Friday, August 14, 2009

The 14 Days of Homeschool

An acquaintance of mine on a message board that I'm a member of sent me the following video in a message, and I laughed so hard. It is such a funny video and some of the questions asked are right on mark as to what we homeschooling mothers are often questioned about. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Nationwide Study Confirms Homeschool Academic Achievement

Most homeschooling mothers have, at some point, experienced ridicule for choosing to homeschool their children. One of the common misconceptions about homeschooled children is that they don't, or will not, excel academically, whether it be because of the parents' level of education, or because of the mainstream belief that children need to be taught by those who went to school to be educators. Well, the study below debunks those misconceptions. It proves that homeschooled children do excel academically, and that their parents' education levels and even the family's demographic, have only a minute impact, and very minute at that, on the children's education.

New Nationwide Study Confirms Homeschool Academic Achievement

Ian Slatter
Director of Media Relations

August 10, 2009

Each year, the homeschool movement graduates at least 100,000 students. Due to the fact that both the United States government and homeschool advocates agree that homeschooling has been growing at around 7% per annum for the past decade, it is not surprising that homeschooling is gaining increased attention. Consequently, many people have been asking questions about homeschooling, usually with a focus on either the academic or social abilities of homeschool graduates.

As an organization advocating on behalf of homeschoolers, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) long ago committed itself to demonstrating that homeschooling should be viewed as a mainstream educational alternative.

We strongly believe that homeschooling is a thriving education movement capable of producing millions of academically and socially able students who will have a tremendously positive effect on society.

Despite much resistance from outside the homeschool movement, whether from teachers unions, politicians, school administrators, judges, social service workers, or even family members, over the past few decades homeschoolers have slowly but surely won acceptance as a mainstream education alternative. This has been due in part to the commissioning of research which demonstrates the academic success of the average homeschooler.

The last piece of major research looking at homeschool academic achievement was completed in 1998 by Dr. Lawrence Rudner. Rudner, a professor at the ERIC Clearinghouse, which is part of the University of Maryland, surveyed over 20,000 homeschooled students. His study, titled Home Schooling Works, discovered that homeschoolers (on average) scored about 30 percentile points higher than the national average on standardized achievement tests.

This research and several other studies supporting the claims of homeschoolers have helped the homeschool cause tremendously. Today, you would be hard pressed to find an opponent of homeschooling who says that homeschoolers, on average, are poor academic achievers.

There is one problem, however. Rudner’s research was conducted over a decade ago. Without another look at the level of academic achievement among homeschooled students, critics could begin to say that research on homeschool achievement is outdated and no longer relevant.

Recognizing this problem, HSLDA commissioned Dr. Brian Ray, an internationally recognized scholar and president of the non-profit National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), to collect data for the 2007–08 academic year for a new study which would build upon 25 years of homeschool academic scholarship conducted by Ray himself, Rudner, and many others.

Drawing from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics included 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test for the 2007–08 academic year. The Progress Report is the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed.

The Results

Overall the study showed significant advances in homeschool academic achievement as well as revealing that issues such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students.

National Average Percentile Scores
Subtest Homeschool Public School
Reading 89 50
Language 84 50
Math 84 50
Science 86 50
Social Studies 84 50
Corea 88 50
Compositeb 86 50
a. Core is a combination of Reading, Language, and Math.
b. Composite is a combination of all subtests that the student took on the test.

There was little difference between the results of homeschooled boys and girls on core scores.

Boys—87th percentile
Girls—88th percentile

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.

$34,999 or less—85th percentile
$35,000–$49,999—86th percentile
$50,000–$69,999—86th percentile
$70,000 or more—89th percentile

The education level of the parents made a noticeable difference, but the homeschooled children of non-college educated parents still scored in the 83rd percentile, which is well above the national average.

Neither parent has a college degree—83rd percentile
One parent has a college degree—86th percentile
Both parents have a college degree—90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.

