Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Will Happen To Homeschooling Under Obama?

After reading the story below it reminded me of the Karl Marx quote, "The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense." It also reminded me of a great article I read in 2001 on Lew Rockwell's website. You must click to read the article, I found the similarities to our current situation kind of frightening.

The following piece appears in the DC Homeschooling Examiner.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers.

Education reform concerns

As a homeschooler, talk of education reform always makes me wary. This past week, with President Obama discussing his initiatives for education reform, I must admit feeling nervous. Although homeschooling was not mentioned per se, several things were most upsetting and made me think homeschooling could become part of the discussion: the Zero to Five Initiative, Universal Preschool, and the need for increased early childhood education. My heat sank and my worry list grew from reading things like:

It is time to give all Americans a complete and competitive education from cradle up through career (taken from President Obama's speech on education reform; White House website)

Unlike other early childhood education plans, the Obama-Biden plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama and Biden will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote Zero to Five efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal preschool (taken from the White House website on Education Reform)

Do those initiatives actually imply that our government plans to create schools for babies? What type of education could be necessary for an infant? How would they be taught? Does this mean that mothers who are caring for their babies would be handing them over to strangers? Women who are pursing the full-time profession of caring for their children should be encouraged and commended, not replaced with an army of certified daycare providers. If that is not bad enough, here comes Universal Preschool, to further remove children from the care of their parents. Our kids can just go off to government-run schools, perhaps when a mere few weeks old, where they can remain for the better part of their lives until they reach eighteen. The government will be in charge of what they learn, where they learn, what they are exposed to, whom they see and play with, etc. Talk about scary.

And yes, I know that the word "voluntary" is part of the reform package. But let's be honest. How long would it before universal preschool becomes mandatory? Not so long ago, kindergarten was also voluntary, but no longer. Imagine having to request permission to keep your young child at home with you? Imagine having to submit proof that you are adhering to state (or national) standards for teaching your own three-year old?

I am a homeschooling mom, so I know first-hand of a child's ability to learn outside of a classroom. At the same time I realize that preschools can be a good thing for many people, and I am not advocating the removal of preschools from our country. However, I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that preschool is necessary for educational readiness, nor do I believe that preschool should be government-funded. Children do not need to be made ready to learn. They are learning all the time, from the minute they are born, by playing games, listening to stories, falling down and watching others. These are the things that should fill early childhood, not mind-numbing worksheets and endless flashcards. There are many studies which even refute the benefits of universal preschool. According to the WSJ article "Protect our Kids from Preschool", although kindergartners who attended preschool have an advantage over those who did not, between the first and fourth grades there is no longer any discernible difference between children who attended preschool and those who did not.

We need to stop pushing our children to be automated learning machines. Children who cannot write by age five are not destined for disaster later in life. Children mature at different rates, and they learn at different paces, something pediatricians are quick to remind new parents. It is unreasonable to expect that all children will do everything by the same age. I am positive that ALL of our children are smart enough to be able to start kindergarten without having three to five years of preparation for it. Kindergarten should be a springboard into the world of school; not the new first grade.

I am also curious to know who would be providing the education and care of these young children. From where will these amazing teachers come? Is there a secret stash of people, ready and waiting to work at government-run preschools? What would make them better qualified than mothers (who have a bond with their children that a daycare provider/teacher could never mimic)? How will they handle non-stop poopy diapers, screaming infants, toddling two-year olds and demanding three-year olds while following an age-appropriate curriculum? The vision of rooms full of miserable, ignored children fills my head with dread and sadness.

Having the government provide a formalized daycare/preschool program for all children is not a solution for our stressed and over-burdened educational system. If the government plans to start with infants and toddlers, it is a safe bet they will not be willing to give them up when they reach the age of five, which means that changing the homeschool laws could be on the horizon. We need to protect our rights to keep our children at home, and to educate our children, especially the young ones, as we see fit. It is not the government's place to dictate how our young children will be raised, no matter what noble cause they claim to be pursuing.

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