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Author Topic: The debate over virtual schools
romanylass
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/education/01virtual.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

This is timely for me-we enrolled in a virtual public acaedmy a few months ago- it has made little difference in how we order our day, but we get money. We need money. We were finally able to put Matthew back into guitar- when the paperwork goes through ( hopefully in the next week or so) they will also pay for Livvie and Andrew's ballet. We bought a membership to the zoo and new books.All we do is email an advisory teacher every week and take a test at the end of the year ( since Matthew scored as an 11th grader at the end of 4th grade, no worries).
I don;t want this option taken from us.I think if we were well to do, if my kids weren't among those "poor kids" that teachers spoke of, that they don't funds taken from, I might feel gulity about taking the money. The fact is, taking the money means that we'll have the extra funds to spend on food that will bring us UP to the level of people on food stamps. But I hide the fact that we do this from PS teachers in our lives. But, but, I think if the state of public schools is such that parents choose this route the school districts should take notice, and find ways to make it work, rather than try to shut them down.
Thoughts?
Clarification- They never actually give us money. the virtial school pays vendors, such as music teachers and booksellers,zoos and museums.

[ February 15, 2008, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: romanylass ]

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pooka
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I don't think public funding should go to homeschooling, just as a gut reaction. I know this position puts me at odds with you putting food on the table, but my kids don't get guitar or ballet lessons.

P.S. My older daughter took piano lessons back when we were able to barter for massages. Now she's in band in middle school.

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Godric 2.0
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So the question is whether virtual schools should be labeled as homeschools?
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scholar
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I am not sure. If the kids are at home, they aren't taking up space in the public schools (and since many schools lack enough desks for students that could be a good thing). But then again, they don't have to put up with the negatives of public schooling. Also, the quality control isn't there (I have seen some parents whose view of an education is very, very iffy). Of course, by paying, you are able to monitor if parents are providing adequate education. Would this encourage parents who shouldn't home teach their kids to? Some parents really can not teach their kids and might place the money over the kid's best interests (my husband had several students whose parents wanted them to fail because if they graduated, no more free food). I see pros and cons, but would need more research to have a definite strong view.
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romanylass
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scholar, just FYI, no one is handed cash! First we submit a learning plan for each child; then we ask them to pay for things that 'support the learning plan'. THEY pay the guitar teacher, the zoo, and even Amazon; we never see the money.
I agree that if they were handing parents cash it would be real iffy and horrendously taken andvantage of. The monmey they spend on us frees up money we have been spending books and
lessons though.
FWIW, I think in a country this rich every child should be entitled to arts/music/dance, even sports,though may I live 1000 years and never knit again before my kids do soccer or the like- regardless of ability to pay.

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Godric 2.0
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This is the first I've heard of this program (or, programs). My initial reaction is positive. I may look into it further when Audrey reaches schooling age (if it's still around) - I've been thinking a lot about her education and I don't want her held back by the lowest common denominator in any given public school class.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by romanylass:
All we do is email an advisory teacher every week and take a test at the end of the year ( since Matthew scored as an 11th grader at the end of 4th grade, no worries).
...
scholar, just FYI, no one is handed cash! First we submit a learning plan for each child; then we ask them to pay for things that 'support the learning plan'. THEY pay the guitar teacher, the zoo, and even Amazon; we never see the money.

That sounds like a great way to encourage well-organized and diverse homeschooling. Sounds neat to me.
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rivka
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While I have no problem with the notion of increased oversight (four teachers serving 1500 students is ridiculous, regardless of the degree of parent involvement), I think these programs should definitely continue.

Then again, I'm in favor of vouchers, so I'm just being consistent. [Wink]

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Belle
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I do not think taxpayer money should go to homeschools. I'm fully supportive of parents who choose to homeschool - I've got relatives that have done it, but not at taxpayer expense.

Lots of students would love ballet and guitar lessons, but don't get them because their parents can't afford them. Ditto memberships to the zoo. It's not the public school's responsibility to provide music lessons for homeschooled kids. That said, I have no problem with homeschoolers being allowed to take part in music and athletic activities at the school. So if your son wanted to play in the school band, I would support him having that opportunity.

