I was amazed to read the words "The government will eliminate the institutional bias against home schooling" in the April 26, 2001 press release from the Harris government. I think that is a very bold and positive statement. It's really something to celebrate!
This forward thinking goal is included in The Harris Government 21-Step Action plan designed, according to the press release, to "move Ontario into the 21st century." As it should be, homeschooling is listed in Step 10 of the plan which addresses Flexibility and Choice in Education.
As far as I know, this is the very first time in Ontario history that homeschooling has been publicly recognized by the government in such a manner.
Although being educated at home is already in the Education Act of Ontario, I can't think of another time any government in this province has publicly identified the bias against it (and toward institutionalized education). Further than that, this government has committed to seeing that bias eliminated. Hurray!!
I know that in the coming few years, there will be a great deal of work necessary to continue to help the public realize that homeschooling can make an enormously positive contribution in the life of a student. As homeschoolers, we need to continue to think about how to help professional educational administrators appreciate the possible benefits of family and community based education.
I'm looking forward to the day when "homeschooling liaisons" in public institutions are so sold on homeschooling that they are recommending it among any of their other alternatives. This in my opinion, will distinguish them as truly being "homeschooling liaisons" rather than glorified truant officers using the title cavalierly as we have now. I'm wondering what it will take for this to happen. I believe that there are many ways it can be accomplished.
The action plan also goes on to say that the Ministry of Education will facilitate the access families who homeschool will have to "standard tests and other learning tools."
In thinking about standard tests, I was reminded of an excellent article by Ann Lahrson-Fisher, the author of Foundations of Homeschooling: Elements of Success in Family Based Education. It highlights concerns I share about testing in general. Ann's points eloquently capture some of the reasons why many families, including ours, chose homeschooling to begin with.
Homeschoolers eagerly make ready use of resources that empower students as learners. In her article, Ann notes that she does in fact make use of these tests as learning tools but she also warns of some of the unintended side effects they can produce.
Any plans to make standardized testing available to homeschoolers in Ontario must address how to avoid such "side effects." Only then would I feel satisfied that use of these specific tools were sound choices for my children.
Side Effect Lessons
- Someone else knows what you should know better than you do.
- Learning is an absolute that can be measured.
- Your interests are not important.
- The subject areas being evaluated on the test are the only things that are important to know.
- Thinking is not valued; getting the 'right' answer is the only goal.
- The answer (to any question) is readily available, indisputable, and it's one of these four or five answers here; there's no need to look deeper or dwell on the question.
- Your worth can be summarized by a single mark on a paper.
- The purpose of learning is to get a high score. High test scores are the only purpose of testing.
- If you score very well, you are better than other people who do not score as well.
- Poor test scores mean that you are a failure. If you score poorly, there is nothing you can do to change it. Why try?
- I haven't learned to read yet. I am not smart.
- Since we are tested once a year so we can homeschool, we have to spend the rest of the year preparing for the test.
- The test was too hard. I am not smart.
- The test was easy. I don't have to learn any more.
- The test was easy [hard]. Public [home] [private] school kids are dumber [smarter] than I am.
- The questions on the test are what is important. What I have been studying is not important.
- I have to get a higher score next year to show that I am learning.