This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, September 1, 1999

September 1, 1999 - Home Schooling Revisted

My daughter, Maddy, is just about to turn 12 years old. We taught her at home through first grade. From second through fifth grades, she attended a charter school based on E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge Curriculum. But at the end of last school year, she asked if she could be home schooled again.

Naturally enough, we asked her why. Her reply was illuminating. "Learning," she said, "isn't fun anymore."

I have strong feelings about all this, and don't want people to misunderstand me. I think it is absolutely essential to have a strong public education system. I also support the charter school movement. Any institution has its failings, and sometimes they're not failings at all. Sometimes, a child just needs another choice.

Home schooling, for our family, is a choice based on two simple facts. First, for us, home schooling IS fun. My wife is a librarian too. When anyone in our family shows the slightest interest in a subject, he or she is bombarded by books, videos, audiotapes, magazine articles, and web page printouts. My wife is also a wanderer and an explorer. Give her a topic -- butterflies, for instance -- and she's planning multiple trips to Westminster's Butterfly Pavilion, and the Denver Natural History Museum.

I submit that most kids, with a mother like that, do indeed find education marvelously entertaining, engaging, and challenging.

But there's another factor. Most people now know that home school kids tend to outperform their public school peers by several grade levels. That's not surprising: one teacher to one student is an ideal ratio, and it's a luxury we clearly can't afford in public schools.

But people tend to forget one of the more troubling aspects of public education: segregation. For all that Maddy, these past few years, had good teachers and a demanding curriculum, she spent most of her day cooped up in a building with people who were mostly her own age. Home schooling got her out more, got her interacting with a more diverse range of ages and backgrounds. She liked that.

So we've decided to give it another whirl. And in addition to the usual stuff (still mostly following the outline of the Core Knowledge Curriculum), not to mention Maddy's violin lessons, I've come up with four assignments for Maddy.

The first one is to volunteer some time with the Castle Rock Players community theater group. She's interested in just about everything to do with theater: set design, costuming, script-writing, and acting. This will give her the opportunity to get some real-life experience, and meet some fascinating people. If that means some weird hours, that's OK.

The second is to figure out what to do with our back yard. We have inherited all kinds of plants back there. Some of them require special care that, frankly, I have not bestowed on them. We have huge areas that cry out for something that is appropriate to Colorado (as opposed to sparse bluegrass and dandelions).

Maddy needs to learn about Colorado flora, and probably spend some time with the good folks at CSU Extension. Then she needs to spend some time putting what she's learned into practice. Again, here's a wonderful "hands-on" experience.

The third is to put together a chart describing the history of the Christian religion, and in particular, how the various sects and denominations in America are connected historically.

The fourth is to write a paper about the evidence for evolution. As part of this, Maddy has to spell out what the "Scientific Method" is. Does "theory" just mean "somebody's opinion?"

Hint: no. But the average lay person -- or Kansas State Board member -- certainly seems to think so. In my opinion, even a 12 year old should know better.

Ironic, though, isn't it? It soon may be that the only way you can study both religion and evolution is if you DON'T go to school.

To accomplish all the above, Maddy will also be spending more time at the library. I am confident that she will quickly discover that once you start reading about anything at all, sooner or later, it connects to everything else.

As I've written before, education isn't something that's done to you; it's something you do for yourself. Maddy is going to have a swell time -- and I'm going to have a swell time watching her.

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