Friday, April 08, 2005

Maybe it's working

In a story datelined Myrtle Creek, Oregon, the Associated Press reports that public school districts are trying to woo homeschooled familes back into the schools.

Here are the highlights:
In Myrtle Point, the district is trying to phase in some courses that could prove particularly appealing to home-school parents, such as forestry, ecology and computer science.

Superintendent Robert Smith said the school system is also willing to adjust the curriculum -- for example, by allowing discussion of creationism in biology class, or biblical literature in English courses.

"We're not setting up a church steeple. But students want academic freedom enough to encourage different things, and that should not be stifled by relying on exclusive treatments," Smith said.

Myrtle Point, with an enrollment of 779, is not the only district pursuing such a strategy.

In Walla Walla, Wash., school officials have launched plans for a new learning center that they hope will attract at least 30 home-school students, to help cope with a projected $200,000 in budget cuts next school year.

A school district in Fort Collins, Colo., started a program aimed at drawing home-schooled youngsters into the system with two days a week of art, science and music. In 2003, it earned the district an extra $203,341 in state funding.

Of course it's not enough for some familes, because the lack of enhanced subjects wasn't why they left in the first place, and there will be others like the Myrtle Creek school board member who accused homeschooling parents of "cherry-picking" music and sports.


If school boards are asking, "Why did they leave?" they might learn something useful. If they're asking, "How can we help give families the education they want for their children?" they might find ways for everybody to gain. And the ones who seek to cooperate with families instead of trying to make them fit into some kind of mold will see the flowering of a lot of different kinds of educational experiments.

My own favorite of the "experiments" is Portland's Agia Sophia Academy, an Orthodox Christian classical school. I wish it had been around when my kids were young enough for it.

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