alfievalue

I did actually send this to Alfie Kohn, but I imagine he is probably a bit too busy to answer lengthy e-mails such as this (why am I so damn long-winded?!). So I am going to post it here, and maybe someone else who searches “Alfie AND homeschooling” will find their way here and enlighten me.

Dear Mr. Kohn

After reading a selection of your articles (the latest being “Debunking the Case for National Standards: One-Size-Fits-All Mandates and Their Dangers”), I would definitely say I am a fan of your work and I fervently hope your wisdom is heeded as the nation tackles education reform. I just can’t quite reconcile you’re your dissatisfaction with public education and your position against homeschooling.

In this article, and others, you clearly state that that all kids should get a “great education […. ] But that doesn’t mean all kids should get the same education.” Yet schools have been churning out kids assembly line fashion since I was in school. If schools haven’t changed in the 20+ years since I was a student, what possible reason can you give me to send my kids back into those mindless fact factories hoping that I will get lucky and see the change we need in the next 10-12 years (my kids are 5, 6, and 8)?

What do you suggest we do if not homeschool? How can I give my sons a quality education, ensuring he has art, music, and P.E., no homework, and plenty of time after his studies for free play and family time? I submit it can’t be done in the current state of affairs.

I would ask that you please consider being supportive of homeschoolers until such time as the reform you speak of is within reach. Right now, I just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unless it’s 20 years down the road and we exhort this generation of homeschoolers to become teachers. Imagine the breath of fresh air they would bring to the classrooms!

Sincerely,
Heather XXXXX

PS I would like to share with you my backstory to lend some anecdotal evidence to your thorough and convincing research. I began my schooling in a small private school (35 kids in first – fifth grades). I don’t remember taking many tests, but I do remember getting report cards. Everyone always seemed to get a mix of A’s and B’s no matter what. I figured the teacher was sending the message that you are all doing well, but there is always room for improvement. I wasn’t terribly concerned with grades and I enjoyed my studies.

I moved on to public school in the 6th grade. I was tested for placement (of course) and immediately put into the highest of five levels (apparently the private school gave me a good education without yearly testing or over-emphasis on grades). I never got another B for the rest of my public school career. From that point on, I did everything you predicted. I became lazy. I did the minimum work required to get the A. I diligently copied notes so I could cram for tests the night before. Everything I read was discarded after testing. I love reading (especially the “classics”) but every book I had to read for school, I detest to this day (my favorite book of all time is Les Miserables which I read at 14 yo, yet I detest Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which we read 2 years later in class).

Yet I am a public school success story. I always scored in the 99th percentile on standardized tests. I got one question wrong on the ACTs. I was a National Merit Scholar. I placed in the top 10 in an IL State Math competition. I graduated #1 out of 300 and was named Math, English, Science, and Spanish student of the year (I can’t hold a conversation in Spanish, however, BTW). I took 2 years off before attending college (VA Tech). Despite getting a 5 on the AP Calculus exam, I got a C in college Calculus. I had forgotten too many formulas in my 2 years off. And since I never actually learned the “hows” and “why” behind calculus, I was lost without the formulas stuffed into my brain.

And that was the STEM class I passed. I had to drop physics. I was at first excited to learn that much of physics was applied calculus. Despite having taken college-placement Physics in high school, I never actually realized the tie between the two. But after one month I had to drop the course. It was one thing to get a “C” in math after being told I was a math genius, but I couldn’t stand to fail a class altogether.

I didn’t last two years in college. I couldn’t handle having to do so much work to be stamped “average”. And when I finally went back 10 years later, I majored in English, despite my love of math. It was just plain easier. And all I wanted at that point was a degree. I jumped back on the hamster wheel and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Some things you never forget.

All that to say, it was an easy decision to homeschool my kids. I was a public school superstar and it prepared me for little. If I am the best that a public school can produce, then how can I possibly, in good conscious, choose that for my kids? Please tell us homeschooling parents what you would have us do? We simply can’t stand to throw our kids under the bus while we wait for reform.

Update: I did get a response! See it here.