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Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 01:06 PM   #1
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Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

There've been a few heated threads on the relative benefits of various school systems. So let's gather them into one heated productive discussion here.

First, Judy/JWV, I owe you an apology. I was poking fun at right-wing homeschooling survivalist fundamentalist Christians, the kind who can't bear to have their kids in school with all those other godless heathens, and I didn't mean to imply that all homeschoolers are that way. In fact the RHSFC are probably a very small but very vocal homeschooling minority and I don't think they're any indication of a "typical" HS/US family.

I've spent a lot of time on homeschooling/unschooling books, mailing lists, & discussion boards. I think it's a great way to educate your kids because it has the world's best student:teacher ratio-- 1:1 or 1:2 or more. The program can also be tailored to your kid's interests. You don't have to study ancient Egypt civilization because it's Tuesday and it's in the state's standards-- you study it because the kid is passionately interested in that subject. I've been very motivated to learn about HS/US educational systems out of a fear that our public school system would call us up one day to say "Take her back. We give up." However HS/US depends on a motivated teacher-- parent(s)-- and that's not always achievable.

Private schools can be great, too, but how do you tell? By charging for admission they automatically restrict their student population to the local native-speaking majority who are probably already highly involved in their kid's education. Meanwhile public schools have to cope with everyone else, including non-English speaking students, persistent truants, and parents who may not be so involved. My buddy the high-school teacher would much rather teach in a private school because the administration always backs up his classroom discipline, but he's met many more better students in public schools than in private ones.

Another issue with private schools is the cachet. My spouse met many people last week (during her Reserve duty) who started conversations for the sole purpose of telling her about their kid at Punahou. Their kids have NEVER attended a Hawaii public school and these particular braggarts parents don't spent much time with their kids anyway, so how the heck do they know Punahou is better than the local public school? It makes me wonder if they're trying to rationalize the $10K annual tuition by talking up the school. So your sixth-grader does her homework on her school-issued laptop. Does that guarantee Harvard and lifetime success? Or is it just achieving the same results at an excessive cost?

You would think that the money would restrict private schools to the best of all worlds-- small class sizes, plenty of educational resources, and motivated parents. However many of those parents tend to have more money than involvement, and many of the students are in private schools because they're just not hacking it at the public schools-- or they've been expelled. There's a reason that private schools tend to have tighter student standards of behavior.

Then there are the public schools. Some of them are wonderful and some aren't. Hawaii's public-school system is run by the state (teachers are state employees) which means that no neighborhood gets any more revenue per student than any other (although new legislation is changing this). So the "poor" kids in Nanakuli High are theoretically getting just as much educational money as the "rich" kids in Hawaii Kai. However the money doesn't account for Nanakuli's high rates of truancy, absenteeism, drug use, & violence. It turns out that the biggest factor in public school differences is... the degree of parental involvement. If a kid knows that their parents are going to take a very dim view of the "typical" behavior at Nanakuli, then that behavior won't happen with that kid. If the school administration isn't doing the right thing for the kids, then the parents will get involved and recalibrate the administration. Unfortunately again that population of involved parents tends to avoid living in Nanakuli so it's difficult to compare schools when the real difference is the neighborhood demographics.

Does anyone have any credible studies on the relative merits of the different systems? Link 'em if you got 'em, but I'm betting "NO." You can't design a double-blind randomized repeatable trial because every kid is different and their school experiences are highly individualized. You can draw some broad general conclusions-- kids who are uncomfortable with large groups will probably do better in homeschool or unschool-- but I doubt that you can declare one system generally better than another.

Besides schools are not chosen by the students. They're chosen by the parents, and most of those choices are made in the PARENT's best interests. Hopefully that includes the kid's learning style & special needs, but more often it's driven by money, work schedules, and whether or not the parent can tackle HS/US. So again you have kids attending the wrong schools for the wrong reasons. When they happen to be bad schools in addition to the wrong reasons, then the situation is doomed to failure. (I bet the next six pages are full of posts citing specific examples of individual horror stories.) Unfortunately the individual failures will be exploited in an attempt to generalize that particular experience to the entire school system. I don't think that's applicable. In fact it may be like TH's analogy of putting a bag over your head and running across a superhighway-- if nothing bad happened then it must be OK for everyone to do that.