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scholar
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Thanks for the info! Provided that homeschooled kids are getting less money from the state that they would if the kid was in public schools, I think I am ok with it. Knowing it only goes to approved activities helps. I see Belle's point about the lessons, but if the homeschooled kid is getting less state money then they would if they went to public school... If a public school student cared that much about the lessons, they need to get their parents to homeschool as well.
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Threads
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I think its inevitable that all schools will be virtual in the future.
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Mucus
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quote:
Rural Americans have been attracted to online schooling because it allows students even on remote ranches to enroll in arcane courses like Chinese.
As much as I appreciate that Chinese-language speakers may be rare in rural America, it still makes me feel weird to know that my language is considered "arcane."
It makes me feel like a rare fictional character or something [Wink]

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ketchupqueen
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I don't think the language is considered arcane-- I think classes in it before college level are indeed very unusual in this country, though I think someone got over-eager with the thesaurus using "arcane" for "unusual" in this instance.
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breyerchic04
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I made a teacher mad in middle school for suggesting this concept in a paper about the year 2250.
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Paul Goldner
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Belle and I agree on something. Shocking [Smile]

Seeing school budgets, and being intimately involved, over the last couple years... you don't want the school to educate your kid? Fine. But we don't have the money to pay for you to educate your own kid. Sorry!

My district of 2000 kids is short about 2.7 million dollars in the budget this year. Thats for the kids who are actually IN THE SCHOOL (or placed out of district because of special ed requirements, and the cost of THAT would basically balance our budget).

Virtual schooling in school, though, something I have no problem with.

[ February 16, 2008, 11:12 AM: Message edited by: Paul Goldner ]

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romanylass
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I think what Threads says has a lot of merit- this will be how schooling is done in the future.
100 years from now few if any kids will be educated in "public schools as we know them".

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scholar
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
Belle and I agree on something. Shocking [Smile]

Seeing school budgets, and being intimately involved, over the last couple years... you don't want the school to educate your kid? Fine. But we don't have the money to pay for you to educate your own kid. Sorry!

My district of 2000 kids is short about 2.7 million dollars in the budget this year. Thats for the kids who are actually IN THE SCHOOL (or placed out of district because of special ed requirements, and the cost of THAT would basically balance our budget).

Virtual schooling in school, though, something I have no problem with.

But, if you have say $5000 a year per student if the kid is in the school and $3000 if the kid is homeschooled, it is better for the state to have a kid homeschooled- they have saved $2000 on the student. If you did not provide these resources, a parent could very easily decide not to homeschool.
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Paul Goldner
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"But, if you have say $5000 a year per student if the kid is in the school and $3000 if the kid is homeschooled, it is better for the state to have a kid homeschooled- they have saved $2000 on the student. If you did not provide these resources, a parent could very easily decide not to homeschool."

No, the state is LOSING 3000 dollars that they are spending on someone they aren't educating. We spend public dollars on public education... not public dollars on private education.

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scholar
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So, you would rather the kid go to the public school and cost the state $5000? The virtual school is educating the kid according to the school's standards (hence the weekly lesson plans and tests). Right now, I am seeing this as outsourcing to a cheaper provider.
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AvidReader
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From the article:

quote:
Last year, the state auditor found that several online charters had received reimbursements from studentsí home districts that surpassed actual education costs by more than $1 million.
I see that as the biggest problem, but I'm also an advocate of finding a variety of ways to provide students with a quality education. The state has to teach kids until they're 16. If a parent determines that a public school setting isn't the best fit for their kid, I don't see that as getting the state off the hook for getting them educated.

My $.02

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Kwea
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I don't think the state should pay for homeschooling. There are too few checks and balances, both from an educational standpoint and from a fiscal one.
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Samprimary
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The educational checks are the most important consideration. If you graded the product of homeschooling under the same standards as regular schools are upheld to, you would easily see it get rejected for funding.
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romanylass
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
If you graded the product of homeschooling under the same standards as regular schools are upheld to, you would easily see it get rejected for funding.

Not.

quote:
In Spring 1998, 20,760 K-12 home school students in 11,930 families were administered either the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) or the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP), depending on their current grade. The parents responded to a questionnaire requesting background and demographic information. Major findings include: the achievement test scores of this group of home school students are exceptionally high--the median scores were typically in the 70th to 80th percentile; 25% of home school students are enrolled one or more grades above their age-level public and private school peers
Full text:http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/


quote:
Much of the existing research on academic performance centers on K-12, home school students and many of these studies show that home school children outperform their public school peers on several national standardized exams), including the Stanford Achievement Test and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and at nearly all grade levels (Rakestraw 1987, Frost 1987, Wanes 1990, Ray 1990, Rudner 1999
Full text: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3955/is_200404/ai_n9383889


Lists of homeschool test scores by percentile: www.ode.state.or.us/teachlearn/specialty/home/1998/scores98.pdf

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Mucus
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From the first link:
quote:
The parents responded to a questionnaire requesting background and demographic information.

...

# Home school parents have more formal education than parents in the general population; 88% continued their education beyond high school compared to 50% for the nation as a whole.
# The median income for home school families ($52,000) is significantly higher than that of all families with children ($36,000) in the United States.
# Almost all home school students (98%) are in married couple families. Most home school mothers (77%) do not participate in the labor force; almost all home school fathers (98%) do work.

