Ask The Principal

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A typical scenario

A victim of a bully generally puts up with a lot before he/she either seeks help or blows up. The "narc" syndrome, or in Columbine terms, the "conspiracy of silence" is really a formidable opponent to the safe school environment. The bully often will spend days, weeks, months giving small, subtle, sneaky little harassments. Each little incident on its own is hardly worth reporting, but they build up and build up. Sometimes a victim "loses it" and goes off on the bully. Since no harassment was ever reported the bully appears to be the "victim".

After several hours of investigation and questioning of students (many, if not most, intentionally lie because of this "narc syndrome") most of what has been happening emerges. The kid who "blew up" is at an emotional peak, may have really hurt the bully, or may have given the bully the "open door" to pummel the victim. Both get suspended from school and the original victim gets a double whammy, while the bully gets a vacation.

There are interventions and strategies to deal with these situations, but the point is not that there are terrific interventions, the point is that the hostile condition exists in the first place. Again, even the safest schools are only "safe" in relative terms. This relativity is not based on the safety afforded to our children in our homeschool homes, but rather in comparison to some ambiguous idea of an urban school with metal detectors and drug deals on the playgrounds.

Of course there is little challenge to most schools to provide a safer environment than say some inner city schools, but that "safe" isn't even close to the "safe" I want for my children

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let's talk about bullies...

Everyone in public school has at least one bully story. The bully stories start at the preschool level. They continue and peak around the middle school level, then go down some during the high school years. Many incidents continue into college and even into the workplace. I remember in a training on bullying that there was also an increase in bullying in the adult workplace. Seems like we train people well in the public school system on how to be a bully to the point that it affects our work culture as a nation.

The official term is "peer harassment", but everyone knows about "the bullying". One common misconception about bullying is that the bully has a low self esteem so he/she has to harass another student until the other student demonstrates a lack of power, hence the bully sees someone more miserable than he/she is and feels better.

This is actually far from the truth. The bully is actually a sadistic sort of character that derives personal pleasure and satisfaction in seeing the emotional pain and/or trauma demonstrated in the victim. An ex-bully in a video training I watched stated that he would be relentless on a victim until he saw the victim cry. That was his goal, to incessantly torment his chosen victim until the victim was reduced to tears.

How's that for socialization? Yes folks, let's put our kids into public schools to "toughen them up" against such harassments. Let's allow them to be emotionally traumatized, put down, harassed, poked, made fun of, pushed around, laughed at, ridiculed, victims of rumors, robbed of dignity, commented on their private parts in restrooms/locker rooms and told of their doomed future sexually because of described inadequacies, etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Or let's put our kids into a system where if they are not the victim, they at least get to see this happening everyday 180 days a year.

So often when I was investigating a case of bullying many of the "Christian" kids that I was counting on for a truthful account of the bully's actions were reticent to tell me what happened in complete detail. They weren't dishonest, but they were fearful of retaliation. So were their parents when I called on them for assistance. Their parents wanted to limit the inclusion of their son/daughter because they knew I could not fully protect him/her from retaliation.

Often too, we think of the individual bully, but bullies also run in packs, both boys and girls, looking for whom they may devour. I don't use that phraseology lightly either. It is exactly what they do. Staff and school interventions work to a certain extent, but the bully mentality is rather sophisticated and highly adept at avoiding accountability. They are aided by the almost immeasurable power of student witnesses wanting to avoid being called a "narc" as well.

Kinda makes you mad, doesn't it?

Hence programs like I mentioned in the previous post. Powerful and effective interventions like this are necessary because the public school without these programs is a very unsafe place to be. But even the most effective programs only touch the surface of the public school experience for our children.

There is still no doubt in my mind that the home school experience is still the best/safest experience.

Monday, June 19, 2006

What about public school safety?

Check this out from "Safe School Ambassadors", one of the more effective programs used in public schools for school safety. This is from their site:

Every Day in America

160,000 students stay at home from school because they are afraid of how they might be treated by their peers. Every day thousands or millions more come to school with a knot in their guts unable to concentrate, learn, or perform at their best because they are afraid they will be insulted, harassed, assaulted, or worse. Every day....

If you care to follow up and read more of this group you will find that they do a lot of really good things. In fact, from my perspective as a principal this is an outstanding organization. It has benefited our school. The thing I have found is this; the more effective the organization the more it mimics what should go on in the home, and does go on in the home of the effective home school. The mentoring, accountability, dealing with character issues, exercising "tough love", etc. are all things the parent does at home.

We find that great organizations like this come up to serve the public schools and they have a positive impact on the school culture. Sometimes the impact is tremendous. With great successes it is easy then to criticize the homeschool environment and say "look how safe we made the school! You can send your kids here to be socialized now!"

I go back to my earlier premise that "there's no place like home". Wait, haven't I heard that before somewhere?

