March 29, 2017

Biased reporting, unprofessional comments

Sometimes we see some really biased reporting about home schooling – this is one of those articles.

Make sure you read all the comments. There is a link at the bottom of the article to the comments – feel free to add a comment as well.

Below that are two letters I have written to the two schools mentioned in the article.

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Fears homeschool can’t make grade

Adam Roberts

A lack of checks on home-schooled children raises questions about the quality of their education, Nelson principals say.

They say it is too easy for parents to home-school their children, and once they do, there is no accountability, since the Education Review Office only conducts reviews when asked to do so by the secretary for education.

In 2009, the reviews were deemed “too low-risk to the education priorities of the Government”, with only a very small proportion of reviews resulting in a “below threshold” result.

However, those in the home-school community said only those who were passionate about their children’s education would home-school their children, and their children received a more personalised education than they would at a school.

Hampden Street School principal Don McLean said parents should be subject to the same checks and balances that schools were, through the ERO, National Standards reporting, and annual reporting and audits.

Home-schooling could also lead to children with gaps in their education, he said.

“Most parents would have little knowledge of the skills needed to truly teach reading to get them to NCEA level 1 stage.”

A lack of social interaction for home-schooled students could lead to a narrow world view, particularly for those home-schooled for religious reasons, he said.

“There is no exposure to cultures, children with special needs, bicultural issues or beliefs, even just children with different views on life than themselves. How do these students cope with society when they go out into the workforce?”

Nelson Christian Academy principal Chris George said he would like to see the home-school policy reviewed because it was not consistent with the rest of education policy.

“I myself had to spend four years training to do what I do, yet parents can just make the call? I am aware of parents who have trained, and I feel that is okay, as long as a consistent approach to accountability is set out.”

He knew of one family who home-schooled for nine years and were never reviewed by the ERO, and he had also heard of families using their money for car registrations.

Home-schooled children who had attended his school had consistently been assessed as below the standard, needing extra support to raise their achievement.

Mr George said it was very hard to decline applications for home-schooling, and as long as the boxes were ticked, they were granted.

“The school’s role, in my opinion, is very minimal.”

Other principals said their opinion on whether children should be home schooled did not matter, and the supervision of home schooling was very loose.

Ministry group manager Marilyn Scott said parents were accountable to ensure their children would be taught at least as regularly and as well as in a registered school.

There were no plans at present to alter the current home-schooling arrangements, she said.

Tasman Home Educators co-ordinator Stewart Harrison said applying to home school children was more difficult here than it was in Britain, where he was from, and he was comfortable with the process.

Home-schooled children varied widely, he said, from children who did no formal learning to those who were in a classroom environment created by the parents.

He disagreed that home-schooled children could not learn advanced topics, saying that if parents did not have the ability, there were plenty of resources to help them.

“Once you get to a certain level of knowledge where you can’t provide those resources… that would be the time that you get somebody else in.”

His son was learning Danish from a tutor, in preparation for a trip to Denmark to see the Lego factory.

Nelson woman Libby Newton home-schooled her two daughters Lucy and Anna Mitchell, who are now adults, by allowing them to decide what they wanted to learn on a given day rather than following the prescribed curriculum.

She said an ERO review had said she had a holistic programme of learning, including Japanese, flute, weaving, gardening, building a website and other activities.

“I remember ERO asking me once, ‘How do you tell if your child is learning?’.

“First of all, I’d say, ‘Well, how do you not learn?’. Every minute you open your eyes in the morning, you start learning.

“Doing well to me is living your life, your own full life, not whether you’re going to get enough qualifications to get a job or a lot of money.”

She said she was not concerned about parents who did not put the effort into teaching their children.

