Ask The Principal

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A letter to the Honorable Ambassador of Germany to the United States

September, 24, 2006

To the Honorable Wolfgang Ischinger
German Embassy
4645 Reservoir Road NW
Washington, DC, 20007-1998
(202) 298-4000

Dear Sir:

About 20 years ago local American governments were reacting to home schooling families in a similar fashion that local German governments are acting now toward German home schooling families. Since then the local American governments have come to realize the great positive impact on society that home schooled children have had, as well as the superior education most receive over the public and even private school counterparts. Our most prestigious universities now seek out these home-educated students. Laws have been challenged and changed to allow this basic principle of liberty for parents to be able to freely educate their own children without state interference.

German governments also need to make home schooling legal. Over 40 families are being prosecuted in Germany merely for teaching their children at home. These families have been given huge fines, some parents have been jailed, some have been forced to flee to other countries, and they are all being threatened to take their children into state custody. This is deplorable and unacceptable for any free nation to persecute Christian families who are providing an excellent education for their children. We ask you to stop prosecuting these families like the Maisches, the Pletts, the Bauers, the Rudolphs, and the many others. We as Americans have learned this lesson. (Though in all honesty we still battle a desire by state bureaucrats to continue to encroach upon these freedoms.) I hope that Germany sees the need to make Home schooling legal as well.

My own children, descendants of German immigrants, are home schooled, and as a public school educator myself, I see the tremendous positive growth my own children enjoy far and beyond what the publicly educated children of my own community enjoy. We have exceptional schools here in my community as evidenced by state test scores and local community sentiment, and yet I would not have my children in that environment any more than I would have my children consume a diet of junk food and soda pop. They would be alive, but not healthy. Please allow German families to provide an educational diet for their children that would not leave the soul of their children malnourished and their minds under-educated, which is typical of any public educational system in any country compared to the home-education model.

Thank you for passing on my concerns to the officials who can rectify this situation.


Home School father
American Public School Educator
Concerned Global Citizen

This letter is in response to an HSLDA bulletin requesting homeschoolers to respond to this HSLDA E-lert here. This in response to a homeschooling family that had to flee the country while the mother was taken into custody and imprisoned, as well as other atrocities. See link here.

I couldn't help calling myself a "Concerned Global Citizen" . It sounded so.....United Nations or something. I guess that's what happens when you work in an environment that is so "sensitive" to other's predispositions. Please don't call the P.C. police. I'm not really that bad off. Just a little mischievous sometimes. :-)

I do encourage everyone to make contact with the German embassy this week. I think we all would like the German homeschoolers we would be supporting to support us in the same way should we be in similar circumstances. In fact, I'm sure they would feel compelled to do so given their current experiences to help anyone going through what they are enduring now. You can see how I used part of the HSLDA template in my letter and modified it. It's not that hard.

I know some may think that they are not clever or important enough to respond to an embassy of a foreign power, but think of it this way....if you were in the house of the German family invaded by police to cart off their children to the local sewer, I mean public school....Wouldn't you at least voice your outrage to these officials? Put yourself there, then write or call next week. Be diplomatic :-) Maybe just a little honery too. :-). Try not to mention Hitler, though it was his regime that made home education illegal in Germany in the first place in 1938.

Pray for these precious German homeschool families.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A teacher's work is never done....

The last time I was in the classroom as a teacher I was newly married and my bride was just finished working as a classroom aide for my mom who was a teacher at a Christian school. She was the bulletin board princess and she gave my classroom some real pizzazz. It's different now with 5 children and her homeschool responsibilities. I'm left to do more of that myself.

In a lot of ways I'm like a new teacher. All the experienced teachers have the routine down and work as a well oiled machine with the curriculum, hand-outs, routines, procedures. I've found myself putting in 60 hour weeks just to stay up. I'm buying bins and files and dividers at K-mart to get my system in place and running. It takes too long to go through the requisition, purchase order, plead with the principal for the money, and 1 month wait to get the supplies.

I have also seen the best an the worst of classrooms and I am determined to mimick the former and shun the latter. Sometimes perfectionism is really hard.

I have the oldest and worst classroom furniture because any good stuff was "traded" by some unknown teacher elsewhere in the building that, say, noticed the desk chair in my room was better so over the summer traded up and I got the old one, etc.

My computers all had hard-drive crashes and it took 2 weeks before I was online. I just got my grade program installed last Wednesday so I was going to enter 3 weeks worth of student data this weekend into the program. I could have installed it myself, but didn't have the necessary priviledges and had to wait for the availability of a district tech. Still, the time saved by doing things on the computer is worth the wait over the old gradebook method. The district server is up for maintenance this weekend though and no one is allowed to log on until 8am Monday morning.

I have my lists of English Language Learners, my Special Education students, my students with health issues (asthma..some can have their inhalers on their persons, others in the health office, and I have to know which is which).

I have IEP meetings (Individual Learning Plans) for students needing accommodations or modifications (there is a difference between an accommodation and a modification and I have to make sure I am accommodating instead of modifying, or vice versa).

