Monthly Archives: July 2009

Home Visitations in the Health Care Bill Threaten Parental Rights

Why you might ask would I be concerned about HR 3200 which is the commonly known National Health Care Bill and it’s possible impact on home schooling families as well as other independent learning families.  Section 440 of the bill starting on page 837 is entitled HOME VISITATION PROGRAMS FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AND FAMILIES EXPECTING CHILDREN.  This is a grant program designed to improve the well being, health and development of young children and expectant mothers.  To get these funds the states will have to identify and prioritize serving communities that are in high need of such services, especially communities with a high proportion of low-income families or a high incidence of child maltreatment.  Wouldn’t you love to have your community defined by the Federal Government in that way. 

These programs will provide referrals to other services as deemed appropriate by the inspectors doing the home visitations.  The following information represents the main points the government intends to accomplish through home visits within these defined communities.  The bill would provide parents with knowledge of  “age-appropriate child developmental, cognitive, language, social, emotional and motor domains.”   This would include how well second language learners are acquiring skills in the English language.  Further the bill would provide parents and prospective parents “realistic knowledge of age-appropriate expectations of behavior.”   Further, parents and prospective parents would be schooled in wellness issues.   Translate into the federal government deciding if your child is overweight, underweight, fed the proper diet and whether you are providing your child with government approved health care.  

I almost strangled with laughter when you consider the thousands of persons needed to bring about this training and the practicality of teaching those who have been defined by the government as financially poor or abusive parents.  Can you imagine the people who will be showing up in your house to do the following things.   “Modeling, consulting, and coaching will be provided on parenting practices”.  These practices will be intended to provide parents with the skills to interact in age-appropriate ways with their children.  The parents will be given help so they will be properly trained to identify issues related to the health, developmental delays, and social, emotional, and behavioral skills of their children.  And above all parents will be given “activities designed to help parents become full partners in the education of their children.”   So, in addition, to everything else the government wants to control we now will have government employees who will be judging whether or not your parenting comes up to federal government standards.  The founding fathers have to bouncing up and down in their graves not just spinning.  I try to envision in my own mind the people who must have been sitting around desks with premium coffee deciding that the government just has to help all we ignorant, helpless citizens out here to learn how to raise our children the government way. 

So envision for a moment the millions upon millions of families who will fall into these vague categories.  Then try to bring to mind the size of a bureaucracy that will have to be put into place to carry out even the smallest part of this provision of the bill.   Further, imagine being one of the families deemed inferior who have to open their doors to government “consultants” who by federal law are going to model and coach parents in appropriate parenting practices.  I am just sure that the government is going to provide us with the very best parental role models for these modeling and coaching sessions.  Ah, in fact, they promise to do so.  Later in the bill we find this; the government will “employ well-trained and competent staff, maintain high quality supervision, provide for ongoing training and professional development, and show strong organizational capacity to implement such a program”.  Can you just dream the size of the government agency that will try to bring this to pass.  I should note that different qualifications exist for Indian tribes.  Bless their hearts we’ve done enough to Indian tribes already.

So what is the problem with the state being able to develop a nation wide program of home visitations to a qualified class of inferior families.  First, the bill does not define anything about what really qualifies such a family as poor or abusive.  What are the income levels that will be the trigger points?  How will income levels be determined?  But more worrisome is what will constitute abuse?  Will it be whether or not you choose to send your children to school?  Don’t doubt for one moment that home schooling will likely be in the crosshairs of the federal government. 

In other countries with similarly socialistic tendencies home schoolers have been defined as abusers of children.  The simple act of not wanting to expose your children to the inferior educational programs in schools has become a criminal act in Germany.  Families are being openly prosecuted there for simply wanting to providean excellent home education for their own God given children.  So people who are devoted and interested enough to provide the best education they can for their children in the safety and love of the home environment are criminals against the state.  Every day during the school year in America somewhere a school district tries to prosecute home school families under truancy laws.  In my opinion, if you believe this cannot here, you are deluding yourself.

Do you now have any doubt what is happening here.  The “State” is taking further control of children in defiance of the natural rights of families to raise their children as they see fit.  The “State” is saying to you and I that we are not able to raise our own children in a developmentally healthy way without help from the “State”.  We are inferior to the “State”.  There is an extremely great risk here.  Specifically, Americans are in danger of seeing a slow but sure erosion of the sanctity of home and family.   I would wager that most people have not idea that these ideas are part of this horrifying bill.

If the United States government is successful in passing legislation that wrenches more control of the children of our country from their parents we are further along the road to complete government control.  Call me paranoid, so be it. A families home must remain it’s castle without governmental control other than existing laws that already cover child abuse and maltreatment.  Be vigilant America.

