By Mary McGarr

Printed in the Katy Times  on August 20, 1997  [Updated on September 13, 2014]

After a year’s worth of pertinent articles, hard work by many local figures, and efforts statewide, one would hope that parents would be seeing the depth of the problems confronting their children with regard to the School-to-Work (STW) initiative.  I believe that such is the case, but I am also disappointed quite regularly when I do not see parents storming the doors of what used to be “public” schools.  Frustrating as it is, especially when the TEKS recently passed under the leadership of the Jack Christies and Mike Moseses of the world, I still have hope that common sense and wisdom will prevail.

In the meantime, I have some unsolicited advice for parents.  If I were in your shoes with young children once again, I would investigate and become part of the rather large home schooling movement in our area and the nation.  I would not let my children attend any “public” elementary school in Texas as they currently exist.  Homeschooling appears to be parents’ last means of providing an academic education for their children and keeping them from becoming ideologically confused.

When I was elected to the Katy ISD Board of Trustees in 1991, I knew only one family that home-schooled their children.  Now there are hundreds in KISD alone and thousands in this county and others.  Homeschooling is an option that any family can have. I am now aware of an organized group of homeschooling parents in the Katy area that numbers in the hundreds.  That's truly a sign that a great many parents care about the academic educations of their children and are willing to step up to do something to make sure their children get the education that they need. I recommend homeschooling as an alternative to “public” schools for the following reasons:

1.  The education currently being provided in Texas public schools contains little of an academic nature.  Children are not taught to read using phonics  (regardless of the hype, reading instruction is still whole language-based).  Children are not taught to be mathematically apt. The thrust of learning is hands-on, process and low level.  No one in these “public” schools seems to know what “academic” really means. When KISD removed ability grouping, they had, by necessity in my opinion, to dumb down every course the offer.

2.  The “public” schools are deep into manipulation of a social nature.  Children spend most of their school time learning to get along with others, becoming “globalized” by studying everyone’s culture but their own, and being drilled in the concept that the federal government is the answer to all their problems.

3.  The “public” schools are getting ready to be all things to all people.  That concept was never the intent of a “public” education. The schools should exist to provide an opportunity for academic learning.  Anything else is the province of other entities.

4.  A stop watch on academic learning in any elementary school reveals that about 45 minutes of actual academics occurs on average on any one day. (At least that's the amount of time on academic task I recorded when I was a substitute teacher.)  If parents spent an hour and a half on homeschooling efforts every day, their children would receive twice the academic education they are currently receiving!

5.  Parents, no matter their level of education, are eminently more qualified to teach their own children, especially until grade nine.  Teachers who hold elementary education degrees have had NO or very little required academic college course work. (Elementary teachers are not at fault here, for if they wish to teach, they are required to obtain an elementary education degree, and the college course work is purely methodology without academic substance.  As college students, teachers do not take “math” courses, they take “math education” courses.)  Any academic course work for an education degree is at the option of the student. Until colleges of education clean up their acts, people who want to be teachers are at their mercy. As a parent one is in a much better position to know what his own child needs and to be his teacher. Of note is the fact that many if not most teachers in junior high have elementary education degrees, as that is what is allowed by the State, and there are more teachers with those degrees. [An "outstanding" school district would require all of its junior high teachers to have an academic degree.]

At grade nine, if a parent feels unqualified to continue as the teacher, children should be sent to private schools.  Finding private schools that are also not using Common Core materials or into the psycho-social teaching of attitudes, behaviors and work skills is difficult, but it can be done. Look for one that has ability grouping. If the demand increases, academically based private schools will appear in greater numbers.  For a while, our high schools will be OK, but the pressure is on them to conform to restructuring initiatives, and as the older teachers retire, mindlessness will prevail. As soon as parents see block scheduling appear and ability grouping disappear, they will know it is time to get their children out.  Unfortunately, since this piece was written in 1997, what I predicted has occurred, and high schools are no longer free from the mess that started in elementary schools.  Even worse is the fact that now our colleges and universities have also started down the path of destruction.

My suggestions, of course, require a change in family activities.  Most families base their economic survival on two parent incomes.  I would suggest that families should lower their standard of living so that one parent stays home and teaches the children, and then returns to work to support the private schooling.  If people decide to have children, they are obligated to provide them with a proper education, and this situation as described may be the only way that goal will be accomplished.

I see some clear responsibility for communities and churches to offer support to home-schoolers.  These groups could provide the social structure that should accompany, not replace, academic instruction, and this structure could certainly be more wholesome than what occurs in public schools.  There are huge networks currently in place nationwide to support home schooling families, and there are true academic textbook and curriculum guide suppliers galore.

I do not offer this advice in a frivolous manner.  As a product of a very fine Texas public education from first grade through graduate course work, I have always supported Texas schools.  In my lifetime I have worked diligently to support what I believed to be a very fine institution, but I can no longer support, and neither should parents, schools that have come to be so dismal, off course, and disappointing.