Friday, April 2, 2010

Homeschool vs. Public School: Duggars on the Home Team

I went to public school against my will and hating every minute of it. So coming from that perspective you can imagine what I'm about to say. Why was it against my will? Well both my parents were employees of the school district. Why did I hate it? Well I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone, so you were marked in Kindergarten and so by Jr. High there was no hope if you weren't in the right group. I wanted out more than anything. Add to that by high school (9th grade no less) my breast size increased to a size that no bra could hold and I was only 5 feet tall, so you can imagine the torment. To make matters even worse, my father taught at my high school. I BEGGED for any kind of relief---when the budget didn't pass and it looked like every possible program from sports to bussing to music to art was getting cut that fall I thought I might get to go live with my aunt and uncle in "the big city" of Portland, Oregon, but alas, that didn't happen. I even begged to go to the local private school (a college prep school, non-religious, that some local rich parents had put together to get their kids into the ivy league.) However there was no way my parents could send me there when they worked for the public schools--how would that look??? And back then, home schooling wasn't really done--there was no way to monitor it, it was just starting to make waves and I couldn't have graduated with a diploma--a GED was NOT going to fly.

So there you have my back story. While I participated in several sports--I was on the ski team, the diving team, and I was in comptitive speech and on the honour roll and in Honours Society...High School doesn't really bring back great memories.

Now that I have a child of my own I can see why parents would choose to homeschool, but I can also see the huge responsibility it is and why the Duggars are getting flack for their methods. I personally would do it because I, too, want a religous education for our child. Because there is no private Jewish school where we live, we would have no choice but to homeschool doing an on-line school. However, I would not be her teacher, a teacher on-line would be doing the teaching--something different than the Duggars do. It's an interactive school with a webcam and other students where everyone sees everyone and it's students all over the world. It also cots a pretty penny to do it. However, it's what you're willing to do for your child's education. In addition to that Hebrew education, my child would also do the local homeschooling curriculum through the school district in the general subjects (math, spelling, English, etc.)

The Duggars choose to buy their own curriculum instead of using the local school district's. They also use an on-line school after the kids reach a certain age, but it's not an inter-active web-cam type school either. Now I freely admit that I'm too lazy to do the research, but being a fan of Bill Clinton, I do remember back from his election in the 90s that Arkansas does not have a huge reputation for great education in their public schools. Now this could have changed since then, but I doubt it's gotten much better as the economy has gotten worse. So on those reasons alone I can see why anyone in the Arkansas region would want to homeschool, religion aside. I feel the same way living in California.

I also see the criticism that the Duggars get for their teaching methods. Michelle only has a high school diploma. I do have a Bachelor of Science degree in English with a concentration in literacy and education theory. I also come from a house full of teachers. However I'm also very lazy. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I'm the consumate underacheiver with a genius IQ. So would I be any better trusted with being the homeschool mom to my daughter? I worry about that when I think about it. That's why I keep begging my husband to move somewhere else so she can have a proper Jewish education in a proper Jewish school, or at least back to the UK where she can go to a UK school in a Jewish neighbourhood with other Jewish children---even moving to Israel would be fine with me. I dread the decision once she's out of Kindergarten (we have a Jewish school here that goes through age 6 then I'm on my own.)

But back to Michelle--people say she isn't qualified to teach, but is she really the teacher, or is she merely the monitor? She's not coming up with the programs or the curriculum, she's merely going over what they purchase from a qualified source.

I will say this for the Duggar children...they do pass their GEDs--and they do it at 16. They are 2 years ahead of their public school counterparts. Are they missing out on anything? Playing music--no. Playing sports? Well they don't play competitive. They do travel all over with their family so they do see a lot of the country and that's a huge learning experience. The programs they purchase seem to come highly recommended by those who use them. According to Michelle the phonics program they use teaches the kids to read in about 36 lessons, something like a few weeks I believe. (Yes I'm even too lazy to go back and research exactly what she said and I have her book.) I figure if I'm wrong one of you will surely tell me!

I've always seen homeschool vs. high school as a "grass is always greener" type of thing. I'm sure there are kids who are home schooled wishing they could go to a regular school and I'm sure there are kids in public school that are like me that dread ever single day they are there--wishing their parents would get them the heck out of there--especially now that bullying is on the rise and being addressed (finally!)