I think that, like Social Security, public schools establish a baseline safety net for the benefit of society. If the govt is going to require students to attend schools up until a certain age, then the govt should fund those schools and it's perfectly reasonable to expect taxpayers to pay for it. Anything above that baseline is up to capitalism and the parent's ability to make it happen, whether that's money for private school or the time for HS/US.

I doubt that colleges, including service academies, prefer a specific type of school. I bet that their student populations generally reflect the proportions of graduates of the various types of schools. I do know that service academies look at the whole student record and don't particularly care whether that particular student comes from a particular school system.

As for the prodigies, they'll bloom wherever they're planted. They'll probably achieve their full potential in the school systems that they enjoy because they won't waste all their time fighting the administration. I know plenty of bright kids in public, private, and HS/US systems. Each of those kids would be uncomfortable in a different school situation, even if the school isn't teaching differential equations to sixth graders. Although we parents may think that a precocious kid does best in homeschooling, they may have the type of social personality that responds to a public school, or the inherently undirected personality that has to respond to a highly-structured private school. And again it's not as if we can run the kid through a few years of each system and decide which one was the best...

So while I believe that we all have a responsibility to support public schools with our taxes, the rest of the decisions have to be made according to what helps us sleep best at night. Hopefully that's the best decision for your kid, too.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 02:23 PM   #2
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

A couple things to add. The head of the National Institute of Health made a point on education that I still remember: 50% of the students can learn under any system. This was in response to discussions about whole language VS phonics. So, for me, the real issues concern the specific needs and abilities of each child. My son is in a good public high school, I attended a Catholic high school and it was great. I would pay for a good private school but there is only one in the area that is truly superior and it is at least $15K and my son would probably not have been admitted. Kids at this school speak multiple languages, do well in math and have good social skills. And this school has half of all the National Merit scholars of the entire area (I think the area population of the San Gabriel Valley in the Los Angeles area is at least 1.5M people). There are a few OK private schools, some good public schools, some OK public schools and a large bunch of pretty bad public schools despite about the same amount of money being spent on each public school student.
But some folks choose religious schools for, well, religious reasons. A boss at work sent his sons to a local Catholic school and they went on to Harvard & its medical school. Yet the local public school was academically superior to the Catholic school.
I went to a college which was unusual in the 60s in that there were a number of "home schooled" kids. But these were in the classical sense of having had governesses and tutors. These kids were smart (& wealthy) and accomplished. Most of the public and private schooled kids paled in comparison.
As a matter of humor, from the Blue Collar Road Show DVD there was a comment about education, one of the items in the news was that teachers were having sex with their students! Well, he said, its even worse in the south as the kids were home schooled.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 03:30 PM   #3
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Here's a quote from my post in a previous thread:

"The confounding variables [in examining school performance data] are socioeconomic status and educational background of the parents. I've studied some local schools in my area that are pretty crappy at first glance. Bad test scores, etc.

When I control for socioeconomic status and educational background of the parents of these students, it turns out that plenty of kids do great at crappy schools.

Which kids are successful? Kids with parents that are:

-white or Asian
-well educated
-not poor"

The schools I looked at have primarily minority students from predominantly lower-middle and lower class backgrounds. These schools happen to be the base schools where my kid will potentially go to school. I was worried at how poorly the schools as a whole had performed, but when I looked at each school on a disaggregated basis, I'm not too worried.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 03:56 PM   #4
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords

the rest of the decisions have to be made according to what helps us sleep best at night. Hopefully that's the best decision for your kid, too.
Yes, hopefully. The thing of it is, kids are people too and grow up with the genetic and life-experience cards they've been dealt. I believe money spent on education is seldom wasted, but you can't know that up front. Top notch private schooling offers no guarantees. Sadly, I've seen fine scholars flunk real world 101.

Mini poll:

Public school - worked for my children
Private school - if you can afford it, why not?
Homeschooling - don't think so... unless your schools are below par. Kids should be with other kids. Smothering, micro-managing parents, you know who you are, need a time out.