“Every parent I know who home educates is very involved. You have to be.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

Read this article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7226245/Fears-homeschool-can-t-make-grade

Make sure you also read the 49 comments (so far) at this same link:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7226245/Fears-homeschool-can-t-make-grade

*****

6 July 2012

Hampden Street School

250 Hampden Street

Nelson

Attention: Mr Don McLean

Dear Mr McLean

It is really distressing to see a State School principal attacking home schooling in this article in the Nelson Mail: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7226245/Fears-homeschool-can-t-make-grade

The MoE continues to find Home Educators to be a low risk group. Here is what Craig Smith wrote when the ERO reviews were again reduced in 2009: “Echoing then Minister of Education Dr Lockwood Smith in 1994, that he could not justify the expense of regular reviews on such a low-risk group as home educators, Chief Review Officer Graham Stoop wrote in February 2009 that reviews of home educators are not efficient or effective…About 35 reviews a year will continue to be made…

Highlighting the outstanding quality of home education in New Zealand, a senior member of the ERO, who has much experience in dealing with home education reviews, wrote the following in an email dated 30 July 2009:

The reality is home schooling has been found to be low risk. Several things stand out in my mind relating to home schooling and they are:

  • home schooling families have support from other homeschoolers and access to people through support networks and
  • through the Internet;
  • home schooling families are no longer isolated unless they choose to be;
  • there is easy access to a considerable range of resources;
  • the skills of home schooling parents are well used;
  • home schooling is being seen more as a viable educational option;
  • ICT is a powerful communication and information gathering tool and home schooling families use this tool;
  • people liked the affirmation that home schooling reviews affirmed good practice; and despite initial concerns the feedback ERO has received relating to the home school review process is mostly positive.”

Home educators are not required to teach to the National Curriculum. All children have gaps, all adults have gaps. Home educators are only required to teach “as regularly and as well” as a registered school, there are no guidelines set out as to what age their children must be introduced to a topic or a concept. This is great advantage to Home educating families as they can tailor the learning experience to each child’s particular learning style. A luxury that is rarely available to those in more institutionalized education alternatives. Home educating parents generally seek to educate their children so that they know how to find out what they don’t know.

Many parents have successfully helped their children gain NCEA levels 1-3. There are a lot of other home schooling parents helping their children sit and pass the Cambridge exams successfully. Many of these children are now doing very well at University.

There are many home schooling support groups and clubs around New Zealand. Home schooled children find it easy to interact across the age groups from toddlers to grandparents because they are not spending large portions of the day segregated off into artificially imposed age groups. Home schooled children interact with children of many different world views and cultures when they are involved in the different clubs, orchestra, support group events etc.

Therefore we find the following statement to be largely baseless: “There is no exposure to cultures, children with special needs, bicultural issues or beliefs, even just children with different views on life than themselves. How do these students cope with society when they go out into the workforce?”

You have been very outspoken about homeschooling without really knowing the successes of home schooling. There are, as there is in the school system, some families that do not do as well as others. This must be the case with schools as well. I am sure that your school will have some students that do not meet the standard set by others as well. All home educators should not be judged on the few families that do not do as well as the others. This is especially true when the MoE itself has found home educators to be so “low-risk”, so unlikely to be under performing that they have reduced the overall number of ERO reviews to around 35 annually.

Here is an example of some home educated children all from my family:

Genevieve is a fully qualified Legal Executive. She worked for many years for a Lawyer as a Legal Executive before getting married. She worked her way to the top of Air Training Corps to Warrant Officer and was part of the Squadron’s champion marching team. She was a Manawatu Representative Softball player.

Zach is Marketing Director for a multi Million Dollar business in the USA. He has many responsibilities with a number of staff under him. Zach did a paper at Massey and got an A. Zach was also an officer in the Air Training Corps and part of the champion marching team.

Alanson is an Avionics Technician for the RNZAF. He got the trophy for academic excellence at the end of boot camp. His graduating course had the highest point average for any Avionics course in recorded history. So Alanson handled his strenuous academic course with ease. He is now doing University studies while continuing to work for the RNZAF as an Avionics Technician. He has also represented the RNZAF playing sports in England and Australia.

Charmagne Smith Dip.HND can put her hand to anything and be successful. She is a brilliant seamstress, painter and paperhanger, plasterer and does floor and wall tiles too. She is also an expert furniture upholsterer, dressmaking pattern drafter, highland dancing teacher, International English Country Dance instructor http://ecdnz.weebly.com/, music teacher, and language instructor including sign language. Charmagne has helped (was the Foreman for the job), build, clad, roof and floor a shed 35 x 14 meters, dropping 22 telephone poles into large holes for uprights, cementing them in, managing the project of building nine 700kg trusses (her pattern-drafting skills applied to boards 5.3 metres long as well as to lengths of cloth 53 centimeters long), driving a CAT 930 articulated dirt mover, arc welding, oxy welding, plasma cutting and a myriad of hand tools. She also does gourmet cooking for large crowds. http://www.photoblog.com/charmagne

You have been very outspoken against home educators. You have made largely unsupported claims while painting home educators in a poor light in a very unprofessional manner; in the public domain. This seems to reflect a prejudice against home educators.