Certified (i.e., either parent ever certified)—87th percentile
Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)—88th percentile

Parental spending on home education made little difference.

Spent $600 or more on the student—89th percentile
Spent under $600 on the student—86th percentile

The extent of government regulation on homeschoolers did not affect the results.

Low state regulation—87th percentile
Medium state regulation—88th percentile
High state regulation—87th percentile

HSLDA defines the extent of government regulation this way:

States with low regulation: No state requirement for parents to initiate any contact or State requires parental notification only.

States with moderate regulation: State requires parents to send notification, test scores, and/or professional evaluation of student progress.

State with high regulation: State requires parents to send notification or achievement test scores and/or professional evaluation, plus other requirements (e.g. curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials).

The question HSLDA regularly puts before state legislatures is, “If government regulation does not improve the results of homeschoolers why is it necessary?”

In short, the results found in the new study are consistent with 25 years of research, which show that as a group homeschoolers consistently perform above average academically. The Progress Report also shows that, even as the numbers and diversity of homeschoolers have grown tremendously over the past 10 years, homeschoolers have actually increased the already sizeable gap in academic achievement between themselves and their public school counterparts-moving from about 30 percentile points higher in the Rudner study (1998) to 37 percentile points higher in the Progress Report (2009).

As mentioned earlier, the achievement gaps that are well-documented in public school between boys and girls, parents with lower incomes, and parents with lower levels of education are not found among homeschoolers. While it is not possible to draw a definitive conclusion, it does appear from all the existing research that homeschooling equalizes every student upwards. Homeschoolers are actually achieving every day what the public schools claim are their goals—to narrow achievement gaps and to educate each child to a high level.

Of course, an education movement which consistently shows that children can be educated to a standard significantly above the average public school student at a fraction of the cost—the average spent by participants in the Progress Report was about $500 per child per year as opposed to the public school average of nearly $10,000 per child per year—will inevitably draw attention from the K-12 public education industry.

Answering the Critics

This particular study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken. It attempts to build upon and improve on the previous research. One criticism of the Rudner study was that it only drew students from one large testing service. Although there was no reason to believe that homeschoolers participating with that service were automatically non-representative of the broader homeschool community, HSLDA decided to answer this criticism by using 15 independent testing services for this new study. There can be no doubt that homeschoolers from all walks of life and backgrounds participated in the Progress Report.

While it is true that not every homeschooler in America was part of this study, it is also true that the Progress Report provides clear evidence of the success of homeschool programs.

The reason is that all social science studies are based on samples. The goal is to make the sample as representative as possible because then more confident conclusions can be drawn about the larger population. Those conclusions are then validated when other studies find the same or similar results.

Critics tend to focus on this narrow point and maintain that they will not be satisfied until every homeschooler is submitted to a test. This is not a reasonable request because not all homeschoolers take standardized achievement tests. In fact, while the majority of homeschool parents do indeed test their children simply to track their progress and also to provide them with the experience of test-taking, it is far from a comprehensive and universal practice among homeschoolers.

The best researchers can do is provide a sample of homeschooling families and compare the results of their children to those of public school students, in order to give the most accurate picture of how homeschoolers in general are faring academically.

The concern that the only families who chose to participate are the most successful homeschoolers can be alleviated by the fact that the overwhelming majority of parents did not know their children's test results before agreeing to participate in the study.

HSLDA believes that this study along with the several that have been done in the past are clear evidence that homeschoolers are succeeding academically.

Final Thought

Homeschooling is making great strides and hundreds of thousands of parents across America are showing every day what can be achieved when parents exercise their right to homeschool and make tremendous sacrifices to provide their children with the best education available.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Sign

This is such a touching video. Someone shared it on a website that I am a member of and it had me on the verge of tears. The video speaks for itself.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The End of Summer Break

... well, at least it is for the Thoma family. Yes, tomorrow we will be taking a dive back into school lessons. I am really looking forward to it actually, and the kids seem like they are as well.

