Saturday, February 02, 2008

Good news! (I think)...

I have been vaguely familiar with on-line colleges - the most successful of which, the University of Phoenix, has seen explosive growth and controversy. But a small but growing number of on-line education systems are arising for younger children.
Half a million American children take classes online, with a significant group, like the Weldies, getting all their schooling from virtual public schools. The rapid growth of these schools has provoked debates in courtrooms and legislatures over money, as the schools compete with local districts for millions in public dollars, and over issues like whether online learning is appropriate for young children. [More]

Let's ponder what this could mean. On the plus side:
  • It would appear to mesh with the home-schooling trend. Maybe the two forces could meet halfway.
  • Rural areas would benefit wider curriculum choices.
  • Could be much cheaper
  • Schools could be becoming one of the more dangerous places children can be, despite vigorous efforts by educators. (I can't find any comparative risk stats right now)
And on the downside:
  • Very bad news for the teaching profession
  • I can't picture it in poorer homes or families who depend on school as day-care.
  • Might leave schools as the last choice or last resort skewing the school population to disadvantaged children
  • Loss of social learning and adaptation
  • Impersonal
This educational possibility puzzles me. The geek in me likes the idea, but I have always been leery of home-schooling, since it denies one of the last social cauldrons in our increasingly segmented culture. (That's also one reason I favor reinstating the military draft.)

Whaddaya think, folks? What points am I missing?


Les Riley said...

Whaddaya think, folks? What points am I missing?


Would you like it alphabetically or in order of severity ? :-)

Would you consider allowing me to e-mail you a thorough explanation of why this is GREAT NEWS and you could then consider it for publication ?

e-mail me privately if you'd be willing to read it.

John Phipps said...


Feel free to e-mail me the info, but please post the highlights here in the comments for everyone to read.

Perhaps others have perspectives to add to your reasoning.

Anonymous said...

It is great to have web based learning tools available for all of us. See MIT's 1,800 free courses here:

Regarding your concerns, two points.

1. We need a wide ranging menu of tools and methods (home school included) so that we don't press everyone into the same mold and also because no two kids are alike.

2. You refer to public school as the last social cauldron. Indeed, if you visit some (not all!) of our schools today they are a veritable witches brew of destructive influences. So, home schooling with web based resources can be a valuable alternative. Some of the most confident and thoughtful students I have met and conversed with are home schooled. Their socialization has happened in a mostly adult context, whereas some of their peers in public school have all the social skills displayed in Lord of the Flies.

Anonymous said...

I will try to get on this tomorrow. (Tue. Feb. 5).

Going to get blood work done for an adoption. This will be our first adopted child, and our tenth over all. ( and all nine of the ones we have now have been homeschooled).

BTW: I think I may have mentioned it before, John, but yours is one of my favorite blogs. I read it daily, quote it often, and agree with it occassionally ;-)

You always have information that is not found elsewhere, a fresh perspective & make folks think through their presuppostions.

Anonymous said...

Colleges and universities have begun to court homeschooled students because research shows that these kids score higher on standardized tests and are academically better prepared,on average, than their public-schooled counterparts. This is no surprise, since learning in the home environment is tailored to the specific child, while government schools of necessity take the one-size-fits-all approach. For a summary of this research, go to

Sudies of homeschool socialization are equally positive. In July 2000, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, published an extensive report on homeschooling. It describes several controlled studies comparing the social skills of homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers. The conclusion: "There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children."

You can read the full report at, or Google "homeschool socialization" for much more on the subject.

Homeschooling is not for everyone, but giving parents liberty to educate their own children is working well for society and for the families that choose it. Additional online curriculum and instruction choices are simply tools that may further equip those families.

John Phipps said...

Thanks for the comments, all:

This is one of the developments in our culture that seems to work OK or even well in the vast majority of cases, but can be a huge problem in truly rural areas like mine.

Jan (former school board president) and I have discussed how our tiny district could adapt.

And there is another bizarre ramification: where would all those farm families who depend on teacher Mom's health insurance get coverage.

Our estimate is a significant number of home schoolers could finish off our tiny school system and send children 20 miles to a merely small school.

And maybe that's a benefit - it's a tough call.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is a few days old, but I still feel the need to comment--

1. Kids with motivated, involved parents tend to do well whether they are home schooled or sent to public school.

2. These kids might not need public school, but the other kids (with less than wonderful parents/home life) need these kids as peers and examples. For instance, my Christian, carnivorous 9th grader is making good progress converting one of her atheist , vegan friends. If nothing else the atheist will know there are other mindsets out there.

No, I'm not particularly worried that my kid will go the other way--I do plenty of "home schooling" when she gets home. You can't be "salt and light" to the world if you isolate yourself from the world.

OK, here's third point:
3. If I were directing my kid's education, I would be way to biased toward things I know--If she were directing it she would be biased toward things she likes. There is a lot more valuable stuff to learn out there (I hope).

John Phipps said...


It's never too late - remember all recent comments show up in the recent comments sidebar so others will see them even if the post is way down.

I'm not sure where this is headed, but you points are well-taken. I also doubt my own judgment since as a kid, I loved school for the very reasons you mention. Others have less pleasant memories.

Thanks for your articulate contribution.