I feel that you owe the home schooling community, especially in Nelson, a public apology.

Sincerely

Barbara Smith

http://hef.org.nz

AND

 

6 July 2012

Nelson Christian Academy

Board of Trustees

Chairperson

Attention: Kelli-Anne Eastmond

Dear  Kelli-anne

It is really distressing to see a Christian School siding with the State schools in this article in the Nelson Mail: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7226245/Fears-homeschool-can-t-make-grade

Mr George seems to be unaware of the overwhelming tendency towards success of home schooling. Home schooling parents are very well qualified to teach their own children. Home schooling parents know their own children better than any teacher will know them and are generally more motivated to see their child succeed in the area that the child chooses. Christian home schooling parents take to heart seriously the call in Deut 6 to train up their children diligently —when they sit in their house, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down, and when they rise.

 

Throughout the history of home schooling in New Zealand the MoE has always found Home Educators to be a low risk group. Here is what Craig Smith wrote when the ERO reviews were again reduced “Echoing then Minister of Education Dr Lockwood Smith in 1994, that he could not justify the expense of regular reviews on such a low-risk group as home educators, Chief Review Officer Graham Stoop wrote in February 2009 that reviews of home educators are not efficient or effective…About 35 reviews a year will continue to be made…

Highlighting the outstanding quality of home education in New Zealand, a senior member of the ERO, who has much experience in dealing with home education reviews, wrote the following in an email dated 30 July 2009:

The reality is home schooling has been found to be low risk. Several things stand out in my mind relating to home schooling and they are:

  • home schooling families have support from other homeschoolers and access to people through support networks and through the Internet;
  • home schooling families are no longer isolated unless they choose to be;
  • there is easy access to a considerable range of resources;
  • the skills of home schooling parents are well used;
  • home schooling is being seen more as a viable educational option;
  • ICT is a powerful communication and information gathering tool and home schooling families use this tool;
  • people liked the affirmation that home schooling reviews affirmed good practice; and

despite initial concerns the feedback ERO has received relating to the home school review process is mostly positive.”

Home educators are not required to teach to the National Curriculum. Home educators are only required to teach “as regularly and as well” as a registered school, there are no guidelines set out as to what age their children must be introduced to a topic or a concept. This is a great advantage to home educating families as they can tailor the learning experience to each child’s particular learning style. A luxury that is rarely available to those in more institutionalized education alternatives.

The MoE has very rigorous standards for parents for getting exemptions to home educate their children.

Mr George has been very outspoken about homeschooling without really knowing the successes of home schooling. There are, as there is in the school system, some families that do not do as well as others. All home educators should not be judged on the few families that do not do as well as the others. This is especially true when the MoE itself has found home educators to be so “low-risk”, so unlikely to be under performing that they have reduced the overall number of ERO reviews to around 35 annually.

Here is an example of some home educated children all from my family:

Genevieve is a fully qualified Legal Executive. She worked for many years for a Lawyer as a Legal Executive before getting married. She worked her way to the top of Air Training Corps to Warrant Officer and was part of the Squadron’s champion marching team. She was a Manawatu Representative Softball player.

Zach is Marketing Director for a multi Million Dollar business in the USA. He has many responsibilities with a number of staff under him. Zach did a paper at Massey and got an A. Zach was also an officer in the Air Training Corps and part of the champion marching team.

Alanson is an Avionics Technician for the RNZAF. He got the trophy for academic excellence at the end of boot camp. His graduating course had the highest point average for any Avionics course in recorded history. So Alanson handled his strenuous academic course with ease. He is now doing University studies while continuing to work for the RNZAF as an Avionics Technician. He has also represented the RNZAF playing sports in England and Australia.

