Here follow a few brief summaries of various articles that have appeared in the past few months that, while not scholarly, are still interesting and informative. They include a story on homeschooling in China, an advocacy piece by a conservative Catholic, a description of public/private/home school hybrids, and a homeschool diary by a New Yorker:
1. Yuan Yuan, “Home or School: Parents Explore Alternatives to Public Education” in the Beijing Review, 6 September 2012. [Available here] This article profiles several homeschooling families in China. It begins with the story of Zhang Qiaofeng, who pulled his son Hongwu out of first grade in 2011 after noticing that the boy had lost much of his youthful enthusiasm. Father Zhang gave up his job and 300K Yuan salary to teach his son at home, thinking that such a plan would better prepare his son for eventual matriculation at an American university. His aspirations seem plausible in light of the second example in the article, Chen Jeidi, a 17-year-old girl whose mother homeschooled her for primary and middle school and then enrolled her in an international school for six years to prepare her for American universities. At 17 she was accepted to several prestigious American universities and decided to attend the University of Southern California, where she has completed her freshman year with a 4.0 GPA. A third homeschooling family profiled is that of the notable children’s book author Zheng Yuanjie, another father who taught his son at home. The boy, now 29, founded a publishing company and photography studio. The article ends with a disapproving quote from a government education official and a prediction from a college professor that China will see an increase in homeschooling in the future.
2. Graeme Hunter, “Easy Burden” in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, 1 September 2012. Touchstone is a well known “theocon” magazine with an ecumenical mix of Catholic, Protestant, and some Orthodox Christian writers. Hunter is a devout Catholic. His article here serves as a good illustration of the attitudes and motivations many conservative Catholic homeschoolers bring to the practice. He is deeply troubled by what he sees as the “suicidal” nature of the rapidly declining West, and he thinks Catholic homeschooling is the best way to foster in children a strong sense of Catholic identity and cultural sanity, “As secular society enters a new dark age, Christians are the only lights left burning.” (p. 22) Homeschooling, in Hunter’s view, provides a superior form of education in all facets that prepares young Catholics to stand firm in their faith, to live morally upright lives, and to master “the primary skills of reading, writing, and reckoning.” (p. 22)
3. Sarah D. Sparks, “‘Hybrid’ Home-Teaching Options Grow in Popularity” in Education Week, 8 August, 2012. [Preview here] Education Week is the nation’s leading paper for the latest news about public education. In this article Sparks summarizes the trend I described back in 2009 of homeschoolers moving toward more collaborative models of education that incorporate resources offered by various kinds of formal institutions. In addition to cybercharters and part-time public schooling (which, Sparks notes, about half of American States now permit), Sparks profiles the Baywood Learning Center in Oakland, CA, a private school for gifted children that offers a la carte classes for homeschoolers.
4. Finally, Paul Elie, “The Homeschool Diaries” in The Atlantic, October 2012. [Available here]. Elie described how he and his wife, after New York rent hikes forced them to move to a part of the city with poor public schools and very expensive private schools, decided to homeschool. Elie is a professor at Georgetown and his wife has worked in print journalism. They are a great example of the trend of well-educated urbanites choosing homeschooling not because of religious objections to public education or pedagogical objections to traditional schooling but out of a pragmatic calculus that homeschooling makes the most sense for their family at the time. As he puts it,
Homeschooling has long been a philosophical choice for religious traditionalists and off-the-grid homesteaders, but for the parents we met — among them several actors, a jazz composer, a restaurateur, a TV chef, a Columbia University physical-plant supervisor, and a handful of college professors — it was a practical alternative to New York’s notoriously inadequate education system. (p. 94)
Elie describes the wide array of amazing educational opportunities available to families fortunate enough to live in New York City: “science at the Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo, or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; history at the Queens County Farm Museum or the Wyckoff Farmhouse, in Brooklyn; or art at the Metropolitan Museum.” Several institutions, like the Center for Architecture Foundation in Greenwich Village, provide weekly classes for a fee. Elie ends like many who are homeschooling pragmatists do, by saying that he’s not sure what the future may bring.