The point is, there will never be the safety at a public school that will be found in the home. The critic immediately goes to the worst case of abuse he/she can imagine or remember. I've seen and reported all kinds of abuse, but those are still the anomalies in real life, and in my experience, not one from a home school. Not that they don't exist, it only happens less often than say, lightning striking twice in the same spot. (It does, but ever so rarely in comparison)

So I will start a series of posts on school safety. I will go to various sites that promote school safety and we will start seeing similarities and especially obvious will be the areas where the best solution is the home solution. Everything else is just...not adequate.

If you have a personal anecdote to share about a public school experience feel free. It may just help the reader make a good decision!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I WON!!!!!!

Amy at Amy's Humble Musings had a father's day prize for commenters and I WON! I never win anything and I won! Hmmm....should I buy a lotto ticket to support public education now that my luck is running so good? Naw...

Thanks Amy, your site is a blessing to my wife and has added nothing but smiles to our home. In fact she was delighted this morning (she was checking your blog while so patiently letting me sleep in a little :-) to show me I won your drawing.

To all the dads out there...Happy Fathers Day! Check out this congressional resolution for this 109th congress. Not a bad resolution this time around.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Am I a hypocrite?

The question from an anonymous commenter asks: "Why is it okay to take money from public education to support your family but public education is not good enough for your children? Seems hypocritical to me," There are a few other items in that comment I will address here as well.

Back to the first question, am I a hypocrite? Well, only if I wasn't paying taxes. I contribute to the public education system under duress, like everyone else who has paid taxes. Ask yourself this: "Is the doctor working at the HMO that takes millions in Medicare a hypocrite if he takes his family elsewhere for medical services that are much better?"

The premise is that the state offers a "Free and Appropriate Public Education" (FAPE). The state mandates that teachers be certified in the content area of instruction delivered. Because the state has made laws dictating how the public education system works, as long as I abide by those laws I am free and clear to raise my family as I deem appropriate guaranteed by the freedoms we enjoy in this country. It is not a moral issue of public monies coming my way. I am providing a service to the state and am being remunerated appropriately by my service under conditions of my contract and state laws. No other conditions are stipulated or inferred.

Does a public defender become hypocritical if say, his juvenile delinquent son needs an attorney to defend him in court but chooses to defend him himself on his own time and nickel?

In essence the connection between public monies that pay me for my contracted services and a supposed obligation to support the system with my own children is fallacious. People sometimes get a little snotty about it (not referring to the anonymous commenter of course!) because public vs. home education is a hot topic.

As far as really good companies go, well, you will find a Chevy truck at the Chrysler dealer my brother works at, but he still makes them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But since he drives a Chevy and not a Ram truck, does his productivity go down? No, you should see his house!

But the fact that I am a homeschool dad does not automatically make me dis-engaged/unengaged, or weak, or a weak link. Some actually hope or expect that condition to exist, as if I have no control over my own work ethic. If I do everything as unto the Lord, as scripture mandates, it doesn't matter how I feel. As long as this is the furrow I am plowing for the Lord, I won't look to the right or the left, until I get to the end of that furrow. At that point if the Lord gives me another field to plow, so be it.

The same way a doctor making his living providing a contracted service at an HMO does not automatically become the weak link there.

Believe me, there are so many weak links that are avowed defenders of public education that it isn't even funny. It is, in fact, scary. Just go to an NEA national convention.

I know how to be a good teacher, and/or principal. I can even feel good about what I do because I know how to run an educational production system that turns out a good product. If I leave the system, it will be for other reasons.

As far as educational reform goes, consider this: if you have a chronically disengaged teacher that is tenured, it takes on the average of 3 years of hard documentation, observation, coaching, observable non-growth, more coaching, letters of reprimand, mentoring/peer coaching, meetings, more meetings, union interactions, attorney's, board meetings, etc., and the cost to the district of about $250,000-300,000 to let loose of one disengaged teacher.

If the administrator has to go through that process, the rest of the school is affected seriously. So many just help the disengaged teacher limp along until retirement....and that could be 5-10 years away with a student contact figure from 200 to 1500 students over that time.

Well, hopefully that will get you thinking. Happy to address anything you think I might have missed.

On another note:

I appreciated the comments on the textbook series. I hope my last post on that wasn't too anti-climatic. Some have more experience than others and that can be intimidating to those just starting out. My point was to be encouraging to those just starting as well as enlightening to everyone that public education sometimes is just as improvising as home schooling can be, only in directions not guaranteed or even approved by the state. The point is that the text is a tool. We work with the best tools we know as we are faithful to the time He has given us to raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, as God provides. It's simple really, just not that easy :-)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Textbooks, the teacher substitute

Before you think I'm wanting everyone to burn their textbooks I should make a point: I am not against textbooks. They are a helpful tool. They have also become a vehicle to determine what information is shared, or not shared. They have also become a tool to determine how information is shared. In fact, the textbook series in the public arena is so comprehensive that it almost makes training teachers obsolete.