Home schooling parents need to oppose this bill because they are very likely to be defined as bad parents because they do not want to subject their children to the joys of government schooling.  Your basic parental rights are under direct assault in this bill.  The Health Care bill would give the government control of our families that has nothing to do with the general health of American.  This is simply making an institution of the governments desire to control more and more aspects of our lives. This bill does have an underlying purpose.  Simply put, HR 3200 America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 is a Trojan Horse. 

This bill has become a poorly disguised attempt to remake the way of life of American families in the image the govenment sees as ideal.  Can you imagine the attitude it’s implementation will take toward independent learners and home schooling families?

 

 

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Ned Vare, A Tribute to a Leader of the first order

Ned Vare was a leader in the movement away from government one-size-fits-all education to individualized independent and home education.  Ned was a master of many disciplines.  He was an architectural designer.   Like many proponents of home schools, he was a former teacher.  Vare taught in private schools.  He was a rancher.  He has been an elected public servant.  Ned was successful in business as well as a successful author.

Ned Vare was a fearless advocate for home schooling.  He was active in the home schooling community on several fronts. Originally inspired by the great educator, independent learning advocate and reformer John Holt, Ned went on to found the Unschoolers Unlimited Network. He also wrote a blog called “School is Hell” as well as a book entitled “Smarting us Up, the Un-Dumbing of America”. He was active politically in Connecticut. Having been active in Texas Politics I know the energy and determination it takes to run headlong into a state legislature. But Ned was a man of great energy and courage.

Neds’ son was unschooled throughout his life until he was admitted to college.  He was married to a former school teacher Luz Shoshie. Together Ned and Luz were great homeschooling advocates in Connecticut. They were also both leaders of the support group Unschoolers Unlimited.

Not many people have the chutzpa to produce their own television show. But these wonderful people did. They produced the show for a local public access channel. The television show focused on the problems with public schooling in Connecticut. Ned was a constant correspondent and author of op-ed pieces on education topics to the local papers having to do with all aspects of education. Ned also contributed articles to Connecticut Home Educators Association publication.

Ned, like all reformers, was a very opinionated person who was a change agent. Having strong opinions, he was always willing to debate controversial topics about the field. His style was fiesty and realistic. Ned did from time to time give offense to some who were thin-skinned as well as opposed to the home education movement. His opinions and writings were strong.

Here are some of his thoughts written on May 14, 2008 in his blog “School is Hell” in response to an article by Norman Mailer. Mailer was deriding the state of reading skill among American school children. While Ned agreed with the basic premise that many school kids have trouble reading he disagreed with the reasons.

Ned stated the public schools “have the children captive for twenty thousand hours over twelve years or so”. He correctly argued that in spite of that enormous amount of time taken from the lives of our kids, millions of kids still could not write or do even simple math well.

Ned believed as I do that the American public school system is basically a failure. As John Taylor Gatto has said schools do well what they were intended to do which is to indoctrinate, weaken and produce a docile group of actually ignorant people who are easy to control. The goal of government schooling is really not excellence. The actual goal is overall mediocrity.

Recent scores on international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and others show that American schools rank among some of the lowest ranking nations in math and science. Many of our students go to college having made good grades in high schools and having passed the laughably basic state tests unable to handle college work.

Ned believed that education is “in the wrong hands”. The problem is that schools aren’t the property of the American people. No, American schools are the property of the American government. The government makes all the decisions, sets all the rules and defines all the policies. There is no such thing as “local control”.

Ned wrote in that blog that education would not improve until it was separated from government control. Education must be put back in the hands of the people. Education must be privatized. One of the most simple concepts in capitalism is that if you want to see someone working look at a business owner or someone whose income depends on the sweat of their own brow. If you want to see someone not working look at someone employed by a giant entity in which they are only a small cog. Nothing in government runs efficiently because there is no incentive for it to run well. There will be no change in salary. There is no chance of a bonus. There is no reward for excellence. The person who works hard is rewarded in exactly the same way as the person who does little work. There is no incentive for anyone to improve. That is why many home schoolers do so well. The result depends on the sweat of their brown. And, they have found out that they can accomplish the same thing more efficiently and quicker.

Ned, and I, believe that education has to be a free market where education products have to compete for clients. Right now millions upon millions are in a system that rewards mediocrity. At the same time there are literally thousands of websites, producers of curriculum and all the products and ideas needed to home school easily available to families. However, the schools are bureaucratic, politically entangled, unionized, archaic, full of poor programs, full of frustrated people and capped with a culture of corruption.