My husband and I wanted the kids to really enjoy their last weekend of their break, so Friday after Chris (that would be my husband) got in from work, we took the kids to Enchanted Island Amusement Park. We always have a great time whenever we go there, plus during the summer, it's only $5 a person for everyone to get in, and you can't beat that! The kids rode themselves silly! They made daddy ride too of course. I did get to ride on the train with the kids, but lets face it ... there isn't much for pregnant mothers to do at an amusement park! After the kids had been on a few rides, we then took a break at Splash Zone, the little "water park" area of Enchanted Island. The little ones had a ball playing in the water and running through it as it shot out of the tiny holes in the ground. At the end of the day, they had worn themselves (and daddy) out.

Yesterday, they did their usual Saturday activities; climbing trees, building forts outside, playing in the sand box and on the swings, etc. Well the kids have been asking us and asking us for weeks now when a particular movie called "Shorts" was going to start playing. They saw the trailer for the movie one day during their TV time, and they have been anxious to see it ever since. Well, the movie was to start playing Friday, or so I thought. It seems that the release date for the movie was changed from August 7th to August 21st, so the kids will have to wait a little longer to see that particular film. So, I gathered them all together yesterday and told them that they had a bit longer to wait for the movie "Shorts", and I asked them if they were interested in seeing anything else. I knew what they were going to say before I even asked, "G-Force." I had seen previews for the movie and though I thought it was cute in premise, but it didn't really strike me as something that I would want to sit through, but, for my kids I will do anything. My husband and I rounded the gang up and took them to see it and to be honest, the movie wasn't quite so bad. The kids actually really enjoyed the film, especially with it being in 3-D. Lilian, our 1 year old, isn't very fond of being in a dark theater full of people yet, so she stayed with my parents.

Today was just another typical Sunday. Everyone got up, ate breakfast, got ready for church, went to Sunday school, regular service, and here we are. We are about to sit down and have dinner, and then everyone will commence on getting their baths, a story, and then off to dreamland they will go. All and all I believe that we had a really wonderful summer, and a great last weekend of summer break. Now, it's time for us to jump back into the realm of education, the greatest adventure of all!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spread The Word To End The Word

If there is a cause that stands out to me, I will try my best to find the time to promote it. Spread the Word to End the Word is definitely a cause that is worthy of my support. It is a campaign to raise awareness of the hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)." The campaign is raising the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R word and urging people to resolve, to pledge, to stop using it as an insult, casual or intended.

I actually heard about this campaign from Janice, a homeschooling friend of mine. She has a 10 year old son named Daniel who has down syndrome. She gave him the name Daniel for a reason, as it means "God is my judge," as she knew that her son would unfortunately have to live a life where he was judged on appearance and his handicap as opposed to who he is as a person. It's odd; you would think that most of the hateful and judgmental things that are said to and/or about him would come from children, but that's not the case. Janice has told me that about 95% of the time, the rudeness comes from adults, especially when it comes to directing the R word at him. Now that is pretty sad if you ask me.

The R-word is one of many words that I can say is NOT tolerated in our home. I don't use it, nor does my husband, and neither do our children. I personally had two older cousins (they have now passed away) who had muscular dystrophy and I used to hear that word directed towards them all the time simply because they were different. I didn't like it then, just as I don't like it now.

If you have a few minutes to spare today, then take a second or two to visit and take the pledge to remove the R-word from your vocabulary. As I said, we don't use the word, but my husband and I still both pledged that we would not allow its use in our home, and that we would raise our children not to use it and to respect those with disabilities. Lets help spread the word so that we can end the word.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rear No More

Today, I realized that I haven't checked the kids' heights and weights in a while for my own personal documentation, so I got them altogether in front of our family growth chart to see where they all stand. Upon weighing the twins, Seth and Serah, I realized that they were both very close to reaching the maximum rear facing height and weight for their carseats. You will learn throughout my blog that I'm an advocate for many different things, and extended rear facing in carseats, and extended harnessing, are two of those things. I am a firm believer in the two ideals.