Ok, not entirely, to be fair. It just makes it really easy to just copy the masters, pass out questions, speak out to the class what to discuss and what the answers should be solicited from the students (even though we have heard that there are no right or wrong answers sometimes....the teacher always has a direction the discussion will go in) and packaged tests that ask questions on what information was thought to be important enough to remember for the week.

Modern textbooks will have all sorts of resources to use. Even in homeschooling there are a lot of varieties of programs to choose from. We can become overwhelmed in trying to choose the best for our kids. So can the public educator. So what do we do?

We do what's best for our kids! The public educator does that too! Except with his/her values, worldview, opinions, biases, prejudices, sinful pre-dispositions, etc. Question is, who's values, worldview, opinions, biases, prejudices, and sinful pre-dispositions do you want influencing your child for 7 hours a day, plus afterschool homework club, etc.? Hmmmmmm. That just may make the textbook issue a little moot right now....something to think about...because just as some of you don't really use texts for all subjects, many public educators don't either. They supplement, add, subtract, modify....all according to what seems right to them.

Yes they are supposed to use approved resources and to varying degrees these resources are used. But don't think that just because a resource lines up with state adopted standards for a particular grade level, and that book is in the classroom, or in your child's backpack that that is exactly what your children are getting.

So we, as homeschool parents need to care about textbooks. But we need to care more about the spiritual state of our child, the heart attitudes that need correction that would flourish in the public school environment. It is a challenge, a really hard challenge sometimes, to find the right materials for our kids. Doggonit! Don't we want this to be easier? Yes, we want the perfect package for the perfect price. But we work hard and trust in the sovereignty of God that we are by His Grace providing the education our child needs.

The state, however, is really concerned about textbooks because that is the primary way those with influence can market their ideology the quickest. California still cannot adopt a social studies book because they can't decide how to treat certain 'religious' topics in the 6th grade text.

The next best way is influence in the universities and colleges putting out credentialed teachers and administrators. By the way, just because a teacher went to a Christian school doesn't mean that they were trained to teach in a Christian worldview. The Christian college or university was accredited by the state because it taught statist methodologies approved in that state's department of education.

Well, that wraps up my textbook series. I didn't want to get too technical...frankly because I didn't want to feel like I was in college again. But that brings up a point I alluded to earlier...that is with all the jargon and technical methods taught in universities to the teacher it is really easy for the teacher to discount homeschooling as "unprofessional" and second rate. All I can say to that, besides "humbug" is that as Christian homeschooling families we cherish what the world despises, that is, "the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God". (I Corinthians 1:18)

Finally, please stop by OneWayPurpose: Why Homeschool Part I and Part II to read an interview with me by David Boskovic. Some of the dialog in the comments would be very interesting to read. I (along with David's brother) made somebody a little cranky. We principals are wont to bring out the ugly sarcastic side in people from time to time :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A note of appreciation and acknowledgement

This morning I am awake, and that's about it. 2 commencements, a dance (I left for an hour and came back and I'm pretty sure it was the same song...something techno, rap, hippity, raucas sort of...something. It was all very...bumpy and grindy. The parents put it together, an almost sudo-school event. I was mainly there to keep the riff-raff out and keep the peace if someone wanted to be annoying.) I almost made it to the sober grad night as an extra helper/chaparone but it just wasn't going to happen.

I have enjoyed the comments and the direction that the links have taken me. I've learned some new things. Here's one that may not be so obvious... I don't know everything (he says tongue in cheek) and I really appreciate those of you sharing your experiences and resources.

Today is my oldest son's birthday. He is 8. We are going to go fishing and then hit our favorite coffee house for something nicely caffinated for me (I'd like two extra shots in that mocha please!) and something fruity for him. We will both have whipped cream on them! The day is his, and as it turns out, mine as well.

The different baits, lines, hooks, sinkers, methods, jokes and pokes. Who gets the biggest fish and will we have it for breakfast? Will we clean the fish in front of his sisters? "Eww gross....hey daddy, what's that? Why that's the heart sweety" ( can you tell I'm not in an urban area? :-)

I will do the homeschool dad thing, which is to say I'm doing the dad thing. The schooling continues and the only text for today is "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will be glad and rejoice in it"

Monday we'll hit curriculum blue prints and mapping and a few other technical things that really do take a lot of energy and brain power to understand, but really only lend themselves to the public educator as hurdles they have overcome but the parents haven't, so the public educator is better suited to......well, my son is up and I'm going to start his day being his first happy birthday greeter :-)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An indirect criteria for textbooks

When a publisher wants to sell a book it will send representatives to big conferences to make as many contacts with decision makers as possible. They will spend lots of money in a lot of different ways to garner favor. One of the best hors d'oeuvres banquets I attended was sponsored by Prentice Hall. All I had to do was go and have a good time. Major publishers have made attending these large conferences and sponsoring events a regular practice.