In general there are arguments you can say for both sides, but we are talking Duggars here and there are always Duggar critics. I think their biggest problems with the Duggars homeschooling are: Michelle not being qualified, the kids spending too much time doing all their work on a computer, no real testing of their abilities, no outside interaction with other kids, no sporting opportunities, limited curriculum.

Since Michelle is teaching from a program they purchase, I'm not sure her qualifications are really at issue, but that's really only her husband's opinion that matters isn't it? I mean, as long as her kids are passing their GED and passing their tests along the way, she is obviously teaching them what they need to know--who are we to judge? As co-parent to their children he's the only other one that can make the decision on who is qualified to teach them. And she isn't the only one teaching them. They do have a retired science teacher from Jim Bob's high school that helps them, as well as a math teacher that helps.

I would agree that 8 hours of schooling on a computer a day would be a lot, but I don't think that's an accurate figure. A friend of mine does on-line school through a public school district home school program and gets a day's work of online school done in a few hours. In fact she can get her son's week of work done in a few days if she wants to giving them time to travel, since she has kids in a private religious boarding school in another town that they go watch play sports. Kids also don't have that kind of attention span, so I also doubt they spend that much time in front of the computer, they do other activities in between--reading, writing projects, art projects, and music practice--since they have to share pianos. I do believe some detractors are exaggerating on the amount of time actually spent in front of the computer, but I would agree that too much time in front of a computer would be detrimental.

Someone on another blog listed the rules for homeschooling in Arkansas, I admit I just scanned it, but from what I gather, you don't have to take the state tests. Who knows, maybe you do. I find it hard to believe that you don't have to take tests along the way, but I'll believe anything. Someone I know who's kids go to a Hebrew only school in California aren't taught to speak English. They will graduate and not speak English and it's perfectly legal. His son goes to a school that speaks only Yiddish--a dying language--and it's perfectly legal. While I'm Jewish and think learning Hebrew is essential to the Jewish life, I think a well-rounded education is also essential. So as you can see, it is quite possible that the Duggars don't have to take any state tests while they homeschool. However, they DO take the GED at 16--therefor they are learning something. That does put them ahead of the learning curve.

The kids do have outside friends that we don't see on the show. There could be many reasons why (the parents don't want them filmed, the Duggars want to keep their kids private lives private while their public lives are public, TLC wants to keep the Duggars show on a theme, TLC makes everyone sign a waiver) there are many reasons why we don't see friends on the show, however there have been many posts on many blogs by people in the Springdale area saying the Duggar kids have friends--family members and friends say this. Even Jinger said it on the show where they introduced Josie on the "Today" show--she said she called her friends to ask if they noticed she disappeared when Jordyn acted up on camera.

There isn't much to say about sporting teams. Jim Bob has said none of the kids are in outside sports, because it would be too hard to keep track of the schedules. They do make it a point to play broomball every week. They also put in a basketball court and the kids are very active with bikes and scooters and other activities. I'm sure if one of the kids really made a case for joining a team and really had a natural talent they would probably let him/her do it, afterall Jim Bob was on the basketball team in high school. However on the flip-side they do travel a lot and so making the games would be difficult. So you take the good with the bad. You don't get to be on the baseball team, but you get to travel around the country and see a lot of great things.

That last sentence goes along with the limited curriculum. You may not get everything you'd get in a public school (although public schools are cutting things left and right so that argument doesn't wash with me.) Let's say you go with a private Christian school that offers all the bells and whistles--these kids still get to travel and see a lot of the country that most kids in rural Arkansas don't get to see. That offers great educational opportunities. Because they homeschool they can set their own schedules--year round, when they have breaks, what days of the week they are off, what times they get up, when they take vacations, etc. That's why their kids are able to "graduate" (GED) early.

So I've argued all the reasons why people have complained about the Duggars homeschooling methods. Now what are your comments and concerns?


  1. Homeschooling is exceptionally hard for the lazy. I am lazy by my own admission. I am homeschooling this year but my kids are returning to public school in the fall. It's a real struggle for me to sit with them and teach for that many hours. Then we find oursleves cramming in too many lessons in a day to play catch up. Knowing what I know now ... I think public education (or possible at some point a private school) is the way for my kids to go. I'll teach them about our faith seperately. I can handle one topic ... but not all of the subjects, lol.

