average adult alumnus of public schools is average, eh? This doesn’t prove anything about the system itself and, if anything, is an argument against any proposed reform. Hey, y’all, Philip attended public school and he’s hunky-dory, so let’s keep doing more of the same!

One of the problems with arguing against a pervasive and persistent evil like government schools is that very few people have any experience of doing thing any other way. Sic semper hoc — ‘Twas ever thus — and therefore the possibility of alternatives is dismissed peremptorily, and nothing else is ever attempted.

We encounter the same sort of resistance to, inter alia, Social Security reform. If the Republican Party had managed a sweep of Congress in the 1938 mid-term elections, then followed up by winning the White House in 1940, it is possible that they might have repealed what was then a novel experimental program. But more than seven decades after it was created, Social Security has entrenched itself, no one can even remember how Americans cared for their elderly prior to 1937, and as soon as anyone says “reform,” you’ve got the AARP and the Democrats ginning up nightmare scenarios of Granny starving to death under a bridge.

Unlike Social Security, however, parents can opt their children out of public education and — contrary to what Philip claims — it really doesn’t have to be that expensive. The main expense for homeschooling is that one parent (usually the mom) has to forego full-time employment outside the home in order to teach the kids. This is a sacrifice for most couples, but not usually the financial disaster some might imagine. (The two-career household is another one of those things that has entrenched itself so deeply in American life that people have trouble imagining alternatives.)

Homeschooling is a radical alternative, and it tends to have a revolutionary impact on your worldview. Once you realize that your kids can actually learn more at the dining room table with Mom as their teacher than they can learn in a big school under the certified tutelage of professional educators, you cease to be intimidated (as most Americans unfortunately are) by the supposedly superior wisdom of “experts.” It is a very empowering experience.

My kids are growing up confident, cheerful and independent. Perhaps they don’t have all the advantages that a two-career household could provide with the assistance of a taxpayer-funded education. But I wouldn’t trade my six kids for six dozen Philips, whose message is, “Don’t try anything different! Don’t fight the system! You can’t win!”

Can’t never could.