...

These comparisons between home school students and students nationwide must be interpreted with a great deal of caution. This was not a controlled experiment. Students were not randomly assigned public, private or home schools. As a result, the reported achievement differences between groups do not control for background differences in the home school and general United States population and, more importantly, cannot be attributed to the type of school a child attends. This study does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools. It should not be cited as evidence that our public schools are failing. It does not indicate that children will perform better academically if they are home schooled. The design of this study and the data do not warrant such claims. All the comparisons of home school students with the general population and with the private school population in this report fail to consider a myriad of differences between home school and public school students. We have no information as to what the achievement levels of home school students would be had they been enrolled in public or private schools.

The study itself makes it very clear that performance results themselves are not a particularly good measure of the quality of home schools (or not for that matter). This is a very atypical self-selected group in the first place.
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ClaudiaTherese
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I expect that as the diversity of backgrounds of families who homeschool increases, so will the results. There is an oft-cited mantra that universities actively recruit homeschooled children -- I'm not sure that will be a tenable position to hold in some 10-15 years [as a blanket statement].

[ February 18, 2008, 12:49 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Belle
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quote:
There is an oft-cited mantra that universities actively recruit homeschooled children -- I'm not sure that will be a tenable position to hold in some 10-15 years.
My anecdotal experience is that it's already changing. In talking with college English professors and instructors, they tend to have a negative view of homeschooling, saying the writing skills of homeschoolers are even worse that the ones they see from people who've come from public schools. Having seen the writing skills of many public school high school graduates, that amazes me, frankly.

A friend of mine used to work with a homeschool cover school - she is a certified teacher, and it was her job to verify that parents were following all the state rules for homeschooling and such. She said there are two types of homeschoolers - the parents who were dedicated to their kids and cared about their education and made best of it - and then there was the majority. The majority homeschooled their kids usually because the kids had been in such disciplinary trouble at the public schools they had been expelled, or were constantly serving suspensions. These parents pulled their kids out of school as an act of defiance saying "I'll just do it myself." My friend was so disheartened that she quit the job, saying it was unbelievable to her how many parents just let their kids sit at home and not do anything. She had a lot of students where both parents worked - not supposed to be allowed, Alabama rules are that a parent or grandparent must be home with the kid during normal school hours - but these parents didn't care so much for the rules, and the kids suffered.

I think the percentage of homeschooled kids in the second category may be larger than people want to admit. Certainly those parents are probably not participating in studies, which is, as Mucus points out, a self-selecting group.

I am not against homeschooling if it's done well and I think a parent should have the right to school their kids themselves if they wish. But if it's going to receive public funds, I would want a very large amount of oversight and regulation, and the original article indicated there were some problems with that system now, both with the number of students assigned to each certified teacher and also with the financial aspect.

I also still don't see where it's the public's responsibility to make sure a child has guitar lessons or dance lessons. A child in public school doesn't receive dance lessons from a private organization. They may receive music enrichment but it's in a classroom setting, and it's certainly not one-on-one music instruction you'd get from a private guitar teacher. That's a parent's responsibility to provide, and it's certainly a luxury, not a right. I pay for my kids' extracurricular activities and have never assumed the public schools have any responsibility to help me with that.

As for textbooks, if the public schools are going to provide textbooks for homeschoolers, they should provide the same textbooks the kids in public schools get. They certainly shouldn't pay for religious curriculum. Most homeschooler's I know use religious centered curriculum, but they pay for it themselves, as it should be.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
I don't think public funding should go to homeschooling, just as a gut reaction. I know this position puts me at odds with you putting food on the table, but my kids don't get guitar or ballet lessons.

Agreed. If you choose not to take advantage of a public service, I don't believe that entitles you to special compensation- and the things you're spending it on are fine things... just not things I think that we as a community should pay for. You're not on welfare, as far as I know, so I think you should look after your own income.

In the event that these services are available to you and not the public at large, I ask why. It seems to me that ballet and guitar are things that should already be well funded in the public school system, but of course they are not. I don't think the answer is to award those privileges to people who don't participate in the schools to begin with.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
"But, if you have say $5000 a year per student if the kid is in the school and $3000 if the kid is homeschooled, it is better for the state to have a kid homeschooled- they have saved $2000 on the student. If you did not provide these resources, a parent could very easily decide not to homeschool."

No, the state is LOSING 3000 dollars that they are spending on someone they aren't educating. We spend public dollars on public education... not public dollars on private education.