  2. Not meaning any harm to anyone...but SOME folks should NOT be teaching kids. I've met some "slow" acting home-schoolers and and I've seen some who are SO smart they should rule the world one day. Same thing for the public school kids. Some smart and some just average. In fact the whole country is mostly populated with "average" people. But to say one is better than the other, is not fair. If everyone stayed at home, the teachers would have no job. If there were no teachers, how would kids who have dumb a#$ parents have a chance to learn?

  3. No one is saying that everyone should be homeschooled. In fact everyone shouldn't be homseschooled. But I think the point we were making was, is she in fact the teacher, or more of the moderator. Also it's about choices and why you make those choices. As I pointed out, I'm facing that dilemna myself, as I am admittedly lazy and wondering if I'm truly up to the task to homeschool my child. While I do not want her in our current public school system, there isn't a private Jewish school in our area. She can have an on-line Jewish education with a teacher and class she will meet with over webcam, and in that instance I would be neither her teacher, nor her moderater--just make sure she's in front of her computer at the proper time. She would also have to complete the local homeschool curriculum through the state and in that instance I would be the moderator, not the teacher--meaning they provide everything--the materials, the tests, the instructions, and I make sure she gets it done. They also provide money for her to take extra courses like dance and sports. And we're back to the point Autumn made above that if you are lazy you have a tendancy to get behind and have to play catch up.

    So again, it's a choice based on your situation, your means, your beliefs, and your own education. No one is pushing homeschool over high school. I was just giving my own personal back ground.

    Some "slow" acting homeschoolers are homeschooled because they are "slow" acting and weren't getting the attention they needed at school---remember that possibility. Same reason some smart kids are homeschooled--they are too smart for public school to keep them interested.

  4. The System Michelle uses and the system I use all you have to be able to do is READ to teach it to your kids. The entire lesson is spelled out completely.

    Here is an interesting fact for you. Did you know less than 100 (maybe 150) years ago to be a teacher all you had to do was go through the 8th grade and take a test for a teaching certificate. Then you in turn went to a one room school house and taught kids your age and younger (some times older). They graduated from those one room school houses knowing MORE than our high school graduates do today. They could do mental math that would make your jaw drop. (can you multiple 5469 x 3569 in YOUR head? cause they could) They could spell better, read better, knew their history better, knew the classics by heart... ect ect ect. To go on to HIGH SCHOOL was a rare privilege college was only for the very rich.

    The system of 'each one teach one' that was used in the one room school houses is the same system the Duggars use. Southern colloquialisms aside, and their lazy speech (mush mouth)they are not uneducated people.

    Simply not knowing some famous ball player, or JimBob messing with he kids explaining the rules of a baseball game is also not proof.

    BTW Arkansas LAW states they must take a yearly exam from 3rd grade to the 9th grade. They do not have to pass it, and the grades are not made public, no one is going to come out to their house and take the kids if they flunk it. But the results are sent to the parents. The results of all homeschoolers as a group is made public in the form of stats. And the stats say that HOMESCHOOLERS in Arkansas are doing BETTER than their public school peers.

    Go figure.

    I home school mine because while the NEIGHBORHOOD I live in is safe, the schools are NOT. When you have to have police roaming the halls, cop cars outside the building hauling off the fighters and drug pushers, kids getting physically hurt it was time to pull out. BTW this wasn't the HIGH it was the MIDDLE school... the High was worse. The primary refused to do anything about the physical abuse my children were enduring on a daily basis so we pulled those out as well. I have nothing but a HIGH SCHOOL diploma, and my kids are doing FINE at home, and have actually caught up to their grade level and some have excelled past it in the FIRST year they were home.

  5. A while back when I was taking a course in Psychological testing at the University one of the types of tests we studied were IQ tests. One of the research "facts" we learned during that course was that the average IQ of public school teachers was below 100, the average for our class was 130! Knowing that I would question that the public school teachers are any better qualified to teach the Duggar kids than their mother.

    Arkansas public schools are known to have problems scholastically, and I say that living here and having one of the principals and an elementary school teacher for personal friends. Yes, the kids do have to take yearly exams from the state and yes they do as a group do better than public school kids.