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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 04:25 PM   #5
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

If when you say base schools you are referring to military schools, I'm thinking you may be missing the boat about overall performance.* For example, in San Antonio, the base schools are generally the best performers in the city by a landslide.* I have never found (I'm sure there must be some) where a DOD school wasn't top notch vice its civilian counterparts.
Why is that you say?* My guess is that there are enough parents who will not put up with anything else but top performance and they tend to actually get heard.* Oh yes, then there is the discipline.* I think you could say it is a little more straight forward for the benefit of all.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 05:00 PM   #6
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Hey, I am liberal as they come. I believe we need to support public education. But as far as where your kid should be schooled, I say know your kid and know the schools. Me and my sibs had a very, very unhappy time in high school. I went to a small town high school in a very conservative religious town. No homework on Wednesdays--church night. My family was not religious. Great fun to be 14 years old and told on a regular basis that you are going to go to hell. A kid in my class committed suicide. I think in part he was tortured into it by classmates.

Know your schools--whether public or private. They can destroy lives.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 05:04 PM   #7
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

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Originally Posted by Martha
Hey, I am liberal as they come. I believe we need to support public education. But as far as where your kid should be schooled, I say know your kid. ... Great fun to be 14 years old and told on a regular basis that you are going to go to hell. A kid in my class committed suicide. I think in part he was tortured into it by classmates.

Know your schools--whether public or private. They can destroy lives.
Could not be better said!!

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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 05:04 PM   #8
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Base schools where I live refers to the schools that a child would normally attend for Elementary, middle, and high school based on that student's address. The local school system also has a Magnet program where any student can choose and apply to a "magnet" school that usually has something unique to offer - beefed up performing arts, better math and sciences, more Advanced Placement Courses, etc.

So as a parent, you can send your kids to the "base" school, which could have good or bad overall test scores, or send your kid to the "magnet" school of your choice, if you can get in. It's a nice option to have, and takes much of the premium off of real estate in "good" school districts, since the magnet schools are generally regarded as "better" than the base schools. I think magnet schools' better performance as compared to base schools results from the motivated parents of motivated kids applying to the magnet schools.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 05:17 PM   #9
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPatrick
If when you say base schools you are referring to military schools, I'm thinking you may be missing the boat about overall performance.* For example, in San Antonio, the base schools are generally the best performers in the city by a landslide.* I have never found (I'm sure there must be some) where a DOD school wasn't top notch vice its civilian counterparts.
Why is that you say?* My guess is that there are enough parents who will not put up with anything else but top performance and they tend to actually get heard.* Oh yes, then there is the discipline.* I think you could say it is a little more straight forward for the benefit of all.
One of our friends out here has two kids in DOD schools and isn't all that impressed. *I think a lot of the success of base schools can be attributed to socio-economic factors - every single military family has at least one parent who has a high school education and a stable job with good benefits. *Usually the other parent is similarly educated and employed or stays-at-home fulltime. *

I'm not sure that parental discipline plays a huge role, but many of the parents may come from poor backgrounds themselves and joined the service to better their life lot in life. *They may pass this kind of ambition and motivation onto their kids. *Then there's the fact that the teachers can deal with any problems swiftly and surely by involving your boss if necessary. *Your employer can force you take a role in your kids education if you're shirking your obligations at home and that just isn't going to happen in the civilian world. *
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 05:21 PM   #10
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
I think magnet schools' better performance as compared to base schools results from the motivated parents of motivated kids applying to the magnet schools.
Parents who are willing to drag their kid across town (or county) to a program they want are invested in the school.*

When I was a kid my neighborhood had refugee families from WWII.* I learned that the $ of the parents mattered less than the parent's committment to education.* Today poor familes are often those who do not, or cannot, see the value of education. *

In some parts of the country Hispanic kids aren't doing well.* If someone from the community sat down with their parents and discussed schooling from an economic pov I predict improvement.* Those parents are here for the money.* Education wasn't important in a village with no economic opportunities so there is no reason to stay in school once you can hold a job.. any job.* The ROI of education is something they need to hear and can understand.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 06:53 PM   #11
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Some personal anecdotes ...
Deep background: As a kid, I went to public school, private school for a couple years, then many years of public school.* I attended a private university that has always been ranked top-tier in the biased USNews&WorldReport rankings.

My daughter went to kindergarten at one of the top K-12 private schools in TX because it had a full day program while the public schools were half day.* Our choice was pay for kindergarten or pay for day care.* *Easy decision.