If a parent is motivated in a make-or-brake fashion by the gain of $3,000 a year to home school their child, despite the inevitable loss of potential income that parent could be earning in the hours they devote to teaching, then I don't particularly trust that person to be a good teacher.

This is all, of course, far off the point we should be making. The government is not designed to serve the individual, but to maintain the conditions in which individuals can safely thrive. This means it is not the government's responsibility to make you educated, but their responsibility to provide you a teacher, a book, a classroom. If you turn down that service, you shouldn't get a refund- you are paying into a system that needs to exist, and which our forefathers brought into existence at the behest of the people.

I know you'll love the "what if" game, but let's say you don't drive- I suppose you should get a highway tax refund. You don't call the cops? A police refund. You don't vote? A refund for that. But wait... the cops are driving around trying to police your community, the highways exist to transport goods which you use, the franchise is used by your neighbors to determine your political future, and your schools are used to educate and better your community, the people in your neighborhood, the people who you depend on to get through life whether you are thinking about them or not. It is one thing for you to not take advantage of what Emerson revered so greatly in the idea of public education, but it quite another to ask for your money back.

My $0.05

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AvidReader
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quote:
This means it is not the government's responsibility to make you educated,
Isn't an educated populace considered essential to the function of a democracy? When everyone has the right to vote, the rest of us need them to be educated well enough to decide who to vote for. Or to read well enough to decide if the referendum really says what the guy on tv says it does.

Of course, I have to admit to a personal bias against the public school system. It's designed to serve the bulk of the bell curve. If you're very smart, very slow, in need of greater structure, or stifled by the rules, it just doesn't work. It might work just fine for the vast majority of kids, but what about the rest of us?

If the public schools had ever recognized that they were leaving kids out in the cold and done something about it, I'd have more sympathy for the system. Instead, they took the "our way or the highway" approach and can't figure out why parents are jumping ship to private, charter, and homeschools. As long as the system isn't willing to provide reasonable options for the nontraditional student, I have no problem with my tax dollars going to programs that will.

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Belle
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quote:
As long as the system isn't willing to provide reasonable options for the nontraditional student, I have no problem with my tax dollars going to programs that will.
But we're not talking about them going to programs, but to individuals to spend on things like trips to the zoo and guitar lessons.

We can debate the voucher system, if you want, that's fine. But to me, there's a big difference between allowing people to have chioce in schools, and paying for some kids' private dance lessons.

We do have a need for an educated populace. What we don't have, is a need for a populace who can play the guitar. Those type things are fine and wonderful, but they should be paid for by parents, not the taxpayers.

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Scott R
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I don't mind taxpayer money going to fund kids' trips to the zoo and guitar lessons, as long as the homeschool program is held accountable. That is-- is the child *really* learning to play the guitar, or are the lessons with a beloved uncle who lets Junior watch TV instead of learning his scales?

There needs to be an independent evaluation of any program which is funded by public money. I don't know how this would be arranged with homeschoolers, but I think it's important that some level of accountability is introduced into the system. (And it seems to me like there isn't much)

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ClaudiaTherese
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I am quite concerned about the "unschooling" movement. I am sure it can be done quite well and successfully in certain cases by certain families with certain kids. I think those cases are rare, though, at least in the current context.

At this point, I'm delighted to see any objective standardization and accountability.

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Scott R
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In the interest of full disclosure, we homeschooled Junebug for the last half of third grade. Our decision was largely based on the feeling that her teacher was not providing her a good foundation in math.

There was no accountability for the things she learned while in homeschool.

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romanylass
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quote:
Originally posted by ClaudiaTherese:
I am quite concerned about the "unschooling" movement. I am sure it can be done quite well and successfully in certain cases by certain families with certain kids. I think those cases are rare, though, at least in the current context.

At this point, I'm delighted to see any objective standardization and accountability.

I agree, and the "successful" unschoolers I've seen are extremely rare.
However ( bad for the kids, good for those who oppose ther tax dollars going to fund shoddy education) is that these parenst will move do different states or outright lie to prevent any state involvemnet in their lives.
The only parents who will take advantage of charter schools are already putting in the effort to do a good job.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
In the interest of full disclosure, we homeschooled Junebug for the last half of third grade. Our decision was largely based on the feeling that her teacher was not providing her a good foundation in math.

There was no accountability for the things she learned while in homeschool.

Thankfully you are one of the self-selected members of the the doing-it-right segment of the homeschool movement, I would imagine.

I never have a problem with parents educating their kids on their own- I don't even know if I believe in accounting for the time spent. I think the government is right to provide the opportunity for a public education, but I find the idea of a "right and proper" education being legislated problematic. That's how we got to standardized testing, and that's how standardized testing has corrupted the actual intellectual process in teaching.

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