I just finished reading the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It’s the story of a Hmong girl with epilepsy. In Hmong culture, epilepsy is a gift to the soul. So the parents wouldn’t give her medicine. The book is about the cultural struggle between the parents and the American medical community. The thing that got me was that it won lots of national literary awards, but also, it’s required reading at many medical schools. I thought I’d learn a lot. And I did. Read more

The first news I saw of the Chicago teacher’s strike was a headline on the Chicago Tribune that said, “I’m going to lose my job.”  It was not a quote from a teacher. It was a quote from a parent, who was worried about the time she was taking off from work because she had nowhere to send her kid. Read more

There’s a great video by Elizabeth Aquino that shows parents of special needs kids giving advice to themselves the day they got the diagnosis. The parents hold up a piece of paper with the advice written on it.

The video made me cry. I want to tell you to watch the video, but I’m not sure if it made me cry only because I’m the mom of a special needs kid. Anyway, here’s the video.

Read more

In grade school, I lived just past the limit for the school bus, so legally, and probably ethically, it was too far for a grade-schooler to walk. But I always walked.

In middle school I missed the bus most mornings. My parents weren’t around to drive me. It was far. I was very late very often. And I remember spending my days planning how to get home without taking the bus.

My memories of day camp are the bus. I would prepare to cope with it for an hour to camp. Then spend all day in camp recuperating and getting ready to deal with the bus ride home. Read more

It’s election day here in Wisconsin. We are voting to recall the governor. Or not.

I have never voted for a Republican in my whole life. Governor Walker is tied closely to the NRA, he is anti-abortion, he is generally against everything I stand for. But you know what? I hope he wins.

Because I think today’s election is a referendum on school unions, and I think the unions stink. I think they hold back school reform, they give antiquated protections to school employees that do not deserve any special treatment when most workers are not protected. And there cannot be drastic school reform until there can be drastic hiring and firing. That’s how corporate America makes significant changes—by hiring and firing. So we need to do that in schools as well.

Read more

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwIyy1Fi-4Q]

I just listened to a speech by Astra Taylor, who was homeschooled as a child. It’s significant that we are finally hearing from kids who were homeschooled about what it was like. I like that Taylor is honest enough to admit that each of the kids in her family asked to go to school for a year or two in order to see what they were missing.  I like that she sees this as a part of homeschooling—the idea that curiosity is most important, even when it is school that kids are curious about.

The biggest thing I took away from her speech is that school undermines the natural preparedness each kid has for the workforce, so by the end of eighteen years of schooling, a kid’s natural, salable talents are demolished. Here are three points she makes: Read more

I have received about ten emails from people who are outraged that the Obama administration is proposing that kids be banned from doing farm work.

People who grew up on farms are posting comments all over the Internet about their farm nostalgia. And I get it. I understand that kids run wild on a farm in a way that city kids could never dream of. But the flip side to that is that kids die too often on farms. From machinery.

A nine-year-old boy in my town just got crushed under an ATV that he was driving himself. And, three days later, a neighbor asked if his four-year-old could drive his ATV on our land so he could go faster.

“The four-year-old???”

“Yeah. He has great body control.”

Seriously. This is the mentality we’re dealing with in rural America where kids are doing farm chores. Read more

My son had a friend sleep over the other night. He would be in first-grade, like my six-year-old, who, really, I should have held back a year because all the rich little boys in New York City are being held back a year, and I want my son to be able to compete with them. But water under the bridge, right? Because we are not doing school. And I can just send him to college a year later or something.

So anyway, this boy would be in first-grade, same as my son, and I confess that I grilled the kid about what is going on in school.  I wanted to know what math he was learning. Is he typing? Does he read books with no pictures? Is there fun gym equipment? I start prying: Read more

The Washington Post announced that Sarah Wysocki has been fired. She got great reviews for her classroom performance. Kids liked her, her principal liked her. But the test scores of her students were not good enough.

There is wide agreement that teaching to the test is a vapid way to educate kids. There is wide agreement that young kids should be on the playground way more than they are right now. It’s just that we can’t think of another way to manage education on such a huge scale as the US public school system requires.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put enough money toward solving this problem that we have enough data to know we have nothing that even approximates a solution. Read more

Most people I know are not homeschoolers. Most of them tell me they understand the benefits of homeschooling, but they are scared to do it. They tell me they feel more comfortable being active in their kids’ school to make sure their kid gets a good education.

But I want to tell all those people that being active in your kids school hurts your kids. Here’s why:

1. You have no tools and no information.
After a huge, protracted battle, courts required school districts to give parents access to the record of teacher performances. Now that we have had ten years of No Child Left Behind, we have ten years of data about which teachers can teach to a test.

Read more