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?