Teachers and /or administrators interested in textbooks may request a sample at a specific grade level or levels and will in no-time be sent some pretty amazing teacher sets of materials. These sets take on the appearance of a ready-made presentation catered to the school boards, curriculum committees, and civic groups and others interested in reviewing the materials. Categories such as "technology", "differentiated instruction" "supplemental materials" "English Language Development", "Audio/Visual", "Multi-disciplinary Instruction", and others are neatly presented in these presentation-ready sets. Some sets come in plastic bins, others in flashy cardboard displays, one was in it's own little wheeled caddy with telescoping handle so it could be easily carried from place to place. I can't even imagine the expense incurred by these publishers in marketing. When all is said and done the choice of publisher is made and the display components from the losing publishers are either scavenged or tossed. ( those little caddies could be handy for other things!)

The expenses laid out in marketing, gimmicks and gi '-me's is observably large. The waste afterward is really sad, but the publishers know the numbers. I would love to know though what a marketing analyst really thinks of the public education system after determining by the data what marketing strategies work best to sell the publisher's books to school districts.

Sales and profit margins. Arguably one of the chief criteria that influences. We know that the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (I Timothy 6:10). Corporate greed is alive and flourishing. Among other criteria to be mentioned in future posts, this is one that has an influence that may not be as overt as a political agenda or revisionist point of view, but is none-the-less a factor in what our society is feeding our children spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally (you should see the flashy graphics and attention-getting pages in some a great commercial shown on Saturday morning on the Nickelodeon channel. I wonder if the publishers hire some of the same marketing firms?)

Is it wrong to make a profit in selling textbooks? No. Can we trust that the best interest in our children will be looked after at the expense of profit? No. Are loving parents in charge of their own child's education willing to sacrifice much more than a multi-layered corporation? Probably. It seems to make sense but I won't categorically state yes, unless that parent is educating his/her child(ren) in the nurture and admonition of the Lord with an eternal view of the Kingdom of God, rather than a temporal view of the kingdom of this world.

But that is what all the criteria we look at is going to boil down to isn't it? The Kingdom of God verses the kingdom of the world? And furthermore, if one does not live in the Kingdom of God that same person will not be able to fully appraise the value of that which is born of the Spirit of God, and will view such things as foolishness (I Corinthians 2:14)

Where we see the love of money and the inability to value that which is born of the Spirit of God we should turn elsewhere when it comes to the well being of our children's education.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

One consideration missing in statist criteria for school texts

I really appreciated the thought behind the responses given. We could spend/have spent many hours developing our own criteria weighing it out according to Biblical wisdom for our family and sound counsel from others who have gone before us. In fact the process could be so daunting that it would be a discouraging experience.

Now place yourself in the corporate boardroom; powerpoints going, big easels with peel-off pages that stick to the walls around you with everyone's ideas, experts in the room that used to work for state and federal education departments that still have connections in both the departments and in the legislatures, cost analysis people, marketing people, university people, authors, education experts....etc. The brain power expended is really phenomenal. But what are their goals? Do we know them all?

Do their goals have anything to do with...

"Be diligent to present yourself approved unto God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15)

Do ours?

What if, in fact, this was our only goal? The goal to educate a child so that he would grow into an adult that could be spoken of as one who presented himself approved unto God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. Imagine a young adult leaving your home on his/her life path being one who could accurately hand the word of truth.

Hey John Lennon, that would be something worth imagining!

to be continued.....with some examples of statist criteria

Please feel free to continue posting your comments. I know that your wisdom gained and expressed would further help others going through the same thoughts/concerns.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Why are textbooks important?

As we begin the textbook post(s) we need to examine the importance (or lack thereof) of a textbook as we know it. The first step is to do some thoughtful reflection of what we have come to expect of such a book, or text. What do we want a text book to do for us as homeschool parents? Everything? Somethings/What things? The same questions would be asked in regard to what we want for our children. Post some of your responses or email them to me. Remember, there are no "stupid" answers :-). (I'm going to have to learn how to put a real emoticon here someday :-)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Textbook post is still in the making....

The textbook post is taking awhile. Since the article I referenced a few days ago mentioned a California textbook hearing I have been spending some time at the California Department of Education website (the link will take you to a search on textbook criteria) and examining official state criteria for textbook adoptions. It is really both interesting and boring at the same time.

I have also gotten a few spam comments so I have added the anti-spam measures.

I will have something to post on textbooks by this weekend. It will be more interesting and not as boring as reading all those criteria.