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Homeschooling Adapts To New Times

As a story in the Wall Street Journal recently noted, homeschooling is adapting to new environments:

The San Francisco Schoolhouse…started classes Tuesday in the Richmond district with an initial enrollment of four first-graders…

Unlike most homeschooling, in which a child is primarily taught by his or her own parents, students in co-ops often share teachers and sometimes are taught in shared classrooms outside the home. In the case of San Francisco Schoolhouse, the families will share the cost of paying for two teachers and parents will serve as field-trip directors.

In an age when parents fret about their two-year-old’s chances of getting into Harvard and savvy tutors charge an arm and a leg for SAT prep classes, homeschooling co-ops offer an opportunity to middle-class parents to customize their children’s education without the expense of a good school or the poor teaching at more affordable institutions.

There may be an opportunity for entrepreneurs in these co-ops as well. A connected person might find success in coordinating teachers, parents, field trips, classroom lessons, and, eventually, exam and college application preparation.

It’s still a new system but homeschooling co-ops are on the rise. If a co-op provides a solid and diverse education at less than the cost of private school, expect them to pop up all over the US soon.  In any case, this phenomenon underlines a key aspect of the change taking place in America’s schools.  The public schools are not going to be replaced by a single alternative system; new forms of education are going to appear.

A truly forward thinking community would try to accelerate this process, offering vouchers and other incentives to parents and community groups who are willing to create the schools of the future.  Ultimately, parents should have the option to spend education money on whatever program they believe will best serve their children.

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  • Kenny

    Anything that weakens the monopoly of the government schools is a good thing.

  • Bruno Behrend

    Education in America is run by a “Government Education Complex” made up of the DOE, big Unions, and army of administrators, all ensconced in 50 State boards and 14,000 school districts.

    We need to replace this “complex” with an “Open-Source Learning Network” of literally 1000s of new education service providers, where the money follows the child the the best provider for that child.

    The open source learning network above should be made up home school co-ops, independent schools run by accountable principals and teachers, along with expanded networks of charters, private schools, and on-line learning and assessment providers.

    The current system is beyond reform, and should simply be dismantled. You do this quite simply by having the money follow the child.

  • Scott

    I enjoy your writings. However, when it comes to public education I sort of get the sense you haven’t spent a lot of time in very many public schools. You paint public education with a remarkably broad brush. I will be the first to admit that public education needs to adapt to a very different reality. I think what you write about the blue social model holds a lot of truths for public education. However, your advice to a “truly forward thinking community” (as opposed to those who are faking it?) rings a little more like progressive pulp than wisdom born of any real experience with public schools.

    I am sure Groton gave you great insight and wisdom and I am one of many beneficiaries of your sharing that insight and wisdom. However, you may not have a completely accurate picture of the many very good public schools out there trying different ways every day to meet a remarkably varied student population including those with special needs (are a lot of these homeschool co-ops taking special needs kids?).

    We should be open to some sort of choice. Teachers are going to have to accept varied pay reflecting the nature of what they teach. The structure of our schools including what and when we offer education needs to be constantly reinvented trying to meet the needs of kids who in years past we just expected to drop out. Yet, none of that negates the remarkable good that public education has done and continues to do for our republic.

    Frankly, the homeschool co-ops you highlight sound awful. I am all for them being offered to those who believe that is what’s best for their kids. Yet, if they’re all that great they don’t need government subsidies in the form of vouchers to succeed.

  • Kris

    Scott, I’m not quite following you. The fact that there are very good public schools out there means that everyone should be forced to pay for the public school system, but parents should be forbidden from directing their own “educational” tax dollars to home-school co-ops, however great they may be?

  • David in OC

    Note that this is driven by SF schools’ placement system which punishes middle class families by not allowing neighborhood based school enrollment. The district spokes-hole’s comment about 80% getting their first choice is highly disingenuous- I suspect that remaining 20% are concentrated in certain neighborhoods.

  • Corlyss

    There are no non-partisan views of home schooling, no fair and balanced reports on it or any schooling that tries to bring private school benefits to public school students. All authors in my experience are for one and totally against the other. It’s become like AGW and gun control: no secular unbiased experts.

    Let’s think about the improvements in education that a DoEd and the teachers unions have wroght. The greatest successes in education today are rendered by private schools and home schooling. So basically government and unions have sent us back to the future. After obscene expendatures of money to raise per pupil performance and fitness for the work force tenths of a degree, parents’ best option is to keep their kids at home to teach ’em. Good job! Way to go!

    I’d like to think we’re on the cusp of crushing the public school teachers’ unions out of existence, but I very much doubt it.

  • Gern

    We are a homeschool family and have participated in homeschool co-ops for a few years now in our community. I think they are great. Our co-op this year has about 75 children. The teachers are parents and for teaching they receive a waiver on their fee for their children in the co-op and a small stipend.

    I would be cautious about government involvement of vouchers and subsidies. When the government gets involved, then it usually results in more paperwork, more restrictions, and less freedom.

  • Ellen

    I helped start just such a co-op in New York City about 8 years ago. We hire teachers from the unemployed, grad/undergrad, passionate amateur world. Some people, especially those who move into the city and are used to parent-taught models, at first balk at the idea of paying others to help us homeschool. For those of us who have been in the city for years, however, where the options are fighting tooth and nail to get our child into one of the good public schools or plopping down $30,000 for our kindergartener to go to Dalton, paying an enthusiastic grad student to teach chemistry to 4th graders is a no-brainer.

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