Anyway, I talked to the twins about it and I told them that they're close enough in size now to turn forward, and that I would be turning their carseats around. For some reason I was expecting them to say "YAY!" or to be excited about the situation, but then Seth goes "Nooooo! I like being backwards in the car!" then Serah goes "Me too! Everybody in every car looks to the front. I like to be backwards!" It took me a few minutes, but I explained to them that it's just another part of growing up and that eventually every child who is in a car seat is going to have to turn forward facing. After a while they finally conceded and accepted the fact that they were going to be turned around. When Chris got home today, we all went outside and he had the twins help him turn their seats forward. They sat in the seats to make sure they were secure and not wobbly, and then we all hopped in and took a ride to the park. I think after our ride the twins got excited about the idea of being forward facing.

It's funny what little things can make you emotional. When I first turned Micah around, I definitely had some sad feelings, and I felt the same way today with the twins. I guess it's like I explained to them, they're growing up, and watching your babies grow up can sometimes be a hard thing to do. But, as I tell them now, no matter how old they are, they will always be my babies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Exactly One Week!

As of today, we have exactly one week before homeschool is back in session. We have had a wonderful summer. We went to lots of festivals and fairs, museums, the zoo, and of course, we visited family and friends. I try to make the most out of their summers and incorporate learning where I can.

Micah is drawing towards the end of an era and he's a bit torn up about it. All of our children take ISR lessons during the summer. For those who don't know what ISR is, it stands for Infant Swim Resource, and it is a swim program that starts with infants, ages 6 months and accommodates children up to 6 years of age. At first the babies just learn how to float and how to communicate to get someones attention if they were to say, slip into the pool. As they progress through the program, they learn many more swimming and safety techniques. Unlike other programs, the kids learn how to swim clothed because, most of the time if a child does slip into a pool and no one is around, they aren't in their swimsuit. So Micah has been attending these classes since he was 6 months old, but since he is 6 now, it will be his last summer of ISR. I'm just so glad to have found such a program. Our kids love to swim, and this program has taught them not only how to swim, but how to survive in the water. He's a bit torn up about it now, but next summer I'm sure he will be involved in something else that will have his full attention.

As for me, I'm finishing up our school schedule and looking ahead in the subjects to see where I can fit in some fieldtrips for certain topics. I think the kids are really excited about jumping back into the swing of things and moving on to new topics and areas we haven't covered. I will have one first grader, two pre-kindergartners, and two preschoolers. Of course, I have already read through all of our materials and I think the kids are really going to enjoy this year. I've been working on putting together some extra little experiments and hands on activities for them as they love that sort of stuff.

So the babies are due in October and many are wondering how I'm going to fit that in. Well, I've done it before. I am not going to cram in materials and overload the children. I have made a schedule and plan on sticking to it. My husband will be taking over lessons during his paternity leave which is a week. We have been sitting down in the evenings after he gets home, going through the curriculum that we should be on around the time of my due date. Being that this is not the first time I've had a baby during the school term, the kids pretty much so know what to expect, the older ones anyway, and they know what I expect of them. The main thing is for me not to overdo it. We may have to have some lessons in my bedroom or in the living room so that I can be on the couch, but honestly those are the best lessons ... the ones where I am snuggled up with our children. Plus, it's good to have a change of scenery sometimes. I remember how when I was school, I wished we would have class outdoors or something. I just wanted a change of scenery, and that's what I do for our kids. We have had classes outdoors, at the park, by the pool, or just in another room of the house.

So that's all for now. It's only 8 AM and the kids are already wanting to go outside in the heat and humidity. I guess it's better they go now instead of when the sun is in the middle of the sky. Well, until next time, God bless!