Charmagne Smith Dip.HND  can put her hand to anything and be successful. She is a brilliant seamstress, painter and paperhanger, plasterer and does floor and wall tiles too. She is also an expert furniture upholsterer , tiler, dressmaking pattern drafter, highland dancing teacher, International English Country Dance instructor http://ecdnz.weebly.com/, music teacher, language instructor including sign language. Charmagne has helped (was the Foreman for the job), build, clad, roof and floor a shed 35 x 14 meters, dropping 22 telephone poles into large holes for uprights, cementing them in, managing the project of building nine 700kg trusses (her pattern-drafting skills applied to boards 5.3 metres long as well as to lengths of cloth 53 centimetres long), driving a CAT 930 articulated dirt mover, arc welding, oxy welding, plasma cutting and a myriad of hand tools. She also does gourmet cooking for large crowds. http://www.photoblog.com/charmagne

Mr George has been very outspoken against home educators, many of whom are his brothers and sisters in Christ. He has made largely unsupported clams painting home educators in a poor light in a very unprofessional manner; in the public domain. This seems to reflect a prejudice against home educators.

I feel that Mr George owes the home schooling community, especially in Nelson, a public apology.

In Christ

Barbara Smith

http://hef.org.nz

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the Smiths:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/craig-smith-26-january-1951-to-30-september-2011/

Updated  8 July 2012: Life for Those Left Behind (Craig Smith’s Health) page 6 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational:
http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Please like & share:

Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    Radio Rhema is planning to discuss this issue tomorrw after 10am.

  2. Barbara says:

    Reply from Don McLean:

    Hi Barbara

    Thank you for your letter. I felt you made some excellent points. I don’t believe a parent can teach as well as a teacher and it certainly no disrespect to parents (my wife will vouch for this) and it is almost a disrespect to our profession for the MOE to suggest this. It would be like us say we could do as good a job as a doctor, social worker, or a lawyer.

    I wasn’t trying to knock home schooling but the Nelson Mail journalist took a bit of an editorial licence. Unfortunately, have no say how he reports my comments. Understandably, members of our local home schooling groups got upset and that was never my intention. I was trying to express my genuine concern that in an age of accountability in education, home schooling has very little and this is a risk, and one I would have thought your organisation would have been concerned about also. It would only take one or two parents who end up in the media or picked out by ERO for negative attention and the whole organisation becomes subject to scrutiny. Trust me as a principal of a school I know, even with our rigorous accountability it still the small minority that let the side down who draw negative attention on what is recognised as a world class education system.

    Interesting I have personally received some emails and there have been a number of letters to the editor from home schooling parents knocking the state system and making many very uninformed comments about what goes on in schools. I guess this comes with the territory.

    Over 24 years in education I have had a bit to do with home schooled students. I have read research both for and against it. Recently a spoke to a head of English at a local college where a number of home school students go to for their NCEA years. She commented that frequently home schooled students come to college with huge gaps in their basic reading and writing skills. Although they have been exposed to a wide range of literature their depth of understanding of literacy has gaps. This is understandable as many parents simply don’t have the knowledge of how to teach literacy, particularly in the Year 5 – 10 years. This is when reading goes beyond just fluency and comprehension.

    I never meant to cause any disrespect to home schooling. I was just trying to express an genuine concern.

    Thanks for your email, it was very fair and I appreciated your comments

    Kind regard
    Don McLean

  3. Sheena Harris says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I only heard about this debate at 9.30am as I heard the introduction on Rhema. (I usually turn off by then as I don’t much enjoy the ‘debate’ waffle! However, today, I stayed tuned for most of it!) I was so tempted to call up, but felt woefully unprepared to ‘battle’ the home-ed corner, as I have only been home-educating for 2 years. I was delighted to hear (after collecting milk from our local farm – as you do when you home-educate!) a wonderful ambassador explaining eloquently and very helpfully the home-educators perspective on the debate – I was shouting ‘yes’ to the radio and thought to myself – ‘This lady is fantastic – she really knows how to communicate all that I’ve been thinking’ – only to discover at the end of the interview that it was your good self, Barbara! 🙂 THANK YOU and well done. I so know that this (home-education) is the way – I just feel sometimes that it’s hard to put into words why! I really appreciate all that you continue to do for Home Education in NZ, especially during this most difficult year for you. God bless you and thank you again. Sheena

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