There isn’t any doubt that public education in the U.S. needs major reform. But with over 50 million kids, more than 3 million teachers and close to 100, 000 public schools, education reform is, at best, daunting. How can changes be made within a system this big? Slowly. This is not something that is going to happen overnight. This is where homeschooling steps in.
I have a son who is dyslexic. He attends the Children’s Dyslexia Center twice a week, practicing the Orton-Gillingham method, and has completed the Davis Dyslexia Orientation Program and Symbol Mastery. Though he is homeschooled, I did have him tested through the public school system because I needed to understand his reading difficulty and was confused about the learning differences between him and his siblings.
Though both Dyslexia Programs he’s been involved with accepted him as fully dyslexic, the public school did not recognize this. After several days of testing and and two meetings, the school officials would not even use the term, “dyslexia”. They recommended further, neurological testing, said that true dyslexia is extremely rare, and suggested a “drill ’til you kill” method of learning sight words – for four hours every day. Anyone who loves a dyslexic (or is dyslexic) would cringe at this shockingly out of touch recommendation. Though this may seem extreme, ‘shockingly out of touch’ could also describe the one-size-fits-all curriculum and testing dominating our public schools today.
With our homeschool program my son is involved with creating websites, building video games, writing and playing music, mentoring a robotics club, making pottery and acting as the IT person for our family. Reading and writing? Still a huge challenge for him but he practices regularly and is making progress. If he were in school right now, at his age he would be expected to be “reading to learn”. I would be spending a lot of time advocating for longer testing times, use of a reader device and other methods that are not currently being used in the local school. Heck, they wouldn’t even SAY he has dyslexia. Once they do they will no doubt be required to spend money they don’t have for special services.
I can continue to homeschool him and meet his needs with a homespun curriculum that is saturated in technology, science and math – things that interest him. Things that will enable him to excel in life and not feel left behind.
His education has certainly been reformed to something that works for him. We are fortunate to be able to offer him a home school. But every American child should have an education that fits their needs. This is what public education must work towards. How long will this take? In my son’s case, it was too long to wait.
Are homeschoolers the true education reformers? On a single, one-child-at-a-time basis, yes because a child can be removed from an unsuitable program and receive a tailor-made curriculum, immediately. But also no because homeshcoolers, other than churning out young adults who have had their educational needs met, do nothing to improve the general state of public education, which still needs massive reform.