For first grade we had to make a choice: continue in private school or go to public school.* Both schools are within bike riding distance of home.* One cost a lot more, but less than an annual pay raise.* When discussing our decision with the admissions officer at the private school, she showed us how students in her school scored on standardized tests.* Bascially it was exactly the same as the local public school students of the same age.* My wife called the director of admissions of the local elite private university and asked about graduates of the private school and the local public high school.* He said, it didn't matter - both systems produced outstanding students.* He did say that in the public school, parents had to make sure that kid was taking courses leading to college while this was automatic in the private school.

The private school was more ethnically diverse.* This is because many of the non-whites living in our relatively wealthy area chose to send their kids to private school.* My wife felt the public school was too white-bread and felt the private school would give a student many more friends of color.

The HS grads of the academically rigorous private school still went to the same old set of colleges.* So there appeared to be no special advantage to getting into elite universities, but this may be just that parents somehow want their kids to go to state and local colleges.* (You can argue whether going to elite private college is better/same as goingn to state if you like.)

Many friends of ours send their kids to the private school.* A couple of pros for private are that average kids will get pushed harder.* Those at the bottom academically would not get into the school, while those at the top will do well no matter where they go to school.* Another argument was the contacts that one would make.* That may be true because I remember all my friends from a small private college, but only one or two friends from HS before that.* But we have these same contacts from activities outside of school.

I have been a mentor to many HS students/interns from both the private school and the public school.* It would be impossible for me to distinguish between the two populations.

Any money saved by not paying the private school tuition could be used for "educational" trips/vacations for the entire family to Europe and Hawaii. This was the clincher.

In the end we decided the private school was a waste of the money spent.* The local public schools would have the same enirched environment and it would be tough to discern any differences between graduates of the private school from the public school.* We sent our daughter to public school where she has thrived.* Our son has gone to the same schools and does just fine as well.

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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 07:05 PM   #12
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BUM
Homeschooling - don't think so... unless your schools are below par. Kids should be with other kids. Smothering, micro-managing parents, you know who you are, need a time out.
If you're implying that homeschooling deprives kids of socialization, you're wrong but you're not alone. Many people have picked up that impression from media & politics.

Our neighborhood has enough homeschoolers for not one but two activity groups. They have a 20-kid minimum for "field trips" (the local bakery, the museums, whatever) and they're always oversubscribed. They also have their own sports teams, although they're not quite big enough for their own "homeschool league".

Our local tae kwon do dojang has not one but two homeschooler classes. (The owners homeschool their three kids but "smothering" or "micro-managing" are not words that come to mind with these black belts.) That's over 40 kids, and sometimes there's more socializing than TKD happening.

If you have a kid who's sick of school, who's pretending all sorts of illnesses or injuries to avoid attending, who's always the one being picked on or exploited... then homeschooling might be just the thing for them. There's a significant minority of kids in every high school who would be better off in some alternative setting, and homeschool is just one of the choices. I'm sure the school's administrators would agree with a few specific cases as well. Parents may be making the choices but sometimes the kids know what's best too.

When our kid complains about school I reassure her that she doesn't have to go back. About 30 seconds later, just as her despair is turning to disbelieving euphoria, I tell her that "Dad's Homeschool" is always ready to leap to the rescue. It takes about 30 more seconds for her to decide that public school isn't so bad after all.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-12-2005, 11:06 PM   #13
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

When my son was ready for kindergarten, I went through the same angst-storm about public vs. private schools. We live in a small, conservative village (full of religious conservatives, much as Martha describes) next door to a large university town brim full of educational options, public and private.

I must have visited a half dozen private schools, but when I got to the Waldorf school, I quit. Waldorf education is top-notch--but, oh my god, the PARENTS! When I thought about attending potlucks with these horses' patoots for the next 12 years, my blood froze. The minivans! The volvos! The humanity!!

So I investiged my local public school. Guess what? Our local elementary school is staffed by progressive professionals. It turned out to be a good fit for our son, a highly motivated, well organized honor student, and also for our daughter, who is possessed by a chaos demon.

Now, high school is a different story. My son found his niche in theater. He has a large friend base, despite his free-thinking liberal-humanist ways. My daughter is in the school district's alternative middle school, where she is making progress, but she will not thrive at the high school. I am going to have to find another program for her.

A final thing about public schools: In our town, they are more diverse, both from a racial and a socio-economic point of view. It may be a bitter-sweet introduction to democracy, but I think it is a fundamental one. It was one of the deciding factors for me over private school.

