DEAR ABBY: I had to write you after reading the column on the merits of home-schooling. I am a fourth-grade teacher who has taught for many years.
Abby, I cringe every time I hear the words "home-schooling." I am sure that the students who wrote you were sincere; and yes, there are some advantages to being home-taught.
However, my experience has taught me that without exception, children who come into my class after being home-taught have large gaps in their education. They tend to read well and write using proper grammar and spelling, but their writing is stilted and disorganized. Social sciences are lacking and science is a foreign word. Furthermore, they can't problem-solve in cooperative groups, which is an essential skill in the job market of today.
Today's education involves more than just the basics. Students need to understand concepts, and that problems can be approached in more than one way and can have more than one solution.
Teaching is a full-time job, and I have never met a parent who can give his/her children the quality of education I can offer. -- BETTY MONTGOMERY, DIAMOND BAR, CALIF.
DEAR BETTY: Thank you for writing. I heard from many enthusiastic home-schooled students; however, it is important to hear the views of professional educators. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Parents who teach their children at home should think carefully about what they're trying to accomplish and examine the teaching materials. The content and quality of teaching materials are rarely mentioned in judging home-schooling but are extremely important. Books used at home are usually well-written and illustrated, but those published by the fundamentalist movement may be slanted to their beliefs, and parents should examine them carefully to make sure the material is compatible with their own beliefs.
For example, one social studies book makes negative comments about Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Greek Orthodoxy and Islam.
A book on science claims that God created the universe from nothing in six days; that evolution is an imagined process in which things form by themselves without a creator and somehow keep improving; that problems on the Earth are due to God's cursing it; and that the age of the Earth and fossils is merely guesswork.
A book on history and geography claims that Indians declined after Adam's fall, remembered the Flood, worshiped spirits and lived in fear of nature; it minimizes Puritan intolerance and omits their witch-hunts. Some books on American literature contain sermons as examples. These books provide few discussion questions to develop critical thinking.
Some home-schooling has a narrow agenda that deprives students of a well-rounded education. -- HUGO BORRESEN, RETIRED TEACHER, GAINESVILLE, FLA.
DEAR MR. BORRESEN: I agree with you that, if possible, the parents should be familiar with what their children are learning. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: It's amazing that so many readers give home-schooling high marks. I never would have attempted it. In high school I had four years of English, French and history; two years of Latin, chemistry and physics; and one year of algebra, plane and solid geometry and trigonometry. Not many parents are qualified to teach these subjects more than 20 years later.
When our son was enrolled in advanced biology, his teacher held up the textbook and said, "More than half the contents of this book are new since your parents attended high school."
A high level of literacy is commendable, as is an early foundation in the humanities, but I doubt that would have been sufficient for our two children to gain admission to, let alone graduate with honors from, two Ivy League colleges. -- DALLAS DAD