REVIEW OF “IT DEPENDS ON YOUR AIM” BY RAYMOND MOORE
Moore gives a succinct summary of what historians and educational researchers have to say about how soon children should enter formal schools. His conclusion is that he finds no “replicable research suggesting that normal children should be schooled before age 8” (p.63). Moore’s conclusion comes as no surprise to those familiar with him and evidence related to home centered learning.
Literacy, he says, peaked before the twentieth century. During that time children did not attend the small common schools until they were eight to twelve years old. And they only attended for a few weeks a year. “The remainder of their education took place at home” (p.63). He goes on to list various early childhood experts who explain that home is the best setting for a superb education. Even the Perry Preschool Project, the main study supporting early formal education, “has for years focused more attention on the home (through weekly home visits) than has the typical early childhood education program~~ (p.63).
Moore explains that genius derives from situations in which children spend much time with adults who love them. In addtion to this, children who spend more time with peers than with their parents become peer-dependent. Relying on age-mates for their values, “the lose their sense of self-worth, their optimism, their respect for parents, and even their trust in peers” (p.64).
He sums it up by challenging the educational profession to support parents who respond to the call for parental involvement. Who could be more involved, he says, than those who home school? Allow children to stay at home a little longer. After all, history “warns that state control of the family – the real issue here – presages collapse of the society…” (p.64).
For those who perceive home schooling as a reasonable form of education in America, such articles in the professional journals are a source of encouragement. Moore is challenging the profession, and the public, to back up their demands (e.g. earlier school entrance age) with research and common sense. We need such challenge.
One exceptionally strong point in his comments relates to the Perry Preschool Project. Indeed, this study has been used to imply that all children should enter formal schooling at earlier and earlier ages. As Moore explains, the project emphasized home visits. Furthermore, one should keep in mind that the advantages of early education found in the Perry Project only clearly apply to four-year-olds from disadvantaged (or poor) families (p.45,46 In Committee for Economic Development. 1985. Investing in our children. NY:NY, Committee for Economic Development, 107p.).
One of the weaker points of the article is his reference to home schooled children’s high scores on standardized tests. An investigation of his sources of information reveals no research data that stand up to rigorous standards. The references that Moore cites refer back to him and to the Hewitt Research Foundation.
Moore brings to the forefront the question of whether non-family institutions are the best learning environment for our youngest children. The Phi Delta Kappan has shown leadership by providing an audience for such thoughts.
PARENT AS TUTOR EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM IN WASHINGTON STATE
The State of Washington has done a study which is of great interest to those involved in home centered learning (HCL). Its results are perhaps calming the concerns of those who were rambunctiously challenging the validity of HCL in that state. During the Fall of 1985, the State of Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) made available a report entitled, “Washington State’s Experimental Programs Using the Parent as Tutor Under the Supervision of a Washington State Certified Teacher 1984-1985.” The information in this article comes from that report.
In 1983, the Washington State Board of Education approved two private experimental programs, under the supervision of certificated tutors, using the parent as tutor. The two programs were the Family Centered Learning Alternatives (FCLA) and the Center for Christian School Services (CCSS). Both programs had to meet certain State Board requirements. Included in these requirements, the certificated teacher would (Appendix A):
supervise parents and monitor students (up to 20), provide training and/or guidance to parents, assess student ability, administer standardized tests, and evaluate student progress,
assure that records required by the SPI were maintained, and assume that student participation in weekly socialization and PE activities were carried out.
Among other things, the parent would:
tutor his or her own children only, attend training sessions, meet regularly with supervising teacher (at least every three weeks),
guide student’s daily work, keep daily records of time on task, and
meet with the student 180 days for sufficient hours to meet state requirements.
The programs included families in a number of communities and cities across the state. They reported a combined enrollment of over 500 students in grades K-8. There were a number of reasons that not all 500 could be counted in the testing data, however. “A core group of one hundred students were identified as having been in the experimental program from the pre-testing through the Spring of 1985. This core of students were post-tested in April of 1985” (p.1). Stanford Achievement Tests were used.
Testing was done in three subject areas: reading, language/English, and math/mathematics. The median reading “scores were above average and in the majority of cases were well above [the national] average” (p.40). “The median reading scores for grades two (FCLA), three (CCSS, FCLA), and five (FCLA) fell at or below the national average” (p.40). The median scores in language/English for most grades “fell between the second and third quartiles (above average)” while the “median language scores for grades three (CCSS), and five and six (CCSS and FCLA) fell below the national median” (p.41). In math, “The median score for grades two, four, six and seven for both sites [CCSS and FCLA] fell at or above the national average” while the “math scores for grades one (CCSS), three (CCSS and FCLA), five (CCSS and FCLA) and eight (FCLA) fell below the national average” (p.42). In summary, “…the majority of the scores were average, or above average, in Reading, Language and Math” (p.1).
The report emphasizes that “fewer than 100 students in each sample (grade level) lowers the reliability of the data” (p.39). Most of the grade samples contained fewer than 16.
SPI personnel made visits to five administrative centers in Western Washington. Also, staff attended center meetings and small group learning situations conducted by the certificated teacher and reviewed student folders. “The review of student work indicated that within centers as well as between centers students were progressing through curriculum which ranged from very experimental.., to highly structured… the informal review indicated that regardless of the method used, all students were performing activities in the broad curriculum areas required by the state” (p.38).
Surveys were done and gained the following demographic data (p.2):
over 60% of parents identified as the primary tutor were between the ages of thirty-one and forty. 88% were female. 74% were Caucasian. Over 55% of the families had incomes between $15,000 and $35,000 and approximately 70% identified the primary wage earner as blue collar, professional, or self-employed. 40% of the parent-tutors had some college experience, 16% held BA degrees and 4% held graduate degrees. 89% of the families had three or fewer children. 27% lived in populations less than 5,000. 31% lived in populations between 10,000 and 50,000.
The CCSS and FCLA ceased to operate as experimental programs at the end of the 1984-1985 school year. In July 1985 home-based instruction became a legal option for parents in Washington State. Debate, the SPI points out, continues to surround issues concerning an alternative to attendance in a formal school setting. The executive summary concludes by saying, “Although application of the results of the study to other populations are not possible, the experimental programs did provide a model of co-operation between state and local organizations upon which future endeavors can be built” (p.2).
The study appears to have been executed in a professional manner. It also seems to give fair treatment to home education as an alternative form of education in the state of Washington. This editor has one question/ criticism, however. On page 38 the SPI explains that an attempt was made to collect comparative achievement test data from students in a public school district and an approved private school. He goes on that “difficulty in controlling variables made comparisons between groups impossible” (p.38). I would like to see further explanation of this “impossibility.” For comparative purposes, it would seem that the SPI could have at least given Washington State’s overall achievement scores compared to national scores. It would be interesting to contact the SPI for this information.
For more information about this study, contact:
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, WA 98504
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