I am also "learning" how to communicate with my EL (English Learner) students since our school population is growing with students south of the border. I am taking a class for experienced teachers who haven't gone through the latest training on how to "effectively" teach the EL students in a regular classroom. I have spent 6 days of training so far to learn a whole bunch of industry related vocabulary, to talk slowly and deliberately (but NOT more loudly) and with exaggerated body language to make the EL kids more at home. I joked with somebody at yesterday's (yes, Saturday) class that it's taken 6 days of training in the summer and on weekends to have us act like American tourists in a foreign land trying to communicate. Interestingly, the methods taught are what any good, intelligent teacher would already be using to help these kids transition into the English speaking American classroom. Nevertheless the state needs to know I have been trained in their latest methodology, and I need the state's notation on my license that says I have the training.

So I have all my meetings, my trainings, my conferences, back to school night, and a myriad of issues great and small for my 33 to 37 kids (depending on the period). I'm worn out.

What's funny (not funny "HA HA") is that my experience is being repeated thousands of times across the country as the school year starts. I at least have the experience to manage my classroom well and diffuse the "situations" between students well before they become serious issues. Many new teachers have already been thinking they have made a mistake being in the classroom. Statistically half of the new teachers that enter public education will have left the profession within 5 years.

All in all it has been a really good experience for me. Especially now that I am homeschooling my kids. It further strengthens my convictions about homeschooling. All of the methodologies that need to be employed to meet the needs of all the students (gifted, retarded, EL, other-health impaired, average, auditory, visual, kinesthetic, Attention deficit, multi-cultural, motivated, unmotivated, affluent, neglected, impoverished, loud, quiet, traumatized, victimized, loved, unloved, etc.) will inevitably leave some children behind. All methodologies need to be incorporated, but not all work for all kids, and rarely can more than one methodology be used at the same time. That means that for many kids, their learning styles are being addressed only a few minutes out of each hour.

I mentioned this multitude of necessary methodologies conundrum to my table group yesterday as we were discussing methods for assisting EL students. You cannot effectively reach all of the students all of the time. Not nearly as effectively as in the home school environment. They all agreed. They all were frustrated at the enormity of the task to reach such a diversity of students in the classroom. All felt as if they wished they could do more, but do not have the time or stamina to do it all.

The bottom line is, for me, for anyone, is this: can even the best trained and talented public school teacher provide a better education for children in a public classroom as what the loving family can provide for their own children at home? I maintain that the public school system will generally come short for the children in it. Even when there are good and talented teachers in it like me :-)

I wouldn't even have my own children in my classroom with me as the teacher because I know I would be divided in providing instruction different ways to so many students. My kids would come up short, as would everybody else's. No, my kids will be at home where their individual learning styles will be accommodated, and learning customized as only a mother or father could do, in order to train them in the best manner possible. A learning experience so rich, so wonderful, so focused, so intimate, that it makes even the best public education seem outright pathetic.

There is no way the public school teacher can surpass the educational opportunity provided in the loving and disciplined homeschool.

That's not just an opinion, it's a fact.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I'm back and there are a few changes around here.....

I am back after a month's hiatus. Not really a hiatus, but up to my eyeballs in new changes.
I should say dozens of changes, but most of the changes are attributed to my 2 youngest, several times a day, though the older is going through the tell-tale signs of pre-potty training.... like finding a secluded place to "do his business". He's doomed. We know he knows when! Now comes the fun transition from diaper to diaperless.

The first major change is that I've left the principalship for a season to work in the classroom. The time necessary to be a good principal and a good husband and father of 5 kids 8 years old and younger doesn't exist. At least not for me. Something was going to have to give, and it wasn't going to be my family. So my workdays are a little shorter, and certainly less intense, and it has been a real blessing to me and my family.

So do I change the name of the blog? I've thought a while about it and haven't decided. For now I'll just leave it, but mention my current status as an honest disclosure. I haven't forgotten my experiences. Maybe I'll be like the Colonel for KFC and just wear the title because I've been there and done that.

So do I decide to join my local, state and National Education Association? NO WAY!!!

I saw Stossel's follow-up piece on 20/20 Friday night and I really think that he went light on the unions. Yes, there are great teachers in the profession, but if you want to see bully-like behavior, go to an educator's association convention. The unions bring shame to the profession. I won't have anything to do with them anymore, except to expose the hypocrisy. I'll comment more on the 20/20 piece later.

The other change is in regard to my desire to change professions and get a good Bible/theological education and pursue the pastorate. I am accepted to Reformed (in Jackson MS) and Westminster (Philadelphia) Theological Seminaries. Hence my roadtrip this summer with my son to Mississippi. I hope to visit Philadelphia later this year. This was another factor in leaving the principalship. It is difficult to find a good leader mid-year, so I put in adequate notice and we have a good principal in place now. As a regular classroom teacher now, I am relatively easy to replace with a competent credentialed instructor.

It has been hard going back to the classroom though, (we just finished our first week of school) but it has been professionally enlightening. I encourage all administrators to pop into the classroom for a few weeks every now and then. It really is eye opening, especially if you haven't been at it full time for nearly a decade or more, like me.

Finally, I haven't paid too much attention to the blog for the last month so some comments went unnoticed until today. I replied to several of them so you might want to go back through the last series on bullies and have a look.