Ned believed that the education of our children is far too important a thing to leave to the government bureaucratic monopoly that has taken over the education effort. He believed that this situation had to change. He believed that the only way we can solve the problems in education is to take control of it with our own hands.

Rest in perfect peace Ned.

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Why worry, your kids belong to you right?

Those of us who are involved in parenting, any kind of  childcare, education or any other endeavor involving kids need to be concerned about events inside our borders and outside.  In the United States and, I believe, throughout the world parents believe they are the people to whom their kids belong.  Kids belong to their parents not as property but as precious and loved developing children.  Parents believe they are responsible for the proper development, training, and well-being of their kids.  We believe that children are a gift directly from God given to parents for proper care and rearing. 

There are a number of things happening in this country and outside the country that parents need to watch closely.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child includes a number of provisions that threaten the family.  In Germany home school families are being increasing persecuted.  And we now see this in Great Britain.  Government encroachment on the rights of the family are reaching new heights.  Consider this possible agreement parents may be told to sign in the fall of this school year in Great Britain. 

I/We undertake to

  • Ensure that my child attends school regularly and that absences are properly notified.
  • Ensure that my child arrives and where appropriate is collected promptly at the beginning and the end of the school day. 
  • Support the school’s policies and guidelines on behavior and equal opportunities.
  • Support my child in his/her homework and wherever possible promote opportunities for home learning.
  • Ensure that my child goes to bed at a reasonable time on weekdays.
  • Attend Parents’ Evenings and discussions about my child’s progress at school. 

On the face of it the aggrement in itself may seem not so threatening.  But look a bit deeper.  According to a Mail Online article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1201452/Parents-forced-sign-school-contacts-ensure-children-behave.html parents are going to be encouraged to rat out others who they think may not be fulfilling the contract.  There will be a fine of 1000 pounds or a jail term if they violate the agreement.  In the past any agreements between the home and the school have been informal. 

Ed Balls the Schools Secretary indicated that these agreements will become law in the fall.  If the principal of the school thinks the agreement has been breached in any sense charges can be brought.  Parents who fail to sign the agreement can be hauled into court as well.  Mr. Balls says that “those who refuse to cooperate face being made to give up their homes – though they are still likely to be re-housed elsewhere.”  There will be “family intervention” programs where the families will receive 24 hour supervision making sure that all aspects of the agreements are enforced. 

This program is aimed at two things.  First, there is a perception of failing achievement in England just as there is in the United States.  Second, the government is aiming this shotgun approach at misbehaving juveniles and their families. 

But, there is something much more disturbing in this government attitude.  What the government is saying seems to be your children are not yours.  Your kids belong to the state.  The entity which owns the property can take it back from a property holder.  This reduces children to the level of chattel or property not linked by any special spiritual connection to the parents.  The parents are reduced to care takers for the property of the government.  As long as the government says when and where your children must show up, how much sleep they have to get along with a government enforced bedtime, a command that parents support all school policies whether they agree with them or not, and then places demands on free adults regarding attendance on Parents Evenings, then the government thinks it owns and has superior authority over your kids. 

Of course, this is not happening without a fight.  The group Parents Outloud has complained particularly about the idea of parents snooping on each other.  Margaret Morrissey a leader in the group finds the idea of parents “reporting on other children despicable”. 

The principle that is so important here is whether your kids are given to you by God to love and raise or do your kids belong to the government which essentially loans them to you.  What lies at stake here for the British people is the all-powerful spiritual, moral and ethical connection between the parent and the child.  When a government begins to enter the family then there is great danger of unbridled, increasing state control of the most basic of human rights. 

Don’t think it can happen here.  In the next entry I will deal with part of the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child.  What an innocuous title that hides principles that would turn the relationship of the family to the kids in a family on it’s head.  There is a huge movement in certain political circles for us to sign and ratify this treaty.

These issues are at the heart of the right of an individual to make a decision to learn in a group environment or independently whether at ones home or in another environment.  We as individuals are the causal agents of government, not the other way round.

Until next time.

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Entering a new dimension

In 1974 I walked into the first classroom of my life.  At that time it was a band hall.  I was a brand new, newly minted band director out to change the world.  Like most new teachers I had a number of preconceived ideas shaped by my education school.  There was going to be nothing I couldn’t do.  There was going to be no kid I couldn’t reach.  I would be a star among my colleagues.  I had the first rule of teaching I had been taught in mind.  That rule was “make friends with the school secretary”. 

