Education, Politics

Back to Basics

The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first… but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.

(Chapter 4, Voice of Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)

These words have pierced my soul a time or two this summer, as I re-read this forbidden novel with my two high school aged sons. The tone was cynical music in my ears, yet truth rang through each syllable. Even though this was written over 50 years ago, with the story taking place over 80 years ago, somehow the tragedy of forced education is surfaced through a child’s memory, embedded in disgrace and bitterness while yearning for real life.

I used to be envious of the stories that I would hear of the past century. Although life in general was much more difficult back then, I enjoyed listening to the pastimes of lazy summers that bled into a new school year filled with patriotism, prayer in school, and learning the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I thought that the “happy days” of the 20th century were truly happy, but if one were to dig deep into the archives of education, she would see that not much has changed in its mission.

As I ponder over the direction of education in the 21st century I want to be that mom – that advocate – who fights for putting the basics back into real education! I don’t want to hear about “no child left behind” or the new “common core standards.” I want to know that the schools are teaching the children how to read properly; how to perform the four foundations of mathematics; and, how to write in both styles: print and cursive. My knickers are in a twist of the recent awareness that the new nationalized standards will not be teaching cursive writing. And, the icing on this political scheme of a cake is that the experts are more concerned about teaching the “process” rather than finding the correct answer! Really? 2+3=5 is not necessary as long as you know how to discover your own path. I sure hope that these children do not become surgeons or pharmacists or rocket scientists. We will be in a world of hurt if the right answer is not necessary.

I had to take a moment to vent about this change that will forever alter our children’s future. I can’t help but think that there has to be more to these standards than test scores or trying to fit all children into one common mold. It will be my new plea, rather, a new passion, to encourage all parents to teach as much of the “old” style of learning at home. Forget the matrix of multiplication… teach them how to multiply the old school way!

I know there is no perfect school out there. As humans we will always error when it comes to human-made institutions. And yes, the current educational system is bleak at best. But, please, don’t make it worse by further dumbing down the children. Take back the control into the local schools, by starting in your own home. Read to your children every night. Do the math flash card practice. Play a board game to strengthen the logic skills. Print out and copy some cursive practice words.

There’s one thing that cannot be taken from you, and it is your intelligence. Just don’t let some “expert” tell you what and how much of that intelligence will be allotted to your child. That type of progress, that type of control, that type of spreading-the-wealth… it’s not healthy, nor is it good for our future.


Shedding Some Light on the Dark Side

This is my reply to an article that exposes the “dark side” of homeschooling. I beg to differ, and I have no problem stating so. If you are curious about my reply, read on…

Recently I had the opportunity to read the article, “Homeschooling: The Darker Side” in your most recent issue of AmeriKidz magazine. As a parent of four children I completely understand the commitment of raising a family with the highest standards, and thus choosing the best form of education for my children.

As a former Orange County native I decided to move my family to Arizona in 1998; however, I have kept close ties with my friends there in California. One of my friends forwarded the above mentioned article for my review. I have to say that I was slightly appalled during my reading that such a negative tone was given to this wonderful venture called homeschooling.

My educational background is vast and of great length. I have always believed that a great education can lead to a great future. My own educational journey has included several starts and stops, including 19 years to complete a Bachelors degree. This long term goal was fulfilled in December 2011. As an avid believer of internal motivation, I continually encourage my own children to do their best in their studies so they may also achieve their dreams and success.

I first learned about homeschooling through an employer in 1990. There wasn’t a lot of credibility with this alternative form of education during this time. Although the seed of “teaching my own” was planted in my mind, I never thought I would teach my own future children through homeschooling. Back then I didn’t realize that every mother is already a child’s first teacher.

When my oldest son asked me to teach him to read before kindergarten, my mother bought a phonics program from an infomercial and gave it to me.  I spent 15 minutes a day going through the program with my son. Within three months’ time he had learned to read – fluently – and at a 5th grade level. When I put him into kindergarten that fall of 2001, the teachers were astounded at his fluency and comprehension. They were actually upset at me for teaching him to read, since they didn’t know what to do with him for the rest of the year!

The rest of the story is pretty much similar with my other three children, with the exception of my second-born son, who has a learning disability. I taught my third-born son and my fourth-born daughter to read before kindergarten, too. I even sent my children to public school because I thought it was the “right” thing to do. I still didn’t believe that I was “teaching my own” at home just because I had taught them to read.

In 2005 I decided to take the plunge and begin homeschooling my third-born son. He did not like preschool because he felt ‘trapped’ by the routine of the typical school day. He was a calm and easy going child, and he thoroughly enjoyed being at home. He flourished at home, and I continued to homeschool him through kindergarten, part of first grade, as well as third and fourth grade. He attended public school in the latter half of first grade and all of second grade for the “experience.”

In retrospect, I have done it all. I have public-schooled my children, and I have home-schooled my children. Currently, my oldest son is a junior in public high school, my second born son is homeschooled (due to his learning disability), and my two youngest children are in a local charter school. I have not regretted one bit of the homeschooling days. Yes, there are times when it seems bleak, redundant, and lonely, but that is only because there is not a lot of public support.

So, my reason for this letter is to ask of a favor: would you kindly post an article about the benefits of homeschooling, as it is a great alternative to traditional schooling? I think it would be a great source of encouragement for the many families in California (and the rest of the United States) who are sacrificing their time, talent, and treasure to make sure that their children are getting the best education they can provide. Although your article does point out truth of the “dark side” of homeschooling, there can be multitudes of books written about the “dark side” of public schooling as well.

I have been a teacher in the public school system, both in the special education field and in an inclusive classroom. I have interviewed many teachers who are burned out with their career because they cannot get the support from the powers at be, nor with the parents at home. The true “dark side” of education today rests with the fact that there is a lack of support from the home, the community, and the political realm. No dollar amount from any government system can make up the difference needed to support the future of our nation in education better than the encouragement and support from the home front.

If one parent can give sacrificially to their children because of homeschooling, I believe this path is much easier than one teacher trying to give sacrificially to her 30+ “surrogate” children in the classroom. So, please, write a sequel to this article about homeschooling. I would love to have the honor of writing the article as a guest author, if you are so inclined.

Whatever the outcome may be, I do appreciate your time in reading this letter. I fully believe that our children in this wonderful nation deserve the best. So, let’s support those parents who are willing to come alongside their children and devote every ounce of time, energy, and care into raising and educating their own.


Jeanne Cerrone