    I am teacher myself, although admittedly at a college/university level. As a teacher I know that the most challenging part of my job intellectually is developing the curriculum. The second is to keep the interest of the students. Michelle doesn't have to develop the curriculum because it is done for her. She seems to be able to hold the interest of her children quite well. I would guess that little James is her problem student but she handles him with patience and grace. The same group who complain about how she speaks in a soft voice and lets him get away with so much would be the first to complain if she were to yell at him or to use physical punishment. Every classroom has some children like James as part of the group; the difference in a public school would be to put him in a "special ed" classroom.

    Public schools and private schools use teachers "aides" all the time and these individuals have no more education than Michelle does. They are the ones going around helping the individual students.

    One of the complaints about the kids being home schooled was they missed out on things like dancing. I watched part of "Dancing with the stars" the other night and if my husband had been in the room I would have been shouting NIKE continuously! Not only were the dances extremely sensual but the clothing was essential little more than women would wear in the bedroom to entice their husbands. Of course dances at the public school would not have the kids dressed like this, but the dances aren't all that different and then there is always the problem of the hidden bottles in the parking lot.

    Next the problem of a limited curriculum. Public schools here also have a limited curriculum due to the size of the towns and the school budgets. I read somewhere that the Duggar kids have a teacher or two that come in to teach them French & Spanish. Most of the public schools here don't offer that. The extra classes they offer would be things like shop and home ec and the Duggars get way more of that than their contemporaries. Their music education is superior to what just about any public school student gets as they not only learn two or three instruments, they have their own orchestra and their own choir in which they are learning to sing parts.

    I guess I have argued the side of the Duggars prom enough here. The only thing I would have questioned is the social interaction, but again last night one of the girls mentioned missing their friends not that they are in Little Rock and we know they go to a small church as well as numerous public functions/opportunities. I think they are probably very well socialized.

    Just compare the Duggars kids to the Gosselin kids with all their whining and tantrums and see which you prefer! They go to public school.


  6. Taking religion out of the equation, living in Arkansas you can make several arguments for homeschool. I think I mentioned that during Clinton's bid for the White House one of his successes as Governor was bringing the education ranking from 49 to 48? Of course I think I'm getting my source from Dennis Miller on the Update desk on Saturday Night Live, but you get my point. I have nothing against Arkansas, I've never been there, but I'm pretty sure I've eaten enought of their chicken to keep their poultry business alive, and short of a few Jeff Foxworthy jokes, what really could be wrong with it, it's a typical southern state, right? I'll admit, being Jewish, I probably don't want to live there--no I'm not saying that as a reverse racist statement, but I doubt it's a hotbed of Jewish activity.

    Back to the Duggars. Once again I'll state they are Bible believing Christians. And there is a verse in the Bible about teaching your kids at home. They interpret that to mean everything, not just the ways of G-d. So they homeschool. Michelle also found a program she fell in love with when Josh was about 4, so there you go. Also at some point, with so many kids, your husband in the state house, homeschooling is more convenient I'd think than public school.

    They are a religious people. So are mine, which is why my Rabbi's family homeschools, but as I said, she doesn't teach, she facilitates the program the state homeschool people send her and the on-line Hebrew school has a teacher, she just makes sure her kids are in front of the webcam when they are supposed to be. Otherwise, it's like any parent with kids in school, you make sure their homework is done and ready on time.

    As to James, yes with any family you run the chance of an "active" child. And with 19 kids you roll the dice that you will probably get one or maybe more. Seeing as how all the other children fall into line quite well and as the detractors like to say "tow the company line" I think Michelle and Jim Bob know how to discipline and as they write in their book "train" their children. James may need more attention, but Michelle and Jim Bob know what they are doing, yet they acknowledge repeatedly that they aren't parenting experts and are constandly learning themselves. James may also learn by example. Having older brothers and sisters around doing what they are supposed to do helps train you as well.

    I myself have decided not to put my child into the wilds of the California public school system and it has nothing to do with the calibur of teachers out there--I'm sure they are talented and dedicated--it has to do with lack of funding, a state government that refuses to fix the problems, and doesn't seem to care. My child doesn't have time to wait.