I proceeded to try to teach my middle school charges using the other rules I had been taught.  Don’t smile until Christmas.  Start tough so you can loosen up later.  Practice your “teacher” expression in the mirror until you can freeze a kid in his tracks.  Well, I didn’t smile and neither did the kids.  I found out that I hated being tough.  And, I don’t, never did and never will have a “teacher” expression.  I was, not to put too fine a point on it, horrible.  About the middle of the year my mentor appeared.  Bless the man’s heart he told me that I was horrible.  His name was Merle Jensen.  He saved my life.  That afternoon Merle picked me up and went for a drive.  He drove me to a quiet area where we could drink some of the beer he had brought and talk.  And did we talk!  I remember so much of what he said but one thing out of everything really sticks with me.  Merle told me to remember that “every kid you teach is the apple of someones eye.  And if you treat them like that they will love you, you will love them and the parents will support you 100%”.  I forgot to tell you there were several parents who wanted me fired.  They were right.  The next day he started coming to my performing band.  I don’t know what he saw in me but soon a teacher started coming out.  Soon the kids were slow to leave the room.  Most important the band sounded excellent.  We went on to win a sweepstakes that year — straight ones.  I continued to practice that principle which flies in the face of what a lot of educators are taught to believe. 

Now we have armed police officers walking the halls of middle and elementary schools.  Kids come through metal detectors.  Often they are met at the door by people not saying good morning but “get that shirt tail tucked in” or “where is your id”!  Most often those comments are barked at the kids without the smile most of us would want to meet at our place of work in the morning.  And make no mistake school is their place of work.  That is where they are shaped, formed and molded to take their place as good “citizen workers”.  Administrators now speak of them as “our product”.  I once sat in a meeting as a teacher leader listening to the chief operating officer from a lumber company speak of how they processed their product.  Then he started trying to tell us how we should “process our product”.  That day I knew that I no longer had a place.   I knew that I had to become a rebel, fly under the radar as much as possible to survive, and make aggressive sorties against the dragons when I had too.  By that time I had been sickened by the new rules of the state of Texas regarding their Pass/Play policy which did untold damage to the arts and music until the kids who couldn’t cut it consistently in academics began to drop out.  I had changed fields to science.  I would work another decade and one half but the rest of the time was spent in trying to find a way out for so many kids, flying under the radar to help kids and trying to change things I could not change. 

As I became more radical when I closed my classroom door, I started to have even more success.  I tried to treat each kid as an individual.  I started trying to make being in the classroom as fun as I possibly could.  Each day was something totally new.  My test scores went up.  I was often questioned, however, about why my grades were so skewed toward A’s and B’s.  I had my first perfect evaluation. 

Then the era of measurement started.  We became even more of a product oriented business.  I saw kids who just went under when they had to take the high stakes standardized tests even though they knew the material.  They could talk about it.  They could demonstrate their knowledge.  But their reading maturity, their social maturity and their inability to sit still for the 8 hours a day for several days the test demanded caused them to begin to fail.  Soon I realized that my profession had taken the left fork in the road while I had taken the right fork.  I went into open rebellion.  My kids loved me.  My test scores were great.  I was a department chairperson who often blocked for the teachers in my department and certainly blocked for the kids I taught.  Finally, we were teaching nothing but the test with endless senseless drills, warmups, skill builders and other nonsense.  Education as I understood it was extinct.

My new mentor who I still have not met and who I still admire as a shining star was John Taylor Gatto.  Gatto was a New York State Teacher of the Year.  Everything he wrote or said seemed to ring straight into my heart.  Like him I became even more of an “underground” teacher.  That was the only way I could continue to teach anything.  Education had just become a series of lunatic experiences that were grinding kids into chaff. 

So here I am.  In the last years I have become completely enamored of home schooling.  I believe that one can get a better education independently than I believe they can in most traditional classrooms.  The kids we turn out now may have passed that state mandated minimum skills test but they often can’t hold their own when they start doing real math, real science or real writing in college. 

So this is where I have arrived.  There are excellent schools that have used philosophies and practices that allow for individual attention and the commonality of real intellectual ability.   But, I have also come to believe that far more can be achieved with an individual approach whether it is within a home school or a more formal setting.  The industrial assembly line school is dead.  Unfortunately, it is just a strangely animated body unaware that it actually is dead.  The time has come when individuals must take control of their own children’s education.  The time has come when older students and adults can provide a better education for themselves through technology, the web, innovative approaces and non-traditional means than can be provided in the now archaic industrial model.  Those approaches, philosophies, successful individuals, successful programs, home schools and other independent means of educating oneself will be explored in this blog.  I invite you to join me in this journey. 

John

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