And what was said above about the savings, well, it's true--my kids have been to Europe and Mexico. And I have saved a stack of money for college, too.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 06:00 AM   #14
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LRS
When my son was ready for kindergarten, I went through the same angst-storm about public vs. private schools. We live in a small, conservative village (full of religious conservatives, much as Martha describes) next door to a large university town brim full of educational options, public and private.

I must have visited a half dozen private schools, but when I got to the Waldorf school, I quit. Waldorf education is top-notch--but, oh my god, the PARENTS! When I thought about attending potlucks with these horses' patoots for the next 12 years, my blood froze. The minivans! The volvos! The humanity!!

So I investiged my local public school. Guess what? Our local elementary school is staffed by progressive professionals. It turned out to be a good fit for our son, a highly motivated, well organized honor student, and also for our daughter, who is possessed by a chaos demon.

Now, high school is a different story. My son found his niche in theater. He has a large friend base, despite his free-thinking liberal-humanist ways. My daughter is in the school district's alternative middle school, where she is making progress, but she will not thrive at the high school. I am going to have to find another program for her.

A final thing about public schools: In our town, they are more diverse, both from a racial and a socio-economic point of view. It may be a bitter-sweet introduction to democracy, but I think it is a fundamental one. It was one of the deciding factors for me over private school.

And what was said above about the savings, well, it's true--my kids have been to Europe* and Mexico.* And I have saved a stack of money for college, too.
Once we really thought it over, we tried to send our kids to
church supported private schools, at least up until high school (seems odd for
a born-again agnostic doesn't it?) Anyway, that worked out fine
and 2 of my 3 kids went to church supported colleges. All have
bachelor's degrees (or will in 6 months). I tried to get my youngest
to go to Pensicola Christian College. She turned it down flat.

All of my grandchildren are home-schooled. I am very much in
favor of this, but can't imagine the effort involved. Pretty sure that
I could not have done it. I guess my point is that I am quite
supportive of Christian based ed, at all levels, in spite of being
mostly non-religious myself.

JG
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 10:46 AM   #15
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

I was chatting with one of dh's customers who homeschools their kids - more of the hippie/liberal variety than the born again Christians.* The first thing I noticed about their kids is what incredible social skills they had - much moreso than most kids in public schools.* Because homeschooled kids are around a variety of age groups on a regular basis, they move easily between "kidtalk" and "adulttalk."* Kids in regular schools are limited to hanging out only with their same-aged peers, and that tremendously limits their experiences...* It was an interesting conversation.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 10:58 AM   #16
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

We plan to send the little one to Catholic school when the time comes. The school system is slightly different in Canada: there's the Public system; the Separate System (aka Catholic school system); and Private schools.

The Catholic school system is very similar to the Public system except that part of the curriculum is taking Religious Studies. Also, it doesn't cost any more than the Public system since every home owner needs to tell the city which school system they support (public or separate) and part of your property taxes go to that school system.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 11:02 AM   #17
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calgary_Girl
The Catholic school system is very similar to the Public system except that part of the curriculum is taking Religious Studies. Also, it doesn't cost any more than the Public system since every home owner needs to tell the city which school system they support (public or separate) and part of your property taxes go to that school system.
Canada has more individual choice than the U. S. of A.?? What is this world coming too??!?? What about basic human rights, religious freedom, separation of church and state?
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 11:41 AM   #18
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

I know several families who home school their kids in order to protect them from the big bad world. I find it very inconsistent that when these same kids get into "high school," their parents have no qualms whatsoever about sending them to the local Community College to take classes such as chemistry, French, and calculus. If their primary motivation was to shield their babies, they're blowing it---there is alot more "junk" available at the college than the high schools.

We have two kids. One went to all public school, and the other went to a private school for several years. Both have done well. The bottom line is, I think that kids who have parents who care about them, and who have a modicum of intelligence will thrive no matter what schooling system they are in.
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 01:09 PM   #19
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Yeah, but that pov doesn't support anyone's political agenda... :P
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?
Old 12-13-2005, 02:04 PM   #20
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Re: Public, private, homeschool, or no school?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain_Mike
IThe bottom line is, I think that kids who have parents who care about them, and who have a modicum of intelligence will thrive no matter what schooling system they are in.
Every school has a culture and sometimes that culture is toxic to a specific student. I certainly did not thrive in my school where the culture was ridgedly conservative fundamentalist Christian.

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