  7. here in florida it just keeps getting worse with the education system. i planon homeschooling myself when i have kids. not for any religious reasons but because i know i could teach them more than they would learn in a public school, and at a fraction of the cost it would be to send them to private school

    one of my closest friends was homeschooled and she loves having been at home. she loves that she is 22 and isnt as jaded as many of her coworkers. for her, the world is all still so new that shes optimistic about so many things. a few months back she went to her first sporting event. her parents were well on in years when they had her and her sister, but even though it is amazing to note just how much she loves having been homeschooled.

    im curious to find out how the duggar kids like it.

  8. When asked, they all seem to love it. The biggest thrill is that they graduate early--age 16--according to Josh the biggest downfall was that he couldn't use "the dog ate my homework" as an excuse because his mom was his teacher. They also seem to enjoy the field trips, the hands-on aspect to the educational process. The anti-Duggar people claim all the kids do is sit in front of their computers all day doing on-line school, but actually they do a lot of hands-on learning.

  9. I was homeschooled myself from grade 4th to 8th grade.. so i know what it's like.. At first i didn't like the sounds of the idea of homeschooling. because i wanted to be with my friends, and not be the only one in the classroom.. aka my mom being the teacher each year. and the fact that i'd miss out on alot.. but i ended up enjoying it because i could still learn like public schools do. but be done a few hours before public school gets out.. so it was also nice being in a homeschooling group, and knowing i wasn't the only one in the world doing this.. i wasn't alone.. I liked also going on field trips, and taking walmart trips during the school day and counting them as a learning experience.. example helping bag our items.. comparing prices, and stuff that could easily count for math.. and the fact i could wear my pajamas all day to school, and didn't have go get up early was nice :)

  10. my son goes to a state in the uk the school name caldicot comperhensive school it the biggest school in the uk and my son ie in years 7 and he is top of the class for acting

  11. i think that people who home teacher is very lazy and my son goes to sate school

  12. i think that people who home teacher is very lazy and my son goes to sate school
    Scary part is us home schooling parents can at least put a PROPER sentence together. (grammar, spelling, punctuation...)

    We know to capitalize the letter I when it refers to a person, and we also know to capitalize the beginning of a sentence. Horror of horrors we can also SPELL...

    You let us know how that child of yours is doing in that "sate" school when he hits high school, and lets see if he can put a coherent thought together any better than his parent.

    Seriously people if you are going to disparage home schooling or people in general at least 1) SPELL correctly, and 2) don't look like an uneducated idiot in the process.

  13. Yeah normally I don't publish posts that specifically go after another poster...but I have to agree with Cyn on this one and since she said it WAY BETTER than I could...and I have a degree in English...I let her take it, plus I don't home school and she clearly does.

    ...ok, I hate that I'm about to say this, but...YOU GO GIRL! hahaha :)

  14. oh...and besides the grammar and spelling...I fail to see how home schooling can be called lazy...I'd think it is the opposite of actually have to spend the day teaching your child school subjects you likely never learned how to teach in school...since the majority of home schooling parents do not have teaching degrees, they are relying on their wit, wisdom, proper materials, and intiution...that is NOT lazy...that is gutsy...frankly that is far more ballsy than I have the nerve to much so that we are planning a move to Israel just so our child can go to a proper Jewish school so we don't have to home school her!

  15. If you have self-control, homeschooling is superior to any form of institutional schooling for a good 85% of parents, from my estimate. Laziness is the one big weakness of homeschoolers--that, and the mixed-up parents who think that institutional schools are something to emulate.

    My 8-y-o is more than halfway through Algebra I. His lowest subject is spelling--he's dyslexic--where he's only a year and a half ahead, but he's advanced in almost all other subjects similarly to math. My 2-y-o daughter bugs me daily to teach her more reading. I'm tutoring an MR child with Down syndrome over the summer. I wrote a curriculum to teach him specifically, and in the first week, he's accomplished more than in the entire previous year of public school with all their degrees and expertise.

    Cut through the nonsense. Teach what the child needs to know. It takes perseverance, but it's not that hard. BTW, I'm down to spending about 4 hours a week helping my son. He's almost fully independent.

  16. BTW, the Duggars aren't recorded in their regular home. They only live in that house while they're being filmed--hence the lack of anything really personal. That is, I'm sure, very disruptive to homeschooling, whatever style they have.